Expert opinions should matter

Published 9:50 am Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When did we decide to stop listening to experts?

Was it around the time that former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy started telling everyone who would listen that vaccines cause autism and people decided she was right — despite the overwhelming evidence and advice from countless pediatricians and scientists that there is no link between the two?

Maybe the Alabama Legislature is listening to someone akin to Jenny McCarthy these days. Last month they voted on a bill that would give tax credits for parents who send their children to private schoools, if the families live in a district with a “failing” school. That happened despite strenuous objections not only from the Alabama Education Association — the teachers’ lobby that lawmakers were trying to snub — but also from educators across the state.

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Legislators were also considering a bill that would halt common core standards in schools — an effort to undermine policy that the state education department already passed. And that legislation was based on the misconception that common core standards meant the federal government would intrude too much into state affairs.

Last week, over vocal protests from several law enforcement groups, a Senate committee approved a measure that would take away a local sheriff’s right to deny a pistol permit to an applicant.

Law enforcement leaders were hoping Tuesday to get a different bill before lawmakers, so we will see if they use common sense when considering that measure.

Obviously any time a bill goes before the Legislature we expect a certain amount of “lobbying” — and lobbyists tend to have a poor reputation because they are trying their best to secure a vote for their special interests. But not all lobbyists are out for some sort of monetary gain. Sheriff Grover Smith and other law enforcement experts are looking out for public safety as they try to derail or modify the gun law pending before the Legislature.

State Rep. Alan Baker said he does not believe that the gun bill will come to the floor of the House this year, based on assurances from the House speaker. We hope that he is right, because unless the Senate adopts the changes that law enforcement officials say are needed we are fearful of the bill as it stands.

It’s time to start listening to the real experts.