Friday, September 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida troopers need more money

Gov. Rick Scott loves to compare Florida to Texas, especially when economic reports show the Sunshine State running ahead of the Lone Star State. But there's one area where "Don't mess with Texas'' reigns supreme: pay for state troopers. While the Florida Legislature's decision to provide a 5 percent pay increase for law enforcement in the proposed 2017-18 state budget is a good step forward, state troopers are woefully underpaid compared to their counterparts in Texas and elsewhere. This is a safety issue for Floridians as well as a fairness issue for troopers, whose starting pay of less than $34,000 a year is not nearly enough for putting their lives on the line and helping keep everyone else safe.

The Times' Jeremy Wallace reported that since 2010 the Florida Highway Patrol has lost nearly 1,000 troopers to retirement or resignation, almost half the size of the current workforce. The Florida Highway Patrol director, Col. Gene Spaulding, told the Times the agency had 240 vacancies this spring and a current state trooper class less than half the usual size. The effect of the smaller patrol is clear. The number of speeding tickets decreased by 22 percent from 2011 to 2016 even though Florida now has a million more licensed drivers. The number of traffic citations also fell by 27 percent. Maybe people just drove safer? During that same time period, the number of crashes jumped from 229,000 to 395,000. Fewer troopers create more dangerous roads.

It doesn't take a full-blown investigation to uncover a big reason why this is happening: money. At $33,977, the starting pay for a state trooper in Florida falls well below other southern states, including Texas ($73,000), Louisiana ($47,000), Alabama ($39,000) and Mississippi ($38,000). Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, made it a top priority to finally get raises for law enforcement officers and other state employees. But even with the 5 percent increase for law enforcement in the state's proposed $82.4 billion budget, starting pay still would lag behind these states at about $36,000. The nation's third-largest state can do better.

Mark Puckett, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, recommended in January that the state boost starting salaries up $10,000. That may be the right approach, and the Legislature should continue to provide significant annual pay increases for state troopers who are paid so little to do so much. That would help reduce turnover rates, fill vacancies and get Florida's state troopers the pay they deserve.

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Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18
Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has headed down a dangerous path by announcing he has started the process to fill three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court as he heads out the door. But to his credit, the governor indicated his "expectation’’ is that he ...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18