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Summary of recent Florida newspaper editorials


Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

April 14

Miami Herald on Cuba's removal from terror list:

As politically unpalatable as it may seem, the Obama administration's decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism is an inevitable bow to reality. Cuba remains a repressive, one-party police state, but it no longer exports subversion throughout the hemisphere as it did when the Reagan administration placed it on the list in 1982. At the time, Cuba was actively engaged in supporting the FARC guerrilla movement in Colombia, among other terrorist groups. That's what got it onto the list in the first place.

Today, as the State Department's own website acknowledges, Cuba is brokering a peace agreement between the leftist group and the Colombian government. It is no longer the hemisphere's beacon of revolution, in large part because the Cuban model long ago lost its allure for all but the most naive believers in Marxism.

Crossing Cuba off the list should not be deemed a reward but an acknowledgment of the change in behavior. Indeed, changed behavior was cited by the Bush administration in 2006 when it took Libya off the list after it ended a program to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The administration's critics are dismayed to see it giving away every bargaining chip and getting nothing in return, but it was proving to be a hindrance more than a help in the process of normalization.

Removing Cuba from the list lifts some financial sanctions on the island and thus gives U.S. banks confidence that they aren't violating U.S. law if they facilitate monetary transactions for their customers. It also helps bring Cuba back into the international financial system, which could help empower the private sector by increasing investment on the island and loans to small businesses.

Congress now has 45 days to act if it wants to reject the removal, but that would obviously meet with President Obama's veto, even if it could win approval in the Senate, turning it into another unproductive political melodrama. Better to just skip it.



April 14

Tampa (Florida) Tribune on rejecting plan to allow bear hunt:

At its meeting Wednesday in Tallahassee the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is expected to vote on a misguided plan to legalize bear hunts in Florida.

Commissioners should reject the idea in favor of adopting more reasonable tactics for reducing the number of human-bear encounters, which is increasing as growth encroaches on bear habitat.

Those tactics include tougher penalties for feeding bears and requirements that residents who live near bear habitat purchase bear-proof trash cans.

Under different circumstances we might agree with opening the state to bear hunts. But the black bear population, on the threatened species list just three years ago, hasn't grown nearly enough, and the plan being considered would do little to reduce the rising number of human-bear encounters being used to justify the hunts.

Allowing hunters to kill bears in remote areas — where they pose no threat — won't reduce the bear population that threatens humans living in subdivisions, where most of the complaints originate.

Legalizing the hunt is opposed by conservation groups and was discouraged by the commission's own biologists.

Despite that, the agency voted in February to move ahead with a proposal to open the state to bear hunts, and to hold a final vote on the proposal Wednesday.

If approved, bears may be hunted as soon as October.

The rationale for allowing the hunts can be traced to a remarkable rebound in the bears' numbers and the subsequent increase in human-bear encounters. There were fewer than 500 black bears 30 years ago. Today, there may be more than 3,000, mostly in seven areas of the state.

Each of the past three years has brought 6,000 complaints about bears. But attacks remain rare, and most of the encounters are a result of humans feeding the animals or failing to secure trash cans on their property.

The state biologists say the black bear population could sustain a 20 percent annual mortality rate, but the current population estimates won't be available until next year. So how can it be known how many bears could be killed by hunters without disrupting the progress in their population growth?

It may be appropriate for bear hunts to eventually be revived in select areas where their numbers are strong. But the commission is undermining its credibility by rushing the decision before it has all the facts.

In the past 40 years, only 16 people have been injured by bears, and nearly half of those people initiated the contact.

The commission needs to address the growing number of bear-human encounters, but not with a hunt in woods far from subdivisions and populated by bears that pose no threat.


April 12

News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida, on hospital funding in jeopardy:

The Florida Senate has proposed a plan to ensure that the state does not lose out on more than $1 billion in federal funding for hospitals that provide health care to low-income patients.

The House strategy is to fold its arms and hold its breath until it turns blue. It has steadfastly refused to consider the Senate plan, draw up an alternative or even to budget for contingency funding from the state.

Simply saying "no" is not a solution.

Florida's $2.2 billion Low-Income Pool, which helps hospitals and other health care providers across the state pay for the care of uninsured or underinsured patients, stands to lose $1.3 billion in federal funding in June, in large part because the state has refused to expand eligibility for Medicaid.

Losing LIP money would be a huge blow to Volusia and Flagler counties. Halifax Health, which provides about $50 million in uncompensated care and community health programs annually, would lose $14 million in LIP funds. Bert Fish Medical Center in New Smyrna Beach would forfeit about $2 million; Florida Hospital, which is seeking a merger with Bert Fish, says it would be denied between $90 million and $100 million for its hospitals around the state.

Many Republican state lawmakers, in Florida and across the nation, have resisted expanding Medicaid as part of their overall opposition for Obamacare — 22 states have yet to accept the federal government's offer to pay 100 percent of the expanded program's costs for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter. They cite Medicaid's poor track record on health care (an Oregon study in 2013 found the program "generated no significant improvement in measured physical health outcomes"), as well as costs and enrollment far exceeding original projections. They also are skeptical Uncle Sam, already deeply in debt, will keep funding promises down the road.

The Florida Senate is attempting a third way between doing nothing and a straight expansion, by putting a free-market twist on Medicaid. Its "Medicaid Sustainability Plan" would accept the federal money but use it to create the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange. FHIX would provide private-policy health coverage for the 800,000 Floridians not already covered by Medicaid and who earn less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

The Senate plan would require able-bodied recipients to work, take part in job training or attend school. FHIX also would end if Washington fails to abide by its obligations, so the state won't be left holding the bag.

The Senate proposal would ensure LIP funding continues (although the money would be distributed by a different formula), thus avoiding a fiscal crisis with hospitals that could harm the state's economy. The House, though, insists FHIX is Medicaid in sheep's clothing and won't touch it.

Fine. The proper response would be to come up with a different plan that solves the LIP dilemma — not stick your head in the sand, as many House lawmakers are doing. Their strategy seems to be to blame the Obama administration when LIP funds are cut, and then perhaps call a special session of the Legislature to figure out how to patch that billion-dollar hole. That would require cuts to other state programs and/or a repeal of many of the tax cuts the Legislature and Gov. Scott are on track to pass.

Speaking of the governor, last week Scott announced he was no longer in favor of expanding Medicaid. Although his previous support for the idea was tepid at best, his statement solidified the House position. That should not relieve him of the responsibility to work with both chambers to find a solution. He cannot sit on the sidelines.

Stop playing chicken with Washington on health funding.


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