A roundup of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
Anniston Star – Lawmakers who avoid the truth
The only legitimate reason the Alabama Legislature has for not reforming payday lending laws is because lawmakers think it’s OK for lenders to stick it to customers with exorbitant, if not inhuman, interest rates.
It can’t be because lawmakers are not aware of the problem.
And it can’t be because they think the problem is blown out of proportion by do-gooders and overzealous critics.
What other excuse could legislators have for not increasing regulations on a legal industry that has proven it has no problem taking advantage of thousands of low-income Alabamians?
The hope in Montgomery this spring has been that the annual debate over predatory lending in Alabama would finally force the Legislature to act. It’s not as if the problem has diminished.
Birmingham News – Fairfield is doomed; should Birmingham save it?
Fairfield is done. Face it.
The council meetings are the kind of things you see on news reports from the Eastern Bloc, where Roberts Rules of Order is overruled by those with the loudest voices. Or the strongest right hook.
It is dead. Face it.
Gone the way of U.S. Steel and of Larry Langford. Of the bingo halls that used to fill its coffers. Killed by time, and change, and ineptitude. And dependence on Walmart.
Fairfield is in the death throes today. The city council held an emergency meeting to lay off the entire police department because, since the closing of U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Works and Walmart, the city is broker than a seven-dollar hooker.
Decatur Daily – Shelby hearings a good sign
When asked last month when he would break the logjam of banking nominees awaiting hearings before the Senate Banking Committee, its chairman was unusually candid.
“My primary is Tuesday!” said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa. “We can talk about this later!”
While Shelby’s power in Washington, D.C., had much to do with his overwhelming victory in the March 1 primary, he had used that power to obstruct efficient government as chairman of the banking committee. The committee had the dubious distinction of being the only Senate committee that had not acted on a single nominee in this Congress.
Shelby’s refusal to even hold hearings on 16 nominees critical to the imposition of economic sanctions and to the work of the Federal Reserve and the Export-Import Bank may have been politically expedient, but it was harmful to the nation.
In endorsing Shelby in the Republican primary, The Decatur Daily expressed hope the 81-year-old senator would embrace the freedom of what almost certainly will be his final term in office by ending his pandering to a base that still views President Barack Obama as an Africa-born Muslim, and instead applying his skills to the betterment of the state and nation.
Dothan Eagle – States’ rights and refugees
Last fall, President Barack Obama outlined a goal to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States, where about 2,200 have been placed in the last four years. Members of Congress, including many Democrats, quickly moved to do whatever they could to create impediments to the plan. While Obama urged compassion for the fleeing Syrians, Congress acted in accordance with the feelings of their constituents who feared an influx of refugees from a Muslim country could harbor radicals intent on doing harm to our nation and way of life.
In short order, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced that the state would not accept Syrian refugees, despite a missive from the White House saying states did not have that option, and that failure to accept refugees would violate the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and that there would be repercussions for states refusing refugees.
However, it appears that’s not the only law that could come into play in the matter. In January, Bentley filed suit against the federal government on behalf of Alabama, saying the federal government had not complied with the Refugee Act of 1980, which “specifically requires the federal government to consult with the state regarding the placement of refugees before those refugees are placed within its borders.”
“That consultation with Alabama has not occurred,” Bentley stated.
Enterprise Ledger – Are the Eighties really over for good?
Nancy Reagan’s death on Sunday had me reminiscing about the Eighties all day, I guess because that’s when her husband, Ronald, was leading the country, and for all practical purposes, the world – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Yes, we had the space shuttle “Challenger” disaster, the worst recession since the Great Depression, and a handful of scandals during his time in office, but he also knocked “the evil empire” Soviet Union to its knees during his time at the Oval Office. All in all, he was among the most popular presidents in the 20th century.
Originally a Democrat, Reagan eventually registered as a Republican (1962) although he had voted for Republican Dwight Eisenhower as president a decade earlier. Elected as U.S. President in November 1980, Reagan booted Jimmy Carter back to Plains, Georgia, following his four-year term.
Ronald’s wife, Nancy, seemed to be a first-class First Lady until we learned that she was an avid Horoscope follower and often made decisions based on such readings. That brought a collective, “hmmm,” from most of us.
TimesDaily – Lawmakers meddling in education again
Stumped on how to manage their core responsibilities with a General Fund that is inadequate to maintain even minimal services, Alabama legislators increasingly are figuring out novel ways to spend money from the Education Trust Fund. Years ago they exceeded all reasonable limits on how to apply ETF money to expenditures only tangentially related to education, so now they are focusing their efforts on revamping the state’s education system.
They may have the power to impose education policy, but they lack the training. And it’s not as if the state has a shortage of people with such experience. In addition to an elected state Board of Education, there is a fully staffed state education department, including a state superintendent of education. Likewise, every local school district has boards of education, superintendents, administrators and teachers.
The state is brimming with people who understand education, but those people are not in the Statehouse. And the state education department, under the supervision of its elected board, is in the midst of an ambitious plan to improve educational opportunities for the state’s children.
Unfortunately, however, they can’t pursue those improvements without constantly tripping over legislators’ clumsy efforts to intervene.
Gadsden Times – Familiar tune, another General Fund dilemma
Gov. Robert Bentley is threatening a special session if the Legislature doesn’t do his bidding, and legislative leaders are saying “bring it on.”
We’ve certainly heard that tune before out of Montgomery, but the “music” has extra intensity and ramifications this year.
The Senate last month approved a $1.8 billion General Fund budget for Fiscal Year 2017. That’s a nearly 4 percent increase over last year, but it keeps the major state agencies at level funding. That includes the Alabama Medicaid Agency, which devours the most money from the General Fund (nearly 40 percent) to provide the state’s share of services for the million-plus Alabamians who use the program.
Medicaid officials sought at least a $100 million increase over this year’s $685 million budget, and claim that supposedly level funding will effectively be a $100 million cut.
Huntsville Times – Nick Saban takes rare step, weighs in on bill that will save lives
It is rare that Coach Nick Saban weighs in on issues outside of football, but weigh in he did on the Jason Flatt Act being considered by the 2016 Alabama Legislature. “This is not a political thing for me, alright? This is all about how can we help our youth have a better opportunity with our help and assistance, that we can see warning signs of something that is very, very preventable.”
Jason Flatt was a very average 16-year old. According to his father, Jason was a “B” student who loved sports, especially football, and was active in his youth group. He had many friends, his father Clark said, noting that “Jason was the one who was always up for going places and trying new things. From all appearances…my son loved life. … But on July 16, 1997, everything changed. My son became a statistic of the ‘Silent Epidemic’ of youth suicide.”
From then to now, Clark Flatt has worked tirelessly through the Jason Flatt Foundation to encourage awareness about teenage suicide. The problem is very real here in Alabama, as statistics from the Alabama Department of Public Health shows:
Press-Register –Women deserve more than just ‘International Women’s Day’
Waking up to see the beautiful doodle made by Google to commemorate the International Women’s Day (IWD) and amidst all the greetings of “Happy International Women’s Day” and all the global events, I got overwhelmed with nostalgia and emotions on how nothing has changed since last year when we also had a Google doodle and numerous global events.
Between this IWD and the next one in 2017, many girls will be raped, a lot of them will get pregnant and many women are going to get killed by their abusive partners. And yes, the wage gap will continue. In fact, the wage gap between men and women, which is always a hot topic at many IWD events, has only risen by about 19 cents from 1960 to its current 79 cents per every dollar a man earns. Yet, the day has been celebrated every year since 1913 and technically as National Women’s Day in the USA since 1908.
In contrast to IWD, let’s consider the post-partum period. The post-partum period is one that is usually laden with challenges especially for new mothers. Encumbered with a lot of chronic pain, hormonal, mental and physical changes, the post-partum period – loosely defined as the first 6 weeks post-childbirth – is no doubt one of the most challenging times for many women. Unfortunately, the required care and necessary funding for this period is also one that is often overshadowed by the equally important prenatal and intra-partum which are also important.
To illustrate this, let us examine the available data for the total 2010 annual spending on maternal health – defined as prenatal, intrapartum and postnatal, from both private and public insurance. 55%-72% was spent on intrapartum costs while a meager 2%-6% was spent on postpartum health. Given that the average cost paid for child delivery in 2010 covered by private insurers was $ 12,520 and $16,637 for vaginal delivery and caesarean section respectively and $6,117 and $7,983 by public insurers for vaginal delivery and caesarean section respectively; only about $293-$469 was spent on postpartum health in 2010.
Montgomery Advertiser – Dark hearts of animal abusers
After watching the Republican debate last week, my interest in writing about politics this week is nil. It was disconcerting to listen to Donald Trump make reference to the size of his hands, a not too subtle suggestion that the size of other appendages is qualification to be the President. If the size of a person’s “hand” qualifies them to run for President, then I should be a contender. Well, okay, maybe I qualify to be a minor bureaucrat working in the basement of the IRS. In any event, the level of our political discourse is more appropriate for a rugby locker-room than the national stage. Therefore, I will take a short hiatus from the political fray and write about something that matters to me: animal abuse.
Hearing or reading stories in the news is one thing, but witnessing abuse, firsthand, is another. Not long ago my wife and I were sitting on the porch when a truck stopped in front of our house and threw a dog out. The truck then sped away leaving the animal dazed and confused. Despite my best efforts to catch this dog, I lost sight of it in a near-by thicket. My guess is the people in that truck no longer wanted the responsibility of caring for that animal or they were moving away and thought, “now is the time.”
It takes a dark-hearted person to hurt innocent animals. The way I see it, people who abuse animals fall into four broad categories. In the first category are people who are mentally deficient. They receive personal pleasure in harming other things. They enjoy watching animals suffer and die. What is really disturbing about the people in this group is that their uncontrollable need to inflict harm is seldom confined to animals. Most serial killers might begin to act out their depraved thoughts on animals, but ultimately end up harming other human beings.
The next group of animal abusers are selfish and possibly morally immature individuals. These are the folks that get a puppy for Christmas and then will not care for it. They move away and leave their animals to fend for themselves. Or, as my wife and I witnessed, they throw their dog out of a truck and drive off. My guess is that people in this category would not tolerate anyone abusing them, but give little thought as to the harm they inflict upon animals.
Opelika-Auburn News –We voters endorse the chaos when we keep watching, but who can stop?
The state of American politics is not a healthy one.
It’s never a good sign when so many voters indicate their vote means more to them casting it against a candidate rather than casting it in support of one.
That’s why it’s critical the so-called political establishment does what it takes not just to hear the message, but to hear, see, understand and feel the message: America wants things different in D.C.
Voters are seeing the presidential primaries unlike any in the past. You know things are bad when the head of the Republican Party says attempts will be made to keep the next debate “G-rated” because of nonpresidential talk about body parts in the last one; or when the Democratic Party has to defend its frontrunner from threats of prison.
Already change is occurring: The voter tolerance level has reached never-before-seen heights in endorsing the chaos by continuing to tune in during live debates that need censors more than moderators.
Tuscaloosa News –Saban helps shine light on dark topic
It seems these days there is little that remains taboo. It wasn’t that long ago when people spoke only in hushed tones and innuendo when the topic of sexual orientation came up. Now, gay marriage, lesbian adoptions and transgender transformations are daily news.
A week ago, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination made a crude remark during a nationally televised debate – something about the size of body parts – that preceding generations would have found appalling, enough even to sink a candidacy.
Drug use of any kind was something people hid behind closed doors. Now, it seems almost inevitable that marijuana will be legalized in a majority of states in a couple of years.
Social media makes it so that anything that happens in anyone else’s life is shared instantaneously with the world.