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LAWMAKERS FAIL, SO VOTERS MUST ACT

Vote no on Amendment 1 - Oct. 5, editorial

The Times editorial board recently wrote that "few acts are more essential to preserving Florida's economy, its way of life and its beauty than protecting its natural resources" - and then recommended a no vote on Amendment 1, which, if passed, would do just that. The board contends that rejecting the amendment would "preserve the Constitution" and pressure "lawmakers to adequately fund conservation."

The former assertion is misguided; the latter is ridiculous.

Fortunately, one Florida editorial board has done an excellent job of refuting these claims.

Like in 2006, when it wrote about citizen initiatives: "In the real world, lawmakers seek re-election from safe, gerrymandered districts. ... That means citizens need some relief valve, some way to be heard when lobbyists rule the Capitol."

Or in August, when it wrote: "(Republican leaders') low regard for clean water ... makes it difficult to envision a fair debate over how to manage the state's precious natural resource."

Or in September, when it wrote: "(Amendment 1 is) needed to protect Florida from governors like the incumbent, who has no sense of Florida and its values."

Which paper made such a strong case for Amendment 1 on its editorial page? The Tampa Bay Times.

Ryan Smart, Tallahassee

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Vote no on Amendment 1 - Oct. 5, editorial

Protect precious resources

Florida can make a historic commitment to protecting our drinking water sources and conserving wildlife habitat by passing Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment.

We can step up and take action together to protect our bays, rivers and springs, or we can stand by and hope others do what's right. We've tried the "hope" route. It has failed us. It's time to take Florida's future into our own hands and vote yes on Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 provides 20 years of dedicated funding to restore the Everglades, protect drinking water sources, and revive the state's historic commitment to preserving natural lands and wildlife habitat without raising taxes.

It uses a small, existing fee on real estate transactions that for decades has been the funding source for water and land conservation, but in recent years has been diverted to other purposes.

Some (including the Tampa Bay Times) believe this should not be in the Constitution. Respectfully, they are wrong. Article II, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution says it shall be the "policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty." Amendment 1 puts real funding behind this mandate to reduce water pollution and conserve our natural resources.

As a former judge and law professor, I'm convinced that the limited duration and flexible financial scope of Amendment 1 make it a reasonable proposal in light of the urgent need for action.

Nearly 1 million Florida voters signed petitions to put Amendment 1 on the ballot. They understand we owe it to future generations to protect Florida's water quality, natural areas, beaches and wildlife. The fact that we can do this without new taxes makes the choice clear: Vote yes on Amendment 1.

J. Allison DeFoor, chair, Vote Yes on Amendment 1 campaign, Crawfordville

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Council could cut museum funding

Oct. 2

Offensive language

St. Petersburg City Council member Wengay Newton said it would be "retarded" to continue funding the Carter G. Woodson museum. I have no opinion on funding for the museum. I do have an opinion on Newton's use of the word "retarded." It was offensive and derogatory toward people with intellectual disabilities. My son has Down syndrome. Along with other parents of children with intellectual disabilities, I try to "spread the word to end the word" - the "r" word.

As an elected official who makes decisions that affect the entire city, Newton has a responsibility to show respect for all residents, including those with intellectual disabilities. His use of the word "retarded" was disrespectful, especially considering that he made the statement in the course of an interview with the Times and presumably knew his quote could be published.

Anne Hathorn, St. Petersburg

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Vote no on Amendment 2 - Oct. 5, editorial

Safeguards in place

I was surprised to read the Times recommendation to vote no on the proposed amendment to legalize medical marijuana. The editors argue that the language of the amendment is overly broad and that amending the Constitution is not the way to address the issue.

Yet the amendment has a very clear list of limitations that address at least some concerns for abuse. It also requires the Department of Health to issue reasonable regulations necessary to implement and enforce access to marijuana. It isn't a free-for-all.

As far as the appropriate venue for enacting the law, yes, most states have done so in their legislatures, but others have also gone the route of amending their constitution. If Florida legislators had the will to take up the matter, an amendment wouldn't have been necessary.

Florida's Constitution has been amended to protect pregnant pigs and permit slot machine gaming, both important issues to voters. Clearly, the protection of patients who need to obtain effective treatment in the face of outdated laws and serious criminal penalties is at least as deserving of our consideration.

Michael Sedita, Redington Beach

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Familiar issues, faces for Congress

Oct. 4, editorial

Editorials disappoint

I usually vote a "straight Times ticket" in hopes that more progressive candidates will find their way to Washington to perhaps correct our current nonfunctioning government.

But what do I find in these recommendations? Four local candidates who have worked against the president on health care, immigration reform, job creation, gun safety, raising the minimum wage, etc.

Through a twist of redistricting fate, I lost my representative, Kathy Castor, and gained Dennis Ross, one of the worst newcomers to Congress in recent history. He has led town hall meetings to carp about the Affordable Care Act and other progressive issues. And the Times gives its recommendation - why? He's been working for everything that is wrong.

Jim Teske, Tampa

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