One of Alabama's "best & brightest" legislators, Rep. Patricia Todd (HD-54 Birmingham), has primary opposition this year. Although it was a disappointing legislative session for anyone interested in progressive legislation, she's not giving up on the state and on her voters.
Red states are known for imposing lower taxes than blue states, but it appears they are able to do so because they are more dependent on federal funding. There was a 34.4 percent correlation between a state’s federal dependency and its tax rates, meaning the more dependent a state is on the federal government, the less likely it is to charge high tax rates. Red states had an average dependency ranking of 33.5, while blue states ranked 19.2 on average.
Idunno, but maybe those "we hate gubbmint" Republicans should consider they could be biting the hand that feeds them?
AL House Speaker Mike Hubbard is on his FB page today spewing this nonsense: "As many Alabamians are seeing their federal tax bills increase today, I remain committed to lowering the tax burden for all of our families and businesses." Well, not for all families: Alabama's lack of marriage equality means that same sex couples can't file joint returns and pay more in taxes than they would otherwise.
During the dark DOMA years, this was true for couples filing federal returns as well - even if their states recognized their marraiges. And the cost was high. in 2010, for example, same sex couples paid an average of $6,000 more in taxes than other married couples:
Even as more same-sex couples are able to file jointly at the state level, they are still forced to file as single when submitting federal returns to the IRS.
This means they can't combine their income and deductions to take advantage of lower tax rates. It's also harder for them to qualify for certain tax breaks because the credits phase out sooner for single filers.
But DOMA's demise changed that. Now, all legally married couples in Alabama can file joint federal returns, but not all couples can file joint state returns.
Soulforce Alabama is one group working to change that. From the group's press release:
In October 2013, the IRS released guidelines which specified that if a married couple was married in any state, they were to be considered, “Married,” for purposes of filing Federal Income Tax Returns.
At that time, Soulforce Alabama began a process of identifying so-called LGBT “Angelic Troublemakers” who were legally married and thus required to file Married tax returns to also file as such in the State of Alabama. Under current instructions, same sex couples are supposed to prepare five separate tax returns, including three separate Federal Returns.
Lesbian and Gay Male couples objected to this process for several reasons. Primarily, we decline to assist the State of Alabama in perpetuating our second-class status. We are no longer willing to make it easy for the Alabama Government to treat us as “less than” other families in Alabama.
Secondarily, we object to a state law which requires us to prepare multiple, contradictory Federal Tax Returns. The law requires us to file a portion or complete copy of the return filed with the Internal Revenue Service. To file an altered return with the State of Alabama Department of Revenue would seem to be committing fraud. Yet, those are the instructions by the state.
One would think that any self-respecting, self-identified "conservative" Republican would be horrified by a situation that required taxpayers to complete extra tax forms and pay extra taxes. But in Alabama, some married couples are just more "equal" than others.
Blogging for the past week hasn't just been light: it's been non-existent! But between preparing 3 different sets of taxes - personal, LIA, & our business - and getting the house ready for Passover... well, the cathouse has been a busy, busy place.
We had been enjoying wonderful spring weather. Until this morning's sleet broke the spell.
Sending good wishes to those celebrating the Passover holiday this week - and reminding you that there will be matzah at the "Hot Dogs & Yellow Dogs" event in Madison on Thursday.
And also hoping that those who are observing Holy Week & Easter have a meaningful, enjoyable holiday. Only a few days left in Lent; how are you handling your "give ups" this year?
To those who celebrate Easter more as a cultural chocolate-fest rather than a religious observance... may the bunny come hopping down your trail with delicious treats!
Use this as an open thread for holiday greetings or anything else on your mind!
"Hot Dogs & Yellow Dogs" is the theme of a "Meet & Eat" scheduled for Thursday, April 17 from 5-7pm at a private home in Madison. Confirmed speakers include candidates for governor, state legislature, consitutional offices, and local candidates.
Confirmed list of speakers as of 4/8:
Parker Griffith – candidate Governor Kevin Bass – candidate Governor James Fields – candidate Lt. Governor Joe Hubbard - candidate Attorney General Miranda Joseph – candidate State Auditor Doug Smith – candidate Commissioner of Agriculture & Industry Anthony Daniels - candidate State House of Representatives District 53 Mike Curtis – candidate State Senate District 1 Earl Gardner - candidate State Senate District 1 Angelo "Doc" Mancuso - candidate State Senate District 4 Rose Gaskin – candidate State Senate District 7 Mitchell Howie – candidate State Senate District 7 Horace Clemmons – candidate State Senate District 8 Randy Money - candidate State Senate District 8 Darrell Turner – candidate State Senate District 13 Patrick Douglass – candidate Madison County Tax Assessor Tim Clardy – candidate Madison County Sheriff Sheriff Mike Blakely – re-election Limestone County Mark Bray – Independent candidate for Congress District 5
From the event invitation
Loyal Democrats Unite at "Meet & Eat" Event! Come join us for an informal hot-dog, apple pie & ice cream dinner served with iced tea and craft beer. Meet the Alabama Democratic Primary Candidates! State-wide, as well as local North Alabama candidates will be in attendance to speak & answer questions and let you know how to get involved in these important races.
There is no charge for the event, but donations to candidates will of course be greatly appreciated!
The menu include hot dogs (meat & veggie dogs), pie, ice cream, & drinks. Since it is taking place during the Passover holiday, there will also be matzah on hand for anyone avoiding bread.
Empower Alabama Regional Field Director Micah Morris discusses how her life experiences led her to choose a life/career of activism & organizing. "I grew up in east Tennessee, and I saw my family work too hard for too little." Speaking at Sunday's Women's Rights Rally in Huntsville, she describes how a life on the margins - barely making it one month only to fall behind the next - gradually grinds down hope and faith in the future.
"The sense of resignation in my family... it was so normalized. Life just happens, you know? Life happens. And I remember feeling this sense of panic. Thinking like: I don't want life to just happen to me, like I want to happen to life!
I don't want to live in a world where I have to settle. Settle for jobs that don't pay me enough money, for housing I can't afford.... For me, the gateway to have a life where I didn't have to settle was to go to school.
I'm really blessed because I had great people in my corner and I'm the only person in my immediate family who has graduated from college. It changed the trajectory of my life, what I know, and where I come from.
But, even in school, I still worked those dead-end, service industry jobs where health care wasn't provided; it wasn't even on the table, with wages I couldn't survive on. So, I was kind of in a bind, working 60-hour weeks, trying to survive as a student. I was trying to hard to succeed and do all the things that people were telling me I could do if I just worked hard enough.
Unlike many people who pulled themselves out of similar situations, Micah didn't shake the dust of poverty off her feet and sneer that the people she left behind for somehow being "not good enough" or "not lucky enough" to succeed in a system that's stacked against them. She became an activist and political organizer to help them - and everyone - achieve a secure, middle class life.
Watch the video to hear more of her story.
You can meet Micah Morris in person at the grand opening of the Empower Alabama Huntsville office on April 15, 5:30-7:30pm at 1803 University Drive NW, Huntsville, AL.
The party who promised a legislative agenda consisting of God, guns, & girl parts, added another "G" to the list in an unexpected vote yesterday. After privately promising Alabama's only openly gay legislator that he wouldn't allow the a bill calling for a constitutional convention to ban marriage equality in the US to come up, well..... surprise! Speaker Mike Hubbard lied.
One Alabama lawmaker is crying foul after the Alabama House today approved a resolution calling for the United States Congress to convene an Article V constitutional convention to ban same-sex marriage.
Resolutions are frequently passed en masse, and lawmakers rarely pay them much attention. The description of the resolution on the House Rules Committee report did not specify what the convention would address.
So, they passed it without reading it, but Rep. Todd knows that if she asked for reconsideration, the assembled spinless sad sacks would fall all over themselves to approve it all over again.
Speaker Hubbard, who is well aware of his power to kill any bill he dislikes (because he does it frequently), has his spokeswoman describing him as impotent:
... the House speaker does not control the state House Rules Committee, she said.
This is yet another vanity bill that's going nowhere. Or maybe nowhere but into the public record so that companies considering opening operations in Alabama will find one more piece of legislative poop on our "welcome" map.
Speaking in Huntsville on Sunday, State Rep. Joe Hubbard discussed his candidacy for Attorney General & castigated the GOP legislative supermajority for "using women as a stepping stone" to political power. He also discussed his support for a bill to allow certified midwives to legally deliver babies in Alabama.
Rep. Hubbard voted in favor of HB489 (the 48 hour waiting period bill) this year both in committee and on the floor of the House and was one of 7 Democrats who voted in favor of the TRAP (targeted regulations against abortion providers) bill last year. In this speech however, he castigated the GOP members who push such bills:
They pursue punitive legislation that inserts government in the bedroom and into the decisions solely between a woman and her partner and her God. For me, that's unacceptable.
Every day, we hear Republicans and TEA party members complaining about over-intrusive government, but the reality is, on their issues, they want government to be as big as possible. That's what we call hypocrisy.
Refreshingly - for an Alabama Attorney General anyway - Hubbard also said this about Attorneys General across the country who have refused to defend unconstitutional laws in court.
The Attorney General of a state has to stand up and defend laws. But if a law is unconstitutional, it's unconstitutional! We're not in the business of passing laws just to get headlines.
Somebody needs to tell that to the Alabama Legislature.
Here's the video. In it, Hubbard looks good, is articulate, and touches on many important points. As with any candidate, it's our job to let him know that we're listening to what he says now & expect that he will follow through when in office.
Ladies, please.... don't you KNOW that you can't be trusted to make these decisions without the help of the Alabama Legislature? I mean, really, how many of you have had those "surging hormones" take over when your were trying on a swimsuit at the local Target and thought: "#$%$ this baby bump! I'm stopping at an abortion clinic on my way home!"
Yeah... it happens.... All. The. Time.
Fortunately, those kindly old white guys voted today to save you from making a decision on the "spur of the moment." They think you need to "think it over" not once, not twice, but three times!
First... when you find out that you're pregnant & it's either an unwelcome surprise or it's great, great, great - until you find out there's a problem.
Second... when you have to brave the sidewalk bullies and make your first visit to the women's clinic (that may be several hours' drive from your home) to discuss your options.
Third... when you brave the sidewalk bullies for the second $%$# time to actually get the medical care that you're legally entitled to. Oh... and take yet another day off work, drive several hours, etc. etc. etc.
No Democrat in the 5th district stepped up to challenge incumbent Congressman Mo Brooks this year, but local aerospace engineer Mark Bray is mounting a run as an independent. It's a long-shot candidacy, because Alabama ballot access rules aren't friendly to independents. However, it is possible to run and win - just ask State Senator Harri Anne Smith.
The first hurdle is getting on the ballot at all. Mark Bray needs to collect signatures from 3% of of the 5th district's total vote cast for governor in the last election. In 2010, 108,376 Madison County voters cast ballots: 3% of that total is 3,251. The 5th district also covers Limestone, Jackson, , Lauderdale, & Morgan Counties.
If you'd like to sign the petition (and live in the 5th district!), download it here.
Bray spoke at the recent Women's Rights Rally in Huntsville, introduced himself, and discussed why he thinks the incumbent is bad for the 5th district and for Alabama.
Over the last few weeks, Congressman Mo Brooks has been in the news...and it hasn't been pretty.
He has made public statements that are irrational, illogical and false. He has shown a lack of command of the facts and a lack of discipline for leadership. This should be disturbing for the voters in this district. His deficiencies have, and continue to, hurt the citizens of North Alabama during his time in office. [...] We could possibly forgive this one misstep. Maybe. But, he continued last week by incorrectly blaming the Obama Administration for ending the Shuttle Program and canceling the Constellation Program. Did he forget the facts? Or did he not know them? Some of us lived both of those events and know very well that it was President Bush who ended the Shuttle Program. It was Congress who underfunded the Constellation Program (the second moon program) for so many years that it forced its cancellation. It was Congress which failed to pass a budget for more than seven years. If it were up to our Congressman, we would still not have a budget.
Kathy Wells has worked on women's health & domestic violence issues for 35 years, & that surprises her. "I thought if we worked hard enough, we could end the violence. That thought lasted about 6 months, until I spoke to a group of men who laughed through the entire presentation."
Yesterday, the Alabama Senate Health Committee voted 7-1 in favor of a package of anti-choice bills - including one that effectively outlaws all abortions in Alabama with no exceptions. Supporters expect to bring them to the floor of the Senate tomorrow and opponents don't have the votes to stop the GOP supermajority.
Today, HB31 (the so-called Conscience Clause bill) is on the Senate calendar for a vote. That's the bill that allows any health care worker to deny a woman treatment or prescriptions just by citing religioius belief - but ONLY if the treatment is associated with ladyparts.
It used to be that the Alabama Senate was where good bills went to die. Now it's where bad bills go to catch an express train to Federal court.
Here's a short clip of Kathy Wells explaining the challenges women face both here in world wide.
As one attendee described today's public hearing, it was "7 white guys, 1 black woman, and 1 white female secretary" in session to pass discuss laws that affect the women of Alabama. And the guys decided that they know better than the gals & their doctors how to handle the female reproductive system.
Democratic Senator Linda Coleman was the only dissenting vote, but she's not the only Democrat on the committee. Once again, we get screwed by the "leaders" in our own party as they happily jump on the "pass unconstitutional bills & cost the state money" gravy train for lawyers. The full roll calls should be available tomorrow. Two senators who have opposed such legislation in the past - Democrat Billy Beasley & Independent Harri Anne Smith - skipped the hearing.
Kudos to those who stood up against the bills, including Joann Cummings and Dr. Hines from Shelby County ER, who spoke from experience as a medical professional:
"These bills intrude into medical care of our patients."
"You are trying to criminalize my job to my patients."
Like that's ever bothered the Legislature before. The Senate is in session now & could take up the 48-hour waiting period bill. Because, of course, that's more important than passing an actual state budget.
AL State Rep. Greg Wren (R, HD7) resigned this morning after announcing a plea deal with prosecutors in a state corruption investigation that may also snag Speaker Mike Hubbard. Wren decided to "accept responsibility for his actions and provide truthful information to the State," says the plea deal.
At issue was Wren's attempt to help one of his business clients corner the market on Medicaid drug distribution in Alabama:
Last year, Wren attempted to add language to the state General Fund budget that would have effectively made a pharmacy cooperative he did business with, the Bessemer-based American Pharmaceutical Cooperative Inc., the sole supplier of drugs for Medicaid patients in Alabama.
Wren's amendment was stripped out in a conference committee after state Medicaid officials raised concerns.
According to the plea agreement, Wren's company, Wren & Associates, obtained a contract with RxAlly, a national company owned, in party, by APCI.
Wren also obtained for RxAlly confidential state Medicaid documents through the Legislative Fiscal Office. When asked by prosecutors about the documents, Wren initially told them that they were public and that he had gotten them off of the Internet.
Rep. Wren has been active on Medicaid issues in Alabama for some time. Remember his little hissy fit in 2012 when Alabama state officials protested a proposed $400 million cut to Medicaid?
“If this agency goes forward and puts out any haunting emails about potential cuts to programs that could affect the lives of individuals, I will be personally offended, and I will look forward to talking with whoever is in control of Medicaid,” he said.
He announced earlier this year that he wouldn't run for re-election, and - more bizarrely - apparently told his Sunday School class that he expected to be indicted.
The connection with Hubbard is the most interesting and we'll know soon if Wren's "cooperation" involves Hubbard's role in the Medicaid drug scheme.
Sometimes the rats leaving the sinking ship jump off on their own. Sometimes they cut a plea deal.
At Sunday's Women's Rights Rally in Huntsville, Miranda Joseph addressed the crowd "as a woman, not as a candidate." She shared the story of her pregnancy and how she & her doctor worked as a team to bring her healthy son into the world while her husband was deployed on active duty with the Army.
"While he was away, my doctor and I had several important decisions to make about my son. And I could not imagine politicians coming in and telling me what to do with my body. Are you tired of these politicians? Because I am, as a woman I am tired and fed up."
Joseph is just the sort of new, young talent we need in Alabama state government. She recently introduced herself to the LIA community. As state auditor, she won't have anything to do with legislation regarding birth control, choice, or other family issues, but she was gutsy enough to stand up and speak eloquently about her personal experience and beliefs.
Sadly, that's rare in Alabama politicians. Watch her video clip here and if you're as impressed as the crowd at the rally seemed to be, visit her Web site - JosephForAlabama.com - to volunteer and contribute!
Apri 1 is the perfect opportunity for the Alabama GOP supermajority to show out - & they're grabbing the opportunity with both hands. Yep, ladies, the uterus patrol is back in the saddle & will be holding public hearings tomorrow at noon (Room 304 of the Statehouse) on the following bills:
HB490: Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin's bill to outlaw all abortions (no exceptions!) after a heartbeat is detected in "the largest organ in a woman's body." This would outlaw abortions before most women even realize they're pregnant.
HB493: This is the creepy "infant hospice bill," where a woman carrying a baby with a lethal abnormality is encouraged to carry to term & put the child in hospice care. Because quality of life is lest important than quantity?
HB494: Adds more restrictions to Alabama's existing parental consent laws because... they can.
Contact Senate Health Committee members: Gregg Reed (Chair) 334-242-7894 Paul Bussman 334-242-7855 Billy Beasley 334-242-7868 Slade Blackwell 334-242-7851 Linda Coleman 334-242-7864 Gerald Dial 334-242-7874 Harri Anne Smith 334-242-7879 Cam Ward 334-242-7873 Jabo Waggoner 334-242-7892 Tom Whatley 334-242-7865 Jerry Fielding 334-242-7898
In good news, Shadrack McGill is out of luck with his "personhood bill." It won't even make it through committee. Perhaps he can work on it outside the Legislature if his bid for some local office in Jackson County (town snoop, perhaps?) fails.
More worrisome, HB31, Rep. Nordgren's "conscience clause" bill could well make it to the floor of the Senate. It's passed the House & passed out of Senate committee as well.
The ACLU of Alabama is asking people to call the Legislature and protest these bills:
Legislators will descend on Montgomery this week, and are slated to decide on an extreme package of restrictive abortion bills, including one that could ban most abortions in the state.
This could be your last chance to turn the tide before the Alabama Senate votes.
Call 888-244-5607 and let your senator know you expect them to stand up for Alabama women.
The most dangerous bill (HB 490) provides zero exceptions for cases of rape and incest, and was written to deliberately challenge the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade. Another cruel bill (HB 31) would permit hospital staff to deny emergency care to women who need to end their pregnancy to prevent serious harm, even at the expense of a mother's health or future fertility.
In this video clip, ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson discusses the high cost of the Alabama GOP supermajority's vanity legislation. The state is spending millions to defend unconstitutional bills at the same time the GOP says we don't have enough money to fund essential state services.
This was filmed yesterday, at the Women's Rights rally in Huntsville.
On the flip is a video from that same rally. Joann Cummings discusses all four bills, their status, and the effect they would have on women's health choices if passed.