Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Plan to cloak voter email addresses invites too much secrecy

In a state that prides itself on public records, the Florida Legislature is poised to embrace unneeded secrecy and undermine the public's ability to hold government accountable. A sweeping public records exemption for voters' email addresses is nearing a final vote, and lawmakers should not embrace such ill-conceived legislation that raises more concerns than it solves.

Lawmakers who support the bills, HB 249 and SB 1260, claim that their only goal is protecting voters' privacy as they set the stage for the next phase of election efficiencies. But the legislation is written so broadly that it would apply to all sorts of public records with email addresses attached. It would require all state and local agencies to keep secret any email address it has from any registered voter. In practical terms, it would be almost impossible to administer — not that agencies would not try to redact the email address and delay answering even the most routine public records requests. Is the Department of Health, for example, supposed to scour voter rolls every time it gets an email from someone who might be a registered voter? Most significantly, keeping email addresses secret would make it impossible to determine who is trying to influence government — be it a state lawmaker or regulator. That is unacceptable.

Elections supervisors, who back the plan, are hoping to one day satisfy their requirement to produce sample ballots by emailing them to voters who provide an email address. The argument goes that if voters know that their email addresses are public records (just as their address, date of birth and party affiliation already are public on voter rolls) they won't agree to participate, thereby undermining this government cost savings. There is no evidence that Floridians fear contacting state or local government because their email address would become a public record.

There are signs that the Senate might amend the bill to make clear it applies only to keeping secret email addresses involving voter registration. That would be better, but it's not good enough. The Florida Constitution requires lawmakers to provide compelling public reasons why an exemption to public records is warranted. In this case, they have completely failed that test. The House and Senate should not bring these bills to a vote. And if the legislation makes it to the governor's desk, Gov. Rick Scott should veto it.

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Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18