Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Scott's terrible choice for Public Service Commission

Appointing a new member of the Florida Public Service Commission should not be that difficult. You look for a candidate with at least some expertise in the field, and someone who does not have a history of snuggling up to the state's utility companies. Gov. Rick Scott failed that simple test — on both counts — by nominating former legislator Ritch Workman to the PSC.

Workman is the perfect example of the politics-as-usual shenanigans that Scott used to criticize when he was an outsider candidate for governor in 2010. There is absolutely nothing in Workman's resume that indicates he is qualified for the highly technical job of regulating utilities. He is merely a loyal Republican foot soldier who is being rewarded for past acquiescence.

It would be bad enough if this was simply a high-paying state job ($131,000 annually) with little responsibility or authority. But a PSC member is supposed to watch out for Florida residents who are at risk of being steamrolled by utility companies who routinely curry favor with politicians through large campaign donations. Guess where Workman fits in that puzzle?

During his eight years in the Florida House, Workman received campaign contributions from all the major power companies in the state. His political committee also got a sizable contribution, and Workman seemed to use those committee funds for ample dining and socializing purposes in Tallahassee.

His most high-profile excursion into energy policy does not bode well. As chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee, Workman effectively blocked a constitutional amendment that would have allowed voters to decide whether businesses could get a property tax exemption for installing solar panels. Naturally, the utility companies were against the proposed amendment. It eventually reached the ballot two years later and was overwhelmingly approved.

After the five-member PSC denied a massive rate increase in 2010, the retribution was swift and unapologetic. The Senate refused to confirm two PSC members, forcing them out. Two other PSC members, who had applied for second terms, were simply left off the list of candidates by the nominating council later that year. The message was clearly received. Since then, the PSC has typically followed the wishes of Tallahassee's ruling class.

This is not the first questionable personnel decision Scott has made. He seems to prefer inexperienced job candidates who are loyal and now indebted to the governor for these huge career breaks. That does little for Floridians who are paying the salaries and expecting some level of competence.

It's now up to the Senate to reject this charade. The Senate has proven to be a valuable safety net for other dubious Scott appointments in recent years. Jesse Panuccio, the head of the Department of Economic Opportunity, stepped down in 2015 when it looked like support in the Senate was wavering. Surgeon General John Armstrong was forced out earlier this year when the Senate did not even hold a vote on his confirmation. The Senate should recognize that Workman has no business serving on the Public Service Commission and make it clear he will not be confirmed.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17