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Highs and lows across Tampa Bay and Florida | Editorial
Two worthy gubernatorial vetoes, and what’s happening at Tarpon Springs High?
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks before he signs the state budget at The Villages, Florida, on June 2, 2022.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks before he signs the state budget at The Villages, Florida, on June 2, 2022. [ STEPHEN M. DOWELL | Orlando Sentinel ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jul. 2

Sparing local taxpayers. Gov. Ron DeSantis surprised his supporters and critics alike by vetoing a bill that would have made it easier for businesses to sue local governments. Senate Bill 620 would have allowed businesses from pill mills to puppy mills to sue if they lost 15 percent or more of their profits because of a local ordinance attempting to regulate them. The I-win, you-lose scheme would have encouraged frivolous lawsuits, and had a chilling effect on communities seeking to protect their quality of life, whether from pain clinics, party houses or no-tell motels. DeSantis was right in his veto message that the legislation was sloppily written; the measure would have put taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars in potential damages, and especially intimidated smaller and poorer communities from standing up to predatory operations. Make no mistake: DeSantis is no champion of local control, as his big-footing against cities and school districts has shown throughout Florida’s response to COVID-19. But this bill crossed the line, and the governor deserves credit for issuing a well-deserved veto that put the public interest first.

Bad alimony bill. Speaking of vetoes, the governor issued another good one by rejecting a bill that would have overhauled the state’s alimony laws. The bill from the 2022 legislative session would have done away with permanent alimony, set up maximum payments based on the duration of the marriage and changed the process for modifying alimony when those who pay it prepare to retire. The measure would have thrown thousands of settlements into turmoil, inviting new waves of costly and emotion-wrought litigation. One provision would have required judges to begin with a “presumption” that children should split their time equally between parents, a broad-brush approach to child placements that doesn’t put the interests of the minor first. There’s nothing wrong with revisiting Florida’s alimony laws. But it must be a thoughtful process that underscores the principles of fairness and dignity. And it needs to recognize that each divorce case, like every family, is unique. DeSantis’ veto marked the third time in recent years that a Florida governor has rejected an alimony overhaul. The message should be clear: Get it right.

Tarpon Springs turmoil. What’s up at Tarpon Springs High School? Four assistant principals resigned over the past year, the latest a week ago. Three started the 2021-22 academic year at the campus, and one joined the school in January as a replacement. The school also has had about two dozen teachers depart, including its current Teacher of the Year. As the Times’ Jeffrey S. Solochek reported Friday, several former staff members, including Lori Hoag, who taught at Tarpon Springs for 33 years until this spring, blamed principal Leza Fatolitis for running a dysfunctional workplace. Fatolitis isn’t talking, and neither is the Pinellas County School District. This is a major test for the new superintendent, Kevin Hendrick. He must find out what’s happening, fix it and provide a full, public account.

Working counts, too. Education is supposed to be the great equalizer. Florida just made it more so. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday allowing Florida high school students applying for the state’s college and vocational school scholarship program to substitute paid work experience for volunteering. Students who apply for the Bright Futures program starting in the next school year will be able to fulfill the volunteer requirement by working 100 hours. The change will help low-income families whose teenagers need to work, meaning that students who otherwise might not qualify now have the same opportunity. After-school work, like volunteering, brings “valuable life lessons,” as the governor said. Kudos to Florida lawmakers for this sensible reform.

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Morsanis and USF. Speaking of educational opportunities, there’s more of them now at the University of South Florida, thanks to longtime local philanthropists Frank and Carol Morsani. The university announced a $7 million donation from the couple this week, which will go to create student scholarships, an endowed chair in geriatrics and a director and professor position for “ethical leadership” in business. This is only the latest donation from the Morsanis, whose contributions to USF since the 1970s have advanced everything from the College of Medicine (which bears their name) to the Colleges of Public Health, Arts and Sciences and others, along with the university’s public broadcasting and sports programs. Their generosity is exceptional, and it makes Tampa Bay a better place to live.

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 Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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