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  1. Letters to the Editor

Monday's letters: Spanish lesson on political divisions

Political divisions

Spanish lesson in civic deadlock

America's primary election process, albeit far from over, has already revealed the divisions in our body politic. Now the president's nomination of Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court has been greeted by Republican leaders in the Senate with a refusal to even take up the nomination. Short of civil conflict, could national unity be any farther from reality?

Consider the situation in Spain, Western Europe's fifth most populous country. The results of a Dec. 20 election left the conservative Popular Party far short of the absolute parliamentary majority it had enjoyed for several years. Its traditional opponent, the Socialist Workers' Party, came away in even worse shape. In response to long years of austerity measures designed to keep Spain from suffering the same fate as Greece, and several cases of corruption on the part of highly placed ruling party officials, there have arisen two new political groupings that surprisingly attained substantial parliamentary representations: a far-left party named Podemos (We can) and a center-right formation known as Ciudadanos (Citizens).

Invited by King Felipe VI to form a coalition government, the long-serving head of the ruling party declined. After protracted negotiations with the other three parties, two attempts by the Socialist leader failed to attain enough votes in parliament to form a government. As a result, Spain faces the prospect of a new election in June, although opinion polls predict little, if any, change in the outcome.

As if this deadlock were not serious enough, political leaders in the semi-autonomous region of Catalonia, the country's commercial and industrial powerhouse, have begun a series of actions and referendums that could lead to the region's secession from Spain in 2016.

Hopefully, we are not destined to face a similar prospect in this country.

Fred Kalhammer, Sun City Center

Disability awareness

People with disabilities

have much to offer

March is National Developmental Disability Awareness Month. People with disabilities are valuable, contributing members of our community who have much to offer and a desire to participate in society. Thanks to organizations like PARC, people with disabilities are leading richer and more fulfilling lives.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have proven to be reliable workers and excellent volunteers. Indeed, one of the programs of which PARC is extremely proud is our Employment Services Program. Through it, we are giving our clients the tools they need to find and hold jobs at competitive wages. Job coaches assist in these efforts, coordinating between PARC clients and their employers to make sure that the job placement is progressing satisfactorily on both ends.

You can help by hiring a person with a disability; inviting people with disabilities to participate in your civic organization or community activity; contacting your legislator and asking him or her to support citizens with disabilities in the Tampa Bay area; giving time or money to an organization that supports people with disabilities; or even just teaching your children that all people have something to contribute.

I am honored to work for PARC, a nonprofit organization that has been part of Pinellas County since 1953. Today, we serve more than 800 adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are turning disabilities into capabilities at PARC, and I encourage you to come and take a tour of our 11-acre campus.

Karen Higgins, St. Petersburg

The writer is president and CEO of PARC.

Assignment of benefits

Legislature fails consumers

With the 2016 session completed, the Florida Legislature has failed to pass a meaningful solution to the assignment of benefits crisis that is spinning out of control. Organized and carried out by a handful of vendors and lawyers, this kickback-driven lawsuit-for-profit scheme is already punishing homeowners with higher rates and threatens to do so for years to come.

Legislation filed by Sen. Dorothy Hukill and Rep. Matt Caldwell would have protected consumers by preventing a handful of vendors and their lawyers from stealing homeowners' insurance policy rights and using them to pad their own pockets. Sadly, these bills died when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla did not allow a hearing.

A news release by Citizens Property Insurance Corp. stated that water losses in South Florida will drive up rates in the region by the maximum 10 percent annually for years to come.

It is important to note that 40 percent of all assignment of benefits lawsuits involving restoration vendors in 2015 were filed by just five law firms.

Even without a hurricane making landfall, property insurance rates are set to skyrocket for all Floridians while a small group of greedy vendors and their lawyers get rich.

Florida deserves better.

William Stander, Tallahassee

The writer is executive director of the Florida Property & Casualty Association.

It's time to listen to Trump's message March 17, John Romano column

Understanding the appeal

Finally someone in the local media "gets it." I devoured John Romano's column and recommended it to my daughter in Georgia, who put it on Facebook.

Romano has honed in on Donald Trump's appeal to a wide variety of people who have been feeling ignored and taken for granted by the powers that be in government. He understands that these folks are not racist, misogynistic or homophobic … just human. And I appreciate his saying so, because with black and gay family members whom I love, I had grown tired of being categorized in this way.

I am fully aware that Romano is not himself a Trump voter, just a crackerjack newsman who has the courage to "tell it like it is."

Sandra Harrington, Tampa