A roundup of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
Anniston Star – Alabama needs its rebirth
The Christian promise of Easter centers on resurrection, of hope overcoming despair. It says nothing of politics or ideological differences. It says everything about a new beginning for followers of Jesus Christ.
That Easter weekend is closing out one of modern-day Alabama’s toughest weeks is impossible to ignore. Those who care about our state are worried about its future. Count us among the gravely concerned. There is so much our state must do better in education, equality, corrections and poverty, for instance. None of that addresses the ominous cloud lingering over the state’s head — House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who’s still in office despite his overwhelming legal troubles related to charges of corruption and abuse of power.
But it is Robert Bentley, Alabama’s 73-year-old governor, whose alleged affair with his top female adviser is bringing Montgomery lewdness to a very tawdry, uncomfortable place. The entire state has heard the tape-recorded phone conversations between the governor and Rebekah Mason. We’re not sure what’s worse: the political shock or the human ickiness.
Nevertheless, it is Easter weekend, a time of peace and joy and rebirth, especially for the state’s majority of Christian residents. Yet, we don’t know what will happen next week.
Birmingham News – Hear more ‘sexy’ excerpts from Governor Robert Bentley’s phone calls
Here’s the tale of the tape. Oops. I mean the tale of the digital recording.
How many times did Gov. Robert Bentley say I love you in 45 minutes of recorded conversations with political advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason?
“Well, I love you, I do. And ah, you know I just — I worry sometimes I love so you much. I worry about loving you so much.”
He used the word “love” another seven times, in reference to things he loved about Mason, or things he loved to do.
Bentley calls her “baby” 12 times and “sweetheart” twice. He talks of kissing four times, including a “left ear,” a “sweet ear” and a “plain old ear.”
Decatur Daily – Alabama’s humiliation continues
Republicans stormed Montgomery in 2010, and it seemed an overdue siege. Democrats had held legislative power for 136 years, and the lack of relevant opposition had left them more accountable to special interests and old money than to the people.
It was billed as more than just a partisan shift. Item 1 on the agenda was ethics reform. This new breed of politicians wasn’t just about family values, but about transparency and rigorous financial honesty. These were idealists, convinced that lean, accountable government would make Alabama a model for the nation’s conservative revolution.
By retaining the governorship and taking the Legislature, the GOP would be unimpeded by Democrats who had become synonymous with back-room deals and moral failings that increasingly brought embarrassment to Alabamians. Even skeptics figured the GOP couldn’t do worse.
But in just seven years, the GOP leaders have managed to confound both their fans and their skeptics.
Dothan Eagle – A strange week in Montgomery
Gov. Robert Bentley, whose package of tax hikes to address a gaping shortfall in the General Fund was largely disregarded by the legislature last year, told lawmakers this year that Medicaid needed an additional $100 million to maintain services. Any budget without that would be vetoed, he vowed.
On Thursday, the Legislature passed a General Fund budget with a $15 million increase for Medicaid — $85 million below the line the governor drew in the sand. Bentley, as promised, said he planned to veto the budget.
That may be too little, too late. Bentley earlier rejected a federal expansion of Medicaid that would have meant additional federal funding over the next several years and would have meant extending health care services to thousands of uninsured Alabamians. The Legislature’s failure to authorize a $100 million increase for the program could trigger the loss of additional federal funds.
Bentley’s veto could force lawmakers to revisit the budget. However, bizarre things have happened this week that are sure to undermine the governor’s authority at best, and could lead to his downfall at worst.
Enterprise Ledger – A little spring sports cleaning
Here’s a little spring cleaning for tidbits around my desk:
The NCAA Tournament is as exciting as ever, what with Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig and his heroics beating Xavier and Notre Dame escaping Stephen F. Austin taking backseats to a comeback for the ages by Texas A&M against Northern Iowa – down 12 with about 36 seconds remaining in regulation only to win in double-overtime. All this after a half-court game-winner had Northern Iowa beating Texas in the first round.
The Notre Dame win was questionable as officials seemed to have a case of “Fighting Irish” in their whistles in the closing minute. But, I can’t remember the last NCAA Tournament that did not have some kind of controversy. Too bad, but at least we don’t have to worry about any team from this state getting the short end of a call during March Madness.
There’s no drama whatsoever with my bracket, which lost two of my Final Four selections by the second round – Michigan State in Round One and Kentucky in Round Two. I do have Kansas winning it all and A&M reaching Houston, but following Sunday’s action I am only in 510,082nd place on the CBS Sports bracket challenge, and that’s far better than the 10,730,404th place I currently stand on the ESPN bracket.
A bill that would require Alabama teachers to take an hourlong training class on inappropriate interactions with students has cleared a Senate committee. And the sponsor of SB274, Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, is pushing for a floor vote before this week is over.
Hopefully, Ward’s fellow senators won’t be swayed by the recent rash of teacher-student sex cases to vote for such foolish legislation.
“The whole thing is absurd,” said Sen. Dick Brewbaker, who chairs the Education Policy Committee that cleared the proposal. “We’re at the point where we have to tell teachers to keep their hands off of students?”
Here’s the bottom line on this faulty idea: Shouldn’t our teachers, grown men and women, many of whom have years of classroom experience, know from their educational training that having sex with their students is taboo? And for those who would cross that line, do we really believe a one-hour training class will change their minds?
Statistics from the Alabama State Department of Education general counsel show the number of cases of teachers having sex with students doubled from 25 in 2011 to 51 in 2014, but decreased slightly last year to 46 cases. Violence cases toward students have seen a similar increase in that same time period, rising from 14 in 2011 to 32 last year.
Gadsden Times – Fruitless abortion fights could carry heavy price tag later
People say the war on terror seems endless; the battle over abortion hasn’t eased a whit since Jan. 22, 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman’s right to the procedure.
We’re not going to race to the frontline and jump into the crossfire because it would be pointless, an absolute waste of time. The respective sides are so dug in after 43 years, there’s more chance of the Islamic State and Mossad (Israel’s version of the CIA) marching with daisies in their mitts and singing the Coca-Cola “perfect harmony” song than of any common ground being found, or hearts and minds changed.
Abortion opponents, realizing the U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to ever overturn Roe, are focusing their efforts on the state level, pushing restrictions that don’t just limit access to the procedure, they effectively ban it.
They include requirements that women considering abortion must undergo counseling or an ultrasound, then face a waiting period before having the procedure; that abortion clinics meet the same standards as day surgery facilities; and that doctors performing the procedure have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Huntsville Times – If Governor Bentley vetoes our budget, we’ll override him
The Alabama Legislature is nearly two-thirds of the way through the 2016 regular session. While the Legislature is considering a number of bills related to everything from payday lending to the allocation of the BP settlement, the only constitutionally required duty of the Legislature is to pass budgets for both the Education Trust Fund and the General Fund (the budget for all non-education state spending).
On Wednesday, the Legislature fulfilled part of its constitutional obligation by passing a $1.8 billion General Fund budget. There has been some criticism leveled at the budget, which I will address, but first I want to describe how the General Fund budget was put together (the Education budget will likely be finalized by the second week of April).
Before the session began, lawmakers held a series of intense, public budget hearings in January with every major state department. Republican legislators were determined to take a new approach to budgeting your taxpayer dollars. This new approach, called zero-based budgeting, requires state agencies to prove from the ground up each line-item request, and forces legislators to ask hard questions and carefully examine each department’s spending habits.
The zero-based budgeting method has already accomplished two purposes this year.
This isn’t a sex scandal.
Sure, there are recordings of Gov. Robert Bentley talking dirty to his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, saying the kinds of things that get edited out of Cialis commercials.
There’s the Bill Clinton-like parsing of what constitutes a “physical” relationship. Is first base sexual? Second? Third?
And there’s the governor’s divorce from his wife of 50 years, Dianne Bentley, last year, which we now know for certain was triggered by the governor’s betrayal to his betrothed.
But set all that aside for a moment, because this is much more important than that.
Montgomery Advertiser – Alabama does not deserve better than Robert Bentley
Alabama does not deserve better than Robert Bentley.
As a number of the state’s Republican Party politicians called on the Republican governor to resign over the latest revelations of his “inappropriate relationship” with a staffer, they mostly did so by reasoning that the Alabama voters “deserve better.”
Time and again, that line has been repeated by politicians, newspaper columnists and average voters – the people of the state deserve better, they say.
But they’re wrong.
The people of this state do not deserve better. The people of this state are getting exactly what they deserve, because the people of this state have, time and again, ignored reasonable, smart candidates – both Republican and Democratic – to vote for pandering, ignorant Neanderthals who profess loudly their morally superior character and promise wholly unconstitutional and un-American intentions.
Opelika-Auburn News –‘Easter Healing’ event deserves the attention and participation
An encouraging event is on tap for Saturday in Opelika, and its organizers are hoping that those who most need it will be on hand to participate.
We echo those sentiments and strongly endorse the efforts being made to address shared concerns regarding violence, drug trafficking, uneasy police relations and other social ills that have hit hard-pressed neighborhoods on a too-frequent basis.
“Easter Healing,” as it is being dubbed, is a community get-together among neighbors and the Opelika Police Department from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at George C. Bandy Park on Jeter Avenue.
It is intended to bring together residents, especially among the younger generations, from neighborhoods where crime is on the uptick while relationships with the police have become strained at times.
Tuscaloosa News – Bentley should do right thing, resign
Robert Bentley is a hometown guy who unexpectedly and almost by default rose from a relatively obscure member of the state legislature to governor of Alabama. When the retired dermatologist started running for the office in a seven-candidate primary, few voters outside of Tuscaloosa knew his name. He won many of them over with the slogan that Alabama was sick and needed a doctor as governor.
Amazingly, he emerged as the last man standing and defeated outgoing Agricultural Commissioner Ron Sparks, a Democrat, in a landslide. In January 2011, he was sworn in as Alabama’s 53rd governor. The victory further sealed the Republican Party’s hold on Alabama politics.
In 2010, the GOP grabbed hold of both the House and the Senate and now Bentley, a two-term member of the House of Representatives, had emerged to replace Bob Riley as the second straight Republican governor.
Now, after an uneventful first term short on accomplishments, Bentley is in the middle of his second term. House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn is facing a sweeping indictment and Bentley is denying he had an inappropriate relationship with a staffer while admitting that he made inappropriate comments. It is evident that Alabama politics is still sick and Bentley isn’t the doctor we need to heal the situation. To say that the Alabama GOP has wasted a great opportunity to fulfill campaign promises is an understatement.