"Damn the legal bills! Full speed ahead!" seems to be the guiding principle of the 2015 legislative session, and multiple speakers at Wednesday's Rally for Women's Lives touched on that topic. It's amazing really: the legislature's chief responsibility is to pass state budgets, but with just five meeting days left in the session, there's no consensus in sight.
Mobile attorney Amy Andrews addressed this very issue when she listed the legal bills that other states have run up while defending their own anti-abortion bills:
In 2011, Kansas spent nearly $400k in six months. Since 2011, Kansas has spent $1.2 million to defend anti-abortion legislation. A law signed last month is expected to cost an additional $350-450k. You think it's a coincidence that Kansas public schools are closing early this year due to lack of money?
As of January 2014, North Dakota has spent $200k defending anti-abortion laws.
Arizona spent $297k.
South Dakota spent $378k.
Texas spent $650k.
Idaho has spent over $1 million.
"Alabama does not have that kind of money to be throwing around," Andrews noted.
But throw it around we will if the pending package of anti-choice bills passes, promised Randall Marshall. He's the Legal Director of the ACLU of Alabama and has quite the track record of facing off in court (successfully!) against our Attorney General's office. (Refer to our coverage of the TRAP lawsuit for some delicious tidbits.)
Marshall wrapped up the rally with a warning for state legislators. Referring to the huge legal bills taxpayers in other states are stuck paying, he promised:
It's going to be the same for Alabama. We are not yet done with previous lawsuits with the State of Alabama, but it will cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars - and it will continue to cost the state that kind of money if they pass more unconstitutional restrictions on women's right to choose.
Here's more information about the package of pending legislation:
As we watch this dreadful session of the Alabama Legislature stagger to a merciful end, many people are shaking their heads and asking: "how did we get to this point?" At Wednesday's Rally for Women's Lives, Jeni Tanner-Jordan provided one answer: too few of us turned out to vote.
Pointing to the Statehouse, she said:
"The men in that building have made it obvious that they don't care about us. You've heard about the bills; you've listened to the stories. Our current representatives are shouting from the rooftops that, as long as they're in charge, women don't stand a chance."
Rallying, walking the halls, talking to legislators, making phone calls, etc. are all important and empowering, she continued, but the most important thing the people of Alabama can do is VOTE. "But we're kidding ourselves if we think the majority of our current legislators will suddenly change their misogynistic views."
Here's where real change will come from:
"If they refuse to represent our views, we'll elect people who will. Today, I'm standing here to remind you to cast your vote in all elections and at all levels. Our representatives might ignore a phone call or an email, but they can't ignore our votes. They have to listen. [...] Speak out about why voting matters. If someone you know isn't registered to vote, help them get registered. Voting is the most powerful statement you can make.
Vote like your life depends on it, because in Alabama it does!"
During last year's primary, the Democratic primary ballot for most races was empty. The general election ballot wasn't much better: it was filled with Republican candidates running unopposed at all levels of government.
If this legislative session hasn't taught us a lesson, nothing will. Democrats have to start fielding candidates for every office, at every level. There's not much time either. The 2016 primary elections are in March 2016 and candidates have to qualify to run this November.
I applaud the work that Ms. Tanner-Jordan is doing to remind everyone of the importance of voting and the power it gives us to change the state. But we need candidates.
Unlike many party regulars, I'm not afraid of contested primaries. Indeed, I welcome them because they bring attention to the candidates, the party, and stimulate discussion of the issues. A primary campaign doesn't have to be a mud-fight - leave that to the GOP presidential candidates.
Without contested races in the primary, we don't give Democrats any reason to turn out and vote. Those who do go to the polls and see a virtually empty Democratic ballot instead vote in the Republican primary. It makes the Democratic Party look weak, discourages great candidates from spending the time and money to run, and helps Republicans nominate more mainstream candidates.
One major theme of yesterday's Rally For Women's Lives was that politicians have no business legislating medical decisions. Two OB/GYNs hit that issue hard yesterday in Montgomery. Dr. Didi St. Louis, the Medical Director of Planned Parenthood Southeast, was specific on that point: "politicians need to step out of the exam room!" Dr. St. Louis is also an Assistant Professor of OB/GYN at Morehouse School of Medicine.
Dr. Willie Parker gave a moving speech about the importance of conscience and serving others. He described the personal ethical and philosophical journey that made him willing to begin performing abortions. In short, he realized that he needed to return home to Alabama because "it's my job to take care of my sisters." Women can count on him, he says, but "can they count on you?"
Left in Alabama was there for the rally, and we be posting video from all the speakers. But, in light of the three anti-choice bills pending in the legislature, it seemed best to lead off with the words of actual medical personnel as they refute the mis-statements and outright lies of the politicians who think their place is between a woman and her doctor.
Here's more information about the package of pending legislation:
Slowly but surely our legislative leadership is nibbling away at the very foundation of how Alabama government has worked for nearly 200 years. Like this great country itself, Alabama is a democracy. By definition democracy is “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them.” Abraham Lincoln stated it well in his 272 word Gettysburg Address when he ended his remarks with “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
However, apparently some of our “leaders” prefer an oligarchy where power is held by a small number of individuals.
The latest example of this mindset is the statement made this week by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh about his interest in a bill to move from an elected State Board of Education to an appointed board. Marsh’s remarks came in response to the failure of the state board to select members for a charter school commission at the meeting May 13. (For background, see previous posts at LarryEducation.com - State School Board Split over Charter Appointments of 5-13-15 and Anyone Seen My Ball? of 5-14-25.)
According to the Decatur Daily, Marsh said, “The board acted in an irresponsible manner not appointing those to the charter commission. I’m told that they are going to convene next week to do that, and I would advise them to so.”
Irresponsible? Four members of the presently seven member board said that they did not feel they had enough information about nominees to make informed decisions and that they had not had adequate time to do due diligence. Irresponsible? That the majority of this body want to be more deliberative in the process and still meet the legislatively-mandated deadline of June 1.
Or is irresponsibility threatening a duly-elected body with “I would advise them to do so?”
The Legislature has already trampled on democracy this session when they created an appointed board to govern the two-year college system, stripping this duty from the elected board. And Senator Marsh might do some homework before issuing threats. He needs to ask his high-priced chief of staff (the one he gave a 38 percent raise to last year) to dig out a copy of Alabama Constitutional Amendment 284, ratified Dec. 16, 1969. The amendment voted on by the people of Alabama to discontinue having an appointed state board and replace it with one “which shall be elected.”
The good senator might even go back to 2014 and look at some numbers. There are eight elected state school board members (one seat is currently waiting to be filled by an appointment by the governor). Obviously one of these seats has far more constituents that a senator does since there are 35 senators. Last year a new state board member was elected from Calhoun County, which is also Senator Mash’s home county. Cynthia McCarty got 35,505 votes in the Republican primary. (Primary turnout is always substantially less than in general elections.) Still, she got more than twice as many votes as Marsh did in his general election (17,646).
Translation–Senator Marsh wants to disenfranchise the 35,505 voters who chose Dr. McCarty. (As well as the 29,933 who voted for board member Betty Peters and the 25,188 who voted for member Mary Scott Hunter.) He apparently thinks he and a handful of his cronies know more about running the state than the folks who pave our roads, till our crops, teach our children and care for our sick.
There is a story about an old woman who baked a pie and stuck it on the window sill to cool. When she came by later she saw that someone had taken a bite of the pie. “Well, it was only one bite,” she shrugged and went on her way. She returned later and noticed there were now two bites of pie missing. Again she shrugged, “Well it was only two bites.” And you know the rest of the story, by the end of the day the entire pie had been eaten by passersby.
What is going on in Montgomery is much, much bigger than the state school board. It is all about a mindset that believes the public will not care about how many bites are gone. It’s about a mindset that thinks Abraham Lincoln was wrong about “of the people, by the people, for the people.” It’s about a mindset that believes in intimidation instead of compromise.
Long ago, as a young deacon in a Baptist church in Birmingham, I sat in meetings when passions flared and faces turned red as the matter of allowing blacks to worship in our all-white congregation was debated. The standard refrain from most in the room was “If THEY were coming here for the right reason, it would be OK.” I was bewildered that one human had the capacity to look into another’s heart and determine the “right reason.”
Yet, this is the same logic we’ve seen this legislative session as bills have been proposed that allow a business owner to deny service to someone they feel may worships the wrong god, or love the wrong person or part their hair on the wrong side or whatever trumped up reason they find to mask discrimination. It is a logic that reeks of elitism, of looking for ways to judge others of being unworthy of being their equal and of being unworthy of going into a voting booth and being part of “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
No, this is not so much about the state school board and how it behaves as it is about a broadening mindset that categorizes the people of Alabama into categories of “worthy” and “unworthy.” The angst of some with the state board of education is merely a means to a greater end.
It is about once again going down a path we’ve trod too long and too often. A path that echoes with “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”
It’s about a mindset that betrays the goodness of the people of this state.
(Yesterday, the Alabama House committee passed an "austerity budget" for next year. If only they'd learned Civics in 1963, we might not be in this mess. - promoted by countrycat)
William Faulkner famously wrote: "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." Well, it certainly isn't in Alabama. We have a population proud of its low taxes and annoyed by its meager services. It's a citizenry that seems mired in infancy, where everything is given and little is expected in return.
This is nothing new, but I was shocked to open up an Alabama Civics book from 1963 and find the authors making just this same point. I was also amazed to find that this is an altogether excellent book that clearly explained how Alabama's state government worked, the Federal government, and how state and federal governments work together.
It's really sad to think that the generation in power in Montgomery probably studied this book - but learned so little from it.
Take this excerpt from pp 381-382:
Many of the cities and towns of Alabama are in very difficult financial circumstances at the present time. They are faced with the problem of matching a very limited income to an almost unlimited demand for services. In this situation, wither the income must be increased or the services must be curtailed. Since Alabama citizens do not seem to want the cities to reduce their services, but rather to increase them the only answer seems to be to increase the cities' income.
... Since the state itself is hard pressed for funds, the most logical answer seems to be to increase local taxes. Tax increases are never popular with the citizens of a city, but we must remember that if we want better government, we must be prepared to pay for better government.
This is from Unit 7 in the book titled "Financing our Governments." The section introduction ends this way:
"Perhaps the most important lesson that we can learn from this unit is that "we, the people of the united States," are responsible for providing the money which is necessary if governments are to perform services."
Alabama Young Democrats hold their statewide convention at the end of the month and there's still time to register. This year's convention theme is "Ready to Lead."
Join Young Democrats from across Alabama for READY TO LEAD as we focus on building up young people to take the reins and lead Alabama boldly into the 21st century.
Registration includes continental breakfast and lunch. $10 if you pre-register and $20 at the door. Be sure to pre-register here: http://goo.gl/forms/oOFVtjZmeh
According to the event Facebook page, there are only a few slots still available, so don't wait to register. Advance registration fees are just $10, but double that at the door (assuming there's still room).
The convention is a one-day event in Birmingham on May 30th, 8:30-2:30 at 2013 Morris Ave. (third floor).
As Mel Brooks' famously noted, "it's good to be the King," & don't Alabama legislators know it. Our oudated Constitution unfortunately turns every legislator into a king and local governments into petitioning serfs. Nowhere is this relationship clearer than the legislative saga of HB-495.
Several weeks ago the Birmingham City Council unanimously passed a resolution to support raising the minimum wage for all workers in Alabama to $10/hour. Unwilling to wait for statewide action, they're waiting for an attorney from the Alabama Appleseed Foundation to prepare a brief that supports their authority to raise the wages of Birmingham workers. An increase in the minimum wage is an action that has widespread support across the country - even in red states. Remember that last fall, even Arkansas voters approved a state-wide minimum wage increase at the same time they elected a ruby red cadre of legislators totally opposed to it.
But "popular opinion" only matters to the Alabama Legislature when it validates actions they want to take anyway: anti-GLBT legislation, anti-immigration bills, anti-abortion/birth control bills, anti-Sharia laws, or any other PSA bill that some lobbyist presents along with a fat contribution check.
So naturally, the GOP supermajority is shocked, yes shocked that Birmingham elected officials might presume to know better than some random House member from Slocomb, Fairhope, or Athens what constitutionally-permitted activity is best for their local community.
Enter HB-495, a re-worked version of last year's "Give Your Boss the Flu Act" that now includes minimum wage prohibitions. Yes campers, our GOP supermajority has never seen a bad idea that they can't make even worse. HB-495 removes the ability of cities, counties and municipalities to raise the minimum wage or give other benefits to workers like paid sick leave. Opponents say they were told this bill wouldn't get out of committee, but last week the Senate passed SB 403 which is basically the same as the house bill. This reactivated the interest in HB495. If this passes, raising the minimum wage in Alabama is dead.
Progressive groups in Alabama are mobilizing to get people to Montgomery this Wednesday - May 13 - to attend the House State Government Committee hearing on the bill at 3pm. Here's a list of committee members.
(Wow! While we've been focused here at LIA on the 2015 legislative session, here's a reminder that 2016 is just around the corner. - promoted by countrycat)
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders recently announced that he'll run for President as a Democrat and raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours, from 35,000 donors who gave an average of $43.54 each. The campaign also said that over 100,000 people had registered at the site.
As soon as Sanders announced his candidacy for President, I knew I wanted a T-shirt with a handmade, Woody Guthrie, populist vibe. Since I couldn’t find one, I started designing my own hand-drawn “Bernie Sanders” clip art and ironing it on to shirts and tote bags I already had. Friends in Alabama and Vermont are responding well to the designs, which are cheap to produce in small, family-sized batches, and which evoke a downhome, do-it-yourself aesthetic. So I put them on Facebook at a page titled "Free Original Clip Art for Bernie Sanders Supporters."
I wanted something with a homemade, folk art feel that every day people could use to make their own posters, shirts and tote bags. This way, people who don’t feel they have $25 to spend on a T-shirt can still participate in promoting Bernie Sanders as a candidate for President. These simple black and white images are easy to find and download. Since do-it-yourself transfer materials vary, it is important to read the directions before you start!
Since you do it yourself, elements can be cut apart and arranged according to each person’s preference. These images are designed to be shrunken or enlarged within reason, downloaded, printed onto regular paper (for posters or handbills) or transfer paper (available at places with office, craft or sewing supplies,and online), cut apart, rearranged and ironed-on in customized designs. They include the web address to send donations to Bernie’s national campaign.
See how versatile the mix-and-match elements can be?
Friends from Left in Alabama came over Saturday night and we made several T shirts and tote bags. Let our efforts inspire you to make your own! Watch for new designs that are on the way. Go through your old clothes to see what you might refresh into wearable campaign art. If you would like to make your own iron-on transfers, check out the Facebook page Free Original Clip Art for Bernie Sanders Supporters. You can buy t-shirt transfer material online. Most local craft/department stores have them too.
Planned Parenthood Southeast hopes to pack the Alabama Statehouse with pro-choice citizen lobbyists on Wednesday, May 20. Not up to the long drive to Montgomery by yourself? No problem! Meet new friends and travel in style on a bus provided by Planned Parenthood. You'll even get a t-shirt!
Join Alabamians from across the state for Planned Parenthood Southeast's Rally for Women's Lives! If you're sick and tired of politicians sticking their noses where they don't belong, then you need to be here on May 20th and bring your friends.
There are three pieces of bad legislation for women being bandied about in our legislature and we're here to fight every one of them! There's The Abortion Ban Bill that would ban abortions as early as 4-6 weeks into a pregnancy before a woman may even know she's pregnant, The Abortion Clinic Closure Bill which would close every abortion clinic in the state with one exception because of their distance from public schools, and The Health Care Discrimination Bill which would make it legal for health care professionals to deny care to individuals whose morals they disagree with.
Following the rally, our citizen lobbying program, Women in The Halls, will go inside the State House building to speak with legislators. Our lives are too important to sit this one out!
A bus, a t-shirt, and good company. Lobbying doesn't get any easier than this.
Traveling on your own? Here are the details:
Rally outside at the Alabama State House (11 South Union St. Montgomery, AL 36140) then lobbying inside the Statehouse. Wear track shoes in case you need to give chase to reluctant legislators (just kidding).
Alabama gets another visit for an Obama family member this weekend when the First Lady delivers the commencement address at Tuskegee University on Saturday. The class of 2015 will have plenty to celebrate!
The President and First Lady are always in high demand as commencement speakers, and it's a tremendous honor for a school to be chosen. According to the White House, Mrs. Obama will deliver just 3 commencement speeches this year:
...First Lady Michelle Obama announced that she will deliver commencement addresses at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Preparatory High School (King College Prep) in Chicago, Illinois.
All three schools are doing their part to answer the President’s call to ensure that America has the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
Founded by Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee University has a long history of public service and is the only university in the US that's a national historic site.
It's hard to discern the motive behind all these dreadful bills dropping so late in the session. Do the sponsors think nobody is watching and they can slip crap through the process unnoticed? Or is this simply a Greg Abbott-style method of appeasing the howling mob without actually doing much of anything to push their agenda?
Whatever the motive, Rep. Mack Butler has added a new issue to this session's toxic brew of PSA bills that includes: anti-GLBT bills, anti-abortion bills, and anti-common sense legislation. Now let's add an anti-science education bill. It's easy to see what's going on when you consider Butler's other bill - HB-1 - the "Student Religious Liberties Act." He was asked if that would allow the teaching of creationism in public schools. He dodged the question, but offered this comment after passage:
“I’ve spoken to several teachers who are scared of making any mention of religion in class, but this bill will force school systems to clarify what is and is not permissible so that we can eliminate that fear among our educators,” Butler said.
The bill's text almost duplicates Tennessee's 2012 creationism law that was widely derided by science teacher associations, civil liberties groups, and actual scientists. And now that we've passed HB-1 and made sure that teachers shouldn't be "scared of making any mention of religion in class," we're going to let them encourage students to debate creationism on an equal footing with evolution.
It's kind of like asking students to "debate" whether or not the Earth is flat and allowing the use of someone's religious tract as "proof" that it is.
House Bill 592 (PDF), introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives on April 30, 2015, and referred to the House Committee on Education Policy, would undermine the integrity of science education in the state by encouraging science teachers with idiosyncratic opinions to teach whatever anything they pleased and prevent responsible educational authorities from intervening. Topics identified in the bill as likely to "cause debate and disputation" are "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, and human cloning."
The 2015 legislative session is down to 10 days, but committees have shown that they can hold a hearing in the morning, report the bill, and have it brought to the floor all in a single day. Also, if they fail to address the state's horrible budget problems, the Governor has pledged to call one or more "special sessions."
Governor Bentley can say the session is for budget issues only, but legislators are free to bring up any damn thing they want anyway.
The Alabama State Board of Veterinary Examiners (ASBVME) may be an extreme example of the cozy relationship between state boards and the industries they regulate, but they're far from unique. Across the country, there have been numerous examples of professional boards that cited "public safety" and "professional standards" as an excuse to shut down competition and protect profit margins.
The Iowa Dental Board investigations into teeth-whitening businesses were not prompted by consumers who had been injured. Almost all resulted from dentists tattling on their competitors.
Limiting who can whiten teethisn’t about protecting public health. It’s about ensuring only dentists capture revenue from the lucrative service.(Members of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry collect an average of $25,000 annually for whitening teeth, according to the Institute for Justice.)
Sound familiar? The Alabama Veterinary Practice Owners Association & some members of the ASBVME have regularly railed against the "unfair competition" from low-cost spay & neuter clinics in Alabama. This spring, the ASBVME forced a Birmingham-area veterinarian to sharply curtail services to be provided at an off-site vaccination clinic after another vet complained that it was "unfair competition."
Like Iowa and Alabama dental boards, the ASBVME is being run less as a health & public safety board than a profit-protection racket.
That all sounds great, but its up for individual states to reign in out-of-control licensing boards. Three major public interest groups are doing just that. From their press release:
In February of this year, the Supreme Court decided North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, holding that an antitrust exemption for “state action” does not apply to state agencies controlled by “active participants” in the regulated trade or profession. The decision opens state licensing and professional regulatory boards that engage in anticompetitive activity to antitrust liability unless those boards are actively supervised by state governmental authorities.
Consumers Union, the Citizen Advocacy Center, and the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law today confronted each attorney general of the 50 states with questions and document requests about compliance with this profound decision.
The groups argue that states must now recognize the implications of this ruling and change how they regulate and license professions and trades. Either the composition of these boards must be changed to a supermajority of non-conflicted “public members,” or all actions of a board dominated by active market participants must be subject to a state supervision mechanism that “provide[s] ‘realistic assurance’ that a nonsovereign actor’s anticompetitive conduct ‘promotes state policy, rather than merely the party’s individual interests.’”
Every veterinarian in the state of Alabama who values what this profession is, who wants to see it continue to be a proud profession with high standards, and who wishes to pass on a legacy of a quality private practice to a child, or a colleague, needs to contact their senator TODAY and ask them to support Senator Paul Bussman in stopping HB188.
Law professor Robert Fellmeth says it best:
University of San Diego School of Law Professor Robert Fellmeth, a former antitrust prosecutor and director of the Center for Public Interest Law monitoring such boards for 35 years, noted: “We do not dispute the value of expertise and contribution from an industry, but they do not properly control their own regulation and take over the entire public function, as they have. In fact, we have not just a naked King nobody will acknowledge, but 1,000 of them wearing no clothes – most state level regulation. The Supreme Court, in a democracy defending and restoring decision, has unclothed them all.”
All three bills, if they become law, could possibly tie the state up in federal court for years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. You have to wonder if the legislature is now looking favorably at a lottery because we could use the proceeds to pay the state's legal bills. For sure, my chance of winning a jackpot is better than the state's chance of prevailing in court.
Our intrepid legislative reporter, Mia, was on the scene this morning & noted that there were some "interesting comments" from some of the committee members. Stay tuned to find out who said what!
Well...Sen. Jabo Waggoner has gone back, again, on his word to allow debate on SB-326, Alabama's Medical Marijuana bill, on the Senate floor. How can one man decide the fate of others in this state? How can this very same body pass a law allowing terminal patients access to experimental drugs this week, enriching pharmaceutical companies at the cost of desperate families seeking to cure, treat or make their loved ones more comfortable as they combat serious or terminal illnesses.
Alabama Safe Access Project along with Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition will hold a protest on the steps on Vestavia City Hall at 1 pm, in Jabo Waggoner's home district. To implore the Senator to come to his senses and allow debate to occur. As many folks as possible need to attend to get the message out that Yes, Alabama is ready for Medical Marijuana.
Alabama's new test for health care services is to ask "What would Dr. Frankenstein do?" and make laws to stop him. So says Eric Johnston, who authored HB-491. After Wednesday's hearing, perhaps we should call it the "Protect Igor's Job" act.
"Abortion, embryonic stem cell resarch, human cloning, and sterilization. Those are all "Frankenstinian" kinds of things. Like Dr. Frankenstein, he didn't mind doing what he did, but there are those of us who do mind doing certain things."
If the "choices made by fictional characters" is going to be a new state standard for lawmaking, then here are some other important issues that Mr. Johnston needs to get moving on:
Train safety: Look at what happened to Anna Karenina!
Defense against the dark arts instruction in the public schools: We don't want any child to suffer the way Harry Potter did.
Principles of household budgeting and credit management for wives. Emma Bovary spent Charles into the poorhouse.
If you recall, HB-491 is the bill that allows health care workers to refuse to perform certain duties associated with the position they applied for - but still get paid. If they get fired for non-performance, they get to sue their employer! Nice work if you can get it - and not do it, right?
It's hardly the "employer-friendly" legislation we've come to expect from the legislature, but apparently it's necessary because fictional characters tend to misbehave and act unethically. We don't want that happening around here!
This sort of nonsensical reasoning is par for the course with Eric Johnston-inspired legislation.
It there's a lifetime limit on the amount of stupid legislation one person is allowed to draft and submit to the Alabama legislature, then he has surely exceeded it.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? He's against imposing any sort of "foreign" religious law, but that doesn't apply to Christianity, because.... why? Perhaps he has Bethlehem, PA mixed up with the original or something.
This legislative session surely can't end soon enough.