U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is looking increasingly like the front-runner in the Republican race for Governor, held a Saturday morning meet-and-greet in Jacksonville, where he drew contrasts between opponent Adam Putnam and himself.
One such contrast: DeSantis vowing that no matter what happens going forward, he will not take sugar industry money.
In his remarks, DeSantis blasted “big powerful interests like Big Sugar” attacking him with “$5.1 million,” which funded “fake news for months.”
DeSantis’ offense? Being “one of the few [Floridians in Congress] who voted against sugar subsidies.
The candidate vowed that he was “not going to be hamstrung by an interest group,” unlike Putnam, who “one big company tells … what to do.”
The talking points against the sugar industry used in Northeast Florida, which DeSantis’ camp counts as a source of strength, are of interest, given that the state is not, compared to points south, the current epicenter of the algae crisis.
In the media gaggle, which included local television and Breitbart, we asked DeSantis about the current governor, Rick Scott, who messaged heavily against lobbyists as a candidate in 2010 but made his peace with them in more recent years.
Though sugar is no deal for DeSantis, that doesn’t mean he’s opposed to the influence industry writ large.
DeSantis noted that “there’s a lot of people who have interests in Florida politics. That’s separate from one industry that is subsidized heavily.”
“If they need all these subsidies, then why in heck are they spending all this money in politics,” DeSantis asked rhetorically. “They should have less subsidies and then not spend as much money. I think that’s a unique situation given how subsidized they are.”
A new poll has DeSantis leading the race by a 42 to 30 percent margin, an indication that as the pool of undecided voters becomes more shallow, DeSantis’ support deepens.
That survey confirms consultant reports of myriad internal polls that have shown a pro-DeSantis trend.
The Florida Chamber has a poll that deems the race a dead heat, though the DeSantis camp asserts that poll doesn’t sample Trump voters, instead oversampling supervoters from pre-2016 samples.
Putnam held a public event in Jacksonville late last week; however, attendance was down from previous Putnam stops, with only two incumbent politicians showing — a drop from previous events where Putnam had strong showings from the elected class.
Putnam, when asked if he worried that the campaign was slipping away, said “I wake up every day worried. I’m fighting to the bitter end.”
Before that bitter end finally gets here, Floridians are expected to be treated to a Donald Trump rally on DeSantis’ behalf.
We asked the candidate if that would be the nail in Putnam’s coffin.
“A Trump rally is not something that is necessarily scripted,” said DeSantis.
“If and when that happens … he’ll be saying whatever he says in front of ten or fifteen thousand, however much the arena can hold, and I think that’s going to carry far and wide around the state,” DeSantis said.
“Nobody has the kind of megaphone he has. He’s excited about the developments in this race. Florida’s like a second home to him,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis believes he’s overcome the early part of the race, a period of “political vulnerability” that has seen him run against certain special interests.
“When we had the debate, when we had the President coming out [and re-endorse], that was going to draw the contrast. I think that’s been done,” DeSantis said, noting that despite the avalanche of negative ads against him, he’s more popular with Republicans than he was before the hits began.
“That tells me that our strategy has succeeded, and the strategy of the Tallahassee insiders has failed,” DeSantis concluded.
Recent polls have shown U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis rocketing ahead of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary for Florida governor, but the Florida Chamber of Commerce said Friday in a memo obtained by Florida Politics that the race is a “virtual tie.”
The pro-business group, which has endorsed Putnam, said its newest measure of the race shows the two GOP contenders with 36 percent support apiece with the remaining 28 percent of Republican primary voters saying they were undecided.
Still, those numbers do indicate a hefty surge for DeSantis compared to the last Florida Chamber poll, released in mid-June, which found Putnam up 32-15. The Florida Chamber CEO Mark Wilson acknowledged the boost and attributed it to “three external factors that combined to create a perfect storm favoring DeSantis.”
The first factor is the nationalization of the race since Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. The second is President Donald Trump’s endorsement (or re-endorsement) of DeSantis — 60 percent of those polled by the Florida Chamber said they were aware of “the big man himself” backing DeSantis. And the third is a boost in Republican support for Trump after he nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
That “perfect storm” may have indeed given DeSantis a clear lead, if only briefly, but Wilson said the so-called “Trump bump” has settled in, tempering some of DeSantis’ gains.
So, why does the Florida Chamber poll show a tighter race? Unlike the St. Pete Polls survey, which found DeSantis ahead 50-30, or the Fabrizio-Lee poll, which put the race at 42-30, the Florida Chamber poll only interviewed registered Republicans that have voted in at least two of the last three elections, or in both of the last two elections if they registered after 2015.
The Florida Chamber said it is “absolutely true” that up to 30 percent of the primary vote will come from infrequent or first-time voters but trying to get a bead on them is harder. With the “tight screen,” however, infrequent or first-time voters don’t get thrown into the mix and there’s a clear picture of which way reliable voters are leaning.
The new poll is based on live telephone interviews with 700 likely Republican voters, with 30 percent of the sample contacted by cell phone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.04 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.
Clouds are brewing over the journalism industry, but the long-term forecast is promising.
That’s according to DianeMcFarlin, the former publisher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and current dean of the University of Florida College of Journalism. She delivered a media ‘forecast’ to an audience of UF alumni in Tallahassee this week.
In the short term, “It’s all clouds and storms,” according to McFarlin. And it’s not getting any better soon, in fact, it “looks like a hurricane is coming upon us.”
“Financially, a decline that began more than a decade ago for the newspaper industry has accelerated,” McFarlin said, adding that newspaper employment pales in comparison to its glory days stats.
But there’s hope.
Describing the “silver linings from what has probably been the most tumultuous decade in the history of American media,” McFarlin expressed faith in the future of journalism. Her extended forecast: “Partly cloudy skies with rays of sunshine.”
She cited reputable recent polling that found increased trust in professional journalists and other “voices of expertise.”
As well, the proliferation of fake news and deceitful information has been met by a push for media literacy, noted McFarlin.
She also estimated that the shuttering of local news publications will be counterbalanced by an increased demand for journalism, perhaps through new media publications.
And from her post overseeing prospective journos, she is optimistic about the upcoming professional class of Americans.
“They are not impressed by power and influence, they are impressed by authenticity and veracity,” McFarlin said. “That’s what they want in their bosses. That’s what they want in their leaders. That’s what they want in their country.”
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Scott battles wealth lawsuit — Attorneys for Gov. RickScott are encouraging a state appellate court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Scott’s financial disclosures. An attorney representing the Governor this week asked the court to let wealth disclosure compliance issues be decided by the Florida Commission on Ethics, as the law prescribes. But DonaldHinkle, who filed the original lawsuit challenging Scott’s 2017 disclosed net worth, argued the Commission does not provide a reasonable avenue for appeal. “It was dismissed. We cannot appeal. That’s the end of the road,” Hinkle said, according to the News Service of Florida. “Is there to be no opportunity to review the disclosures of any elected official, every constitutional officer in this state?” The appellate court has not yet ruled on the matter.
Lawmakers plan to boost election security — Federal funding is on its way to county elections offices. During a Joint Legislative Budget Commission meeting this week in Tallahassee, lawmakers approved a request from Secretary of State KenDetzner to distribute $19.2 million from the federal government to Florida’s 67 counties. Each county will at least receive $50,000. The money will be used to beef up elections security systems and voting facilities. It will also be used to fund five cybersecurity specialists and voter education. The news is welcome to those who fear election systems can be compromised, but concerns still were raised over how the money will be spent. Leon County Supervisor of Elections MarkEarley told the News Service of Florida that he fears counties could spend the money recklessly if they are forced to spend it all ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.
Extra citrus, medical marijuana dollars approved — More money than originally planned is on the way for regulators of the state’s medical marijuana industry and citrus growers affected by Hurricane Irma. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission agreed in Tallahassee this week to dole out another $13 million to cover operating costs at the Office of Medical Marijuana Use. The group of lawmakers also approved a $340 million federal grant for citrus growers to cover the buying and replanting of trees, grove rehabilitation and repairs to irrigation systems. The extra money requested by OMMU will be used to fund ongoing litigation, review four new provider licenses and develop a new computer tracking system. The citrus grant money was announced by the United States Department of Agriculture in May, and Gov. Scott urged the Commission to approve the dollars ahead of its meeting.
State readies Hope scholarships — Florida students who are bullied could be eligible for a new remedy as early as the upcoming school year. The Florida Board of Education approved a rule this week that authorizes school districts to send parents a form giving them the option to enroll their student in another public school or charter school if he or she is bullied, harassed, or is the victim of other violent acts at school. That action follows a new law passed this year that created the Hope scholarship program. The voucher-like scholarships will fund bullied students’ transitions to different schools. Reports the News Service of Florida, “State analysts project 7,302 partial-year Hope scholarships being awarded in the 2018-2019 school year, with some $27 million in funding.”
Marsy’s Law challenged — A South Florida defense attorney is challenging a proposed amendment that seeks to expand rights granted to victims of crime. The attorney, LeeHollander, filed the amendment last week, arguing the ballot summary is misleading. The suit alleges that the amendment “fails to inform voters that it will result in the loss of current constitutional rights of criminal defendants, purports to ‘create’ constitutional rights for victims of crime even though rights for crime victims already exist in the Constitution (and) fails to inform voters that it curtails time allowed for criminal appeals,” according to the suit. Known as Marsy’s Law, the bundled provisions are set to appear on the ballot this November as Amendment 8. The language focuses largely on enumerating certain rights to victims of crime and their relatives. Amendment 8 was placed on the ballot via the Constitution Revision Commission. It needs 60 percent voter approval to pass.
Scott, Nelson appear at sportfishing convention
Last Friday, a niche audience attracted two top-ballot Florida candidates in Orlando.
Democratic U.S. Sen. BillNelson and challenger Gov. Scott spoke separately to fishing industry leaders at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades — or ICAST.
“Fishing is more than a pastime in Florida: it’s part of our heritage. And I believe it’s part of our future. So we must restore and conserve the lands and waters, the corals and the mangroves, and ultimately: the fish. The fishing industry supports thousands of jobs and helps our local economies in Florida,” said Sen. Nelson.
Scott, citing 128,000 supported by the fishing industry, told the crowd, “We’ve worked hard to protect fishing opportunities in our state by offering license-free fishing days, fighting to expand the federal red snapper season and securing legislation to encourage safe boating. We have also stepped up and made major state investments in the natural resources that help make Florida the ‘Fishing Capital of the World,’ such as our iconic Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.”
ICAST, the largest sportfishing trade show in the world, drew more than 15,000 attendees. It’s produced yearly by the American Sportfishing Association.
Jobs numbers still strong
Gov. Scott announced Friday that “Florida businesses have created 16,900 private-sector jobs in June and 172,600 in the past year, for 1,554,800 jobs since December 2010.”
Florida’s annual job growth rate has outpaced the nation for 74 of the past 75 months, according to the Governor’s Office. The only month that Florida did not exceed the nation was due to Hurricane Irma.
In June, Florida’s unemployment rate remained at a low 3.8 percent, a drop of 7 percentage points since December 2010; this drop is faster than the national decline of 5.3 percentage points.
“We proudly serve as a model for the nation on how to build business and secure continued economic growth and success,” Scott said in a statement. “Our playbook of cutting taxes and eliminating thousands of burdensome regulations has created real momentum in Florida, allowing us to make historic Investments in things families care about — like education, safe neighborhoods and our environment.
“As our economy keeps booming and bringing thousands of families to Florida, the entire country is taking note.”
Florida’s annual job growth rate of 2.3 percent continues to exceed the nation’s rate of 1.9 percent. In the past year, 130,000 people entered Florida’s labor force, a growth of 1.3 percent, which is greater than the national labor force growth rate of 1.2 percent.
USDA launches disaster-relief sign-up
Florida growers are one step closer to receiving some of the more than $2 billion in disaster-relief funding passed by the federal government this year.
United States Department of Agriculture Secretary SonnyPerdue announced this week the farmers nationwide who were affected by wildfires and hurricanes in 2017 can now apply for assistance money approved by Congress and President DonaldTrump.
“Hurricanes and wildfires caused billions of dollars in losses to America’s farmers last year. Our objective is to get relief funds into the hands of eligible producers as quickly as possible,” said Perdue. “We are making immediate, initial payments of up to 50 percent of the calculated assistance so producers can pay their bills.”
The funding spawned the creation of the USDA’s 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP), which seeks to distribute $2.36 billion worth of federal funding to “agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes and wildfires during 2017,” according to the USDA.
The program will cover losses of crops, trees, bushes and vines for producers.
WHIP will distribute individual payments to farmers worth up to $125,000. But, per the USDA, “Producers who derived 75 percent of their income in tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015 will be subject to a $900,000 payment limitation.” Producers who did not insure crops will receive 65 percent of their expected crop value if they are eligible for WHIP funding. Meanwhile, insured producers could receive up to 95 percent of their expected crop value.
FDACS targets phony charities
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is now part of a growing list of government bodies seeking to help Americans avoid fraudulent charities that claim to aid veterans or current members of the military.
Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam this week announced that his agency joined “Operation Donate with Honor,” a nationwide partnership, spearheaded by the Federal Trade Commission.
“The brave men and women who sacrifice so much to protect our freedom deserve all the support we can provide. It is deplorable to exploit our nation’s heroes by scamming Floridians out of hard-earned money,” said Putnam.
Putnam’s agency joins the FTC, Attorney General PamBondi, and law enforcement officials and charity regulators across the country in the partnership.
Offering tips to prospective charity donors, FDACS suggests Floridians ask questions like: “Who is the fundraiser and who will benefit from the donation?”; “How much of the contribution goes to the charity mentioned in the request?”; and “How much of the donation goes toward administrative and fundraising expenses?” Charities registered with the agency can be found at FloridaConsumerHelp.com.
Tyler Morris and Whitney Harris were reappointed to the council. Morris, 33, of Jacksonville is the executive director for Independent Living Resource Center, Jacksonville Center for Independent Living. His new term ends June 30, 2021. Harris, 27, of Tallahassee, is the comptroller for the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology. Her term also ends June 30, 2021.
Pinellas County Commission
Jay Beyrouti fills the vacancy created by the passing of former Commissioner John Morroni. A Redington Shores resident, Beyrouti, 66, is a small-business owner. He received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and international business from Sacred Heart Business School.
Holmes County Hospital Corp.
Joseph Sowell, 76, was reappointed for a term ending Aug. 10, 2021. He is a retired district supervisor with General Telephone and Electronics.
North Florida Community College District Board of Trustees
Alton Williams Jr., 75, of Live Oak, is the retired sheriff of Suwannee County. He also served in the Florida Army National Guard from 1960 until 1968. Williams is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.
Billy Washington, 42, of Pinetta, is the past president of Briggs, Washington and Thompson Land Surveying, Inc. and serves as the Madison County Clerk of Court. He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. Washington is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.
Sandra Haas, 70, of McAlpin, is a retired attorney for the 3rd circuit for Guardian Ad Litem in Florida. She received her bachelor’s and juris doctorate degrees from the University of Florida. Haas is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.
The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Public Swimming and Bathing Facilities Advisory Review Board
Gerald D. Robinson, 47, of Auburndale, is a professional engineer with the Florida Department of Health. He succeeds DarrelGraziani and is appointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Eastern Florida State College District Board of Trustees
Bruce Deardoff, 70, of Cocoa Beach, is the chairman of Deardoff Automotive Group. He received his bachelor’s degree from Fordham University. Deardoff succeeds DeweyHarris and is appointed for a term ending March 31, 2022.
Dr. EdgarFigueroa, 62, of Melbourne, is a trauma surgeon with Health First Melbourne. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Central del Este. Dr. Figueroa succeeds MyraHaley and is appointed for a term ending March 31, 2022.
The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Group urges AHCA on behavior analysis
The Florida Association for Behavior Analysis, or FABA, is calling on the state Agency for Health Care to address delays in approval and authorization of behavior analysis centers.
FABA is faulting a third-party contractor, for harmful delays that last a month or longer. Children with autism or other developmental disorders are hurt by these delays, FABA claims.
“These delays are inexcusable and are causing heartache for so many children and families who desperately need the services provided by qualified behavior analysts,” said Nikki Dickens, president of FABA. “Our state government simply cannot sit back while these vulnerable children suffer as a result of an ineffective and inefficient bureaucratic system.”
The contractor, eQHealth Solutions, was hired by AHCA “to process Medicaid assessments, authorizations, and claims for behavior analysis services.” But once working under AHCA, eQHealth terminated all prior approvals from a different contractor and required all behavioral analysis providers to once again seek authorization by the state.
“AHCA has repeatedly said there will be no loss of service for children who need behavior analysis services, but we are hearing from countless providers and families across the state who say that is simply not true,” Dickens said.
“This problem must be addressed immediately, and it must be addressed with the top priority on helping those Floridians who need the services that skilled professionals can provide.”
FHP breaks ground on new training complex
The Florida Highway Patrol this week began construction of the state’s Advanced Vehicle Operations and Training Complex.
It’s an addition to the agency’s Florida Public Safety Institute in Havana and will feature a 1.4-mile driving track to sharpen law enforcement officers’ driving skills.
“I am incredibly proud to break ground on the Advanced Vehicle Operations and Training Complex. The support for this new, innovative complex is a testament to the state’s commitment to law enforcement officer safety and the safety of motorists on our roadways,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “This new facility enhances training for law enforcement by providing real-world scenarios, best preparing our Troopers and officers to safely navigate the events they will undoubtedly experience as they work to protect us each day.”
The Legislature, Governor and Cabinet supported funding the new complex, according to the DHSMV.
The agency said its officers drive 32 million miles each year and expressed confidence that the track will make a significant difference in statewide vehicle operations.
“The complex will offer advanced training to include traffic incident management, high-speed driving and comprehensive vehicle operations to improve public safety,” said Colonel Gene S.Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol.
Florida shines at UK airshow
Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private jobs incentive initiative, once again displayed the largest exhibit of any U.S. state at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom.
Dubbed the Florida Pavillion, the exhibit housed 12 participating Florida aviation-related companies and organizations. Per Enterprise Florida: “Last year, leading Florida-origin exports reached $6.3 billion in civilian aircraft, engines and parts. Another $678 million in turbojets, turbo propellers and parts was exported to countries around the globe.”
Enterprise Florida and businesses demonstrated to airshow attendees Florida’s competitive advantage in aviation.
“Events like the Farnborough Airshow allow us not only to help small and medium-sized Florida businesses expand their international footprint, but also to meet with leadership and decision-makers for some of the world’s leading aviation and aerospace companies,” said Joe York, vice-chair of Enterprise Florida’s Board of Directors. “The Florida Pavilion demonstrates the state’s leadership in the industry in a way no other state can match.”
Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development organization, attended the airshow.
“Space Florida is again pleased to join Enterprise Florida in representing the State of Florida at the Farnborough Air Show,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “Such opportunities significantly help Space Florida and Enterprise Florida continue our path to make Florida the leading U.S. state in the global aerospace industry.”
FSUPD releases active shooter PSA
An unfortunate sign of times: Florida State University Police Department is instructing students on how to act during active shooter scenarios.
Titled “Run. Hide. Fight,” the law enforcement arm of the university released a nearly 7-minute-long instructional video this week depicting an active shooter storming a campus building in broad daylight.
The university warns that viewer discretion is advised. According to campus authorities, the video “is designed to educate and prepare citizens to deal with an active aggressor in any setting.” The actors in the video, who depict law enforcement and students, offer realistic tips throughout the clip.
While the attack in the video is fictional, its rooted in some truth at FSU and the state. In 2014, a gunman opened fire at Strozier Library on the campus, injuring three students. Earlier this year, a shooter killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“The video was created to enhance the in-person training provided to employees and students at the university. We hope people will remember these important and potentially lifesaving tips when they are on or off campus,” said David L. Perry, FSU chief of police and assistant vice president for Public Safety. “Being prepared mentally is a major component to surviving a serious event, and we believe the video will encourage people to consider their options when an emergency occurs.”
Summer safety in Tallahassee
Authorities this week convened at the FHP Troop H building in Tallahassee to promote safety tips for the hot summer months.
Visuals depicted the dangers of leaving pets or children in the car during times of extreme heat. Specifically, observers were shown a life-size doll in a hot car. The doll was later transported by Leon County EMS for treatment.
The effort is ongoing via a partnership between the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the state Department of Children and Families. Local law enforcement personnel throughout the state also are involved.
“It only takes a moment to be proactive and ensure your child is safe, to prevent a fatal accident,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. “During the upcoming months, take advantage of the information shared with you today and throughout the next few months, so that your summer will be filled with wonderful memories and fun times.”
“Florida summers are extremely hot and leaving a child in a car for any amount of time is neglectful and can have deadly consequences,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “DHSMV encourages all motorists to Arrive Alive by not only driving safely but by also confirming that all passengers are out of the vehicle when they reach their destination.”
FAC recognizes Leon commissioners
The Florida Association of Counties (FAC) recognized Leon County Commissioners for their commitment to public service and leadership during the 2018 FAC Annual Conference in Orange County.
At the conference, Leon County Commissioner NickMaddox rose to president-elect of the association. Next year, Maddox will serve as President and oversee the direction of policy, advocacy, and the administration of the Florida Association of Counties.
In addition, some Leon County commissioners were recognized:
— Commissioners Maddox, Bryan Desloge, Kristin Dozier, and Mary Ann Lindley received the Presidential Advocacy Award, given annually to county commissioners “who have shown exceptional leadership in partnering with FAC to advance the legislative agenda of counties.”
— Commissioner JimboJackson was honored with the Certified County Commissioner (CCC) designation, “a voluntary program of study designed for county commissioners who want to learn the ins and outs of county government while enhancing their skills as an elected official. To earn the CCC designation, participants must complete 45 hours of coursework, the majority of which is offered during FAC conferences and events.”
— Dozier received the status of Advanced County Commissioner (ACC), “a program that consists of three sessions that focus on leadership development and issues affecting Florida’s future. Altogether, the courses total 27 hours. To earn the ACC designation, participants must have completed the CCC program and all three ACC sessions.”
— Desloge, Lindley and Maddox received Torchbearer Recognition, “ACC alumni who continue to be engaged in FAC activities and education programs. The Torchbearer program recognizes those ACC Alumni for their ongoing commitment to FAC and continued learning.”
Dozier elected vice chair of Florida Counties Foundation
Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier was elected vice chair of the Florida Counties Foundation. She will assist with “providing high quality and comprehensive educational opportunities for county commissioners and staff throughout Florida,” a press release said.
The Florida Counties Foundation has continued to build FAC’s educational offerings over the last 20 years. Specifically, the programs are designed to educate commissioners and county staff on their duties and to encourage them to be leaders within their communities as well as FAC.
Dozier said, “As county commissioners committed to serving our citizens, we do our best work with an in-depth knowledge of government structure, ethics laws, budgeting methods and strategies, as well as economic development and growth management. This role is an exciting one to help set curriculum and goals that will shape our future.”
The Foundation oversees the County Commissioners Voluntary Certification, Advanced County Commissioner Education programs and the content for FAC’s Annual Conference.
Leon County tops in tech
For six consecutive years, Leon County has earned top honors by “harnessing technology to increase services and efficiencies for its citizens,” a press release this week said.
The county ranks among the top 10 in the nation in its population category for implementing the best technology practices, according to the 2018 Digital Counties Survey conducted by the Center for Digital Government (CDG) in partnership with the National Association of Counties (NACo).
“Leon County is proud to yet again be recognized as a local government leader in the area of technology,” Commission Chairman NickMaddox said in a statement. “We’ve raised the bar in many areas, such as in disaster communication with our Citizens Connect mobile app, which provides up-to-the-minute emergency updates right to your phone.”
In the past year, Leon County has completed or made substantial progress on important technology projects. Just a few examples include implementing digital signage at county facilities and continuing to deploy an updated permitting system that takes advantage of mobile and online technologies to further improve service.
Leon County’s “embrace of cutting-edge approaches has benefited residents while ensuring good stewardship of taxpayer resources,” added NACo Executive Director MatthewChase.
It’s spiny lobster season
The 2018 spiny lobster mini-season will soon be upon us.
The two-day recreational mini-season takes place July 25 and 26. In 2016, more than 69,000 people participated.
“Florida residents and visitors look forward to the start of spiny lobster season all year,” said BoRivard, chair of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. “This Florida tradition is one of the many reasons Florida is the fishing capital of the world.”
You can learn about bag limits, size limits, where to harvest and other regulations at MyFWC.com/Fishing and click “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”
Get your license and spiny lobster permit at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. Lobster mini-season is followed by the regular commercial and recreational lobster season, which starts Aug. 6 and runs through March 31, 2019.
From a Democratic get-together in Punta Gorda to meet-and greets in Jacksonville, candidates for governor will spend this weekend connecting with voters. Here’s where you can find some of the major players.
For Democratic candidates for governor, South Florida this weekend is the place to be.
Philip Levine today will speak to Charlotte County Democrats at noon at the Politics in the Park event at Harbor Heights Park in Punta Gorda. Then he will head down the road to Fort Myers to open a new campaign office on Cleveland Avenue at 4 p.m.
Chris King’s “Keeping The Promise” tour continues today into Punta Gorda, where he also will attend Charlotte County Democrats’ Politics in the Park event at 1 p.m. King plans to focus on health care issues including Medicaid expansion and the opioid crisis.
Andrew Gillum will spend the day in South Florida. The Tallahassee mayor will rally supporters in Miami Gardens at the Unrepresented People’s Positive Action Council Community Forum’s Gubernatorial Community Forum, an event that runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Greater New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. Then he opens a West Palm Beach campaign office on Corporate Way at 2 p.m. before heading back to Miami for the Wilkie D. Ferguson Bar Association 40th Annual Gala at Briza on the Bay at 8 p.m.
And on the Republican side, Ron DeSantis will meet voters bright and early for a Duval County Meet and Greet at The Local in Jacksonville, where doors open at 8:30 a.m. Then he heads to Orange Park for a Clay County Meet and Greet there, held at La Nopalera Mexican Restaurant with doors opening at 1:30 p.m. and the program starting at 2 p.m.
Adam Putnam will meet with firefighters today at the Florida State Forest Service Association’s executive board meeting.
Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene have not announced any public events today.
But following up on a similar event in Fort Myers, Sen. Bill Nelson plans to meet with health care professionals at a roundtable in Deltona at the Community Life Outreach Center at 2:30 p.m, part of his re-election effort. Then he plans to visit Bethune Cookman University for a tour of Mary Mcleod Bethune before a Volusia County canvassing event. He’ll end the day with a keynote address at the 7 p.m. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Gala at Hilton Daytona Beach Ocean Front Resort.
Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson, will join Puerto Rico Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón for a Valrico rally at Rico Frappe Latino at 2:15 p.m. He will then meet with Puerto Rican leaders there. González-Colón endorsed Scott in May.
If more events get announced, this story will be updated.
A political committee that plays a key role in Republican Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign spent $2.73 million during a recent week-long period, with most of the money going toward advertising.
The committee Florida Grown spent the money from July 7 through July 13 and had nearly $8.1 million in cash on hand at the end of the period, according to newly filed finance reports posted on the state Division of Elections website.
More than $2.43 million of the money during the period went to Virginia-based Smart Media Group, LLC for advertising, while the committee sent another $200,000 to the Republican Party of Florida.
Putnam, who is finishing his second term as agriculture commissioner, raised a combined total of $370,000 for his campaign account and the committee during the period. His campaign account had about $4.53 million on hand as of July 13, a report shows.
Putnam is locked in a tough primary race with U.S. Rep. RonDeSantis, who raised a combined total of about $227,000 during the period for his campaign account and the committee Friends of Ron DeSantis.
The DeSantis committee spent nearly $608,000, with $500,000 going to the Republican Party of Florida, reports show. The committee had $5.61 million on hand as of July 13, while DeSantis’ campaign account had about $1.16 million.
A political committee backed by the billionaire GOP donor Charles Koch announced Thursday that it’s launching a direct mail campaign supporting U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis for Governor.
Freedom Partners Action Fund, a Washington-based super PAC, endorsed DeSantisin the Republican primary for Governor last week, promising to back up its words with mail campaigns and digital advertising.
“Ron DeSantis is a proven leader. As governor, he’ll continue to support policies that lift up Florida’s taxpayers and small businesses, and fight against giveaways to special interests at the expense of those who can least afford it,” said FPAF Director Nathan Nascimento.
To that end, FPAF said the mailers announced Thursday showcase DeSantis’ “commitment to growing Florida’s economy, supporting taxpayers and small businesses, and combating corporate welfare.”
The front of the mailers say the Republican congressman “will be a champion for taxpayers” in large print, adding that he will fight to “close special interest loopholes” and end “wasteful spending,” among other things.
The back of the mailers stick with the “champion for Florida taxpayers” language and also implore readers to cast their ballot for DeSantis in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.
FPAF said the mailers are going out statewide to a targeted set of voters. It added that more direct mail campaigns would follow.
DeSantis is running against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the primary. Despite a large money lead and a big head start on the campaign trail, recent polls show DeSantis has soared to a double-digit lead in the GOP nominating contest.
Much of that edge can be attributed to President Donald Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis.
The most recent poll, which puts him up 50-30 over Putnam, found nearly two-thirds of likely Republican primary voters said they were more willing to vote for a candidate who had been endorsed by Trump.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam on Thursday dismissed a steady stream of reports raising concerns about his Department of Agriculture’s handling of concealed weapons permits as an extension of the Democrats’ gubernatorial campaign.
Speaking to reporters in Winter Park alongside Republican Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Florida’s agriculture commissioner said the reports are purely political and not legitimate concerns.
Bondi spoke up too, first saying that the attorney general’s office has no jurisdiction to look into any of the complaints, and then that she doesn’t see the need anyway because she said they have been thoroughly reviewed by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Inspector General’s Office.
“It’s become an extension of the Florida Democratic Party’s governor’s race,” Putnam said of the reports. “It’s not legitimate, and it’s trying to undermine the hard work of our sworn officers and officials who are serving Floridians every day.”
Putnam was responding to a series of recent reports that first found that an official in his office who vetted concealed weapons permit applications had failed for more than a year to use a key federal background check database; that a whistleblower was fired after she tried to raise red flags about misconduct in the Bureau of Licensing; and that the department had reportedly put in a quota of approving at least 75 concealed weapons permits a day.
Needing a little love in a month that so far has gone largely his opponent’s way, Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam drew full support from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Thursday, as she said the Florida agriculture commissioner “is like family to me.”
Bondi has long supported Putnam but Thursday’s appearance, as he opened a campaign office in Winter Park, gave her the opportunity to make the strongest public endorsement of her fellow cabinet member whom she called “a dear friend,” and to place the two together on the campaign trail.
“Ethics, intelligence, and humility I think are so important for these jobs. And Adam Putnam epitomizes that here in the state of Florida. I know him personally. He’s like family to me. I know his wife, his kids. I know his heart. He’s a great human being,” Bondi said.
“He cares about the state of Florida. He knows Florida inside and out and he will do everything he can to protect Floridians and take care of our great state,” she added.
Putnam’s primary opponent U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has surged well ahead in the polls since the June 28 Republican gubernatorial debate, in large part by waving his endorsement from President Donald Trump, has been trying to short-circuit any Florida endorsements Putnam receives, telling rallies, derisively, that all the Tallahassee insiders like Putnam.
Bondi could be different, given her popularity among Florida conservatives and ties – for which she has received her share of criticism — to Trump.
Still, Putnam finds himself in defense mode from DeSantis’ direct attacks, and from the Ponte Vedra Beach congressman’s 20-point surge in many polls in recent weeks, after Putnam had been stumping for 13 months. While DeSantis has been drawing huge, raucous crowds to rallies, Putnam said he’s confident that he’s drawing just as many people to his barbecues.
“Here’s why we’re going to win. We’re going to win because we have the strongest grassroots group of volunteers. We’re going to win because we have a message that resonates across the state. We’re going to win because I’m the candidate who knows Florida best,” Putnam told dozens of supporters who came to his campaign office opening, including former U.S. Rep. John Mica, state Sen. David Simmons, and state Reps. Bob Cortes and Scott Plakon.
Unlike DeSantis, who goes after Putnam by name in his speeches, Putnam referred to his opponent only vaguely, as he talked about knowing every inch of Florida, and thereby implying that DeSantis does not.
“You can’t solve problems from a television studio in Washington,” Putnam said, referring to DeSantis’ frequent appearances on FOX News, which, until late June, had been his prime campaign venue. “You can’t solve our problems with bumper sticker slogans. You have to have solutions. I’m the candidate running for governor who has specific plans, a real agenda, and real-world experience in business and public life.”
Rising rapidly in the Republican gubernatorial primary polls under President Donald Trump‘s balloon, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis brought a little of the president’s family mojo to Orlando Tuesday, as Donald Trump Jr. reminded an appreciative crowd that DeSantis had been with his father from the start.
“Ron DeSantis was there from Day 1. He got it. He saw it. He went on TV. He was with us when it wasn’t cool to be with us,” Trump declared to several hundred exuberant people packing the B.B. King‘s Blues Club in Orlando.
In a Republican Party in which President Trump rewards loyalty, DeSantis is soaking it up, shooting well past Republican rival Adam Putnam in the polls and using that chip to draw large, loud crowds dedicated to Trump, fueled by every attack on him, and convinced that he is making America great again.
Trump Jr. was there on International Drive Wednesday to drive those points home.
“There is not a single matrix in existence, economic or otherwise, where we are not better off than we were four years ago under the previous administration. Not a one,” Trump Jr. told the crowd. “So what I see the Democrats running on: doing everything against Donald Trump.”
For his part, DeSantis provided much of the speech he’s been using since taking his campaign on the road three weeks ago. He railed against crony capitalism in Tallahassee, against illegal immigrants, against the sugar industry’s influence over water and natural resources, against Common Core curriculum guidelines in schools, pushing for creating a curriculum to study the U.S. Constitution, and taking shots at Putnam on every issue, including declaring him to be “in the pocket of big sugar.”
Putnam’s name drew boos in this crowd.
“Adam Putnam, though I respect him, he is somebody who is a career politician. He’s been in office since he was 22 years old. He’s a transactional Republican. And he is the choice of every insider in Tallahassee. He is the crown prince of crony capitalism. He’s the toast of Tallahassee,” DeSantis said.
“I, on the other hand, am an Iraq veteran,” DeSantis declared, drawing a huge cheer. “I am a principled, proven conservative leader. And I am endorsed by the president of the United States.”
That drew show-stopping applause.
DeSantis also appears to have found a winning issue with conservatives with his talk of adding U.S. Constitution curriculum to the schools; this crowd thundered when he spoke of it.
“We gotta get the Constitution back in the classroom. It can’t be a day or a week. I think it really needs to be a comprehensive study about the principles that make our country unique,” DeSantis said. “Because when you think about it, we have different religious denominations. We have different ethnic ancestries. But the thing that’s supposed to unite us is the belief that we serve enduring truths and fundamental principles. We need to be teaching the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If you don’t have that foundation, then I don’t think you are fully prepared for citizenship.
“So we’re going to make that something that is an emphasis. And if there are teachers that excel in that, let’s pay them more,” he said.
DeSantis also praised Gov. Rick Scott, saying “We have a chance to build off what Rick Scott has done,” and then painted Scott’s predecessor, Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist as the king of cronyism, and implying that Putnam was the same.
“None of that is possible if we go back to the days of Charlie Crist, when the good old boys ran the show,” DeSantis said.
Liberal activist group American Bridge is contending that Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam may be sunk by his “summer of scandal.”
“If you look at Putnam’s news coverage this summer, it isn’t hard to understand why this happened. While DeSantis has seen his support among likely Republican primary voters surge following President Trump’s ‘re-endorsement’ of his primary campaign, Putnam’s own self-inflicted wounds have left him exposed,” the group contends via a memo released Wednesday.
“Putnam has spent years planning his campaign for Governor. But while he was plotting the next steps of his political career, he wasn’t focused on the job he had. It seems a week cannot go by without a new scandal calling into question Putnam’s basic competency to serve as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, let alone run the entire State of Florida,” American Bridge adds.
“All of this may not have even happened had Putnam been minding the store and focused on doing his current job instead of running for his next one. If the current trajectory holds, and DeSantis does win the Republican primary, people will look back on Adam Putnam’s summer of scandal as the beginning of the end of his political career. He’ll have no one to blame but himself,” the memo wraps.
Putnam World, meanwhile, panned the memo as “fake news.”
Meredith Beatrice, comms director for Putnam’s campaign, retorted that the memo is “[f]urther proof the liberal activists and liberal media are in cohorts to take down the leading conservative in Florida – they’re now boasting their fake news as accomplishments.”