- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

Jan. 9

The Daily Home, Talladega, Ala., on unemployed workers need help now:

On average, 170 families in every county in Alabama have been dealt a serious blow by the bipartisan bickering in our nation’s capital. An estimated 11,400 Alabama residents lost their emergency unemployment benefits at the end of 2013.

With the arrival of the New Year, those checks stopped for people who lost their jobs more than six months ago. Six months is the usual limit, but Congress can extend the length of time, and it typically does during times of recession. It’s the merciful and sensible thing to do.

Democrats rail against Republicans for being insensitive to the needs of citizens who haven’t been able to find a job; Republicans criticize Democrats for wanting to take money from “makers” and give it to “takers.”

But the fact is that members of both parties are wearing ideological blinders that keep them from working together to govern the country in a more orderly manner.

Some argue that “takers” won’t get a job as long as they are getting handouts, and we’re sure that is true for some people. That’s unfortunate. But it hardly justifies making a difficult situation a disaster for anyone, and certainly not for more than a million Americans.

Republicans are right to be concerned about the budget, deficit spending and the national debt. Our government needs to do a better job of bringing revenue and spending into closer alignment. That’s going to be a long-term project.

People who have lost their jobs need help now.




Jan. 12

Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News on taxes will go up only with residents’ OK:

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in the state of Alabama’s favor, finding that its system of taxation is constitutional. That should have been readily evident before the case was heard, and it should put to rest further attempts to bypass citizens and raise Alabama’s taxes through the court system.

In essence, the lawsuit, Lynch vs. Alabama, claims that the state’s method of taxing property doesn’t provide enough money for public schools, and so the state’s property tax system denies the state’s children their constitutional right to an education.

This follows an effort in the early 1990s in which plaintiffs hand-picked a sympathetic Montgomery County circuit judge who dutifully ruled in their favor and set about having the courts establish property tax increases. Thankfully, appellate judges weren’t comatose and saw through the ploy.

Alabama’s 1901 constitution is much maligned and goes about some things in an arcane manner. But most objections to it come from people who want higher taxes and are frustrated because the state constitution gives the people the power to block property taxes.

There are reasons that politicians and others who benefit from taxation want higher property taxes. Property taxes doesn’t fluctuate as much as more economically sensitive taxes, such as sales and income taxes.

But the state constitution doesn’t allow state or local governments to impose a property tax without a vote of the people. It is hard to understand how someone could argue with allowing people to govern themselves. The people of Alabama will increase property taxes for education and other government uses when they are convinced that it is in their best interest.




Jan. 13

Decatur (Ala.) Daily on an alternative to meth:

Recently we learned that efforts to curtail the availability of methamphetamine nationwide, and in Alabama, have not been particularly successful.

A Drug Enforcement Administration study found while efforts to curb local meth labs have had some success, the supply of meth has increased as Mexican cartels have moved in to fill the void.

As long as there is demand, there will be supply.

Now, a group of researchers at the University of Louisville may have discovered one factor that influences the demand for meth: the availability of alcohol.

Their research, presented a week ago at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in Philadelphia, looks only at Kentucky. But Kentucky has local-option laws similar to Alabama’s. That means it has “dry” counties where alcohol sales are prohibited, “wet” counties where they are not and “moist” counties, which are dry but contain wet cities.

The researchers found that Kentucky could reduce its number of meth lab seizures by 17 to 30 percent per year if all its counties were wet.

Citing previous studies on the impact of various alcohol and drug prohibitions and regulations, they further suggest that the decreased number of meth lab seizures results from diminished demand.

So, to summarize, wet counties have fewer meth lab seizures than dry counties because they have fewer meth labs. They have fewer meth labs not because of pressure on supply but because of a lower demand for meth. And they have a lower demand for meth because alcohol, a substitute good, is easier and less expensive to obtain.

Of the counties that border the Tennessee River, only two are wet: Madison and Colbert. But only two counties statewide, Clay and Blount, are completely dry.

Most north Alabama counties are moist, a relatively recent development coming from a slew of recent local-option votes everywhere from Moulton to Cullman to Scottsboro. With the Great Recession lingering like a nasty hangover, the prospects of liquor tax revenue have trumped other concerns.

According to the University of Louisville researchers, moist counties already have fewer meth lab busts than dry counties. But they could have fewer still by going wet.

What is the point of a county remaining dry when it contains wet cities, anyway? It’s mostly just for show, although it does still result in the occasional arrest for “illegal possession of prohibited liquor.”

All the moist counties, including Morgan, Limestone and Lawrence, should go wet. You have nothing to lose but your meth labs.



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