Syringe exchange bill
Needle program deserves support
Senate Bill 808 is a sensible piece of legislation that would authorize a pilot syringe exchange program in Miami in order to reduce the spread of infectious diseases and to link injection drug users with addiction treatment services.
Research shows that syringe exchange programs effectively reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C by reducing the sharing, reuse and circulation of syringes and injecting equipment. The lifetime cost of treating an HIV-positive person runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars. With a sterile needle costing less than 50 cents, it is far cheaper to prevent a new case of HIV than it is to incur the lifelong treatment costs.
Additionally, by drastically reducing the improper disposal of used syringes in the community, these programs minimize the risk of accidental needlestick injuries among law enforcement officers, firefighters and members of the general public.
No state funds will be used to operate the program. Syringe exchange programs are commonly funded by nonprofit organizations and private charities.
Members of the House Health Quality Subcommittee voted last month in unanimous support of this measure. Sen. Aaron Bean needs to authorize a hearing, collect all the facts, and trust the Health Policy Committee to make an informed decision on SB 808. The people of Florida deserve to know where their senators stand on this issue.
Jon Bowes, Tallahassee
Prescribed burn gets out of hand | March 30
A prescribed burn on a windy day in the middle of the dry season? What was the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission thinking when they made that decision?
Alfred Barnard, Beverly Hills
Off path of righteousness | March 30, letter
The issue is freedom
This letter represents the typical argument spewed over and over by the antigay movement. It is nonsense because the issue is not one of morality, sin or religion; it is one of freedom. Our Founding Fathers did not come here to establish a religion-based country and laws; they left to escape such oppression.
If one were to sum up the idea behind the conception of the United States into one slogan, it would be "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." It is time to allow all citizens to have that unalienable right.
Jeremy Beau, Sarasota
Respect for others
The letter writer states that the "existence of the Creator and his dealings with men were self-evident" in the society in which our Founding Fathers lived. There's the rub: the society in which our Founding Fathers lived also allowed the enslavement of men (which the Bible sanctions) and did not allow women to vote or participate in government.
As brilliant as our forefathers were, they also had little knowledge of the other faiths that existed at that time and that now are practiced — and respected — within our own borders.
Some call modern technology progress. What I call progress is the opening of minds to other ways of living. What I call progress is the realization that those who don't follow my chosen beliefs might still be ethical, moral, valuable people.
Eileen Flaxman, Wimauma
Chef cannot work in Pinellas | March 30
Contract leaves a bad taste
There is no place in our business for this type of contract. The people who have committed themselves to working in the bar and restaurant business have already taken the career path of relatively low wages, long and late hours, no IRAs and no health insurance. It is a high-pressure, thankless industry, where employees deal with irregular schedules, screaming managers and owners who too often spend too much time at their own bars.
On the rare occasion that one of us gains recognition, there should be no such restriction on the ability to change jobs. Contracts are supposed to protect both parties. Unless there was a huge signing bonus, this contract should never have come into play.
Bruce Caplan, Redington Beach
Rein in legalized loan sharking March 23, editorial
Using credit responsibly
This editorial presents an unbalanced portrayal of the cash advance and the important role it plays in the lives of many hardworking families.
My company, Advance America, provides consumers with an affordable tool for overcoming short-term challenges, especially when compared with more expensive options such as overdraft fees, unregulated Internet loans or missing a bill payment.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no compounding interest on a cash advance. We charge a one-time, flat fee — in Florida, $15 to borrow the first $100, declining incrementally up to a maximum fee of $55 on a $500 loan. While we disclose this fee as a dollar amount and as an implied annual percentage rate to help consumers compare credit options, APR alone is not an appropriate measure for a two-week loan, as it describes the cost of taking out 26 consecutive cash advances.
While any form of credit can be abused or misused, our experience shows that most customers use payday advances responsibly: 97 percent of our customers repay their loans on time. We work with all customers to help them be successful borrowers, including those unable to repay by their due date, and offer an extended payment plan at no additional charge.
State and federal regulators should be concerned about the real "sharks" circling — unlicensed lenders that consumers will have little choice but to turn to if the cash advance is eliminated. Wherever lending restrictions have been passed, researchers and state regulators report increases in abusive lending and collections practices by unregulated lenders.
Consumers benefit from having a wide variety of financial choices when they need credit.
Jamie Fulmer, senior vice president, Advance America, Spartanburg, S.C.