- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


May 2:

The Tuscaloosa News on state lawmakers:

The 2016 Alabama legislative session ends today, and with all of the important issues facing the state, it is amazing how little has gotten done.

But, hey, Alabama now has an official state cake. Well, the Legislature passed a bill to name lane cake the state cake of Alabama. It won’t be official until Gov. Robert Bentley signs it.

Lane cake, for those who don’t know, and we believe there are quite a few who don’t, is a layered cake with pecans, coconut and, sometimes, a little bit of bourbon. The prevailing thought is that the cake originated in the Barbour County town of Clayton.

Oh, the state also has a plan to borrow $800 million to build four new huge prisons. We just don’t know the small details. You know, like exactly who will build them, where they will build them and which existing prisons will close to create the efficiencies that Bentley maintains will make the new prisons essentially pay for themselves. Our leadership wants us to trust that they’ll work those details out and be able to tell us how it all works by the 25th day of next year’s legislative session. It will be interesting to see if $800 million is enough by then.

The state also entered the last day of the session with an $85 million hole in its funding for Medicaid. If something isn’t done to fill that hole as the session closes, according to Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar, decisions about what to cut from state funding will have to be made. On the table are an end to out-patient dialysis treatment, the elimination of prescription drug coverage for many patients and the reduction in payments made to physicians, which, of course, would mean many of them would quit offering their services.

Also, if anything is going to be done about the much-needed reform of the payday lending industry in Alabama, it will have to happen today.

The session, predictably, will end without reform on campaign financing, and a framework that would have begun the process of bringing the flow of “dark money” in our political process to light.

A proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge construction failed.

Also, next year will mark a quarter of a century since our neighbors in Georgia approved a lottery for education. But that milestone will pass before Alabamians get to decide whether they want a lottery, too, even though Bentley has said that the state’s voters would overwhelmingly approve one, if given a chance.

As the session ends today, we recall the legend of another government leader from a couple of centuries ago. When told the peasants had no bread during a famine in France, the queen was said to have responded, “Let them eat cake.” As that legend tells it, the starving peasants revolted.

While our leadership in Alabama has failed to address many of the most pressing concerns facing our state this year, they have told us we should eat lane cake.




May 1

The Montgomery Advertiser on keeping state parks open:

We had hoped the Alabama Legislature would find a way to put a constitutional question about establishing a state lottery on November ballots.

It looks like that idea - an imperfect but potentially workable way to reduce chronic underfunding for state services - is dead in the water for this year. Few other measures to raise new revenues have gained strong support yet either.

But it’s comforting to know at least one good piece of legislation to stop lawmakers from robbing money from services Alabamians value to throw funds in the General Fund budget hole has been approved.

Senate Bill 260, sponsored by state Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, puts a constitutional amendment before voters that would ban legislators from taking entrance fees and other funds from the struggling state park system.

Already passed in both houses of the Legislature, the bill now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley. He shouldn’t hesitate to sign it.

The way lawmakers have played fast and loose with Alabama’s parks - natural treasures that showcase the state’s diverse ecosystems and provide healthy recreational activities for all - is simply shameful.

Since 2011, $15 million has been transferred from the state parks system for the General Fund, according to WRLB.com.

The parks department gets no General Fund dollars and raises most of its $146 million budget from entrance and other fees and federal earmarks.

Last year, state legislatures transferred $3 million out of the system’s service fees and maintenance budget pots, steep cuts that led to the closure of five parks in October.

Some have since reopened under city or county authorities, but the parks department, already operating under skeleton crew conditions, faces more money grabs if voters turn down Schofield’s amendment.

Should that happen, more parks will fall into disrepair and ultimately be closed. And all Alabamians will suffer, particularly those with modest incomes who can’t afford private vacation homes, boats and other leisure amenities.

We urge all Alabama outdoor recreational groups to get behind the amendment with advocacy to inform the public about its importance before the fall elections.

Its passage will restore financial stability to the parks system, including the ability to plan ahead for needed maintenance and improvement projects.

Alabama’s parks help preserve Alabama’s natural resources, sustain the economies of nearby towns and raise quality of living standards that matter to industries looking for new locations to build facilities.

Let’s keep them open.




May 1

The Dothan Eagle on Gov. Robert Bentley:

In late March, former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency chief Spencer Collier dropped a bombshell, accusing Gov. Robert Bentley of having an affair with an adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Shortly thereafter, an audio recording of Bentley’s end of a phone conversation with someone named Rebekah came to light, and the details are brow-raising - and well known to anyone who’s followed the story.

Things have spiraled downward for the governor ever since, and there’ve been repeated calls from lawmakers and newspapers, including ours, for the governor to resign.

We renew that call, because his refusal to go voluntarily will make this sordid mess even more embarrassing for the people of Alabama.

There’s an effort in the state house to impeach the governor. It began with 11 lawmakers’ signatures, but appeared to be derailed by a change last week to require one-fifth of the members of the House to proceed. That would be 21 signatures; within a couple of days, impeachment supporters had gathered 23 signatures, suggesting that the movement to pry Bentley from the governor’s office is rapidly gaining steam.

It’s important to note that, despite the lurid audio recordings, Bentley has denied there was a physical relationship between himself and Mrs. Mason. As Rep. Alvin Holmes points out, “There ain’t no law against having a girlfriend.” But Bentley has lost respect and credibility, and there’s reason to investigate the possibility that there has been misuse of government resources involved in this personal relationship.

Carrying out impeachment proceedings won’t be easy, nor should it be. It’s a drastic step to right the ship of state, and will require increasing numbers of supporting lawmakers at every step before a trial can take place in the Senate.

It would be ugly and disruptive, and the people of Alabama would suffer the embarrassment and the dearth of leadership during that period.

Gov. Bentley must recognize that he’s no longer effective as the state’s highest elected official and relinquish his seat so our government can get back to the important business of the people.



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