First, review flawed death row system Feb. 7 editorial
Read book, then decide
I agree that state Rep. Matt Gaetz's ideas on speeding up execution dates are a flawed response to a flawed system. You mentioned the case of Juan Melendez, who was one of five death-sentenced and subsequently exonerated men profiled in a 2008 book by Leslie Lytle titled Execution's Doorstep. I believe copies of the book should be sent to Gaetz and the others on his subcommittee. The actions by law enforcement personnel and prosecutors documented in that book should give pause to anyone contemplating speeding up the execution process, or even allowing executions to take place at all.
George Adler, Lecanto
Review system and more
Given Florida's dismal record of putting innocent individuals on death row, our Legislature should be considering abolishment of the death penalty instead of trying to make state-sanctioned killing even easier.
If members of our Legislature do go forward in greasing the skids from the courtroom to the death chamber, which I fully expect them to do, then they also should authorize a thorough review of the entire death penalty process. That review should include making it easier for those on death row to have more timely access to DNA testing that might exonerate them, and tougher sanctions against any prosecutors and law enforcement officials whose incompetence and/or deliberate misconduct leads to a miscarriage of justice.
When just one innocent person is executed by the machinery of a state's justice system, it overshadows any sort of good that the execution of a thousand Charles Mansons ever could accomplish.
Joe McColloch, Tampa
Nurse practitioner legislation
Insulting and arrogant
Senate Bill 612 is being touted by the Florida Medical Association as its top priority this legislative session. What important issue does this bill address? Oppression of educated nurses. The bill requires "certain health care practitioners" who use the title "doctor" to immediately declare that they are "not a medical doctor." Physicians are concerned that patients have clarity about who is providing their care. However, the only practitioners affected by the bill are people licensed under Florida's Nurse Practice Act.
This is a direct assault on advanced practice nurses who earn doctorates. Under current law, health care practitioners who fail to identify themselves by type of license — orally or in writing, such as a name badge — face disciplinary hearings from their state professional board. Those who intentionally mislead the public to believe that they are a physician face a first-degree misdemeanor charge. SB 612 sets the penalty for nurses — and only nurses — who use a rightfully earned academic title as a third-degree felony. A felony is punishable by fines, jail time and loss of professional license for a minimum of five years.
This legislation is insulting and arrogant and creates a problem where none existed.
Florida has a crucial shortage of primary care physicians. Advanced practice nurses (nurse practitioners and midwives) have the education and experience to step in and fill the gap alongside physicians so that every person has access to affordable care. Several national studies support high-quality patient outcomes and cost savings when patients are cared for by nurse practitioners compared with physicians. Instead of wasting everyone's time on legislation designed to oppress a certain segment of the population, physicians should use their rightfully protected title and spend more time working as team members focused on patient care.
Mavra Kear, president, Florida Nurses Association, Lakeland
Evangelicals push immigration reform Feb. 8
The Cuban advantage
Let me get this straight. Marco Rubio, current darling of the Republican Party, is going to be an authority on immigration? Isn't it a little ironic? As a son of Cuban immigrants, Cubans only need get to our shores and are granted full "amnesty." No evidence of moral character (whatever that means); no English as first language.
We should start by addressing this arcane and unfair favoritism.
Leslie Sisto, St. Petersburg
Gun fans' fantasies versus real tragedies Feb. 7 Leonard Pitts column
Chicago example is off
Once again gun control columnists and recent letter writers ignore facts and reality. Leonard Pitts wants to "restrict civilian ownership of military-grade weapons." In fact, these weapons were banned by the 72nd Congress passing the National Firearms Act of 1934. A physical resemblance to a U.S. military weapon does not make it one.
Pitts points to gun deaths in Chicago as an unusual tragic event. How ridiculous. Chicago has one of the strictest legal gun ownership policies in America. Its police department is led by a chief who says he will train his officers to shoot first, ask later if concealed carry ever becomes law. Wonder if he applies the same policy to current criminals. Evidently not, as Chicago has one of the highest violent crime rates in the United States.
In January, more than 40 people were murdered in Chicago. In 2012, homicides were 532. In 2012, Afghanistan coalition casualties numbered 405, of which 310 were Americans.
So how is Chicago's virtual no-legal-guns policy working out, and how good a job is its police department doing in curtailing use of illegal weapons?
Instead of anti-Second Amendment advocates using Chicago as an example, in reality it should be used once again (see Newtown, Conn.) as proof that gun bans simply do not work.
Jim Jackson, Apollo Beach
Help choose the Letter of the Month
Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a letter of the month and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year.
Help us choose from the nominations for letter of the month for January 2013 by visiting the website listed below by Wednesday. Read through the three letters and vote on the ballot at the bottom of the Web page. We will choose the finalists each month based on relevance on topical issues, persuasiveness and writing style. The writer's opinion does not need to match the editorial board's opinion on the issue to be nominated. But clarity of thinking, brevity and a sense of humor certainly help.
To see the three January nominees and vote, go to tampabay.com/opinion