Working to get children covered
The Legislature is in session and it's Children's Week, a time to renew our promise to continue improving the children's health system until all young people can get the care they need. More than 377,000 children lack health insurance in Florida. Until this number is zero, there are children and families who need our help.
As a former state legislator and now Hillsborough County commissioner, I have made it my mission to protect the health and well-being of Florida's children. In our county, we've recently made great strides with nutrition education campaigns. Because of the dedication of organizations like Florida Healthy Kids — which provides affordable health insurance options for children through the Florida KidCare program — the tide is beginning to turn toward a healthy future.
Hillsborough County accounts for 22,677 of the uninsured children in the state. While this number seems daunting, I am confident we can change it. Florida Healthy Kids' mission is to decrease the number of children who lack health insurance by providing affordable options to families at all income levels.
We can't be complacent. Locally, I encourage county and city leaders to spread the word about this important issue and the options available. Statewide, let's ask our Florida legislators to renew their support for the programs that bring affordable access to health care for our children. Now is the time for our leaders to act on behalf of our most vulnerable population and give them the best chance for a healthy future.
Sandy Murman, Hillsborough County commissioner, Tampa
Oil bills are misleading
Two years ago, unauthorized hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, occurred in Florida. The state was unable to stop it, making it evident that Florida's oil and gas laws are inadequate. With lawmakers considering several oil bills, it is important to address misleading claims.
The Associated Industries of Florida recently asserted that fracking increases property values. However, a 2015 American Economic Review study shows that property values of homes relying on groundwater — such as most in Florida — drop near oil wells. The other major sectors of Florida's economy — tourism and agriculture — also depend on clean freshwater. In contrast, Florida contributes less than 0.1 percent to U.S. domestic oil production, making it clear that financial gains from unconventional oil extraction are unlikely.
The AIF also criticized a Johns Hopkins study that found a correlation between premature births and proximity to active wells — falsely claiming the authors failed to account for other contributing factors. Regardless, there are hundreds of studies describing negative health effects associated with fracking-type extraction. You can readily find a list of more than 100 of them on the Concerned Health Professionals of New York website alone.
The AIF also disregarded risks associated with fracking wastewater, claiming that disposal is not fracking when, obviously, the wastewater would not be produced otherwise. The fracking well in southwest Florida resulted in 203,100 gallons of toxic wastewater being trucked across the state for disposal near Miami. Accidents during the transport and improper disposal of fracking wastewater have been documented around the nation.
Misinformation will continue to surface, but consider the source. The AIF-supported flawed oil bills (HB 191/SB 318) benefit industry but clearly leave citizens and water resources at great risk.
Jennifer Hecker, Naples
The writer is director of natural resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Campaign of hate
The well-funded Palestinian BDS Movement — to boycott, divest and sanction Israel — is alive and well and has claimed USF as its latest victim. The USF Student Senate voted last week in favor of requesting the USF Foundation divest itself from companies involved with Israel.
The BDS's most fertile roots are in academia, where political correctness rules. Clueless students and professors alike are fooled into supporting what on the surface appears to be a movement to sanction countries with human rights violations. In fact, the darkest and most violent part of the world is running a successful campaign to extinguish the only light in the region where people of all religions are free to worship as they see fit.
In reality, the BDS movement is simply a modern form of anti-Semitism condoned on university campuses. Colleges would never allow this activity to exist if it was directed at African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians or other minorities.
Sheldon Wolf, Lutz
Hipper look for driving handbook | Jan. 23
Recipe for dumber drivers
According to this article, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles "released a new driver's manual that is meant to be easier to understand and less intimidating than the previous manual, particularly for younger motorists." The new manual "has added splashes of colorful graphics and more charts … to hold readers' attention."
The department's executive director, Terry L. Rhodes, wanted to create a handbook that was "more captivating and engaging" so as "to improve passing rates on its driver's license exam."
Well, isn't that special. The liberal mentality that permeates our educational system, criminal justice system and government in general strikes again. Let's dumb down the process and instead of expecting our citizens to achieve a certain standard to benefit our society as a whole, let's lower the standard so that everyone wins a trophy. Unfortunately, in this case everyone loses by making our highways less safe.
Last year in Hillsborough County alone, 51 pedestrians were killed by motorists. How can we address that issue? I know — let's add pictures and colors to the manual so that more incompetents can pass the test.
Any bets that more than 51 are killed next year?
Robert C. Kimball, Largo