Sunday, April 23, 2006


As legislators return to the state capitol for the final two weeks of their annual session, the Tallahassee Democrat likes the concept of pulling some amendments from the state constitution and making them "super statutes" which would be immune from legislative tinkering for a period of time, namely, the class size amendment passed by voters nearly four years ago. The Democrat likes the idea because of the effect it will seemingly have on taking money from university building and renovation funds --- $263 million, to be exact --- to help fund the class size inititative.

Today's editorial page in the Fort Myers News-Press encourages readers to contact their representative in an effort to stop two bills expected to be decided on: HB129 / SB206, which would allow employees to keep guns locked in their cars on employers' property during working hours, and the measure mentioned above to pulling some constitutional amendments and turn them into "super statutes". But the News-Press asks for support on HB1363 / SB132 to eliminate the cap on spending from the state affortable housing trust fund and providing other incentives for developers and tools for local government to help the middle class buy homes.

The Orlando Sentinel seems to agree on the affordable housing issue, questioning the leadership of both Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon) and House Speaker Allan Bense (R - Panama City) and accusing them of not taking the state's affordable housing crisis seriously. The editorial notes that "Mr. Bense and Mr. Lee argue that they want to hold back a large chunk of the housing money in case there's a 'rainy day'. Where have they been? The rainy day is here. There are 730,000 households in Florida today struggling to pay for housing".

Meanwhile, as Congress returns to Washington after it's recess, the Miami Herald asks: "Can This Congress Be Saved?" It answers: "Yes, but don't bet on it...Nothing is likely to get done in the current atmosphere of extreme partisanship." It offers several suggestions on how congressional leaders from both parties can restore the trust of the public and get the nation's business done.

On the Gainesville Sun editorial page, the state of the National Park Service is being lamented. Our national parks are continuing an increase in visitors, but budgets have been squeezed in recent years, and the Bush administration is ordering another 20 percent slice out of operating budgets. That is resulting in fewer rangers and services, along with a bigger backlog in maintainance needs.

The St. Petersburg Times notes that the German government has, after six decades, has agreed to open an archive of millions of documents from the Holocaust regarding 17.5 million people, many of whom died at the hands of the Nazi regime. However, there is a backlog of 400,000 requests from people seeking information regarding relatives. The Times suggests that the records be opened and digitized, reminding us that "With Holocaust survivors well into their sunset years, this cannot happen soon enough."

Today's Pensacola News Journal editorial focuses on a local issue, noting there is plenty of blame to go around regarding a controvesy over a wetlands bill which eventually did pass the Legislature. It commends Escambia County Director of Enviromential and Neighbourhood Services Keith Wilkins for his strong beliefs in the county's wetlands ordinance which caused him to lobby area lawmakers on personal time against some aspects of the proposed bill --- eventually excluded from the measure that passed --- that would negate the ordinance and would have stripped the county of its right to have its own, higher development standards...even while it notes that Wilkins used poor professional judgement in doing so.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune says today that efforts by the Florida Department of Enviromental Protection to have the federal Enviromental Protection Agency allow it to set new, lower pollution standards on the St. John's River should concern all Floridians. If it is allowed, DEP may eventually ask the EPA to allow the lower standards on a case-by-case basis on other rivers such as the Manatee, Peace, and Myakka.

Here at home, the Lakeland Ledger offers another in it's occasional "Gigs and Garlands" series, which offers commendations and criticisms to deserving local and state officials for their actions or handling of issues during the past month or so.

As the new movie United 93 opens in theatres this week, some wonder if it is too soon to reflect on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Palm Beach Post opinion is that for some, the movie will be simple exploitation, but reminds us that " is not too soon to reflect on the 9/11 attacks, learn from them and be reminded again of what free nations and free people must defeat. It is a relief that it's not too late".

Recent polls indicate that barely half of our state's population can identify the three branches of the state and federal governments (executive, legislative, and judicial), and some lawmakers are promoting the idea of requiring civics instruction in public schools. The Daytona Beach News-Journal says that Education Commissioner John Winn wasn't ready to commit to the idea because "...the state, for all its emphasis on testing for learning gains in reading, math and writing, does not measure students' knowledge of civics". The newspaper's opinion is that "By all means, teach civics at every reasonable opportunity in the classroom and expand that discourse in community forums. But the greater work requires changes in public policy that will allow every citizen to reclaim the power of his voice, her vote, equal to any other's".

Today's editorial in the generally conservative Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville approves the concept of merit pay for teachers (a/k/a pay-for-performance), and looks at the example of Denver's public school system. Duval County has been looking at merit pay ideas for six months, and the Times-Union says that, like in Denver, "The public may be willing to fund programs that show clear results".

Several embarassing blunders as a result of the state's push in privitazing a number of services previously handled in-house has the Tampa Tribune calling for a dose of accountability. The editorial notes that it makes sense to outsource some jobs and services to companies who can provide them, as long as they can truly do the job better.

Speaking of doing the job better, Florida Today says that Brevard County commissioners should look at several cities along the Space Coast who have used foresight in increasing impact fees on new construction to help pay for infastructure and services. It mentions that a majority of Brevard's commissioners seem to be "stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to finding responsible ways of meeting the huge transportation needs growth has caused".

The Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial opines today that the American people are being sold a bill of goods when we are told that our troops are training Iraqi forces in large numbers. The fact is that Iraqi solders are deserting en masse without punishment, drawing the ire of U.S. and Iraqi commanders. These desertions suggest that Iraqis are unwilling and unmotivated to fight for their own country, and that the U.S. must insist that the trend be reversed if they want continued help from us.

And the Ocala Star Banner editorial page deals with parks in Marion County and their future. The major needs are those of long term base level maintainence responsibilities at parks throughout the county, and future funding as it's "Pennies for Parks" fund is nearly dried up.

Enjoy your Sunday, and keep involved!


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