Assisted living facilities
Floridians in need let down
Florida lawmakers closed the books on the 2012 session two months ago, and with it, quite possibly, the best chance to radically improve the state's protection of those in assisted living facilities.
Last year's scathing investigation by the Miami Herald showed how bureaucrats, industry representatives and policymakers all had a hand in fracturing a system that had been revered as America's "assisted living gold standard." The headlines sparked Gov. Rick Scott to immediately ramp up enforcement and launch a statewide task force to outline possible solutions. The Senate's Health Regulation Committee quickly followed suit and recommended sweeping changes to Florida law. And a Miami-Dade grand jury demanded new safeguards.
It seemed reform was a foregone conclusion. Then the industry flexed its muscle. During the closing weeks of the session, Republican Rep. Eddie Gonzalez of Hialeah Gardens proposed a version of reform that favored providers over residents. Senate champions — Republicans Ronda Storms of Valrico and Rene Garcia of Hialeah Gardens and Democrats Nan Rich of Sunrise and Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood — rallied for the stronger Senate bill.
But there would be no late-hour compromise. The House killed assisted living facility reform and the governor abandoned it as well. He was non-committal on any action he would take to motivate Senate and House leaders to finalize a deal.
No news conferences, no news releases and no stumping for a stronger bill. The only promise he made was to continue the ALF task force "over the next year," but no meetings have been scheduled and inquiries to his agencies have been met with silence.
Anyone who cares about Florida's elderly and disabled should not let this reform die. Voters this fall should demand answers from incumbent House members as to why they let this happen. And they should tell the governor they expect him to make good on his word.
Brian Lee, executive director, Families for Better Care, Tallahassee
Pinellas tackles its code system | April 25
Step up the punishments
Why do code enforcement fines get so large? Because there are no teeth in the enforcement regulations. Make the homeowners responsible. Make them do community service — working in the parks, mowing medians, etc. If they don't comply, a few weekends in jail may motivate them.
Just as in foreclosures, there must be a penalty if you don't take responsibility for your obligations. Today it's just too easy for homeowners to load up and walk out on their obligations. Citizens must accept their responsibility and comply with the law — to include codes — or face a penalty.
Uncollectible liens are not enforcement action. Inconvenience violators, suspend their driver's license — it's an act of financial irresponsibility just like not having car insurance. I don't understand why stealing a six-pack of beer is a criminal act but not paying millions of dollars in legitimate fines isn't. People must be held accountable.
Dale Carnell, Redington Shores
Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test
Tests miss the point
As this year's FCAT testing cycle comes to a close, I once again shake my head in disbelief. As a teacher, I think of the enormous influence the penciled-in dots on the test bubble sheets have on a student's life.
The FCAT has become an educational monster that has little to do with the betterment of our youth and preparing them for what lies ahead. Our children have not been educated in the realm of risk-taking or thinking out of the box because all they have been taught is that there is only one correct answer. The positive aspects of taking risks are foreign to them.
Each educational proposal should be made to answer the following: "Will this have a direct correlation to producing a fully functioning adult in today's society?" If the answer is "no," then it has no place in our educational system.
Maureen Stearns, St. Petersburg
Criminal background check policy is updated | April 26
Misguided policy shift
According to this article, one policy change is asking companies to discontinue asking about previous criminal convictions on job applications. The employment commission, controlled by Democrats, is concerned that current practices limit job opportunities for minorities "because they have higher arrest and conviction rates."
Really? This is another blatant attempt to equalize everyone into a socialist environment and further change our ethical and moral values. It is no wonder that government cannot be trusted by its citizens to govern fairly.
Edwin Ashurst, St. Petersburg
Don't undercut citizens' right of self-defense April 27, commentary
No license to kill
Rep. Will Weatherford's warped sense of fairness is a calamity in the making. He states, "Florida's comprehensive and robust gun rights laws are not rooted in partisanship or secured by lobbyists." The fact that the "stand your ground" law was promoted by lobbyists for the NRA seems to have escaped his memory.
Yes, the Second Amendment provides for the lawful purchase of a gun by the citizenry. But nowhere does it state that an individual can fabricate a story that absolves him of murder when a lethal weapon is used to gun down a supposed antagonist.
David Patrick, St. Petersburg
State drug test rejected | April 27
If U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, as well as the Supreme Court, has declared that the drug testing of state employees amounts to "unreasonable search and seizure," it makes one wonder how private industry is able to get away with it.
Teresa Willoughby, Tampa