Thursday, April 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Redrawing the lines requires transparency

The leaders of the Florida Legislature have responded properly to a judge's order by calling a special session this week to redraw two congressional districts that do not meet the constitutional requirements approved by voters. Now lawmakers should make a good-faith effort to redraw the districts without regard to protecting incumbents or political parties.

Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis correctly gave lawmakers the first shot at redrawing the districts held by U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, and Dan Webster, a Winter Garden Republican. The courts should take over redrawing the lines only when the Legislature repeatedly fails to do it legally or when lawmakers abdicate their responsibility.

Brown's district remains a particular challenge, because it winds from Jacksonville to Orlando and was originally drawn in 1992 to give minority voters an opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice. Brown, an African-American, has held the seat since then and is not happy about its boundaries being adjusted. But Lewis correctly ruled that Republican legislators in 2012 packed her district with more minority residents to help protect adjacent districts held by Republicans, which violates the Florida Constitution. Brown has previously demonstrated a minority can win her district when it does not have a majority black voting age population, and now legislators will have to move some of those black residents from Brown's district to adjacent ones.

Equally troubling is the question of timing. The primary election is just three weeks from today, and thousands of voters already have cast their mail ballots. Lewis has scheduled an Aug. 20 hearing to discuss how to proceed, and there are no perfect options. The most reasonable is for the primary and general elections to continue as scheduled with the current congressional districts. Congressional districts in North and Central Florida are certain to be adjusted, and the new districts are likely to face legal challenges even if Lewis signs off on them. Voters in the adjusted districts should not have to wait until 2016 to vote for the candidate of their choice, but special elections should wait until after this November.

First, though, legislators have to draw districts that meet the constitutional requirements approved by voters. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, set the right tone by reminding lawmakers to preserve all redistricting related documents. That did not happen the last time. They also need to keep the political consultants at arm's length this week, which also did not happen in 2012. The best way to ensure voters are able to cast ballots in legally drawn congressional districts as soon as possible is to keep this special session as open and transparent as possible.

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Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the stateís fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the November b...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region wonít make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Floridaís citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nationís health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

St. Petersburg city officials are exploring how to cut down on single-use plastic straws, a commendable effort to make the city even more environmentally minded. But to succeed, City Council members should craft a modest, reasonable restriction that ...
Published: 04/10/18