Friday, December 15, 2017
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: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration was defensive and obtuse. So it’s welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17