For years I quietly shied away from donating to the Boy Scouts of America. Locally, the Boy Scouts consistently received a far greater share of money from larger umbrella charity groups than the Girl Scouts received. On a national level, I strongly disagree with the Boy Scouts’ stand to prohibit gays from joining troops or serving as adult leaders.

But when Mike Wetzel suggested that Sunrise Ford pay for tickets so that the members of Boy Scout Troop 772 attend a Dolphins game last season, I didn’t object. Scott Van Duzer’s latest project—to establish a troop for at risk adolescent boys attending Dan McCarty Middle School—is one I strongly endorse. Scouting has always had a large appeal to middle class families who can afford the uniforms, volunteer for activities and guide the youngsters through the merit badge and Eagle Scout programs. It’s not easy for the struggling poor or the disenfranchised to come up with the time or money — or even motivation —to encourage their sons to join the Boy Scouts

Van Duzer’s Scout Troop 772 initially attracted 51 students who wanted to sign up. The troop has more than 20 members whose expenses are funded by donations. Community leaders volunteer to serve as scout leaders. For many scouts in troop 77, their scout leader likely is the most influential male model in their lives. The hope is that scouting will encourage these 12 and 13 year olds to continue their education and instill the self esteem and good sense so they will avoid gangs, drive by shootings, and other crimes that have become way too prevalent in our area.
Troop 772 has drawn many supporters and donors, but still has some bumps to overcome. Already some of the scouts have been disciplined and even been suspended for violating school rules or scouts’ policies. But I am hopeful that this program will be one that sticks.

Two other developments have also helped me overcome my reluctance to donate to the Boy Scouts. Three months ago, the Boy Scouts of America allowed gay boys to join the scouts. And Van Duzer has shown that he is an equal opportunity philanthropist. He is now establishing a scouting troop for disadvantaged girls.

A couple updates:

The last blog I wrote detailed the arduous and emotionally draining time I had as a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case against the local doctors who failed to diagnose the breast cancer that eventually spread to my lymph nodes and ended up as stage 3 cancer.

One of the disadvantages in filing such a suit is the state imposed a limit on what can be collected in such uneconomic damages. In many cases, a single plaintiff could not collect more than $500,000 in such damages, no matter how severe the pain, anguish, and devastating effects that were caused by the malpractice.

Last week the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the cap on malpractice cases were unconstitutional. the 2003 law, pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, was supposed to prevent a “malpractice crisis” which would drive doctors out of Florida. But a majority of the Supreme Court judges rules there was “no rational basis” to substantiate such a crisis and, in fact, the number of physicians in Florida was increasing not decreasing during the “alleged crisis.”

Many plaintiffs who have files suits in recent years have delayed going to trial or settling cases waiting for the Supreme Court ruling. I chose to go ahead and settle, figuring that dragging it out would cause more stress. My attorney told me that there was an average of 80 malpractice cases filed in the state of Florida each year. There are now approximately 700 pending cases in the system. A 2007 study by FSU estimated there are 34,000 physicians practicing in Florida.

By my count, that means that .02 doctors in the state are being sued for malpractice. Like the Florida Supreme Court said-not exactly a crisis.

Last year, I wrote that Sen. Joe Negron was pushing to reduce the fees to register vehicles. He proposed to offset the state losses by closing a tax loophole enjoyed by insurance companies in Florida who received a tax credit equal to 15 percent of their payroll expenses. To no one’s surprise, the insurance industries lobbied hard against Negron’s bill and it failed.

This year, with the state expecting $1.2 billion surplus, Negron once again submitted a bill that would cut the cost of re-registering a vehicle by $25. The average cost is now about $70. This time the cut was not tied to the insurance industry and it easily passed the Senate this week and is expected to be approved by the House and enacted into law. Rental companies and businesses with large fleets will see the largest windfalls from this bill, but Negron also hopes it will help all Florida Families.

As a car dealer, I was a big proponent of Negron’s bill last year and still think its a good idea. But it will not affect the much heftier increase the state imposed a few years ago—increasing the registration of new vehicles from $200 to $450. And this bill will cost the state 309 million in lost revenue next year and $400 million in subsequent years. Gov. Rick Scott, buoyed by the budget surplus and worried about an upcoming election, is proposing $500 million in tax cuts and reduction in fees.

One state legislator figured that would amount to $25 for each Florida resident. “Enough to buy a cheap $25 shirt made in China,” he said. This may have been the one opportunity when two Republicans —Negron and Scott—could have been true heroes to all Florida environmentalists and most Treasure Coast Taxpayers who have been fighting for the salvation of the Indian River Lagoon.

Could that surplus have been put to better use by completing the reservoirs and buying Big Sugar’s land? That would be a substantial start to the big fix. Just something for Negron and Scott to think about. A huge down payment towards restoring the Everglades seems like a much better legacy than a cheap Chinese-made shirt.