Plan for property tax cut heads to voters | May 3
Local governments will get bill
The Florida Legislature's tax-cutting heroics place the burden on local government — their favorite punching bag.
Last week, the Legislature passed a joint resolution to ask Florida voters if they would like to increase the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000, thus saving property taxpayers a significant amount of money. If passed by more than 60 percent of voters, the measure would solidify one of the largest tax cuts in Florida history, to the tune of about $645 million.
So what's the big deal? That sounds great, especially in "Corcoran for Governor" campaign materials.
But that $645 million makes an impact on local governments that rely on tax revenue to provide levels of services that residents have become accustomed to. When millage rates or other service fees increase, local governments have to use their political capital to justify their actions; the Legislature, meanwhile, rides high with their tax-cutting bullet points and points to the spending habits of local government.
Government needs to work for us with our best interests in mind, not one respective body over the other. The same voters who elected Donald Trump president will no doubt vote to put money in their pockets and then blame local government when it gets taken back. My only hope is that termed-out legislators who need a job and run for county commission will be on the dais in time for public comment.
Ricky Butler, Pinellas Park
Rules for pet stores argued | May 4
Poor treatment of animals
Last week's news articles about animals, although on the surface disparate, possess a common theme: human gain.
Puppy shop owners decried Hillsborough County's proposed ordinance to restrict new businesses from buying animals from abusive mills, saying the rule would hurt their bottom line, and several racing greyhounds at Derby Lane were found with cocaine in their systems. But perhaps the most moving news item was the photograph of an exhausted "working dog" that accompanied the May 3 story on the military seeking businesses to develop "pharmaceutical products," a euphemism for drugs, to improve dogs' performance in combat.
For eons, humans have used animals — domesticated and wild — for gain and profit. But to move toward a more progressive, compassionate society, we must boldly question this mind-set. Indeed, as stewards of the Earth and its creatures, we must decide whether we will be merciless or merciful. It is a difficult question, but one we must ultimately answer.
Deborah Van Pelt, Tampa
House GOP gives Trump a victory | May 5
Lack of empathy
What does it take for Republican lawmakers and Trumpcare supporters to understand the need for health care that covers all citizens and pre-existing conditions? Do they, or their loved ones, actually have to lose their health insurance and contract some awful disease to understand the need for health care reform that provides coverage for all? Or do they, in this Christian country, really care so little about others?
John Clay, Tallahassee
Bill is worse than first one
After the first Trumpcare debacle, I was somewhat encouraged when the president said he may have to work with moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats to produce a workable bill. Unfortunately, he and the House leaders decided to produce an even more heartless and regressive bill in order to attract support from the radical alt-right and tea party rather than working with moderates. Trumpcare seems to be more about a huge tax cut for the rich than improving health care.
This is bad medicine, and I tip my hat to those moderate Republicans who stood up to say it isn't right.
Jerry Stephens, Riverview
House rejects bill allowing officials to meet in secret | May 3
Champions of openness
Kudos to the four Democratic and three Republican state House members who voted to ensure transparency, and a commitment to representative democracy, by opposing HB 843. As a Republican and committed Roman Catholic who is both pro-labor and pro-life, I am tired of the back-room deals and the oligarchy that our state government has become.
Representatives like Larry Ahern, Chris Latvala, et al., have supported odd legislation appealing to special interest groups ranging from red-light camera support to gun proliferation on college and university campuses. Enough is enough with the secret deals. The state political machine, of either political party, must be held fully accountable to the people who voted them into office, and our sunshine laws ensure such transparency.
Thus, special thanks should be given to GOP lawmakers Rep. Shawn Harrison, Rep. Kathleen Peters and Rep. Jake Raburn for standing firm for U.S. representative democratic openness and transparency.
Robert J. King, St. Petersburg
Trump's China card | May 3, commentary
Open to new thinking
I have been as critical of the actions of President Donald Trump as many others, but this imaginative and intriguing article explains a radically different possibility about his dialogue with the leaders of Russia, China, North Korea and the Philippines.
Being openly critical and hostile to these leaders will not likely produce any sort of workable attitude or meaningful discourse. We should see it as a strategy that, while highly unusual, probably does work at various levels of interpersonal communication. Trump's connections through his worldwide business associations may facilitate this as well.
Many will find this strategy absurd at first, but this article should be read before dismissing it. I believe it can be seen as a sign of strength rather than weakness and the possible benefits are enormous.
Earl Kendall, Largo