Win the hearts of Floridians instead
A partisan presentation | May 7
Despite Donald Trump’s victory in Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ acknowledgement that voting in Florida was more transparent and efficient than in any other state in the country, the governor has signed a bill which imposes new limits on using drop boxes and voting by mail, among other voting restrictions.
Why? According to many Florida Republican lawmakers, they are following the paths of other Republican-led states in passing new voting restrictions based on Trump’s assertion that there was widespread fraud in the presidential election. However, no evidence has ever been found to show that widespread election fraud occurred, despite numerous state voting recounts and over sixty court cases filed by Trump’s attorneys. Also, DeSantis himself said Florida’s election was fair and safe, which contradicts the assertion widespread election fraud occurred, at least in Florida.
So what is the real reason for the changes? The intention of the new voting law is to make the voting process more difficult for people who are more likely to vote for Democrats, based on information on how Republicans and Democrats differ in voting behavior. Nobody knows for sure this strategy will work. It could backfire. Time will tell. But wouldn’t it be more ethical if Republican politicians tried to earn the votes of their political rivals instead of trying to find ways to discourage them from voting?
Henry J. Weese, Palm Harbor
No, no and no again
A partisan presentation | May 7
Why have new voting restrictions been signed into Florida law? Data suggesting the need for legislation? No. County supervisors of elections requesting legislation? No. Documented fraud suggesting need for legislation? No. Florida voters demanding need for legislation? No. So, what do our legislators know that others don’t know? Nothing. So why are we incurring the costs of these new laws? And yes, there is a high cost associated with these changes. Again, why? Simple. Voter suppression.
MaryAnn Sanchez, Palm Harbor
Bad for teens
Home rule on tobacco products
The American Heart Association wishes Gov. DeSantis had vetoed Senate Bill 1080, which he signed Friday. The bill preempts local governments from creating local ordinances to hold tobacco and nicotine retailers accountable and in compliance with legal age requirements, marketing, advertising and product placement. The American Heart Association has partnered with local Tobacco Free Coalitions to develop tobacco retail licensure best practices. We believe that local governments greatly assist the state by enacting local tobacco ordinances in their individual communities.
Almost 1 out of 4 (21.6%) of Florida high school students are using e-cigarettes, which demonstrates the need for policies to protect youth from tobacco and nicotine. The addiction to nicotine has a direct correlation to smoking and thus smoking-related illness, including heart disease. This bill will give the tobacco industry free rein to market and advertise these harmful products to our youth.
The bill is disguised as just raising the legal minimum age requirement to purchase tobacco and nicotine products to 21, but federal law already does this. With this bill becoming law, numerous products will be left unregulated for youth to access, and local governments will be prohibited from engaging in local tobacco control efforts. It’s too bad the governor didn’t veto this bill. Doing so would have put the safety and health of our youth above profits for the tobacco industry.
Amanda Palumbo, St. Petersburg
The writer is executive director of the American Heart Association Tampa Bay.
What it’s time for
DeSantis blocks local COVID rules | May 4
This relatively new Florida resident is having serious misgivings about the intelligence of our state’s leader. Just in the past two days, more than 7,000 new COVID-19 cases have been reported, yet Gov. Ron DeSantis is dead set on sending everyone out onto the streets maskless and clueless. How can this person claim that the danger is past when the state’s positivity rate has remained adamantly in the 10 percent range since forever? Now is not the time to relax one’s guard; rather, it is a time for caution and care at all levels. But it is time for a serious change in leadership for our state.
Kirk Hazlett, Riverview
The writer is adjunct professor of Communication at the University of Tampa.
Last line of defense
Republicans wish Liz Cheney would keep quiet | Column, May 6
In crafting the Constitution, the framers recognized that democracy, by its very nature, would allow despots to emerge and sow the seeds of factiousness. To ensure that no single individual or branch of government became powerful enough to threaten the lifeblood of the republic, safeguards were put in place in the form of checks and balances. After 233 years, these measures have failed. The root cause is abject fealty to Donald Trump by most Republicans in Congress. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and a few other Republicans, most notably Mitt Romney, who refuse to sanction Trump’s despotic narrative, may be the last line of defense against the collapse of democracy as envisioned by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton et al.
Jane Larkin, Tampa
Take care of your well-being
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
Nearly 2 in 5 Floridians say they’ve experienced new or increased anxiety or another mental health concern since the start of the pandemic. What’s troubling is that more than half of these individuals say they did not seek professional help. The Central Florida Behavioral Health Network encourages Floridians to prioritize their mental health and seek behavioral health services when needed. By speaking to a professional or calling 2-1-1, individuals can connect to the mental health resources they need to lead healthy and productive lives.
At Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, we’re committed to delivering even more behavioral health services to the Suncoast area through initiatives like our partnership with Hillsborough and Pasco county schools to expand school-based mental health response and care coordination services. This is one of our many initiatives geared toward helping vulnerable Floridians, especially children, receive the care they need. Throughout May, we encourage Floridians to join our social media campaign “Mind Your Mental Health Florida” to raise awareness about mental health stigmas and the 2-1-1 helpline. Individuals can participate by writing 2-1-1 on their hands or use our campaign sign and post it to social media with #MindYourMentalHealthFL.
Linda McKinnon, Tampa
The writer is president and CEO of Central Florida Behavioral Health Network.