Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – What will our Congressional districts look like after the 2020 Census?

  Preparations are being made to take the 2020 Census. This process is not just a fun game to spell out demographic changes and interesting tidbits about Americans. It is a very important mandate dictated by the U.S. Constitution. The number of people counted determines how many seats each state has in Congress. Thus, it is taken every 10-years.

  The country has been changing, demographically, over the last decade, as it always has over the course of history. The states of California, Texas, and Florida continue to grow exponentially. All Americans, not just older ones, seek the sun. They like a sunny, warm climate. That is why our neighboring state of Florida is, and has been for decades, America’s growth state.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2019 threats to First Amendment freedoms

  First Amendment threats and defenses have, for much of the past 100 years, largely focused on protecting individual speech — the rights of any one of us to express ourselves without interference or punishment by the government.

  Not to be too glib but, oh, those were the days! This glee is due, in no small part, to the degree that individual speech and press rights triumphed in that era. But looking into this new year, that situation — and those victories — may be more nostalgia than the norm. There is increasing danger to our core freedoms from what I’ll call “systemic” challenges, which often appear focused on other issues but which carry a First Amendment impact, if not a wallop.

Monday, January 14, 2019

For low-income people, generosity is a survival tactic

  If you aren’t one of Renee Rushka’s neighbors in Bethel, Connecticut, you probably don’t know about the chain of events that took place there this past December. They were small and quiet and didn’t change the world, but they changed the lives of the people they touched. It started a few weeks before Christmas when Rushka was a few dollars short of what she needed to pay for her groceries. Someone behind her in line offered to cover what Rushka couldn’t. The following week she posted a thank you on the neighborhood’s Facebook page. There was an immediate flood of replies, she says, from people asking whether her family needed anything else to get through the holiday. There was also one woman asking if Rushka could recommend resources because she was struggling too.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Risks in Betsy DeVos’ rethink of higher education

  In its first two years, the Trump administration bent over backward to gut Obama administration regulations designed to hold colleges or programs accountable for ripping off students. Now, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is kicking 2019 off with an attempt to dismantle bedrock protections created decades ago that define what it means to receive a college education and the role gatekeepers play in conducting quality oversight.

  Last week, the U.S. Department of Education detailed exactly how it plans to accomplish its goals. The elimination of these protections risks the proliferation of poor-quality schools in the name of innovation, leading to more dead ends and broken promises for students.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Tucker Carlson and Fox News are wrong, on both immigration and free speech

  Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson got himself into some hot water with Fox News advertisers last month after he made a derogatory comment about immigrants on his show. According to Hollywood Reporter, at least 24 advertisers decided to boycott Carlson’s show in response to his comment, including Toyota, Lexus, Farmers Insurance,, IHOP, Pacific Life Insurance, Bowflex, and Samsung.

  What did Carlson say that caused this large exodus of advertisers from his show? He suggested that immigrants make America “dirtier.” Carlson’s advertisers clearly did not agree with his assessment and registered their discontent by pulling their ads from his show.

Friday, January 11, 2019

9th Circuit panel rejects religious school's use of ministerial exception, creates circuit split

  A religious school in California cannot use the “ministerial exception” to label one of its former teachers and, therefore, avoid her disability discrimination lawsuit, a divided federal appeals court has ruled. The court’s decision creates a split among the federal appellate circuits and could cause the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit and perhaps provide more guidance on the meaning of its 2012 decision on the ministerial exception.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

How long should the workday be?

  It has been eighty years since the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1938. The FLSA established a national minimum wage of 25¢ an hour, mandated time and a half for overtime in certain jobs, prohibited most child labor, and established a 44-hour workweek (lowered to 40 hours in 1940).

  Although the national minimum wage has steadily risen to $7.25 per hour (where it has stood since 2009), the workweek has never been lowered below 40 hours.

  Some people want that to change.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Alabama’s 1940s congressional delegation

  Recently I came across a copy of an old congressional directory from 1942. It is always fun for me to read about this era in American political history.

  Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been first elected in 1932 in the depths of the Great Depression. He would go on to be reelected in 1936, 1940, and 1944 and would have been reelected into perpetuity. However, he died in Warm Springs, Georgia in April of 1945, only four months into his fourth term. He was the closest thing we Americans have ever had to having a king. Nobody has or ever will serve four terms as President. After FDR's omnipotent reign, the Constitution was changed to limit our presidents to two four-year terms.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Missing paychecks due to Trump shutdown total $2 billion every two weeks

  President Donald Trump has suggested his shutdown could last “for months or even a year or longer” due to his insistence on extorting taxpayer money for a border wall that the American public overwhelmingly opposes—one that he swore Mexico would pay for. The new Democratic House majority passed legislation to reopen the government, but there is no indication that the Republican-controlled Senate will agree to end this impasse soon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has voiced his refusal to bring legislation to reopen the government to the Senate floor despite the fact that the chamber passed a similar deal unanimously just three weeks ago.

Monday, January 7, 2019

What Trump leaves out when he talks about the black unemployment rate

  President Donald Trump has a lot to say about the economy. His tweets on it are as incessant as they are unreliable: There’s his insistence that we have the “best jobs numbers” in the history of the country (job creation has slowed since Obama’s presidency ended), the time he bragged that we have the “hottest jobs market on planet Earth,” and his confusing claim that he has revitalized the steel industry and spurred the development of six new steel mills (he has not).

  None of those claims are exactly true, but the one that happened during his State of the Union address last year is what keeps me up at night. While making the case for his economic platform, Trump specifically touted low black unemployment, saying, “[It’s] something I’m very proud of, African American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded.” Republicans cheered; Democrats grimaced. I rolled my eyes.