Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Red-light ruling puts local governments on notice

The Florida Supreme Court brought some needed uniformity last week to the operation of red-light cameras across the state. The court ruled that Hillsborough County and more than a dozen local governments broke the law by putting the cameras in place before the Legislature approved them for statewide use in 2010. The ruling should be a signal to standardize other aspects of the camera program, and communities that jumped the gun should return the money to those who were fined.

The Supreme Court opinion came in a consolidated case after two state appellate courts handed down conflicting opinions. The 5-2 majority ruled that cities and counties had no authority under state law to create the camera programs before July 2010, the date the Legislature established for the programs to operate statewide. Writing for the majority, Justice Charles Canady held that the local laws were invalid because they were not expressly provided for under a state statute intended to make traffic laws uniform across the state.

The decision was sensible for recognizing the public safety and due process rationales for having standard driving practices across the state. Some jurisdictions, for example, ticket drivers for failing to make a complete stop before turning right, while others don't. And lawyers are concerned that some governments have reduced the times of yellow traffic lights to boost the number of citations they write. By ruling in such a lopsided way on behalf of the need for uniformity on the roads, the court has set a standard for fair play that the cameras must meet in every other aspect of their operation.

The communities that rushed to cash in on this revenue stream under the pretense of promoting public safety now need to return the money, which reaches into the millions. Four jurisdictions in the Tampa Bay area are affected: Hillsborough County, Temple Terrace, Port Richey and Brooksville. Officials with those governments say they are reviewing the decision, but none has committed either way.

Plaintiffs' attorneys said it likely will take a lawsuit to force refunds. The high court decision addressed only the legal issues at play, not any remedy. But given that the court ruled that the ordinances are invalid because they are expressly precluded by state law, it only follows that the proceeds from an illegal operation would be invalid as well.

Local governments would be better off learning a lesson than spending tax money to try to keep proceeds from a gotcha operation that the state's highest court found illegal. They should resolve these cases and turn their attention toward the bigger question of whether red-light cameras serve a legitimate purpose at all.

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Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

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...
Published: 01/17/18
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...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
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