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Former Gov. Askew lies in state at Old Capitol, remembered as transformational leader

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Honor guard brings former Gov. Reubin Askew's casket into Old Capitol.

Late former Gov. Reubin Askew lay in state Tuesday at Florida’s Old Capitol, as three former governors, Gov. Rick Scott and current Cabinet members and legislative leaders filed past, mourning a man many credited with guiding the state from political backwater to modern megastate.

Askew, governor from 1971 to 1979 and a state senator from Pensacola the previous 12 years, died last week at age 85.

“Gov. Askew would be on the Mount Rushmore of Florida,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “He ushered Florida into the modern era, kicking and screaming at times. But he had the vision and boldness to do it.”

An honor guard brought Askew’s flag-draped casket into the historic Capitol building past a row of dignitaries, including Gov. Rick Scott and former Govs. Bob Martinez, Bob Graham and Wayne Mixson.  Inside the portico of the building, Askew’s widow, former First Lady Donna Lou Askew and family members greeted visitors.

On top of Askew’s casket was single white rose.

“He changed the direction of history in Florida,” Graham said.

“It was also a time when people began to change their attitudes about Florida,” he added. “Up until the the 1960s, Florida was frequently a commodity, something of no particular value, you were free to do whatever you wanted.

“But he recognized that Florida was a very special place and deserved to be treated as such,” Graham said.

With Florida donors allowed to write bigger checks, Crist takes advantage

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 by George Bennett

Charlie Crist visited the kitchen help during a recent stop in West Palm Beach, but he also made sure to tap donors who can stroke $3,000 checks for his Democratic campaign for governor.

Charlie Crist was quick to take advantage of a new Florida law that allows donors to write much fatter checks to candidates.

Of the $777,925 former Republican Gov. Crist collected in November for his Democratic quest for governor, $432,000 came from 144 contributors who wrote checks for the new statewide maximum of $3,000. Through Oct. 31, the most a contributor could give to a candidate was $500 for a primary and $500 for a general election.

Crist’s Democratic primary foe, former state Sen. Nan Rich, collected two $3,000 checks in November. She raised $31,230 for the month and has raised $255,320 overall.

Gov. Rick Scott officially launched his reelection campaign on Tuesday. His first contribution report will be due next month.

Scott signed a law this year allows a contributor to give up to $3,000 per primary and $3,000 per general election for statewide races. For state legislative and local contests, the new limit is $1,000 per primary and $1,000 per general election.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater collected 43 checks for $3,000 in November. Attorney General Pam Bondi logged 13 contributions at the new $3,000 maximum and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had 10 donors who wrote $3,000 checks.

In Palm Beach County legislative races, Democratic state House candidate David Silvers snagged 13 contributions at the new $1,000 limit in his bid to unseat state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton. State Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Stuart, had nine contributors who wrote $1,000 checks in November.

October money round-up: Nan Rich’s negative cash flow, cabinet members pad totals, Magar rocks

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 by George Bennett

Democratic governor candidate Nan Rich at last month's statewide Democratic convention in Lake Buena Vista.

Fresh Florida campaign finance reports filed this week mark at least two milestones: the beginning of monthly, instead of quarterly, filings and the likely end of Nan Rich‘s status as the Democratic fundraising leader in the 2014 governor’s race.

Rich raised $8,291 in October while spending $8,788. Since April 1, former Senate Democratic Leader Rich has raised $102,419 and spent $135,701. For her entire campaign, which began in April 2012, she has raised $224,065 and spent $161,805.

Rich remains the top Democratic fundraiser for governor in current Division of Election records because former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist didn’t open his Democratic campaign for governor until Nov. 1 and won’t file his first money report until next month.

Crist might have passed Rich’s 18-month fundraising total in his first week as a candidate. At an event in Broward County last week, former Democratic state Sen. Steve Geller said Crist raised about $500,000 combined for his campaign and for the political committee Charlie Crist For Florida. Geller, who helped organize the event, said he didn’t know how much money went directly to Crist’s campaign and how much to the committee.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s “Let’s Get To Work” committee raised $824,835 during October and has about $17 million in cash on hand.

Some other highlights from the October money reports after the jump…


Search for bodies at Dozier School to continue

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet unanimously agreed Tuesday to allow University of South Florida scientists to continue working on the site of a closed reform school in Florida’s Panhandle, where many former students say the bodies of dozens of dead children may lie buried.

The move by Scott and the Cabinet cleared a hurdle created earlier in the year, when Secretary of State Ken Detzner said his office didn’t have the authority to approve the exhumation of human remains at the now-closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

USF researchers have identified 50 possible graves at the school in an area dubbed Boot Hill. The rudimentary cemetary is in the black section of what had been a segregated reform school through most of the 1960s. Researchers also want to locate another graveyard where white boys were supposedly buried.

“There is no shame in searching for the truth,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, an early advocate for continuing the work at Dozier.

Several former students were in the audience Tuesday, including one man Leo Collier, 84, who is believed to be the oldest former resident of the school, which closed in 2011 after more than a century marked by tales of beatings, sexual abuse and neglect by staff.

Collier said he was sent to Dozier at age 12 for skipping school. “All I did was farm work” at Dozier, Collier said.

Another man, 68-year-old Don Stratton, a former truck driver from Gibsonton, said he ran away from home and was “dragged out of the woods and put in Sarasota County jail.”

After six months in county jail, the 13-year-old Stratton was sent to Dozier for three years. Beatings were administered at a shed called the White House.

“The boys they murdered were put in the ground, not even in boxes,” Stratton said. “You wouldn’t even bury your dog like that.”


More dismal numbers for Rick Scott in Quinnipiac poll; Crist leads by 16 points

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 by George Bennett

Scott: 36 % approval, 49% disapproval

Florida voters like Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposals to boost teacher pay by $2,500 and expand the state’s Medicaid rolls.

But they don’t like Scott.

A new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning is full of bleak numbers for the governor. Only 36 percent of Florida voters approve of Scott’s job performance, with 49 percent disapproving. Only 32 percent say he deserves a second term in office. He’d lose to Democrat Charlie Crist by a 50-to-34 percent margin if the 2014 election were held today. He’d lose to 2010 opponent Alex Sink by a 45-to-34 percent margin.


It’s official: Florida hits 1 million concealed weapons permits

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida officially hit the one million milestone for concealed weapons permits as predicted last week by Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose office oversees the program.

As of this morning, there were 1,000,645 active concealed weapons permits in Florida, according to Putnam’s office. The million mark comes amid national scrutiny of state and federal gun laws in the wake of Friday’s shooting rampage by gunman Adam Lanza, who killed 20 first graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. Authorities say Lanza also killed his mother as well as himself.

Some gun rights proponents, including state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, want to allow people with concealed weapons permits and extra training to bring the guns into schools. They argue that armed personnel on school campuses would make schools safer.

With about one in 14 eligible Floridians holding the permits, Florida now has the highest number of concealed weapons permits of any state in the nation, according to Putnam. More than 62,000 Palm Beach County residents hold the permits.

Florida concealed weapons permits soon to reach 1 million milestone

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Florida is on track to hit the one million mark for active concealed weapons permits – more than any other state in the nation – according to Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Putnam, whose office issues and oversees the permits, told reporters Wednesday that there are currently about 993,000 permits in the state. At the rate the concealed weapons permits are being issued, Putnam said he expects Florida to hit the 1 million mark – the highest in the nation – sometime next week.

Nearly one in 14 Floridians over the age of 21 have the permits, according to Putnam’s data. Permits are restricted to those over the age of 21 unless they are in the military and to those who have not been a convicted felon or have had their gun rights restored.

The number of permits has steadily risen since the state first began issuing the permits 25 years ago.

Last year, 151,883 permits were issued, second only to the 167,240 permits issued in 2010. About 80 percent of the current permit-holders are men, and nearly than one-third are between the ages of 51 and 65, according to Putnam’s department. The vast majority of permit holders are white or Hispanic, Putnam said.

Nearly one in 14 Floridians over the age of 21 have the permits, which are restricted to people over the age of 21 unless they are in the military and to those who have not been a convicted felon or have had their gun rights restored. About 90 percent of the permit holders are Florida residents, Putnam said.

Only about .3 percent of the 2 million licenses issued over the life of the program have been revoked, Putnam said. Licenses can be revoked when someone is found guilty of committing a felony or been deemed to be mentally incompetent by a court.

Florida’s concealed weapons permits came under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who has a concealed weapons permit, claimed he shot and killed the unarmed teenager in self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Zimmerman was later charged with second-degree murder.

Putnam said he held the press conference to announce the milestone because he’s asked about the concealed weapons permits more than any other topic. And he said the low revocation rate proves the system is working.

“So clearly, Floridians who are obtaining these licenses are obtaining them for the right reasons and overwhelmingly using them in an appropriate way,” Putnam, who said he has a concealed weapons permit, said.

Putnam gave a National Rifle Association-ready response to a question about what the milestone means about Florida and its culture.

“I think that surpassing the one million active license tells us that Floridians have a great respect and appreciation for their Second Amendment rights and that firearm ownership whether for personal protection, for sport or for collections is a popular thing,” he said.

No ‘primary purgatory’ for Florida at Democratic convention

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 by George Bennett

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Breakfast meetings of Florida’s Democratic and Republican convention delegations have many similarities — attractively arranged plates of food, amped-up partisan audiences, extensive bad-mouthing the other party’s nominee and a parade of speakers reminding delegates, just in case they forgot, how crucial Florida is in the presidential race.

One big difference: Florida Republican delegates heard regular jokes from visiting speakers about their lodging at the Innisbrook golf resort, 30 miles from the convention site in what Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called “primary purgatory.” The GOP punished Florida with a distant site because the state broke party rules by scheduling its primary Jan. 31 rather than waiting until March.

Florida’s Democratic delegation, on the other hand, is housed in the Marriott City Center hotel downtown, a few blocks away from the convention site. Florida Democratic Chairman Rod Smith said the Sunshine State delegation got the site after he drew a low lottery number when states chose hotels.

Internet ban, in limbo in Senate, on its way to House floor with blessing of Gov. Scott and Cabinet

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are putting pressure on lawmakers to approve an all-out ban on Internet cafés now on its way to the House floor but facing a doubtful future in the Senate.

The House Economic Affairs Committee approved the bill (HB 3) this morning, drawing the praise of the Republican governor and Cabinet who want the so-called “casinos on the corner” shuttered.

Critics of the cafés, an estimated $1 billion industry which operates under state “sweepstakes” laws and are largely unregulated, say they prey on the state’s poor and vulnerable. But the café operators say they provide good jobs for their employees and a place to socialize for seniors and others.

Scott believes the store-front casinos found in strip malls throughout the state are already illegal but wants lawmakers to officially ban them.

“These store front casinos are impacting Florida’s neighborhoods and families,” said Governor Scott. “They are and should be illegal. Representative Plakon’s bill closes this loophole and I commend his dedication to shutting down these establishments,” Scott said in a statement released by Rep. Scott Plakon, the Longwood Republican who’s sponsored the bill.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam joined in the chorus demanding the shut-down.

But the Senate is moving forward with a separate measure that would regulate the cafés and impose a $100 fee per computer terminal for operators. Estimates of the number of cafés in the state range from 800 to 1,400 but all agree they have mushroomed in the past few years. Palm Beach County commissioners recently barred new cafés from opening in unincorporated areas.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved a regulation measure and set aside a bill that would make the cafés illegal.

Everglades love-fest blows up over ‘Polluter Pays’

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 by Dara Kam

An Everglades love-fest turned nasty Tuesday afternoon when Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Everglades Foundation Chairman Paul Tudor Jones sniped about whether the agriculture industry is meeting its obligation to pay for restoring the “River of Grass.”

Everglades Summit moderator Chuck Todd, MSNBC’s national correspondent, launched the dust-up by asking a panel including Gov. Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Putnam and Jones about a constitutional amendment approved by voters more than 15 years ago requiring polluters to pay for the primary costs of Everglades cleanup.

Putnam praised the agriculture industry, including sugar growers, for cutting back on the amount of nutrients flowing into the Everglades by half, more than double what the law calls for.

“We are seeing a much better conversation between agriculture and the environmental community because all of us have watched in the last 10 years watching as development just explodes,” Putnam said.

But Jones wasn’t satisfied, and responded with an off-the-wall reference to a “Saturday Night Live” skit lampooning “60 Minutes” co-hosts Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick.

“Shana, you bitch,” Jones said to Putnam.

Caught off guard until Jones explained his joke, Putnam responded: “Well at least I didn’t say, ‘Jane, you ignorant…”

Turning serious, Jones said the agriculture industry contributes up to 87 percent of the pollution in the Everglades but picks up only about 13 percent of the clean-up costs.

“Really the question is what is fair. What should be the actual cost that they’re going to pay?” Jones said. “When it comes to enforcing the will of the people of the state and the constitution what kind of leadership are we going to get from the executive department?”

Read the rest of the story here.

Marcus, Negron highlight LeMieux’s Palm Beach County team

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 by George Bennett

Former appointed Sen. George LeMieux has announced the Palm Beach County leaders for his Republican U.S. Senate campaign. Veteran Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus, state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and former state Rep. Carl Domino of Jupiter are on the team.

One of LeMieux’s main GOP primary rivals is former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Boca Raton. LeMieux has Boca backing from city Vice Mayor Susan Haynie, businesswoman Yvonne Boice and Alex Berry, the co-founder of the Palm Beach County Tea Party’s Boca Raton chapter.

Read the LeMieux campaign’s press release after the jump….


When Scott and Cabinet meet, it’s mostly a millionaires club

Thursday, July 7th, 2011 by John Kennedy

When Gov. Rick Scott and the all-Republican Florida Cabinet meet, it’s mostly a millionaires club, according to new financial disclosure reports.

Only Attorney General Pam Bondi claims a net worth of less than $1 million.  Bondi, a former Hillsborough County prosecutor, quit her job last year to campaign fulltime, resulting in her reporting no income in 2010 and a net worth of $472,696.

Her assets are a house and a car.

Scott, considered Florida’s wealthiest governor in history, reported a $103 million net worth — down by more than half  from a year earlier. But still a bundle detailed in four pages of assets and income sources.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, scion of a Polk County citrus family, reported a $6.8 million net worth. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a former Senate president from North Palm Beach, was worth $1.6 million at the end of last year, according to his report, filed this month.

Atwater said he earned roughly $114,000 last year, with income from the state of Florida, investments, and banking work with Bank of America. Putnam, who left Congress last year to run for Agriculture Commissioner, reported income topping $570,000, including his congressional salary, investments, income from Putnam Groves, Inc., and the sale of  his Washington, D.C., home.

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