- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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Jan. 18

The Tuscaloosa News on potential grandstanding:

If you’re a citizen of the great state of Alabama, you likely know there are hidden gems throughout this state that most people in other areas of the country don’t know about.



The natural beauty of the state is amazing. From the breathtaking views near Mentone to the sparkling white beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and many points in between, natural resources abound in a majesty that few other states can match. Even more, the state’s people, already known for their passion for football, produce some of the most remarkable art to be found in any region.

But you also are abundantly aware that Alabama has her challenges and problems, as well. The state is on the wrong end of many lists. Literacy rates are dismal. Its prisons are horribly overcrowded, underfunded and in jeopardy of federal oversight. Poverty, obesity, premature death and access to healthcare are issues that have been with us for a long while and need to be addressed. The state is woefully known for a lagging public education system that negatively impacts economic development, and which exacerbates an already critical problem with the state budgets.

And if there’s one issue that looms above all others, it is a budget crisis that threatens to get much worse before it gets any better. Heavy lifting, hard decisions and a lot of cooperation are desperately needed if the state’s lawmakers are going to turn things around. The rub is that until the budget crisis is addressed, none of the other problems can be solved. That’s a real threat to the quality of life of all Alabamians.

But one problem we don’t have is a transgender invasion of public restrooms. We dare say that if you were to poll every adult in this state, transgender bathroom rules wouldn’t crack the top 100 concerns cited. Yet, here we are, awaiting the introduction of a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would protect us all from suffering emotional distress in the restroom. State Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, reportedly plans to introduce the Alabama Privacy Act, which would require businesses and other entities that maintain public restrooms and changing rooms designed to be used by more than one person at a time to place an attendant at the door to monitor the appropriate use of the facilities.

This is political grandstanding, and it is not unique to either political party or even our state. But it is at its worst in Alabama and needs to stop. Liberal and conservative politicians have made hay by dividing us along cultural lines, manufacturing debate and ratcheting up emotions on non-existent issues. Unfortunately, too many voters are swayed by such debate. As a result, we end up electing people because of what they tell us their beliefs are only to be disappointed when they get into office and behave opposite of those professed beliefs. What we need now are good ideas about how to fix what’s really broken.

Online: https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/

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Jan. 22

The Dothan Eagle on redistricting in the state:

On Friday, while Alabama lawmakers joined much of the rest of the nation with an eye toward the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, a federal court panel set the state’s legislative agenda when it struck down a portion of the redistricting plan crafted by the first Republican legislative majority since Reconstruction. The court ruled that the reapportionment relied too heavily on race in 12 of 36 districts under scrutiny.

One of the affected districts - Senate District 28 - stretches from Lee County into Dothan, and is held by Billy Beasley, a Democrat from Clayton in Barbour County. Nine House districts and three Senate districts must be redrawn prior to the 2018 election.

Although the 2012 plan passed muster with the U.S. Justice Department, which has had oversight of Alabama legislative districts since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference filed suit in federal court, and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court appointed a judicial panel to review the reapportionment plan a second time.

One judge on the panel, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, went a step further, pointing out an additional 10 House districts and two Senate districts as questionable with regard to racial gerrymandering.

That muddies the water for lawmakers, who have continuously sidestepped a growing chasm between revenue and expenditures, and now faces the burden of redrafting legislative districts that must be approved in time for the 2018 elections.

Each district under consideration - the 12 struck down and the additional 12 pointed out by Thompson - is held by a Democrat. Those dozen districts to be redrawn affect 9 of 33 House Democrats and three of eight Senate Democrats.

It’s a daunting task. Reapportionment must consider race in order to ensure proper representation for minorities, but must not rely too heavily on race so that minority districts are packed.

Perhaps the best way to ensure the creation of equitable legislative districts is to move the task from the purview of the majority and turn it over to a bipartisan reapportionment committee. Doing so may well expedite the work of redistricting and allow lawmakers to get their minds off re-election and redirect their attention to the state’s fiscal woes.

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

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Jan. 22

The Decatur Daily on unity after Trump’s inauguration:

Respected civil rights activist Frederick Douglas Reese, a participant in the Selma march who spoke Thursday at Calhoun Community College, had a message of inclusion on the topic of President Donald Trump.

Asked if he agreed with those who would bar Trump from attending the annual re-enactment of Bloody Sunday, the 1965 confrontation at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Reese was emphatic.

“I would invite anybody who wants to participate, even those people who stood against us,” said Reese, and continued by saying that Trump deserves to be honored as the elected president.

His words came as dozens of Democrats in Congress boycotted Trump’s inauguration, and as a sizable chunk of Americans decry Trump’s presidency as illegitimate.

Americans already should have learned this lesson. When Barack Obama took office, he confronted similar rebellion. He wasn’t a U.S. citizen. He was a Muslim. He was a socialist. The goal was to harm Obama, but the result was to harm the United States.

America’s strength is a function of its unity. We have a vibrant democracy that allows for debate, indeed requires it, but also requires respect for the democratic process. Trump won the presidency. He is the leader of our nation, and his office demands our respect.

Making the switch from partisan campaigner to leader of the free world will be tougher for Trump than for past presidents. Unlike Obama, who focused on unity before his inaugurations, Trump remained solidly in campaign mode in the weeks leading up to the inauguration, continuing to attack his defeated opponent and his detractors. Trump enters office with substantial questions about the role a foreign power played in his victory. Trump failed to win the popular vote.

He also was one of the most vocal detractors of Obama after the 2012 election. When it initially appeared Obama had failed to secure the popular vote, Trump tweeted, “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!” and, “This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!” Then he led the bizarre claims that Obama was not a U.S. citizen.

But Trump won, and payback is not a solution for a nation in peril. Rejecting Trump’s presidency weakens the nation. And even those who have no respect for Trump as a man should keep in mind that people change. He has undertaken an awesome responsibility, and millions are praying he will be up to the task.

This is a time for the nation to come together.

As Abraham Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, at a time when the nation was far more polarized than it is today:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

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

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