Florida editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Dec. 17

The Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat on health centers:

One of the greatest needs in this community is access to proper health care for those who are uninsured or underinsured, and who are likely to remain that way, even within the provisions included in the Affordable Care Act.

That’s a significant but very real situation that shouldn’t be lost in the political reaction that has surfaced recently between two of Tallahassee’s longstanding community-based health centers, the Bond Community Health Center and the Neighborhood Medical Center.

Between the two of them, the agencies have been in existence for nearly 70 years (Bond was founded in 1984, Neighborhood in 1975), started by volunteers and medical professionals, with both entities growing into full-fledged medical centers serving thousands of people in need.

They are two agencies with similar missions, and both receive hundreds of thousands of dollars through Leon County to offset the cost of providing indigent health care.

What’s at stake is the coveted federally qualified health center distinction granted by the Health Resources and Service Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers with that status are eligible to receive federal grant money, malpractice protection for physicians, access to legal counsel and opportunities for additional grants to expand medical outreach programs benefiting target areas.

Bond has been granted that certification for years, but its renewal application was recently rejected after it was deemed incomplete. This opened the door for new applicants to apply.

Realizing what this could mean for the community at large, Neighborhood Medical Center also is applying for the federally qualified health care center status.

What is important is that this community doesn’t end up losing the federal grant of about $2.1 million a year for three years, along with the additional perks that come from the federal partnership.

With the critical federal grant in jeopardy, this isn’t the time for political infighting and a lack of unity. Each agency should support the other’s application to ensure the grant is not lost.

Once they’ve passed that critical barrier, then both agencies, along with their medical partners and Leon County, must work on creating an efficient and effective collaboration that offers the broadest service possible and makes sure those in need of medical services receive it.




Dec. 21

Miami Herald on Sen. Rubio’s increasingly partisan political agenda disappoints:

It was disappointing to see Sen. Marco Rubio among the 36-member minority as the Senate approved a budget deal that could avert another government shutdown. Yet it wasn’t surprising: After coming under a hail of criticism from tea party hard-liners earlier this year for crafting a strong immigration-reform package, the Miami senator has taken a sharp turn to the right to regain conservative support.

This is doubly disappointing from a lawmaker who once declared that he ran for office because “I want to solve problems.” Congress’ inability to pass a budget up to now is a glaring symptom of the dysfunction that represents the biggest problem in Washington.

The deal was good enough to win the support of nine Republicans, including prominent conservatives like Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Arizona’s John McCain. They chose to put aside political gamesmanship, but Mr. Rubio seems to have other priorities.

The senator’s choice on this key vote adds to the impression that, halfway through his six-year term, his desire to be a problem solver is taking a back seat to his presidential aspirations.

That might explain the senator’s turnabout on immigration. He was one of the architects of the Senate’s comprehensive reform plan, explaining his position in a Wall Street Journal essay: “I ran for office because I want to solve problems, and America has a very serious immigration problem.”

Moderation didn’t sit well with his formerly adoring tea party supporters. Mr. Rubio backed away from his own plan in favor of a less-promising piecemeal approach that doesn’t include a path to citizenship. His spokesmen say this is only a bow to reality, but it left reform advocates crestfallen.

Later, Mr. Rubio embraced the failed effort to block funding of the new healthcare law, which led to the government shutdown. But that did not stop him from accepting a $10,000 federal subsidy that comes with the plan, although some fellow Republicans rejected it as a “special deal.”

As 2016 approaches, the presidential campaign will pick up speed. Given Sen. Rubio’s obvious political appeal, he should be a strong contender for his party’s nomination if he chooses to run, but his political calculus should not require support for an agenda that does not fit the needs of a large, diverse state like Florida.




Dec. 15

The Tampa Tribune on putting water on the front burner:

It’s too early to say whether the 2014 session of the Florida Legislature will be the “Year of Water,” but momentum is building in that direction.

And if correct policy decisions are made, the state will be in a stronger position to protect the environment, including Florida’s wondrous natural springs, strengthen the economy, and bolster agriculture.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam recently noted that the environmental “devastation” on both sides of the state caused by the release of high volumes of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee this year has created “momentum” among lawmakers to fund water resource projects and discuss water policy next session.

In addition, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who has been chosen by colleagues to succeed House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel after the 2014 session, has said that water issues will be a top priority during his two-year term overseeing the House.

Putting water on the front burner is essential to Florida’s future. Water shortages are common in the Tampa Bay area and other parts of the state, as are water use restrictions. And too often, piecemeal approaches are taken that fail to address the challenges the state has in meeting the water needs of the public, agricultural interests and businesses, especially in times of drought.

This new emphasis on water issues and the environment will greatly benefit Florida. Though surrounded by water, Florida has major water challenges. Comprehensive water policies that include all facets of water use are needed instead of the reactionary approach of the past



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