Opinions Archives - Page 3 of 235 - Florida Politics

Florence Snyder: Florida’s opioid crisis, Part 4 – Showtime at the Kabuki Theater

When Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi finally got around to talking about Florida’s opioid crisis, the hot air was suffocating.

In parts of Florida, opioids have overtaken homicides and DUIs as a cause of very premature and utterly unnecessary death. That is not breaking news to anyone who has been paying even a little attention. In a time when reporters are in short supply, almost every newspaper in Florida has made a noble, front-page attempt to assess the grievous impact of the opioid epidemic on their local communities.

The truth is out there, along with plenty of supporting data. Much of it comes from Palm Beach County, where “sober homes,” operated by insurance fraudsters and human traffickers, have proliferated like pythons in the Everglades. A relentless newsroom at The Palm Beach Post prodded the community to confront the mounting death toll, and to come up with evidence-based strategies and solutions.

And that’s exactly what the community did.

There’s a grand jury report full of strategies and solutions courtesy of Bondi’s hand-picked pill mill czar Dave Aronberg. There’s a Sober Homes Task Force Report. There’s a Heroin Task Force trying hard to get a second vote for a good plan of action that starts with joining states like Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia in acknowledging opioid addiction as a public health emergency that can be significantly ameliorated by public health professionals.

But who cares what an army of experts and affected citizens and taxpayers think?

Not Scott, whose brother’s unspecified addiction “taught” him that “In the end, it’s always going to come down to that individual and that family is going to have to deal with this issue.”

Not Bondi, who brings to President Donald Trump‘s Opioid Task Force insights such as “No short-term fix is going to help this problem,” as if anybody on earth had suggested a “short-term fix.”

Scott and Bondi will be sending a multiagency Kabuki Theater Touring Company around the state to hold “workshops” and “generate ideas.”  That news did not go down well in Palm Beach County, where beleaguered taxpayers, addicts struggling to recover, and grieving families of the dead are stocking up on torches, pitchforks and rotten tomatoes.

Excellent ideas are all over the place. It’s leadership that’s in short supply.

Joe Henderson: Rick Scott’s approval rating climbs because the economy trumps everything

The steady increase in Gov. Rick Scott’s approval rating has reinforced the notion that if voters have a job and the economy seems to be humming along, other things don’t matter much.

The latest poll, released this week by Morning Consult, put Scott’s approval number at 57 percent. Considering that he stood at 26 percent in 2012 according to Public Policy Polling, that’s downright miraculous.

That same PPP poll five years ago included a forecast that Scott would lose a then-theoretical matchup with Charlie Crist by 55-32 percent. Scott was declared to be the most unpopular governor in the country.

What changed?

The economy. Duh!

Scott still has the singular focus he brought to Tallahassee as an outsider in 2011. We all remember what the economy was like then as the nation tried to recover from the Great Recession.

Scott’s game plan of offering business incentives to attract jobs has been unrelenting. He has targeted regulations that he says strangle job growth.

While his disregard for environmental laws proved disastrous last summer when guacamole-like runoff from Lake Okeechobee became national news, voters appear inclined to overlook that as long as they have a steady paycheck. That’s how Scott got out of controversies that included the messy dismissal in 2014 of Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey. That was handled so poorly that even Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a member of Scott’s cabinet, claimed he was “misled” by the governor’s staff.

Scott also had to spend more than $1 million in taxpayer money to settle seven public records lawsuits because of his penchant for operating in the shadows.

Even the ongoing battle with Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran over two of Scott’s major programs for business development and tourism promotion — Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA — hasn’t hurt the governor. If anything, it seems to have enhanced his standing with voters.

All of this would seem to bode well for his expected challenge for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat in 2018. Scott’s approval number has inched above Nelson’s, which is significant (maybe).

A lot can happen before that Senate race; remember the poll that said Crist would easily beat Scott for governor. Scott is closely aligned with President Donald Trump, and there is no way to tell how that will impact the race.

And while the economy is doing well and Scott is reaping the benefit now, everyone would be advised to remember another campaign from the dusty past as an example of how quickly things can change.

Republicans circulated a flier saying their candidate for president would ensure “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”

That was in 1928. The candidate was Herbert Hoover. He won with 444 electoral votes. A year later, the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression changed everything. Just four years after his landslide, Hoover lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose electoral college total was 472.

Translation: Things look good now, but don’t get cocky.

Jim DeBeaugrine: Revenue from medical marijuana for treatment, prevention would be minimal

Jim DeBeaugrine

If nothing else, the intense debate over how to implement legalized medical marijuana in Florida has given many of us a crash course in business economics, government regulation and medical protocols.

We’ve heard hours of discussion on such topics as vertical versus horizontal business structures, free-markets versus exclusivity, and physician discretion versus government prescription.

Missing from this discussion, however, is the collateral damage of the drug trade – addiction, criminal behavior, broken families, unemployment, even death.

Ironically, these collateral effects are the most likely to directly impact the average Floridian. As we’ve recently learned from the prescription opioid crisis, it doesn’t matter that a substance is legal and highly regulated.

Fortunately, the Legislature has a tremendous opportunity to make major progress toward addressing these unwanted side effects. Under current law, marijuana is subject to the state’s sales and use tax. This is, by the way, consistent with most of the states that have legalized medical marijuana. State economists estimate that tax collections will eventually rise to $24 million on an annual basis. This estimate, however, is based on assumed annual sales that are roughly one-quarter what a leading industry expert predicts.

Either way, these funds represent an untapped resource that could be used to boost the state’s substance abuse education, prevention and treatment efforts.

As things stand right now, the House bill (HB 1397) exempts medical marijuana from state tax. The Senate bill (SB 406) retains the sales tax but the funds would go to General Revenue unallocated. As unallocated General Revenue, $24 million is a relatively insignificant amount that will be fought over by the myriad interests that compete each year in the budget process. As a dedicated funding source for prevention and treatment, however, it becomes a significant shot-in-the-arm to help address a growing crisis in our state.

At the Center to Advance Justice, our primary mission is to educate the public on policies and practices that research show to be effective in reducing criminal behavior and the associated costs. As such, we are acutely aware of the connection between substance abuse and criminal activity.

Perhaps even more compelling is the public health crisis we are experiencing with the recent spike in opioid overdose deaths. It is a painful reminder that shutting down a market, as we did with pill mills, does not solve the underlying addictions that drove it.

The bottom line is that the drug trade, whether legal or not, creates unintended societal consequences that affect us all.

Any public policy discussion related to creating a new legal drug market should include a discussion of these unintended effects. It is both logical and appropriate for an industry to participate in addressing the externalities it creates. Plus, the well-developed regulatory schemes that exist for the existing pharmaceutical industry are not in place in for medical marijuana.

Finally, we have not picked up on any opposition from industry representatives we have spoken with regarding the idea of the industry contributing to prevention and treatment efforts.

Therefore, the Center to Advance Justice, along with several advocacy organizations, respectfully suggests that the Legislature give serious consideration to retaining the existing sales tax and dedicating all or a portion of the funds to evidence-based prevention, education and treatment.

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Jim DeBeaugrine is the CEO of the Center to Advance Justice, a Florida nonprofit that provides information to the public and to policy makers regarding evidence-based approaches to reduce crime and the associated costs. He was formerly the staff director of the House Justice Appropriations subcommittee and the Executive Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Darlene Farah: Prosecutors recognize death penalty’s harm to victims’ families

Darlene Farah

For so long, prosecutors have repeated the mantra that the death penalty is needed for murder victims’ families and to provide them justice. This idea developed into an unquestioned assumption that guided many district attorneys in handling cases and crafting campaign messages. Yet the recent announcement by State Attorney Aramis Ayala of Orlando, Florida, to no longer seek death sentences challenges the notion that capital punishment helps victims’ families. Given the uncertain and painful process that capital cases put victims’ families — including my own — through, I applaud this announcement and hope other prosecutors will adopt a similar approach.

There’s a vast disconnect between the theoretical death penalty championed by some officials — which they say is justice and brings closure — and what it looks like in reality. My children and I witnessed that reality firsthand after my daughter Shelby Farah was murdered in Jacksonville, Florida, on July 20, 2013.

For over three and a half years, we endured delays and constant legal uncertainty before a trial could even get started. Many other Florida families found themselves in a similar position, as the state’s death penalty statute faced litigation and ended up being overturned twice just in the last year.

These problems with the death penalty are not limited to Florida. If you look at all the executions last year in the United States, it took on average 18 years from sentence to execution. But more often than not, death sentences are overturned and don’t even end in an execution. So for surviving loved ones promised justice in the form of an execution, the promise usually ends up being empty and misleading.

Given this reality, more experts in trauma are now concluding that the death penalty inflicts additional pain on murder victims’ families in the wake of tragedy. Across the country, murder victims’ families themselves — ConnecticutNebraska, and elsewhere — are voicing concerns about how capital punishment harms them.

I decided to speak out against the death penalty for the emotional well-being of my family. Together we needed to focus on healing after Shelby’s murder, not years and possibly decades of trials and appeal that come with death penalty cases.

The previous State Attorney, Angela Corey — who had a reputation for frequently seeking death sentences — refused to listen to my pleas and pushed forward with the death penalty in response to my daughter’s murder. Our family did not find relief until a new State Attorney was elected and took death off the table in 2017. Finally, our family was able to put the legal process behind us and move on with our lives.

This decision in my case, and the broader announcement from the Orlando State Attorney to never seek the death penalty, reflect a growing recognition of capital punishment’s harm on surviving families. No longer tied to the empty tough on crime rhetoric of their predecessors, a number of prosecutors are questioning the death penalty’s value and seeking it less often or not at all.

Some of this shift has occurred quietly. Death sentences in the U.S. are at record lows, as prosecutors seek them less often. In recent years, only a handful of district attorneys seek death with any frequency. Out of the over 3,000 counties nationally, only 16 counties produced five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015.

Hopefully, State Attorney Ayala’s announcement will further spur these trends. Officials need to honestly evaluate the reality of the death penalty and its consequences for murder victims’ families. What they will find is an increasingly indefensible policy that hurts rather than helps those that it purportedly serves — murder victims’ families.

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Darlene Farah of Jacksonville is the mother of Shelby Farah, who was murdered in 2013.

Joe Henderson: Democrats may finally get the message that they need, well, a message

Florida Democrats have become such a non-factor in state politics that the real drama frequently becomes which faction of the Republican party will prevail on a given issue.

Think about it.

We have had knockdown, drag-outs between the GOP-controlled House and Senate. This year the main event has been the ongoing feud between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

It’s almost like Democrats don’t exist.

Republicans have long had a consistent message of tough on crime, lower taxes and regulations, gun expansion and job creation. Democrats, on the other hand, basically have campaigned on the “Vote For Me Because I’m Not Him (or Her)” but, guess what? They may finally be getting the message that they need, well, a message.

“What we have to do is convince them that voting for us will make a difference in our lives,” Tallahassee mayor and declared Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum told the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida in Tampa recently.

And in one of the best lines of the still-young campaign so far, Gillum told that crowd Democrats wouldn’t win 2018 by being “Republican-lite.”

Businessman Chris King, the latest declared Democratic candidate for 2018, kicked off his campaign by telling the Orlando Sentinel, “The challenge for the Democrats, I think, is to offer something different, something authentic.

Authentic, eh?

What would that look like?

How about explaining why Medicaid expansion is important because it could actually lower health care costs in the long run. Or maybe, uh … it’s just the right thing to do?

Explain what happens if we don’t take care of the environment. Under Scott, the GOP has gutted many environmental protections and the Legislature often mocks any attempt to protect the land we inhabit. Don’t just say “GOP, BAD!” though. Democrats need to explain why their way is better.

Oh, and there is transportation. Democrats have really dropped the ball there. So explain that the GOP vision, as put into practice by the Florida Department of Transportation, calls for a steady increase in the number of toll roads while rejecting any attempt at effective mass transit. You think people really want that?

Show the growth numbers expected in Florida over the next 20 years and present a vision of what the state will look like if the only transit option is to build more roads. That approach worked extremely well for Democrat Pat Kemp in last November’s election for the Hillsborough County Commission, by the way.

See how easy this is?

Guns? Democrats have ceded that and related issues like Stand Your Ground to Republicans, mostly because (I believe) they cower in fear at that the National Rifle Association will come after them hard for saying we need to bring common sense to the Gunshine State.

Psssst. The NRA will come after you anyway, quivering Democrat. So, take on that fight, loudly. Go after Stand Your Ground and the GOP’s latest pitiful move to force prosecutors to prove a shooter didn’t feel threatened when pulling the trigger.

Democrats are going to have to shout such things from the rooftop, with clarity and determination. It won’t be easy. Republicans have controlled the microphone for a long time now while Democrats have curled up in the corner with nothing to say.

Are they up for this?

Time will tell, I guess.

Darryl Paulson: The filibuster, the nuclear option and the future of American politics

What little Americans know about the filibuster is due to James Stewart‘s portrayal of Senator Jefferson Smith in the classic movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In the movie, Senator Smith filibusters a fraudulent land deal until finally collapsing on the Senate floor. This past week, it was the filibuster that collapsed on the Senate floor as the “nuclear option” was invoked by Senate Republicans.

History of the filibuster.

The early Congress did not recognize the ability to filibuster. Senators could invoke a “previous question motion,” which meant that a simple majority could vote to end debate. Vice President Aaron Burr, as President of the Senate, streamlined the Senate rules in 1805 by persuading fellow Senators to abandon cutting off debate. That move allowed for the possibility of unlimited debate.

The first filibuster did not occur until 1837, and the filibuster was seldom used in the 19th century. It was not until 1917 that the Senate adopted Rule 22 or the Cloture Rule, to create a mechanism to halt a filibuster. Rule 22 required a vote of two-thirds of the Senate (then 64 of the 96 senators) to halt a filibuster.

Rule 22 came about in response to a request by President Woodrow Wilson to arm merchant marine vessels to protect them from U-boat attacks. A group of 11 progressive senators, led by Republican Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, blocked the bill.

Wilson was outraged and condemned “A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own … have rendered the great government of the United States helpless and contemptible.”

Filibuster rule changes.

From 1917 to 1970, only 58 cloture petitions were filed (about one per year), and cloture was invoked only eight times. From 1971 to 2006, the number of cloture petitions jumped to 26 per year and cloture was imposed one-quarter of the time. From 2007 to 2014, cloture petitions were filed 80 times a year and half of the cloture votes were approved.

As the use of the filibuster increased, the Senate looked at various ways to modify its use. In 1975, the Senate voted to make it easier to invoke cloture by requiring only a three-fifths vote instead of two-thirds. That would be a short-term solution with limited impact.

In 2005, Republicans controlled the Senate and were concerned that Democrats would not approve nominees of George W. Bush. Republicans argued that the use of the filibuster on judicial nominations violated the constitutional authority of the president to name judges with the “advice and consent” of a simple majority of the Senate. Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi used the word “nuclear” during the debate, and the concept of the “nuclear option” developed.

Also in 2005, a “Gang of 14” senators, half Democrat and half Republican, reached a compromise to defuse the “nuclear option.” The Democrats promised not to filibuster Bush’s nominees except under “extraordinary circumstances,” and Republicans promised not to invoke the nuclear option unless they believed the Democrats used the filibuster in non-extraordinary circumstances.

On Nov. 21, 2013, the Democrats triggered the nuclear option and eliminated the filibuster for all nominees except for the Supreme Court. They accused Republicans of filibustering an extraordinary number of President Obama‘s nominees.

Republicans took back control of the Senate in the 2014 election and kept the Democratic rules in place. On April 6, 2017, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell extended the nuclear option to Supreme Court nominees after it was apparent that Democrats had the votes to filibuster the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the court. The vote to change the rules to a simple majority passed 52-48 on a straight party-line vote, and the Senate then confirmed Gorsuch with 55 votes, as three Democrats joined the Republicans.

Implications of the nuclear option.

Now that the filibuster is dead in the nomination process, will it also fall by the wayside with respect to legislation?  The answer is likely yes.

The larger question is whether the filibuster is a good or bad part of the legislative process?  Many argue that the Constitution is premised on majority rights and the filibuster allows a minority to dictate public policy. In other words, it is undemocratic.

Supporters of the filibuster contend that it serves a useful purpose. Its use forces legislators to compromise in order to secure passage of major legislation. On controversial issues such as civil rights, a supermajority vote ensures that the legislation has widespread support and its passage was critical. When cloture was invoked on the 1964 Civil Rights Act after a 60-day filibuster, the first time cloture had been successful on a civil rights bill, it was a clear sign that national consensus had been achieved and a strong Civil Rights bill was needed.

Critics of the filibuster argue there is no need to mourn its death. The filibuster has been a tool to frustrate the will of the majority and to impede passage of important legislation.

Supporters counter that the death of the filibuster will lead to greater polarization, although that is hard to imagine. They argue that a simple majority vote will allow a president to appoint more extreme nominees and will allow the Senate to pass more extreme legislation. In addition, major legislation like Obamacare will be subject to “repeal and replacement” every time political control of the Senate shifts from one party to another.

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

Kate MacFall: Florida black bears under threat again, for no reason

Kate MacFall, Florida state director for Humane Society of the United States.

Florida’s black bears are once again under threat of trophy hunters invading their forest homes and shooting them for no reason.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission may revisit the issue of a Florida statewide hunt on black bears, and it is time for citizens to let them know we want our bears protected – not shot for a trophy.

The issue could come up for discussion fairly soon, possibly at the Commission’s April 19-20 meeting in Tallahassee. Floridians should urge the Wildlife Commission to listen to the majority of us who want Florida black bears treated humanely and conserved for future generations.

Florida’s bears are a unique subspecies of the American black bear and were only removed from the state’s threatened list in 2012. Florida’s bears are slow to reproduce, and females spend up to 18 months raising their cubs. If a mother is killed by a trophy hunter, her cubs could die from starvation, dehydration, predation or exposure.

Last year, a group of knowledgeable Florida scientists sent a detailed letter to the Wildlife Commission, warning that allowing the hunt to continue as it did in 2015, coupled with roadkill numbers, nuisance bears killed and poaching, “may well plunge multiple subpopulations into sharp decline.”

No one in modern times needs to hunt bears for food or clothing. They are hunting for thrills, and Floridians don’t support this. Of more than 40,000 comments sent to the FWC before the 2015 hunt, 75 percent opposed it. A 2015 statewide Remington Research poll found that nearly two-thirds of Floridians oppose bear hunting. The poll showed that Floridians overwhelmingly favor educational outreach (84 percent) and bear-proof garbage cans (81 percent.) Eighty-seven percent agreed that neighborhoods near areas where bears roam have a responsibility to avoid attracting bears by securing their garbage and other foods.

County commissions in Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Pinellas, Seminole and Volusia, and city commissions in Davie, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Pinecrest, Cutler Bay, Deltona, Clermont, South Miami, Biscayne Park, Eustis, Safety Harbor and Palmetto Bay all passed resolutions opposing a Florida bear hunt.

Our state wildlife officials publicly acknowledge what the scientific research shows — that bear hunting does not reduce bear-human conflicts, because the bears hunters kill in deep woods are not the “problem” bears found rooting in unsecured suburban garbage cans. The FWC has authority to deal with those kinds of bears without holding a hunt. In fact, newly invigorated efforts to provide neighborhoods with training and bear-proof garbage bins have already cut the number of nuisance complaints.

 As development sprawls across Florida, our bears already face threats from highways and genetic isolation from other bear subpopulations.

If you oppose a new trophy hunt on our black bears, please take a few minutes to write the Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioners at Commissioners@MyFWC.com or call them at (850) 488-4676.

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Kate MacFall is the Florida state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

Emmett Reed: Who best entrusted with senior care – caregivers or insurers?

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

In an effort to protect their turf, the health plans behind Florida’s managed care program for Medicaid recipients keep saying they help many older Floridians move from nursing homes to live in community settings. What they fail to tell you is that these elders are just a small fraction of nursing home residents – the reality is that some frail elders simply cannot be properly cared for outside a skilled nursing center.

These health plans, along with the state Agency for Health Care Administration, are basing their assessment on seriously flawed calculations. While they say it would cost taxpayers $200 million to remove skilled nursing centers from managed care, such a carve-out would actually save taxpayers $68.2 million per year.

Florida has a long-standing commitment to helping elders stay in their homes or community settings for as long as possible. But we must also recognize that for more and more of the frailest residents, a nursing home is the best, and perhaps only, realistic option.

The state’s erroneous cost estimate is based on an assumption of what it would cost if certain individuals who received home- and community-based services had instead been cared for in a nursing center. But the proposed carve-out focuses solely on exempting long-stay nursing center residents, not those who could otherwise live in community settings. There are no savings to be realized for these individuals because their health and medical needs can only be addressed in a nursing center – they cannot be safely cared for in a home or community setting.

Official state figures show that managed care companies transition only about 4 percent of nursing center residents into home- and community-based care. That means the other 96 percent continue to receive their care in skilled nursing centers. The huge savings touted by the managed care companies simply cannot be realized.

Florida’s system of managed care doesn’t work effectively for long-stay nursing center residents, who can’t take care of themselves or be safely cared for in the community. With those residents stuck in the managed care system, taxpayers are paying approximately $68.2 million in unnecessary fees each year for management services that are not needed, according to a study for the Florida Health Care Association.

In the final analysis, managed care companies are more like insurance companies than like health care providers – if it doesn’t work for their bottom line, they’re not interested. So when your loved one needs the kind of care that can only be offered in a skilled nursing facility, who would you rather entrust with their care: their insurer or their trained caregivers?

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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