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Foolish lawsuits in Florida? Here are a couple doozies | Editorial
Some highlights and lowlights from the past week around Tampa Bay and Florida.
Workers perform maintenance on the Carnival cruise line ship Carnival Magic while it is docked at Port Canaveral last year.
Workers perform maintenance on the Carnival cruise line ship Carnival Magic while it is docked at Port Canaveral last year. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Apr. 10
Updated Apr. 10

Two ill-advised lawsuits were among the lowlights of the past week. But we’ve got some highlights, too.

DeSantis out to sea. Gov. Ron DeSantis decided to waste time and state resources this week on a frivolous lawsuit that is going nowhere. But he likely did the calculus and saw a political win in suing the federal government to try to force the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow cruise ships to resume operating again immediately. Cruises in the U.S. have been banned for about a year due to COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths on multiple ships. Legal experts said the chance of Florida prevailing in the lawsuit is a longshot of longshots. We all want to return to the days of a thriving economy, but this feels like pure political theater.

Nobody wins water wars. Florida was embarrassed by a 9-0 U.S. Supreme Court decision this month smacking down its claim that Georgia was hoarding water that should have fed Apalachicola Bay and saved its famous oyster beds. Only the lawyers made out. As environmental author Cynthia Barnett points out in a column for the Tampa Bay Times, “Five private law firms have billed Florida taxpayers well over $100 million since 2001, when the earliest court battles began.” In other words, we’re paying a king’s ransom for a battle we resoundingly lost. Think what that money could have done to repair the environmental damage. Or to mitigate the economic devastation for those whose livelihoods depended on the oysters. Oh, and during the years that the case wound through the court system, the rains came, and still the oysters didn’t come back. The problem is variegated and complex. The lesson? Cooperation, not combat, is the only way to solve the problem of scarce resources in an era of encroaching climate change and rising seas.

Well done, sir. An attaboy to local state Sen. Jeff Brandes for breaching party line thinking and coming out publicly against the anti-riot bill moving through the state Legislature. The bill has high-profile backing from fellow Republicans Gov. DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, which makes Brandes’ stance all the more praiseworthy. Too few lawmakers for both major political parties stand up for what they really believe.

Smart justice. Allowing Keith Moran to remain out of prison while the court system figures out the next step in his case was the right move. Moran was 16 when he killed a retired Tampa bus driver and later sentenced to life in prison. After a series of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court opinions, he was let out in 2018 and appeared to be as rehabilitated as can be expected of any prisoner. But in February he was told he would have to return to prison to serve the rest of a 40-year sentence. This week, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Moran had served enough time to qualify for a 25-year review of his sentence, which at least for the meantime will keep him out of prison.

Hurricane season already? It’s barely mid-April, and hurricane season is only a month away. Wait, what? Yes, coming off the most active Atlantic storm season on record — 30 named storms — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will start issuing twice-daily tropical weather outlooks on May 15 rather than wait for the official start of June 1. Why? Because for the past six years, the storms didn’t wait for the official start either. Expect an above-average storm season, just not as bad as 2020. Tampa Bay was fortunate again last year, but our luck won’t hold forever. The first major forecast calls for 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. There is a 45 percent chance one could strike Florida or the East Coast. Might as well get your storm plans in order now. Sorry.

About time. For years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration failed to visit the lead smelter run by Gopher Resource in Tampa. And for years, workers inside the factory were exposed at times to air-lead levels hundreds of times above the federal limit, a recent Tampa Bay Times investigation found. Many workers were issued respirators that weren’t strong enough to protect them when poison levels spiked. OSHA regulators finally began inspecting the plant on Monday. What took so long?

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.