Opinions Archives - Page 7 of 283 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Tampa 2019 mayoral race heating up

While he certainly had controversial moments, Bob Buckhorn will go down as one of the most effective mayors in Tampa’s history.

During his seven years on the job, Buckhorn’s signature achievement has been his relentless prodding and salesmanship that helped transform a once-sleepy downtown into a thriving, vibrant urban center.

But he will leave office in about a year due to term limits, and the race to succeed him has attracted a strong group of candidates that could get even stronger.

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen was the latest to jump into a crowded field that already includes businessman Topher Morrison, former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik, and Michael Anthony Hazard.

We’re still waiting to see if former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor jumps in. She has been meeting with neighborhood and civic groups but hasn’t announced her intentions.

Philanthropist David Straz has dropped hints that he might run, as has Council member Mike Suarez.  Architect Mickey Jacob’s name pops up as well.

The eventual winner will inherit a much different city than Buckhorn did when he took over from two-term mayor Pam Iorio in 2011.

The city was still digging out from the great recession, and there was a perception that Tampa had fallen behind other sun belt cities like Charlotte and Austin. Buckhorn pushed to bring life to downtown and the riverfront through the Riverwalk project helped change that, but there is much work that needs to be done.

Transportation continues to be a chronic issue for the rapidly growing area.

While the ballyhooed $3 billion Water Street Tampa project that Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is spearheading is expected to draw thousands of people downtown when completed, the question is whether the city handle that congestion.

Buckhorn has been out an outspoken proponent for gun control and that has led to some uncomfortable exchanges with state lawmakers, including Gov. Rick Scott. How would a new mayor approach that issue?

While Tampa has been successful at attracting many high-profile sports events, including next year’s Women’s Final Four in basketball, the question of what to do about a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays figures to be highly contentious.

Buckhorn was never afraid to wade into polarizing issues, often leading with his chin. He once sparred openly with the late civic icon Jan Platt over a major downtown construction project.

Following media reports that local police were unfairly targeting black bicyclists, Buckhorn requested a federal probe that concluded the tactic was of little benefit.

He drew national scorn after pointing an unloaded machine gun toward reporters during a military exercise and joking about making them cry. It wasn’t funny.

As I’m sizing up the current field of potential replacements, I don’t see any from that group of would-be successors pulling a similar stunt.

But they will be compared to Buckhorn’s accomplishments and it will be a tough act to follow.

Buckhorn’s future plans?

Nothing concrete at this point. He toyed with running for the Democratic nomination for governor but decided against it. He often said being mayor was the only job he wanted.

He is in the home stretch there.

What comes next is anyone’s guess.

Blake Dowling: Ransomware cripples city

Atlanta’s situation is grim.

What happens when your local government’s technology is crippled? Nothing good.

In the blink of an eye, it can happen to your business, association, or administration. A click on the wrong email, and you better get out the jelly, because you are toast.

City employees were told to turn off their computers; they were given notepads.

Currently, the courts cannot hear cases, residents cannot pay bills online; police officers cannot write reports or book inmates normally (all of which was done digitally).

How can this happen?

Usually, a hacker (or hackers) develop or buy software (ransomware tool kits are for sale on the dark web); they launch attacks usually by emails that contain what appears to be friendly links (from a bank or shipping company) — which actually contain malicious code.

An example of a ransomware tool kit for sale on the dark web.

Once a user clicks an infected email, their computer is locked (with all files encrypted), and unlike old-school cyber threats, most of these new variants of ransomware spread fast.

That is precisely what happened in Atlanta.

As they have not yet identified user zero, they will eventually — and that person will have a tough time shedding the reputation as the individual who brought Atlanta’s entire government to its knees.

Once infected, a clock starts to count down on your screen; the user has until the clock runs out to pay the ransom. In this case, the hackers asked for 6 bitcoins (as of today, the market value of one bitcoin is $6,705). The clock in Atlanta already ran out and no one seems sure they paid the ransom (or not).

In theory, if you pay the ransom you get encryption keys from the hackers, but sometimes they give them. Sometimes they don’t (after all, they are criminals).

My advice: Make sure to have redundant backups of all things and wipe everything clean if infected and reinstall it all. A thorough backup protocol is just as important as robust firewalls, complex passwords, anti-virus and anti-spam services.

It’s all part of your security bundle.

You should also think about intrusion testing and cyber training for everyone on your team. This is what the landscape demands.

Consequences of not taking these steps can be grim; here in Florida, Surfside Non-Surgical Orthopedics filed a lawsuit in January against medical software giant Allscripts related to a ransomware attack that shut down Allscripts and many of their clients.

And does anyone remember the Sarasota City Hall getting pummeled in 2016?

Last year, the Miami Herald had a nice wake-up call on the threat of ransomware; if you are not prepared, the time is now.

So, the good news: When visiting Atlanta, you can park wherever you want — as their parking ticket system is fried, too.

Be safe out there; if you read this far, thank you so much for taking an interest in my writing. It is an honor and a privilege to humbly share my ramblings with you.

Happy Easter.


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

Perry Thurston: Gov. Scott should show leadership and comply with court on voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have a chance to right a wrong of their own making. They can – and should – comply with a court order to create a reasonable process to restore voting rights to ex-prisoners.

U.S. District Judge Mark Warner ordered the state to develop a new method of deciding when and how convicted felons can regain their voting rights. The ruling gives the Florida Cabinet one month to create a new clemency process that consists of standards, not whims. In the words made famous by the Governor himself, it’s time to ‘get to work.’

Given our state leaders’ track record, it’s fortunate that Florida voters can go to the polls this November and approve the felony voter-rights restoration amendment. This change to the state constitution should protect a felon’s rights from the fickleness of the Florida Cabinet that seven years ago dismantled what had been the makings of a legitimate clemency process and replace it with an administrative beg-a-thon.

In 2011, Gov. Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and then-Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater changed the procedures by eliminating the automatic restoration of voting rights and replaced it with a minimum five-year waiting period before individuals could start the application process.

Florida is now one of only three states that imposes lifetime disenfranchisement for people with felony convictions. The only way a convicted felon can regain his or her voting rights in Florida is to apply to the state Office of Executive Clemency and pray their application is granted – a rare outcome, according to state figures.

Under Gov. Scott, only 2,488 applications for restoration of civil rights have been granted, a drastic drop from his two Republican predecessors. Former Gov. Jeb Bush restored the rights of 73,508 from 1999-2007. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who instituted automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons, restored 155,315 between 2007 and 2011.

Contrast Florida’s restrictive process to those of other states, where tough on crime policies give way to commonsense criminal justice.

Convicted felons in Indiana, Illinois, Montana and Utah regain their voting rights automatically once they are released from prison. In New York, Colorado and California, voting rights are automatically restored after release from prison and discharge from parole.  There is no need to restore voting rights to ex-prisoners in Vermont and Maine as those states have no disenfranchisement for people with criminal convictions.

As a tool of voter suppression, felony disenfranchisement has no equal. More than 6 million Americans are unable to vote because of past criminal convictions and many of them have successfully made the transition from prison to being productive members of society.

It should be an easy call for Gov. Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet to change the process to automatically restore voting rights after prisoners have served time and made financial restitutions. Once felons pay their debt to society, they should be allowed to vote.

The Sunshine State can end this blatant practice. Our state leaders should take the lead, do the right thing by complying with the federal court and come up with a credible voter restoration process for felons.

Perry E. Thurston Jr. is a member of the Florida Senate.

Joe Henderson: Judge’s rebuke has Adam Putnam up a tree

If you don’t know the details yet of the stern rebuke Adam Putnam just received from a Circuit Court judge in Lee County, don’t fret.

I’m sure Putnam’s opponents in the race to be Florida’s next governor will be happy to share, share, share and keep sharing details of the legal smackdown he just received.

Judge Keith Kyle ruled that the Florida Department of Agriculture and its boss — that would be Putnam — are basically ignoring an order to pay nearly $17 million to 12,000 Lee County residents for healthy citrus trees that were ordered destroyed about 20 years ago in a futile attempt to contain the spread of canker.

Putnam wasn’t in charge then; he was in the U.S. House of Representatives when the original order to destroy the trees was given. But residents sued, saying their trees shouldn’t have been seized. After a lot of legal wrangling, four years ago a jury agreed and assigned damages.

Putnam, who was running the Department of Agriculture by then, appealed the ruling and lost. Instead of paying up, the state kept up the legal battle.

Kyle’s ruling suggests he has had enough of that. That’s where it gets dicey for Putnam.

“Based upon the record before this Court, one reasonably could even be under the impression that Commissioner Putnam may even be thwarting efforts of payment,” he wrote.

He later added: “While the government has the ability to establish procedures for payment of its constitutional obligations, it does not have the luxury of avoiding it.”

Then there was this shot: Kyle said keeping up the fight “is contrary to the oath” Putnam took when he became commissioner.

It’s not a good look for a candidate who has tried to develop the image of a down-home guy from small-town Bartow. It’s also not the first bit of turbulence in this campaign.

Putnam is still being served a heaping helping of his assertion that he is a “proud NRA sellout.” He was trying to shore up his credentials with the National Rifle Association supporters when he made that statement, but that was before the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

NRA sellout? Also not a good look.

Putnam then drew criticism for saying he would have vetoed the new gun restrictions passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

It has forced Putnam to play some defense in the face of rising sentiment in the state to make it harder for individuals to own weapons like the AR-15. Even though he said he would not have signed the gun law, he wouldn’t commit to trying to overturn it if elected.

And now, challenger Ron DeSantis has moved to the top of Republican polls in the governor’s race. Although Putnam remains a formidable force, pitting him against folks who lost their trees could become another major sore spot for him in an era where campaigns can turn on effective attack ads on TV.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that rather than paying up, Putnam plans another appeal.

“We strongly disagree with this ruling and intend to appeal,” Putnam spokeswoman Jennifer Meale told the newspaper. “Since 1997, the department has handled these cases in a manner consistent with Florida law, which has been supported by a Florida Supreme Court ruling. The lawful process for the payment of these judgments requires a legislative appropriation.”


Let’s look at the big picture here while waiting for that “legislative appropriation.”

Start with homeowners; just plain folks like the rest of us. The state seizes their private property (the citrus trees) and destroys them. The state is ordered to pay damages.

Putnam, now in charge, keeps stalling and appealing, and appealing, and appealing, while the tree folks just keep waiting for their money.

Release the hounds.

Joe Henderson: Philip Levine leads Dems but it’s too soon to say it matters

A new Public Policy Polling survey mirrors the result of a recent Gravis poll that showed former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has pulled ahead in the Democrats race for the gubernatorial nomination.

Crickets everywhere took notice.

First, Levine has filled the air waves lately with TV ads, spending an estimated $5 million from his considerable personal fortune on messages that have pumped up his name recognition.

It seems to have worked. Gravis had him leading a four-person Democratic field with 13 percent. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum had 11 percent, Gwen Graham had 9 percent, and Orlando businessman Chris King was thrashing about with 2 percent.

The numbers are different in the Public Policy poll – Gillum and Graham have swapped places – but the essence remains.

Levine has taken the lead.

What does all this mean though?

Probably nothing definitive.

No disrespect intended, but leading a poll by a few points before Easter for a primary in August isn’t going to chase any opponent out of the race.

His challengers haven’t been on TV or free media much lately, although Gillum did pick up an endorsement from Our Revolution, a group that backs Bernie Sanders.

Graham nabbed an endorsement from former state Attorney General Bob Butterworth for her position on dealing with Florida’s opioid problem.

“Gwen Graham is the only candidate for governor who has put forward an actionable plan to hold drug companies accountable and to end the opioid epidemic,” Butterworth’s endorsement read. “Gwen understands Florida can’t arrest our way out of this crisis. The state must stop it at its source.”

King was endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees, which was a nice get for a traditional Democrat.

The truth is though, it has been basically impossible in recent weeks for these Democrats to get much attention unless, like Levine, they were willing to pay a lot of money for it.

The focus has been on the student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the world-wide movement they helped spark to curb gun violence.

The Republican-led Legislature – particularly Gov. Rick Scott and outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran – took turns in the spotlight for helping shepherd a bill into law that imposed modest gun restrictions.

And, of course, President Trump makes news every hour, although that’s not always welcomed by Republican candidates in Florida or anywhere else.

His national approval rating is around 40 percent, although a recent poll showed 46 percent of Floridians give him a thumbs-up.

That’s still under water though, so GOP candidates may be wary of getting too close to the president.

Democrats will do their best to keep them as close as possible.

The campaign will get real soon enough, but for now it’s like a pack of marathon runners setting their own pace and preparing for the big push ahead.

The public won’t get focused on the race until the August primaries get closer, so this is the time to raise money and make sure to show up everywhere they are invited.

That means civic groups, weekend barbecues, holiday parades, and basically anywhere they can shake hands, make their pitch, raise a few bucks, and maybe get some local news coverage.

They’ll keep an eye on polls because that’s what campaigns do. It’s too soon for anyone to get too juiced about them though.

Joe Henderson: Stormy Daniels interview fell a little flat

I may need therapy to get the image of Donald Trump allegedly asking for a spanking from porn star Stormy Daniels out of my head.

Beyond that, though, I honestly thought the ballyhooed “60 Minutes” interview she gave Sunday night in which she described an affair with Trump in 2006 was pretty much a nothing burger.

This story was over-sold.

There had been so many leaks and teases from the Daniels’ camp leading up to the actual interview that the whole thing kind of fell flat.

To her credit, Daniels – whose real name is Stephanie Clifford – didn’t claim she was coerced into the affair.

“This is not a ‘Me Too.’ I was not a victim. I’ve never said I was a victim,” she said.

We already knew this alleged encounter, which the president, as usual, denies, took place shortly after Trump’s wife Melania gave birth to their son, Barron. And we know about the $130,000 in hush money Daniels was paid by Trump’s attorney in the days leading up to his election in 2016 as president.

So, Trump takes his place alongside Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein and many others in the Creep Hall of Shame. Then again, he has had a standing reservation for a long time.

Daniels talked about the threats of violence she said were directed at her if she talked, but that news came out last week.

This whole sordid affair has been a headline writer’s dream. After all, how many times to you get to use “President” and “Porn Star” in the same sentence?

I’ll admit to some mild curiosity about how Melania is dealing with this, but after the “Access Hollywood” tape and all the other allegations against her husband she is probably numb to it by now.

Obviously, stories like this won’t help Trump’s standing with women, but he had that problem in 2016 and still won the election.

It’s also worth noting that Clinton survived an impeachment trial after lying about his encounter in the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky and held a 61 percent approval rating until he finished his second term.

These problems don’t seem to stick to candidates once voters head into the booth to mark their ballots.

Rather than have my already low opinion of the president sink further, I came away the interview feeling a little sad for Daniels.

I don’t imagine anyone grows up wanting to be introduced as “porn star” and dreaming of sharing intimate details of an illicit affair with a married man on national television.

But she did.

And I watched because, well, it was there.

I kind of wish I hadn’t.

Joe Henderson: March leaders’ next challenge is keeping momentum

Maybe the March For Our Lives pulled some people off the sideline and converted them to the cause of ending gun violence here and around the world.

I hope so.

But you know what?

I know how the other side thinks, and they are betting against that. They figure that within a few more days, maybe a couple of weeks, the story of Saturday’s world-wide protests will vanish from the nightly news, front pages and the public’s collective interest.

They figure everyone will be distracted by Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels, or some other event that becomes THE story of the news cycle.

Sure, the students who organized and led marches – especially those from Parkland – were compelling and the crowds were large. But the other side is wagering that the majority of participants will soon lose the fire in their bellies that pushed them to get involved following the slaughter of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

They’ll be distracted enough with final exams, summer jobs, or heading to college in the fall. Oh sure, some of them will follow through on their vow to stay active during the buildup to the mid-term elections and that might flip a few seats to the Democrats.

Not enough to change the balance of power though.

That’s why we haven’t heard much from Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell.

Just lay low, let it burn out.

That’s why the president, who tweets about everything, acted like the march had typhoid and avoided it – although, to be fair, he did say Friday his administration will work to ban bump stocks.

He did, by the way, find time to declare Sunday national Greek Independence Day – so there is that.

Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio tried, as usual, to have it both ways. In a tweet he noted, “Many support gun ban. But many others see it as infringement of #2A that won’t prevent shootings. Protest is good way of making a point, but making a change will require both sides finding common ground.”

Stop right there, Senator.

Multiple polls have shown that about 70 percent of Americans want strong regulation of firearms. That’s a bit more definitive than “some want this, but some want that.”

Rubio also has been singled out by protesters for taking large donations from the National Rifle Association, a group for whom “common ground” means “see it our way.”

The NRA recently filed a federal law suit against a Florida bill that imposed modest restrictions on the sale of weapons like the AR-15. The state raised the minimum age to buy such a gun to 21 from 18, mandated a three-day waiting period, and an end to bump stocks.

Important note: The law doesn’t say an 18-year-old can’t receive and own an AR-15 as a gift or through other means. They just have to wait to before they can go to a gun store and buy one.

The NRA called that an attack on the 2nd Amendment.

How is anyone to supposed to find Rubio’s goal of common ground against stubbornness like that?

And, trust me kids, the NRA knows a thing or three about how to play the political game. It has gotten really good at that, which brings us back to the original point.

Protesters are correct that the only way to change the law is to change the people who make the laws. Doing that is hard, tedious work – the kind work the NRA and its supporters have done for years to gain the political advantage they have now.

Those same polls that show Americans want change also don’t believe they’ll get that. In a Marist survey, 63 percent said they approved of the march. But 62 percent also said they don’t believe the protests will bring about significant change.

That’s what the kids are up against.

The NRA and gun supporters have beaten the opposition down by offering no common ground, as Rubio would say it. You are either with the NRA all the way, or not.

But as we looked around the nation Saturday, we saw millions of faces saying that things have to change. Some of them have lived through a horror a lot worse than having to wait a little while to buy an AR-15.

The momentum generated by the march could change this country and the world.

The opposition is betting it won’t.

It’s up to protesters to prove them wrong.


Blake Dowling: After Uber tragedy, safety is job one for self-driving cars

Legislation, innovation and deployment of autonomous vehicles hit a significant roadblock this week. A very tragic incident in Arizona involving a self-driving Uber vehicle and a pedestrian killed the pedestrian.

The goal of self-driving vehicles is to make our lives easier and roads safer. Self-driving cars do not get drunk or speed, so the 40,000 traffic fatalities each year would be reduced considerably if the world was full of these machines.

However, in this case, all detection systems apparently failed, and the ultimate backup (the human in the car) was not paying attention. At any time, the theory goes, this person could have hit the brakes and take over if the auto driving system needs overriding.

In Florida, Ford is launching a test program this year for self-driving cars. The goal is to have a self-driving taxi and delivery service in place by 2021. Domino’s Pizza is getting into the game as a partner.

There are lots to factor into the logistics, but safety is No. 1; if they can’t figure that out, none of this is going to happen.

Ford sunk $1 billion into the effort and it will be housed in Miami. Why Florida? 1.) It is a traffic nightmare, so if they can figure out Southbeach it can work anywhere, right? 2.) For years, Florida has stated it is not California and has a “bring it on” approach to this new business model. In fact, the state was a very early adopter of providing a friendly staging ground for this kind of tech.

Go back to 2012, when Google dropped off two autonomous vehicles at the Florida Capitol requested by Sen. Jeff Brandes. Test drives were done with the elected officials and their families, and the buzz was in the air. Shortly afterward, HB 7027 passed 118-0 — the first legislation in our great country to legalize self-driving vehicles on our roads.

The national landscape has caught up, last year 33 states introduced legislation on the subject. You can follow all the details on the subject here.

It is exciting technology but not without scandal, as we saw Uber in the headlines earlier this year, and (sadly) the story of this transportation revolution now has a tragedy on its hands.

Those R and D dollars need to be devoted to safety first, as clearly more redundancy in the tech is required to prevent another situation like that in Arizona this week.

Be safe out there; enjoy your weekend.


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

Joe Henderson: Some GOP leaders dancing around gun issue

Some of the state’s leading Republicans are finding their new dance steps a little tricky to master.

Many of them, including outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, have long pledged support for the National Rifle Association and, by association, its no-compromise stance on the Second Amendment.

But Corcoran drew the wrath this week of NRA uber lobbyist Marion Hammer for his role in passing recent gun restrictions.

Now, Putnam kind of tap-danced his way around the question of whether he would try to repeal that law if he is elected governor.

Putnam has been considered by many the GOP front-runner in the governor’s race, although unabashed NRA supporter Ron Desantis has pulled ahead in some recent polls.

Gun control will be one of the main issues in the upcoming election for both the governor’s mansion and the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Bill Nelson and likely challenger Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott also drew the NRA’s wrath by signing the gun control measure but doesn’t appear to have a serious challenger for his party’s nomination.

Leading Democratic candidates all are pushing for even tighter regulations on gun sales in Florida, which is no surprise. They don’t court the NRA’s support anyway, and after the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School public opinion is shifting toward stronger laws.

Putnam has called himself a “proud NRA sellout” and opposed the restrictions pushed by Corcoran and signed by Scott. He said as governor, he would not have signed the bill.

But as A.G. Gancarski reported for Florida Politics, Putnam dodged the question when asked if he would work to repeal the law if he is elected.

“We’re going to enforce the law. I mean, that’s what governors do. You enforce the laws that are on the books,” Putnam said before ending the interview.


Well, yeah, that’s true. Governors are supposed to enforce the law. But that wasn’t the question, was it?

Sure, it would be popular with the NRA and hard-line primary voters for Putnam to say that law has to go, but he has higher ambitions than winning the nomination.

So, it’s a big political risk to say “You’re gol-darned tootin’ I’ll work to repeal that law” because those who favor stringent restrictions would feed him that for breakfast, lunch, bunch, dinner and late-night snacks – kind of like they’ve done with his NRA sellout line.

For what it’s worth, Putnam stopped using the “sellout” label following the Parkland murders.

But Corcoran is doing his version of the Tallahassee two-step as well.

After being slammed by Hammer this week for what she called his “betrayal,” Corcoran sent a letter to the Constitutional Revision Commission saying he had “grave concerns” about a proposal under consideration to let voters decide whether to ban the sale of assault-style weapons.

Apparently, a majority of CRC members agreed. The proposal was rejected.

Was Corcoran’s olive branch enough to get back in the NRA’s good graces?

Apparently not yet.

After saying plenty earlier this week, Hammer hasn’t spoken publicly about this.

For now, all we have to go on is that she feels he betrayed the NRA.

Groveling may eventually be involved.

Marion doesn’t dance.

Joe Henderson: Do we really need amendment about teaching civics? Maybe

When someone complains the government did something they don’t like, I sometimes engage in a fun little exercise known as “name your lawmaker.”

Sure, everyone knows Donald Trump, and Stormy Daniels is on the way to becoming a household name.

However, the laws that most directly affect our lives are made closer to home. So, I’ll ask someone to name the state representative or senator from their district. Or the county commissioner that represents them. Or who is running for those offices in November from both major parties. Most of the time they can’t.

I’ve had people look at me blankly when I mention outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran in a conversation. It’s clear they don’t know who he is, or that arguably he has been the most powerful person in the state for the last couple of years.

Usually, the conversation ends with “well, I don’t really care about politics” and that’s the problem.

In about seven months, these same folks are going to be asked to help choose Florida’s next governor, a U.S. senator, and a whole bunch of other important positions that will determine the state’s course for the next several years.

That’s why it’s interesting that the Constitutional Revision Commission is considering a proposal to place an amendment on the ballot in November to ensure public schools continue teaching how the government works. A final decision on that will be made in April.

Yes, sponsor Don Gaetz — a former senate president – noted, there already is a civics requirement in public schools. And his proposal admittedly is short on specifics, and schools already grapple with enough mandates from Tallahassee.

It’s also true that adding another amendment for voters to consider shouldn’t be taken lightly.

But as we have seen, the Legislature (I’m looking at you, Mr. Corcoran) can’t resist messing with public education.

“The Legislature changes its mind,” Gaetz told the Tampa Bay Times. “Especially education issues go in and out of fashion. … The constitution enshrines what we don’t change our minds about.”

That’s a strong point.

How much longer until someone in Tallahassee gets the bright idea that it’s a lot better for their job security to eliminate that messy how-it-works requirement and just add on more math and science, lest future graduates decide to vote them out of office.

Given recent events, I imagine some of them look at the determined and well-informed students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and wish they had never heard of civics.

Without their raised voices, I seriously doubt the gun-control bill would have even been considered, much less passed, by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

It’s normal to complain about the influence of money on politics, but people can and sometimes do make a difference.

Yes, politics can be more than a little tedious and can go deep into the weeds. As the high school students learned on their trip to Tallahassee, not every lawmaker is willing to listen.

I mean, who can forget the rude brushoff state Rep. Elizabeth Porter gave on the House floor when she said lawmakers should ignore students because they lack the “wisdom” to make the laws.

But the point of all this is to learn how things work — and, if need be, work around those who think they have a copyright on “wisdom” and knowledge.

That’s a lesson everyone needs to learn.

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