Sunday, November 19, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Don't weaken laws to protect Florida waters

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Florida Republican leaders are yet again making outlandish claims to torpedo federal rules for protecting the water supply. Appearing together last month, U.S. Rep. Steven Southerland of Panama City and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam blasted a federal proposal for identifying wetlands as a power grab by bullying bureaucrats that would seriously harm the state's businesses and homeowners. Great sound bite — but that is not the case.

The proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers would establish more clearly which waters deserve protection under the 1972 Clean Water Act. Two U.S. Supreme Court opinions have for the past decade clouded the issue of whether the federal law applies only to navigable waters. The federal agencies proposed the new rule in an effort to address legitimate concerns by state and local governments, businesses and other groups. Continuing to leave them in legal limbo is irresponsible.

That didn't stop Southerland from pointing his finger at "big government bullies" who were out to create more costs and uncertainty in the workplace. He has filed legislation that is headed to the House floor that would let states — not the federal government — determine which wetlands deserve protection. Southerland proclaimed that local officials are better suited to make these decisions than "D.C. bureaucrats a thousand miles away." Putnam chimed in by denouncing federal "overreach," suggesting that even "mushy" lawns would be a problem.

These claims are ridiculous. The federal rule merely clarifies what streams and wetlands would be protected. It does not give the agencies more power, redefine farming, or apply to any waters that historically have not been covered. The measure expressly exempts waste treatment ponds, upland ditches, artificial lakes and ornamental lagoons from regulation. It doesn't change the exemptions that farmers and ranchers already enjoy, infringe on property rights or apply in cases when rainfall saturates lawns and fields. In some cases, the rule could actually broaden the definition of what waters are exempt. Decisions about Florida wetlands permits are made in the Army Corps' offices in Tampa and elsewhere around the state, not in Washington. And the EPA estimates that the marginal costs of implementing the rule would generate about double the return in benefits to public health, flood control and the economy.

Florida Republicans used the same tactic of misinformation several years ago on behalf of the state's biggest polluters to fight the federal government over clean water standards. They had the wrong allegiance then and they have the wrong allegiance now. Florida's congressional delegation should be the last ones urging Congress to weaken a law that protects some of this state's most precious resources.

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Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17