Monday, May 2, 2016

Study finds 1,500 government-backed tributes to the Confederacy across U.S.

  At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country, mostly in the Deep South, according to a report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Most were put in place during the early decades of Jim Crow or in reaction to the civil rights movement.

  The report – Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy – catalogs 1,503 examples of monuments and statues; flags; city, county and school names; lakes, dams and other public works; state holidays; and other symbols that honor the Confederacy.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Charles C. Haynes: With Bible bill vetoes, governors uphold religious freedom

  The culture wars took an expected turn this month when two Republican governors vetoed “Bible bills” in the reliably red states of Idaho and Tennessee.

  The Idaho legislation would have permitted the Bible to be used “for reference purposes” in teaching literature, history, government and other subjects in public schools. To placate critics, amendments had deleted any mention of geology, astronomy and biology, and added “other religious texts.”

  In his veto message, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter wrote that although he has “deep respect and appreciation for the Bible as religious doctrine,” allowing the bill to become law would violate the Idaho Constitution’s prohibition on teaching “religious tenets or doctrines” in public schools.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sam Fulwood III: At long last, a wrong righted for disenfranchised Virginians

  In a stunning demonstration of political propriety and fairness, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) used his executive authority last week to restore voting rights to 210,000 convicted felons who have lawfully served their time and parole obligations in the state. It was long overdue.

  Governor McAuliffe’s order effectively negated a century of mean-spirited and misguided laws, including felon disenfranchisement, that were set in place by Reconstruction-era lawmakers intent on denying African Americans the right to vote. While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminated the once-onerous poll taxes and literacy laws written into the Virginia Constitution following the freeing of slaves at the end of the Civil War, laws forbidding felons from voting in the state survived—until McAuliffe, with a sweep of his pen, changed the law.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1507: Overcoming poverty of circumstances and spirit

  I know the power of poverty. It encases our hopes, our dreams, our spirits, and our lives so they can’t grow. I also know the power of escaping from poverty. I escaped, therefore, I understand how critical it is for us to extend a helping hand to those caught in the throes of poverty. I shared some of these facts in my brief remarks concerning poverty at the American Bar Association Conference on Poverty and Homelessness at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma.

  I know poverty firsthand. I grew up in poverty. We were not just poor; we were “po.” At one point, 11 of us – nine children, a mother and a father – lived in a three-room house. I don’t mean a three bedroom house. I mean a kitchen, a middle room and a front room. There was no bathroom, no running water, and no electricity. The middle room did not have heat of any kind. With two beds in a small room, there was no space for a heater. In the cold of winter, we heated rocks and smoothing irons, wrapped cloth around them, and placed them under the covers to keep our feet warm. We were “po.” Yes, I know the experience of poverty.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Craig Ford: Throwing money at prisons won’t solve the problem

  This $800 million super prisons bill is the kind of thing people go to jail for; the kind of bill loaded with kickbacks for elected officials. And it won't even solve our problems in the prison system!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama citizens deserve a lottery vote

  As the budget hearings began for the 2016 Alabama Legislative Session in January, the largest Powerball lottery sweepstakes in American history was playing out. It was one of the biggest news stories of the year.

  Legislators were hearing the same song, second verse, that they heard last year. The General Fund is about $200 million short. If the money is not found, we will lose $500 million in Medicaid federal matching dollars, most state highways will be without state troopers, and most counties - not just in the Black Belt - will be unable to grant or renew driver’s licenses. In addition, the federal courts will take over our prisons and more than likely release hundreds of convicts on the streets, and state employees will either be let go or have their take home pay cut again for the eighth straight year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Darrio Melton: The prison bill is a bad investment

  As elected officials, looking for solutions to our state's problems is often a delicate balancing act. We have to determine the best way to use the resources we have while maximizing the benefit per dollar to the taxpayers. In the business community, this is called "return on investment."

  It's clear Gov. Robert Bentley didn't go to business school, because his $1.5 billion prison bill would get laughed out of a boardroom.

  Bentley wants to put $1.5 billion on the state's credit card so we can build new prisons. By the time the money comes due, we'll owe double the amount we borrowed.  Meanwhile, the Alabama Senate has voted not to repay the $437 million we borrowed back in 2012, and yet they want us to believe they'll make good on this $1.5 billion credit card bill for new prisons.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Michael Josephson: The disease of low expectations

  The serious damage done to our economy, social institutions, and personal relationships by widespread cheating and dishonesty is bad enough. But widespread acceptance of such behavior as inevitable threatens to make our future a lot worse. In effect, our culture is being infected by a disease: the disease of low expectations.

  The disease is manifested by the corrosive assumption that human nature can’t be expected to withstand pressures or temptations. In other words, when there’s a conflict between self-interest and moral principles, self-interest – in fact, short-term self-interest – will generally prevail.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Gene Policinski: Getting ‘SLAPP’d’ for getting involved — new protections considered

  Have you ever been SLAPP’d?

  SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” and it’s a technique as old as lawsuits to stifle competition brought by the rapacious moguls of the early Industrial Age, and as modern as lawsuits against online critics.

  A section of the Communications Decency Act shields online sites from defamation suits and other kinds of civil actions over content posted by third parties — but not the people who post the material. Nearly one-half of states provide some protection against SLAPP lawsuits – some limited only to communication with the government – but a new U.S. House proposal, HR 2304, would add to those defenses, proponents say.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Three reasons why we should certify all paid tax preparers

  Filing taxes can be complicated. As a result, many people get help from tax preparers. According to IRS data, 81.2 million Americans paid tax preparers to help them complete their returns in 2011. Some of these paid preparers base their fee on a refund percentage or claim that they can provide larger refunds than their competitors.

  While one might assume that all paid tax preparers have special training that enables them to offer high-quality tax assistance—and an obligation to adhere to certain professional rules—neither is the case. In fact, the federal government currently lacks the authority to license or regulate most paid preparers.