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Staff Reports

Denise Grimsley raises $152K in July toward Agriculture Commissioner bid

Denise Grimsley raised more than $150,000 toward her bid to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, her campaign announced Thursday.

Grimsley raised a combined $152,000 — $103,000 for her official campaign and $49,000 for Saving Florida’s Heartland, the political committee backing her — during the one-month period. According to the Sebring Republican’s campaign, she has raised more than $1.1 million to date.

“Our campaign is growing stronger by the day and I am honored by the support we have received,” said Grimsley in a statement. “We are working hard to travel the state and talk to voters about our core values and beliefs.  This is a campaign about agriculture and consumers, and letting people know I will fight to support our state’s lifeblood – the next generation of farmers and agriculture leaders, while working diligently to protect and safeguard Florida families from fraud.”

The campaign boasted it received 282 donations in July, and has received hundreds of donations from people in the agriculture community.

“We are running a grassroots campaign and are seeing incredible support across the state,” said Ryan Smith, her campaign manager in a statement. “Denise enjoys strong support from the agriculture industry and we will continue to grow her support as we move forward on the campaign trail.”

Grimsley, a state senator, faces Rep. Matt Caldwell, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, and Paul Paulson in the Republican primary to replace Putnam, who can’t run again because of term limits. Putnam is running for governor.

Caldwell reported raising a combined $108,275 in July, and his campaign said Thursday it has raised more than $1 million since January.

The Florida Bar

Florida Bar gearing up for Reporters’ Workshop

The Florida Bar is looking for nominations for its 28th annual Reporters’ Workshop, to be held in Tallahassee this Oct. 16-17.

“Nominations must be made by editors, publishers or news directors and include the journalist’s background, current assignments and contact information,” a Thursday press release said.

Nominations need to be received by 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25 at The Bar’s Public Information Department. They can be emailed to, faxed to 850-561-9429, or mailed to: Reporters’ Workshop, The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson St., Tallahassee, FL 32399.

“The selection process will be completed by early September, and those selected for participation will be notified by email,” the release said.

It’s designed for two dozen “print, online, TV and radio journalists who are new to the courts and legal beats, or new to Florida,” it said. “Workshop scholarships cover two nights’ hotel accommodations and workshop meals. Travel expenses and incidentals are the responsibility of the participant or the participant’s employer.”

Topics include the Constitution Revision Commission, “Fake News,” libel and defamation, and public records access. For more information, click here.

Matt Caldwell raises $108K in July toward agriculture commissioner bid

Matt Caldwell brought in more than $108,000 toward his bid to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, his campaign announced Thursday.

Caldwell raised a combined $108,275 — $43,275 for his official campaign and $65,000 for Friends of Matt Caldwell, the political committee backing his 2018 agriculture commissioner bid — during the one-month fundraising period. According to Caldwell’s campaign, the North Fort Myers Republican has raised more than $1 million since January.

“Since announcing our bid, we have worked relentlessly every single day to share our conservative message and build our grassroots campaign,” said Caldwell in a statement. “I am humbled by the level of engagement we are getting from Florida’s communities, big and small and it is truly a blessing to see support and momentum continue to build. As I travel from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys and back, it is clear that Floridians are looking for a hardworking, conservative leader that will continue to fight for the critical issues overseen by the Commissioner of Agriculture.”

Caldwell, according to his campaign, will report having nearly $878,000 cash on hand between his official campaign and his political committee.

Caldwell faces Sen. Denise Grimsley, former Rep. Baxter Troutman, and Paul Paulson in the Republican primary to replace Putnam, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits. Putnam is running for governor.

Adam Putnam: More Florida firefighters heading west

The Florida Forest Service is sending another 40 of its firefighters to help “wildfire suppression efforts” in the western part of the country, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced Thursday.

“The two hand crews of 20 firefighters each are part of the department’s ongoing effort to help combat one of the worst wildfire seasons in U.S. history,” Putnam said in a statement. The Forest Service is part of his Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“Our firefighters will continue to provide unwavering support to other states in need of assistance to fight wildfires,” he added.

The Forest Service’s two crews are from various districts around the state, the release said, and will be joined by three other crews from Georgia and Puerto Rico, totaling 100 firefighters. The crews will fly from Tampa to Oregon, where they will receive specific assignments.

“The Florida Forest Service has deployed a total of 343 firefighters to the western United States this year, and we applaud their dedication to helping protect lives, property and our country’s natural resources,” State Forester Jim Karels said.

Annette Taddeo links Jose Felix Diaz to Donald Trump in new SD 40 ad

Annette Taddeo is hoping to link Jose Felix Diaz to President Donald Trump in a new television ad in Senate District 40.

The advertisement — paid for by the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee — links Diaz, a Miami-Dade Republican, to Trump on healthcare policy. In the ad, Taddeo calls Felix out for supporting “Trump’s every move.”

“Families are too busy to worry about this drama,” the Miami-Dade Democrat says in the advertisement. “Struggling put our children’s goals out of reach and health care costs go up, but Jose Felix Diaz supports Trump’s every move, including his plan to slash Medicare, charge older Americans an age tax, and cut coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

Taddeo goes on to say she’ll fight for “better schools and lower health care costs” in Tallahassee.

“Jose Felix and Donald Trump are advocating for a healthcare policy that will raise healthcare costs and kick millions of Americans off their insurance. Plain and simple, electing more Trump Republicans like Jose Felix Diaz will devastate South Florida’s middle-class,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Johanna Cervone in a statement. “We can’t afford politicians like Jose Felix Diaz who want to make healthcare more expensive for our families just to give the wealthiest 1% another tax break. Annette Taddeo is a working mom who will fight to lower healthcare costs and stand up for working families–healthcare is an important issue for every family in Miami-Dade and this ad makes each candidates’ stance on the issue clear.”

The Senate District 40 special election is Sept. 26.

AFP-FL to host summer town hall series with Ron DeSantis

Americans for Prosperity-Florida is hitting the road to energize activists about tax reform.

The grassroots organization is scheduled to hold “Un-Rig the Economy” town hall meetings in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando in August and September to talk with activists about the current situation in Washington, D.C. and energize them for what’s to come. The AFP-FL team will be joined by local leaders and members of the federal affairs team to discuss the need to enact comprehensive tax reform.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Ponte Verde Republican, is scheduled to join AFP-FL at each of the town hall events. DeSantis, who is believed to be mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid, is expected to discuss how Congress can act to fix the tax code.

“AFP has been leading the charge on calling for Congress to un-rig the American economy,” said Chris Hudson, the state director for AFP-FL, in a statement “We hope the rest of the Florida delegation will join Congressman DeSantis in fighting back against the current rigged tax system by joining our effort to pass pro-growth tax reform. Americans want a system that’s based on simplicity, efficiency, equitability, predictability, and creates no new burden on taxpayers. We want to speak directly to Floridians who want to help fix our broken tax code.”

The summer town hall series kicks off on Aug. 24 with a town hall in Miami, followed by a town hall scheduled on Sept. 19 in Fort Lauderdale and Sept. 28 in Orlando.

Agriculture Commissioner hopefuls raked in the cash in July

The summer months don’t appear to be slowing down several candidates vying to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018.

Three Republicans — Sen. Denise Grimsley, Rep. Matt Caldwell, and former Rep. Baxter Troutman — are expected to report they raised more for their political committees in July than they did in the previous month.

The Division of Elections deadline for reporting July fundraising numbers is August 10. As of Monday evening, none of the candidates have posted fundraising information for their official campaigns or affiliated political committees to the state website. However, rolling campaign finance data posted to their political committees’ websites offers a glimpse into their July fundraising efforts.

Contribution data posted to the Friends of Matt Caldwell website shows Caldwell raised about $65,000 for his political committee in July.

The single largest contributor during the one-month period was the Florida Prosperity Fund, which gave Caldwell’s committee $25,000.  State records show Caldwell’s committee raised $801,094 through the end of June, and ended June with $616,878 cash on hand.

Contribution data posted to the Saving Florida’s Heartland website shows Grimsley raised $49,000 in July. That’s up from one-month early, when state records show Grimsley’s political committee raised $20,000.

The single largest contributor during the one-month period was Floridians United for Our Children’s Future, which gave Grimsley’s committee $25,000. State records show Grimsley’s committee raised more than $1 million through June 30, and ended June with $419,753 cash on hand.

Troutman is expected to report bringing in a combined $25,000 for his official campaign and his political committee, iGrow, in July.

The 50-year-old Winter Haven resident put $2.5 million of his own money into his official campaign account when he entered the race in June, immediately giving him front-runner status.

Brian Hughes, a spokesman for the Troutman campaign, said that fundraising lead allowed Troutman to spend the month of July building up grassroots support. The team plans to kick-off his fundraising efforts this month, which puts them one year out from the Republican primary. Troutman has brought on Kevin Hofmann, who has worked with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Rep. John Rutherford to help with his fundraising efforts.

Republican Paul Paulson and Democrat Michael Damian Christine are also running.

Lisa Edgar case headed back to court this week

A case management conference has been set for Wednesday on criminal charges against Lisa Edgar, a former Public Service Commissioner and state parks director, who was arrested in Tallahassee after an alleged drunk-driving hit and run.

In June, State Attorney Jack Campbell’s office filed an information, or formal criminal charges, against Edgar for the April 15 incident. Campbell is the elected prosecutor for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, which includes Leon County.

Edgar, 53, is charged with driving under the influence causing damage to person or property, a first-degree misdemeanor, and leaving the scene of a crash with damage, a second-degree misdemeanor, court records show. She waived an arraignment hearing and pleaded “not guilty” in April.

Criminal-defense attorney John Leace, who is attorney of record for Edgar, has not responded to requests for comment. Last week, he formally requested a copy of the crash report from the state.

In February, Edgar resigned as director of the Florida Park Service after less than two months on the job, citing “an immediate family emergency.”

Edgar was also a three-term member of the state’s Public Service Commission, the panel that regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities, and has been a deputy secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush first appointed her to the PSC in January 2005. Last year, Edgar decided not to seek another term on the PSC. She was replaced by water-use engineer Donald Polmann of Dunedin.

She switched jobs around the first of the year, saying she wanted to further use her “regulatory and governmental experience.”

Personnel note: Ryan West named CFO’s chief of staff

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Monday announced in a press release he had named Ryan West his new Chief of Staff, effective later this month, taking over for the retiring Robert “Budd” Kneip. 

“Ryan has been a trusted member of my team since day one, and there is no one better suited to serve as my second in command,” Patronis said in a statement. “His instincts and experience have afforded him the tools to do the job, and I have full confidence that he will successfully lead our team for years to come.”

West had been Patronis’ chief advisor when he was a commissioner on the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates investor-owned utilities.

Kneip will retire Aug. 31, the office announced Friday.

He had been former CFO Jeff Atwater’s man, a fellow Palm Beach Countian who served as Atwater’s chief of staff when he was Senate President, following him to the CFO’s office in 2010. Atwater stepped down to become CFO for Florida Atlantic University; Gov. Scott tapped Patronis to replace him in June.

Here are excerpts from the rest of the press release:

(At the PSC,) Ryan was charged with overseeing policy areas that included electric energy, water and wastewater systems, natural gas and telecommunications. Additionally, he monitored and advised the Commissioner on significant energy policy shifts in state, national and international arenas. He has also served as Chief Advisor to Commissioners Ronald A. Brisé and Ben “Steve” Stevens III.

Prior to the PSC, West led the Florida House of Representative’s Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee as Policy Chief. 

Ryan honed his economic development skill set early in his career, while serving as the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Economic Development and Education Policy. There he crafted portions of the Chamber’s legislative agenda and served as the Chamber’s lead lobbyist on legislation that included top-tier topics, such as teacher merit pay, digital learning and charter schools, and tax relief packages for Florida businesses.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a Master’s of Science degree in Applied American Politics and Policy from Florida State University. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Kim, and young son, Parker.

Government negligence from the ’90s leads to claim bills

A baby’s death and a flying extension ladder, both happening in the late 1990s, resulted in two of the many claim bills already filed for the 2018 Legislative Session.

The first, filed by Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, is for $2.4 million for the death of 5-month-old Nicholas Patnode, who was seen at the Martin County Health Department’s Indiantown Clinic in 1998.

He developed a bacterial infection in his blood, which wasn’t treated in time, causing him to later die of bacterial meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain, according to the bill. The money would go to the boy’s parents, Cristina Alvarez and George Patnode.

The second, filed by Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston, is for $650,000 for the estate of Dr. Sherrill Lynn Aversa, who was killed in 1999 when a 12-foot extension ladder flew off a Department of Transportation vehicle on Interstate 75 in Hillsborough County.

Aversa, who was coming from an interview at the University of South Florida Medical School, was struck and killed instantly by another car that swerved to avoid the ladder, the bill says.

Florida law limits local governments and other public bodies to paying no more than $200,000 per person in damages. To get more, lawmakers must pass a claim bill, also known as a relief act, for extra money.

Session begins Jan. 9. The first committee week is this Sept. 12-15.

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