Community Conversations

What do you want Florida lawmakers to talk about in 2015?

An undated photo of Florida's old State Capitol. Florida’s legislative session starts March 3, 2015.
An undated photo of Florida's old State Capitol. Florida’s legislative session starts March 3, 2015. Tallahassee Area CVB

We asked the following question to readers on social media and the Public Insight Network recently: What do you want Florida lawmakers to talk about in 2015? Thanks for all of your responses. Below are a sampling of your comments, some of which were edited for length and clarity. Learn more about the Public Insight Network at MiamiHerald.com/insight, and check back next week for another conversation.

“I personally qualified for the expansion of Medicaid last year if they had expanded the program. That was a time when I needed medical attention and didn’t receive it. As an intern, I do not qualify for employer funded health care and had to buy through Obamacare instead of just getting the Medicaid that I am entitled to due to economic conditions.”

Carol Solano, Miami

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“We need to make the lives of people for disabilities better — provide adequate funding for housing, employment opportunities, recreation, safety. They should not live their lives as adults as shut-ins, and force their parents into poverty and depression.”

Penny Tannenbaum, Miami

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“It seems that corruption at every level, from city governments, to the Corrections Dept., to police brutality and lack of accountability, are at the root of every major problem we are facing in South Florida and, thanks to Gov. Scott, at the state level. Our laws are being ignored (e.g., Sunshine Laws) yet no one is punished at all. I think that this corruption and impunity corrode every aspect of our life and will lead to a culture of lawlessness as it did in Mexico (where I lived this first hand)”

Marcelo Salup, Coral Gables

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“Alimony Reform is based on lifestyles from over 50 years ago. It is a very litigious area with very wide ranging options for judges. This creates a windfall for lawyers in this area. New rules need to be created with little variances. Prisons need to be safe and not run by the inmates. Water is going to be a major issue in the future if we do not conserve lands and water sources now.”

Bruce Baker, Miami

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“I have been riding motorcycles for 57 years. I always thought Miami traffic would someday discourage me. But no the small cellphone has me fearing for my life. These drivers pay no attention to the road. On I-95 they seem to prefer the left lanes going 40 mph, changing lanes at their whims.”

Richard Walsh, Miami

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“I am a board certified art therapist and I serve individuals who benefit from mental health treatment on a more kinesthetic/sensory level. The Florida Art Therapy Association now has a bill sponsored in the Senate and House for art therapy licensure and art therapy is being considered for reimbursement through Medicaid. Art therapy is currently covered by MMA programs through Wellcare, Humana, and Molina. Multiple times a day, I am called from parents with children with autism, selective mutism and more or adult children whose parents have dementia/ aphasia and others who need alternative forms of mental health treatment but struggle to pay out of pocket.”

Amanda Alders, Plantation

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“It’s time for Florida to look at medical marijuana objectively. There is such a heavy push against it and I suspect it is primarily because big drug companies have a lot to lose if marijuana is offered as an alternative to the drugs they manufacture. With the long list of side effect disclaimers prevalent in the drugs that these pharmaceutical companies push, marijuana is a safer choice - and it does not have to be smoked in the traditional way to be effective...My partner suffers from a medical issue that cannot be cured — medical marijuana may be the only means of easing the symptoms.”

Greg Bito, Miami

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“Although I have the lowest coverage my mortgage bank will allow, my home insurance has skyrocketed in the last few years, and recently Citizens forced me to switch to Peninsula, a recently founded insurance company. My cousin lives in a much better house in North Carolina and pays only $900 a year for home insurance! The secret everybody knows: if we get a nasty hurricane, these Mickey Mouse insurance companies, like Peninsula, will file for bankruptcy and then the Feds will have to come in — unless our governor won’t allow it.”

Eugenio Rodríguez, Miami

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“I feel as though the state’s natural areas are being overdeveloped, and natural wildlife corridors between various parks and natural areas are being eaten up by development or agricultural interests. I also feel as though the Everglades restoration effort underway in the Crist administration has been abandoned or inappropriately scaled down by the current one.”

Doug Garber, Miami Shores

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“Testing is fine but using the scores against teachers and schools are ridiculous! The majority of my students are poor and parents work a lot. This causes a lot of my students to score poorly because they are worried of their home life! I have students who don’t know the English language who do not comprehend questions on assignments let alone tests. I have worked too hard in my teaching career just to lose it over a student’s test score. My students are not scores, they are human beings who come to school to learn to succeed in life and do better than their parents.”

Ana Valdes, Village of Palmetto Bay

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“I chose education because I work as a high school teacher in Miami-Dade County. As an Intensive Reading teacher, my entire job is to teach to whatever is the current state standardized test for high school graduation. The school testing is now so excessive that teachers lose two months of instructional time to computerized standardized testing. The new state exam is also playing havoc with my teacher evaluation this year. [Also] I chose the wealth gap because it becomes more and more expensive to live in Miami with every passing year. I honestly fear that even with a full-time job, benefits and supplemental income, I won’t be able to afford a home in Miami for myself and my spouse, much less for a future family.”

Julie Costa, Miami

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“Funding for mass transit and restoring competitive film/TV production incentives. Tired of gridlock and want to see Miami put back on the map as a global destination thanks to the film and TV shows that come out of it — especially in Miami-Dade.”

David Copeland, Miami Beach

“I chose property insurance because Floridians are paying a ridiculous amount. There hasn’t been a big storm in years, yet rates keep going up. Citizens needs to be regulated. I also chose healthcare, because this is such a large part of people’s budgets and there is a specific law that prohibits the Florida Department of Insurance from regulating rates.”

Laurie Amber, Miami

“Florida families (especially those in S. Fla.) are more cost-burdened by housing than working families in any other state. The Legislature isn’t taking this seriously, and it impacts virtually every other issue you have listed here. I moved to Miami in 2003 as a volunteer service worker, and finding affordable housing for me and other low-wage workers and young professionals has been challenging. I have moved on in my career, but I see so many people still that struggle.”

Lars Gilberts, Hollywood

“School testing is ridiculous nowadays. More time is spent teaching to the test and cramming the subjects that will be on the test rather than teaching at the student’s pace. Not all students learn at the same speed, and teachers know this. Also, the schools are woefully unprepared to test on computers. My children go to schools that were built before the computer age, and the networks don’t work right most of the time.”

Vicky Phillips, Coral Gables

“Plastic bag ban bill — House Bill 661. I chose this topic because our waters are being overwhelmed by plastic bag pollution. The bags are hurting the wildlife and also storm drain infrastructure. When I joined a coastal cleanup, I noticed there were plastic bags wrapped everywhere around mangroves.”

Michael DeFilippi, Miami Beach

“While many like to believe things are good, frankly, any American out of a job is an injustice that forces that person to look for handouts, live off welfare, prevented from joining the American Dream of independence. It is abominable to go downtown, visit the chambers of the commissioners, walk outside and see people sleeping on the streets, under cardboards!”

Esperanza Reynolds, Miami Lakes

“Improving our roads/bridges and transportation system. This topic affects all South Floridians. The more individuals that come to our state and South Florida, our roads continue to be even more congested. We need to expand our Metrorail system, Uber, Metromover system, etc. It affects our economy, as it takes longer for residents to go from one point to another. It affects the commerce, as it takes longer to carry goods.”

Pablo Torres, Key Biscayne

“Breaking the power generators’ regulatory hold over solar power and sustainable energy. I think the economy and the environment are the most serious long-term challenges to Florida. While my son is in a good school, these issues need to be addressed if he is to have a future in the state. I think that failure to fix issues will only deepen Florida’s dependency on tourism and hospitality, and the brain drain of Florida-educated talent will continue.”

Todd Britt, Miami

“Education, because among other things I am a teacher and it directly affects me. I am being evaluated, and paid partially, for the results of exams of subjects I don’t even teach. It makes no sense absolutely, and I know the superintendent has criticized this but have not seen any major uproar and disbelief from anyone in the community.”

Domingo Armas, Miami-Dade

“The South Florida community is very concerned by the instability of the price of gas. Every day, we all can see those prices come up or down based on the discretion of each gas station owner. This scandal and instability is hurting everyone and must be stopped. We need some strong and uniform regulations from the government to be imposed on unfair speculation of that commodity by some money-hungry, influential businesspeople.”

Fred San Millan, Miami

“I would love to have a law passed that makes it illegal for people to park with the back of their car toward the front of the parking space. I have nearly crashed on multiple occasions due to people assuming that you know they are going to back into a parking space instead of going into it head-first. Secondly, I would like a law passed that makes it illegal for big trucks to use pointy lug bolts on their front tires. I believe these are extremely dangerous and would cause extraordinary damage If a truck tire were to make contact with a vehicle. This is a vehicle safety concern.”

Orlando Morales, Doral

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