Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Scott should sign parasail safety rules

For years, the Florida Legislature refused to regulate the commercial parasailing industry even in the wake of fatal accidents and evidence of dangerous business practices. Now lawmakers finally have approved commonsense regulations to help police an activity that seems like a harmless pleasure to tourists but can be deadly without proper respect for the weather and for safety. Gov. Rick Scott should sign these reasonable protections into law.

The Parasail Safety Council in Mait-land tracks parasailing accidents nationwide. Between 1982 and 2012, 73 people died and 431 received injuries requiring hospitalization. Several of those accidents occurred in Pinellas County. In 1990, a Clearwater Beach parasail operator cut the rope towing a man after the canopy began pulling the boat in high winds. The man was blown ashore and killed. In 2010, a Clearwater parasail operator took out a Georgia couple in weather that was blustery. The tow rope broke, and while the man dropped safely into the water, the woman was dragged along the beach and died from her injuries.

The statistics don't even count close calls, like a 2004 incident in Madeira Beach, when the tow rope pulling two teenage girls broke and wind swept them toward Gulf Boulevard. More than 50 people on the beach grabbed the dangling tow rope and fought the wind to pull the girls to safety.

Similar incidents were occurring elsewhere in Florida — Longboat Key, Panama City, Pompano Beach — and after each incident there was a call for statewide regulation. But the Legislature, dominated by members skeptical of government regulation and influenced by some in the parasailing industry who opposed more oversight, refused to act.

This legislative session, the sponsors of SB 320 — Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Pompano Beach — assembled a powerful coalition of victims' families, the parasail industry, the House and Senate leadership and the governor to pass reasonable regulations.

The legislation would require commercial parasail operators to have $1 million in liability insurance and be licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry passengers. Tow boats would be required to have radios to receive current weather conditions. Parasailing would be prohibited in sustained winds of more than 20 mph or if wind gusts are 15 mph above the sustained wind speed or more than 25 mph. It would be forbidden if lightning is within 7 miles of the area. The bill awaits the governor's signature and the changes would take effect Oct. 1.

Florida will have to get through one more summer without adequate parasailing regulations, but the changes ultimately should make the activity safer along Pinellas beaches and throughout the state.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17