Thursday, April 26, 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: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 9 hours ago

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18