Election law deserves no clearance | Aug. 5, editorial
Changes improve our elections
My recent decision to have four provisions of Florida's new election law reviewed for preclearance approval by a federal court has drawn unwarranted criticism from the Florida Democratic Party and the St. Petersburg Times editorial board, which suggested it "smacks of shopping for a more favorable venue."
I have no reason to believe that the court's review will be more or less favorable than the U.S. Justice Department, which has already approved 95 percent of the law, determining it applies fairly to all Floridians, regardless of race or color. The court provides procedural safeguards that aren't present elsewhere and is governed by the rules of evidence and can't be influenced by misinformed hearsay.
For 36 years, first as Pasco County's supervisor of elections and now as Florida's secretary of state, I have dedicated myself to ensuring elections are conducted fairly and accessibly. I want nothing more than to ensure people of all backgrounds and political affiliations can cast a ballot and have their vote counted. In my experienced opinion, the new elections law improves the accountability and integrity of elections. These are the facts about the "most controversial provisions" of the new law:
Elections are more accessible. Four more hours a day of early voting are allowed. Meanwhile, weekend voting hours have been extended to a maximum of 36 hours, 20 more than the previous law.
Elections are more accountable. Voters who want to change their address at the polling place to a different county must vote a provisional ballot, closing a loophole that allowed someone to go unchecked while voting in multiple counties. Another provision allows anyone to change his or her address by calling or sending an e-mail to the supervisor of elections.
Voter registration is more efficient. Everyone who registers to vote through a third-party organization will have his or her registration turned in within 48 hours. Fines remain consistent with former penalties for failing to submit registration forms within the time dictated by state law.
These changes improve our elections, and they do so for the benefit of all voters. I expect the federal court will agree.
Kurt Browning, Florida secretary of state
An unfair, wasteful jobs plan | Aug. 11, editorial
Keep money close to home
The Times is off base in its criticism of the proposed local vendor preference issue.
With our bay area struggling under massive unemployment, why would you encourage our tax dollars to leave the area? Whenever you spend money with an out-of-area business, most of that money leaves the local economy. When you spend locally, the opposite is true. This then stimulates local employment and increases sales tax revenue.
What are you going to advocate next, moving all of our jobs offshore so that corporate profits for these out-of-area companies can increase, while the locals get laid off and hired to work at Walmart to sell Chinese-made goods? We need to start looking out for our local employers and ourselves.
Tom Tracy, Safety Harbor
Ensure workers are local
There is nothing wrong with Hillsborough County in effect favoring local bidders by using a modified form of the contract negotiation process.
I'm a former Defense Department contracting officer, and the proposed technique is more than fair. We used a similar technique to favor small businesses. What should be stipulated in all county contracts is that all workers on county projects be Hillsborough County residents. Enabling local residents the opportunity to earn will enhance the local economy, and that's what is needed today.
Richard Golden, San Antonio
Scott pays $360 a year for subsidized health care | Aug. 11
An unhealthy imbalance
I worked for 30 years in the state university system, retiring in 2000. My wife and I are jointly covered by Medicare Parts A and B, which costs $193 per month automatically deducted from Social Security payments. Add $556 for Blue Cross-Blue Shield supplemental health care insurance and $20 for a supplemental dental care policy, and the total is $769 per month, or $9,228 annually, not counting any co-payments when we actually use the coverage.
Our Legislature and governor pay $360 per year for their family health coverage. This rate is obviously a sop to the pols from the health insurance industry, which I believe verges on bribery at a difference of more than $8,868 annually, or $739 per month. After all, the almost $9,000 each year saved must look pretty tempting and get a lot of pro-insurer legislation passed.
I'll bet the politicians are able to obtain coverage for pre-existing illness and are not concerned about finding health care insurance at any age like many of us. They deride "Obamacare," which has already improved the lot of many Floridians and could do much more if it contained universal coverage.
Shame on the Florida governor and legislators, but even greater shame on the voters who blindly elected those people and are likely to do so again.
Fred Prince, Tampa
Where do I sign up?
Out multimillionaire governor and his wife pay a mere $30 a month for family health benefits, as do most of the of the Florida House and Senate, Cabinet members and heads of departments.
I'd like to ask Gov. Scott and my elected state representatives (all Republicans, of course), Where did you find your health insurance agent? Boy, do I want to get his number.
Bev Noun, St. Petersburg
Clunkers on the roads
Back when the state of Florida had a vehicle inspection program, I though it was a pain to go down there every year and go through the process, but I think it kept a lot of unsafe cars off our highways. It also kept noisy vehicles off the roads.
Now it seems to be a free-for-all, and you can drive whatever you want and make as much noise as you like. As I recall when the state did away with vehicle inspections it said it was a waste of money and that law officers would make sure that only vehicles that met the same requirements were allowed on the roads. I have not seen that happen.
To me there are more junk cars and louder vehicles on the highways than ever. Also in a time when the state is in need of more revenue, I think the time is right to clean up our highways and make some money.
Tim Bailey, Plant City