Takeaways from Tallahassee — Don’t get ‘skimmed’

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Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam sent out his occasional warning Friday in advance of “projected record-breaking travel this Independence Day” on credit card skimmers at the gas pump.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which regulates gas pumps, “found and removed 276 credit card skimmers so far this year.”

Skimming “is a type of credit card theft where crooks use a small device to steal credit card information in an otherwise legitimate credit or debit card transaction,” The Balance website explains.

“When a credit or debit card is swiped through a skimmer, the device captures and stores all the details stored in the card’s magnetic strip.”

Hitting the road this weekend? Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is warning consumers to be on the lookout for credit card skimmers at the gas pump.

“Identity theft is the last thing Floridians and visitors want to deal with while traveling,” Putnam said in a statement. “I encourage travelers to follow these simple tips to avoid skimmers this holiday weekend.”

— Pay in cash inside the store to ensure credit card information stays safe.

— Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and has not been tampered with.

— Use a gas pump closer to the front of the store. Thieves often place skimmers at the gas pumps farther away from the store.

— Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from an account.

— If using a debit card at the pump, choose to run it as a credit card instead of putting a PIN number in. That way, the PIN number is safe.

— Monitor bank accounts regularly to spot any unauthorized charges.

— Consumers who suspect their credit card number has been compromised should report it immediately to authorities and their credit card company.

If you think you see a skimmer, let the gas station manager know, or call local law enforcement or the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first: Now that all the bills are signed, and the summer is in full swing, we’re taking next week off to enjoy an extended July Fourth holiday and a little R&R before the next Legislative Session starts. Have no fear; we’ll be back July 15.

And now, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

All hail the Chief — After months of speculation, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Jimmy Patronis to replace Jeff Atwater as the state’s next chief financial officer. Patronis, a Scott loyalist and former state representative, also served on the state’s Public Service Commission and Constitution Revision Commission. “As a small business owner, Jimmy has been a successful job creator and has helped grow Panama City’s economy,” Scott said in a statement. “I know that he will bring his wealth of private sector experience with him to Tallahassee.” Patronis took the oath of office on Friday, but has been tight-lipped about whether he plans to run for a full term in 2018. “I want every family in Florida to have the same opportunities that my family had,” said Patronis, whose family owns and operates Captain Anderson’s restaurant in Bay County. “As Florida’s next CFO, I want Florida to be the place where government does its job fairly and predictably so workers can find great jobs at great businesses.” Atwater left his post early to take a job at Florida Atlantic University. His last day was Friday.

Jimmy Patronis is sworn in as Florida’s next chief financial officer. He replaces Jeff Atwater, who left his post early to take a job at FAU. (Photo via CFO Jimmy Patronis Twitter.)

Signature please — There’s a new fund in town. Gov. Scott signed legislation (HB 1A) this week that establishes the $85 million Florida Job Growth Fund, which Scott said is what “Florida needs to bring major jobs wins home.” The bill, which came together during a Special Session earlier this year, also fully funds Visit Florida, implements new accountability and transparency measures at VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida, and sets aside $50 million to jumpstart repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike. “With this legislation, we can promote public infrastructure projects and job training projects to continue to grow jobs for families in every community of our state. We know that for Florida to be competitive in domestic and international markets, we need as many tools as possible to attract growing businesses to our state,” Scott said in a statement. The governor also signed a bill (HB 3A) that increases public K-12 school funding by $100 per student for a total of $20.6 billion. “Our students are the future of our state and I’m incredibly proud to sign legislation today to ensure they have every opportunity for success,” said Scott. “The additional $100 per-student, along with our expansion of the Gardiner Scholarship, allows even more Florida students to receive a world-class education and live their dreams in our state.”

Vetoed — Gov. Scott’s veto pen sure saw a lot of action this week. The Naples Republican vetoed five bills, including a House measure (HB 5301) backed by Rep. Blaise Ingoglia that aimed to shake up the state’s Agency for State Technology. The bill would have reduced the agency’s top-heavy management structure, eliminated several positions, and required the agency head to have 10 years of executive management experience. In his veto letter, Scott said the bill included “overly prescriptive language regarding the management of information technology resources” and limited the agency’s “ability to perform their primary function, which is to manage state information technology.” The governor also vetoed a bill (HB 937) that would have required warnings on lottery games, which the governor said imposed “burdensome regulations on the Lottery and its retail partners.” He also vetoed a bill (HB 277) that would have authorized the creation of electronic wills, saying it failed to “strike the proper balance between competing concerns.” Scott vetoed 11 bills this year.

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia backed a bill to make sweeping changes to the state’s Agency for State Technology, which the governor vetoed this week.

The Supremes — The state Supreme Court grilled State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s attorney this week, questioning her prosecutorial “discretion” in not seeking the death penalty. Attorneys for Ayala and lawyers for Gov. Scott debated Ayala’s request that the court order the governor to return capital punishment cases he reassigned to neighboring 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King. Her attorney, Roy Austin, argued that no law requires her to seek an execution in any given murder case. Austin said Scott should be ordered to return the 24 death penalty-eligible cases he took away from her office. But Justice Charles Canady, a member of the court’s conservative-leaning minority, countered by saying the discretion has to be exercised on a case-by-case basis, not a blanket policy. “It’s a very absolutist position you are taking,” he said. The justices did not give a timeline on when they will rule.

It’s a law — According to our friends at LobbyTools, 121 bills from the 2017 regular session and two bills from the special session go into effect July 1. Starting Saturday, Florida will become the first state to offer the equivalent of birth certificates to mothers who have had miscarriages. Under the Grieving Families Act, the state can issue the certificate if a parents ask for them. It’s available to women whose pregnancies end after nine weeks and before 20 weeks. The state will also begin offering free annual passes to Florida state parks for foster families. The new law provides families who operate licensed family foster homes with free annual passes and a discount on campsite fees at Florida State Parks. Statewide rules for transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, go into effect Saturday. The new law, among other things, puts minimum insurance standards in place. Other new laws clarify that public school students can’t be punished for praying at school; allow county residents to review instructional materials used in the classroom; and create a civil cause of action for terrorism in under Florida law.

Rep. Chris Sprowls and Rep. Jamie Grant celebrate after a bill to regulate transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, pass the House. The law is one of more than 120 that go into effect July 1. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

5G is coming

Get ready, Florida: Faster internet could be coming your way.

Gov. Scott signed a bill (HB 687) into law recently that, among other things, establishes a process by which wireless providers can place small wireless facilities in rights of way. Supporters of the measure law, which goes into effect July 1, paves the way for 5G wireless technology in Florida.

“This new law, that Rep. Mike LaRosa and Sen. Travis Hutson worked tirelessly on during the 2017 Legislative Session, will make faster wireless communications, connected cares and smart cities a reality for Floridians sooner rather than later,” said Brewster Bevis, the senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida, in a statement. “Investing in small cell deployment technology gives the Sunshine State the ability to attract innovative, technologically advanced companies. This attraction will not only bring Florida into the technological future, it will create an economic environment where businesses can grow, innovate and thrive.”

The Florida League of Cities asked Scott to veto the measure, saying it would “deprive cities of their authority to regulate the use of public rights of way.” Such equipment, including antennas and related equipment, can be as big as a kitchen refrigerator.

(Natural) gas points

The natural gas industry contributed more than $12 billion to the state’s economy in 2015.

That’s according to a new report from the Florida Petroleum Council, which found the natural gas supply chain supported 3 percent of the U.S. economy in 2015.

The study, conducted by ICF International, looked at the economic benefits and opportunities from the entire natural gas value chain, including the production of natural gas, transportation, and end uses like power generation and manufacturing.

The report found that natural gas supported 91,198 jobs in Florida in 2015. That same year, the industry contributed nearly $12.6 billion to the state’s economy.

“Florida relies on natural gas to generate nearly 70 percent of its electricity,” said David Mica, the executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council. “The increased growth in natural gas over the past several decades has positively impacted Florida’s air quality and reduced its carbon footprint. During our hot and humid summer season, Floridians and tourists also truly appreciate natural gas’ affordability and reliability as the air conditioners continue to run.”

Water warrior

Kudos, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam!

The U.S. Water Alliance awarded Putnam with the 2017 U.S. Water Prize for his leadership on water issues in Florida. The organization recognized Putnam’s work to help secure funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration, his support for the Central Florida Water Initiative, and his focus on environmentally sensitive lands through his advocacy of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. It also recognized his work with the Legislature to establish comprehensive and long-term water policy.

The U.S. Water Alliance announced Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was one of five winners of its 2017 US Water Prize.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in Florida. With a growing demand on our limited water resources, we could be California right now. But with strong, conservative leadership here in Florida, we’ve taken proactive measures to meet the needs of our state by growing our water supply and improving the health of our lakes, springs and rivers. However, there’s more work to do,” he said in a statement. “We must protect our water quality and quantity in order to accommodate our explosive population growth, to promote prosperity, and to preserve the invaluable natural resources that make Florida so unique.”

The organization also awarded the 2017 U.S. Water Prize to Aurora Water for its Prairie Waters program; Kohler for its commitment to sustainability; Change the Course for its National Freshwater Restoration Campaign; and Mark Schleifstein, a 33-year veteran at the New Orleans Times-Picayune who covers water and the environment.

Big winners

Give these history buffs a round of applause!

Students from Broward, Leon, Osceola, Pinellas, and Santa Rosa counties came out on top at the National History Day competition in College Park, Maryland. The Department of State announced recently that the students won seven national awards and recognitions, including three first-place finishes.

To continue to National History Day, students had to have won first or second at the Florida History Day state contest in May. More than 66,000 students took part statewide, making Florida one of the largest programs of the 50 National History Day affiliates.

“This past May at the Florida History Day state contest in Tallahassee, I was thrilled to meet these young historians who spent months conducting research and developing their entries,” Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in a statement. “I’m proud and delighted that their hard work, creativity, and dedication has been recognized at the national contest.”

The national contest drew 3,040 students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and international schools in Southeast Asia.

Help for wrongfully incarcerated

A new law could make it easier for inmates wrongfully imprisoned to receive compensation.

Gov. Scott recently signed into law a bill (SB 494), backed by Republican Rob Bradley in the Senate and Democrat Bobby Dubose in the House, that updates state law to remove the so-called “Clean Hands Provision.”

“This bill is for the people like William Dillon, who after 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, could not seek compensation because he had a past conviction for drug possession, and Herman Lindsey, the 23rd person exonerated from death row in 2009 from a crime he did not commit,” said Dubose in a statement. “These nonviolent offenders who have served time due to blunders by the state deserve retribution for the mistakes that have cost them so dearly.”

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill sponsored by Rep. Bobby DuBose and Sen. Rob Bradley that could make it easier for inmates who were wrongly imprisoned to receive compensation. The measure was championed in past years by former Sen. Arthenia Joyner. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Under current law, inmates wrongfully incarcerated are unable to receive compensation if convicted of any felony. The updated law, which goes into effect Oct. 1, only prohibits those wrongfully incarcerated from receiving compensation if he or she have been convicted of a violent felony or more than one nonviolent felony.

“Allowing those who have been wronged by the state access to the compensation they deserve will provide them with an opportunity reintegrate themselves into society and better themselves and their community,” said Dubose.

Former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, a former Democratic Leader, championed the change.

In the trees

Attention, private forest landowners: The Florida Forest Service is now accepting applications for its Longleaf Pine Landowner Incentive Program.

The program aims to increase the acreage of healthy Longleaf pine ecosystem in Florida by helping nonindustrial private forest landowners make long-term investments required to establish and maintain the ecosystem. It offers incentives to eligible, nonindustrial private landowners for completion of timber stand improvement, invasive species control, prescribed burning, planting Longleaf pine, native plant understory establishment, and mechanical underbrush treatments. It’s offered for private lands in Florida west of the Aucilla River and several counties near the Ocala National Forest.

Longleaf pine forests are native to the southeastern United States and are among the most diverse ecosystems in North America. According to the Florida Forest Service, Longleaf pines are highly valued for their resistance to damage by insects, disease, wildfire and storms.

The Sunshine State is currently home to more than 2 million acres of Longleaf pine ecosystem, more than half of all known Longleaf pine ecosystems.

Applications will be accepted through July 28.

Bridge over Florida waters

A massive infrastructure project is underway in the Panhandle.

Gov. Scott was in Pensacola this week to kick off construction of the new Pensacola Bay Bridge, a $398.5 million infrastructure project in Northwest Florida.

The new bridge is expected to be completed in 2019, and will temporarily transition four lanes of traffic onto the structure. That will allow for the existing bridge to be demolished, and the second and final bridge to be completed in 2020.

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the construction of the new $398.5 million Pensacola Bay Bridge project in Pensacola this week. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

“This investment will help increase safety and efficiency for the many families and visitors that travel through this beautiful community each day and will also help support the creation of thousands of jobs,” Scott said in a statement. “Thanks to our commitment to making record transportation investments, critical projects like the Pensacola Bay Bridge replacement will help ensure Florida’s transportation infrastructure remains a national leader for generations to come.”

Built in 1960, the existing Pensacola Bay Bridge carries about 55,000 drivers back and forth between Pensacola and Gulf Breeze each day, according to the Pensacola News-Journal. The bridge, the paper reported, was listed as structurally deficient by state transportation officials.

Historical spaces

There are a few more Florida properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

Secretary of State Detzner announced this week that Florida added nine properties to the National Register of Historic Places so far this year. The list includes the Coconut Grove Library in Miami, the First Clewiston Post Office in Clewiston, and the Tallahassee Fire Station No. 2 in Tallahassee.

“I am pleased to announce the addition of this diverse group of properties on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Detzner. “Together, they illustrate Florida’s array of architectural and cultural heritage worthy of preservation.”

Built in 1963, the Coconut Grove Library replaced an earlier library built on the same site in 1901. The 1901 library was housed in a smaller building constructed with funds raised by the Coconut Grove Library Association. Architectural firm T. Triplett Russell designed the new library in the modern tropical style, which opened to the public in 1963. The property is on the grave site of Eva Munroe, the wife of pioneer Commodore Ralph Monroe. She died in 1882 and was buried on the site in 1884. The library continues to serve as a public library today.

The First Clewiston Post Office was built in downtown Clewiston between 1926 and 1930, serving as the city’s post office and telephone company. Architect Clarke J. Lawrence of Palm Beach designed the buildings; Lawrence designed several other Clewiston buildings. The building currently houses a retail business.

Built in 1951 by architect James A. Stripling and Associates, the Tallahassee Fire Station No. 2 was designed to serve what was then the northern part of Tallahassee. It also accommodated an automotive maintenance shop. The station was used for active fire service until 2001, and now contains private offices.

Seeking Florida folk

Know a Floridian making a big contribution to Florida’s culture? The Department of State wants to hear about them.

The Department of State is seeking nominations for the 2018 Florida Folk Heritage. The annual awards, which will be announced in February 2018, recognize individuals who have made exemplary contributions to Florida’s traditional culture.

The 2017 Florida Folk Heritage Award recipients. (Photo via the Department of State.)

“The Florida Folk Heritage Awards annually recognize artistic excellence and community impact in the realm of folk and traditional arts and honor our most influential tradition bearers,” said Secretary Detzner. “We are pleased to honor the distinguished Floridians whose skills and accomplishments in the traditional arts affirm our state’s cultural legacy and unique heritage.”

Folk life includes everything from arts, crafts, dance, language, music and ritual. Nominees, according to the Department of State, should be individuals whose art or advocacy has embodied the best of traditional culture in their communities.

Nominations must be postmarked by Oct. 1.

Awards season

They are the champions — Feel free to call them the champions of business, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) sure is.

The pro-business group announced this week their 2017 “Champion for Business” awards. Handed out each year, the awards recognize elected officials who provided leadership on key legislation for the success of Florida’s business community.

AIF presented Gov. Scott with his fourth “Champion for Business” award. The group applauded Scott for his work on maintaining the state’s economic incentive programs, like Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA.

Rep. Jim Boyd also received his fourth “Champion for Business” award. The group saluted Boyd for leadership in reducing taxes for families and businesses.

Rep. Jim Boyd (left) received his fourth “Champion for Business” award from Associated Industries of Florida this year. Here, he gets a low 10 from fellow GOP House member Clay Ingram of Pensacola. (Photo by Phil Sears)

First time honorees are Sen. Keith Perry, Sen. Kelli Stargel, Rep. Ben Albritton, Rep. Jay Fant, and Rep. Danny Burgess.

“Each year, AIF is proud to honor elected officials who take risks for his or her belief in the free-enterprise system, who defies the status quo when it is harmful to our state’s competitive climate, and who faces down opponents to the growing prosperity of Floridians,” said Tom Feeney, AIF’s president and CEO.

“This year, we selected Gov. Scott and six lawmakers who we deem are strong and forceful advocates for the business community, and who are the epitome of what a ‘Champion for Business’ should be,” he continued. “Whether they proposed an important, authored a key amendment, or toiled behind the scenes, AIF believes these elected officials are the ones who made a difference during the 2017 session.”

Legislative triple threat — Rep. Sean Shaw is racking up the awards in his first legislative postseason.

The Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters has named Shaw as its “Legislator of the Year.” The Tampa Democrat was also named “Rookie of the Year” by the Florida Workers Advocates, and “Legislator of the Year” by the Trial Lawyer Section of the Florida Bar.

“Protecting working Floridians is one of the main reasons I came Tallahassee as I was fed up with seeing consumers and people in the workplace being taken advantage of and treated unfairly,” Shaw said in a statement.

Rep. Sean Shaw picked up honors from the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, the Florida Workers Advocates, and the Trial Lawyer Section of the Florida Bar for his work this year. (Photo via the Florida House.)

“It’s our job as elected representatives of our communities to ensure that our neighbors, and everyone in our state, have the opportunity to work toward economic security,” he continued. “I’m humbled and honored to have been chosen for these awards and I look forward to continue working to achieve fairness, opportunity and justice for all Floridians.”

FAPIA recognized Shaw for his work to protect insurance policyholders from the unlicensed practice of public adjusting; while the Florida Workers Advocates honored him for his commitment to protecting and defending Florida’s workforce. The Trial Lawyer Section of the Florida Bar awarded Shaw with its “Legislator of the Year” award for being a champion of judicial independence.

Key West-bound

Attention, Key West revelers: Uber is coming.

With statewide regulations taking effect this week, ride-booking giant Uber announced it will begin offering services in Key West. Uber is already available in other parts of the Florida Keys.

“With Uber’s launch in Key West Saturday, Florida Keys residents and visitors will now be able to more easily move throughout our communities,” said Republican Rep. Holly Raschein of Key Largo. “Just as important, our local businesses will benefit from increased accessibility. In just a few short days no matter where you live or visit in Florida, you’ll have access to ride-sharing and I’m proud Key West will be Uber’s first stop.”

Sen. Anitere Flores, whose district includes Key West, said improving mobility throughout the Keys is “essential to helping strengthen our communities and economy.”

“Uber has become a part of the fabric of Florida and I thank them for the work they do to increase transportation and access,” the Miami-Dade Republican said.

Coffee talk

Nothing brings a crowd together like French toast and chitchat about the 2017 Legislative Session.

The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce held its annual legislative breakfast this week, giving lawmakers a chance to chat with constituents about the most recent legislative session. The event gave members a chance to hear the delegation’s thoughts on a wide-sweeping education bill, funding for economic incentives, mental health and home rule.

Delegation members also sounded off about a recent report from the Florida Society of News Editors, which ranked lawmakers based on transparency-related and public records votes this year.

The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce held its annual legislative breakfast, moderated by Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch, this week. (Photo via the Clearwater Chamber.)

The Tampa Bay Times dubbed 12 GOP members of the Tampa Bay legislative delegation the “Disciples of Darkness” because of their scores. All 12 received “Ds” on their legislative score card.

Sen. Jack Latvala, who earned a D, said his grade was based on two votes, one of which was to protect murder witnesses’ identities from public disclosure. Latvala said if he had to vote on it 100 more times, he would “vote yes 100 more times.”

The meeting also gave lawmakers a chance to talk about their 2018 priorities. Rep. Chris Latvala said he planned to file a bill to amend a special act, which stands in the way of relocating Coachman Park’s concert bandshell.

Combating the opioid epidemic

Florida has another tool to help combat the scourge of opioids.

Gov. Scott signed into law a bill (HB 557) this week that revises the state’s prescription drug monitoring program to better identify opioid abuse and combat the state’s growing opioid epidemic.

“Florida’s growing opioid epidemic is an issue that transcends politics. This bill will provide medical professionals with the necessary tools to identify and combat opioid addiction at a much faster rate,” said Rep. Nick Duran, who sponsored the bill in the House. “I was pleased with the bipartisan support this legislation received and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to combat this deadly epidemic in Florida.”

The law, which goes into effect July 1, modernizes Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program and shortens the reporting time for facilities that distribute controlled substances to better identify drug abuse.

Home for heroes

An Army veteran will have a new home, thanks in part to a not-for-profit organization that builds homes for veterans and their families.

Building Homes for Heroes broke ground this week on a home in Land O’Lakes for Master Sgt. George Vera, an Army veteran who was wounded during an attack on his base in 2015. The not-for-profit organization builds or modifies homes and gifts them, mortgage free, to veterans and their families. In 2016, Building Homes for Heroes built or modified 19 homes in Florida, which had a projected value of more than $4 million.

Building Homes for Heroes broke ground on a new home for an Army veteran in Land O’Lakes this week. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

Vera’s base was attacked by suicide bombers using an improvised explosive device. Vera, according to the Governor’s Office, pulled his fellow wounded soldiers away for enemy fire, and was shot during his efforts to secure the perimeter. He has been awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and other heroic commendations.

“Like so many of our brave veterans, Master Sergeant Vera and his family have made incredible sacrifices in order to protect our nation and defend our freedom. While we can never thank them enough for their service, this upcoming Independence Day is an important reminder that we must take every opportunity to recognize these heroes,” said Gov. Scott, who attended the groundbreaking this week, in a statement. “We want Florida to be the most military and veteran-friendly state in the nation, which is why we will continue to make investments in organizations like Building Homes for Heroes.”

The state, according to the Governor’s Office, has invested more than $5 million into Building Homes for Heroes since Scott took office.

“I am proud that Master Sergeant George Vera and his family have chosen the beautiful Land O’Lakes as the site of their new home and I look forward to celebrating the home’s completion,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran in a statement. “We will continue to support organizations like Building Homes for Heroes that help our military members as they protect our families and our freedom.”

Fee reduction

Need to renew your concealed weapon license? You’re going to save a few bucks this year.

Agriculture Commissioner Putnam announced this week that the fee to apply for or renew a concealed weapon license will be reduced by $5 beginning July 1. First time applicants will pay $55, down from $60; while renewal fees will now be $45, down from $5.

Active law enforcement officers, Putnam announced, will be able to obtain new license for $55 and renew their licenses for $45. That same fee schedule applies for correctional officers and correctional probation officers.

“I’m a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and am dedicated to making our concealed weapon license application and renewal process as convenient as possible,” Putnam said in a statement. “By reducing the concealed weapon license fee yet again, we can put the savings back in the pockets of Floridians.”

This is the third time Putnam has pushed to lower concealed weapon license fees within the past five years. Those reductions, according to Putnam’s office, have saved Floridians $20 when applying for or renewing a concealed weapon license.

Scalloper paradise

Grab your dive masks; more waters are now open for scalloping

State waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Pasco/Hernando county line open for scalloping starting Saturday. The span of waters from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County opened June 16 and will close Sept. 16.

The new season dates are for 2017 only, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said the season is a chance for Floridians to explore the regionally specific bay scallop season.

Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone are two gallons of whole bay scallops in shells or one pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or a half-gallon of bay scallop meat per vessel.

Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net. They must be landed in the area that is open to harvest, and there is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.

Red, white and blue

Travel advisory — Heading out of town for the July 4th holiday? Get ready for some traffic.

AAA–The Auto Club estimates more than 2.3 Floridians will travel during the Independence Day travel weekend, which runs through Tuesday. The auto group estimates 2 million Floridians will drive to their final destination, while more than 168,500 Floridians will fly.

An estimated 2.3 million Floridians will travel this holiday weekend, and AAA estimates about 2 million of those travelers will drive to their location.

Those big numbers could mean a historic travel weekend, said Vicky Evans, the assistant vice president for travel sales development at AAA–The Auto Club Group.

“Traveler numbers are up and prices are down, adding to what has already been a bustling summer travel season,” Evans said. “The biggest factors driving growth are low gas prices, strong employment, rising incomes, and higher consumer confidence; but overall Americans just love to travel, and want to do something fun for this mid-summer tradition.”

Safety first — Florida law enforcement officers want you to have fun this holiday weekend. They also want you to “arrive alive.”

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is urging Floridians to use caution when hitting the roads this weekend.

“The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) will continue our commitment to making the highways a safer place to drive by increasing our patrol efforts during the holiday,” said Col. Gene Spaulding, the director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Drivers need to use good judgement during the holiday period, so that the celebration does not turn into a tragedy.”

According to preliminary data, eight people were killed in 897 crashes on Florida roads on July 4, 2016. One year earlier, there were 14 fatalities and more than 900 crashes on July 4.

The state agency is reminding drivers to buckle up, to check their tires before their trip, stay focused on driving, and designate a sober driver.

It isn’t just the roads that will be under the watchful eye of law enforcement officers this holiday weekend FWC has launched its Operation Dry Water program, during which officers will remind boaters about the dangers of boating under the influence. During the annual awareness and enforcement campaign, officers will education the public, and identify and deter operators from boating under the influence.

“A big part of enjoying Florida’s beautiful waterways is doing so safely and responsibly,” said Maj. Robert Rowe, FWC’s boating and waterways section leader. “It is our job as law enforcement officers to identify and remove impaired boaters from the water so that everyone can continue to have an enjoyable boating season.”

Give them some space — Here’s a tip if you’re beach bound this holiday: Be mindful of the beach-nesting shorebirds and sea turtles.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking Floridians to make sure to give nesting shorebirds and sea turtles space and keep fireworks off the beach.

“It’s great to celebrate the Fourth of July, but please help our nesting shorebirds and sea turtles by giving them space and keeping personal fireworks off Florida beaches,” said Brad Gruver, who leads the FWC species conservation planning section. “Attending an official fireworks display is a better choice when it comes to helping Florida’s wildlife.”

FWC officials are reminding Floridians to give nesting shorebirds, like this snowy plover and her chick, and sea turtles their space as they head to the beach this holiday weekend. (Photo via FWC.)

Shorebirds on Florida’s Atlantic and Gul coasts are currently nesting, with many watching over their flightless chicks. Threatened species – like the snowy plover, least tern and American oystercatcher — are among the shorebirds facing conservation challenges, and loud noises can cause adults to flush off their nests. That could lead tiny chicks to become separated from parents, leaving them vulnerable to predators.

It’s also a busy time of year for sea turtle nesting, and, according to the FWC, female sea turtles can become disoriented and fail to lay their eggs if disturbed by bright lights, loud noises and people getting too close.

Save this number — Party too hard this weekend? AAA is there to help.

AAA and Budweiser have teamed up to offer its “Tow to Go” program to make sure Floridians get home safely this holiday weekend. The program, which runs through 6 a.m., provides free, confidential local rides to a safe location within 10 miles of the call. A AAA tow truck will take the vehicle and driver home.

“If you’re going out to celebrate America’s independence, please plan ahead to make sure you and your loved ones get home safely,” said Amy Stracke, the managing director of Traffic Safety Advocacy for AAA–The Auto Club Group and Executive Director of the ACG Traffic Safety Foundation. “It only takes one impaired driver to turn a celebration into a tragedy for so many others.”

Need the service? Just call 855-2-TOW-2-GO.

This week’s edition of Capitol Directions

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.