Saturday, March 24, 2018

Why prison reform is not enough to fix the U.S. criminal justice system

  The Trump administration kicked off 2018 by expressing a surprising, newfound interest in reforming the country’s prisons and strengthening opportunities for those incarcerated to successfully re-enter their communities upon completion of their sentences. In mid-January, the White House convened a group of conservative governors and advocates for a roundtable discussion on prison reform, organized by President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The president also mentioned prison reform in his 2018 State of the Union speech, stating that “this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” Most recently, the White House relaunched a task force initially established by former President Barack Obama—now rebranded as the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry—which comprises federal agencies to coordinate the federal government’s policies to reduce recidivism.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1604: Come share with me!

  Come share with me. If you participated in the 25th Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, then you can remember with me. If you didn’t participate, you can share vicariously with me.

  The Bridge Crossing Jubilee was massive. The 2018 theme was "Many More Bridges To Cross". There were more than 50 events over a four-day period. Not every event is officially sponsored by the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. However, more than 40 of the 50-plus events are official Jubilee events. Still, all events are part of the Jubilee in spirit. The great majority of these events are free.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The radical right is thriving inside the White House - outside, it's falling apart

  He crisscrossed the country. He fought in court. But white nationalist Richard Spencer has a simple explanation for why he will no longer give speeches on college campuses to spread the racist ideology of the so-called “alt-right.”

  “They aren’t fun anymore,” he said recently.

  Spencer’s explanation — as though white nationalism has ever been, or should ever be, “fun” — was a harbinger of what was to come from the radical right last week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Dramatic gubernatorial race brewing

  When talk turns to politics in Alabama, it usually leads to the governor’s race. In Alabama politics, the governor’s office is the Brass Ring. It is talked about more than anything else around coffee clubs and kitchen tables from Sand Mountain to the Wiregrass. It is comparable to college football being the king of all sports in Alabama.

  This infatuation with the governor’s office is borne out in the state's voting history. In most states, the presidential race sees the largest voter turnout, but that is not the case in Alabama where we have historically voted more heavily in gubernatorial years. Governor race years also have most of the important local offices up for grabs. “All politics is local.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Require background checks for all gun sales

  Under current federal law, some individuals are prohibited from buying and possessing guns for reasons such as a prior felony conviction, history of domestic abuse, or involuntary commitment for mental health treatment. Licensed gun dealers are required to conduct a background check for every gun sale in order to ensure that they are not selling guns to prohibited purchasers.

  However, a substantial gap in the law allows unlicensed sellers—such as private individuals who sell guns online, at gun shows, or anywhere else—to sell guns without first conducting a background check. This means that prohibited purchasers can easily evade the law by buying guns through private transactions.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Taylor’s Top Four: Alabama Legislative Session review for week 10

  The session looks to be winding down, but we aren’t going anywhere! Here’s your recap of week 10 in the Alabama Legislature.

  If you want to receive daily news from across the state and nation straight to your inbox each morning, click here to subscribe to the Alabama Policy Institute’s Daily Clips.

1. General Fund budget has almost cleared its last hurdle 

  On Tuesday, the house passed the 2019 General Fund budget, which passed the Senate in February. The Montgomery Advertiser reported that it was the fastest the budget has passed in years: “‘The Clerk of the House, who’s been here 30 years, said that’s the fastest he’s seen it,’ said House Ways and Means General Fund chair Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. ‘It’s my 24th year, and I know that was the fastest.'” There are a few things in this budget that have been widely talked about this year: a pay raise for state employees, a bonus for state retirees, a funding increase for the Department of Corrections, and another increase for Medicaid.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1605: It is so painful, it hurts deep down inside

  Sometimes I have to speak. Sometimes I have to write. I am not anxious to speak. I write every week, but I am not anxious to write. But sometimes I have to write. This is one of those times I have to write. It is so painful, it hurts deep down inside.

  It was a mass murder at a school. Seventeen school children and school personnel died. Another seventeen were shot and injured but did not die. That’s 34 persons shot in one mass shooting, one mass murder.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Craig Ford: Let’s make universal pre-K a reality

  I believe that everyone between the ages of four and sixty-four should either be in a good school or a good job. That is why one of my long-time goals has been to see every four-year-old in Alabama have access to the state’s nationally-recognized pre-K program.

  The State of Alabama has done a good job in recent years of expanding the program, and expanding the program has received broad, bipartisan support. In fact, in an age where Democrats and Republicans rarely agree on any major issue, pre-K has been the one program that has unified everybody.

  Why is the pre-K program so popular and so important? Because it works!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rebecca Wood: The bill that would legalize discrimination against my daughter

  My daughter was born 26 weeks into my pregnancy. When Charlie arrived she weighed one pound and 12 ounces, and she was just as long as my finger. During the first few weeks of her life, I watched her overcome what felt like insurmountable obstacles. She struggled to breathe, her stomach wasn’t mature enough to digest food, and her skin was so thin it was agony for her to be held. I worried that we were asking too much of her, but she fought to survive. Today, she is a joyous 5-year-old, though she has residual effects of her significantly premature birth. Charlie was incredibly susceptible to infections, and she has delays in speech and fine motor development. She will go through life with a disability: she needs help tying her shoes, using scissors, and opening her lunch.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Gene Policinski: The White House is wrong. A free press is ‘the people’

  An angry U.S. president feels hounded by the news media and is infuriated and discouraged with the intense and personal criticism of his domestic and international policies.

  I would suspect virtually all of you read that opening paragraph and thought of Donald Trump – and not of George Washington.

  But, in fact, it was our first president who felt the pressure of critics who attacked not just his administration but his personal integrity: A leading newspaper criticized him for a 61st birthday party it said was “monarchical” – apparently, a real political body slam in 1792. A critical press was a major reason he declined a third term, scholars say.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Is this it for Martha Roby?

  Well, folks, the 2018 political year has begun and all of the horses are in the chute. It is going to be a good year for horse races.

  Perennially, the year of the governor’s race has been the best year for Alabama politics. Historically, most Alabamians have been more interested in who they elect as governor than who they elect as president. However, we have really been more interested in who is sheriff than president. If the old adage that “All politics is local” applies in Tip O’Neil’s Massachusetts, it applies doubly in the Heart of Dixie.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The problem with privatizing public education for military students

  On March 7, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced the Military Education Savings Act of 2018 to divert funding from a long-standing federal program, Impact Aid, into a voucher-like program to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, or homeschooling materials for military families. The bill is modeled off a Heritage Foundation proposal, which is supported by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to create education savings accounts (ESAs) for certain military-connected students—or students who have a parent on active duty. The ESAs would create an account for military-connected students not enrolled in public schools that could be used for private school tuition, private tutoring, online programs, or textbooks. The proposal is yet another attempt to launch private school voucher programs, instead of investing public money in public schools.

Monday, March 12, 2018

We're deporting people who were Americans before the U.S. existed

  The screaming blocks out all other sound. In more than two minutes of footage, the only words audible above the girls’ sobbing:  “Get in the car.” “Mom!” “Where is she going?” “Are you guys alone?” “Yes.”

  The video, posted to Facebook on Thursday, shows at least two Border Patrol agents physically tearing Perla Morales-Luna out of her daughters’ arms and pushing her into a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Parker Snider: Alabama can do more for its military families

  According to a recent survey, a majority of military family members do not feel that they belong in their local civilian communities. This means that less than half of military families that live in our neighborhoods, shop at our malls, and attend our places of worship feel at home with us.

  Why is this the case?

  Perhaps it is because of one of the staples of military life – regular mandated relocation. Members of our military often have little to no say in where they live or how often they move, something they do an estimated 10 times more than civilian families. Nevertheless, they choose to sacrifice their desires and expectations for the good of our country.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Taylor’s Top 5: Legislative Session Review for Week 9

  We are back with your recap of another week in Montgomery! What happened last week in the Alabama Legislature and beyond? Read below to find out!

  If you want to receive daily news from across the state and nation straight to your inbox each morning, click here to subscribe to the Alabama Policy Institute’s Daily Clips.

1. Tax cuts might soon be in store for some Alabama families.

  On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a modest tax break bill that increases the standard deduction for an estimated 180,000 lower-income Alabamians by a vote of 89-0. Residents who file Married Filing Joint, Head of Family, or Single and make between $20,500 and $32,999 could see a decrease in taxes if they typically accept the standard deduction and do not itemize. Those who file as Married Filing Separate must make between $10,250 and $15,249 to qualify. The bill passed the senate without opposition in January and now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Richard M. Ebeling: Trump’s protectionist follies threaten a trade war

  President Donald Trump has announced the planned imposition of a new 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on foreign-made aluminum entering the United States. This has brought about threats of trade retaliation by a number of America’s trading partners. The menacing clouds of a possible trade war are showing themselves on the global horizon.

  Claiming that other countries are taking advantage of the U.S., as reflected in American trade deficits, Trump, in one of his infamous tweets, has declared that “trade wars  are good, and easy to win.” How and why? Trump asserted: “Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!”

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Michael Josephson: Truth matters and trustworthiness matters

  Truth matters and it's your moral responsibility to find it. Trustworthiness matters and it's your moral duty to insist on it.

  Never in my lifetime has truth been more important or more elusive.

  Though hard to find, within every mountain of careless claims, unsubstantiated assertions, fallacious reasoning and outright lies, there are true facts and credible sources. It is your moral duty to find them.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Political players to watch in 2018

  As the June primaries for our statewide races get closer, there is a lot of media attention on the power being wielded by special interests and PACs. The focus is on the large amount of cash and influence being bet on the horses for governor and the Alabama Legislature.

  The Business Council of Alabama and ALFA are getting prepared to protect their friends and allies and to punish their enemies. These two powerful and money-laden special interests will be players in the 2018 horse races. Surprisingly, these two pro-business organizations are not riding the same horses in a good many races, especially statewide. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Teen activists aren't new.... Celebrating them is

  Last week began with the sixth anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death. It ended with a march commemorating the 53rd anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the day voting rights activists were beaten by lawmen on Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge.

  By any measure, it was a week steeped in not only the history of racial inequality in America but also in our rich history of activism.

  Nowhere is that more evident than at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where students have riveted the country with their pleas for gun reform after the horrific Valentine’s Day shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Parker Snider: Increased polarization in politics: Bad for Alabama and the country

  Our politics is increasingly polarized. Yelling matches on cable news are the norm, and those with opposing viewpoints are labeled as bigoted or anti-American. The division has gotten to the point that, according to the Pew Research Center, most Republicans and Democrats have few or no friends in the opposing party.

  The question, therefore, is two-fold: a) What are the causes of increased polarization? and b) Is increased polarization something we need to address?

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lawrence J. Korb: Trump’s defense budget

  Since coming into office a little more than a year ago, the Trump administration—with help from the Republican-controlled Congress—has added more than $200 billion to the projected levels of defense spending for fiscal years 2017 through 2019. Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump added $15 billion to former President Barack Obama’s FY 2017 budget, and he proposed an FY 2018 budget of $639 billion. This represented an increase of $56 billion, or 10 percent, over the proposed FY 2017 budget.

  As part of the recent deal to keep the government open, Congress agreed to increase the FY 2018 defense budget to $700 billion—an increase of $108 billion, or 18 percent, above the proposed 2017 budget—and the FY 2019 budget to $716 billion. This means that since Trump took office, the defense budget will have grown by $133 billion, or 23 percent.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Taylor’s Top 4: Legislative Review for Week 8

  Our prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to Rep. Allen Treadaway and his family after the loss of his daughter Kelsey Treadaway earlier this week. 

  If you want to receive daily news hits from across the state and nation straight to your inbox each morning, click here to subscribe to the Alabama Policy Institute’s Daily Clips.

1. Changes to ethics laws are on the move. . . and then they’re not.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Retaliatory arrest case one of vital importance

  At first glance, a case about a Florida man arrested for speaking at a Riviera Beach City Council meeting doesn’t seem to have the makings of a seminal U.S. Supreme Court decision. But, make no mistake, the case of Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach is vitally important for citizens, particularly citizen-activists and members of the press everywhere.

  Fane Lozman opposed his city council’s attempts to redevelop the marina area where he lived in a floating home. City officials sought to redevelop the waterfront area through the power of eminent domain.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Jacob G. Hornberger: A heroic lawsuit against the border patrol in my hometown

  A controversy near my hometown of Laredo, Texas, provides a real-life example of the violations of liberty and privacy that come with immigration controls. The issue is especially relevant to the libertarian movement given that some conservative-oriented libertarians continue trying to persuade libertarians to abandon their position in favor of open borders and instead join up with conservatives and progressives by embracing their system of immigration controls.

  According to an article at, a South Texas rancher named Richard Palacios has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection in U.S. District Court in Laredo. The lawsuit alleges that the border patrol repeatedly trespassed onto his ranch without a warrant and over Palacios’ repeated objections.