- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:


June 23

Nancy Pelosi's hostage video
Cameron Walters, fresh from boot camp, one of 3 killed at Naval Air Station Pensacola
Republicans question Democrats' resolve as public turns against impeachment

The Miami Herald on reunifying children who were separated from parents who crossed the Southern border illegally:

Boldly - and blindly - heaping travesty upon tragedy, the Trump administration has no solid plan to reunite 2,300 children with their parents who crossed the Southern border illegally.

They’re working on it, but so far, the process is beyond flawed. Planning went into the misguided decision to separate kids from their migrant parents on such a grand scale. Detention centers, like the one in Homestead, in south Miami-Dade County, were ready to receive kids before the separation policy was announced last month. But the plan to reunite parents and children caught agencies charged with carrying it out unawares.

According to pbs.org, federal officials have set up hotlines and an email address for jailed parents and their relatives to find crucial information. And in Texas, for instance, lawyers and other advocates are going to courthouses and quickly scribbling down the names of their adult handcuffed clients, their children and any other pertinent information before the parents head into a hearing.

Names get misspelled sometimes, phone numbers, if known, transposed. And if a child has been transferred out of a government shelter and into a foster home in another state - Florida among them - the path to reunification becomes even rockier.

Despite good intentions, there can be no makeshift solutions. The administration should not put the onus on jailed migrants, flummoxed relatives or advocates to connect the dots between parents and their children.

Government created this unholy mess. Government needs to clean it up quickly. There are, incredibly, even newborn infants in local shelters.

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Migrants, mostly from Central America, who did not cross the border seeking asylum at designated checkpoints would be criminally prosecuted. Parents were taken to jail. Their children were shipped off to detention centers. After six weeks of public outrage, the damaging optics of tearful children and distraught parents and pushback from his own party, President Trump relented. On Wednesday, he signed an executive order rescinding the separation policy.

But so much damage had already been done.

Friday, the Department of Homeland Security said that 500 children had rejoined their parents. Other federal agencies are working to establish a centralized reunification center at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Texas.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, one of several federal lawmakers who toured the Homestead facility on Saturday, told the Editorial Board that separated parents and their children are given the same “alien number.” Matching them should expedite reunifications. However, the kids and parents are in separate databases.

“When they do the intake of the data at the border, the children are registered under Health and Human Services. The parents, because they are classified as breaking the law, are registered under the Department of Homeland Security,” Wilson said. “There are two separate databases that have never merged.”

Obviously, getting these two systems in sync will be of immeasurable help in determining the locations of mothers, fathers and children. It’s imperative that it be done.

As disquieting as the separations were, the administration now insists on continuing its punitive plan to detain families in likely untenable conditions in tents erected on military bases and the like.

Previous administrations, too, separated families, though not on this scale. Under President Obama, derisively named the Deporter-in-Chief, the administration actively put out advisories in Mexico and Central American countries that it would be unwise for people to make the dangerous trek north; it allowed those who had arrived illegally to be released to relatives while monitored with ankle bracelets.

Almost 100 percent had the integrity to show up for their court hearings.

As with all other issues, it seems, Trump must do his predecessor one better. In the case of the Central American migrants, however, his administration has made the situation worse, much worse.

Online: https://www.miamiherald.com/


June 26

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune on a U.S. Supreme court ruling allowing states to collect sales tax from online retailers:

The U.S. Supreme Court has made an overdue break with precedent and set the stage for more fairness in the taxation of certain forms of electronic commerce.

In the case South Dakota vs. Wayfair Inc., argued in Washington, D.C., April 18 and decided June 21, a diverse majority of the court ruled 5-4 that companies need not have a “physical presence” in a state to be required to collect and submit that state’s sales and use taxes.

The ruling, which overturns a 1992 case (Quill Corp. v. North Dakota), sensibly recognizes the vast differences in relationships that have developed between sellers and buyers in the internet era.

The decision places brick-and-mortar stores on more competitive footing with e-commerce retailers, and recognizes that some state laws - including one in Florida - are illogical.

Here’s the history behind the decision involving Wayfair, an online furniture and decor store:

As internet-based companies began to expand market share, many states sought to ensure they were collecting sales taxes from where the products were shipped after purchase. States were joined in that effort by traditional retailers who were, and are, required to collect taxes at the point of purchase and remit them to the state; those retailers also pay state and local taxes on store property.

Clearly, these conditions were unfair and outdated, and deprived governments of revenue needed to pay for public safety, education and other necessities.

In 1992, North Dakota sued the online office-supply store Quill but was ultimately rebuffed by the Supreme Court, which argued that Quill had to have a physical presence - stores, offices, whatever - to be required to collect and remit the state’s sales tax.

The decision led to all sorts of odd circumstances, even though most states exempted online retailers with relatively low sales volume.

For instance, in Florida to this date, even big sellers without a physical presence in the Sunshine State don’t have to collect and remit the 6 percent sales tax: Some do voluntarily; some don’t.

Consider this: According to the Florida Department of Revenue: “If the selling dealer is not required to or fails to collect sales tax on the sale of taxable tangible personal property made via the Internet, and the merchandise is delivered to a customer located in Florida, the customer (purchaser) is required to pay use tax on the merchandise.”

In other words, the tax is in effect but reporting is based on the honor system, which isn’t exactly honored.

That is no way to run a state in the internet era.

Last week’s Supreme Court decision found that the Quill decision was “flawed on its own terms.” It noted that out-of-state online sellers have a significant presence in every state where merchandise is shipped. That presence is established through cable and wireless devices - a more direct connection than consumers have with traditional stores.

The Wayfair ruling makes it imperative for Florida to voluntarily join 23 states in the “Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement,” which will make it easier for companies to comply with what is, finally, the law of the land.

Online: http://www.heraldtribune.com/


June 26

The Jacksonville Florida Times-Union on health care issues:

The Veterans Administration has proved to be too large to be run effectively.

So Congress turned to competition in recent years, providing options for veterans to use vouchers in the private health care market.

In 2014, Congress created the VA Choice Program, which has allowed more than 1.7 million veterans to seek health services in the private sector.

In 2015, the VA began planning for competition with private-sector providers.

In a paper in The New England Journal of Medicine, David Shulkin - the former head of the VA - and physician Kyle Sheetz outline ways to advance quality.

First, there must be reliable data.

Second, community-based providers must be present as options for veterans.

Third, the VA must deal swiftly and efficiently with hospitals that are performing poorly.

Constantly comparing the VA to the private sector will allow veterans to have real choices - and it will keep VA officials accountable.

Repealing Obamacare

The headline in The Wall Street Journal announced, “Conservatives make new push to repeal Affordable Care Act.”

There was no mention of replacing Obamacare with something else; instead the act is being dismantled piece by piece.

This is a disservice to Americans who need affordable, quality health care - a need more pressing than ever in an era when part-time jobs and contractual services are growing.

There have been a variety of bipartisan plans offered in Congress to provide near-universal health care, but none have gone anywhere.

One conservative proposal would use federal block grants to the states to help consumers buy coverage; in addition, health savings accounts would be expanded.

Medicaid would be repealed and vouchers would be used to help people buy coverage.

The fact is Medicaid has such low reimbursement rates in some cases that it has been difficult to find providers.

Republicans like vouchers and health savings accounts, but the problem always comes with funding them at realistic and adequate levels.

End the drug gag order

How rigged has the game become when it comes to high prescription drug prices?

It has become so rigged that some pharmacists are banned from telling Medicare consumers they can save money by paying cash rather than using insurance.

Yes, if a consumer asks, the pharmacist is allowed to answer. But how is an uninformed consumer supposed to know they can ask in the first place?

According to Kaiser Health News, out of 9.5 million Medicare Part D prescriptions, the cash price was lower than the co-payment in 1 of 4 cases.

And patients have overpaid by more than 33 percent when purchasing 12 of the most commonly prescribed drugs.

The gag order goes against everything that makes America great, and it should be eliminated.

End roadblocks for generics

Another example of the rigged game of drug prices: generic drugmakers have been blocked from producing cheaper drugs because brand name companies stall in providing samples for testing.

The federal government logically requires generic drugmakers to prove that their products are functionally equivalent to the brand names.

But the Food and Drug Administration has listed 50 drugs whose brand manufacturers withheld or refused to provide samples.

This leads to two logical questions:

. Where’s the enforcement to make sure manufacturers provide samples?

. Why not start fining manufacturers for failing to meet reasonable deadlines?

Fighting opioid deaths

Deaths due to opioid overdoses could be dramatically reduced if antidotes were readily available.

One solution involves reducing the price of naloxone; the federal government has the authority to use a patented invention without permission of its patent holder so long as the government pays reasonable compensation.

This means the government could purchase generic versions of naloxone and distribute them to government agencies as a public health matter.

Based on the shocking surge of overdose deaths, this is a public health emergency that warrants federal action.

Online: http://www.jacksonville.com/

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