Friday, May 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida's shameful policy on rights restoration

Felons who have served their time and paid their debt to society deserve the chance to become functioning members of the democratic system again. But that's all but impossible under a process Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet adopted in 2011, which has denied thousands of felons the opportunity to vote, hold office or serve on a jury. This is a violation of basic rights doubling as voter suppression. Florida has no legitimate reason for holding onto a policy that only smacks of the Jim Crow era.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder brought Florida into the shameful limelight last week in a speech calling out several states for civil rights restrictions that he called "unnecessary," "unjust" and "counterproductive." Holder was referring to prohibitions in Florida and elsewhere that keep felons from fully exercising their civil rights. Tracing these laws to policies that marginalized blacks after the Civil War, Holder called them "profoundly outdated" and disproportionately punitive to African-Americans.

A spokesman for Scott sniffed that Holder's speech "has no effect on Florida's Constitution," a convenient dodge given the power over clemency that rests with Florida's governor and the three-member Cabinet. In 2011, shortly after taking office, Scott and the new Cabinet scrapped the streamlined process under previous Gov. Charlie Crist and raised higher hurdles to felons applying for clemency. Felons now must wait a minimum of five years to apply to have their rights restored. In the four years under Crist's reforms, 154,000 people had their rights restored. In the three years under the Scott-era changes, that number has sunk to under 1,000 as of mid January.

Denying felons the right to more fully contribute to their communities serves no purpose other than to stigmatize them, to deny them a democratic voice and to harden the wall between them and law-abiding society. It does not promote public safety, but rather undermines it. Annual reports that came with the Scott-era changes show that in recent years, felons who had their rights restored reoffended at one-third the rate of other inmates who had completed their sentences. And in its latest report, in July, the Florida Parole Commission noted that of the 420 felons who had their rights restored in 2011 and 2012, not a single one had returned to state custody with a new felony conviction.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, was right Monday to call on Scott and the Cabinet to repeal the restrictions, calling the change "a fundamental civil rights issue of our time." Florida leaders only hurt Floridians with a rule that further segregates the population between those who can contribute to society and those who cannot.

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NFL kneels before the altar of profits

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Published: 05/24/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

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Published: 05/24/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18