Help choose 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 March by visiting the website listed below by Friday. 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 March nominees and vote, go to www.tampabay.com/opinion.
Senate Bill 1430
I am writing as CEO of Florida Presbyterian Homes, as a concerned voter and as a constituent of state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa. I am writing to voice my opposition to SB 1430, filed by Lee.
Florida Presbyterian Homes is a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Lakeland that serves approximately 300 elders. We are a 501(c)3 organization that has served a middle-class population since 1955. Started by the church, we are mission-driven and have been accredited since 1995. Our skilled nursing is a seven-time recipient of the Governor's Gold Seal for excellence in long-term care.
Lee's bill, dubbed the "Protecting Florida Seniors from Financial Fraud Act," is an insult to the 71 Florida CCRCs that provide an excellent retirement experience and high-quality health care to more than 30,000 Floridians. This bill represents massive regulatory overreach — imposing 100 pages of needless regulations on all 71 CCRCs, most of which have been in existence for 20 or more years with long and accomplished records — in an effort to correct a problem with a single community that was taken over and managed by a known bad actor.
If the bill passes, it will produce unintended consequences ranging from destabilizing good-performing CCRCs to imposing higher costs on residents.
If given the opportunity, I would tell Lee that a bill of this magnitude with such far-reaching implications for residents, and for the field, would seem to merit conversation with experts who run CCRCs. I tried numerous times to schedule a meeting with the senator to discuss how this bill will impact Florida Presbyterian Homes' residents, to no avail.
This is not an acceptable way to represent constituents or the proper way to change public policy. I want Lee to know that I want to prevent and root out bad actors. I believe this task can be completed without destabilizing CCRCs or by increasing costs for residents.
I stand in opposition to SB 1430. If only my senator were willing to meet and listen.
John M. Hehn, Plant City
The threat is still with us
Last month, I stood with Florida Mosquito Control Association members from across the state to alert the public that Florida remains at risk for another Zika outbreak this year.
According to mosquito control experts, Florida's unseasonably warm winter has helped mosquitoes remain active in many parts of the state. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which transmit Zika and other dangerous diseases such as yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya, are still present at levels usually seen during summer months.
As a top tourist destination, Florida also remains susceptible to travel-related cases of Zika that can lead to locally acquired cases.
Unfortunately, the risks of the 2017 mosquito season are quickly becoming a reality. The Florida Department of Health has already reported 29 travel-related Zika infections, two locally acquired infections and 17 pregnant women with lab evidence of Zika.
That's why I'm supporting FMCA's request for additional funding this year for mosquito control efforts and research. It is imperative that local mosquito control organizations remain vigilant and well-positioned to implement more effective ways to reduce the population of this dangerous mosquito.
As you know, mosquitoes ignore county lines. While larger counties may have robust mosquito control programs, smaller neighboring counties may not, which can greatly reduce the overall effectiveness. That's why it's important to treat this as a statewide issue.
If we do not take the appropriate steps now to help local mosquito control programs, it could have serious consequences on the health and well-being of our residents and could impact our vital tourism industry.
With a warm winter behind us and rainy season ahead of us, we must work together to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors in the face of another outbreak. Allocating additional funding for organizations on the front lines of the fight against Zika is an important next step.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers
The writer is chairman of the Florida House Government Accountability Committee.
Gorsuch merits Senate approval | April 2, editorial
I am a daily reader of the Tampa Bay Times, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper of the first rank, and although more often than not the views of the paper are not necessarily mine, and its almost daily diatribe with regard to our sitting president cause me much consternation, this editorial deserves commendation.
Judge Neil Gorsuch is an experienced and competent appeals court judge of the first rank, and while his conservative viewpoint may not be that of everyone, he will serve the court with distinction.
The tragedy in our nation's capital is that lawmakers sent to D.C. seldom come together on just about any issue and threats of a filibuster solely for political means serve no one. I intend to send a copy of the astutely written editorial of the Tampa Bay Times to every legislator in hopes that it will serve as an impetus for them to confirm Gorsuch to the court.
John Osterweil, Tampa