Florida editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
The Palm Beach Post on Florida’s U.S. Senate race:
The Palm Beach Post endorses Bill Nelson for re-election to the U.S. Senate in November.
Not only because the 76-year-old Democrat has been good for the state, relentlessly pushing for those issues that matter most to all Floridians. And not only because of the way he has represented our state with honor and integrity.
But because the alternative is Rick Scott.
The 65-year-old Republican, having eked out two of the narrowest wins in modern Florida gubernatorial history — neither with a majority of voters — now wants to take his crimped views of what’s best for Florida to Washington.
Voters would be wise not to let that happen.
Nelson has served Florida for decades without a whiff of scandal. Scott? He entered office under a cloud of Medicare fraud committed by the hospital company he once ran. He then refused to answer questions in court by asserting his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination 75 times.
His time in office has been marked by cronyism in making appointments, high-handed legal actions to fight government transparency that have cost state taxpayers millions, and a so-called “blind trust” that has invested in at least one company that stands to benefit from his actions as governor.
But take Scott’s most notable accomplishment as governor: presiding over an economic rebound and solid job growth. According to state economists, it’s not remarkable that Florida’s economy has bounced back strongly from the Great Recession. Historically, it always does, no matter who is in the Governor’s Mansion.
Scott’s economic recovery is notable for another reason: its lack of fairness to lower- and middle-class households. Many of the new jobs that have been created are lower-wage and lack good health care benefits. And with the percentage of Florida households owning homes plunging to “its worst level ever seen, with data going back more than three decades,” the state has arrived at a full-blown housing affordability crisis.
As Hurricane Michael bears down on the Florida Panhandle, we’re reminded that it’s times like these that Scott tends to shine; grandstanding in front of emergency management and law enforcement officials during press briefings, and urging Florida residents to prepare and evacuate.
But we can’t forget that 12 elderly residents of a Hollywood nursing home died in sweltering heat because there was no functioning backup generator after last season’s Hurricane Irma. Nor was one required under lax regulations pushed by Scott and the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature. ... New generator rules — which were conceived in the wake of that nursing home disaster — are still not being implemented by many facilities, particularly hundreds in the region where Michael’s impact is likely to be felt hardest.
With Nelson, there is no seeking the limelight. Only hard work, day in and day out, on behalf of all Floridians that requires compromise and negotiation with 99 other senators to get things done.
The task has been made tougher by a GOP leadership more interested in scoring partisan points than governing. But Nelson stood firmly against attempts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Healthcare Act and strip away protections for thousands of Floridians with pre-existing conditions.
Scott was for that. And as governor, he has helped deny coverage to some 400,000 working-class Floridians by refusing $50 billion in federal funds to expand Medicaid.
Nelson has been a Senate leader in pushing through an $8 billion bill to deal with the tragic fallout from the opioid epidemic ravaging counties like Palm Beach — such as sober homes and the growing number of infants born opioid-dependent. A comprehensive, bipartisan bill is now headed to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it. No Florida county has gone untouched by this scourge, but local officials say Scott has provided scant help.
On the environment, Nelson has been a stalwart his entire political career. From Everglades restoration to clean air and water to near-shore drilling, the native Floridian has pushed back against both Republican and Democratic administrations to protect our state’s natural resources. Nelson went to the Senate floor time and again to press Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to allow a vote on the massive Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that will fund long-awaited efforts to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee and restore the natural flow of water through the Florida Everglades. The House is expected to take up the comprehensive water infrastructure package as early as Thursday, with the Senate following soon after.
Scott’s abysmal environmental record speaks for itself. This year’s toxic red tide and blue-green algae blooms are a direct effect of policies and actions favoring business over the environment, such as his cutting $700 million from water management districts. Between the algal blooms and signing an ill-fated beach access law, “Red Tide Rick” has deserved the derisive protests heaped upon him in coastal communities.
Above all this, we need integrity and stability in a U.S. Senate that has been broken, due largely to the blatant hypocrisy and partisanship of its Republican leadership. The last thing we need is another closed-minded politician disinterested in breaking the partisan logjam.
We need a senator who will work for Floridians — all Floridians. That’s Bill Nelson.
Tallahassee Democrat on proposed state constitutional amendments:
The dozen proposed constitutional amendments offer voters plenty of head-scratching language but little to get excited about — and even less substance to actually improve the Florida Constitution. We could do without 10 out of the 12.
First, an aside: You may notice there is no Amendment 8 on the ballot. That’s not a misprint. There was an Amendment 8 — it had to do with charter schools and term limits for school board members — but the Florida Supreme Court ordered it removed.
So how did we decide what to recommend? We stuck ruthlessly with a basic test: The proposal has to be more than just a good idea. It has to be worthy of a place in Florida’s Constitution — our central governing document — which means it must deal with fundamental rights.
Think of the U.S. Constitution. Would you vote “yes” for a pregnant pig amendment in the same document that gives us the right to freedom of speech?
Using that criteria, we are recommending only two “yes” votes. And our “no” list comes with a few pangs of regret. There are some worthwhile proposals that deserved individual consideration, such as improving victims’ rights as part of Amendment 6 and forbidding oil and gas drilling in state territorial waters, a part of Amendment 9. If only the Constitution Revision Commission had stopped there.
Instead, it linked a mandatory retirement age for judges and a legal procedural process with victims’ rights into the three-subject Amendment 6. The panel connected the prohibition of vaping in the workplace to offshore drilling in Amendment 9, a strained effort to connect clean air and clean water.
Does a vaping ban belong in Florida’s Constitution? We say no.
There are two we believe merit public passage: Amendments 4 and 11. One addresses voting, the other the fairness of our criminal justice system. Both involve fundamental rights that belong in our Constitution.
The Editorial Boards of Florida Today, the News-Press and Treasure Coast Newspapers contributed to this editorial.
Naples Daily News on the proposed amendments:
Let’s end on a positive note as we offer our final recommendations on the 12 Florida constitutional amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot. It’s a positive note because both Amendment 4 and Amendment 12 deserve voter support.
Previously we’ve recommended “yes” on Amendment 2, which continues a 10 percent cap on assessment increases for properties without a homestead exemption, and Amendment 13 to phase out pari-mutuel dog racing by Jan. 1, 2021. We’ve recommended “no” on Amendments 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11. Amendment 8 was stricken from the ballot.
An amendment requires at least 60 percent voter approval to pass.
By approving Amendment 4, voters can tell state leaders that nonviolent felons deserve another chance once they’ve finished their sentences, including time on probation or parole.
A “yes” vote calls for automatic restoration of rights once the individuals has fulfilled their sentences.
The offenders who would be eligible committed nonviolent felonies. That’s an important distinction because it excludes felons convicted of sex-related crimes or murder.
Elected leaders in Naples and Collier County have grappled the past couple of years with strengthening local ethics regulations. Strong ethics rules and enforcement are principles of good governance, so we recommend support of Florida constitutional Amendment 12.
Placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, a “yes” vote on Amendment 12 would prohibit a public official — whether elected or an employee — from getting paid for lobbying while serving in office and for six years afterward. Currently, there is a two-year prohibition after leaving the government payroll.
This amendment alone won’t clean up all that can be addressed to improve government ethics in the state. Campaign finance reform to control the influence of money on political campaigns and the meting out of harsher, quicker and more frequent penalties by the Florida Ethics Commission also would help.