- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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April 18

The Eagle of Dothan on Gov. Ivey’s actions since assuming office:

Since assuming the governor’s office on April 10, Gov. Kay Ivey has been busy undoing some of her predecessor’s more questionable decisions. Under threat of impeachment, former Gov. Robert Bentley resigned in a plea deal that required his pleading guilty to two misdemeanor campaign finance charges after a romance scandal with an advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, which began snowballing shortly after he was elected to a second term.

Within days she had asked for and received the resignation of Mason’s husband, Jon, who had been earning more than $90,000 a year as head of an agency Bentley set up to manage faith-based initiatives.

Before she had a chance to go after Alabama Law Enforcement Agency director Stan Stabler, he announced he was taking retirement. Stabler was Bentley’s one-time bodyguard who the former governor elevated to head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency after firing former ALEA chief Spencer Collier in a spat involving the corruption investigation into former House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Collier later spilled the beans on the Bentley-Mason affair.

Now Gov. Ivey has addressed Bentley’s questionable dealings surrounding the appointment of former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General. Strange had asked the state House Judiciary Committee to suspend its investigation into Bentley’s impeachable acts, saying his office was conducting a similar investigation. Then Bentley appointed Strange to serve the remainder of Session’s Senate term. State Auditor Jim Zeigler pointed out that in the case of such a vacancy, the state constitution requires that an election be scheduled “forthwith” to fill the seat. On Valentine’s Day, Bentley set a date for the special election - June 5, 2018, for the primary, and Nov. 6, 2018 for the general special election. Those dates, not coincidentally, are the dates of the next primary and general election.

Ivey rescheduled the special election to fill the Sessions Senate seat; the primary will be held on Aug. 15 (runoff on Sept. 26) with a general election on Dec. 12.

We applaud Gov. Ivey’s diligence in setting matters right in Montgomery. She has a long way to go, but if her first nine days are any indication, there’s a vigorous spring cleaning ahead.

Online: http://www.dothaneagle.com/

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April 17

The Times of Gadsden on daycare legislation:

Too many people overreact out of the fear of what might happen instead of paying attention to what actually is happening. We think that’s the case with the furor from some in the conservative Christian camp over HB 277, which is before a committee in the Alabama House.

It would mandate that daycare facilities in the state affiliated with churches be licensed by the Alabama Department of Human Resources, and be subject to the same standards as those that aren’t linked to churches.

Those standards include:

. Fire and health department inspections before licensing.

. Annual DHR inspections after licensing.

. Adherence to specific health and safety requirements both indoors (where children play, interact, eat and sleep) and outdoors (playground equipment and the like).

. Criminal background checks and CPR training for staff members.

. Prescribed staff-to-child ratios.

We cannot think of a sound argument against this bill and hope it clears the committee, is passed by the House and Senate, and is signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey. Alabama is one of only seven states that permits unlicensed church-affiliated day cares. We don’t think that’s a distinction to be proud of.

Democrats and Republicans rarely agree much in Montgomery (or elsewhere) these days, so it’s impressive that this bill has bipartisan lead sponsors (Reps. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, and K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville), and co-sponsors (18 Republicans, including Mack Butler of Rainbow City; and 14 Democrats, including Craig Ford of Gadsden).

However, conservative groups are unhappy and have vowed to fight the legislation, which they see as an infringement to religious freedom and an imposition by government into churches’ business.

Well, the bill specifically states that it’s not intended to infringe upon “the religious teaching or practices of a licensed, faith-based facility for child care.”

People seem conditioned to doubt the truthfulness of anything politicians say or do, plus they are leery that an inch will eventually become a football field when government gets involved in anything.

However, we seriously doubt that DHR is going to be pounding at the door demanding, “Are you talking about Jesus in there?”

Let’s also consider a few of the health and safety requirements that DHR would impose if the bill passes:

. Clean cots and cribs for each child.

. A clean, uncluttered and hazard-free environment.

. Meals that comply with USDA Food and Nutrition Service Standards.

. Fencing around outdoor play areas.

We’re sure many, maybe even most, church-based day cares have these things in place. Some don’t, and you can find the horror stories that have happened in Alabama and elsewhere online.

We don’t think this has a thing to do with religious freedom. It’s about ensuring kids are properly tended to at day care facilities on or off a church campus.

We’re not hesitant to point out when government runs amuck. This isn’t one of those cases.

Online: http://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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April 13

The News of Tuscaloosa on need for state leadership with issues including U.S. Senate seat, prisons and budget:

With Robert Bentley now removed from the governor’s office, it is time to get back to business.

Unfortunately, the ongoing saga involving the now former governor was a severe distraction for the people of Alabama and most certainly for those charged with running the day-to-day in Montgomery. The power vacuum created this year by the resignation or forced removal from office of the Alabama chief justice, the speaker of the state House of Representatives and the governor, combined with the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions and now occupied by former state Attorney General Luther Strange, has the state’s political players posturing for a move up. Watch closely Alabama, because if there ever were an opportunity for grandstanding it is now. But there’s also a great opportunity, and a dire need, for real leadership to emerge.

The first order of business is to schedule an election for the U.S. Senate seat that Strange took control of through a dubiously planned appointment by Bentley, who opted to allow the former state attorney general to sit there until the next general election in 2018. State Auditor Jim Zeigler has filed a lawsuit calling for a special election. Secretary of State John Merrill has said he believes a special election is called for under Alabama law. Kay Ivey, the new governor, should end all of this instead of letting the courts decide; she should let the people of the state decide quickly if they want Strange in that seat or someone else.

After that, we have several key bills in the hopper for the remainder of this legislative session.

The prison situation continues to worsen. Bentley had a plan to build four new prisons at a cost of $800 million. There remain a great many questions about how this plan would come to fruition. But something has to give and fast. Alabama prisons were designed to hold 13,000 inmates. They currently hold about 23,000. Meanwhile, correctional staff have been cut tremendously over the past few years. As a result, there are violent incidents almost daily. Staff members have been attacked numerous times just in recent months. Just Wednesday, a correctional officer was stabbed by an inmate at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer. If we don’t do something fast, the federal government will step in and the costs will begin to skyrocket.

There’s also a looming budget crisis. Our state’s public school system is failing. There’s a $1.2 billion bond issue working its way through the Legislature for improving the state’s infrastructure that would include a tax increase on gasoline. And that’s just for starters.

It all amounts to this: There’s plenty of work to be done and there’s no time to spare. There’s little doubt that there will be a great deal of jockeying for position by politicians and those who surround them will. Voters should keep an eye, though, on who truly leads with action and not just words.

Online: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/

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