March 17, 2016

Pam Bondi: I am not running for governor


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi left no doubt on Thursday that she is not interested in running for governor in 2018.

Moments after Fox News host Neil Cavuto introduced her as "frontrunner, maybe" for governor in 2018, Bondi, a Republican from Tampa, was quick to shoot down the idea.

"I will say on the record, I am not running for governor," Bondi told Cavuto 19 seconds into the more than 8 minute long interview. "I’m supporting Adam Putnam who I feel, he is our Agricultural Commissioner, and I think he’ll be a great governor for our state.."

Though Putnam, a Polk County Republican, has been widely speculated as being interested in running for governor, Putnam has not declared for the race and has sidestepped questions about whether he is running.

Despite Bondi's assurance she is not running in 2018, Cavuto wasn't done suggesting Bondi could still do it.

"I’ve looked at polls that indicate otherwise, but you could be right," Cavuto said on his program called Your World with Neil Cavuto.

Cavuto then closed the interview by saying "so far she says not governor, we'll see."

While Putnam has been building up his fundraising in a political action committee he runs for most of the last year, raising over $4 million in 12 months, Bondi has done little in her political action committee. In her fund, called Justice For All, Bondi has raised just $53,000 since Sept. 1, 2015.

March 10, 2016

Putnam raises more than $1 million in three months for political committee

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continues to be one of the state's most prolific fundraisers in the state, adding to speculation that the Republican from Polk County will make a run for governor in 2018 when Gov. Rick Scott will be unable to run for re-election because of term limits.

Just since December, Putnam raised over $1 million for a political action committee he runs called Florida Grown and has now raised just short of $4.3 million in the last 12 months, according to new campaign finance reports with the Florida Division of Elections.

Why all the money for Putnam, who because of term limits cannot seek re-election as Agriculture Commissioner?

"To advance the conservative causes of solid public policy for our state," Putnam said on Thursday.

Putnam has only spent $253,426 since Dec. 1, according to the new campaign finance reports.

Putnam's biggest donor has been Associated Industries of Florida, and a committee they run called The Voice of Florida Business PAC. Through those to vehicles, Putnam has collected $625,000 in the last 12 months - and $50,000 in just the last six days of February. Florida Power and Light has also been a big donor, giving Putnam's committee more than $250,000.

Putnam's fundraising since December has been only outdone by Scott's. Since December, Scott has raised $1.3 million for his Let's Get to Work political committee. But Scott's committee has also spent $1.6 million during that same period on, among other things, television ads and a bus tour promoting his legislative agenda.
Scott has reportedly been interested in running for the U.S. Senate in 2018, but has refused to say publicly if he is considering the race.

March 08, 2016

Crackdown on gas-station skimmers goes to Gov. Rick Scott's desk to be signed into law


Among the bills to clear the Legislature during this last week of the 2016 session is a proposal that cracks down on illegal credit-card skimming devices at gas stations.

SB 912 passed the House unanimously on Tuesday, after unanimously clearing the Senate last week. It now goes to Republican Gov. Rick Scott's desk for his signature.

"Skimmers" are devices that steal credit and debit card information. The legislation requires gas pumps to have certain security measures to better thwart criminals' attempts to install the devices and steal customers' financial information. It also increases law enforcement's ability to make arrests and prosecute criminals with harsher potential penalties.

The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, with support from state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regularly inspects the state's nearly 8,000 gas stations and has found more than 190 skimmers since the start of 2015, Putnam's office said.

This past week, inspectors found one device in Pompano Beach, two in Tampa and one in Orlando, the office said.

“Protecting consumers from identity theft at gas pumps requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. I thank Senator Flores, Leader Young, the Senate and the House of Representatives for their support of this key consumer protection legislation,” Putnam said today.

Flores and Young added in the statement that the legislative approval is a "victory for consumers."

“Consumers shouldn’t have to worry about identity theft when filling their gas tanks, and this legislation will help protect Floridians and visitors from skimmers," Flores said.

About 100 consumers are victimized by each skimmer, resulting in $1,000 stolen from each victim on average. Each skimmer represents an estimated $100,000 threat to consumers, Putnam's office said.

February 04, 2016

Capitol Buzz: Five things to watch today in Tallahassee

Legislative committees continue meeting in Tallahassee, while the state's top officials go to the fair. Here's what we're watching:

* They won't have an official cabinet meeting, but Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi will still be at the Florida State Fair in Tampa to help kick off the festivities. The governor will host a luncheon there at noon.

* At 9 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee will again take up the proposed "Pastor Protection Act," which allows clergy to turn away gay couples seeking to marry. The committee's vote was postponed last week.

* The House State Affairs Committee could vote to send to the House floor a proposal that changes the legal language of Florida's absentee voting to "vote-by-mail." That panel also meets at 9 a.m.

* The Senate Transportation Committee, also gathering at 9 a.m., will give a first hearing to a bill by Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, and Anitere Flores of Miami, which aims to outlaw the use of red-light camera devices in Florida.

* A bill dealing with cremation fees that counties charge is set for its final committee hearing in the House. The Regulatory Affairs Committee meets at 1 p.m.

January 08, 2016

Putnam caps 2015 with big fundaising haul


Florida Agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam ended 2015 with quite a bang, according to new campaign finance data.

On New Year’s Eve, the Polk County Republican who is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in 2018 when Gov. Rick Scott’s term in office ends, raised $275,000 from three donors for a political action committee he runs called Florida Grown PC.  Those donations included $150,000 from Florida Power & Light, $100,000 from Duke Energy, and $25,000 from U.S. Sugar Corporation.

It capped off a lucrative December for Putnam’s political action committee, which raised more than $755,000 for the month, according to Florida Grown PC’s records. For the year, Putnam raised about $4 million, making him second for the year to Scott when it comes to raising money for political committees of the sort. Scott has raised over $4.4 million for his Let’s Get to Work committee.

Politicians are limited in how much money they can raise for their traditional campaign accounts. But many elected officials have created political action committees that have no limit on the size of a donation that a person can give, though there are added restrictions on how the money can be used.

December 22, 2015

Virginia to no longer recognize Florida concealed weapons permits


Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam blasted a decision by the state of Virginia on Tuesday to no longer recognize concealed weapons permits from Florida and 24 other states.

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, a Democrat, said effective February 1, 2016, his state will no longer recognize concealed weapons permits from 25 states that they previously recognized. That is because laws in those states “are not sufficient to prevent someone who is disqualified under Virginia law from receiving a concealed handgun permit,” Herring said.

Because Virginia will no longer recognize permits from Florida, Florida legally will not be able to recognize permits from Virginia. It all means Floridians wanting to carry a concealed handgun in Virginia would have to apply for a permit in that state to do so.

Putnam, a Republican who has jurisdiction over the issuances of Florida’s concealed permits doesn’t like the decision by Virginia. Florida has issued more than 1.4 million concealed weapons licenses.

“The real losers of the Virginia Attorney General’s decision are law-abiding gun owners in half the states in our country” Putnam said. “The Virginia Attorney General’s politically expedient decision to end reciprocity for concealed weapon licenses is a knee-jerk reaction that tramples on people’s Second Amendment right.”

He had company in blasting the decision. The National Rifle Association slammed Herring shortly after he held a press conference in Virginia announcing his decision.

"Plain and simple, Mark Herring is putting politics above public safety,” said Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “This decision is both dangerous and shameful.”

Virginia bans people with a history of stalking, drug dealing or inpatient mental-health treatment from obtaining obtain a permit. They also bar people who have been convicted of two misdemeanors in five years or someone who is an “unlawful user” of marijuana or other controlled substances.

December 07, 2015

A push to crack down on credit card skimmers at gas stations


Florida needs tougher laws to prevent thieves from using credit card skimming devices at self-service gas station pumps to steal people’s identifications, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said during a stop in Tampa on Monday.

Putnam’s statements come after his agents discovered six skimmers at five gas stations around Tampa Bay in November. Since March, his agency has uncovered 166 skimmers at gas pumps around the state. One skimming device can victimize up to 5,000 people. 

Skimmers look like regular credit card readers, but thieves install them at self-service gas pumps to capture a person’s credit card information.

Putnam, whose agency also oversees the Department of Consumer Services, is backing state legislation that would increase penalties for people who install the skimmers and require gas stations to do more to prevent them from being installed in the first place.

The bill, which is being pushed by Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, and Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, is in its early stages. Both filed similar bills in November, but neither has been heard by any committees in either the House or Senate yet.

Putnam’s agency routinely checks pumps for skimmers at gas stations and has been trying to raise awareness of the problem by reaching out to the Florida Petroleum Council and the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association.

November 27, 2015

Lawmakers seek to crack down on gas pump 'skimmers'


With the simple swipe of a credit card at a gas station pump, it’s become easier for identity thieves to steal customers’ information and rack up fraudulent charges in their names.

State Sen. Anitere Flores’ family knows this all too well; a close family member’s credit card information was stolen from a gas station “skimmer” two years ago in Miami, she said.

“Within hours, hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of charges — specifically gas station charges — were put on the card,” said Flores, R-Miami. “It was scary, but it was also a major inconvenience: canceling credit cards and changing account numbers. You shouldn’t have to go through all that just because you’re using the convenience of paying at the pump.”

With support from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Flores and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, want to crack down on the use of skimmers by requiring gas stations to have better security measures and by increasing the penalties for criminals convicted of credit card fraud.

Skimmers are devices that illegally capture and steal credit- and debit-card information. State inspectors in Putnam’s department have located and removed 161 skimmers statewide since March alone.

More here.

November 23, 2015

Putnam 'disappointed, not surprised' at Scott's lack of pay raises

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam immediately criticized Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget, which has $1 billion in tax cuts but no pay raises for state forestry firefighters, who earn an average of about $27,000 a year. The full text of the statement Putnam issued Monday:

"I’m disappointed that the governor left Florida wildland firefighter salary increases out of his budget, but I’m not surprised after last year’s veto. With a starting salary of $24,000 per year, our firefighters are at least as deserving as those who got pay increases last year and those who have pay increases included in the budget this year. I look forward to working with the Legislature again to meet the needs of our wildland firefighters.”

Putnam was angry and disappointed that Scott vetoed $2,000 raises for firefighters after the Legislature approved them in June, and after ignoring Putnam's request that he be given a chance to make the case for them. Putnam is asking lawmakers to approve them again next year, as some firefighters have gone to the western U.S. to battle severe wildfires there to assist in public safety and to supplement their state pay.

At his budget announcement in Jacksonville, Scott said he opposes across-the-board pay raises to workers -- though last year he gave them to a select groups of state troopers and to driver's license examiners and next year would give them to FDLE crime lab workers.

"I think the right thing to do is what's in my budget," Scott said. "I've put in my budget a bonus plan for our state workers. It will be up to $1,500 and it will be tied to agencies hitting their goals, you hitting your goals and agencies continuing to find savings. We need to continue to focus on how do we make this state government more efficient."

November 10, 2015

Adam Putnam committee tops $3 million mark


Republican Adam Putnam, long thought be a top contender for governor in 2018, is growing one of the most dominate political fundraising committees in Florida.

New campaign finance reports show Putnam has topped $3 million in donations to a political action committee he runs called Florida Grown. In October, Putnam’s account grew by more than $600,000 thanks largely to Associated Industries of Florida and groups it is affiliated with. Three political committees with ties to AIF combined to give $450,000 in just October to the 41-year-old Republican.

Another $100,000 came from Skye Lane Properties, a Clearwater Company.

Putnam, a Polk County Republican, is in his second and final term as the state’s agriculture commissioner, after serving 10 years in Congress and 4 years in the state Legislature.

The $3 million raised for Putnam’s committee is second only to Gov. Rick Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee, which has raised $3.8 million through October, according to campaign finance disclosure records.