A compilation of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers.
Tampa Bay Times –Big shoes to fill as top prosecutor
Robert E. O’Neill set the right priorities in his three years as the top federal prosecutor for the Middle District of Florida. His focus on public corruption and tax and health care fraud well served the population of the nation’s second-largest judicial district. As the president looks to appoint a successor, the White House should seek a candidate who similarly understands the criminal and consumer issues facing Floridians and who appreciates the office’s obligation to be active, fair and transparent.
O’Neill announced this month he will step down this summer to join a private risk management firm led by former FBI director Louis Freeh. His departure after 20 years in Central Florida and three years as the top prosecutor will mark a loss in institutional history for the entire 35-county jurisdiction, which extends from Jacksonville to Naples. Federal prosecutors have a reputation for ham-handedness — a byproduct of the secrecy surrounding federal court — but O’Neill worked well with local law enforcement. His successor should recognize that treating local authorities the same way helps both sides.
The Bradenton Herald – Manatee’s new school superintendent brings confidence
Manatee County Schools Superintendent Rick Mills expresses great confidence about the future of the district. Though on the job only a month, he’s already taken a variety of aggressive steps to address the district’s many challenges.
His list of priorities covers the waterfront, as he explained in a wide-ranging discussion with the Herald Editorial Board last week. By his forthright responses to tough questions, he leaves the strong impression that he will succeed in turning the district around.
Daytona Beach News-Journal – Proposal to arm teachers a frivolous distraction
In the national debate about guns and school security that arose from the terrible events in Newtown, Conn., late last year, one of the more dubious policy proposals to emerge relates to arming teachers, coaches and other school personnel.
Even the National Rifle Association didn’t press for this off-the-wall policy, instead calling specifically for the deployment of more resource officers. Resource officers — employees of a sheriff’s department or municipal police department — are used in Volusia and Flagler counties, and were before the attack in Newtown in December.
The proposal to arm teachers takes the focus off serious security measures, such as adding more resource officers and other trained security professionals to schools across the nation. Adding resource officers, though, costs money.
The Lakeland Ledger – Florida Polytechnic University: Confirm Board of Trustees
Florida Polytechnic’s Rob Gidel was right to complain Thursday about news that the university’s board of trustees, which he chairs, may not be confirmed by the state Senate in this year’s legislative session. The session is scheduled to end May 3.Gidel expressed his concern during a committee conference call. He said signing off on construction bills for Florida Poly’s centerpiece Innovation, Science and Technology Building might not be appropriate if none of the 11 trustees is confirmed, reported The Ledger’s Mary Toothman in an article Friday.
The Miami Herald – Immigration fix
More than five months after a national election that made it clear where America’s future lies, a bipartisan group of senators has produced an immigration blueprint that contains the essential elements of a workable reform plan: a path to citizenship, tighter security at the border, and fairness for those who have been waiting for years to enter the country legally.
In the coming weeks, the battle in Congress will be about the finer points of the plan. Details are important. For instance, a 13-year pathway to citizenship for immigrants who have been here illegally seems too long, and the demands for border enforcement may be unattainable and could require significant changes.
There will be time to debate these issues. But no one who cares about reform should lose sight of the larger point: Well-intentioned, reasonable lawmakers can fashion an acceptable proposal that irons out the details without scuttling the larger project.
Orlando Sentinel – After Orange vote, stop local benefit mandates
Last year Orange County commissioners resorted to an underhanded, 11th-hour maneuver to keep a proposed sick-leave mandate off the November ballot. A panel of judges, finding commissioners had violated the county charter, ordered the mandate on the 2014 ballot.
Now some state lawmakers from Central Florida are leading efforts in Tallahassee that would bump the proposal off next year’s ballot, too. Advocates for Orange County’s mandate are understandably outraged.
Lawmakers shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity created by the Orange commission’s chicanery to bury the sick-leave proposal for good. Advocates played by the rules in gathering more than 50,000 signatures to bring their initiative to the ballot. They earned their shot with voters.
The Tampa Tribune – A signpost to citizenship, not a high-speed freeway
Standing firm against the new immigration bill will be fashionable in some political circles. The issue has many sides, and this compromise legislation could not possibly please everyone.
Without knowing all the details or consequences, we strongly support the concept of reform that protects the borders and removes, without dangerous gifts of immediate citizenship, the unsettling threat of deportation from the vast community of workers here without official permission.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has played a leading role in negotiating the writing of the bill. He has pushed hard to keep it moving. Some analysts say the effort will cost him the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
Jacksonville Times Union – Frank Denton: Did we need those bomb details
When there is a horrible news story like 9/11, Newtown or the Boston Marathon bombing, journalists jump on telling the story as accurately, quickly and completely as possible. We are conditioned to be calm, collected, deliberate and professional.
As a young reporter in Austin, I covered the University of Texas tower sniper, and I clearly remember that the deaths of 18 innocent people didn’t upset me until I got home that night, after deadline, and my mother called to check on me.
The average citizen can react more freely, personally and emotionally, instantly empathizing with the victims and their families, desiring justice for the perpetrators and wondering what they can do to help, often contributing money to survivors who don’t even need it.
The Ocala Star Banner – Internet tax time
The Legislature is inching closer to bringing Florida’s tax policy into the 21st century by finally requiring out-of-state, Internet retailers to collect the state’s sales tax.
Last week, a Senate Appropriations subcommittee approved an Internet tax bill, sending it to a final floor vote in that chamber. A similar bill is pending in the House.
Both bills would change a current law that calls for Floridians to self-report sales taxes on Internet-based purchases if the out-of-state retailer doesn’t collect them. Self-reporting, as you might expect, is rare, so the taxes are seldom paid. The proposed bills would require Internet retailers to collect the taxes, just as conventional stores have long done.
The Palm Beach Post – Health care district making false argument for dropping contract with inspector general.
Palm Beach County Health Care District officials claim that federal regulations prohibit the district from contracting with the county inspector general’s office. In fact, federal regulations do no such thing, and the district should reinstate the contract it dropped last month.
During an 80-minute meeting with The Palm Beach Post, district board chairwoman Carol Roberts and general counsel Nicholas Romanello insisted that the district had to cancel that contract to comply with new rules under the Affordable Care Act. The district didn’t get an opinion from any federal agency.