- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Dec. 13

AL.com on Alabama’s Senate election:

Half a century after Alabamians of immense courage changed the course of history in the streets of Birmingham and Selma and Montgomery, the voice of justice once again rings out from the deep south - from the ballots of black Alabamians, of women, and of young people of all genders committed to moving our world forward.

Today, there is a movement that’s ALIVE - a burning movement fueled by those who seek an America that says no more to sexual abuse of girls and women, of denial of the fundamental human rights of gay Americans, Muslims and immigrants, and of the continued systemic racism that plagues our nation.

While so many watchers from outside our borders scorned and jeered us through these last few months, Alabamians showed Tuesday what we are made of, and what we are still craving.

Indeed, there is a hunger for compassion and decency, and respect, and intelligence in American politics and in American culture that can no longer be suppressed.

Doug Jones’s election is a moment of change, not only in Alabama, but for an America yearning for signs that these values matter in 2017.

Over the past several months, Jones has visited every corner of Alabama and worked hard to earn people’s votes. He built a strong coalition of canvassers and phone bankers, deploying a strong get-out-the-vote operation such that Alabama Democrats haven’t seen in decades. He was willing to speak to any Alabamian, no matter their income, their faith or their race. His victory speech showed his admirable desire and ability to embrace all Alabamians.

Jones’s voter base represents the future of Alabama: an emerging coalition of black voters, LGBT activists, women and young voters. He won by offering these groups a vision that can help our state assert itself in the 21st century. We believe that he will be a strong ally for Senator Richard Shelby and state officials in attracting economic opportunities to Alabama. And we will hold him to his word that he will be a voice of compromise in an increasingly partisan Senate. In his acceptance speech, Jones called on the Senate to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program. We hope they will do so quickly, as many Alabama families depend on it. Republicans claim to care about children; killing this program belies it.

We hope that other Alabama’s politicians will heed Jones’s example. The last two years have seen far too many political scandals in our state. And as we saw from Moore’s few campaign appearances, the Alabama Republican Party may be taking its voters for granted. We would all benefit from a better exchange of ideas, from politicians who court the broad center of the electorate rather than build a base that divides Alabama’s people. Jones offered a new path for Alabama’s leaders, Republican and Democrat. They should all walk it.

This kind of moving beyond party-before-principle was clearly in evidence from our Senior Senator Rep. Richard Shelby, who put country and state ahead of his party, urging fellow conservatives to write in another candidate rather than vote for Moore, and almost 23,000 voters did - a number slightly greater than Jones’s margin of victory. This was one of Shelby’s finest moments and we hope will long serve as a shining example to his congressional colleagues.

This election outcome is tremendous for Alabama. We believe Doug Jones will be a fine Senator and move us forward in myriad of ways. But Jones’s victory does not mean our state is suddenly not the conservative bastion it has been (though even in the hardest-right elections, about a third or more Alabamians vote for more progressive candidates.) Jones understands this, and will seek to represent all Alabamians. That said, the state is changing - more urban, with a more diverse population, and those segments of the voting population carried the day for Jones. We are encouraged to see more young people engaged in our electoral and political processes, and urge both parties to find ways to continue this.

Finally, while factors affected many votes by individuals and groups who make up the 2 percent margin of victory in this election, it’s certain that at least that many votes were cast for Jones by people who believed and wanted to support the brave women who spoke out about Moore’s history of predatory behavior and harassment and abuse. We believe those women spoke the truth, finally revealing deeply held secrets, because they couldn’t bear to see Roy Moore in the Senate and because - no matter their faith or their politics - they knew in their hearts that America (and her children) deserved better. We salute those women. We are grateful for this new future they are helping usher forward.

We look forward to the high road that Doug Jones will be traveling to Washington.

Online: http://www.al.com/

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Dec. 11

Decatur Daily on why lawmakers should focus on children’s health:

Keeping up with the goings on in Washington, D.C., is a dizzying proposition, and it’s seldom rewarding.

Take, for example, Congress’ failure to provide long-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly called CHIP. Funding expired in September. Congress on Thursday passed a stopgap measure that will restore funding for three months, but state health departments and the families they serve are struggling to predict whether the program will remain intact.

Alabama and other states had been using reserve funding to keep children and teens of low- and moderate-incomes families insured until Thursday, but that money was running out.

CHIP funding pays for the health care of two groups of children in Alabama - about 83,400 in a program called All Kids, and 74,900 children on Medicaid.

All Kids, through CHIP, is paid for solely with federal money, unlike Medicaid, which has state money blended into the coverage. That means, if Congress fails to permanently renew CHIP funding, more than 83,000 Alabama children will be without affordable access to health care.

Until the stopgap funding bill passed, Cathy Caldwell, director of Alabama’s CHIP program, had planned to send letters to families with children covered under All Kids the day after Christmas, informing them of the looming cutoff. Presumably that letter no longer will be necessary this month, but congressional inaction on a long-term funding solution is a threat to the program and to the lives of children.

If the CHIP funding expires, the state will have to step up its contribution to Medicaid, which can’t be rescinded.

All Kids serves families with higher incomes, up to about 318 percent of the federal poverty line. Some premiums and co-pays are required.

One of the main holdups in passing a permanent funding solution is the House version of the funding bill includes cutting an Obama-era health program, and increases in Medicare premiums for upper-income recipients. These changes won’t go over well in the Senate.

The Senate had passed a bill to extend CHIP funding for five years, but senators are at loggerheads over how to pay for it.

The Republican-controlled Congress is feverishly working to reconcile tax bills that will weaken many public health programs in a desperate attempt to claim some sort of legislative victory before the year limps to an end. Priorities in Washington are seriously out of focus.

Alabama has little money to spare because of its own broken tax system and must rely heavily on the generosity of the federal government to sustain basic services.

Lawmakers here and in the capital, must reorder their priorities and pay more attention to the needs of the people they represent.

Online: http://www.decaturdaily.com/

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Dec. 8

Fort Payne Times Journal on a solution to Alabama’s prison problems:

The solution to Alabama’s prison problems could involve the private sector.

Alabama Department of Corrections officials announced plans to hire a management team to develop a master plan for the state’s prison infrastructure.

The plan would address construction of new prisons, renovation of existing facilities, and improving the mental health treatment facilities in those prisons.

ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the goal is to develop a “blueprint for long-term fixes to this generational problem” of prison overcrowding.

The announcement, which marks a shift in the state’s ongoing attempts to address its prison problems, comes on the heels of Gov. Kay Ivey’s comments that her office was considering all options for building prisons.

Frustrations have mounted the past two legislative sessions as efforts to get lawmakers to borrow up to $800 million to build three new regional prisons failed. The mega prisons would have replaced 13 of the state’s smaller, older prisons.

ADOC’s new plan could allow private companies to build and own the prison facilities, and allow the state to lease the facilities from private operators. Ivey has said short-term lease agreements to operate prisons would not require legislative approval.

Several area lawmakers acknowledged they expect Ivey and ADOC to include lease options in any prison proposals brought to the Legislature during the 2018 session. And while they may not have to sign off on any lease agreements, lawmakers do have final say on the overall funding of prisons.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said lawmakers need to see the details of any building or lease plan involving prisons.

“Because we’re going to be funding prisons, I think there should be some involvement by the Legislature,” Orr said.

ADOC officials can’t be faulted for trying to be proactive when it comes to improving the prison system. Corrections leaders have supported the proposed prison construction plans of the past two sessions, but the inability to get legislative support suggests it’s time to consider a different approach. Injecting private-run prisons into the discussion should get the attention of lawmakers.

“It is clear that we have serious infrastructure needs within our prison system, and we need to make decisions on correcting these issues,” said Dunn.

Online: http://times-journal.com/


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