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

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

Tampa Bay Times — In-state tuition bill in Scott’s hands

Only Gov. Rick Scott can salvage the dreams of thousands of undocumented high school students whose only hope to afford college is being allowed to pay in-state tuition. Only the governor has the stature and political leverage to force the Senate to take up this issue of fundamental fairness that the House already has approved. Only the governor can dictate the outcome of legislation that would help him politically and stop penalizing students who already are succeeding in our local schools and communities.

Scott supports the Senate bill, SB 1400, that would enable illegal immigrants who have graduated from Florida high schools to pay in-state tuition. He sent out a news release Friday that he is joined in support by former Republican Govs. Bob Martinez and Jeb Bush. (He didn’t mention former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat and candidate for governor who also supports in-state tuition for these students.) But it is going to take more from Scott than news releases to get this legislation back on track.

Two unenlightened Republicans, Senate President Don Gaetz of Niceville and Budget Committee Chairman Joe Negron of Stuart, stand in the way. Gaetz opposes the bill but has said he would not block it if a majority of senators supported it. Yet with at least tacit approval from Gaetz, Negron refuses to schedule the bill to be heard in the last committee meeting Tuesday. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, probably has 25 votes for the bill in the 40-member Senate. This is a fight between two factions of the Republican Party, and some 175,000 undocumented high school students could be collateral damage.

Negron makes two fallacious arguments. He suggests allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition will hurt Floridians by costing universities tens of millions in higher out-of-state tuition. But it’s unclear how many undocumented students would attend college. The House bill also requires that their university slots would come from those set aside for out-of-state students, not seats that would be taken by Floridians. Negron also contends colleges and universities can choose now to charge undocumented immigrants in-state tuition. Miami Dade College and Florida International University are doing it, but the University of Florida and other universities say that is illegal.

The Bradenton Herald — Be wary of FL Legislature in funding for mental health crisis centers

Powerful forces that pushed legislation to strip the state’s mental health crisis centers of major funding haven’t disappeared. But wiser minds prevailed recently when the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a bill, SB 1726, that only requires the centers, including Manatee Glens, to create a statewide database to pinpoint the costs of Baker Act patients.

Those patients end up in custody as a threat to the public or themselves and can be held for evaluation for up to 72 hours.Without Crisis Stabilization Unit beds, they would be sent to emergency rooms, private hospitals or jail — all far costlier than a center dedicated to treating mental health.

The poisonous legislation, SB 7122, would have slashed flat fees based on the number of beds at a crisis center by 75 percent. Current capacity funding allows the state’s 117 public and private Crisis Stabilization Centers to remain poised to meet peak needs.

Instead of receiving $300 per day from the state for each bed, including empty ones, the crisis centers would be paid per patient along with 25 percent of capacity funding.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Community angels help a family in need

The family of Zuheily Rosado is still awaiting justice for her slaying. But on Friday, they received some welcomed compassion, dignity and closure.

Rosado, 32, a single mother of six children, was shot and killed execution-style the morning of Feb. 21, 2013, while working at a Mobil Mart gas station in Palm Coast. The suspected gunman, Joseph F. Bova II, was arrested in September on a charge of first-degree murder. His competency to stand trial remains in question. His next court appearance is May 6.

After their mother’s death, the children, who at the time ranged in age from 6 months to 16 years, were forced to relocate and move into a small apartment with their grandparents. For a short time, eight people lived in a cramped apartment. Three of the children have since moved to another part of the state to live with their father. Rosado’s other three children, ages 17, 16 and 2, remain with their grandparents. Twice they have faced eviction.

Money is tight. The grandparents speak little English and the grandfather is disabled, but he is working part-time at a fast-food restaurant. The eldest daughter works and goes to school. Most of their income is derived from Social Security.

However, thanks to donations from the Justice Coalition, a Jacksonville-based victim-rights group, the family has been able to afford a larger apartment and living expenses, a used vehicle and gas money for transportation — and enough funds to pay off their mother’s funeral expenses.

The Florida Times-Union — One Spark signals city can be center for innovation and start-ups

The ambitions for One Spark go far beyond drawing 260,000 people to a downtown festival.

Its core purpose is to turn Jacksonville into a recognized venue for creators and entrepreneurs, provide the supporting infrastructure to help them grow their business or enterprise and surround them with a community of other imaginative and creative people.

That means bringing out the best and often undiscovered creators in this region.

It also means attracting others from far and wide to come here and compete for attention, prize money and in some cases venture capital.

Having doubled attendance over its first year and as One Spark attracts growing global attention, its founders are now considering how best to move forward, expand and build upon what feels like remarkable success.

Its potential for Jacksonville is breath-taking although not clearly defined.

The Gainesville Sun – Bashing the IRS

It’s hardly a display of political courage to bash the Internal Revenue Service, especially on the day that taxes are due.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, joined three dozen of his colleagues in sending a letter Tuesday urging IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to combat tax fraud.

The Government Accountability Office reported more than 640,000 cases of identity theft-related tax fraud in 2012, more than double the previous year, according to the letter.

Tax fraud can cause billions of lost government revenue and a crackdown is certainly in order. But it’s disingenuous to criticize the IRS for failing to act on the issue at the same time that you’re hindering the agency’s ability to do so.

The IRS has fewer agents auditing tax returns than at any time since at least the 1980s, The Associated Press reported this past week. As a result, less than 1 percent of all returns from individuals will be audited, the lowest rate in years. The problem is that the agency’s budget has been cut to $11.3 billion in the current year from $12.1 billion in 2010, despite new responsibilities such as implementing parts of the Affordable Care Act.

The Lakeland Ledger — Florida E-Cigarette Bill: Include Home Rule

State representatives working to ban electronic cigarette sales to minors turned it into an attack on home rule.

While the state Senate unanimously passed a measure prohibiting e-cigarette sales to minors, state representatives couldn’t leave well enough alone. They tacked on a measure that would prevent local governments from instituting their own rules for e-cigarettes as well as tobacco products.

The measure has turned support from groups such as the American Lung Association into opposition. If the change scuttles the measure, lawmakers will bear responsibility for the rising rates of teens getting hooked on an addictive habit.

E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine to create a vapor that users inhale. The liquid comes in fruit and candy flavors, potentially attracting children.

A 2013 survey found 12 percent of Florida high school students had tried e-cigarettes, an increase of more than 100 percent since 2011.

The Miami Herald — From tragedy to farce

Another week of hearings at Guantánamo, another series of jaw-dropping revelations and rulings that underline the futility of the whole enterprise. That the system isn’t working has long been obvious. Now the tragedy is turning into farce.

Exhibit A: The disclosure that the FBI allegedly tried to turn a member of the defense team for 9/11 defendants into a confidential informant, spying on colleagues on behalf of the U.S. government.

Did the FBI not realize that by doing so the agency was damaging the trial procedure at Guantánamo (such as it is)? Did it really believe it could flip a member of the defense team and keep it secret? No wonder some skeptical family members of 9/11 victims believe the whole thing was a deliberate effort to derail the hearings. What else are they to think?

Army Col. James L. Pohl did the only thing he could, issuing a bench order to anyone who ever served on the defense teams of the Sept. 11 case to find out if any of them indeed were approached and asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement about the contact. The notion that you can commit an illegal act and get away with it by making the other party sign a nondisclosure agreement is itself farcical. Inspector Clouseau would approve.

The Orlando Sentinel — Angel Sanchez and Joe Negron: Champ & Chump


Angel Sanchez: He epitomizes both the strength of the human spirit and the power of education. An ex-gang member and felon, he grew up on mean streets in Miami, the son of a crack-addicted mother and an immigrant father who spoke broken English. Still, his father urged him to get an education. That advice didn’t take until Angel was in prison, where he earned his GED. After his release, he was admitted to Valencia College. He’ll graduate next month with a 4.0 GPA and a $30,000 a year scholarship to continue his studies. He dreams of becoming a lawyer. We certainly wouldn’t count him out.


Joe Negron: There will be fewer unlikely success stories coming from Florida’s colleges and universities if the chairman of the state Senate’s Appropriations Committee gets his way. After the House passed a bill to offer lower in-state tuition to Florida high-school graduates known as “Dreamers” — students brought illegally into this country as children by their parents — this Stuart Republican decided to play governor and veto the measure, declaring his committee wouldn’t consider it. If his power play stands, fewer students in Florida will reach their potential, and the state will be poorer for it.

The Ocala StarBanner — A threat to kids

State lawmakers can’t do something as simple as banning electronic cigarette sales to minors without turning it into an attack on home rule.

While the Florida Senate unanimously passed a measure prohibiting e-cigarette sales to minors, House lawmakers couldn’t leave well enough alone. They tacked on a measure that would prevent local governments from instituting their own rules for e-cigarettes as well as tobacco products.

The measure has turned support from groups such as the American Lung Association into opposition. If the change scuttles the measure, lawmakers will bear responsibility for the rising rates of teens getting hooked on an addictive habit.

E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine to create a vapor that users inhale. The liquid comes in fruit and candy flavors, potentially attracting children.

A 2013 survey found 12 percent of Florida high school students had tried e-cigarettes, an increase of more than 100 percent since 2011.

The Pensacola News-Journal — Green: Schedules mean seconds matter

“What time will you be here in the morning?”

She went on to explain she wasn’t complaining, just needing to know so she could have her daughter there in time for her ride to the elementary school; that she had to walk to school that morning because I came and left before she got to the stop location.

I explained it should be about the same time because I tried to start the run exactly when the Run Directions said and every stop on the route tended to run about the same time.

The old song asked the questions, “Does anybody know what time it really is? Does anybody really care?” Obviously the song writer wasn’t a parent needing to schedule hundreds of things in a day, including making sure the children met the school bus. She cares. It affects her entire day and the days of millions of other parents all doing the best they can. In fact, billions of people coordinate their actions based on a shared agreement as to what time it is.

Sometimes what’s written isn’t what’s done. Changes happen all the time and nobody updates all records with each and every change. The instructions might be, or seem to be, a bit off. Either that or the parent was wrong. It happens. Not every watch agrees with every other watch but the disagreement is usually a matter of seconds rather than minutes.

The Palm Beach Post — Deputy-involved shootings symptom of county’s lagging mental health system

In treatment, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has a big one. His deputies have been shooting people they’re supposed to arrest or deliver to mental health centers.

It’s time for Bradshaw to stop justifying his department’s officer-involved shootings and take ownership for a culture where people with schizophrenia are perceived as “the bad guy.”

The Panama City News-Herald — Clouds dim Florida Sunshine

For a while, it must’ve seemed easy. SB 1648 and HB 1151, companion bills in the Senate and House, were written to improve Floridians’ access to public records and public meetings.

They were zipping toward passage when the League of Cities and chambers of commerce started raising questions.

Negotiations ensued. Changes were made.

Now, it appears, the bills are stalled.

“Generally, when you have those on opposite sides of a bill coming to agreement on compromise language, the gates are lifted and the legislation starts moving,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. “I don’t have a clue what — or who — is blocking passage …”
What’s being blocked is legislation which would stipulate that requests for public records don’t have to be made in writing (unless a statute specifically demands it, and unless the holder of the records can cite the statute).

The Tallahassee Democrat – Mark Hohmeister: Gardens teach lessons, all right

Community gardens seem to be all the rage, and with good reason. They’re a great source of nutrition in what may be food deserts. They can help bring a neighborhood together. A column in the April 11 Home & Garden section called them “a place to daydream, a place to explore, a place to learn.”

I might add: a place to learn how to handle failure.

You’d think gardening would be in my genes.

The grandfather we called “Pappy” was a city boy from New York, but when he retired to a home in the country a new talent burst forth. I remember spending summer days walking through his amazing garden. One row grew raspberries every year, but the rest was devoted to neatly tended rows of traditional vegetables: radishes, beans, lettuce, corn. I regret never asking him how he did it, but back then, the success of Pappy’s garden was just a given.

My father also keep a large and productive garden when I was a boy. We had an acre of land, and he took advantage of all that space. We had fresh vegetables all summer, canned vegetables all winter, pumpkins big enough that I could sell them to neighbors out of my red wagon, and even an orchard and a grape arbor (I still can smell the pots of grapes boiling in the basement as my mother made jelly).

The Tampa Tribune — Protecting natural springs should be a priority

State lawmakers can take a giant leap forward this year by passing a Senate bill that promises to clean and protect the state’s natural springs. The Senate’s Springs and Aquifer Protection Act offers a comprehensive and long-overdue approach to reversing years of neglect and abuse to a vital source of fresh water for all Floridians.

The bill is good for the environment and good for the economy and has bipartisan support in the Senate. It would use nearly $380 million to nurse the springs back to health. But a similar bill in the House has languished as business interests that include the Florida Chamber of Commerce and fertilizer and housing associations stand in opposition.

The House has set aside $50 million for springs restoration this year, and House Speaker Will Weatherford says he’ll consider the Senate’s bill when it passes through that chamber. We hope the Senate passes the bill in its current form and Weatherford looks beyond the narrow special interests and pushes for a similar bill to pass in the House.

Senate Bill 1576 offers a range of activities needed to restore the springs. It would impose regulations that curtail runoff and end excessive pumping. It would provide a recurring funding source and require local governments to meet or exceed the state’s limits on fertilizer use, which can bleed into springs and pollute the water. It would identify septic systems that threaten to pollute the springs.

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.