- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

May 2

The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on raising speed limits:

An unnecessary bill that would make our highways more dangerous has passed the Florida Senate and House and is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott, who can sign the bill into law or veto the measure.

We strongly urge Scott to veto the bill, which is opposed by law enforcement and safety organizations.

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, would allow the state to increase the speed limits on sections of Florida’s highways by 5 mph provided traffic engineers sign off on the increase. That means the limit could be raised to 75 mph on interstates, to 70 on divided highways and to 65 on rural highways.

We can find no good reason to raise the limits. Crash studies show injuries are more severe at higher speeds, and fuel studies show more gasoline is consumed at higher speeds.

Yet the measure passed comfortably in the Senate. It narrowly passed in the House, where some members warned of the dangers to motorists and law enforcement patrolling our highways.

Across the nation, injuries and deaths on interstates have increased since the repeal of the 55-mph speed limit 20 years ago, according to the American Journal of Public Health. In Iowa, deaths on rural roads increased 10 percent when the speed limit was raised from 65 mph to 70 mph.

The bill should be particularly troubling to seniors, who tend to drive within the limits to give them the needed reaction time. Drivers moving past them at faster speeds create a greater danger.

Scott should listen to law enforcement, consider the national statistics, follow common sense and veto this dangerous bill.




May 5

Miami Herald on John Boehner speaking his mind:

For an all-too-brief moment last week, it seemed that House Speaker John Boehner was finally fed up with his do-nothing Republican caucus and had decided to take the whole bunch to the woodshed.

Speaking to a hometown audience in Ohio recently, Boehner let his exasperation boil over, openly mocking lawmakers for their fear of voting on immigration legislation.

“Here is their attitude,” he told a Rotary Club luncheon: “Oooh, don’t make me do this. Oooh, this is too hard.”

He scolded fellow House members for failing to do their jobs. “We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems, and it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to.”

If Boehner sounded frustrated, it’s because he has much to be frustrated about. He has the dubious distinction of leading a House whose obstructionist stance has pushed Congress to compile one of the worst records of inaction in history.

The first session of the 113th Congress last year was considered the most unproductive ever, enacting only 60 public laws in the first 11 months, compared to the previous post-war low of 88 in 1995. At the time, Boehner explained it this way: “There’s not as much common ground as there used to be.”

Maybe that’s true, but it doesn’t mean the country has fewer problems than before. Nor does it entitle lawmakers to sit around idly, marking time on the public payroll while waiting for a risk-free environment to emerge. Legislating is not supposed to be easy, and legislators have to deal with issues that demand action, politically risky or not. After all, that’s their job - as Boehner pointed out.

But, alas, last Monday Congress returned to work (LOL) after another prolonged recess and suddenly Boehner appeared to lose his nerve. Back on Capitol Hill, it was business as usual, tough talk replaced by soothing reassurances that it was all just a joke.

During a closed door session with Republican lawmakers, Boehner said he was just kidding when he ridiculed their reluctance to act on immigration measures. Later, he told reporters, “You tease the ones you love, right?”

Apparently, the steel in the speaker’s spine turns to jelly the minute he steps inside the Beltway. The tough talk turns to mush when he has to face his caucus.

It’s up to leaders like Boehner to move the agenda, but apparently he was right about the mantra on Capitol Hill: Oooh, this is too hard.




May 4

Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat on government workers:

In his first inaugural address, President Reagan famously stated: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

People can argue about that concept all day.

But unfortunately, some - most notable among them being members of Florida’s Legislature - apparently have twisted that phrase to mean “government workers are the problem.”

In an attempt - especially during an election year - to appeal to voters who call for smaller government, the legislators once again have brushed off the very workers who implement their policies, who make sure our most vulnerable citizens are served, and who see to it that our children are educated, our roads are built and our natural resources are protected.

In other words, the state budget approved Friday by the Legislature again includes no raises for a vast majority of state workers.

It was in 2006 - back when Saddam Hussein was still alive and a young guy named Obama was serving his second year in the U.S. Senate - that state workers got their last across-the-board percentage raise. In 2011, they even suffered a significant pay cut, when they were required to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to the Florida Retirement System.

Last year broke the drought, with state workers who make $40,000 or more getting a $1,000 pay increase and those earning less than $40,000 getting a $1,400 boost.

Then this, year - nothing.

There was an understanding, when the world economy crashed and Florida’s legislators faced tough decisions to balance the budget, that state workers would share the pain. Year after year, they fell behind inflation, but legislators shrugged as if to say, “What can we do?”

This year, though, as the economy inched back and sales tax revenues increased, Florida’s legislators got to play with $1.2 billion extra as they assembled the $77 billion budget.

In his proposed budget, Gov. Scott included bonuses for state workers rated as “outstanding” or “commendable,” but you’d have to say he didn’t lobby especially hard for that one. In fact, while he lauded Florida’s hard-working citizens in his State of the State address to the Legislature, he didn’t even mention state workers.




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