March 02, 2013

Ag Commish Adam Putnam attacks Gov. Rick Scott’s Medicaid move, but has big-spending record

@MarcACaputo

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s headline-grabbing criticism of fellow Republican Rick Scott over expanding Medicaid highlighted just how much the governor flip-flopped on government spending and entitlement programs.

But Putnam has a more extensive record of supporting expensive entitlements and big-government spending.

As a member of Congress from 2001-2011, Putnam voted for budget-busting legislation — including the massive Medicare prescription-drug entitlement program estimated to cost nearly $1 trillion over a decade. Putnam also stuffed the federal budget with hometown-spending and helped override vetoes by President Bush on what the White House called a “fiscally irresponsible” Medicare bill and a $300 billion farm bill.

Now, years later, Putnam called Scott’s call to expand Medicaid as irresponsible, costly and “naive.”

“Throughout my career as a public servant, I have fought for issues important to Floridians based on my belief in conservative values and smaller government,” Putnam said in a written statement.

Continue reading "Ag Commish Adam Putnam attacks Gov. Rick Scott’s Medicaid move, but has big-spending record" »

February 28, 2013

Flubbed Putnam tweet sends followers to anti-Rick Scott poll

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a vocal critic of Gov. Rick Scott's Medicaid expansion reversal, wrote an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel today about Florida's agriculture industry.

The tweet encouraging his followers to read the op-ed won't do much to quiet rumors that he may challenge Scott's 2014 re-election bid. The link takes followers not to his op-ed but to a Sentinel poll asking "Who's Rick Scott's biggest political threat?"

Putnamtweet

The first choice on the list of possible challengers? Putnam.

Putnam spokeswoman Amanda Bevis tells us Putnam did not send the link -- it was her mistake. She posted the right link on his Facebook page. Here's the op-ed.

"I inadvertently converted the wrong link to a URL short enough to post," she said.

February 27, 2013

PolitiFact reviews Adam Putnam's claim about Medicaid and jobs

In an about-face, Gov. Rick Scott announcedthat he would support a massive Medicaid expansion, providing health care coverage to an additional million Floridians thanks to billions of federal dollars. Back in 2010, the Republican governor ran on a platform of calling Obamacare a "job-killer."

Scott’s decision led to criticism from fellow Republicans, including Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

"The expansion of Medicaid in FL does not create jobs or strengthen our infrastructure," wrote Putnam on Twitter on Feb. 21. "And it will cost Florida $5B over the next 10 years."

Typically when we hear about a massive influx of federal dollars into a state -- whether to build light rail, improve schools or, in this case, sign up one million poor people for health insurance -- folks start salivating over job creation predictions.

We wanted to explore Putnam’s claim that the federally funded Medicaid expansion won’t create jobs in Florida. The evidence we found suggests Putnam is wrong, but it's far from certain. Health care is a complicated field, and the way the a Medicaid expansion will play out on the state level in Florida increases the uncertainty.

Instead of a Truth-O-Meter rating, PolitiFact provided an overview of the research we found and what experts had to say.

February 21, 2013

Adam Putnam on Rick Scott: Expanding Medicaid for 3 years 'naive'

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam openly bashed Gov. Rick Scott's call to expand Medicaid under the federal health care law, first at a Thursday appearance at the Florida Retail Federation and again in an interview.

"It is naive at best to think that you would enroll 1 million people in three years and then decide to walk away from the program," he said in an interview, referring to Scott's proposal to undo the expansion if the federal government withdraws money or if the Legislature chooses not to renew it.

Without using Scott's name, Putnam implied Scott made his decision for political reasons.

"I think we all have an obligation to look beyond the window of our own time in public life and think about the longterm impact of these policies in Florida," he said.

Is Putnam's outspokenness on this issue a sign of a 2014 primary challenge? He would not say for sure. "This isn't a conversation about politics or campaigns. This is a question about what the most responsible fiscal policy for Florida is."

We pressed again. "This is a conversation about healthcare and healthcare costs. It's not a conversation about individuals or personalities."

Putnam said the state's current safety net already provides enough care for the neediest families.

"I've seen how issues like this explode in cost once they becone an accepted part of policy. And it's just simply not realistic to think you would enroll over 1 million new people into a program that you would then end in three years," he said. "History would suggest otherwise." 

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