In this series looking toward the Nov. 6 elections, opposing candidates answer question on issues facing Pinellas County. Today's candidates are seeking the District 18 seat in the State Senate. The questions were prepared and the answers solicited by the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area.Q What are your priorities for ethics reform? What ethics and election reforms would you work toward?
A Don Sullivan, Republican: Legislators should not be able to accept any campaign contributions until they have finished voting. I do not believe that elected officials should be allowed to accept gifts. There needs to be strict reporting procedures by legislators of any benefits or activities which are performed as part of their legislative duties.
I believe that the electoral playing field needs to be leveled. The advantages of the incumbent are excessive and work to distort the election process. I feel that Florida should have a constitutional amendment which would limit the terms of legislators and Cabinet officers.
Jeanne Malchon, Democrat: First, I would support the public financing of campaigns.
Second, I would support the prohibition of any gifts either singly or cumulative over $100 from any one source (individual or corporate).
Third, I would support financial disclosure laws which are meaningful or useful. Ethics laws should address an identified problem in a way that does not place at a disadvantage the elected official who honors the spirit as well as the letter of the law while others are able to circumvent. Reporting procedures should be simplified and penalties strictly enforced.
Q Low voter turn-out continues to be a problem, and many believe that increased opportunities for voter registration would improve voter participation. Do you agree, and if so, what state legislation would you support to address this problem?
A Sullivan: I think voter participation could be improved by things which improve voter interest in the political process. I think that limitation of terms would produce more interest by producing new candidates and new ideas. I also think there would be more interest if the election process were a shorter period of time.
Perhaps allowing voter registration at the time of drivers license issuance would make it more convenient. Also, encouraging jury duty rosters to be derived from drivers license lists rather than voter registration files.
Malchon: There needs to be mail registration. I have also discussed "smart card" voting procedures with the division of elections and intend to pursue it.
Q Would you support state legislation or a change in the Constitution to allow county school boards to be elected on a non-partisan basis? If not, why not?
A Sullivan: No, because political parties represent broad classes of philosophically compatible people. This allows the voter to choose groups which most reflect his viewpoint. This is especially so at school board level.
Elected political parties also contribute to cooperation between elected officials and allow for better working relationships and more efficient government.
Q The Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services (HRS) has received a lot of negative press recently. What are the most serious problems facing HRS and what solutions would you propose?
A Sullivan: A total review of HRS is called for. HRS contains a lot of very good, well-intentioned people who are currently burdened by an archaic system and poor funding. The entire HRS system needs to be rethought out and broken up into more streamlined units. Local units must be given more freedom to adapt to their community and individual caseworkers must be given more freedom to work within the system.
Malchon: Inadequate funding is a big problem. Until we provide sufficient funding to attract and retain qualified people, have adequate training programs and reduce case loads, other reforms will be about as useful as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Q What recommendations do you have for solving the health care crisis, particularly the dilemma facing the thousands of Florida citizens who have no health insurance?
A Sullivan: There is no question in my mind that the system must be reformed. There are three elements which I believe must underlie reforming the system and they are as follows: a)Every resident in the United States must, by law, be enrolled in an adequate health care plan. b)Employees must be free to join a company plan, but they must not be financially penalized if they choose an alternative. c)The government's role is to monitor the health market, subsidize individuals so they can obtain sufficient services and obtain and encourage competition.
Malchon: I have passed legislation in the last two sessions which will lead to pooling the purchasing power of public dollars, spent both for insurance coverage to public employees and purchase of services for medically indigent, so that improved levels of coverage will be available to all. The legislation also created a private sector task force to develop recommendations as to how the state can assist the private sector employer to extend their coverage. Reports are due in the 1991 Legislature.
Q What should be the role of the Legislature in moving the state of Florida toward mandatory recycling of most solid waste products?
A Sullivan: The Legislature must develop a series of tax incentives and legislative inducements for recycling solid waste products. Mandatory programs will cost us jobs and seldom work efficiently. Communities must be provided with incentives and funding to encourage their constituents to move toward recycling of solid waste products.
Malchon: Container deposit legislation is needed. Economic incentives and penalties for degrees of recycling of other materials should be developed.
Q A proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot requires a three-day waiting period when purchasing a hand gun. Do you favor such action, and would you support any further restrictions on firearms purchases? Why?
A Sullivan: I favor the constitutional amendment on the ballot and feel that the citizens of Florida are entitled to vote on this issue. I feel that felons and convicted criminals should be prevented from ever owning or possessing a handgun.
Malchon: I voted to place it on the ballot. I would and did support a longer waiting period of seven days and stricter checks for issuing concealed weapons' permits.
Q What are your views on the current status (successes and failures) of the Growth Management Act of 1985. What revisions, if any, would you make in this law?
A Sullivan: The Growth Management Act needs to be expanded and strengthened. The Growth Management Act is a start, but we need to define the direction in which we want growth and development to proceed. Specifically, we must do a better job of guiding the growth into areas where it belongs. We must decide what areas should not be developed and protect our ecology.
The relationship of local governments to the state and deciding who is going to provide what services and funding is the other issue which must be addressed.
Malchon: The act needs to be implemented and given a chance to work. I would like to see more attention given to socio-structure needs and the strengthening of anti-sprawl provisions.
Q What major tax reforms, if any, would you support that might help Florida's current fiscal crisis?
A Sullivan: In the 1990s, local governments will face increasingly serious financial problems and they will need a substantial increase in their authority to develop financial policies suited to local needs and circumstances. This will require the Legislature removing statutory limits placed on existent local government revenues. Secondly, we should consider repealing the constitutional pre-emption of state use of all taxes but the ad valorem property tax.
Malchon: The tax and budget reform commission is currently reviewing Florida's tax structure, and hopefully will make some constructive recommendations.
Q Do you support legislation at the state level to limit freedom of choice as it pertains to a woman's right to an abortion? If given the opportunity, list any restrictions which you would support or oppose.
A Sullivan: I abhor abortions, as do most women. However, I support the unlimited right of a woman to choose to have an abortion for a reasonable period of time after conception and certainly in the case of incest and rape.
To the fullest extent possible, the government should stay out of the decision. I personally favor requiring consent where minors are concerned, although the Florida Supreme Court has ruled against that. I think abortion clinics should be regulated as other medical facilities are regulated, no more and no less.
Malchon: Abortion is a matter on individual choice based upon religious convictions and medical situations. Neither is a matter for legislative determination or governmental interference.