December 12, 2012

Putnam touts upcoming milestone: 1 million concealed weapons permits

Sometime next week, somewhere in Florida, someone will become the state’s one millionth holder of a concealed weapons license.

That makes Florida No. 1 in the nation. Whether that’s a milestone worth celebrating or cringing at, Florida’s Secretary of Agriculture Adam Putnam deemed it worthy of a major news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m asked about our licensing requirements more than any other topic,” Putnam said, responding to a question about why he was making such a fuss about next week’s projected milestone. The popularity of active concealed weapons permits has surged in Florida during the past 10 years, climbing from about 250,000 in 2000 to more than 1 million next week.

Putnam credited a love of the Second Amendment for the increase, but it probably has more to do with a number of laws and policies approved during that period that has improved access to licenses. While Putnam said the state’s low revocation rate of licenses was proof that the program worked and was responsible, he defended a 2006 law that keeps secret those who have permits – making it difficult to verify for the public just how safe the program is.

“The Legislature made the decision to protect gun owners and we should respect that,” said Putnam, who oversees the issuance of the permits. Putnam’s office did release some more general numbers. Did you know about 20 percent of permit holders are women? Or that nearly a quarter of those with concealed weapon licenses are above the age of 65?

One person happy to hear about the upcoming milestone was Marion Hammer, the powerful lobbyist who heads the National Rifle Association's state affiliate, the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, and did more than anyone else in easing the state’s gun laws.

“It’s great news,” Hammer said. “When the number of license holders increase, crime decreases. We have a record number of license holders now, and crime is the lowest it’s been in 40 years.”

But representatives from gun control groups said the 1 million mark was nothing to celebrate. “It should be a concern in Florida,” said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “The state has basically let Marion Hammer write its gun policy.”

November 01, 2012

PolitiFact rates Adam Putnam's claim about free phones for Obama supporters Pants on Fire!

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was in the line-up of prominent Florida Republicans warming up the crowd for Mitt Romney in Tampa on Wednesday.

He encouraged voters to head to the polls early.

"Early vote now so that you can wave signs on election day next Tuesday," Putnam said. This is a team sport. This is a team sport. It's fully interactive. We can't just show up and cheer and slap a bumper sticker on the back of our car and think we're done. We've got to drag people to the polls. That's what they're doing. You don't have to offer them cell phones like they're doing."

PolitiFact looked into his claim that the Obama campaign is handing out cell phones to supporters. The rating: Pants on Fire!

Read our fact-check on the persistent "Obama phone" myth.

August 07, 2012

Environmental groups launch amendment drive to create enviro protection fund

A coalition of the state's top environmental organizations on Tuesday launched a petition drive to put an amendment on the November 2014 ballot that would guarantee a stable source of money for environmental protection.

The effort, organized by a group calling itself the Florida Water and Land Legacy Campaign, aims to end the years of eroding funding for environmental perservation and protection programs prompted by legislative budget cuts and shifts in priorities away from environmental protection.

Since 2009, legislators have cut funding for the state's Florida Forever program by 97.5 percent to $23 million for land management and ecological restoration, including the Everglades. This year, the Legislature reduced water protection and conservation funds dropped to $8.5 million.

“This will be the most significant vote in Florida for our environment in our lifetimes,” said Will Abberger, the campaign’s chair and the director of conservation finance for the Trust for Public Land in a statement. “We are launching a grassroots effort to let the people decide if clean water and natural land are a legacy we want to leave for our children and grandchildren – and generations to come.”
 

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June 11, 2012

Adam Putnam could've gotten 4 times the value for family land in taxpayer Everglades deal

Palm Beach Post:

Adam Putnam — former congressman, current commissioner of agriculture and widely viewed as the future of Florida politics — became a very rich man in 2005 when taxpayers spent $25.5 million on 2,042 acres of his family’s ranch that had been valued at $5.5 million a year earlier, The Palm Beach Post has learned.

The South Florida Water Management District needed only 600 acres of the ranch in Highlands County for environmental purposes. But it bought all 2,042 acres and did it in a way that arranged for the Putnams a lucrative tax break, while allowing the family to continue grazing cattle on the land rent-free until the district needed the land. After paying the family’s attorney $3.9 million in legal fees, the total deal cost taxpayers nearly $30 million.

Seven years later the district has used only 150 acres and has no plans for the rest. The Putnam cattle graze on, courtesy of Florida taxpayers.

Putnam, a congressman at the time of the deal, said he was careful to not involve himself in it to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Congressional ethics rules do not bar such real estate transactions as long as Putnam did not use his position to sweeten the deal. Records show Putnam was not on any committees that would have allowed him to do so. He said his older brother Will negotiated the deal for the family.

“I can’t speak to the details of the transaction because I deliberately stayed away,” Adam Putnam said. His financial disclosure reports show his income from the family business jumped from under $100,000 in 2004 to between $1 million and $5 million after the deal. “If there’s something else I could have done to further remove myself, I don’t know what it was,” he said.

More here

June 07, 2012

Williams lines up in defense of Ammons, says he should remain as FAMU prez

Tallahassee Democrat Alan Williams is the first to stand up in defense of FAMU president James Ammons today, who received a 8-4 vote of no confidence from the school's board of trustees because of his handling of the hazing death of a band drum major.

Williams said in a statement:

 "As a state lawmaker and a graduate of Florida A&M University, I am very proud of my alma mater and recognize that tremendous challenges face the university during this era of reform. 

Continue reading "Williams lines up in defense of Ammons, says he should remain as FAMU prez" »

May 01, 2012

Putnam on gift ban, term limits and Gov. Scott's re-election

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Tuesday chances are "nil" that Gov. Rick Scott will face serious opposition within the Republican Party when he seeks a second term in 2014. Such a forecast means that Putnam has again ruled himself out as a candidate for governor in two years.

Putnam said Scott has kept his campaign promises, which the Republican Party base appreciates, and that he has improved relations with the media in Florida. And as he travels the state, Putnam said, he finds Floridians are increasingly optimistic about the economy. "There's a pretty positive buzz out there," he said. 

In an hour-long discussion with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Putnam said he would have gone along with Sen. JD Alexander in voting to spin off Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland as the state's 12th university, and that lawmakers have long tinkered with the higher ed system by creating law schools and medical schools. "This is not the first time politics have intervened," he said.

The redheaded Cabinet member saved his toughest criticism for the 2006 gift ban that prohibits lawmakers and state officials, including himself, from taking anything of value from lobbyists or their clients. His remarks came as Putnam was asked to describe how Tallahassee has changed since he left in the mid-1990s to go to Congress.

Calling the gift ban "dumb," he said: "A lot of the camaraderie that allowed solutions to take place ... has been removed from the process." He called the gift ban a "disincentive for fellowship" and said: "You're forbidden from hanging out unless somebody is giving you a check." He also criticized term limits -- which he said he voted against them in 1992 -- saying that an eight-year time frame deprives lawmakers from becoming subject matter experts. 

Putnam arrived by asking a Times reporter if he'd "booked his room at Innisbrook yet," referring to the swanky resort in Palm Harbor that will house the Florida GOP delegation at the party convention in August, 32 miles from the event itself. A proud resident of Bartow in Polk County, Putnam asked: "Who would have thought that Bartow's closer?" 

-- Steve Bousquet

April 30, 2012

Florida Bar launches voter education campaign on merit retention

When Florida voters go to the polls this November to pick a president, they’ll also be asked to decide on races that will get much less fanfare: whether to retain three Florida Supreme Court justices and 15 appellate court justices in various regions of the state.

Many voters will skip the judges elections – in which they are asked to vote "yes’’ or “no” to let them stay in the job another six years, election data shows. Many more will simply guess, willing to make an uninformed choice.

The Florida Bar, the statewide professional organization for lawyers, wants to change that.

Armed with data that shows that 9 out of 10 Florida voters are unaware of what it means to have a “merit retention” election for Florida judges, the Bar on Monday launched a statewide education campaign to spread the word about the process that allows the state’s appellate level judges to stay in office.

The program, called “The Vote’s in Your Court’’ will work to educate Floridians so they can make a better informed decision about the merit retention races on the ballot.

“Democracy works best when there’s good information,’’ said Scott Hawkins, president of the Florida Bar and a West Palm Beach lawyer. “This effort is not about supporting any particular court or any particular judge…we are endorsing a system which has operated uniformly for nearly 40 years.”

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April 23, 2012

Florida Senate-race drama exposes GOP jitters

Jeff Atwater’s just-ended flirtation with a U.S. Senate bid speaks volumes about the nervousness of Florida Republicans these days.

The GOP’s best hope, Congressman Connie Mack, hasn’t been running the type of campaign many Republicans want to unseat a beatable Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson. Some wanted Atwater, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, to run. Others approached House Speaker Dean Cannon, who declined as did a wealthy no-name.

But the drama is about more than just Mack or the Senate race.

It’s about a Republican Party grappling with ebbing fortunes compared to the red-wave of an election year in 2010. It’s about a movement nagged by a sense of perpetual disappointment that stretches to the top of the ticket.

And it’s about the potentially colliding political agendas of Atwater, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Column here

April 10, 2012

Tea party groups want Rick Scott to veto conservative Legislature's "crony energy bill"

A coalition of tea party groups is urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto the conservative Legislature's energy proposal, calling its revival of expired renewable energy tax credits "crony capitalism."

Scott received HB 7117, pushed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in effort to start diversifying the state's energy sources, on March 30. He has until Friday to decide if it becomes law.

The tax incentives, meant to inspire increased renewable energy production to reduce dependence on natural gas, total $100 million over the next five years, the groups say. Speaking at a Tallahassee news conference Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity state director Slade O'Brien said coal and natural gas remain the cheapest sources of energy, so why give goodies to sectors that aren't competitive and will lead to increased energy bills?

"Please do not continue down the failed policy path of former Gov. Crist and President Obama by allowing this bad bill to become law," reads an April 5 letter signed by Americans for Prosperity and about 100 other tea party and 912 Project groups from around the state.

"How much in crony renewable handouts is enough?" said James Taylor, Heartland Institute senior fellow. "The stimulus has already provided $17 billion in taxpayer handouts to the renewable power industry."

Putnam responded to tea party criticism of his ideas last week, calling their concerns "rooted in a lack of good information."

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March 20, 2012

Despite group's demand, Adam Putnam says he can't suspend concealed carry permit of Trayvon Martin's shooter

A civil rights group wants the state to suspend the concealed carry permit of George Zimmerman as investigators probe the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin.

But Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose agency oversees concealed weapons permits, said he can't do anything without pending criminal charges or a felony conviction. In Florida, felons are not allowed to carry concealed weapons without restoration of their civil rights and firearm authority.

State law also prevents Putnam's agency from identifying people who have applied for or received a permit, so he can't specifically talk about Zimmerman as a permit holder.

"My office is legally bound to fiercely protect the privacy of concealed weapon permit holders," Putnam said Tuesday when asked about the group's demand. "There are specific legal triggers that result in suspension or revocation."

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