Florida editorial roundup

Oct. 30, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Oct. 26

Tallahassee Democrat on sales tax extension:

By now, we have listened to debates in helping to determine our choices for president, Congress, local commissions, school superintendent and a host of other elected offices.

But for this community, the ballot contains a very important item that, if you think about it, shouldn't be the subject of much debate. This item can be found at the bottom of the ballot, and it asks your opinion on extending the half-cent sales tax that benefits Leon County's public schools.

This is one of the most important decisions Leon County voters will make about this community's future, and it's why we are endorsing the sales-tax extension. We urge you to vote "yes."

We also urge you to make this the first item you vote on. It's buried below 11 proposed constitutional amendments, and you don't want to miss the chance to help our schools.

Yes, this is a tax, but it is an expenditure and commitment that is necessary to enhance Leon County Schools. ...

By approving the ballot measure (Referendum Regarding Levy of Sales Surtax By School Board to Finance Educational Facilities), local voters will be making a 15-year commitment to better this community on several levels.

It will help the School Board in going ahead with physical improvements to buildings on campuses and the construction of new buildings. It will enhance the learning environment, which is something we owe all children, and it will provide jobs by employing contractors, subcontractors and vendors. It's a bricks-and-mortar commitment that reaches far beyond aesthetics. ...

Today, more than ever, there are important needs for everything from air conditioning units to new paint to new buildings, as well as increased demands for technology in the classrooms.

The Leon County School District has enjoyed a strong reputation among the state's 67 districts for its academic performance. Its teachers and support staffs are among the best in the state. That success comes from focus and dedication to learning, strong leadership and strong community support. This includes your co-workers who volunteer in reading labs, personal or business-related in-kind contributions and a willingness to support a half-cent sales tax in the past.

This community cannot afford to say no to approving the half-cent sales extension for another 15 years.




Oct. 29

The News Herald, Panama City, Fla., on the cost of college:

There's more potentially bad news coming for college students, future college students and beleaguered parents of the students.

Tuition in Florida may be going up, for a variety of reasons. Tuition may be going up just because the student is majoring in a certain subject, or attending the University of Florida over a smaller state school.

Oh, and this doesn't count the continuing trend of higher college costs across the country. Tuition inflation is running at about an annual rate of 4 percent for both public and private colleges, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. ...

Florida's state colleges and universities are under pressure from state lawmakers.

The Legislature looks at the state colleges and sees a way to help balance the budget.

By expecting the universities to charge more for tuition, the Legislature can save money in its general budget.

But there have been limits set on that. Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year vetoed a bill that would have let UF and Florida State University go beyond a 15 percent cap on annual tuition increases.

Fortunately, Florida has some of the lowest college tuition rates at public schools in the nation. The average annual tuition at state universities is $5,600 compared to a national average of $8,200 at four-year universities. Florida's public colleges are thus a tempting target for the Legislature.

Earlier this year, the trustees of UF endorsed a 9 percent tuition increase. ...

Lost in all this news about college tuition and Florida's public university system is that parents are still struggling to get their kids into and through college. ...

The state needs to work on making college more affordable instead of encouraging a new price spiral.




Oct. 25

The Miami Herald on early voting:

The 2012 ballot that South Floridians will face at the polls on Nov. 6 is a long one. The lines of people waiting to cast a vote, no doubt, will seem interminable. But voters need to hang in there...

Democracy isn't always convenient, but voters have a chance to avoid the long Election Day lines. There is still time to request an absentee ballot. Voters can call or email their elections department or go in person. The last day to make a request is Oct. 31. The elections departments must receive filled-in ballots by 7 p.m. Nov. 6 - not postmarked, but in hand.

The other opportunity to get voting out of the way is to do it early, in person. Early-voting runs through Saturday, Nov. 3.

The Miami-Dade County Department of Elections hit the ground running early. It posted the sample ballot weeks earlier than did the Broward elections department, which only put up a sample ballot on its website in mid-October, way too late. Miami-Dade voters clearly had an advantage in familiarizing themselves with the issues they would face at the polls.

The top-of-the-ballot race between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney is getting most of the attention. Yet there's much more of importance to be decided: who goes to Congress; who sits in the state Legislature; who wears the judge's robes... plus a smattering of municipal questions.

There's also some disturbing mischief-making that has resulted in a longer ballot: Blame pesky, off-the-radar, write-in candidates who don't have a chance of victory and are running against incumbents or primary winners with no opposing candidate from the other party.

Blame, too, state lawmakers who put 11 constitutional amendments on the ballot. The language is convoluted; and the issues addressed obviously political. Forbidding the Affordable Care Act from being enacted in Florida? This and other proposals, such as broadening homestead exemptions piecemeal instead of comprehensive reform, have no place in the state Constitution. ...





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