- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

July 6

The Dothan (Alabama) Eagle on state’s constitution:

Anyone who remains unconvinced of the need for a complete overhaul of Alabama’s 1901 Constitution should consider the constitutional amendment referendum that will be on ballots for our state’s July 15 runoff election.

It’s an issue that only affects cotton producers in our state. Today, the cotton industry in Alabama has a research, education and promotion initiative that’s funded by a voluntary contribution from each producer. The majority of farmers don’t object to the contribution, which is a per bale fee; that’s apparent by the small number of farmers who take advantage of a refund mechanism that allows them to get their contributions back. Only 7 percent of Alabama cotton producers seek a refund.

The industry wants cotton farmers to consider removing the refund mechanism and making the contribution mandatory. The farmers would vote on this. But in order for the cotton farmers to make a decision like this for their own industry, the people of Alabama have to approve another amendment to the state constitution to allow them to do so.

That’s no way to run a circus. But that’s not the most ridiculous part.

The constitutional amendment referendum is on the ballot for the July 15 runoff. There is a smattering of local runoffs here and there, but because of runoffs for state office from the GOP primary, the election will be held in all 67 counties.

However, there are no runoffs among Democrats, so the Democratic ballot will have one referendum - the constitutional amendment. Without it, there would be no Democratic ballot. So the state is essentially activating a Democratic runoff election simply for a constitutional amendment question that could have had far greater exposure in either the June 3 primary or the Nov. 4 general election.

There’s a great temptation to advocate a “no” vote on this and any future constitutional amendment referendum; perhaps if Alabama voters refused to add any more to the hundreds and hundreds of amendments to our broken constitution, lawmakers will have no choice but to allow for the creation of a newer and more efficient guiding document.

But because we believe the cotton farmers to whom this initiative applies should be able to decide issues that affect their bottom lines, the rest of Alabama’s voters - or at least the picayune number who turn out to vote on July 15 - should do what’s necessary to make that happen, and vote yes on the cotton amendment.




July 3

The Gadsden (Alabama) Times on states still struggling to recover:

For residents in 18 states, the declaration that the Great Recession officially ended five years ago probably rings very true - especially North Dakotans, where there has been a 27.6 percent increase in nonfarm payroll since December 2007, the official start of the Great Recession.

For those of us in the other 32 states? Not so much.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released figures through May showing that only 18 states have bested the United States as a whole in job recovery. Almost two-thirds of the nation still is trying to make it back to even - forget about growing - despite generally positive overall employment numbers and a booming stock market.

What accounts for the disparity? Simply put, it’s housing versus energy. States that saw a housing boom spectacularly implode - Nevada, Arizona, even Alabama - are fighting through an uneven recovery that is moving at glacial speed.

Nevada has 6 percent fewer jobs than in December 2007; Arizona, 5.2 percent fewer; and Alabama, 5 percent fewer.

Northward, though, the jobs market is literally energized.

“North Dakota is the No. 1 example,” Dan White, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics, told the Associated Press. “It’s like its own little gold rush.”

North Dakota has added 100,000 jobs since December 2007 - a stunning 28 percent increase, by far the nation’s highest. The state has benefited from technology that allows energy companies to extract oil from shale, sedimentary rock formed by the compression of clay and silt.

Not surprisingly, the capital of North Dakota, Bismarck, has the lowest unemployment rate of any American city: 2.2 percent as of May, the AP reported.

Texas is up 9.5 percent in jobs, another beneficiary of the energy boom.

White said many solid middle-class jobs were wiped out by the recession and have not come back, particularly in manufacturing and construction.

The eastern third of the country - with the exceptions of Maryland and Washington, D.C. - is facing some tough decisions. Do we continue to hope manufacturing and construction rebound? Do we jump on the energy bandwagon? (We suspect that’s not an option in Alabama, where wind turbines elicit a “not-in-my-backyard” outcry and the “F” word - “fracking” - is verboten.)

We would like to see some forward-thinkers who could look at the people power in this state and find a place to plug in. The manufacturers that are here need workers with different skills than those available. It may take strengthening existing partnerships with governments and schools, or the launching of new ones.

What’s done is done. We don’t need to be fretting over the past, but figuring out some way to give North Dakota a run for its money.




July 7

Anniston (Alabama) Star on children on the border:

More than 50,000 immigrant children, mostly from Central America, have crossed the U.S. border since last fall. President Obama hasn’t manned the border himself, welcoming these children with a firm handshake, though that’s the erroneous impression left by the president’s worst critics.

Take Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

On Sunday, the former Republican presidential candidate told ABC’s This Week news program that, in essence, Obama’s motives were suspect. “I don’t believe he particularly cares whether or not the border of the United States is secure.” Perry’s not-so-veiled insinuations about the president’s concerns about U.S. border safety are either patently offensive or over-the-top political rhetoric, if not both.

Nevertheless, Obama is caught in a political vice: Republicans say Obama and his Democratic Party policies have left America’s Mexican border unprotected and its immigration guidelines soft. Some say the White House must deport the children to the homelands (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, mostly) and send the message that immigrating illegally to the United States is a failed effort. Others say the Obama administration can’t inhumanely send these children back into situations where violence, gangs and abuse are rampant.

Over the weekend, the president tried to quell the worst hysteria by reminding Americans that we are a nation of immigrants - a correct, if not cliched, phrase that rarely brings the two sides of this issue together.

“The basic idea of welcoming immigrants to our shores is central to our way of life, it is in our DNA,” Obama said during a White House ceremony in which 25 foreign-born service members representing 15 countries became U.S. citizens. “From all these different strands, we make something new here in America. And that’s why, if we want to keep attracting the best and brightest from beyond our borders, we’re going to have to fix our immigration system, which is broken. Pass common-sense immigration reform.”

That’s a non-starter. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has told Obama immigration legislation won’t see the light of day in Congress this fall.

So this week the president is asking Congress for $2 billion to help manage the humanitarian crisis. To those who’ve questioned Obama’s resolve for not sending these children back home as quickly as possible - such as U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks - White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that “most” of the undocumented children would be deported. He also reminded reporters of what Republicans calling for a quick deportation often miss: that the children caught at the border must go through the U.S. legal system, which includes a deportation hearing.

In other words, it’s not as simple as putting them on a south-bound bus.

America didn’t invite these children to its borders. But its Congress has courted trouble by refusing to reform our immigration laws. If Perry and his cohorts want to assign blame, that’s where they should start.



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