- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

June 22

Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on preserving state’s great outdoors:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is wise to seek property owners’ help in pursuing land conservation.

After a recessionary lull, the state’s population growth is returning to full throttle, making it critical to preserve valuable natural areas.

And that won’t happen without the help of private property owners.

Commission staff has identified about 19 million acres of significant wildlife habitat on privately owned lands.

By collaborating with landowners, the state could develop strategies to preserve habitat without threatening the landowners.

Nobody understands the land like those who make their living from it.

And conservation can offer financial benefits. Hunters, for instance, routinely lease the hunting rights to ranch land. Some landowners capitalize on the increasing popularity of “ecotourism,” where people visit areas to canoe, bird watch, hike, camp or otherwise enjoy nature.

Important to the state’s natural assets is the adoption of the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative (Amendment 1) in November.

It would not increase taxes, but would dedicate 33 percent of documentary stamp tax revenue to land preservation. This was roughly the traditional amount spent on saving valuable environmental lands under the Florida Forever program until state lawmakers virtually abandoned the effort in recent years.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s approach to preserving the great Florida outdoors - and its recreational opportunities - is correct. Work with landowners - don’t make enemies of them.




July 1

News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida, on cellphone privacy:

The Supreme Court last week ushered privacy rights into the 21st century.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that police can’t search the digital information on cellphones they seize from people they arrest unless they first obtain a warrant. Although the justices allowed for some exceptions, they made the key point that modern smartphones aren’t just two-way communication devices akin to traditional land-line phones. They also store, on board and in computing “clouds,” such vast amounts of personal data that a search by authorities would be akin to rifling through personal filing cabinets in a home or business - police activities that normally require warrants.

That all nine justices agreed on this sweeping principle, over the objections of the federal government, is a reassuring affirmation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures - particularly in an age when the ubiquity of digital personal media has weakened barriers to privacy.

Writing the court’s unanimous opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged that arrestees have diminished rights to privacy, and that court precedents allow searches of such personal items as a zipper bag or a cigarette pack carried inside a pocket. Yet Roberts mocked the Obama administration’s argument that the data stored on a cellphone is “materially indistinguishable” from searches of other physical items.

“That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon,” Roberts wrote.

Clearly, he continued, cellphones differ in a “quantitative and qualitative sense” from an arrestee’s other possessions. Not only do they function as cameras and video players, Rolodexes, calendars, diaries and other media, but they also store vast amounts of data. A search of such varied information without probable cause is a much broader violation of privacy than patting down a suspect or checking a bag. It can reveal who a person has associated with, where he has been and where he might be traveling, as well as his finances and commercial transactions.

If authorities have probable cause to access someone’s cellphone, they can get a warrant. An arrest should not be license to go on a fishing expedition of any and all data.

Still, the court gave police some wiggle room. They can search cellphones without a warrant in specific situations where officers have reasonable fear about their safety or the lives of others, such as a kidnapped child or the ever-popular “ticking time bomb” scenario. Those situations are and should remain rare.

The court did well to stake out protections in a modern world.




June 29

Miami Herald on banking on U.S. Export-Import Bank :

Given the multitude of problems facing the United States, it’s appalling to see prominent members of Congress focusing on the U.S. Export-Import Bank as a target of opportunity. Why has a useful government agency that works exactly as intended suddenly become a political football?

Relatively few Americans have heard of the Ex-Im Bank, or its purpose, but ever since its creation under Franklin Roosevelt, the agency has been a critical force behind the success of American businesses competing in overseas markets.

Its role is twofold. It provides export credit insurance so that U.S. companies selling made-in-America goods abroad have protection against the risks of doing business overseas. And it provides financing for foreign buyers purchasing American-made goods. For obvious reasons, this is not a role that private banks are eager to play. The risks are deemed too great for a private institution, whereas a government agency has the clout and the means to act overseas.

Its services are not free. The agency charges fees and interest, like any other bank - and regularly produces an annual profit. Last year, it helped reduce the U.S. deficit by $1 billion.

So why in the world would incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other like-minded Republicans zero in on the Ex-Im Bank for extinction? The short answer is that they see it as an enabler of “crony capitalism,” helping big businesses like Boeing, Caterpillar and GE that should not have to rely on the full faith and credit of the U.S. government to make a profit.

That, at best, is a weak argument.

Then, too, there is the argument that the Ex-Im Bank does not so much create jobs as help to allocate them, that it chooses “winners and losers” in deciding where to lend assistance.

Tell that to the more than 200,000-plus American workers who owed their jobs to bank-supported exports in the last fiscal year - many of them in Florida. This state is home to 58,000 exporters, according to the Ex-Im Bank, the second-highest number in the country.

In short, the bank promotes American business, protects jobs, enables U.S.-made goods to compete overseas - and makes a profit for taxpayers in the process. Congress has a problem with that?

The agency’s charter expires on Sept. 30. Destroying the Ex-Im Bank would amount to a form of unilateral disarmament in the contest over international trade. Surely lawmakers can stop their incessant feuding and ideological warfare long enough to renew its authority to stay in business before any American jobs are lost.



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