Opinions Archives - Page 2 of 229 - Florida Politics

If you’re old enough to get married, you’re old enough to have a will

If you’re old enough to get married, you’re old enough to have a will, but that’s not something the Wedding Planner will tell you.

Your parents probably won’t tell you, either; it’s a statistically safe bet that your parents, your grandparents, and your wedding planner don’t have a will of their own.

Death is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. But it happens to the best of us, and to the worst. It can come suddenly, shockingly, to someone far too young. For the lucky, it comes gently, after a long and fulfilling life. Under any scenario, somebody must go through your wallet, your underwear drawer, your closets, your iPad, and figure out what to do with your stuff. Someone will look into the eyes of your dog, your cat, your bunny rabbit or your pet python and decide whether to take him home, take him to a shelter, or dump him in the Everglades.

We have enough pythons in the Everglades. If you’re old enough to have a pet python, you’re old enough to have a will.

One hundred percent of Americans will die one day, but 72 percent of them do not have a current will. Wealthy Americans are no more likely than the rest of us to have a will. And they are more likely to have a will that is out of date. In the afterlife, this’ll come back to haunt them.

Joe Henderson: Time to get rid of red-light cameras, but turn up heat on texting

Depending on your point of view, red-light cameras in Florida are either: A) Of great benefit to public safety by making drivers think twice when approaching a changing traffic light; or B) a cash grab by communities that amounts to a backdoor tax.

Just we’re clear, I’m on the side of Option B.

While several communities throughout the state have discontinued use of the cameras for reasons best explained by Option B, the Legislature has never mustered enough support for a complete ban on them.

Bless ‘em, though, House members keep trying. They are scheduled once again to take up a proposal (HB 6007) by Rep. Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican, and Spring Hill Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, to repeal laws that permit the cameras.

Maybe they will succeed this time. I wish they wouldn’t stop there, though. I wish that for once, lawmakers could finally put their foot down on the practice of texting while driving. Currently, it is only a secondary offense, punishable by a fine only if officers can stop a violator on another charge.

The state transportation committee will consider whether to recommend toughening the law by making it a primary offense — meaning that if an officer sees someone obviously texting while driving, they can be pulled over for that.

Sadly, even something so obvious is complicated after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it takes a warrant to search a cellphone. It’s unlikely a motorist about to be hit with a big fine for texting would voluntarily turn over their phone. I appreciate the complication.

It’s worth the battle, though.

So why the battle against cameras but support for a texting ban?

Simple.

In 2015, the state reported nearly 46,000 accidents due to distracted driving. That’s more than 12 percent of all crashes in Florida, and we’ve all had the experience of watching drivers weave in and out of highway lanes while they’re focused on their phone instead of the road.

Red-light cameras, on the other hand, appear to contribute to crashes as well as being the aforementioned cash grab. The News Service of Florida reported in a four-year study of 148 intersections with cameras, across the state, crashes increased by more than 10 percent.

Rear-end collisions were the main culprit.

Add to that the fact that cameras are operated by an out-of-state firm and that appealing the fine can result in even heavier costs and points on your driver’s license. People usually give in and pay, and that’s not what a law like this should be doing.

Get rid of the cameras.

Dennis Ross: Obamacare a mistake; time to repeal, replace

This month marks seven long and daunting years since Obamacare was signed into the law.

Seven years of broken promises. Seven years of skyrocketing premiums and fewer options. Seven years of tax increases, mandates and penalties. Seven years of families and hard working Americans having to make the choice between putting food on the table, buying cost-prohibitive health insurance under Obamacare, or facing federal mandates and penalties.

This is no way for Americans to live, and we cannot let it continue. We must pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) so we can repeal the failures of Obamacare and replace them with a robust and vibrant health insurance market where people will have more freedom and flexibility to get the affordable plans they need and prefer.

Since its enactment, Obamacare has kicked 4.7 million Americans off of their health care plans and forced double-digit premium rate increases on families. Today, one-third of U.S. counties have only one insurance provider, and multiple insurers are pulling out of the federal exchanges because of the economic strain Obamacare has on our nation.

Even leading Democrats, like former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer, have admitted Obamacare was a mistake and has left Americans with less coverage.

In Florida alone, premiums will increase by 19 percent this year, and nearly 72 percent of Florida counties have only one or two insurance providers to choose from on the exchange. This is not choice.

Instead of kicking Americans off of their plans, the AHCA will kick bureaucrats out of doctors’ offices and put patients back in charge of their own health care decisions. This patient-centered legislation will lower health care premiums by 10 percent, reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion, cap Medicaid spending for the first time, and provide $883 billion in tax relief for middle-income families and small businesses.

The AHCA further eliminates the individual and employer mandates that impose burdensome requirements on small businesses and families. It also reduces federal mandates and regulations that force health care plans to be filled with services people do not want and cannot afford. The AHCA will allow for a seamless transition that provides continuous coverage for those currently enrolled in the health care exchanges, while helping Americans purchase their own plans through tax credits and Health Savings Accounts so no one has the rug pulled out from under them.

Through this legislation, we are also protecting families and the unborn by allowing children up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ health care plans, preventing health insurers from denying coverage to patients based on pre-existing conditions, and blocking abortion providers from receiving federal funds.

This a beginning, not an end. We are going through the proper regular order and transparent process with this proposal, and are open to suggestions and ideas, something President Obama and Democrats were unwilling to do when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in the middle of the night. The AHCA is the first of three necessary and needed phases to fully repeal and replace Obamacare. This first phase allows us to immediately get the ball rolling by taking full advantage of the budget reconciliation process that will avoid Senate Democrats’ attempt to filibuster a full repeal and replacement.

After phase one is accomplished, we will quickly move on to phase two, which includes administrative actions, notably by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, to stabilize the health insurance market, increase choices and lower costs. The third phase will then allow Congress to introduce and pass additional legislative policies, such as allowing Americans to purchase coverage across state lines, which by Senate rules cannot be included in the reconciliation bill in phase one. Each phase has a thoughtful and strategic purpose in order to accomplish our long-awaited goal.

If we do not act, this disastrous health care law will continue in its death spiral, hurting American families and businesses, and threatening the next generation. After seven years of the American people telling us that Obamacare is not working, and after seven years of Republicans telling them we will repeal and replace it, the time for action and to fulfill our promise is now. We cannot, and will not, let this opportunity slip through our fingers. We must unite and put American patients first.

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

Ben Pollara: Medical marijuana implementation for the 29, 48 … or 71 percent?

Ben Pollara

Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues claims to have polled Floridians on whether they want marijuana legalized.

They do not.

Undisclosed interests hired a political consultant, who then hired Donald Trump‘s pollster to ask the same question.

They got the same answer: 48 percent oppose legalization, while 46 percent support it.

I have two questions that don’t necessitate public opinion research to answer:

– Who cares?

– Why are we even talking about this?

Medical marijuana has now twice been before Florida voters. In 2014, it garnered a substantial majority of 58 percent, albeit not enough to pass.

Two years later, 71 percent of Floridians voted “yes,” placing Article X, Section 29, “Use of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions,” in our state’s constitution.

In both campaigns, opponents argued that medical marijuana was merely a ruse – “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” was a favorite metaphor – for recreational marijuana.

That cynical argument – that voters tricked into something they didn’t want – ultimately lost, and badly. Voters were smarter than opponents gave them credit for, and In November overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana.

So why is the Majority Leader still parroting the talking points of Mel and Betty Sembler? Why is his implementing legislation seemingly written for the less than 29 percent who voted “no,” rather than the super-majority who put this law into our Constitution?

Florida for Care, which I lead, has been for almost three years educating and advocating Floridians your Wednesday thread for reasonable, responsible medical marijuana legislation in Tallahassee. That is and has always been our only scope.

As such, it is extraordinarily frustrating, and more than a little insulting, to even be engaging in these conversations about legalization. But I’m just an advocate. It is exponentially more hair-pullingly vexing for sick and suffering patients, who have been waiting desperately for medical marijuana, to see their concerns cast aside for a debate that is neither here nor there.

Legislators talk from both sides of their mouth when they claim in one breath not to be able to adjudicate voters’ intent when implementing medical marijuana, and in the next cite polling data on legalization to interpret that same purpose.

Here’s what I believe the voters’ intent was in passing Amendment 2: they wanted to legalize medical marijuana in Florida like had been done in two dozen states prior, and unlike the existing, overly restrictive, low-THC cannabis statute that had been on the books for nearly two years before the election.

It doesn’t take a psychic or a statewide poll to determine that the 71 percent vote was a vote for a broader medical marijuana law, or that it was a message that the existing laws were simply not good enough.

All the Senate proposals have built upon existing law (except for Jeff Brandes‘ “repeal and replace” bill, which starts anew), in an attempt to fulfill that voter mandate and respect the Constitution. Rodrigues’ House bill restricts medical marijuana even further than the existing statute.

It is both a truism and cliche in politics that, “the only poll that matters is Election Day.”

We had an election on medical marijuana. Two, actually.

The “only poll that matters” came down firmly for medical marijuana.

Almost every week since December, I’ve left my wife and two young children in Miami so I could be in Tallahassee, advocating for the implementation of this law.

I only wish the House actually wanted to talk about it, instead of debating an issue that has neither a popular, nor constitutional, imperative.

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Ben Pollara is the executive director of Florida for Care. He managed the 2014 and 2016 campaigns for Amendment 2 and was one of the primary authors of both amendments.

Darryl Paulson: Do universities discriminate? The assault on conservative speakers at American universities

Free speech is an essential element for vibrant intellectual discourse and discovery at American universities. Part of that speech requires the students and faculty to be exposed to competing ideas. Too often, one side, the conservative side is missing in action not by choice, but by exclusion.

Since 2000, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has found over 300 cases where speakers were disinvited or shouted down on college campuses. The vast majority of these were conservatives.

Increasingly on university campuses, the prevailing view is that you are free to share your views as long as they do not offend or challenge existing orthodoxy. We do not want to give a platform to those who do not share our views on race, gender, ethnicity or political issues. In other words, the “not welcome” sign applies to conservative speakers, as well as those whose politics offends the sensibilities of students.

The list of rejected speakers is far too long to detail, but I will provide a listing of a small percentage of individuals who were deemed persona non grata at universities.

Christian LaGarde, head of the International Monetary Fund and one of the most influential persons in the world, was rejected by Smith College after students accused her of being connected to “global capitalism.” How could one of the leading women’s university’s reject LaGarde, one of the most powerful woman in the world. Being too close to capitalism overrode any gender sympathy. If only she had been a Marxist, or at least a socialist.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a leading academic as well as Bill Clinton‘s Secretary of State, was rejected by Scripps College because she was a “genocide enabler.”

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, was booed off the stage at Brown University primarily for being the police commissioner of New York City. Students and faculty protested his aggressive policing and racial and ethnic insensitivities.

Condoleeza Rice, one of the leading Soviet scholars in the world, former provost at Stanford University, the national security adviser to George W. Bush (2001-05) and Bush’s Secretary of State (2005-09), was deemed unfit to speak at Rutger’s after students attacked her role in the Iraq War.

Human rights advocate Ayana Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Muslim, has become a leading critic of female genital mutilation in Africa, as well as a critic of the oppression of women under Islam. The author of three best-selling books, Hirsi Ali was named by Time as one of the 100 most influential women in the world.

It would seem that students and faculty would welcome the opportunity to hear the views of Hirsi Ali. Not so. Brandeis rejected Hirsi Ali because of her association with the conservative American Enterprise Institute and her criticism of radical Islam.

The most recent conservative to be booed and assaulted by students was Charles Murray. No one denies that Murray’s views are controversial, but does that mean his views should not be heard. It does on college campuses.

Murray was invited to speak at Middlebury College in March 2017 by the schools American Enterprise Club, a conservative student organization. Murray was to discuss his latest book, The State of White America, 1960-2010.

Murray’s book explored the growing cultural gap between the white elite and the white middle-class, an issue of growing significance in light of the 2016 presidential election and Donald Trump‘s victory.

When his appearance was announced, 450 Middlebury alumni protested his talk and criticized the university for giving him a platform. Better to remain in the darkness then open up anyone’s views to the light. Opponents argued their opposition had nothing to do with “free speech.” It seems to me it had everything to do with free speech.

Although most conservative speakers are automatically suspect on American campuses, Murray is hardly a provocateur. His views may be controversial, but they have stimulated intellectual debate for decades. Murray is a prolific writer and social critic and he currently is The Bradley Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Before facing the packed audience, Middlebury’s vice president for communication, opened the forum by telling students “You’re going to love this part.” He then proceeded to tell students about respecting Middlebury’s policy of respecting the rights of speakers.

University president Laurie Patton began her remarks by declaring: “Let me state the obvious. We are a left-leaning campus.” She then made it abundantly clear that no one should interpret her presence as an endorsement of Murray’s views. I wonder how many liberal speakers receive the same warm welcome.

As soon as Murray began to talk, the students turned their backs to him and then spent the next 20 minutes chanting slogans. No one asked the students to stop disrupting Murray or asked the students to leave as Middlebury policy requires.

After chanting such catchy slogans for 20 minutes, including “Who is the enemy. White Supremacy,” and “Your message is hatred. We cannot tol-er-ate it.” Never mind they had not heard one word from Murray because of their great intolerance.

The university announced that Murray and Middlebury professor Allison Stanger, who was selected to pose questions to Murray, would be taken to an undisclosed location where their discussion would be live-streamed.

On their way to the undisclosed facility, Murray and Stanger were assaulted by the mob. Stranger’s hair was pulled in one direction by a protester, as another protester pulled her in the opposite direction. Stanger was taken to a hospital and fitted with a neck brace.

Did Middlebury students feel remorse for their actions? Absolutely not. In fact, they blamed the university security personnel for the disruption and said that Stanger’s hair was “inadvertently caught” during the chaos. This is a little like children telling their parents, “It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do it'”

The student newspaper was filled with comments justifying what transpired. To many of the students, some ideas are so illegitimate that they should not be heard. So much for free speech.

One student, Nic Valenti, wrote that allowing Murray’s views to be heard was “grossly disrespectful,” “a waste of time,” and an insult to “young people with their perceptiveness of realizing that this whole situation is f—ing bull—-.”

Universities have failed in their responsibility to allow alternative viewpoints to be heard. Murray never spoke to the hundreds of students, faculty and general community who attended his talk and hoped to be informed. Not a single student was disciplined, even though university policy stipulates it should be done.

The real loser in the Middlebury fiasco? Students, faculty, Middlebury College and, most importantly, free speech.

Look for Part 4 of “Do universities discriminate” Friday, March 24. The closing piece will focus on promoting ideological diversity and free speech on college campuses.

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Darryl Paulson is Professor Emeritus of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

Martin Dyckman: Aramis Ayala’s principled stance on death penalty not out of step with history

Make room in Florida’s small hall of heroes. If John B. Orr Jr., were alive, he would be welcoming Aramis Ayala.

When in 1956, while everyone else in Tallahassee was losing their heads over school segregation, Orr was the only legislator who dared to vote against a scheme to perpetuate it. Speaking on the House floor, which he didn’t have to do, he said segregation was morally wrong. He lost his seat but kept his honor.

Ayala, the state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, is in the gun sights of Gov. Rick Scott, the attorney general the police, the Legislature, and most other prosecutors for announcing that she will not seek the death penalty in any case. As bad luck had it, the first to arrive on her watch was that of an accused cop-killer.

Not satisfied that Scott reassigned the case to another state attorney, the mobs are gathering, if only figuratively. They’re howling for Scott to suspend her. A Republican already has declared he will oppose her in 2020. He said would hire a former assistant prosecutor her predecessor had fired after he wrote on Facebook, following the Pulse massacre, that all Orlando nightclubs are “zoos, utter cesspools of debauchery.” It will be a nasty campaign.

Although Ayala’s courage is commendable, her judgment is questionable. The voters had no clue. As reasoned and right as it is, her stance on capital punishment should not have come as a postelection surprise.

The subject failed to surface in her expensive campaign last year against a Democratic incumbent and she had no opposition in November except for a write-in candidate who accomplished nothing but closing the primary—the actual election—to Republicans and independents. (Perhaps, the Legislature will finally get around to eliminating that glitch.)

The late Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer made no secret of her dislike for the death penalty, but she recognized that the law was the law and was prepared to impose it in cases that seemed appropriate. She sentenced Oba Chandler, who was executed for the savage drowning of an Ohio woman and her two daughters. Harry Anstead, a retired chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, who is one of Ayala’s defenders, opposed it also but concurred in upholding it in “dozens, if not hundreds” of cases, he told me. Governor LeRoy Collins tried to abolish the penalty but signed 29 death warrants, believing it to be his duty. However, he also commuted death sentences 10 times. Bob Graham was the last governor who did, three decades ago.

Perhaps Ayala was beguiled by a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling last year, which reflected that only 35 percent of the Florida public favored execution over other punishments and that more than half preferred life without parole, the existing alternative to execution. More than 3 in 4 said they would vote for candidates of their party despite disagreeing on that issue, and only 2 percent said it was the one that most mattered to them.

Those questions, though, were asked in the abstract—not in the context of a notorious case like that of Markeith Loyd, who’s accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and one of the officers who was hunting for him. As Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell wrote in criticizing her, Ayala “rang a proverbial dinner bell for publicity-hungry politicians all over Florida.”

Maxwell opposes the death penalty, by the way, and laments that “some people can’t look beyond their emotional reactions to see capital punishment’s systemic flaws as well.”

Only emotion, not proof, supports capital punishment as a deterrent to crime. The process is markedly more expensive than life-sentencing. It is inconsistent, arbitrary, and dangerously prone to convict and sometimes execute the innocent. It does nothing well but help coerce guilty pleas and turn some defendants into state witnesses against others. That’s why the prosecutors love it so.

They practice the same discretion that opponents say Ayala abused. It is the most consequential reason for racial disparities and other inequities in the criminal justice system. If a prosecutor doesn’t seek the death penalty for a well-connected defendant, there is no appeal. If he consistently reduces the charges for whites but throws the book at minorities, there’s no appealing that either.

The co-defendant who cops out may not be as culpable as the ones he helps send to death row, just simply smarter.

There was a notably notorious example in the 1990 execution of Jesse Tafero, the last person to die in Florida’s electric chair. (His head caught fire, influencing the Legislature to opt for lethal injection). Walter Rhodes, a co-defendant, was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder, even though two law enforcement officers had been slain. Nothing but his testimony placed the gun in Tafero’s hand. According to an Innocence Project report, Rhodes recanted his testimony on three occasions before switching back to his original story.

One court said that there had been gunpowder residue on Rhodes’s hands but not on Tafero’s. Co-defendant Sonia Jacobs‘s conviction and death sentence were eventually overturned on grounds that would have spared Tafero, but too late.

Michael Radelet, a Florida death penalty expert who now teaches at the University of Colorado has a list of 14 other death-sentenced people whose co-defendants got life or less. Appeals removed most from death row, but two are still there.

Ayala is exactly right in assessing that the death penalty “is not in the best interests of this community or in the best interests of justice.” It’s not in the best interest of the families of victims, either, as it postpones, for decades or more, the closure they deserve.

“Punishment,” she said, “is most effective when it happens consistently and swiftly. Neither describes the death penalty in this state.”

Orange, the larger county in her circuit, has a noxious reputation for the politics of death. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, as of January 2013, it had more prisoners on death row than 99.2 percent of all U.S. counties and was among the 2 percent of counties responsible for more than half the executions. As elsewhere in Florida, however, death sentences have been declining there along with the crime rate and with the public’s growing perception that life without parole is a suitably harsh alternative.

The last to join death row from Orange was in 2012.

Ayala is not out of step with recent history and, I believe, destiny. It’s her harassers who are.

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Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Florence Snyder: Whether Adam Putnam likes it or not, it’s still OK to tell the truth

If Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is serious about running for governor, he’s going to have to dial down the #Stupid in his own office.

The Baron of Bartow went full #FloridaMan on Ocheesee Creamery, a family-owned dairy farm an hour’s drive and a world away from what former Gov. Jeb Bush derisively — and correctly — referred to as “Mount Tallahassee.” The Wesselhoefts are central casting’s idea of decent, hard-working people being run out of business by “regulators” running wild. They dote on their small herd of Jersey cows like the Donald dotes on Ivanka.

Visitors to the Creamery’s website learn that the “Jersey girls” are “an intelligent cow breed, and we enjoy being around them because they are known for their calm, gentle and docile nature.”

The “plush green grass and open fields of fresh air and sunlight” at Ocheesee would make an ideal backdrop for those ubiquitous FreshFromFlorida commercials. Instead, Putnam and his lawyers at the firm of Orwell, Kafka and ? and the Mysterians are in their fifth year of spending public funds to force the Wesselhoefts to add vitamin A to their skim milk, or add the word “imitation” to their skim milk labels.

Yesterday, it was Putnam’s turn to get creamed.

A panel of Reagan, Bush, and Obama appointees to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals circled the constitutional wagons around strict construction and decided that it is not deceptive to refer to skim milk as skim milk.

Nobody claimed otherwise before Putnam was elected as the state’s agricultural regulator-in-chief. His jihad on Jerseys has attracted embarrassing international attention, including the No. 4 slot on an April Fools’ Day roundup of “stories you thought were pranks but are in fact genuine.”

Mary Lou Wesselhoeft suspects that Putnam and his Label Police are carrying water, currying favor, and otherwise doing the bidding of bigger, richer, more politically connected dairymen. At some point, he’s going to have to explain to the rest of us why she’s wrong.

Joe Henderson: No matter what comes out, Donald Trump’s true believers don’t seem to care

I could waste words here on President Donald Trump’s hallucinations about the truth, but why bother. Y’all know that story as well as I do. The president either is delusional or cynical about what the people will believe or maybe both.

There is a bigger story, though, one that reduces all the drama about nonexistent wiretaps and possibly existing collusion with Russia to subplots.

It is simply this: His supporters don’t care.

A large, energetic crowd of believers showed up Monday night at his rally in Louisville to give a united upraised middle finger to those who call out this president on his lies, deceit and all the other things are supposed to spell his doom.

They don’t care.

This was in Kentucky, mind you — a state where residents likely are to be among the hardest hit if/when the Affordable Care Act is repealed. Instead of draining the swamp, the man these people adore will be draining the ranks of those who can afford health insurance. That may include some of those who were shouting his praises the loudest.

They don’t care.

He spits on our allies.

They don’t care.

While his proposed budget eviscerates social safety nets, the president’s regular weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago are estimated to cost taxpayers $3 million a pop. That’s on top of millions more spent on security at Trump Tower. The people who voted for Trump screamed bloody murder when President Obama took getaway trips to Hawaii.

But now? They don’t care.

The New York Times, Washington Post, and all the others that quoted “unnamed sources” saying there was no truth to Trump’s claims that Obama illegally wiretapped him during the campaign WERE CORRECT! Trump and those who parrot him dismissed the reports as Fake News. That was wrong. The media were CORRECT!

What else will it be correct about?

Trump’s supporters don’t care. They wouldn’t believe it anyway.

All the things that are supposed to define a successful, competent commander in chief don’t seem to matter now.

That’s why Monday could go down as one of the most significant days in American history. It’s the scene-setter for a showdown. How the testimony from Washington trickles down to places like Tallahassee is the next thing to watch.

The FBI is actively investigating if there is proof Trump’s campaign conspired with Russian agents to rig the November election. No doubt hundreds of professional, well-sourced reporters are looking into that as well.

Health care, security, and all the rest could get pushed to the side while his opponents, including some in his own party, dig in for the fight.

Florida’s governor and attorney general are tucked deep into Trump’s pocket. Their political futures could be tied to the outcome of this continuing drama — maybe. No one matter what the investigations and hearings uncover, I don’t believe the true supporters will abandon the president.

Nobody paid attention to them until the morning after the 2016 election. No one is paying attention to them now that their man is in the White House.

Huge mistake.

Martin Dyckman: Before Donald Trump, there was Florida’s Claude Kirk

The home office pulled me out of a meeting at the Florida Capitol. Former Gov. Claude R. Kirk Jr., was on their line, insisting that I be told right now (!) how much he liked an antibusing provision that the Legislature was considering tacking on the budget. He liked it so much, he told the state editor, that he had signed an appropriations bill with the same rider although he would have preferred to veto the bill.

That didn’t sound right, so I checked the House Journal. Kirk had vetoed that bill. The editor was perplexed.

“The governor wouldn’t lie, would he?” he asked.

Like most people of his time, and still many today, the editor assumed that a high public official might very well stretch or shade the truth from time to time but would never stoop to a flat-out falsehood.

Yes, Kirk would, although he was known to hit the sauce in a way that could have clouded his memory.

Kirk didn’t lie with the almost hourly frequency of the Donald Trump White House, but the underlying cynical assumption was the same: The public would be more disposed to believe a governor than to believe his critics. They had believed his campaign promises and elected him, hadn’t they?

In 1967, his first year as Florida’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Kirk had proposed a budget in keeping with his primary campaign promise of “No new taxes.” It was seriously unbalanced, relied on accounting tricks and assumed that Florida voters would approve a bond issue, no sure thing.

When the Senate appropriations chairman, Reubin Askew, and other Democratic leaders tried to tell him that, Kirk was scornful. What mattered was not what they thought but what some ordinary citizen might think.

“‘Well, now, senator,'” Askew recalled Kirk saying, “‘you say it’s unbalanced. I say it isn’t. Who do you think that truck driver is going to believe, me or you?'”

Before there was Donald Trump, there was Claude Kirk.

It must be said that the man widely derided as Claudius Rex was a statesman compared to our so-called president. (In politics, everything is relative.) Among other things, Kirk did a better job of hiring good people for sensitive jobs and was strong for the environment, thanks to the influence of adviser Nathaniel P. Reed.

Like Trump, Kirk, the frontman for a successful Jacksonville-based insurance company, had never held any public office. Such inexperience always shows.

“He didn’t even know how many members there were in the legislature, he didn’t even know what Cabinet officers there were, he didn’t know anything about state government. And he didn’t bother to learn a whole hell of a lot about it while he was governor. He spent a lot of time enjoying being governor,” remarked Don Reed, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives at the time.

Kirk’s first budget exposed his ignorance as well as his irresponsibility. To call his bluff, the majority Democrats passed exactly what he had proposed. The Republicans, who knew that Kirk’s “budget” was no more than propaganda, tried unsuccessfully to block the bill. Kirk had to veto it.

Before a second year was out, the man who had vowed “No New Taxes!” signed what was then the largest tax increase in Florida history.

Like Trump, Kirk wasn’t shy about spending money for personal benefit. My colleague Don Pride, the St. Petersburg Times bureau chief, caught him charging a state agency, the Florida Development Commission — precursor to the present-day Enterprise Florida — some $1,600 for Kirk’s European honeymoon. Unlike Trump, Kirk reimbursed the public, blaming the charge on a clerical error.

But he never did repay the $90,000 that the same agency had paid to William Safire, a publicist who later became The New York Times’ resident conservative columnist, to promote Kirk for the vice-presidency in 1968.

Like Trump, Pride recalls, Kirk kept his financial affairs hidden. He relied on a secret slush fund to fund his travels and other personal expenses. When the Legislature cracked down on his “Governor’s Club,” he made the Republican Party pay for his leased private jets. Kirk thought nothing of flying to New Orleans just for lunch.

When Jack Eckerd, an opponent in the 1970 GOP primary, released five years of income tax returns and challenged Kirk to do the same, Kirk refused.

Like Trump, Kirk was a demagogue whenever there was a headline to be had. He staged a tense verbal confrontation at Jacksonville with the black activist H. Rap Brown. He suspended the entire Manatee County School board and its superintendent to keep them from complying with a federal-district court busing order. Kirk’s defiance evaporated when the judge fined him $10,000 a day.

And, like Trump, Kirk was frequently vexed with the press, “haranguing them at campaign stops and barring them from his airplane,” Pride recalls.

Unlike Trump, however, Kirk had a sense of humor and was engaging at times. But by 1970, the voters had seen through his antics and were keen to replace Kirk with a serious-minded, experienced legislator with a progressive platform and a reputation for speaking the truth. The worst that Kirk could say about him was that he was a “Momma’s boy.”

The new governor was Reubin Askew.

Let Florida’s past be the nation’s prologue.

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Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He is the author of “Reubin Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics,” published by the University Press of Florida. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Maria Wells: Assignment of Benefits — A growing problem for Florida families

Maria Wells

Florida homeowners need to start taking action regarding an escalating problem that will lead to increases in their insurance premiums in the near future. Abuses of the Assignments of Benefits (AOB) process have already led to substantial insurance rate increases in South and Central Florida and it is only a matter of time before those premium hikes spread statewide.

The most common AOB arrangement involves transferring your home insurance policy benefits to a home repair vendor after an emergency, such as a plumbing leak or roof problem. With the contractor and their attorney now in control, claims can be inflated with unnecessary or phantom costs and attorney fees. And make no mistake, these inflated costs are passed on to policyholders when insurance companies calculate their rates.

Large areas of the state, particularly the tri-county area of Southeast Florida, have already been hit with double-digit property insurance rate hikes with more increases on the horizon if something isn’t done. State-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has calculated what will happen if lawmakers do not fix the problem.

In Palm Beach, for example, coverage for a residential structure with a value of $155,000 would rise from $2,210 this year to $3,559 in 2022. In Broward, that premium would jump from $2,390 to $3,850, and in Miami-Dade, the premium would increase from $2,926 to $4,712. Premiums for more expensive homes would go up even more.

For most Floridians, their home is their largest investment. Homeownership is still the key to the American dream and is vital to building strong communities. Floridians on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable to increases in the ancillary costs of owning a home, such as property taxes, insurance and maintenance.

It is heartbreaking to see hard working families scrimp and save to be able to qualify for a mortgage only to learn that these overhead costs end up busting-the-budget.

These premium increases, mostly due to AOB scams, are already putting homeownership further out of reach for many families in South Florida and will start to impact families in other areas of the state without prompt legislative action.

The Assignment of Benefits process was envisioned as a tool to aid homeowners with disputed insurance claims. Unfortunately, it has been hijacked by unscrupulous contractors and attorneys who are enriching themselves at the expense of Florida families. That is why Florida Realtors® have joined the Consumer Protection Coalition to help put a stop to AOB abuse. Go to www.fightfraud.today to learn more and consider joining our effort.

Also, make sure to tell your state senator and representative to support meaningful AOB reforms that allow consumers to quickly and effectively repair damage to their home but also stop scammers from attempting to transform legitimate insurance claims into personal gain.

We all put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay; they should do the same.
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Maria Wells is the 2017 president of Florida Realtors.

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