Gov. Scott signs drug testing for state workers bill | March 19
A dishonest take on drug testing
When the Florida Legislature passed the bill requiring general drug testing for all state workers, our representatives and senators conveniently excluded themselves from this requirement. A supporter of the bill, Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, R-Lecanto, stated that elected officials couldn't be included because the U.S. Supreme Court has held that requiring elected officials to submit to the test was unconstitutional. The representative is being dishonest on this, and the people of Florida deserve to know the truth on this issue.
The Supreme Court case that Rep. Smith referred to is Chandler vs. Miller, 520 U.S. 305 (1997). In that case, Georgia passed a law requiring elected officials to pass drug tests as a condition of service. The court ruled that the law was unconstitutional, in that it imposed an unreasonable search without special circumstances being present. The court did not limit its reasoning to elected officials, as Rep. Smith would have the people of Florida believe.
Ironically, the very case he attempts to rely on will be the case used to strike down the law that he and the Florida Legislature did pass. That the Georgia law targeted elected officials did not limit the reason it was struck down. Mr. Smith's argument is like taking a case that holds an owner of a dog liable for the dog's bites, and claiming that it would not apply to the owner of a bear for the bear's bites.
Dan Pressnell, Orlando
NRA should speak up
There is a real virtue to our system of government in which legislators make laws, police enforce laws and courts administer laws. This case shows exactly why justice administered through legal means is so much better than independent "justice" administered by self-appointed vigilantes to anyone they consider to be an undesirable.
The state attorney needs to prosecute this case with full vigor. Otherwise, "stand your ground" becomes a license to murder with utter impunity. And if the NRA believes that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," it should make a public stand here about inappropriate use of guns, especially by safety patrol volunteers. There are way too many accidents and deliberate shootings lately, and respected parties like the NRA need to take aggressive action to educate gun owners so that people can go to church, celebrate the Fourth of July, and walk to convenience stores safely.
Robert Silverman, Wimauma
First of wobbly pot cases dropped | March 21
No dopes with badges
With the possible constitutional, legal and ethical crimes in the Pinellas County sheriff's drug "enforcement" squad, I suggest a shutdown of all operations of this unit until any corruption has been fully rooted out.
Further, the former and current sheriffs should be questioned by the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and, preferably a grand jury, to determine what may have gone wrong in managing their responsibilities.
If, after retraining and reorganization, a drug unit is resurrected, it should have far fewer funds and personnel to operate with until legal effectiveness is proven. It is imperative to determine what comprehensive management procedures should be enacted so this cancer does not spread throughout the entire department. We don't need dopes wearing badges!
Paul Koenig, Clearwater
IB catches on in Tampa Bay schools | March 18
Credit this IB school, too
Our school, St. John Vianney Catholic School in St. Pete Beach, is the first authorized International Baccalaureate World School for the Middle Years Programme in Pinellas County. We became a fully authorized school last May.
Much of the article focused on another Catholic school and its application process. It was disappointing to see that our school wasn't mentioned. Listing all IB schools in the area would have at least shown the readers the choices they have in selecting a school that offers IB programs at an earlier level than high school. The article did a great job at highlighting the benefits of IB in the younger grades.
Principal Jill Hudson, St. John Vianney Catholic School, St. Pete Beach
It's about choice, quality
At the close of its 60-day session, the Legislature left many issues on the table that would have triggered long-term benefits for Florida's education system. Legislation was proposed to allow for high-performing public charter schools to serve more students across the state, and to give more dollars and opportunities to public charter school students. These proposals, however, were unsuccessful.
Our legislative goal on behalf of Florida's public charter schools is to expand school choice and give our students access to the best public education option that fits their individual needs and provides them with the tools to be successful. If the proposed legislation had passed, it would have allowed for more public charter schools to be built, removed nearly 50,000 children off the charter school waiting list, employed more teachers, and provided parents with more choices.
Florida's public charter schools have produced results. With innovative staff and curriculums, charter schools are meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. However, charter school students still receive less funding and have a smaller percentage of capital outlay or "facilities" funding.
We have started the conversation on the need for equitable funding for public charter school students, and we look forward to continuing the conversation and our efforts to provide more opportunities for all children to receive a high-quality education.
Cheri Shannon, president and CEO, Florida Charter School Alliance
Stir Crazy food column
Recipe for happiness
Janet Keeler is consistently an excellent food editor not only for her selections and offerings, but just general advice. I use your "Stir Crazy" column all the time, taking it with me when we leave for six months for ideas. Among my major hoorahs are the minimum of ingredients (most of which I have heard of), the ease of prep (I never use as many items as other recipes call for), and the taste (all are good). We are on the western shore of Lake Michigan, and there is nothing there to match the Tampa Bay Times and what you do in the food area.
Fran Schattenberg, St. Petersburg
Super PAC funds keep campaigns running March 21
Paying for power
I remember when "buying an election" was a term of opprobrium. Nowadays it is a commonplace, taken for granted, even lauded by the press.
What has happened to my country?!
Mortimer Brown, Lutz