Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

A round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers

in Apolitical/Top Headlines by

A round-up of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers.

Tampa Bay Times — Florida parks are public trusts, not profit centers

How many times do Floridians need to revolt before Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders recognize that the state’s park system is not here for crass commercial development? The latest harebrained idea — to allow everything from timber farming to other agricultural uses — is a road to ruin for the parks and another sign that this administration has no appreciation for the need to preserve and showcase Florida’s natural beauty.

As the Tampa Bay Times’ Craig Pittman recently reported, the proposal is part of a concerted effort by the governor and the Legislature to convert an award-winning park system that attracts millions of visitors into a land management operation that funnels money back into the state’s treasury. That could mean allowing a range of uses in the parks that are now banned, from cattle grazing on publicly owned property to other commercial practices.

A bill approved by the House that died in the Senate after the legislative session collapsed last week would have allowed park property to be used to further “low-impact agriculture.” While the bill did not define what types of activities would be permitted, the language was broad enough to cover any use that fell within the park’s land management plan and did not “adversely impact” the park’s conservation purpose.

The Department of Environmental Protection under this governor has launched several schemes that would have commercialized the park system. The DEP’s proposal in 2011 to build private tent and RV camps in the state parks prompted such a public backlash that Scott was forced to abandon the idea. Two years later, the agency began an effort to swap existing park land for new land — a measure so half-baked it ended without a single acre being sold. Now the department’s new secretary, Jon Stevenson, is looking for new ways to raise money so the park system pays for itself. The DEP is putting together a request for cattle ranchers to take over nearly one-fifth of the 37,000-acre Myakka River State Park in Sarasota County.

Cattle ranching and farming have no more legitimate places in the state park system than oil drilling has in the state’s natural springs. These pristine habitats are recharge areas for wildlife, the ecosystem and humans alike; viewing them as revenue centers misses the entire purpose of public ownership. The state also has an obligation to preserve a window on Florida to future generations.

Scott continues to underestimate the importance Floridians place on maintaining the state’s natural beauty. He fails to see that the public has lost confidence in the DEP, which has repeatedly put the interests of business and polluters ahead of the environment. The governor should drop plans to transform the parks into profit centers and recognize that they are a sacred public trust.

The Bradenton Herald — As Manatee County rewrites comprehensive plan, public input vital

Public input into growth and development should be increasing soon. Silence now ensures future disputes.

Manatee County government has been involved in a years-long rewrite of aging policies on land development and the comprehensive plan, the twin pillars that govern growth in the unincorporated areas.

This is an imperative update of codes and rules, an overdue exercise that dates back to the code adoption in 1990.

The Phase One rewrite of the Land Development Code will go before county commissioners on May 7 with possible approval about a month later. This is the easy stuff, a clean-up and reorganization of rules that have been described as convoluted and disorganized.

This sensible update appears noncontroversial as the public has been mostly quiet.

The contentious issues will arrive with discussion on changes in the comprehensive plan, a far more provocative document that will gain intense public scrutiny. Think Long Bar Pointe and the big battle over comp plan changes sought by the developers of this southwest Manatee County expanse of open land bordering Sarasota Bay.

Comprehensive plan changes should spark a hot public debate when scheduled sometime in the future.

There’s one minor aspect to this that’s a bit baffling. In a mid-April county commission workshop, officials heard a report from an Orlando engineering consulting firm that put forth what has been blatantly obvious for years — and in county government crosshairs.

The suburbs and vacant land, not urban areas, are gaining development. Major corridors such as U.S. 41 and Cortez Road are deteriorating.

Both points have been evident for years and don’t come as news. Did we pay a consultant for this affirmation?

The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Video bolsters police accountability

Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood deserves praise for doing something the community should hope he never has to do again: apologize for a fatal mistake by one of his officers.

Chitwood last Wednesday acknowledged that Officer Brian Biddix — who has since resigned — mishandled a domestic disturbance call at the home of Johan and Milena Chiri the night of April 7. Biddix was a probationary employee hired less than 18 months ago and had undergone dozens of hours of domestic violence training before being allowed to be on the road on his own.

His inexperience showed in a body camera video of his encounter with the Chiris (which can be viewed at news-journalonline.com).

Milena Chiri had called 9-1-1 at 9 p.m. after she and her husband started arguing. After spending 30 minutes talking to the couple separately — with much of that time spent instructing the husband to “calm down” while he was handcuffed and sitting in the back of the officer’s patrol car — Biddix in the end told Milena Chiri she should lock herself in the children’s bedroom with her daughters, and Johan Chiri should lock himself in his bedroom, and everyone should “go to sleep.”

At 7:30 a.m., both girls, ages 10 and 12, found their mother dead in a pool of blood in her bed, her throat slashed. Johan Chiri has been charged with her murder. Police say he confessed to killing his wife.

Credit Chitwood for being swift and forthright in his assessment of the situation.

“Many signs were missed, and because of it, a woman lost her life,” the chief said Wednesday. “We screwed up, and we have to own up to it.”

The Florida Times-Union — Times-Union Editorial Board endorsement for sheriff: Williams is the best choice

Voters should elect Mike Williams as Jacksonville’s new sheriff.

One major reason Williams deserves to be chosen over Ken Jefferson is because he’s worked at nearly every level of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office — including stints as director of patrol and enforcement, SWAT team leader and head of investigations and homeland security — over a distinguished 23-year career.

Such vast, diverse experience gives Williams a valuable level of institutional knowledge and perspective that Jefferson, while also an accomplished former JSO officer, simply cannot match.

But Williams also strongly deserves to be the next sheriff because he has a clear sense of the responsibility he’d take on leading the JSO, a law enforcement agency with a $400 million budget and more than 3,000 employees.

And equally important, Williams offers a compelling vision of the path that must be taken to address numerous issues.

ADDRESSING CITY VIOLENCE

Jacksonville has disturbing rates of shootings, violent crime and gang activity.

Williams would attack it head on by having the JSO put a heavy emphasis on breaking the back of Jacksonville’s extensive drug trade, which he said drives most of our city’s violent crime wave and gang activity.

“You’ve got to make it hard for a drug deal to happen in Jacksonville,” Williams told the Times-Union editorial board.

Florida Today – Thumbs up, thumbs down

It’s your job, House: Do it.

Thumbs down: To the Florida House for leaving the current legislative session three days early without passing a budget. We know they don’t agree with the Senate plan to tie Medicaid expansion to the constitutionally required budget due by June 30. But what would happen if others who have to compromise or agree to get the job done got up and walked out — a jury, for example? This exercise in ego means the House must have a special session, since a budget must be hammered out by the start of the next fiscal year. The decision by Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, essentially says that working with the Senate to expand health coverage for 800,000 low-income Floridians doesn’t matter. And that the people’s business — including a water-resources plan and Sen. Andy Gardiner’s bill to provide education funding for disabled residents — isn’t important enough to see to a conclusion.

A cure for Medicare drug costs?

Thumbs up: To Sen. Bill Nelson for legislation that would save taxpayers $12 billion a year by bringing sanity to Medicare drug spending. The Central Florida Democrat wants Medicare, the health program for seniors, to pay the same negotiated prices for pharmaceuticals as Medicaid, the health program for the poor. Nelson pushed an inspector-general’s review of more than 200 brand-name drugs. That study found that Medicare pays twice as much for them, on average, as Medicaid. Nelson called the price disparity a “huge windfall for the drug companies.”

Tax breaks must be earned

Thumbs down: To seven Brevard companies that lost their property tax breaks because they failed to meet projections for hiring. The companies include some big local names, among them, Bertram Yacht on Merritt Island; Lockheed Martin Information Systems in West Melbourne; and DRS Imaging and Targeting Systems in Melbourne. County commissioners grant the tax discounts as incentives for economic development, then review progress every year and rescind breaks for companies that fall short of goals for job growth. Tuesday’s vote was a bummer, but Commissioner Robin Fisher called it a sign the system is working.

The Gainesville Sun – Cheers and Jeers

Not only did Florida House Republicans fail to pass a budget due to their obstinance on Medicaid expansion, they let some worthy measures die on the vine.

Jeer: Our supposed state representatives, for walking out before a budget was passed and in the process killing several pending measures.

A prison reform bill and legislation that would have boosted funding for mental health services were among the unfortunate casualties of the early end to the session. On the bright side, a watered-down springs bill, a bill that would have allowed discrimination against transgender individuals and bills that would have allowed guns on college campuses and in K-12 schools also died.

Cheer: The Alachua County School District, for suspending about 400 end-of-course exams.

The county was forced to create the tests in every subject, including art and physical education, by the Legislature. Before they skipped town, lawmakers passed a bill this session relaxing the requirement.

Jeer: The University of Florida, for refusing to reveal whether any members of the fraternity accused of hurling bottles and insults at wounded war veterans have been expelled or suspended.

UF is hiding behind a federal law protecting privacy of educational records, although that law permits disclosure of some basic information such as whether a student is enrolled at the university.

Cheer: The U.S. Supreme Court, for upholding Florida’s ban on judicial candidates personally raising campaign funds.

The 5-4 decision was a rare divergence from the court’s recent decisions striking down campaign finance limits.

The Lakeland Ledger — Claims Bills: When The State Does Harm

The Florida House’s hasty retreat earlier this week left plenty of important matters in the lurch. But the Legislature did finalize some bills that will not grab many headlines or pertain to a wide swath of the population, but which matter intensely to those affected.

Earlier this week, the Senate passed 14 claims bills already approved by the House. Such bills are special measures intended to compensate people for injuries or losses sustained through an error or negligence by a public official or agency. If signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the bills will appropriate more than $13 million to people who have been affected by government misdeeds, according to WFSU.

All state and local government agencies in Florida are protected by sovereign immunity, meaning that the government must give its permission to be sued. Even if people pursue legal action and succeed, state law caps awards at $200,000 per person, or $300,000 per incident. Thus, claims bills are filed to seek additional relief above those amounts.

The issue is not very popular in Tallahassee — even though it’s not often successful. A 2013 study by the budget watchdog group Florida TaxWatch revealed that between 1989 and 2012 only about one of every three claims bills were adopted. What concerned TaxWatch, according to its report, was that the amount of the awards was rising. Between 2003 and 2007, for example, the average claims bill appropriated $1.26 million. For the following five-year period, that had roughly doubled, to $2.4 million, driven up by the first two bills to top $10 million.

The Miami Herald — Missing in action

If it were anyone but Rick Scott, one might believe the governor orchestrated the embarrassing feud between the state House and Senate that led to the abrupt shutdown of the legislative session and left Florida’s finances in tatters, just to create a heroic scenario for himself.

The situation near the end of the 60-day lawmaking marathon was tailor-made for a governor to ride in on a white horse at the critical moment and rescue the beleaguered Sunshine State by coming up with a solution to end the budget crisis and leave everyone happy as they all moseyed into the sunset.

But that’s not Mr. Scott’s style. He was missing in action when House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner were shouting across the Capitol at each other, refusing to budge on their sharply different approaches toward healthcare funding. The dispute culminated with Rep. Crisafulli’s sudden adjournment of the House three days before the scheduled end of the session, a disastrous move that killed dozens of bills awaiting action in the final days.

Lawmakers needed someone to referee the House/Senate dispute, but Mr. Scott was the man who wasn’t there. Now, things have gone from bad to ugly. Democrats sued the House, Mr. Scott sued the federal government, the Senate asked for a budget session in June and the House just kept saying No to everything.

The situation cries out for an adult to take charge. This presents Mr. Scott with a perfect opportunity to redeem himself by bringing all parties together to reach a compromise before the budget deadline of July 1. He’s the only governor Florida has, the only one who can exert leadership authority and knock heads, if need be. Both the House and Senate are controlled by Mr. Scott’s own Republican Party, which should make matters easier, politically.

The heart of the dispute is how to make up for a pot of money that the federal government has provided for years to hospitals that treat low-income and indigent patients. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government let the states know that this program would provide significantly fewer funds — perhaps none at all, in some cases. For Florida, it meant a $1.3-billion budget shortfall that everyone knew was coming, but nobody did anything about.

The Senate’s solution is to accept a Florida-specific version of Medicaid expansion that would bring significant healthcare benefits for 850,000 Floridians — and $51 billion to Florida over a 10-year period. Mr. Crisafulli rejected that. Mr. Scott, who at one time favored this approach, decided he, too, didn’t like it after all.

The Orlando Sentinel — Fla. lawmakers shouldn’t drop other priorities

Gov. Rick Scott got elected in 2010 with a catchy slogan — “Let’s get to work” — and re-elected last year with a logical successor — “Let’s keep working.” Florida House leaders weren’t listening to that good advice when they shut down their chamber three days early this week.

The House’s premature, petulant exit left the state budget, which lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass, unfinished. But it also left unresolved other critical state priorities — including several where the two chambers were heartbreakingly close to compromise.

The Legislature will need to reconvene to pass a budget by June 30 to avoid a government shutdown. That final document will settle numerous policy questions, starting with how much to spend on schools and how much to cut taxes.

Given the gulf that still separates the Senate and House over whether to accept federal dollars to expand health-care coverage — the Senate, wisely, says yes, and the House, foolishly, says no — agreeing on a spending plan will be a challenge.

Even so, leaders shouldn’t give up so easily on other priorities that aren’t directly related to the budget when they go back into session. The House and Senate should pick up where they left off on issues where they were close to a resolution, including the following:

Prison reform: The two chambers were approaching agreement on a bill to strengthen oversight of state lockups after a record-year for inmate deaths, reports of misconduct among correctional officers and continued budget and management problems. Senate leaders have vowed to step up their oversight, but a law setting up a more permanent structure for that purpose would be much better.

Mental health: Florida brings up the rear among states in funding for mental-health treatment, and has a severe shortage of community-based care. The state’s failings have been underscored in recent months in the deaths of children at the hands of adults suffering from mental illness and lacking proper treatment. Key members in the Senate and House were making progress on legislation to increase funding and improve the delivery of care when time ran out.

Water protection: Last year top lawmakers promised that 2015 would be the year when legislation to revamp state water policy would get passed. Protecting the quality and quantity of Florida’s water supply is critical to the state’s environment, economy and quality of life. Action is years overdue. Each chamber passed its own water bill this year; they were moving toward reconciling them when the House bolted from the Capitol.

These are among the top issues that might have been pushed over the goal line this year if the House hadn’t left the field early. Leaders should resume the drives on the most important ones during the upcoming overtime period.

We much prefer “Let’s keep working” to “Wait till next year.”

The Ocala StarBanner — FSA requires thorough review

Gov. Rick Scott on ­Wednesday announced his appointment to a panel that — along with those named by Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli — will select a firm to review the Florida Standards Assessment, the statewide standardized test given to public school students. The committee surfaced as a provision of a wide-ranging education bill, which Scott has signed, that seeks to reduce the rising volume of complaints about overtesting.

The FSA review is critical. So far not only has the testing process itself come under severe criticism, but more worrisome are suggestions, and they are widespread, that the test may not even be valid in accomplishing what it is supposed to. Our hope is that the board remains truly independent of politics and the education-industrial complex so as to complete an honest evaluation of the FSA.

That is important because the FSA only introduced more turmoil into a system that already had been rife with controversy surrounding its predecessor, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT. Technical glitches bedeviled the program during statewide testing periods in March and again in April, heaping more stress on thousands of already emotionally taxed students in Marion County and elsewhere. Reportedly 36 of Florida’s 67 school districts, including Marion, were hit with technological woes earlier this month. The problems emerged because American Institutes for Research, the company paid $220 million by the state to develop the FSA, changed the testing program unilaterally and without telling state education officials the day before testing was to get under way.

Clearly this is no way to run an exam. That all the i’s were not dotted and all the t’s crossed before testing ensued is inexcusable. And the Scott administration might have known that had it done one simple thing: listen to the teachers.

The Pensacola News-Journal — Marriage ain’t tough, sailing is

There sure are a bunch of anniversaries of grim and horrible events around this time of year. Oil spill. Jail explosion. Flooding. Hope my brilliant and adorable wife, Dahlonega, doesn’t pick up on this troubling trend — because we got hitched one year ago today.

Truly, it is miraculous any time a cartoonist convinces another human being to tolerate him ’til death do us part. Everyone wants to wed a doctor or lawyer. It’s easy to envision marrying a dashing Naval officer or a male model mayor. But girls don’t exactly grow up dreaming about gazing down the aisle to a guy who’s good at drawing a googly-eyed Obama. Needless to say, I consider myself luckier than heck.

I was even congratulated on such luck when I got into the newsroom on Friday morning. A beautiful card from perhaps the greatest cartoon-fan in the Northern Hemisphere, Mrs. Charlotte McWilliams, waited on my desk. Charlotte lives here in Pensacola and has been calling and writing for years to assure me that the dirty names they call me in the Letters to the Editor are unfounded. I’ve always greatly appreciated her heartfelt defense of my work, even when I’ve secretly known that my own mother would probably confirm the aptness of at least a few of the letter-writers’ slings and arrows.

So to my friend Charlotte, thank you for such sweet wishes of “many more happy anniversaries.” You’ll be glad to know I haven’t blown it yet.

In fact, year one has been quite marvelous. Our only moments of troubled waters have literally been caused by troubled waters.

First, our honeymoon abroad almost ended below when a Greek ferry boat nearly capsized in the huge, rolling waves of the Aegean Sea en route to the ancient island of Delos. Looking back, I’m sure those seas were nothing Odysseus couldn’t handle. But for a moment — trapped in the innards of that rumbling, spitting and sputtering vessel with about 75 shrieking Europeans — we were prepared to do the backstroke across the River Styx.

Then, last summer, we got caught in a squall aboard a 16-foot sailboat named Scuttlebutt right here in the Santa Rosa Sound. It wasn’t exactly Poseidon’s Aegean fury, but it was no dadgum joke. Plus, we were about as new to sailing as we were to being married and we made a crucial rookie mistake: We didn’t drop the mainsail soon enough.

The Palm Beach Post — Investment in parks pays quality-of-life dividends

Palm Beach County’s impressive park system is a big part of what makes this a special place to live. It’s time to reinvest in that system.

For little or no cost, residents and visitors can enjoy a variety of activities: a workout on a scenic fitness trail or a horseback ride through the woods; a thrilling spin down a water slide, or a paddle-boat tour of a lake.

Picnic next to a beautiful beach or swim in an Olympic-sized pool. Walk through butterfly gardens and take photo safaris along wooded hiking trails. Athletes can play almost anything — tennis, basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, even pickleball.

With the local economy finally improving, Palm Beach County seems to be awakening from a slumber of neglect. During the downturn, maintenance of the county’s parks and beaches clearly suffered. Nature centers closed on Sundays, a day when they were most-used. Restrooms fell into disrepair. Playgrounds degraded. Even lawn-mowing became less frequent. County Administrator Bob Weisman noted that his 5,000-employee staff shrank by 700 people.

And so it was good to hear county commissioners beginning to discuss reinvesting in the park system last week, as reported by Eliot Kleinberg. But the nature of that discussion was unfocused, and ultimately, rather disappointing. Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose vast western district includes the Glades, seemed focused exclusively on her region, for example.

“I just can’t support taxing residents out in the western part of the county if they’re not going to see any benefit of regional parks,” she said.

Myopic regionalism runs the real risk of scuttling an important opportunity to make the county a better place to live for everyone. There are pockets of need countywide. The biggest need is almost certainly not another huge regional park, which would bring enormous new maintenance costs.

The Panama City News-Herald — A colorful gateway

It’s a good weekend for comic book fans.

The summer movie season will kick off, as it has almost every year for the last decade, with a super-hero movie, “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” On Saturday, comic book shops across the country will celebrate, “Free Comic Book Day,” an annual event that brings new readers into the shops and offers them free samples of a dizzying array of titles.

“Motorcycle Samurai,” “Teen Titans Go,” and “Bob’s Burgers” are among the free comics available this year.

It’s a good time for fans, like The News Herald’s editorial page editor, to remind people what comics are and what they can offer readers of every age.
Let’s start by defining comics, which are, simply sequential words and pictures that tell a story. As you might imagine, given such a broad definition, comics can be about anything. While superheroes tend to dominate the conversation there are comics for any type of reader and that includes fans of autobiography, mystery, histories, horror, crime, romance, thrillers, action and the funny strips on our comics page.

While comics often are viewed as a gateway drug for young readers who will eventually move on to regular books, there are plenty of writers and artists using the medium to tell compelling stories for adults.

In 1992, Art Speigelman won the Pulitzer Prize for “Maus,” a memoir that depicts interviewing his father about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Speigelman is far from alone; Will Eisner, Harvey Pekar and R. Crumb all have used the medium to tell deeply personal stories about their hopes, dreams and failures.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel – If you’re running, Jeb, say you’re running

In December, Jeb Bush said he would “actively explore” running for president. In five months, Bush has gone from actively exploring to actively exploiting what little remains of campaign finance regulation. By waiting, and waiting, and waiting, Bush can raise unlimited money for his affiliated SuperPAC, called Right to Rise.

If the man who criticized Hillary Clinton’s secret emails wants to preserve credibility, he will end the pretense and declare his candidacy.

Under federal election laws, individuals can donate no more than $2,700 to candidates for the primary and another $2,700 for the general election. So-called SuperPACs, however, have no limits on donations. The supposed safeguard is that SuperPACs can’t work directly with a candidate’s campaign, only with other SuperPACs.

Though Bush isn’t breaking election law, he’s bending it to the breaking point. According to a recent report by the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks and reports on campaign finances, Bush has held nearly 50 fundraisers for Right to Rise since January. He wants Republicans to know he’s breaking records for fundraising, and expects to have raised $100 million by the time he declares his candidacy, whenever that is.

As The Washington Post first reported, Bush also has given “his tacit endorsement” to a non-profit group called Right to Rise Policy Solutions. Such non-profits are not new, but the Post said Bush’s action marked “the first time one has been so embedded in the network of a prospective candidate.”

Non-profits not only can raise unlimited money, they don’t have to disclose their donors, a strategy other 2016 contenders may well adopt. A representative of the Ralph Nader-linked group Public Citizen calls it “an avenue for dark money.”

In theory, Bush could wait several more months to declare his candidacy. During this “testing the water” time, he can raise unlimited money for Right to Rise and Right to Rise Policy Solutions while working with the SuperPAC on strategies, tactics and messages that would just happen to align with his actual campaign.

The Tallahassee Democrat – Legislators’ absence does not make the heart grow fonder

Although I disdain columnists writing about themselves, I simply must share with you two wonderful things that happened in my life last week.

My grandchildren — ages two, and five months – arrived in Tallahassee. And the Florida Legislature left.

For a couple of overlapping days there, it was a peculiar choice for a somewhat-retired reporter who still enjoys watching politics, but not as much as grandfathering.

Did I want the tranquility of my retirement disrupted by messy, whining, spoiled, self-centered people who have little self-control or concept of how to behave? Or did I want to go play with Chloe and Robin?

(Yeah, OK. You saw that line coming.)

The 60-day legislative session blew up on its 57th day, when the House voted to adjourn “sine die.” That’s Latin for “see ya.”

The Senate carried on, testing the notion that it is possible to embarrass the Florida House. After a day of lobbing dead bills across the rotunda, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, asked Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, to bring House members back.

It’s not that the Senate missed them, or expected Crisafulli to smack his forehead and say, “Oh, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.” It’s just that there were things that could have been done, without the special session everyone knew was coming.

With the two chambers at swords point over Medicaid expansion and hospital reimbursement for weeks, everybody was saying they’d never seen anything like this.

Oh, they’ve seen titanic screw-ups before. Lots of times. Just not like this one.

The Tampa Tribune — A shameful display in Tallahassee

The regular session of the 2015 Legislature ended in chaos Friday because House leaders had quit on the session and the people of Florida. It was an ugly meltdown that was completely avoidable.

The blame rests squarely with House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, whose childish decision Tuesday to adjourn his chamber effectively killed any chance for reaching a compromise on a state budget or resolving the divisive Medicaid expansion question. Crisafulli’s stunt also imperiled meaningful legislation that affects the state’s natural resources, health insurance for the poor, prison reforms, potential tax cuts and programs that would benefit the disabled.

At best, some of those key issues might now be resolved when and if the two chambers meet ahead of the state’s June 30 deadline to produce a budget or risk a government shutdown.

Senate President Andy Gardiner has requested a June 1-20 special session, a time frame that would allow the two governing bodies to obtain more health care information and work on their differences. But, of course, the House did not agree. At the same time, a group of senators led by Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, asked the Florida Supreme Court to order the House back into session, arguing members violated the state Constitution by walking out Tuesday, three days before the session’s scheduled end. Justices denied the request.

Finding consensus amid all the bad blood is a tall order to be sure, but voters elect lawmakers to do the hard work of governance, not quit in a huff when things don’t go their way. Crisafulli did not even have the courtesy to consult with House members, most of whom were surprised by his abrupt decision. They have cause to wonder whether they want to be led by someone with so little regard for them.

Gov. Rick Scott is finally speaking up, calling on the House and Senate to resolve the budget impasse. And he formed a commission to guide health care funding. But Scott remained silent for too long as Crisafulli ran the legislative process off the road and into a ditch.

With the regular session lost, the focus must turn to compromise.

 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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