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  1. Opinion

Here is why Florida’s families need parental leave

Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.

Parental leave for Florida families

Family leave

Every year, Tallahassee lawmakers approve policies and tax breaks that benefit special interests and big corporations, while ignoring those who need assistance most: working families. It’s time that our lawmakers refocus their attention and serve the needs of Floridians. That starts with passing paid family leave.

Family should come first. We need to fight for paid family leave so everyone has the opportunity to be there for the most important moments in their families’ lives. The bill that I’ve proposed in the Florida, the Family Act, would require Florida employers to create provisions to allow certain employees to take paid family leave to bond with a new baby. My colleague, state Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, is sponsoring the House companion.

Increasing paid family leave has been proven to reduce infant mortality. Yet 1 in 4 women are forced to return to work within two weeks of giving birth, putting the health of newborns and postpartum women at risk. Paid family leave should not be an elite benefit, accessible only to some.

Janet Cruz [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]

Paid family leave makes economic sense. It reduces costly turnover, increases employee retention and improves productivity. Inclusive paid family leave helps close the gender wage gap by helping women to stay in the workforce and rise to leadership roles. Many women leave the workforce all together because they do not have access to paid family leave or affordable childcare options. We have an entire state agency devoted to seeding money to corporations with hopes they will set up shop in Florida. It’s time we make a similar effort and invest in keeping working families in the workforce.

Family should always come first. Paid family leave shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s a common-sense solution that will help working families, boost our economy and, most importantly: it’s the right thing to do.

Janet Cruz, Tampa

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 18 in the Florida Senate.

Let cities, counties govern

Home rule

Election day at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

I am deeply concerned with the Legislature’s continuous efforts to strip municipalities and counties of their rights and ability to govern. Preemption, where the state of Florida passes laws that override the ability of cities and counties to govern themselves, does a disservice to local governments across the state. For example, at the city of Tampa, we worked for years on a tree ordinance; we spent countless hours with neighborhoods, builders, developers, policy experts and city staff. The passage of HB1159/SB1400 during Florida’s last legislative session nullified all of our work as a community.

Joseph Citro

Removing local control creates a climate of discord and does not allow cities to govern and advise on future planning. This tree removal law is just one example. Other issues such as short-term rentals, small cell wireless, medical marijuana facilities and sales of firearms through gun shows are just a few others that have seen the Legislature tie the hands of cities to appropriately govern themselves. It seems that with each session, the Legislature takes steps to continue to control policy and zoning regulations to prevent municipalities from allowing its citizens from deciding what is best for our communities.

I am proud of my colleagues for unanimously passing a motion to send a letter to the legislative delegation to address the protection of home rule. In that letter I have asked that the Legislature ensure that legislators take the time to discuss future regulations with city leaders. I want to ensure that we can address potential conflicts and discuss current and proposed legislation with them before they create conflicts with our current and future ordinances.

Joseph Citro, Tampa

The writer represents District 1 on the Tampa City Council.

These kids need care

Dental care for the underserved

A 9-year-old child gets a dental checkup at the Pinellas County Health Department in Largo last week.

As a dental hygienist working in an underserved area of Hillsborough County, I see the real life impacts that our state’s oral health care crisis has on individuals, including children. I work in the Suncoast Community Health Centers, Inc.’s mobile program, which provides services outside of the traditional dental clinic setting, in order to bring oral care directly to those in need, many of whom have never been to a dentist before.

While the majority of the patients I see have Medicaid or private insurance, more than half are still suffering from untreated dental disease. Many of the children I see require urgent dental care because they’re suffering from the pain of an infection. But, as a hygienist, I can only provide limited preventive services, and many of those that we see are in desperate need of restorative care, in order to stop the progression of the dental disease that has already begun.

There was a point when our mobile dental program, A Smile Every Mile, was able to provide restorative care by a dentist, but the cost of staffing a dentist was ultimately prohibitive. The authorization of dental therapists in Florida would give settings like our mobile unit an additional provider who could deliver quality oral health care to our patients who need it most and have them treated before the pain of an infection lands them in the emergency room.

Our appointments are already booked out for months, and new patients join the waiting list every day; the introduction of dental therapists to programs like ours is just another tool in the toolbox that we could have to meet the needs of so many Floridians in underserved areas.

Chante Miller, Tampa

The writer works at Suncoast Community Health Centers, Inc.

Not just for students

DeSantis: Add civics exam in high school | Dec. 11

Being civic-educated and knowledgeable and appreciative of the moral and ethical values of a democracy are important attributes for U.S. citizens. If you don’t understand and appreciate this, just listen to some of the things our president has said since assuming office.

William Emener, St. Pete Beach