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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