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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Opinions across Florida: Beaches, opioids and secret meetings

Beach erosion continues in Florida.

SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times

Beach erosion continues in Florida.

Here's a rundown of commentary from across the Sunshine State.

With all the attention that Visit Florida got this year, it can be easy to forget that one of the most important tourism expenses for the state is its beaches.

Amplyifying the work done by the Naples Daily News' terrific Shrinking Shores series, the news outlet's editorial board wrote how the Legislature did addressing beaches this year. (Short answer: Not very well).

The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott notably reached agreement to spend $50 million in the $83 billion 2017-18 state budget for beach projects, compared with $32 million this year. Yet that dollar amount isn’t enough to substantially address the extreme coastal erosion problem identified by the Naples Daily News in its "Shrinking Shores” series.

Half of Florida’s 800-plus miles of coastline is critically eroded. Given the multimillion-dollar cost of restoring even a short stretch of beach, the sands of responsibility must shift further toward local government to get the job done. Otherwise, unfinished projects will pile up higher than sand dunes.

Understandably, the state needs a formula to determine how to distribute the modest dollars Florida’s budget contributes to counties and cities that compete for inadequate money for beach projects.

We also understand why the state wants to determine what types of uses qualify for expenditure of money raised through the local tourist tax, charged to visitors staying in hotel rooms and short-term rentals.

However, the state’s tourist tax formula micromanages in a silly shell game. It breaks down how each penny of bed tax can be spent.

If local governments are willing to shoulder a heavier burden to bolster beaches as a top priority – as Collier County is doing – the state shouldn’t tie elected leaders’ hands as it now does.

Read the Naples Daily News editorial here.

Almost every week now, another editorial board in Florida pens an urgent call to arms over a local opioid epidemic. On Friday, it was the Jacksonville Times-Union, warning that fentanyl, "an opioid more powerful than heroin," is becoming one of the milder drugs available on the street. Get ready for carfentanil.

The caregiving system is overwhelmed.

From emergency responders to hospitals to drug rehabilitation centers to the medical examiner, all are feeling intense pressure from this crisis.

For all its lethality, fentanyl isn’t nearly as powerful as its cousin known as carfentanil. Quite literally, carfentanil is manufactured as an elephant sedative.

It’s 100,000 times more powerful than fentanyl.

And it’s been seen here.

Read the Times-Union editorial here.

It can be tough writing about the Constitution Revision Commission, the 37-member state panel that meets every 20 years to approve ballot measures that would change the state constitution. It's important, sure. But it can be technical, and complex, and drawn out.

The Sun-Sentinel cuts through much of that nicely here, cogently pointing out some fundamental flaws in how this CRC is conducting its affairs. Namely, they still don't have rules yet.

You read that right. The commission has been meeting since March without knowing how it will decide which state constitutional amendments to put before voters in November 2018.

Here's another nugget of common sense:

(A) draft proposal would let two commissioners discuss proposed amendments behind closed doors. They'd only have to let the public know if a third member joined them.

This is a terrible idea, one that violates the spirit of the Sunshine Law, which forbids two members of a public body from secretly discussing matters on which they will vote. It could create games of telephone tag — or daisy chain decision-making — where members privately twist arms one at a time. If members believe something they hear in private might be essential in influencing their vote, the public deserves to hear the information, too.

On a related point, the draft rules state, "All records of the commission shall be accessible to the public unless otherwise exempted by law." The letter correctly asks for the definition of "accessible." Records should be open to the public. Period.

Read the Sun-Sentinel editorial here.


[Last modified: Friday, May 19, 2017 11:12am]


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