Return of a popular feature: Summary of Sunday newspaper editorials

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Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-led Legislature appear bent on destroying Florida’s environment and overturning decades of efforts to protect it by governors and lawmakers from both political parties. They would give developers free rein to pave over what’s left, prevent local communities from cleaning up bays and rivers and enable homeowners to dump raw sewage into the drinking water supply.

Orlando SentinelTallahassee’s power grab

At the end of 2010 we cautioned that the Republican Party, more powerful now than ever in Florida’s history, would have to combat the urge to abuse its power.

Fat lot of good that did. Midway through the state’s annual lawmaking season, the GOP-led Legislature is moving to seize power from the governor, the courts, local government, even from the people who elected the legislators.

The House budget proposes privatizing probation and other prison services in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, and both budgets propose privatizing prison healthcare. But the Senate would privatize all prison services as far north as Manatee County, a massive change that clearly hasn? been either planned or closely examined.
Mr. Scott? executive order gives a whole new meaning to the slogan ?ust say No.? Only in this case, ?o? is exactly where the federal courts have come down on the issue of random drug testing for public employees. It? not permissible to test randomly, except for those in jobs that affect public safety and in cases where a reasonable suspicion of abuse exists, according to a 2004 federal court ruling in a case involving Florida? Department of Juvenile Justice.
It isn’t that the school districts in Broward andPalm Beach counties have to find an actual miracle worker.
But something very close would help.
Both districts face huge budget constraints that don’t show any signs of easing. A controversial teacher merit pay system is headed this way from Tallahassee. There are class-size mandates. There has been a dramatic erosion of public confidence. There are endless boundary issues. There will be contentious dealings with unions. In Broward, in particular, there is the specter of corruption and a humiliating grand jury report that hang over the district.
Sending every taxpayer a fair, understandable receipt for the income taxes each of us pays would be a helpful first step toward getting federal spending under control.
A receipt, as has been proposed by Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, would make clear that most of our taxes go to things that are very hard to cut, such as Medicare, Social Security, national defense, interest on the debt and unemployment benefits.
This year, the question isn? that rates will go up; it? how high they will go up.
The Legislature may let companies raise rates up to 25 percent without asking regulators.
For 19 years, Martin County SheriffRobert Crowder has labored to transform the Sheriff’s Office into one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the state. Along the way, Crowder, 65, drastically improved working conditions for his staff and deputies ?bringing salaries up to par with other local agencies, implementing career service programs and promotional examinations, instilling greater accountability ?as well as making the county a safer place to live.
Sarasota Herald-TribuneCounty purchasing gets two looks
Sarasota County’s administrator and commissioners publicly recognized the obvious last week ?that a purchasing department scandal undermines public confidence in local government and warrants a close examination of procurement policies and procedures.
The officials were reacting to the recent arrest of a project manager who has been accused ?as a result of a statewide public corruption investigation ?of illegally accepting trips and perks from a vendor. That manager, Rodney Jones, has been fired; Lee Urbain, a warehouse manager implicated in the scandal, resigned Thursday.
Daytona Beach News-Journal Districts should endorse uniform dress code
A fashion alert for Volusia County students: Dark or neutral colors could be in style this fall. You might even call them the “must-have” colors for school.
Uniforms or no uniforms, schools shouldn’t tolerate the teenage fashions frequently on display at the malls and other locations: pants sagging toward the floor, T-shirts emblazoned with various messages, caps turned backward.
Florida Today Crushing the courts
An unprecedented, dangerous attack on the state judiciary system and constitutionally required separation of governmental powers coming from Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and other GOP lawmakers.
Cannon wants to overhaul the Florida Supreme Court, dividing the seven-member body into two five-member courts. One would handle civil cases, the other criminal appeals, mostly death-penalty cases.
Gov. Rick Scott made his first-ever law signing a significant one, fulfilling a promise he made on the election trail last fall.
The bill? goal is to fairly grade teachers, reward the best and replace low performers. It? all for the benefit of student learning.
The Gainesville Sun – Unfair to teachers
SB 736, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law as the disingenuously named Student Success Act, appears to be an effort to make Florida schools more accountable, effective and more rewarding for teachers who excel.
Unfortunately, the bill’s approach is heavy-handed, administratively intense, drastically short on funding and lacks a reliable means of measuring teacher performance.
Pensacola News-JournalHealth care, the economy
Local hospital officials warn that the plan before the Senate would cut $42 million in reimbursements to hospitals and service providers in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
For instance, hospital officials say the Senate is considering a 60 percent overall cut to mental health programs, including an 80 percent cut to an out-patient program that pays for medication for 3,000 low-income, severely mentally ill people in Northwest Florida.
Polk State College, Winter Haven, and the University of South Florida Polytechnic, Lakeland, are public institutions funded substantially by the state. Florida students pay reduced tuition, made possible by heavy state subsidies.
Nearly all the remaining colleges and universities in Polk are independent and nonprofit — commonly called private colleges. The state helps Florida students at independent colleges through the Florida Residential Access Grant.
“The dilemma we face this year is not only facing potential cuts but also having growth in our student-body size,” Ed Moore told the board. Moore is president of Independent Colleges.
The difficulty for the students is that they are paying private-college tuition and count on the state residential grant to afford their tuition, independent-college officials told the board.
According to the American Medical Association, 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day – and, as a result, the Medicare caseload will double in the next 20 years.
The Wall Street Journal, citing figures from the Association of American Medical Colleges, says there will a shortage of 150,000 physicians over the next 15 years.
Florida? Workforce Education system is terribly disproportionate. The state employs an outdated funding formula that allows an inequitable dispersion of money to the state? technical and adult education centers, operated in 43 public school districts.
As a result, Manatee? vocational education has lost out on $20 million over the past five years. The broken formula awarded Miami-Dade almost $15 million more in just one year, 2009-2010. Manatee County gets only 59 percent of the money the district should. Statewide, the range stands at a low of 24 percent to a high of 400 percent.
If Congress is looking for a health care success story that measurably improves access to care for those who need it while reducing costs exponentially, they would do well to look at the Heart of Florida Health Center right here in Ocala.
Heart of Florida has been a godsend to a community with an estimated 80,000 residents without health insurance and a severe shortage of primary care physicians. Last year, it recorded more than 15,000 patient visits and is expecting to see that figure jump to 22,000 this year.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.