1. Opinion

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state's 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the amendment was easily defeated, and sugar's campaign contributions will keep flowing.

It's disappointing that every House member representing Tampa Bay voted against the amendment: Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa; Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor; Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland; Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota; and Dan Webster, R-Clermont. The votes by Castor and Crist are particularly perturbing, because Democrats voted en masse against the overall farm bill Friday for other reasons — and the bill was surprisingly defeated. Both Democrats are in safe districts; Castor already has won re-election because she has no opponent.

Credit the three Florida Republicans who believe in free markets and who stood up for taxpayers and consumers and voted for the amendment: Reps. Ron DeSantis of Palm Coast, Brian Mast of Palm City and Francis Rooney of Naples.

The defeat won't end the discussion about sugar's grip on Florida. DeSantis voted for the amendment and has previously opposed the sugar subsidies. He is running for the Republican nomination for governor against state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose political committee has received more than $400,000 from U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals and has long leaned over backward for them. Three of the four Democratic candidates for governor also say they are not accepting sugar money: former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Orlando entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine.

Voters, take note.