Opinions Archives - Page 7 of 302 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Hillsborough County traffic gets worse, but we knew that

I didn’t need U.S. Census data to tell me that Hillsborough County traffic has gotten much worse in the last five years because, well, I live here, and I can confirm it stinks.

Anecdotally, if you want to know how bad it is, just drive along State Road 60 in Brandon by the mall on a Saturday afternoon. You’ll get there, eventually … maybe.

Start. Stop. Stay stopped. Inch forward. Oh crap, need to get into the turn lane. Red light. Stop. And pray that isn’t an accident up ahead.

Even so, it’s always good to have a backup, which Florida Politics reporter Janelle Irwin Taylor provided with her story about the county’s increasing congestion. The data is wrapped around the November sales tax referendum called All For Transportation, the latest attempt to address this car-mageddon building up throughout the county.

The referendum proposes increasing the county’s sales tax from 7 cents to 8 cents on the dollar, raising an estimated $280 million a year.

Well, this is Florida and, as any lobbyist and Republican legislator can tell you at the drop of a campaign donation, we don’t abide none of them tax increases here in the Sunshine State – especially if it’s for trans-por-ta-tion. Spit on the ground!

And the usual arguments against the proposal are being circulated along the usual pipelines with the usual motive of keeping Hillsborough County traffic bottled up so they wouldn’t have to pay another penny-per-dollar in taxes.

Opponents are convinced the tax is a Trojan horse and that a day after it passes a fancy, expensive commuter rail project will spring forth from hidden code words in the ballot initiative.

I’m guessing this is the part of the referendum language that is inspiring fear and loathing for opponents: “No less than 35 percent of the Transit Restricted Portion shall be spent on transit services that utilize exclusive transit right-of-way.”

Yeah, that could mean a rail system eventually. Or it could be dedicated Bus Rapid Transit lanes. It could be a lot of things.

Either way, to be blunt, I don’t care. If a mass transit system gets more cars off the road, I’m fine with that.

Hillsborough County traffic has been getting worse for a lot longer than just five years as thousands upon thousands of people keep moving here. That seems to be the part of this story the no-tax crowd overlooks. They see a tax generating multi-billions of dollars and automatically assume there it will be fraught with waste, fraud, and abuse.

The part of the equation they don’t consider is what happens if we keep shooting down every attempt to address this. People aren’t going to stop moving here.

And what will they find?

Remember the earlier reference to State Road 60 in Brandon?

In May 2017, the Florida Department of Transportation embarked on a project to widen that beastly thoroughfare to six lanes from 78th Street to west of Falkenburg Road, with medians, better drainage, bike lanes, and sidewalks. Estimated cost: $21.1 million.

Since construction began, trying to navigate through cones, shifting lanes and drivers pushing for the slightest open space with the vigor of a NASCAR driver on the last lap at Daytona has frequently become a white-knuckle experience that never seems to end.

Estimated completion time: late this year.

That’s about 18 months overall, assuming there are no delays.

And, pssst … for all that aggravation, we will have paid for something that might be better for a little while, but will soon be inadequate, as most road projects here quickly prove to be.

The Census data confirms that the solutions that have been attempted haven’t worked. It’s impossible for the state and county to pave their way out of this. I would have thought even the opponents would have figured that out by now.

I guess not.

Joe Henderson: What if all politicians were like Tony Dungy?

We take a momentary pause from political campaigns, but not necessarily from politics, to pay proper homage to Tony Dungy and the impact he has had on Tampa and beyond.

He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor Monday night at Raymond James Stadium, and no one deserved it more. The Ring is symbolic of his football success, of course, but anyone who knows Dungy understands football is just part of his legacy.

“Tony Dungy’s impact on the Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay community is not measured in terms of wins and losses,” Bucs owner and Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer said.

“Tony transformed our entire organization and established a winning culture that set the foundation for the most successful era in our franchise’s history. Through his exceptional leadership, Tony set a new benchmark for excellence on and off the field that we still strive to achieve to this day.”

Dungy was head coach of the Bucs’ from 1996 through 2001 at a time when few self-respecting coaches wanted to tackle that job. Their uniforms were ugly, and their play was worse. They were known derisively as the Yucks, perpetual losers without hope. Dungy showed them otherwise and built the foundation of a team that would win the Super Bowl a year after he was fired when ownership soured on playoff failures.

He left with class and honor and returned to Tampa with more of the same after his coaching days were done.

He is a caring, grounded, firm voice of reason in turbulent times. His moral compass points true north. He cares deeply for the disenfranchised and needy. He won and lost with equal grace.

In other words, he is just like we wish politicians would be.

Seriously, imagine (and you’ll have to) how much different the Florida Legislature, or Congress, or (yep, I’m going there) the Oval Office would be if a majority of those lawmakers were cut from Dungy’s cloth.

As you may have heard, National Football League players aren’t all choir boys. Yet, Tony Dungy stayed true to himself not only as a coach but also when he was a player. He didn’t let the game corrupt him. I remember chatting with him in the locker room after his Indianapolis Colts clinched a trip to the Super Bowl — Dungy’s first as a head coach.

There were only a couple of us around, and the locker room was empty. I asked him about going to the big game, and he said it was gratifying because it was validation that an NFL coach could be successful without cussing, screaming, or compromising his values.

What if Tallahassee operated like that?

For decades in football, players have been coached to be mobile, agile, and hostile. Dungy could stand in the middle of that caldron and rule with a quiet voice that commanded the respect of even the most aggressive player.

It worked because they recognized who Dungy is and what he stands for.

It’s a pipe dream, of course, to think Tony Dungy would ever run for public office, but if he did everyone could be sure he couldn’t be bought. I’ve never talked in-depth with him about politics, but my guess is he would be a conservative, but with a caveat.

He would strip away ideology and find a way to see that the most vulnerable citizens in the state had proper care. He wouldn’t be caught in any scandals and would be pro-education.

He would be pro-human, and wouldn’t treat those whose politics might be different as trash to be trampled underfoot. Tony Dungy would work to find common ground.

Imagine that.

Unfortunately, these days that’s about all we can do. But what a world it would be.

Joe Henderson: Gina Sosa’s pathetic partisanship can’t be excused

First, I want to compliment Republican voters in Miami-Dade’s CD 27 for their excellent judgment in the August primary. Out of nine candidates seeking the GOP nomination, Gina Sosa finished, um, ninth.

I’m still slightly puzzled why 760 voters (out of 39,104 votes cast) thought she would make an excellent representative in Washington, but I guess receiving .019 percent of the vote was statement enough what the district thought of her.

Then again, hopefully, she wouldn’t even score that high after her flat-out loony appearance on CNN. Referring to allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford while both were in high school, Sosa said, “Tell me what boy hasn’t done this in high school. Please, I would like to know.”

Oh, I can think of many, many young men who never did what Kavanaugh is accused of doing — holding a girl down on a bed, trying to take her clothes off, and putting his hand over her mouth.

Kavanaugh has strongly denied it ever happened, but that’s a separate issue from what Sosa’s defense.

It’s one thing to believe Kavanaugh when he said this never happened. It’s quite another to say, as Sosa basically did, “Well, even if it did happen, so what?”

You can’t excuse a remark like that.

I thought Republicans were supposed to be the party of family values, not the “boys will be boys” club. Using that rationale to excuse such behavior, even if it happened many years ago, really is pathetic partisanship and anyone who subscribes to it should be ashamed.

The irony, of course, is that the GOP desperately wants Kavanaugh approved because it believes/hopes he will be the deciding vote to repeal Roe v. Wade. It’s a moral issue, you know. It’s just more proof that the party of Lincoln has sold its soul for tax cuts and a SCOTUS justice it likes.

Those who support Kavanaugh are using pretzel logic. They say something that happened so long ago — if it happened at all, which many of his backers question — shouldn’t keep him off the high court.

Well yeah, it should.

This isn’t an unpaid parking ticket or taking a hit of weed one night at a party.

He is being accused of sexual assault. The fact that Sosa and others tried to dehumanize Ford with a “no big deal” line of attack doesn’t change that. It shouldn’t have to be said how serious this is.

Plus, if it should be determined that his accuser’s story is true, then Kavanaugh’s flat denials will be classified as a lie.

If Republicans are worried now about losing the women’s vote in the midterms, wait ‘til you see what happens if a majority of Americans believe the accuser but GOP Senators confirm Kavanaugh anyway.

That’s what we get when ideology apparently turns to bug-eyed desperation. You get crazy talk as we heard from Gina Sosa.

I want to say we’re better than that, but at the moment the evidence isn’t conclusive.

Joe Henderson: Candidates should let it rip at gubernatorial debate

You can’t have a major political campaign unless the candidates debate, right? Usually, they are over-scripted, overhyped and underperforming, but a Florida Governor’s debate between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis should be memorable.

Both sides were working out the specifics on Monday, but it looks like this is going to happen.

You would assume someone will be trying to convince Gillum it is his chance to show voters he is not, as DeSantis has painted him, a tax-loving far-left wacko. But you know what? If he retreats too much from the populist proposals that got him this far, his campaign wouldn’t be intellectually honest.

So, he should go for it.

Medicare for everyone? Medicaid expansion? Lots more money for schools? Raise teachers’ salaries after years of GOP mockery about public education? And by the way, remember that “monkey it up” comment DeSantis made on national television? Let’s revisit that.

Damn straight.

And for DeSantis, it’s a chance to show voters he can be his own man if he is put in charge of the state and not just a Donald Trump Mini-Me — but that wouldn’t be honest either.

DeSantis has made it clear he completely supports President Trump’s policies and agenda. His whole primary campaign against Adam Putnam was built around the endorsement by “the big man himself” and he can’t run from that now.

I don’t believe he will, either.

That’s why I believe sparks should and will fly when these two.

They offer completely different visions for the state, and it could (cross your fingers) get testy. But that’s what we all should want.

Remember the infamous “controversy” around Charlie Crist’s use of a fan in his podium during his 2014 debate with Rick Scott? Scott threatened to call the whole thing off, with a national TV audience watching, because he said the fan violated agreed-upon rules.

Florida looked pretty silly that night to the rest of the country, even by Florida standards. If there is controversy during DeSantis-Gillum, I want the real thing.

Let ‘er rip, gentlemen.

These men passionately believe that Florida will thrive under their plan, and that fire and pestilence will rain down from the sky if the voters choose the other candidate. They should conduct themselves accordingly.

I almost wish they would stage these things without moderators. Just have the candidates on stage in easy chairs, arguing back and forth about health care, immigration, minimum wage, and whether Ryan Fitzpatrick should remain the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback when Jameis Winston returns.

A Florida Governor’s debate like that would be just like what plays out every day in living rooms and corner bars across the state. It would be real.

Consultants would never let it happen though, so we have to hope for the next-best result.

Both men are confident that they are the right choice for the state, even if they speak for distinctly different audiences.

Gillum appeals to younger voters, the disenfranchised, minorities, and people who think Republicans care only about the wealthy.

DeSantis appeals to those who believe all Democrats want to do is create expensive government-controlled boondoggles that simply won’t work as well as the free market.

Both men have compelling personal stories. Both have powerful political donors and machines behind them. They need something else, though. They need to convince voters that they are the right choice, and they won’t do that by playing it safe.

Game on, gentlemen.

You want to be Governor?

No holding back.

David James Poissant: Let’s retire the trope of the hapless dad

Welcome to the winter of 2010. That’s me in the boots and puffy jacket because this is Cincinnati and it’s February and there’s snow on the ground. I’m a full-time grad student, teaching assistant and writer. During the day, my wife works. When she comes home, I write. I teach at night. I would write during the day, but I already have a day job. I’m a stay-at-home dad.

We’re at the post office, the one with the broken door that my double stroller won’t fit through. My six-month-old twin daughters are asleep. I tuck one daughter into an umbrella stroller and carry the other in one arm. I balance my packages in the other arm and head inside. The line is long, but if the girls stay asleep, all will be well.

And all is well until I feel a tug. Reflexively, I drop my mail and grab my child with both hands. A stranger glares at me. As my daughter wakes and cries, the stranger’s face softens. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I didn’t want her to get cold.” I’m bewildered until she explains that my daughter’s pant leg had ridden up, an inch of skin exposed to the cold air. The stranger tried to pull it down, but tugged too hard. “It’s OK,” she says. “I’m a mother.”

“It’s not OK,” I want to say. “I don’t know you. Don’t touch my kid.”

But I don’t say it. I’ve given up fighting. Everywhere I go, I get unsolicited advice, correction, instruction framed as concern. Much of it is well-intentioned, though much of it is wrong. One stranger insisted that babies should sleep on their stomachs. When I explained that the rate of sudden infant death syndrome plummeted when parents started sleeping babies on their backs, the scolder assured me that her kids slept on their stomachs and they turned out OK.

Even good advice often comes from a place of assumption, the assumption being that, as a dude, I’m too dumb to care for my kids. One librarian, scanning a DVD for me, encouraged me to read more to my children and to avoid TV at their age. “I read to my kids every day,” I wanted to say. “They’ve never seen TV, and this, the fourth season of ‘The Wire’? This is not for them.”

In “Manhood for Amateurs,” Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon says, “The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard is so pitifully low.” Most fathers I talk to—smart, kind, attentive dads—grapple with such lowered expectations. At Starbucks, a mother asked how I liked being a “manny” (a male nanny), as though the only explanation for a man alone with two babies on a weekday was that he must be getting paid. “I’m their father,” I said. She hadn’t meant anything by it, she assured me. She’d seen it on TV.

Our worldview, of course, is shaped just this way. What began as an inversion of the idealized 1950s TV dad (admittedly problematic in its own right), the trope of the bumbling father has become a staple of movie and television comedy. Dad can’t cook. Dad can’t change diapers. Dad can’t clean up a mess without making it worse. (See: “Everybody Loves Raymond.” As in, almost every episode.)

Even in 2018, the trope persists. In season two of the Netflix series “Atypical,” mom leaves for a few weeks, and the kids are forced to eat pizza almost every night. Keeping up with laundry proves insurmountable, until mom comes to the rescue with lavender oil for the shirts and homemade meals for the freezer.

You might argue that such televised fare is mostly harmless. But, deal with enough strangers questioning your parenting abilities or touching your baby, and I promise you’ll lose patience with the stereotype.

Now, let me be clear. I’m not saying that it’s hard to be a man. I’m not saying that dads have it worse than moms. (Moms face a whole host of biases that other writers have addressed far better than I could here.) Most of all, I’m not saying that the portrayal of fathers on TV even begins to approach the problematic portrayal of America’s most vulnerable groups and marginalized communities.

But, make no mistake: When we badmouth dads, we aim our scorn at those communities too. Gay fathers, trans fathers and men of color, already oppressed, need not be told that something in their gender identity makes them incapable of excellent parenting.

Also, lest this come off as a whiny “Male Tears” or #NotAllMen argument, please know that I loathe the trope of the hapless dad, in large part, because of what it says about women. When we buy into the notion that dads can’t care for children, we buy into the idea that parenting and domesticity are women’s roles. When we say that father figures can’t cook without burning the pancakes or iron without burning the clothes, we say that mother figures belong beside those stoves and ironing boards. When we laugh and assume that dads can’t get the job done, what choice do we leave mothers but to assume restrictive roles they have every right to resist?

And where does the hapless dad equation leave genderqueer and non-binary individuals? When we say that dads act one way and mothers another, aren’t we reinforcing the very gender norms we’ve been seeking to dismantle in this country for decades?

To be fair, in the years since my daughters were infants, attitudes have shifted. Perhaps dads today face fewer preconceived notions. Certainly, their portrayal onscreen, with some notable exceptions, is getting better. Take this summer’s sleeper hit “Eighth Grade,” for example. I can’t think of a father in American cinema rendered with more empathy than actor Josh Hamilton’s character Mark Day. Here’s a guy who cooks healthy dinners and keeps a tidy house. He’s imperfect, but he loves his daughter, and he balances work life and domestic life without neglecting her. He’s not a man merely getting by. He’s doing a great job, the way countless single parents do.

We need more movies like this, and we’ll get more as entertainment races to catch up with the real world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2016, of the over 70 million fathers in America, only 209,000 are stay-at-home dads with working partners. And, only 17 percent of single parents identify as men. But those numbers are on the rise. As they grow, so too will our understanding of fathers and our demand for depictions that transcend the hapless dad trope.

Father may not know best, but he knows a thing or two, so let’s raise the bar for him, in real life and in the movies and TV shows we love.

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David James Poissant is an associate professor at the University of Central Florida where he teaches in the MFA program in creative writing.  He can be reached at David.Poissant@ucf.edu.

Blake Dowling: Social media shows the great (and ugly) of society, politics

This week, Tallahassee ABC affiliate WTXL27 stopped by the office to chat on one of my favorite topics — social media posts, specifically video content.

If I were to critique my own social media use, one might say I post too much. However, I try and stick to a once daily max for most platforms (Twitter being the exception).

I think one post a day is entirely reasonable.

In fact, I am merely trying to share things that were intended to be shared: columns, branding my company and (of course) very important pictures from our football tailgate.

Speaking of football, did you know if you asked Siri yesterday morning who is the worst team in college football, she said the Florida State Seminoles?

Very strange, as I think they are only last in FBS schools’ average points per game (5) they are not actually last in the rankings. Who knows where Siri gets her info.

The race for worst team in the state is on with the Seminoles currently in the lead, but that could change fast as the Hurricanes, Gators or Knights could catch up at any time.

We will see if Willie Wonka and the Warchant Factory can turn it around.

My chat with ABC started with kids and irresponsible online behavior, before moving to some more responsible use of video, and then corporations, celebrities and, of course, politicians.

We began the conversation with a local story about a man with a gun and some local youths. As of this writing, the man with the gun is still on the loose.

The youths were using video to defend themselves, documenting a situation where someone pulled a gun on them, and good for them, in other cases, people are using video very poorly. For example, this security guard was fired after his employer found this ridiculous video online.

Really? Paul Flart?

Meanwhile, a Florida Taco Bell refused service to a guest because she didn’t speak Spanish. The guest could have driven off and never said a thing.

Instead, they filmed the entire encounter to document what they were dealing with and shared it.

So, by way of the video, the story speaks for itself.

The woman did have a great sense of humor about it: “Isn’t Quesadilla, in Spanish, Quesadilla?”

Well isn’t it?

Politicians love their videos too. And not just pricey TV spots, but online content that gets a fine-tuned message out to the public.

Check out Brian Kemp for Georgia Governor; he combines his beliefs with some humor in this clip:

In Florida, Andrew Gillum’s team produced a more serious message about family and his childhood experiences.

I also chatted with Steve from ABC about the fact that instead all-day handful of news outlets, we now have literally millions. Everyone with a phone is a reporter and might have a story or (in the context of this article) video.

According to The New York Times … “People are broadening their definitions of what political leaders can look like,” said Teddy Goff, a co-founder of the agency Precision Strategies, a Democratic consulting firm, and President Barack Obama’s former digital director.

“A political leader,” he added, “can be a 17-year-old from Parkland or a 28-year-old who was a bartender until last year.”

The internet and video content can share the greatness in our society like with Phil, the homeless man who needed a shave and his positive experiences with the Tallahassee Police Department. Or it shares the ugly, as in the case of the aforementioned man with a gun.

And, of course, Paul Flart.

It can also propel political messages like never before. This idea is not new, but we are seeing more depth than ever its use and how messages are crafted.

Cheers to Kemp and Gillum for their creativity with video content.

And regarding Mr. Flart: “C’mon on Man” (to quote ESPN).

Thank you to Steve and ABC27 for visiting Aegis, and thanks to Florida Politics for publishing this piece.

Have a good one, and thank you for reading.

___

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

Patricia Brigham: League of Women Voters makes no apologies for exposing deception

Erika Donalds, a Constitution Revision Commissioner and sponsor of the now-defunct Amendment 8, was right when she recently wrote that the League of Women Voters of Florida “cheered the end” of the bundled education amendment.

Amendment 8 was written to confuse. It was “log-rolled” with three separate issues — civics classes for middle school students, term limits for school board members, and the giveaway of local control to an unknown legislative-created entity for the purposes of creating new charter schools.

Voters would not have known that sticking third point because the language was misleading and didn’t spell out just what the CRC was trying to do. The Florida Supreme Court saw right through it and struck it from the Nov. 6 ballot.

Yet Donalds claimed the League was “disenfranchising” voters, a laughable accusation. Non-transparency and sneaky omissions in ballot language are actually a better description of “disenfranchisement.”

The League of Women Voters has a long and proud tradition of sticking up for voting rights and transparency in government. Our primary mission is to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government.

We achieve that mission by holding those in authority accountable to the voters. The process of the CRC was a sham — skirting Sunshine laws and ignoring repeated warnings from a whole host of organizations who raised concerns about their process and product.

We repeatedly shared our concerns with the CRC regarding the bundling of multiple proposals. If the backers of Amendment 8 truly wanted this decision to be left to the voters, they would have put it forward as a stand-alone amendment in clear, unambiguous language. They had every opportunity to do just that.

Donalds also claimed that voters “deserved to have a say in whether to allow the school district monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges decided otherwise.” Donalds needs to keep in mind that public schools are not a business — they are a public service paid for by public tax dollars for the benefit of all citizens. Her argument is akin to saying fire departments have a monopoly over putting out fires.

Donalds asserted that the League “grinned at the news while hurting the very women they want to run for office, squashing the term-limit policy and ensuring more career politicians stay cozy in their school board seats.” Elections are the ultimate term limit. Anyone who feels they are more qualified for the job than an incumbent can run against them.     

Donalds insisted that “more parents than ever are selecting schools outside of their district. Parents and the public at large approve of charter schools and other education choice options at an increasing rate … [The League’s] interest is in preserving the status quo and maintaining power and control over the most sacred of choices — who will help raise our children.”

If for-profit charter schools are as popular as Donalds claims, why was there no mention of charter schools in the ballot language? Why was the primary purpose of the proposal — taking away local authority over public schools — hidden between term limits and civics education? Floridians overwhelmingly support the constitutional requirement to make adequate provision for the education of all children that is ‘uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality.

This wasn’t just about “expanding choice” for students. It was taking local school boards out of the equation to allow for-profit charter school operators to set up new schools wherever and whenever they think they can make a profit at the taxpayers’ expense.   

Finally, it should be noted that Donalds didn’t mention that she was a founding Advisory Board Member and Director of Operations for Mason Classical Academy, a Hillsdale College public charter school in Collier County. 

Do the words “conflict of interest” ring a bell?

Donalds has vowed to continue the fight for school choice, and that she and other “reformers” have thick skin. Interesting. Her article sounded to us like the whining of a sore loser.

___

Patricia Brigham is the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Daisy Baez: Attacks on ACA are attacks on health care access, innovation

As a former hospital executive, a health care consultant, and a former member of the Health Innovation Subcommittee in the Florida House of Representatives, I’ve seen firsthand how access to quality, affordable health coverage can save lives.

The Affordable Care Act has driven significant progress on access to care and innovation. The law ended discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer and asthma. It allowed young people to remain on their parents’ health plan until age 26, giving them the opportunity to establish a career while being covered. And the ACA gave the states the option of expanding Medicaid, bringing coverage to hardworking, low-income families.

As a result, about 20 million more Americans — and 1.5 million more Floridians — are insured today. Even as the Trump administration slashed enrollment assistance, sign-ups on the exchanges remained strong for 2018. More insurers, including Oscar Health in Florida, are entering the marketplaces for 2019, and more states are reconsidering their Medicaid decisions. Virginia was just the latest, opting to cover 400,000 more residents.

But, this comes at a time when Florida’s uninsured rate — already the highest in the nation — ticked up for the first time in years, rising more than 5 percent to 2.68 million people without coverage. Florida’s uninsured rate of 12.9 percent is well above the national average of 8.8 percent. More than 130,000 of our fellow Floridians became uninsured in the past year, which drives up health care costs for everyone.

In addition to benefits for patients, increased access to insurance helps local medical centers, thanks to falling rates of uncompensated care. The changes are also transforming U.S. health care into a value-based system, designed to maximize positive patient outcomes.

This is something that patients want. Why? Because it means “feeling good” is a measure of success. It means employers are building a healthier, more productive workforce. And it’s something budget hawks should get behind, because it will save federal and state governments, businesses and families money.

This shift toward value-based health care is leading to some major innovations, as well. Cigna is boosting quality and controlling the cost of care for people with coronary artery disease, by linking reimbursement rates to health outcomes. Florida Blue is offering proactive, in-home care services for the clinically fragile, to help high-risk patients avoid the emergency room and hospital readmission. Prestige Health Choice, a Medicaid managed care plan, is using biometric monitoring to assist individuals with Type II diabetes. Other platforms are providing integrated, personalized plans to help individuals reach their health goals, whether an expecting mom seeking nutrition advice, or a senior citizen hoping to safely incorporate more exercise into their life.

These types of innovative and technology-enabled solutions empower patients to take charge of their health. Paired with free preventive care services, they are among our best tools for reducing chronic disease, which accounts for over three-fourths of U.S. health care spending. That means health care innovation can deliver wellness and sustainable budgets.

I developed my passion for health care in the United States Army as a Preventive Medicine Technician. That’s why I care about electing leaders who are committed to protecting access to health care.

Democratic candidates for Congress, like my good friend Debbie Mucarsel-Powell running in the 26th District, have already made health care a top issue in their campaigns. And with health care under assault by Donald Trump and Republicans, we need leaders who will preserve and build on the Affordable Care Act.

This is a fight worth winning on behalf of South Florida’s families. With her fellow leaders in Congress, I know she’ll keep up the pressure to defend the ACA from attacks, and ensure America continues on the road toward greater health care access, value and innovation.

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Daisy Baez is the former State Representative for District 114, and founder of the Dominican Health Care Association of Florida. She lives in Miami.

Erika Donalds: Roadblocks re-energize reformers

Education reform requires thick skin. I cringed as the League of Women Voters cheered the end of Amendment 8 and their success in disenfranchising Floridians.

Voters deserved to have a say in whether to allow the school district monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges decided otherwise. The LWV patted themselves on the back while blocking mothers from voting on something most precious to them: the education of their children.

They grinned at the news while hurting the very women they want to run for office, squashing the term-limit policy and ensuring more career politicians stay cozy in their school board seats.

The once-laudable League disgraced its mission and showed it is yet another teachers’ union surrogate to obstructing school choice.

The devastating 4-3 Supreme Court decision to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot was a loss not just for so many students in desperate need of education reform, but for millions of voters who are now susceptible to disenfranchisement anytime an activist group pushes and funds its agenda.

In addition to term limits and civics education, the most publicly contentious priority was to create new pathways for public schools of choice for Florida’s families. We know that choice, competition and innovation are the avenues to continuous improvement of our education system.

More parents than ever are selecting schools outside of their zoned district school. Parents and the public at large approve of charter schools and other education choice options at an increasing rate. The education establishment sees these trends and has doubled down on its antiquated policies and structure. Their interest is in preserving the status quo, and maintaining power and control over the most sacred of choices — who will help raise our children.

And so, despite tremendous gains for our students, it is clear we still live in a state where the education establishment cares more about the system than its students. To them, students are cogs. They are considered “butts in seats.” I know this is not the sentiment of so many hardworking, passionate individual teachers, but the union mentality has lost sight of what matters. It is incredibly sad, but I will not pretend it’s surprising.

These latest actions ensure that student-centered choice will now have to expand further through private options instead. Amendment 8 would have created a pathway to more high-quality public schools, but the monopoly-defenders and activist Supreme Court of Florida won’t have it.

The students most impacted by this awful decision cannot write checks, organize to write misleading editorials or hire high-priced out-of-state lawyers to distort the truth in the courtroom. I was proud and determined to speak up for them. And will continue to do so.

Education reformers do not give up on students. The greater mission of bringing true education freedom to every family in Florida will continue. It is our goal that every child be afforded a free public education that meets his or her unique needs.

Schools can look different and be a perfect fit for an individual child. Please stop fearing change. Schools of choice are real schools too, with real students and loving teachers. That is all that matters.

Families want choices. Choices are working for students. We will find a way to give them the choices they deserve.

You can be sure this is not the end. If anything, roadblocks re-energize reformers. And we have thick skin.

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Constitution Revision Commissioner Erika Donalds is a mother of three school-age children and CPA serving on the Collier County School Board. She was the main sponsor of Amendment 8 on the Revision Commission.

Reggie Garcia: Amendment 4 will save taxpayers money, give felons a second chance

Florida’s 13 million voters have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help convicted felons who have paid their debt to society earn the right to vote, and to a second chance.

Called the “Voting Restoration Amendment,” a proposed constitutional amendment will grant most of the 1.7 million convicted felons the right to vote and help select their leaders for local, state and federal offices.

That is a good thing. It makes sense.

To be eligible, these felons must complete “all terms of sentence including parole or probation.” That means they would have paid restitution, court costs and fees, and completed community service, house arrest, jail, and/or prison sentences, plus any other special conditions of parole or probation.

Felons convicted of murder or a felony sex crime would not be eligible and would have to go through the regular executive clemency process.

Why is Amendment 4 on the November general election ballot? Because almost 850,000 current Florida voters and taxpayers across the state signed a citizen’s initiative petition to give all voters this good choice.

Those who signed span Florida’s political spectrum — not just registered Republicans and Democrats but also Independents, members of one of the smaller parties, or “Non-Party Affiliated“ voters (NPAs).

So, clearly, Amendment 4 has strong bipartisan and nonpartisan support. That is a good thing. It makes sense.

Amendment 4 is good public policy and smart justice. Here’s why:

— Data from the Florida Commission on Offender Review proves that the vast majority of felons who get their voting and other civil rights back do not commit new crimes. They have learned their lesson and are trying to earn the second chance they have been given. On July 1, the Commission reported to the Board of Executive Clemency (made up of the governor and Florida Cabinet) that of the 992 felons who were granted restoration of civil rights in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, only one person was convicted of a new felony. (Yes, literally one out of almost 1,000 people.) If you consider data from the last seven fiscal years, 5,344 felons were granted clemency restoration of civil rights and only 12 people were convicted of new felonies requiring state prison. Now that is smart justice.

— The reduction in the number of reoffending felons will have a positive $365 million economic impact, according to a credible economic study completed by the Washington Economics Group, based in Coral Gables. How? By leading to fewer prisons and more jobs and positive economic activity.

— Reduced prison construction and staffing costs will save $223 million. Florida taxpayers currently fund 56 major state prisons, numerous state prison annexes, camps and work release centers, 10 federal prisons and 67 county jails.

— Increased job earnings, taxes paid and economic investments by the felons themselves will generate another $142 million.

Many of the affected individuals are our family members, neighbors, co-workers, high school classmates, church friends and mutual acquaintances of people we know. Except for their status as felons, they are regular Floridians who pay taxes, own homes and businesses, have kids, and contribute to our schools and communities.

Many of their convictions were for small drug possession or property crimes, often committed long ago when they were young.

Under Florida’s constitution, getting voting and other civil rights restored currently requires a grant of mercy, and the process simply takes too long.

A 5- or 7-year waiting period must pass before you can even apply. Some felons seeking voting and other civil rights can be approved without a hearing, but most must wait several years to get a hearing and a decision because there are approximately 23,000 pending applications for all types of executive clemency.

Proposed constitutional amendments require a supermajority of 60 percent approval to be adopted.

So, please vote yes on Amendment 4 and save taxpayers money and help felons earn a second chance.

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Reggie Garcia is a Florida lawyer rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer-review designation, and the author of two books on executive clemency: “How to Leave Prison Early” and “Second Chances-Florida Pardons, Restoration of Civil Rights, Gun Rights and More.” He can be reached at reggiegarcialaw@icloud.com.

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