January 10, 2018

Bills in Florida Legislature would eliminate fees to freeze your credit

Two Tampa-area legislators are proposing bills that would eliminate the $10 fee credit reporting agencies charge to freeze your credit.

The bills, sponsored by Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would make it free to place or remove a security freeze on an existing credit report. Only two other states prohibit such "freeze fees."

"It's going to pass bipartisan, I'm sure," Harrison said. "This is one of those types of bills that will pass unanimously."

The bill passed unanimously in one House committee Wednesday.

Such fees are considered an "insult to injury" after you've had your identity  stolen. Typically, the first step after such a breach is to ask Equifax, TransUnion or Experian to freeze your credit, so that thieves can't take out a credit card or other credit in your name.

But those companies can charge Floridians $10 to place a freeze or remove it. Other states' fees generally range from $2 to $10.

When more than 100 million Americans had their personal information stolen after Equifax was breached last year, consumers were outraged to find that they would have to pay Equifax up to $10 for the company to freeze their credit. The company eventually waived the fees temporarily.

"You're victimized once having your identity stolen, and then you have to pay to clean up the mess that a criminal made in your life," Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said at a press conference in support of the bills Wednesday.

Florida's Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, called it "unacceptable."

He said identity theft could happen to anyone.

"It happened to me recently," he said. "I had a credit card breach. I had to jump through the hurdles of the credit card companies to let them know I was getting spending alerts."

He said Florida had the second highest per-capita rate of complaints over identity theft issues in the country, and Miami, Naples and Tallahassee were among the top 10 metro areas for the complaints.

January 05, 2018

Rep. Ron DeSantis declares run for Florida governor

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via @lmower3

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis said Friday that he's running for Florida governor, boosted by an endorsement by President Donald Trump.

"With the support of the president, I'm in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work Rick Scott has done," DeSantis said on Fox News' Fox & Friends this morning.

DeSantis, 39, is a former Navy lawyer who made his name over the last year attacking special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The Palm Coast Republican has made several appearances on Fox News, and on Dec. 22, Trump apparently took notice, tweeting that DeSantis was a "brilliant young leader" who would "make a GREAT Governor of Florida."

DeSantis' run was widely expected.

Just last week, DeSantis boasted an impressive list of billionaire backers, including Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Breitbart co-owner Rebekah Mercer. David Bossie, the president of Citizens United and Trump's deputy campaign manager in 2016, is also among the backers.

That support will make him a formidable opponent to the current Republican front-runner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and likely candidate Richard Corcoran, the Florida House speaker who has yet to declare.

Putnam, interviewed before DeSantis' announcement, said he can only focus on his own campaign.

"I'm focused on my grass-roots conservative message, which is that we're going to invest in work-force training and we're going to put vocational and technical education training back in our middle schools and high schools," he said.

December 12, 2017

Scott, Rubio, Bush, Corcoran … What top Florida Republicans say about Roy Moore

MooreHorse

via @learyreports

It's all about Alabama today as the U.S. Senate race comes to a dramatic conclusion.

Here's what some prominent Florida Republicans had to say about Roy Moore, who would have easily won the race against Democrat Doug Jones had sexual misconduct allegations not surfaced.

Sen. Marco Rubio:

"I think these accusers are very credible. … I think we're going to learn even more as this goes on, and even if he's elected to the Senate, I think there's going to be a process … that could reveal more and be very potentially problematic for him. In fact, I guarantee it would be."

Gov. Rick Scott:

"Whether it's Roy Moore or what you read about the media reports from California or D.C. or Tallahassee, it's disgusting. So, if any of those allegations are true, he ought to resign."

The governor was then asked if a different threshold exists regarding predatory behavior with minors.

"I think whether it's minors, whether it's women, anybody. I mean, let's think about it. We all have children. We have nieces and nephews. I have daughters. Now I have grandsons. I expect people to be treated with respect. That's what you always expect. So, if the allegations are true, he has to get out," Scott said.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

"As the father of two teenage girls, there can't seriously be a question of my position. Roy Moore should step aside."

Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam:

"I find the accusations repulsive. I believe that for the good of the people of Alabama, Roy Moore should drop out of the race."

Jeb Bush:

"This is not a question of innocence or guilt like in a criminal proceeding, this is a question of what's right and what's wrong. And acknowledging that you're dating teenagers when you're 32 year old as assistant state attorney is wrong. It's just plain wrong."

November 17, 2017

Florida lawmakers incensed that Trump disaster plan doesn't include citrus relief (Updated)

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@alextdaugherty

Last month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam came to Washington with a simple message: include disaster relief funding for Florida citrus industry. The state's congressional delegation and Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio also made a similar pitch to the Trump administration. 

Fast forward to Friday, and Florida lawmakers are angry that the Trump administration did not include a $2.5 billion for the state's citrus industry in a $44 billion disaster relief request for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. 

"Floridians have been kicked to the curb in this proposed disaster supplemental, which lacks relief for Florida’s citrus growers who suffered immensely from this storm," said Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland. "The Florida delegation specifically requested this relief because there isn’t a citrus grove that wasn’t affected, with some experiencing 100 percent losses – worse than anything the industry has experienced in over 20 years. I cannot—I will not—support a proposal that leaves behind over 60,000 Florida jobs. I urge my colleagues in the Florida delegation to oppose it as well. I believe we have a duty to fight to ensure our citrus growers get the relief they need." 

Ross, a senior deputy majority whip, plans to rally fellow members to vote against any disaster relief package that does not include the citrus money. He requested federal help from U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue days after Hurricane Irma made landfall in September. 

It is possible for GOP leadership to revamp the Trump administration's disaster relief proposal before Congress votes on the plan, which will likely occur when Congress returns from a Thanksgiving break. 

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, also pushed for citrus relief funding. 

"Do we want to say that orange juice is produced and made in America? Without the inclusion of funds to address citrus crop losses; that is at risk," Rooney said. "The threat to the domestic industry is real: oranges imported to Florida, primarily from Brazil and Mexico, are already projected to surpass what is grown in Florida this season. This storm has jeopardized an iconic Florida crop and way of life. Washington must act and provide relief so that generations of family citrus growers can continue to produce, employ, and put Florida-grown orange juice on America’s breakfast tables." 

Nelson also criticized the $44 billion disaster funding request in more general terms, noting that Puerto Rico asked for $94 billion in disaster relief earlier this week while Texas asked for $61 billion after Hurricane Harvey. 

"This request by the administration doesn’t come close to providing what is needed," Nelson said in a statement. "People are hurting and they desperately need our help, yet this request has no money to provide housing for evacuees and barely any money for Florida’s citrus growers. That’s unacceptable. Congress needs to pass a more robust disaster bill that actually provides the funding needed to help people recover."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, also opposed the package and said she will use her spot on the House committee that determines federal spending to push for changes. 

“This Trump administration request is an insult," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. "It ignores evacuee housing, and demands matching funds that will hinder Puerto Rico’s ability to tap CDBG relief. It also falls way short of what of Florida’s citrus growers need. As an Appropriator, I will work across the aisle in Congress for a recovery package that actually takes seriously the tremendous need we have after this ravenous storm season.”

October 12, 2017

Every Floridian in Congress votes for $36.5 billion hurricane relief bill

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@alextdaugherty 

All 27 Floridians in the House of Representatives voted in favor of a $36.5 billion hurricane relief bill on Thursday, a measure that funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other hurricane relief programs as the federal government manages a massive recovery effort in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico. 

The bill now heads to the Senate, which is not in session this week, for approval. 

"In the weeks following Hurricane Irma, we are able to see the lasting effects this storm will have on our community, and it is evident that additional funding is necessary," Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said in a statement. Diaz-Balart is a leading member of the congressional committee that oversees federal spending. 

"This legislation delivers over $18 billion directly to FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, ensures the National Flood Insurance Program has the funding it needs to pay its claims, and grants food aid and loan eligibility to the storm-ravaged island of Puerto Rico," Diaz-Balart said. 

The bill passed the House by a vote of 353-69. All 69 "no" votes were Republicans, who were mainly concerned that the bill did not include federal spending offsets and did not overhaul the nation's flood insurance program. Instead, the bill included $16 billion to keep the nation's flood insurance program running as thousands of policyholders file claims after the hurricanes. 

"The NFIP urgently needs an overhaul, and until the House passes legislation that reforms this fractured program, I cannot support a $16 billion bailout that further kicks this problem to the future," said Texas Republican Roger Williams, one of the "no" votes, in a statement. 

Florida has the more national flood insurance policyholders than any other state. 

The bill also includes nearly $5 billion in low-interest loans to Puerto Rico to help the U.S. territory rebuild after Hurricane Maria. 

Thursday's bill did not include $2.5 billion in Department of Agriculture funding to help Florida's citrus industry recover from the storm. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was in Washington on Wednesday to push for the money's inclusion, but there wasn't enough time to get the provision in the bill, according to Rep. Tom Rooney's office. 

"I will fight to ensure Florida’s agricultural industry has the resources it needs to get back on their feet," Diaz-Balart said. 

A third hurricane relief bill is expected in the coming weeks, where Putnam's proposal and other Florida-specific provisions will be under consideration. 

Congress passed an initial $15 billion hurricane aid bill in September after Hurricane Harvey caused widespread flooding in Texas. Two Florida Republicans, Reps. Matt Gaetz and Ted Yoho, voted against that bill after President Donald Trump negotiated a deal with Democrats to raise the nation's debt ceiling as part of the relief package. Gaetz called that package "generational theft." 

 

August 28, 2017

How Richard Corcoran prepares for a possible 2018 run for governor

House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he won't announce whether he'll run for governor until seven months from now, after the 2018 legislative session. But the Pasco County Republican is laying the groundwork for a candidacy in a field where Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big head start and where Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has entered the field.

He may run and he may not, but Corcoran, 52, who began his rise through Republican ranks as a campaign strategist, has the instincts of an operative and the travel schedule of a full-time candidate. Whether dining with donors at Tampa's Capital Grillle or borrowing lobbyist friend Bill Rubin's Fort Lauderdale conference room to huddle with consultants, Corcoran keeps much of his political activity under the radar and does not publicize what he's doing.

Read more here about the four signs of a budding candidacy.

July 25, 2017

Was Adam Putnam, candidate for Florida governor, in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants?

PutnamannouncesPolkCoTBT

@amysherman1

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has largely had the Republican field for governor to himself, but the camp of one potential primary challenger has portrayed Putnam as soft on immigration and undocumented immigrants.

Tony Fabrizio, a pollster hired by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran who may challenge Putnam in the 2018 primary, cast Putnam as not being conservative enough.

"He was for amnesty," Fabrizio told Politico July 10, while criticizing Putnam’s positions on a long list of issues.

That a-word can be a powerful weapon in a Republican primary. But we found that Putnam’s record on immigration can’t be boiled down to a soundbite.

As a member of Congress from 2001 to 2010, Putnam represented a Central Florida district that included agribusiness interests that wanted immigrant labor. Putnam supported legislation that would have benefitted undocumented farm workers, and he supported changing immigration laws which included a path to citizenship.

But he also took some stances that didn’t benefit undocumented immigrants, such as opposing the DREAM Act and increasing enforcement.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

July 18, 2017

Putnam: 'There is absolutely a pathway for Florida to get to a form of open carry'

Putnam 0718

@ByKristenMClark

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a top Republican contender for governor next year, said he would support proposed changes in Florida law to let "law-abiding gun owners" carry firearms on college and university campuses and openly in public places.

Conservative lawmakers in the Florida Legislature have pushed for both proposals, but in the past two years, the measures died in the Senate where moderate Miami-Dade Republicans used their influence to halt the bills. The pieces of legislation -- strongly supported by the National Rifle Association -- are likely to return in the 2018 session, and Putnam told reporters Tuesday the concepts have his endorsement.

"There is absolutely a pathway for Florida to get to a form of open carry," said Putnam, the lone Republican gubernatorial candidate to date.

"We have a track record in Florida of law-abiding citizens who submit their fingerprints, undergo a background check and lawfully exercise their 2nd Amendment rights," Putnam said in reference to Florida's process of obtaining a concealed-weapons permit. "Continuing to expand their opportunities to exercise those 2nd Amendment rights is something I support."

Full story here.

Photo credit: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, speaks at a press conference Tuesday at the Florida National Guard Armory in Tallahassee. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times

June 12, 2017

Putnam touts Florida's increased access to concealed weapons on anniversary of Pulse massacre

via @adamsmithtimes

Republican gubernatoirial candidate Adam Putnam has long touted Florida's status as the number one state for concealed weapons permits and his efforts to make that system more efficient for consumers. But doing so the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the worst mass shooting in America's history, may raise some eyebrows.

"You can run government like a business and save money and deliver value to the people who make government possible through your hard-earned tax dollars," Putnam said in Bradenton today, as seen on this video the Democratic group American Bridge found on Putnam's Facebook page. "And we've proven that. And Florida is number one in concealed weapons license holders - people lawfully exercising their Second Amendment rights."

 

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

May 23, 2017

Putnam on early campaign shakeup: 'You're always adjusting'

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via @adamsmithtimes

In a sign of unsteadiness for what had looked like a strong-out-of-the-gate Adam Putnam campaign, the Republican frontrunner for governor suddenly fired his campaign manager and political director.

Hard-charging campaign manager Kristin Davison and political director Jared Small were two of the three outsiders to join Putnam's senior political team, along with former National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Ward Baker, who remains with the campaign.

The sudden shakeup came after the completion of an ambitious, ostensibly successful and well-organized 10-day bus tour immediately after Putnam's long expected announcement for governor. The firings threaten to overshadow the strong rollout and raise doubts about the readiness of Putnam, 42, who has never faced a truly competitve campaign since his first primary for the Florida House at age 21.

The good news is he still has a veteran team of political hands at his side, including Baker and longtime Putnam adviser Mac Stevenson, among others.

"We're very grateful for her efforts to help this campaign get off to the strongest possible launch," said Putnam campaign spokeswoman Amanda Bevis. "We wish her the best."

On Tuesday, talking to reporters after Cabinet, Putnam had this to say about staff turnover: "This is a grassroots movement and I’m very excited about the team that we have and I wish the team members who’ve moved on to other things the very best. ... You’re always adjusting and modifying as you move forward."

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times