No tax hikes, but some cuts | March 11
Look into influence of lobbyists
This summary of the 60-day legislative session that ended Friday is a great learning tool for those who don't follow what goes on in Tallahassee. People can see at a glance just what did or didn't get done. Also, John Romano's column (A Senate story of conscience vs. agenda) mentions how term limits may affect legislation.
While these articles are excellent and provide some insight, I'd like to see more in-depth information related to the influence of lobbyists and the specific legislators who are influenced. An emphasis on "go along to get along" votes that don't benefit constituents who elect our officials would make for interesting reading.
Much of what happens in Tallahassee appears to demonstrate indifference to the citizens. Elected officials should be focused on higher standards than prolonging their own tenure in office.
David Wallace, Seminole
Personal injury protection
Changes hurt consumers
Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-majority state Legislature got their wish with the recent personal injury protection "reform" as it greatly serves the interests of the large PIP auto insurance companies at the expense of the citizens of Florida.
This PIP reform was sold as an antifraud measure, but instead ends up greatly reducing the health care benefits of law-abiding PIP policyholders while allowing the auto carriers to have, over time, a net increase in their rates to the consumer.
Acupuncture and massage therapy are cut out of PIP coverage across the board, and chiropractic benefits would be limited to $2,500.
It is no surprise to see our governor side with the large auto carriers and against the citizens of Florida, keeping in mind the millions that went into his own pocket as CEO of a hospital chain.
John I. Campo, D.C., Tampa
An atomic money grab | March 11
It is misleading to accuse Progress Energy of "crony capitalism." Progress Energy, like other electric utilities in the country, is a regulated monopoly. Most public utilities are regulated monopolies intentionally created in the best interests of the public.
The concept originated with Adam Smith and was advanced in this country by progressive New Dealers eager to implement Franklin Roosevelt's promise to string electric lines into every rural hamlet and hollow. The concept evolved into investor-owned utilities with a guaranteed rate of return regulated by local public service commissions. It has actually worked out pretty well, providing Americans with the most reliable and economical electric utility service in the world for the past 75 years. But this arrangement is not and never has been free-market capitalism.
Progress Energy will spend millions on engineering and licensing evaluation costs for their proposed nuclear facility before they turn over the first shovelful of dirt. This is how the regulators have rigged the process; again in the best interests of the public. These are legitimate costs of doing business, and under the regulated monopoly process the utility should be allowed to recover these costs as they are accrued.
T.S. "Mac" McDonnell, St. Petersburg
Having lived in Florida for 12 years, I am astonished at the lack of clear thinking on this subject. What is it that Florida has in abundance? Sunshine. So why do we not see roofs covered in sunlight-gathering cells to provide electricity to heat our water and give us light? Because the Legislature, being dependent upon the power companies to finance their election campaigns, makes sure that only old-fashioned coal or oil-fired power stations are allowed to provide us with very expensive electricity.
Why should any thinking entrepreneur try to make a fortune giving us such cheaply produced electricity? Because he or she knows full well that the Legislature would legislate them out of business.
John Starkey, St. Petersburg
How doctors die | March 11
Learn about palliative care
This article by Dr. Ken Murray beautifully discusses a major challenge in health care: how to care for people with serious and incurable illness. The "do everything" and "never give up" mentality that we encounter, and sometimes encourage, in our patients and families facing serious illness commonly leads to greater suffering, financial devastation for families and unsustainable health care costs for the rest of us.
That doctors frequently choose paths other than aggressive and "futile" care for themselves when faced with terminal illness should inform the rest of us. Fortunately, there is another way to approach the care of serious illness.
Palliative care is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness — whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care can be provided together with curative treatment.
Focusing on palliative care in serious illness not only can increase the quality of remaining life, but may also give patients more time. Patients who are in less pain, more control of their decisions and less likely to return to the hospital tend to stick around longer. Access to palliative care has grown dramatically in recent years as patients, doctors and hospitals recognize its value. Tampa Bay has several hospital-based palliative care programs and some outpatient programs as well. Patients and families should insist on this kind of care, whatever their goals or stage of serious illness.
Dr. Howard Tuch, director, Palliative Care Services, Tampa General Hospital, Tampa
Florida Bar denial is senseless waste March 11, editorial
Follow the law
The story of Jose Godinez-Samperio is sad indeed. Sad that in the 14 years he lived illegally in the United States neither he nor his parents bothered to take the proper legal steps to obtain for him the right to remain here and to take the Florida Bar exam as prescribed by law.
I can understand that, due to the state of enforcement of our immigration laws, they probably felt if they just ignored the law, then presented their sad story as they have, the man would get his license and the "chumps" who have gone about the immigration process properly could just wait even longer, behind this individual who knew how to beat the system.
Bill Goggin, St. Petersburg