Opinions Archives - Page 7 of 250 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: When U.S. plays the bully, other nations just take their money elsewhere

Cuba enjoyed a record year for tourism in 2016 when more than 4 million people found their way to that island nation.

That was a 13 percent increase from the year before, much of it attributable to relaxed travel rules between Cuba and the United States. That might change if President Trump, as expected, rolls back many of the liberalized policy changes from then-President Barack Obama toward Cuba.

If that happens, consider it a nod from Trump to Marco Rubio, Florida’s junior U.S. senator. Rubio is a hard-liner against normalizing relations with Cuba as long as the Castro family is in charge.

Funny thing about all that though. Even as the Trump administration continues to put the bully back in the international pulpit it now occupies, it seems our neighbors are figuring out just fine how to get along without the United States.

Remember Trump’s promise to “Build That Wall” to separate the U.S. from Mexico? Every action has an equal opposite reaction.

In March, Forbes reported that U.S. tourism could take a $1.6 billion hit this year because Mexicans have apparently decided to spend their money in Canada instead of here. There was an 82 percent jump in the number of Mexican tourists heading to the Great White North after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced visa-free travel for citizens of that country.

The number of Mexicans booking vacations to the U.S. dropped 9 percent during the same period.

Canada is taking advantage of the anti-Trump sentiment by tweaking the U.S. in another way. NPR reported about new Canadian policies that make it easier to lure international workers with highly valued tech skills.

Workers with those skills have traditionally taken jobs in places like Silicon Valley and Seattle but now are skittish about the U.S. immigration policies. One company even reported a 30 percent jump in applications from tech workers now in the United States.

Crain’s, a business website focused on New York, reported a significant drop in tourists and groups from European countries. It said the international youth group World Merit, based in England, had booked nearly 1,000 beds over 10 days starting in late August as part of an event connected to the United Nations.

That event now will take place in the United Kingdom.

Against that backdrop, Trump may be preparing to return the U.S. policy toward Cuba to the Cold War days. That will give people like Marco Rubio the chance to sound self-righteous and touch at a photo op.

When that’s done, Cuba — like every other nation — will just find a way to fill the void the U.S. leaves behind.

Did Republican state and national leaders mail in their Pulse appearances?

In one of the more biting moments in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” mathematician Gerald Lambeau, played by Stellan Skarsgård, apologizes to his old friend, psychologist Sean Maguire, played by Robin Williams, for having missed the funeral of Sean’s wife.

“I got your card,” Sean snapped, not at all disguising his anger.

Did we just see state and national Republicans mail in [or tweet in] their condolences and best wishes for Orlando’s one-year observation of the Pulse mass-murder that killed 49 and tore out the heart of a community?

Orlando is increasingly becoming a Democratic stronghold, but plenty of Republicans still thrive in Central Florida, and plenty get elected, and the area is worth fighting for. The local GOP contingent was well represented, by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, several county and city commissioners, several state lawmakers and others. But, except for Democrats U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Val Demings and Darren Soto, who all spoke at one event or another event, none of the state and national political leaders made much of an appearance at Orlando’s Pulse activities.

There’s a real chance state and national Republican leaders weren’t asked to come, discouraged to come, or just knew that their appearances would be, at best, awkward. There has been widespread criticism that too many of them just never fully acknowledged the pain in Orlando was both about a terrorist attack and about the biggest hate crime against gays in American history.

And Monday’s commemorations all were intimate, mostly involving only those public figures who had been there with Orlando throughout.

Some Republicans tried to do something.

Gov. Rick Scott was the lone state or national leader who came to Orlando, but it was a stealth appearance, not announced in advance, and apparently without any remarks. He stopped for a private breakfast at the Orlando Police Department headquarters, and then for an unannounced brief visit to the Pulse nightclub Monday morning, essentially a photo-op. He did not attend any of the major events, and he did not let anyone know he was stopping by Pulse, not even Pulse owner Barbara Poma.

Marco Rubio took to the floor of the Senate Monday evening and made an emotional Pulse speech, full of very personal observations, and acknowledgment that, whatever else the tragedy was, it also was an attack on Orlando’s gay community.

“Obviously the attack was personal for the 49 families with stories of their own and of course the countless others who were injured. I know it was personal to the LGBT community in Central Florida,” Rubio said on the Senate floor. “As I said Pulse was a well-known cornerstone of the community, particularly for younger people. And as I said earlier This was deeply personal for Floridians and the people of central Florida, and I’ll get to that in a moment because I’m extraordinarily proud of that community.”

And he and Nelson introduced a resolution Monday in the Senate to commemorate Pulse.

Murphy, Demings, and Soto also introduced a Pulse remembrance resolution in the House of Representatives, and also spoke on the floor Monday. And all three found time to speak in Orlando, to Orlandoans, first.

Unlike Nelson, Murphy, Soto or Demings, Rubio was nowhere to be seen in Orlando during the observations that began at 1 a.m. and ended at midnight Monday.

Others in state and national GOP mailed or tweeted it in, and continued to miss the point that Orlando sees the tragedy both as a terrorist attack AND a hate crime against gays.

President Donald Trump did not come, nor did he send any White House or Cabinet delegates or surrogates to Orlando. He did not make any proclamations, though he did tweet, including a picture montage of the 49 murder victims.

“We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting. #OrlandoUnitedDay.” Trump announced on Twitter Monday.

Rubio also sent his tweets — three of them.

“One year later, we honor 49 of our fellow Americans of @pulseorlando and continue to pray for their families.” Rubio tweeted, and “The #PulseNightClub tragedy was rooted in a hateful ideology that has no place in our world. #OrlandoStrong,” and The #PulseShooting was an attack on the LGBT community, Florida, America, and our very way of life. #OrlandoUnitedDay”

U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Bill Posey and Daniel Webster, who each have districts that are not quite Orlando but close enough to include Orlando suburbs and many who were deeply affected by Pulse, did not make any Orlando appearances.

DeSantis put out a statement, and Webster mentioned Pulse in a Facebook post. Both focused on terrorism, a true angle to the tragedy, but one that continues to divide along partisan lines, as neither made any mention of the attack being on Orlando gays.

“The massacre at the Pulse nightclub represented the face of evil in the modern world. Fueled by a putrid ideology, the terrorist indiscriminately killed dozens of innocent people, forever devastating their families and loved ones. Orlando rallied in response to the attack in a remarkable fashion. It is incumbent on our society to root out radical Islamic terrorism from within our midst,” DeSantis wrote.

“Today, we remember the 49 innocent lives tragically lost due to a horrific act of terror in Orlando one year ago. Our prayers continue to be with the surviving victims, loved ones and all those affected,” Webster wrote on Facebook.

Scott also signed a proclamation on Friday, declaring Monday as Pulse Remembrance Day, surprising some in Orlando with his clear acknowledgment — lacking in some previous statements — that Orlando’s LGBTQ community had suffered mightily and needed acceptance.

Other Republicans followed the same pattern of DeSantis and Webster, ignoring the LGBTQ hate crime angle.

Attorney General Pam Bondi tweeted, but did not come to Orlando.

“Today we honor those lost in the #Pulse attack & the citizens & first responders who ran toward danger to save lives.” Bondi tweeted.

Agricultural Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam both put out a statement, and tweeted, but did not come to Orlando.

“On the anniversary of the Pulse attack, we pause to remember the 49 victims who were suddenly and senselessly taken, their loved ones who continue to mourn and heal, and the first responders who put themselves in harm’s way for their fellow Floridians without hesitation,” Putnam wrote. “We also remember how Orlando, the Central Florida community and the entire state came together amidst such tragedy. People stood in lines for hours to donate blood, generously gave their time and money to total strangers and worked together to meet the needs of all those impacted. This anniversary is not just a solemn milestone to remember those we tragically lost, but it’s also a reminder of the strength, courage and compassion of the people of Florida.

“My prayers to all family, friends & loved ones of the 49 victims who were suddenly and senselessly taken one year ago today,” Putnam tweeted. And then, “And to the 1st responders in Orlando who put their own lives in danger to help others in need, TY for your strength, courage & compassion.”

Ardian Zika: Tearing down ‘walls’ to reach American dream

Ardian Zika

Thirty years ago, on this special day, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany, sent a powerful message to Mr. [Mikhail] Gorbachev: “Tear down this wall!”

This powerful call to action brought hope for a new beginning and was a catalyst in delivering millions out of the bondage of communism. Only a few years later, the world witnessed the “fall of the Berlin Wall.”

A four-word sentence united a European continent divided between light and darkness.

It was indeed a powerful moment in the history of humanity.

I was a young boy growing up in Kosovo when President Reagan sent this powerful message … A day where the gates of freedom began to open for millions of East Europeans to join the free world.

As an American who started my journey as an immigrant, I’m very thankful to my fellow Americans for giving me the gift of lifetime … the gift of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Thus, I will forever be grateful for the blessing and opportunity to pursue the American Dream … a land where dreams come true!

Opportunities do come with responsibility … an individual responsibility to invest in others and help remove the invisible “walls” that prevent many Americans from achieving their American dream. When we are united as a community, we become an unstoppable force for greatness.

So why wait? Let’s make an impact!

___

Ardian Zika serves a board member of CareerSource Florida. Join him on Twitter @ArdianZika.

Joe Henderson: After GOP gives NRA another ‘gun rights’ victory, what’s next?

This was a pretty famous case. You might remember it.

On Nov. 23, 2012, Michael David Dunn was at a gas station in Jacksonville when he got into an argument with 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who was there with some friends. It seems the music coming from Davis’ car was too way loud for Dunn’s taste.

There was an argument, which ended with Dunn going back to his car to retrieve a loaded handgun. He had a concealed-weapons permit for the gun.

BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!

He fired off 10 shots in the car killing Davis, who was unarmed. He then went out for a pizza.

Dunn claimed he felt threatened and invoked Florida’s Stand Your Ground defense.

His first trial ended in a hung jury, but he was convicted in a retrial and is now serving life in prison without parole. If — well, when — the same thing happens in the future, though, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have greatly increased the odds the next shooter will go free.

Scott signed a bill, introduced and passed by Republicans with a party-line vote, that could make it difficult (if not impossible) for prosecutors to convict anyone invoking Stand Your Ground. Prosecutors will now have to prove a shooter didn’t feel threatened and, well, how can they do that?

The National Rifle Association, of course, doesn’t see it that way. In a release after the new bill became law, Marion Hammer — NRA Grand Dame and Executive Director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida — celebrated the new law that, in her words, “ … places the burden of proof back on the state where it belongs.  And it restores the right of the presumption of innocence and the right of self-defense.”

Well, not exactly.

Let’s say there is video of a shooting along the lines of what happened in Jacksonville, where a guy goes back to his car and gets his gun and starts blasting away. Well, what are you going to believe — your lyin’ eyes, or the argument Dunn tried to make that he thought he saw a shotgun in Davis’ car?

There was no shotgun, but Davis’ swears he thought he saw one. Going forward, the state would have to prove he made that up to cover his tracks.

Oh, but wait … the NRA isn’t through expanding what it laughably calls “gun rights.”

How long will it be before some legislative lap dog tries to push through a “permitless carry” law in Florida? Such a measure would allow anyone who would otherwise qualify for a license to carry permit to do so without the burden of obtaining a license.

Don’t laugh.

Twelve states already have that law, and it apparently came close to passing this year in Texas. When North Dakota adopted that law in March, the NRA noted in a release that it, “ … reduces the burden of government fees and mandates on citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment right to self-protection.”

Does it ever stop?

I know, silly question.

Blake Dowling: Apples to Apples

How many of us use Apple products in our day to day business, political and personal lives?

When I switched from a Treo to an iPhone 3GS in 2009, it was a game changer for workplace mobility; a truly wonderful device (which I still have as a paperweight).

I read Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs last year; it was tremendous.

Me and the Woz – my blue button says “Woz Up” HA.

The chapter describing the creation of the 1984 Apple Super Bowl ad and the launch of the iPhone years later were certainly highlights.

Jobs and Steve Wozniak, lighting the world on fire with innovation. The us-against-the-world mentality of the Super Bowl ad, the Apple Board said in ‘84 “do not run this ad.” They did it anyway. It is now considered one of the best commercials of all time.

Ten years ago, the launch of the iPhone was even more epic. Combining functionality in a single device that I use (and could not live without, methinks) every day.

Is Apple still capable of the kind of innovation that took them from irrelevance to dominance? The stock price sure says so, and they are doing some volume at $155.00 a share.

But is there innovation along with volume?

I purchased a new iPad to replace my iPad 2 from six years ago. Years later, it’s still called iPad. Granted it was cool when Led Zepplin, in the middle of their heyday, had a self-titled album. But I was expecting some sort of awesome name from Apple, like maybe “iPad4?”

The features seem the same overall. Granted, I uncover slivers of brilliance as I dive in; while watching the WatchESPN app, I can switch over to email and have a small screen of the app still running in the corner. That’s cool.

On to the annual Apple event; they hosted the Apple World Wide Developers Conference this week. It’s time to compare Apples to Apples, or Apple to Apple actually, and see what those brainiacs are up to for 2017. T

he HomePod is one of the new offerings getting the closing spot, to compete against the Amazon Echo. So, to go along with the earlier theme, it appears Apple is playing catch-up. It’s Siri versus Alexa for real.

Also out is the biggest, baddest iMac Pro – which can be yours starting at $5K. Don’t you love how car salespeople say, “starting at a certain price,” instead of how much it is the way I would want it?

In that case, it would be $7K. Ouch.

Does that come with a toaster? How about a timeshare in Branson? Because nothing says “seven large” for hardware like Elvis impersonators in Missouri. (Although this fella looks more like Andrew Dice Clay than Elvis.)

So, in other news from the Apple event, Amazon Prime is coming to Apple TV.

This does nothing for me until College Football (as a whole) gets in line with a unified streaming service. Until then, I will continue to drink from the Comcast fountain.

Also, a red iPhone is coming out, yay. Just kidding. I don’t care about that either.

New Apple Watch OS? Nope; not interested.

It all comes down to the HomePod. Will this rocket Apple even further into the world of innovation, or will it sit second (or third) behind the products already dominating the market share?

I’m an Apple fan (as mentioned earlier). I love my iPad and iPhone, just not without all the fluff. I simply want to see them being the best-in-class innovators as they once were.

As Mr. Jobs once said: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

___

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

Darryl Paulson: Will Donald Trump be dumped? – The 25th Amendment

Each day seems to bring more trouble for President Donald Trump. He fired his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn after just three weeks in his position. Then came the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Numerous other individuals in his administration are supposedly on the chopping block, ranging from Press Secretary Sean Spicer to Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The FBI investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election discovered that at least five members of the Trump administration or campaign team had met with Russian officials. Many had failed to disclose these meetings as was required.

Before firing Comey, Trump asked the FBI Director on several occasions to pledge his loyalty to the president. Comey promised his “honesty,” but failed to pledge his loyalty. Trump also asked Comey to drop his investigation of Flynn because he is a “good guy.”

When Trump fired Comey, he called him a “nut job,” and threatened Comey that he better “hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversation.” Trump also stated that Comey was a bad administrator of the FBI and had lost the support of his colleagues. Finally, Trump said the firing of Comey was done to relieve pressure on the Russian investigation which Trump called “a made-up story.”

There is a growing national discussion of removing Trump as president either through the provisions of the 25th Amendment or through impeachment. Neither approach would be easy.

Both the 25th Amendment and impeachment raise the specter of a “constitutional coup.” After only six months in office, how will the American public react to what looks like an attempt to nullify the results of the recent presidential election?

The 25th Amendment was added to the Constitution in February 1967 and was the result of the assassination of President Kennedy. The Constitution did not provide a means to replace the vice president when he assumed office on the death of the president. There was also no mechanism to remove the president due to disability temporarily or permanently.

The vice president and a majority of the cabinet could remove the president if they found him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It could also occur if a congressionally appointed body of experts concluded the president was no longer capable of performing his duties.

If the president opposes his removal, Congress has three weeks to debate and decide the issue. It requires a two-thirds vote of both houses to remove the president and there is no appeal.

The 25th Amendment has been invoked six times since its ratification. On Oct. 12, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned and was replaced by Gerald Ford. Ford was confirmed 92-3 by the Senate and 387-35 by the House.

The following year, President Richard Nixon resigned the office of president due to Watergate. Ford assumed the presidency on the same day that Nixon resigned, Aug. 9, 1974. Ford became the only person to be both vice president and president without being elected to the positions.

On Sept. 20, 1974, President Ford selected Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president. Rockefeller was confirmed 90-7 by the Senate and 287-128 by the House.

Three incidents involve the 25th Amendment and presidential disability. On July 12, 1985, President Reagan underwent a colonoscopy and transferred power to Vice President George H.W. Bush for several hours.

In 2002 and 2007, President George W. Bush transferred power to Vice President Dick Cheney during two colonoscopies.

The presidential disability provisions were considered twice during the Reagan administration but were rejected. On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by a deranged assassin. Reagan was incapable of turning over powers to his vice president, and vice president Bush decided not to invoke the powers even though Reagan was not capable of governing for several days.

In 1987, outgoing Chief Donald Regan warned incoming Chief-of-Staff Howard Baker to be ready to invoke the 25th Amendment. Regan and other staff members were concerned that the president was disengaged from his duties and spent much of his time watching movies.

Baker summoned close aides to the president and they all agreed to carefully monitor the president at a luncheon meeting the following day. The president was alert and funny and Baker considered the debate over. “This president is fully capable of doing his job.”

One of the concerns over the 25th Amendment is its potential for misuse. In 1964, three years prior to the adoption of the 25th Amendment, 1,000 psychologists said Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was not psychologically fit to be president. Goldwater sued and won. In 1973, the American Psychological Association adopted the “Goldwater Rule,” barring members from making a diagnosis without doing an in-person exam.

The Goldwater Rule did not stop 50,000 mental health professionals from signing a petition stating that Trump is “too seriously mentally ill to perform the duties of president and should be removed under the 25th Amendment.” I suspect these “liberals” let their politics get in the way of science, much like Republicans do with climate change.

Responding to a letter to The New York Times from a retired Duke psychology professor that Trump was a “malignant narcissist,” an Emeritus professor at Duke Medical School responded that Trump “may be a world-class narcissist, but that doesn’t make him mentally ill. … The antidote is political, not psychological.”

Finally, Jeff Greenfield of CNN, commented that attempts to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment for mental health reasons are a “liberal fantasy.”

Part II:  Will Trump be dumped? Impeachment.

___

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

Joe Henderson: GOP still thumb-sucking about Obamacare, but where’s a real plan to fix it?

A tweet Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida’s 15th Congressional District repeated the dutiful Republican yada-yada about the Affordable Care Act.

“Another insurer pulls out of Obamacare. Now 18 counties in Ohio have zero insurance options. Missouri facing same situation,” Ross wrote.

Yeah, OK. Been there, heard that.

Over and over and over again.

With nothing better to say, Republican leaders sound like they’re back on the campaign trail. Judging by the responses to Ross’ tweet though, I think people know well who to blame for the health care morass. It was best summarized by one person who noted, “And, YOU are part of the problem.”

Some respondents basically told Ross and his fellow GOP lawmakers to shut up and do something about it. Others were a tad more, um … colorful.

While it wouldn’t surprise me to learn those folks were part of a Democrat-inspired Twitter response team, their point nonetheless seems reasonable. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House.

Yet, what Republicans served up as a replacement for Obamacare was a mess that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would leave 23 million people without coverage.

Ross voted in favor of that plan, by the way. He also issued a statement that read in part that Floridians “breathe a sigh of relief today because we fulfilled our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

People are sighing, all right, but it doesn’t sound like relief. Republicans were met with a terse backlash in town hall meetings and such around the country, to which GOP lawmakers resorted to their oft-repeated mantra: Obamacare. Bad!

It’s the political equivalent of thumb-sucking.

They do that because they have nothing to replace it and they don’t dare repeal it. They seem to be hoping that the system will collapse, so they can say, “Told you so!” People are seeing through that political ploy, though, because the Republican ideas so far have nothing to do with health care and everything to do with spending priorities.

The situation in Ohio that Ross referenced involves insurance giant Anthem, which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield in that state. It will leave about 10,000 in 18 mostly rural counties without coverage. Previously, United Health Care and Aetna also stopped participating in Obamacare.

Donald Trump won all but seven of Ohio’s 88 counties, including each of the 18 that will be left without coverage. Another 56,000 people in Ohio who signed up with Anthem will have to find another policy.

Could this happen in Florida?

Well, let’s not wait to find out.

We get it. There are problems with Obamacare, although it can be argued that some of that is related to Republican threats to drastically reduce or eliminate subsidies. Giant companies don’t like uncertainty.

See the situation as it is now, though. Republicans are in charge and it can be argued that their promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare with something better was a reason why they won the election.

They’ve got the “repeal” thing down.

Replace? Not so much.

It’s time for them to stop complaining and start doing what they were elected to do. And I don’t mean coming up with cockamamie plan that leaves millions without coverage. People have spoken loudly against that.

This is hard, isn’t it?

Too bad.

They wanted the job. They got the job.

They should do their job.

Joe Henderson: When a quid pro quo turns into quid pro no, all bets are off

As the special session of the Legislature was set to begin Wednesday, everyone heard of how the compromise deal that appeared to be the framework for a budget agreement was close to collapse.

Humm.

It brought Senate President Joe Negron into sharp focus, since he seems to be the one leading the charge to turn the quid pro quo reached in secret last week with Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott into a quid pro no.

It makes for dandy political theater and all, but shouldn’t all of this have been worked out BEFORE the three amigos appeared on stage together last Friday to tout the budget agreement? The way it was presented made it sound like everyone had gotten something they wanted and all the other lawmakers had to do was see the brilliance of the compromise and pull out their rubber stamp.

Guess not.

Let’s try to make at least a little sense out of this, shall we?

Simply put, the way education will be funded in Florida appears to be at the center of this knockdown, drag-out.

Negron’s main interest appears to be increasing money for the state university system. He has long championed an effort to bring Florida’s institutions of higher learning into the same status as, say, those in Michigan and Virginia.

That’s not surprising. Negron is an educated man, holding a master’s degree from Harvard and a law degree from Emory University. He apparently wants to restore money to the university system that would otherwise be redirected to the K-12 public system.

He also wants to use some of the state’s reserve fund to restore $260 million in cuts to hospitals

Why he didn’t make that point during the now-infamous secret meeting last week with Scott and Corcoran isn’t clear. Then again, maybe he did and the other two weren’t paying attention.

I’ll bet they’re paying attention now, though.

In a pre-session memo to senators, Negron said, “I have made no agreement that would dictate an outcome for this special session. Nor have I made any agreement to limit the subject matter.”

State Senator Jack Latvala tossed in a grenade of his own with this tweet: “Just 3 months ago @richardcorcoran wanted to abolish EFI and Visit FL. Now he wants to give them $150 million plus. What changed?”

For the acronym-challenged, EFI stands for Scott’s beloved Enterprise Florida jobs incentive program. Visit Florida is the tourism promotion arm. Corcoran used his opposition to both programs (CORPORATE WELFARE, he screamed) as a kind of Trojan horse so he could push forward with what appears to be his real agenda — an expansion of charter schools.

With the possibility of a Scott veto looming over Corcoran’s signature piece of legislation, they thought they reached the compromise that was unveiled last Friday. Scott seemed satisfied with the funding for his programs, and Corcoran threw in a few requirements in the name of accountability about how the money will be spent.

I guess they didn’t count on Negron’s last-minute gambit.

Corcoran responded to Negron’s memo with a lengthy statement that accused him of wanting “a massive property tax increase, wants to weaken accountability provisions for VISIT FL and EFI, and wants to raid reserves to give to hospital CFOs. Needless to say, the House is not raising taxes, not softening accountability rules, and not borrowing against reserves to pay for corporate giveaways.”

Whew!

There is no way to know how this is going to end or how long it will take, so I won’t hazard a guess. The last time I tried to do that, I got whiplash. I don’t want to make it any worse.

Timothy Stapleton: Fighting the opioid epidemic in the exam room

FMA CEO Timothy J. Stapleton

The United States is in the midst of a public health crisis. Opioid addiction is taking mothers, fathers and children; destroying lives, breaking up families. The problem is particularly insidious in Florida, which has become a destination for rehabilitative services and sober home living. In the first part of 2016, approximately 2,600 people died from opioid overdoses in the state and the epidemic shows no sign of slowing.

Gov. Rick Scott recently declared a public health emergency over this crisis, which frees up nearly $30 million in federal funds to fight this battle for Floridians. State Surgeon General Celeste Philip, M.D., has been directed to keep a standing order of Narcan and Naloxone — drugs used to counteract overdoses — at the ready, and Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was recently appointed to President Donald Trump’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission, has secured a deal for the two drugs to be purchased at a discounted rate.

The Florida Medical Association (FMA) represents more than 20,000 physicians in the state and provides them with access to expert advice, support and resources. As an advocate for the highest standards of medical care, we stand alongside our state’s leaders as we work to reverse the destruction being caused by opioid addiction and overdose in our state.

It’s up to all of us to come together as a community to fight this rampant problem at every level: education, prevention, treatment and recovery services. Physicians can effect positive change by staying educated on best practices and effectively communicating with their patients about treatment protocols for pain management. There is an inherent risk in prescribing highly addictive medications, particularly for patients suffering from severe chronic pain. Physicians have a duty to consider the risks versus clinical effectiveness of prescribing opioids and communicate those risks and benefits clearly and honestly to their patients.

The FMA recommends that physicians follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for prescribing opioids. This includes starting “low and slow” with dosages and prescribing no more than needed for acute and chronic pain. Physicians also have a responsibility to follow up with their patients, to ascertain effectiveness of treatment and, when necessary, include strategies to mitigate the risk of addiction or overdose.

Florida has established a state prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) to access and review an individual’s history of controlled substance use before making any decisions on best course of treatment. PDMP data is used by prescribers to avoid dangerous drug combinations that would put a patient at high risk for potential addiction or overdose. This, along with urine drug testing to identify prescribed substances and undisclosed use, prevents pill-seeking patients from “doctor shopping.” The FMA encourages physicians to utilize the database, along with established protocols, protections and research, to ensure that they are able to make appropriate clinical decisions for their patients and prescribe treatments responsibly, safely and effectively.

Physicians have an obligation to educate their patients while developing treatment goals. Treatment does not end when a prescription is written: An open line of communication is necessary to make appropriate clinical decisions and detect signs of opioid dependence.

The FMA remains steadfast in our commitment to the people of Florida who entrust their health to physicians. We will do even more as we continue fighting to protect patients’ health and well-being by arming Florida physicians with the tools necessary to empower their patients. Irresponsible treatment plans and illegal distribution of opioids have no place in the medical field.

___

Timothy J. Stapleton is CEO of the Florida Medical Association.  

Pat Neal: Look to Colorado — cutting VISIT Florida funding would be disastrous

Pat Neal

Under the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, the revival of the Florida economy has been marked by annual job growth and tourism rates that outpace the national average. The inextricable link between Florida’s investment in its tourism industry and this economic recovery is affirmed by the statistics.

Visitor spending in Florida has increased by an average of 6.8 percent annually over the past five years, with $78.3 billion spent in 2010 growing to a $108.8 billion total by 2015. The impact of this job creation spending cannot be understated, with statistics showing that for every 76 visitors that visit the state, one job is supported. In addition, the return on investment Florida sees from VISIT Florida is irrefutably positive, with each dollar invested in VISIT Florida generating $3.20 in tax revenue.

To gauge just how disastrous major cuts to VISIT Florida would be, one must look to Colorado. Keep in mind that Colorado has a more diversified and equitable share of its gross domestic product among different industries, and is not quite as reliant upon the tourism industry alone for its revenues. So, presumably, the effects of defunding tourism marketing programs in Florida would be even more drastic than those seen in Colorado.

In 1993, an obscure provision in the state law allowed for the funding of the state’s tourism marketing mechanisms to expire. This meant that Colorado became the first state to essentially eliminate its funding for tourism marketing.

The effects were fairly immediate and more drastic than could have been anticipated. The elimination of their $12 million tourism marketing budget manifested in a 30 percent decrease in Colorado’s share of the domestic tourism market. In terms of dollars, this constituted a contraction of Colorado’s tourism revenue by $1.4 billion annually.

Eventually, this loss would consistently top $2 billion, with Colorado’s summer resort tourism share, previously No. 1 in the nation, falling to 17th place as a symptom of these ill-advised cuts to tourism marketing.

Even more troublesome is the reality that despite this self-inflicted annual hemorrhaging of Coloradans’ tourism revenue is the reality that it took seven years to reinstate a tourism marketing budget. We all know the wheels of democracy can be sluggish, but it could be avoidable. With billion-plus dollar losses within the tourism industry, enduring for seven years without real intervention is a frightening prospect. It is a prospective reality that the legislature should seriously consider as it continues to push for cuts in funding VISIT Florida.

For comparison’s sake, in 2015 Colorado set a state visitor spending record with $19.1 billion collected. As noted, Florida’s 2015 visitor spending total was over $108 billion. One can understand that the impact of cutting tourism marketing funds in Florida would have exponentially significant and dire consequences to the state economy than Colorado experienced.

Fortunately, like Florida, Colorado’s tourism is now thriving, setting records in terms of visitor numbers, spending and tax revenues. Legislators acknowledge the critical role that marketing campaigns have served in producing record tourism numbers, and they have increased spending annually since the budget was reinstated in 2000. What started as a $5.5 million budget for tourism marketing in 2000 has become a $19 million resource pool in 2015, a relatively minor investment with a substantial payout.

Colorado provides a microcosmic, yet very real, cautionary tale regarding the value of funding marketing for Florida’s tourism industry. VISIT Florida, under the guidance of Gov. Scott, have installed a framework that spreads investment costs between the public and private sectors, all the while maintaining systems that allow for misspent money to be recouped.

Money spent through VISIT Florida is fiscally responsible, logical for businesses and critical to the prosperity of Florida’s citizens. For proof of their essentiality to Florida’s tourism-dependent economy, simply look to the West.

___

Pat Neal is former state senator and the former chair of the Christian Coalition of Florida; currently serves as chairman-elect for the board of directors of Florida TaxWatch, the state’s independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute and government watchdog; and is the president of Neal Communities.

 

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons