Jul 31 2015

Beware the Old World Bollworm

The old world bollworm is a nasty pest, damaging numerous types of crops such as corn, tomatoes and potatoes.

So it’s understandable that agriculture officials were concerned when three adult male old world bollworms were found in June in Bradenton — the first time the pest had been found in the continental United States outside of port interceptions.

But Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam offered some reassuring news this week when he said no additional old world bollworms have been found in the state. Nevertheless, state and federal agriculture officials have installed 202 traps within a nine-mile area that will continue to be monitored, Putnam said in a news release.

“The old world bollworm is the sixth new pest discovered in Florida in the past 90 days,” Putnam said in the release. “Invasive species cost Florida $100 million per year, and they continue to pose a threat to our $120 billion agriculture industry and the economy as a whole. Our scientists who conduct enhanced trapping and rigorous analysis at our laboratory are on the forefront of defending our agriculture industry.”

The News Service of Florida

Jul 31 2015

Scott Continues Calling Out Hospitals

It isn’t often that Gov. Rick Scott sheds his pro-business hat and publicly goes after employers.

But most employers aren’t hospitals.

And as Scott continues to signal he wants to overhaul the hospital industry, his office issued an unusual release Friday that was sure to make three hospitals unhappy. The release highlighted a Consumer Reports piece that gave low ratings for infection prevention to St. Petersburg General Hospital, UF Health Jacksonville and Venice Regional Bayfront Health.

The release also put in a plug for Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding, which has been holding hearings across the state and looking into hospital finances.

“The news that three Florida hospitals are the worst in America for preventing infections is troubling and unacceptable,” Scott said in the release. “The study also further demonstrates the importance of the work being conducted by the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding to shine a light on the services provided at these facilities.”

As a point of clarification, the Consumer Reports listed the three Florida hospitals among 12 nationwide that earned low ratings.


The News Service of Florida

Jul 31 2015

On Tap Update: Easing into the Weekend

Gov. Rick Scott’s office sent out his schedule after the News Service’s On Tap feature hit subscribers’ inboxes Friday morning. So here’s an update — well, sort of.

Scott does not have any scheduled events Friday.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has a scheduled 2 p.m. Port Everglades meeting and tour in Fort Lauderdale.


The News Service of Florida

Jul 30 2015

Is Graham Playing Political Possum?

With congressional districts ready to be redrawn, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has faced widespread speculation about her political future.

But if a Twitter post is any indication, the first-term Democrat is still working hard in her Northwest Florida district. Graham tweeted a picture of herself holding a possum and wrote, “Looking forward to seeing everyone in Wausau this Saturday!”

For the uninitiated, the annual Wausau Possum Festival in Washington County is a must-do event for many politicians. Graham represents Washington County and surrounding rural areas. With her district boundaries likely to change, speculation has focused on whether she might make plans to run statewide. But the possum festival vote could help in a statewide race, too.


The News Service of Florida

Jul 30 2015

Bondi, Putnam Target Scams Upon Scams

Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Thursday they are taking action against a Broward County company alleged to have scammed victims of scams.

Bondi’s office has filed a complaint in circuit court seeking an injunction against Advocacy and Collections Group, Inc., and Putnam’s department is seeking to revoke the company’s telemarketing license. Bondi also is seeking restitution for consumers.

The complaint alleges that the company called victims of financial scams and, in exchange for fees, offered to help recover lost money. The complaint said the company’s clients typically recovered none of their money.

The News Service of Florida

Jul 30 2015

On Tap Update: Home Sweet Home for Scott

Gov. Rick Scott’s full schedule was released after the News Service’s On Tap feature hit subscribers’ inboxes Thursday morning. So here’s an update.

Scott was scheduled to start the day at 7:45 a.m. with staff and call time before holding a previously announced event touting the state’s efforts to fight human trafficking. That event was set to start at 9 a.m. in Tampa.

The governor is scheduled for more staff and call time at 11:15 a.m. before he gets to make a couple of appearances near his Naples home. At 11:50 a.m., Scott is scheduled to hit the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce meeting. That will be followed by a previously announced event at 2:30 p.m. to mark an Interstate 75 widening project in Collier County.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has one event on his schedule — a 6 p.m. Florida Board of Accountancy reception in Coral Gables, which is where he lives.

The News Service of Florida

Jul 29 2015

Shaw Likes Insurance Advocate Pick

The selection of Sha’Ron James as the state’s next insurance consumer advocate has the backing of one of the former occupants of the office.

Sean Shaw, who is also founder of the Policyholders of Florida coalition, released a statement Wednesday saying James is up for the job.

“Policyholders need a strong, smart advocate in Tallahassee, and Sha’ron James is the right woman for the job,” Shaw said in the release. “Having worked with Sha’ron, I expect that she won’t let policyholders be pushed around in disputes or during the legislative process. It’s a tough job, but she’s up for it.”

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced Tuesday the selection of James, who currently serves as director of the state Department of Financial Services’ Division of Rehabilitation & Liquidation.  James is a Florida A&M University graduate who received her law degree from the University of Florida.

The News Service of Florida

Jul 29 2015

On Tap Update: Scott Starts Day with Lobsters

Gov. Rick Scott’s full schedule hadn’t been released when the News Service’s On Tap feature hit inboxes Wednesday morning.

But it appears Scott started his day in a better place than sweltering Tallahassee. He was scheduled to go lobstering at 6:30 a.m. in Key West.

At 9:15 a.m., Scott was scheduled to start four hours of staff and call time before making a previously announced appearance at 2 p.m. in Orlando for the Building Homes for Heroes organization.

He is then scheduled to take part in a 3:30 p.m. event in Orlando for the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind and finish up the day with more staff and call time.

The schedule released by Scott’s office said Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera does not have any scheduled events.



The News Service of Florida

Jul 29 2015

U.S. Rep. Clawson’s Mother Dies

Cherie Clawson, the mother of U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Fla., died Tuesday. She was 85.

The following statement was released by Clawson’s office:

“Congressman Curt Clawson’s mother, Cherie Marcil Clawson of Bonita Springs, passed away peacefully this afternoon with family at her side.

“Mrs. Clawson was Curt’s guiding light and a source of unwavering encouragement and support.

“She never missed any of Curt’s major events throughout his life, from attending every one of Curt’s basketball games, to being at his side as Curt took the oath of office in Washington, DC last year.

“Cherie Clawson is also survived by Curt’s father, Jack Clawson, and Curt’s six brothers and sisters.  The family asks for your thoughts, prayers and privacy during their time of mourning.”

The News Service of Florida

Jul 28 2015

Atwater Offers Help to Agencies

Nobody ever said being state chief financial officer was the most-glamorous job in the world.

But CFO Jeff Atwater appears to drill down into state contracts with the best of them. And with the state’s new fiscal year starting this month, Atwater has sent a memo to state agency heads offering help with the contracting process.

“Floridians have a right to know how their money is spent and should have comfort that it is being spent wisely,” Atwater wrote in the memo, released Tuesday by his office.

Atwater wrote that he is trying to build a more-transparent state government and that his office has an auditing staff that can help agencies with issues such as strengthening contracts and grants and holding vendors and grant recipients accountable for money they receive.

The News Service of Florida