Court’s good ruling. The Florida Supreme Court struck a blow for open government and police accountability with its ruling Thursday that law enforcement and crime victims cannot shield their identity behind the constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law. The amendment, which Florida voters passed in 2018, gives crime victims explicit rights throughout the criminal justice process, including the right to “prevent the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family.” But some law enforcement agencies have interpreted the law broadly to routinely withhold victims’ names. Some have further cited the amendment in refusing to disclose the names of officers involved in using force, claiming these officers were victims, too, and therefore protected. In the opinion written by Justice John Couriel, the Supreme Court ruled that “Marsy’s Law does not guarantee to a victim the categorical right to withhold his or her name from disclosure.” Rather, the court held, Marsy’s Law speaks about a victim’s right to prevent information from being disclosed that could be used to “locate” them. This was a commonsense ruling and an overdue rebuke to the police agencies across Florida that have cynically abused the amendment. Protecting crime victims is different than throwing a blanket over policing or needlessly arousing public suspicion of the criminal justice process.
Commandeering the bus. How often do Florida’s Senate president and House speaker ride the bus in Pinellas County? Try never. So why does Republican Rep. Linda Chaney of St. Pete Beach think it’s a good idea to give the big shots in Tallahassee a say over the local bus system? A bill Chaney sponsored that would restructure the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority received the blessing Wednesday of the county’s legislative delegation, which approved it along party lines. Among other things, the bill would downsize the agency’s 15-member governing board to 11 members and, in the process, shift two board appointments to the Legislature while eliminating seats currently guaranteed to St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Largo and Pinellas Park. Chaney said the move would make transit board members “more engaged” and “more accountable to the voters.” How does that happen when you’re shifting appointments 300 miles away? This is a terrible bill and a power grab that shows nothing but contempt for local constituents, and we hope calmer heads prevail in the coming legislative session.
Protect Florida agriculture. What does this year’s record heat mean for Plant City’s reputation as the “winter strawberry capital of the world”? A report this week by the Tampa Bay Times’ Michaela Mulligan examines how climate change and Plant City’s continued growth could impact this fabled area industry. Plant City obliterated heat records this summer; for nine days in August, temperatures reached between 103 and 104 degrees — the hottest in the city’s recorded history. If these temperatures continue, the town’s precious crop may have to be grown somewhere else. Florida winters hit the sweet spot for strawberries, with a mild and cool harvesting season, which generally runs from November to April. But a study published by the Environmental Defense Fund predicts that rising temperatures could threaten those ideal weather conditions. That could become dangerous for the delicate fruit and push the crop 100 miles north. The warming climate and development pressures should bring a newfound focus on mitigation. Farmers and the state need to work on clean energy strategies to protect a robust agricultural industry in Florida.
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