- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

March 24

The Selma Times-Journal, on Alabama teacher compensation:

Gov. Robert Bentley has gone back on another promise to the people of Alabama, proving once again that his interests are intimately intertwined with the Montgomery insiders - the group of well-off politicians who profit off the people.

On March 5, Bentley said he would attach an executive amendment to any education budget that did not include a 2-percent pay raise for educators and a funding increase for PEEHIP, the teachers’ health insurance program.

On March 20, the Senate passed an Education Trust Fund budget that included no teacher pay raise and no increase in funding for PEEHIP. The General Fund Budget did include a one-time, one-percent increase for teachers of around $400 per person.

All total, Alabama teachers could expect to make around $500 per year less under the Republican Legislature’s plan.

Why do I call it the Republican Legislature’s plan? When these bills were being debated in the House and the Senate, they shut down debate and refused to allow amendments to be added. Anyone who wanted to stand up for teachers was silenced by the supermajority.

Then, on March 21, Bentley announced he had reached a compromise with the budget chairs to restore funding for PEEHIP, but the compromise would not include the teacher pay raise he promised he would attach in an executive amendment.

But this isn’t the first time Bentley has backed away from his promises on a critical issue.

In Bentley’s Veteran’s Day remarks at a program in Tuscaloosa in 2012 he said, “America would not be free if it were not for our veterans. Everything that we enjoy as Americans and Alabamians, we need to thank our veterans. Because we would not be able to do that if it were not for the men and who sacrifice so much, who are willing to serve for our country.”

That was less than a year after he signed a bill into law that would close 17 veterans services centers across Alabama, many in the most rural parts of the state where they are needed most.

Bentley has also backed away from his promises on Medicaid expansion, which would give more than 351,000 people access to healthcare at no cost to the state of Alabama for the first three years.

Gov. Bentley, it’s time to quit playing politics with the people’s pocketbooks.

Online: https://bit.ly/1p0yUEt


March 22

The Opelika-Auburn News, on government secrecy:

Secrecy in government breeds corruption.

Efforts to promote secrecy seem to be on the rise in Alabama - especially in our Legislature. That’s sad, considering how, at the beginning of the current legislative session, a number of lawmakers expressed enthusiasm for a bill sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and designed to strengthen the state’s Open Meetings Act.

As Sen. Ward pointed out, a series of Alabama Supreme Court decisions had rendered the original Open Meetings Act largely ineffectual. One ruling allowed governing bodies to get around the law by holding so-called “serial meetings.” In other words, they could break down into smaller groups and meet in secret because each group did not constitute a quorum of the whole.

If enacted, Ward’s measure would eliminate serial meetings. It would impose penalties on violators and allow private citizens more power to challenge violations of the law.

We have the greatest respect and admiration for Sen. Ward and his efforts to promote transparency and serve the public’s interests.

However, that bill, which passed the Senate, now lies stalled in the House. We can only hope our lawmakers do the right thing. We will see.

Online: https://bit.ly/1gmAaj9


March 23

The Dothan Eagle, on Alabama’s constitution:

Roy Moore is the chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, elected to the office a second time after having been removed from the seat in 2003 for failing to obey a federal court order to remove a large stone monument to the Ten Commandments he had placed in the lobby of the judiciary building.

Moore’s stand a decade ago raises questions about his objectivity with regard to constitutional issues. However, he appears to be on point with an advisory opinion he recently issued on the constitutionality of the Alabama Legislature’s article-by-article revision to Alabama’s 1901 constitution.

“By wresting the convention process from the people, the Legislature has unconstitutionally made itself the paramount mechanism of constitutional revisions,” Moore wrote. Justice Tom Parker supported Moore’s opinion. The remaining justices chose silence.

Whether article-by-article revision is unconstitutional is debatable. It can be amended by approval of two-thirds of the Legislature, and they by state-wide referendum. However, an article-by-article approach, with changes put on a ballot for voter approval, is an entirely different matter.

While a piecemeal approach may have some value, particularly with regard to the 1901 constitution’s more egregious provisions, the best approach, regardless of the constitutionality of the former, is revision by constitutional convention.

By drafting a new constitution, Alabamians would likely enact a fair tax code and decentralize authority from Montgomery to localities that now have limited to no home rule.

Online: https://bit.ly/1nXI1c3

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