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  1. Opinion

Here are the opinions to read before Florida’s legislative session starts

From teacher salaries to affordable housing, here are the opinions to read about the issues that affect you.
'For a Better Florida' is the Tampa Bay Times' annual series prior to the start of the legislative session. [Tampa Bay Times]
'For a Better Florida' is the Tampa Bay Times' annual series prior to the start of the legislative session. [Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jan. 13
Updated Jan. 14

Florida’s 2020 legislative session begins Tuesday. In advance, the Times editorial board has prepared editorials and columns on some of the key topics that will be discussed during the 60-day legislative session.

This piece will offer you a primer on each one.

Teachers and the classroom

Business teacher Pamela King, 42, Mariner High School, Cape Coral, right, joined thousands of public school teachers at a "Take On Tallahassee," rally organized by the Florida Education Association in a call for improved support from Florida lawmakers of public education. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

“This could be the year of the teacher in the Florida legislature,” the Times editorial board argues in this piece. With Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to raise the minimum teacher salary and rework the bonus program for teachers, there is a lot on the table for teachers this year.

High school students need to earn credentials that will actually prepare them for life after graduation, writes Patricia Levesque, executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future and the CEO of ExcelinEd. But students should also focus on credentials for positions where there is significant demand, like IT security professionals and automobile service technicians.

Amendment 4

Former felon Yolanda Wilcox, left, fills out a voter registration form as her best friend Gale Buswell looks on at the Supervisor of Elections office, in Orlando. [JOHN RAOUX | AP]

Florida voters “righted an historic wrong in 2018 by passing Amendment 4, which was aimed at ending a burdensome process for felons to regain their voting rights,” says the Times editorial board. But last year, state legislators passed a law that required felons pay all court fees, fines and restitution before being allowed to vote. “The move drastically undercut the promise of Amendment 4, which was believed to restore the right to vote to up to 1.4 million Floridians.”

Last month, 31 people in Hillsborough County got back the right to vote through a new program from Hillsborough County Clerk of Court Pat Frank and State Attorney Andrew Warren. In this column, Frank goes so far as to say that a law requiring felons to pay their fines, fees and court costs before receiving their right to vote may not be in word a “poll tax,” it essentially is one, in deed.

Affordable housing

Supporters of a rent control initiative calling for more rent control march on the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. [RICH PEDRONCELLI | AP]

There’s a reason the Florida Legislature created an affordable housing trust fund in 1992. So why aren’t they fully using it, asks the Times editorial board. The question comes down to “whether legislators think accessible and comfortable housing is a basic human right, or just one only the middle class and the wealthy deserve.”

Toll roads

Proposed corridors for three new toll road expansions. [LANGSTON TAYLOR | Tampa Bay Times]

“A trip along the west coast of Florida from the Panhandle to the Everglades is a voyage through some of the state’s finest remaining natural lands,” writes former secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, Victoria Tschinkel. But three proposed toll roads could soon threaten those lands—"and the waters they shelter."

Local control

Mac Stipanovich

Why do Florida legislators act like mayors?” asks former Republican strategist and lobbyist Mac Stipanovich in this column. It used to be that the Republican Party of the Reagan era believed “the best government is that closest to the people.” But that is no longer the case.

The death penalty

Left: Dailey at his 1987 trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to death. Middle: Dailey in 1993, when he was again sentenced to die. Right: The most current photo of Dailey on Florida's Death Row. [Times]

“If the governor goes ahead in his quest to execute Death Row inmates James Dailey,” writes columnist Daniel Ruth, “all of that blood on DeSantis’ hands could make those bill-signing ceremonies a bit messy.”

Should insurers get your DNA?

Workers at Spectrum Solutions in Draper, Utah, process DNA spit kits before they are sent to customers of Ancestry.com.

“Did you know that the DNA testing kit you received for Christmas could be used against you?” asks State Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. He has filed legislation that will require that genetic testing companies cannot “sell or share” results and prohibit insurers from using them to base policies and pricing.

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  1. Here’s what readers are saying in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
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  3. Teachers and supporters march during the Florida Education Association's "Take on Tallahassee" rally at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee. [PHIL SEARS  |  AP]
    Here’s what readers are saying in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
  4. Florida's unemployment rate hit a record low in December. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) [LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP]
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  5. The entrance to Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa. [Courtesy of Moffitt Cancer Center]
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  6. The Florida Aquarium celebrates its 25th year. And it has much to show for it.
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  7. Mac Stipanovich
    Whether it’s regulating the collection of voter signatures on the front end or passing new laws on the back end, they seek to silence the voices of the governed.
  8. St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway and U.S. Attorney, Middle District of Florida, Maria Chapa Lopez, announced the Department of Justice awarded a $741,556 grant to the St. Petersburg Police Department for three years to create a regional Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force at the department. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
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  9. A rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week would allow airlines to crack down on personal pets that are carried aboard as so-called service animals. [MARK SCHIEFELBEIN  |  AP]
    Trained dogs are fine. Pigs and turkeys—uh, no.
  10.  [Andy Marlette -- Pensacola News Journal]
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