Monday, June 18, 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.

Comments

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18