Adam Putnam 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.

Adam Putnam weighs in on controversial education bill

Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor in 2018weighed in on the state’s massive K-12 public schools bill, which affects everything from charter schools to school uniforms.

Gov. Rick Scott “ought to take a hard look at vetoing [HB 7069],” Putnam said Tuesday according to AP reporter Gary Fineout.

Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner made his remarks before the monthly Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee, talking about the controversial 278-page bill passed earlier this month on the second to last night of the Legislative Session.

(You can see his comment via the Florida Channel here).

The bill’s premiere feature is $140 million for a new “Schools of Hope” program, which creates incentives for specialized charter schools to set up in low-income areas, which critics say will compete with struggling traditional public schools.

HB 7069 also gives $234 million in teacher bonuses, through both the contentious “Best & Brightest” program and a mechanism where “highly effective” teachers would get $1,200 in guaranteed bonuses for each of the next three school years.

Teachers ranked “effective” would potentially earn up to $800 each year, depending on available money.

While teachers’ unions, school board members and (seemingly) the entire Democratic Party establishment is against the bill, charter school and voucher advocates are strongly behind it.

“I have concerns about the way that bill, along with much of the budget, was fashioned completely in the dark and behind closed doors,” Putnam told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

Putnam also criticized the process leading to the bill’s passage, saying: “Not only the public didn’t know what was in it, but some of the people voting didn’t know.”

His comments come a day after the Florida Democratic Party took Putnam to task, saying he was missing-in-action regarding his stand on what has become one of the most provocative bills to soon reach Scott’s desk.

“Florida voters deserve more than a feel-good bus tour from someone who claims he’s qualified to be the governor,” said FDP communications director Johanna Cervone said Monday. “Adam Putnam has been a politician since he was 22. He knows better, and he knows that he owes Florida voters an answer on HB 7069.

“Putnam needs to break his silence and give voters a straight answer: do you support a veto of HB 7069 — yes or no?”

The FDP said they were “demanding” Putnam issue a public statement on the matter immediately.

Chris King, Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham — three declared Democrats running for governor — have all publicly blasted HB 7069.

 

Florida leaders react to the bombing at a concert in Manchester

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Tuesday for the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead and sparked a stampede of young concertgoers.

The attack was the deadliest in Britain since four suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters on subway trains and a bus in July 2005.

Here is a compilation of reaction from Florida’s elected officials and leaders about the tragedy:

— Sen. Marco Rubio on Twitter: “Our prayers are with the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers are with Britain and the families impacted by this horrific act in Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Twitter: “Praying for the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Val Demings on Twitter : “Standing with and praying for Manchester today.  Another cowardly attack against innocent people.”

— U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch on Twitter: “Tonight in #Manchester, enormous amounts of horror, grief, and pain. From America and beyond, we join you in sympathy, outrage and resolve.”

— U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn on Facebook: “Leah and I send our sincere condolences to the British people as they respond to another heinous act of terrorism. The events in Manchester remind us again that these vicious killers will consider any target, even a crowd of teenagers and children at a music concert. We stand with resolve alongside our British friends in the face of this threat.”

— U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings: “I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in Manchester. As England’s law enforcement continues working to establish the full details of this horrific attack against innocent children and families, the American people stand side-by-side in grief, anger, and resolve. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the city of Manchester and all of England as they come to terms with this terrible atrocity.”

— U.S. Rep. Al Lawson on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with #Manchester and the United Kingdom for all the victims of tonight’s attack. Such sad news.”

— U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “As I am writing yet another statement expressing horror and condolences after another inexplicable terror attack, I feel the angst and anger of a mother who has sent my children off to a concert just like last night’s in Manchester.

The terror attack that apparently targeted innocent young people was a truly despicable act committed by cowards. As Americans, we are heartbroken and horrified by this mass murder of young adults and even children, but make no mistake: our resolve to make our world a safer one for our children is only strengthened, and our commitment to working with our British ally in pursuit of that goal remains unshakeable.

Our thoughts are now with the victims, their families and all the people of Manchester. And while many facts are still unknown, Americans will not waver in seeking justice and standing up against the hate that motivates such heinous crimes. And we will never let these pretenders who hold themselves out as the only true defenders of Islam to be recognized as anything more than what they are: murderers.”

— Gov. Rick Scott on Twitter: “Praying for everyone in Manchester tonight. This is an absolute tragedy and our hearts are with those who were harmed and their loved ones. Also praying for the safety and security of Manchester of law enforcement and first responders during this unimaginably challenging time.”

On Tuesday morning, the governor tweeted: “(First Lady Ann Scott) and I continue to pray for the 22 innocent lives lost in the senseless act of hate and terror in Manchester last night. Florida stands with the British people.”

— Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Twitter: “Horrible and senseless. We mourn those lost and pray for swift justice.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Twitter: “Terrorists who take the lives of innocent people are nothing but cowards & they must be brought to justice. My prayers to Manchester.”

— Democrat Gwen Graham on Twitter: “As a mom, my heart breaks. Praying for the children and families, parents and grandparents in Manchester.”

— Democrat Andrew Gillum on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by #Manchester tonight. Prayers to the families affected & the UK.

— House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Twitter: “My deepest sympathies and prayers for strength go out to the victims, parents, & families of the terror attack in the U.K.”

— Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto on Twitter: “Prayers to our British friends this evening. What a horrible tragedy.”

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield on Twitter: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”

— Rep. Chris Sprowls on Twitter: “Our hearts are with the families of those killed in #ManchesterArena last night. May we unite together to eliminate terror.”

— Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Twitter: “My prayers go out to those in Manchester, as a Father of 2 little girls, I can’t imagine what these families are going through.”

— Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Twitter: “Outrage!!–Manchester terrorist attack. Tears & prayers for the victims and families.”

— State Attorney Melissa Nelson: “We’re all grieving for the victims and those affected by yesterday’s bombing in Manchester.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

There’s already a shake-up in Adam Putnam’s campaign as manager inexplicably exits

Adam Putnam just ended a 10-day bus tour of the state to launch his bid to be the next Florida governor. And no sooner had the tour wrapped up that a major staff shake-up took place, which some believe is signaling a bigger schism in the GOP front-runner’s campaign.

Kristin Davison, Putnam’s campaign manager, was relieved of her duties Monday.

Amanda Bevis of the Putnam campaign confirmed the Davison departure: “We’re very grateful for her efforts to help this campaign get off to the strongest possible launch. We wish her the best.”

Political director Jared Small also exited the campaign.

Davison handled much of the logistical planning for Putnam’s launch and bus tour, which both were viewed as successful by grassroots types.

Davison seemed to some on the outside to be an awkward fit for the ‘Fresh from Florida’ operation, as the bulk of her professional experience was with national GOP impresario Karl Rove.

However, sources familiar with the selection process for campaign manager said there was a concerted effort to bring in people from outside the state. The feeling was those would be the “best minds.”

Those same sources assert that there is a turf war in the operation, between political operative types and the kind of people who are more comfortable in governmental offices than in the rough and tumble of retail politics.

Political watchers will be curious to see the Putnam campaign reboot, a very quick 2.0 given that the candidacy was only announced this month.

Davison’s Twitter handle was active on behalf of the campaign through Saturday but now projects radio silence.

Hackers may have names of thousands of Florida gun owners

Officials say hackers may have obtained the names of more than 16,000 people who have Florida concealed weapon permits.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced Monday they had discovered a data breach of the online payment system that processes payments for applications and permits.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has ordered a review of the department’s cybersecurity measures. State law enforcement is investigating the breach, which authorities suspect originated from overseas.

The agency stated that no financial information was obtained.

The department also warned that the breach may have revealed the social security numbers of 469 customers. The agency plans on offering free credit protection for one year to these individuals.

The Florida Legislature in 2006 passed a law that made the names of concealed weapon permit holders confidential.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Andrew Gillum picks up Julian Castro’s endorsement in Governor’s race

Democrat Andrew Gillum has picked up the endorsement of former HUD Director Julian Castro in his quest for the Florida governor’s office in 2018.

Castro, from San Antonio, was U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama.

He also will participate in a fundraising event in Miami early next month for Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Gillum’s campaign announced.

“Our nation is at its best when it matches hard work with real opportunity. That’s the essence of the American Dream,” Castro said in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign. “I’m proud to support Andrew Gillum for Governor because Andrew, the son of a construction worker and a bus driver, has worked hard to achieve his own dreams — and he’s worked just as hard to ensure that Floridians from every walk of life can achieve theirs.”

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King heading toward a Democratic primary. So far Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has the Republican path pretty much to himself.

“When Andrew is Governor, he will fight so that every child in Florida has the opportunity to grow and succeed in the Sunshine State,” Castro continued. “He is the candidate Democrats can best trust to stand with the courage of conviction, even when it’s not politically convenient,” Castro continued.

Gillum called Castro’s endorsement an honor.

“As HUD Secretary and San Antonio’s Mayor, Julian has put children’s health, well-being and opportunity at the forefront of his work. He has worked to ensure all of our children — no matter if they grew up in a big city or rural town — have every chance to succeed,” Gillum said. “It is an honor to have his endorsement as we continue sharing our vision for a Florida that works for everyone.”

By the numbers, Adam Putnam’s campaign off to a successful start

Adam Putnam has now spent a week on the road after his launching a 10-day, 22-city bus tour through Florida, kicking off his bid for governor.

So far, the campaign says the response has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

The state’s Agriculture Commissioner, in a series of “Up & Adam” events, has met with a wide variety of residents, grassroots supporters, small businesses, veterans, and first responders through the state.

As proof of the success of Putnam’s launch, the campaign offers some impressive (and a few lighthearted) numbers racked up during the first week of the tour:

— 2,161: Miles traveled on bus tour thus far

— 2,063: Number of attendees to May 10 announcement in Bartow

— 1,881: Number of bus tour stop attendees who committed to vote for Putnam thus far

— 1,007: Number of bus tour stop attendees who signed up to volunteer thus far

— 160: Average number of attendees per bus tour stop

— 100: Silver Sharpies purchased for supporters to sign the bus

— 99: Silver Sharpies out of ink [Campaign Note: Buy more Sharpies at the next stop!]

— 53: Cups of coffee brewed on campaign bus

— 17: Cities visited on the bus tour thus far

— 7: Days spent on the bus tour thus far

— 5: Cities left on the bus tour

— 3: Days left on the bus tour

The tour will continue through the Panhandle in Panama City, Pensacola, Destin and Graceville. The bus tour concludes Saturday at a BBQ in O’Brien. Details, photos and more information is at AdamPutnam.com.

Adam Putnam pitches ‘Florida exceptionalism’ in Jax Beach

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam continued barnstorming the state Wednesday evening, with a stop in Jacksonville Beach.

Putnam — the first serious declared candidate on the GOP side — expected and got a warm reception from locals in Duval County, with 158 politicians and GOP insiders out in force.

The sepia-tinged speech, revolving around themes of “Florida exceptionalism” rooted in an era that is arguably either bygone or never actually happened, is more or less unchanged stop to stop. However, Putnam will need a strong showing in Northeast Florida, and with that in mind, this report focuses on that specific play.

Putnam was introduced by a political legend in these parts: former Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who vowed to “spend the next year” working for the Agriculture Commissioner.

Crenshaw, the last major candidate to run for Governor from these parts, spoke in general terms before passing the mike to Putnam … who himself spoke in general terms, about his appeal to “all of Florida … every corner of Florida.”

Putnam mixed it up, just a bit, saying Florida “needs a CEO who knows the difference between Callahan and Clewiston,” before going broad again, saying the race was “not North Florida versus South Florida … interior versus coasts.”

Rather, it’s about all of Florida — the “launch pad for the American dream,” and the “wonderment” people feel when they experience the Sunshine State for the first time. That trope was interestingly negated just minutes later, when Putnam spoke of the need to “rebuild the middle class, rebuild Main Street,” as if mere “wonderment” alone won’t get the job done.

Putnam spoke in broad terms about his philosophy of education, which includes “eliminating stupid laws and stupid rules” and not letting any “bureaucrat” stand between parents and students.

As well, the candidate took a position in favor of “hard work,” which we’ve “stigmatized … somewhere along the way.”

Putnam did namecheck, in broad terms, the importance of Mayport and JAXPORT. But those were footnotes in a road tested speech — the stump equivalent of nostalgia mayonnaise on a saltine cracker. It was filling — the crowd, including many elected politicians, liked the speech.

But in terms of nutrition, of specifics … there wasn’t a lot of there there.

The interview time, after the remarks and the handshakes wrapped, didn’t offer much more either.

We asked Putnam about his advice to Governor Rick Scott to be aggressive with the veto pen, which many took as an aggressiveness targeted toward Florida House members who voted against economic incentives.

Of members of the Duval Delegation in the House, only one voted for incentives — and he wasn’t carrying any appropriations bills.

Putnam didn’t mean it that way, he said.

“What I said was that if I was the governor, I would use the line item veto aggressively, and that would be a better approach than vetoing the entire budget, which would require the entire Legislature to come back into session,” Putnam said.

Rejecting the characterization of that advice as punitive, Putnam said he was simply advising Scott to “exercise his executive authority.”

We then asked about some potential opponents: House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis from the right, State Sen. Jack Latvala from somewhere closer to the center.

As the only person in the race, Putnam is the default front runner; however, what happens when opponents and political committees start gunning for him?

Putnam was not concerned.

“I’ve been a conservative my whole life. That’s not changing. And I’ve been an optimist my whole life. You have to be when you’re a farmer, so if they want to pack a lunch, sharpen their knives, come on, let’s go.”

When asked specifics about Northeast Florida, and what he would bring to the region, Putnam took a high-level view.

“Northeast Florida,” said Putnam, “is a critically important part of the state’s economy. And the state’s political base. Northeast Florida has a unified business community, and they send hardworking men and women to Tallahassee and Washington.”

“So whether it’s the jobs that Northeast Florida continues to attract, the importance of the port, the importance of the river, Northeast Florida is and will always be an important part of the state’s political conversation, and most importantly, the state’s economy,” Putnam added.

Ag. Commish candidate Denise Grimsley introduces herself to Tampa Republicans

Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Denise Grimsley made the first of what should be many visits to Tampa during the next year-and-a-half, introducing herself to local Republicans and speaking about her credentials as to why she’s the best candidate to succeed Adam Putnam.

Like Putnam, she’s a fifth-generation Floridian, but unlike him, she had an entire career outside of politics before being elected in 2004 to represent Highlands County in the Florida House.

Grimsley spent 17 years in the health care field. She also spent time as a citrus grower and rancher when she took over for her ailing father at the Grimsley Oil Company.

“When I did that, I started seeing how government impacted our day-to-day life,” Grimsley told the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, which gathered at the River at Tampa Bay Church Tuesday night. Before that, she said, she had little interest in the workings of government.

“Up until then, even at my job at the hospital. I didn’t have a lot of involvement with state government or the federal government, but when I started running this company I saw how the Department of Transpiration oversaw our business, I saw how the Department of Agriculture oversaw our business, every single state agency had their  hand in our business in one way or another,” she said.

As chairwoman of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association, Grimsley said that she spent an entire legislative session in Tallahassee and was met mostly with ignorance or indifference. That experience ultimately led to her decision to run for the state House in 2004, where she served until 2012.

She then won in Senate District 26 (representing eight different counties) in 2012, but said she didn’t seriously consider running for Ag. Commissioner until former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced in January that he would not be running for the position.

She says she’s concerned about citrus greening and other diseases that are wreaking havoc with Florida growers. She believes her public and private sector experience make the best candidate for the job.

Before the meeting began, an aide to Grimsley asked members of the audience to sign a petition to get Grimsley on the ballot. She says she would be the first statewide Republican candidate since the 1990s to qualify for the ballot by petition … She needs more than 118,000 signatures by next summer.

Other Republicans running for the position include Paul Paulson and North Fort Myers Representative Matt Caldwell, who has just released his first campaign video.

Adam Putnam brings ‘Florida First’ tour to Altamonte Springs

Republican gubernatorial candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam brought his “Florida First” campaign to the Orlando area for the first time Tuesday afternoon, promising conservative, pro-growth values and belittling liberals he expects to go after him.

The fifth-generation Floridian and former state and U.S. lawmaker continued the opening themes of his brand new campaign, declaring “Florida exceptionalism” is why people want to visit and move here and vowing to promote that as Florida’s governor, and to prevent it from turning into a liberal and high-tax bastion like California, Illinois and New York.

“I believe there is a special obligation to be a Floridian, to keep Florida special, knowing that people from all over the world want to visit or move here. I want to Florida to be more than a prize for a life well-lived someplace else. I want Florida to be the launch pad for the American dream!” Putnam said to a warm reception of more than 100 people at the Eastmonte Civic Center in Altamonte Springs.

“And it can be that if we put Florida first!” he declared.

In his speech Putnam broke little new ground compared with what he’s been saying since he kicked off his campaign before 2,000 people in his hometown of Bartow last month.

In a press availability afterwards, Putnam said there is plenty in the 2017-18 budget just passed by the Florida Legislature that he would veto, though he was not specific; he criticized the Legislature for not reaching a deal on a medical marijuana enactment bill; said he would vote as a member of the Florida Cabinet to pardon the “Groveland Four,” as requested by the Legislature.

He also deflected a question about whether he would, as governor, invoke a states’ waiver included in the American Health Care Act to opt Florida out of having to cover pre-existing conditions. As a former member of Congress, Putnam expressed skepticism that the waiver will still be in the bill when it leaves the U.S. Senate, and said he hopes the final bill includes coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Putnam begins his campaign with a 10-day, 22-stop tour that’s hitting both big cities and small towns.

So far he has no real competition for the Republican primary, and his independent political committee, armed with almost $8 million to start, may intimidate away all but the most courageous. The Democrats, meanwhile, are heading for a primary brawl, with three major candidates so far, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King, and others mulling the race.

Putnam spoke of conservative leadership over the past six years fueling the Florida economy, painting images of hotel maids opening their own bed-and-breakfasts, and of the Space Coast being even better with private space industry emerging there than it ever was when it relied on NASA.

“American exceptionalism, Florida exceptionalism, is still very much alive and well in the Sunshine State in 2017 and it will be even stronger when I get elected,” he said.

“Florida, with limited government, a focus on Constitutional freedom, liberty, law and order, Florida is the destination of choice for people to come here to find their piece of the American dream,” he added.

He called for protection of gun rights and boasted that the state’s number of concealed weapons permits dramatically increased under his commission, and argued that is a key reason why Florida’s crime rate has fallen.

Putnam also called for the state to not only push technical and vocational education more, but said the state needs to do a better job of advising students of the high-wage jobs they can pursue with vocational education.

He also vowed great support and homage to be paid to service members, veterans, police and other first responders.

“And our men and women in law enforcement, the military, and those who serve our nation and their families will know that Florida is the most veteran and military and law enforcement friendly state in the entire country, hands down,” Putnam said.

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