Opinions – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Dominic Calabro: Florida pro-growth programs are wise investments

Florida’s economy, although robust, depends heavily on tourism, real estate development and financial industries.

As Florida’s economy rebounded from the Great Recession a few years ago, employment in low-paying industries such as tourism has grown at a faster rate than employment growth in higher-paying industries.

While any employment growth is good, we must be careful not to build our economy on the backs of Floridians with lower-paying jobs.

Florida officials continue to look for ways to stimulate economic growth and development and diversify the state’s economy. This has been made more challenging with the recent reduction in economic development incentive funding that, for years, was used to attract businesses to Florida and to create new higher-paying jobs.

As a result, the focus has shifted from attracting new businesses to Florida to growing existing Florida businesses from within. This is important since, overall, business and job growth in Florida is occurring in small businesses, those with fewer than 100 employees.

Given the decision to grow Florida’s economy from within, two existing programs have proven themselves worthy of the continued investment of state funds.

The first is GrowFL, which works with “second-stage” companies to help them connect with resources that will allow them to make better strategic decisions and have a larger positive impact on our economy. A second-stage company is a company that has survived the start-up phase and is now focused on growth, expansion and creating new jobs.

Growing second-stage companies will be critical going forward because they are now responsible for more than 30 percent of Florida jobs and more than one-third of Florida’s sales.

GrowFL works – over the next decade, GrowFL is projected to create more than 43,000 high-paying jobs and generate more than $4.6 billion in additional personal income for Floridians.

One would think the absence of a personal income tax, affordable land and labor, streamlined permitting processes, and a host of other pro-business tax policies and resources would attract manufacturing companies to Florida in droves, but they don’t.

Despite a business climate that is consistently ranked among the best in the U.S., manufacturing in Florida accounts for just over 5 percent of the total output in the state (gross state product) and employs just over 4 percent of the workforce.

This ranks Florida 45th among the 50 states and District of Columbia in terms of manufacturing’s contribution to the gross state product.

This is why programs like FloridaMakes, a statewide public-private partnership designed to improve the productivity and technological performance of Florida manufacturers, is so vital to growing our manufacturing sector. FloridaMakes functions as a network of statewide business associations and local providers to help small and medium-sized manufacturers grow their businesses through technology adoption and talent development.

FloridaMakes provides business advisors who work with client companies to assess their businesses, benchmark excellence and value, and identify opportunities and challenges for each client.

FloridaMakes works – the more than 100 manufacturers who have received services through FloridaMakes reported a combined total impact of $248 million.

This breaks down to $166 million in increased or retained sales, $25.5 million in cost savings, and $56.6 million in investments. More than 2,400 high-paying jobs have either been created or retained as a result of FloridaMakes.

The Legislature has made clear its preference to grow Florida’s economy from within.

If growing Florida’s economy from within is going to be the linchpin of our economic development program, then a continued public investment in programs like GrowFL and FloridaMakes would be a wise investment indeed.


Dominic Calabro is president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

Charlie Leocha: Florida flyers don’t need higher airport fees

Air travelers who made resolutions to travel more in 2018 may not be in for a happy new year. That’s because Congress is considering an 89 percent increase to the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), one of the many taxes and fees airline passengers pay every time they fly. If approved, travelers flying out of Florida will pay up to $318.4 million more in air traveler fees this coming year alone.

The PFC or Airport Tax is one of 14 different fees tacked on to the cost of every plane ticket we buy. The current law allows airports to charge up to $4.50. The measure introduced by Sen. Susan Collins would raise that to $8.50 on the first leg of each flight. That may not sound like a lot, but a family of four purchasing round-trip tickets could pay up to $104 in airport taxes alone.

Passengers are asking why?

In 2016, America’s airports took in $3.2 billion in PFC revenue, the highest level in the history of the program. That’s on top of the $6 billion in federal funding which is just sitting in the Federal Aviation Administration’s trust fund. That’s money waiting to be used, that US airports can utilize. The argument that the airports need the money when they are currently sitting on $14.2 billion of unrestricted cash and investments on hand is nothing if not absurd.

When pressed by a Congressional committee to name an airport infrastructure improvement project that had gone unfunded due to lack of current PFC revenues, the head of the airport trade group was unable to name a single one.

It also belies a more fundamental question – Why should travelers pay for the total cost of running an airport when the municipalities and businesses that stand to benefit the most pay nothing? If the airports really need more money, it should come from surrounding airport businesses and the municipalities rather than from passengers. We are tapped out.

The reason, of course, is politics. Some in Congress and local Chambers of Commerce figure that they can get away with a sneaky tax increase by pawning it off as part of the fare airline travelers pay without having to anger their constituents.

It’s a bad deal for the millions of passengers who already pay more than their fair share in taxes. In addition to the Airport Tax, travelers pay a premium for parking, taxi and ride-sharing surcharges, and expensive airport food.

Meanwhile, Congress – who claims to be looking out for the little guy – just passed a massive tax cut that excluded private jet owners from paying an excise tax when they fly. Relative to what the normal commercial passenger pays flying coach, private jet owners – who happen to be among the biggest campaign contributors – pay pennies on the dollar.

Now, after a giveaway to the wealthiest among us, Congress is proposing to raise airport taxes on the little guy. Sad.

The good news is that airfares are down, more people are flying than ever before, and business is beginning to boom. Now is not the time to curb this growth by nearly doubling a tax that will make flying more expensive for our nation’s nearly 800 million yearly airline passengers.

Raising the PFC is nothing more than a greedy and easy way for airports to raise more revenue without asking their own municipalities for more funding. If Congress truly wants to ease the tax burden on the middle-class, their first New Year’s resolution should be to scrap the proposed airport tax increase.


Charlie Leocha is the chairman and co-founder of the consumer advocacy group Travelers United.

Joe Henderson: Florida public education takes another hit

If you look closely, there actually are a couple of decent things in the just-passed Florida public education bill that is headed to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature – basically scraps offered to schools as balm for their tattered remains.

But let’s call HB 7055 for what it is.

It’s a victory lap for lawmakers who decided long ago that Florida public education is falling way short and needs to be blown up and rebuilt, charter by charter.

We aren’t there yet, but that seems to be the goal of many Republicans, most notably House Speaker Richard Corcoran. They will take pleasure from the fact they just uncorked another haymaker on the teachers union. Democrats couldn’t do anything about it besides vote no and send out tweets like this one from state Rep. Loranne Ausley of Tallahassee.

I do wish the Speaker would admit he despises the union and that rendering it useless would be a major part of his legacy that he will look back upon with pride, but I guess the passage of this legislation makes it clear enough.

Under the bill that the governor is expected to sign, a union can be decertified if it fails to sign up 50 percent of those eligible to join. No other public-sector union in the state faces this requirement, and this legislation is the thinnest veil yet to make life as difficult as possible for teachers and those who represent them.

Instead of concentrating on policy other functions, union reps will have to spend more time recruiting members.

A statement on the Florida Education Association website called on Scott to veto the bill and read: “This was never about what is best for our students, never about what is best for teachers, never about the value of our public schools to the families that they serve. It is only about a corrupt and arrogant legislature. It will do even more damage to our students’ learning environments than last year’s HB 7069.”

That led to this quote in the Miami Herald from the Senate floor by Republican state Sen. Tom Lee, who, from recent events, appears to have stopped caring what anyone in his party thinks of him.

“We do a lousy job of representing working class people and we should be ashamed of ourselves,” Lee said. “We have to accept this poison pill and slap the teachers of Florida in the face.”

Oh, the good stuff.

It’s in there, somewhere, in the sweeping bill.

The requirement passed last year that districts share their property tax funding for infrastructure with charters has been eliminated. For cash-strapped districts like Hillsborough struggling to keep up the demand of an ever-growing student body, that’s good news.

It also waived standardized testing and other requirements for Marjory Stoneman Douglas students after the horror they endured.

That was good.

The ballyhooed Hope Scholarship funded in this bill allows bullied students from public school to receive money to attend a private school. The actual wording is a little vague on how to prove bullying actually took place. But, OK, the spirit behind that push is reasonable and I doubt it will have any significant impact on public school budgets.

Besides, the real bullies are the ones in the Legislature who decided they know more about to run a school system than the professionals and teachers who actually do so.

Instead of partnering with schools, lawmakers have become dictators determined to push through dramatic change at all cost – often to the benefit of their charter school buddies.

They got what they wanted, again, and soon enough we’ll find out just what that cost to Florida public education will be.

Darryl Paulson: Can Democrats regain control of the Florida Congressional Delegation?

Since losing control of the Florida Congressional Delegation over a quarter-century ago, the Democrats have their best opportunity to regain control in 2018.

All the signs on both the national and state level favoring the Democrats.

After his first year, Donald Trump is the most unpopular president in modern history. The generic vote favors Democrats and they have clobbered Republicans in special elections. The most stunning was the victory of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore. If Republicans cannot win in ultra-red Alabama, can they win anywhere?

In Florida, Republicans have all but abandoned the race to retain the seat held by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for a quarter century. Why waste money in a seat that is heavily Democrat and that Hillary Clinton won by 20 percent.

Neighboring District 26, held by Republican Carlos Curbelo, will also be hard to retain. District 26 is the most Democratic district in the nation held by a Republican. Curbelo has raised over $2 million, so this is not a sure pickup for the Democrats.

Republican Brian Mast, in District 18, has also raised over $2 million, but pundits have moved the seat from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican.” Mast, a double amputee from the Afghan conflict, has just announced his opposition to the sale of assault weapons. Will this help or hurt his campaign?

Republican Ron DeSantis is abandoning a safe seat in District 6 to run for governor. Will Republicans be able to retain this seat against a strong challenge from Nancy Soderberg, former national security adviser for President Bill Clinton?

Republican Gus Bilirakis in District 12 has won most of his races by 20 points or more, but he faces a tough challenge from former FBI agent and federal prosecutor Chris Hunter, who has skills in attracting media attention.

Finally, Republican Vern Buchanan in District 16 faces his most difficult campaign since defeating Keith Fitzgerald by 7 percent in 2012. Shapiro is an attorney with broad name recognition and the ability to raise sufficient resources. The defeat of Buchanan’s son James in a special election for a Florida House seat has heightened concerns for Buchanan’s supporters.

Republicans still have the advantage, but Democrats need only to flip three seats to take control of the delegation.

The opportunity is there. Will the Democrats be able to take advantage of the situation?

Joe Henderson: Joe Negron just forgot who is in charge

Senate President Joe Negron was either confused Saturday or had a temporary case of amnesia, but whatever the problem one thing was immediately clear.

Negron simply forgot who really controls that chamber of the Florida Legislature.

Guess what? It ain’t him.

And it’s sure not the Republican Party.

Nope. After the vote to quickly reverse a measure that would have installed modest limits on the purchase of AR-15 assault-style rifles, we were reminded again that the National Rifle Association is in charge of any public policy concerning firearms.

On that issue, Negron is basically the titular head of the NRA-controlled Senate.

You can bet your last nickel he quickly figured that out after he declared an amendment to establish a two-year moratorium on the sale of those weapons had passed on a voice vote.

Tweets went out announcing the news. Those who favor gun control were overjoyed. Those who embrace the no-limits version of the Second Amendment were stunned.

But wait!

Was Negron actually going to risk the wrath of the NRA by believing his lying ears? Of course not. There is a reasonable explanation though.

Perhaps he mistook the increasing volume of voices demanding sensible changes to the gun laws in this state for the drone of those who parrot the NRA mantra of more guns, more guns, more guns and more guns.

Ah, the crisis was averted when Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley jumped in with a motion to say hey, let’s rethink that vote, OK? A bit later, the ban was defeated.

Whew! That was close!

This would actually be funny if the stakes weren’t so high. Floridians will never look at guns the same after the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The GOP response has basically been to argue schools would be safer if teachers had guns in the classroom as the first line of defense.

In the face of such poisoned logic, opponents have no hope of winning the argument for sensible limits on gun ownership.

If 17 murder victims at a state high school doesn’t convince Republicans that maybe they need to look at this issue from another angle, nothing will. The only hope opponents have for changing the rules is to change the lawmakers.

The only way to do that is at the ballot box. Democrat Gwen Graham, who is running for governor, was quick to pounce with a tweet promising if she wins to veto any bill that puts more guns in schools.

For Democrats, the ballot box has proven to be an elusive challenge. Except for a brief period in 2010 when then-Gov. Charlie Crist left the GOP to become an independent, Republicans have controlled both houses and the governor’s mansion since 1999.

With no political balance in Tallahassee, Republicans have boldly moved to approve many NRA-backed provisions to expand gun availability and the rights of users.

The NRA has adamantly opposed most attempts to restrict sales and availability, even a recent proposal by Gov. Rick Scott to raise the minimum age to buy an assault-style weapon to 21 from its current 18.

NRA Grand Dame Marion Hammer has called that an attack on the Second Amendment.

So really, the surprise Saturday was that Negron apparently forgot to check with her before declaring that amendment on assault weapons had passed.

Anyway, all is back in order now in Tallahassee and the NRA-controlled Senate of the Gunshine State.

The threatened breach of sanity has been averted.

Joe Henderson: Tom Lee is right to rip Legislature leadership

Tom Lee is right.

OK, it was more than a bit of hyperbole Friday when Lee, a Republican state Senator from Thonotosassa, said leadership in both chambers is running the Legislature “like a third world country” but he was right on point when his frustration with how bills are presented and passed became headline news.

“I’ve never seen this place get so transactional, where people are getting locked down on votes, and we’re just getting going here,” Lee told reporters after a terse on-floor exchange with Senate President Joe Negron – who was not amused.

In this case, Lee was trying to soften a blatant attempt by the House to bust the state public school teachers union.

The attack on public education by the Legislature has been going on for a while now, and rather than roll over while more money is re-directed to charter schools, the union had the audacity to fight back. Obviously, top Tallahassee lawmakers consider that a high crime from those uppity teachers.

That’s how we got HB 7055,  a bullying tactic on teachers union disguised as a sweeping public-sector bill. It includes a requirement that applies only to teachers unions. If their dues-paying membership falls below half of those eligible, it could force them to be re-certified. You can almost hear House leaders laughing as the bill was being put together.

During Senate debate, Lee called the amendment “mean spirited” and offered an amendment that would have lowered that bar to 40 percent.

When Negron told him to hurry things along, Lee responded from the floor, “I didn’t come to Tallahassee to be intimidated.”

The amendment didn’t pass, but the real story was that a well-known Republican senator – more than a bit of a maverick, sure – had publicly bucked the leadership of his party in a way that hasn’t been seen in a while.

I’ve known Tom Lee for a long time and two things come quickly to mind: He doesn’t always play the go-along-to-get-along game, and when he gets riled he doesn’t hold back.

Remember, this is his second stint in the Senate; he was president there from 2004-06. He knows how the sausage gets made, which means he also knows political independence for lawmakers is the most endangered species in the state these days.

With Republicans controlling both chambers plus the governor’s mansion, laws now are filtered through the narrow ideology of House and Senate leadership.

Junior members who ran for office promising the home folks to make a difference quickly learn that if the party boss tells you how to vote on certain issues, you’d better play along.

Failure to do so can mean the legislator’s proposals will die in committee, if they get that far. The merit of bills matters far less than being willing to fall in line with the agenda of the Senate President or House Speaker.

A free-thinker like Tom Lee can find this exasperating.

He told reporters after Friday’s eruption that members from rural districts find themselves in a “headlock” on gun legislation working through the Legislature “because they’re being instructed to vote for it.”

Florida has 20 million people and the Legislature is supposed to represent them all, but that’s a joke. Even obvious bills of revenge like the one against the teachers union have almost no chance of being stopped if a leader wants it badly enough.

“I’ve just had enough … I’ve struggled to get things out of this institution … and it’s petty and I am fed up,” he told reporters Friday. “I didn’t come up here to get bullied; I didn’t come up here to ‘follow directions.’ I came to represent my constituents.”

That’s the problem.

Constituent needs always take a back seat because lawmakers in Tallahassee are expected to follow directions set by a small core of party leaders, something Lee has never been good at doing.

Too bad, because the Legislature needs more of that.

Blake Dowling: The pleasure — and pain — of Facebook

Facebook has been a modern American success story that continues to break boundaries and reinvent itself.

They have also been in the news a lot lately, not for innovation, but what some people are calling, pay-to-play, exclusion, the “Facebook Apocalypse,” and more.

Some publishers and advertisers are not happy, as the platform jacks up rates and pulls the plug on what people see organically.

Users are also not happy as they see too many ads. Facebook had 2 million advertisers in 2016 — with over 5 million now. Good problem to have, but how they are handling it is, for us, a wait-and-see moment.

Go back a few years in the Facebook world; pay-and-advertise was rarely mentioned. Back then, there were lots of other talks: organic, connect, share … yadda yadda yadda.

See this quote below, taken from a 2009 Wired article:

Wired.com: “So give me an example. A year or two from now, what might you be able to do on Facebook that would be an example of what you’re talking about — if you’re a small business. Or a large business, for that matter?”

Mark Zuckerberg: “You should be able to connect to a business in the same way that you connect to a friend, or a person on the site, and then that business should be able to publish things in the same way that that happens for people you care about.”

Anyway, Facebook’s success is cool and inspiring.

However, we all need to be prepared for changes.

I have been part of several conversations in the Chamber, charity, political, publishing and business sectors, all of which basically say, in their opinion, is it all shifting.

So, let’s play a hypothetical game.

If the Florida Politics’ Facebook page posts my column under the new system, not all the page followers would automatically see my column.

But isn’t that the whole point of sharing things on the page?

However, if you pay, you then can open the gates a little further (refer to the Grinch image below, borrowed from the nice people at TheChive.com).

Let’s not forget; Facebook has some issues to tighten up.

The New York Times weighed in again on the story of the Russian ad buys to stir discord in the Process. Speaking of which, it’s going to be more relentless the next time; so, study up on their tactics.

Also new in the social media political front, advertisers will now have to say who paid for them. That sounds familiar. Great idea.

This blog pokes fun at that.

So, Facebook is part of the world: politics, business, pictures of your neighbor’s cat named Frito, blogs about Knight Rider, rants on everything (maybe FB should make political ranters pay-to-play; there’s an idea for you, Zuck).

Before our eyes, the Facebook story unfolds. And just like everyone else, they will stumble — that’s OK by me.

You certainly cannot make everyone happy; hopefully, Facebook will find a way to continue its great American success story.

I will be rooting for them all the way. That is unless they don’t share my columns.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Rest in peace Walt Dartland, a modern Marvel-style comic book hero come to life

We’ve lost a really great and humble hero in the passing of Walter Dartland, who died at his Tallahassee home on March 1 after a valiant battle against lymphoma. He was surely Florida’s best-ever advocate for consumers and taxpayers — a mild-mannered gentle giant who was a living legend for most of his life because of his many victories for consumers.

Walt accomplished more to make Florida a better place than many government agencies and career elected officials combined. Heroically, he was a champion for consumers and underdogs throughout his storied career, often persevering and prevailing against all odds. In the 1980s, he was the official Consumer Advocate for Miami-Dade County government, and he took on the powerful almost single-handedly on behalf of Florida families, often making waves of reform and national news. Very competitive TV stations’ news departments often fought over which would have him on the air for live interviews first, or most often. He was a naturally gifted communicator — always eloquently assailing the arrogance and abuse of any powerful interests whose products or services hurt or undermined the public interest.

As an attorney and advocate, he was one of those quietly elite ones who help to define the profession and practice of law as its very best. Typical of his impact and legacy, Walt was the singular guiding force because Florida’s now decades-old landmark ‘Lemon Law’ that helped consumers whose new cars proved to be duds to have legal fuel to accelerate in a faster lane to justice. He spent so much of his career in public service that he never really retired. Whether leading groups as a dedicated volunteer to protect Lake Jackson or helping create a center for non-profits to gather, he was tireless in taking on so many challenges so effortlessly, though even one of his quests would exhaust a far younger person.

During many decades inTallahassee, his gifts to all included creating a statewide consumer advocacy group in the late 1990s, that he led almost singlehandedly for more than 15 years, for no compensation. One of his noblest battles several years ago was on behalf of a neighborhood of poor black residents in Port. St. Joe, whose homes were actively deteriorating because of major flaws in the homesites and construction. Strictly pro bono, Walt took on this long-shot cause and ultimately led a protest to the front door and headquarters of the major corporation responsible — ultimately winning a settlement for the homeowners to be compensated and the problems corrected.

While he was not Don Quixote — because his battles were for real and his victories many — Walt’s somewhat Quixotic decision at age 80 to run for U.S. Congress in 2016, as a lifetime Democrat in a district largely Republican district, confounded many friends and family. But to Walt, it was typical of his willingness to take on any long-odds effort — because no one should automatically win such an important and powerful job without a vigorous challenge. He actually had data and math to show a possible path to victory — and though the calculations would later prove to be wrong, his effort was so right.

As much as Walt loved his battles on behalf of good issues and the public, he was a devoted family man who would do anything for those he loved, including his children, grandchildren and dear friends. Though he seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of energy, it was his beloved wife and life partner, Diana, who was the real power pack source for most of his lifetime happiness and tenacity — and who inspired him as he inspired others.

If we could conceive a modern Marvel-style comic book hero to come to life and protect all of us in the things that matter most, Walt Dartland would be perfectly cast because it was the role he lived every day throughout his very distinguished life. We will likely never find another champion for consumers like him.

Ron Sachs is CEO of Sachs Media Group.

Darryl Paulson: The forgotten voices in the opioid debate

Anyone who follows the news knows that opioid abuse and drug deaths are a national problem; 63,000 Americans die of drug overdoses in 2016, an increase of 21 percent over 2015. Opioid deaths in Florida increased to 5,725 in 2016, a 35 percent increase over the previous year.

It is important to remember that opioid abuse covers a range of things, including street drugs and prescription opioids.

Of the 63,000 drug deaths in 2016, most were not related to prescriptions from doctors.

Fentanyl, which attracted national attention due to the death of Michael Jackson, accounted for 19,000 deaths. Most of these deaths came from illegally made pills or powder which was then mixed with heroin or other drugs. Most of the fentanyl was illegally imported from China.

Heroin accounted for 15,500 of the drug deaths. No physician prescribed this for their patients. Pain meds accounted for 14,500 deaths, but less than one-third of opioid abusers got their drugs from a doctor.

Everyone wants to reduce drug deaths, but the legislature must adopt a plan that focuses on the real problem. Most drug deaths do not come from doctor prescribed pain meds, so the plan to attack drug abuse must concentrate on the real source of the problem.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature are focusing on abuse of prescription opioids. This is important, but the Legislature must realize that this is not the primary source of drug abuse. They must also be careful not to impose burdens on Floridians who need the pain meds prescribed by their doctor.

We all want to eliminate illegal drug use and limit the over-prescription of drugs to those suffering from temporary pain. At the same time, we must realize that individuals suffering from a terminal illness, chronic pain or major surgery should not be denied access to pain meds that will allow them to function with minimal pain.

That decision should be made by the doctor, not the Legislature.

It is estimated that 11 percent of Americans suffer from chronic pain. This is a particular problem for the elderly, and Florida has more elderly citizens than any state. I have had chronic pain since age 12. When I was 20, I could no longer sit in my University classes because of the pain.

I was forced to withdraw from classes and had my first major back surgery. My physician wrote the draft board, which had just requested I appear for my physical, that I was unfit to serve due to “chronic discogenic back pain.”

That surgery would be the first of three major back surgeries. I have had seven surgeries total, and five were major surgical procedures. This does not include more than a dozen other medical procedures ranging from numerous epidurals to a procedure where surgeons attempted to thread a wire up my spinal canal. Nor does it count the osteoarthritis that led to a total knee replacement.

I worry about the proposed three and seven-day limits on pain meds. This means that many Floridians will no longer be able to travel to visit friends and family because they won’t be able to get their pain meds. Vacations, especially overseas, will no longer be possible.

Many pain patients are elderly and will have difficulty seeing a doctor every 3 to seven days. Instead of one visit to a pain specialist a month, patients must now visit the doctor as many as 10 times a month. The cost will be prohibitive for many patients. Then imagine the difficulty of going to the pharmacy every three to seven days. Prescription costs will skyrocket.

Many in need of pain meds will likely go days without their meds because of the new guidelines. Withdrawal will happen.

Melissa Sanders-Self, a teacher who suffers from neuroendocrine cancer who must have radiation treatments every three weeks, describes her withdrawal symptoms because she often cannot get the pain meds the doctor has prescribed.

Sanders-Self writes: “Without medicines, I begin to vomit, shake and cry. I cannot concentrate.” Every chronic pain patient can relate to her experiences.

A final issue is that the Legislature is attempting to become the doctor. Remember when Republicans across the nation opposed “Obamacare” because they said it interfered with the doctor/patient relationship. Isn’t that precisely what the Legislature is now doing by dictating what medicines we may have and in what quantity?

We can cut down on illegal drug use, but we must realize that most problems do not come from doctors prescribing pain meds for their patients. The Legislature does have a responsibility to see that Floridians who have documented pain needs can get the medicines they need.

Imposing additional time and financial costs on those who are already suffering from severe medical problems is hardly compassionate.


Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Being financially disadvantaged doesn’t mean you can’t do math

Looking back on the challenges of her own youth, Rep. Janet Cruz hit the nail on the head when she defended the need for short-term loans.

“Being financially disadvantaged does not mean you can’t do math,” she scolded. “It just means you don’t have enough money to pay a particular bill.”

And that’s why in the final week of Session, the Legislature must pass HB 857/SB 920, proposals that use “deferred presentment transactions” to strengthen Florida’s established system of offering financial choice and consumer protections.

The bills will enhance the state’s current policies, ensuring Floridians have access to the credit options they need — including those in financial circumstances that do not give easy options of strolling into a bank or credit union and walking out with a quick loan.

While some decry such loans, many Floridians hail them as a godsend and rely on them in emergencies.

Last Thursday, the new proposal on short-term loans using deferred presentment transactions — which some call “payday loans” — passed the Commerce Committee unanimously. Cruz and Tampa Republican Rep. James Grant are sponsors of the House bill.

Meanwhile, in the Senate is SB 920, co-sponsored by Sens. Rob Bradley and Oscar Braynon, which breezed through four committees with overwhelming support.

Now, both versions are on the floor of their respective chambers.

There is a strong push to protect this significant consumer credit option, which impacts the more than 1.2 million Floridians who use the products.

Critics argue the state needs to do more to protect consumers from these loans, which they say carry outrageous fees and become a debt trap.

Cruz wholeheartedly disagrees.

As the Tampa Democrat points out, people who seek these loans aren’t stupid, and certainly not careless. They are good people facing real-life struggles to make ends meet, often finding themselves suddenly in need of cash to cover an emergency car repair or an unplanned trip to their kid’s doctor.

For many consumers who struggle with uncertainties of financial strains, that is the reality.

Customers of short-term loans are well aware of the financial responsibilities associated with small-dollar credit. In fact, thanks to effective consumer protections to limit finance charges, it’s cheaper for a consumer to get a short-term loan than it is to pay bank fees on a couple of bounced checks.

That was exactly the point Cruz made to her colleagues.

Short-term loan users know the costs of such a loan and know what it will really cost them if they don’t. They can do the math.

Fortunately, Cruz was preaching to the choir (for the most part), with several committee members describing the bill’s consumer protections as useful, necessary, and important for the financial future of Floridians.

Clearly, many Florida lawmakers have made it a top priority to find safe, reliable financial options for consumers. The folks Cruz had in mind are doing the math — and are counting on it to add up to a majority.

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