Quick look: 5 hot topics state and national from budget to Baltimore

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Short thoughts on current hot topics:

State:

Statehouse: This week is sure to be … colorful. From tax increases on the calendar to the gaming prospects being kicked around there’s a lot to debate, I’m sure everyone has a strong opinion about what we should or shouldn’t do to get through this Session and budget crisis but let’s hope we can fare better than our neighbors in Florida and get through it without a total meltdown .

I don’t envy lawmakers who will be hearing from all sides that the solutions being offered are all bad and unworkable. Our elected officials aren’t sent to Montgomery to designate a state bee or cake or other such trivial matters (yes, I saw the Queen Bee designation is back on the calendar this week), they’re sent there to make tough decisions like the ones we’re seeing now. Here’s hoping they weigh their options and take the one that makes the most sense for the long-term health of the state and its budget.

Poarch Creek vs. Free-Market: The Poarch Band of Creek  Indians offered to give the state $250 million toward the deficit to not expand gaming to anyone but them. Rarely am I left speechless at a political proposal, but this one just strikes me as so unconventional I can’t write about it without using terms like anti-free market or bribe, or without pointing out the cliched, but appropriate, objection to the government picking winners and losers. The offer was countered by a proposal for four new casinos lacks the same long-term revenue projections or the job creation and is frankly just as far from free-market as one can get. Can anyone not personally benefiting actually believe this is a good idea? We’ll soon see.

Uber and other ridesharing: I could get another cup of coffee and pontificate all day on all the reasons we need a state bill in support of ride sharing, because we do. Instead, I urge you to read our guest op-ed by radio host Will Lochamy on the subject. Need an incentive to click through? There’s a photo of a sleeping member you won’t want to miss included in the post.

National:

On the shooting in Texas: There was an attack in Texas last night that was much more than it seems it wasn’t just an attack at an art show it was an attack on the First Amendment. Every mainstream media report that emphasized the theme of the event in Texas as anti-Muslem attack got it wrong. The violence shown in Texas was anti-free speech and in our country free speech, however controversial, is protected. The best part of the U.S. Constitution is that it guarantees certain freedoms and secures essential rights regardless of public opinion. So long as using your rights doesn’t deprive others of theirs, I can hate and despise your words and/or actions but I will defend your ability to exercise them. You can expect this event to stir up a lot of discussion but let’s hope the underlying issue doesn’t get lost in the debate.

On Baltimore: The lines of people standing in front of law enforcement, protecting them was as powerful as any image I witnessed during the recent riots as were the many photos of those cleaning up or simply peacefully protesting. It gave me hope for Baltimore which is now starting to see quiet as curfews have been lifted and the worst appears to be over in terms of the riots and violence.

It doesn’t take much to see that we are at a crossroads in our nation, continue to handle racial tensions crisis-by-crisis or confront the underlying animosity and distrust that continues to spill in the streets of our most vulnerable communities between the protests and tragedy. That is the only way we stop and prevent it.

We must seize the time now when the streets are not burning to identify where they could be next and calm the fear, address the imbalance of justice and prevent violent protests. Community leaders regardless of race, religion, political affiliation or the other labels that separate us need reach across the lines that divide to peacefully lead conversations. I’ve heard a lot of talk about these conversations lately but they need to happen not only on the editorial pages and on network television but in local churches and community centers in the places that matter.

Photo Credit: Jim Watson, AFP Getty Images

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