Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Tell Constitution Revision Commission to shape up

Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission comes to Tampa Bay today to hear from the public before it starts voting this spring to place amendments on the November ballot. The list of three dozen remaining possibilities contains several poorly conceived proposals and some dangerous ones. The commission will hold a public hearing from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at USF St. Petersburg. Here are five areas where voters should make clear to the commission that they expect better:

Proposal 11: Primary elections

In Florida, only voters registered with a political party can vote in that party’s primary. Voters of no party affiliation are excluded. There’s an exception when all candidates are from the same party. In that case, everyone can vote. But if a write-in candidate joins the race, that closes the primary. Write-in candidates’ names don’t appear on the ballot, and no write-in candidate has ever won an election. This amendment would close that loophole, opening primaries when all candidates are from the same party or the only other opposition is a write-in candidate. That’s a positive change that would end a campaign tactic that disenfranchises thousands of voters. Better still would be for Florida, where no-party registrations are increasing, to open its primaries to all voters.

Proposals 4 and 45: Separation of church and state; public education

Proposal 4 repeals a prohibition on steering public money to churches and religious institutions. Proposal 45 clears the way for the state to provide "other educational services" separate from public schools. Put them together and it’s easy to see the intent: creating a system of religious and private schools that receive tax dollars. Voters should make clear that this undermining of public education has no place in the Florida Constitution.

Proposal 54: Hospital deregulation

The state limits where new hospitals can be built based on the need for services in an area. The process ensures that the market isn’t oversaturated with new facilities that focus on profitable types of care, which would weaken existing hospitals’ ability to serve the poor and provide more expensive operations. This proposed amendment would repeal the "certificate of need" process and prohibit the state from limiting the number of hospitals in particular areas. That free market approach doesn’t work in the highly regulated health care industry and would likely drive up costs and drive down quality. It also doesn’t belong in the Constitution.

Proposal 97: Constitutional amendments

It takes 60 percent voter approval for to amend the state Constitution. That’s not an easy bar to clear. This proposal would raise it even higher, requiring approval by 60 percent of all voters voting in the election, not just on a particular measure. That would have the effect of counting every non-vote as a no, which is not an accepted standard in U.S. elections. It’s a nearly impossible threshold that would kill future efforts to amend the state Constitution, an increasingly popular avenue for driving change on issues that lawmakers ignore.

Proposal 22: Information privacy

This failed to pass two CRC committees and is not on the list of finalists still under consideration. But the commission is operating under opaque rules, so voters should be on alert for a last-minute effort to revive it. This proposal is a deceptive, dishonest effort to weaken the robust privacy protections in Florida’s Constitution with the ultimate goal of infringing upon abortion rights. The state Constitution establishes the right of every person "to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life." This amendment would add the phrase "with respect to privacy of information and the disclosure thereof," severely restricting how privacy rights apply in some areas and threatening the state’s commitment to public records in others.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18