- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Feb. 8

The Cullman Times on “junk bills:”

With the regular session of the Alabama Legislature under way, there is no room for junk bills that threaten to tie up valuable time with debates and emotional overload.



One such bill that could distract lawmakers from spending more time on addressing Medicaid, prisons, a lottery and education is a proposal from Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, that will waive the need to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon. Law enforcement leaders across the state have deep concerns about the bill from financial and safety viewpoints.

Sheriffs have options on how to use revenue from license sales, but locally Sheriff Matt Gentry invests the money wisely into salaries for deputies who may work as school resource officers are other roles in the community.

Gentry and some sheriffs believe many of the people who purchase licenses to carry concealed guns will continue to buy the permits because Alabama has agreement with other states that honor the licenses across borders. This is important for those who travel to other states and feel the need to carry a gun. The revenue may stay largely intact in some counties, but there are no guarantees.

Cullman Police Chief Kenny Culpepper is opposed to the bill because of the potential that abandoning the required license process will likely allow more unstable people to take advantage of the situation, thus endangering more citizens and law enforcement officers.

Across Alabama, ensuring the Second Amendment’s guarantee for the citizenry to own guns is taken seriously. The amendment has one of its strongest support bases in Alabama. Nevertheless, making a license options for concealment is not a Second Amendment issue. The requirement has been in place as a measure to allow seasoned law enforcement officials to closely evaluate those who apply.

The system has generally worked well for Alabama. Sheriffs typically have good insight through various checks and balances to determine when someone shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon in concealment.

Culpepper is also right to sound the alarm about a bill that’s perceived as something to make gun enthusiasts happy. Contrary to the bill is the fact that responsible gun owners understand the value of licensing for gun concealment. The licensing process is a way of recognizing that the owner who carries a gun is concealment is generally a trusted citizen who respects safety and order.

The Second Amendment remains a cherished and valuable foundation in the establishment of the United States. Laws that would erode the intent of the amendment certainly deserve deep scrutiny, but what is coming in the Alabama Senate poses a threat to the people who serve in law enforcement and protect our communities. If they are put in harm’s way by this unnecessary proposal, the danger for the citizens who support and trust law enforcement also increases.

The legislation proposed by Sen. Allen should be squashed for its risk of raising instability in Alabama.

Online: https://www.cullmantimes.com/

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Feb. 10

The Decatur Daily on Gov. Bentley’s Senate appointment:

The conflict of interest w as public and blatant, so obvious that it seemed impossible Gov. Robert Bentley would do it.

Surely, even his harshest critics believed, Bentley would not appoint state Attorney General Luther Strange to replace U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, once Sessions was confirmed for the U.S. attorney general spot. Such a move would destroy what was left of the governor’s reputation. It would undermine Strange’s legitimacy. It would put Bentley’s subsequent state attorney general pick in an untenable position. With the nation watching, it would bring embarrassment to the state of Alabama.

But on Thursday, Bentley did it.

The humiliating facts begin with Bentley’s relationship with his former adviser, Rebekah Mason. Bentley denies a physical relationship between the two, both of whom were married. But the scandal, which included Bentley getting a divorce and firing the head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, triggered the vote of 23 House members to begin impeachment proceedings. In November, days before the presidential election, the House Judiciary Committee’s work was stalled by Strange, who said his office was doing related work. It was no secret that if Donald Trump won the presidency, a cabinet post awaited Sessions and Bentley would be charged with picking his replacement.

Strange’s role in halting the impeachment investigation became even more troublesome when he met with Bentley for an interview, requesting that the governor appoint him to fill the coming U.S. Senate vacancy. The job interview had enormous significance for Strange, who had already announced he would run for the seat next year even if not picked as the interim senator. If Bentley picked him, Strange would have the ability to raise funds as a U.S. senator. He would have the benefit of running next year as an incumbent.

And in the classic quid pro quo, the interview also had enormous significance for Bentley. He could appoint one of the 19 other GOP leaders who had expressed interest in the job, but then Strange’s vague suggestions of an investigation might become a reality.

Or he could pick Strange. Not only would that effectively sideline any investigation Strange had started, it would allow Bentley to pick the next state attorney general - maybe one not inclined to pursue an aggressive investigation, but willing to continue stalling the impeachment proceedings.

The conflict of interest was so dramatic that many thought Bentley would avoid it. But on Thursday, Bentley picked Strange as Sessions’ replacement.

The appointment once again made Alabama the subject of national ridicule, as people in other states try to understand how Alabamians can so consistently elect politicians who betray their trust. The appointment also damaged Strange’s critical position in the U.S. Senate, as his colleagues will rightly view him as tainted.

Bentley’s self-serving decision also undermines the next state attorney general, who will be viewed as a Bentley flunky. Worthy candidates should flee from the appointment.

Strange should never have sought the interim U.S. Senate appointment. Bentley should never have considered selecting him. Both men have betrayed the people’s trust.

Online: https://www.decaturdaily.com/

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Feb. 14

The Dothan Eagle on a special election:

State Auditor Jim Zeigler probably comes across as a thorn in the side to many government officials in Montgomery, particularly Gov. Robert Bentley, whose feet Zeigler often attempts to hold to the fire.

The Alabama public, however, should see Zeigler as a fierce advocate, because when he takes a controversial stand on something, he’s on solid ground.

Last spring, Zeigler cited an arcane section of the Alabama constitution to order Bentley to appear before him to produce documents and testify under oath regarding allegations of mismanagement of tax funds. Bentley disregarded Zeigler’s order, and the auditor got no support.

That’s unfortunate, and suggests that government officials can simply disregard constitutional directives at will.

Ziegler’s most recent action is asking for an attorney general’s opinion on when the election to fill Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat should be held. Bentley appointed Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to the Senate seat last week following Sessions’ confirmation as U.S. Attorney General. This week, Steve Marshall was sworn in as state AG; Bentley expects Strange and Marshall to serve until the 2018 elections in their respective positions.

Zeigler asserts that state law says an election to fill the Senate seat will be held “forthwith” if the vacancy takes place more than four months before the end of the term.

It’s uncertain whether Zeigler’s request made the difference, but late Tuesday, Bentley abruptly announced a special election which, as it turns out, isn’t so special after all: June 5, 2018 (runoff date July 17, 2018) for the primary, and Nov. 6, 2018 for the Senate seat election, which happens to be Election Day 2018.

“After consultation and lengthy discussions with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office, a large number of factors were considered in setting the date for this Special Election,” Bentley stated in his Valentine’s Day release. “Those factors included compliance with federal and state statutes and cases, saving unnecessary expense on a costly separate statewide special election, and setting a time that is expected to increase voter participation.”

Thanks, governor. Auditor Zeigler better keep an eye on this to make sure the taxpayers aren’t charged double for our Election Day Special Elections. Somebody’s got to look out for us; we appreciate his diligence.

Online: https://www.dothaneagle.com/

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