- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

March 3

Miami Herald on Putin’s aggression:

Russia’s invasion and occupation of a region in Ukraine demand a unified and robust response from the United States and its allies that imposes serious penalties on Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. The West must deliver a message that deters further hostile moves by Russia’s military.

Forget the exhortations of armchair strategists who would take American military forces to DEFCON 1 combat status immediately. Russian forces cannot be dislodged at this point without raising the stakes to the level of a possible showdown between nuclear powers. No one wants that.

Forget, as well, the lame excuses of apologists who say Mr. Putin’s action was necessary to protect Russia’s vital national interest in an area of strategic importance to his country. That’s bogus.

Ukraine is a sovereign country that has rejected the Russian bear’s embrace in no uncertain terms. Its people have been demonstrating since November against the puppet government of the pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych, forcing him to flee when he realized his situation was untenable.

His flight exposed the failure of Russian policy in the Ukraine, an embarrassment that the Kremlin’s leaders apparently found intolerable.

If Russia has a complaint about the treatment of the Russian-speaking majority among the Crimea’s 2 million residents - or any other issue with Ukraine, for that matter - there are ways to resolve the problem short of a full-scale military takeover.

President Obama raised the possibility of using U.N. peacekeepers to protect ethnic Russians in the Crimea if it became necessary, but Mr. Putin decided that a show of force would satisfy his personal needs and Russia’s interests much better, regardless of the cost.

The response from the United States and its allies should be twofold: Help Ukraine’s fragile new government create a stable economy and impose significant sanctions on Russia.

President Obama’s first task is to persuade European allies to present a united front, along with the United States, to get Russia’s attention.

The economic and diplomatic sanctions should be quickly forthcoming, including targeting Mr. Putin’s friends in Russia’s new economic elite and refusing to do business as usual in international forums until a resolution to the Ukrainian crisis is found.

Aggression unanswered is aggression encouraged. That’s reason enough to move swiftly.




March 3

Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on flood insurance bill deserves a fair vote:

Let’s hope the U.S. House’s decision to delay a vote on a federal flood insurance bill was done with the best of intentions.

The House’s leadership decided last week to postpone a vote on the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, possibly until early this week. House members said they needed time to work on a few last changes.

That sounds innocent enough until you consider the political struggle over fixing the federal government’s broken flood insurance program. Despite having bipartisan Congressional support for months now - and enough votes lined up for passage - partisan politics has kept House members from taking a vote.

House Speaker John Boehner should eliminate all obstacles this week and bring the bill to a vote. The delays are prolonging the anxiety for thousands of homeowners while simultaneously tampering with the fragile housing recovery in the nation’s coastal states.

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from Palm Harbor, says he’s optimistic the bill will pass this week. Bilirakis was punished by the House leadership for breaking ranks with Republicans and supporting efforts to bring the measure to a vote. His decision to stick with his constituents rather than party ideologues should be applauded.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Tampa, also has worked for months on finding a solution. U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Republican from Lakeland, says the bill is a workable compromise and wants it to include provisions that would make it easier for private insurers to enter the flood insurance market, a request that seems reasonable.

The federal flood insurance program needs to be fixed, but not on the backs of thousands of homeowners who played by the rules and are now faced with financial ruin because of the flawed legislation passed in 2012.

The House bill will provide relief to homeowners and pay down the program’s debt. This bipartisan effort at fixing the problem deserves passage.




March 1

The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun on tuition:

Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders who typically oppose top-down, centralized government control are quick to embrace the concept when dealing with state universities.

Tuition is the most prominent example. Newly proposed legislation would lower the rate of the so-called tuition differential that individual state universities can seek to 6 percent from 15 percent annually.

The legislation, Senate Bill 7036, would also eliminate an automatic, inflation-based increase.

Scott has opposed tuition hikes, including the modest inflation-based amount, which last year amounted to a 1.7 percent increase. His position is politically popular given that tuition has risen nationally to a nearly $8,900 average for public, four-year universities, according to the College Board.

Tuition is a comparative bargain in our state, however, especially at the University of Florida. UF, ranked 14th among public universities by U.S. News and World Report, this year charged the typical undergraduate about $6,270 in tuition and fees.

At the same time, the state provides a dismal level of support to its universities. Florida ranked dead last among the 50 states in per-student college spending in the 2011-12 academic year, according to a new report from the LeRoy Collins Institute. Scott’s proposed budget fails to fill a void created by several years of state cuts.

Florida should be proud of its low tuition rates but embarrassed about its lack of state support for its universities. It can’t have both if it wants top-notch universities.



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