Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on court tossing flawed net ban ruling:
An appeals court showed reassuring regard for the rule of law and Florida natural resources in overturning a Panhandle judge's loopy ruling against the state's net ban.
Last fall, Leon Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford put in jeopardy the voter-approved law banning the use of gill nets in state waters.
Though the ban had consistently been upheld in the courts, Fulford labeled it a "legal absurdity" and said the rules the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission developed to enact the amendment created "an absolute mess."
This was nonsense. Fulford is the one who made a mess of things.
The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee last week found that Fulford ignored legal precedent in her ruling.
The appeals court already had restored the net ban while her ruling was under appeal, something she had refused to do.
In 1994, 72 percent of Florida voters endorsed a constitutional amendment calling for the gill net ban. Recreational fishing groups resorted to an amendment campaign after influential commercial fishing interests continually blocked efforts to adopt meaningful safeguards for our fisheries.
The ban has proved remarkably effective. The numbers of sportfish such as snook, redfish and trout increased dramatically. Mullet, various types of baitfish and other species whose numbers had dwindled also enjoyed tremendous population increases.
The commercial fishing industry has repeatedly challenged the law, but judges consistently upheld it.
But Fulford sided with the commercial industry's claim that the 2-inch mesh size required by the state rules kills a significant number of juvenile fish, which could harm fish populations.
The more thoughtful and studious 1st District Court of Appeal noted the rule challenge had been addressed in a 2007 case, where the judge found the conservation commission had "presented expert testimony that the mullet population remains healthy and has actually increased since the implementation of the two-inch net mesh limitation. This testimony ... is sufficient to establish a rational basis for (the commission's) adoption of the challenged rules as a means of furthering the goal of protecting marine resources."
Fulford's ruling ignored judicial precedent and biological evidence, and deserved to be jettisoned.
The appeals court decision may not be the end of the litigation. The netters will likely plan other attacks.
But after 20 years, it's time the commercial fishing industry accepted the will of the people and the law.
News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Florida, on soccer's popularity:
After a month of ubiquitous media attention, some traditional sports fans in greater Daytona Beach will be happy to see the back of the World Cup.
But a fervent few will also lament the four years that must pass before the global soccer tournament returns.
That group, however small in 2014, is almost guaranteed to mushroom for the next showpiece of the world's most popular sport in 2018. It would behoove area civic and sports-industry leaders to tap into soccer's emerging popularity for our benefit.
The millions of soccer fans who crammed into parks, stadiums and bars all over America to watch the World Cup — most notably U.S. matches — are all the evidence we should need of the growing culture gravitating to the game.
Want more proof? Our regional television market boasted the nation's fifth-largest viewership for Sunday's World Cup final, just ahead of New York City.
The match also drew America's second-largest soccer audience since the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994. Then, Orlando was a venue, and Daytona Beach served as base camp for pre-match training.
Twenty years later, the World Cup audience boom could be found in dozens of local sports bars.
These fans didn't materialize out of nowhere. They are big city and international transplants, folks who studied abroad during college, or participants in area child, high school and college soccer leagues.
They are the sport's foothold here. And Daytona Beach should be thinking about turning that cornerstone into commerce.
A logical first step ought to be forging a relationship with the new Major League Soccer franchise just down the road.
Orlando City Soccer Club is set to take the field next year, and already boasts one of the game's most recognizable names.
Brazilian midfield maestro Kaka signed on last month. And countryman Robinho is reportedly in negotiations to join the club as well.
Neither was part of Brazil's epic two-match capitulation at the end of this year's World Cup, but their celebrated abilities could have changed the course of soccer history.
At his peak in 2009, Real Madrid paid about $89 million to sign Kaka, then the world's best player. That figure didn't even include his individual contract.
Compare that to NBA star Lebron James' new two-year $42 million salary and you understand why even the ex-Miami Heat player hailed the World Cup as "the greatest sporting event I've ever been to."
Orlando City officials have skillfully bundled the enthusiasm for Kaka, the sport's growing popularity, and area World Cup viewership, by hosting popular fan fests for cup matches, and launching their ticket campaign the day the tournament began.
"This area is soccer country," says team Vice President Lenny Santiago. "We're bringing world class, quality soccer. And fans don't have to wait four more years to watch it."
Santiago, who spent a decade as a Daytona International Speedway media executive, says he's already exploring ways to bring Daytona Beach back into the soccer fold.
Our sporting and civic community shouldn't leave those efforts to chance. They should make sure we get a slice of the world's most popular sporting pie.
Miami Herald on sanctions for Venezuela:
Venezuelans just commemorated their country's independence from Spanish rule. But for those in exile in South Florida who say their country is again under oppressive rule — this time by President Nicolas Maduro, July 5 was a bittersweet anniversary.
Up to now, the United States has made a good case for restraint by not issuing sanctions against the South American country in order to avoid giving the Maduro government a pretext to frame a fight between Venezuela and the United States and not between the government and its own citizens, who are understandably fed up with 15 years of corrupt and increasingly undemocratic rule.
But many want the Obama administration to take a hard line against the regime and issue some type of sanctions against Maduro's henchmen.
At a forum sponsored by el Nuevo Herald on Friday, a panel of activists, journalists, opposition leaders and politicians expressed frustration with the United States for not paying more attention to Venezuela or, for that matter, the entire region.
"I beg the U.S. to come up with a Latin American policy, any policy," Horacio Medina, head of the Miami branch of the opposition coalition known as the MUD, told hundreds of Venezuelans who attended the event at the Miami Herald's headquarters in Doral, considered "Little Venezuela."
Florida officials, including Gov. Rick Scott and Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, have supported efforts to hamstring Mr. Maduro's associates here, some linked to human-rights violations, who are getting rich from political deals with their oil-rich country. The first strike should be denying them U.S. visas and freezing their assets, Mr. Rubio says.
Those "businessmen," who have stashed their money in the United States, have brazenly used their profits to buy property in Miami-Dade, among other places, Mr. Rubio says.
Back in Venezuela, with the deaths of 47 people during anti-government demonstrations and the arrest of opposition leaders since February, Mr. Rubio has said Washington must take steps to shut down "the brutal repression of peaceful protests."
Earlier this year, Florida's junior senator presented a measure toward that end to the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, along with Democrats Robert Menendez and Mr. Nelson. Sen. Rubio is now being joined by Senate President Harry Reid.
Reid said recently that he had thought that the death of Hugo Chávez in April 2013 would bring a new government and improved relations with the United States. He realizes that he was wrong, he said. Mr. Maduro has maintained the antagonistic rhetoric of his predecessor.
Reid, too, said he supports initiating sanctions against Venezuela. He is the first influential Democratic senator to favor punishing Venezuelan officials involved in the repression of peaceful demonstrators.
Reid might help change the tide. Until now, the United States has wisely opted to wait for the results of negotiations between Mr. Maduro and the opposition. But those conversations are at a standstill, with little hope of going forward.
This is the strongest case yet for the Obama administration to substitute restraint for action. Even minimal sanctions can be an effective weapon against officials who commit abuses. The White House should heed the senators' calls to crack down. The United States cannot stand by, not confronting Mr. Maduro's repressive tactics in Venezuela, any longer.