Jeb Bush Archives - Florida Politics

Fate of program for disabled children rests with Rick Scott

Debby Dawson, who lives in southwest Florida, has a simple message to Gov. Rick Scott: The state’s existing scholarship program for disabled children is “life changing” and has helped her 7-year-old autistic son “develop by leaps and bounds.”

Dawson is part of a chorus of parents from around the state who have mounted a campaign through letters, emails and phone calls urging the Republican governor to sign a sweeping education bill that will soon come to his desk.

But that same bill has sparked an outpouring of an even larger negative reaction to Scott both directly and on social media.

School superintendents, the state’s teacher union, parent-teacher groups and Democrats have called on the governor to veto the bill. Even Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor in 2018, called the legislation a “train wreck” on Tuesday and said Scott should take a “hard look” at vetoing the bill.

That’s because GOP legislators crafted the 300-page bill largely in secret, and included in it portions that would steer more state and local money to privately-run charter schools. The legislation (HB 7069) also mandates recess in elementary schools, expands virtual education courses to private and home schooled students, and tweaks Florida’s testing system.

Scott, who supported the creation of the scholarship program, has not yet said what he plans to do.

But if he vetoes the bill, however, he will wipe out an extra $30 million for the Gardiner Scholarship program that provides tuition, therapy and other services to roughly 8,000 disabled students. Legislators included $73 million in the state budget for scholarships, but those who operate the program say it is growing and they may not have enough money to serve everyone without the extra money. Additionally, legislators passed a separate bill that would expand those eligible for the program.

That’s why Dawson wrote Scott asking him to sign the bill. She said without the extra money her other son – who is about to turn 3-years-old – may not get a scholarship in the coming year.

“As a parent who has seen how life changing this grant is, and knowing my second child may not have the same opportunities as my oldest, it is heartbreaking, to say the least,” Dawson wrote in an email to a reporter. “This grant opens up doors for our children where the doors were once shut and locked tight.”

Legislative leaders have not given a detailed explanation on why they put the extra money for the scholarship program in the bill, which was not released publicly until two days before a final vote. Initially, the state Senate had more than $100 million in its budget for the program but then agreed to lower it during budget negotiations.

Sen. Jack Latvala, the budget chairman, said the decision to include the money in the bill and not the budget was at the urging of House Speaker Richard Corcoran. When asked Corcoran called it a “compromise” since the House did not include the higher amount in its initial budget.

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat opposed to the bill, argued that legislative leaders crafted the legislation this way in order to make it harder for Scott to veto the bill.

“I was deeply disturbed that (the families of disabled children) were hijacked and used as pawns to mollify opposition to an otherwise bad bill,” Farmer said.

School choice advocates, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, are asking Scott to sign the bill. Former Senate President Andy Gardiner, who has a son with Down syndrome and helped create the program, said he hopes the “governor is mindful” that the bill isn’t just about charter schools and that many families will be affected by his decision.

Barbara Beasley, whose 9-year-old daughter receives a Gardiner scholarship, says it has dramatically improved her daughter’s life, but she said that “lawmakers sold us down the river with their backroom dealing on the education bill.” She said other parts of the legislation are detrimental to public schools and should be stopped.

“I beg Governor Scott to order lawmakers back to session to fix their mistakes, separate these items from the bad and push them through,” Beasley said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Noah Valenstein set to become next DEP head

Updated May 17 — Valenstein was the only person selected to be interviewed for the job, according to remarks at Wednesday’s Cabinet aides meeting. That means he is a virtual lock for the position. Shut out by the decision is interim secretary Ryan Matthews. The interview will take place at next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

The original story is below.


Noah Valenstein, Gov. Rick Scott‘s former environmental policy coordinator, has the inside track to become the next secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, sources tell FloridaPolitics.com.

Valenstein, now the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, is the top pick over interim secretary Ryan Matthews.

Scott and the Cabinet in February OK’d Matthews to serve as interim department head to fill in for departing secretary Jon Steverson. He quit in January to join the legal-lobbying firm of Foley & Lardner.

Valenstein attended an August 2014 meeting in which Scott listened to a group of leading Florida scientists talk about climate change.

At the end of that meeting, Scott declined to say whether he had been convinced by scientific evidence that rising sea levels and warming temperatures merit government action.

Scott also later denied that his administration banned agencies under his control from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in public, in emails or in other official documents.

Valenstein, a Gainesville native, graduated with honors from the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and has a law degree from Florida State University.

He interned for both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and past Senate President Toni Jennings in the late 1990s.

Valenstein has lobbied for the Department of Environmental Protection and worked for the Florida House of Representatives (including as deputy policy chief for environmental issues) before leaving for private legal practice.

He’s been a board member of the Everglades Trust, worked for the Everglades Foundation, briefly owned a polling and research company and consulted on policy for Scott’s re-election campaign, according to his resume.

The governor and Cabinet have agreed to aim on a DEP hire during the May 23 Cabinet meeting.

Martin Dyckman: Judges are not politicians, nor should they play politics

When the Florida Constitution Revision Commission was debating the election of judges 20 years ago, I sat in the gallery to hear my own words used to attack something that my editorials and columns consistently had supported.

The issue was whether all trial judges should be chosen exclusively by appointment, without elections, in the same manner as Supreme Court justices and judges of the district courts of appeal.

A commission member who opposed that found a column in which I had flayed the Judicial Nominating Commission of the 15th Circuit — Palm Beach County — for trying to sandbag Gov. Lawton Chiles into appointing a favored candidate to a vacated circuit judgeship. Chiles spoiled the plot by appointing the nominee they didn’t think he would choose, a Republican who had contributed to his opponent, and who is now Florida’s chief justice, Jorge Labarga.

The speaker was quoting the column out of context. The newspaper’s editorials and my own signed columns had argued consistently that of all the ways to pick judges, election is the worst.

I still think so. Florida’s judicial nominating commission process is still by far the best — in principle.

In practice, however, it has been corrupted by the Legislature’s decision in 2001 to let the governor — at the time, Jeb Bush — appoint all nine members of each commission. They had been set up to be independent, with the governors appointing only three of each nine. That’s something the present Constitution Revision Commission should correct, although it likely won’t. Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed 15 of the 37 members including the chairman, has played politics with the nominating panels like no other governor.

But I digress. A nagging fear of all print and broadcast commentators is that their words will be taken out of context in some campaign ad in support of someone or something they actually oppose. If you write that somebody is “the best of a weak field” in a primary, expect to read in November that you called him “the best …”

Ordinarily, there’s no remedy for the twisting of truths out of context in politics, other than to call out the offenders. But there is a potent one when it comes to judicial races. The codes of conduct that legally bind judges and lawyers forbid misrepresenting one’s own qualifications or those of an opponent. The Florida Supreme Court has put teeth into those codes. It took another bite last week.

On Aug. 29, several weeks after her present 90-day suspension without pay expires, Circuit Judge Kimberly Shepard of the Ninth Judicial Circuit — Orange and Osceola counties — will journey to Tallahassee for a command appearance before the Florida Supreme Court.

She will stand before the bench, as other judges have had to do, to hear the chief justice read a humiliating public reprimand for unethical conduct during in her successful 2014 campaign for an open seat. The suspension, reprimand and payment of court costs, as ordered, followed a recommendation from the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC.)

The crux of it was a campaign ad purporting to quote the Orlando Sentinel in her favor.

“Ms. Shepard has done well,” the quotation said. “She has kept her promises. She has worked hard. She has maintained her integrity.”

What the ad did not say was that the comment was from an editorial endorsing her re-election to the Florida House of Representatives in 1994, 20 years earlier.

The 1994 editorial included the sentences “she has legislated effectively” and “she has served her constituents diligently.” Her 2014 ad was edited to leave those lines out.

The out-of-context quotation could easily have misled voters into thinking that it referred to current service as a judge. She wasn’t a judge, nor was she claiming to be.

She circulated the ad after the Sentinel had endorsed her opponent. The JQC’s hearing panel concluded that her “selective editing … was much more than a matter of inexact punctuation, or a mistake.” She believed her opponent to be unworthy, the panel said, “and that any action she took to defeat him was justified.”

Shepard’s defense consisted mainly of these arguments: Her character hadn’t changed in the 20 years since the newspaper had endorsed her, punishing her for campaign speech would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment, the ad was essentially true, and the Florida regulation in question was overbroad.

Unfortunately for her, however, the U.S. Supreme Court had disposed of her main point in a 2015 decision upholding a reprimand for a Tampa lawyer for conduct during a failed campaign for a judgeship.

“Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot,” the U.S. court said. “And a state’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office.”

“A judicial candidate who knowingly misrepresents any fact concerning the candidate or an opponent necessarily intends to mislead the public concerning the judicial election, thus undermining the public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary,” wrote the Florida Supreme Court last week in its unanimous opinion against Shepard.

It was far from the first time the court has had to say that.

Shepard is the 29th judge to come to grief before the JQC and the court for campaign-related conduct. Six were removed and two resigned before it came to that. The cases included some severe campaign law violations, neglect of clients during campaigns, and numerous instances of campaign misrepresentations.

The election-related cases represent a significant fraction — 14 percent — of all those with which the JQC and the court have dealt in public.

Complaints that it concludes are unfounded or settles by privately counseling a judge are confidential under the Florida Constitution, which is something else the Constitutional Revision Commission should fix. There’s no way now for the public to judge how well the JQC is working.

But elections aren’t working well either. On the rare occasion when a circuit or county court judge is challenged for re-election, few candidates apply. Dozens come forth, though, when a vacancy is to be filled by appointment. Most lawyers agree with the point Alexander Hamilton made when he wrote, “The members of the legislature will rarely be chosen with a view to those qualifications which fit men for the stations of judges …”

Shepard won’t be the last Florida judge who gets in trouble for playing politics to secure what should not be a political position.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Please don’t go there, Adam Putnam

“Nobody roots for Goliath.”

The immortal words of Wilt Chamberlin were on my mind Monday after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (at long last) announced that he is running for Florida governor.

Chamberlain, the All-World center and only NBA player to ever score 100 points in a game, was talking about the belief that he did not receive the respect and appreciation he deserved vis-à-vis his rival, Bill Russell. Fans had the impression Chamberlain’s size and physical gifts made the game come easier to him than to others.

The knock on Putnam — he is Jeb Bush 2.0.

In a more political environment, a comparison to the two-term former governor would be high praise indeed. But in the era of Donald Trump, when folks compare Putnam to Bush, they might as well say: “Please clap.”

As POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo wrote of the announcement, Putnam enters the race as Goliath of the field, just like Bush’s entry in the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

“With more than $4 million in his political committee account, statewide name ID among Republicans and longtime Florida roots,” Caputo said. “Putnam should become his party’s nominee in the eyes of Tallahassee insiders and Republican Party activists.”

And yet, there is a sort of weariness about Putnam’s candidacy, especially since many of his key supporters are the same people who witnessed Bush’s collapse.

I’d make the argument that Bush’s 2016 loss might the best thing that could have possibly happened to Putnam’s 2018 aspirations. Were I among Putnam’s chief consultants, pinned to the campaign office’s bulletin board would be every newspaper front page headlining Bush’s poor showing in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

I’d make everyone look at pictures of Bush on stage after his last stand in South Carolina.

Let all that burn deep into their hearts and minds.

As for Putnam himself, he should wake up each day with a poster of Trump and Bush next to each other (this image may be best), serving as a reminder to never let what happened to Bush happen to him.

Perhaps Putnam already recognizes the danger of being Jeb 2.0. However, one minor way Putnam attempts to protect his right flank rings false.

On Friday, Putnam — or more likely his campaign/communications team — asked Twitter followers their thoughts on sanctuary cities in Florida. These are municipalities which limit cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law. Cutting off funding to sanctuary cities is a top priority for many Republican primary voters.

That same day, the Florida House voted to outlaw sanctuary cities, imposing harsh penalties on any elected official or community seeking to thwart the ban.

Opponents of sanctuary cities argue the bill seeks to target undocumented immigrants and impose an unfunded mandate on local law enforcement agencies. The measure is offensive to immigrants and minority populations, they say.

Perhaps Putnam’s tweet was an honest attempt to gauge his followers. What I fear is that this was more likely an attempt, albeit a small one, by Putnam to burnish his right-wing credentials with GOP voters.

There’s nothing wrong with tacking to the right in advance of a bruising GOP primary. In fact, in doing so, Putnam proves he may not suffer the same fate as Bush (who was outflanked on the right).

But someone with Putnam’s agricultural background, it is hypocritical to cast doubt on sanctuary cities. Every farmer in Florida knows firsthand that the state’s bountiful crops wouldn’t be so bountiful were it not for the thousands of undocumented workers picking fruit and tending fields.

It may be an upsetting reality for Putnam (or not), but when researching his position on this particular issue, you wouldn’t know it. Although they would not be quoted on the record, the legislators who shepherded this bill say they heard very little — if at all — about the issue.

Furthermore, a cursory search of “Adam Putnam + sanctuary cities” turns up scant, if any, news articles.

While Putnam may not be my first choice for Florida governor, I would be satisfied seeing him in the Governor’s Mansion. But I don’t want to see him get there by leaning so far to the right that common-sense Republicanism gets lost in the shuffle.

We’re rooting for the best version of Adam Putnam, whether it be as a David or Goliath.

Jeb Bush optimistic he and Jeter can close deal for Marlins

Jeb Bush says he is optimistic he can close a deal to buy the Miami Marlins despite stiff competition, and partner Derek Jeter would take charge of baseball operations.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says two groups remain in the mix. The second bid is led by Tagg Romney, son of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Bush spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time about his efforts to purchase the team from Jeffrey Loria.

“Given the interest we have inside Miami and among people that are potential partners, I’m really excited about it,” Bush said. “It’s a sport that has huge potential in Miami. I’m excited about the community aspects of this.”

The former Florida governor, who lives in Miami, made his comments during a discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

Romney has yet to speak publicly about the bid by his group, which includes Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine.

“We have two very strong groups that we believe will have sufficient financial resources to complete the sale and run the team effectively,” Manfred said in a statement.

Jeter and Bush were part of rival efforts to buy the Marlins before joining forces. Jeter was a 14-time All-Star shortstop who retired in 2014 after 20 seasons with the Yankees.

“Derek Jeter is a phenomenal guy, a person of incredible integrity,” Bush said. “I get to meet famous people all the time, and sometimes they don’t match up to what their reputation is. Jeter is the exact opposite. He has this incredible, impeccable reputation he earned, and in person he’s maybe even better. He’s humble, really smart and totally focused on this.

“We have had to make some tough decisions that would require a little conflict. He has made them in a way that has made me feel really good to be his partner, so we’re really excited.”

Jeter has no front office experience, and he would be taking over a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003. Bush said they agree a free agent spending spree is not the best path forward.

“There is no correlation between high salaries and winning,” Bush said. “The sport is different maybe from others in that regard.”

Bush said he expects a decision regarding the sale “pretty soon,” but completion of any deal could take months and would require approval by at least 75 percent of the major league teams.

More than half of the winning bid could involve cash because of MLB’s debt service rule, meaning the Bush-Jeter group would need to raise a lot of money. Their bid is for $1.3 billion, Bloomberg reported.

It is not known who might be joining Bush and Jeter as partners. Bush said he wants to expand the reach of the franchise and MLB in Latin America.

Loria, 76, became unpopular in Miami in part because of the Marlins’ perennially small payrolls, and Bush didn’t sound as though he’ll be a big spender, either.

“Losing money along the way is not the plan,” Bush said. “Baseball doesn’t have a salary cap. You have to have the discipline to identify players the right way. Be patient about it, and use data and analytics the right way.

“Derek is going to be in charge of the baseball. He fully appreciates the need to do this in a patient way.”

Bush, 64, served two terms as governor from 1999-2007 and was an unsuccessful candidate last year for the Republican nomination for president. His brother, former President George W. Bush, was controlling owner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 until he became governor of Texas in 1995.

Jeter, 42, lives in Tampa and has long talked of his desire to own a team.

Romney, 47, has been a businessman, venture capitalist and political adviser.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press.

If another SCOTUS opening occurs, will Charles Canady get a serious look?

According to Sen. Charles Grassley, the U.S. Supreme Court may need to fill another opening this summer. The Iowa Republican, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not name names, but rumors are swirling it could be the Court’s swing vote, 80-year-old Anthony Kennedy.

If that occurs, President Trump will go back to his list of 21 potential nominees, now numbering 20 after the elevation of Neil Gorsuch. Rumored to be on the short list before Gorsuch’s selection was Judge William Pryor of Alabama from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Diane Sykes of Wisconsin from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

If those rumors are true, will those three again go to the top? How about some of the others? Also on the Trump list are Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady and Judge Federico Moreno from the Southern District of Florida.

The next nominee will be an appeals court judge or a state supreme court justice. Moreno and Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee are the only two not fitting that description. Moreno’s logical next step is a promotion to the court of appeals.

Will Canady receive serious consideration this time? He has similar educational training to the current Court.

All 9 current justices studied law at either Harvard or Yale (Ruth Bader Ginsburg started at Harvard, but earned her law degree from Columbia). Canady received his degree from Yale, while Pryor came from Tulane, Sykes from Marquette, and Hardiman from Georgetown. Gorsuch attended Harvard and Oxford.

As a former state legislator, four-term Congressman and General Counsel for Gov. Jeb Bush, Canady understands the separation of powers between the three branches of government. He was Chief Justice from 2010-2012 and along with Ricky Polston, comprise the Court’s reliable conservative minority.

If Gov. Rick Scott wanted to bend Trump’s ear about Canady, the President would certainly listen. There is no question Scott and Trump are of like minds on many topics in addition to jobs. Another Trump friend, Attorney General Pam Bondi, could do the same.

On the downside, Canady will be 63 years old in June. Next to Moreno (64) and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young, who is 65, Canady is the oldest on the list.

Pryor is 55, Sykes 58 and Hardiman is 52. The thought of having someone on the bench for 30 years is an appealing quality for a sitting president.

Confirmation hearings would certainly be lively. Millennials will not likely recall the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, but Canady was one of the House prosecutors. Would Democrats have fun with that?

How about being questioned by Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham? The South Carolina Republican was also one of the impeachment prosecutors (known as House Managers).

How juicy would it be for Canady to be tapped and for Charlie Crist to receive some credit for raising Canady’s profile? It was then-Governor Crist who appointed Canady to the Florida Supreme Court.

Perhaps Canady wound up on Trump’s list as a favor to Scott, or the president will actually give him a serious look. No one has retired yet, but that doesn’t stop playing the “what ifs” game in the meantime.

Rick Scott announces resignation of his chief inspector general

Melinda Miguel, the state’s chief inspector general, is stepping down.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Miguel, who has served as the governor’s chief inspector general since 2011, has resigned to pursue opportunities in the private sector. Her last day, according to the Governor’s Office, is today.

“Over the last 27 years, I have been trusted with the mantle to stand and serve our great State of Florida and have been inspired and moved by your leadership and courageous determination to make it better,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “Now more than ever, I appreciate your stance for liberty, freedom, and justice and you fighting for Florida’s families.”

Miguel’s career with the state dates back to 1989 when she served as a supervisor for player accounting services at the Florida Lottery. She worked her way up the ladder at the Lottery, spending four years as a supervisor, before becoming an auditor and investigator with the agency’s inspector general’s office.

Over the years, she served stints at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Elder Affairs, Department of Education, and the Attorney General’s Office. In 2006, she was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the Council of State Agency Inspectors General, a role she served in for about a year.

“Melinda has done a great job serving our state as Inspector General, and I’m extremely grateful for her commitment to ensuring government remains accountable to Florida taxpayers,” said Scott in a statement.

Scott announced Eric Miller, who currently serves as the inspector general at the Agency for Health Care Administration, will serve as the Governor’s Chief Inspector General.

Miller has served in his current position since September 2011. Before joining AHCA, he served as manager of corporate compliance at Citizens Property insurance.

“Eric has dedicated his career to serving our state for more than twenty years. As Inspector General at AHCA, Eric has firsthand experience in fighting fraud and ensuring tax dollars are used efficiently and effectively,” said Scott in a statement. “I am confident he will continue his great work as Chief Inspector General in my office.”

Miller’s first day as chief inspector general is April 21.

Can a moderate ‘old white guy’ beat Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy?

We cannot even get to the halfway point in the Legislative Session without turning to future 2018 races — especially with one Orlando congressional seat poised to become one of the most hotly-contested in the country.

Why?

Orlando is emblematic of Democratic hopes for their party. For the better part of the last few decades, the area has been represented by typical conservative white guys — Bill McCollum, Tom Feeney, John Mica, Ric Keller — and a gerrymandered African-American from Jacksonville (Corrine Brown).

Now, Central Florida has three Democrats: an African-American woman, Val Demings, who was Orlando’s first female police chief, former state Senator Darren Soto, who while born in New Jersey his father is Puerto Rican, and the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, Stephanie Murphy. This is the Obama coalition, the so-called “coalition of the ascendant,” led by women, minorities, and young people (both Murphy and Soto are in their 30s).

So, what is the GOP answer?

Frank Torres at the Orlando Political Observer reports that David Simmons, the 64-year old Seminole County state Senator, is considering his first congressional run at an age when most Americans are considering retirement. The move would position Simmons to collect three government pensions: one from Social Security, one from the State of Florida and another from the federal government.

Small government is for suckers.

Simmons’ candidacy likely appeals to NRCC operatives who may be inclined to overlook his rather bland, dull, and prematurely aged look in light of his hefty bank account (Simmons is a multimillionaire, by the way).

As it happens, I like a good Republican, particularly of the Jeb Bush type. Every year, I support about as many Republicans as Democrats.

However, can Simmons’ compassionate voting record withstand a bruising primary campaign likely to favor conservatives?

In 2014, the Florida Legislature did something I thought impossible: It granted in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants. Simmons was an unapologetic “yes” vote. That will make it tougher for Murphy to attack Simmons as anti-immigrant, but harder for Simmons to survive his primary.

Similarly, Simmons backed Medicaid expansion in the Senate — effectively enlarging and entrenching Obamacare — a move that’s unlikely to endear him to conservatives but may insulate him from Murphy’s attacks.

While I think the personal contrast between the 30-something Murphy and the 60-something Simmons couldn’t be starker, policy similarities offer Simmons a fighting chance — if he can make it out of the GOP primary.

OK, enough politics, I’m back to an exciting committee meeting with your elected leaders debating whether the University of Moscow can have a vanity license plate.

Florence Snyder: Whether Adam Putnam likes it or not, it’s still OK to tell the truth

If Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is serious about running for governor, he’s going to have to dial down the #Stupid in his own office.

The Baron of Bartow went full #FloridaMan on Ocheesee Creamery, a family-owned dairy farm an hour’s drive and a world away from what former Gov. Jeb Bush derisively — and correctly — referred to as “Mount Tallahassee.” The Wesselhoefts are central casting’s idea of decent, hard-working people being run out of business by “regulators” running wild. They dote on their small herd of Jersey cows like the Donald dotes on Ivanka.

Visitors to the Creamery’s website learn that the “Jersey girls” are “an intelligent cow breed, and we enjoy being around them because they are known for their calm, gentle and docile nature.”

The “plush green grass and open fields of fresh air and sunlight” at Ocheesee would make an ideal backdrop for those ubiquitous FreshFromFlorida commercials. Instead, Putnam and his lawyers at the firm of Orwell, Kafka and ? and the Mysterians are in their fifth year of spending public funds to force the Wesselhoefts to add vitamin A to their skim milk, or add the word “imitation” to their skim milk labels.

Yesterday, it was Putnam’s turn to get creamed.

A panel of Reagan, Bush, and Obama appointees to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals circled the constitutional wagons around strict construction and decided that it is not deceptive to refer to skim milk as skim milk.

Nobody claimed otherwise before Putnam was elected as the state’s agricultural regulator-in-chief. His jihad on Jerseys has attracted embarrassing international attention, including the No. 4 slot on an April Fools’ Day roundup of “stories you thought were pranks but are in fact genuine.”

Mary Lou Wesselhoeft suspects that Putnam and his Label Police are carrying water, currying favor, and otherwise doing the bidding of bigger, richer, more politically connected dairymen. At some point, he’s going to have to explain to the rest of us why she’s wrong.

Senate committee recommends Glenn Sutphin for Veteran Affairs director

The Senate Committee on Military and Veteran’s Affairs, Space and Domestic Security recommended Glenn W. Sutphin, Jr. as the executive director of Florida’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs Tuesday.

Sutphin, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott and a retired, was voted to his post unanimously by the committee.

He joined the military June 6, 1969, serving 30 years in the U.S. Army. His family has history of military service. Having served under Gov. Jeb Bush, he helped to foster an environment in Florida for veterans to be welcome, he said at the committee hearing.

“One of my jobs was to get units ready, get them out the door, the wounded back and unfortunately those who we had lost – try to get them back to their families, and get them taken care of,” he told the committee Tuesday. “All my life I’ve either lead troops, trained troops or cared for their families.”

His ethos in his military service, he said, consisted of these three things:  No mission was to be refused; no was not an answer; and failure was not an option.

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