Sunday, March 18, 2018

Editorial: Less time in court, more working for Florida

Here's an idea for Gov. Rick Scott's second term: Spend less in taxpayer resources and administrative energy on pointless court fights, and focus instead on serving the people of Florida. Rulings earlier this month from the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals in Atlanta that tossed two signature Scott efforts — drug testing welfare recipients and enforcing the state's unconstitutional ban on gay marriage — were a reminder of just how fruitless many of his efforts have been over the last four years.

In case you lost count, the scorecard:


Health care

The Florida-led effort asking the U.S. Supreme Court to set aside the Affordable Care Act largely failed, and now thousands more Floridians have health care coverage thanks to the act. Scott has claimed support for accepting Medicaid expansion money, but has done little to encourage his fellow Republicans in the state House to do so.

Private prisons

When Scott couldn't succeed in winning broad legislative support for converting state prisons in South Florida to privately-run ones, his legislative allies tucked proviso language into the 2012 state budget. First a trial judge, then an appellate one, said no.

Drug testing

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected Scott's attempt to resuscitate plans to drug-test welfare applicants and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused Scott's request to take up a challenge to his executive order subjecting all state workers to drug tests. Yet he's still pursing an abbreviated employee drug testing plan on appeal — acknowledging some workers don't need to be tested. The state is reviewing whether to further pursue the welfare case.

Voter laws

Federal courts struck down a state law that would have required voter registration groups to submit voter forms within 48 hours or face substantial fines.

Air and water

The state failed to stop a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initiative to clean up Florida's waterways, setting the stage for future fights over the EPA's authority. Florida also intervened in several losing efforts to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other major polluters and fighting cross-state air pollution — both programs that were later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cuba policy

Just 16 months after Scott traveled to Miami's Freedom Tower in 2012 to sign a law outlawing state and local governments from hiring companies with business ties to Cuba or Syria, the state declined to appeal a federal judge's ruling that it was an intrusion into the federal government's sole authority to determine foreign policy.

Voter purge

The governor's badly flawed 2012 purge effort violated federal law, a federal appeals court confirmed earlier this year. Yet Scott tried again in 2014 to purge the rolls before having to admit under pressure that the federal database he was relying on to identify noncitizens was too flawed.


When Scott tried to make an immediate power grab upon becoming governor — signing an executive order requiring his approval of all proposed state administrative rules — the Florida Supreme Court let him know he had violated the separation of powers by usurping legislative authority.


Docs vs. Glocks

A three-judge appeals panel sided with Scott and the Legislature earlier this year in overturning a trial court ruling that a 2011 state law violated doctors' free speech rights by largely barring them from asking patients about gun ownership. Doctors groups are seeking a rehearing before the full bench of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Scott settled a decades-old dispute with federal regulators over runoff that was polluting the River of Grass by committing to a $880 million state cleanup plan.


A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013 greatly weakened the Voting Rights Act that had led to the federal government requiring preclearance of voting law changes in areas with a history of discriminating against minorities, including five counties in Florida.

Public pensions

Three years after lawmakers, at Scott's behest, began requiring state and local workers who make up the Florida Retirement System to contribute 3 percent of their salary to the system, an appellate court rejected unions' argument that the law violated contract rights.

High-speed rail

The Florida Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit that claimed Scott had not had the authority to reject $2.4 billion in federal money to build a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando.


Public records

Scott recently admitted to using a private email account to conduct public business, but now he's fighting to keep emails from that same private account from being released. Scott is spending his own money to continue a California suit initially filed by the state. It seeks to block Google from complying with a subpoena tied to a Florida court case in which the plaintiff's lawyers are seeking the records.


The state is facing a pair of lawsuits after Scott signed a law earlier this year that will dramatically increase the amount of corporate tax money siphoned off to fund private school vouchers as well as make it more likely middle-class families can qualify for a program that has been reserved for low-income families. The law also creates a poorly drafted plan to provide individual spending accounts to families with disabled children. One suit argues that vouchers violate the state's constitutional requirement for uniform and free public schools (voucher recipients often must also pay additional tuition at private schools); the other challenge argues that combining two disparate programs in one law violates the Constitution's single subject rule on legislation.

Teacher evaluation

A poorly written teacher evaluation plan that Scott embraced during his first year in office is now the subject of a teachers' union lawsuit claiming lack of due process. The scheme is overly reliant on standardized tests and actually had some teachers being evaluated based on the test scores of students they may never have taught.

Editorial: Hits, errors and misses by the Florida Legislature

Editorial: Hits, errors and misses by the Florida Legislature

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Published: 03/16/18
Editorial: Pinellas should affirm commitment to add affordable housing

Editorial: Pinellas should affirm commitment to add affordable housing

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Updated: 03/16/18
Editorial: Florida Legislature fails public schools

Editorial: Florida Legislature fails public schools

Tampa Bay school district superintendents who are asking Gov. Rick Scott to call the Florida Legislature into special session and demand more money for public schools can sum up their powerful argument in two numbers. The governor asked lawmakers to ...
Published: 03/15/18

Editorial: Tech Data climbs to the top

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Published: 03/14/18
Updated: 03/16/18

Editorial: Pascoís proposed solar farm is no dump

As NIMBY issues go, this is a new one.Residents of rural northeast Pasco County are up in arms over a solar farm proposed for 350 acres of pasture land across from Pasco-Hernando State College. Tampa Electric wants to install approximately 470,000 so...
Published: 03/14/18
Updated: 03/16/18

Another voice: Big tent, big result

The result of a Tuesday special election in a usually solid Republican congressional district is just the latest sign that the GOPís toxic embrace of President Donald Trump is hurting not only the country but also their party. With all precincts repo...
Published: 03/14/18
Updated: 03/15/18
Editorial: 2 smart transportation investments for Tampa Bay

Editorial: 2 smart transportation investments for Tampa Bay

They received virtually no public attention, but buried in the tax cuts and the state budget that the Florida Legislature sent to Gov. Rick Scott are two significant provisions that would help Tampa Bay create a more robust mass transit system. Allow...
Published: 03/14/18
Editorial: Trumpís firing of Tillerson messy but necessary

Editorial: Trumpís firing of Tillerson messy but necessary

President Donald Trumpís abrupt firing by tweet of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday triggered another round of chaos in an administration that appears more unstable than ever. Tillerson was a moderating voice and more in line with mainstre...
Published: 03/13/18
Editorial: Trump caves to the NRA on school safety

Editorial: Trump caves to the NRA on school safety

That was quick. Not two weeks after stunning the nation with what seemed an open embrace of sensible new gun restrictions, President Donald Trump did an about-face last week, abandoning his call for modest gun control in favor of an agenda long suppo...
Published: 03/12/18
Updated: 03/16/18

Another voice: Defend Floridaís gun restrictions

Florida, one of the most gun-friendly states in the nation, which took 30 years to enact any gun control measures, whose governor consistently gets the National Rifle Associationís equivalent of a gold star and that seriously considered letting colle...
Published: 03/12/18
Updated: 03/13/18