Thursday, March 23, 2017

Craig Ford: Hypocrisy and injustice from the Alabama Legislature

  State legislatures and the U.S. Congress typically have the lowest approval ratings of any government branch or agency, and last week the Alabama Legislature showed exactly why that is.

  The same state legislators who made their own pay raises part of the state constitution and are subsequently receiving more than a $2,000 pay raise this year for their part-time job, have decided our state employees aren’t deserving of a pay increase this year.

  It isn’t a question of money. The budget passed by the Alabama House of Representatives is holding back $97 million “for future needs and uncertainties,” while the cost of a four percent pay increase would only be one-fifth of that (about $19 million).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The 2018 governor's race

  We are on the cusp of one of the best political years in modern political history in the Heart of Dixie. Prior to the 1970s, the Alabama Constitution disallowed succession of office for our state constitutional offices. In other words, you could not run for two consecutive four-year terms. That is why George Wallace ran his wife in his place in 1966. George and Lurleen campaigned side-by-side. George would wink at the crowds still drawn to courthouse squares by a country band and say, “I’m going to be her number one advisor.” By the way, she won in a landslide. She beat eight male opponents without a runoff, including two former governors, an agriculture commissioner, the sitting state attorney general and two powerful state senators.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Judge Gorsuch threatens the dignity of LGBT people

  Judges with Supreme Court aspirations tend to guard their views, avoiding stances and statements that could impede a nomination or confirmation. Judge Neil Gorsuch has done just that, leading observers to look to his influences rather than his issuances. Among them is Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom he clerked. While Judge Gorsuch and Justice Kennedy may share a bond, they part ways on several issues. One lesser known but critically important point of potential disagreement surrounds a somewhat nebulous legal principle critical to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, rights: the dignity of free persons.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Alexandra Werner-Winslow: State legislators attack the right to protest

  Fifty-two years ago Friday, famed civil rights judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. issued a momentous federal court ruling that prohibited Alabama Gov. George Wallace and a local sheriff from interfering with voting rights marchers.

  It came 10 days after Bloody Sunday, the day protesters began marching to the Alabama Capitol only to be turned back and brutally beaten by state troopers and a sheriff’s posse as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

  Four days after Johnson's ruling, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led more than 3,000 marchers across the bridge and then on to the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery – their right to protest upheld, their path unimpeded by law enforcement.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1553: It is not what we call it but what it answers to

  The name sounds so innocent. In fact, it sounds good. But it is not what it is named but what it answers to. This Senate Bill 60 answers to the call of rank oppression.

  It is called the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017. Each word sounds good in its own way. Alabama. Memorial. Preservation. Act. 2017. Together they sound real good. However, it is not what we call it but what it answers to. This bill answers to the beck and call of rank oppression.

  The bill moves in the name of Alabama. It moves in the name of memorials. It moves in the name of preservation. It moves in the name of 2017. It moves in the name of history. But its spirit is the opposite of the name. It is not about preservation as much as exclusion of symbols of other history. It is not what we call the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act but what it answers to. And it answers to the beck and call of rank oppression.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ken Gude: Russia’s 5th Column

  Russia’s actions to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and help then-presidential candidate Donald Trump win were similar to its activities to build a network of far-right political parties and movements in Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin is using this network to advance his policy objectives at home and abroad.

  In this effort, Russia is motivated by both the desire to lead a conservative revival against Western liberal democracies and a flawed interpretation of recent waves of popular uprisings against autocratic rulers that sees an American conspiracy behind them. Putin has adopted a deliberate strategy to directly challenge the liberal international order led by the United States. That global system helped end the historical pattern of devastating wars among major powers and brought much of the world an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity since the end of World War II.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Craig Ford: Is the legislature about to pass a $250 million backdoor tax increase?

  It doesn’t claim to be a $250 million tax increase, but that’s exactly what would happen if the Alabama Legislature passes a proposed bill to privatize the state’s ABC stores.

  Though it may seem like a reasonable, pro-private sector bill that would decrease government bureaucracy and expenses, in reality this bill would hurt small businesses, cost the taxpayers $250 million (or more) a year, and worsen the “wild west” situation we already have with private liquor stores.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dorian Warren: Trump romanticizes the White America of the past - It’s time to stop

  I’ve been reading a lot about how many of the people who ushered in the Trump era were driven by a longing for a white Christian America of the past. They harken back to a heyday when white men were the power brokers in all situations, women stayed home, and America was a stratified society where everyone knew their place.

  These folks hope the new president will bring us back to this romanticized vision: the U.S. as Mayberry, the small town from the The Andy Griffith Show that has become synonymous with an idealized, folksy life.

  The problem is, that America never actually existed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: The future of online sales taxes and Alabama's roads

  My tradition for over two decades has been to give my children money for Christmas. Under this system, there is no returning of items. They get what they want or need. There is no way that I would know what style of clothing, color or size they like. It works well.

  The most illuminating thing that occurred to me this year is that both of my daughters and my granddaughter bought all of their Christmas gifts for me online. Without question, our country and state have changed dramatically in my lifetime in terms of technology. As a result, Alabama and other states have to change the way that sales tax is collected. States have to find a solution and the will to derive sales tax from online purchases.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Richard M. Ebeling: The national debt limit equals a balanced budget

  Once again the United States government is rapidly approaching a fiscal debt ceiling: After March 16, 2017, Uncle Sam will not be legally allowed to borrow any more money to cover its budget deficits, unless Congress votes to raise the debt limit, once again, like it has every time in the past.

  Uncle’s Sam’s debt has been growing at a frightening rate over the last several decades. It took almost two hundred years, from around 1790, when the government of the United States was established, to 1980 for the federal government to accumulate $1 trillion of debt through deficit spending.