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

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Tampa Bay TimesExpanded  Medicaid makes economic sense

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, has done little to push legislative leaders Don Gaetz, left, and Will Weather-ford, behind Scott, to expand Medicaid. He needs to make the hard-nosed economic case for action.

Leadership matters. In Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer set aside her opposition to health care reform, called the legislature into special session and forced it to approve Medicaid expansion. In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott had a similar epiphany but hardly lobbied Republican lawmakers who refused to expand Medicaid. Now that he has signed into law or vetoed most legislation, Scott should refocus on the most important issue facing Florida and demand action.

There are moral and medical arguments for expanding Medicaid in Florida. It would cover nearly a million uninsured adults earning $15,856 or less and create a healthier state. But that is not persuasive to House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who believes poor people could get health coverage if they just worked harder and got better jobs that offered insurance. So Scott and the business community should hammer home the hard-nosed, economic reasons Florida should expand Medicaid.

The Bradenton HeraldManatee County in tough spot on indigent health care with tight budget

Tuesday’s resounding defeat of the sales surtax referendum punched several big holes in Manatee County’s lone budget blueprint. Since voters indicated a preference for the status quo instead of altering county revenue sources, county Administrator Ed Hunzeker must revamp his 2013-2014 budget.

That became clear at Thursday’s budget workshop with county commissioners, as Hunzeker all but abandoned his three-way plan to swap out revenue sources. With the downfall of the half-cent sales tax increase to pay for indigent health care, the county administrator recommended the board table his idea for the second key part of the revenue plan — the introduction of electric franchise fees in the unincorporated portions of the county. He also recommended his plan to free municipal residents of the costs of sheriff’s patrols be set aside, too.

Without sales tax or franchise fee income, the county cannot afford steep property tax reductions, the third aspect to this revenue-neutral plan. The countywide millage rate, which has been stable since 2008, will likely remain at 6.2993 with property owners in the unincorporated area of the county charged a total of 6.9102.

Hunzeker’s initial $517.8 million budget proposal neither grows government nor cuts services.

Daytona Beach News-JournalState wise to strengthen database privacy controls

The management and oversight of Florida’s prescription drug database is getting a needed second look in the wake of the release to local attorneys of the prescription records of more than 3,000 Volusia County residents.

Facing a legal and constitutional challenge from a Daytona Beach criminal defense attorney, the 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office has offered assurances that it will not release information prosecutors obtained from the database unless ordered by a court. Attorney Michael Lambert says computer disks the state attorney released to lawyers representing six defendants in a prescription fraud case contain the names of about 3,300 Volusia residents, including his own.

Lambert claims the drug-monitoring program violates the state constitution and subjects citizens to unreasonable searches.

The Lakeland Ledger—Lakeland Police Oversight: Affidavit Signatures a Sham

Here’s one Lakeland Police officer’s idea of truthful-and-proper evidence for use in court during a DUI trial, during which he testified Tuesday:

  • Fill out only the first page of a six-page affidavit detailing a defendant’s refusal to take a breath-alcohol test.
  • Sign the single page jointly with the defendant. (The signatures swear that all pages of the affidavit are true.)
  • Wait for days to fill out the remaining five pages.

It wasn’t enough that Officer David Edds had testified to the details of this dishonest routine. He also testified that he follows the practice frequently.

Edds said he is not the only officer involved in the false-affidavit routine at the Lakeland Police Department.

The Miami Herald—Economic impact of immigration reform a plus

Advocates of providing a road to citizenship for undocumented immigrants — however long and winding that road might be — have spent years making the moral argument, the humane argument, the practical argument against separating parents here illegally from their American-born children or shipping 11 million souls back across the border or over an ocean.

But supporters making the economic argument in favor of rigorous, but compassionate, reform got the biggest boost yet last week. The Congressional Budget Office released a report that projects if Senate Bill 744 were enacted, changes in direct spending and revenues “would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the 2014-2023 period.”

The CBO also estimates that the legislation would result in discretionary costs of $22 billion during that same period. This would lead to a net savings of about $175 billion between 2014 and 2023. No matter how robust the U.S. economy — and it’s not right now — $175 billion is not chump change. Over the following decade, the CBO estimates that savings could reach $700 billion. For fiscal year 2014 alone, the federal budget deficit is expected to be $744 billion.

The Senate is deep in debate over the Gang of Eight’s voluminous immigration proposal. Yes, it’s flawed. It denies same-sex immigrant couples the same opportunities to gain legal status here, and citizenship waiting periods are exhaustingly long. But there is so much at stake that none of the bill’s deficiencies should be deemed fatal.

The CBO report helps kick the legs out from under opponents’ contention that native-born American workers are going to be hurt by giving undocumented immigrants status in this country. But it doesn’t mean that they’re not trying mightily to keep their argument from tipping over and crashing to the ground. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R., Ala., contends that the impact of the increase on the labor force will “be harshest for today’s low-income Americans.”

This is a shortsighted view to the enduring problem of having millions living in the shadows.

Orlando Sentinel—Water districts’ decline imperils natural treasures

In a forum in Jacksonville this past week, environmental advocates sent out another distress signal on the endangered health of two of Florida’s most valuable natural assets: Silver Springs and the St. Johns River.

The once famously clear waters of Silver Springs have become increasingly fouled with algae and weeds because of pollution and a diminished flow from the Floridan Aquifer. Silver Springs is a water source for the St. Johns River system, so problems that begin in the springs flow on to afflict the river.

Historically, advocates for imperiled waterways in Florida could expect at least some backup from a public partner: one or more of the five regional water-management districts. Lawmakers created the districts in 1972 with a mission that includes protecting water quality and natural resources.

But those parts of the districts’ mission have been steadily undermined by Gov. Rick Scott and similarly shortsighted state lawmakers.

The Tampa Tribune –Death penalty law not the answer

Florida’s newly signed death penalty law has been denunciated far and wide as a dangerous act that puts innocent people at risk of execution.

In reality, the law isn’t worthy of the scorn. Rather than fundamentally change the state’s faulty death penalty process, the law creates notification and oversight procedures meant to track the cases more closely and minimize delays.

Its legislative sponsors wanted to bring relief to victims’ families, some of whom endure interminable delays. As the Legislature debated the bill this spring, 155 death row inmates in Florida had been in custody for more than 20 years, 10 of them for more than 35 years.

We don’t know the circumstances behind those exorbitant delays. But it should be clear to all concerned that it shouldn’t take that long.

The Ocala Star BannerOf patience and prudence

There is no shortage of places or programs in Ocala/Marion County that could benefit from the $212 million in proceeds the community expects to reap from leasing Munroe Regional Medical center to its new operators, the Naples-based Health Management Associates Inc.

After all, by almost every measure — except for its quality hospitals and medical community — Ocala/Marion County has above-average community health needs and below-average community health outcomes. Maybe the most important and demonstrative measure of the health of our community is that one-fourth of its residents, more than 80,000 people under the age of 65, have no health care coverage — not insurance, not Medicaid, nothing — and, as a result, no regular health care.

It is against that backdrop that Munroe’s trustees, who will be responsible for overseeing how the $212 million windfall for the community — which legally must be spent on health care-related programs and development, met Thursday with the Marion County Commission to start discussing how and on what to spend the money.

It was an appropriately general discussion, with few specifics hammered out. The gist of the meeting, however, was that the trustees should employ patience and prudence in determining how it will invest the money, how it will disburse it and who and what will be the ultimate recipients.

Obviously, addressing the health care needs of the swelling numbers of uninsured and indigent residents was an agreed-upon priority. Other suggestions included expanding community-based health services into the county’s more rural regions and devoting some of the money to recruiting more physicians to Ocala/Marion County, whose doctor-to-patient ratio is about half the national average.

The Palm Beach Post—Civility codes can’t outlaw criticism

Here’s a hint for elected officials in Palm Beach County: “civility” is not defined as “saying nothing bad about an elected official.”

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio is fretting about the civility code for speech at city commission meetings. The mayor has formed a panel, which includes no elected officials, to produce the impossible: a code that will satisfy everyone.

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.