Sunday, February 25, 2018

School walkouts in the wake of ‘Parkland’ — protected by the First Amendment or not?

  The national walkouts that students are currently organizing to call for new gun control legislation are commendable examples of “Generation Z” exercising its First Amendment freedoms. Unfortunately, students, teachers and other staff are likely to run up against legal limits around free speech and protest on school grounds.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Tax incentives: Not always the answer for Alabama’s economic struggles

  Last month, the state rejoiced with news that Alabama would be the home of a new Toyota-Mazda plant. The plant is expected to bring over 4,000 jobs and billions of dollars in net revenue to the state. With the execution of this deal, known as Project New World, state and local governments will give the two companies around $900 million in tax incentives.

  A tool used by state and local governments, tax incentives attempt to lure large businesses with the hope that the revenue brought in from that corporation will offset the incentive costs. Often, incentives leverage the taxes paid by small businesses and use them to bring a large, untouchable competitor into the state. Although small, loyal businesses pay the high tax rate year after year, tax incentives comprised of that money can hurt or destroy their business. While there are no small businesses competing with Toyota and Mazda, an increased reliance on tax incentives to bring in major consumable goods retailers can hurt local, small businesses that spend years paying into the system.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Conservative myths about Medicaid

  Access to health insurance in the United States is one of the most hotly debated issues in the national discourse. Prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 44 million Americans lacked health insurance, including many low-income nonelderly adults who did not fall within traditionally covered Medicaid eligibility groups, including pregnant women, disabled adults, and low-income children. Since the ACA went into effect in 2013, 11.9 million newly eligible people have gained coverage through Medicaid in states that chose to expand their programs. In addition to producing better health outcomes, Medicaid expansion has resulted in new enrollees having access to quality care without the threat of financial turmoil.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1602: The Bridge Crossing Jubilee is back in full force!

  The Bridge Crossing Jubilee is back in full force. This is the 25th Jubilee. Twenty-five years is a long time. When this Sketches is published, Jubilee will be about a week away. The Jubilee starts March 1, 2018. But this Jubilee is different in important ways.

  The Jubilee draws tens of thousands each year. One year it drew more than 100,000. It is the largest annual civil rights gathering in the world, and it all happens right here in Selma, Alabama, a city of 20,000. However, people come from across America and faraway places such as Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and other countries in North America.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Short legislative session playing out, but campaigns are taking shape

  The 2018 Alabama Legislative Session will be short and sweet. It is an election year. Historically, during the last year of a quadrennium, the legislature convenes early and passes the budgets, then members go home and campaign for reelection to another term. 

  Our forefathers, who wrote our 1901 Constitution, must have been thinking the same thing because they designed for the fourth year of the quadrennium legislative session to start and end early. It is set by law to begin in early January, whereas it begins in February in most years. This year’s session began January 9 and can run through April 23. The consensus is that they will adjourn sine die earlier than the April deadline. Most observers believe that they will pass the budgets and be out of Montgomery by the end of March and home campaigning by April Fools’ Day.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Five ways the Trump budget undermines gun violence prevention and school safety efforts

  In his address to the nation the day after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and teachers and injured another 14, President Donald Trump vowed to take action, stating that he would soon hold meetings with governors and attorneys general in which “making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority.” He continued, “It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make that difference.” However, the president’s actions have already spoken louder than these hollow words. Just two days before the shooting, his administration released its fiscal year 2019 budget, which proposed cutting funding to crucial programs that help prevent gun violence and ensure school safety.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Protect journalists with the same laws that protect all of us

  I understand the motivation behind the proposed Journalist Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime to attack those involved in reporting the news. The legislation comes at a time of particularly vocal attacks on news operations and individual reporters, many of which stem from the highest office in the land.

  I admire the goal — preventing or penalizing misguided thugs who would censor through violence. And I salute California Rep. Eric Swalwell for introducing it in an era in which support for journalism is at an all-time low.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Trump budget is full of giveaways to coal and oil companies

  This week, the Trump administration released its proposed budget for funding the federal government in 2019. With extensive cuts to health care, schools, scientific research, and nutrition assistance, Americans across the country would suffer under this proposal. However, there are some clear winners who would benefit from the Trump budget, particularly, the fossil fuel industry.

  After receiving billions in tax cuts at the end of last year, oil and gas companies can expect another year of record-breaking profits. While Exxon alone received $5.9 billion in tax breaks, companies that do oil exploration can expect an additional $190 billion in profits. And Wednesday, the second-largest coal company in the country, Arch Coal, announced the new tax plan would lower their tax rate to “effectively zero.” To pay for these giveaways, the Trump budget proposes cutting several programs that enforce pollution laws, fund clean energy innovation, and protect outdoor places. Trump’s cuts effectively subsidize oil, gas, and coal companies, severely hamper renewable energy growth, all while weakening protections for public health and the outdoors.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: Why do anti-immigrants favor protectionism?

  Okay, I get it: President Trump and his acolytes favor immigration controls because they don’t want people from s***hole countries coming into the United States. What doesn’t makes any sense is why they also favor tariffs, sanctions, embargoes, and other trade restrictions against those s***h countries. After all, by increasing economic misery in those countries, such measures only encourage more people from those countries to come to the United States, the exact opposite of what anti-immigrants want.

Friday, February 16, 2018

John Norris: A bad budget for America’s place in the world

  As President Donald Trump dreams of a military parade in the streets of the nation’s capital and dishes out enormous tax breaks to billionaires, he continues to hobble American diplomacy and international development to an unprecedented degree.

  The budget released this week, while thin on details, calls for devastating cuts of more than 30 percent to diplomacy and development programs from the levels enacted in 2017. These cuts, if adopted, would leave America less equipped to tackle conflict, pandemic disease, and extremism before they reach the nation’s shores; ill-prepared to champion American exports overseas; and more likely to end up in military conflict. It will also cause untold suffering for millions of people—particularly the most vulnerable women and children across the developing world.