Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser on 'Common core' education standards:
There hasn't been much good news in this profoundly disappointing session of the Legislature, but one shining moment occurred last week when Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh declared efforts to repeal the "common core" education standards "off the table for this session." They should be off the table forever, but even this more modest victory is a triumph for public education and common sense.
Despite the relentless efforts of opponents to mischaracterize them, the common core standards are not some heavy-handed federal scheme to take control of our state's schools. They weren't developed at the federal level, but by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Alabama had input into the development of the standards. Numerous public hearings were held here to solicit public comment. This is hardly some Washington-hatched sneak attack on local control of schools, yet opponents portray it as the education equivalent of the grassy knoll.
Alabama's most credible voice in public education, state Superintendent Tommy Bice, has repeatedly told legislators and anyone else who will listen that Alabama educators continue to control the curricula used in Alabama classrooms and that the state is not collecting or disseminating any personal information that would identify students. Local school systems continue to control curriculum development and instructional materials and teachers maintain control over lesson plans. Nevertheless, the facts, as plain and indisputable as they are, somehow fail to dissuade opponents.
The common core standards have been adopted by 46 states and the education component of the Department of Defense. ..
It's heartening to see the repeal efforts taken off the table. It would be better yet to see them buried for good, tamped down deep in the crypt of baseless and damaging ideas born of a blind and intransigent ideology.
Decatur (Ala.) Daily on removing grocery tax, but fairly:
A bill pending in the Alabama Senate would replace the state's grocery tax with a higher sales tax on other goods.
This is one of those times when the solution to a problem is worse than the problem.
Sen. Gerald Dial's bill would end the state's 4 percent sales tax on groceries.
While the bill sponsored by Dial, R-Lineville, would accomplish the commendable goal of eliminating the grocery tax that overburdens the poor, it would increase the sales tax on everything else by 1 percent.
Kimble Forrister, executive director of Alabama Arise Citizens' Policy Project, said replacing one regressive tax with another regressive tax is bad strategy. While a person would pay less in food taxes, the person would spend more for clothes, toiletries and school supplies.
Sales taxes on everyday goods place an unfair burden on the poor. The tax on food highlights this problem at a basic level.
A minimum-wage earner who buys $150 worth of food pays 2 percent of a week's wages on grocery taxes for that food. A person who makes $60,000 a year pays only .05 percent of a week's wages for the same groceries.
In some Alabama cities, combined local and state taxes would rise to 11 percent for nonfood items under Dial's bill. ...
A better proposal, sponsored by Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, would replace the lost revenue by eliminating Alabama's income tax deduction for federal income taxes. Alabama is one of only three states that offer the deduction.
While Knight's proposal is more acceptable than Dial's, we feel Alabama legislators are all too eager to take the easy way out when it comes to solving financial problems. ..
Dial's bill passed the Education Budget Committee earlier this month and is pending a full Senate vote. While we urge legislators to eliminate the state grocery tax, we encourage them to focus on the income tax deduction or increased property taxes as a way to provide adequate funding for education and other services.
That would require more gumption and enterprise than we usually see from the Alabama Legislature, and hard work to persuade voters to approve it.
The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News on priorities have changed with Emelle landfill:
It's interesting to see how attitudes change over the years. In one of the most clearly bi-partisan actions of an Alabama Legislature that has been noted for partisan divisions, lawmakers voted to repeal many of the fees it placed on disposing of hazardous waste in the state.
It would be easy for someone conducting a cursory examination of the subject to assume that Republicans, who are perceived to place a high priority on low taxes and free markets while according a lower priority to environmental issues, stepped in with their supermajority and unilaterally lowered the disposal fees. But that doesn't appear to be the way that it happened.
The chief beneficiary of lowering waste disposal fees is Chemical Waste Management's huge landfill in Emelle in Sumter County. Sen. Bobby Singleton, the Democrat from Greensboro who represents the area, has been the chief backer of the legislation.
The Emelle landfill was once the nation's largest for-profit hazardous waste landfill. During the late 1970s and through the 1980s, thousands of tons of toxic waste was shipped to Alabama and disposed of there. It employed about 500 workers and was a revenue cash cow for Sumter County.
The landfill was at the center of controversy from its original permitting. ...
Concerns became so great that conservative Gov. Guy Hunt championed fees that would make out-of-state hazardous waste disposal in Alabama cost prohibitive. The legislature fell in line. The fees the Legislature voted this year to repeal to stimulate business at the landfill were initially enacted in hopes of killing off its business. And to a great extent, the strategy worked.
After 1990, the Emelle landfill became a shadow of itself. Companies that produced hazardous waste found other places to dispose of it. Employment at the landfill plummeted to less than 50 workers. Tax revenue quit flowing into the county coffers.
It has been that way for 23 years. Local officials want to change that now. With unemployment at more than 10 percent, people are more concerned about paying the bills than saving the environment.
Twenty-five years ago, the landfill was at the center of a constantly raging controversy. This year, the fees were repealed with hardly a peep. Priorities do indeed change with the times.