Thursday, January 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida's step forward for immigrants

The Florida Legislature has taken a significant step toward recognizing this state's diversity as one of its strengths and that it is smart public policy as well as smart politics to invest in the future. Legislation sent to Gov. Rick Scott on Friday that allows undocumented immigrants who graduate from Florida high schools to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities initially could benefit more than 1,300 students. The return will be much broader, for it signals Florida is a compassionate state that wants to continue to provide opportunities for its brightest young people, regardless of where they were born and how they got here.

This has been a yearslong effort to level the playing field for undocumented immigrants who excelled in Florida high schools but found out-of-state tuition rates made it difficult to continue their education. Much of the credit for persuading their colleagues to recognize the benefits of offering in-state tuition to these young people goes to two Tampa Bay Republicans: House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel and Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater. Without their leadership, the issue easily could have died again. Scott, who will sign the legislation into law, also provided a helping hand in the final days of the legislative session.

Along the way, there still were the unenlightened lawmakers who argued that in-state tuition should be paid only by high school students who are American citizens. What they failed to appreciate is that these undocumented students were brought to Florida as young children by their parents or other relatives and had no choice. Taxpayers already have invested heavily in their public education, and these students already are contributing to their high schools and to their broader communities. Providing them with the same opportunity as their classmates to attend a state college or university will prepare those students to make even more significant contributions to the state's economy and civic life.

Several Tampa Bay legislators who voted against the bill, HB 851, will find themselves on the wrong side of history: Republican Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Tom Lee of Brandon, and Republican Reps. Larry Ahern of Seminole, Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes, Jamie Grant of Tampa and Jimmie Smith of Inverness.

For other Republicans, there is a political calculus to embracing this public policy. This is an election year, and Republicans have been losing support from Hispanic voters who are upset with Scott's botched attempt to purge the voter rolls and other issues. Allowing undocumented high school students to pay in-state tuition could start to repair some of that political damage.

Regardless of the various motivations, this is a positive step for the state and most of Tampa Bay's legislators from both political parties agreed. Florida will become the 20th state to allow in-state tuition for undocumented students who were brought to the country illegally. The state and all of its residents will be better for it.

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Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Updated: 11 hours ago
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
Updated: 01/17/18
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