- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Oct. 23

The Cullman Times on Gov. Robert Bentley’s conduct in office:

Former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier received clearance of any wrongdoing from a grand jury last week, which sets the stage for renewed interest in Gov. Robert Bentley’s conduct in office.

Bentley fired Collier in March after announcing his administration reported possible misuse of state funds at the law enforcement agency. The next day Collier unloaded on the governor, accusing him of having an affair with his then-political adviser, Rebekah Mason, and interfering in law enforcement business by telling him not to sign an affidavit requested by a prosecutor who heads the public corruption unit in the attorney general’s office.

Life as governor has not been ideal since Collier’s press conference in March. Bentley, who was divorced before news of his affair surfaced, has been scorned by lawmakers. A group of legislators want him impeached over concerns of whether Bentley is guilty of misusing the office of governor.

For Alabama, the Bentley affair has contributed to grinding much of government into an ineffectual body. The Legislature’s regular session accomplished little, especially concerning anything the governor proposed. Special sessions called by the governor also ended as largely dismal failures.

Collier’s attorney unleashed a barrage of stinging words at the governor following the grand jury’s decision that the former ALEA leader was doing anything wrong. The governor is now fending off accusations that he used state law enforcement resources for political purposes and that the ALEA investigation was based on rumor and conjecture. Bentley, of course, has denied any fault.

Nonetheless, the committee looking into impeaching the governor may have more to consider since Collier has been cleared by a grand jury. There is nowhere else to look but the governor himself where potential misuse of state power is concerned.

Online:

https://www.cullmantimes.com/

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Oct. 23

The TimesDaily of Florence on graduation rates

Educators and parents have something to celebrate with the release of a report by the federal government on school graduation rates. They’re improving.

Nationally, the graduation rate is 83.2 percent, which is part of a trend of a steady increase in the rate across all ethnic and racial groups.

In Alabama, the graduation rate is 89.3 percent, the third highest in the nation, according to the report.

Efforts to keep students in school are paying off, and many schools are using unique rewards to recognize regular attendees. Tuscumbia schools are an example. They offer fun events to keep the students coming to class.

There is some bad news, though, particularly in Alabama. Adequate funding remains a serious issue, especially in rural schools with low property values. Property taxes are the bedrock of school funding, and it’s no surprise wealthy suburbs have the best schools.

Test scores for many Alabama students are less than stellar.

Math and reading scores remain low compared to the national average, and educators are still facing challenges from the lack of state funding to hire staff for tutoring and enhancement classes.

Almost a third of graduates who enroll in college take remedial courses, a sign that academic achievement at the secondary education level is not adequate.

Students, certainly, need to be challenged, but they also need the support necessary to improve their scores.

The governor and the Legislature have failed to rise to the challenge of funding, not just in education but in services, too. Alabama’s tax code is regressive and not capable of sustaining government functions.

The Republican super majority refuses to accept the reality that new revenue and tax code changes are unavoidable. Instead, they have raided and borrowed from windfall and trust funds, and toyed with the idea of creating a lottery to fund services.

None of these approaches is sustainable.

Matters have been made worse with the so-called Accountability Act, which siphons tax dollars to pay tuition to private schools for students attending “failing” schools. Records show few students who actually attended a school graded as failing received tuition money.

Lawmakers should build on the success of higher graduation rates by providing the money necessary to allow students to get more than a diploma when they leave school.

Online:

https://www.timesdaily.com/

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Oct. 23

Tuscaloosa News on Gov. Robert Bentley:

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley would have done well to heed the adage that advises one who finds himself in a hole to stop digging. Instead, he doubled down and got a bigger shovel. The question now is how much lower will he go?

Bentley, a Republican from Tuscaloosa, was once good friends with Spencer Collier. The two served in the Legislature together. When Bentley became governor, he named Collier as his homeland security director and secretary of law enforcement. But the relationship fell apart. A special prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office who was investigating the speaker of the House of Representatives, asked Collier to sign an affidavit. Bentley told Collier not to sign it. Collier signed it anyway. Bentley then put Collier on medical leave and later fired him. The day after he was fired, Collier dropped a bombshell, accusing Bentley of interfering with law enforcement business and having an affair with a married staffer, who is also from Tuscaloosa.

The whole mess led to a lot of awkward denials and the release of even more awkward recordings of the 73-year-old governor having a sexually charged phone conversation with someone other than his wife. That led to the end of the governor’s 50-year marriage. Bentley acknowledged that he had made inappropriate remarks and mistakes, but denied having an affair. Then, lawmakers began an investigation into whether Bentley had committed any impeachable offenses.

Bentley should have stopped digging long before that point. His administration was already a mess before the allegations. It was in ruins shortly after he fired Collier. But Bentley decided to use the state’s top law enforcement agency, the agency Collier used to head, to begin an investigation into Collier. Last month, Bentley’s legal team gave those investigating Bentley on the impeachment charges a report from the top law enforcement agency in an effort to prove that the governor was justified in firing Collier.

Last week, the state’s attorney general announced that a grand jury had reviewed the case against Collier and found no evidence of wrongdoing by Collier. Even more, the attorney general’s statement said there was no basis for initiating the criminal investigation into Collier in the first place. That certainly leads to the conclusion that Bentley was not justified in his decision to fire Collier and the investigation was an attempt to smear Collier’s good name.

With all this hanging over him, you’d think Bentley would steer clear of anything that might remind the public of the incredibly disturbing phone recordings. But earlier this month, Bentley had the gall to announce that he refused to vote for or support Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after a recording from 2005 surfaced in which Trump made sexually charged comments about women.

We don’t know if the lawmakers will find the evidence they need to impeach Bentley. Bentley has denied that he’s done anything that would justify impeachment. But there is plenty of evidence to prove Bentley doesn’t know when to stop digging.

Online:

https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/

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