Lawmakers' priorities are out of balance
It is unconscionable that Republicans are willing to slash education, police and fire, and privatize parts of our child welfare services, while at the same time they proposed to use $2.5 million in tax dollars to pay to clear-cut state parks to build golf courses.
If the golf proposal had not been withdrawn, we could have paid for years to water those courses in a state where we have water problems enough.
Where are the Republicans' priorities? Golf? Let private businesses buy private land and build private golf courses; let public institutions serve the public good.
Ask guardians ad litem about how privatizing the care for abused and neglected children is going. They are trained volunteers whose only concern is for the children.
They'll tell you the privatized system is worse than before because it is set up in a way that rewards private businesses for providing as little as possible to these kids. The state gives the businesses money once a year, and every dollar saved is the annual profit.
Corporations care about their shareholders, not customers — unless the customers can take their business elsewhere, and that's not possible in this system.
Our state has to farm out the care of our most vulnerable children, but drew up a proposal to spend millions on golf? Something's wrong.
Heidi Halsworth, Tampa
Florida ranks first in the nation in questionable auto insurance claims, and personal injury protection fraud has spiraled out of control. This epidemic results in costly premiums for Florida motorists, who pay the second-highest auto liability insurance premiums in the nation.
Our state needs laws that target and limit swindlers and dishonest PIP lawyers and clinics. Specifically, we need legislators to support and expand investigations and prosecutions of insurance fraud, and to authorize Examinations Under Oath that will allow insurers to interview policyholders and providers about the alleged benefits received.
If left unchecked, the increase in premiums related to insurance fraud could reach $946 million for insured Floridian drivers this year alone.
William Stander, Florida regional manager, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Tallahassee
Court upholds 'hurtful' protests | March 3
Funeral is not the place
The court's ruling in the Snyder vs. Phelps case was unjust. It is instances like this that show how the First Amendment is getting stretched to its limit. The right to mourn the loss of a son peacefully was taken away when church protesters decided to voice their opinions. Freedom of speech is a right that everyone has, but there is a time and place for some things to be said. A soldier's funeral is not the right place to preach these beliefs.
Amanda Firkins, St. Petersburg
School counseling is key
With our Florida legislative session underway, the state budget is in the forefront of everyone's considerations. Since the voters did not overturn the class-size amendment, many school districts are struggling to meet this initiative and a host of other changes for teachers, other educators and state employees. The reality is that class-size reductions and other key mandates will remain unfunded and that more cuts, especially to education, may be inevitable.
Parents and students know that their school counselor is concerned with student achievement, personal success and ensuring a safe and secure learning environment. The school counseling curriculum advances students' personal, social, academic and career competency.
However, many counselors simply cannot deliver such programs when ratios top 1,000 students per school counselor and noncounseling duties are added that do not focus directly on students.
The Florida School Counselor Association is asking each of you to think about how our budget is being balanced and its impact on students if counselors are not supported.
Ask your school counselor about his or her counseling program and how it fosters student success by closing the gaps in student achievement. Make sure that your school, district and policymakers know that you want your student to be prepared to learn, to work with others, and to exit schools with the best learning and career development skills possible.
Christopher B. Smith, president, Florida School Counselor Association, Estero
Gov. Rick Scott
How is he accountable?
Gov. Rick "don't confuse me with the facts, I've already made up my mind" Scott asks us to let him do what he wants and hold him accountable if things go wrong. What does that mean? Will he give us back the money and benefits lost by his bad decisions?
I think he should be accountable for the 6,000-plus jobs and $2-plus billion he threw away by nixing the high-speed rail project.
How do we hold him accountable for the increase in oxycodone abuse that will occur because he nixed the prescription database? Scott says he thinks the database will cost the state money, even though a large drug company has offered to pay for it.
Does being accountable mean we can fine him for his poor judgment, like the government did when it fined his company $1.7 billion for defrauding Medicare?
Accountability is such an easy thing to promise when other people's lives are at stake. After he runs the state into the ground, he can just fly away in his private jet. Ultimately, the citizens of the state will be "accountable" for having elected him in the first place.
Bill Sacco, Tampa
Before drug bust, pill abuse takes toll March 9
A different approach
Florida is considering a pharmaceutical database to find and prosecute pill mill operators. They flourish here because many other states find and prosecute pill mills.
So if the United States stamped out all pill mills, would opiate addicts finally be forced to "get clean"? Hardly. It would just drive suppliers to Mexico, giving the cartels an additional product to sell to Americans.
A better solution would be to treat opiate addiction like the sickness it is. Switzerland has been doing that since 1994, and in 2008 voted overwhelmingly to make the policy permanent. It pays for itself in better public health and reduced crime.
Officially it is called "heroin assisted treatment," available to addicts willing to sign up with the state. The Swiss have few pill mills because there is little demand for illegal pills. We should try it.
John Chase, Palm Harbor