Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Don't weaken laws to protect Florida waters

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: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18