Friday, February 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: A step toward more sensible drug sentencing

President Barack Obama was right last week to commute the sentences of eight federal inmates serving time for crack cocaine offenses. There is a reason the executive branch has the power to issue commutations and pardons. Used proportionately, they provide a relief valve to address unintended consequences of laws. The president and Congress must now find a way to help thousands of convicts who remain imprisoned under similar unjust sentences.

Congress established harsh mandatory sentencing guidelines for drug crimes in the 1980s amid the crack cocaine epidemic. The guidelines helped to standardize punishments, but they also set up a tremendous disparity between the sentences for crack offenses, which occurred more often in black and low-income communities, and those for powder cocaine, more popular among affluent, white users. Despite the fact that there is no chemical difference between the two drug forms, people convicted of crack cocaine-related crimes received sentences that were 100 times more harsh than those given to powder cocaine offenders. That essentially meant a low-level crack dealer or his girlfriend who hid drugs could receive more prison time than a powder cocaine kingpin.

Approved in 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act was a bipartisan deal that sought to correct a policy with unjust consequences. It reduced the sentencing disparity to 18:1, a good but far from perfect fix. But it did not go far enough. It was not retroactive and left convicts and suspects who were charged, but not yet prosecuted, without protection.

Last week, Obama correctly utilized one of the most powerful privileges of his office to commute the sentences of the crack offenders, who included a Tampa man and two other Floridians who each had served at least 16 years in prison. But nearly 9,000 inmates nationwide remain imprisoned under similar circumstances. A bipartisan bill that would provide retroactive relief for some offenders and allow judges to revisit sentences is making its way through Congress. Lawmakers should pass it, giving particular consideration to nonviolent offenders. Doing so would save taxpayers millions of dollars and align the sentences with what the new law indicates is fair. If legislators fail, the president should step in.

Lawmakers and advocacy groups also must remain watchful of mandatory minimum sentences handed down for other drug crimes such as those involving methamphetamines. Without oversight, the same sort of sentencing disparity that became problematic for crack cocaine offenders could crop up for a new population.

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Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nationís conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places ó South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington ó as survivors, victimsí families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18