- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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March 2

The Dothan Eagle on the Library of Congress’ Rosa Parks archive:

Here in Alabama, Ground Zero in the Civil Rights Movement, it’s difficult to imagine that any American might not know the story of Rosa Parks and the incident on a Montgomery City Bus that served as an impetus to change.

Regardless, the recent work of the Library of Congress will help educate people about Rosa Parks, regardless of where they live.

Last week, the library announced that it had fully digitized the Rosa Parks archive of more than 10,000 items, including photographs, correspondence and other personal papers. From a historical perspective, it’s quite a coup. The collection has been shielded from public view for years because of legal wrangling among her family and friends. In 2014, the collection was purchased by philanthropist Howard Buffett, who made it available to the national library on a long-term loan.

The collection, which can be viewed online, adds fine detail to the historical picture of the Civil Rights Movement and the evolving role Rosa Parks played in it, as well as the lives of Rosa and Raymond Parks in Alabama and in Detroit in the years following the infamous bus incident.

By presenting easy access to the Rosa Parks archive, the Library of Congress has increased the breadth of information available to the public about this pivotal time in our nation’s history.

The archive can be found at http://bit.ly/rosaparkspapers.

Online:

http://www.dothaneagle.com

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Feb. 26

The Gadsden Times on minimum wage in Alabama:

The minimum wage remains $7.25 across Alabama after the Legislature sledgehammered (blocked is too mild) an effort by Birmingham to raise it there.

Birmingham’s City Council last year approved a plan to raise the minimum wage from the federally mandated amount to $8.50 and then to $10.10 by 2017. More than 30 other cities and counties across the U.S. have approved similar ordinances.

Republican legislators quickly signaled their intentions to stop the hike. Birmingham tried an end run on the inevitable, passing an ordinance Tuesday to immediately raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Two days later, however, the Senate approved a bill sponsored by Rep. David Faulkner, R-Birmingham, that had passed the House Feb. 16, blocking local governments from setting minimum wages. We imagine the ink was still tacky when Gov. Robert Bentley signed it into law, within an hour.

The vote, and debate, was along party lines. Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, said business owners told him they feared going under should they be required to pay higher wages for entry-level jobs, and that the focus should be on creating a consistent and positive environment to entice businesses to expand their operations and hiring.

He has a point. Businesses aren’t universally owned by rolling-in-money mega-capitalists who can absorb significantly higher labor costs. A mandated wage increase could be fatal to those working on a slim profit margin.

Democrats voiced the same complaint that has propelled all local efforts to raise the minimum wage - it’s not enough for people to live or raise a family on.

Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin said, “People cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they can’t afford boots.”

He has a point, too. Minimum-wage jobs ideally are supposed to be for kids just trying to get a foot in a door for a bit of work experience. The reality in 2016 is that they’re often filled by adults all the way up the age ladder - often family bread-winners - who can’t find any other niche in a changing world where a high-school diploma no longer is a ticket to anywhere, and someone who hasn’t had at least career technical training will struggle to survive.

Gov. Robert Bentley, who in his State of the State speech cited poverty as one of the state’s major problems, said he signed the legislation to ensure uniformity across the state.

He also has a point. It would be a strain for businesses with operations throughout the state to have to do things one way in Birmingham and another way elsewhere.

“Everyone can’t have a point - climb off the fence,” you say.

OK. We don’t think good intentions and forcing businessmen to open their wallets against their will is a magic cure for poverty. The state should focus on overall economic growth, something with a solid foundation that will benefit everyone. People young and old need to know what resources are available to help them gain sufficient skills so they never have to concern themselves with the minimum wage.

However, the Legislature delivered another clear message: It’s simply not going to let cities climb out on such limbs - have (gasp!) home rule to that extent. Birmingham may be Alabama’s largest city, but the power remains in Montgomery.

Online:

http://www.gadsdentimes.com

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March 2

The Montgomery Advertiser on Medicaid funding:

Alabama lawmakers will make a massive, deadly mistake this year if they weasel out of responsibly funding Medicaid.

State Medicaid officials laid the agency’s plight on the table in January, telling legislators they would need a budget increase of $157 million simply to maintain their current level of services. Without it, poor Alabama residents who really on the program for health coverage can expect big cuts in services and new limits on seeing doctors.

The ripple effect could reach far enough to force more rural hospitals, pediatrician practices and pharmacies to shut down, affecting health care quality for privately insured persons as well as Medicaid recipients.

Service that might go include outpatient dialysis treatment and hospice care.

Gov. Robert Bentley appeared to understand the gravity of the situation, to a degree, proposing a $100 million Medicaid budget increase, for use in the long-planned transition from the costly fee-for-service model to managed care run by regional nonprofit organizations known as RCOs.

That change is designed to help control Medicaid expenses, which eat up a huge and growing chunk of the troubled General Fund. Over time, the RCO switch would bring hundreds of millions of additional federal Medicaid dollars to the state.

Yet the Alabama Senate said no to even that attempt at fiscal discipline, passing a $1.8 billion General Fund budget that included no added dollars for Medicaid.

There’s some political gamesmanship going on here, the Senate lobbing the ticking Medicaid time bomb over to the House to let it come up with some solution - dare we say raising revenues? - to stave off a debacle of unnecessary death and suffering and ever more crowded emergency rooms.

Not to mention the rapid demise of the promising RCO system Alabama health leaders have worked diligently for, earning a hard-won federal waiver to begin the reforms.

But, as anyone will tell you, there’s no “appetite” for raising revenues, be they taxes or fees, in the House or Senate this year, at least among the dominant GOP contingent.

There’s some glimmer of hope they’ll man up. Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, chair of that body’s General Fund budget committee, has admitted level-funding Medicaid would have disastrous consequences.

Alabama already has one of the strictest Medicaid systems in the nation, when it comes to eligibility requirements and low reimbursement rates for providers.

This is no time for games. It’s time the serious work of finding feasible ways to keep Medicaid functioning at the current minimal level. It won’t be easy. Even if a proposal to let voters decide on the lottery question passes, those funds won’t come in time to funnel more dollars to Medicaid in the next fiscal year.

But simply punting the ball back and forth with no cogent proposals to cover the agency shortfall is disgraceful.

If a budget that level-funds Medicaid makes its way to Bentley’s desk, he should veto it and insist the Legislature do its job for all Alabama citizens.

Online:

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/

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