Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac:The Supreme Court rules on health care, with logic (evidently) too complicated for television

  The sprawling crowd mulled nervously in the square, most of them facing the great columned facade of the Supreme Court building. Clusters of protesters with colorful hats and signs representing all conceivable sides of the issue at hand were flanked by numerous visiting public figures and celebrities, all surrounded by the press, cameras and recorders in hand.

  It was 10 am Thursday, June 28, across 1st Street Northeast from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Briefs containing the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--the president's health care bill centered around an individual mandate--were being brought down from within the depths of the huge building in stapled sheafs to be handed out to the members of the press waiting eagerly outside.

  At the White House, in the area immediately outside the Oval Office traditionally termed the 'Outer Oval,' President Obama stood amid a mini-control room of televisions that White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew had tuned to show four separate news channels.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Giselle Childs: The Affordable Care Act is clearly constitutional

  The Supreme Court’s ruling today confirmed what the Constitution and 200 years of precedent have already made clear: The Affordable Care Act is undoubtedly constitutional.

  With this ruling comes a victory for the millions of Americans who are already benefiting from the health reform law, whether it’s the sick child who can no longer be denied insurance or the senior who can finally afford her prescription drugs. And very soon, the Affordable Care Act will go even further to protect tens of millions more from ever being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ken Paulson: New Arizona law filters out First Amendment freedoms

  A new state law in Arizona threatens to withhold 10% of funding from public schools and libraries if they don’t block “harmful” content on the Internet. The law, which goes into effect Aug. 1, requires that minors be blocked from accessing “visual depictions that are child pornography, harmful to minors or obscene.”

  According to The Arizona Republic, Rep. Steve Court, who sponsored the bill, says it’s intended to refine existing law.

  “It just makes it a little more clear and a little more stringent,” Court told the newspaper.

  Not exactly more clear. Like other efforts at legislating Internet access, this statute is muddled and shows no understanding of the difference between obscenity, which is not protected by the First Amendment, and adult-oriented material, which is.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: Come hell or high water

  As promised, the Alabama Legislature revisited their much publicized immigration law during the just completed regular session. They said they were going to revise the original 2011 act and that is precisely what they did.

  This Republican dominated legislature does what they say they are going to do. They may not be deliberative but they are truly disciplined, organized, productive and conservative.

  Their original act was much maligned by liberal groups throughout the state and nation. It brought a great deal of negative media attention from every corner of the country and the globe. This adverse publicity did not deter the legislative leadership or the governor. They are determined to rid Alabama of illegal immigrants regardless of the cost in dollars to defend the law or adverse publicity affecting our national image. Their efforts have already proved costly in both venues. The law is being and will continue to be challenged in court by the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Elizabeth Robinson: Government-subsidized education inflation

  Only a few weeks ago, college graduations took place all over the country. Families traveled to see their loved ones receive diplomas and move on to another chapter in their lives. And after four or more years of college, those graduates are hoping for a bright future.

  While some of them may have jobs lined up, many recent graduates are encountering a sobering reality: Around half of all college graduates under 25 are either unemployed or underemployed. To make matters worse, they are suffocating under a huge mountain of accrued debt, averaging nearly $25,000 per graduate, according to a recent Associated Press study.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Romney fumbles the ball at gathering of Latino public servants; tortured, contradictory Obama-lite proposals inspire more contempt than confidence

  Mitt Romney received a chilly reception Thursday at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), coming there in a defensive posture over the issue of immigration in the wake of the executive order issued by President Obama.

  It was just over a week ago, on June 15, that the president announced in the Rose Garden that "eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization."

  The order could allow close to one million immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as minors to remain in the United States for the foreseeable future.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sheldon Richman: How to get money out of politics

  Watching the television pundits fret over campaign finance is amusing, because the solution to their problem is right under their noses. They just don’t want to see it.

  The pundits’ favorite phrase that stands for everything evil in the political system is Citizens United. That’s the nonprofit corporation that sued the government in 2008 when it was told that commercials for its anti–Hillary Clinton documentary couldn’t be shown close to a Democrat primary election without violating McCain–Feingold, the latest campaign-finance law. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that section of the law unconstitutional.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ken Paulson: Painter’s court win affirms visual free expression

  College football means big money. Amid talk of a possible national playoffs system, we’re reminded of the extraordinary revenue potential of an “amateur” sport.

  Understandably, universities want to maximize their income and protect their broadcast and intellectual-property rights, particularly in a digital age. And yet it was refreshing last week to see a clear First Amendment victory for someone who works in one of the oldest media: paint on paper.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: The Moore things change...

  Ever since Roy Moore’s surprising victory in the March Republican primary a hue and cry has arisen from some mostly upscale GOP and Independent Alabamians to derail his return to his old position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The rumors and plans abound from all areas of the state. They are more prominent in coffee club conversations, country club cocktail parties and suburban watering holes. The people are frustrated and convinced that Moore’s resurrection is an embarrassment to the state.

  The bottom line is that Moore will be elected to his prior post as Chief Justice in November. Winning the GOP primary nomination is tantamount to election in Alabama, especially in a year when Barack Obama is heading the Democratic ticket and the contest is for a judicial job. Alabamians decided about two decades ago that they want only Republicans on their state courts. The current count is 19 Republicans and zero Democrats on the state appellate courts of Alabama. The numbers will remain the same when the dust settles on the night of November 6th.

Monday, June 18, 2012

6 Things you need to know about Deferred Action and DREAM Act students

  Last week President Barack Obama announced that his administration will suspend deportation (“deferred action”) and grant work authorization to DREAM Act-eligible youth, effective immediately. These youth, who were brought to the United States at a young age, have been living in limbo as Congress plays political football with their lives by failing to pass the DREAM Act and give them a pathway to legal status. Though the president’s action cannot grant permanent legal status, it is a significant step forward that will give piece of mind and the ability to work to a significant group of people.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ian MacIsaac: Why Obama will win and Romney cannot, in Confederate states and cowboy hats

  Despite media reports of a rocky week within the Obama campaign and the president’s repetitive and overlong address on the economy given in Ohio on Thursday, his prospects for re-election have not looked so good since his first hundred days.

  Of course, you would not know it, to hear the press’s opinion of the state of the race. The media—particularly the major cable news outlets—like nothing better than a tight race. “Neck and neck;” “all tied up;” “could go either way;” “close all the way to the end.”

  When was the last time they portrayed a presidential primary or election any differently? It was how they painted the Obama-Clinton primary in 2008 until Obama formally passed the delegate threshold in early June—despite the fact that he had maintained roughly the same 100-delegate lead over Clinton for over three months, since late February.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gary Palmer: Interior Department shouldn’t ignore Carcieri in Patchak decision

  While attention is focused on the pending decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on Obamacare, the Court will issue another decision that could have major ramifications for the state of Alabama.

  Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak (Patchak) could substantially impact tribes such as the Poarch Creek Indians. Patchak deals with whether or not local residents have standing to challenge the U.S. Department of Interior when they take land into trust for Indian tribes that were not recognized by the federal government prior to 1934.

  David Patchak filed suit in federal court in Michigan after the Interior Department agreed to put land purchased by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Indians into protective federal trust. At that time, the Indians claimed that they had no plans to use the land for a casino. Apparently, they changed their plans shortly after the land was placed into trust.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: And for the next ten years...

  The U.S. Constitution requires each state to redistrict their congressional districts every 10 years. That is why the U.S. Census is taken every decade. Each of the nation’s 435 seats in Congress are required to have the same number of people.

  Concurrently our 1901 Alabama Constitution calls for the same mandate for our 105 legislative and 35 state senate districts. Each state mirrors the federal constitution’s reapportioning requirement for their state legislatures.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Crosby Burns, Jeff Krehely: The Freedom to work, the freedom to worship

  Today the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2011. If passed into law it would finally prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The last time the committee held a hearing on this critical piece of legislation was in November 2009.

  The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, is sorely needed. Gay and transgender workers face extraordinarily high rates of discrimination on the job, inflicting significant economic pain on many workers at a time when all families are struggling to stay afloat. Considering it remains perfectly legal in a majority of states to fire someone based simply on their sexual orientation or gender identity, ENDA would finally put in place uniform and comprehensive protections for the gay and transgender workforce.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Michael Josephson: A Teacher's dilemma over grades

  When I was a law professor, I administered multiple choice tests that I corrected by hand. One day, Ron came to my office informing me I made a scoring error – in his favor.

  I was impressed with his honesty and told him so as I was changing my records. Ron was horrified.  “You’re going to lower my grade?” he sputtered.  “Of course” I said, “I’m entering the correct score.”

  Ron said: “I would have never come to you if . . . .” H stopped mid-sentence. He didn’t have to finish – it was obvious. He expected to be praised for his integrity but he thought I would also reward him by allowing him to keep the higher grade.  He left my office angry muttering that I punished him for his honesty.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Jessica Arons: Litigation seeks to turn back the clock on contraception

  June 7 marks the 47th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court ruling that determined the Constitution contains a fundamental right to privacy that includes the use of contraception. But almost half a century after that landmark decision, the courts are once again embroiled in litigation about contraception.

  In 1965 the question was whether the government could ban the sale of contraception to married couples. Today the question is whether the government can require religiously affiliated employers to cover contraception in employee health plans.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Scott Beaulier, Cameron Smith: Smoke, mirrors and the RSA

  Most Alabamians know that The Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) manages Alabama’s state pension funds. But recently the RSA commissioned a study by Dr. M. Keivan Deravi of Auburn University Montgomery to demonstrate the impact of RSA’s investments in Alabama, particularly the “alternative investments” ranging from golf courses to media outlets.

  According to Dr. Deravi, the RSA has invested an inflation-adjusted $5.6 billion in Alabama’s economy from 1990-2011, and RSA investments in Alabama produced $1.1 billion of additional tax revenue to the State of Alabama over the same time period. Dr. Deravi contrasts the tax revenues on Alabama investments with the $542 million the RSA would have likely earned on $5.6 billion in bond and equity investments.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Steve Flowers: Inside The Statehouse: When I ran for governor

  The American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary sponsor one of finest programs for high school students in Alabama. Boys State and Girls State is an event every June. Rising seniors in high schools all over the state are invited to these week long leadership confabs, which are held at major universities for the top high school leaders throughout the state. It is a lesson in civics and first hand politics for these future leaders. The students are taught about government by practical experience. During their week at Girls and Boys State they build city, county and state governments and then they run them. They form political parties and run for every office. They draft and pass mock legislation. They culminate their week by visiting the Capitol and Statehouse and running state government.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ken Paulson: Is ‘liking’ on Facebook a First Amendment right?

  I “like” the First Amendment.

  And Bruce Springsteen. And the Chicago White Sox.

  In fact, you’ll find my “likes” on Facebook pages devoted to news, sports and music. All along, I’ve believed I was sharing my positive opinion of the people and organizations behind these pages. But now comes a federal court saying that clicking on the “like” button is not free speech after all.

  The decision came in a wrongful-termination case last month in Hampton, Va., in which former employees of a sheriff contended that they were fired for supporting his political opponent, in one case by “liking” his page on Facebook. A threshold question in the case was whether clicking the “like” button constitutes free expression protected by the Constitution. The court concluded that it doesn’t.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ian M. MacIsaac: Is President Obama's leadership dynamic, or just unsure?

  For many Americans who were energized and inspired politically by Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, his record as president has been distinctly dispiriting and disillusioning.

  Some campaign promises were kept--like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act.

  Others--such as a cap-and-trade bill, and the immigration reform bill even John McCain wanted--fizzled in the face of what was perceived by the media as weak leadership from the White House in the face of predictable opposition from Republicans in Congress, particularly in the Senate.

  And even the promises that were kept, such as the health care bill, came through in such a watered-down form that they scarcely resembled the bills proposed by then-Senator Obama in 2008.