You’ve heard it said that Republicans are all about freedom as long as they get to define what that is.
For instance, mandatory masks to fight a deadly pandemic infringes on a person’s freedom. But telling women what they can or can’t do with their bodies is okee-dokey.
With that in mind, it is not surprising that top Florida GOP leaders looked at the dangerous new Texas anti-abortion law and went, “Hey, gimme some of that!”
Abortion in Texas is now illegal if performed once a heartbeat is detected, usually about six weeks after fertilization. Most women don’t know they’re pregnant by then.
Emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to grant an injunction against the Texas law, Florida GOP lawmakers think they have a green light to pass something like that here.
Senate President Wilton Simpson told Evan Donovan of Tampa Bay’s WFLA News Channel 8 that the Legislature is “already working on it.”
“The Texas law represents a new approach, and the fact that the Supreme Court didn’t block it from taking effect is encouraging,” Simpson said in a statement.
“Abortion kills children and forever changes the life of the mother, the father, and the entire extended family. As an adoptive child myself, it’s important to me that we do everything we can to promote adoption and prevent abortion.”
We could write a whole library of books about this issue and still not cover it all. However, for purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on the part of the Texas law that basically unleashes vigilantes to stalk, harass, and take legal action in the name of preventing abortions.
The sinister nature of the Texas law is that it takes the issue out of the state government’s hands. It offers cash bounties of at least $10,000 for private citizens who bring successful lawsuits against women who seek an abortion after their sixth week of pregnancy.
It also gives carte blanche for the super-sleuths to sue anyone involved in the process. That could be the doctor, nurses, the Uber or taxi driver, or even a friend who held the woman’s hand as she walked into the clinic.
If she flies from Texas to California to have an abortion, can someone sue the airline she used and the plane’s pilot? If they drive out of state, can they sue the gas station where she filled up?
This could create a cottage industry for holier-than-thou types who become obsessed with threatening and harassing women.
Be careful what you wish for, Florida. Just because Texas is fanatical and stupid, you don’t have to play along. Find a better role model.
Now, it’s onto our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable mention — Florida’s school achievement: We know the dastardly virus wreaked havoc on schools last year, but it didn’t stop Florida teachers and students from getting the job done.
In its Quality Counts report, Education Week ranked Florida’s K-12 schools third in the nation for achievement.
It judges six areas: Achievement levels, achievement gains, poverty gap, achieving excellence, high school graduation, and advanced placement.
Among the highlights, Florida ranked second in graduation rate improvement, third in improvement for fourth grade math, and fourth in improvement for eighth grade reading.
“Florida continues to set the pace for the nation in education,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “We led the nation in reopening our schools last year, and our entire education community stepped up to make sure that every student received a quality education.
“In Florida, we will continue to make sure that every child has the opportunity to learn in school and get a great education.”
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — Urban Meyer: The head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars is in hot water with the NFL Players Association for making sense.
Meyer admitted that a player’s vaccination status against COVID-19 was “in consideration” about whether or not to cut the player.
“Everyone was considered,” Meyer said. “That was part of the (considerations such as) production, let’s start talking about this, and also is he vaccinated or not? Can I say that that was a decision-maker? It was certainly in consideration.”
George Atallah of the NFLPA told ESPN that Meyer’s statements “have led us to open an investigation.”
Investigate all you want, but the fact is this: If teams say that vaccination isn’t a factor in whether to keep or cut a player, they’re either lying or incompetent.
The NFL opens its season Thursday night when the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers host the Dallas Cowboys. After tap dancing through postponements and reschedulings throughout much of last season, the NFL got tough this year.
Teams unable to play because of a virus outbreak will forfeit that game instead of rescheduling.
With that in mind, it would be a dereliction of duty if coaches didn’t consider all factors while deciding a player’s status.
The NFL is all about the team, team, team. In this case, a player’s decision to put personal freedom over his teammates and coaches could jeopardize a team’s entire season.
Investigate all you want, NFLPA.
On this one, Urban Meyer is right.
The biggest winner — Tampa: No, we’re not talking about the Lightning or Buccaneers. This is bigger than that.
Forbes just named Tampa the top emerging tech city in the country.
“Tampa is responsible for over 25% of Florida’s tech jobs, and there has been a massive surge in tech jobs in recent years,” Forbes noted. “
That precisely was the goal former Mayor Bob Buckhorn pushed during his terms. After the Great Recession struck in 2008, the city staked its comeback on creating and attracting high-paying tech jobs that could compete with Austin and Charlotte for young talent.
Miami is No. 2 on the Forbes list.
Dishonorable mention — Orlando Police Department: The OPD was the subject of a scathing report recently.
The independent Bowman Group found many problems after a nine-month investigation. Its 207-page report, which cost the city $800,000, found “evidence of racial bias in OPD’s arrest practices.”
There also are issues of excessive force.
The Orlando Sentinel noted that one incident involved an officer directing a police dog to bite a homeless man sleeping under a vehicle at a fenced auto repair shop.
If only someone had shined a light on these practices earlier …. oh, wait. The Sentinel did just that.
Columnist Scott Maxwell noted the newspaper raised these issues six years ago. The city’s response was to fight, even hiring an attorney at $880 an hour to try and block the Sentinel from publishing its findings.
It didn’t work, and the practices of excessive force continued until the summer of 2020. The city hired the Bowman group in response to strong law enforcement criticism during protests over George Floyd’s murder.
Some good came out of the Bowman report, though.
The department promised to tighten procedures for using force and do a better job of collecting and organizing data on arrests. It also will purchase 900 new cameras, which automatically begin recording when officers pull a weapon.
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Vaccination requirements: The state continues to push an absurd position on Florida businesses.
The Times/Herald reported that starting on Sept. 16, requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination can draw a $5,000 fine. DeSantis, as we know, has an aversion to anything that smacks of coercion in the name of COVID-19 prevention.
Never mind that many businesses already require proof of vaccination for employees and customers. DeSantis argues — paraphrasing here — that a person’s right to walk into your establishment and spread a deadly virus trumps the owner’s ability to protect employees and other customers.
The Times/Herald noted the Live Nation concert promoter announced that beginning Oct. 4, customers must either show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Apparently, that’s OK.
Meanwhile, the administration resumed its attack on school mask mandates. It appealed the ruling by Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper that the state overstepped its authority in banning school mask mandates.
By appealing, Cooper’s order automatically stays while the next step in the legal process plays out.
Meanwhile, there was a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases among Florida students. State figures show a 23% jump from Aug. 9 to Aug. 26.
The biggest loser — Gulf and Taylor County schools: The two North Florida districts shut down last week because of COVID-19.
“COVID has impacted our community in unexpected ways,” Taylor Superintendent Danny Glover wrote on Facebook. “While we at Taylor County Schools have been able to provide safe school environments for your students during this time, we have also encountered challenging daily operating procedures.”
They plan to reopen Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend.
Glover said the district’s schools underwent cleaning during the break. Even more than that, though, is the human element.
“Staff is exhausted,” he told a USA Today-Florida reporter. “Meanwhile, those kids that are out are getting further and further behind.”
It’s the same story at Gulf, which has a 20% quarantine level.
Gulf Schools Superintendent Jim Norton noted that increasing virus rates disrupt the entire school operation. That includes support staff, food service workers, and bus drivers. He said that meant “we couldn’t effectively carry out our duties.”
“I realize school closures cause an inconvenience to some, and for that, I apologize,” Norton said in a letter to the public. “However, I truly feel it is necessary in order to build a stopgap measure that will prevent the virus from spreading more widely.”
Neither school district requires masks for students and staff.