Guest Author, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 151

Guest Author

Frank Ortis: PACE sets consumer protection industry standard for home improvements

City of Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis

As a mayor, job creation, healthy neighborhoods, and public safety are my top priorities. That’s why Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is such a winning idea for Pembroke Pines and, in my view, cities across Florida. PACE lets property owners leverage their home’s equity to finance hurricane-hardening, energy efficiency and renewable energy home improvements, like solar panels, roofing and windows. Homeowners then pay for improvements over time through an additional line item on their property taxes.

Most homeowners scramble to replace these home systems with the cheapest option — or don’t make the improvements at all. That’s not good for them, or our neighborhoods. PACE is a great tool that empowers homeowners to invest in their homes in a way that makes them more prepared for the next storm and lowers their long-term energy costs.

What makes PACE even better is the job creation impact it has. By boosting home improvement activity, cities and counties can give a boost to local small businesses. That, in turn, grows high-quality construction sector jobs that can support families and boost the overall economy. They are also the kind of jobs that can’t be shipped overseas or automated.

But PACE does much more for our homeowners than make them better prepared, or save them energy. The consumer safeguards provided through PACE financing are unparalleled. PACE financing can only be offered by licensed contractors in good standing with the state and only those efficient or high-performance-rated products can be installed using PACE financing. Reverse mortgages, home equity lines of credit and credit cards don’t come close to offering that type of oversight. In addition, the contractors who complete projects funded through PACE don’t receive a dime until homeowners sign off that the work was completed to their satisfaction.

And even in the short time we’ve had PACE in Pembroke Pines, we’ve seen even more progress. Mortgage-level disclosures, modeled after federal “Know-Before-You-Owe” forms, with comprehensive details spelled out clearly, are now standard. PACE financing companies also manage disputes between homeowners and contractors. Could you imagine a credit card company doing anything like that?  The answer is no.

These consumer safeguards are all enshrined in enhanced standards, released in February by nonprofit advocacy group PACENation. These standards include measures like requiring that all homeowners receive a live, recorded phone call to confirm financing terms and reinforce written disclosures. They also instruct all PACE providers to develop forbearance programs for customers who encounter unexpected financial hardship. And some companies, like the nation’s leading residential PACE provider, Renovate America, have specific protections for seniors and have developed systems to help homeowners identify contractors that offer top-quality customer service. Top PACE companies also have dedicated staff to assist homeowners and real estate professionals when selling a home with a PACE improvement—which is important as PACE becomes more common across Florida.

PACE financing brings energy efficiency and hurricane readiness within reach for many homeowners who might otherwise delay.

From where I sit, that makes PACE a promising program for cities and counties throughout Florida.


Frank Ortis is the mayor of the City of Pembroke Pines in Broward County.

Andy Madtes: What HB 11 supporters don’t get

Andy Madtes, executive director for AFSCME Florida.

Recently the House passed HB 11, legislation that would require labor unions representing public sector workers to certify they have more than half of the workers signed up as members every single year. In their view this will empower workers to somehow bargain better contracts and benefits and, they swear, in no way an attempt to strip workers of their right to a voice on the job.

It could be they just don’t understand how a union, in a “right to work for less” state like Florida, operates in a modern workplace. The wages, retirement, health care and other benefits that a union like AFSCME negotiates are enjoyed by every employee, not just those that pay dues. Things like investments in safety, emergency response protocols and, yes, how to save lives from a burning building are negotiated on behalf of bus drivers, public service aids and more, not just those in police and fire unites that the legislation would except under the belief they are the only ones dealing with public safety. All public-sector workers are on the front line of serving their community.

Maybe the supporters of the legislation believe that all workers pitch in to the union in their workplace. That is not true. Members decide to pay dues for a variety of reasons but not because they are forced to do so. Non-members don’t even pay a fair share for the benefits they get to enjoy.

It is a choice, but this legislation would take that choice from them.

In America, we believe in the will of the majority but respect and protect the rights of the minority. A church doesn’t exist only if they get 50 percent of the town’s residents to attend, or even get 50 percent of their own congregation to attend each week. Official documents are printed in a variety of languages because we don’t force people to speak what most their neighbors speak. And people are elected to office with a majority of those who vote, not a majority of the citizens of that district, because we respect the right for people to not vote if they choose not to.

By requiring a worksite to have a majority of workers signed as members you take away a choice. You limit a right, the right to collectively bargain, that even President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor said, “is clearly established by law.”

I invite anyone who supports HB 11 to join me for a day or two out talking to workers about why they do, or do not, join the union. See how unions actually contribute to our state’s prosperity. Understand how this legislation wouldn’t empower workers but actually take away a right that men and women have died to protect for generations – the right to choose for ourselves.

Any country can operate by majority rule, what makes us special is that we respect minority rights. That is why this is not just bad legislation, it is anti-American.


Andy Madtes is the executive director for AFSCME Florida. Representing 15,000 members across the Sunshine State, Madtes has led AFSCME to be one of the state’s fastest growing unions.

Pat Neal: Business rent tax stifles Florida’s economic future

The business rent tax is the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire country and Florida is the not-so-proud holder of that title. Not even tax-happy havens like California and New York impose this state tax on its businesses. Due to this burdensome tax, Florida businesses shell out more than $1.7 billion every year to the state. As a result, our state economy dramatically suffers in the form of suppressed job growth and economic activity.

Luckily, Gov. Rick Scott is committed to cutting this tax on hardworking small-business owners and budding entrepreneurs. The governor has repeatedly made cutting or abolishing this tax one of his top priorities for numerous years as part of his commitment to creating jobs for Florida families. Recently, he has hit the road advocating for a 25 percent cut in the tax –  a move that could save Florida businesses more than $400 million per year and reduce prices for Florida consumers.

The business rent tax places a disproportionate burden on small businesses and startups that do not have the capital to purchase bigger office space, hire new employees or expand to other locations. All of this creates a chilling effect on many of Florida’s more than 2 million small businesses.

Since businesses must pay a 6 percent state sales tax on their rent, including added costs to that lease – such as property taxes, maintenance and the cost of insurance –  and local governments can add an additional 1.5 percent, your local retailer could be easily paying more than $100,000 yearly in taxes on their lease alone. Those costs are ultimately passed down to consumers in the form of higher prices. Floridians still trying to recover from the Great Recession cannot continue to afford these cost increases.

The business rent tax undoubtedly puts Florida at a distinct competitive disadvantage, one that is not shared by any other state in the country. It gives the impression that we are closed for business and makes our competitor states look more attractive. It doesn’t make sense for a company to move to Florida if they can get similar benefits in another state without paying a burdensome tax on their rent.

Florida TaxWatch’s research has shown that this rent tax presents an impediment to the success of the state’s businesses, and TaxWatch’s long-standing recommendation has been that Florida’s policymakers should take efforts toward reducing or eliminating this tax.

Unfortunately, despite the support of many lawmakers in the Legislature, this common-sense tax reform has repeatedly languished in the halls of the Capitol. Despite a tighter budget outlook this session, there is still enough money to consider a reduction in the business rent tax.

The fairness and competitiveness of our tax structure is paramount to Florida’s continued success. If we want to continue to be recognized as the top place in the country for business, we must promote incentive programs like Enterprise Florida and commit to reduce or eliminate the business rent tax. This is the one area where Florida cannot afford to be unique.


Pat Neal is a former state senator and former chair of the Christian Coalition of Florida. He currently serves as chairman-elect for the board of directors of Florida TaxWatch, the state’s independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute and government watchdog, and is the president of Neal Communities.

Steve Bahmer: Senate must ask tough questions on Medicaid payment reform

Steve Bahmer, president & CEO of LeadingAge Florida

Medicaid payment reform for nursing homes is both necessary and complex. And done well, it should be the result of clear policy objectives, careful consideration, vigorous debate and detailed modeling. On behalf of our 250 members across Florida, we encourage the Senate Appropriations Committee to ask tough questions and thoroughly vet the new nursing home payment system it will consider.

In reforming the payment system, it isn’t enough to implement a system that is cosmetically pleasing for a year or two. We need to look two or three years ahead to ensure that the quality of care in Florida nursing homes, which has improved dramatically over the last 30 years, remains as high as residents and their families deserve it to be.

It’s important to be clear: LeadingAge Florida supports the transition to a Prospective Payment System for nursing homes. We simply can’t support the system that has been proposed. And that’s because we’re looking two or three years ahead.

It is easy, of course, to gloss over the many problems with the plan, and the sophisticated sales effort that is underway in support of it does just that. It simply asserts, for example, that the plan incentivizes quality. And it does, to a certain extent. Though, notably, it does so at a level that is $40 million below the Quality Incentive funding that was proposed in the plan that was shelved by a House committee last month.

It also asserts that the plan enhances accountability. The plan does no such thing. Rather, the plan does not contain any requirement that those homes which benefit from additional tax dollars have to spend a single one of those additional dollars on care. No requirement at all.

Proponents claim that 95 percent of Medicaid funding under the PPS plan would have to be spent on care. That is, flatly, untrue. Look under the hood and you’ll see that the 95 percent figure relates to how prices are calculated. It has nothing whatsoever to do with how those dollars are spent.

The plan also removes $44 million that would be spent on care to instead be spent on property. Although we disagree with this shift in funding away from care, this may or may not be a worthwhile change. But that sort of policy shift, among the many others proposed in the plan, ought to be thoroughly vetted and debated in the sunshine.

In the end, the result is a plan that, if fully funded, would prop up the highest quality nursing homes for up to three years by holding them harmless. Ironically, however, that is precisely the type of short-term thinking that supporters of the plan have argued against.

So, let’s look a bit further out — when the transition funding runs out, presumably after three years, 152 nursing homes with 4 and 5-Star ratings from CMS will lose funding, for a total of $39.7 million in losses among Florida’s highest quality nursing homes. And some of them lose big, with losses as high as 23 percent of their Medicaid funding. Meanwhile, 97 homes with 1 and 2-Star CMS ratings will gain funding, for a total of $29 million in gains among Florida’s lowest quality nursing homes.

Nevertheless, this isn’t about winners and losers. This is about state budgets as an expression of the state’s priorities, and about clearly defining what public policy objective could possibly be served by shifting resources from those that have invested in care to those that haven’t.

It is tempting not to look too far down the road. The longer view is the more difficult one. But payment policy isn’t, and can’t be, an annual exercise. Once in place, this system will establish the state’s approach to our frail elderly for years to come. Indeed, it’s been more than 30 years since the last change this dramatic in Medicaid payment policy.

Certainly, nursing homes will respond. The most significant cost driver in any nursing home is staff. So, it may take a year or two, but those high-quality homes that face 15 and 20 percent losses in Medicaid funding will eliminate jobs, cut back on programs, and reduce spending on true quality-of-life elements such as food and services.

We urge the Legislature to step back from this plan and continue working on it during the interim. The implications for our seniors are too important not to.


Steve Bahmer is president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida


Emmett Reed: Improve elder care; pass nursing center reimbursement reform

Emmett Reed is executive director of the Florida Health Care Association.

President Ronald Reagan once noted, “Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’”

Florida has gone to great lengths over the years to lead our nation in the quality of care we provide for our elders, and we have made tremendous strides in recent years. But new opportunities remain, as do significant challenges, and this year has a big share of each.

At the Florida Health Care Association, we are all too familiar with the challenges facing those who care for the more frail members of America’s greatest generation. Our organization represents 82 percent of the 600-plus skilled nursing centers across Florida, providing the best care possible for over 71,000 long-term care residents.

The 280,000 dedicated employees who provide high-quality care have a passion for meeting the needs of seniors, and it’s something we’ve been doing for more than 60 years.

On Wednesday, the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the issue of a Prospective Payment System (PPS), an approach to reimbursement of nursing centers.

We applaud the Legislature for tackling this complicated issue, and the result of this hard work will be a payment system that is, for the first time ever, tied to health quality outcomes. Think about that — Florida could have a reimbursement system that rewards a commitment to quality, something we have never had.

Our current system simply reimburses providers for the costs associated with operating their nursing centers. Our members have for years been investing extensive resources to upgrade the centers and improve the quality of life for their residents. They have made investments far beyond what the state requires and reimburses in order to improve services that greatly enrich the lives of residents.

Moving forward, we want to create incentives not just based on what centers spend, but to actually reward the ones that invest in their resident’s health and comfort for their twilight years.

Change is never easy. But FHCA members have looked beyond current “winners and losers” to help create a reimbursement model that puts the interests of their residents at the forefront. Under the system coming before the Senate Appropriations Committee, all homes will have the same opportunity to succeed.

This bill is supported by the overwhelming number of nursing centers in Florida, all of whom have had a seat at the table. I am so proud that many of our members have testified publicly in support of this new system, even though their centers are doing well under the status quo. They have already invested valuable resources on recent capital improvements, and they recognize the proposed system will be far more beneficial for their residents and those living in care centers across Florida.

Unfortunately, a small but vocal number of providers have weighed in against the legislation. They argue that under the improved model Florida’s quality nursing centers will lose money.

That assertion is, frankly, incorrect.

Under the bill, over 300 four- and five-star rated centers will receive over $26 million in added funding, and a three-year transition period will allow time for all homes to adjust their care systems to the new plan.

Our seniors deserve more than a shortsighted approach, and the vast majority of care centers — more than 550 of Florida’s nursing centers — are embracing this change. We are united on this issue.

I encourage the Legislature to pass this important legislation. Let’s continue to be a model for the nation in how to improve elder care across the spectrum of services.

Quality of care and quality of life should, and can, go hand in hand. Our residents deserve nothing less.


Emmett Reed is executive director of the Florida Health Care Association.

Keith Miller: Florida’s small businesses need protections in state law

Keith Miller

Two Orlando residents are out $8 million after a large, out-of-state corporation forced their local businesses to shut down.

The local entrepreneurs were originally enticed by the corporation to open 10 Mexican-themed fast food restaurants in the Orlando area. The California-based corporation used unrealistic sales projections and profit margins to convince the group to sign on to the deal.

However, after only three years in business, they were forced to walk away and left with no state legal protections to recover their $8 million in investments and their businesses were sold for just 35 percent of their original purchase amount. Additionally, the investors secured loans from the Small Business Association (SBA), a federal program that uses taxpayer dollars to assist and support small business growth.

Since it was a California-based corporation and Florida does not currently have laws on the books to protect our own small-business owners and their investments, these Floridians were bound by California law which favored the corporation.

Florida cannot continue to lose our small businesses, their investments, or risk taxpayer dollars due to unfair corporate franchisor practices.

It is an all-too-common story where local business owners are at the mercy of the more powerful corporations and are taken advantage of. In this instance, the California-based corporation was issuing directives to the Florida owners based on California demographics and sales patterns which simply did not fit the Florida locations. When these locations were unable to comply with the unreasonable demands, and sales goals, they were left with no choice but to walk away from their businesses, leaving behind millions of dollars in property, equipment and supplies.

Owning and operating a successful business is challenging enough without the constant stress and fear that everything you’ve worked for can be taken away in the blink of an eye. 23 other states have already enacted laws to provide greater protection for small business franchise owners and Florida should do the same.

Similarly situated businesses in Florida, such as automobile dealers, agricultural equipment dealers and beer distributors are protected under Florida law.

In Florida, there are more than 40,000 small businesses owned and operated by franchisees who provide over 404,000 jobs and generate $35 billion in economic activity annually.

State Sen. Jack Latvala and State Rep. Jason Brodeur have introduced “The Protect Florida Small Business Act,” legislation that will provide protections to Florida’s small-business owners. Florida citizens can log on to to support passage of this important legislation.


Keith Miller is the Chairman of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA), an organization founded in 2007 to provide a forum for franchisees to share best practices, knowledge, resources and training. Mr. Miller and the CFA are supporting this legislation and giving a voice to the individual franchisee owners who are at risk of speaking out themselves.


Dennis Ross: Working to keep Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountable

Since I was first elected to Congress, I have fought to hold government agencies and Washington bureaucrats more accountable to Floridians and all Americans. Unfortunately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) continues to operate in a manner unaccountable to Congress, the president and American taxpayers.

You don’t have to take my word on this.

On Oct. 11, 2016, the D.C. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the CFPB’s leadership structure unconstitutional. In its decision, the court stated, “The Director enjoys significantly more unilateral power than any single member of any other independent agency … power that is not checked by the president or by other colleagues. Indeed, other than the president, the Director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire United States Government …”

This unsettling unilateral power, coupled with the inability for other arms of the federal government to review or disapprove of the CFPB’s actions, not only flies in the face of our government’s system of checks and balances, but also promotes rogue operations and regulations that have the potential to grossly alter our economy and harm the livelihoods of millions of Americans.

The CFPB was created by Democrats in response to the 2008 financial crisis as a provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank). This 2,300-page piece of legislation was sold to the public as a means to hold bad financial actors accountable, prevent future systemic failures of our financial system, and provide increased transparency and consumer protections for investors. President Obama promised Dodd-Frank would “lift the economy,” but once again, he gave the American people false hope.

Instead, in the years since it was enacted, the big banks have grown bigger, while community financial institutions are disappearing at an average rate of one per day. Consumer credit has tightened up, and low and middle-income borrowers are feeling these effects more than most.

Although many financial service providers are already regulated at a state and federal level, CFPB creates excessive red-tape for industries across the entire financial services spectrum without accountability to Congress. Dodd-Frank completely disregarded the important congressional appropriations process and specifically allowed the CFPB to receive its funding directly from the Federal Reserve’s operating expenses so the CFPB could operate outside of congressional oversight.

The CFPB’s authority to regulate financial services transactions is so expansive, it goes well beyond banks and other depository institutions. The sole director is appointed to a five-year term and, once appointed, can set implement policies in whatever way he or she sees fit. To make matters worse, the CFPB lacks the internal checks and balances to which other independent regulatory agencies are subject to.

Instead of issuing clear and specific guidance, the CFPB uses enforcement tactics that financial institutions have to measure against their own practices and then somehow implement, often to the consumers’ detriment.

For example, the CFPB does not distinguish credit unions and community banks from large financial institutions and nonbank lenders. As a result, the CFPB’s broad and overly burdensome regulations are severely impairing these important community-based financial institutions by limiting consumer credit availability and choice, as well as increasing costs for credit union members and community bank customers. Additionally, new CFPB rules and regulations have prevented many new mortgage loans from being made, particularly for low and middle-income borrowers.

There is no question about it, we must start easing the regulatory burdens faced by our community financiers, and reign in the unilateral power the CFPB Director has over hardworking taxpayers. As a Member of the House Financial Services Committee, I am committed to working with my colleagues to enact legislation that holds the CFPB accountable to all Americans, and to ensure its actions stop harming the consumers it was charged to protect.


U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

Payton Alexander: Neil Gorsuch confirmation would be great for Latinos

Payton Alexander

Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch is coming up for a vote in the Senate this month, with lawmakers debating the nomination of the Colorado judge to the highest court in the country.

Like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Gorsuch has a track record of interpreting the Constitution as written and intended by the founders. He also served in the Justice Department, and clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. For Latinos that value individual rights and the rule of law, there’s a lot to be excited about in his selection to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

Judge Gorsuch is an excellent pick to strengthen the free and open society that makes that dream possible. With millions of Latinos across the United States who value entrepreneurship and the American Dream, this is welcome news. Judges have a responsibility to protect our liberties from government meddling, and Judge Gorsuch has demonstrated that he will uphold Constitutional limits on government power no matter who is in charge — the foundation of a free and prosperous society.

Far beyond his record as a defender of individual liberty, Judge Gorsuch’s career reflects a solid understanding of the way that progressive interpretations of regulatory and criminal codes have hurt the least fortunate and contributed to the two-tiered society that is emerging in this country. As a Supreme Court Justice, Judge Gorsuch shows promise that he would uphold the rights of all people — immigrants and native-born citizens alike. All of these issues disproportionately impact the Latino community.

More than two hundred years of growing the size and scope of our government have taken their toll on the Constitution. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch will interpret the law and the Constitution faithfully, rather than seeking to erode the checks on government power that it provides. An originalist interpretation of the Constitution, as championed by the late Justice Scalia, prevents judges from legislating from the bench and serves as a vital check against lawmaking by judicial fiat. Judge Gorsuch will help ensure that our constitutional rights are protected, while advancing the foundations of a free society through the rule of law.

There are good reasons for Senators in both parties to support the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and, in fact, he was unanimously approved to serve on the Court of Appeals — we encourage the Senate to show him the same wide support now.


Payton Alexander serves as a policy analyst for The LIBRE Initiative.

Pat Arends: Missed opportunity – continuing care retirement community reform in Florida

We’re nearly halfway through the 2017 Florida Legislative Session and lawmakers are missing an opportunity to protect the 30,000 senior citizens who live in Florida’s 71 continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Vastly different from most long-term care retirement options. CCRCs provide a campus environment that offer independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing all in one setting.

Historically, Florida’s CCRC law has been considered one of the strongest in the country. However, market forces and situations change over time and regulations have to keep pace with current trends and developments. Two important bills, Senate Bill 1430 sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee and House Bill 1349 sponsored by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, were filed to improve the law governing CCRCs, but neither bill has received a committee hearing in either legislative chamber.

Due to the unique nature of this long-term care option, CCRCs are regulated as a specialty insurance product.

Seniors who move into a CCRC pay an entrance fee at move-in followed by a monthly fee that covers housing, health care and meals. Costs can vary widely depending on the type of contract, location of the community, and other deliverables. Entrance fees can be sizable and are equivalent to buying a home in the traditional sense, even though residents do not generally own their living unit in the CCRC.

Since 2013, there have been three CCRC bankruptcies in Florida. This is the most in over 20 years.

The most recent and most concerning bankruptcy of a CCRC occurred at University Village in Tampa. This particular case prompted Sen. Lee and Rep. Stevenson to file legislation this year to achieve meaningful reform.

During the last two years, the more than five hundred senior citizens who reside at University Village have lived under a cloud of anxiety every day, literally not knowing what was going to happen to their community. Further, the residents have seen collectively millions of dollars of hard earned retirement funds invested into their CCRC disappear.

The Florida Life Care Residents Association (FLiCRA) supports elements of the proposed legislation that would improve the ability of the Office of Insurance Regulation to protect the rights and welfare of the 30,000 residents living in Florida CCRCs. Unfortunately, the Legislature has not yet heard either bill. FLiCRA urges the Senate to consider giving CCRC Reform a hearing in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee while there is still time during the 2017 Legislative Session.

FLiCRA fully agrees with other stakeholders, including LeadingAge Florida, that the vast majority of CCRC operators and owners are experienced, dedicated and successful in delivering quality services to tens of thousands of seniors on a daily basis. This makes it even more important to improve the law, to ensure that CCRCs continue to be seen as a vibrant and desirable long-term care option for seniors.


Retiree Pat Arends is a resident of Freedom Village, a CCRC in Bradenton. She is president of the 14,000-member Florida Life Care Residents Association. During her career, Arends served as President of the Florida Association of City Clerks and has served as an officer with the Manatee League of Women Voters.

The Florida Life Care Residents Association (FLiCRA) was established in 1989, and is the oldest and largest association of continuing care residents in the country. Its mission is to ensure quality of life for residents living in such communities.

For more information visit


Michael Richardson: Is there an adult in the room?

Michael Richardson

The national Democrat Party stands at a defining crossroads. In the wake of an epic fail over health care on the part of Republicans in Congress and the dilettantes in the White House, Democrats have a choice to make: either become a reprehensible copycat “Party of No” or embark on a nobler path for the common good.

Democrats can hardly be blamed for reveling, at least briefly, in the misfortune of their political foes’ most recent humiliation. After all, the national Republican Party has devoted itself to being as recalcitrant and bellicose as possible over the last eight years. They have brazenly fanned the flames of partisanship by, among other things, repeatedly challenging the very legitimacy of the previous president, defiantly refusing even to hold public hearings on his last Supreme Court nominee and many other judges and high-level federal appointees, as well as relentlessly pursuing a campaign of undermining the federal government’s ability to function effectively. And they have carried out these flagrant assaults on public institutions with apparent impunity, thus far at least.

Still, this is not the time for Democrats to score political points. In addition, simply emulating the obstructive tactics of the Republican Party would be shortsighted at best. As tempting as this strategy might be, even an unlikely electoral rout of Republicans in 2018 would be a pyrrhic victory. It would only precipitate a vicious cycle of retaliation and one-upmanship into the future as legislative control inevitably switches back and forth between increasingly hostile political parties, both unwilling to compromise because of arrogant self-righteousness and mutual disdain. Such puerile behavior is a surefire roadmap for national decline and eventual disintegration.

Instead, Democrats need to do the responsible thing and be the adults in the room. Effective leadership in addressing major problems facing our nation entails laying out practical solutions that enjoy broad-based popular support. This should start with proposed modifications to the Affordable Care Act, which virtually everyone recognizes as in need of significant improvement for the good of the public.

It should not have come as a surprise that Republicans failed to muster enough votes from their own party to pass their “repeal and replace” health care bill in the House. After all, the chasm between today’s conservative Republican orthodoxy and popular opinion on this and so many other issues is wide and growing. As evidence, consider that the Republican nominee has won the popular vote nationwide in only 1 of the 7 (14 percent) presidential elections of the last quarter century. And that one time was the re-election of an incumbent, George W. Bush, whose conservative bona fides were constantly castigated by his party’s right wing because of his centrist positions on many non-military issues, the most notable being his role in the enactment of drug coverage under Medicare.

If the Democrats had provided a detailed proposal for improving the health care law during the 2016 presidential campaign instead of focusing almost exclusively on why the other side was so bad, the result might have been different. But the Clinton campaign decided to err on the side of caution and play defense, almost always a questionable strategy, but especially so given the electorate’s clearly demonstrated craving for courageous action, not feel-good platitudes or tired right-wing nostrums.

Given the current political atmosphere, I suspect the lion’s share of Republicans in Congress would summarily reject any health care fix proffered by the Democrats, however centrist or popular it might be. But that is beside the point. The public deserves to know how the Democrats intend to improve the current health care system, and more importantly, it is the right thing to do. A widely popular, pragmatic plan to make our health care system better would stand in stark contrast to the Republican “repeal and replace” bill, which failed miserably due to gaping divisions within their own party.

Then, when the “repeal and replace” bill tanked, President Donald Trump promptly threatened to let the health care system “explode,” and perhaps even to hasten its collapse, before riding to the rescue with a “beautiful, more affordable” replacement that will provide better coverage for all.  Such malarkey.  That’s not leadership. That’s recklessness and spite run amok.

I’m hopeful the majority of voters would see the sharp difference between the two parties’ contrasting approaches and reward the adults in the room, not only in 2018, but for the foreseeable future as well.


Until retiring in 2011, Michael Richardson was assistant secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs under Gov. Charlie Crist. He has also served as a committee staff member in the Florida Senate, a policy adviser to Govs. Bob Graham and Bob Martinez, and from 1990 through 2006, a self-employed management consultant to state and local governments.

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