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Summary of recent Florida newspaper editorials

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Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

June 20

Miami Herald on Haiti's fragile state:

Haiti, a nation that always seems on the brink of some new peril, finds itself in a fragile state today, thanks, in part, to the threat from the next-door Dominican Republic to begin mass deportations any moment.

At this writing, it remains unclear whether the deportations are imminent, or may have already started under a program called Operation Shield. It is the result of a law passed last year that requires all foreign-born workers to register or face removal. To say that the program, rooted in the intolerant country's attempts to expel even Dominican-born residents of Haitian descent, has not worked well is an understatement. It was supposed to single out only those illegal migrants who have turned up since 2011, but the registration process has been riddled with chronic delays. Reports of unwarranted deportations have been rife.

This would be a huge problem for Haiti at any time, but especially so at this moment because the nation, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, faces a host of tensions.

The most pressing involve squabbling over upcoming elections, where nearly 2,000 candidates are running for 138 legislative seats in August. This is a crucial milestone on the path to political and economic recovery because there is no functioning parliament. Elections are years overdue.

If all goes as planned, a presidential election would then be held on Oct. 25 to replace President Michel Martelly, who is ruling by decree. As is usually the case in Haiti, there are any number of ominous rumors floating about, the most dangerous of which is that the elections will be postponed in favor of a "transition government."

Fortunately, the U.S. State Department's Thomas C. Adams, special coordinator for Haiti, who has worked hard to get Haiti on the right path, did his best in a recent interview with the Herald's Jacqueline Charles to quash that rumor. "I don't understand where this is coming from."

The United States has a vital role to play in shepherding the election process, without actually intervening. Mr. Adams has been careful not to cross that line; it is crucial that the United States not be seen as the unilateral arbiter of the evolving democratic process.

A proposal in the U.S. House directs the secretary of State to certify that Haiti is taking steps to hold free and fair elections and respecting the independence of the judiciary before any funds could be used to help that country. That is fine if it stops there — indeed, it's important for Congress to take an interest in Haiti's progress — but proposals by Sen. Marco Rubio in the Senate overreach. They would condition aid on "attempts to disqualify candidates" from office for "political reasons."

This puts the United States in the position of overriding the decisions of a court in Haiti that has cleared 58 of 70 candidates who sought to run in the presidential election. In Haiti, these measures are seen as a response to the lobbying of former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, among those disqualified.

Clearly, the United States must not be seen as taking sides. Its role should be limited to letting Haitians themselves choose their leadership fairly, but not to dictate the terms of the election, nor to make the candidacy of any individual the deciding factor of what's fair and what isn't.

For now, the priority is to dampen the immigration debacle with the Dominican Republic. There are forces in Haiti that would seize any pretext to postpone elections, and an immigration crisis might well be just the thing.

Online:

http://www.miamiherald.com

____

June 25

Tampa (Florida) Tribune on getting rid of medical device tax:

Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act, Congress should jettison a particularly noxious provision of the law: the medical device tax.

The House already has passed legislation getting rid of the 2.3 percent sales tax on medical devices, which can include artificial limbs, braces, pacemakers, surgical gloves and such. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now rightly wants to fast-track Senate passage of the measure.

The tax is used to help fund Obamacare but poses a painful burden on enterprises that dramatically improve the nation's health care system and patients' quality of life.

The tax is collected on gross sales, not profits, and surveys have shown that the medical device industry only makes a profit of 3.5 percent to 4 percent annually, so the tax dangerously narrows companies' margins and threatens jobs and innovation.

Republicans are not alone in opposing the tax. Many Democrats also recognize its flaws.

As Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, said during the House vote earlier this month: "This burdensome tax hurts industry growth and prevents companies from investing in research and development."

Early this year a survey of executives by the Medical Device Manufacturers Association found three-quarters of companies slowed or halted hiring because of the tax. The association may not be an objective observer in this debate, but its findings are consistent with the reality that when companies must pay more in taxes, they have less to invest in expansion.

The tax also is an obstacle to the continued growth of Florida's medical device industry. The state is second in the nation in the number of medical device companies, with more than 500. Hundreds of other firms make parts for the devices.

About 20,000 Floridians work in the industry, with an average salary of $63,000.

But most of the state's companies employ less than 50 employees and don't generate the kind of profits needed to cover the tax's costs.

The Obama administration isn't worried about those jobs. It insists the expansion of health care under Obamacare will result in more medical devices being sold, and more revenue for the manufacturers.

That reasoning ignores the fact that the uninsured most likely to get coverage under Obamacare tend to be young, and not in the market for a pacemaker or other medical devices. Moreover, when the costs of the tax are passed along to customers, it further inflates health care costs.

President Obama, of course, will veto any legislation dropping the tax, but there may be enough Democratic support to jettison the tax to override a veto. There should be.

The tax poses a serious threat to an industry whose productivity and innovation are vital to effective health care. It's time to dump it.

Online:

http://tbo.com


June 23

The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida, on bear hunt:

When the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets Wednesday morning in Sarasota, it should vote to postpone a proposal to allow the hunting of black bears.

The FWC gave preliminary approval to the hunt back in April. The plan, in which the state would license hunters to kill 275 black bears on private and public lands during a week-long season tentatively scheduled for October, is a response to the growing number of bear attacks on humans. In 2013-14, four people in Central Florida were injured in encounters with bears.

However, the FWC hasn't provided any compelling evidence that the bear hunts would alleviate that problem.

The good news is that Florida's black bear population has rebounded substantially since the state declared the animal a threatened species in 1974, when the statewide population was estimated at 300 to 500 animals. The state also outlawed bear hunting in 1994. By 2002, officials estimated the bear population to be more than 2,800 statewide, and the state took bears off its threatened list in 2012.

Wildlife biologists believe the current bear population statewide could approach 4,000, although the final, official numbers won't be available until next year. A survey conducted last year of the state's Central Bear Management Unit, which includes Volusia, Flagler, Alachua, Bradford, Brevard, Clay, Lake, Marion, Orange, Putnam, Seminole, St. Johns and Sumter counties, as well as the Ocala National Forest, showed an estimated 1,297 bears. That's an increase of about 30 percent since the last bear count in 2002.

Complaints about nuisance bears also have increased, as have sightings of bears in residential areas (it's not unusual to see one along LPGA Boulevard in Daytona Beach). But that's likely less a result of more bears being deep in the woods than it is more humans living on the edge of bear habitats — and creating the conditions that lure the animals into the open.

Black bears are not naturally aggressive; in fact, they usually are shy around people and retreat when confronted. They lose those instincts, though, when they consume human food. They consider the nice subdivision just as much their home as the Johnson family does. Thus, they stop retreating from humans and start standing up.

Shooting a couple hundred bears deep in the forest is not going to prevent the ones living on the fringes of suburbia from roaming the streets. The responsibility lies with the homeowners to eliminate the conditions that attract bears, such as leaving garbage cans outside that can be easily accessed by a hungry carnivore.

A bear hunt might be an appropriate policy to achieve the broader goal of managing the population. But that decision should not be made at least until the final results of the bear count are in next year and more is known about the rebound in black bears. Man vs. bear incidents should not be the trigger for that now.

Instead, the FWC should concentrate more on measures that reduce what attracts bears to neighborhoods. Step up campaigns to educate the public on how to properly store garbage: Secure household trash in a shed or garage, or outside in a bear-resistant container. Put the garbage out on the morning of pickup rather than the night before. Don't leave pet food outdoors. Clean barbecue grills and/or store them inside. Toughen the penalties for people who intentionally feed bears.

Wait and see if these steps have an effect before concluding a hunt is the best option.

Online:

http://www.news-journalonline.com

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