Thursday, March 31, 2016

Darrio Melton: This isn’t about an affair—It’s about trust

  As news of Gov. Robert Bentley’s inappropriate relationship with a senior advisor rocked Montgomery last week, it seemed that the major issues in this story took a back seat to gossip about recordings and scandals.

  This entire story hinges around one major point: the governor has not been honest with the people of Alabama.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Primary rewind

  This has been an exciting election year when it comes to presidential politics. It has been an extraordinarily unusual and unpredictable presidential contest to say the least, especially on the Republican side.

  The GOP race began with an extraordinarily large field. There were 17 candidates as the race began, all with exceptional credentials. The one with the least experience and shortest political resume is the one left standing. One Donald J. Trump has been the story of the year.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sanam Malik: When public figures normalize hate

  In the wake of the tragic attacks in Brussels last week, innocent American Muslims faced increased Islamophobic sentiments even before the Islamic State claimed responsibility. Conservative public figures—both in media and government—used the terrorist attacks as an opportunity to express anti-Muslim bigotry and fears, even asking for surveillance and torture of Muslims. Racism is and has always been an ugly reality of American history with enduring and damaging effects for us all. But when public figures in influential positions appeal to hate, something particularly pernicious occurs: They legitimize socially unacceptable behavior and normalize hate, thereby encouraging violence.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Katherine Green Robertson: A sad state of affairs

  Alabama is, once again, making national news for all the wrong reasons. In the modern political era, our state has seen two governors face criminal convictions, one of whom remains in prison. Now, our governor has been caught on tape confirming year-long rumors that he was unfaithful to his wife of fifty years. One headline read, “Alabama’s ‘family values’ governor mired in sex scandal.” The Office of the Governor of Alabama has become a laughingstock to the rest of the country.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Gene Policinski: Terror, disgust should not prompt quick limits on freedoms

  Apple might become irrelevant, for the moment, in the FBI’s attempts to pry data from a terrorist’s iPhone, but not so the privacy issues raised by the legal collision involved.

  A $140 million verdict in the Hulk Hogan sex tape case may be reduced, but not so the warning signals it sends to more than the largely unrestrained world of online gossip mongers — perhaps to all who dish and comment critically across the Web.

  And as news of terror attacks in Brussels zipped instantly around the world in our 24/7, interconnected age, controversial political proposals implicating religious liberty and free speech arose even before the smoke had cleared from the targeted airport hall and subway stop.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1502: It was a bad week for Alabama

  It was a bad week for Alabama. It was a bad week for education. It was a bad week for health. It was a bad week for criminal justice. It was a bad week for workers. It was just a bad week in the Alabama Legislature.

  It was a bad week for education in Alabama. Senate Bill 229 passed the Alabama Senate. Those of us who questioned the bill were clotured – our right to debate the bill was cut off. I got in only several minutes before debate was cut off. The cloture petition was adopted by a 25-9 vote. The bill was passed by a 19 to 8 vote. It was a bad week for education in the Alabama Legislature.

Friday, March 25, 2016

How the House budget sides with the wealthy over everyone else—even Republican voters

  The fiscal year 2017 House budget introduced by Republican leaders in March 2016 calls for massive spending cuts that would devastate working families while protecting the wealthiest Americans and big corporations from any tax increases. This approach is deeply unpopular with the American people—including a majority of Republican voters—but it is popular among wealthy Republican donors.

  Large majorities of voters across party lines reject the cuts that Congress would have to make in order to address long-term fiscal challenges without any tax increases—particularly with regard to Social Security and Medicare. The wealthiest Americans, however, support these cuts. While the House budget attempts to avoid this tension by proposing a combination of unspecified and extreme cuts to other programs designed to benefit low-income Americans, Republican leaders in Congress have made clear that they are ultimately willing to side with the wealthy in cutting programs that otherwise enjoy broad public support.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Richard Cohen: Your iPhone and J. Edgar Hoover

  Following the Watergate scandal in the mid-1970s, the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities – popularly known as the Church Committee – issued reports revealing that federal agencies had spied on U.S. citizens for years.

  In one of the most notorious episodes, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI targeted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as part of its infamous counter intelligence program – COINTELPRO in the Bureau’s lingo – all in the name of “national security.”

  Today, in the digital age, our surveillance tools are much more powerful than they were in the days when the FBI tapped King’s phone and bugged his hotel rooms. That’s why the legal dispute between Apple and the FBI is so important.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: State lawmakers wield more power than you might think

  In the literary classic, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” the author draws parallels to a nation that was on top of the world and because of perverse, grandiose and pompous behavior that dynasty destroyed itself. It was from reading this documentary that the Russian premier Khrushchev believed that we, the United States, would destroy ourselves, thus causing him to brashly declare, “We will bury you.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Darrio Melton: What's really busting our budget?

  Last week, a bill came through the Alabama Legislature that I thought had to be a mistake. Republican leadership was attempting to change the requirements for hardship assistance so that you can no longer qualify for short-term assistance programs if you have "assets." And by "assets," they mean frivolous luxuries like a car.

  Because in a state like Alabama, where public transportation is unhelpful at its best and non-existent at its worst, people surely don't need cars.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Andrew A. Yerbey: Diplomas of duplicity

  A few weeks ago, Tommy Bice announced his plans to step down as Alabama’s superintendent of education. Reflecting on his tenure, Bice singled out one accomplishment with especial pride: the nearly 90% graduation rate of public-school students in Alabama. This is not, however, an accomplishment that should be celebrated: it will go down as the most pernicious failure of the Bice superintendency. When the high-school diploma has been as devalued as it has, its benefits—economic and otherwise—become a false promise.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

An Opportunity to develop a North American price on carbon

  Instruments for pricing carbon are beginning to proliferate. In recent years, South Korea implemented a trading system; France and Portugal implemented carbon taxes; China began seven subnational trading system pilots and announced a national trading system for implementation by 2020; and South Africa and Chile announced carbon taxes that will take effect in 2016 and 2017, respectively. These developments augment a landscape of carbon pricing instruments that are already well-established in various countries and regions, including the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, and the Nordic countries.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Craig Ford: State employees deserve a pay raise, too!

  Alabama’s state employees are the unsung heroes who keep our state running. But they have also been neglected and left out for far too long. If Gov. Robert Bentley can find a way to give his cabinet and staff members 80 percent pay raises, surely we can find a way to give our state employees four percent!

  State employees – who do everything from law enforcement, handling child abuse and adoption cases, maintaining our roads and bridges, solving crimes in forensic labs, and hundreds of other jobs – have not received a pay increase in nearly a decade, even though the cost of living has shot up more than 10 percent.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Charles C. Haynes: Beyond left vs. right, Madison’s vision of religious freedom

  Partisans on both sides in this campaign season are invoking the issue of religious freedom – or what they call “religious freedom” – to bludgeon the other side.

  That whirling sound you hear in the background of these shouting matches is James Madison spinning in his grave.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Darrio Melton: We’re running out of options for Medicaid

  When Gov. Robert Bentley took office, I had high hopes that a doctor in the governor’s mansion would mean improvements in Alabama’s health care system.  He had worked in the health care system, knew the pitfalls of Medicaid and Medicare, and would be able to see reform as a provider, patient, and policy-maker.

  I have been a staunch supporter of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. It would provide care for 300,000 Alabamians and bring in billions of dollars to stimulate our economy and protect rural hospitals. Governor Bentley, though, was adamant about not expanding a broken system. He wanted to implement reforms to fix Medicaid before we talked about an expansion.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Where are they now?

  A good friend and loyal reader suggested to me that he would like to see a column titled, “Where Are They Now?” Then I ran into former Gov. Albert Brewer at a Birmingham restaurant and it prompted me to do that column.

  Governor Brewer has always been admired by Alabamians as one of the finest people to have ever served in state government. I got to know him when I was a young page in the Alabama House of Representatives and Brewer was a youthful Speaker of the House. In fact, he has the distinction of being the youngest Speaker in state history. He was elected to the House from Morgan County at 28 and became Speaker during only his second term at age 33.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: The U.S. Middle East killing racket

  Consider the following two headlines during the past three weeks:

  “U.S. Strike Kills ‘150 al-Shabaab Terrorists’ in Somalia” (March 7, The Telegraph)

  “49 Killed in U.S. Airstrike Targeting Terrorists in Libya” (February 20, CNN)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Justice waits for a nine-member Supreme Court

  Within an hour of the news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing on February 13, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the Senate should not consider any U.S. Supreme Court nominee until the next president is inaugurated in 2017. Since then, most Senate Republicans have signed on to Sen. McConnell’s obstructionist threat, including Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA). This dereliction of constitutional duty is unprecedented. The longest it has ever taken for a Supreme Court nominee to reach a confirmation vote is 125 days.

  In 2012, the American people re-elected President Barack Obama to do his job for another four years, and that job includes fulfilling his constitutional obligation to fill any vacancies on the Supreme Court. Likewise, the Senate must do its job and “advise and consent” on the nominee. The Constitution contains no exception to those obligations for presidential election years.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Paul Larkin: Spring cleaning for needless criminal laws

  Millions of people throw out old, useless items every spring. But the 535 members of Congress are not among those people.

  The last 40 years have witnessed a prodigious growth in the number of federal criminal statutes, and our federal criminal code now contains more than 4,000 criminal laws. Some of them are as useless as the old English statute that bans the wearing of suits of armor in Parliament. Here are a few examples:

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sam Fulwood III: Confronting the racial pay gap

  The Intel Corporation is about to do something so radical and unconventional in the realm of American business that its CEO, Brian Krzanich, admits that he’s “scared to death.” What could possibly so rattle the confidence of the top official of the world’s largest semiconductor chip manufacturer?

  How about Krzanich having to publicly admit to the world that his highly visible and extremely profitable firm pays its African American, Latino, and Native American employees unfairly in comparison to its white and Asian American workers?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Craig Ford: We must demand warning labels for e-cigarettes

  Did you know that seven out of 10 children under the age of 17 are exposed to advertisements for e-cigarettes?

  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2014 more than 18 million middle and high school aged children in the United States were exposed to ads for e-cigarettes. Experts expect the e-cigarette industry to grow to $50 billion by 2025. E-cigarettes have become an increasingly popular product, used by almost 2.5 million people in the United States.

  E-cigarettes have been thought of as a tool to help smokers quit smoking or as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. But in reality, e-cigarettes are being used as a “gateway” to get our children addicted to the nicotine and, ultimately, on stronger tobacco products. E-cigarettes also still pose the same nicotine-related health risks as traditional cigarettes.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Darrio Melton: Paving the Black Belt's road to success

  It’s no secret that the Black Belt is behind the times. Just take a drive south of Montgomery and you’ll experience a time and place very different than the rest of Alabama. Families find ways to get by with little means, businesses struggle to provide sustainability for the community, the roads and bridges are dilapidated, and many of the communities look as if they’re stuck in time.

  Many people have wondered for a long time what we can do to help the Black Belt, including myself. Requests to the governor to bring more industry into the area have fallen on deaf ears. Pleas with the legislature to fully fund education for every child have been repeatedly voted down, and attempts to expand I-85 all the way across to Jackson have been fruitless.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Albert Brewer - Prince of a fellow

  One of the finest men to ever serve in Alabama government is Albert Brewer. He is one of the most quality and highest caliber individuals to ever rise to the governor’s office.

  Brewer hails from Morgan County in the heart of the Tennessee Valley. He was first elected to the legislature from Decatur in 1958 at the very young age of 28. He was identified early as a rising star. In fact, his star was meteoric. During his second term in 1962, he was elected Speaker of the House at age 32, an unheard of feat.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Jacob G. Hornberger: Conservatives and the free market

  One of things that conservatives love to tell people is how devoted to the free market they are. A recent example involved GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio, who criticized Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for being socialists while Rubio, as a conservative, was supposedly devoted to free enterprise.

  What a joke. Conservatives are no more devoted to the free market than leftists are. They just like to tell themselves that and others as well. But their pro-free-enterprise proclamations are nothing more than empty bromides and pabulum.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Charles C. Haynes: Trump and the future of the First Amendment

  After Super Tuesday, what was once unthinkable may now be inevitable: Donald Trump, Republican nominee for president of the United States.

  That’s my cue to join the hundreds of other columnists and pundits scrambling to inform Republican primary voters so that when they vote, they understand the implications of their vote. Of course, the joke is on us. The more we pile on Trump, the more he piles up votes.

  Nevertheless, we have a civic duty at moments like this “to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties,” to quote James Madison. There are troubling signs in this campaign that a Trump presidency could be a disaster for First Amendment freedoms.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1499: The attack on minimum wage and local control

  Minimum wage! Minimum wage! Minimum wage! I know minimum wage firsthand. I shared a little bit of my minimum wage experiences with my fellow senators this past week.

  I went to the podium in the well of the Alabama Senate to speak against a bill that would prohibit cities and counties from enacting ordinances to establish minimum wages. I shared how I worked for $3 a day in the 1950s when the minimum wage was 75 cents, and then $1 per hour because agriculture workers were excluded from minimum wage laws. Some worked for even less than $3.00 a day because cotton pickers were paid 2.5 to 3 cents per pound. When we picked Irish potatoes (white potatoes), we were paid 2.5 to 3 cents per half-bushel. If we did not pick more than 100 pounds of cotton or pick up more than 100 half-bushels per day of potatoes, we did not get close to even $3 per day. I chopped cotton for $3 per day. I broke corn for $3 per day. As you can see, I know wages way below minimum wage.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Michael Josephson: Responsibilities of management

  Modern managers often utter clichés about wanting employees to “think outside the box,” take risks, and be creative. And while I’m sure companies do appreciate break-through innovative ideas that increase profits, productivity, or quality, the fact is that most organizations are inhospitable to those who challenge old ways of doing things, even practices that are inefficient, useless, or counterproductive.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Craig Ford: Why Alabama should allow early voting

  This week, voters across Alabama went to the polls to cast their ballots and make their voices heard. In November, we will do it all over again.

  More than 3 million people are registered to vote in Alabama, and in the last presidential election, 73 percent of those people actually turned out to vote. This November, turnout could be even higher.

  Elections are at the heart of our democracy. The right to vote is one of our most cherished values. But for many Alabamians, finding the time to vote can be an inconvenience.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Gene Policinski: Memo to Donald Trump

  Memo to Donald Trump: If you find it tough debating opponents named Cruz, Rubio, Kasich and Carson, just wait until you come up against Madison, Jefferson and their crew.

  Voters in great numbers certainly approve of your promise to “make America great again.” Well, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders did all that the first time around, at the risk of their lives not primary votes – and in the process made United States the beacon of liberty for the entire world that it remains today.

  The founders also enacted a Bill of Rights, with a First Amendment that protects a free press to help keep it that way by serving as a watchdog on government – and on those who would serve in it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: What Congressional redistricting and the Electoral College mean to us today

  You know the outcomes of our presidential primaries yesterday. I do too, today; however, this column had to go to press a few days prior to the primary. Therefore, I will have to report and analyze your voting in a later column.

  One thing I do know is that we had a lot more attention paid to us in the Heart of Dixie because we had an early primary. The legislature is to be applauded for moving us up to participate in the March 1st "SEC" primary.

  It was fun while it lasted, but we can say goodbye to presidential candidates in the Heart of Dixie for the remainder of the campaign. Whoever wins the nominations will have to concentrate on the 10 battleground states during the fall.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Darrio Melton: I'm with her, and I hope you are too

  Each time we go to the polls to vote, I think about how meaningful the opportunity is to cast a ballot for a candidate I truly believe in. When I think back about how far we've come--from jelly beans in a jar to bubbles in a bar of soap, to billy clubs on a bridge--I can't help but view the right to vote as an obligation, not just a privilege.

  That's why I'm voting for a candidate who will continue to build on the economic progress made by President Obama. When President Bush left office, he left behind a mess. We were hemorrhaging jobs and facing the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. President Obama turned America's economic climate around and set the record for the longest streak of private sector job growth.