Opinions Archives - Page 6 of 246 - Florida Politics

Florence Snyder: In memory of Roxcy Bolton, #EndTheBacklog

In 1960s Dade County, men who were privileged to be newspaper columnists could — and did — mock “women’s libbers” like Roxcy Bolton in the pages of the Miami Herald. Department stores could — and did — have fancy private dining rooms open only to men. Banks could — and did — deny credit cards and loans to women who did not have a husband or father willing to co-sign. If police and prosecutors thought about rape at all, they thought of it as a property crime against the man to whom the victim “belonged.”

That’s just how it was, and how it might still be, but for Bolton, who died last week in Coral Gables at age 90.

Bolton was Florida’s First Feminist and a one-woman consciousness-raising group. She managed to stay happily married to her lawyer husband and raised four children while raising hell about indignities and injustices that others ignored. In a land before drive-thru burger joints, Bolton cooked up food for the family and her special firebrand of advocacy in the kitchen that doubled as her Situation Room.

Bolton outlasted the Herald guy who dismissed her as a “doll” with “silly ideas.” It took three Herald reporters to catalogue her long list of lifetime achievements in an obituary that made the front page.

Before Bolton, Florida had no battered women’s shelters, and there was no rape crisis center in the entire country. After years of personally assisting women in distress, Bolton founded Women in Distress, which continues to operate in Broward County. The rape crisis center she founded at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital was christened in 1993 as the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center, and has treated thousands of victims spanning an age range from two weeks to 98 years.

Bolton’s passing reminds us that Florida continues to have a disgraceful backlog of untested rape kits. It would be a fitting memorial and tribute, at long last, to #EndTheBacklog.

Christopher Huff: Changing times demand a retreat from enduring fallacies of war between the states

Dr. Christopher A. Huff

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer‘s announcement this week that the city’s Confederate statue will be moved from Lake Eola Park to Greenwood Cemetery represents a positive step in recognizing the changing nature of Southern culture and the diverse set of voices that deserve a say in the ongoing process of commemorating a complex and troublesome past.

The popular memory of the Civil War that dominated the South when the city’s Confederate statue was erected in 1911 was based on white supremacy and the mythology of the Lost Cause. The early 20th century represented the low point for Southern race relations. Following the removal of federal troops that marked the end of Reconstruction, Southern state governments and white supremacists worked intently and often violently to reverse any gains made by African-Americans after the end of slavery. To this end, they orchestrated the rise of “Jim Crow,” a system that created an inferior social status for African-Americans by segregating them from whites whenever possible and denying them political power.

Florida, despite its current cosmopolitan nature, was a full participant in the South’s attempt to control African-Americans through fear and intimidation. During the wave of lynching that occurred in the decades around the turn of the 20th century which helped define the Jim Crow South, white Floridians killed more African-Americans per capita than those of any other Southern state.

As African-Americans experienced brutal subjugation in the Jim Crow South, several organizations attempted to recast the cause of the Civil War. The mythology of the “Lost Cause,” as it became known removed slavery as the war’s chief instigator and instead blamed the conflict on The North, which was hellbent on destroying the Southern way of life and left Southern states with no choice but to secede. According to Lost Cause thinking, Southern soldiers did not die defending slavery but fought to protect their home and honor — a cause that deserved remembrance.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy played a major role in spreading the Lost Cause mythology through its efforts to have Confederate soldiers reburied, shape the content of school history textbooks, and oversee the erection of Confederate monuments — including the one that currently stands in Lake Eola Park.

The efforts of the UDC proved quite successful based on the large number of Confederate monuments still standing in towns and cities across the South and the ongoing popularity of Lost Cause beliefs held by many Southerners. The phrase “Heritage Not Hate,” seen on T-shirts, bumper stickers and baseball hats across the South, is a simplified distillation of the Lost Cause mythology.

Orlando in 2017 is a much different city than the one that erected The Confederate monument at Lake Eola Park in 1911. At the time, the statue represented the belief of many white Floridians in a misinterpretation of the past that helped justify the systematic mistreatment of black Floridians. Those are beliefs that do not generally represent Orlando today.

Moving the statue does not erase Southern history or its Confederate past. Nor does it dishonor those who died in its defense. Moving the statue from its current position, however, does recognize that memorials are not empty of meaning but are instead physical representations of the values and beliefs held by the community that erected them. It is time to place a new memorial in Lake Eola Park that embodies Orlando’s current commitment to diversity and toleration.

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Dr. Christopher A. Huff is an assistant professor of history at Beacon College, the first higher education institution to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students with learning disabilities, ADHD and other learning differences, where he specializes in 20th American political and social history, focusing primarily on the protest movements of the late 1960s, the civil rights movement, and southern history.

Martin Dyckman: It’s always about the money

The Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts wrote a powerful case for Donald Trump‘s impeachment, in the style of an open letter to the “Dear Republicans in Congress,” that I was reading to my wife as she prepared breakfast the other morning.

At the part where Pitts asked, “Have you no loyalties deeper than party?” Ivy broke in.

“The money,” she exclaimed.

That nailed it. It is always about the money.

It’s about the campaign money they expect to continue bagging from the Kochs and other oligarchs who embrace the Trump agenda even as they despise the man.

It’s about the money, the great gobs of money that would befall the wealthier classes, the true constituency for most of them, from the sort of tax “reform” they are counting on Trump to sign.

It’s about the money they would gain for themselves from the Trump tax scheme. While the outlines he proposed are strikingly thin, they are enough to show that Congress members themselves would make out better than bank robbers.

The middle class and poor would get essentially nothing. The foregone revenue would take America back to where the oligarchs want it — a sociopolitical stone age, with the new robber barons doing what they want and getting what they want, with only minimal interference, if any, from taxes, regulations or labor unions.

The Congress does not simply represent the Republican Party’s true constituency. It is part of it.

The most recent available figures estimated the average Congressional net worth at around $1 million. To be one of the richest 50 members required a minimum of $7.28 million in net worth. Of those 50, 32 were Republicans.

There are Democrats, no doubt, who would vote for the outrageous Trump tax scheme if they thought their voters would forgive them. Most of the Republicans act as if they don’t have that particular worry.

For the Democrats and the few Republicans who do care to put their country first, the question may well be whether it would be best to be rid of the guttersnipe in the White House sooner or later.

From an exclusively partisan standpoint, it would suit the Democrats to have him still twisting in the ill winds of own making as the 2018 midterm elections approach. This would be better for policy as well, since every Republican Congress member who isn’t totally insulated by gerrymandering would have to worry about casting his or her vote with the extremely unpopular president. And the fact that Trump still refuses to release his tax returns, despite all the promises, raises profound suspicions about any tax legislation bearing his label.

If Trump were dethroned now, whether by his Cabinet or by a late-awakening congressional conscience, the Democrats would be confronting in President Mike Pence someone who has a long-standing and genuine commitment to all the hideously anti-social policies that Trump never shared until he saw them as keys to the Republican nomination. Lacking Trump’s offensive personality, Pence could take America backward even faster and farther than Trump.

The more important issues, though, are the clear and present danger of keeping an uneducated, uneducable and wildly impetuous man-child in proximity to the nuclear codes, the forfeiting of American influence and prestige for which he is responsible, and the disgust that sickens most of us with every new disclosure of his abuses of power and of the foreign influences in his campaign.

Whatever happens in the short term, both political parties should be planning how to never again nominate someone so singularly unfit and dangerous as Trump.

The electoral system was supposed to prevent that — “a moral certainty,” as Alexander Hamilton put it, “that the office of President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

When Hamilton wrote “seldom,” he was not thinking “forever.”

But the Founders provided for a day when their precautions would fail.

At the outset, the party factions in Congress caucused to nominate their candidates for president. There was never a doubt as to their qualifications. No outsider cracked the system until Andrew Jackson came along, and he was much like Trump, who admires him, in being ill-informed, reckless and ruthless.

Congress, for all its enormous faults, could be an inherently better judge of presidential timber than the present primary election system. But to try to give Congress control of who runs would be a fool’s errand, not to mention unwise.

What Congress should do — what it must do — is to accept the constitutional responsibility the Founders assigned to it in the event of a rogue presidency. It is the fail-safe they wrote into the Constitution.

As Pitts described it to the Republicans, “Your course of action, if you have even a molecule of courage, integrity or country love, should be obvious. Impeach him now.”

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

Blake Dowling: Who knows what innovation will bring next?

Have you checked out the latest version of the digital personal assistant, Alexa, that is specially designed for Senior Citizens? It’s called Alexa Silver.

It’s super loud and you can only order it by check.

It also has an “uh huh” function that it says when you are telling rambling stories.

Fake news alert, it’s actually from an SNL skit. Awesome to see Lorne Michaels and his team still cranking out gold after all these years, watch it here. (Shoutout to Normie for sharing this with me.)

Speaking of new ideas and innovation, in business and politics, the past decade has been piled with new ways of doing things. How we campaign, work, lobby, organize, motivate, influence all has a digital twist to it.

So many devices; all working together seamlessly, most days.

I now have reached device overload with my tech: Desktop PC (multiple monitors), iPad, 2-in-1 tablet/laptop, and phone. Plus keyboard, speaker, and lots and lots of wires.

The functionality and mobility of all of this makes me extremely productive (on a good day) but, man, I could use some innovation in lowering my device count.

(from left, Denise Bilbow, Mrs. Dowling, some yahoo, and Leon County Commissioner Kristen Dozier)

Speaking of innovation, I had an opportunity this week to judge a regional SharkTank-like competition in North Florida. The competition is called the Innovation Park Tech Grant Program,

Applicants brought amazing ideas to the table regarding weather forecasting, video production, engine management and health care.

The local community really rallied around the event and the everyone got a chance to engage with the innovators before the actual judging began. This specific program has been around since 2005 and they have given out over $400,000 in grants to date benefiting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Leon County.

I first met the Leon County Research & Development Authority when I spoke to one of their events on artificial intelligence.

They read one of my columns on this badass, award-winning political website called, FloridaPolitics.com (perhaps you have heard of it?)

When they mentioned the competition and asked me to judge, I agreed as they said the magic words: “Free beer.”

In all seriousness, though, it was an honor to review these companies (check them out here).

I asked the Director of Programs and Communications about her thoughts on the event; she said: “The Innovation Park TechGrant Program is open to all Leon County residents and offers a change to help local startups and early stage companies transform their ideas and hard work into commercialized products.  Funding is one of the largest battles these companies face and we enjoy helping companies in our community move forward.”

Pretty cool.

Where would we be without the innovators of today and yesterday, no Lobby Tools, no iPad, no Alexa Silver, no cloud, no WatchESPN app on my phone?

The world has certainly changed since I kicked off my career in the rock ‘n’ roll business — back in the Dark Ages of the pre-smartphone world of 1998.

Who knows what this local and global community of innovators will bring us next.

I can’t wait to find out, and hopefully, I won’t need the Alexa Silver any time soon.

Enjoy the weekend.

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

Darryl Paulson: The Founders were right — democracy is flawed

I expect the title of this op-ed will generate enough hate mail to keep me busy for a month. How can anyone oppose democracy?  If the Founders hated democracy, who am I to disagree?

The Founders recognized the inherent dangers of democratic government. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, called democracy “one of the greatest evils.”

Alexander Hamilton, better known for being a Broadway phenomena that one of the most significant individuals in the establishment of the United States of America, wrote that ancient democracies “never possessed one feature of good Government. Their very character was tyranny.”

James Madison, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, along with Hamilton, argued that there was nothing in a democracy “to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual.” Over 200 years ago, Madison envisioned a future leader like Donald Trump.

Madison, in Federalist # 10, wrote that democracies “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short-lived as they have been violent in their deaths.”

Madison and most of the Founders believed republics were preferable to democracies because they protected against the tyranny of the majority. They created a system of indirect election of the president and checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

Most Americans know that we pledge allegiance “to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands,” and not to the “democracy for which it stands.”

Critics of democracy claim that it is unstable and subject to frequent change. As a result, in 2017, 159 of the 206 sovereign states use “republic” as part of their name.

20th-century Italian political thinkers Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca viewed democracies as an illusion. According to Pareto and Mosca, democracies portray themselves to be dominated by the rule of the people when, in reality, they are dominated by political elites due to the apathy of the masses.

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote a century ago, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

The 2016 election illustrates the limits of democracy. The normally sedate masses can be aroused by a leader who offers simple solutions to complex problems. Trump convinced enough voters that unless he was elected, America was at its end as a world power.

Trump was also able to convince enough voters that he was the leader to transform America from its downward spiral and that he would “Make America Great Again.” As America’s political savior, Trump promised his political supporters that “I alone can fix it. I alone am your voice.”

Many Americans are convinced that Trump is a new kind of leader who will restore America to greatness. I am more inclined to believe we have selected a false prophet who will lead America down a path of danger and destruction.

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

Martin Dyckman: Home mortgage interest deduction, the third rail of real tax reform

There’s a $71-billion federal welfare program that costs more than aid to needy families, more than the earned income tax credit for working families, and almost as much as food stamps, but goes in great measure to people who don’t really need it.

I’m on that dole. You may be, too.

It’s the home mortgage interest deduction, the largest of the loopholes in the tax code, and the one that almost nobody in Congress or the White House has the guts to talk about, much less touch.

An article in the May 14 New York Times Magazine argues convincingly that the mortgage interest subsidy has contributed to making homeownership “the engine of American inequality.” It’s the big reason why the average homeowner has 36 times the net worth of someone who rents.

Florida aggravates that inequality with its generous homestead exemption for owner-occupied residences. That issue deserves some thought before voting to make matters worse, as a constitutional amendment on the November ballot would do.

The Times Magazine author, Matthew Desmond, won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2017 book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.” He quotes a 1996 study that concluded that eliminating the mortgage interest subsidy and the real estate tax deduction would depress home prices by as much as 17 percent. Turn that around, and it means the government has artificially inflated the value of what constitutes the principal asset for many homeowners. Meanwhile, it puts far less money into assistance for renters, who are the ultimate victims of this policy.

“The MID allows homebuyers to collect more after-tax savings if they take on more mortgage debt, which incentivizes them to pay for more for properties than they could have otherwise,” says Desmond. “By inflating home value, the MID benefits Americans who already own homes — and makes joining their ranks harder.”

Even if it could be fairly argued that homeowners deserve government handouts that renters don’t, the mortgage interest deduction is skewed, like virtually all deductions, entirely in the wrong direction. That works three ways.

The larger one’s mortgage, the more the interest you pay, and the more that the government effectively refunds to you. The higher your marginal tax bracket, which usually reflects how wealthy you are, the greater is the percentage of that government refund. And if you don’t have enough deductions to itemize them, or don’t figure it’s worth the bother, you’re not on the dole at all.

The only limits, for joint returns, are a $1-million cap on the amount of deductible debt for a primary residence and $100,000 on deductible home equity borrowing.

In 2014, Desmond points out, there were 1.5 million households earning between $40,000 and $50,000 a year whose tax returns claimed the interest deduction, receiving an average benefit of $14 a month. Meanwhile, 6.5 million households with earnings above $200,000 deducted mortgage interest for an average benefit of $391 a month.

“What this means in aggregate,” Desmond writes, “is that households with at least six-figure incomes receive more than four-fifths of the total value of mortgage interest and property tax deductions.”

Real tax reform — not such as we’re likely to see from this Congress or this president — would ideally end all deductions and cut everyone’s tax rates. A middle ground would be to lower the maximum deductible mortgage debt and fix everyone’s deduction percentage — not just for real estate but for all deductions — at the lowest of the tax brackets. But two of Washington’s most potent lobbies, real estate and charities, don’t intend to let that happen.

Speaking of tax reform, how long has it been since Florida had one?

Forty-five years.

Gov. Reubin Askew, elected in 1970 on a promise to make Florida’s consumption-heavy tax code fairer by taxing corporate income, pushed the 1971 Legislature to pass the necessary constitutional amendment and got the voters to ratify it, with 70 percent in favor, in a special election.

At his insistence, the 1972 Legislature used part of the new revenue to remove the existing sales tax from household utility bills and most residential rentals.

That was the last time Florida did anything for renters.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s pending constitutional amendment would increase the existing $50,000 homestead tax exemption for every qualifying residence assessed at between $100,000 and $125,000 or more. The exemption would cancel up to another $25,000 of taxable value. That this applies only to county, city and special district taxes and not to school taxes doesn’t make it fair. The Senate’s staff estimated that it would cut nearly $795 million from affected budgets by fiscal 2020, assuming tax rates stay the same.

So to avoid closing fire stations, parks, libraries and other attributes of a modern functional modern society, local governments would have to get that money back from somewhere. That somewhere will likely be commercial property and, yes, those oft-forgotten citizens, the renters. You don’t think their landlords will eat the tax increases, do you?

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

Richard Corcoran: Don’t believe hyperbole, hysterics from budget critics

One of my all-time heroes is Winston Churchill. He’s widely credited with having said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

In the digital age, this phenomenon, which once took days or weeks, now takes mere hours or minutes.

To know this is true we only need to look at the hyperbole and hysterics coming from the special interests and their allies in the news media surrounding the passage of the Florida legislative budget. If you can believe it, one newspaper even argued that Gov. Scott should veto the budget because it offered kids in failing schools hope, and because voters shouldn’t be able to choose another $25,000 homestead exemption on their property taxes.

I wish I were joking, but I’m not.

But rather than indulge in the same scare tactics employed by some opponents, I’d like to just tell you exactly what the budget does and doesn’t do. None of what I’m about to tell you is half true or somewhat true — it’s all completely true.

First, this budget was subject to the most open, transparent, and transformational budget rules in history. No more secret projects at the last minute, no more stuffing university budgets with pork, and no more tricks to hide future spending. And contrary to media hysterics, virtually every bill included in the budget negotiations was introduced, vetted, debated, and even voted on in committee for weeks or months prior to the budget.

Second, this budget refuses to mortgage our children’s future. This year we were faced with billion-dollar-plus shortfalls in the next two years. Due to our fiscal responsibility, we turned those billion-dollar budget shortfalls into billion-dollar-plus surpluses. We also set aside another $3.2 billion in reserves, and we did it all without raising taxes.

Third, not only did we protect the future without raising taxes, we actually cut taxes. We added another $25,000 homestead exemption on the ballot in 2018, and we saved homeowners over $500 million in property tax increases that some in Tallahassee wanted to use to pay for more pork.

Fourth, this budget puts a record amount of money — $24 billion — into K-12 education. In addition, all highly effective teachers will get a $1,200 bonus and effective teachers will get an $800 bonus. And the very best and brightest teachers will get a $6,000 bonus. And yes, children in the 115 failure-factory schools will get the opportunity to attend a new school, in the same neighborhood, with a proven track record of giving kids a hope and a future.

Fifth, this budget eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars in member pork-barrel spending, and I personally encourage the governor to go forth and veto additional pork projects he feels waste taxpayer money.

Sixth, this budget rightsizes VISIT Florida to $25 million and places strict accountability requirements on an agency that threw away tens of millions of your taxpayer dollars and even contracted to advertise to visitors in Syria. Yes, you read that right: Syria. This budget also eliminates corporate welfare and bureaucrats unfairly picking winners and losers. No more Enterprise Florida board members, who pay $50,000 for those seats, handing out your money to their friends or multibillion-dollar corporations getting taxpayer handouts to compete with your local businesses.

This year’s budget does this and so much more. From funding to clear out the backlog of sexual assault testing kits to fully funding the KidCare program, to making feminine hygiene products tax exempt, this budget is tough on waste, generous to our kids, and prioritizes real people.

For some, however, this wasn’t enough. It is this exact same logic and thinking that has put this country $20 trillion in debt and enriched insider elites at the expense of the hardworking, play-by-the-rules majority of we the people.

Well, we have news for them: Not anymore. Not with your money. And not on my watch.

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Richard Corcoran is Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

 

Joe Henderson: If Rick Scott stands on principle, then he must use budget veto pen

Take your seats, folks. This is going to be good. We are about to find out who is the boss in Florida.

If Gov. Rick Scott wants to remind everyone in the Legislature who has the most stripes on their shoulder, then he has to follow through on his threat to start vetoing major — or all — parts of the $82.4 billion budget presented to him by the House and Senate.

Special session? Bring it on.

The budget eviscerates two of Scott’s most cherished programs — VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida. It is a direct frontal assault on public education, laughingly in the name of “reform.” There are so many damaging aspects to this bill, picking it apart piece by piece could take days.

Educators are lining up, bullhorns at the ready, to plead with Scott to just veto the 278-page conforming bill they say will cut public schools to the marrow. House Speaker Richard Corcoran calls it “transformational” and released an explaining that all those “liberals” have it wrong. It’s going to be great.

Does he mean those well-known liberals from the Tea Party? Yes, even the Tea Party Network tweeted that the bill is a “monstrosity” and called for it to be vetoed.

The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association called it “a budget that will be devastating to public schools, our students.”

Hello!

Scott can score lots of points with educators if he turns thumbs-down on this budget (consider that alliance for a moment, will you). He also can make a potent argument about preserving the $100 million he wants for VISIT Florida. In a budget of nearly $83 billion, it’s not a great amount of money and, considering that Florida just had a record year for tourism, something must be working.

It’s tricky, though.

During Scott’s sparring with Corcoran during the Legislative Session, the Speaker won nearly every round. If Scott were to veto the budget, he would risk having the Legislature override that with a two-thirds vote (pretty good chance it could happen, too).

What’s it going to be — capitulation or principle?

We got here because Corcoran stood on his core principle of lower spending, no corporate welfare, and a move toward privatization of, well, everything — especially schools.

Scott should stand on his principles as well. If the Legislature overrides it, well, the governor can at least say he did all he could. It won’t be his fault if tourism falls off, and the blood from the mess this budget makes of education will be on the hands of the lawmakers who voted in favor of “transformational” change.

Gus Bilirakis: Lower drug costs through competition and innovation

In Florida and across the country, Americans continue to feel the pressure of rising prescription drug costs. Too often, bad actors in the marketplace take advantage of monopolies, skyrocketing the price of lifesaving medication simply because there is little to no competition.

We need to take thoughtful action, and avoid knee-jerk responses, to solve this issue affecting so many millions. Leveraging the power of the free market and incentivizing competition among drugmakers will drive costs down — not government mandates.

The success of Medicare Part D illustrates how competition in the prescription drug market helps make sure patients can afford the medication they need. Under the Part D program, seniors have a variety of coverage options and stable premium costs. No wonder it has a 90 percent satisfaction rate. Just as important, Medicare Part D has been significantly under budget from original CBO estimates, proving the government does not need to spend absurd amounts to address drug prices.

To be clear, there is no shortage of potential for increased competition in the marketplace. The United States is the undisputed global leader in biomedical innovation. Our companies produce 57 percent of the world’s new medicines and invest $70 billion a year to research and develop new therapies. If we want to spur the discovery of treatments and cures for deadly diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and more, we need to allow America’s innovators to do what they do best.

There is a role for Congress to play to keep drug prices in check, which is why I introduced the Lower Drug Costs Through Competition Act to increase competition specifically in the generic drug market. The bill would incentivize drugmakers to develop generic drugs when competition does not exist, or when there is a drug shortage. It would directly address situations like Turing Pharmaceuticals hiking the price of an HIV drug from $13.50 to $750 overnight, or when Mylan raised the cost of the EpiPen by more than 400 percent.

We can modernize the Food and Drug Administration and clear the backlog of generic drugs waiting for approval. We can reduce unnecessary regulations that hinder innovation and competition. We can remove legal and regulatory barriers so insurers and drug innovators can make more arrangements to “pay for performance.” And we can quickly implement the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, using real-world evidence and innovative clinical trial design to get new medicines to market faster.

In the end, we all want affordable prescription drugs and a health care system that spurs innovation. I believe the best approach to accomplish this goal is harnessing the power of the free market to bring costs down and get treatments to patients faster.

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Gus Bilirakis represents Florida’s 12th Congressional District, which includes all of Pasco County and parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. He is a member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

Blake Dowling: WannaCry? No.

Ransomware has become the fastest growing cyber threat; last week it was a variation called Fatboy, this week is WannaCry. The criminals are targeting everyone from home users to health care systems to big business. Data show that there has been an average of more than 4,000 ransomware attacks every day of this year. That is some serious volume.

I know of a dozen entities that have been hit, some hit hard, like 1997 John Lynch chasing you down.

On May 12, information technology professionals began tracking a new ransomware variant that spread rapidly throughout the weekend. It is a highly virulent strain of a self-replicating ransomware that has affected organizations like the Russian Interior Ministry, Chinese Universities, Hungarian and Spanish Telcos, as well hospitals and clinics run by the British National Health Services.

It is especially notable for its multi-language ransom demands that support every major language on the planet. These criminals need to be hunted down now.

Patients’ lives were put on the line in Britain. Surgeries and procedures were delayed. I have not heard of any fatalities, but the hammer of justice needs to find these cyber-weasels STAT.

On to the techy details, this ransomware is being called several names: WannaCry, WanaCrypt0r, WannaCrypt or Wana Decrypt0r. It is spread through an alleged National Security Agency exploit (I said “alleged” NSA, don’t come looking for me) called ETERNALBLUE that was exposed online in March by the hacking syndicate Shadow Brokers.

ETERNALBLUE exploits a vulnerability in the Microsoft Server Message Block 1.0 (SMBv1) protocol.

Bottom line: make sure someone manages your technology.

Make sure someone has been reviewing, confirming, patching, and applying any current updates that may put added security to your firewall, operating systems (if you are still running Windows XP, you fail), anti-virus and anti-spam solutions.

It is most important that now and going forward that you and your users do not click on emails that hold the following threats; (some may get through these layers of security).

Emails from HR Professionals claiming to include resumes, financial institutions, and shipping companies are some of the most common.

Be extremely wary of any Microsoft Office email attachment that recommends you enable macros to view its content. Unless you are absolutely sure that this is a genuine email from a trusted source, do not enable macros. Instead, delete the email at once.

This latest attack stayed on the other side of the pond – for now – but thanks to technology, our world is inner-connected like never before.

We will see something new and more devious before you can say “Putnam for Governor.”

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

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