- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:

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June 28

The Tuscaloosa News on California adding Alabama to a list of states that are off-limits for state-funded travel of its officials:

Some people look at things and decide what it is before they get the full view. Often, they allow emotion to override reason. And some folks just want something to be outraged about, someone to vent at, someone to blame for the ills they perceive in society.

Many savvy politicians instinctively know this and use it to their advantage. Alabama and many other traditionally conservative states are easy prey, particularly for residents from other, more left-leaning areas. Let’s be honest, Alabama has a history that sets itself up for this sort of thing. And the shot was apparently too easy, even if it is not entirely justified, for some politicians in California.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has added Alabama to his list of states that are off limits for state-funded travel for California officials. Becerra added Alabama to his travel ban list because the state recently adopted a law allowing faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to place children in households that are in contradiction of their religious teaching, which often includes same-sex marriages.

Alabama has a sad and sordid history of state-sanctioned discrimination. But that’s not the case with Alabama’s new adoption law. The law simply prohibits the state from withholding a license from faith-based adoption agencies that refuse placements based on their religious beliefs. Even if you disagree with those beliefs, these agencies should be free to practice their religion without the heavy hand of government punishing them.

The new law does not stop same-sex couples from adopting. That’s an important point, and one that those who support same-sex marriages should note. The law also protects only private, faith-based agencies that do not receive state and federal funds. Most placements are done through secular agencies, so same-sex couples who want to adopt still have plenty of options available to them. The law does nothing to stop them from adopting through one of those agencies. They most likely would not be going to a church-based organization that does not support same-sex marriages in the first place.

Religious organizations should not be forced or pressured by government to change their teachings to fit societal norms, particularly societal norms from more than 2,000 miles away. Church teachings should not be subjugated to political whims, and particularly not the whims of a politician from another state.

Politicians in Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky have creatively fired back at California’s travel ban. A few, like a spokesperson for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, have slammed “West Coast liberals.” Tennessee passed a resolution urging other states not to impose “their unfounded moral judgment… in order to prevent escalating foolishness.” Basically, they’ve found the opportunity to play on their voters’ emotions also. We hope Alabama politicians don’t join that chorus. As Alabama’s new Gov. Kay Ivey pointed out Tuesday, there is abundant dysfunction in Washington, D.C., to satisfy faux moral outrage.

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

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June 28

The Gadsden Times on a federal judge’s ruling that mental health care for Alabama’s prisons inmates is “horrendously inadequate”:

We hate to say “we told you so,” but there’s no other valid response to this week’s decision by a federal judge on mental health care for inmates in Alabama’s prisons.

U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson’s ruling took more than 300 pages, but his point was concise: Mental health care is “horrendously inadequate” to the point it violates constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment.

The case is an offshoot of a larger suit filed three years ago by inmates and a couple of advocacy groups for their interests, alleging that medical, dental and mental health care and accommodations for the disabled are inadequate in Alabama’s prisons.

Thompson’s opinion was brutal, saying the testimony of the defendants - Jefferson Dunn, commissioner of the Department of Corrections, and Ruth Naglich, associate commissioner of health services - “extensively and materially supported the plaintiffs’ claim.”

He said the corrections department knew the scope of the problems - he called them “serious systemic deficiencies” - and that the contractor hired to handle mental health services in Alabama’s prisons was unable to remedy them.

Thompson ripped the department for disregarding “the substantial risk of serious harm to mentally ill prisoners,” accusing it of warehousing instead of treating inmates with serious issues who are at risk of suicide.

One inmate who testified in the trial actually hanged himself in his cell shortly afterward.

The “we told you so” comes in with how Thompson seeks to remedy this crisis: He will oversee meetings between corrections officials and inmates to find a solution. We imagine there will be a hint of compulsion in that oversight, especially since Thompson indicated “the proposed relief must be both immediate and long term.”

So, as we’ve warned, Alabama is going to be forced by the federal government into doing something it really would prefer not to do, that will inevitably cost money.

We’ve not even gotten to the larger and more potentially serious (and expensive) question of the state’s overcrowded prisons, bulging to the point of simultaneous explosion and implosion. (ADOC officials in their testimony in the mental health case blamed those conditions for the problems.)

Gov. Kay Ivey has pledged to meet with Dunn and legislative leaders to come up with ways to follow Thompson’s order. Dunn in response to that order indicated those conversations could be difficult - there was a whiff of “you folks need to help us out here” in his comments.

There has been speculation that Ivey has been waiting on Thompson’s ruling to decide whether to call a special session to deal with Alabama’s prisons. If she does, we hope there will be a serious will to confront and address the problems. If it’s going to be more grumbling about the feds sticking their noses into Alabama’s business and compelling it to spend money (and look for new revenue sources), a special session would be pointless.

We imagine there’s not much sympathy for these inmates, outside of their families and advocates for their cause. Alabamians, both citizens and law enforcement, tend to be tough on crime at every level. The “lock ‘em up, crazy or not, and who cares what the conditions are, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” mindset is strong.

We have no problem with prisons not being pleasant places, or criminals being justly punished. “Horrendously inadequate” and close to bursting at the seams is a different story.

Alabamians also are a religious people. Exodus 20 mentions things that today are crimes against secular law. Matthew 25:36-40 mandates a little different approach for violators than “throw away the key.”

Online: https://www.gadsdentimes.com/

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June 27

Opelika-Auburn News on President Donald Trump nominating former Alabama official Brock Long to head FEMA:

President Trump appears to have made a good choice in his nomination of a former Alabama official to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tropical Storm Cindy’s visit this week is a good reminder of exactly why emergency preparedness and the monitoring of threatening situations is so important in saving lives.

Trump tapped Brock Long for the position, and the U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination on Tuesday with a 95-4 vote.

Long has a good history in Alabama.

He served as the state’s Emergency Management Agency leader from 2008 to 2011, during which he gained valuable experience in handling such disasters as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off Alabama’s coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s also important to realize the painful and deserving black eye FEMA endured after its embarrassing failures following the earlier disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Long was among those who helped change the approach and image of state EMAs and then FEMA on the federal level.

Long also has a good reputation in the private sector, having most recently served as vice president of the emergency management firm Hagerty Consulting in Illinois.

Like other top managers and advisers working for the fluid and say-anything Trump, he’ll have his hands full leading FEMA, starting with some of the funding threats his new boss has proposed.

Nevertheless, Long served Alabama well, and his efforts to help the state and the gulf region recover from various hard hits will no doubt serve well the nation as a whole.

It would be nice if Long and his job weren’t needed, but we know better. Having someone experienced and proven to be cool under fire, and someone already familiar with the people and needs of Alabama, makes Long for us a good pick for the task at hand.

Let’s hope, in a good way, we don’t have to see much of him here.

Online: https://www.oanow.com/

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