- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


July 5

The Tuscaloosa News on loaning money to Stillman College:

We have pointed out on several occasions in the past couple of years how important Stillman College is to Tuscaloosa and West Alabama. The historically black, liberal arts institution, founded under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church in 1875, is woven into the fabric and history of this community.

Indeed, Stillman is an integral part of Tuscaloosa’s identity, and we hope it remains so for decades to come. But we are concerned about that prospect. Stillman has fallen into what can fairly be described as desperate financial straits in recent years, which is why we’ve also encouraged this community in all of its manifestations - business and civic, public and private - to make every reasonable effort to support the college. A successful Stillman redounds to the benefit of everyone.

Using tax dollars to guarantee a $1 million loan to Stillman, however, is a bridge too far. That’s what Mayor Walt Maddox and City Council President Harrison Taylor are proposing, and it’s a bad idea.

Governments don’t collect the hard-earned money of taxpayers to bail out private institutions. Yes, we know it happened when the economy nearly collapsed in 2008 and the federal government bailed out certain banks. The argument for those bailouts, of course, was that the banks were “too big to fail,” that letting them go under could push the country into another depression. We’ll never know what might have happened without those bailouts, but we do know that Stillman College is not too big to fail, and that, given its perilous financial condition, the taxpayers might never recover their money if Stillman were to default on the $1 million loan.

We hate to sound so pessimistic. Stillman has fallen on hard times before and recovered. But this time, Stillman President Peter Millet inherited a real mess, including a daunting debt load, declining enrollment and other fiscal issues, when he replaced former president Ernest McNealey two years ago. Millet was forced to take draconian steps to cut expenses, including layoffs and eliminating much of the college’s athletic program. Unfortunately, the college continues to flounder.

Millet contends that small, private colleges routinely borrow money to make ends meet. What’s unclear is how many of those loans, if any, are guaranteed by taxpayers. There’s also the question of legality. Maddox said guaranteeing the loan is allowable because the money would go toward a public purpose - economic development and public safety. We’re not so sure, and neither are several City Council members, who have called for an attorney general’s opinion on the proposal. A definitive answer to this question is in order.

But the most important question is also the most obvious one: Why is a guarantee from the city necessary? Obviously, lenders are concerned about the prospect of Stillman defaulting on a “routine” loan, which, sadly, raises real concerns about the viability of the college going forward.

Meanwhile, the first duty of Maddox and the City Council is to safeguard the taxpayers’ money. That $1 million would be better spent paving roads or providing other city services.




July 5

The Anniston Star on the possibility of the state becoming independent:

Britain is leaving the European Union, secessionists in Texas want to divorce the United States, and a group in California is pushing for that state’s independence.

Brexit. Texit. Calexit.

Why not Bamexit?

After all, Alabama is a conservative state whose governor and attorney general feast on the political power of fighting the evil (read: liberal) federal government. Alabama also has its own coastline, its own port, a nice collection of international industry partners and ample natural resources.

What’s more, Alabama has a little history in serving as the center of a fledgling nation-state, so there’s that.

Problem is, Bamexit would turn Gov. Robert Bentley into a national ruler, AG Luther Strange into a paramilitary leader and dysfunctional Montgomery into a national capital.

On second thought, Bamexit sounds downright terrible.




July 4

The Gadsden Times on abortion legislation:

You’ve probably heard the song written 40 years ago by Don Schlitz, and taken to the top of the country music charts (and the pop Top 20) by Kenny Rogers two years later. It’s the one where a wise old hand advises a fellow train passenger that there are times when it’s prudent to leave one’s cards on the table and walk away - in other words, make a strategic retreat.

We don’t know if Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has “The Gambler” in his CD rack or on his portable player of choice. However, Strange followed that path after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week in a major case on abortion, and we think folding was the right thing to do for the state.

The court struck down parts of a Texas law that required abortion clinics there to meet the same standards as surgery centers, and doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

The margin was 5-3, quite significant given the fact that the court is down a justice following the death of Antonin Scalia and the refusal of Senate Republicans to consider Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice as a replacement.

The court held that the Texas restrictions placed “a substantial obstacle,” according to Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion, without any accompanying medical benefits, to a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion that was granted in 1973 in Roe v. Wade and reasserted in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Texas officials insisted the law was intended to protect women’s health. Statistics released last week show that it achieved its more likely goal, reducing the number of abortions in the state.

Alabama passed a similar law in 2013, also requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges. A federal court in 2014 tossed out that law using the same rationale as the Supreme Court in the Texas case - that it would place an unfair burden on the right to abortion and result in most clinics in the state closing.

Strange’s office was preparing to challenge that ruling, but he announced within hours of the Texas decision that he was standing down.

“While I disagree with the high court’s decision, there is no good faith argument that Alabama’s law remains constitutional in the light of the Supreme Court ruling,” he said.

That’s a mature and realistic course, and we salute the attorney general for taking it. There is no sense in wasting his time and the state’s money playing Lord Cardigan leading the Light Brigade against the Russians at Balaclava.

We’re sure others - advocates of the legislation - would’ve taken up that sword, as Alabamians cheered them on. A 2014 survey by the Public Religious Research Institute found 56 percent or people here believe abortion should be illegal in most or all cases.

We don’t expect that number to change, or the passions on this issue to ebb. We also see little chance of the court retreating from settled constitutional law on abortion.

In fact, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a concurring opinion pretty much levied a “bring it on” to states and legislators who “strew impediments” to abortion, promising that none will “survive judicial inspection.”

Don’t be surprised if they keep trying.



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