Monday, November 20, 2017
Editorials

Reject both health care amendments

RECOMMENDED READING


In another case of deception, the Florida Legislature has placed two health care-related amendments on the ballot with titles that don't come close to describing their mischief. Amendment 1 is a damaging political swipe at the federal Affordable Care Act, and Amendment 6 is an assault on abortion rights. Voters should reject them and protect the state Constitution from becoming a culture-war document that hamstrings future legislatures from responding to Floridians' needs.

Amendment 1, "Health Care Services," would ban state laws that force people or employers to buy health insurance coverage. That is a response to the individual mandate provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act that require nearly everyone to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty. But federal law trumps the state Constitution, meaning that the amendment would have no impact. The U. S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate's constitutionality under Congress' taxing powers.

What makes this more than an empty political gesture is that it would make it harder for the state to experiment with health care reform if the federal law is repealed as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney promises to deliver. For instance, the Legislature would be limited in its ability to require that the state's large employers provide health care coverage to employees. A no vote would keep those sorts of options open.

Amendment 6, "Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights," has two distinct parts. Each infringes upon abortion rights.

Part one would ban public money from going to abortion services or for health coverage that includes abortion services, except in cases of rape and incest or to save the mother's life. While federal law prohibits public funding for abortion services in Medicaid and other federal spending programs, the amendment would go further by enshrining the limit in the state Constitution and reaching into employee health care.

All public-sector employees at every level of government, including teachers, police officers, university professors and doctors and nurses at government hospitals, would be affected by a constitutional ban on abortion coverage in their health insurance. A pregnant public employee who needs chemotherapy, for instance, could no longer get an essential health-related abortion paid for by insurance.

The amendment's second part, titled "Construction of Abortion Rights," is a sneakier attack. The title fails to mention that it would open the way for the state to outlaw all abortions if Roe vs. Wade were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The amendment tells state courts that, as it relates to abortion, Florida's state constitutional right to privacy may not be interpreted any more broadly than privacy rights under the federal Constitution. If the U.S. Supreme Court throws the issue of abortion back to the states by reversing Roe, Florida could return to the days of back-alley abortions.

Just say no to the Legislature's mislabeled attempts to amend the Florida Constitution. On Amendments 1 and 6, the Tampa Bay Times recommends no votes.

Comments
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 nation’s 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...
Updated: 5 hours ago

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...
Updated: 5 hours ago

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. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s 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: 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
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17