Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Robbing education

  The State of Alabama's fiscal year begins this week and we finally have a budget for the year. Constitutionally, the only mandatory requirement that the legislature has each year in its legislative session is to pass the budgets. The education budget was approved during the four month regular session, but it was uncertain if we would have a budget for the beleaguered General Fund.

  Gov. Robert Bentley called a special session in early summer to pass a budget. However, despite costing taxpayers around $400,000, there was still no budget. Therefore, the governor called yet another special session for September. The third time was a charm. A budget was passed with only two weeks to go until the fiscal year begins this Thursday.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Darrio Melton: Bentley dares to selectively defend his rights

  "We dare defend our rights." The state motto has been flaunted by politicians across Alabama to promote partisan agendas for years, however Governor Bentley is taking the motto a step further by asking the Alabama Supreme Court to determine whether certain parts of the state's General Fund budget are unconstitutional.

  Bentley's camp is saying that the Constitution creates certain powers for the Executive Branch that the General Fund budget attacks. Bentley is daring to defend his rights as Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alabama by challenging those provisions in court.

Monday, September 28, 2015

David L. Hudson Jr.: Banned Books Week: A time to reflect on the First Amendment

  Banned Books Week is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the dangers of censorship and the importance of the First Amendment

  This week the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers for Free Expression, and a host of other groups will remind us once again that that banning books damages the “marketplace of ideas” and is contrary to the meaning and purpose of a free society and a constitutional democracy.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Craig Ford: Tax-raising legislator should be ashamed

  It would be an understatement to say that this year has been an odd one for Alabama politics. But nothing surprised me more than when Rep. Paul Lee, a Republican from Dothan, came up to the microphone on the last night of the legislative special session that ended last week and gave a speech where he said that it was “courageous” to raise taxes, and that those who voted against raising taxes “should be ashamed of themselves.”

  Yes. Rep. Paul Lee said it was courageous for him to vote to raise your taxes, and those of us who voted against tax increases should be ashamed of ourselves.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches: We failed to rise to the occasion

  The 2015 second special session of the Alabama Legislature is over. However, there is no sigh of relief because there was no relief. There is just a sigh and the prayer, “Thank God it’s over!”

  There is no sigh of relief because budgetary troubles still abound. Government is not soundly funded. We secured a little bit of revenue but not enough. We took revenue from places we should not have. We level-funded things that should be raised. We reduced things that ought to be maintained or raised. We raised things that ought to be reduced. There is no sigh of relief, just the prayer, “Thank God it’s over.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sanam Malik: The ‘Clock Kid’ incident is a small part of a bigger problem

  Last week, 14-year-old Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed brought a homemade digital clock to school hoping to impress his teacher. Instead of receiving praise for his great work, however, he was handcuffed, booked, and falsely charged with bringing a bomb to school. After an intense public outcry, all charges against him were dropped, and he was released. Ahmed is a Muslim American.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Bentley has been rendered irrelevant

  This first year of the quadrennium has been an interesting mix of politics in the Heart of Dixie. At the heart of the news and interest has been the continuous wrangling over the General Fund budget. From the get go, Gov. Robert Bentley has taken a gung ho approach to raising taxes in order to bolster the beleaguered General Fund.

  Beginning in January, Bentley laid down his proposals for the legislature to increase revenue to solve the problems and predicted shortfalls. He relentlessly stayed on course with his intentions. His resolve to raise new money never wavered, although his proposals changed numerous times.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Darrio Melton: Bentley needs to put away his stick

  "Walk softly and carry a big stick.”

  President Teddy Roosevelt's nutshell-theory on foreign policy has become a common political expression, heard in historical context more often than seen used by political leadership. The theory, of course, refers to the use of soft-power in difficult political situations--using words, strategic planning and diplomacy over hard-power tactics of military intervention, embargoes and sanctions.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pope Francis and access to justice

  Pope Francis—leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and a global celebrity with fans from many faith traditions—is visiting the United States for the first time beginning tomorrow. He brings with him strong messages regarding many of the nation’s most pressing justice issues, including economic inequality, mass incarceration, and climate change.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Michael Josephson: Too poor to give

  When Teresa, a widow with four young children, saw a notice that members of her church would gather to deliver presents and food to a needy family, she took $10 out of her savings jar and bought the ingredients to make three dozen cookies. She got to the church parking lot just in time to join a convoy going to the home that was to receive the congregation’s help.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Craig Ford: Republicans target working people with more taxes

  In a special legislative session where their options were to either raise taxes, cut services or raid education, the Republicans in the Alabama Legislature somehow managed to do all three and still not solve the long-term problems in the budget.

  What’s also very telling are the taxes they chose to raise. Every one of their tax increases are taxes on people trying to live paycheck-to-paycheck. They voted to raise taxes on cigarettes, car titles and car rentals, nursing home beds and medications! They even proposed a five-cent tax on gasoline because the Republicans in Montgomery apparently don’t think you pay enough for gas.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1475: Put your money where your mouth is

  Put your money where your mouth is. I heard this saying many times when I was growing up. It means that we have to back up our talk with money or other valuables. Putting your money where your mouth is was a living challenge. The challenge continues to this day.

  Let me go a little further. The Good Book (Matthew 6:21) says that, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be." Luke 12:34 says it a little differently. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." We can tell what is important to us by where we put our money and/or other valuables. This is no less true for state budgets. Put your money where your mouth is.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Two Alabama titans of public service

  When Jim Bennett left the Alabama Secretary of State’s office earlier this year, he set the record for the longest serving Secretary of State in the state’s history. His 12 years in the office surpassed the legendary ladies, Agnes Baggett and Mabel Amos, who would rotate between State Treasurer and Secretary of State over the years.

  Jim also served five terms in the legislature prior to being appointed Secretary of State. He was elected to two four-year terms and then appointed by different governors to serve out unexpired terms. He and Fob James are the only two people to be elected to statewide constitutional offices as both a Democrat and as a Republican.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Greg Dotson: Appropriations showdown on climate change

  Earlier this year, in promoting its fiscal year 2016 budget resolution, the Republican majority on the House Budget Committee pronounced, “It is fundamentally unfair to our kids and grandkids for today’s policymakers to be so undisciplined and to ignore difficult decisions. Inaction is only making the hill we will eventually have to climb that much higher.” Was this an impassioned call for action on climate change, echoing the pope’s recent encyclical urging nations to act “so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays?”

Monday, September 14, 2015

Gene Policinski: Drones in the sky: ‘Up, up … and NOT going away’

  In the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s … a drone?

  With apologies to the opening seconds of the classic 1940s-50s radio and TV show “The Adventures of Superman,” a flying object high overhead today is increasingly likely to be an Unmanned Aircraft System — a “drone” — rather than superhero.

  And while there are reasons that can lead us to cheer or fear these new eyes-in-the-sky, the focus of late has been more “grounded” in a real concern that has nothing to do with complex issues like privacy, free press and the like: The worry that one of the multi-rotor, camera-toting things will crash, and injure or kill someone.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Michael Josephson: The beginning of positive thinking

  I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, which is the title of a best-selling book published in 1952 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a controversial preacher and pastor who popularized the idea that if you can change your attitude, you can change your life. He urged people to consciously train themselves to be optimistic and enthusiastic, to believe in themselves, to refuse to dwell on negative thoughts, and to visualize success. He also vigorously advocated forgiveness, gratitude, and building one’s own character.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1474: Family is so powerful!

  Family is so powerful. It’s powerful in our conception. It’s powerful in our birth. It’s powerful in our life. It’s powerful in our death. Family is so powerful.

  I thought specifically about the power of family this week because I was asked by the pastor of Brown Chapel, Rev. Leodis Strong, to make remarks at the Faith + Family + Friends Day. He wanted me to share about my family experiences, and that translated in my mind to the power of family. Family is so powerful.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Darrio Melton: Republicans missed the Labor Day memo about hard work

  This Labor Day was a time for family and friends to come together and enjoy a day off in celebration of the American Labor Movement--the men and women who have worked hard to guarantee honest pay, safe working conditions, and fair treatment for the people who built this country.

  The labor movement was never about getting something for nothing. It was about the honesty and dignity of a hard day's work.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Alabama is one big front porch

  Shelby County, Alabama sits in the geographic center of the state and is the birthplace and childhood home of Gov. Robert Bentley. It is also renowned for being the fastest growing county in Alabama for the past four decades. Shelby County has become a mecca for suburbanites in the Hoover/Birmingham metropolitan area.

  Shelby County has not always been a suburban enclave of Jefferson County. While Governor Bentley was growing up, it was a rural county much like most of the counties in the state. Shelby County was part of a four county center that was known as the home of the first organized Republicans in the state.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rhonda Brownstein: Report highlights racial disparities in school discipline – once again

  Suspensions are just one of the ways schools are meting out shockingly cruel punishments for minor school infractions.

  With each new study, it becomes even clearer that harsh school discipline policies are not only outrageously discriminatory toward African-American children but highly destructive to our country.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Andrew Schwartz: Engaging the American workforce

  Labor has literally and figuratively built America, but all that hard work is rarely celebrated. Even the establishment of Labor Day required major sacrifices: Congress quickly created the national holiday after U.S. troops opened fire on striking workers during a protest at the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1894. So much has changed in the 120 years since the Pullman Strike that it is understandable that the turmoil surrounding the event has faded from the collective American consciousness. Modern workers now have important legislated protections—including a 40-hour workweek, a minimum wage, and the right to a healthy and safe working environment. But even after considerable gains in labor rights and workplace safety, much remains to be done to improve the relationship between employees and their jobs.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Jacob G. Hornberger: How about closed borders between the states?

  Here is an idea to consider, based on the protectionist and anti-immigration positions held by leading GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and many of his fellow conservatives: Let’s end the system of open borders between the respective states of the Union and impose the same type of controlled system of trade and immigration that Trump favors for America’s international borders.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Craig Ford: Alabama Legislature shouldn’t waste another opportunity to pass a lottery

  There aren’t a whole lot of good things anyone can say about what’s been going on in Montgomery lately. The legislature has failed to pass a budget twice. Next week, legislators will return to Montgomery for a third legislative session to address the budget crisis, but there is still no agreement on any solution.

  But despite all of this, there is one area where some progress has been made: support among legislators for a state lottery.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1473: A giant passed our way

  Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson passed on the night of August 25, 2015. She was 110 years of age. I saw her driver’s license when I visited her just three days before she passed. It read DOB August 18, 1905. I saw the 1910 U.S. Census report showing her as 4 years of age. She was 110 although many perceived her as 104. She was a giant in the struggle for voting rights in particular and human rights in general.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Conservative Alabama is nonetheless a welfare state

  It is common knowledge that the Indian casinos in Alabama and throughout the country are granted federal sovereignty and are not subject to state intervention and authority. Several years ago state attorney general Luther Strange filed a hail Mary frivolous lawsuit against PCI Gaming Authority for political posturing purposes. The federal district court in Montgomery took about three weeks to rule against the state.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Darrio Melton: This budget crisis is a ticking time bomb for Alabama

  Monday marked exactly one month before the state enters full-blown crisis mode without a functional general fund budget. Governor Robert Bentley called a special session to resolve the $300 million budget shortfall, and it was a tremendous failure to say the least. Three different Republican leaders are fixed firmly on three different plans for the state of Alabama, but it seems to me the right hand doesn't understand what the left is doing, and nobody is willing to compromise to find the solutions that will work for the people of Alabama.