Sunday, June 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Fed must save children from state apathy

The federal government took the only recourse available by finally asking the courts to end Florida's shameful practice of warehousing disabled children in nursing homes. For two years, Gov. Rick Scott's administration has made clear that it had no intention of changing course on a policy that punishes children with complex medical needs and keeps them from their homes, families and communities. If Florida won't comply with the antidiscrimination laws, then it falls to the federal government and the courts.

The Justice Department's civil rights division sued the state Monday, alleging that nearly 200 children with disabilities were being "segregated unnecessarily" in nursing homes because of the state's "deliberate indifference" to providing them with lawfully required and more appropriate care at home or in community-based settings. The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against people with special medical needs. And it bars states from isolating the disabled in medical settings that institutionalize them, denying them contact with family and friends and any opportunity for a normal life.

The federal complaint paints a terrible picture of the conditions these children live in and of the challenges that families face in getting the bureaucracy to act. The children housed in nursing homes reside in the equivalent of shared hospital rooms. Many are hundreds of miles from home. They spend their days in front of the television or in the company of elderly nursing home residents without any age-appropriate interaction that aids a child's development.

The homes have become a dumping ground, the complaint alleges, because Florida refuses to provide adequate home and community-based care. The state has cut aid to families and either reduced or limited community-based services even as it upped payments to nursing homes. One program allowing children to receive home-based care has a waiting list of 22,000 names. While the Legislature provided some relief for the coming year, that funding will relieve less than 5 percent of the backlog. And three years ago, lawmakers cut $6 million from private nursing care that serves as an alternative to institutional housing. The net result is that many families have no real choice: Nursing homes are a default because parents, grandparents and siblings don't have the resources, training or confidence to manage a child's chronic medical condition.

Liz Dudek, secretary of the state's Agency for Health Care Administration, released a one-paragraph statement Monday that was nonresponsive to the substance of the government's suit. She chose instead to play politics and frame the complaint as another imposition by the big, bad Obama administration. The state needs to get serious. The Justice Department has looked into this matter for nearly two years. In late 2012, it found the state in violation of the ADA, and worked with Florida to settle the case. Dudek's reaction Monday seems to underscore the Justice Department's contention that Florida will not comply with the ADA voluntarily. That leaves it to the federal government and the courts to ensure that the nation's antidiscrimination laws actually work for the people who need them. They need to keep up the pressure on Florida.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

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...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
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. Thatís 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 generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó 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 Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís 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