Opinions Archives - Page 7 of 229 - Florida Politics

Christian Cámara: Border adjustment would sock Florida with hugely higher insurance rates

In recent years, Congress repeatedly has considered legislation that would have adversely and profoundly impacted disaster-prone states like Florida. Luckily, we were spared passage, over and over again.

Unfortunately, a tax “reform” package supported by House Republicans and likely to be introduced soon may contain provisions that would do essentially the same damage.

Historically, these bills targeted reinsurance purchased by property insurers from affiliates located offshore. The key change would be to eliminate the U.S. subsidiary’s ability to write off the reinsurance costs from their corporate income. The measures long have been supported by a group of U.S.-based insurance companies, who sought to reduce competition they face from foreign insurers and reinsurers.

Damages from isolated incidents such as fires, thefts and hailstorms are normally paid directly by insurance companies. However, when a massive disaster like a hurricane strikes, reinsurance kicks in and covers the insurer’s losses beyond a pre-negotiated deductible.

Changing the tax rules to punish international insurers would be particularly damaging for reinsurers, whose global scope allows them simultaneously to cover enormous risks like hurricanes in Florida and earthquakes in New Zealand, as they are uncorrelated and therefore unlikely to happen at the same time.

Given Florida’s vulnerability to hurricanes, the availability and affordability of reinsurance protection is critical to the state’s economic health and security.

According to new research by the Brattle Group, the tax would raise home insurance premiums by 1.9 percent, or $282 million a year in added costs, and raise premiums for business insurance by 6.7 percent, or $367 million in added costs.

As President Donald Trump and House Republicans continue to discuss plans for corporate tax reform, Floridians should pay close attention to proposals for a “border adjustment tax,” which is pitched as a way to tax goods and services companies import, but not those they export. House Republicans have discussed adding this feature to their tax reform “blueprint” in order to dampen the immediate fiscal impact of reducing the federal corporate income tax rate.

The fear for Florida and other disaster-prone states is that financial services, including insurance and reinsurance, would be included in the definition of imported goods and services and thus subject to taxation.

In 2011, the Florida Legislature became so concerned by the prospect of Congress enacting a proposal to tax the purchase of offshore reinsurance that it unanimously passed a memorial urging its rejection.

Indeed, Florida has a reason to be concerned about any proposal that taxes the purchase of reinsurance from offshore companies, as 91 percent of the state’s private reinsurance protection comes from such companies, along with 98 percent of the private reinsurance bought by the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

According to the Brattle study, applying border adjustment to insurance and reinsurance would cut the amount of reinsurance available to the United States by between 20 percent on the low end and a whopping 80 percent on the high end. Across the country, regular consumers would have to pay $16.9 billion more to obtain the same basic insurance coverage they already have. Florida, which leads the country with $2.9 trillion of insured coastal property, would be hit the hardest.

There is, however, some good news. Most countries that have adopted a border adjustment tax system have zero-rated or altogether exempted financial services from such taxation. Congress should do the same.

Florida has among the highest property insurance rates in the nation, due in no small part to its vulnerability to hurricanes, as well as an increasingly litigious environment that the Legislature can and should address.

The last thing it needs is for Congress to tax something that it relies on more than any other state.


Christian Cámara is Southeast Regional Director for the R Street Institute.

Let them eat steak, Part 2: Rick Scott edition

While Melissa McCarthy-impersonator Sean Spicer was confiscating his staff ‘s cellphones in search of leakers to fire, somebody tipped Independent Review Journal’s Benny Johnson to President Trump’s Saturday night dinner plans.

Johnson identifies his tipster as a “trusted source.” Obvious suspects include Trump-whisperer and former Breitbart News big shot Steve Bannon. Bannon might have a soft spot for Young Mr. Johnson, who began his new media career as a contributor to Breitbart and fell, briefly, upon hard times when he was fired from BuzzFeed for multiple acts of plagiarism.

Maybe it was the president himself, who, disguised as “John Barron,” mild-mannered publicist for Ratings and Sex Machine Donald Trump, used to call up reporters and dish irresistible tabloid trash for the Bonfire of the Vanities crowd.

Who knows? Who cares! Whoever it was that told Johnson to ask for a balcony table at Trump International Hotel’s steakhouse — thank you for your service!

Johnson’s minute-by-minute account is an SNL-level trove of rich, vivid, and telling details about the “worry worry super scurry” that surrounds a President and Guy Who’s Accustomed to Having His Own Way.  It also works nicely as a pitch to the Food Porn Channel for a docudrama on “how a restaurant prepares for a president.”

The story is lavishly illustrated with pictures that are remarkably revealing, considering they were taken in a steak palace and not a photography studio. Johnson was unable to catch a shot of Trump’s meal—well done New York strip soaked in catsup, allegedly — but the Tower of Bacon at Johnson’s table will make you lust in your salivary glands like a dirty old man drooling over a hot young blonde.

Trump’s guests did not include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who dined across the room with his wife. If Trump was talking foreign policy over the $24 shrimp cocktails, he was doing it with Florida Governor Rick Scott, a man who makes up in certitude what he lacks in expertise. Also at the table was Brexit Boy and Party Crasher Nigel Farage, and Ubiquitous Daughter Ivanka Trump, accompanied by the Father of Her Children and Maker of Middle East Peace Jared Kushner.

Johnson’s photo gallery includes a shot of Trump “discreetly” slipping a $100 bill to a “Latino busboy” who is, presumably, extremely vetted and not a rapist. The left side of the Twitterverse is sure this was Kabuki generosity staged for the benefit of a camera Trump knew was there. If that’s true, we’ll be hearing about it soon enough on Full Frontal, whose researchers are fanning out and talking to busboys Trump knew in his pre-presidential life if they’re not too busy performing the public service of euthanizing the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Marco Rubio wimps out on town halls. Are we surprised?

As we saw during the last campaign, Marco Rubio can be awfully good at not showing up. His latest no-show has nothing to do with his attendance in the U.S. Senate, though. Now, he doesn’t want to show up at town hall meetings because people might be rude.

“They’re not town halls anymore, and I wish they were because I enjoy that process very much, going back to my time as speaker of the house. I hosted over a hundred idea (meetings) around the state,” he said in an interview with CBS4 in Miami.

“But the problem now is – and it’s all in writing, I’m not making this up – what they want is for me to organize a public forum. They then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists in the two counties or wherever I am in the state.”

No, he isn’t making it up.

He is, however, wimping out.

Are we surprised?

Yes, those forums do offer those pesky Florida liberals a rare opportunity to remind Republicans that a whole lot of people want their representatives to protect health care coverage.

This is not some political talking point, either. For these folks, it’s emotional and personal, so they do heckle, they shout, they boo and they are loud. That bothers Florida’s very junior U.S. senator – although it didn’t bother him in 2010 when he was swept in by the tea party wave that wrote the book on heckling, shouting, booing and doing that at high volume.

As a first-time senate candidate, it was OK to be supported by disruptors. Those rallies took place around the country, organized at the grassroots level through websites like the Tea Party Patriots. The plan was to put the “riot” in patriot.

It worked. Rubio was elected.

Facing angry constituents didn’t stop U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis from showing up recently at multiple Pasco County meetings, nor has it stopped many of Rubio’s house and senate colleagues from facing the 50 percent of the country that doesn’t agree with them.

But not Rubio. Change of heart, I guess, after an opposition group now called Indivisible, which supports Democrats, copied those tea party guerilla tactics. The group has a game plan called “A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” It’s available on the internet for all to see.

In his interview, Rubio said, “They then, according to the document, they get there early and take up all the front seats. They spread themselves out. They cheer when the questions are asked. They are instructed to boo no matter what answer I give.

“They’re instructed to interrupt me if I go too long and start chanting things. Then, at the end, they’re instructed not to give up their microphone when asked. It’s all in writing in this Indivisible document.”

That’s sort of true, but also sort of not.

Indivisible supporters are indeed told to get there early, sit in the front, spread out. They also are instructed to “be polite but persistent, and demand real answers.”

It adds, “MoCs (members of Congress) are very good at deflecting or dodging question they don’t want to answer. If the MoC dodges, ask a follow-up. If they aren’t giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the congressman or applauding you.”

Rubio is awfully good at deflecting and dodging. He gets into trouble when strays from the talking point. In a friendly town hall, that’s OK. In a hostile setting, he might get exposed (further) as a lightweight or, as then-candidate Donald Trump liked to call him, “Little Marco.”

CBS4 host Jim DeFede started to ask, “So you don’t believe these are real …”

“They’re real people,” Rubio quickly said. “They’re real liberal activists and I respect their right to do it, but it’s not a productive exercise. It’s all designed to have news coverage at night saying, ‘Look at all these angry people screaming at their senator.’”

So instead the story becomes, look how their senator runs and hides.

Yeah, that plays well.

Groundhog Day for Democrats: Selecting the Party chair

Democrats in Florida and at the national level have a similar problem. In both cases, there are more Democratic voters than Republicans, but in both cases, the Republican candidates have trounced the Democrats.

Between 2009 and 2016, which coincides with the terms of Barack Obama as president, Democratic candidates suffered heavier casualties than many military divisions. Democrats lost 11 Senate seats (-16 percent), lost 62 House seats (-24 percent) and, in the biggest surprise, lost control of the White House.

It was even worse at the state level. The numbers of Democratic governors declined from 28 to 16 (-43 percent), and Democrats lost 959 seats in the state legislatures. The only good news for the Democrats is that it can’t get much worse. The seats they still hold are mostly in strong Democratic areas.

Democrats hope that a change in party leadership will be the first step in reversing party fortunes and helping to lead the party out of the political wilderness.

Florida Democrats held their contest for a new party chair at the end of 2016. Numerous candidates came forth to replace one-term party chair Allison Tant, who had just as much success as previous party chairs.

The two leading candidates were Dwight Bullard, a black state legislator representing the liberal reform wing of the party. Stephen Bittel, a wealthy developer and leading donor to the party was supported by the establishment forces.

Bittel was backed by the teachers’ union and Sen. Bill Nelson, the only Democrat currently elected to a statewide office. Nelson, up for election in 2018, argued that Bittel would bring “professionalism” to the party and “raise money.”

Bullard was backed by Bernie Sanders and his supporters. One Revolution, a Sanders organization, believed that Bullard would stop “an extremely wealthy donor” who wants to “buy his way to lead Florida’s Democratic Party. . .”

Bittel won the required votes and is now busy raising funds for the party and is attempting to reinvigorate party fortunes.

About the time Bittel was winning his election in Florida, the race for the Chair of the Democratic National Party was heating up. The early front-runner was Keith Ellison, a Black Muslim congressman from Minnesota, who represented the Sanders and reform wing of the party. Ellison quickly won the endorsements of liberal icon Elizabeth Warren, along with incoming Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

The race was actually pushed backed a month. Some argued that it was done in order to generate more debate about the candidates. Others argued that it was done to give opponents of Ellison additional time to overcome his lead.

Critics of Ellison pointed out that he was highly critical of Israel and had supported Black Muslim Louis Farrakhan, issues that might hurt the party in elections.

The Democratic establishment found its candidate in Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who was encouraged to run by both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Like Bittel in Florida, Perez represented the establishment and wealthy donors who were concerned that Ellison would push the party too far to the left.

On Feb. 25, 2017, Perez won the post of party chair by a vote of 235-200 on the second ballot. Ellison supporters shouted “Party for the people, not big money.” Many Ellison supporters walked out.

Perez quickly appointed Ellison as Deputy Party Chair in an attempt at party unity. Whether this placates Ellison supporters or irritates them remains to be seen. What duties, if any, will Ellison be given?

In both Florida and nationally, the race to head the Democratic Party pitted a white, establishment candidate representing the moneyed interests versus a black legislator representing the reform and liberal element of the party. In both cases, the white candidate defeated the black candidate, and money prevailed over “the people.”

It appears that it is not only Donald Trump and his supporters who have issues with race and Islamophobia.

Bernie Sanders fired a warning shot across the bow of the Democratic Party after Ellison’s loss. Sanders warned that it was “imperative that the same-old, same-old is not working and that we must open the doors of the party to working people and young people in a way that has never been done before.”

The Democrats have their new party leaders in both Florida and nationally. The question is whether the new leaders will improve the party’s electoral performance, or will it lead to further divisions between an already badly fractured Democratic Party?


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

Eight-hour shoes and a whirlwind of press conferences

People don’t come to Florida’s Capitol without an agenda, and when they want to share it with the world, you can bet they’ll plan a news conference/media availability to share it via the Fourth Estate.

Wednesday was particularly rich with such events; I was assigned to go to ‘em all. As a babe in these particular woods, it was quite an adventure, navigating the hallways, rotundas, and meeting rooms of the Capitol complex for a full day during a busy committee week, the last one before the Session begins in earnest at noon March 7.

Gearing up for the task, I put on my decidedly unstylish eight-hour shoes, fascinated by the majority of women who navigate brick pavers of the Capitol Courtyard and stand on the building’s marble floors in pointy-toed stilettoes. The ladies know how to dress in Halls of Power. So do the men.

Pretty much everybody looks like they’re Somebody, which can make it difficult to sort out who’s the legislator and who’s the underling.

Many of the folks who cozied up to the lecterns throughout the day thought they needed no introduction. The House and Senate member directories came in very handy. Nametags, please. Nametags.

Crossing the plaza between the old and new Capitol buildings, I found a display of solar energy panels sponsored by the Florida affiliate of SEIA — the Solar Energy Industries Association. It was, unfortunately, a decidedly dreary day and the black panels — and their minders — looked a bit forlorn. But FlaSEIA President Patrick Altier assured me that while each was capable of producing 15 amps on a sunny day, it was still putting out only five amps of power.

Across the way — and garnering significantly more interest — were a pair of all-electric Teslas, available throughout the day for gawking and test drives. Interested parties could geek out over an interior display as big as a laptop computer screen and thrill at the cars’ power, which can go 0-to-60 in two seconds. The sedans aren’t solar powered, but Elon Musk gets a pass after Tesla acquired SolarCity, which recently unveiled a solar roof.

The solar lobby was in the house that day to promote SB 90, Sen. Jeff Brandes’ bill implementing Amendment 4, approved by voters in the August primary to give tax exemptions for solar power equipment.

I arrived early for the 12:15 p.m. news conference unveiling the United Way’s 2017 ALICE Report. Unfortunately, I was waiting in the ground-floor rotunda while the event was taking place on the fourth-floor rotunda, missing the first few minutes while getting my logistics right. ALICE, FYI, stands for people who are Asset Limited, Income-Constrained and Employed — basically, people working paycheck-to-paycheck and constantly on the brink of financial disaster. You can link to the whole report here. The microphone didn’t even get a chance to cool down before Reps. Shevrin Jones and Ramon Alexander stepped up at 12:30 to speak about their bills to “Ban the Box.” Alexander, a freshman legislator from Tallahassee, said his version would bar public employers and colleges from asking about criminal history in initial applications.

The day was broken up with a visit to the salad bar at Sharkey’s Capital Grill, on the subterranean LL level (not to be confused with Sharkey’s Capital Café on the 10th floor, both owned by lobbyist Jeff Sharkey). One of the items that could be picked up in the checkout line was mini-packs of Alka-Seltzer. Committee week will do that to you.

Seeking a press pass, I had to drop off paperwork at the Capitol Police/FDLE office on the way-bottom floor (L) of the Capitol. No marble down here; it’s all business in the basement. There were doors with discouraging “Do Not Enter” signs but windows allowing a view of the precious few parking spots filled with nice cars. I wonder whose they are?

All of my to-ings and fro-ings made for a lot of elevator rides with a confusing collection of level designations. But I was informed that the “main” floor with the door to the outside was PL, which one wag assured me didn’t mean Plaza Level, but “Please Leave.” A young woman told of an elevator hack that involved holding down the “close door” key allowing one to skip all the middling floors and take it straight to the fourth or fifth floors. And darned if an elevator didn’t go whisking past us to “Please Leave” as she was describing the trick.

Overheard: Newbie television reporter getting directions on how to get from Point A to Point B in the Capitol before the Matt Gaetz presser: “I just got here a week ago. I’m so lost.” I’m feelin’ ya, sir.

The House Press Room was rearranged for a pair of news conferences later in the afternoon, with blue drapes and a lectern adorned with the Official Seal flanked by a pair of flags. (If you want to feel smart and superior, a lectern is that thing people stand behind to give speeches. A podium is a raised platform so that you can see the speaker. People get it wrong ALL THE TIME.)

Gaetz swanned in, greeted as a conquering hero by the assembled Republicans who were there to support Florida House Memorials. These “memorials” are not statues or plinths or golden calves, but messages sent to Congress, urging the federal government to take action — in this case, to send federal money back to Florida in the form of block grants where it will be spent much more wisely and judiciously.

Veteran AP Reporter Gary Fineout assured me these memorials aren’t worth (insert your favorite pejorative here).

While memorials on limiting federal power, highway funding, and child welfare funding were available for perusal, the freshman congressman and House Speaker Richard Corcoran spent their time explaining why block grants made sense for Medicaid funding.

Ever the firebrand, Gaetz kicked off his remarks saying, “After six years of service in the Florida Legislature and six weeks of service in Congress, it has become exceedingly clear to me that Washington screws everything up.”

Both Gaetz and Corcoran made a case for giving more power and resources to Florida to redesign Medicaid by funding “patient-centered” health care for the “truly needy” without “overutilization” by those who don’t.

But the real fun started after the formal remarks when reporters clustered around Gaetz in the back of the room (Corcoran had ghosted), peppering him with questions about exactly how what he suggests would be implemented, and how it would improve health care for the poor.

And then off he went to make his case for the Memorial, but only after inviting the assembled press to join him the next day for his “Open Gaetz” town hall meeting in his district in Milton.

Another freshman congressman, Rep. Francis Rooney, spoke to the press at 4:30, after testifying at the House Natural Resources and Public Land subcommittee. Much of the convo about dikes, the Army Corps of Engineers, and funding went way over my head. So we’ll let Politico Reporter Bruce Ritchie spell it out in his story.

And the day was done. The YMCA Youth in Government high schoolers and oodles of schoolkids were gone. The occupational therapists were packing up their display, which included goggles that give you a look at how people with eye afflictions see the world. (Trust me; you do NOT want to get Diabetic Retinopathy). Ditto for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

Taking the elevator to “Please Leave” took infinitely less time than it did earlier in the day. All was quiet — until it started all over again Thursday.

The Grimm truth about Alberto Carvalho’s assault on WLRN

Friends of the First Amendment have their hands full with the War in the White House Pressroom.

That may explain why Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto (Rico Suave) Carvalho thought his attempted hostile takeover of the highly respected and ferociously independent WLRN newsroom might pass unnoticed.

Thankfully, fans of the free press have taken notice, and are rallying to the support of the high-quality journalism this public radio station produces with a small staff and a tight budget.

The Miami school system has owned WLRN’s broadcast license since before Carvalho was born, and has heretofore had the wisdom not to interfere with its editors and reporters.

If Carvalho gets his way, they’ll be reporting to his head flack and serving up mass quantities of happy talk about Carvalho, if they know what’s good for ’em.

The Miami Herald’s veteran columnist, Fred Grimm, explains that “Reporters who’ve dealt with the notoriously prickly Miami-Dade School District … [learned] Carvalho and company can hardly abide critical stories [such as the recent] series of stories exploring problems with the school district’s alternative school for suspended students.”

Grimm and many other Miami citizens and taxpayers have found a lot to admire in Carvalho’s stewardship of the county’s public schools. That could change irrevocably if Carvalho persists in his Putin-like effort to annex WLRN.

Bryan Parker: By working together, Northwest Florida has chance for brighter future

One region, one voice. One united goal.

When millions of gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico in the country’s worst environmental disaster, Northwest Florida was devastated. It was an overwhelming punch to the gut for the people and economy of our region.

Now, seven years later, that heartbreak can be replaced by opportunity. It’s up to us to work together, as a unified region, to make sure it becomes a reality.

A $300 million payment from BP, a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, is a first step to help Northwest Florida recover and rebuild stronger than ever. We are all grateful that Florida’s legislative leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to steer the promised funds to our region this year – but we also know that nothing is truly done until the ink is dry.

There is much work ahead to secure these initial funds for Northwest Florida and the remaining $1.2 billion in the future, and to guarantee that decisions related to how the money is allocated are made by Northwest Floridians. We all believe that Northwest Florida is most successful when it has the authority to determine its own economic future.

Northwest Florida economic development advocates have long known that the entire region benefits most from working together – one region, one voice – to attract more jobs, training and business opportunities. Whether it’s launching a job-training program at a local college, winning a federal grant or drawing an entire industry to the area, those unified efforts create positive impacts that ripple across all of Florida.

The anchors of the Northwest Florida economy historically have been tourism and the military, but this new money will help our region build beyond our traditional economic engines to create a more diverse economy and job base. Tens of thousands of area residents will see their lives, and their communities, transformed.

Florida’s Great Northwest, the economic development organization representing the entire region, has worked with more than 860 of the region’s business, government and community leaders to develop a regional strategy that identifies the most promising opportunities for transformative economic growth in the region. Our hope is that the regional strategy will serve as the framework for prioritizing projects and allocating resources across the region.

Our wonderful corner of Florida is blessed with so many natural jewels, from our incomparable beaches and emerald-green water to spectacular rivers and forests. Add the hard-working spirit of our residents and the incredible talent and technology associated with our many military installations and private sector businesses, and you have a recipe for economic vitality and prosperity.

The BP money gives us the means to diversify and develop hubs of business and industry; train a modern workforce that will attract companies with higher wages and stable jobs; establish a state-of-the-art economic infrastructure that connects communities throughout our region; encourage innovative ideas to become reality; and build stronger communities.

Northwest Florida’s state lawmakers are working together on this, recognizing the importance of ensuring that this money goes to critical short-term and long-term efforts. Together, our region will use the funds as the impetus to create new and wide-ranging opportunities – ones that will make Northwest Florida appealing to a whole new generation of creative, talented and hard-working citizens.

Where tar balls once blotted our sugar-white beaches, wiping out jobs and our economy, we now have the opportunity to help boost education and training, business competitiveness, infrastructure, innovation and placemaking strategies that will benefit everyone.

We’re all in this together. Unified, we can ensure a much brighter picture for Northwest Florida.


Bryan Parker is Economic Development Representative for PowerSouth Energy, where he directs the company’s economic and community development initiatives in Northwest Florida. He is a member of the Executive Board of Florida’s Great Northwest and serves as chairman of the organization’s Advocacy Committee.


Legislating free speech? Toughen up, buttercup

Of the many wonderful things the late University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt said and did in her life, perhaps none echoes with more relevance today than these simple words: Toughen up, buttercup.

Sally Jenkins, the terrific Washington Post columnist, reported that’s how Summitt dealt with an assistant coach who was upset almost to the point of tears over what must have been a relatively minor team problem.

It was good advice. People on either side of the political equation should listen, especially given the debate bubbling up about the First Amendment right of free speech.

As Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com reported Thursday, the Florida House Subcommittee on Post-Secondary Education pondered on proposed legislation called the Campus Free Speech Act. Stanley Kurtz, a conservative academic, told lawmakers the measure would defend the right for people to speak their minds at the state’s universities.

It would require universities to create policy that reminds students that free speech is vital to the nation.

Well, OK so far.

It also would prohibit administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, if people on campus want to hear from them.

The slope is getting a little slippery, but go on …

It would subject students or anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others to official discipline.

Getting very slippery …

It would allow people who believe their free-speech rights were hindered by the university to recover court costs and attorney’s fees.

Getting a little out of control …

Conservatives have complained for decades that college campuses are liberal “safe spaces” where political correctness is the understood rule and dissent is not tolerated. I’ll concede that there have been many cases where seemingly innocent remarks have exploded into firestorms.

Take the case of former Yale University lecturer Erika Christakis, who resigned under immense pressure after having the audacity to challenge an edict by the school administration that set guidelines for Halloween costumes. Students were prohibited from choosing a costume that could be considered racially or sexually insensitive.

Christakis’ high crime?

She wrote this: “What happens when one person’s offense is another person’s pride? Should a costume wearer’s intent or context matter? Can we always tell the difference between a mocking costume and one that satirizes ignorance? In what circumstances should we allow — or punish — youthful transgression?”

The backlash from students and faculty was furious, almost mob-like. That a grand bit of irony since the university’s demand for tolerance turned into intolerance for anyone who strayed an inch outside of the lines.

I know what Pat Summitt would have told the protestors.

Students everywhere should learn that lesson because – listen closely now – when they get into the real world, not everyone will agree with them. Not everything they hear and see will reaffirm their values. They will be told “no” when the answer they expect to hear is “yes.”

Their ears will be assaulted by cretins like Milo Yiannopoulos, the creepy former Breitbart wingnut whose recent speaking engagement at Cal-Berkeley was canceled but not before rioters protesting his appearance caused thousands of dollars in damage.

Protest: good.

Riot: bad.

Protesting is a form of free speech, too. Kurtz’s proposal would limit that by punishing people who try to shout down a speaker with whom they disagree. If that’s the case, what would have happened to Joe Wilson, the South Carolina congressman who yelled “You lie” at President Obama during a 2009 speech about health care?

We don’t need another law to protect free speech. The First Amendment has that covered. It wouldn’t hurt for universities to remind students and faculty that dissent must be tolerated and conflicting opinions should be openly and civilly discussed.

If it strays over the line into personal attacks about a person’s lifestyle, religion or looks, punishment is appropriate.

Otherwise, heed Pat Summit’s advice.

Life is a contact sport.

Patrick La Pine: Make 2017 the year for depository choice

As private citizens, most of us are trying to make the best financial decisions for our family, which starts with where we bank and who we trust with our money.  And, it stands to reason that, as taxpayers, we would want our local government entities to do the same.

Yet, Florida law does not allow for credit unions to accept deposits from local government entities and, instead, only allows for local governments to bank with commercial, for-profit banks. This means school boards, universities and colleges and local governments, to name a few, cannot take advantage of, and bank at, their local credit unions.

While it seems like common sense that our local government entities should have the same freedom we do as private citizens to bank where our needs will be best met, year after year the banking lobby protects the interest of banks and their shareholders, and blocks all attempts to grant public offices and municipalities depository choice. As the 2017 Legislative Session quickly approaches, we urge lawmakers to allow municipalities and public offices the freedom to bank where they want.

Credit unions return all of their profits back to their members, and in turn, the community. Credit unions are also 100 percent member-owned, whereas banks are usually shareholder-owned, management and board driven, for-profit establishments that transfer their earnings back to shareholders.

As current law only permits commercial, for-profit banks to receive deposit requests from local government entities, credit unions are forced to turn them down, limiting municipalities from seeking more competitive return rates for their investments with financial institutions. Credit unions are not asking for special treatment when it comes to the public funds market, rather the opportunity to provide depository choice for such entities, which many can provide lower rates and bigger savings to, and would allow universities, local governments and school boards, to keep their funds within local communities.

While opponents may argue that credit unions should not serve local governments because “they do not pay taxes,” this is simply a self-serving and disingenuous argument. It is strictly a claim so that for-profit banks may maintain their monopoly to conduct business with municipalities and public offices, and keep credit unions — accessible, competent and deserving institutions — from widening the marketplace and spurring competition for public deposits.

Because their mission is to serve the community and their not-for-profit structure, credit unions are exempt from paying federal income taxes. However, credit unions pay tangible personal property taxes and property taxes, and as employers, pay all employment taxes, as would any other bank. Credit unions essentially pay the same taxes as a Sub S corporation, of which there are currently 29 in Florida — 20 of which are qualified public depositories.

Just as many Florida’s families are under economic pressure, so too are our local government entities and it’s imperative that they are granted freedom in banking, in order to make the best financial decisions for their respective entity and maximize their returns.

Let’s make this the year fairness prevails for depository choice. This legislation is good for the community, as well as those public entities that could achieve financial savings from this move.


Patrick La Pine is president and CEO of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates.

Rick Scott’s newest title – lame duck

Gov. Rick Scott has added a new title to his resume in the last few weeks – lame duck.

Sure, he officially retains the job of Florida governor until a successor takes over in 2019, but for all intents, it appears a majority of state House members aren’t waiting until then to stop listening to him.

The House Appropriations Committee euphemistically threw a pie in the governor’s face Tuesday by voting to eliminate Enterprise Florida and eviscerate Visit Florida, the state agency that markets the glory of the Sunshine State to people in the cold, frozen north.

This happened despite perhaps the most aggressive public pitch by Scott in his six years as governor to preserve both entities. It was a stinging rebuke by his own party, and what we can conclude is that it almost certainly is the shape of things to come.

Scott went down swinging.

“(Tuesday’s) vote by politicians in the Florida House is a job killer. I know some politicians who have voted for this job killing bill say they don’t necessarily want to abolish these programs but instead want to advance a ‘conversation.’ This is completely hypocritical and the kind of games I came to Tallahassee to change,” Scott said in a statement that wound up in my mailbox and no doubt hundreds of others.

“Perhaps if these politicians would listen to their constituents, instead of playing politics, they would understand how hurtful this legislation will be to Florida families.”

That’s feisty talk, but the truth is undeniable. The governor has been powerless though in the face of opposition by House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes.

Corcoran sees both programs as revenue-sucking wastes of taxpayer money. He has called Enterprise Florida and its job-creation incentives “corporate welfare” and basically a colossal failure.

All Scott has been able to do is complain. He has been unable to summon the political clout to combat this insurgency within his own party, so what does that tell you?

Well, a couple of things.

Most important for the moment is that it says House Republicans have tuned out their Republican governor on an issue he cares passionately about. Once that happens, the disconnect only gets worse.

It also further stamps Corcoran as a legitimate contender to succeed Scott in the governor’s mansion, if future political ambitions take him in that direction. That makes the relative silence lately by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam even more interesting. Putnam is widely considered to be the likely Republican nominee for governor next time around.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t expect Corcoran to give an inch going forward. When it comes to issues like these, compromise doesn’t seem to be in his playbook.

That’s not good news for Rick Scott after all the effort he has put in to save these programs, but as a lame duck, there’s not much he can do about it.

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