Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

Scott has more strikeouts than hits

If Gov. Rick Scott were a ballplayer, he would be a pretty weak hitter. In the early innings of his administration, the governor has struck out often and hit few homers in the courts. Fortunately, the judicial branch has acted as a check on the executive and legislative branches when they have trampled on the rights of Floridians or challenged the federal government for stepping in where the state has failed. The scorecard:

Strikeouts

Docs vs. Glocks. A 2011 state law largely barring doctors from asking their patients about gun ownership that was pushed by the National Rifle Association was overturned by a federal court judge. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke ruled that the Firearm Owners' Privacy Act violated physicians' free speech rights by being so vague that it prevented doctors from providing patients with truthful, non-misleading, safety-related information.

Health care. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld nearly the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi led the fight against the law. Now Scott says he still will not create a health care exchange or agree to the expansion of Medicaid that would be largely paid for with federal dollars.

Private Prisons. After a late change to the state budget last year that would have privatized 29 prisons, a Leon County circuit judge blocked the plan that was supported by Scott, saying the Legislature should have passed a stand-alone bill rather than making such a substantial policy change in the fine print of its budget language. That decision is on appeal.

Drug Testing. In April, Scott's executive order requiring random drug tests for 85,000 state employees was set aside by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro in Miami. In September, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven in Orlando preliminarily blocked a 2011 law requiring welfare applicants to take a drug test before they could receive cash assistance. The state has appealed.

Voter laws. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee set aside provisions that forced voter registration groups to submit voter forms within 48 hours or face substantial fines. The judge found that the law made it "risky business" for voter registration groups to operate. His injunction means that groups now have 10 days to get the forms into elections supervisors' offices, just as before.

Air and water. In February, Hinkle upheld most of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's water cleanup standards that Scott and Bondi sought to overturn and affirmed the EPA's authority to enforce the federal Clean Water Act. Two rules were tossed out on primarily technical grounds. In June, a federal appeals court upheld the EPA's efforts to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases. Florida is one of 15 states challenging the EPA's efforts and vowing to appeal.

Cuba Policy. In May, Scott signed a bill at Miami's Freedom Tower that would bar state and local governments from hiring companies with business ties in Cuba or Syria for contracts valued at $1 million or more. But soon after, Scott issued a signing statement that he believed the law was unenforceable. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore temporarily enjoined the law last month as an intrusion on the federal government's sole authority to dictate foreign policy.

Public Pensions. In 2011, the Legislature passed a law pushed by Scott that required the state's 560,000 public employees, from teachers to city workers, who are members of the Florida Retirement System to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to the pension fund. In March, Tallahassee Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford ruled that the contributions violated the employees' contract rights and constituted an illegal taking of property. Fulford also found unconstitutional the way the law unilaterally lowered cost-of-living adjustments retirees received. The ruling has been appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Rulemaking. Hours after Scott was inaugurated in January 2011 he signed an executive order requiring his approval of all proposed state rules and freezing all pending rules. That power grab was set aside by the Florida Supreme Court, which said Scott "overstepped his constitutional authority and violated the separation of powers." Scott denounced the ruling as "not right."

Hits

Voter Purge. An attempt by the U.S. Justice Department to stop Florida from using a faulty list to purge noncitizens from the state's voter rolls close to an election failed last month. Hinkle, the federal judge, accepted the state's claim that its purge was over after more than 2,600 names of suspected noncitizens were sent to the county election supervisors. The supervisors of elections had said they would stop using the lists.

Everglades. A decades-long dispute over the state's responsibility to dramatically reduce polluted farm, ranch and yard runoff into the River of Grass has been settled. Scott's administration announced in June that an agreement had been reached with federal environmental regulators that should resolve two ongoing federal lawsuits and commit Florida to an $880 million state cleanup plan.

High-Speed Rail. After Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal money to build a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, a last-ditch lawsuit was filed by two state senators to block the move, arguing that Scott overstepped his executive authority. The Florida Supreme Court quickly ruled unanimously in a one-page ruling siding with Scott.

On deck

County Medicaid Bills. In April, the Florida Association of Counties sued the state over legislation requiring counties pay up to $325 million in contested Medicaid bills.

Voting. There are two issues — whether a three-judge federal court will preclear the 2011 changes to Florida's election law in the five counties where it is required to ensure that minority voters are not adversely affected; and whether an election can go forward with two different sets of election rules within the state. A petition filed June 29 with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings asks whether having nonuniform election procedures in five out of 67 counties violates Florida law.

Comments
Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

The annual Editorial Cartoon Round-Up is a thought-provoking recap of a momentous 2017. The gallery containing 32 cartoons from some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country is made available by the Washington Post News Service & Syndicat...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17