Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Openness required in redistricting fight

Before a court rules on whether Florida legislative leaders crossed a line when they consulted with Republican political operatives over the drawing of the state's 2012 congressional districts, the public should also see the facts. The Florida Supreme Court already has ruled the leaders' legislative privilege doesn't shield them from being asked about those conversations under oath. Now an appellate court should require the same public openness for written communications between those lawmakers, their staff and the political operatives. Anything less is an affront to Florida's rich tradition of open government and undermines the state Constitution.

The big question in Tallahassee's most-watched legal drama is whether the 2012 congressional districts drawn by lawmakers followed the requirements of the 2010 constitutional amendment approved by voters. The amendment, a positive change from decades of political gerrymandering, requires that districts be drawn without considering political party or incumbents. Seven Florida voters and the League of Women Voters are contending in Leon County Circuit Court that the Legislature violated those new standards and that emails between lawmakers, their staff and political consultants are key to proving there was subterfuge for partisan gain.

But when one of the Republican Party of Florida consultants objected to the release of 1,883 pages of such documents, arguing that would reveal trade secrets, Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis appointed a retired state Supreme Court justice to review them. Former Justice Major Harding ruled all the documents could be shielded. Lewis, conducting his own review, said 538 pages should be part of the record. The consultant, Pat Bainter of Gainesville, is now challenging Lewis' decision before the 1st District Court of Appeal, which has barred the emails' release until it rules, possibly this week.

This shouldn't be a hard call given the public's compelling interest that lawmakers abide by the state Constitution. The once-a-decade redistricting process is as basic as representative democracy gets, often influencing which candidates win and which party has majority advantage. Four years ago, Florida voters, tired of decades of political gerrymandering, amended the Constitution to forbid lawmakers from drawing congressional and legislative districts based on either partisan or incumbent advantage, among other constraints.

In December, the Florida Supreme Court underscored the public interest, ruling that unlike other civil court matters in which legislators can usually avoid testifying, they can be forced to testify in such redistricting cases. Surely the same must be true for the emails they write and receive related to redistricting. The appeals court should stand for openness and uphold Lewis' order allowing the emails to be publicly admitted in court.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

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Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

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Updated: 12 hours ago

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Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

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Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

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Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
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