Brainstorms 5/25/2017

Ferrin Cox

Thursday, May 25,2017

The Alabama Legislature has completed its 2017 annual Regular session. We stress the word “Regular”, because even before the close of the annual session, there was already talk of a special session to deal with prisons, and maybe some other issues. Of course no one has a clue which way such a session will go. They could approve building a number (pick your own number) of new facilities, contract with cities on long term leases, go with commercial prison owners, expand the ones they have . . . the options are almost endless. The controlling factor will ultimately be, as in any other endeavor, costs of their actions.

If looking at the fairness of their actions, someone should be responsible for the debts local communities shouldered to supply water and sewage and roads when the state wanted to build a new prison in the area. State officials waved the idea of additional local jobs to entice those investments (and long term bond issues) so there is a moral, if not legal, obligation to honor the promises made to those communities. Of course that will not matter once lawmakers decide the votes to be lost in the next election will not be enough to impact their individual re-election prospects.

The U. S. Supreme Court just kinda slapped the fairly new minted industry of suing companies for patent infringement. Now we are not talking about two folks doing the same thing and one has a better method, so the second one copies the leader. Patent laws were designed to prevent such – and justly so. We understand there are companies out there who do nothing but acquire a fist full of old, old, dusty patents and then start suing any successful company making something close to the obscure patent. Under the latest Supreme Court ruling these vultures can’t shop for friendly judges anywhere in the nation, but must sue in the state in which the “violating” company is incorporated. That will not stop the practice but will surely slow them down a bit.

Thousands of teens are completing their high school careers this month and hopefully many are looking forward to four years (or more) of college and then a nice career. The cost of that higher education can be handled in a number of ways. One that bothers us is the government higher education loan program. Oh, they are great if used properly but alas the facts show a different picture. Many people are still paying on that loan as they prepare for retirement! Somewhere down the road they took a misstep and are now paying the price. First they often borrow more than needed or can be realistically repaid without winning the lottery jackpot. Secondly, many begin feeling mistreated for their plight because of the debt and just stop paying. Well that causes debt collectors and a bunch of additional costs, plus it can cause regular deductions from the trusty social security check. Whatever the problem it is compounded by the outstanding debt haunting them every time they try to buy a car, house, etc. We hope these newly minted college students will learn from those who went before them and only borrow what is absolutely needed. One way to achieve that is they can go the old fashioned way and actually work for part of their college expense!