Saturday, April 21, 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: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

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Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

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Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18