- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Sept. 29

The Dothan (Alabama) Eagle on corruption Alabama:

Late last year, Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics released a study exploring the depth and breadth of corruptions in state governments across the nation.

Alabama, which has grown accustomed to showing up near the bottom of many national comparisons of note, ranked high in this study. Unfortunately, being the fourth most corrupt state in the U.S. is nothing to brag about.

With a former governor in federal prison - never mind the widespread belief that his prosecution was politically motivated and dogged by questionable strategies - a handful of lawmakers caught up in various corrupt controversies and a sitting Speaker of the House facing more than 20 felony corruption charges, it’s not difficult to see how researchers might arrive at their conclusions about our state.

It begs a question: Where is the Alabama Ethics Commission?

In a recent op-ed, former state senator Lowell Barron questions the ethics of the Ethics Commission itself - and with good cause. In a recent advisory opinion, the commission told a state lawmaker, Rep. Patricia Todd, that she could lobby the Legislature on behalf of her employer, an organization that works on gay rights issues. To reach that conclusion, commissioners determined that the six-figure salary the lawmaker was paid by her employer was not “a thing of value.”

It’s not surprising that Mike Hubbard, the indicted House Speaker, has cited the opinion in his defense of corruption charges that echo scenarios in the Todd opinion.

By what twisted logic is acting as both lawmaker and lobbyist considered ethical? It defies the imagination of government watchdogs and legal officials alike.

Recently Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and the Alabama District Attorneys’ Association sent a formal request to the Ethics Commission asking that the Todd opinion be revisited, as it conflicts with existing ethics law.

“After careful review of this opinion, which practically permits an interest group to pay a legislator to lobby the legislature and state and local governments, we find the ethics commission analysis to be fatally flawed and ask the Ethics Commission to withdraw and reconsider this opinion,” Strange wrote.

Considering all the hullaballoo over same-sex marriage in Alabama, it’s important to note that opposition to the ruling has nothing to do with Rep. Todd individually, or with the organization that employs her, or with the positions the organization takes on controversial issues. Instead, it’s about blurring the lines between the responsibilities of an elected official to his or her constituency, and those of a lobbyist to his or her employer.

Alabama’s reputation as a hotbed of political corruption is an embarrassment. If there’s any hope of cleaning up Montgomery, it must start with an Ethics Commission that’s squeaky clean and possesses a tendency to err to the side of right, rather than the murky, gray areas.Online:

https://www.dothaneagle.com

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Sept. 28

Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News on class of UA fans:

The University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa have always prided themselves on not being one of “those places.” Football fans know which ones they are.

Those are the SEC campuses where visiting fans must think about whether they really want to wear their team’s colors because they fear harassment. Those are the campuses where home fans scream into the faces of visitors from so close that the visitors find themselves turning their heads to avoid being sprayed with saliva.

They are the places where visiting fans leave the game early to avoid trouble even with the outcome in doubt. They are the venues where home fans sometimes act more like thuggish gang members, throwing objects or rocking the visiting team’s bus.

UA and its fans have always taken pride in being courteous to visitors, at least off the field. That is why it is so distressing to hear about the attack on Ole Miss fan Ryan Moore following Alabama’s Sept. 19 game with the Rebels.

According to Moore’s account of the incident, he was walking along University Boulevard near Queen City Avenue headed toward his car. He gave the iconic Ole Miss “Hotty Toddy” cheer. An Alabama fan walking in front of him turned, punched Moore in the face and said, “You need to learn to keep your mouth shut.” Moore’s jaw is broken and he required surgery.

It is particularly distressing that this happened to a fan of Ole Miss, a university in a neighboring state that has a reputation for treating visitors to their campus with the most gracious hospitality. But no visitor to Bryant-Denny Stadium should fear this kind of behavior.

Ole Miss and Alabama have been playing since 1894. In that time, Ole Miss has won only 10 times. This year was only the second time that Ole Miss won in Tuscaloosa. It is the first time that Ole Miss has beaten Alabama two years in a row. Is that not cause for celebration among Ole Miss fans? Why shouldn’t their fans cheer and shout for joy?

It was an exciting game that ended in a disappointing fashion for Alabama fans. Can an Alabama fan not be gracious 10 times in 120 years? Can he not tolerate visiting fans celebrating a once-in-history event?

Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant urged everyone associated with the Alabama program to conduct themselves with class. Fans, like it or not, come under that umbrella.

Bad behavior by one fan colors the impression of all Alabama fans.

It’s easy to be a good winner. But to truly live up to Bryant’s standard, Alabama fans must learn to be gracious losers. That means treating visiting fans hospitably, no matter where they are from.

We extend a heartfelt apology to Moore from Tuscaloosa and Alabama fans everywhere. We wish him a speedy recovery.

And we urge local authorities to arrest and prosecute his attacker to the fullest extent of the law.

Online:

https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/

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Sept. 30

Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser on collecting taxes for online purchases:

A new tax invariably faces political obstacles, but why should the same be true of a tax that already exists but is not collected? And shouldn’t a tax practice that arbitrarily creates a competitive advantage be corrected?

Such questions are well justified in the stalled debate over collecting sales taxes on online purchases. Although the revenue obviously matters, it’s just as much a question of basic fairness.

Currently, neither a state nor a local government collects sales taxes from online retailers which do not have a physical presence in the state. That reduces revenue legitimately owed, but it also gives the online retailer a price advantage based not on volume or efficiency or any other skillful business practice, but solely on taxation.

The business with a brick-and-mortar presence in Alabama collects and remits sales taxes; the online-only retailer does not. In Montgomery, for example, the total sales tax is 10 percent, meaning that an online retailer can have - for no valid reason - a 10 percent price advantage simply handed to it.

Estimates of the uncollected sales taxes on online purchases in Alabama run as high as $347 million a year. That’s a significant sum in a state where governments at all levels are strapped.

Resolving the problem rests with Congress, which has dodged around the issue for years without enacting the equitable legislation that has been proposed. Alabama’s representatives have not shown much enthusiasm for the proposal, although we are mildly encouraged by recent comments from Rep. Robert Aderholt, the senior member of the House delegation.

In an interview with the Gadsden Times, Aderholt acknowledged a “parity problem between small businesses and online retailers” and noted that “There is no question that there is a large degree of unfairness for a business on the other side of the country to not pay any sales tax even though they are doing business in a particular state like Alabama.”

There certainly isn’t, and that’s the central issue. Of course Alabama and its municipal and county governments could use the revenue, but it is no less important that retailers compete for customers under the same set of rules. If a business can beat another’s prices through its own acumen, so be it, but the price advantage should not be created artificially by an unjust tax provision.

Online:

https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/

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