October 07, 2013

Movers & Shakers

New appointments at the Department of Agriculture

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam has named five appointments in his department.

Alan Edwards has been named director of administration for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Edwards, who has served with the agency for more than 20 years in various roles, was previously the director of policy and budget. Prior to joining the department, he was the controller for a multimillion dollar construction company and sole proprietor of a CPA firm.

Derek Buchanan, who joined the department in 2008, has been named director of policy and budget. He held several positions in finance and accounting and policy and budget, and previously served as a senior auditor for the Florida Auditor General’s Office. 

Brooke McKnight has been promoted to cabinet affairs director. She was previously in the deputy director position. She also served as a senior legislative assistant for Putnam when he was a U.S. representative for Florida's 12th Congressional district.

Jessica Field started working as deputy cabinet affairs director on Oct. 1, afer working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection since 2008. She was most recently  an environmental consultant.

Jon Rees has been named deputy legislative affairs director. He recently served as the legislative assistant to Rep. Ross Spano.He's a former governmental and political affairs coordinator for Associated Industries of Florida. 

DCF press secretary moves to the Attorney General's office 

Whitney Ray, who had been press secretary for the Department of Children and Families for about five months, has joined Attorney General Pam Bondi's office as press secretary.

Before working at DCF, Ray was a TV reporter for the Capitol News Service.

Ray replaces John Lucas, who has become press secretary at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

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August 06, 2013

Scott, Cabinet OK health care forms despite claims they 'mislead'

An excerpt from a story in Wednesday's paper:

Gov. Rick Scott and the three-member Florida Cabinet have signed off on a controversial new disclosure form that critics say is intended to poison Floridians against the health care law.

The Florida Legislature passed a law requiring the form after Republicans argued that policyholders need to know how federal reforms will affect their premiums. Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater — all Republicans — on Tuesday approved the disclosure forms unanimously and with no debate.

In recent weeks, critics have said the forms are useless and any efforts to compare policies that comply with the health care law to those that don't is "fuzzy math."

"It's totally about politics, and, probably more importantly, it's an incredible waste of money," said Bill Newton, executive director of Florida Consumer Action Network, which supports the federal health care law.

Prior to a vote, Putnam referred to the Office of Insurance Regulation's report that said individual plans would have an average increase of 30 to 40 percent under the federal law. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has questioned those estimates.

"Across the country we have seen press announcements by state insurance commissioners that consistently indicate substantial increases in premiums to the consumer, especially in that individual market," Putnam said after the meeting.

Read more here.

March 14, 2013

Scott, Weatherford, Rubio celebrate "non-partisan" James Madison Institute

If Ayn Rand were alive and living in Florida, she would have paid $125 for a ticket and attended The James Madison Institute’s 25th anniversary gala Wednesday night.

Most of the state’s conservative heavyweights were there: Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, House Speaker Will Weatherford. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a televised greeting to the institute. Attorney General Pam Bondi was scheduled to show but had to cancel for a funeral. 

They were there to celebrate property rights, free markets, states rights and deregulation and other causes that JMI, founded in 1987, has championed. As JMI’s influence as a “non-partisan” think tank has grown, so too has the Republican grip on power in Tallahassee.

In telling closing remarks, former House Speaker Allan Bense, who is chairman of JMI and Weatherford’s father-in-law, explained why the think tank matters so much for conservatives.

“There are so many times when there are tough bills you have to vote for,” said Bense. “A tort bill, whatever it may be, where the press is just pounding you on the other side, the Tampa Bay Times, the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, whatever, they’re just killing you, and what James Madison was able to do was present to members the other side. Here are the facts. So you could debate those facts on the floor, and JMI didn’t go lobby members, it was, ‘here’s the other side of the coin.’ And I can’t tell you how important that is if you’re a member of the Florida House or the Florida Senate or Cabinet member, to hear an objective, bipartisan, we’re a little conservative, agreed, but here’s our side.”

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March 02, 2013

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


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.

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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?"


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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