McConnell wants vote on birth control plan | Feb. 13
Employer beliefs shouldn't determine care
Last weekend Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the Senate, stood firm on the Republican belief that employers with a religious objection to contraception should not have to extend that medical service to their employees. In response to this contrived controversy, Republicans plan to introduce legislation that would allow employers to exempt their employees from access to any medical care that the employer had a religious objection to.
So according to the Republican concept of religious freedom, if your employer objects to contraception, your insurance doesn't pay for it. If your employer is a Jehovah's Witness, you may not have access to blood transfusions; if your employer is a devout evangelical, you may not have access to treatment of sexually transmitted diseases because fornication is a sin; and if your employer is a conservative Jew, you may not have access to transplant services. Republicans apparently believe that your employer's religious beliefs should determine what health care you have access to.
Edward Briggs, St. Petersburg
It's already happened
Sen. Mitch McConnell is quoted in the Times as saying:
"And this is what happens when the government tries to take over health care and tries to interfere with your religious beliefs."
Would someone please inform McConnell that the federal government administers his health care?
D.J. Holding, Dover
Addicts' help may soon turn to woe | Feb. 12
Recovery houses for addicts need better supervision
This front-page article about American Restoration Centers was an enlightening look into the strange circumstances regarding "recovery houses" and "sober living" facilities in the Tampa Bay area. Coincidentally, the same page reported on the death of a renowned figure plagued by addiction problems.
This disease is a genuine killer and no respecter of race, creed or financial status. Addicts who have descended to rock bottom need, foremost, food and shelter. They are among the most vulnerable in our community, yet it appears anyone with the right words in the right ears, and some half-baked plan, can waltz into town and open a halfway house.
Where is the oversight? Who is responsible to protect and provide comprehensive services to those in need? Also, our community's property owners need to know that they are dealing with reliable individuals.
Joseph Walsh, Treasure Island
150 to be tested for TB | Feb. 11
Dangers are still out there
As a medical student attending the University of South Florida, I was impressed to see your paper address tuberculosis testing at USF. It is important to inform the public about dangerous diseases, such as TB, that are still active and capable of affecting anyone, even young healthy people in the United States.
Although this was one outbreak, it is crucial to realize that about 14 million people are infected with TB and millions die from it each year. Now that we have seen that TB is transmissible and present in our community, we should support programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Already, this program has provided inexpensive and simple vaccines to treat and prevent the spread of these fatal diseases.
Kathy Lue, Tampa
District lines need work | Feb. 12, editorial
Keep race out of it
Twice under the subheadline "Minority districts" you talk about the ability of "minority voters to elect the candidate of their choice." What does that mean? I'm old enough to remember the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights and don't recall any talk about forming majority-minority districts. It was about the right to vote as guaranteed by the Constitution, period.
If the boundaries of a school were drawn in such a racially gerrymandered manner, there would be an outcry. The same should apply to voter districts. Leave race and ethnicity out of it. If minority voters come out in huge numbers, the candidate of their choice will be elected.
Joseph H. Brown, Tampa
Capture of monkeys triggers debate | Feb. 12
Just leave them alone
I hope that the trappers and other people who trap innocent animals and do who-knows-what with them are aware of karma. If the law of the land can't stop it, karma is the next best hope.
Unless something is going out of its way to harm you, you should leave it be. This pertains to monkeys, raccoons, squirrels, people, fish, alligators and any other innocent bystander.
We are all here trying to survive. If it's not trying to harm you, leave it alone.
None of these trapped animals should be killed. If they must be trapped, they must be relocated to a habitat where they can survive.
Dianne Dunphy, Tampa
No state takeover
Let's get to the facts about the Florida Department of Transportation and the transportation bill in the Legislature regarding expressway authorities. The bill does not eliminate the expressway authorities or even take control of the local boards. The bill simply says FDOT would collect the tolls on behalf of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority and the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority. All revenues collected would still be controlled by the local expressway authorities.
FDOT already processes 80 percent of the transactions for THEA through SunPass. A comparison of the costs to collect tolls through an all-electronic system shows it costs FDOT 6 cents per transaction for the I-95 Express system in southeast Florida while it costs 10 cents per transaction for the Selmon Expressway. FDOT can do the job more efficiently and at a greater savings for the taxpayers.
FDOT's district office understands and responds to transportation priorities in the Tampa Bay region. FDOT is responsible for more than 1,000 miles of roads on 57 state routes in the five-county region of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. Investments by FDOT will continue to serve the best interests of the region. It is myth that FDOT projects are selected by Tallahassee. Project selection is a truly a bottom-up approach where the local transportation partners prioritize projects for the department to fund.
Don Skelton, Florida Department of Transportation, District 7 secretary