Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Glades bill a giveaway to polluters

The Everglades bill speeding through the Legislature is not the sweeping victory that the unusual alliance behind it — the governor, his fellow Republicans, farmers and environmentalists — would have Floridians believe. The legislation awaiting Senate approval is better than a terrible version that sailed through the House, but it still unfairly shifts the costs for cleaning up the Everglades from the agriculture industry to the taxpayers. This is a handout to those who are causing the problem, and it violates the voters' intent behind the "Polluter Pays" protection in the Florida Constitution.

The legislation seeks to enshrine Gov. Rick Scott's agreement with the federal government for the state to spend $880 million over 12 years on stormwater treatment and water storage to intercept farm runoff before the pollutants filter south into the Everglades. That would curb further environmental damage to an ecosystem that is vital to South Florida's drinking water needs and to the state's economy. But the agriculture industry and its legislative allies pushed further. An earlier House version limited the state's ability to enforce water discharge permits. And it did away with a long-established agreement that held the cleanup effort as a shared responsibility between the farming community and the public.

The Senate brokered a deal last week that removed some of the worst parts of the House bill. It dropped provisions that cleared the way for farmers to violate antidumping rules. But the compromise legislation still retains an egregious sellout to the industry: language that would cap its contribution to the Everglades cleanup effort.

The bill says that more responsible farming practices and the industry's payment of an existing agriculture tax would fulfill the industry's obligation for the cleanup under Florida's "Polluter Pays" constitutional amendment. While the Senate bill would extend the growers' tax at a higher rate than current law, the change would raise less than $93 million in additional funds. That is hardly adequate given the $880 million price tag, especially since the Constitution holds that polluters "shall be primarily responsible" for the cleanup, and given that the industry accounts for two-thirds of the pollution entering the Everglades.

Environmental advocates defended their support of the deal by pointing to an uphill climb in the Legislature and noting that the "Polluter Pays" changes could be challenged in court. But there was no need to cave on one of the governor's priorities so early in the legislative session. At best, the "Polluter Pays" cap creates a new legal and financial hurdle for holding farmers to account by forcing opponents to fight the legislation in court. And why would the state want to limit the industry's responsibility when the entire plan depends on future governors and legislators continuing to set aside money every year? This is a bad deal, and moving the cleanup forward cannot mask that taxpayers are poised to pay mightily again for a well-protected industry that refuses to take full responsibility for the damage it has caused to the Everglades.

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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
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
Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

The Trump administration’s abrupt reversal on its foolhardy plan to allow more oil drilling off Florida’s coastlines is a win for the Sunshine State, regardless of whether it is based more on politics than environmental concerns. Drilling poses a uni...
Published: 01/10/18
Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Editorial: Welcome steps toward cracking down on dangerous teen parties

Getting to the bottom of the shootings that left two people dead after a New Year’s Day teen party, one a 15-year-old girl, is the job of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators so far have said that the two security guards who fired ...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/12/18