Opinions Archives - Page 5 of 235 - Florida Politics

Florence Snyder: Why children die — Part 2; clues in the claims bills

It’s that time of year when claims bills are briefly — very briefly — in the news.

Claims bills are the state’s reluctant, belated, grudging way of saying “we’re sorry” for the malfeasance and malpractice that ruined someone’s life. In a functioning system, simple mistakes and honest errors are caught quickly and generally capable of remediation for a sum less than $200,000. That’s the cap on damages that can be paid to an injured person without the legislature’s specific permission in the form of a claims bill.

We do not have a functioning system.

We have, instead, claims bills for victims who’ve spent years stonewalled by taxpayer-funded lawyers working for “leadership teams” whose political skills exceed their managerial competence. Sometimes, if the publicity gets bad enough, the state will admit wrongdoing, spare the victim a jury trial, and support (or pretend to support) a claims bill.

Among the stonewalled is a young man known by his initials, CMH, “to protect his privacy.” His claims bill has been kicking around the Legislature since 2013, when a Palm Beach County jury awarded him $5 million after finding that the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) was worried neither about his privacy nor his safety, when they placed a “predatory” foster child in his home.

CMH was just 9 years old when his parents, good and generous regular suburban people, offered to take one of Florida’s abused and neglected children into their Wellington home. The state employees who handled the handoff knew, but did not tell CMH’s parents, that the older boy had become a ward of the state by reason of the abuse he suffered in his family of origin, and was highly likely to victimize younger children.

And so, he did.

CMH’s claims bill may be approved, and Lord knows he deserves every penny. But there will be more victims, and more claims bills, as long as Florida continues to tolerate its social services Tower of Babel that rewards low-cost, low-skill activities like “filling out forms and bubbling in boxes” and pays no more than lip service to the idea of recruiting and retaining highly competent, highly qualified social workers who would not, on their worst day, unload a child in need of intensive professional help and round-the-clock supervision on an average family in Wellington.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That assertion is, frankly, incorrect.

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Henderson: After 5 straight losses for governor, Democrats ready to try something new

Florida Democrats have been rightly criticized for having a thin bench, especially when it comes to the top of the state ticket. I mean, they have lost five straight governor’s races, including twice to Rick Scott.

Drop the mic.

After Scott beat Charlie Crist in 2014, it was clear Floridians were sending a message to Democrats. It was almost like running a retread like Crist with all his baggage was the final straw. Voters seemed to be screaming, “Is that all you’ve got?”

They want fresh faces, new ideas.

Well, as the 2018 battle to succeed Scott shapes up, that’s just what they may be getting.

With the announcement that Orlando businessman Chris King is entering the field for the nomination, the expected Democratic field doesn’t so far  have anyone who has run for statewide office before — although Orlando insurance giant John Morgan, who is rumored to be considering a run, did conduct a successful campaign to legalize medical marijuana.

King joins Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as the only declared Democrats in the fray, although Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Morgan could jump in.

For what it’s worth, in an email to the Orlando Sentinel, Morgan praised King as “super bright, telegenic [and] very focused.”

That would be a welcomed change for Democrats, who have been plagued by both timing and uninspiring candidates going back nearly 20 years. Starting in 1998, Buddy MacKay was over-matched against Jeb! Bush, who worked hard to sway typical Democratic voting blocs like African-Americans and Latinos.

Bush also easily beat the late Bill McBride, a Tampa attorney, in 2002, and Crist, then a Republican, handled former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis four years later for the GOP’s third straight win.

By conventional wisdom, that trend should ended when Democrats chose state CFO Alex Sink to run against Scott, a clunky unknown outsider. With the Great Recession hammering Florida hard though, Scott had the right message: Let’s Get To Work.

It connected. Sink ran a lackluster campaign and Scott took the upset win. He held off Crist, now a Democrat, four years later. Like the other Democrats who tried and failed to win the governor’s mansion, Crist failed to excite voters.

This was a seismic shift. When Tampa’s Bob Martinez won in 1986, it was just the GOP’s second gubernatorial win in Florida since reconstruction. Both Republicans, Martinez and Claude Kirk, lasted only one term.

Whichever Democrat emerges with the nomination this time likely will face an uphill fight in 2018. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who many expect will win the GOP nomination, is well-known, popular and good on the stump.

That’s why the Democrats’ best, and maybe only, chance is to choose someone that can match those traits with Putnam. Morgan and Graham would seem to qualify. Both are not ashamed of being liberal, they could raise lots of cash, and maybe they get Democrats excited to vote for them instead of against a Republican – especially if President Trump’s approval ratings continue to fall.

Maybe King’s populist tone or Levine’s record of philanthropy and history of largely self-financed campaigns (limiting contributions to $100 or less) gains traction. Maybe someone we don’t even yet know jumps in with a message that connects.

Either way, one thing seems clear at this point.

Win or lose, Democrats seem to have gotten the message. It is time for something new because the old way isn’t working.

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

Keith Miller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Dennis Ross: Working to keep Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Payton Alexander: Neil Gorsuch confirmation would be great for Latinos

Payton Alexander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why children die – Part 1: If everybody’s responsible, nobody’s responsible

Lauryn Martin-Everett

“Foster care kids are our kids. They are our kids,” said Boca Raton Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader in support of legislation making it easier for youth in state custody to obtain a driver’s license.

You hear that line a lot — a lot — from “leadership” at the Department of Children & Families (DCF), and from the flacks who wear the skirts behind which “leadership” hides. It means nothing. It means less than nothing.

Latest case in point: Lauryn Martin-Everett. The 16-year-old spent half her life as one of “our kids” before hanging herself by the neck until dead in a “children’s shelter” which gets money from the “community-based care” which gets money from the DCF which gets money from the state legislature to “parent” tens of thousands of infants, toddlers and teens in “out-of-home care.”

Lauryn had looks and style and a high wattage smile. She got good grades, ran track, and went out for cheerleading. We know all that because the Miami Herald tracked down Lauryn’s 29-year-old sister, Whitley Rodriguez. It was Whitley who paid for her little sister’s athletic gear and school clothes, and otherwise kept track of Lauryn, both dreaming of the day that they could do what sisters do without having to beg for permission from publicly funded parents like the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter. Prior to Lauryn’s suicide, the “shelter” was best known as a good place for a pimp to find employment as a “mentor to at-risk” kids and a trolling ground for sex traffickers in search of fresh meat.

Only God and DCF would know why Whitley was not among the state’s candidates to provide Lauryn a “forever” home. Whitley speculates that she could not have passed the “home study” because she didn’t have a driver’s license.

DCF’s “leadership” is not talking, but thanks to what little is left of Florida’s public records law, we know that the state adopted Lauryn out to some “forever family” that later returned her in a fit of buyer’s remorse.

This happens more than you might think. Florida spends millions to get foster children off the state’s books by marketing them with the same techniques used to market politicians and consumer products. Those mass adoptions create regular opportunities to obtain “positive stories” from the organizations DCF loves to refer to as “our media partners,” but not everyone lives happily ever after.

Florida has never paid more than lip service to the idea of recruiting and retaining the kind of highly competent, highly qualified social workers who would not, on their worst day, be fooled or bullied into letting infamous child abusers like Jorge and Carmen Barahona adopt a goldfish, let alone four of “our kids.”

Ours is a system where everybody is responsible, which is just another way of saying that nobody’s responsible. It is a Tower of Babel, and Florida is decades past due to rethink it from the ground up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information visit www.flicra.com.

 

Blake Dowling: New ransomware kicks it up a notch

Meeting this week with one of our national security partners, SonicWall, we had a fantastic luncheon with some local media partners, clients and Aegis staff.

A big topic of conversation — ransomware.

A SonicWall firewall can certainly help minimize risk, but there is no 100 percent protection from the constantly changing landscape of cyber threats.

Say you are a successful lobbyist, and legislation you want to pass is passing; you keep tweets clean, your email is in a secure cloud, your hardware is under warranty, with a solid backup, password-protected wireless network, two factor authentications for financial institutions, solid anti-virus, anti-spam protection firewall, and so on.

You rock through Session, rolling in a Maserati or other fly ride, feeling confident, successful — think Vince Vaughn in Swingers — confident. Then an intern clicks a link in a bogus ransomware email they thought was from the bank.

Now the game has changed; suddenly all your files are encrypted.

You are hosed.

Making things even worse is that this particular variation of ransomware not only encrypts files, but — if you do not pay the ransom — publishes your data on the web. That could include sensitive client info, financials, browsing history, everything.

This is happening, like a Cary Pigman late-night DUI. It’s not pretty, but it is a reality.

Let’s say; perhaps you spent the past three days logged on to Vegasinsider.com (or streaming episodes of Days of Our Lives), your clients and the whole wide world will know.

QuickBooks files? Yup. All of it.

Over the past few years, ransomware threats (like CryptoLocker) have hauled in over $325 million, with growth that more than doubles each year. How? Why?

Side note, why was Chris Kattan on Dancing with the Stars, what a spectacle. Even worse, why am I admitting to watching? Talk about shame.

Anyway; the “why” is indeed Intriguing.

The business model of ransomware cons is awesome (the crime is not awesome, but it is a classic pyramid scheme).

Go on the dark web and buy a ransomware tool kit for next to nothing; “they” show you how to launch ransomware campaigns via the web and they want half the cut (usually of any of the profits you make).

One variation is particularly devious.

After infection, they will send you the encryption keys to your files, but only if you get two other people you know to click on the same email. They also encourage you to send it to people you don’t like.

Wow. Talk about preying on fears and weak spots.

The threats are real, so keep your Maserati clean, and keep the intern off the internet.

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com

Herschel Vinyard Jr.: Listen to water experts in Lake Okeechobee debate

In my previous role as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, it wasn’t often I would find consensus on issues involving local water management districts, the state and federal government. But after years of studying the options to best reduce the occurrence of discharges used to lower Lake Okeechobee, those involved in these three levels of governance all agree that buying additional acres of land south of the lake doesn’t solve the problem.

Instead, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the state, Florida’s Congressional Delegation, and the Florida leaders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remain firm on finishing the projects included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP.

So, what are the water quality experts responsible for Everglades restoration and fixing Lake Okeechobee saying?

Starting at the district level, SFWMD scientists and engineers earlier this month reported district modeling shows that storage north of the lake included in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Planning Project (LOWP) – which includes solutions such as a 250,000 acre-foot above-ground northern reservoir and 110 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells – will “reduce the total discharge volume to the estuaries by more than 60 percent.”

For the state’s part, under Governor Scott’s leadership, it has increased annual funding for the completion of CERP projects to the tune of $200 million more through the Legacy Florida program. Since 2011, Governor Scott’s administration has also invested more than $688 million in the completion of critical Everglades restoration projects as designed through CERP. This has included the state’s share of dollars that are necessary for the completion the C-44 and C-43 reservoirs, which when completed will provide up to 75 billion gallons of water storage in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie river basins.

At the federal level, the entire Florida Congressional delegation – all 27 Republicans and Democrats – wrote a February letter to President Donald J. Trump urging him to stay the course on congressionally-authorized projects that are proven to provide the most benefits to the Lake Okeechobee system. In the letter, which was released by Congressman Francis Rooney, the members noted that the CERP projects “are an important step in achieving more optimal water flow” and asked for a continued partnership through CERP and the recently-approved Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP).

Most recently, Col. Jason Kirk, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District and the person in charge of releasing excess water from Lake Okeechobee, said that the currently planned projects – and not the plan to buy more land south of Lake Okeechobee – are “the optimal sequence of restoration activities.”

With so much consensus at every level of government, it’s clear the buying land south of Lake Okeechobee is the latest shiny object, and collectively, Florida must not get distracted by it. Unfortunately, the real science behind the decisions our partners in government are making sometimes gets buried by detractors looking to grab headlines. The state has invested too much to abandon the projects that science shows will provide a tremendous boost to Florida’s historic efforts to restore the Everglades, fix Lake Okeechobee and reduce the coastal discharges.

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Herschel Vinyard is former secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

 

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