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Summary of recent Florida newspaper editorials


Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:


Sept. 10

The Bradenton (Florida) Herald on redrawing congressional districts in state:

Florida's Legislature continues to be dysfunctional, this time thanks to the unreasonable House intent on requiring Senate subservience to its will. Compromise is not a topic of discussion from House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, only Senate capitulation to the House maps for new congressional district boundaries after a state Supreme Court finding that the old ones violated the state constitution.

On Friday, the high court ordered a trial court to once again address the illegal map boundaries drawn by political operatives in violation of the Fair Districts amendments approved by voters — a ruling that lawmakers must prove they are not intentionally trying to protect Republicans in elections with those maps.

The justices rejected a request to draw its own lines, and ordered a lower court to review rival maps from both chambers of the Legislature to pick one while also calling for another special session. Crisafulli refused to call that special session on Wednesday, instead calling on the Senate to adopt the House map.

The Legislature now has until Oct. 17 to reach a decision on redistricting, according to the deadline set by the court.

The House simply disagrees with the Senate on the Supreme Court ruling, with stating that the upper chamber "gives members more leeway to influence regions for the map for community interests."

This is not a political solution to an intractable problem. Compromise must come. Bradenton Republican and Senate Resdricting Chairman Bill Galvano brought that to the table but his bipartisan compromise may have come too late, as it did Friday after the deadline of the special session.

Galvano's proposal — "more constitutionally compliant" than the House boundaries, according to Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando — should be up for consideration.

The Supreme Court ruled Friday the trial court ruling on the redistricting map design review should be reconsidered, stating one of those maps submitted by both the House and Senate should be picked and another special session called. With the House rejecting that idea this week, that brings a confrontation between branches of government.

The Legislature should reconvene. House Speaker Crisafulli should lead the way on a solution to congressional redistricting.




Sept. 12

South Florida Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, on keeping long tractor trailers off state's highways:

Forget the threat from 18-foot pythons slithering out of the Everglades. Much bigger beasts could be headed our way, prowling Florida roads at 91 feet in length and putting lives at risk.

This new threat? A trucking rig with two 33-foot trailers attached that state officials would be forced to allow on federal highways. A typical single-trailer semi is 74 feet long including its tractor and hitch (called a dolly). Twin 33-foot trailers would add another 17 feet, for a total length equivalent of a nine-story building rumbling down the road.

If people would drive with care on the highways and use good judgment, both will be able to co exist. Keep your distance, pass with care and stay alert. No problem with co existing with these larger trucks.

Florida drivers who have tried to pass trucks pulling tandem 28-foot trailers (already allowed in the state) know such rigs are notoriously squirrelly in high winds. Now add 10 more feet of passing distance.

"Here in Broward County, Port Everglades partnered with Florida DOT and FEC to build an intermodal transfer facility, which serves to bring freight from cargo ships onto rail without clogging up our highways," Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca told the Sun Sentinel. "Now, we have the trucking industry introducing larger and more dangerous trucks on the roads. It doesn't make sense here in South Florida, where we have high winds, diverse traffic and pollution issues."

How can such a risk be forced on states that don't want it? It's one of several giveaways to the trucking industry the U.S. House hid in its current transportation spending bill. If enacted by the Senate, the legislation would prohibit a state from banning these mammoth trucks.

Make no mistake — lives are at risk. Nearly 4,000 people were killed and 100,000 injured in crashes involving large trucks, according to the latest annual statistics. With longer, heavier trucks that are harder to control and stop, the carnage is likely to grow. Trucks hauling multiple trailers are predicted to increase the fatal crash rate by 11 percent, according to studies cited by the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks.

This affront to safety isn't the only questionable measure in the bill. It would also cap truck liability insurance requirements at current levels and shorten a truck driver's required rest time between trips. Driver fatigue is a well-publicized cause of accidents.

So how could the trucking industry slip such favorable wording into a bill without public hearings or other scrutiny? Anyone following the pay-to-play nature of politics and governance knows the answer. Last year, the trucking industry led by FedEx and UPS spent nearly $10 million lobbying Congress and nearly $8 million in campaign contributions, according to a Bloomberg Business report.

It's not clear which is more disconcerting: that bullies in the trucking industry are willing to risk lives to pad their profits, or that lawmakers are lining up to do their bidding in return for campaign contributions.

Now that the matter is before the U.S. Senate, Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio should act to remove any onerous requirements put on the state just to get needed road funding.

These giant, mechanized pythons guided by fatigued drivers must be kept off the nation's highways.




Sept. 15

Tampa Bay Times on Rep. Richard Corcoran being formally named the next speaker of the Florida House:

Rep. Richard Corcoran of Land O'Lakes will be formally named by his fellow Republicans today as the next speaker of the Florida House, one of the three most powerful political positions in the state. When he takes over after the 2016 election, Pasco County will have produced two of the last three House speakers while Hillsborough County has had two in the last 40 years and Pinellas County has had one in its history. It's another opportunity for a Tampa Bay leader to change the direction of an institution that at times appears as dysfunctional as Congress.

Corcoran is the ultimate legislative insider, a lawyer who has served as a legislative aide and an adviser to three House speakers and Gov. Rick Scott. Elected in the 2010 tea party wave, he promises to bring reforms that would reduce top-down decisionmaking, empower lawmakers to vote in the best interests of their constituents and create more openness. Those are all worthy goals — and at odds with Corcoran's record.

Top-down decisionmaking? For the last three years, Corcoran has been the key opponent to accepting billions in federal Medicaid expansion money to provide health coverage for more than 800,000 low-income Floridians. He urged House Republicans to "come to war with us" earlier this year to fight the Senate, which approved accepting the money. If House Republicans had been free to vote without fear of repercussions, it's likely enough Republicans would have joined with Democrats and approved the Senate plan that called for using the federal money to subsidize private health insurance.

Corcoran's power plays are not confined to Tallahassee. He also tried to force a local voter referendum to transform Pasco County into a charter government, which could have led to an elected county mayor and other changes. There was no public demand for change, and the effort died after other county elected officials raised objections and an advisory panel rejected it.

Empower more lawmakers to vote in the best interests of their constituents?

More than 175,000 low-income Tampa Bay residents, including more than 28,000 in Pasco County, were denied access to health care coverage because Corcoran and other House leaders refused to approve taking the Medicaid expansion money. If lawmakers could vote in the best interest of their constituents, they would have repealed a 2006 law that allowed Duke Energy to bill ratepayers billions for nuclear plants that were broken or never built. They would have legalized medical marijuana after 58 percent of the voters backed a constitutional amendment last year, just short of the 60 percent needed for approval.

More openness?

It was a private meeting of House Republicans that ensured that the Senate's Medicaid expansion legislation would be killed. It was Corcoran and other top leaders who conspired to abruptly adjourn the House three days early this spring, to the surprise of many of their colleagues and in violation of the state Constitution. And it was Corcoran who began to bring more openness to the appropriations process this year only to cut the final deals with the Senate in secret as usual.

That white paper that Corcoran calls "The Manifesto" and spells out the reforms he and his allies are planning? It's secret.

If today follows tradition, House Republicans will anoint the next speaker and praise him as a visionary leader. Corcoran will deliver a rousing speech that honors conservative principles, promises a new era of openness and embraces smart decisionmaking that will benefit all Floridians. Let's hope his rhetoric forecasts the future better than his record.



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