- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


Jan. 5

The Dothan Eagle on school funding:

There’s no question that public school funding is a Byzantine riddle of strange semantics, mind-boggling calculations and pretzel logic, all seemingly devised to make the average Alabamian’s head spin.

However, threats and coercion are more easily spotted, and one Alabama lawmaker is being called out for his veiled threat to a school official in his district who complained about the distribution of state funds.

Sen. Trip Pittman of Montrose heard criticism from Baldwin County school officials after he voted to direct almost a quarter of a $10 million fund meant for 48 public school systems to an upstart system in Pike Road outside Montgomery. The decision meant the other school systems would receive a smaller portion.

In an email to Baldwin County Schools CFO John Wilson, Pittman wrote, “Remember, the penny can go away.”

Pittman was referring to a one-cent local sales tax earmarked for Baldwin County Schools that must be renewed by the state legislature upon its 2018 expiration. The penny tax pays for 504 additional school employees in Baldwin County.

Pittman has stated that he “overreacted” to criticism over funding. That’s no excuse; he’s a public servant who works for the people of his Senate district, as well as the people of Alabama. His suggestion that funding for hundreds of school employees would be threatened if school officials don’t settle down and get in line is unconscionable.

There is ample reason to suspect that adequate support of public education from the state legislature is not a priority. A case in point is the Alabama Accountability Act, which purports to offer tax credits to families of students zoned for failing schools who enroll in private school or non-failing public schools. Reports show that many of the awards have gone to families whose students don’t fit the stated profile.

It’s bad enough that politics has such a stranglehold on the future of public school students. We can surely do without blatant threats, and the lawmakers who would stoop to make them.




Jan. 6

The Gadsden Times on gun control:

President Barack Obama must know his executive order Tuesday tightening federal gun regulations may not stop a single mass shooting or save one life.

He also must have known his action would send gun rights advocates into the most indignantly raucous of tizzies, heat and fill up the cash registers at firearms dealers and unleash congressional and legal battles to undo what he wrought.

So why did he do it?

Obama’s opponents think he’s determined to deprive Americans of their right to bear arms, as granted in the Second Amendment to the Constitution and confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller.

Tuesday’s action wasn’t exactly a bold step toward that objective. It expanded the definition of “gun dealer” under existing federal law to include people who sell firearms at gun shows and flea markets and online. It would require those sellers to keep formal sales records and, more importantly, subject their buyers to federal background checks.

While Americans are divided - no surprise - on the generic question “should there be more gun control,” there actually is wide support for expanded background checks. It ranged from 85 percent to 93 percent in CBS/New York Times, Gallup, Pew Research and Quinnipiac polls conducted last year. There’s a consensus for at least trying to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.

It’s human nature to want to “do something” when bad things happen, even if the action solves or changes nothing. Obama’s move won’t keep folks with issues from slipping through the cracks or keep guns away from criminals.

Cynics groaned when he teared up Tuesday as he mentioned the 20 children who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. We don’t see how anyone with a heart could avoid being emotional at that thought. We accept his sincerity.

The problem is the intensity of the feelings on this issue in a country that’s already so polarized it’s about to pop, and are beyond any president’s capability to change.

There are people on one extreme who fear they’re going to be taken out by the next shooter who strips a gear or wants to advance a craven cause, and believe banning guns is the best way to stop that. They think the Second Amendment is an anachronism in a modern society, would like to see it Exacto’d out of the Constitution and probably are raging that Obama didn’t go far enough.

There are people on the other extreme who fear being robbed or killed by criminals, and believe arming is the best way to stop that (and deal with mass shooters). They treat the Second Amendment as if it was written by a holy finger on Mount Sinai and view any gun restriction as an infringement on the right to bear arms, even though the Supreme Court in Heller specified that right isn’t absolute.

We’d like to think there’s some common sense in the middle. We’re not optimistic that the extremes can be out-shouted.




Jan. 4

The Montgomery Advertiser on whether Gov. Hubbard should step down

Attorney Mark White’s motion to withdraw from Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s defense should serve as the last nail in the coffin for the legislative leader’s sullied tenure.

White filed a motion in Lee County on Dec. 31 that he and his team from White Arnold & Dowd be allowed to drop out as chief legal defenders in the 23-felony count indictment case against Hubbard, R-Auburn, tentatively scheduled for trial on March 28.

White’s motion to withdraw will be discussed at a hearing set for Jan. 8 in Lee County Circuit Court.

The request to cut and run may indicate, despite White’s statements to the contrary, that Hubbard has little chance of beating the allegations he used his position as Speaker for personal gain and voted for legislation despite blatant conflicts of interest.

Or it may indicate Hubbard is running out of money to pay his expensive legal bills.

Or it may be just another stalling tactic, which, while technically legal, doesn’t pass the smell test - in a case that has already been delayed too long since the indictments came down in October 2014.

None of that matters.

What does matter is that the defense attorney’s ploy to get out of Dodge makes it only more evident Hubbard is fatally compromised as Speaker and cannot serve the taxpayers for whom he works with anything beyond a façade of integrity or commitment.

Hubbard has other attorney groups working for him and will doubtless use them to continue denying he is guilty of abuse of office, claiming the indictments are merely political attacks from his enemies in the state attorney general’s office.

That’s fine. Innocent until proven guilty is the law of the land and everyone deserves a day in court.

In the meantime, however, the 2016 legislative session starting Feb. 2 looms on the horizon. Bills are being filed and informal discussions of the harsh challenges ahead in another dismal budget year are already taking place.

Alabama citizens who will suffer if the state goes through another year of deep cuts to critical services deserve the diligent labor of a House Speaker undistracted by onerous personal problems.

Hubbard’s position under a black cloud of scandal and in desperate legal straits makes it impossible for him to fulfill that function.

It is too late for Hubbard to salvage his reputation. His ethical hypocrisy and venal money-grubbing schemes have been on public display for months in emails that surfaced in the case.

It’s not too late, however, for him to show an ounce of humility and fiscal responsibility in service to the state we assume he holds dear.

Step down, Mr. Speaker, and do it now.



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