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A Times Editorial

Good bills and bad

The only thing lawmakers must do each year is pass the state budget. But with the regular legislative session scheduled to end Friday, a few other significant measures hang in the balance. A look at the good, the bad and the downright ugly:

The good

Gambling: Three years after slot machines arrived at South Florida parimutuels, the state still lacks a compact with the Seminole Indian Tribe to collect a share of its proceeds from the expansion. Lawmakers should stick close to the governor's original deal with the tribe to collect at least $100 million annually and reject calls in both the House and Senate to expand gambling at other parimutuels. The governor's new plan to get the Seminoles to front $600 million to ease the budget deficit is shortsighted. SB 788.

Property Insurance: It's time for customers of the state-run Citizens to start paying higher premiums because the rates are not actuarily sound and the prospects for enormous assessments after a hurricane are too great. Plans call for a "glide path" that would raise premiums by no more than an average of 10 percent a year with a maximum for a single policyholder of 20 percent. SB 1950/HB 1495.

Renewable Energy: Senate legislation to require utilities to invest in renewable energy isn't nearly aggressive enough and includes nuclear and coal-fired power as options. But it's a start and it seeks to balance affordable energy with the need to reduce global-warming greenhouse gases. The House needs to embrace SB 1154

Tuition: The House needs to join the Senate in embracing differential tuition for Florida's 11 public universities that would enable increases of up to 15 percent. The plan is one of the only bright spots to arise in a session marked by potentially devastating cuts to higher education. SB 762

The bad

Sunrail: It's time for commuter rail in greater Orlando, but not at this price. The Legislature needs to reject a complicated deal with CSX that would not only cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for use of a freight line but would also leave taxpayers liable for too many types of accidents, even some caused by CSX's negligence or misconduct. If lawmakers cannot fix these flaws, SunRail should wait. SB 1212.

Elections: A Republican plan to make it harder for Floridians to vote was greatly weakened in the House Friday. But the Senate plan still would bar certain kinds of voter IDs, place new requirements on voter registration and prevent anyone from talking to voters standing in line. The bills undermine democracy and need to die. SB 956/HB 7149.

Growth Management: The House has taken a flawed Senate bill and made it much worse. An effort to lessen requirements for road improvements in urban areas now covers far more ground. Instead of steering development into cities and curbing sprawl, this is a gift to developers that would create more sprawl. This bill cannot be salvaged, and it needs to die. SB 360.

Oil Drilling: A late pitch from House leaders and energy companies to lift a 20-year-ban on offshore drilling just 3 miles off the coast risks ruining the beaches and the state's economy for cash from the oil industry. It won't significantly reduce the nation's dependence on foreign fuel. Relying on offshore oil drilling to raise cash to buy environmental land would be ridiculous. No wonder supporters kept this mess hidden until the last minute. This bill needs to die. HB 1219.

Good bills and bad 04/26/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 26, 2009 9:19pm]
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