Saturday, February 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: California's lessons for Florida

A hopeful sign of political moderation has broken out in, of all places, California. While Democrats firmly control state government, three election reforms put in place through citizen initiative have produced more moderation and consensus-building on hot-button issues such as immigration and government regulation. This is the predictable result of more competitive elections with more mainstream candidates looking to appeal to a broader swath of voters. California's experience has lessons for Florida, where there are still too many noncompetitive legislative districts and term limits are too tight.

Until recently, California was known for its political dysfunction, out-of-control deficits and even the recall of a governor. Now observers are noting the reduced temperature and cooperation on a range of issues. Gov. Jerry Brown is a Democrat and there are large Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate. But other factors are at work, too. The Legislature includes incoming lawmakers representing districts drawn by a nonpartisan commission rather than the Legislature, and the new districts are more competitive and drawn so a single party is less likely to dominate each district.

It is also the first California legislature chosen through an open primary system, where the top two vote-getters in a nonpartisan primary run against each other regardless of party affiliation. This forces primary candidates, not just those in the general election, to appeal to voters who may be independent or of another party. And last year, voters loosened term limits in the Assembly, allowing lawmakers to serve up to 12 years in that Assembly or the state Senate. More experienced legislators can look beyond the next election and embrace policy for the long haul rather than quick fixes.

There are tangible results. A Republican state senator co-sponsored a bill to permit undocumented aliens to obtain drivers' licenses. Democrats, despite their strength, didn't end up passing regulatory bills opposed by the state Chamber of Commerce. Politicians from both parties are getting the message that bipartisanship will help rather than hinder re-election chances. They don't have to worry quite as much about a primary challenger from their party's most extreme side who is opposed to compromise.

Florida has none of California's reforms. The state's voter-passed constitutional amendments now require districts to be drawn more fairly, but the Legislature still determines the lines. The state has a closed primary system in which only members of a particular political party can vote. The only exception is when primary elections determine the outcome of a seat, but political parties routinely recruit outside straw candidates to keep their primary elections closed. And Florida legislators face term limits of eight years, resulting in lawmakers with little or no experience being selected for leadership posts, and short-term fixes to long-term problems.

As the nation's most populous state, California is often a laboratory for changes later adopted throughout the country. Its election reforms seem to be introducing moderation into governing, something Florida and the rest of the nation sorely needs. Florida's political primaries should be open to all voters, and voters should amend the Constitution to repeal term limits for legislators or at least extend them.

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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

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18