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Sunday's letters: Florida Legislature failed to act in citizens' interest

Legislature failed Florida voters

All across America, states are facing tough decisions on cutting budgets, protecting essential services, running government more efficiently and coming up with ideas to bring in jobs and visitors. What did we learn from Florida's recently ended legislative session? Is there any sign of a vision, strategic plan or thoughtful collaborative partnership to take on our challenges?

With few exceptions, the most recent session resembled a battle between the leadership of Florida and its citizens. Let's look at the aftermath:

• With almost 100 percent re-election of incumbents, legislators still felt the need to protect their jobs. They placed their own redistricting amendment on the November ballot that would nullify the statewide, citizen-gathered Fair Districts amendments (Nos. 5 and 6) if adopted.

Using taxpayer money, they hired lawyers to draft an amendment that newspapers called a "sham," "shameful" and "arrogant."

• Without closing obvious tax loopholes benefiting cigarette companies, special interests and large corporations, the Legislature passed a state budget that slashes funding for prenatal care for poor women, child abuse prevention and other critical human services. Instead of a thoughtful, collaborative approach, legislators raided trust funds and expanded Indian gambling to find money for special last-minute earmarks like tax breaks for yachts, private airplanes and tickets to professional sporting events.

• The Legislature passed a bill that would have created new campaign fundraising accounts for legislative leaders, allowing unlimited contributions even during the legislative session. It was a blatant attempt to legitimize "pay to play" and would have given wealthy special interests a new way to influence policy. Gov. Charlie Crist wisely saw fit to veto that bill.

• The Legislature revamped our teacher evaluation and compensation plan, basing it on an undeveloped and unfunded reliance on standardized tests. Again, Crist vetoed the bill.

• While Florida is the third-worst state for health insurance coverage, legislators worked themselves into a frenzy passing a law to thwart federal health care legislation that requires citizens to have coverage. The Legislature then spent its last several days on a proposal requiring women in their first trimester of pregnancy to pay for and undergo an ultrasound before they can have an abortion.

• With huge citizen unrest over lack of control over growth, legislators refused to reauthorize and protect the Department of Community Affairs, the agency that has shown itself to be a good protector of sound growth policy.

• On a positive note, we did see a glimmer of bipartisanship as a bill to require a semester of civics for middle school students was passed, as well as a step forward in water management and requirements for ensuring septic tanks are monitored.

While Florida is in dire need of some bipartisan, long-range vision and planning, unfortunately we are unlikely to see this in a major election year. We'll need to wait until 2011 for signs of true fiscal vision and reform from Florida's legislative leaders.

Lisa Meyers and Amanda Patanow, co-presidents, League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area

War on drugs/Prohibition

Legalize and tax drugs

It was interesting that Sunday's paper had articles on both the history of the war on drugs and Prohibition, both of which are and were massive failures, as shown in the articles.

We have wasted billions of dollars, and untold thousands of lives, in the 40-plus years of the war on drugs, and it has not worked.

My modest proposal is that we simply legalize all drugs, impose heavy taxes on them, and devote our new revenue to drug treatment programs and education. The illegal trade in drugs would simply become profitless. This could immediately affect everything from poppy farming in Afghanistan to cartel murders in Mexico.

We are comfortable with legal alcohol, which is far deadlier and more ruinous to lives and families than any of the street drugs.

Legalization would also have a huge positive impact on the problem of mass incarceration, which has a lifelong impact on those convicted of drug felonies. We have millions of people jailed for drug offenses, costing us billions, not to mention the human and social cost of being a prison nation.

Bruce L. Marsh, Ruskin

Sharp intellect matters, sharp dress does not May 16, Robyn Blumner column

Too much male preening

This excellent and perceptive article on Elena Kagan points up an interesting contrast with some current male politicians known for their predilection for preening.

I find Kagan's appearance quite normal: neat, clean, straightforward and lacking pretension. But if we compare her to the likes of John Boehner of the constant tan/nary a hair out of place, or with the disgraced John Edwards of the $400 haircuts, she is indeed an also-ran in the looks department.

Personally, I would rather spend five minutes in the company of Kagan than an hour with the aforementioned politicos. This country would do well to avail itself of intellects similar in brilliance to hers.

Anthony Skey, St. Petersburg

Sharp intellect matters, sharp dress does not May 16, Robyn Blumner column

Just treat women equally

For some reason, the radical right thrives on cutting down and belittling women. The radical right wants women back in the kitchen, walking 10 paces behind the men.

The radical right loves Sarah Palin, who speaks only in bits for television. She looks good until she opens her mouth, and then she can be seen for what she truly is: full of opinions and a severe lack of knowledge. Sending her out for an interview on national TV, unprepared, was cruel and inhumane punishment.

How many men are subjected to the kind of treatment Elena Kagan is getting? Do we really care what they wear? Women do not ask for much. All we want is to be treated equally.

Margaret Hyde, Clearwater

Time to act is now | May 20, editorial

Find the facts

I agree with the Times' assessment in this editorial. But the larger question is: Who should be in charge? Scientists, journalists and some government agents are now beginning to question and criticize BP's tight control of data. The Times should be questioning that role as well.

St. Petersburg Times, the "time to act is now."

Debra Mixon, Homosassa

Sunday's letters: Florida Legislature failed to act in citizens' interest 05/22/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 22, 2010 7:30pm]
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