Guest Author – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Guest Author

Eric Silagy: Global trade equals greater opportunity

Global trade in Florida means high wage jobs and greater opportunity for economic development.

Research shows that one out of five jobs in Florida is tied to international trade. We must continue to have important conversations on ways to secure Florida’s future and position Florida as a leader in international trade.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has been a long-standing advocate of free trade, and together we will continue to support expanding international trade and investment opportunities for Florida businesses, advocating for fair and equitable market access for Florida-origin exports abroad and eliminating barriers that are harmful to Florida’s competitiveness.

A delegation of business leaders joined the Florida Chamber of Commerce recently in Washington, D.C. encouraging Florida’s Congressional Delegation to support Florida’s job creators and to work to ensure that trade continues to benefit the U.S. and Floridians.

As the Trump administration considers the future of trade, it’s important now more than ever, that Florida’s business community unites in support of private-sector job creation, regulatory reform and creation of opportunities for economic prosperity, through strong global ties.

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Eric Silagy is president & CEO of Florida Power & Light and a member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Kara Irby: Religious involvement deters marijuana use

Although marijuana use for medical and recreational purposes is at an all-time high in the United States, a team of researchers led by a Florida State University professor has found those who hold strong religious beliefs are choosing to stay away from cannabis.

FSU Associate Professor Amy Burdette and her team found that individuals who regularly attend church and report that religion is very important in their daily decision making are less likely to use marijuana recreationally and medically. The study was recently published in the Journal of Drug Issues.

“Our study confirms previous studies of recreational marijuana use,” Burdette said. “However, I believe ours is the first to examine the association between religiosity and medical marijuana use.”

The study used data from 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a random sample of the U.S. adult population. Although many studies have focused on the association between religion and substance use in adolescence and young adulthood, few studies have focused on marijuana use in adulthood.

“We know various forms of substance use have increased among older adults as well, Burdette said. “So, we need to know what’s going on among people in their 30s, 40s and 50s in terms of their substance use.”

In the study, researchers examined three focal variables — religious salience, religious service attendance and self-rated health.

Levels of religious attendance ranged from never attending services to attending more than once a week. Researchers found with every level of increased attendance the odds of being a recreational marijuana user reduced by 13 percent. The study found the likelihood of recreational marijuana use decreased by 20 percent as religious salience levels increased.

Researchers also examined the association between religious involvement and marijuana use of adults in poor health. They found that religious involvement was less effective in deterring marijuana use among sickly adults whether recreational or medically prescribed.

“You have two big institutions coming against each other when you’re suffering and in poor health,” Burdette said. “You might have your pastor highly stigmatizing its use, saying ‘it’s bad, it’s a drug, you shouldn’t do this,’ while your doctor says, ‘try this, it could help your pain and suffering.’”

With the impact of religion in society starting to decline, Burdette said perhaps more people are deferring to a medical authority.

Researchers said further study could include personality types and the religious affiliation of individuals. They also noted that the data is based on self-reports and people were potentially more likely to avoid reporting socially undesirable behaviors.

Co-authors include FSU doctoral candidate Noah Webb; and associate professors Jason A. Ford, University of Central Florida; Stacy Hoskins Haynes, Mississippi State University; and Terrence D. Hill, University of Arizona.

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Kara Irby is a news and copywriting specialist at Florida State University.

Rebecca McLaughlin: What Publix can learn from Chick-Fil-A about handling political activists

Publix is currently facing an issue that is increasingly prevalent in American corporations: political activism.

As the left has become more radicalized with their demands for political conformity in the public space, the presence of activist-driven campaigns has increased and become more effective. Progressive activists understand that most American corporations are meek in the face of controversy and often mistake political activism as another type of customer complaint.

The result is that American corporations are easy targets for outrage campaigns spearheaded by mostly progressive activists on a range of environmental, social and economic issues.

Last week, Publix faced criticism on social media for its support of gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a natural fit given that Putnam is a native of Polk County and champion of Florida business.

Part of the Publix culture is putting customers first and responding quickly to complaints about shopper experience.  Publix’s customer-driven approach is part of the magic that allows the company to be a place “where shopping is a pleasure.”

Unfortunately, the Publix approach does not work when the complaints come not from shoppers, but from political activists. The key difference is this: the customer wants a company to make good on its stated goals. An activist wants a company to change it goals.

For the purposes of this article, an “activist” is someone engaging in a political mindset as opposed to a consumer mindset. The idea that a customer can move between being a consumer and an activist is vexing for companies, but is a reality of our increasingly politically infected culture.

Back to the Publix example.

Take a look at the Twitter response that drew the attention of the media last week.

The Publix response, while genuine and true to company culture, violates the three rules every company should follow if subjected to a campaign by political activists.

First, never apologize for your political position. The best corporate example here is Chick-Fil-A. Progressive activists disdain the company for its conservative, Christian values. Chick-Fil-A, however, just keeps growing, even in places such as liberal Manhattan, because Chick-Fil-A doesn’t apologize for its views. Apologies for intentional political stances only draw media attention, attract more activists, and make companies appear less authentic.

Second, never say what your company did NOT do. In the @Publix tweets, Publix clarifies they do not support the National Rifle Association (NRA). By attempting to be unambiguous Publix actually reinforced the idea of a link between themselves and the NRA.  The resulting headline the next day in the Tampa Bay Times actually read “Publix Clarifies: We Support Adam Putnam, Not The NRA.”

By saying what the company doesn’t support, Publix issued a denial and in politics, denials look like guilt.

Third, don’t respond to activists unless the media is directly asking for a response regarding the issue. The criticism of Publix could have been limited to a fringe social media campaign had Publix opted not to respond. By issuing a response, however, Publix created a mainstream media story that probably would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The Publix story, however, has another layer.

The @PublixHelps Twitter handle also issued a response but one that followed the rules above. Here it is below.

The @PublixHelps tweet was a great response. The tweet simply states why the company supports Putnam without a denouncement of the NRA, mention of gun violence, or denial of any kind.

Simple. Direct. Perfect.

The rise of political outrage culture will continue to create headaches for every American company engaged in any public policy issue. The political minefield can be navigated, but only if corporate marketers are able to understand the differences between the political mind and consumer mind of their customers and obey the three simple rules above.

Remember, progressives still eat at Chick-fil-A and conservatives still buy coffee at Starbucks. If your product is good, even consumers who disagree with you politically can become loyal, lifelong customers.

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Rebecca McLaughlin is the VP of Client Relations at Strategic Digital Services where she spearheads digital strategy for an array of political and corporate clients around Florida.

Logan McFaddin: Summer is near, hurricane readiness begins now

Logan McFaddin

An uptick in the frequency of severe weather is a sure sign that summer is near. And for the southeast, that means hurricane season is quickly approaching.

Last year, three major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — caused an estimated $67 billion in damage in a 28-day window. Forecasters are again calling for an above-average hurricane season in 2018.

Hurricane season begins June 1 and extends through Nov. 30. But named storms can form even in May. Four of the last six years we saw hurricanes form before the official season even began, according to the Weather Channel.

Unfortunately, too many residents in the region still do not give the beginning of hurricane season enough thought — or take action to prepare their homes or their finances.

Floridians can take a few important steps now, to give yourself peace of mind and the confidence that you’re prepared financially for a major storm or emergency event.

Start with checking in with your insurance agent or company regarding the amount of insurance coverage you have. For example, determine if your policy provides for replacement costs or actual cash value of your belongings. If your home is insured at its assessed value, ask if that will be enough to rebuild in the case of a major catastrophe.

Don’t forget to consider additional coverage options such as flood insurance, as most homeowners’ policies do not cover flooding. Flood insurance must be purchased as a separate policy, and it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to go into effect. Remember that floods can devastate communities anywhere. Floods are not isolated to coastal areas or flood zones.

After a disaster strikes, it can be tough to remember everything that was in your home. Homeowners and renters should make a home inventory every year. Use your smartphone to video the inside of your home and its contents. Include images of receipts for large items too. Back up the video on a cloud device, in case your computer or phone are damaged. Ask your insurer if they have an app where you can upload the inventory too.

If you sustain storm damage, call your insurer as soon as possible to start the claims process. Your home inventory will expedite the claims process. Beware of signing any documents from contractors before you talk to your insurer.

Assignment of benefit (AOB) abuse is rampant in Florida today. Third-party groups have perfected a too-good-to-be-true scheme that convinces homeowners and motorists to sign over their insurance benefits in exchange for quick repairs. The most common examples are roofing contractors walking door to door in neighborhoods and car window repair shops approaching motorists in parking lots. These third-parties offer seemingly great deals, but the unknowing home or car owner is being tricked into a lawsuit that could end up increasing their insurance costs over the long term.

Don’t wait until a major hurricane is lingering off the coast before you take action. Prepare your family and your finances early with a few easy steps that can go a long way in storm recovery.

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Logan McFaddin is a regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

Mark Fontaine: DOC makes unwise cuts to substance abuse treatment programs

The Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) is dismantling successful substance abuse and re-entry treatment programs to fix a $28 million shortfall. The shortsighted action will adversely affect communities, offenders and businesses: an action that is totally unacceptable.

DOC Secretary Julie Jones recently announced that 33 community and in-prison substance abuse treatment and housing providers will have their contracts slashed or totally canceled. The total substance abuse reductions are over $22 million with community providers receiving a 43 percent cut and contracted in-prison programs a 48 percent cut.

The loss of substance abuse inmate programs means a greater likelihood of drug and alcohol relapse and a greater chance for repeat criminal offenders. The loss of therapeutic beds means no more graduated re-entry into society and offenders going back into their communities without critical substance abuse treatment. These programs are integral to rehabilitation; these offenders obtain jobs, pay restitution, child support and fines.

The DOC cuts also affect drug courts. Judges’ options to choose a substance abuse diversionary program over a prison sentence will be greatly diminished, thus continuing to crowd Florida’s prison system, and denying treatment to offenders in the community. Inmates currently in diversionary and re-entry programs receiving the cuts will need to be re-sentenced and re-assigned.

The DOC cuts affect every single contracted facility that offers substance abuse treatment and re-entry programs. The providers will lay off more than 600 full-time employees. The promise by the FDC to re-establish programs once money is somehow back in the budget rings hollow with no plan in place to secure funding being lost. Treatment centers have spent years to launch and refine substance abuse treatment programs; they can’t easily be re-established.

Interestingly, the money earmarked for substance abuse treatment before, during, and after incarceration is already in the legislatively approved budget, but the DOC wants to move the approved funds somewhere else. The DOC cites constitutional mandates to provide health care for inmates. The problem is, substance abuse treatment is health care and needs to be considered such by our top leaders.

Financial considerations are also paramount. The cost to house an offender for nine months in a community substance abuse treatment bed is far less than the average 3-year sentence for a drug offender in prison. A community-based approach can easily save the state $30,000 per inmate over the course of a drug-offender sentence.

The loss caused by this action to communities, individuals and businesses is staggering. The Florida Department of Correction cuts to Substance Abuse Treatment Programs (representing just 1.5 percent of the entire FDC’s $2.4 billion budget) should not be happening at all, let alone in the middle of the opioid crisis and the worst drug epidemic the state has ever experienced. Governor Scott and our state leaders need to fix this problem before it’s too late to turn back.

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Mark Fontaine is executive director of the Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association.

Jack Cory: It is time to do away with the Constitutional Revision Commission

In 1968 the voters of Florida adopted a new state Constitution.

The new Constitution provided for three ways to change the document in the future — by an initiative process, by a joint resolution of the Legislature, and by revision through an appointed Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC).

At the time — no other state used a CRC to change its foundational document. That remains true today.

When the voters passed the new Constitution, it made perfect sense to have a CRC look over the Constitution after the passage of time. The primary purpose of the CRC was simply to make sure there was a way to “tweak” the new Constitution after it was in place.

It was never contemplated that the CRC would be used to fundamentally change the Constitution by adding new provisions with amendments. It was assumed such amendments would either come from the Legislature or the people — not the CRC.

In fact, the Constitution says the CRC can only revise the Constitution — it makes no reference to the CRC making wholesale amendments and adding new sections to the Constitution.

The CRC has now been convened three times — with the last CRC officially completing its work this week. They submitted their Final Report to the Secretary of State which contained eight proposed Constitutional Amendments. Most of the proposed amendments contain more than one idea or concept — the CRC called this “grouping.” In the legal arena, this is called logrolling — which is generally prohibited in the lawmaking process.

The CRC announced that logrolling was entirely permissible — basically because they said so. We heard a lot about “precedent”— but the only precedent was the process used the prior two times we convened a CRC.

If you look closer at the case law on the subject logrolling, Courts have said that it could be permissible as it relates to amendments to the Constitution proposed by the CRC because there is an opportunity for public input. Unfortunately, all of the public hearings around the state held by the CRC took place before they decided to lump proposals together. Thus, the public really had no opportunity to voice opposition to grouping vaping and offshore drilling, as an example, in the same amendment.

It was clear from the beginning that some members of the CRC believed deeply that their jobs were to protect the Constitution and only propose amendments that belonged in the Constitution. At the same time, there were other CRC members who appeared to believe they were a “Super-Legislature” and wanted to put things in the Constitution because the idea was unsuccessful in the legislative process (sometimes for many years).

What we are left with as voters are eight Constitutional Amendments proposed by the CRC which consist of ideas that either do not belong in the Constitution — or as a result of grouping do not provide the voters with a clear choice of what they are voting on. As a result — the blow back against the CRC has been almost universal. Newspaper editorial boards all over Florida are recommending that voters reject all of the CRC proposals and many are suggesting that we do away with the CRC altogether.

Many of the members of the CRC took their job very seriously and had the best of intentions. However, our Constitution, among other things, needs to provide stability for our law and system of government. The final action of the current CRC jeopardizes that stability. It is time to take back our Constitution by voting down all of the CRC proposed Constitutional amendments and taking the necessary steps to eliminate the CRC. For the sake of good government, we should limit the ability to amend the Constitution to the voters and their elected representatives.

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Jack Cory is with Public Affairs Consultants Inc. in Tallahassee. He and his wife Keyna are the human care givers to 2 Dogs Rusty and Bear. They are the foster parents for Florida Pets Alive, a No Kill Rescue, to 3 Dogs Zeke, Scarlet and Lady.

Ken Hagan: Selfless act by teen to help save lives

As a county commissioner, I’m fortunate to see the great work local residents are doing each and every day to improve outcomes for our community.

But when one of our local youths selflessly takes action to help save lives, it’s something truly to be recognized and commended.

Recently, Katherine Newcomb, a senior at Riverview High School, was honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning as its 31st Lightning Community Hero for her extensive community service and commitment to the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center’s (BSAC) Learn-to-Swim Program. As part of her recognition, Katherine received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program.

In-between working toward her goal to attend Florida State University to double major in business management and political science and donating more than 200 hours of her time to community service, she’s also changing — and helping to save — lives. Instead of using the donated dollars tied to her Community Hero recognition for something else entirely, Katherine selflessly donated half of the funds to BSAC and earmarked the other half for a scholarship for her own education.

At that age, I don’t know if I would have had the forethought to drive social change, but Katherine’s not just any high school student. She has seen firsthand the important work BSAC is doing to prevent youth drowning and these dollars will ensure the organization is able to further implement its Learn-to-Swim initiative to address and combat the issue of drowning on a local scale by teaching at-risk and disadvantaged youth how to swim.

The Tampa Bay Lightning honors Katherine Newcomb as the 31st Lightning Community Hero. (Image via NHL.com)

Participating children in the program come by way of local Boys and Girls Clubs. To date, the program is well on its way to meeting its goal of providing more than 400 free swim lessons to children ages three to 13 and equipping them with basic water safety skills. BSAC is also expected to surpass its group lesson goal of 1,525, ensuring that even more individuals in Hillsborough County understand water safety procedures to prevent youth drowning.

Katherine should serve as an inspiration for not only teens, but adults, alike, looking to give back and make a difference. No matter the cause, we all have a role to play when it comes to protecting our vulnerable populations. Kudos to Katherine for leading by example as she helps to save young lives and in turn, makes our community a better place.

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Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan is an advocate for youth drowning prevention in the county and Florida. He established a countywide swimmer safety pilot program to bring awareness to youth drowning and was recently honored with the dedication of Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center’s ‘Ken Hagan Learn-to-Swim’ Community Pool for his efforts. He was first elected as a County Commissioner in 2002 and re-elected subsequently.

Chris Hudson: Tampa airport ignores ride-sharing trend, taxpayers beware

Several months behind schedule and more than $1 billion later, the shiny new rental car facility at Tampa International Airport opened earlier this year to decidedly mixed reviews.

For the amount of money taxpayers have ponied up, I think we’re all hoping the experience is better than what we’ve gotten on our taxpayer-subsidized sports stadiums.

The rental car terminal is just the first phase of a $2 billion three-phase airport expansion and its completion gives Floridians a chance to see how our tax dollars have been spent so far. There is cause for concern.

An audit released quietly just a few days after Christmas contains some troubling findings. It revealed that the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority: established a $3.5 million art program that it “did not demonstrate the legal authority for, or necessity of”; failed to openly discuss or provide justification for hefty pay raises bestowed upon executive staff; and on more than one occasion, did not award contracts to the highest-scoring bidder.

These are all questionable practices that hint at poor stewardship of taxpayer money or favoritism.

The Auditor General also criticized the Aviation Authority for failing to properly include balances from previous fiscal years in its final budgets as required by law, noting this “does not provide for transparency” and diminishes the budget’s usefulness as a financial planning tool.

When it comes to financial planning, the Aviation Authority needs all the help it can get.

Tampa Airport has financed its expansion with a $195 million grant from the state and nearly $800 million in new bond debt that is supposed to be funded through existing sources of revenue, like airline ticket fees, as well as parking rate hikes and new rental car fees.

Not a problem in 2011. In 2018 however, when ridesharing services are taking over the market, this plan has holes.

Nationally, Uber and Lyft now account for nearly 70 percent of ground transportation. Taxi cabs have fallen below 10 percent and rental cars are also on the decline. None of this is surprising to American consumers who have been opting for these ridesharing services for several years, but airport planners were caught flat-footed by the trend.

The crux of their expansion plans to reduce congestion around the airport and provide passengers with more choices was a rental car facility and people mover, altogether ignoring ridesharing, passengers’ number one choice. And they thought they’d pay for it with rental car and parking fees.

But for the past several years, their revenue projections have completely overshot actual collections, even as the number of passengers traveling in and out of Tampa has shattered records.

In 2015, the airport projected a customer facility charge revenue of more than $37 million. The actual amount collected: roughly $30 million — a 21 percent difference. The next year, the airport predicted close to $45 million but again fell short, bringing in less than $39 million. And the pattern continued last year. Projections totaled $45.8 million; actual revenue was $35.9 million.

When asked about ridesharing’s impact last April, airport executives said they had simply “pulled the numbers down a little bit.” A little bit? They missed parking revenues by a cool $3 million.

Since then, the Airport Authority has proposed higher passenger pick-up fees for taxis, limos, Uber, and Lyft — passing the cost of poor planning to Florida travelers and visitors.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell: Taxpayers were tapped to pay for the new rental terminal and SkyConnect train, but the airport isn’t bringing in as much money as it shortsightedly expected from rental cars and parking fees. So, now taxpayers will be hit up a second time on their ride to or from the airport.

You might say taxpayers get it coming and going.

Could it be that Tampa Airport, among the nation’s most popular because of its convenience and futuristic flair, is renovating for the past and losing its edge? Maybe. Which is why we need to keep a closer eye on what is happening with our money. Taxpayer flyers beware.

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Chris Hudson is the Florida state director of Americans for Prosperity.

Lauren Baer: We need to talk about quality of health care, not just who pays

Today, as we mark the anniversary of the shameful Republican vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — a craven move disgracefully supported by our current Congressman Brian Mast — pundits around the country will turn to health care.

But, what will inevitably be missing in the political debate over who pays for health care and how much is a discussion of the equally important issue of the standard of care Americans are receiving.

And that’s a problem.

For while it is undeniable that deductibles are too large and premiums too high, to focus on that issue alone is to ignore a critical concern: we are paying too much for care that is simply not good enough, especially for people with complex, chronic medical issues.

I know this is true, because for me it’s personal.

In 2013, while visiting a friend in Chicago, hundreds of miles away from her Florida home, my mother suddenly went into kidney failure. Choking up, my father told me to get on the first possible plane.

My mother was no stranger to hospital rooms, having been in and out of them ever since a 1992 car accident left her with debilitating injuries and medical complications. Over the next week, as we sat at her bedside with hospital staff, we painstakingly reviewed the list of more than 20 medicines that she takes every day, prescribed by nearly a half-dozen doctors.

Each pill was intended to improve her quality of life, but, as we learned, they could also interact in life-threatening ways.

Indeed, what her individual doctors hadn’t told us — or, more troublingly, had not pieced together — was that the particular combination of medicines my mother was taking could bring on sudden kidney failure.

My mom pulled through, but she has been in the hospital more than a dozen times since. Each time, we have the same painful conversation with hospital staff in which we recount her years of trauma, her multiple surgeries, and her long list of doctors who, despite their best efforts, don’t always effectively communicate with each other — or with her.

At home, we go over the different instructions of her many doctors and try to make sure that what each individual physician is doing to save her isn’t inadvertently making her worse. And we help my mom cope with the frustration of feeling like her doctors are making medical decisions without her participation or full consent.

My mother’s story is the lens through which I see health care in our country, and it shines a light on a problem faced by too many Americans: at the same time that we are coping with crippling medical bills and rising health care costs, we are also struggling to receive quality care. That needs to change.

The good news is that we know what works: models that treat patients and family members as part of the care team and puts patients’ preferences and needs — and their unique treatment history — first.

Indeed, patient-centered care is effective on multiple levels: actively engaged patients have better health outcomes and reduced health care costs. In a large randomized study, patients who received enhanced support for making their own health decisions had 12.5 percent fewer hospital admissions, 9.9 percent fewer preference-sensitive surgeries, and overall medical costs that were 5.3 percent lower than the control group.

Patient-centered care also emphasizes coordination among care providers, which creates better outcomes for patients with chronic health issues like my mother.

Converting to this model will take time, but re-evaluating how Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies pay doctors can accelerate that process. Instead of paying for each patient visit or each lab test — the standard fee-for-service model most common today — insurance providers could receive a “care management fee” for each patient under their care and performance bonuses when a doctor’s patients show good health outcomes. This would mean that doctors get rewarded for promoting effective preventive treatments, not just expensive tests and surgeries. And it would reward doctors who coordinate care with other doctors to improve outcomes for their patients.

The ACA has piloted patient-centered care programs, including through Medicare and Medicaid, and they are showing major improvements in patient care. Unfortunately, though, programs like these are still limited in scope — and with Republicans in Congress now intent on dismantling the ACA limb-by-limb, we can’t count on their survival.

For example, one promising patient-centered care initiative isn’t being implemented in Florida, even though coordinated care is a major concern for the 20 percent of the state population that is over 65 years old. This should be troubling to anyone who’s ever worried about whether their health care is up to par.

So, as we approach elections this fall, it’s about time we broaden our conversation about health care. We need to be demanding that quality of care be on the agenda, preserving the reforms that have already started to show better patient outcomes, and insisting on legislation that expands efforts to give all Americans the kind of medical treatment they deserve. I started this conversation with my future constituents yesterday in a roundtable where I asked patients, community leaders, and health care providers to share their thoughts.

Not surprisingly, their real-world experience led them to ask two questions: “Can you make our care cheaper?” and also “Can you make it better, too?”

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Lauren Baer is a Democratic candidate in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. She was a senior policy adviser to former U.S. Secretaries of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

Brecht Heuchan: Grouped CRC amendments benefit voters, offer transformational ideas

Brecht Heuchan

The 2018 Constitution Revision Commission, also known simply as the “CRC,” recently completed the once in every 20-year task of reviewing our state constitution.

The purpose of the review is to ensure that our governing document reflects the values of our modern society and meets the needs of our growing state.

The CRC finalized eight proposed amendments, some of which are “grouped,” meaning multiple ideas are included in one single amendment. These amendments were based on more than a year’s worth of work, by 37 volunteer commissioners, traveling across the state, hosting 15 public hearings, dozens more committee meetings, consulting subject matter experts, and considering hundreds of thousands of comments from citizens.

Unfortunately, instead of debating merits of the policy, some editorial boards have offered sarcasm and ignored facts.

They have indicted the practice of grouping related proposals into single amendments for the ballot yet omitted the reality that grouping some ideas which share common elements is for the benefit of the voter.

According to election officials, long ballots create a disincentive to voting in the first place.

Grouping some ideas together keeps the ballot from becoming too lengthy to complete. If all of the CRC proposals were left as single amendments, there would be 25 questions on the ballot instead of 13; and in some areas of our state, each of those measures would be translated into multiple languages.

Further, not grouping ideas would have abandoned every precedent we have. Both previous Constitution Revision Commissions, in 1978 and in 1998, grouped ideas and did so with more regularity than we did. Indeed, in 1968 the voters of Florida ratified an entirely new constitution which was “bundled,” aka grouped into three, yes only three, ballot amendments. Grouping is not new and not controversial.

Bold ideas are often met with criticism and I support the ability of the media and others to voice their disagreement. However, categorically condemning a historically proven and successful process by omitting facts which are contrary to the desired effect is disingenuous.

If traditional media outlets have any desire to regain the public’s trust, if in news or in opinion, they need to be less selective with information and more honest with their arguments.

Here is the truth: the CRC sent to voters a package of transformational ideas in the form of eight proposed amendments to our Constitution, some grouped, some not. These ideas cover a lot of ground and include wildly popular proposals like sweeping ethics reforms, term limits for school board members, rights for crime victims, a ban on offshore oil drilling, banning the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed indoor workplaces, and ending the inhumane racing of greyhounds for betting purposes.

The ballot language of these proposals is clear and easily understood. Voters are exceedingly smart and will decide how they want their Florida to look for generations to come. In the end, they alone will be the judge of our work.

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Brecht Heuchan is a member of the 2018 Constitution Revision Commission.

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