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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Adam Putnam says some felons should get rights restored faster



Adam Putnam did not hold back: Tally > DC.

The Bartow Republican gunning for a second term as agriculture commissioner told the Times editorial board Friday he feels plenty productive in his current job compared to his tenure in the U.S. House.

"I got more done in one session of the Legislature than I did in 10 years in Congress," he said.

He touted his 2011 acquisition of the school food and nutrition program from the Department of Education, inheriting the state's energy office, and reorganizing the department. "Any one of those would have been a multi-year project in Washington," he said.

State lawmakers still work through big issues in education and health care, he said, though he agreed with the board that nuance in those debates is lost thanks to term limits.

Conversation included his plans to overhaul his department's charity oversight powers following a Times/Center for Investigative Reporting/CNN series and his continued support of nuclear power even as big plants fail and utilities continue to ask for rate increases.

Putnam is one of four members of the state's clemency board, which in 2011 reversed a Charlie Crist policy that allowed nonviolent felons to regain civil rights without going through an extensive application and hearing process. At the time, Putnam said he got the new proposal late and "didn't have much time" to absorb the information, but he voted for the current, more restrictive route that requires felons to wait at least five years before applying for their rights anyway.

With a big backlog of cases, Putnam said the policy should be changed.

"I don't think that going all the way back to full, automatic restoration is the way to go," he said. "But for certain classes of crimes, I think an expedited restoration process is appropriate. For more violent classes of crimes, I think they should still have to come before us. I like the fact that people show interest in it and affirmatively decide to seek their restoration. But I'm open to ideas on how to improve that process."

Why not propose that? "I haven't built the better mouse trap yet. We've just talked about ideas for a better mouse trap."

Putnam showed off a school lunch of stew, squash, oranges and pie from Kimbell Elementary, where he and state Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, helped serve a meal marking the real first Thanksgiving earlier Friday.

It came up when he fielded an inevitable question: When does the run for governor start?

"I'm running for ag commissioner, man," Putnam said. "I brought you a pumpkin pie."

[Last modified: Friday, September 6, 2013 4:51pm]


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