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Florida editorial roundup

September 26, 2018

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

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Sept. 25

Tampa Bay Times on flood insurance:

The floodwaters have been still rising in North Carolina, more than a week after Hurricane Florence swept through the state. The storm continues to wreak havoc in areas where fewer than 1 in 10 homeowners have flood insurance, underscoring the need for a long-term fix to the National Flood Insurance Program. Meanwhile, Floridians are stuck in a holding pattern, and Pinellas County residents in particular could be facing major changes to their flood risk.

The Category 1 storm swept ashore Sept. 14 near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., cutting a path of destruction that Floridians know well. This week, far inland, rivers are cresting and putting thousands of additional homes at risk of flooding. Some 60,000 kids are still out of school this week because of flood conditions. The notion that flooding is a concern only for coastal residents is fiction, and that’s a sobering lesson for everyone on this peninsula.

The national flood program is $20 billion in debt, and that figure grows with every new storm. Hurricanes Sandy, Harvey and now Florence didn’t strike Florida directly, but their impacts go straight to Floridians’ insurance costs. That’s because Florida accounts for 1 in 3 flood policies nationwide. And despite our vulnerability to hurricanes, Floridians have paid far more into the program than they have received in claims paid out.

Congress has passed short-term reauthorizations of the National Flood Insurance Program dozens of times in the past 20 years, but the program remains unworkable. Sea levels are rising, hurricanes are growing stronger and the climate is changing at an alarming rate. It’s well past time for Congress to create a national catastrophic insurance policy that spreads the risk and keeps rates reasonable for everyone. And there need to be more options for homeowners in flood-prone areas. Perhaps hardest of all will be an acceptance that certain high-risk areas simply should not be rebuilt.

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When hurricane season ends on Nov. 30, that’s also the day the latest congressional extension to the flood insurance program expires. It’s also the day Floridians breathe a sigh of relief — until the next season begins. But the hazards of living on a flood-prone peninsula don’t change with the seasons, and the sanctity of a home on high ground far from the coast can provide a false sense of safety — as many in North Carolina are now finding out. A lasting fix to the flood program is the only thing that will provide homeowners throughout Florida and the Atlantic seaboard true peace of mind and financial certainty.

Online: http://www.tampabay.com

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Sept. 26

Ocala Star-Banner on a study examining how teacher-friendly states are:

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A recent study took a look at what it calls the best and worst states for teachers. It’s a complex matrix — too much to fully explain here.

The study launches from this viewpoint: Education jobs are among the lowest-paying occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree, and teacher salaries fail to keep up with inflation. At the same time, demands on student achievement continue to rise.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 teachers leave their jobs before the end of the first year, transferring to other schools or jettisoning the profession entirely, feeling “overwhelmed, ineffective and unsupported.”

Again, the matrix is complicated, combining weighted scores for nearly two dozen categories including average salaries, income growth potential, tenure predictions, quality of the local school system, pupil-teacher ratios, public school spending per student, teacher effectiveness requirements, teacher turnover, average commute (important here as affordable workforce housing continues to decline), prevalence of childhood disadvantage, average teacher pension, share of uncertified teachers and more.

The bottom line is Florida ranks 45th out of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

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The study says nothing about mild winters, sunny summers, beaches, transportation, taxation, cost of living or any number of quality of life issues that would likely make Florida’s numbers much stronger.

But, if the state of Florida is genuinely serious about raising academic performance, the study might include some thinking points — if not talking points.

We can look at the path to excellence in education in many ways but, from where we sit, none get there without excellent teachers.

We don’t want to politicize this issue, but it’s difficult not to. Neither Rep. Ron DeSantis’ nor Mayor Andrew Gillum’s political rhetoric are anything but, well, rhetoric. Gillum’s vow to pay Florida teachers $50,000 is a pipe dream, considering the Republican makeup of the Legislature. DeSantis will end the apparent monopoly of public schools in the state and is fully on board to replace it with a monopoly of charter schools.

And neither seems ready to talk about the biggest threat to education we have in Florida — legislative meddling/muddling in classroom creativity and letting teachers teach.

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Meanwhile, we face an uphill battle to keep competent teachers in our schools with 45 states apparently making the profession more appealing.

Online: http://www.ocala.com

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Sept. 25

The Miami Herald on the state attorney general race:

Floridians need an attorney general who is looking out for them, something they haven’t had for too long. Democrat Sean Shaw is by far the best candidate to return the office to the service of the people — and not to elected officials looking to further a mean and narrow political agenda. This has been current Attorney General Pam Bondi’s modus operandi for almost eight years.

Just as unfortunate, Ashley Moody, Shaw’s Republican opponent, appears to worship at Bondi’s feet, promising more of the same. We say, enough.

Shaw’s experience makes him eminently qualified to serve as Florida’s attorney general, the state’s chief legal officer.

Shaw, 40, is the son of the late Leander Shaw, who served as a justice on the Florida Supreme Court. In 2008, the younger Shaw, an attorney, was appointed insurance consumer advocate by then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. He held rate hearings to determine if proposed increases were justified and fair. He was elected to the state House in 2016, where, he said in a joint interview with the editorial page editors of the Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel and Palm Beach Post, that he voted against bills that were anti-union and anti-workers comp.

The attorney general is charged with protecting Floridians from fraud — from consumer to Medicaid scams — enforcing anti-trust laws, defending the state in civil litigation cases and going after drug traffickers, identity theft and gangs. Crime victims seek relief and assistance through the office, which also encompasses the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, the Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys and the Office of Civil Rights.

Here’s where he stands on the issues that would fall under his purview:

Shaw says he would issue subpeonas to get to the bottom of toxic algae blooms sullying Florida’s eastern shores: Florida should figure out the cause and “go after it.” Also he would consider suing corporate polluters. ...

He would hold pharmaceutical companies’ feet to the fire for the role they’ve played in the deadly opioid crisis.

He would resuscitate the civil-rights division, which pursues legal action against entities found to be violating Floridians’ civil rights. ...

Shaw would request that the Legislature come up with more resources to combat human trafficking.

He would use his office as a “bully pulpit” to repeal the Stand Your Ground law.

Shaw said that the attorney general is not to be the “general counsel to the governor.” He cites Bondi’s lawsuit to hobble the Affordable Care Act, including gutting coverage for pre-existing conditions. It’s no coincidence: Gov. Rick Scott long has been an enemy of the ACA, even helping to craft repeal efforts. ...

Shaw’s opponent, Moody, is an accomplished attorney and former federal prosecutor. In 2006, at 31, she became the youngest judge in the state when she was elected to the Hillsborough County Circuit Court.

She expresses fawning admiration for Bondi, who has endorsed her. Though asked three times, Moody dodged the question as to whether she would continue in Bondi’s footsteps. She says that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, the push to automatically restore ex-felons’ voting rights “goes too far” and that she supports Stand Your Ground because it “codifies the right to defend ourselves.”

Florida has seen enough of this harmful status quo. ... The Herald recommends Sean Shaw for Florida attorney general.

Online: https://www.miamiherald.com

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