- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Aug. 29

The Tuscaloosa News on the “drug fight:”

Recently, a prominent Tuscaloosa attorney was arrested and charged with trafficking methamphetamine. He was released within hours on a $250,000 bond and is awaiting trial. Authorities with a regional drug task force say he and an accomplice had possession of materials, some presumably highly toxic, to manufacture the highly-addictive and deadly drug.

A few days earlier, the manager of a Tuscaloosa tire store was arrested on charges of trafficking marijuana from the business. Police say he sold three pounds of marijuana to a confidential informant for $3,000. He was released on a $1.5 million bond and is awaiting trial.

Then on Friday, two brothers in the south Alabama town of Florala were found guilty of drug trafficking after an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency helicopter spotted marijuana plants growing on their land and on other land nearby. It took three years for the brothers to go to trial, and the trial lasted just three days, according to the Andalusia Star. The newspaper also reported that the two brothers, ages 60 and 56, face sentences of up to life in prison.

Meanwhile, heroin laced with what is believed to be an elephant tranquilizer caused nearly 80 overdoses this past weekend in Indiana and Ohio. Cincinnati had more than 30 overdoses just last Monday alone. It made news but really shocked no one. After all, someone died of a drug overdose every two hours and 52 minutes on average in 2015 in Ohio. That’s eight people a day, every day, all year long.

The return of heroin as a popular street drug can easily be traced to the legal pharmaceutical industry and the prescribing of opioids by unscrupulous doctors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2014.

Now that there is a crackdown on the prescription drugs, heroin is cheaper and easier to come by than most of the prescription drugs that launched addictions. And it is hitting hard in places where prescription drugs used to be the norm. According to the CDC, non-Hispanic whites aged 18 to 44 had the highest rate for heroin overdose death in 2013, the last year final figures are available.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon started the so-called “War on Drugs.” Since then, presidents, legislatures and the justice system have been doubling down, spending billions of dollars to wage the war, through eradication, enforcement, prosecution and incarceration that includes increasingly harsh prison sentences. All the while, cartels from foreign countries and street gangs have waged war over the billions of dollars in proceeds from the black market.

After 45 years, it is safe to declare that drugs have won the war. What we’re doing isn’t working. We should never give up. But it is time for our nation, our states and our communities to start having some real, open and honest conversations about drugs, legal and illegal, prohibition, addiction treatment and where our priorities lie.

Online: https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/

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Aug. 29

The TimesDaily of Florence on the recent lottery bill:

The public is use to bizarre behavior from the Legislature during the regular session, when there is no such thing as an off-topic bill. Regular sessions in recent years have been a free-for-all in which lawmakers seem determined to outdo each other in the effort to come up with the most outlandish bill.

But August’s special session looked to be different.

As with any special session, this one generally was constrained by the governor’s call. The call involved two issues: How to use a billion-dollar BP settlement, and whether to give the public an opportunity to vote on a lottery.

Lawmakers should not just have been constrained by the call, however, but by the urgency. The state Medicaid Agency is desperately short of funds. Lawmakers passed a budget in the regular session that left the agency $85 million short of the money it needed to continue its skeletal presence.

And unlike many of the topics that obsess the Legislature, Medicaid matters. Sick people who are unable to access medical care get sicker, and some die.

Given the urgency and the constraints of the call, Alabamians expected their elected representatives to rise to the occasion.

It didn’t happen.

From the start, lawmakers seemed incapable of dealing with the lottery issue.

A lottery bill rushed through the Senate failed to include a provision, directing 10 percent of revenue to education, that lawmakers had agreed upon.

Then the House failed to advertise a public hearing 24 hours in advance, so members failed to pass the lottery bill in time to get it on the Nov. 8 ballot. Placing the referendum on a special election ballot would cost at least $3 million.

After the deadline passed, the House on Thursday voted down the lottery bill. Then, less than an hour later, it reversed itself and voted in favor of the bill. But it made changes, requiring the bill to return to the Senate.

But the same Senate that previously had supported the bill could not pass it the second time around.

The legislative inaction is rich with irony. The issue, after all, is not whether the state should have a lottery. The issue is who is most competent to decide whether a lottery is appropriate - the people or their elected representatives. Through their bungled legislative efforts, lawmakers made clear they cannot be trusted to make the decision. But their shortcomings effectively deprived the people of the opportunity to decide the issue.

And Medicaid remains short of funds. Even if the Legislature uses the remainder of the special session to prop up Medicaid with the BP settlement, that’s a short-term fix.

Lawmakers embarrassed themselves, but that’s nothing new. More importantly, they have let down those who were depending on them.

“We have a system in this state called Medicaid,” Gov. Robert Bentley said Friday. “It may not be the best system in the world to take care of patients, but it’s the only thing that we have. And the only thing that we have, we have to make sure that we fund adequately so that we can take care of those in this state that cannot take care of themselves.”

Online: https://www.timesdaily.com/

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Aug. 30

The Dothan Eagle on efforts to rescue animals from flooding:

Past calamities have shown that people in our area have big hearts, and are willing to help people in need, even when they’re hundreds of miles away. Last week, we reported on several local initiatives to lend assistance to the people affected by the flooding in Louisiana.

Some people loaded up fuel and tools and headed west to help with debris removal. Others donated money and goods to one of several efforts to deliver necessary items to displaced families. And in the coming weeks, there will likely be many more trips to help folks put their lives back together.

Recently, however, we learned some heartwarming news about a local organization that has helped in a way that most of us would never imagine. While many of us have seen images of boating Samaritans rescuing dogs from floating debris, we don’t often stop to consider what happens to other animals such as livestock and horses.

The Wiregrass Horse Rescue and Sanctuary now has two horses that were rescued from the flooded area; spokesperson Lori Dawkins told our reporter that the animals will need extensive rehabilitation for their injuries and malnourishment from the floods.

We applaud the efforts of Dawkins and the Wiregrass Horse Rescue and Sanctuary to extend our area’s signature hospitality to this important segment of the Louisiana animal kingdom. Without the help of these people and others like them, these creatures may well have been forgotten.

Online: https://www.dothaneagle.com/

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