Gun lobbyist says doctors play politics with gun question | March 16
Allow doctors to discuss safety
The Privacy of Firearms Owners bill (HB 155/SB 432) is currently being considered by the Legislature. This bill would make it an "invasion of privacy" for physicians to inquire about whether there are firearms in the homes of their patients, and makes it a crime punishable by fines and prison time to document these answers.
As a pediatrician in training, I have conversations with the families of all my patients regarding safety in the home. These conversations cover pool safety, seat belt use, chemicals in the home and firearm safety. By asking about whether or not my patients have firearms, I am starting a conversation and raising awareness about how to safely store guns and protect children from firearm-related accidents.
It is unfortunate that a few overzealous physicians in our state have caused special interest groups to bring this issue to the forefront by making patients and families who own firearms feel uncomfortable. However, there are completely legitimate medical reasons for physicians to discuss firearm safety. Just as patients are free to change doctors, physicians should be free to practice medicine in the manner they feel will best benefit their patients.
Cary A. Smith, M.D., resident physician, USF department of pediatrics, Largo
Shift to help clean waters | March 22
Technology already exists
In announcing that Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. will remove phosphorous from its lawn fertilizers, Scotts says it "is working on a new formula that will slow the release of nitrogen so more of it sticks to the lawn and less runs off with the rain."
A new formula? Scotts owns and sells the Osmocote brand of slow-release fertilizers. The technology is more than 40 years old and has been proved effective by the nursery industry. Osmocote products are generally 85 percent to 100 percent slow-release nitrogen. And yet Scotts has yet to distribute a 50 percent slow-release nitrogen product for lawns in Florida.
Scotts has continued to sell noncompliant nitrogen fertilizers in Sarasota, Lee, Orange and Charlotte counties, where ordinances prohibit the application of products that contain less than 50 percent slow-release nitrogen.
The Pinellas County ordinance, which includes a sales ban on noncompliant fertilizers, does what no previous ordinance has done — it protects local water quality and the consumer.
Wonder why the Florida Retail Federation is against local control? Look no further than Scotts' domination of the market, and you'll know who is telling Florida retailers what to do.
Cris Costello, Sarasota
Protect our waters
The announcement by Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. that it will stop making fertilizer with phosphorus is a good first step toward clean water, but it doesn't go far enough. Its products will continue to be loaded with nitrogen, the nutrient most responsible for toxic algae blooms in Florida's coastal areas.
This being the case, I continue to support local government's right to enact more protective rules on when and what kind of fertilizer can be sold and applied in their areas to reduce water pollution.
Meanwhile, HB 457, a complete pre-emption bill that guts stricter water protection ordinances already adopted by at least 40 local governments, is moving through the Legislature.
Removing phosphorus will improve Florida's water quality somewhat, but it is also important for local governments to maintain the right to enact stricter, more protective ordinances. Let's hope our legislators and governor will reject this pre-emption bill.
Bev Griffiths, Riverview
The only way to fix the problem with Florida car insurance is to eliminate PIP (personal injury protection) benefits completely. The commonsense approach to the problem is to make significant bodily injury liability coverage mandatory and scrap the no-fault plan. It isn't working.
PIP spawned cottage industries which would not exist but for PIP benefits. Were our legislators serious about curbing "PIP mills" and 1-800 numbers enticing the public with false promises of large sums of money, PIP would be the first to go. PIP fraud (which is greatly exaggerated) would cease to exist.
The public shouldn't shed any tears for big insurance. Their man, the new governor, runs the show now. By the time the session ends, it will feel like Christmas again for insurance companies in the Sunshine State.
Mark Roman, Clearwater
Fight civics ignorance | March 22, commentary
The problem is ethics
Rick Shenkman's call for a presidential civics commission is a classic case of blaming the victim — in this case the average American citizens' "ignorance" (his word, not mine) of government — for the current political disintegration in our society. It is the elitist blaming the non-elites for the mess we are in.
When the Taj Mahal courthouse corruption happened, when Sen. Mike Haridopolos is unable to distinguish between "legal" and "ethical" in his book contract, or when Ray Sansom's defense is "poor judgement is not illegal," it is not about civics. It is about ethics.
Abraham Lincoln once talked about a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." We aren't really that any longer. What we have is a government that "does to the people" instead. And the average citizens are intuitive geniuses because we know we are powerless to stop it, and no civics education can change that.
Shenkman should have called for a presidential commission on ethics first. It's far more important. And the average American would be better served.
Peter D. Klingman, Tampa
Rushing into war
When President George W. Bush attacked Iraq, the left-wing Democrats (and a number of Republicans) raised the roof. Now that President Barack Obama has done the same thing in Libya, will we see the same uproar against Obama?
When did this country allow presidents to initiate an attack on another country as long as he does not declare it a war?
Les Milewski, Seminole
House plan fails to get at drug scourge March 21, editorial
There is a database
The Florida House has it right, and the Times gets it wrong.
Pharmacies already have a database in place, and the transaction is recorded on the spot. They will question the person trying to fill another prescription so quickly, and not fill it or call the doctor.
We don't need a separate database with one already in place. The House bill will close pill mills without hurting legitimate doctors' ability to help their patients.
State Rep. Larry Ahern, District 51, Seminole