Andrew Gillum – Page 6 – Florida Politics

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Remembering Anthony Bourdain at FSU

First known for cuisine and later his storytelling, chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain had a knack for traveling the world and telling the world about it.

After news broke Friday that Bourdain tragically ended his own life in France, the world mourned and celebrated his work — which, we’ve learned, brought him to all the nooks and crannies of the planet, even Tallahassee.

Highlighted on Twitter by Gus Corbella of Greenberg Traurig, a clip shows Bourdain speaking with a group of prospective writers at Florida State University in 2011. It’s worth watching:

“I started writing at age 44 after 28 years spent standing in kitchens,” Bourdain tells the students. “Who would want to read about the squalid life of a not-particularly-good cook? This subculture of chefs and cooks and dishwashers …”

He offered tips to the students as well: “I never read what I’ve just written if I can avoid it.” And at least one student interviewed in the clip said she was inspired by how late he began to document his experiences through prose.

Even Bourdain, who at the time had reached stardom and notoriety, walked away from the lecture with something to gain. He said the writing students at FSU were likely more serious about writing than he is, and that speaking with them was flattering.

“It just feels good,” Bourdain said. “I’m walking around thinking like, ‘Damn, I’m a writer.’ ”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew WilsonDanny McAuliffeJim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

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

State gets election security money — The Florida Department of State received $19.2 million in federal election security money this week following pressure from county and state leaders to apply for the funding. The money is part of a $380 million package approved earlier this year by Congress to enhance election security in all 50 states. In May, supervisors of elections in Florida first raised concerns that the state had not applied for the $19.2 million set aside for it, as reported by Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times. Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson applied further pressure on the Department to apply for the funding before the midterm elections. The Legislature will need to unlock the funds before the Department of State can distribute money to each county’s election office.

Tourism on record track — The first three months of 2018 saw a record number of visitors come to the Sunshine State, according to Florida’s tourism-marketing agency VISIT Florida. An estimated 33.2 million visitors traveled to Florida from January through March. The previous three-month high was 30.9 million visitors. In 2017, the Legislature appropriated $76 million to VISIT Florida for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The same amount was appropriated during the 2018 Legislative Session. The public-private agency has recently led efforts to advertise Florida tourism in Canada, and the number of visitors from that country was up 2.5 percent during the last quarter.

Judge lifts stay on marijuana smoking ban — Following her ruling last month that Florida’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers lifted the stay, or hold, on the ruling following the state’s immediate appeal of Gievers’ initial ruling. Gievers’ order now will come into effect Monday. But while smoking the plant for medicinal purposes will be considered legal, patients still can’t get smokable marijuana until the Department of Health finalizes new rules for Gievers’ decision. An attorney representing the state said the rule-making process could take months to complete.

Parkland panel meets again — A group charged with unearthing facts and recommending improvements to prevent another mass school shooting met again this week to review the Feb. 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The fact-finding commission, which includes lawmakers, local authorities and citizens, was included in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act passed in the 2018 Legislative Session. Andrew Pollack, a former member of the commission, Thursday announced his resignation from the panel, citing the need to focus his efforts on electing members to the Broward County School Board. He is the father of one of the slain Parkland students. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who heads the commission, directed the conversation Thursday toward risk-assessment protocols that must be implemented ahead of the next school year, reports the News Service of Florida. Among them: Evidence-based youth mental health awareness and assistance curriculum, the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool, and a student crime-watch program.

Scott’s disclosure set for appeal hearing — A lawsuit challenging whether Gov. Rick Scott properly disclosed his wealth will now be heard by the 1st District Court of Appeal. Scott’s office argues that the issue brought forward, which claims the Governor did not fully disclose the details of his personal wealth through the use of a blind trust, should be heard by the Florida Commission on Ethics. A circuit judge ruled otherwise earlier this year, and now the appeals court will have its say on what authority will consider whether Scott properly disclosed his finances. Filed in 2017, Scott listed a net worth at $149.3 million, including a blind trust worth $130.5 million.

Puerto Rico PD gets some backup

The Puerto Rico Police Department is now home to 25 Florida Highway Patrol vehicles.

“Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last year, I have visited the island six times to offer guidance, assistance and support. We’ve made it a priority in Florida to aid Puerto Rico in their recovery from this devastating storm,” Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday.

Florida is giving some mobile help to the Puerto Rico Police Department.

“I’m glad that the Florida Highway Patrol, on behalf of Floridians, has stepped up and honored a request to provide additional surplus police cruisers to the island. These 25 vehicles will assist law enforcement efforts as they work to rebuild. We will continue to do all we can to support Puerto Rico’s recovery.”

The cache of cruisers each had more than 80,000 miles of service in the Sunshine State, and had been out of circulation and awaiting surplus auction before they were donated to PRPD.

“The Florida Highway Patrol is proud to continue assisting the Puerto Rico Police Department following Hurricane Maria,” said FHP Director Gene Spaulding. “These donated vehicles are another way Florida is supporting the people of Puerto Rico in their recovery.”

Though, as the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas tweeted this week, “Oh so many questions this election year … @FLGovScott says he’s sending 25 used FHP vehicles to Puerto Rico. But his prison system struggles to have working vehicles to transport inmates. It’s received half of what it’s asked for in vehicle replacement.”

Veterans honor Putnam for outdoor initiatives

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was recently recognized at the Jacksonville Purple Heart State Convention.

Putnam, who also is vying for the Republican nod in the Governor’s race, was awarded the Military Order of the Purple Heart Distinguished Service Award.

Adam Putnam was recognized at the Jacksonville Purple Heart State Convention.

During remarks at the convention, the commissioner cited his work in Operation Outdoor Freedom, which gives certain veterans the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors at no cost.

Putnam said that camps across the state have served over 3,600 veterans so far, making it the only program of its “kind, size and scope,” at least to his knowledge.

“The therapy that’s taking place in those woods and around those campfires is extraordinary. We would not be able to continue to identify and promote this program without your help,” Putnam said. “We need to be able to let every veteran know that this is an opportunity for them and a small way for the State of Florida to say thank you for your service to our great country.”

Two camps currently operate: Camp Prairie and Peace River Camp. Both are overseen by the Florida Forest Service, which Putnam oversees. Putnam also has dedicated a Purple Heart Trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest.

Jimmy Patronis recognized for PTSD legislation

The Florida Professional Firefighters group this week honored Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for helping champion a new law that gives first responders access to mental health care through the state’s workers’ compensation system.

Jimmy Patronis is being honored for PTSD legislation giving access to mental health care.

“I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for our firefighters and other first responders. As Florida’s State Fire Marshal, I will keep fighting for those that serve and protect all of Florida. My goal is to also ensure cancer is a covered treatment, providing greater health care access to all first responders. I’m grateful that I was able to join the Florida Professional Firefighters this evening and receive this great honor,” Patronis said of the award.

Notably, the new law allows first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to receive care and treatment under workers’ comp provided by the state. First responders in Florida have suffered from PTSD as a result of their line of work. The disease has led many to take their own lives.

The CFO this week also presented more than $1 million in grant funding for firefighting equipment and facility updates across the state. The grants were awarded to Florida’s Firefighter Grant Assistance Program to Felda Volunteer Fire Department, Montura Volunteer Fire Department and Pioneer Plantation Volunteer Fire Department in the amounts of $55,414.60, and were accompanied by an additional $843,000 given to the City of LaBelle Fire Station.

“These grants will support our firefighters, improve their emergency response, and help them do their jobs safely and efficiently,” Patronis said in a prepared statement. “No matter the size of the community, fire service needs for families remain the same. Florida’s firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect our friends and family, and we must do everything to support their heroic efforts.”

Instagram of the week

Light lunch. #Alsace

A post shared by anthonybourdain (@anthonybourdain) on

RIP Anthony Bourdain.

CFO commends SEC for enlisting crypto chief

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said he was a fan of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to bring on its first-ever cryptocurrency adviser.

“The SEC’s appointment of a cryptocurrency chief is a forward-thinking and bold move. My office has been closely following cryptocurrency, and as with all emerging technology, there comes a new risk for consumers to be defrauded,” Patronis said in a news release. “With the Seminole County Tax Collector now accepting bitcoin as a form of payment and Tampa/St. Petersburg and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale ranking seventh and eighth in the top 10 bitcoin-friendly cities, it’s important we stay ahead of the game when it comes to consumer protection.”

The SEC named Valerie Szczepanik to oversee how securities laws apply to emerging cryptocurrencies.

The SEC announced the appointment of Valerie Szczepanik Tuesday. She’s tasked with overseeing how securities laws apply to emerging digital asset technologies, including cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum.

Citing the recent consumer alert his office put out on cryptocurrency scams, Patronis said he’s already directed his staff to set up a call with Szczepanik “to discuss how we can continue to protect consumers in our state.”

The week in appointments

Martin County Court

Jennifer Alexandra Alcorta Waters will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Curtis L. Disque. The 41-year-old from Palm City is a partner at Fox, Wackeen, Dungey, Beard, Bush, Goldman, Waters, Robison, van Vonno & McCluskey, LLC. She received an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and received a J.D. at the University of Florida.

Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees

Dr. Lee Mandel fills a vacant seat for a term that began this week and ends Sept. 10, 2020. Mandel, 53, of Fort Lauderdale is a physician with the South Florida Sinus and Allergy Center. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and Pursued medicine at the University of South Florida.

Pasco-Hernando State College District Board of Trustees

Robin Schneider, 55, of Springhill and Al Hernandez, 46, of Odessa were reappointed for terms ending March 31, 2022. Lee Maggard, 31, of Zephyrhills, was reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

New College of Florida Board of Trustees

Garin Hoover, 55, of Sarasota, fills a vacant seat for a term ending Jan. 6, 2023. He is the owner of Hoover Realty and a retired attorney.

Florida seniors earn National Merit Scholarship

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. announced this week that 4,000 students nationwide had earned a college-sponsored scholarship, including 300 Florida high school seniors.

“These students’ scholarship earnings clearly demonstrate that hard work pays off, and I am immensely proud of them for representing the State of Florida so well,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “I also want to commend their educators and parents whose support and encouragement over the years have contributed to their success.”

The scholarships provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution that awarded them.

It takes some work to earn a National Merit Scholarship — to make the grade, students must apply for the scholarship in their junior year, write an essay, score well on the SAT and lock down a recommendation from a high school official.

Mel Ponder recognized as Legislator of the Year

The Florida College System Council of Presidents (COP) and the Association of Florida Colleges (AFC) named Rep. Mel Ponder, a Destin Republican, as its 2018 Legislator of the Year.

The groups said they “recognize an exemplary legislator annually when his or her contributions during the Legislative Session significantly enhance and support the Florida College System.”

Mel Ponder: Florida Legislator of the Year.

Ponder sponsored HB 75, which now allows Florida colleges to waive certain postsecondary fees, not covered by the Department of Defense, for active duty members of U.S. Armed Forces using military tuition assistance.

“This new law will further open access to college for the men and women of the military to attend Florida’s top-rated colleges in the nation,” the groups said in a statement.

Ponder will be formally presented the award at the Council of Presidents annual meeting in Tampa June 11.

Benacquisto launches local photo contest

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is encouraging photography enthusiasts in her area to submit local pictures to be displayed to the public.

An email distributed this week from the Fort Myers Republican asks Southwest Florida photogs to snap their favorite spots and submit them by Aug. 31.

Lizbeth Benacquisto asks Southwest Florida photogs to snap their favorite spots to be displayed at the Richard H. Rush Library Gallery.

Submissions will have a chance to be displayed at the Richard H. Rush Library Gallery, as well as other areas around Lee County. The pictures also have a chance to get sent out in Benacquisto’s monthly newsletter.

Text from an email advertising the event reads, “There are beautiful places and unforgettable moments that take place across Lee County each day: Show us the ones that mean the most to you!”

Take a hunter safety class this summer

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds Floridians if they haven’t completed the state’s hunter safety course requirement, now’s a good time to sign up.

Many of these classes, offered statewide, fill up fast. And people born after May 31, 1975, must complete the FWC’s hunter safety class before they can buy the type of hunting license that allows them to legally hunt alone.

In Florida, safe hunting is no accident.

If one is new to our state, these classes will make new residents aware of Florida’s hunting laws.

For those who just relocated from inside the state, the FWC says the classes are “a great way to meet other hunters. You can make some new hunting buddies or maybe even get a line on a great hunt club that’s looking for new members.”

Register for a hunter safety class by going to MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by contacting your nearest FWC regional office.

Florida Forest Service announces Longleaf Pine program

The Florida Forest Service announced this week that the Longleaf Pine Landowner Incentive Program is now accepting applications from eligible, nonindustrial private forest landowners. Applications will be accepted through Friday, July 13.

The goal of the program is to increase the acreage of healthy Longleaf Pine ecosystems in Florida by helping nonindustrial private forest landowners make the long-term investment required to establish and maintain this valuable ecosystem.

Florida Longleaf Pines.

The program offers incentive payments for completion of timber stand improvement, invasive species control, prescribed burning, planting Longleaf Pine, native plant understory establishment and mechanical underbrush treatments.

The program is offered for private lands in Florida counties located west of the Aucilla River and several counties near the Ocala National Forest.

Application forms and more information on program requirements and procedures can be found by visiting FreshFromFlorida.com or by contacting your local county forester.

DHSMV: Drive slower, stay cooler this summer

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has launched its Safe Summer Travel Campaign.

Partnering with the Florida Highway Patrol, Department of Children and Families, Department of Transportation, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association and AAA, the team offers a wide variety of advice, but all agree safety begins with easing up on the gas pedal.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles wants all motorists to drive safe and always ‘Arrive Alive.’

“There are more travelers on Florida’s roads than ever before, so it’s critical to remember to slow down, stay cool and be safe,” DHSMV Director Terry Rhodes said.

Besides slowing down, the groups encourage prevention methods, like making sure proper child restraints are in place.

However, the first line of defense should be checking your tires, according to the DHSMV. Data recorded by the agency showed there were more than 3,306 tire-related crashes last year, resulting in 285 serious injuries.

And with the hot summer sun upon the state, the groups warn to never leave children or pets in vehicles unattended. Moreover, suspicious or aggressive behavior on the roadways can be reported by dialing *FHP (*347).

VISIT FLORIDA unveils cooperative marketing effort

The state’s tourism marketing agency is now allowing industry partners to ‘buy into’ over 200 shared marketing opportunities and small business programs.

Developed with Miles Partnership, the cooperative marketing idea is expected to extend the marketing dollars of the 12,000 industry partners associated with the public-private marketing agency.

“Our new offerings allow all of our small, medium and large partners across the state to buy into unique opportunities that fit their needs and maximize their budgets,” VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson said.

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson.

New programs include, per the agency, “nontraditional, such as a Google Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) content optimization program; North America, which includes tried and true sanctioned print and digital programs in publications such as AAA, Wall Street Journal and Golf Digest; International, which includes new Brand USA program packages; Regional, which focuses on brand development of regional parts of the state to build successful media plans; and Small Business, such as a video content production program to allow businesses to tell their own unique stories.”

News of the cooperative is timely, as it comes as businesses prep for the next fiscal year.

VISIT Florida and Miles Partnership designed the concept with the help of feedback and collaboration from industry partners at the agency’s Leadership Summit in December.

Florida Bar to hold convention in Orlando — with yoga

The Florida Bar will hold its annual convention June 13-16 in Orlando and will focus this year “on the importance of living and enjoying a balanced lifestyle.”

West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will be sworn in as the Bar’s 70th president. Vero Beach attorney John M. Stewart will be sworn in as president-elect; he will become president in June 2019. The convention is being held at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

West Palm Beach attorney and Florida Bar President-elect Michelle Suskauer.

“Living Well, Working Well: The Balanced Lawyer,” the theme of this year’s convention, emphasizes the positive effects of learning to balance family, work, health and fitness.

This will be the first time the convention offers health and wellness activities including yoga, meditation and more. Mindfulness, stress-management and integrating work-life balance are key themes the discussions and programs will focus on.

Other highlights include:

Judicial Luncheon— Held Thursday, June 14, the luncheon will feature Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga presenting “The State of the Judiciary.” Lawyer, author and mindfulness instructor Jeena Cho will be the keynote speaker. Justice Labarga’s remarks (starting about 12:30 p.m.) and Cho’s presentation (starting about 1:15 p.m.) will be streamed live on The Florida Bar’s Facebook page.

General Assembly— The centerpiece event June 15 will include installation of incoming Bar officers and Board of Governors members. Suskauer will be sworn in as the Bar’s new president, and Stewart will be sworn in as president-elect. The entire General Assembly from 9:30 a.m.-noon will be streamed live on The Florida Bar’s Facebook page.

50-year members — The Bar will honor 313 attorneys for 50 years of service at a special luncheon. Also honored will be 14 senior counselors, who have practiced for 50 years or more but have not been members of The Florida Bar for the entire time.

Harvard faculty to lead Executive Leadership course at Florida Poly

Business executives from all over Florida are invited to participate in a one-of-a-kind leadership course developed by Harvard professors and taught at Florida Polytechnic University this Aug. 5-10.

The immersive weeklong Florida Poly Executive Leadership Course is designed for mid-career professionals looking to improve their leadership skills. Attendees will learn how to better understand their market, execute creative change, and grow their organizations through flexible and adaptive leadership.

Florida Polytechnic University welcomes Harvard professors emeritus Drs. Earl Sasser and Paul Marshall.

The course is led by Harvard professors emeritus Drs. Paul Marshall and Earl Sasser to provide participants with the most advanced leadership strategies through hands-on activities, real-world case studies, group breakouts and self-reflection.

“What makes this course unique is that it is led by Harvard faculty and modeled by what people can find at Harvard,” said Florida Poly’s president, Dr. Randy K. Avent. “It’s also a resident program which brings the opportunity to build valuable relationships with leaders from other companies.”

Attendees will spend their evenings in a residence hall. The registration deadline is July 22. For more information, contact executiveeducation@floridapoly.edu or 863-874-8614.

AARP Florida tracks lawmakers’ votes

How state legislators voted in the 2018 Legislature on issues of interest to older Floridians can be seen with the release of AARP Florida’s 7th Annual Legislative Voting Record.

This year’s voting record contains detailed, vote-by-vote information on key legislation important to those age 50 and older.

AARP wants to know how Florida seniors are voting.

AARP said it alerted legislators that it would consider their votes on certain proposals to be key votes for this voting record.

And because key decisions often occur at several stages during the long process of legislative consideration of a bill, the voting record tracks legislative committees’ actions as well as final votes.

The voting record provides information about legislative votes based on broad topics, such as regulated utilities, the state budget, health care and supportive services, prescription drugs, consumer protections and livable communities.

“AARP Florida’s Legislative Voting Record makes it easy to track legislators’ decisions on key issues that matter most,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said.

The complete version of the 2018 voting record can be viewed and downloaded here.

Ports group highlights promising data

A five-year mission plan released by the Florida Ports Council bears good news: Cargo and cruise activity is increasing.

The nonprofit’s strategic plan, “Connecting Commerce: The 2018-2022 Five-Year Florida Seaport Mission Plan,” provides a few insightful data points. Among them: a 4.9 percent increase in Florida’s waterborne trade, and a $4.3 billion increase in the value of containerized cargo moved.

Gov. Scott added commentary to the news, citing the state’s $1.4 billion investment in ports since December 2010 — the month before he assumed office.

Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler.

“Florida’s hardworking businesses have created more than 1.5 million private sector jobs since December 2010. This job growth would not be possible without our incredible seaports,” Scott said.

Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler said continuing investments in ports will continue to contribute to economic growth.

“Now that Florida ports have the infrastructure to accommodate more cargo, we are seeing steady growth year after year in total cargo tonnage and value of cargo, as well as the number of cruise passengers,” Wheeler said.

“With $3.3 billion in capital improvements at Florida’s seaports identified over the next five years, we expect these numbers to continue to grow creating a stable economy for current Floridians and future generations.”

Florida Wildlife Federation praises ‘extraordinary generosity’

The Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) recognized philanthropists Sam and Betty Shine this week, after their donation of “a critical tract of land, over 6,000 acres in size, to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge south of Tallahassee on the Gulf of Mexico.”

The land donated by the Shines will expand the Refuge northward to U.S. 98, “thereby protecting this environmental jewel from development and pollution,” the FWF said in a statement.

Philanthropist Sam Shine, founder and former CEO of Samtech. (Image via Christopher Fryer/News and Tribune)

As a habitat, it will “provide a perpetual home for a wide variety of plants and animals, including the Florida black bear and the indigo snake.” The tract’s protection also affords increased water quantity and quality to the aquifer, which helps Apalachee Bay.

“This is the latest in a long line of environmental projects involving Sam and Betty, and the Florida Wildlife Federation greatly appreciates their altruism,” said Manley Fuller, FWF president.

Capital craft brewery gearing up for move

Renovations began this week at the new South Monroe Street home of Tallahassee’s Proof Brewing Co., the city’s first craft brewery.

The move is into a 70-year-old, 34,000 square-foot former Coca-Cola bottling plant a short drive from downtown. Proof outgrew its current location, a 7,500 square-foot former warehouse in the city’s Railroad Square Art Park.

Proof Brewing Co., Tallahassee’s first craft brewery, is making a big move.

“The support and encouragement we’ve received from our community about the news of our expansion has been incredible,” it said in an email. “It’ll be here before we know it.”

The company, owned and operated by Byron and Angela Burroughs, already has begun receiving new equipment, including 60-barrel fermenters, with more tanks slated for the future.

“Every square inch is getting positioned with something,” the email said.

“The new space will allow us to take on several fun new projects — from seasonal and year-round cans, to more barrel-aged beers.” It’s expected to be open no later than January 2019.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Democrats call for Adam Putnam to drop out, resign after report of missed background checks

A Tampa Bay Times investigation into an apparent yearlong lapse in national background checks for Florida concealed weapons permits has started a wave of Democrats calling for Republican Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam to drop out of the Governor’s race or resign.

They were responding to a new report from the Times “Buzz blog” Friday afternoon that said Putnam’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs failed for more than a year to run national background checks on people applying for Florida concealed weapons permits.

The lapse may have resulted in unknown numbers of permits issued to people not qualified to carry guns in public.

A response put out by Putnam’s office reads, “To be clear, a criminal background investigation was completed on every single application. Upon discovery of this former employee’s negligence in not conducting the further review required on 365 applications, we immediately completed full background checks on those 365 applications, which resulted in 291 revocations. The former employee was both deceitful and negligent, and we immediately launched an investigation and implemented safeguards to ensure this never happens again.”

Leading the pack was Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum:

“Adam Putnam’s rhetoric on guns has been dangerous — but this is far worse. His department’s failure to conduct background checks is a dereliction of Putnam’s duties, and he should consider whether he is able to continue running for governor or serving as commissioner of agriculture,” Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, said in a written statement Friday.

Gillum also released a video on Facebook that went into greater detail, railing against dangers that he says Putnam may have unleashed in the forms of armed people who were not screened.

Former U.S. Rep. and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“Drop out now, Adam.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine:

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine stopped short of urging Putnam to drop out of the race, but did say he should consider resigning from the agriculture commissioner’s post, and Levine called for an investigation.

“Negligence that threatens and costs lives must never be tolerated — Adam Putnam’s lack of due diligence and disregard to follow protocols endangered communities and put people’s lives at unnecessary risk. Career politicians like Mr. Putnam think this is just another bad day at the office — but when you conceal a level of negligence that endangers every resident, and every child, in Florida, you forfeit any moral right to lead.”

“This failure by his office to review background checks coincided with the tragic Pulse shooting — a lack of responsibility like this cannot be tolerated. An investigation should be opened immediately. These developments require an immediate response from Commissioner Putnam, starting with if he deserves to continue to serve in his current role.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“Adam Putnam should resign.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

His district includes the scene of the horrible Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School slaughter in February. He said in a tweet that Putnam “must” resign.

“My blood is boiling. This is an unimaginable failure for anyone who serves the public. He made FL less safe. He put lives at risk. He must resign.”

State Sen. Linda Stewart:

Her district includes the site of the horrible Pulse slaughter on June 12, 2016, said Putnam “needs to resign.”

“I’m extremely alarmed at the failure by Commissioner Putnam to disclose that his agency had failed to conduct these critical background checks — allowing possibly mentally disturbed individuals and others who shouldn’t be disqualified, to be legally armed in Florida.”

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz:

“After twenty-two years of holding public office, we can now add an additional major accomplishment to Adam Putnam’s lifetime government employee resume: helping to put guns into the hands of terrorists. Putnam’s gross negligence may have allowed someone on the FBI terror watch list to get a concealed carry permit.
“How can a politician who can’t even fulfill their basic duty to keep Floridians safe be our next governor? Lets just think what some Republicans would say if Obama did this, they would ask for his birth certificate……again!”

American Bridge:

“Adam Putnam should resign immediately,” American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson said in an issued statement. “Not being able to log into the FBI background checks system should have resulted in Adam Putnam’s office calling an IT professional, not approving concealed carry permits to potential criminals.”

The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence:

“Adam Putnam clearly has more allegiance to the NRA and gun culture than he has to ensuring the safety of Florida’s citizens,” stated Pride Fund executive director Jason Lindsay.

The Times article cites a report from the Office of the Inspector General that says that starting in February 2016 the department could not get into the FBI’s federal background check database to see if applicants had issues in other states that should prevent them from holding concealed weapons permits in Florida. The situation persisted until at least March 2017, according to the Times. The problem existed because the clerk with that role could not log into the FBI’s National Criminal Instant Background Check System, according to the OIG report.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year, Florida received a record 245,000 applications for concealed weapons permits. In the 2016-17 fiscal year the record was broken again with 275,000 applications, the Times reported.

Without federal background checks, it could be impossible to screen out anyone who might be disqualified from carrying guns in public in Florida, who might have such issues as mental illness, the Times notes.

Gillum’s reference to Putnam’s rhetoric may have been to Putnam’s statement, in a tweet last year, that he considers himself a “proud NRA sellout.”

Survey says Philip Levine building lead over Democratic field

A survey of 600 Democratic voters shows that Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine continues to build his lead over Democratic opponents in the race for governor.

The poll, conducted this week by SEA Polling & Strategic Design, shows Levine with 32 percent of those surveyed, doubling up on Gwen Graham at 16 percent.

Andrew Gillum, with 11 percent, was in third, ahead of Chris King and Jeff Greene at six and four percent respectively.

31 percent of those surveyed were undecided.

Levine’s dominance is rooted in strong performances in Miami/Fort Lauderdale (where he has 47 percent support, per the survey) and the Tampa market (37 percent). In both regions, he is well ahead of Graham (13 percent in South Florida, and 20 percent in the Tampa area).

More closely contested: the Orlando market.

Andrew Gillum leads in that region with 19 percent, one point above Levine, with Graham and King at 12 and 11 percent respectively.

 

Philip Levine rolls out cannabis legalization proposal

On Friday, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — a Democratic candidate for Governor — rolled out his proposal to legalize the sale of adult-use cannabis.

“If elected Governor,” Levine tweeted, “I will carefully move to legalize the sale of limited quantities recreational marijuana for adults.”

“Careful means controlled,” Levine said, with “highly regulated” sales and distribution and bans of sales to those under 21.

Local control, regarding size and locations of outlets, would be protected.

“Through responsible reform,” Levine added, “Florida can generate $600 million annually.”

Levine is not the only Democrat in the race open to legalization: Chris King and Andrew Gillum share that position.

But as he leads in polls currently, and in fundraising, Levine may be the best hope for legalization advocates to carry the banner of cannabis legalization into the November election.

The Levine plan would fund investments of $300 million annually into community health and substance abuse, and $300 million per year for additional funding for public schools, per a media release from his campaign. As well, Levine asserts that $3.9 billion per year could be saved off Medicaid, with more savings in the prison system.

Levine, who decriminalized cannabis possession as mayor, clearly sees no political detriment to taking a full-scale position in favor of regulated legalization.

Civil liberties, Levine asserts, also are paramount to the proposal.

“Finally, and morally, this is the right thing to do as today black Floridians are 4 times more likely to be arrested than whites for drug possession in some counties. As a result, our minority communities grow to distrust the police, and their neighborhoods are over-policed while ruining employment opportunities,” Levine said.

“This is a wrong that must be righted.”

Report: Tallahassee one of the worst cities in U.S. for property crime

A new report based on FBI data lists Tallahassee as the tenth worst city in the country when it comes to property crime rates.

The FBI defines property crime as burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, however the Reviews.org report excluded vehicle related crimes in preparing its report. With those out of the mix, it found 52 property crimes per 1,000 residents in Florida’s capital city.

The only other Florida city on the list is Fort Lauderdale, which placed eighth.

The report states that most of the cities on its bottom-10 list “at least aren’t violent,” however that may not be the case for Tallahassee, which last year earned the dubious distinction of “most dangerous city in Florida” based on the FBI violent crime data for 2015.

That report showed Tallahassee had 767 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015, far more than in any of Florida’s 21 other metro areas observed by the FBI.

Like last year, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is likely feeling nonplussed about his city’s standings. Though at least his campaign already has a template for when Tally earns such distinctions.

As his spox said last year: “People expect that communities will have challenges – what they care about is how you address them, and the Mayor’s taken public safety very seriously.”

Whether Gillum will do anything address this new challenge is yet to be seen.

Patrick Murphy: ‘I’m proud to support Gwen’

Patrick Murphy is out, and he’s supporting Gwen Graham.

The Democratic former congressman made it official Thursday afternoon when he announced he was dropping his ambition to run for governor and support his former congressional colleague instead.

Murphy joined Graham at a press conference in Pembroke Pines Thursday afternoon to essentially declare that she already is the kind of candidate he wanted to run as. For months Murphy had preached the need for a more moderate, anti-hyper-partisan gubernatorial candidate and was considering taking that lane himself,  in a run that would have had him include Republican former U.S. Rep. David Jolly as a running mate.

“I have decided not to enter the race for governor because there is one Democratic candidate already demonstrating the leadership Florida needs and fighting for the values we share — and that Democrat is Gwen Graham,” Murphy stated in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign. “I’m proud to support Gwen because she’s determined to expand access to affordable health care in Florida, will always stand up to protect Florida’s environment, and will finally give our public schools the attention and leadership our children, families and teachers deserve.”

Murphy served four years in Congress representing Palm Beach and Martin counties in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. He lost that seat when he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016. Jolly also briefly had been in that race, but dropped out before the Republican primary.

Murphy’s support helps solidify Graham’s quest for the more moderate lane in an August Democratic primary race that also includes Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene.

“I’m proud to call Patrick Murphy a close friend and am honored to have his support. In Congress, we worked together to ban oil drilling off Florida’s beaches and to restore the Everglades,” Graham stated in the release. “I was proud to support him in his campaign against Marco Rubio and, as governor, I will work with Patrick to restore our promise to public schools, protect our environment and build an economy that works for every Floridian.”

Jeff Greene pulling votes from Gwen Graham in South Florida, pollster says

The first poll since Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene entered the Democratic primary for Governor may indicate trouble for Gwen Graham’s chances among South Florida Democrats.

The survey, conducted by respected pollster Tom Eldon, polled Broward County and Palm Beach County Democrats and found Greene pulling 6 percent support in his home county, and 3 percent support in Broward.

Overall, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leads the two-county poll with 39 percent support, followed by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 9, Graham at 8, Winter Park businessman Chris King at 5 and Greene at 4. The remaining third said they were undecided.

Based on those numbers, it looks like Greene’s siphoning supporters from Graham, not Levine as some Democratic onlookers primary have theorized. Of course, the landscape could change substantially if Greene were to actually start campaigning — he’s still radio silent one week after filing his paperwork.

The last regional poll of South Florida Democrats, commissioned by Levine adviser Christian Ulvert in April, showed Levine leading Graham 42-15 on his home turf with Gillum and King in the single digits.

In the new poll, Levine leads No. 2 finisher Andrew Gillum on the Broward side 38-12, followed by Graham at 11 percent and Greene and King with 3 percent support apiece.

The effect is even more pronounced in Palm Beach, where Graham slips into last place in the poll — a rarity for the North Florida Democrat, who generally lands in the top two with Levine.

That half of the poll also showed Levine as the top pick, ahead of his distant second King 40-8. Gillum and Greene tied at 6 percent a piece, while Graham nabbed just 4 percent among Palm Beach Dems.

The new poll also noted a high number of “surge Democrats” — those who reported paying “much more attention” to political and national news since the election of Donald Trump. Among the 60 percent of respondents identified as such, 45 percent were voting for Levine with Graham in second at 10 percent.

The SEA Polling survey was conducted June 3-5 by bilingual accent neutral interviewers reading from a translated script in English and Spanish. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.24 percentage points.

Chris King invests another $400K in gubernatorial bid after raising $78K in May

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King announced Wednesday that he raised $78,661 last month and kicked in another $400,000 of his own money to bring his total fundraising past the $5 million mark.

Nearly $410,000 of the May money went to his official campaign account, while his committee, Rise and Lead Florida, took in the balance. All told, King has now brought in nearly $5.1 million since entering the race for Governor in March 2017.

“After 20 years of one-party Republican rule, Floridians are ready for new leadership,” campaign manager Zach Learner said in the fundraising announcement. “We’re excited to share our progressive message with even more Democrats across the state of Florida.”

Including his $400,000 infusion last month, King has put more than $2.7 million of his own money on the line. The Winter Park businessman didn’t specify whether his May investment was marked down as a loan or a contribution, though he’s marked them down as loans for the past two months.

Neither report is viewable through the Florida Division of Elections, so his on-hand tally is mystery for now — full reports for May are due to the state on Monday. As of April 30, King had just under $2.5 million in the bank.

That total could see a substantial decrease, as the “outsider” candidate put some cash into airing TV ads in a half-dozen Florida markets last month — Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Panama City and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce.

The first of those ads, “New Direction,” saw the candidate publicize his pledge to not take campaign cash from the sugar lobby. The second, “Stand Up,” serves as an indictment of Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled state Legislature for doing “nothing” in the wake of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre.

King is the third of the four major Democrats to announce his May financials.

Earlier this week, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said he raised $1.3 million and matched it with another $1.3 million from his personal fortune, putting his overall tally at around $15 million.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said Wednesday that his campaign and committee raised a combined $361,750 for a to-date total of $3.4 million. He had $1.4 million in the bank at the end of April.

The last of the four majors, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, hasn’t previewed her new reports. She had raised nearly $7.5 million as of April 30 and had $4.7 million banked.

Chris King tempers expectations on his big gun agenda

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King told a room full of gun-control activists Wednesday that he’s carrying a big agenda for them if he’s elected governor but that he’s got some doubts about how much of it could be enacted, short of a Constitutional Amendment.

King, the Winter Park entrepreneur, has embraced the full Democratic platform led by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and tightening background checks, and has added a few items of his own, such as a bullet tax to help pay for gun-violence prevention programs.

In downtown Orlando Wednesday, a gathering of about 30 activists, which included members of Moms Demand Action, March For Our Lives, the Youth Coalition to End Gun Violence, and some unaffiliated individuals, welcomed much of King’s agenda, and cheered and applauded him more than once, allowing him to declare them and himself to be “soul mates.”

But in anticipation of working with a Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, King also tapped the brakes.

“All of those things that you’ve talked about are going to be, if I win and I have two houses against me, are going to be very hard to pass,” King said.

“We’ve been to Tallahassee. We know all about that,” agreed one of the members of Moms Demand Action, a group that emerged from the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Ct.

“I want to be very honest about that. I’m even feeling there is a flexing of muscle by the NRA. They feel they’ve survived the first blitz,” King picked up. “They’re courage is coming back. You see it in Republican nominees. They’re feeling like the students will dissipate. … And so the way this works in my view is we have to keep the heat on.

“But likely the way it would work is some combination of things would be on the ballot, led by citizens, championed by a Democratic governor, in 2020, a presidential year. I think that’s when could make the strike. That’s how it would happen,” King added. “It certainly would be nice to see it earlier, but that’s probably how it’s going to happen.”

King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene for the August 28 Democratic primary. All of them except Greene, who still is in the dead-silence phase of his campaign since filing last Friday, has made gun control big parts of their campaigns, especially since the Feb. 14 massacre of students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

King has stepped up the agenda with his proposal last week to use sales taxes from guns and bullets, plus an additional “safety fee” tax on bullets, and a couple other sources, to finance statewide gun violence prevention and study programs.

Wednesday’s roundtable discussion also veered often into other areas such as criminal justice reform, mental health funding, and education, allowing King to tout his proposals in those areas, especially his criminal justice reform platform reducing the housing of nonviolent offenders in prisons.

Gwen Graham’s first TV spot: PTA mom, Bob Graham’s daughter, end Republican rule

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has launched her first television commercial in the Tampa and Orlando markets, a spot that introduces her as a mom, PTA president, daughter of Bob Graham, and someone who seeks to take back Tallahassee from Republicans.

The 30-second spot “Service” begins with collages of Graham’s life with her children and as a PTA president, and then turns to pictures of her with her father, as a narrator declares that while in Congress she applied the lessons she learned from him. It then turns to her only overt political message.

“Twenty years with one party, right?” she says. “Everything with all the wrong priorities. The Florida Legislature has not taken Medicaid expansion, they have hurt education, they have used the lottery to reduce funding, but we’re going to take it back.”

Her campaign announced Monday that the commercial would play in the Tampa and Orlando markets with more than $1 million in the initial buy. Her campaign has bided its time in turning to TV commercials, while some of her opponents have taken to the airwaves earlier.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has been blanketing television statewide since January. Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King began his TV advertising in mid- May. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum does not yet have any official TV commercials out, but he’s been supported by a TV campaign from the Collective Super PAC.

This week Palm Beach billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene has entered the field.

On the Republican side, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also has had commercials out for a couple of months, while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has had almost daily appearances on FOX News.

The introductory moments of Graham’s new ad subtly focus on her being the only woman in the field, and the following shots, many of them following her around various job sites in her “WorkDays” program, emphasize her empathy for individuals, with her trademark hugs.

“Everything I do is through the prism of being a mom,” Graham states.

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