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Stop state phone deregulation

Stop state phone deregulation

Times are tough and money is scarce. So it's a mystery why Florida legislators don't reject out of hand a plan to let Florida's local telephone companies raise the cost of many consumers' bills by up to 20 percent a year, every year.

It's an outrage. But that's not stopping swarms of telephone company lobbyists from flooding into Tallahassee, demanding that state legislators strip consumers of regulatory protections. They want to give telephone companies free rein to raise your phone rates.

At issue are bills (SB 2626; HB 1465) by Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, and Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. These bad bills are designed to help big phone companies dig deep into your wallet, even though the companies already make healthy profits.

Currently, state law and the Florida Public Service Commission set strict limits on raising rates for most kinds of landline telephone service for business and residential service. But these bills would allow phone companies to raise rates by up to 20 percent per year for many customers. Even if those customers bought only the most basic phone service, plus one extra service, such as Caller ID, they could be affected.

These bills also eliminate provisions that require phone companies to tell a consumer about the lowest-cost plans for basic local phone service the first time the customer contacts them. Instead, companies would have to disclose low-priced basic service plans only if consumers directly ask for that information, and even then, consumers have to know just how to ask to make the phone companies come clean and disclose lowest price plans for basic service. That's flatly outrageous.

If nothing else, today's current economic mess should have shown us all that consumers get ripped off when policymakers scrap basic regulatory protections.

It's time for Florida consumers to speak out. AARP has set up a special toll-free number, 1-888-222-4121, to help you tell your legislator where you stand on this issue. You also can call the office of Gov. Charlie Crist at (850) 488-7146 to encourage him to stay focused on protecting consumers and to veto this bill should the Legislature pass it. Visit for more information on the legislation.

Lori Parham, Florida state director, AARP, Tallahassee

Deal links tax, class size | March 26

Politicians win but the public loses

The Democrats get a massive tax increase and the Republicans get to water down the class size amendment. Everyone wins, except students and taxpayers.

Does a 17 percent increase in the sales tax (doesn't seem so small when you look at it that way) guarantee school funding once and for all? Two words: Florida Lottery. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice …

The weakening of the class size mandate means individual class sizes don't count, only the schoolwide average. Many special education classes have fewer than five students. Speaking of sleight of hand, do that math.

Funny how a win-win for the politicians is a lose-lose for the public.

Michael Weston, Tampa

Deal links tax, class size | March 26

Put them to a vote

Here we go again:

The Legislature is proposing to raise the regressive sales tax. The main reason lawmakers won't expand the items taxed is that this will stop the payments (campaign donations) to the lawmakers from the businesses the expanded tax would cover.

Let's put both an increased tax and an expanded tax on the ballot and let the voters decide. (Maybe the voters will start getting lobbyist money.)

Seriously, I believe that most voters would be willing to pay the expanded tax on all purchases except those basic items rather than increase the present regressive sales tax.

Robert Pattee, New Port Richey

Deal links tax, class size | March 26

Get it in writing

I am a Pinellas County middle school teacher and I am writing regarding the article discussing a possible amendment altering the present class size amendment. The new amendment would keep the class size reductions to the present schoolwide maximums and at the same time add an additional penny to the Florida sales tax.

Any proposal must mandate that the money be used for education only. If not the Legislature will do the same thing it did with the lottery money, which was to cut back on the general revenue provided, rather than to use the lottery money to enhance education in Florida.

Education must be funded. Although I would love to see more caps on the size of individual classrooms, in this economy we cannot have it all.

As a teacher, I urge people to support this idea and to hold the Legislature accountable to properly fund education. The future of our state depends on this happening.

Shelley Foster, Clearwater

Jobless need the help | March 27, editorial

Heartless leaders

As your editorial points out, Florida's economy is indeed in dire straits. Unemployment is rising and more people are suffering economically than at any time since the Great Depression. Our state budget is deeply in the red.

And yet right-wing Republicans who control our state Legislature want to refuse almost a billion dollars in federal aid to extend jobless benefits! What a devastating blow to Florida's people and economy just because these partisans don't like the Obama administration.

I hope every unemployed Floridian rings the phones off the hook of these heartless Republican House "leaders."

Edward McCann, Madeira Beach

GOP lawmakers favor tough petition rules March 25, story

Indecent obstruction

Tell us, average Floridians! Are the GOP lawmakers in Tallahassee running scared or what? What appears to be coming out of the mirrored halls of impunity should be enough to scare most Floridians.

It is sad enough that most people in the state have little choice but to resort to citizen initiatives when their lawmakers do not represent their best interests. To compound this, these lawmakers seem to have no sense of decency by seeking to make tougher petition rules.

Russell Lee Johnson, St. Petersburg

Stop state phone deregulation 03/29/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 29, 2009 10:41pm]
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