- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


July 10

The Gadsden Times on children living in poverty in the state:

When the Gadsden City Council formed a subcommittee on poverty this year, council President Deverick Williams said several areas of concern led to the formation of the committee.

If anyone needed reinforcement of the need for a focus on poverty, it came not long ago when the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual report on the well-being of children.

It should come as no surprise that Alabama is near the bottom of the Kids Count list. After all, the state ranked 44th in 2014 and 45th in 2015. Where are we in 2016? We dropped another spot to 46th.

Since 2008, Alabama has improved on seven of the list’s 16 indicators, with most of the progress coming in health-related areas. The number of low birth weight babies has declined, as have the number of children without health insurance, child and teen deaths and alcohol and drug abuse by teens. The state’s teen birth rate has dropped 37 percent since 2008.

The areas where the state has slipped bring us back to need for the poverty subcommittee. The percentage of Alabama children who live in poverty has increased 27 percent since 2008. The percentage of children living in poverty nationwide is 22 percent. In Alabama it’s 28 percent. The percentage of children living in single-parent families - they tend to have less income and therefore more fall under the poverty line - increased 11 percent since 2008.

The cycle of poverty is hard to break. Children in poor households face situations most of us can’t comprehend or simply choose not to think about. Most of us can’t imagine not having a safe place to play outside, but that’s a fact of life for many children who live in poverty-stricken areas. Children who live in poverty don’t have the same access to medical care or healthy food options.

“Poverty can actually impact every area of their life,” says Rhonda Mann, policy and research director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children. VOICES is the Alabama grantee for the Casey Foundation, which awards grants to help poor and disadvantaged children.

Poor children, Mann says, are often behind when they start school. Compounding the problem, they often attend schools with fewer resources. That’s a lose-lose situation and it’s all too common.

Alabama has an excellent state-funded prekindergarten program and the Legislature boosted its funding to $64 million in the upcoming school year. Still, the program will be available to only about 25 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds. It seems a safe bet that many of those who won’t have access to the program are the ones who need it most.

Gadsden’s poverty committee obviously can’t fix all the state’s problems. It may not even be able to fix most of Gadsden’s economic issues but the goal is, as Williams said, is not to fix everything, but to “drive discussion and bring to light opportunities to fix things.”

The subcommittee recently met with local legislators and financial literacy was a hot topic. If there was ever any doubt about the need for better financial education, the Kids Count report showed just why it’s critical. We hope the legislators take the same focus back to Montgomery as they had during the local meeting. If they do, then perhaps Alabama can begin to climb off the bottom of the list.




July 13

The TimesDaily and the Decatur Daily on curbing gun violence:

It’s sad nowadays that you can’t look anywhere without seeing gun play as a major trending subject.

The police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana last week spilled over as the root of the ambush of the Dallas police and Dallas Area Transit Authority officers.

When officers who put their lives on the line daily are being fatally shot only because of the uniform they wear, something is wrong. We are failing as a nation and as a society to allow this to happen.

The shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota are nothing new, which is sad. Some blacks are calling the shootings by officers modern-day lynchings.

There’s a laundry list of cities and victims forever linked to racial violence from recent police incidents - Freddie Gray, Baltimore; Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri; Walter Scott, North Charleston, South Carolina; Akiel Denkins, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Alabama is not exempt from this list, either. On June 13, Michael Moore’s life ended after he was shot by a Mobile lawman. And in February, white Montgomery police officer Aaron Smith was charged with murder in the shooting death of Gregory Gunn. Police records show Gunn was unarmed.

Shootings in Huntsville, Eufaula and Birmingham occurred just last month.

But it isn’t always a racial issue. According to The Washington Post’s database, as of Saturday nationwide, 509 people have been felled by police this year. White victims lead the list at 238. Blacks are second at 123.

Police have fatally shot 15 people in Alabama during the first six months of this year. The total number for 2015 was 17 statewide. Of the 15 police shooting deaths this year, reports say 10 victims were armed with guns.

Nationally, we continue to scratch our heads at the rising gun-related death rate and what to do about it. Statistics show 7,102 deaths by guns have occurred nationwide since Jan. 1. That is more than 78 people a day across the U.S. who are fatally shot.

Alabama, again, has nothing to be proud of in this category. As of Saturday, we have 256 gun deaths in 2016. That’s more than one a day.

We don’t have the answer to the gun violence here. Education always seems to provide the best solutions. Gun owners should think before shooting. Better police training could stem that tide of negative publicity every time an officer is involved in a fatal shooting, right or wrong. It’s more about gun safety and intelligence than it is about gun control.

We next must heal, learn to work together and find common ground. Let’s hope we can find common ground and not be on the wrong side of the barrel.


https://www.timesdaily.com , https://www.decaturdaily.com


July 12

The Dothan Eagle on online sales taxes:

Alabama officials are constantly grappling with taxes, trying to weigh the need for revenue to operate vital state services against the politically toxic notion of increasing taxes on an already economically stressed populace.

They’ve arguably done a poor job of it. Alabama is chronically strapped, yet officials are reluctant to revisit the state’s tax code to more equitably redistribute the tax burden from private citizens to politically powerful business interests.

Then there’s the state sales tax, which raked in $2.153 billion in revenue in FY2015. Consumers in Alabama pay the state 4 cents for every dollar they spend in stores, and another piece of change goes to local governments.

However, over time consumers have found respite in online sales, where they pay what goods cost, along with a shipping fee. Unless the business they’re dealing with has a presence in the state, they pay no sales tax. While the state department of revenue reminds us that we owe sales tax on those purchases, it’s virtually impossible to police.

Now the state has implemented a volunteer program to convince online retailers to collect Alabama sales tax on sales within the state. They’ve got at least one taker - Amazon will begin collecting an 8 percent state sales tax on Nov. 1.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. State officials have chased the elusive online tax revenue for years.

But there’s another wrinkle - a matter of fairness.

Small business is the backbone of our economy, and merchants who have invested in our communities with brick-and-mortar stores should not be forced to compete with online merchants who have the advantage of offering the same goods to Alabama buyers without the added cost of sales tax. It’s simply unfair.

The upside is that a growing trend toward taxing internet sales - at a higher rate, no less - may send consumers back to neighborhood stores operated by folks here at home, where the local portion of sales taxes maintain county and municipal services here, and the money spent in in our communities shores up the local economy.



Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide