Friday, April 27, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Real solutions for ending algae blooms

Gov. Rick Scott is once again shifting blame, misidentifying the problem and proposing the wrong solution for the massive algae bloom that is coating beaches and making Florida look like the wrong place to spend a summer vacation. Scott and the Legislature need to get serious before polluted waters take an even heavier toll on public health, tourism and property values. They can start by buying land to help clean up the Everglades, and by spending money and adopting regulations to clean up farming, septic tanks and other practices that contribute to the decline of Florida's environment.

Scott announced last week he would ask the Legislature to set aside money to clean up the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River, and to help property owners who want to convert from septic tanks to sewers. The move came after the governor declared an emergency for four counties in South Florida in response to a bloom so thick it has prompted the closure of several beaches.

Unusually heavy rains this year have forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redirect billions of gallons of dirty water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, a flood control effort aimed at stabilizing lake levels and protecting property owners to the south. Scott has repeatedly blamed the federal government for failing to shore up a dike around the lake. The real problem is the dirty water in the lake itself, the state's refusal to stop sugar growers and others from further polluting the watershed, and policies Scott and the Legislature enacted that make the crisis worse.

This governor, after all, cut support for conservation and clean water programs, forced huge cuts in the regional water management districts and fought Washington for years on behalf of polluters to weaken the state's clean-water rules. While Scott would help homeowners shift from septic tanks to sewer, the program would be voluntary and local governments would pay half the bill. Scott's approach is more spin than substance; poorer counties won't have the money to participate. And it still doesn't compensate for Scott killing a statewide septic tank inspection program shortly after he first entered office.

The incoming state Senate president, Joe Negron of Stuart, has it right: "Make no mistake about it: this algae bloom is not caused by septic tanks." While Negron said replacing septic tanks will help, he is working on a proposal for the state to buy land to store, filter and move the lake water south. Former Gov. Charlie Crist arranged a deal to buy sugar land for water storage, but Scott killed that plan, too.

It remains to be seen whether Negron and other Republican leaders in Florida are serious about confronting the powerful sugar industry about its farming practices, buying the land near the lake for water storage or tightening regulations that now allow for pollutants to be pumped into the lake.

Any septic tank inspection and replacement program must be mandatory and adequately funded by the state. Lawmakers need to revisit the massive water bill they passed this year and institute new water standards and cleanup deadlines. State leaders should do what they can to persuade Congress to end federal price supports for sugar, which subsidize a dirty industry and force taxpayers to clean up the ecological mess. This is a tall order for politicians addicted to campaign donations from Big Sugar. But if Scott and others are going to start pointing the finger, they should at least be honest enough to face a mirror.

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Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18