Putnam, after five terms as a congressman representing Florida's 12th district, gave up a top position in the U.S. House's Republican leadership to escape the frustration of Washington's partisan gridlock.
In the subsequent four years running the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, that part of his plan has worked.
He has pushed and successfully implemented programs to make the state’s agricultural producers more relevant by promoting their products. Florida agriculture has grown to $108 billion, despite the citrus industry’s battle with “greening,” adding jobs and tax revenue. Charities are more regulated to protect seniors from scam artists, and kids — especially those in foster care — are less likely to be victims of ID theft. And he has helped make water quality a signature issue for state lawmakers to tackle.
Putnam wants another four years to do more. He should get it.
Yes, he’s worked to reduce the cost of concealed weapons licenses and his “Fast Track” process is largely responsible for the huge growth in Florida concealed weapons permits to roughly 1.3 million. While that’s already more than any other state, select tax collector’s offices around the state will soon be taking applications for permits as well.
Putnam also voted with the rest of the Florida Cabinet in 2011 to add a waiting period of between five and seven years after felons have completed their obligations, including restitution, to apply for their voter rights to be restored. As a result, barely 1,100 felons have had their rights restored during his time in office and leaving Florida has about 1.5 million potential voters off the rolls.
But in his first year, Putnam managed to persuade the Legislature to move the state school-lunch program to his department. He has connected local farmers — like those in agriculture-rich Palm Beach County — with schools to put fresher, healthier meals on hundreds of thousands of lunch trays around the state. He has also carved out a niche for himself as a key voice on the state’s pressing water quality issues. He got the Legislature to fund $10 million for the northern Everglades, and pushed for $5 million to begin fixing the state’s valuable springs. And he has made developing a “more comprehensive, statewide plan” for dealing with the state’s water issues a focal point of a second term.
Democrat Thaddeus “Thad” Hamilton, is Putnam’s opponent in the November race. He did not return phone and and email messages from the Post requesting an interview.