Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Craig Ford: Alabama needs a real answer to the gambling question

  Decisions made by the government and high profile court rulings consumed the news last week. Most of the breaking news has centered on the U.S. Supreme Court decisions. But there is one court ruling that hasn’t gotten as much attention, and it’s just as important to the people of Alabama because it has such a huge impact on the future of our state.

  Late last week, an Alabama circuit judge ruled that the state was wrong to “cherry-pick” the casinos it prosecuted (and I think “persecuted” would be more accurate), and that the state must return all the seized money and bingo machines. The case was brought by VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, and the judge’s ruling means that VictoryLand is once again free to open its doors.

Monday, June 29, 2015

5 Criteria for a nuclear agreement with Iran

  The United States is on the verge of preventing one of the most serious threats to the security of the United States and its allies in the Middle East: a nuclear-armed Iran. After two and a half years of intense negotiations and more than 20 years of sanctions, the P5+1—the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany—are finalizing the details of a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran ahead of their self-imposed June 30 deadline.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: After Charleston

  The brutal murder of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17 was an act of “racial terrorism” – to quote NAACP President Cornell Williams Brooks.

  It was also a chilling assault on fundamental freedoms guaranteed every American under the First Amendment – the freedom to worship, the freedom to speak out for justice, and the freedom to assemble and organize for change.

  What happened in Charleston must not be reduced to a story about a mentally disturbed “lone wolf” – as often happens when a young white man commits mass murder.

Friday, June 26, 2015

3 Facts you need to know about proposed child support rules

  In fall 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child Support Enforcement—after consulting with states, law enforcement officials, employers, and other stakeholders—published and sought public comment on a set of proposed changes that would modernize the federal rules that govern the child support system. These changes would strengthen the child support system in ways that would increase regular, on-time payments to families; boost employment and earnings for noncustodial parents; and increase the amount of time that noncustodial parents spend with their children.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1463: Symbols are powerful

  Symbols are powerful. On Wednesday night, June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof drove 120 miles to Charleston, South Carolina. He entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where African Americans were participating in weekly Bible studies. He shot down nine human beings in cold blood, reloading his .45 caliber Glock handgun five times. I grieve for each life lost, each suffering family, each community in mourning, and each person weighed down by this terrible tragedy. But we cannot lose sight of the powerful role symbols played in these hate-filled acts of terrorism. Symbols are powerful.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Sizing up the budget crunch

  Alabama is only one of a handful of states that work out of two budgets. We have a General Fund Budget and a separate Education Budget. Our General Fund is where the severe problem rests. The reason is that the General Fund gets none of the growth taxes, so its volume of revenue has remained the same for decades.

  The Alabama Legislature failed to find a solution during the four-month regular legislative session. The new fiscal year begins October 1. Therefore, a summer special session will be necessary.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Craig Ford: Opposing gambling legislation protects gambling interests not the people

  The people of Alabama deserve the right to vote on gambling and the lottery. What they don’t deserve is to see their taxes go up.

  Last week, Gov. Robert Bentley announced that he would not include any gambling proposals in the call for a special legislative session later this year. I believe Governor Bentley is wrong to refuse to include gambling in the call for a special session, and I will introduce a gambling bill when the legislature returns to Montgomery.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Richard Cohen: Charleston shooter’s manifesto reveals hate group helped to radicalize him

  This weekend we found out more about how the suspected Charleston church shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, became a violent racist extremist at such a young age.

  On his website, Roof left a 2,000-word manifesto in which he identifies himself as a white nationalist and says he was “truly awakened” to his beliefs after reading the online propaganda of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a notorious, racist hate group.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1462: What I really want for Selma

  “What do you really want for Selma?” I have been asked this question in various forms on many occasions. I am never asked this question about any of the other towns and/or areas in the ten-county district I represent in the Alabama Senate. Neither am I asked the question about other places in Alabama. It’s always Selma, Selma, Selma!

  In many ways, I want the same thing for every area in Senate District 23. In truth, I want the same things for Alabama, the country and the world. Such wants, however, are so broad and massive they become little more than wishful thinking. Therefore, let me try to answer the question for Selma... again.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Richard Cohen: The criminalization of black children in McKinney, Texas, and schools across America

  It’s hard to watch the video of the 15-year-old, swimsuit-clad African-American girl at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, being shoved into the ground by a white police officer and not be shocked.

  There was nothing that could have justified the use of force in that situation.

  But the reality is, this kind of police overreaction to the perceived misbehavior of black children is happening every day across America – not just on the streets but in our schools.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Michael Josephson: Refuse to be afraid

  Tim Wrightman, a former All-American UCLA football player, tells a story about how as a rookie lineman in the National Football League, he was up against the legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor. Taylor was not only physically powerful and uncommonly quick but a master at verbal intimidation.

  Looking young Tim in the eye, he said, “Sonny, get ready. I’m going to the left and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Countdown to the special session

  The regular legislative session ended without a General Fund Budget. As we look back politically on the first half of the year, the dilemma with the General Fund has been the dominant issue. It has been at the forefront since the beginning of the year and it is not yet resolved.

  After five months of wrangling over the beleaguered General Fund Budget, a late summer special session is in the works. The state must have a budget by October 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Craig Ford: Accountability Act is the legislature's ultimate failure

  There have been a lot of things said about the state’s legislative session that just ended. But no one is calling it a success (at least not anyone who wants to maintain any credibility).

  From the legislature’s failure to pass a General Fund budget, to the Republicans’ inability to agree among themselves on a solution to the budget crisis, no one can say this legislative session was anything but a failure.

  But while the budget and budget crisis have gotten the most attention, there’s been another story that recently made headlines that we should all be worried about: that the majority of scholarships awarded under the Accountability Act have not gone to kids in failing schools like they were supposed to.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Top 10 facts you need to know about immigrants today

  This June marks the second annual Immigrant Heritage Month, when Americans celebrate their immigrant roots and tell their families’ stories of sacrifice and contribution. Woven together, these stories form the backbone of the United States. To mark Immigrant Heritage Month, here are 10 things you need to know about immigrants today:

-There are 41 million foreign-born individuals living in the United States. Together, this group makes up 12.9 percent of the overall population. This percentage is still well below the 1890 high point for immigration, when 14.8 percent of the population was foreign born.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Charles C. Haynes: At the High Court, rare win for workplace religious freedom

  “This is really easy.”

  So said Justice Antonin Scalia when he announced last week’s Supreme Court 8-1 ruling in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch.

  The case involved Samantha Elauf, an American Muslim who claimed that Abercrombie & Fitch denied her a job because she wore a headscarf to a job interview.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Craig Ford: Can the Alabama Legislature solve this budget crisis?

  It’s been a joke on the internet for who knows how long: somebody takes a picture of a stop sign missing a letter or the University of Minnesota’s logo painted on the 45 yard line instead of at midfield, and there’s a caption that reads, “You had one job to do.”

  The Alabama Legislature also only has one job it is required by law to do: pass the budgets. But this year, thanks to Republicans in the senate, the legislature didn’t pass a budget, and we are no closer today than we were back in February to solving the budget crisis. Now our state legislature is the butt of the joke, and the taxpayers aren’t laughing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Jordan Richardson: Too many ordinary people caught in web of injustice

  Overcriminalization, the overuse or misuse of criminal law to address societal problems, is a troubling phenomenon that touches every segment of society. It manifests itself in a variety of ways, including overly broad definitions of criminal acts, excessively harsh sentencing and criminal sanctions for simple mistakes or accidents.

  However, overcriminalization has a more tangible aspect beyond legislation and legal theory: For every problematic law or criminal procedure, there is a victim with a story to tell.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Behind the gambling curtain

  As I was walking out of the Statehouse recently someone asked me, “Do you think we will have gambling in Alabama?” My response was simple: we already have gambling, the state just does not derive any revenue from it.

  Indeed gambling is widespread in our state just as it is in all of the other 49 states and the District of Columbia. People gamble online every day. There are no state line boundaries for internet gambling. All of the revenue from that activity goes out of state. Our people play the lottery; they just buy their tickets in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Our surrounding sister states fund their government and educate their children with our recreational dollars.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Michael Josephson: Self-control

  A frazzled mother with a fussy child caught the eye of a grocery store manager. He overheard her say, “Lily, you can do this. We just have to get a few things.”

  Moments later, when the child became more upset, the mother said calmly, “It’s okay, Lily. We’re almost done.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

Hank Sanders: Why the Edmund Pettus Bridge must be renamed

  The Edmund Pettus Bridge is a symbol of freedom all over the world. It is also a symbol of voting rights and democracy. However, the very name stands for the exact opposite. Symbols are powerful.

  Symbols enter into our conscious and subconscious minds without us screening them. Then they impact us without us knowing it. The effects manifest themselves in manifold ways that we don’t even recognize. The name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge is a symbol. Symbols are powerful.

  Until recently many knew the name, but few knew who Edmund Pettus was. Now that we know, we must protect all those who come in contact with the bridge, especially our children. We must change the name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Symbols are powerful.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Strengthening child welfare systems by resisting LGBT discrimination

  On May 19, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, a federal measure designed to maximize the number of qualified parents available to the hundreds of thousands of children who currently live in the American foster care system. The law would prevent child welfare organizations that receive federal funds from discriminating against potential parents on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Stephen Moore: Using tax dollars to lobby for more tax dollars

  Here's a half-serious question: How much do taxpayers have to pay off Boeing to make the Export-Import Bank finally and irrevocably go away? If the feds wrote a check to Boeing for $100 million, would they then let the Ex-Im Bank fade away after the current portfolio winds down?

  I ask this because the aerospace giant is the largest beneficiary of the Ex-Im Bank. The bank provides subsidized loans and insurance contracts to foreign companies that buy American exports. Ex-Im Bank doles out billions of dollars of loans and insurance subsidies every year and has become the poster child for corporate cronyism in Washington.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Special session likely on tap for legislature

  We are in the final days of the first regular legislative session of the quadrennium. The session constitutionally has to end June 15. The governor and legislature are at a standoff. The financial dilemma in the General Fund has not been addressed and the budgets are up in the air.

  As the session began four months ago, Gov. Robert Bentley was the first to cry wolf. No Republican likes to say the word tax, much less propose such a solution or vote for such a blasphemous resolution.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Craig Ford: Combining Alabama’s two budgets would make the crisis worse

  It’s no secret that the State of Alabama is in a budget crisis. It’s a crisis that we’ve known for three years was coming, but our state leaders waited until the elections were over before they publicly acknowledged it or offered any solutions. There have been several solutions proposed, from more taxes to expanding gambling. However, the most recent proposed solution isn’t really a solution at all.

  Last week, a committee in the Alabama Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would combine the state’s two budgets. Combining the General Fund budget and the Education Trust Fund budget into one big budget won’t solve the problem, and it certainly isn’t in the best interests of our state despite what others might be saying.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1460: The squeeze of reality

  The squeeze of reality is so powerful. It moves us when we refuse to be moved. It dissipates expectations, hopes and prayers. It changes our reality. As the 2015 regular legislative session moves to a close, the squeeze of reality is forcing itself upon every legislator, every lobbyist, many organizations and countless citizens. The squeeze of reality is so powerful.        

  Many of us commenced this legislative session with strong expectations, billowing hopes and swarming prayers. We expected to pass or prevent the passage of various legislation. Some of us didn’t expect, but we did hope. Some of us knew we had just a wing and a prayer. Many of these expectations, hopes and prayers were not rewarded. Our expectations were squeezed into hopes, and our hopes were squeezed into prayers, and our prayers were squeezed into non-existence. The squeeze of reality is so powerful.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ann Coulter – A white nationalist in the mainstream?

  Ann Coulter was back in the news again last week following racist comments she made during an interview with Fusion TV host Jorge Ramos. Coulter claimed the Mexican culture is “deficient” and went on to claim that part of Mexican culture includes “uncles raping their nieces.” Such quotes are nothing new for Coulter, who uses her mainstream popularity as a platform to spread white nationalist messages and ideas to a large audience.