PETA makes case against video ban | April 6
Bill threatens animals, free speech
Consumers recently learned about serious food safety risks and animal abuse at the nation's largest egg producer, Cal-Maine Foods, which operates in Florida and sells eggs at Publix stores.
An undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States found eggs covered in blood and feces, hens with prolapsed uteruses, decaying carcasses in crowded cages with live birds, and overflowing manure trenches at a Cal-Maine facility in Texas. Conditions like these are not only cruel, but raise grave concerns about the safety of our food supply.
A bill from Florida state Sen. Jim Norman would punish people who document abuses like these to alert the public to food safety and animal welfare threats. SB 1246 would make it illegal to photograph or videotape an agricultural operation without permission.
This legislation threatens not only animals and consumers, but free speech. Lawmakers should defeat this dangerous overreach by agribusiness and its allies.
Unless agribusiness reforms inhumane, widespread practices like confining animals in cramped cages and crates, it falls to whistle-blowers to protect animals and consumers.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO, Humane Society of the United States
Why I won't vote to raise the debt limit April 3, commentary
Rubio's selective solutions
Reading this column by Florida's Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, one would think he's a populist instead of a toady for the rich.
Where was his concern for debt when he argued to extend the Bush tax cuts? And he claims corporate tax rates are too high but fails to mention that the GEs and Exxons of this world don't pay anything to the IRS.
So what's left to do other than cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? Not one word about cutting the Pentagon, which spends more on wars than the rest of the world combined.
George Bickner, Largo
Source of the problem
Marco Rubio bemoans the fact that taxes on individuals are "set to rise in less than two years." However, he fails to clarify that these rising taxes will affect only the wealthiest individuals. He also fails to acknowledge that the current lower tax rates these rich people now enjoy have, according to the Congressional Budget Office, added over $70 billion to the deficit.
Then he states that U.S. corporate taxes "will soon be the highest in the industrialized world." Not true. According to the CBO, U.S. corporate taxes, as a percentage of GDP, rank third-lowest among industrialized nations.
Terrence Gourdine, Clearwater
Failure close to home
Marco Rubio needs to look no further than Florida Gov. Rick Scott to prove his statement that "we are witnessing leadership failure of epic proportions." Scott has offended just about every facet of society except the tea partiers with his no-regulations theme.
Tony Mercer, Palm Harbor
Start the cuts here
If it comes to a government shutdown, the very first department to cease operations should be the one that cuts the paychecks to senators and congressmen and all their staffers and aides.
Emiliano Quindiagan, St. Petersburg
Advisory panel settles on dog tie-up rules April 1
Make rules enforceable
I am disappointed that the Animal Advisory Board is considering allowing residents to chain dogs for 30 minutes every eight hours. This puts law enforcement in an impossible situation. How can they know if a dog has been chained for 30 minutes or five hours? They can't, and this makes the current antitethering ban useless. I hope the Animal Advisory Board will step up and take action that truly protects the dogs.
Sharyn Beach, Tampa
Don't put dogs at risk
As a former cruelty investigator, I commend those in support of tethering regulation.
It is disheartening to read that one of those appointed to represent the citizens of our county says that this policy will negatively impact good pet owners. I disagree. Good dog owners do not subject their dogs to adversities such as exposure to heat and storms, injurious insects like fleas and yellow jackets, roaming animals and accidental litters resulting when a tethered female is in heat.
Anne Castens, Tampa
Fresh ideas for Florida's prisons | April 2, editorial
Drugs a public health issue
Florida is one of many states grappling with overcrowded prisons. States facing budget shortfalls are pursuing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. A study by the RAND Corp. found that every additional dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.48 in societal costs.
Incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders alongside hardened criminals is the equivalent of providing them with a taxpayer-funded education in antisocial behavior.
It's time to declare peace in the failed drug war and begin treating all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public health problem it is.
Robert Sharpe, policy analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Arlington, Va.
Getting Medicaid reform right | March 31, editorial
Cost savings elusive
As a physician, I agree that something must be done to strengthen the Medicaid system. Unfortunately, Gov. Rick Scott's plan to privatize Medicaid is not the answer.
The data from privatization pilots running in our state since 2005 have not borne out cost savings. In addition, patients are unhappy because their choice of providers has become limited, and providers are unhappy because their reimbursement rates have fallen to levels that make it nearly unsustainable to continue seeing these patients.
In our office, we accept several private Medicaid plans. Each plan has different referral requirements and submission processes and a different formulary and prior authorization process. This adds up to countless hours spent on paperwork rather than providing care to patients. In addition, privatizing Medicaid means losing millions in federal matching funds to care for these patients.
Mona V. Mangat, M.D., St. Petersburg
Bearing the brunt
I just returned from my CPA's office and learned I paid Uncle Sam almost $10,000 in 2010. General Electric paid zero. What's wrong with this picture?
Jack Boadway, St. Petersburg