Thursday, November 23, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Tighten rules on charity solicitors

RECOMMENDED READING


Tallahassee must be doing something right when the best argument an industry can muster against new regulations for charities is that it doesn't want the rules to apply to calls for money that go out of state. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's plan to tighten up how charities and their for-profit solicitors operate in Florida is advancing in the Legislature, but state lawmakers cannot get sidetracked by special interests with no interest in protecting donors. It's time to shed the state's reputation as a haven for dubious charities and their partners, no matter where they get their donations.

Twice in the last month, groups representing the direct solicitation industry have sent warning signs that their members need to fight the reforms, SB 638 and HB 629, aimed at tightening Florida's porous charity statutes. They have argued, among other things, that the least the state could do is lessen the proposed regulations for calls that won't go to Floridians — even if the calls originate from Florida.

That position is a subtle acknowledgement of how some members of this for-profit industry have paired with so-called charities to exploit Florida's spineless regulations to rake in millions. As last year's "50 Worst Charities" investigation by the Tampa Bay Times/Center for Investigative Reporting documented, such groups prey on people's good intentions as they raise large amounts of money. Then they spend most of the contributions on their own salaries or solicitation costs. The Times/CIR report found that of the 50 worst offenders across the nation, 11 were based in Florida.

Under Putnam's plan, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, Florida would dramatically increase public disclosure of the inner workings of charities and solicitors. The legislation also would clarify when the state has the power to shut them down, including when they are banned in other states.

Among the chief complaints of the for-profit solicitation industry? The bill would require each employee making charity solicitation calls to submit to fingerprinting and a background check for a $100 registration fee — finally giving the state a way to enforce an existing law prohibiting such firms from hiring felons. The legislation also would require firms to provide copies of solicitation scripts, the locations and phone numbers from which calls are to be made, and details about what percentage of funds raised actually flow to the charity.

The changes also would shine a spotlight on those charities that raise lots of money but don't spend much helping others. Charities raising at least $1 million annually that spend less than 25 percent of their proceeds on charity would have to submit detailed reports on where the money went. That information and more would be available in a new online database, enabling Floridians to better investigate a charity before giving.

Putnam has worked diligently with nonprofits in Florida to try to ensure the new regulations would not be too burdensome on reputable charities, and many charities have signed on in support. Now the full House and Senate and Gov. Rick Scott need to embrace these reforms as well. It's time to force the bad actors out of Florida.

Comments

Another voice: Wall isnít a lifesaver, itís a boondoggle

The first stage of President Donald Trumpís controversial border wall project ended last week, while the prospects for any more construction ó and even what type of wall ó remain uncertain.A Border Patrol agent was killed and his partner seriously wo...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: Trump does the right thing for elephants; he shouldnít back down now

There is bad timing, and then there is this. Last week, an apparent military coup placed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in custody, ushering in a new period of political uncertainty. A few days later, the Trump administration announced that Zimba...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/21/17

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

By now the guest list if not the table is all set, and the house will be warmed with the noise of loved ones and the smell of that dish with cream of mushroom soup. Tucked between the sugar rush of Halloween and the sparkle of Christmas, Thanksgiving...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17