Adam Putnam Archives - Florida Politics

Adam Putnam to head out on “Florida First” campaign tour

The Adam Putnam campaign for Governor on Tuesday announced a “statewide tour of Florida with at least one stop planned in every major region of the state.”

The tour comes as Putnam is hurting in the polls and in recent fundraising against President Donald Trump-endorsed GOP candidate Ron DeSantis.

The state’s primary election is two weeks away.

“From Perdido Key to Key West, Florida is a prize and you must be present to win,” Putnam said in a statement – a swipe at Congressman DeSantis’ regular absence from the state.

“Over the next two weeks I will be making stops in communities across our great state and sharing my vision to make Florida the launchpad for the American dream,” Putnam added.

“This is a grassroots-driven campaign and as our state’s next governor I will fight to keep power in the hands of Florida families, not Washington or Tallahassee.”

The Florida First statewide tour will kick off Wednesday and continue through Saturday, Aug. 25.

Planned stops include, but are not limited to Santa Rosa Beach, Panama City, Lake City, Winter Park, Ormond Beach, Jacksonville, Fruit Cove, Clearwater, Brandon, Dade City, Bradenton, Sarasota, North Port, Moore Haven, West Palm Beach, Miami, The Villages, Sanford, and Temple Terrace.

For more information, visit the Adam Putnam for Governor Eventbrite page.

Cabinet approves latest conservation easement

The Florida Cabinet is moving forward with the purchase of a large parcel of land in Highlands County to ensure its preservation.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam authorized the $5,528,250 buy of the specified 2,457 acres of ranchland, known as the Sandy Gully property. 

Funding from the state Rural and Family Lands Protection program will be used to cover the cost of the purchase. Known as a conservation easement, the buy allows agricultural operations to continue on the Sandy Gully property but restricts future development. A potential federal grant totaling $3,312,500 could help offset that cost.

Sandy Gully is a cow/calf operation. Hay and timber production are secondary operations. A former dairy farm, it shifted focus to cattle in 2002, and now run anywhere from 650 to 700 heads of cattle, according to documents from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Species of black bear and gopher tortoise — both considered rare — have been present on the property. In the past, the owners of the land also have identified sightings of sandhill cranes, bald eagles, Sherman’s fox squirrels, eastern indigo snakes, gopher tortoises and Florida panthers.

Justifying the purchase, the state believes the property could serve as a pathway for animals in between two nearby parks.

“What’s really key about [Sandy Gully] is it’s sandwiched between the Highlands County Sun N Lake Preserve and the Highlands Hammock State Park,” DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein noted to the Cabinet. “[The land] will be a pretty good corridor for the wildlife that moves along the ranch.”

As well, the Sandy Gully property is integral to some of the area’s wetland systems, according to DEP documents.

Valenstein noted to the Cabinet that the state has purchased 46 conservation easements with the addition of Sandy Gully. In total, 53,121 acres have now been preserved under the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program since its creation in 2001. 

Personnel note: Veteran communications pro Stephen Lawson joins Ron DeSantis campaign

From “rapid response director” on Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014 campaign, to Enterprise Florida, to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, to VISIT FLORIDA, Stephen Lawson has worked in several positions over the last four years.

On Monday, he made another jump: Communications Director for the Ron DeSantis for Governor campaign.

DeSantis campaign manager Brad Herold made the announcement Monday afternoon, saying that the campaign would be making a load of hires ahead of the Aug. 28 Republican primary contest, where DeSantis holds a major polling advantage and is eating away at the cash advantage of his lone opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“I’m proud to have a seasoned communications professional like Stephen join our team as our campaign continues to build momentum,” Herold said. “Stephen’s experience helping reelect Governor Scott shows he knows how to communicate a strong, conservative, winning message to voters across Florida. We look forward to continuing to share Ron’s vision for making Florida the best state in the country as its next Governor.”

Prior to getting his foot in the door of the Scott administration, Lawson attended the University of Florida, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and later attended Florida State University, where he earned a master’s degree in applied politics and policy.

The DeSantis campaign said Lawson will lead the communications efforts for the campaign and will work to build out a robust communications team ahead of the primary. The campaign said details on the new comms hires would be released in the coming weeks.

Adam Putnam pushes ‘Florida First’ message in new ad

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is out with a new TV spot, pushing his “Florida First” message as the GOP primary race for Governor nears a close.

The 30-second ad, titled “God’s Country,” features several iconic images of the state as Putnam narrates what he views as the strengths of the state.

“In Florida, anything is possible,” Putnam begins.

“We launched a man to the moon. Our beaches bring the world to our doorstep and our farms feed the nation. The sunshine is bright in Florida because this is God’s country.”

Putnam then pivots to his vision for Florida under his leadership.

“Together we’ll make Florida the launchpad for the American Dream, cutting taxes and keeping government out of our way; ensuring our kids are career-ready; and attracting new industries. For me, it will always be Florida First.”

Putnam’s positioning as the “Florida First” candidate is a subtle jab at his opponent for the Republican nomination, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. The congressman has taken hits for focusing too much on national issues during the campaign.

That focus coincides with an endorsement from and strong defense of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s endorsement preceded a shift in the race according to the polling. Whereas Putnam led in many pre-endorsement polls, DeSantis has been ahead in more recent surveys.

Putnam has also seen a slowdown in funding to his campaign. Between July 28 and Aug. 3, DeSantis earned more than $1 million, while Putnam brought in just over $191,000.

The Florida primaries will be held Aug. 28.

Ron DeSantis adds another $1M as Adam Putnam’s money machine slows to a crawl

Congressman Ron DeSantis has held an edge in the polls for weeks, but now he’s started eating into Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s fundraising lead, too.

DeSantis, whose chances surged after an endorsement from President Donald Trump, brought in more than $1 million between July 28 and Aug. 3. Putnam, meanwhile, brought in $191,901.

DeSantis’ cash mostly came in through his committee account this time around, with his campaign receiving $399,031 and Friends of Ron DeSantis adding $635,100.

By far the largest check he cashed was a $300,000 payment from Conservative Principles for Florida, the main fundraising vehicle for incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva. Showing up with $50,000 checks were Save Our Everglades PC, a newish committee chaired by Mary Barley of The Everglades Trust, and Miami-based Duty Free Group.

Included further down was a $20,000 check from The Presidential Coalition, an affiliate of Citizens United that says its mission includes “seizing upon the momentum of President Trump’s historic victory to build a ‘farm team’ of up and coming candidates who share our vision for America as a ‘shining city upon a hill.’”

On the campaign side, DeSantis received $183,005 in state matching funds alongside more than 40 checks for the maximum campaign donation of $3,000.

The state campaign matching funds program, open only to candidates for Governor and Cabinet positions, matches contributions of $250 or less from individuals who were state residents at the time of making the contribution. The first distribution of those funds is made 60 days before the primary election.

Also on the report were hundreds of small-dollar donations. Of the 1,357 campaign contributions he received, more than 1,200 were for $100 or less. Excluding the matching funds check, DeSantis’ average campaign donor chipped in $159.19.

Spending for the week was a few bucks shy of $3 million, with $2.93 million paying for media buys and the remainder paying for a list of expenses including credit card processing fees, printing, catering, direct mail and fundraising consulting from Picotte & Porter, the Jacksonville-based shop run by Gretchen Picotte and Rick Porter.

In all, DeSantis has raised $16 million for his gubernatorial bid and had $2.24 million in the bank on Aug. 3.

Putnam’s comparatively anemic campaign haul included an $81,170 matching funds disbursement, nine max checks and just over 300 contributions overall. His political committee, Florida Grown PC, added another $54,520, with a $15,000 check from The Florida Justice Reform Committee leading the way. Also on the report were $10,000 checks from Winter Park land development company Keewin, Vestcor Companies Chairman and former Ambassador John Rood as well as Heartland Dental Care founder Richard E. Workman.

Both the campaign and committee reports are tiny compared to the numbers Putnam has pulled down throughout most of his campaign. The last time Florida Grown raised less than $54,250 was the week before Election Day 2016, when Putnam was not on the ballot. The last time Putnam’s campaign account reeled in less than $56,212 — it’s total excluding the matching funds — is never.

Despite the meager week, spending totaled $2.67 million and included $2.13 million in ad buys and another $518,000 in direct mail campaigns.

As of Aug. 3, the second-term Agriculture Commissioner had raised $37 million between the two accounts and had $4.8 million in the bank.

DeSantis and Putnam are a little over two weeks away from the Aug. 28 primary election, when Republicans will decide which man will represent the party on the November ballot.

Gwen Graham adds $1.5M as Philip Levine, Jeff Greene pour more cash into Gov. campaigns

Gwen Graham’s campaign for Governor added nearly $1.5 million to its coffers last week as Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine continued juicing their campaign accounts with seven-figure checks from their own fortunes.

Though the haul is Graham’s largest yet, it mainly came in through a pair of state matching funds checks — one check for $991,598 on July 28, and another for $103,970 on Aug. 3, the final day of the reporting period.

The state campaign matching funds program, open only to candidates for Governor and Cabinet positions, matches contributions of $250 or less from individuals who were state residents at the time of making the contribution. The first distribution of those funds is made 60 days before the primary election.

The campaign tacked on another $167,500 or so from donors. While seven max checks — $3,000 for statewide races — topped the list of individual supporters, her campaign added hundreds more contributions.

Overall, Graham received a whopping 1,900 contributions from individuals and a well over 1,700 of them measured in at $100 or less. Excluding the matching funds, the average campaign contribution for the week was about $88.

The campaign haul was accompanied by another $218,150 raised for her affiliated political committee, Gwen Graham for Florida. Graham’s cousin, Stephen Graham of New York City, topped the committee report with a $50,000 check alongside Anne Pajcic of the prominent family of Duval Democratic boosters that includes former Rep. Steve Pacjic.

Checking in at the $25,000 level were Pompano Beach retiree Michael Cohen and Hugh Culverhouse Jr., the son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse Sr., who died in 1994.

The Democratic Services Network, the Florida Institute for Politics and NARAL Pro-Choice America also cut five-figure checks, with most of the rest of the committee haul coming in from individuals who have already maxed out on the campaign side.

In all, Graham’s two accounts shelled out $1.57 million for the week, with $1.41 million of that heading to Virginia-based Screen Strategies Media for an ad buy, and another $141,501 paying for media production services from Washington-based Dixon/Davis Media Group and Virginia-based Deliver Strategies.

With the books closed at midnight on Aug. 3, Graham’s overall fundraising had had passed the $12 million mark and she had about $1.35 million banked between her two accounts.

Graham’s on hand total tops the primary field, as does her fundraising total if loans are excluded. Including them, however, puts her in third behind Levine and Greene.

Greene anted up another $4.35 million for the week, and spent another $4.6 million, and in keeping with the strategy he’s employed thus far, the campaign account served merely as a pass through for checks to media buying agencies.

Between July 28 and Aug. 3, California-based Fortune Media picked up $3.2 million in checks from Team Greene, while Washington’s The Incite Agency received $526,668 and Coral Gables-based Adkins & Associates received $78,925.

In addition to media buys, the campaign spent more than $550,000 on “communications services” — $319,000 for Washington’s Winning Connections, $227,446 for Nashville’s Counterpoint Messaging and $10,000 for Gainesville’s Everblue Communications.

Various consulting contracts and travel expenses ate away the rest of the funds.

Greene has now pumped $22.45 million into his campaign account and has brought in just $2,315 from donors. He finished the reporting period with just shy of $20,000 in his campaign account.

Levine, meanwhile, bolstered his $72,843 in outside fundraising with a $1.37 million loan, for an overall haul of $1.45 million for the week. Like his opponents, his nearly $1.5 million spending during this leg of the sprint outweighed his income and mainly went toward media buys.

The $10,343 in outside cash raised by the campaign came in from about 150 or so small-dollar donors who gave an average of $67.12 apiece. The bulk of the committee’s 62,500.00 haul came in through a $50,000 check from Cuban-born Miami businessman Paul Cejas, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium during the Clinton Administration.

Levine’s TV spending rang up at $1.37 million for the week, while another $38,000 in advertising dollars were directed to various online publications $4,215 was spent boosting Levine’s tweets. The rest of the outflow mainly went toward bills to keep the lights on and the doors open at the campaign’s many field office throughout the state.

Overall, Levine has raised $25.19 million between his campaign and All About Florida political committee, including about $16.4 million in candidate loans and candidate contributions. He had about $400,000 in the bank between his two accounts on Aug. 3.

Graham, Greene and Levine are the top three Democratic candidates in most polls of the race, though recent measures have shown Graham rocketing into first place as Greene and Levine have tussled over past comments on President Donald Trump — both of them were more gracious in than glowing when they made their comments, which simply wished the president luck and success for the good of the country.

Greene has additionally come out hard against both his top-tier rivals by releasing attack ads bashing their environmental records. The Levine attack says human waste was dumped into Biscayne Bay; the Graham attack says American Dream Miami megamall being developed on land partly owned by the Graham Companies will damage the Everglades.

Coming in fourth in most polls of the five-way race is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who raised $409,419 between his campaign and Forward Florida political committee last week.

Three-quarters of that cash came in from a pair of checks from some nationally familiar names. NextGen Climate America, the advocacy group headed up by billionaire Tom Steyer, chipped in $250,000, while Jonathan Soros, the son of business magnate George Soros, gave $50,000.

Gillum’s campaign account brought in another $100,900 from 1,370 donors who gave an average of $74.42 apiece. Spending for the week nearly hit $1 million, including $888,000 in advertising spending and along with a host of charges for campaign travel.

Since entering the race early last year, Gillum has raised $5.2 million with $817,515 on hand on Aug. 3.

Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King rounded out the pack with a report that shows signs of a slowing campaign. The week brought him just over $10,000 in new money while $109,238 went out the door. The measly numbers come after he pumped another $2 million into his campaign during the first half of July.

including $4 million in candidate loans, King has now raised $8 million between his campaign and committee, Rise and Lead, Florida. He had $779,865 at the ready on Aug. 3.

The five Democratic hopefuls are only about two weeks out from the Aug. 28 primary election, when four of their campaigns will end and the winner among them will head on to face either U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on the November ballot.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Charter chalks a win

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Charter chalks a win

The Leon County School District suffered a bruising defeat this week when an appeal panel unanimously recommended the state overturn the county’s decision to block a new charter school from setting up shop in the county.

The Charter School Appeal Commission, composed evenly of traditional public and charter school representatives, recommended the State Board of Education reject the county board’s previous denial of Tallahassee Classical School. The proposed charter now has the green light to operate.

Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna faced a ‘bruising defeat’ over a new charter school. (Image via Tallahassee Democrat)

The School Board blocked the proposed charter earlier this year, fearing the school would further exacerbate the issue of segregated student populations in the county.

But the appellate panel found that the district did not provide enough substantial evidence to turn down Tallahassee Classical.

The county initially argued the proposed charter’s plans for student recruitment — particularly for enrolling students with disabilities and getting a student body representative of the district’s demographics — along with its tentative transportation plan were not suitable.

But the panel unanimously agreed that each concern raised by the county was not well-founded, essentially determining the school board’s concerns were baseless. Tallahassee Classical has contended that the board blocked the school for political reasons.

In a brief interview after the hearing, Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna told Florida Politics the district’s initial rejection of Tallahassee Classical likely raised awareness of the issue of segregation, if nothing else.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t fighting for traditional public schools, and I always will,” Hanna said. Adding that if — or when — the school begins operating in the county, he said the district will “welcome (it) into our community.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, Michael Moline and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

State seeks to substantiate ‘hacking’ claim — After Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson told reporters this week that Russian operatives have “penetrated” election systems in Florida, Secretary of State Ken Detzner penned a letter to Sen. Richard Burr, chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence, requesting knowledge of the alleged hackings. Nelson, when speaking with a Tampa Bay Times reporter, said his knowledge of the hacks stemmed from the committee. In the letter, Detzner wrote that the state has no current information supporting Nelson’s claim. Counties this week finalized submissions requesting federal election security grants to beef up election systems. The awards were approved by the state Joint Legislative Budget Commission and Gov. Rick Scott in July.

Judge strikes parts of pot law — A Tallahassee judge ruled this week that major provisions in a 2017 law implementing medical marijuana are unconstitutional. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson struck the law’s following requirements: Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers grow, process and sell own marijuana; limits on the number of marijuana providers that can be licensed by the state; and special categories of licenses. The challenge, raised by Florigrown, a company that was denied the chance to become a treatment center, sought a request for a temporary injunction, although that was denied. “The denial of the request for a temporary injunction will allow the department to continue to work to implement the law so Floridians can have safe access to this medicine,” said Department of Health spokesman Brad Dalton. State Sen. Rob Bradley, the budget chief and chief architect of the law, said, “I’m confident that our appellate courts will uphold (its) constitutionality.”

Supreme Court to weigh dog racing ban — The Supreme Court unanimously agreed to consider whether a proposed amendment to end greyhound racing can appear on the ballot in November. The lawsuit, filed by attorneys opposing the ban, argues the proposal, known as Amendment 13, should be kept off the ballot because it would be misleading to voters. In July, a Tallahassee judge sided with the attorneys. The state appealed the lower court ruling last week, and both parties requested an appellate court allow the case to ‘pass through’ to Supreme Court consideration, noting that time was of the essence: Mail-in ballots must, by law, be sent to voters by Sept. 22. An appellate court agreed this week to allow the Supreme Court to take up the case, and the high court accepted it a day later. Justices have scheduled arguments for Aug. 29.

Early voting ballots mount — Just more than half a million Floridians already have voted ahead of the Aug. 28 primary election, and Republicans appear to be leading the pack. Of the 510,155 ballots returned by Friday morning, 238,051 came from registered Republicans, with Democrats returning 198,631, according to data published by the state Division of Elections. Independent voters returned 71,507 as of the same date and voters belonging to other parties sent back 1,966 ballots. In total, 925,192 have been mailed out to Democrats, 836,223 to Republicans, 446,124 to independents and 9,965 to third-party voters.

‘Stand Your Ground’ session fails — A Democratic push to reconvene the Legislature to workshop Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law fell short this week after not gaining enough support between members of the state House and Senate. The call for a special session was sparked by the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton in the parking lot of a Clearwater convenience store. Pinellas County law enforcement did not pursue charges against the shooter, saying he acted within the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. Democratic members called for lawmakers to be polled on whether they should return to Tallahassee to revisit the controversial law. Although lawmakers had until noon Friday to vote on the special session, it became clear that the three-fifths support threshold could not be met Thursday. Republicans overwhelmingly opted not to return to the capital city. Between the state House and Senate, 77 members voted against the idea, with 48 voting in support. Thirty-one members did not respond to the poll, nor confirm receipt, according to data recorded by the Florida Department of State.

Scott tours algae-plagued area; offers more aid

Gov. Scott toured the St. Lucie River Friday, following-up immediately afterward by announcing an additional $700,000 is coming to help Martin County handle an ongoing toxic algae outbreak.

According to the Governor’s office, that money is coming from a $3 million grant approved after he declared a state emergency over the algae crisis in July.

On the water: Senate President Joe Negron (at left) joined Gov. Rick Scott on the St. Lucie River to see the algae outbreak caused by Lake Okeechobee water releases by the feds.

Scott was joined on his tour by retiring state Senate President Joe Negron, of Stuart. Last month, the Governor toured the algae-affected Caloosahatchee River on the west coast of the state.

Earlier this week, Scott announced an additional $400,000 would be heading to Lee County to clean up impacts related to red tide, for $1.1 million in grant funding.

“I am using my executive authority to provide additional funding to allow communities in Lee County to better clean our waterways,” Scott said in announcing the money for Lee. “We will continue to implement real solutions to help our local communities deal with both the algal issues caused by federal water discharges from Lake Okeechobee and this year’s red tide bloom. I encourage more local governments to apply for this important funding.”

New state land honors veterans

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expressing the state’s gratitude toward wounded vets with a large chunk of state land that will bear the name “Purple Heart Tract.”

Putnam made the announcement Tuesday, which was National Purple Heart Day. The tract is a 4,500-acre portion of the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest.

“As Americans, the brave men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces have secured our freedom and liberty,” Putnam said.

The Florida chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) hosted its 3rd Annual Purple Heart Day Banquet this week in the historic Fort Harrison.

“More than 1.9 million service members have been wounded or died defending our country, and this Purple Heart Tract is one way we can appreciate our nation’s heroes and honor them in perpetuity.”

The tract is designated as part of the Military Order of the Purple Heart’s trail program. Established in 1992, the program seeks to honor award recipients with transportation routes and monuments.

The news accompanied Putnam’s hosting of the second-annual Operation Outdoor Freedom Purple Heart Day event at Camp Prairie. The camp provides “guided hunts, fishing trips, canoe tours and other outdoor recreational activities free of charge.”

Scam targets Florida Blue customers

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is warning Floridians of a current telemarketing scam that appears to be disproportionately targeting seniors covered under Florida Blue.

According to a news release, Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers nationally have filed several complaints about scammers peddling “experimental pain relief cream” instead of pain medication.

The callers are allegedly prompting consumers to hand over information about their identity. In some cases, the scammers also are attempting to fraudulently charge Blue Cross and Blue Shield for their “bogus” creams, according to Patronis’ office.

“Florida residents are most likely to report being the target of fraud and identity theft,” Patronis said in a statement. “Anyone that provides prescription medication to you without a medical doctor directly involved in your personal care is committing fraud.

“Preying on seniors and some of our most vulnerable population is shameful, and we must do everything possible to warn Floridians about this scam.”

Instagram of the Week

FAU students who lost the opportunity to walk on stage and collect a diploma when a “credible threat” caused Tuesday’s ceremony to be canceled took part in special commencement ceremony at FAU’s Kenneth R. Williams Administration Building Thursday afternoon, August 9, 2018. They included: 1) 81-year-old Nicoletta Sorice, who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Language and Linguistics. “Nicoletta has inspired her fellow Owls with her passion for learning and her enthusiasm for life,” FAU President John Kelly said. 2) Natasha Taimkij, 26, who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. “You can tell they really care about their students,” she said of FAU officials. 3) Ripu Kunwar, who is seen posing for a photo making the “owl eyes” sign with FAU President John Kelly. Kunwar earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Geosciences. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post) #bocaraton #palmbeachcounty #fau #graduation #graduate #diploma

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Amendment 8 heading to court

The state Constitution Revision Commission this spring decided to put a proposal on the November ballot that would impose eight-year term limits on school-board members and would require the Legislature to take steps to better promote civic literacy in schools.

Sounds simple enough.

But next week, Tallahassee Circuit Judge John Cooper will hear arguments about whether he should block the proposal, known as Amendment 8, from going on the ballot because of a dispute about another part of the measure.

The League of Women Voters of Florida filed a lawsuit seeking to block Amendment 8. The group contends ballot language doesn’t adequately inform voters that one part of the proposed constitutional amendment is designed to open the door to more charter schools in the state.

Erika Donalds is defending Amendment 8, which is headed to Circuit Court.

The growth of charter schools, which are public schools typically operated by private groups or companies, has spawned numerous political and legal battles in recent years.

But Constitution Revision Commission member Erika Donalds, a Collier County school board member, defended the proposal during a debate in April. She said the revision would allow the Legislature to offer more educational choices, such as charter schools, to students and their families.

“The Legislature should not be encumbered by unfair and antiquated constitutional language that has been used to block parental choice and protect the education monopoly,” she said.

Cooper is scheduled to hear arguments on Friday.

School lunch guidelines announced

Income eligibility standards for free and discounted school lunches for the upcoming school year have been released.

Announced by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services this week, the federal income guidelines apply to the entire country and are valid until June 30, 2019.

The matrix is ordered by income and household size. For example, to be eligible for reduced-price school meals, a household of four could not have a yearly income of more than $46,435. For free meals, the same size household’s income cannot exceed $32,630.

According to FDACS, each school should have a copy available to go over with interested parties. The guidelines also can be found here.

State encourages Floridians to review coverage — before it’s too late

Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and CFO Patronis are reminding citizens to double-check their insurance policies as the peak of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season approaches.

Jimmy Patronis wants your family to be secure; check your hurricane insurance policy, now.

“We are almost 30 days from the one-year mark since Irma, and this should serve as a reminder that flood policies typically take 30 days to take effect,” Patronis said. “Now is the time to review your current insurance policy and get flood insurance if you don’t have it.

“Remember, flooding isn’t just a coastal concern but a statewide issue.”

Patronis has been working with OIR to expand private flood insurance. Between June 2017 and March, eligible private flood insurance providers in Florida increased from 20 to 26, a 30 percent jump from the previous reporting period, according to OIR.

Saying “complacency is not an option,” Altmaier advised: “Floridians must review their insurance policies, understand their coverages, and make the necessary adjustments to ensure they are adequately covered.”

State recognizes Main Street Bartow

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced this week that Main Street Bartow in Polk County is the August 2018 Florida Main Street Community of the Month.

The Florida Main Street Program, administered by the Division of Historical Resources under the Florida Department of State, encourages economic development via historic preservation initiatives that facilitate the revitalization of Florida’s downtowns.

Communities that participate in the program are eligible to receive the designation, which recognizes development achievements.

“Main Street Bartow is an exemplary program,” said Secretary Detzner. “With one of the longest standing Main Street programs in Florida, downtown Bartow continues to thrive with constant growth, investment and additional businesses moving to the area.”

“There is a lot happening in our downtown,” said Bartow Main Street Executive Director Linda Holcomb. “More new businesses have moved in recently, and several are in the process. We have also seen an increase in attendance at our downtown events.”

Old Polk County Courthouse, Bartow. (Photo via the Florida Department of State.

Teacher rally set for next Sunday

As K-12 educators across the state gear up for incoming students, two South Florida lawmakers will host them and interested parties at the Red for Education Teacher Rally Aug. 19, the Sunday before the first day of the 2018-2019 school year in Miami-Dade County.

Announced in June by Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, and Miami Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran, the rally is set to take place at the Betty T. Ferguson Community Center in Miami Gardens.

Guest speaker: Broward County Public School Superintendent Robert Runcie.

A number of politicians are expected to attend, including all five Democratic candidates for governor: Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Andrew Gillum, Chris King and Philip Levine.

In announcing the event in June, Rep. Duran said: “In our fight to improve Florida’s education system, it is essential that we provide a venue where teachers, students, parents, and the rest of the community can gather together to request better efforts to ensure our public schools are equipped with the adequate resources to provide high-quality education for all our children.” \

“Our schools are being starved out by these poorly thought out mandates and dangerous funding levels,” said Rep. Jones. “We will not continue to tolerate this blatant disregard for the growing needs of Florida’s schools.”

Howard to lead FMA

The Florida Medical Association has installed Dr. Corey L. Howard as its 142nd president.

Howard, the founder of Howard Health & Wellness in Naples, has been active in leadership at FMA since 2007. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and is board-certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology.

New FMA President Dr. Corey Howard.

“We congratulate Dr. Howard as he takes the helm as President of the Florida Medical Association,” said FMA CEO Timothy J. Stapleton. “His strong leadership and demonstrated advocacy for our physicians, patients and issues will further strengthen the FMA as Florida’s premier voice of medicine.”

FMA, which acts as the advocacy arm for physicians and medical professionals in the Sunshine State, boasts “more than 22,000 members on issues of legislation and regulatory affairs, medical economics and education, public health, and ethical and legal issues,” according to its website.

Howard officially assumed the presidential post last week during FMA’s annual meeting at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. Dr. Ronald F. Giffler is president-elect and will assume Howard’s position next year.

Reminder: Crab trap closures underway

The first of two scheduled 10-day blue crab trap closures in August began Friday.

That means recreational and commercial blue crab traps should be removed from specified state waters along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, those waters include “Brevard through Palm Beach counties from Aug. 10-19, and from all state waters from the Georgia-Florida line through Volusia County Aug. 20-29.”

Closed: The first 10-day Florida crab trap closure begins this week.

The St. Johns River system waters are excluded in both of these closures.

FWC conducts these closures to “identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water,” according to the agency. Closure lengths are subject to change.

Lost or abandoned crab traps are dangerous to underwater ecosystems because they can continue to trap — and kill — fish and crabs when gone unchecked. They can also damage habitats and interfere with boating traffic. While the closures are ongoing, fisherman can still collect crabs “with other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps,” according to FWC.

FSU Student Bar wins top award

For the seventh time since 2008 and the second consecutive year, the Florida State University College of Law Student Bar Association (SBA) received the National Achievement Award from the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Law Student Division.

The award, honoring the best SBA in the nation, is also known as the SBA of the Year Award and was presented at the ABA annual meeting in Chicago.

From left: incoming SBA President Cecilia Orozco, 3L Representative Brandon Sapala, Vice President Hillary Thornton.

“It recognizes the efforts of an SBA organization to create a better environment for law students and a more positive image of the legal profession,” a news release said. “Top law schools from around the nation competed for the award.”

During the 2017-2018 academic year, SBA’s programming included a Mental Health Week, a Diversity Week and a panel discussion on alcohol awareness to provide information on resources available to law students and lawyers.

Students were also able to network with attorneys and judges and to give back to the community through SBA events, such as the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, raising more than $1,600 to benefit the American Cancer Society.

“We are thrilled that the work of our Student Bar Association has again been recognized at the national level,” said Dean Erin O’Connor.

Social media campaign honors lineworkers

To celebrate Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day (Aug. 26), the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) and Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) will recognize lineworkers from around the state this month in a new social media campaign called “Celebrating our Hometown Heroes.”

Photos and biographical information about lineworkers from Florida’s 34 public power communities will be featured on both organizations’ Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

Florida Lineworker Appreciation Day goes social.

Members of the public are encouraged to participate in the campaign by sharing the “Celebrating our Hometown Heroes” graphics, creating their own social media posts about their experiences with lineworkers and using the hashtags #ThankALineman, #LineLife and #LineworkerAppreciationDay.

“Lineworkers are the front lines of reliability,” said Jacob Williams, FMPA General Manager and CEO. “The work they do requires incredible skill, focus and commitment to safety. We created this campaign to show how much we appreciate the work they do.”

Public power lineworkers not only serve their own communities but have volunteered to serve others across the state and country.

“Hurricane Maria was incredibly destructive, leaving Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands almost completely without power for months,” said Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director.

“Our lineworkers immediately answered the call for help, traveling to the Caribbean to assist, many of whom stayed for months at a time and were away from their families during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s this kind of selflessness and sense of duty that our lineworkers exhibit every day on the job.”

Call before you dig

Happy National 811 Day! On Aug. 11, regulators at the Florida Public Service Commission are reminding everyone to call 8-1-1 before digging any holes in the ground, to avoid damaging buried power or gas lines.

Remember, call before you dig!

More than 20 million miles of utility lines are buried underground nationally, and digs can cause damage practically everywhere, ranging from backyards to major construction sites, PSC Chairman Art Graham warned.

In fact, it happens every six minutes.

“Calling 811 has the potential to reduce frustrating service outages while saving time, money, and, most importantly, lives,” Graham said. “No matter how large or small the project, we urge you to call 8-1-1 first.”

Solar company wins PSC’s OK

A second solar energy company has won Public Service Commission approval to offer equipment leases to customers in Florida.

The commission concluded that Vivint Solar Developer LLC’s 20-year, fixed-payment, residential solar equipment lease does not constitute not a retail sale of electricity.

In other words, the company doesn’t qualify as a public utility, subject to PSC oversight.

Vivint Solar Developer is the second solar energy company to get approval from the PSC.

“As solar becomes more affordable and therefore more attractive to residential customers, the PSC supports ways to continue to ‘prime the pump’ for renewable energy adoption,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said. “This (decision) helps provide more residential solar options for Florida’s ratepayers.”

Sunrun Inc. secured a similar PSC clearance in April.

Some content this week provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

Capitol Directions

 

Denise Grimsley adds dozens of local endorsements for Ag. Commish bid

Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley expanded her list of backers in her statewide bid for Agriculture Commissioner on Friday with a bulk endorsement from three dozen local elected officials from all corners of the state.

The additions came in from mayors across the I-4 corridor, from Temple Terrace to Melbourne; school superintendents stretching from Gulf to Hendry; tax collectors in from the Panhandle to the Treasure Coast; school board members from Duval on one end of I-10 to Okaloosa on the other; county clerks spanning from Suwanee to Martin; and county commissioners from the Florida-Georgia line in Baker to the top of the peninsula in Miami-Dade.

“Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture will not only work alongside the Governor and other members of the Cabinet, but local leaders as well, which is why I am proud that so many public servants have lent me their support and endorsement,” Grimsley said.

“I look forward to continuing to work with local elected leaders, who play such a vital role in their communities and Florida, if elected Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture. Together, we can further our collective mission of making Florida flourish for generations to come,” she continued.

“As Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture, I will utilize the sum of my experiences that I gained as a farmer, nurse, hospital administrator and running a small business to advocate on behalf of the agriculture industry, as well as Florida consumers,” she concluded.

If in addition to those 34 pols, Grimsley added another pair to the already well-stocked quiver of county sheriff endorsements: Hamilton County Sheriff J. Harrell Reid and former Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton.

For those keeping score at home, that makes for 36 sitting county lawmen — seven Democratic and 29 Republican — backing her bid in the four-way Republican primary to succeed Adam Putnam, who is term-limited and running in the Republican primary for Governor.

Grimsley has been a member of the state Legislature since 2004, first as a member of the Florida House and, since 2012, as a member of the Florida Senate. She currently holds the District 26 seat, which covers all of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties as well as parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk counties.

She’s up against Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Aug. 28 primary race.

Grimsley has raised $2.65 million since declaring for the race in February 2017 and currently holds the cash lead with more than $1.1 million in the bank between her campaign and political committees, Saving Florida’s Heartland and Let’s Grow Florida. Caldwell, meanwhile, has raised $2 million since entering the race in April 2017 and has $1.07 million on hand between his campaign and political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell.

Troutman, however, has pumped $3 million into his campaign fund and raised about $500,000, though his high burn rate has left him with just $315,000 on hand heading into the last leg of the race. McCalister, for his part, has yet to hit $25,000 raised for his effort, even with nearly $19,000 in candidate loans.

The winner of the Republican nomination will be on the November ballot alongside one of three Democrats: Nikki Fried, Jeffrey Porter and Roy David Walker.

The full list of Grimsley’s new endorsements is below:

—Melbourne Mayor Kathy Meehan

—San Antonio Mayor pro tempore and Parks Commissioner Elayne Bassinger

—Seminole Mayor and Former House Speaker pro tempore Leslie Waters

—Temple Terrace Mayor Mel Jurado

—Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary

—Calhoun County Superintendent of Schools Ralph Yoder

—Glades County Superintendent of Schools Scott Bass

—Gulf County Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton

—Hendry County Superintendent of Schools Paul Puletti

—Pasco County Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning

—Suwannee County Superintendent of Schools Ted Roush

—Brevard County Tax Collector Lisa Cullen

—Hendry County Tax Collector Pat Langford

—Indian River Tax Collector Carole Jean Jordan

—Lake County Tax Collector Bob McKee

—Okaloosa County Tax Collector Benjamin Anderson

—Pasco County Tax Collector and former state Rep. Mike Fasano

—Calhoun County Property Appraiser Carla T. Peacock

—Duval County School Board Member Becki Couch

—Duval County School Board Member Lori Hershey

—Highlands County School Board Member Donna Howerton

—Okaloosa County School Board Member Tim Bryant

—Hamilton County Sheriff J. Harrell Reid

—Highlands County Former Sheriff Susan Benton

—Martin County Clerk of Court Carolyn Timmann

—Pasco County Clerk of Court Paula O’Neil

—Suwannee County Clerk of Court Barry Baker

—Baker County Commissioner James Croft

—Clay County Commissioner Mike Cella

—Hardee County Commissioner Colon Lambert

—Hardee County Commissioner Rick Knight

—Highlands County Commissioner Don Elwell

—Indian River County Commissioner Peter O’Bryan

—Indian River County Commissioner Tim Zorc

—Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo

—Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey

Report: Debbie Mayfield, Bob Cortes, Ken Lawson on Ron DeSantis’ list of running mates

A report published in POLITICO Florida Friday morning says U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the front-runner in Florida’s Republican gubernatorial race, has narrowed a list to nine possible Lieutenant Governor running mates including former VISIT FLORIDA President Ken Lawson and several lawmakers, including state Sen. Debbie Mayfield.

The report states that POLITICO received the list from anonymous sources, which the news service identifies as “two top Republicans connected to the campaign.”

In addition to Lawson and Mayfield, the report lists state Reps. Bob Cortes, Heather Fitzenhagen, Jeanette Nuñez, and Scott Plakon; Kissimmee City Commissioner Wanda Rentas; Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Laurel Lee, and Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams as being on DeSantis’ list.

POLITICO reports that DeSantis might name his running mate before the Aug. 28 primary, which he is heading toward with a double-digit polls lead over rival Republican Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Adam Putnam doesn’t ‘resent’ Fox News’ role in the gubernatorial campaign

Many unbiased observers of the Florida gubernatorial race would agree that if President Donald Trump had not endorsed Rep. Ron DeSantis, who unlike Adam Putnam is a regular guest on Fox News, the race on the GOP side would look different.

Up until this week, the one debate the two Republicans had was on Fox News — a showcase of national issues that highlighted DeSantis but overlooked Putnam’s encyclopedic knowledge of the state.

Addressing media Wednesday evening after a debate in Jacksonville, we asked Putnam if he resented the uneven playing field on the conservative network, after he sniped that “water issues don’t get you booked on primetime TV.”

“No, I don’t resent it at all,” Putnam said with an edge in his voice. “I’ve been focused on Florida issues.”

“Many times those shows are focused on only national issues. In fact, overwhelmingly on national issues. That’s what the last debate was all about,” Putnam added, his voice brightening.

“Tonight was a good debate. It was all about Florida. And you got to see the distinction between candidates who know what Florida’s issues are, and candidates who only speak in soundbites about Washington’s ways,” Putnam added.

Of course, without the Fox News platform, it is not as certain that President Donald Trump — an avid fan of the network — would have endorsed DeSantis, who Putnam points out wasn’t exactly clinging to Trump during his aborted 2016 Senate bid.

“I think he did it because he’s been watching Ron on TV for a couple of years. Working that, instead of focusing on Florida, instead of making plans for Florida,” Putnam said.

Putnam more than held his own in the debate Wednesday, barbing DeSantis over and over again, often making DeSantis supporters in the live crowd uncomfortable.

But did it matter?

DeSantis could be overheard as he walked out of the building with his wife, Casey Black DeSantis, and Rep. Matt Gaetz saying that he got more texts during the Fox News debate than the WJXT event, which ran throughout the state, except in the pivotal Tampa Bay market.

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