Sunday, January 21, 2018
Editorials

Transit bill has enough perks to earn a 'yes'

U . S. Sen. Marco Rubio was right about one thing: The transportation bill that Congress approved last week is far from ideal. It provides only a two-year window for highway spending, suspends or fast-tracks some environmental reviews, and shifts money away from bike paths, pedestrian trails and other alternative transit projects. But it was the best the public could expect given the partisanship in Washington this election year. And it includes the potential for Florida and other gulf states to reap billions in spill-related fines from the BP drilling disaster. Rubio, just two years into office, apparently has not yet learned that in governing, something is better than nothing.

The legislation extends federal highway and transit programs for two years, providing $105 billion and a much-needed jolt to the nation's construction industry. Legislative leaders say the package will save or create millions of jobs. It provides some degree of certainty to states and communities that have hobbled along for years with short-term transportation funding. The bill won wide, bipartisan support, passing 373-52 in the House and 74-19 in the Senate. It could easily be the final major piece of legislation that Congress passes before the elections.

The compromises both sides made showed how far partisan warfare has come to influence a domestic spending package that members have long rallied around. Republicans dropped a provision that would have cleared the way for the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada, which the Obama administration has blocked. Democrats agreed to streamline the environmental review process on smaller-scale transportation projects, and to curtail spending on trails, land and water conservation, and highway beautification projects.

The measure does nothing to address the nation's long-term transportation needs, especially in mass transit. And it puts off (again) any serious attempt to fix the highway funding gap caused by the reliance on federal gas taxes. Still, the legislation will keep the revenue flowing, at least for a time, which will keep these road projects from drying up entirely. And the bill includes a provision that directs 80 percent of any fines related to the 2010 BP oil spill toward restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. With civil penalties under the Clean Water Act reaching up to $21 billion, this measure could be a big boost to science, the environment and small businesses in the gulf states.

Rubio did his state a disservice by being one of only two gulf-state senators to vote against the bill. Rubio complained that the bill had too many tradeoffs and was too costly. This sounds more like an excuse to have it both ways on a bill that had overwhelming support than a principled stand against the usual lawmaking process. At least the bill gets the nation through the election with the least damage to its highway system as possible while setting the stage for states like Florida to further rebound from the spill.

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Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18