Adam Putnam Archives - Page 3 of 29 - Florida Politics

Broward homeowners demand state pay for felled citrus trees

Attorneys representing Broward County homeowners are demanding the state pay a $20 million judgment for tearing down healthy citrus trees in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker.

The legal battle could set a precedent that might spread to four other counties and increase the final bill to $200 million.

The attorneys filed a motion Monday asking a state judge to order the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Commissioner Adam Putnam pay the 70,000 homeowners for their lost trees and their legal fees. About $15 million would go to the homeowners and $5 million to the attorneys.

“It’s time to hold Commissioner Putnam and the department accountable for their continuing disregard of the homeowners’ constitutional rights,” lead attorney Robert C. Gilbert said.

Agriculture department spokesman Aaron Keller said the money cannot be paid without the Legislature’s approval, which it hasn’t given. He said the tree removal program would have stopped the spread of canker if a judge hadn’t stopped it three times, giving the disease an opportunity to spread.

Canker is a bacterial disease that blemishes a tree’s fruit and can cause it to drop prematurely, although fruit that ripens can still be squeezed for juice — the primary use of Florida’s commercial citrus crop. After a 53-year lull, canker reappeared in Florida in 1986 and was spread by the wind.

A last-ditch attempt to protect Florida’s $9 billion dollar citrus industry from widespread contamination began in 2000, as the state ordered the destruction of even healthy citrus trees within 1,900 feet of an infected tree with or without the owner’s permission. More than 16 million trees were destroyed statewide during the six-year program, including 865,000 residential trees, before a series of hurricanes spread canker too widely to be eradicated.

For compensation, the state gave each homeowner a $100 Wal-Mart gift card for the first tree killed and $55 cash for each subsequent tree, but thousands complained their trees were worth much more.

Class-action lawsuits were filed and courts agreed, ruling the average tree was worth more than $400. Judges ordered homeowners in Broward, Lee, Orange and Palm Beach counties to be fully compensated. Those rulings total about $100 million and a Miami-Dade County case that remains open could double that.

The state has refused to pay, however, saying that under Florida law, the Legislature must authorize the payments. The Broward homeowners’ attorneys petitioned the Legislature unsuccessfully during its 2014 session.

In Monday’s filing, the attorneys argue that the U.S. and Florida constitutions prohibit the government from taking private property without fair compensation and that the state can’t avoid payment even if the Legislature doesn’t approve. They want the state law declared unconstitutional.

Regardless of what the Broward court decides, Gilbert expects the case to reach the Florida Supreme Court.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Denise Grimsley eyeing Agriculture Commissioner run in 2018

Add state Senator Denise Grimsley to the growing list of Florida politicos thinking about 2018.

The Sebring Republican said Tuesday that she is considering a 2018 run for Agriculture Commissioner. A registered nurse and hospital administrator, Grimsley said in a interview via text message that agriculture has always played a big role in her life.

“It’s a big decision and one I’ve been discussed with both my family and my employer,” she said. “Agriculture has always been a big part of my life and having someone hold the office who brings the unique qualification of hands on farming and ranching is important to me.”

While most 2018 chatter has been about who will occupy the Governor’s Mansion, the race to be the next Agriculture Commissioner has been thrust into the spotlight in recent days. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced last week he would not run for the office in two years.

With deep roots in the state’s agriculture community, Crisafulli was considered to be a frontrunner to win the Republican nomination to succeed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

His decision to pass on 2018 leaves a wide open Republican field, and could give Grimsley an edge.

A fifth generation Floridian, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012. Grimsley was elected to the Florida Senate in 2012. She ran unopposed in 2016 and easily won re-election. She served as the Senate’s deputy Majority Leader from 2014-16.

A member of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, Grimsley touts the work she’s done for the agriculture community on her Facebook page.

“Over the past few years, we have partnered together in assisting farmers affected by natural disasters and raising the profile of Florida’s first-class agricultural community; communicating the economic development challenges and needs of small counties and rural areas; (and) finding common sense solutions for quality health care and the desperate need for more qualified health professionals like nurses,” she wrote.

Grimsley isn’t the only name being floated as a possible 2018 contender. Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, is also believed to be eyeing the office. Last week told FloridaPolitics.com that he has discussed the possibility with his wife, who has said she is “comfortable with that if that’s the decision” he makes.

Caldwell cannot run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits.

Also in the mix are state Reps. Ben Albritton and Halsey Beshears.

In a statement Wednesday, Grimsley said she expects to make a decision about 2018 soon.

“I’ve been humbled by all the calls I’ve received offering support,” she said. “You can expect to hear more soon.”

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster contributed to this story.

 

Stephen Bittel for Florida Democrats, what do you have to lose?

Over the weekend, Florida Democrats elected Miami rich guy Stephen Bittel to lead their party. The choice was controversial and left many members screaming that Bittel is the wrong man at the wrong time.

They have their reasons, I guess.

But, let me ask a simple question:  Whom would be the right person?

The political cosmos has been trying to send a message for years to Florida Democrats. They haven’t been listening.

They have lost five consecutive races for governor (or, put another way, they haven’t been in control of the governor’s mansion in this century). Republicans also control both chambers of the Legislature. Republicans pass whatever laws they want, many of which trample on Democratic ideals. All the Dems have been able to say is, “May I have another?”

This has happened despite the fact Democrats have long held the lead in the number of registered voters in Florida (that number, by the way, is shrinking).

It takes a special something to have turned such an advantage into what is essentially political irrelevance in Tallahassee. Democrats used to console themselves because they delivered the state’s electoral votes to Barack Obama during his presidential campaigns, but they couldn’t even keep that trend going last November against Donald Trump.

So, to borrow Trump’s own slogan and apply it to Bittel: What have you got to lose? At least the guy seems to have some energy a willingness to engage in the fight.

“Contentious elections are reflective that there are Democrats all over Florida that are passionate, committed to coming together, moving forward together to win elections. So contentious is good. It means you care,” Bittel said after beating four other candidates with more established track records.

He has a point there. Florida Democrats have “contentious” down to a science. What they haven’t shown is any evidence that they have a realistic game plan for returning some political balance to the state.

Bittel made his mark by donating and raising large amounts of money for Democratic candidates. While he told reporters Saturday at the Democratic gathering in Orlando that he is not a billionaire, as was reported, he obviously is a person of substantial wealth and energy.

Democrats? Listen up: You need energy. You need passion. You need a sense of purpose. And most of all you need to explain, in clear words, why you’re better for the state than Republicans.

Democrats deluded themselves into believing voters would never elect Rick Scott, but they didn’t understand the beautiful simplicity of his “Let’s Get To Work” message. They talked themselves again into believing that surely voters wouldn’t re-elect Scott.

Now, Scott likely is coming for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat in a couple of years, and in Adam Putnam Republicans appear to have a strong gubernatorial candidate ready to make his run. This kind of ballot box domination should send a message that doing things the same ol’ way is a losing strategy for Democrats.

So when Bittel talks about greatly expanding the staff at the state Democratic headquarters in Tallahassee and, as reported in FloridaPolitics.com, promising to “ …  grow this party to a size and strength that has never been seen before,” Democrats should be at least a little invigorated.

That is, assuming they still remember what that feels like.

Tale of 2 parties: Florida GOP high, Dems low ahead of 2018

The state Republican and Democratic parties met two miles from each other Saturday, their first meetings since Donald Trump carried Florida in November’s election, but the atmosphere and enthusiasm were worlds apart.

As both parties chose their leaders, it was easy to see which has more confidence heading into an election cycle when the governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats will be open. Republicans were aglow in victory after Trump stunned many political observers by winning the state Barack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012. At the same time, Democrats held a contentious election to choose a new chairman with little talk about this past election.

“How good does this feel? We defied the mainstream media, we defied conventional wisdom, defied the pollsters,” Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told GOP county chairs. “Right across town, Democrats are having their election and they’re not feeling near as good.”

As both parties prepare for 2018, Republicans are focused on how to build off the momentum Trump built with voters who traditionally haven’t been part of the political process while Democrats elected wealthy real estate developer and major party donor Stephen Bittel as chairman in hopes of ending two decades of futility at the polls.

“Donald Trump got a lot of people off of the couch and got them involved. It is our job at the Republican Party of Florida to harness all of that passion, all of that energy, and keep them in the game,” said state GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who was easily re-elected. “And when we do, and mark my words we will do it, we will cripple the Democrat Party for a generation.”

After the Democrats elected Bittel, a group of protesters stood outside the meeting room holding signs that read, “SHAME,” ”This is not the party of the people” and “People over $$.”

Still, Bittel tried to paint the best picture of the party’s future.

“We have had an under-resourced operation in Florida for a long time. That changes, starting today, and we will build a different kind of party, I’m a different kind leader and we will change things,” Bittel said. “I grew up in Florida in an era when we won everything. I’m looking forward to that era again.”

But Bittel, 60, grew up more than four decades ago, and there’s a new generation of Democrats who have rarely seen victory.

Florida hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1994. They’ve lost 14 of the past 15 Cabinet races. And despite Democrats’ success in passing a ballot initiative that requires political districts to be drawn in a way that doesn’t favor parties or incumbents, Republicans maintain huge majorities in the Legislature and hold 16 of Florida’s 27 U.S. House seats.

Republicans appear better situated heading into a critical state election. Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the three GOP Cabinet members, including Putnam, are leaving office because of term limits. Also in 2018, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is seeking a fourth term, and it’s widely thought Scott will challenge him in what could be Nelson’s toughest re-election yet.

But despite under-performing again in 2016, Democrats think 2018 can be different. Democratic strategist and former state party political director Christian Ulvert pointed at several pluses. First, Nelson, the one consistently successful Florida Democrat since 2000, will be on the ballot.

“This year, we have a potential for Bill Nelson setting the tone, to really set the stage from the top down,” Ulvert said.

He also said the party has a rich field of popular city mayors who could be on the ballot for statewide races, including Fort Lauderdale’s Jack Seiler, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach’s Philip Levine, Orlando’s Buddy Dyer and Tallahassee’s Andrew Gillum.

Putnam, who is likely to run for governor, warned Republicans that despite their successes, the party cannot become complacent.

“We can’t get arrogant and cocky and lose our way,” Putnam said. “We can’t take anything for granted.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

oranges

Citrus crop production trending down again ‘slightly’

The latest estimates show “a slight decrease” in Florida orange production to 71 million boxes for the 2016-17 season, according to the Florida Department of Citrus.

The department on Thursday shared the results of the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast, the first in 2017.

The state’s citrus industry has been hurt by the citrus greening epidemic. The so-far incurable disease is attacking fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually killing the tree.

Florida’s famous oranges are most at risk.

“Despite the decrease, (the) crop size projection remains above the 70 million boxes the USDA initially estimated in October,” its press release says. “The report also projects a slight decrease in the state’s grapefruit production to 9 million boxes.”

Shannon Shepp, the department’s executive director, attributed the changes to “the slight fluctuations this industry is accustomed to historically in a season.”

“We see this as a positive sign that we are gaining ground on (citrus greening) and getting closer to a stabilized industry,” Shepp said in a statement. “We continue to see growers invest in the future of Florida Citrus by putting new trees in the ground.”

The FDOC, funded in part by taxes paid by the state’s citrus growers, “serves as the chief marketing and promotion arm for the industry,” it says.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam was more guarded about the updated forecast.

“Because of citrus greening, production of our state’s signature crop is down 70 percent from 20 years ago,” he said in a statement. “The future of Florida citrus, and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports, depends on a long-term solution in the fight against greening.

“Our brightest minds are working to find a solution, but until then, we must support our growers and provide them every tool available to combat this devastating disease.”

Putnam has asked the federal government to consider approving antimicrobial treatments to fight greening, which is caused by a  jumping plant louse and the bacteria it hosts.

The tiny bugs feed on citrus leaves and infect the trees with the bacteria as they go. Researchers have been looking into ways to cure the disease or to grow a strain of citrus resistant to the bacteria.

Putnam “has requested more than $17 million in state funding to continue critical research and support Florida’s citrus industry,” his office said.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera endorses Blaise Ingoglia for RPOF Chair

Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera is the latest high profile Republican to back Blaise Ingoglia in his bid for re-election to be the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

“I have been active in the RPOF for 20 years and I cannot recall a chairman that has shown the commitment and dedication to the Republican Party of Florida as Blaise Ingoglia,” Lopez-Cantera said in a statement issued out by Ingoglia on Monday. “That is why I am proud to stand behind him for his reelection as our Chairman, and I encourage our entire Republican Party of Florida to do the same.”

Lopez-Cantera joins his fellow cabinet member, CFO Jeff Atwater, in backing Ingoglia in his election bid. The other members of the cabinet – Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam – have yet to weigh in on the race.

Ingoglia is being challenged by Sarasota committeeman Christian Ziegler for the position.  Governor Rick Scott has also to weigh in, but he and Ingoglia have never been on the same page, ever since Ingoglia defeated Scott’s hand picked choice for chair, Leslie Dougher, two years ago.

The Senate Republicans and Scott still fundraise separately from the party, an issue that Ziegler has seized on as part of his candidacy. Ingoglia responds that while fundraising is down with the RPOF, it’s still going to the same places to help Republicans win races, and he points to the state turning red with Donald Trump as the most concrete proof that he’s on the right track in leading the party.

Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a good friend of Lopez-Cantera, has also previously endorsed Ingoglia.

In his statement, the Lieutenant Governor said that he has traveled tens of thousands of miles across the Sunshine State in his duties to meet with Republicans, and says more than he can remember, Ingoglia was always there too.

“As a former State Committeeman for Miami-Dade I can’t tell you how much I appreciate a Chairman who travels the state spending time at local REC events all the while seeking input on building up our local parties, meeting with grassroots leaders and then putting those ideas into action,” Lopez-Cantera said.

The election for the RPOF chair takes place this Saturday in Orlando.  A third candidate in the race, Lafayette County Republican state committeeman Alan Levy, has announced that he is withdrawing from the race.

Beer Rees

Personnel note: Jonathan Rees joins Anheuser-Busch

Jonathan Rees, a member of the 2016 class of FloridaPolitics.com’s “30 Under 30,” will be joining Anheuser-Busch as the state affairs manager for Florida, effective Monday.

Rees will be responsible for leading Anheuser-Busch’s legislative agenda, political giving and stakeholder engagement in Florida.

The company brews more than 100 brands in the United States, including its flagship brands, Budweiser and Bud Light, and holds a 45.8 percent share of the beer market.

Rees also will continue to highlight the company’s commitment to Florida, including its nearly 1,000 employees in the state, its Jacksonville brewery and tour center, and the $180 million expansion of Anheuser-Busch’s Jacksonville can plant that’s expected to be completed in 2017.

Rees will report to Jose Gonzalez, who will continue to serve as Anheuser-Busch’s regional vice president of state affairs.

Rees has nearly seven years of experience in Florida politics. Most recently, he was the deputy legislative affairs director for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services under Commissioner Adam Putnam, where he lobbied for the commissioner’s priorities.

Before that, Rees served as the legislative assistant to state Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican, first working to elect Spano in 2012.

Rees also is a former governmental and political affairs coordinator for Associated Industries of Florida. Rees graduated magna cum laude with an undergraduate degree in International Affairs from Florida State University.

Mitch Perry Report for 1.4.17 — Waitin’ on the man

Over the weekend, the Times’ Rick Danielson and Sue Carlton shared a byline online where they essentially discussed the Bob Buckhorn Experience in Tampa, close to six years after he was elected mayor.

Although the initial thrust of the story was how the Mayor wasn’t above looking a little silly on occasions to sell a particular program or event, it ultimately evolved into an overall review of his time in office to date.

“ … it’s clear that Tampa has been reshaped — and in some spots, resurrected — during Buckhorn’s years in office,” the authors write, and the mayor clearly approves, including a link to the story in his weekly email newsletter he sends out to constituents.

As is commonly known, Buckhorn is still kicking around the idea of running for a statewide office next year. And while his timeline has shifted from immediately after the election to early in 2017, there seems to a shift in plans.

Once considered a shoo-in to run for governor, that’s hardly the case now. Some advisers have suggested that he consider running for the Chief Financial Officer position, because unlike the role of governor, he’d still be able to return home most weekends in Tampa to be with his family (You don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pam Bondi over the years has held a number of Tampa public events on Thursdays or Fridays, do you?). Also, the fact of the matter is there aren’t any heavyweights in Florida politics that have been publicly associated with running for CFO yet, as opposed to the governor’s race (where Richard Corcoran, Adam Putnam, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine are all strongly thinking of entering the contest).

There is also the likelihood that Buckhorn shucks those ambitions, and hunkers down to finish the work that he was re-elected to original do in 2011. Unlike in some other cities, Tampa’s charter limits the mayor to two terms (hence the fact that Rahm Emanuel‘s predecessor as Chicago mayor, Richard M. Daley, ruled the roost there for more than two decades), or there’s a decent chance Buckhorn might prefer to stay on after 2019, if the electorate were to continue to have him.

However, that’s not the case today, meaning the mayor’s options are limited politically if he doesn’t take a run for statewide office next year.

In other news …

Florida Republican members of Congress had various views of their secret vote on Monday night gutting the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

Tampa Bay area state Sen. Tom Lee has filed legislation killing the recently created state agency responsible for parceling out potentially millions for the construction or improving of sports facilities.

Sarasota Rep. Vern Buchanan began the new Congress yesterday by introducing seven new bills.

As Andrew Warren was being sworn into office as the new Hillsborough County State Attorney on Tuesday, a dozen activists came out to the county courthouse to cheer — and not jeer — his ascension.

Infamous dates: The moments that shaped Florida politics in 2016

Everyone expected Florida to play an important role in politics this year.

And why wouldn’t they? Presidential hopefuls hailed from here; the state’s electoral votes were coveted; and its Senate race could have determined control of the U.S. Senate.

But just like many predictions in 2016, some of the prophecies for Florida’s outsized role on the national stage fell flat. Many believed a Sunshine state politico would be a presidential nominee (not quite right) or that the election would hinge on its 29 electoral votes (close but no cigar). And that much anticipated battle for the U.S. Senate? It fizzled out before the first vote was even cast.

Here are the dates that really mattered in Florida politics this year. And some of them might just surprise you.

Jan. 20Florida Senate says it won’t appeal redistricting decision — A years-long battle over the state’s political lines came to an end in January, when Senate leadership announced it planned to let the court-ordered maps go into effect. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported the four-year legal battle cost Florida taxpayers more than $11 million. The new maps threw a wrench in the 2016 election cycle, with all 40 of Florida’s state Senate seats on the ballots. While many believed the new maps could boost Democrats chances in 2016, that didn’t quite pan out.

Feb. 20 — Jeb Bush ends 2016 presidential bid —  All signs pointed to Jeb Bush being the front-runner for the GOP nomination. The son and brother of two presidents, the former Florida governor racked up a massive war chest and plenty of big-name endorsements. But Bush couldn’t make headway in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls and was often on the receiving end of then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks. After a sixth place finish in Iowa and a fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Bush hung his hopes on South Carolina. He spent days on end campaigning in the Palmetto state, but it was just too late. He came in third, and ended his campaign that night.

March 15Donald Trump triumphs in Florida primary — Was it the turning point for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Maybe. The New York Republican was already on a winning streak by the time the March 15 primary rolled around, but the Sunshine State contest was the biggest one to date. And Trump was up Sen. Marco Rubio, who was believed to be a hometown favorite. Turns out, Florida voters weren’t keen on sending Rubio to the White House. Trump trounced Rubio, winning every county except for Miami-Dade County. Rubio ended his presidential campaign that night, saying America was in “the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming.”

April 21Gwen Graham hints at 2018 plans — When the dust settled on new congressional districts, one thing was clear: Florida’s 2nd Congressional District was solidly Republican. What wasn’t entirely clear was whether Rep. Gwen Graham would run for re-election or follow in her father’s footsteps and run for governor in 2018. She put the rumors to rest in April, announcing she was dropping her re-election bid and was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.” In the months since, Graham has continued to fuel speculation about her plans for 2018, most recently telling reporters every part of her “wants to run for governor,” but that her husband’s battle with cancer will play a significant role in her decision.

April 28Workers’ compensation decision rocks business community — A Florida Supreme Court decision striking down the state law limiting attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases might have been a victory for injured workers, but it also set the wheels in motion for what would become significant workers’ compensation rate hikes. The 5-2 ruling in Castellanos v. Next Door Company was just one of the decisions striking down workers’ compensation laws this year. Those rulings prompted the National Council on Compensation to ask state regulators to approve a nearly 20 percent rate hike. That rate, which was eventually lowed to 14.5 percent, went into effect Dec. 1. The state’s business community has said the rate hikes could have a dramatic impact on business, and are pushing lawmakers to tackle workers’ compensation reform in 2017.

June 1249 killed in an attack on Pulse nightclub — In the wee hours of the morning on June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50. It was the deadliest mass shooting in recent history, and sent shockwaves through the state and country. Gov. Rick Scott spent several weeks in Orlando, visiting with the victims and their families, attending funeral services, and meeting with members of the community. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together to support the victims and their families. Spearheaded by Mayor Buddy Dyer, the city set up the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack. As of Dec. 2, the fund distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of all eligible claims filed.

June 17David Jolly drops out of U.S. Senate race, announces re-election bid — When Rep. David Jolly announced he was forgoing a re-election bid to run for the U.S. Senate, all signs indicated former Gov. Charlie Crist would sail to an easy victory. But after more and more politicos pushed encouraged Sen. Rubio to run for re-election, Jolly ended his U.S. Senate bid and announced a re-election bid, challenging Crist in an effort to keep his seat in a newly drawn district that favored Democrats. He had the support of many local Republicans, but Jolly’s push to end the practice of lawmakers dialing for dollars soured many congressional Republicans. When Election Day rolled around, Crist defeated Jolly, 52 percent to 48 percent.

June 22 — Marco Rubio reverses course, decides to run for re-election — After a devastating loss in his home state’s presidential primary, Sen. Rubio swore he wouldn’t run for re-election. The Miami Republican said multiple times that was going to serve out the remainder of his term and then go back to being a private citizen. And, as he mentioned on more than one occasion, a close friend — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera – was already running for his seat. But in the days after the Pulse shooting, Lopez-Cantera encouraged his friend to run for re-election. Rubio ultimately announced his re-election bid just days before the qualifying deadline, effectively clearing the Republican field. He walloped Carlos Beruff in the Republican primary, and led in nearly every poll between him and Democrat Patrick Murphy. Rubio sailed to victory, winning a second term with 52 percent of the vote.

June 29 — Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency after algae clogs waterways — The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing Lake Okeechobee discharges down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers after record rainfalls earlier in the year. While those discharges sparked outrage in both communities, the appearance of algae blooms on the state’s east coast prompted action from the governor. Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties in June, and called on the federal government to quickly approve permits for dispersed water management projects. The declaration helped push the issue of water quality to the forefront of many campaigns.

July 8Corrine Brown indicted — It was a no good, very bad year for former Rep. Corrine Brown. Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which she represented since 1993, was redrawn as part of the state’s ongoing redistricting case. She and several other political operatives were served with subpoenas at a BBQ joint in Jacksonville. And in July, Brown and her chief of staff were indicted on federal corruption and fraud charges. The charges stem from her involvement in an allegedly fraudulent charity scheme. Brown was defiant, saying “just because someone accuses you, doesn’t mean they have the facts.” To add insult to injury, Brown was lost her primary in the newly drawn district.

July 29 — Zika comes to Florida — The first reported cases Zika virus in the Sunshine State began popping up in February, when state health officials confirmed there were nine travel-related cases of the mosquito-borne virus. Gov. Scott declared a public health emergency in four Florida counties, a number which would grow as the months wore on. As concerns about the illness spread, officials called on the federal government to assist Florida in combatting the disease and minimize the chances of homegrown cases. But in July, health officials announced the first cases of locally acquired Zika had been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued a travel warning for the Wynwood neighborhood, where the first cases were found. The state eventually identified several Miami-Dade communities, including a portion of Miami Beach, where local people had contracted the illness. The state cleared the final Miami-Dade Zika zone in early December. According to the Department of Health, there were more than 250 cases of locally acquired infections reported this year.

Aug. 30The Grayson era comes to an end — Rep. Alan Grayson was known throughout Florida — and beyond — as a bombastic, no holds bar congressman. And he lived up to that reputation when he ran for U.S. Senate. Grayson made headlines after his ex-wife claimed domestic abuse over two decades, a claim he refuted (but not before getting physical with a reporter). Grayson gave up seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District to run for office, but convinced his second wife to run. That pitted Dena Grayson against Susannah Randolph, a former aide to the congressman, both of whom tried to carry the banner for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And there was no party at the Grayson house when primary night rolled around. Rep. Murphy crushed Rep. Grayson in the U.S. Senate primary; while former state Sen. Darren Soto defeated both Dena Grayson and Randolph (Dena Grayson came in third). The hits kept coming for the Grayson political dynasty. In November, Star Grayson, the former congressman’s daughter, finished a distant third in a three-person race for the Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

Sept. 2Hurricane Hermine ends Florida’s hurricane-free streak — The Category 1 hurricane was the first storm to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And boy, did it leave an impression. The storm smacked the Panhandle, knocking out power to thousands upon thousands of customers. While power was restored in some communities relatively quickly, Tallahassee struggled to get up and running. That led to a tussle between Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum and Gov. Scott. In a testy press release, the governor said the city was declining help from other utility companies and expressed frustration over how long it was taking to get the power back on. Gillum shot back, saying Scott was just trying to undermine a cooperative process. But politicos across the state noted the way Gillum, a rising star in the Democratic Party, handled the situation might come back to haunt him in future political runs.

Sept. 26 Water contamination concerns prompt rule changes — Days of rain leading up to, and following, Hurricane Hermine overwhelmed St. Petersburg’s sewer system. City officials opted to release millions of gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, marking the first time in about a year the city did that. Combine that with news that a Mosaic Fertilizer sinkhole released 215 million gallons of toxic, radioactive water into the water supplies, and it’s no wonder concerns about Florida’s water supply ran rampant this fall. After many people raised questions about when the spills were reported, Gov. Scott ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to establish new reporting requirements. Those requirements are meant to guarantee local governments and the DEP are notified within 24 hours of a pollution incident. The state in October reached a deal with Mosaic over the sinkhole, which held the company accountable for fixing the sinkhole and rehabilitating the impacts of the spill.

Oct. 7 — Deadly storm threatens Florida’s east coast — One month after Hurricane Hermine made landfall near Tallahassee, Floridians were faced with another hurricane barreling toward their shores. What started as destructive tropical cyclone morphed into Hurricane Matthew, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Gov. Scott and other officials throughout the state encouraged Floridians to evacuate and warned of days without power. The storm sideswiped the entirety of the East Coast, causing damage up and down the coast. The storm tore apart A1A in Flagler Beach, forcing it closed and requiring significant restoration.

Nov. 8Medical pot becomes legal — The second time was the charm for a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The constitutional amendment which allows people with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana, easily passed with 71 percent of the vote. Supporters of the amendment, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, were able to fend off opposition attacks. Florida was one of six states that legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes on Election Day, marking one of the biggest electoral victories for marijuana reforms in years.

Nov. 10Richard Corcoran era brings new rules to Florida House — Calling for a new culture of transparency in the Florida House, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced new rules aimed at getting tough with with the capital’s lobby corps. The rules prohibit representatives from flying on planes owned, leased or paid for by lobbyists; require lobbyists to filed individual disclosures for each bill, amendment and appropriation they’re working on; and increased the lobbying ban on former members from two to six years. Corcoran also created the Committee on Integrity and Ethics, an oversight committee.

Dec. 22Will Weatherford rules out 2018 gubernatorial bid — Considered a likely 2018 gubernatorial contender since he left office in 2014, former House Speaker Will Weatherford ended the year (and helped officially kick off the 2018 election cycle) by saying he would not run for governor in two years. “I have decided that my role in the 2018 gubernatorial election should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business.” Weatherford was the first candidate to formally say whether they were running. But even without Weatherford in the race, Floridians can expect a crowded field. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to run, and Speaker Corcoran has been mentioned as a possible candidate. On the Democratic side, Rep. Graham has already expressed her interest, as has trial attorney Morgan. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all believed to be pondering a run.

What did Florida consumers complain about the most in 2016?

Violations of the state’s “Do Not Call” list were the most common complaint this year to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The department released its “Top 10 complaints” list on Thursday. It’s the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information.

In addition, the department said it recovered more than $2.9 million for Florida consumers.

“We are dedicated to protecting Florida’s consumers, and I’m proud that we recovered nearly $3 million for Floridians this year,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said in a statement.

“Anyone can call our 1-800-HELP-FLA consumer hotline or visit FreshfromFlorida.com to file a complaint, find information about businesses and professionals and learn how to protect themselves from fraud and scams.”

The top 10 complaints were:

  1. Do Not Call –17,177
  2. Fuel/Petroleum – 1,763
  3. Communications – 1,644
  4. Landlord/Tenant – 1,536
  5. Motor Vehicle Repair – 1,447
  6. Cable – 1,313
  7. Medical – 1,281
  8. Motor Vehicle/Sales Accessories – 1,196
  9. Other/Miscellaneous – 1,001
  10. Travel/Vacation Plans – 943

The department received 38,470 complaints and responded to 186,526 calls, 11,627 emails and 13,782 online chats from consumers.

The call center is staffed with trained analysts who can respond to questions about programs and regulations under the department’s purview and provide information on a wide variety of topics or direct callers to the appropriate government agency.

Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).

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