Friday, June 22, 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.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18