Opinions Archives - Page 5 of 259 - Florida Politics

Lila Jaber: Thank a lineworker

Amidst the post-Irma “tweet storm,” there was a visual that made me pause: two lineworkers from Gulf Power, a Florida Panhandle utility, descending a power pole after replacing a transformer in a St. Augustine neighborhood outside Gulf Power’s service area. Having traveled to that area to provide extra support, the utility team lead expressed his group’s eagerness in helping the residents in any way possible to “get their life back to normal.”

His sincerity made me think of all the lineworkers whom I have had the privilege of meeting over the years. What each of them had in common is a strong commitment to service. At no time has that commitment shone brighter than when we weathered the storm together in recent days.

Hurricane Irma ravaged our state, stealing power from the majority of us. Our lineworkers – as prepared as they could be to handle the worst-case scenario – faced what The Washington Post rightly dubbed a “Herculean task” in getting our neighborhoods restored and returned to routine. As always when duty calls, these men and women left their own families behind in the wake of the storm to help families like yours and mine. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with paramedics, firefighters, police and the like, their dedication during and in the days since Irma has renewed the dialogue on how lineworkers, too, should be designated as “first responders.”

Yet, despite all their preparation, sacrifice and grueling shifts, the aftermath of Hurricane Irma has seen the rise of another kind of surge. Sadly, some who benefit from these lineworkers’ services are now critical of the pace of restoration. The task of restoring power is not as quick and certainly not as simple as one might think when the issue is spread over such a large area so dense with trees and power lines that serve as hosts for electricity, telephone and cable. As they work to support the needs of nearly 20 million Floridians, it is important that we extend our willingness to learn, understand, and unite with these dedicated professionals in solidarity as they do what they do best: supporting each and every one of us.

It is easy to overlook our lineworkers’ passion as we go about our lives as usual in the comfort of our homes and workplaces. But it is times like these when we must recognize the comforts they forgo to support us in living our daily lives. These hardworking people deserve all the grace and compassion of our Southern hospitality.

To them, I say thank you. #ThankALineWorker

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Lila Jaber is the Regional Managing Shareholder and Governmental Affairs Practice Group Leader of Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, P.A. She is a former chair of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the founder of Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum (FWELF).

Joe Henderson: Marco Rubio maybe gets the message

Gwen Graham’s attempt to make Marco Rubio look bad may have fallen flat, but it does raise a couple of interesting points.

First, Democrats obviously still plan to make an issue of Rubio’s image as a detached and disinterested U.S. senator. You may recall that was a major point of contention last year when Rubio successfully ran for re-election.

But second, is Rubio doing enough in the early stages of his second term to put that question to rest?

Maybe. His performance – and especially that of his staff – during the recent hurricanes suggests he has gotten the message that being a senator requires than showing up at election time and asking for votes.

Graham, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, released a video last Friday that hit directly at Rubio’s detached image. With a camera rolling, Graham called Rubio’s office to urge him to vote against the pending health care bill in the senate.

The call went to voice mail. She left a message.

She called his offices around Florida. More voice mail. More messages. Apparently, she never reached a live human, and she punctuated that with a tweet that read: Senator @MarcoRubio, answer your phone.

Olivia Perez-Cubas, Rubio’s communications director, responded with a zinger that said the reason no one answered is because staffers were busy helping “over 10,000 people apply for FEMA assistance, not sitting behind desk waiting for a political stunt.”

She released pictures to back up her claim.

Boom!

Rubio also just returned from a trip to Puerto Rico to survey and report on damage, again with photos. And this was after he was highly visible, along with Democrat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, going around Florida before Hurricane Irma struck. After the Keys were dealt a severe blow by Irma, Rubio was on the scene with Tim Tebow (!) to pass out ice to people in need.

Genius.

Rubio’s staff gets an A-plus during this time. And someone seems to have gotten through to Rubio that being a senator, especially in a crisis, requires visibility and action. We need to see these people. We need to hear from them.

The late former U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons was renowned throughout Tampa for his rapid response to constituent needs. Nelson routinely returns to Florida to see what’s going on, and not just for fund-raisers.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa also spends a lot of time back home, listening to concerns from the people who elected her.

Throughout his first term, Rubio basically blew off the job he was sent to Washington to do, concentrating instead on an ill-fated run for president. He moped that he didn’t like being a senator and even said he wouldn’t run for re-election before changing his mind.

He won a second term, but after six years his brand was that of an absentee representative. As Graham’s gambit showed, that can be a tough image to change.

Give Rubio credit for this much, though – at least he seems to be trying.

Joe Henderson: Patriotism is more than flag waving

Patriotism is not the exclusive property of any one group. Showing real devotion to this country takes more than waving a flag and snarling at someone who doesn’t. It starts with understanding what this nation is supposed to be about.

I got caught up Sunday night in watching the latest installment in Ken Burns’ epic series about the Vietnam war. Given current events, it seemed an oddly appropriate thing to do.

The show focused on the late 1960s, a particularly volatile time. Americans were beginning to realize their government was feeding them loads of bunk about what was happening in that faraway country.

Students were taking to the streets in protest, and many of them burned U.S. flags. Many who supported the war argued that anyone who believed differently was unpatriotic. That seems to happen any time the authority of a president is questioned like we’re seeing now.

Here’s a quote from a pretty patriotic guy that might lend some perspective.

“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”

George Washington said that.

Washington and many of this nation’s founders, which some on the right embrace when it suits them, would be appalled by President Trump’s reaction to the protest by football players who chose to kneel during the national anthem.

That includes Tampa Bay Buccaneers players Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn locked arms with his players on the sideline in a show of solidarity before their game Sunday. In a direct shot at President Trump, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross noted, “Our country needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness.”

Alas, the nation’s Tweeter-in-Chief once again has mistaken division for leadership. At a rally, he said anyone who kneels in protest is a “son of a bitch.” So, here we go again. We’re deep enough into this astonishing presidency to understand this is the way it’s going to be.

He is so ill-informed and lacking in circumspection that he doesn’t realize the protest isn’t about the U.S. flag or patriotism, at least it wasn’t at the start. It began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to highlight what he believes is racial injustice in this country. Trump, however, is succeeding in making the protest all about him.

It must be at least a little awkward for high-ranking Republicans from Florida – particularly Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott.

Publicly denouncing this man would be statesmanlike, but both seem more interested in pushing through political agendas no matter the compromise that takes.

It hasn’t been business as usual in this country since Jan. 20 of this year, when this president took over. At the rate we’re going, I’m not sure how long it will take to get back to a semblance of what used to be normal.

Our friends in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean are in ruins. Mexico, which Trump wants to wall-off, was staggered by a major earthquake. A lunatic in North Korea wants to vaporize us. Who knows what chicanery Russia is up to this week.

And our president wants to pick a fight with athletes who exercise their freedom of expression?

For a final thought, let’s go back to the Vietnam war.

I graduated high school at the height of that war. I dutifully registered for the draft, but wasn’t called because my lottery number was 275.

I attended funerals of guys my age who died over there. One of my classmates won a Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry I can’t even fathom.

It is possible to respect the sacrifice everyone made there and still be against the war, and I was. I believe strongly that the relentless protests in this country against the Vietnam “conflict” (like leaders wanted to call it) helped save lives by pressuring this nation to end the war.

Being an American means you can do that and still love this country. Anyone who says otherwise is flat out wrong.

 

Joe Henderson: Bad timing for USF money request

The medical school and heart institute being built by the University of South Florida in downtown Tampa is ambitious and more than a little bold. It can be major step in the ongoing re-invention of the city’s urban core.

Speaking of bold, though, that’s the word that came to mind after reading the News Service of Florida story about how USF plans to ask state lawmakers for an additional $21 million next year to complete the project. That’s on top of the $91 million it already has received.

Construction has begun on the sprawling complex, which will cover 50 acres of prime real estate as part of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s $3 billion Water Street Tampa project. Local businessman and philanthropist Frank Morsani also has contributed $18 million, and in return gets his name on the college of medicine.

Noble aim.

Bad timing.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced a couple of days ago that instead of requests for local projects, lawmakers should concentrate on ways to provide hurricane relief and planning in the next Legislative Session.

He pointedly noted, “…I ask all of you, and our colleagues in the Senate, to join me in setting aside the business-as-usual of pork projects and instead invest all of those funds to either assist those in need after Hurricane Irma or prepare Florida against the threat to life and property that will surely come with future storms.”

I can almost hear USF President Judy Genshaft arguing that a project like this is hardly pork or business as usual. She would be correct.

The medical school proposal is a game-changer for Tampa in many ways. It would attract the kind of young, upwardly mobile and skilled professionals that all cities value so highly.

At a news conference Wednesday to update the project, Genshaft noted that USF received more than 6,000 applications this year to fill 170 spots.

Corcoran, however, warned that money is going to be tight next year even before the billions in damage from Hurricane Irma.

The worthiness of the medical school should not be questioned, but put it this way: There are a lot of worthy projects in the state, and they will all be competing with Florida’s urgent need to repair from Irma and prepare for the next monster hurricane.

Good luck.

Blake Dowling: Tech and the next threat

For the next threat, both our state and nation are constantly sleeping with one eye open.

The threat landscape consists of digital, cultural, and of course good old Mother Nature. At the top of the list: hurricanes, terrorism, human trafficking, and even the current opioid epidemic in Florida.

Tech Industry leaders and our government are doing their part to help — when possible.

Lately, Twitter has been a hotbed for recruiting young folks to ISIS. To counter that effort, the company shuts down any accounts created to promote extremism or violence.

Hopefully, Abu (see below) was first on the list.

Example of a deleted terrorist account

Some of those that were cyber-yanked were at the request of the government, but Twitter removes others on its own. They have automated tools to look for that type of content, as well as actual humans who view activity — called “content moderators.” Talk about a tough gig.

Twitter is reporting that they shut down over 300,000 accounts in the past six months for just this reason. Man, our world is certainly full of a**holes; 300,000 hate-filled social media accounts is staggering to consider.

And just this morning, I was reading about the positive work of Operation Airdrop in Florida. They are bringing supplies to the state’s rural areas affected by Irma, people without power, fuel, access to grocery stores, etc. since the storm hit.

Then there is this glaring stat from Twitter about negativity in our world.

Oh, well, it’s a good reminder (if your head is in the sand) to get it out of there, and always be on the lookout for trouble.

As James Cronin’s book “The Passage” says: All Eyes. (It’s worth a read if you’re into post-apocalypse vampires.)

Tallahassee Mayor Gillum with alleged undercover FBI agent, Mike Miller.

Thank you Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook for zero tolerance for this type of behavior.

If you visit FloridaPolitics.com regularly, I am sure you have read pieces on Attorney General Pam Bondi and her office fighting the good fight regarding our state’s opioid crisis.

They have a new ally in this fight in the form of an app — called OD Map.

OD Map focuses on High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and monitors overdoses and other analytics.

Why is this data important? There were 52,000 overdoses in 2015, mostly from heroin, oxy, or some type of pain medication. If hospitals and other agencies can get overdose stats in real time, they can take more proactive measures to save lives.

For example, they can have the drug Naloxone on hand in areas spiking with overdoses. Naloxone is the FDA-approved medication used to block or reverse effects of an opioid overdose.

Also, for law enforcement, if there is an area with lots of overdoes, it might be time to send in undercover FBI agent Mike Miller to help shut down dealers. (That’s a little North Florida CRA investigation humor for you).

Last week, I wrote about some hurricane apps last week – Waze, Zello, etc. – so we won’t go back there.

Just remember, technology (apps, artificial intelligence and more) is always available to help (when used properly) in the global fight against all things evil, ridiculous and just plain wrong.

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

 

Sterling Crockett: For one company, medical cannabis is personal

Last November, Florida voters revolutionized the way patients with debilitating diseases can pursue their road to recovery.

Following passage of Amendment 2, the Florida Constitution now allows licensed physicians to administer cannabis-derived medicines to individuals who suffer from a number of significant medical conditions.

In just a few short weeks, the Florida Department of Health – the agency responsible for regulating medical cannabis production and distribution centers – will issue licenses to five additional companies allowing them to grow and process cannabis plants.

The company I co-founded with my business partner Bruce Goldman, AGRiMed Industries, is among the applicants being reviewed by the department for these five licenses. For me, this is not just business – my desire to serve patients in need stems from a deeply personal family experience.

My journey with AGRiMED began shortly after I experienced the joy of learning I would be a grandfather, when my daughter Nicole was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Three weeks after giving birth to my first grandchild, Nicole had a kidney removed and began a 16-week regimen of chemotherapy. My daughter suffered nonstop from the symptoms associated with chemotherapy and the cancer itself, stealing precious time she should have been sharing with her newborn daughter.

Amid this adversity, medical cannabis gave Nicole a second chance to enjoy life in a way nothing else could. Thanks to the effective medical treatment she received, Nicole is now tumor-free and raising her beautiful daughter. After witnessing the significant medical benefits cannabis provided to her, the idea for AGRiMED was born.

Years later, our company is a fully integrated organization, bringing medical cannabis from cultivation to patient care. We’re not in the industry simply to grow it, sell it, and move on – we take great pride in our dispensary operations that put our legal product in the hands of patients who need it.

AGRiMED’s therapeutic professional-grade cannabis products are produced in state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities, ensuring consistent, contaminant-free medicines designed to treat a variety of patient conditions. Beyond that, our team of distinguished business and medical professionals, including acclaimed neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes, fully integrates with the communities we serve, working with and educating local caregivers.

AGRiMED submitted the top scoring application to be awarded a grower/processor license in Pennsylvania, and we intend to bring that same level of professionalism to Florida. As a minority-owned company, we also are committed to supporting research into the use of cannabis for sickle cell anemia and working with historically black colleges and universities to provide training and internships to students for early experience in the industry. Our relationship with Lincoln University generates a knowledge center for cannabis-related research and development fueled by minority students, the first of its kind in the country.

As the medical use of cannabis becomes more common, it seems unreasonable to brand the plant’s qualities based on negative stereotypes. Our industry is extensively regulated and patient-centric, providing tangible relief to those who, like my daughter, truly need it.

AGRiMED is in the business of producing and selling high-quality medical cannabis, but to a greater degree we are really in the business of helping people whose ailments often make normal life unbelievably challenging. Whether by improving the health of patients or empowering underserved communities, we are committed to improving the health and wellness of ailing patients who can benefit from the positive effects of cannabis-derived medicines.

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Sterling Crockett is CEO of AGRiMED Industries. AGRiMED Industries is a leading medical cannabis company committed to improving the health and wellness of ailing patients.

Joe Henderson: Maddon is right; build Rays stadium in Tampa

I always suspected Joe Maddon, a smart man, wanted the chance to say out loud that the Tampa Bay Rays new stadium should be built in Tampa.

Well, he got his chance Tuesday when he came to St. Pete as manager of the Chicago Cubs. He didn’t hold back.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Maddon “came out strong for the need for a new stadium, and on the Tampa side.”

“I think a more vibrant building that fans can get to more readily would be very important moving it forward,” he said.

“Quite frankly, when I worked here I couldn’t say that because people did not want to hear that. People would get upset with me because I said that. But it’s true. Those who argue against it, that’s just a bad argument.

“You need a better facility (than Tropicana Field). You need a facility that’s more readily available to the general population when they get off from work. They need a place that’s more baseball oriented. You don’t need an erector set. You don’t need stuff hanging from the ceiling. It was a great place. And it’s a great place to start. For this organization to really get to where they want to on an annual basis, you need a better building in a better spot.”

This is especially interesting because Maddon has always publicly remained neutral about which side of the Bay would be a better location for the Rays.

It also should be noted that Maddon has a home and business interests in Tampa. Maybe that makes him more likely to favor Tampa as a stadium site, but it doesn’t make him wrong.

He was almost always a goodwill ambassador for the Trop when he managed the Rays. He wouldn’t suffer any complaints about the team’s Dome Sweet Dome, although did tiptoe to the edge one afternoon in early August 2010.

That was the day when the Rays, in the middle of a pennant race, lost a game to Minnesota. A routine pop-up in the ninth by the Twins’ Jason Kubel should have been the third out. Instead, it clanked off a catwalk overhanging the infield, fell into fair territory, and the winning run scored.

“There was a time when it was kind of cute,” Maddon said after that fiasco. “In 2006 and 2007 it was kind of cute when you might win a game or lose a game when the ball hit the roof or rafter or whatever, but it’s not cute today. It’s not cute.”

Hillsborough County has identified a site between downtown Tampa and Ybor City as a potential new home for the Rays. Although St. Petersburg has made overtures to keep the Rays, my guess is the Rays will say they like Tampa better.

Now we know how Maddon feels. He may have hurt some feelings in St. Pete, but he just said out loud what people should already know.

Theodore Kury: Should power lines go underground?

It is the height of a highly destructive hurricane season in the United States. The devastation of Harvey in Texas and Louisiana caused nearly 300,000 customers to lose electricity service, and Hurricane Irma has cut service to millions of people. Soon, winter storms will bring wind and snow to much of the country.

Anxious people everywhere worry about the impact these storms might have on their safety, comfort and convenience. Will they disrupt my commute to work? My children’s ride to school? My electricity service?

When it comes to electricity, people turn their attention to the power lines overhead and wonder if their electricity service might be more secure if those lines were buried underground. But having studied this question for utilities and regulators, I can say the answer is not that straightforward. Burying power lines, also called undergrounding, is expensive, requires the involvement of many stakeholders and might not solve the problem at all.

WHERE SHOULD RATEPAYER MONEY GO?

Electric utilities do not provide service for free, as everyone who opens their utility bill every month can attest. All of the costs of providing service are ultimately paid by the utility’s customers, so it is critical that every dollar spent on that service provides good value for those customers. Utility regulators in every state have the responsibility to ensure that utilities provide safe and reliable service at just and reasonable rates.

But what are customers willing to pay for ensuring reliability and mitigating risk? That’s complicated. Consider consumer choices in automobile insurance. Some consumers choose maximum insurance coverage through a zero deductible. Others blanch at the higher premiums zero deductibles bring and choose a higher deductible at lower premium cost.

The damage from Hurricane Irma on the Florida Keys was extensive. Putting power lines underground will make electricity service more resilient to wind damage but also make flooding a bigger concern.

To provide insurance for electricity service, regulators and utilities must aggregate the preferences of individual customers into a single standard for the grid. It’s a difficult task that requires a collaborative effort.

The state of Florida’s reaction in the wake of the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons provides a model for this type of cooperative effort. Utilities, regulators and government officials meet every year to address the efficacy of Florida’s storm hardening efforts and discuss how these efforts should evolve, including the selective undergrounding of power lines. This collaborative effort has resulted in the refinement of utility “vegetation management practices” – selective pruning of trees and bushes to avoid contact with power lines and transformers – in the state as well as a simulation model to assess the economic costs and benefits of undergrounding power lines.

Nationally, roughly 25 percent of new distribution and transmission lines are built underground, according to a 2012 industry study. Some European countries, including the Netherlands and Germany, have made significant commitments to undergrounding.

Burying power lines costs roughly US$1 million per mile, but the geography or population density of the service area can halve this cost or triple it. In the wake of a statewide ice storm in December 2002, the North Carolina Utilities Commission and the electric utilities explored the feasibility of burying the state’s distribution lines underground and concluded that the project would take 25 years to complete and increase electricity rates by 125 percent. The project was never begun, as the price increase was not seen as reasonable for consumers.

2010 engineering study for the Public Service Commission on undergrounding a portion of the electricity system in the District of Columbia found that costs increased rapidly as utilities try to underground more of their service territory. The study concluded that a strategic $1.1 billion (in 2006 dollars) investment would improve the reliability for 65 percent of the customers in the utility’s service territory, but an additional $4.7 billion would be required to improve service for the remaining 35 percent of customers in outlying areas. So, over 80 percent of the costs for the project would be required to benefit a little more than one-third of the customers. The Mayor’s Power Line Undergrounding Task Force ultimately recommended a $1 billion hardening project that would increase customer bills by 3.23 percent on average after seven years.

SHIFTING RISK

In addition to the capital cost, undergrounding may make routine maintenance of the system more difficult, and thus more expensive, because of reduced accessibility to power lines. This may also make it more difficult to repair the system when outages do occur, prolonging the duration of each outage. Utility regulators and distribution utilities must weigh this cost against the costs of repairing and maintaining the electricity system in its overhead state.

Electricity service is valuable. A 2009 study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated an economic cost of $10.60 for an eight-hour interruption in electricity service to the average residential customer. For an average small commercial or industrial customer the cost grew to $5,195, and to almost $70,000 for an average medium to large commercial or industrial customer. The economic benefits of storm hardening, therefore, are significant.

Beyond the economic value of undergrounding, one could consider other benefits, such as aesthetic ones, which may be more difficult to quantify. But all costs and benefits must be considered to ensure value for the customer’s investment.

In terms of reliability, it is not correct to say that burying power lines protects them from storm damage. It simply shifts the risk of damage from one type of storm effect to another.

For example, it is true that undergrounding can mitigate damage from wind events such as flying debris, falling trees and limbs, and collected ice and snow. But alternatives, such as proper vegetation management practices, replacing wood poles with steel, concrete or composite ones, or reinforcing utility poles with guy wires, may be nearly as effective in mitigating storm damage and may cost less.

Also, undergrounding power lines may make them more susceptible to damage from corrosive storm surge and flooding from rainfall or melting ice and snow. Areas with greater vulnerability to storm surge and flooding will confront systems that are less reliable (and at greater cost) as a result of undergrounding.

So, the relocation of some power lines underground may provide a cost-effective strategy to mitigate the risk of damage to elements of a utility’s infrastructure. But these cases should be evaluated individually by the local distribution utility and its regulator. Otherwise, consumers will end up spending more for their electricity service and getting less.

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Theodore Kury is Director of Energy Studies at the University of Florida.

 

Evacuation Route Sign, photo: AAA

Joe Henderson: Corcoran’s big move for hurricane readiness

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has taken the first step to improve Florida’s hurricane readiness, and it sounds like a good one.

He is convening the bipartisan Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness to study what steps the state should take to prepare in the future for mega-storms like Hurricane Irma.

Excellent idea.

We’re all going to play close attention to the group’s findings.

Yes, there is more than a little bit of political grandstanding involved, but it is really good grandstanding.

In a memo to House members, Corcoran said, “…I ask all of you, and our colleagues in the Senate, to join me in setting aside the business-as-usual of pork projects and instead invest all of those funds to either assist those in need after Hurricane Irma or prepare Florida against the threat to life and property that will surely come with future storms.”

We’ll see how that goes, since the 2018 elections would usually signal a year-long pork buffet in Tallahassee. My guess is, not well.

And we have to mention that since the Speaker hasn’t ruled out running for governor while all this is going on, he’ll have critics willing to label this a political stunt designed to improve his standing with voters.

Well, guess what?

While every bit of that may true, it also is a fact that these storms have shown they will devastate large portions of this state we all love and call home.

That’s exactly why we need a group willing to study the issue in detail and issue a report that, frankly, may be hard for a lot of folks to swallow. If it happens to play well with voters, shouldn’t that tell everyone something?

Or course, anyone can make recommendations and some of what needs to be done probably is obvious – just as it has been for decades.

Developers seem intent on filling every inch of coastline with resorts and condo cities, which leaves residents especially vulnerable in a hurricane. Their attitude seems to be that it’s easier to clean up the mess and rebuild than to worry about things like 12-foot storm surges.

So, it will be Corcoran’s task to make the group’s recommendations into laws, not suggestions. There is a lot at stake here and none of it will be easy or unanimously accepted.

Leadership is about doing the right thing, though. After what Florida has just been through with Irma and likely will endure again with future storms, there is no other choice.

Tom Feeney: Federal tax reform is a critical part of recovery for Florida

In the wake of the recent catastrophic storms, like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is essential we continue to look at all avenues to bolster Florida’s business and economic opportunities that create a robust private market that includes fair and adequate catastrophic insurance coverage.

While safety is a No. 1 priority for Floridians, we must continue to nurture a private marketplace that goes a long way in building a great future for our state by creating jobs for our bright young men and women.

Governor Rick Scott has worked hard to create nearly 1.5 million jobs in the last seven years and to make Florida a global destination for job creation.  At the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), we are a proud advocate for Florida’s business community, actively engaging with our state and nation’s leaders on measures aimed at fostering continued growth and development among the diverse industry sectors.  Chief among them, Florida’s manufacturing community.

As the state affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, AIF has been working to propel this industry that has the highest indirect job creators of any employment sector forward.  In fact, manufacturers perform half of all research and development in the nation, driving more innovation than any other sector.  These economic dynamics lead to many of our members within the business community advocating that growing manufacturing output and jobs has the ability to get our country’s economy back on track.

A key element among the basic business principles that serve to bolster our economy and provide Florida businesses with the badly needed relief they need so we can be internationally competitive is getting President Donald Trump and our U.S. Senate and Congressional leaders to support tax reform.  We need a working tax system that benefits all Floridians, not only allowing hard-earned dollars to go back into the pockets of Floridians, but also making Florida a No. 1 destination for businesses to form and thrive.

But our nation’s corporate income tax is hindering this progress from happening.  Did you know the U.S.’ corporate income tax is the highest in the developed world?  That’s right, our rate is 15 percent higher than average developed countries.  Why?  Our tax code is outdated, making it hard for businesses to compete with countries that provide lower tax rates and incentivize businesses to move from America to offshore.  In fact, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Fortune 500 corporations are holding more than $2.6 trillion in profits offshore to avoid $767 billion in federal taxes.

By simply reducing the tax rate on businesses and workers across the country, we could overcome these incredible disadvantages and see a positive shift in the number of businesses wanting to relocate and grow their businesses here in the Sunshine State.  The reality is, Florida is a unique state.  We have 14 seaports and numerous attractions, allowing trade, transportation and tourism to be major driving forces for our state’s economy.  And, we recently witnessed just how heavily dependent Floridians are on a healthy and vibrant marketplace – both in goods and services – with the recent preparations for Hurricane Irma, including making certain Floridians are treated fairly as they purchase their own hurricane insurance protection.

As businesses and workers across the Southeast recover from Hurricane Irma, we are committed to making Florida’s future shine even brighter.  We believe there is no better time than now for Washington to take a hard look at supporting tax reform.

Tom Feeney is president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida.

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