This column is a vehicle for a number of items in a bits-and-pieces, strictly opinion, sometimes irreverent format. Look for "Just Sayin'" to run once a week in this spot.
Would Gayle Harrell Have Galloped into the Sunset?
Sometimes newspaper editorial recommendations at election time can up and bite the hand that wrote them. Doesn't happen often, but certainly it can and maybe did this year at Treasure Coast Newspapers -- when The Stuart News recommended Democrat Chrystal Lucas for state House rather than incumbent Republican Gayle Harrell.
Turns out the editors were tricked by a one-trick pony.
(And by the way, in full disclosure you should know I worked for this newspaper myself for nearly 28 years.)
It came as a shock to a lot of local people at the time, that the paper would snub Harrell. "What are they thinking?" Susie Snell Morgan asked me Oct. 17, the day after the paper ran with the Lucas endorsement. I had no idea why they did it then, I certainly have no idea now. The vote wasn't even close. Harrell won reelection by 9 clear percentage points.
It's hard to understand why no recommendation. It's not as if Harrell didn't fight for the sickened lagoon and estuary. Some in the House have told me there would have been no Legacy Florida legislation had Harrell not persevered at the outset. She has done as much as anyone I know to get the attention of politicians and bureaucrats above or beyond her station to address the plight of the St. Lucie estuary. Certainly she's moved the needle in the right direction. And her work on medical issues and on education and other children's issues over an off-and-on period of a decade and a half in the Legislature is also well known.
Few lawmakers in Tallahassee have lived in their district longer or know their landscape any better than Harrell.
Nevertheless, the newspaper's editorial board preferred 33-year-old educator Lucas for her passion for Sen. Joe Negron's proposal to buy 60,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee. And editors generally liked her enthusiasm to end the crisis plaguing the polluted St. Lucie estuary. They presented her as a candidate who would get things done given a chance, because she was more closely aligned to the community at that moment than Harrell. "She's no one-trick pony," the editorial said.
Never mind that Lucas is a Democrat, and Democrats in the House sit on the back bench most of their first term fighting just to catch leadership's eye. Like it or not, party is important in Tallahasee.
But here's the rub, and why I'm writing this particular story now:
Sure, candidates often lose, even after they get the local paper's endorsement. It happens. But seldom do newspapers lose with them.
Turns out Lucas is a "one-trick pony" after all. The day after the election, she put her house on the market and announced she will be moving out of state.
"I am not going to go through another 'lost summer' or, in this case, another 'lost year,'" Lucas told the newspaper that backed her, referring to the Lake Okeechobee discharges. Lucas said she, her husband and her 8-year-old daughter will stay where they are until the end of the school year. Most recently, Lucas was an adjunct at Indian River State College but said she didn't sign up to teach this semester because she was counting on winning the election. "All my eggs were in this basket," Lucas said. Best of luck, District 83, I'm outta here.
So much for fighting for the community good.
Scott Pruitt: Inspired Choice to Return the EPA to Law-Abiding Citizen
A man the left dismisses as a climate denier and a powerful advocate against regulation, is probably the perfect appointee to the cabinet-level position of EPA chief.
Even the Wall Street Journal asks of Scott Pruitt, who better to lead the behemoth, lawless Environmental Protection Agency than a lawyer himself? The Oklahoma attorney general is an expert in constitutional law and brings a deep understanding of the impact of regulations on both the environment and the economy.
Who could forget these EPA beauties in the last eight years, which directly or indirectly affected Florida: "the Clean Power Plan to put the coal industry out of business, the carbon endangerment rule, grabbing authority to call any pond or puddle a 'waterway,'" and so much more than that.
Pruitt’s first job will be restoring respect for the Constitution and cooperative federalism in EPA rule-making. He knows how to do this because he led the legal charge by the states against EPA abuses, including the victory of a Supreme Court stay on the Clean Power Plan as it moves through the appellate courts.
Last year Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi joined 23 other attorneys general in a legal action against the U.S. EPA for illegally invalidating the individual air quality protection plans in those states. In June 2015, the EPA issued a final rule requiring 35 states, including Florida, to revise their individual State Implementation Plans governing carbon emissions during power plant startup, shutdown or malfunction.
“We will not step aside while the EPA, through heavy-handed federal overreach, threatens to upend a system that the EPA has approved multiple times and has provided a consistent, reliable framework to safely provide electricity to millions of Floridians across the state; furthermore, the agency’s action could result in higher utility bills for Florida consumers,” Bondi argued.
Bondi and Florida generally have butted heads with the EPA on overreach. For Florida, a state with a vulnerable ecosystem and a population trying to live within its means, there has to be some effort to find a balance. Under the Obama administration, that hasn't been happening at the federal level.
And, by the way, the only reason the left labels Pruitt a climate-change denier is because he disagrees with them on energy policy. Says the Journal, "Mr. Pruitt will probably do more for the environment than Mr. Obama ever did because he will make sure that rules issued by the EPA are rooted in law and thus won’t be overturned in court."
Scott Pruitt is a good bet for a Trump success. Widely regarded as fair-minded and diligent, he will restore balance to the agency’s relationships with Congress, the states, and private industry.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith