Monday, June 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Time to stand and be counted on water

The Florida Senate is closing out an election-year session with a historic package to restore the state's natural springs. The House is moving in the opposite direction, readying an anti-environmental bill that is bad for the ecosystem, bad for taxpayers, bad for local control and bad for anyone interested in the security of the state's drinking water supply. This is a moment for lawmakers to choose sides and for voters to watch.

The Senate's legislation, SB 1576, would start the long job of reversing decades of degradation to Florida's springs. These once crystal-clear waters — now choked with runoff from septic tanks, wastewater plants, storm drains, farm and lawn fertilizer and other pollutants — are vital to the state's economy, tax base and the health of its drinking water supply. A bipartisan bill pushed by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, would provide nearly $371 million a year for a range of cleanup projects, from removing leaky septic tanks to limiting the spread of fertilizer and restoring the springs' natural flow.

The bill's impact, though, reaches further. It creates a new sense of urgency for restoration efforts and lays the groundwork for improving public health in rural and urban areas alike. The state would create protection zones for springs and plans to preserve them. Polluters would have a harder time dumping their waste directly into public waterways. The state would have to establish minimum flows for critical springs; counties would have to work together to protect entire watersheds; and officials could not use ongoing research as an excuse to avoid proceeding with attainable restoration efforts.

The House has opted instead to push a measure that's toxic even by the low standards of its sponsor, Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City. His bill would give landowners the right to pump from public water sources for 50 years, up from the current 20 years. Counties would be barred from adopting more protective rules for wetlands than the state, and locally elected officials would be prohibited from requiring a supermajority vote to approve new, large-scale development. Patronis' bill makes it easier for developers to game the system by getting agricultural tax breaks for speculative land investments. And it weakens the oversight of wells and well contractors while creating flimsy new standards for environmental mitigation banks.

The Senate has stripped away some of the worst provisions of HB 703, but the House seems prepared to force a trade off. It makes no sense to spend millions in tax dollars to restore Florida's springs while at the same time opening a back door to polluters to sabotage the very effort. Is this the legacy outgoing House Speaker Will Weatherford wants to leave?

The Senate bill is an overdue starting point in resurrecting a treasured natural and economic resource, just as the Patronis bill is an example of everything that's gone wrong with Tallahassee. The Senate should continue to push its springs bill and call out the House measure as a sellout to polluters. The two chambers could not have more contrasting visions for the environment. With their votes, lawmakers will show whether they stand with public health, clean water, property values and the people back home or with the monied special interests.

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Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
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Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

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Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

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Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

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Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

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Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18