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Qualifying For The March 1, 2016 Democratic Primary Opens Sept. 14

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 31, 2015 at 11:46:00 AM CDT

Anyone planning to run for office or convention delegate in 2016 needs to mark these dates on their calendars. Qualifying opens Sept. 14, 2015 and closes November 6, 2015. All paperwork and qualifying fees must be received (not postmarked!) by the Alabama Democratic Party office by 5pm on November 6.

undefinedAll the required forms should be available on the ADP Web site by Sept. 2. 

LIA community members are usually most interested in two things: 

  1. Getting a candidate on the presidential primary ballot.
  2. Running as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. 

 The ADP has posted its "Delegate Selection Plan" that's been approved by the national Democratic Party, and you can review it here. It's incredibly long, detailed, and complex.

I put together two quick reference documents that may help: 

  1. Alabama Ballot Access Guidelines: this focuses on what volunteers can do to help their presidential candidate get on the ballot - signature requirements, etc.
  2. Alabama Convention Delegate Selection Information: You can read the whole 44-page document or quickly peruse this one. It focuses on the process for qualifying to run and how delegates are awarded in each Congressional district. It doesn't discuss how to get appointed as an at-large or alternate delegate by the SDEC. 

Both documents are in Microsoft Word format.  We can also upload PDF versions if needed. 

Anyone is welcome to make copies and share with their local Democratic groups.  If you see that I've left out something important or got something completely wrong, let me know!

 

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Are DMV Office Closings A Backdoor Effort At Privatization & Voter Suppression?

by: countrycat

Sun Aug 30, 2015 at 09:50:05 AM CDT

Art is about to become life in Alabama unless the Legislature gets its act together. In the old TV series, "Reaper," the DMV office was the "portal to Hell." If budget cuts force the closure of all but 4 four offices in the state, "portal to Hell" may be the best thing you can say about the experience of visiting one.

 

This is just one of the many hellish experiences awaiting state residents, courtesy of our GOP supermajority - those same guys who promised transparency and financial stability (even as they borrowed hundreds of millions to balance the state's budget). 

People who already have a driver's license can now renew them online, so that takes some of the pressure off, but it in no way mitigates the scope of the problem. Not everything can be done online! 

  • Learner's Permits: Before you get to renew a license, you have to have one.  The permit test is the first step. When our daughter was 15, we tried the Madison County office and waited over 2 hours to be called. At the Jackson County office, there was one person there when we arrived; it took less than 20 minutes.
  • Replacement licenses: if you lose your license or it's stolen, you have to present yourself and your documents in person to get a new one.
  • Name changes: Got married? Got divorced? A name change on your license requires you to present yourself and your documents in person.
  • License renewals: you can only renew online once. After that, back to the office for a new photo!
  • STAR ID: want to swap your regular license for the STAR ID? You'll need to present yourself and your documents in person.
If these cuts go through, some people will have to travel hours for the privilege of standing in line even longer. The costs include lost time and lost wages - and loss of respect for state government.
 
This situation will, no doubt, lead to calls to turn this function over to private business. Republicans assure us that "government doesn't work," get elected to office and make sure it doesn't, then hand state contracts and services over to the private interests that funded their campaigns.  
 
It's a neat little circle of public corruption, but it's a trap for ordinary people.  Think private industry does everything better? Have you tried to get customer service from Comcast lately?
 
So before Alabama answers the siren call of privatization, remember that states have tried it before. New Jersey privatized their system in 1995 and the results were so dismal the state took the system back in 2003. 
 
The administration of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman switched the Wayne agency and 22 other motor vehicle offices in New Jersey from state to private operation today in the name of efficiency and economy. But the campaign's start was hectic and bumpy across the state, with new clerks working after only a weekend of training on recognizing and processing the multitude of forms and documents for titles, licenses and registration plates.
[...]
The new private offices will have 238 clerks, 54 fewer than the 292 who staffed the agencies during state operation, officials said. The new salaries range from $14,800 to $24,200. Clerks had earned from $18,400 to $38,200 during state operation. The position of agency supervisor, which carried a maximum salary of $53,600, has been eliminated.

Of the 334 clerks laid off under privatization, 74 have been hired to the lower-paying jobs by the new private agents, Mr. Thompson said.  
 
Yep. Lay off employees and then hire them back to do the same job at lower wages and fewer benefits. That's worked so well for the private prison industry, hasn't it? 
 
There's potentially an even greater cost as well: the right to vote.
 
Alabama's voter id law requires a photo id by a government entity, university, military, etc.  The state issues a free voter id card to people who lack a driver's license or other type of photo id. The catch? You get it at the driver's license office.
 
The by-products of the GOP's fiscal incompetence could well be voter suppression and the opportunity to auction another state service off for private profit. Are these features or bugs? You decide.
 
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Alabama: The Sad Tale Of A State Betrayed By Its Leaders

by: countrycat

Sun Aug 30, 2015 at 08:16:27 AM CDT

Note: This piece was written by Larry Lee & is cross-posted from his blog. 
 
It has been 49 years since I got my degree at Auburn University.  I've spent 47 of those years in Alabama.  Considering my roots, this does not seem odd or unusual to me.  My ancestors have been here for nearly 200 years.  Three great-grandfathers served in the Civil War.  One never came home, another was discharged at Appomattox, VA.  My kin were Lees, Stuarts, Rogers and Paulks.
 
 
They survived by plowing and planting the sandy soil of Covington and Butler counties and by pulling one end of a crosscut saw until sweat puddled in their boots.  They lived in dog trot houses with a dug well out back and went to Primitive Baptist churches.  They were neither landed or learned.  One of my grandmothers could neither read or write.  They dipped snuff and had an occasional drink of something besides water and when the weather was right, they listened to their dogs tree possums and coons.  They butchered hogs when mornings were frosty and hung slabs of bacon in their smokehouse.
 
And today they rest in plots of earth called Bushfield and Elizabeth and Moriah and Fairmont.  Their blood also runs through my brother and sister, both of whom live in North Carolina.  A team of oxen couldn't drag either back to Alabama.
 
But being just plain stubborn or hard-headed I've stayed.  Always with the hope that the day might come when the people of Alabama might be wise enough to elect the political leaders they deserve.  But for reasons I have never been able to comprehend we've allowed ourselves to listen to the wrong voices.  Voices that played to our most basic fears and insecurities and turned us one against another.  White against black.  Rich against poor.  Region against region.  Country against city.
 
There are good people in Alabama.  I meet them every day.  Many of them work in schools, spending their own money so a less fortunate child will have a snack when their classmates do.  Principals who are at school to greet children getting off buses and who lock their office door after the sun has set.   People who still believe it is better to give than receive. People who sing in a church choir and work with Cub Scouts and Pee Wee football teams.
 
The cold, hard truth is that we've come to a juncture in the life of Alabama where our "leadership" is anything but.  Montgomery is in shambles.  The quest for greed, the thirst for power, the personal agendas far overshadow any pretense of doing what is right and honorable and in the best interest of the majority.  Recently a veteran of the legislature told me they are embarrassed that people know what they do.
 
Our governance now seems more reality show than anything else.  Honey Boo Boo may show up at the Statehouse any day now.
 
We will soon try for the third time this year to cobble together a General Fund budget.  One of the most prominent ideas floating around is to take millions from the education Trust Fund to prop up the General Fund-- even though education has not been adequately funded since 2008.  And irony of irony, the cost for the special session will be paid for with education dollars.
 
But not once have I heard any of our "leadership" say, "What do we need to do to come up with long term solutions?"  Who has shown the fortitude to assemble all the "players" in the same room and have a, as we say, "come to Jesus" meeting?"
 
I have no doubt that were these Biblical times, we would now be organizing a march of six days around the Alabama Statehouse as the people of Israel did when Jericho stood in their way.
 
And today I think of my ancestors and their struggles.  I think of daddy helping grandpa clear ground with mules and axes.  I think of grandma picking cotton till she had to go prepare lunch on a wood-burning stove before returning to the field.
 
My family ate fried chicken on Sunday and went to work on Monday building houses, cutting meat at a grocery store, laying ceramic tile and stacking peanuts.
 
I think of how our "leadership" is betraying them and their work.  And I weep for Alabama.
 

                     -------------------------------------------------------------

Larry Lee led the study, "Lessons Learned from Rural Schools," and is a long-time advocate for public education and frequently writes about education issues.  larrylee33@knology.net 

He blogs at LarryEducation.com 
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Look What's Happening To "Traditional Marriage" In Alabama!

by: countrycat

Sat Aug 29, 2015 at 16:19:29 PM CDT

Marriage equality opponents have long argued that allowing same-sex couples to marry would "undermine traditional marriage," and now they have a high-profile divorce case in Alabama to use as a case in point. Dianne Bentley, wife of Alabama's governor Robert Bentley, has filed for divorce after 50 years of marriage.

 

The Internet is wild with speculation about the cause, whether an extramarital affair was involved, etc.  We at LIA have no concrete information to provide on that and will not speculate in any way that undermines anyone's reputation. We're fact-based, and right now, have no verifiable facts to report on.  

But let's go back to the issue of "traditional" marriage, which has different definitions depending on who is answering the question. 

  • Biblical Marriage? Marriage was between a man and as many women as he could purchase from their families or capture in battle. King Solomon was the ultimate horndog, and you have to wonder about the "wisdom" of all those wives and concubines. Working as a female servant was also dangers; remember that unplesantness between Sarah and Hagar.
  • Christian Bible Marriage? This is an "until death do you part" kind of thing, and one reason that so many divorced Catholics fell away from the Church. Fundamentalist Christians also take divorce quite seriously - even though they are frequent practioners.
In fact, Alabama, one of the most "religious" states in the country also has one of the highest divorce rates. So perhaps it's not surprising that the state's Governor, who made some rather  controversial remarks about religion immediately after his inaugural ceremony in 2011, has joined the parade.
 
The Governor was vocal about opposing both the federal court judge's ruling legalizing same sex marriage in the state and criticized the SCOTUS ruling several months later. However, he also said that the state would follow the law. That statement should NOT have deserved headlines, but it was news coming from an Alabama governor.
 
So why are the Bentleys splitting?  Right now, there is speculation, but no facts.  There is a family involved though, including adult children. As a child, I watched both parents go through multiple divorces, and none of this gives me any pleasure.
 
The only reason that it's even newsworthy is because Governor Bentley has been a vocal champion of "family and conservative values." He and his fellow political leaders have eagerly used their legislative power to punish people for personal bad judgments and mistakes in their personal lives. When you do that, it's a good idea to make sure that your glass house is bulletproof.
 
Ideally, this will be a learning experience for our Governor and for those who support his social agenda that seeks to "turn sinners into criminals."** People make mistakes in their relationships. They hurt the people they love the most, sometimes through thoughtlessness and sometimes with outright betrayal.  That's a result of personal failing, not a political agenda, and it happens whether you love someone of the opposite sex or the same sex.
 
                         ---------------------------------------- 
 
** Thanks to author Rita Mae Brown for that phrase. I couldn't find a link to credit her.
 
  
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Second Special Session: Welcome To The "Days Of Awful"

by: countrycat

Thu Aug 27, 2015 at 09:21:40 AM CDT

Sept. 14, 2015 is the start of many things.  It's Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of what Jews call the "Days of Awe," a 10-day period of prayer and reflection the culminates in Yom Kippur.  Sept. 14 is also the first day of the second special session of the Alabama legislature. During this session, legislators will attempt to patch the holes in the General Fund budget. If they fail - which they have done twice before, during the regular session and the first special session - the outcome of their incompetence will be the "Days of Awful" for all of Alabama. 

 

State agencies warn of the dire consequences. 

Driver's License Offices
All but 4 offices in the state will close, meaning long drives and even longer waits for residents. 33 offices will close on October 1 and only 4 will remain by March of 2016.  The four offices that remain will be in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.   

Pity the people who live far from the I-65 corridor: 

  • Dothan, AL, in the Southeast corner of the state, is 3 hours from Mobile and 2 hours from Montgomery.
  • Red Bay, AL is on the Mississippi line. It's a 2-hour drive to either Huntsville or Birmingham. 

Have business to conduct at the driver's license office?  Better have a vacation day saved up, because you'll have to pack a lunch a make a day of it. Oh... no paid time off because the Alabama legislature restricted the rights of local governments to address that problem?  Too damn bad. 

State Parks 
In April, officials warned that 15 state parks would close under the budget being considered. Public outcry was huge, but they passed the budget anyway.  Governor Bentley vetoed it and the supermajority spent the first special session squabbling. 

Two days ago, we learned that the situation is even worse. We may lose every single state park.  

In the regular session that ended in June, Lein said the budget legislators passed and sent to Bentley included more than $9 million in cuts to the state parks budget. 

"That $9.2 million budget (cut) that the governor vetoed, that was a parks killer," Lein told AL.com. "That would have shut down the parks system. We know that now." 

It's a startling revelation after an outcry across the state when Lein first said 15 of the 22 parks were set for closure as a result of the legislature's proposed budget at the time. 

While parks like Joe Wheeler, Lake Guntersville and Lake Lurleen were among those targeted for closure, the list could grow to include every park – including original survivors such as Gulf State Park, Wind Creek, Oak Mountain and Monte Sano. 

Public Safety
Think you can do without parks and it's no big deal to hit the roads for a driver's license?  Pray you don't have an accident on the way. These cuts could also lead to almost 100 fewer state troopers and most of the state trooper posts would be closed:  

“We would no longer be able to assist rural counties in homicide investigations ...,” Collier said. “It’s the uniformed troopers and officer of ALEA that gets 100,000 people in and out of Talladega. It’s the troopers that get people in and out of Tuscaloosa and Auburn every Saturday during the fall. It’s the special operations unit of the Department of Public Safety of ALEA that assist at Mardi Gras. That would all come to an end.”

All this is happening at a time when the tone-deaf leaders of the supermajority are whining that they don't make enough for part-time work and giving top employees huge (38%) raises.

Remember 2012, when the supermajority held a gun to the state's head with a special election? We either had to vote to borrow from the state savings account to pay the bills or see Grandma thrown out of the nursing home and prisoners running loose in the streets. The first payments didn't come due until conveniently after the 2014 midterm election, but even that was too much for the gang that promised to "fix" Alabama's budget woes.  

We're in quite a fix because there's no federal stimulus money to bail us out, we stubbornly refuse Medicaid expansion (and the improvements in public health and economic activity), Governor Bentley pretended that there was no budget problem (until he got an important report on it the day after his re-election), and the GOP supermajority has been far more interested in handing out corporate welfare and selling the public education system to Bob Riley & company than in fixing the systemic problems with state budgets. 

For decades, the Democratic majority patched it together, but never addressed the critical need for constitution reform and tax reform. But they kept it going; their problem was satisfaction with the status quo. The Democratic majority didn't use their power for good. 

The Republican supermajority rolled into town with a lot of promises of good government, transparency, and fiscal responsibility. We now have indicted Speaker Mike Hubbard challenging the constitutionality of the ethics law he sponsored, the legislature seriously considering giving a hand-picked committee absolute power over every state agency budget - including those that investigate and prosecute ethics violations - no state budget and no way to repay the money we've already borrowed. 

The Republicans changed things in Alabama all right: it's exponentially worse.  Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party is either unwilling or unable to even issue a press release on the subject and state Democratic legislators have virtually no power to influence legislation. 

Where do we go from here?

 

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Huntsville Anti-Choice Protesters Get Something Wrong. Again.

by: countrycat

Sat Aug 22, 2015 at 15:57:52 PM CDT

About 75 anti-choice protesters swarmed the Huntsville clinic today to protest Planned Parenthood. Apparently, many of them have failed to notice that the HSV clinic is privately owned and NOT affiliated with Planned Parenthood. Which is odd considering that they've met the owner in court and at city zoning board hearings multiple times." 

They're also unaware of the Alabama state law that prohibits the donation of fetal tissue. Under the Alabama Code:

"All medical waste, except such tissue as is sent to a pathologist and not returned to the facility, shall be disposed of in accordance with procedures set forth in the Rules of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management governing medical waste."  

This is nothing new. These people aren't exactly on the leading edge of the intelligence bell curve. Among other things, they have: 

Bless their dark little hearts.....

----------------------------------------------------------------- 

Photo credit: Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates. A sign created by a clinic defender in Huntsville. Follow ARRA on Facebook!

 

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North Alabama School Dress Codes Under Fire As "Sexist" & "Promoting Rape Culture"

by: countrycat

Sat Aug 22, 2015 at 13:06:44 PM CDT

If you've ever looked at a young woman wearing a sloppy, oversized sweatshirt and leggings & labeled the outfit as "too revealing," well, you may work for the Huntsville City School system! Indignant students (and parents) have been protesting the system's updated dress code that seems to focus like a laser beam on the fashion choices of young women - while leaving young men alone.

"The way the dress code is set up is it's angled more toward girls and it's a ‘don't distract the boys’ kind of thing,” student Abby Wilson said. “It's basically telling them that their education is more important than ours."
[...]
The dress code states that "students may only wear yoga pants, tights, leggings or jeggings as long as they are used as undergarments covered by shorts, skirts or dresses."

Thompson says school officials told her the outfit was too distracting for the boys.

"I think our education is more important than what we wear,” student Elizabeth Campos said.

Other female students want to know why the district is not worried about girls being distracted by the boys.

"The boys are wearing [shorts] higher than the girls wear and to be honest, when they sit down you can see everything that they have under their boxers,”

student Haley Konecny said.

"I've not seen a boy get dress coded since school started,” Abby Wilson added. 

Read the whole dress code and you find a rather creepy focus on undergarments, tight shirts, shoulders, dress length, and the width of the strap on sleeveless blouses (must be at least 3 inches). 

School officials protest that the dress code doesn't mention "gender" specifically, so it's (they say) a non-issue.  Still, you have to wonder what the reaction would be if a number of boys started showing up in drag.  Would that be considered "distracting" or "disruptive?"

No matter what school officials say to the media however, female students report being upbraided personally by school officials who told them that they can't wear clothing that would "distract" boys.

That's where the "promoting rape culture" charge comes into play. Across the country, school systems enforce dress codes in ways that penalize young women and make them responsible for the reactions and behavior of young men.

In the past month alone a Canadian teen says she was given detention for wearing a full length maxi dress because it violated her school dress code by showing her shoulders and back and a UK school announced plans to ban skirts altogether.

These are just the most recent cases in an ever-growing list that has seen shoulders and knees become a battleground, leggings and yoga pants banned and girls in some cases reportedly told to flap their arms up and down while their attire was inspected, or asked to leave their proms because chaperones considered their dresses too ‘sexual’ or ‘provocative’. 

Follow the links in the blockquoted article above, and you'll find that school administrators are up front about the reason for bans on leggings, tight jeans, yoga pants, tank tops, etc.  They don't want the boys distracted.

The school amended its dress code to ban leggings in the classroom, saying that it causes distraction amongst the school’s boys. 

Girls at a North Dakota high school have been banned from wearing yoga pants and other tight legware to school because officials claim they are “too distracting,” 

Give HCS officials credit for not being overtly sexist, but the end result is the same

While the dress code is left behind in high school, the implication is not. Dress codes have become a part of rape culture. High schools are teaching girls that they are the distractions for men, therefore implying that the men must be protected because of their lack of control. When schools do this, they are teaching students their place in rape culture: girls are at fault, while men are out of control and must act on their natural instincts.

Students (both male & female) at Grissom High School in Huntsville are fighting back. They've staged protests, posted signs around the school, and have received both local and national media attention. 

One proposed chant made me laugh out loud:

Boys are not animals.
Girls are not prey.

You go girls and boys! Kudos for calling attention to the unfair and sexist way the school system is handling this issue.  It's NOT just about "leggings;" the stakes are far higher than that:

When a girl is taken out of class on a hot day for wearing a strappy top, because she is ‘distracting’ her male classmates, his education is prioritized over hers. When a school takes the decision to police female students’ bodies while turning a blind eye to boys’ behavior, it sets up a lifelong assumption that sexual violence is inevitable and victims are partially responsible. Students are being groomed to perpetuate the rape culture narrative that sits at the very heart of our society’s sexual violence crisis. It matters very much indeed.

More photos below. 

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One More Crack In Alabama's "Family Values" Facade

by: countrycat

Fri Aug 21, 2015 at 09:26:44 AM CDT

Alabama regularly appears at the bottom (just above Mississippi, you know) of the good lists, but we're a stand-out state on some less-than-admirable lists. Many Alabamians, it seems, are publicly pious and privately porn-obsessed. undefined

For example: 

  • Alabama football fans took consolation in online porn after this years championship loss.  The state is comfortably in the middle - #23 - in the number of online porn subscriptions.
  • Montgomery has the nation's highest rate of STDs.
  • Alabama is #15 for our high teen pregnancy rate of 62 per 1,000. Guess there are a few flaws in that "abstinence only" education.
  • We're #7 on the list of states with the highest divorce rates.
  • Perhaps because we're the very top state in Ashley Madison subscriptions. It's a recently-hacked Web site where married people who want to have affairs can connect with each other. This revelation is the latest hit to our "family values" fallacy.
And yet Alabama is the third most religious state in the country as measured by weekly church attendance. I bet hearing confessions is never boring for the state's Catholic priests.
 
Yes, "sinners" are the people who most need to be in church. Still, while they're there, it would be nice if they'd soak up some more positive values than sexual Puritanism. For example, Huntsville's local street preacher, James Henderson, might want to take his nose out of Leviticus long enough to read the Sermon on the Mount.
 
Much of our political debates recently have centered on controlling sexual private behavior and stopping marriages. How much better off the state would be if we instead focused on caring for the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the strangers in our state. Let's consider giving children a chance at a better life through education and creating an economy where full-time work lifts families out of poverty instead of keeping them teetering on the edge.
 
Remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi: "There's no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching." 
 
Our politicians can talk "family values" quite effectively; now it's time to start walking the walk. Virtually every candidate for public office touts his/her religious committment - including our current legislators. 
 
And what have they done?  Used their public positions for private financial gain and passed budgets that slash programs that help the poor, the sick, and the hungry - even as they turn over millions in public money to private schools & foundations and corporate welfare.
 
There's another special session coming up soon. It will be interesting to see how legislators square their "family values" with the state's financial realities.  

 

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Storming The Statehouse - On Steroids This Time

by: Mike Walker

Fri Aug 14, 2015 at 07:55:27 AM CDT

Alabama is in crisis. It's a crisis by design, created by nearly 35 years of devotion to a failed economic theory (trickle-down), and a concerted effort to "shrink government until it's small enough to drown in a bathtub."  Our leaders have cut taxes for the very wealthy and the big corporations, and signed a pledge to never raise taxes. The resulting losses in revenue have reduced the ability of our state to fund essential government services.  
 
Now we have reached a point of critical mass. Smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand tricks are no longer an option. Somebody now, has to govern. But we wait in vain: 
The cuts to Medicaid would mean a simultaneous loss of millions of dollars in federal funding, and would effectively kill Medicare in our state. And in a state that routinely ranks 49th in funding for education, stealing funds from kids seems...well, stupid. 
 
This past Monday, I was honored to be part of a group of concerned Alabama citizens who met in front of the statehouse to have our voices heard.
  • We are demanding that the legislature look for new sources of revenue instead of draconian cuts to essential services. 
  • We want to see tax increases, particularly on the rich and big corporations. 
  • We want sensible and sustainable funding for state government. 
  • We are demanding that our support of public education be increased, instead of slashed.  
  • We want permanent fixes to our budgetary crisis, not patches, sin taxes, and gambling. 
And our voices were ignored. 
 
Now we are waiting for the next special session of our legislature.  We're giving them another chance to do their job. And the coalition of protestors has strengthened in our resolve to demand common sense government. Progressive groups from across the state are banding together for another more powerful, mass gathering in front of the statehouse.  
 
Our goal is to let them know we aren't afraid of tax increases. We aren't afraid to call for new revenue from the wealthy. We won't back down from demanding that big corporations pay their fair share. And we will NOT accept draconian cuts to services for our poor, our children, our elderly, women, minorities, and our disabled.  
 
To date, we have commitments from:
  • Montgomery Humanists, the Moral Monday Coalition of Alabama
  • Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates
  • Several statewide free thought associations
  • The Unitarian Universalists in Tuscaloosa
  • Local 706 of the pipe-fitters, steam-fitters, and plumbers Union 
  • We are also talking with the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama Arise, the Human Rights Campaign and several other churches.  
Our rally on the 10th had nearly 50 participants. We were energized. We were informed. We were motivated and highly vocal. When the next special session is called (in approximately two weeks), we hope to have ten times that number of protestors. 
 
Senator Del Marsh (R - Anniston), was recently asked what it would take for the Alabama legislature to introduce legislation for new revenues. His response was, "Citizens will have to SCREAM about budget cuts before (the legislature) will act on new revenue." We screamed on the 10th, but they didn't hear us. We'll be back en masse at the start of the next session, and they won't be able to ignore the screams of the people.
 
 
To add your voice or your group to this #TakingItBack movement, like our Montgomery Humanists Facebook page and post about your interest. As soon as the date of the special session is announced, we will create a Facebook Event and we invite you to share liberally.
 
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Alabama State Government: A "Hostage Situation" Where We're The Hostages

by: countrycat

Tue Aug 11, 2015 at 11:00:00 AM CDT

If you had any doubt at all that Alabama's government is broken, this session's regular session and its first special session cleared up the confusion. The regular session adjourned without a state General Fund budget in place because the GOP supermajority couldn't agree with our Republican governor on funding mechanisms for state services.

 

This year, there were no windfalls like federal stimulus money, and voters weren't likely to look kindly on another effort to borrow to balance the budget - especially since this was supposed to be the year the state started paying back the money it borrowed in 2012.

The first special session was a bust as well, and the finger pointing began before it was even over.

The Alabama Senate passed essentially the same budget that Governor Bentley said was unacceptable this Spring.  It didn't ripen any over the summer.

The Alabama Senate has narrowly approved a budget that slashes millions of dollars from Medicaid, mental health, law enforcement and other state agencies.

Senators voted 19-15 for the cut-filled budget Monday after lawmakers could not agree during a special session on how to fill a budget hole.  

The Alabama House promptly - and with a surprisingly display of unanimity - kicked it to the curb.

Sometime before 7 p.m. Monday, the house finally voted: the motion failed with two ayes and 92 nays.

Lawmakers predict a second special session in two weeks or so, but that will fail as well if these people can't sit down and act like adults.  Bill Britt at the Alabama Political Reporter outlined the problem yesterday:

The Governor wants to raise taxes to address the systemic problem of the State’s General Fund Budget (SGF), which is always woefully underfunded because it lacks growth revenues.

Senate President Pro Tem, Del Marsh wants to overhaul the entire system without raising taxes, but needs time to implement a more complicated long-term solution. He has offered a stop-gap by moving the Use Tax from the Education Trust Fund to the SGF, and backfill the loss later. 

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard simply wants to hold on to power, and continue to get paid. So, for now, he is a wild card.

At the moment, vanity has led to a stalemate, with little hope of compromise on the horizon. 

[...]

We, in Alabama, have come to accept being dead last in every measurable category of success. We rank near the bottom in education, employment, and health; but near the top in public corruption. Our State is vexed by charlatans who, by good words, and fair speeches, deceive the people. 

The Governor and the Republican supermajority are in the middle of a hostage negotiation, but do not seem to care about the victims.

We have this crew in power until 2018. It's a depressing thought.

 

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Storming The Statehouse - From The Left

by: Mike Walker

Tue Aug 11, 2015 at 08:41:38 AM CDT

The budget process in the Alabama legislature has raised a lot of questions about how we set funding priorities in our state. The two basic sides in this debate are those who are demanding new, and sustainable revenue sources to fund essential services, and those who have no problem cutting essential government services, as long as they block any attempts to find new revenue. 
 
Last week's budget proposal to solve our budget crisis by cutting $150,000,000 from our already underfunded Medicaid program, roused the ire of many Alabamians who, in the past, have stood by silently. 
 
On Monday, August 10th many of those concerned citizens converged on the Alabama State House to let their voices be heard. A local group, Montgomery Humanists, took the initiative to schedule the event, and almost immediately thereafter, they were contacted by Moral Monday Alabama with an offer to team up with the Montgomery Humanists. 
Approximately 50 vocal protestors were on hand for this event, demanding new sources of sustainable revenue in lieu of draconian cuts to much needed social programs. 
 
An array of speakers addressed the crowd, talking about funding inequities, the influence of monied special interest groups, the importance of well-funded public schools, life and death issues with Medicaid, food stamps and welfare programs, police, teachers, and many more programs that would be victims of massive budget cuts. The slate of speakers also expressed strong displeasure with a budget shortfall they believe was exacerbated by years of tax cuts and favors to the rich and big corporations. 
 
Last week, Del Marsh (R-Anniston) was asked what it would take for the legislature to look at raising taxes. Marsh responded, "citizens have to scream about budget cuts before (the legislature) will act on new revenue."  
 
The protestors used Marsh's remarks as a rallying cry, as they continually raised their voices, directing their chants at the people in the state house. 
 
These groups have pledged to form a coalition of like-minded people from across the state. They plan to stay actively involved in the current state budget issue, and will remain active in state politics in the future, promoting more progressive approaches to Alabama politics. They intend to be the seed for a new Alabama government for the people.
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Photo credit:
 Christiane Robinson 
 
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Bernie Sanders Was The "Chalk Of The Town" This Weekend

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 10, 2015 at 18:10:00 PM CDT

Gotta love the grassroots. Without them them, no campaign could put together an effective ground game. So far, the Sanders campaign seems to have gotten the drop on other Democratic presidential organizations in Alabama. Although you wouldn't know it to read the papers. On July 29th, over 250 Sanders volunteers turned out for the national event/conference call in Huntsville - but the local news didn't consider it important enough to cover.  Fortunately, events in Birmingham and Mobile did merit news mention.

 

Saturday, local volunteers in cities nationwide participated in a "Chalk the Block" for Bernie event. They "chalked" the sidewalks in their own neighborhoods, in downtown areas, on university campuses, anyplace they could really... to advertise the Sanders campaign and its core issues.

Enjoy the photo diary - with pictures shared from across the state -  as much as the Sanders folks did creating some unique sidewalk art.

More pics are on the flip.

AND... I keep asking this question -- where are the other campaigns?  I know you must be active in the state by now.  Are you holding organizing events, houseparties, what?  We'd love to publicize your efforts and promote your events here at LIA.

All Democratic candidates and volunteers are welcome to share your events and perspective as long as it's positive about your candidate. Let the Republicans tear each other apart; we're just happy to have serious candidates who don't seem to be contestants in the world's worst political reality show.

 

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 98 words in story)

State Senator Linda Coleman Recaps The Special Session

by: countrycat

Mon Aug 10, 2015 at 16:15:00 PM CDT

Legislators were promised that all voices and ideas would be heard during the special session, Senator Linda Coleman (D-Birmingham) said on her Facebook page.  Unfortunately, that did not happen.  Read the recap she provided to understand how the special session imploded and why we're headed toward (and paying for) yet another one in a few weeks.
 
 
 
Here's the link & the complete text is below.  Note: I changed the formatting a little (added bullet points, bold text, etc) to make it easier to read online: 
 
The Governor called the legislature into a Special Session the end of July; we all knew he would call one but expected it to be called in August based on what he told us. The Governor said all along, he would not call a special session until they had a plan to deal with the General Fund Budget.
 
There were meetings with the Majority leadership; I assumed with the governor, Democrats were not included. I was told they were trying to get consensus.The next thing we know the governor called the session.  To my surprise, there was no consensus no real proposals to present on solid revenue generating options.
 
The Minority party (D) legislators were told that all options would be considered; not true. The first day back (July) we were not presented with anything; that day was burned so both houses adjourned until Aug. 3.
 
That brings us to last week (sad to say, a waste). The only proposals received were:
  • Taxes on the soda industry
  • Taxes on cigarettes
  • The business privilege tax 
None generated the funds to solve the problem - only patch it and kick the can a few months down the road.
 
We passed local bills and adjourned.
 
There was a proposal to take funds from Education Trust to AGAIN prop up the General Fund making education the 'scapegoat' when it is not fully funded.
 
The state is in a real financial bind and in need of REAL REFORM, we are fooling ourselves if we think differently. I am not in favor of singling out the soda industry for taxes because this is a business entity with a plant in almost every county, hires a number of employees, and supports local community agencies and charities (the one we zeroed out of the state budget). These agencies help fill the gaps for struggling families, with food energy assistance, providing rental assistance, and transportation.
 
Revenue bills start in the House; House members could not get a majority vote to pass the cigarette tax, in their infinite wisdom, they decided to cut Medicaid by $153 million. Now that's killing the goose that laid the golden egg, cutting your nose off to spite your face. Medicaid is an interwoven part of the fabric of Alabama. In the past ten years we've had 8 rural hospitals close. 
  • Everybody lost because the services and doctors there served everyone in that region. 
  • For every $1.00 the state puts in Medicaid, Alabama gets approximately $9.00 in federal dollars.
  • The Democratic Caucus had from day one the expansion of Medicaid priority ONE. We realize that may not be possible given the climate but to cut Medicaid was absurd.
When the Majority party voted to do this it was to get the Minority party to rush to vote for the tax; that didn't happen.
 
First, ALL revenue generating options should have been on the table for consideration, they were not. Yes that includes allowing the people to vote on gaming, but that was not our focus.
 
For years we have asked the governor to close corporate tax loopholes that allows BIG BUSINESSES to avoid paying corporate income tax. Alabama businesses benefit from many tax breaks created by the legislature. As a result highly profitable companies manages to pay NO income taxes.
 
For example, Exxon made $89 million in Alabama in 2003 but paid no taxes because it deducted payments to itself from taxable income, and there are other companies playing this shell game to avoid paying taxes according to the Alabama Revenue Dept.
 
Twenty-four states - 24! - have closed these loopholes, eight in the past 5 yrs by passing laws that require companies file "Combined Reporting." Now, there are some states that don't have corporate income taxes (Nevada, for example), but they have other revenue options. 24 states realize that while big businesses get tax breaks, their state was dying on the vine. These businesses say this will hurt business, hamper the state's ability to recruit, and cause them to leave.
 
Where will they go?
 
24 states already have 'Combined reporting' that requires businesses to file one combined report allowing auditors access and see all records. It keeps them honest, levels the field, and allows states to capture tax without a new tax on citizens.
 
Conservatively, the state Fiscal Office said it would generate $30 to $50 million annually (it's more than that).
 
I have sponsored SB 51 which closes the loophole, and put Alabama inline with these 24 progressive states. After all small and mid sized businesses don't have this protection, they pay their fair share.  We can't balance the budget on these small businesses and citizens: big businesses should pay their fair share of earned income.
 
What do they have to hide, if all is in order?
 
Citizens have to pay their fair share on what we make, shouldn't businesses be expected to do the same? The bill may be accessed online on the Alabama Legislature website.
 
Senator Coleman has a solution that we all need to supoprt. Before Alabama's working families are asked to pay higher taxes on anything, let's get big business paying their fair share.
 
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

"Storm The Statehouse" Monday To Demand Action From The Legislature

by: countrycat

Sat Aug 08, 2015 at 14:42:32 PM CDT

Just over 3 years ago, indicted Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard published a memoir: "Storming the Statehouse." It was billed as an "insider account" of how Alabama was "liberated" from "Democrat [sic] rule." What a difference a few years make.  Now Hubbard is under indictment for corruption, is trying to get courts to overturn his own signature piece of ethics reform legislation, and has spent the last few years whining that he can't make ends meet on his $70k annual salary for a part-time job.

 

The legislature failed to pass a workable budget during this year's regular session and is about to end its first special session without having managed a budget. The stage is set for a second special session.

Remember: screwups like this cost the state a lot of money, but legislators get paid extra for each special session.

Some citizens have had enough and are calling on us to do a little "storming the statehouse" of our own on Monday.

Alabama's "Moral Monday" group and the Montgomery Humanists are sponsoring a day of lobbying and hell raising in Montgomery on August 10.  From the Moral Monday Facebook event page:

Lately there has been a disturbing trend in Montgomery among some of our legislators and never has it been more evident than in the current Special Called Session. 

  • Our working class folks, their children, and our seniors, are all at risk for being left behind....forgotten at worst, marginalized at best.
  • Bills are being passed in both branches that would devastate our low and middle income citizens if they were to become law, while the affluent would prosper. 
  • They have suggested raiding the Education Trust Fund, ending Medicaid and they have purposed a grossly skewed flat tax. 

The citizens of Alabama are LOSING THE BATTLE in Montgomery. This does NOT have to be the case however!!! The truth is the power of our voice, united, CAN OVERCOME the mega corporation's dollars and their influence in creating policy. The American Legislative Exchange Council has their political puppets doing exactly what they want them to do here in Alabama....creating legislation like the AAA, the charter bill, attempting to impose a flat tax that will help only themselves, trying to privatize our liquor sales and so much more.

They may have influence in Montgomery but they DO NOT have influence over US, WE THE PEOPLE. We STILL HAVE OUR VOTE and our vote CAN overcome the tools they use: dollars, PR and misinformation.

We just have to make a choice...do we continue to express our anger from our couches and from beside the water coolers or do we show up, en masse, to the steps of the Alabama State House to send a very strong and clear message that the people of Alabama will NO LONGER be silent. We have the power to, and it's time for us to begin, #TakingItBack!

Will you do YOUR part? Share this information with every single citizen and organization in Alabama that you know of and then make plans to car pool to Montgomery this Monday, signs in hand, to STORM THE STATE HOUSE....IT'S OUR TURN AND OUR TIME!!

We are hoping to have many organizations represented at this rally. We will have the steps of the State House from 9-11.

Del Marsh told Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman just today that he hasn't heard any 'screams' from the constituents about the budget. Join us as we raise our voices on Monday about the budget and so much more! 

Here is the Montgomery Humanists' Facebook event page with more information too.

 

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Citizen Protests Saved Forever Wild Today. Now Let's Get Busy With The Rest Of The Budget!

by: countrycat

Fri Aug 07, 2015 at 15:06:06 PM CDT

Senator Clay Scofield (R-Arab) has withdrawn SB-38, the bill that would have eliminated Forever Wild funding and placed the program (and its money) under the State Park system. undefined

Scofield's bill proposed an amendment to the state Constitution that would have moved the Forever Wild funding to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which oversees state parks. It would have prohibited Forever Wild from buying any more land.

The fiscal note on the bill estimated the funding at $11 million a year, based on the last few years.  

This move was opposed by hunting groups, conservation groups, the Forever Wild board, and the state park service. However, what really made the difference was citizen involvement and engagement, as Conservation Alabama noted in an email today.  (see the image).

Senator Scofield engaged in a logical fallacy known as a "false choice," which assumes that a problem has only two alternatives.  In this case, Scofield wanted people to believe that we can have either Forever Wild or the state park system.  But it's not a zero-sum situation.  We can have both.  Forever Wild was just re-authorized by the voting public by a 75% to 25% vote. It is not part of the state budget, but is funded by interest on the state's oil and gas leases.

SOOOO.... what do we see from this?  Our voices do matter to legislators. Find your legislator here and contact him/her.  Speaker Mike Hubbard said they may be working the weekend (like that's a huge deal, give me a break), so they're standing by to take your calls & read your emails folks.

 

Discuss :: (0 Comments)
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