It was a sorry spectacle yesterday on the floor of the Alabama House. Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin's bill that is specifically designed to close every women's clinic in Alabama passed 73-23. Many Democrats led a valiant effort to inject some sanity into the debate, but since they were using actual... you know...facts, they were no match for the breathtaking ignorance of McClurkin.
During the debate on this and other bills, she asserted that there is "no medical reason" to use birth control bills except for contraception and said that she'd never heard of either the "Violence Against Women Act" or Lilly Ledbetter. When someone explained the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to McClurkin, she laughed: "Oh, I don't think I would support that!"
In the face of such abysmal ignorance and ineptitude, there was only one thing for 13 7 Democrats to do: vote in favor of McClurkin's bill.
Yesterday, Julie helpfully posted an Honor Roll of legislators who fought the bill. Today I bring you the Roll of Shame - those Democratic legislators who supported McClurkin. And the biggest shame of all is that this list includes the House Democratic Minority Leader (and possible candidate for governor) Craig Ford.
No doubt in 2014, this group will be touting their Democratic credentials and asking us to contribute our time and money to their campaigns. They better hope that a lot of us have short memories.
UPDATE! I've updated the post to note the party switchers. OpenBama, generally the go-to place for legislative info hasn't updated their database of legislators. For those former Democrats (who we don't miss a bit), who switched parties, I've included their bios from the Alabama legislature Web site.
Thank you, Captain America for catching that mistake!
That loud clanging noise you heard yesterday in Montgomery was the Republican supermajority kicking the fiscal can down the road - for at least 3 more election cycles. Looks like the Alabama Trust Fund will just have to wait for its promised repayment of the $437 million the GOP demanded last year because they were unable to balance the state's budget.
Rep. Jay Love sponsored a repayment bill (HB94) with a massive loophole that akin to those loopholes from the 2010 "ethics reform." You know, the ones hidden into a supposed "good government" bill that instead allow "business as usual" to continue unabated:
The bill by Love says that the funds "shall be repaid to the Alabama Trust Fund by no later than Sept. 30, 2026." The bill gives a schedule of the amount that shall be repaid each year. [...] A Democrat noted his child in preschool would be an adult by the time the money was paid back and questioned if future lawmakers could push back the payments.
"Could (a future) legislature come back and change the number 2026 to 2036?” Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, asked.
Love acknowledged lawmakers could do that by passing another bill. But Love predicted lawmakers would face the wrath of voters if they did that.
Rep. Hubbard offered an amendment to require repayment within 6 years - not 13 - but Rep. Love opposed it. This amendment is similar to the bill that Hubbard sponsored.
In their rush to pass Love's bill, the House hasn't even held a hearing on Hubbard's repayment plan (HB177) that - unlike Love's - repays the money with interest and funds the repayment via a cigarette tax:
This bill would propose a constitutional amendment to require the repayment with interest of the funds transferred from the Alabama Trust Fund pursuant to Amendment 856 to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, within six years following the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015; to provide the procedure for the repayment of the funds transferred from the Alabama Trust Fund pursuant to Amendment 856 to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901; to increase the tax on cigarettes by an additional 50 mills on each cigarette;
The Alabama Republican Party promised to be the party of "fiscal responsibility" and boldly asserted in 2010 that they could balance the budget by eliminating "wasteful spending." But their actions speak a lot louder than their campaign promises. The Alabama GOP supermajority is just another con artist with a credit card.
The following is an op-ed from Rep. Joe Hubbard (D, Montgomery) regarding the constitutional amendment to transfer money from the Alabama Trust Fund to make up for a shortfall in the state's General Fund Budget. The question goes to voters on September 18th. --------------------------------------
Governor Bentley, the sky is not falling. We do not have to accept your Band-Aid for our state’s illness. There is time to find a cure. As a candidate, you told us that Alabama was hurting and needed a doctor. Give us the diagnosis, Governor. Steady your hand, and schedule the procedure. We cannot afford to wait three more years for an appointment.
You doggedly maintain your September 18 constitutional referendum is our last and only hope to fund Medicaid and that failing to act immediately places our state in grave peril. However, your Medicaid director testified last week that Medicaid will not feel the financial pinch until August of 2013, giving us over 11 months to make Medicaid solvent. So, whether we fix the problem in a special session or in the 2013 regular session, there is plenty of time to act. Indeed, the tobacco tax measure I proposed last session would immediately balance the Medicaid budget so we can implement measures to curb user fraud, and encourage patient responsibility. This will make Medicaid sustainable for the next thirty years, not just the next three.
Governor, the Alabama Trust Fund is not a savings account; it is an investment account put in trust to protect Alabama’s oil and gas revenues from politicians like you. Yet, these are not the facts you put before the people. You insist that transferring over $437 million dollars out of the Alabama Trust Fund is no different than transferring money from a savings account into a checking account to pay for an unexpected expense. Your September 18 referendum is more akin to dipping into your 401K each month for the next three years to pay your mortgage note without first looking for a smaller house or a better paying job. That is not just fiscally irresponsible; it is reckless.
Medicaid is not an unexpected expense. For ten years, you have known a crisis was coming, and for two years, you have had the opportunity as Governor to avoid it. Unfortunately, rather than leading us through this thicket, you hunkered down outside the line of fire, raising your head only to lodge veto threats for any measure that made Medicaid sustainable. And, now, you want the people of this state to believe that they have no choice but to squander the state’s only investment account that hasn’t been tapped for a political bailout.
You describe a parade of horribles that will plague our state if voters do not approve your referendum. You would have us believe that educators will lose funding for their schools, seniors will be kicked out of nursing homes, and young families will lose healthcare for their children. But, most egregiously, you have threatened our hardworking state employees to approve this referendum or risk losing their jobs. Governor, this is not leadership; it is extortion. Should this referendum fail, these will only be the consequences of your steadfast opposition to viable alternatives. This kind of behavior is not becoming of you or the office you hold. The people of this state deserve better.
Sadly, these fear tactics dominate the ballot language of your constitutional amendment: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 ... to prevent the mass release of prisoners from Alabama prisons, and to protect critical health services to Alabama children, elderly, and mothers ...” Governor, if you fear the political consequence of making Medicaid solvent, I question whether you can muster the political courage to release 17,000 prisoners. You have forced the people of this state into a dangerous game of political chicken. Either they approve your irresponsible constitutional amendment or call your bluff. The question is who will blink first.
As for me, I put my faith in the people of Alabama. I trust they can see through this political charade. Despite what your political handlers tell you, Alabamians want straight talk from their leaders, not thinly-veiled threats and a pocket full of promises. Lay the facts bare and do not fear the political consequences of doing what must be done. The sun will rise on September 19 if Alabamians reject this fool’s errand. Governor, your patient is in the waiting room. Schedule the procedure.
According to Governor Robert Bentley, if the GOP constitutional amendment to raid the Alabama Trust Fund fails on Sept. 18, then "... everything is on the table. Everything." That includes corporate tax breaks. So why would progressives vote yes?
The governor said that he would have to likely make 17 percent across-the-board cuts to state agencies which would have devastating consequences for Medicaid and state prisons. "But I can tell you this. We go back into special session and have to deal with this issue, everything is on the table. Everything," Bentley said.
"That includes tax breaks. That includes fees. That includes taking away incentives that some of these companies have right now that they are currently enjoying," Bentley said.
Asked after his luncheon speech if "everything" would include tax increases -- something the governor has previously said he opposed -- Bentley replied, "I think the statement speaks for itself."
Well duh.... does the Governor support tax reform or not? Is he willing to ask those who benefit the most from the state's outdated tax code to actually begin contributing more to support the common good?
Or perhaps it's just fear mongering... maybe our governor has no more influence with the electorate than he has with his own legislative supermajority. In fact, Bentley's reputation for legislative impotence has spread far and wide, as this article from Missouri highlights:
“I’ve been disappointed in a lot of things the Senate has done or not done,” said a deflated Robert Bentley, Alabama’s new Republican governor, whose centerpiece job creation program was killed in the Republican-controlled chamber.
What is it Governor? Will you gut essential social services because you're too much of a damn coward to ask out of state timber companies and the wealthiest in the state to pay their fair share? Or will you "put everything on the table" and challenge your own party to face the hard truth that their doctrine of Social Darwinism is going to kill off many of their most ardent voters?
Governor Bentley would do well to heed the words of Rep. Joe Hubbard:
Hubbard said after the speech that he thought some politicians were trying to use the referendum as “political cover” for difficult choices, and he said the talk of draconian cuts essentially were “threats” to persuade people to vote for the referendum. “With all due respect to the governor, that is not leadership,” Hubbard said.
While we're all busy fighting the "bright shiny object" of all the anti-abortion legislation this term, some Alabama legislators are busy in other matters. Let's call it... "this week in corporate welfare" why don't we? GOP Representative Barry Mask successfully passed his bill HB159 - with Democratic support - in the House & it's now in the Senate. He has also been successful with its companion corporate giveaway economic development bill - HB160.
One key budget chairman said he wants to look at changes to the bill, possibly including a time limit on the credit and greater oversight of the process."We're basically subsidizing the elimination of jobs, and we set a precedent with people potentially incentivizing other companies to look at this mechanism going forward," said Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee. "I think it deserves a lot of scrutiny, and I think it needs some modifications to the retention aspect to make sure we limit its applicability." [...] In most areas of the state, new and expansion projects would be able to withhold up to 90 percent of their employees' taxes to pay off capital costs of new or expanded projects if they employ more than 250 employees.
Who suffers the most? Those with the smallest amount of power and influence in the state - children.
Before addressing these severe budget issues, the AL GOP leaders quite naturally focused on their real priorities: cutting taxes because raising any new revenue is off the table. Heck, they're even willing take the taxes Alabama workers pay and hand them directly to businesses!
It appears that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is working on his own version of an NCLB law: "No Corporation Left Behind." Because that sounds a marginally better than what's really happening:
House Minority Whip Joe Hubbard (D, Montgomery) was one of 6 Democrats to vote for HB159, setting up a statewide vote on whether millions in tax dollars should be taken from the Education Trust Fund to induce corporations to locate or remain in Alabama.
Hubbard's press release, uncut, is below the fold. In it he stresses bipartisanship and "putting Alabamians back to work." He also says. “The political discourse in this State has pitted jobs growth against our school children, and it’s just not so."
Maybe that is "just not so," but as the legislature portions out Alabama's very limited tax revenue, funding for education is definitely pited against funding for industrial recruitment or jobs growth. That is the reality now (HB159 makes it explicit) and will remain the case as long as the legislature refuses to expand the revenue pie.
So my questions for Hubbard, House Minority Leader Craig Ford (who earlier explained his "yes" vote by saying that it's in the best interest of his district, which includes Goodyear) and the others who voted for HB159 are thus:
Is giving tax dollars to corporations in exchange for bringing jobs to Alabama or retaining jobs already here a good deal for taxpayers? At some point the taxpayer stops breaking even on the deal and starts directly subsidizing private industry. Where is the cost/benefit analysis and are we at or past the break even point yet?
Why should the statewide education budget be cut to retain Goodyear jobs in Gadsden? This argument seems to be very much about keeping the Goodyear plant in Alabama. That's definitely important in Etowah county and even in surrounding counties, but why should schools in Franklin county or Hale county or Baldwin county take a hit so the state can pay ransom for jobs in Gadsden?
Do good schools attract good jobs or vice-versa? Why make this into a chicken or egg game between education and jobs at all? Find a way to fund both. And if the money has truly stretched as far as it will go, then it's obviously your constitutional duty to find additional revenue sources.
And it's about time. We need to modernize our image.
Today Rep. Joe Hubbard (D, Montgomery) filed a bill that would replace "Heart of Dixie" on Alabama tags with "State of Champions." He says it will bring industry and jobs to Alabama, instead of raising eyebrows.
“Nobody in Alabama is prouder than I am of our rich history as the Heart of Dixie, but that’s not what comes to mind when an Alabama license plate is spotted around the country,” Hubbard said, referring to the statutorily mandated phrase that has appeared on every Alabama license plate since 1951. “‘Heart of Dixie’ has come to be embraced by many as a term of endearment that embodies the State’s rich history as a generous and caring people, but the reality is many people outside the state of Alabama don’t understand what ‘Heart of Dixie’ means. And our license plates, which are the best free advertising our State has, don’t have enough room for a post-script to explain what we mean when we call ourselves ‘Heart of Dixie.’”
Rep. Hubbard is correct. To an awful lot of people, inside the state as well as outside, "Heart of Dixie" conjures up images of slavery, the confederacy and segregation.The land of cotton where "old times" are not forgotten, you know. It's an image the state of Alabama can do without, especially in light of the recent immigration law fiasco. And there's no question Alabama has been home to champions in many different walks of life.
“From sports champions like Hank Aaron and Charles Barkley, to musical champions like Louis Armstrong and Hank Williams, to champions of public service like Hugo Black and Condoleezza Rice, to our college national championship teams, to the award-winning automobiles produced in this State, Alabama has been a State of champions since its birth in 1819. That’s the side of Alabama we should showcase when recruiting industry and business to this State,” said Hubbard. “That’s what this bill is about. Jobs. Period.”
“When folks in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other states think about relocating their businesses to Alabama, I want them to think of us as the State of Champions, and not wonder what ‘Heart of Dixie’ means. As they move their businesses here and become Alabamians, they’ll learn to love us as the Heart of Dixie.”
Or not. I've lived here almost 30 years and "Heart of Dixie" on the license plates still sets my teeth on edge. "State of Champions" is a moniker this transplanted Okie could learn to love; "Heart of Dixie," not likely.
How is it possible that ultra-conservative, red-state Utah was able to address the immigration issue in a logical & humane fashion? In 2011, Beason & Hammon were hell-bent on passing their turkey blind immigration bill that's costing Alabama millions in legal fees, economic losses, and doing incalcuable damage to the state's reputation. At the same time, Utah religious, business, and political leaders managed to pass the "Utah Compact."
It's a five part statement that was passed by the legislature as HB 116 and signed into law in March, 2011. Compare the Utah language to the "empty the clip" and "everything short of shooting them" rhetoric from Alabama:
Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.
In 2010, worried about the prospect of Arizona-style legislation, Utah residents began networking and organizing around these principles:
Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Utah and other countries.
Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.
Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families.
We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.
The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors.
It wasn't without controversy, one legislator supporting the bill noted:
"For the first time in my life in the legislature, I felt threatened," Wright admitted, explaining that he received hate messages and threatening mail. "That opened my eyes to the prejudice and emotional feelings that are associated with this issue. It also pushed me to move forward."
The resulting legislation provides guest worker permits and legal driving privileges:
To be eligible for an existing guest worker permit in Utah, immigrants need to: be employed in the state for a certain amount of time (to prevent Utah from becoming a magnet state for immigrants), pass a background check, have no outstanding debt and be proficient in or learning English. Immigrants would have to pay $2,500 for permits or pay $1,000 for overstaying a visa in the U.S. Their families would be included in the permits.
Along with a permit for legal employment, the workers are then offered the same rights as other U.S. employees. [...] Those with the new guest worker permits are also eligible to receive driver's privilege cards. Similar to a driver's license, the document allows the migrant workers to drive legally and apply for auto insurance. [...] At the onset of the program, some were afraid that immigrants would not voluntarily join the program. In less than one year though, more than 42,000 misdocumented immigrant workers have paid fines and secured a driver's privilege card.
So Utah managed to pass an immigration bill that has broad support in the community, isn't overtly punitive, and isn't costing the state a fortune to defend. What an idea!
Message to Governor Bentley: You should have listened to Rep. Joe Hubbard. He tried to talk the legislature into an Alabama version of the compact last year, but the Legislature was too gripped by anti-immigration madness to pay attention. Here's hoping he tried again this year!
It's time to abandon the idea of "tweaking" HB-56 and dump it entirely.
Join the Marshall County Democrats tonight, Tuesday, July 12 from 6:00 to 9:00pm at the Outlaw Steakhouse in Guntersville to hear guest speaker Rep. Joe Hubbard, Minority Whip, and enjoy some great food, fun, and fellowship. Joe Hubbard is one of the most impressive young Democratic stars in the state of Alabama today -- the young face of the Democratic Party is alive, well and embodied by this legislator. He is currently the youngest House or Senate member in state of Alabama and already a resounding force through out the state.
In addition to Hubbard, Jeff McLauglin, Tim Mitchell, John G. Jack Page, Maitland Adams, Chad Kilgore, Charlene McCoy, Rep. John Robinson, former state Rep. Neal Morrison are expected to be on hand, along with Beth Clayton, President of the Alabama College Democrats. Got college aged kids or grandkids? Bring them along to meet Beth and get them involved!
Rep. Joe Hubbard (D, HD73) is working to build support for a congressional map that keeps Montgomery in two districts and does not split the Shoals area. The Alabama House is expected to take up the congressional and SBOE reapportionments today.
Those two changes would be a vast improvement on the reapportionment map (right) that came out of the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment. That map splits Montgomery among the 2nd, 3rd and 7th CDs and splits the Shoals area (Colbert and Lauderdale) counties between the 4th and 5th CDs.
Please contact your State Representative now and ask him or her to support Rep. Hubbard's improved redistricting map. Alabama will have to live with these new districts for the next 10 years. It's more important to protect the interests of the people who live in these districts than to protect the interests of the people who serve them.
I've got more video to cut over the weekend, but I wanted to share this today. I caught up with Joe Hubbard of Montgomery, a rising star in the Democratic Party. Hubbard recently announced he would voluntarily refuse 15% of his own salary. "Teachers and state employees don't have the option of not taking a pay cut. Neither should legislators. The right thing to do is to permanently tie legislative pay to proration."
State Rep. Joe Hubbard (D, HD73) is not only refusing the $66 a month cost of living increase, he's also prorating his own salary at the same rate the state's general fund is being cut: 15%.
“Service in the State Legislature doesn't mean that we are somehow insulated from the State's financial woes,” said Hubbard. “The people in my district are feeling the pain of budget cuts. I want them to know that I share in that pain, and that I will work with them and for them to see us all through to the other side.”
Hubbard took issue with the announcement that fifty-five Republican House members have voluntarily taken a temporary pay cut.
“Teachers and state employees don’t have the option of not taking a pay cut,” said Hubbard. “Neither should legislators. The right thing to do is to permanently tie legislative pay to proration.”
Rep. Joe Hubbard (D, HD73) will be the guest speaker at the Limestone County Democrats meeting tomorrow morning at the Sheriff's Arena in Athens.
Come out Saturday morning for our regular meeting. We will begin with a breakfast potluck at 8:30 a.m. and our meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m. Joe Hubbard, Representative from Montgomery will be our guest speaker.
Republicans overwhelmingly voted for this bill -- one Republican (Alan Baker of Escambia County) is listed as voting against HB56. What's really disappointing -- although Patricia Todd predicted it -- is the number of Democrats who voted for this awful bill, which requires law enforcement officers to verify immigration status whenever there is a "reasonable suspicion" that a person "is an unauthorized alien." Rep. Hubbard asked how "reasonable suspicion" could be understood. Sounds like racial profiling to me.
HB56 also allows any person to bring a legal action against "any official or head of an agency of this state that adopts or implements a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law," provides penalties for the state officials and allows the citizen enforcers to collect legal costs. Who knew Republicans were wooing the trial lawyer lobby?
Hammon's bill also makes it illegal for anyone without proper papers to look for work in Alabama, for anyone (citizen or not) to give a ride to or enter into a rental agreement with an undocumented person. These good, small government Republicans will seize your car for the former.
The letters on the map indicate districts where Democrats voted "Yes." Click on the map for a larger image.
According to the Legislature's website, House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D, HD28) voted for this garbage. What kind of leadership is that? Per the roll call vote posted on the Legislature's website, Rep. Merika Coleman voted in favor of HB56, however, she says that is absolutely incorrect -- SHE VOTED NO. You may remember that she recently attended a rally opposing the bill ...
"I think that it is pretty ironic that we are in the city of Montgomery, and I am from the city of Birmingham, where people fought to be treated like human beings, and now they are trying to take that away," she said.
... and has been quite outspoken in opposition to it. Given that Coleman's vote was listed incorrectly, I'm skeptical of the Republican "No" vote as well. The roll call vote at ALISON includes this disclaimer:
Not an official report from the State of Alabama Legislative offices
Obviously, the information they post is not entirely accurate and Rep. Coleman has asked that her vote be corrected in the Journal ... but if the vote was 73-28, then a bunch of Democrats had to vote for passage.
No Democrat should have supported this bill.
It is fiscally irresponsible, morally reprehensible, does nothing to address the root of the immigration dilemma (willing employers) and it is purely red meat for the right. Why put yourselves on the wrong side of history just to rev up your opponents' base?
The Arizona Republic notes in an editorial that other states are “not following Arizona’s lead” in drafting anti-immigrant legislation. The editorial says that states are “wising up about the folly of what Arizona did.”
Unfortunately, no one told the Alabama Legislature about this. Next week they're expected to take up an immigration proposal that follows Arizona's lead all too closely. Theirs is a political solution that provides plenty of red meat for the xenophobic base, but will do little or nothing to solve the practical aspects of the undocumented immigrant problem in Alabama. Harsh punishment of poor, brown people with hardly a slap on the wrist for their employers.
If addressed as a practical problem, however, we can resolve our immigration challenges with reasonable and responsible proposals that don't expand the reach of government. I've studied a number of other State's approaches to the immigration issue in an effort to find such a practical solution. After much study, I modeled a Substitute to HB56 after the immigration bill passed in Utah, which has received praise from commentators on all sides of the political spectrum. Utah's bill brought together the business and agriculture communities to create what has been called a "possible middle ground that has proven so elusive in a hyper-charged immigration discussion." Utah's bill is currently being moved through the Texas Legislature as a solution to their immigration problem.
Under this Substitute to HB56, local law enforcement agencies would be given the tools necessary to identify, and transfer to federal custody, illegal immigrants, without subjecting them to the onerous costs imposed by the mandates of HB56. The Sub would require employers to use E-verify and pay penalties for hiring illegal immigrants. It would also require any immigrant employee to pay penalties to the State if he does not have proper documentation. Certain immigrants would be able to apply for and pay for a work permit and would be required to pay taxes on their income. I fully expect this approach to immigration, described as "reasonable" and "responsible" in Utah and Texas, to be deried as a liberal attempt to grant illegals amnesty. Of course, Utah is not known for being a liberal state, with the last Democratic governor elected in 1977, and the fact that the Texas Legislature is moving to adopt Utah's immigration approach confirms that the proposal has conservative bonafides.
We've seen over the past decade that politicians think that they can cause people to act or not act by expanding the reach of government. That principle is simply untrue. Someone will always find a way around the law. The markets, however, hold people accountable for their actions every time. So, with the immigration issue, our challenge is not to pass the strictest immigration laws in the country -- if people want to break the law, they will find a way. Our challenge is to monetize the immigration issue, and let the markets decide it. This Substitute does just that by disincentivizing the hiring of illegal immigrants, thereby incentivizing the hiring of Alabamians, all while empowering local law enforcement to fill the gaps left by the federal government's failure to address our immigration challenges. If my Republican colleagues truly believe what they say about responsible government and deference to the free markets, they put those principles to work in an immigration bill.
I am not familiar with specific provisions of the Utah immigration law, which includes enforcement provisions as well as a guest worker program. Here are a some references which should shed light on the Utah law, which Hubbard is proposing to copy in Alabama:
The text below is from Rep. Joe Hubbard (D, HD73). Alabama already has the longest constitution in the world -- there's a lot of stuff in there that really has no business being enshrined in the state constitution -- and it's clear that many folks in the Alabama Legislature are still not content to only pass laws that are necessary. Contrast Hubbard's "legislative rule" with "small government" as practiced by the current crop of Republicans.
The Legislative Rule: Can We, Should We, Must We?
My great-grandfather, Lister Hill, used to say that during his tenure as a Congressman and Senator for our great State, he learned an important rule about legislating. When creating new law, the operative question is not whether the government can do what the law allows it to do. It's not even whether the government should do what the law allows. The operative question for any legislator to consider is whether the government must do what the new legislation is proposing. That principle, if followed, would limit law-making to only those necessary functions of government and prevent legislation that expands government to accommodate political or personal agendas.
For the first time this Session, we passed some legislation in the "must" category. We passed a bill by Rep. April Weaver that increases the tax deduction for small businesses who provide health coverage to their employees. This legislation follows through on our commitment to create and sustain jobs in our small business economy. We also passed legislation by Rep. Mike Jones to fully fund our Ethics Commission, as well as legislation by Rep. Mike Ball to require legislators to disclose government income that they or their spouse receives. I commend my friends and colleagues for sponsoring this important and necessary legislation. It has been a long time coming.
However, we also passed legislation that falls into the "can" or "should" categories. On Tuesday, we passed a bill requiring photo identification at the ballot box. We were told that this legislation would prevent fraud at the ballot box at minimal cost to the State and no cost to the voter. The only problem is that we passed a voter identification bill recently that has largely accomplished that goal. What we really needed was legislation targeting fraud in the use of absentee ballots. What we got was a very broad and restrictive bill that will make it more difficult for our elderly voters and our voters of modest means to access the ballot box, at a substantial cost to the State. Was that politically popular legislation? Yes; legislatures across the country are working to pass similar laws. Was it necessary to secure the integrity of our elections? No.
Yesterday, we took up a constitutional amendment that would have opted Alabama out of the federal healthcare law passed by Congress in 2009. We were told that this legislation was another means of challenging the federal legislation. The only problem? The constitutional amendment, if passed, is unenforceable and unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court held in1958 that, when the Arkansas Legislature passed legislation opting the State out of federal segregation laws, the legislation was unconstitutional and the legislators who passed it were in violation of their oath of office. Passing a patently unconstitutional law does nothing to repeal the federal healthcare legislation, nor does the bill further any necessary function of government. It does, however, secure yet another political point, as well as job security for the host of lawyers who will litigate these laws in federal court. But at what cost to our State coffers?
Last year many of us were excited about the candidacy of Joe Hubbard, an unabashed young Democrat from Montgomery taking on an entrenched Republican in State House District 73. Hubbard won his race in the worst year for Alabama Democrats in over a century. He was one of only 10 challengers in the entire nation to defeat a Republican incumbent in the fall election. His win was one of very few bright spots for Alabama progressives. At the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) meeting Saturday, outgoing Chair Joe Turnham wisely chose to kick the meeting off on a positive note by introducing Rep. Joe Hubbard, saying:
I wanted to show you that the young face of the Democratic party is still very much alive and well in the face of the great-grandson of the great Senator Lister Hill ...
"The reason we were able to pull this election off was because of the hard work. ... My great-grandfather used to have a saying ... He used to say "work conquers all." ... I'm living proof of that, friends. We got out there, we'd roll up our sleeves, hit the pavement, knocked doors, we met people, we shook hands, we kissed babies ... we did the work it takes to win a campaign. And in doing that, we did something else. We put a personal face on an election. ... Sometimes a party isn't enough to win an election."
"We must realize that when we put candidates out there, we've got to put candidates out there that are willing to step out on their own two legs, with the support of this party -- the great support of this party --and say "I am the candidate and here is why I can be your representative ..." Put a face on that campaign."
A lot of times when folks in out state think about partisan politics they think about what they see on Fox news or some of them hear on talk radio program. I can tell you something. They didn't see me on Fox news. They saw me in church. They saw me at the grocery store. That's what we've got to remember, friends. These elections are local and personal. And we keep them that way, we're going to keep seeing progress to keep bringing these races back home to our party.
I'm going to leave you with something my great-grandfather used to say. He used to say: "Boy, get on your feet, because they'll kick you when you're down." ... As we leave here today, let that ring in your ears. We've got to get on our feet, because they're going to kick us when we're down."
Excellent advice from Rep. Joe Hubbard.
But ... the Alabama Democratic Party isn't one person. Imagine a whole crowd of people who are down on the ground and trying to get back on their feet. It could turn into a mad scramble with every one for himself, pulling on neighbors and trampling those who are slow to rise. In short, a disaster. Now imagine that situation if everyone works together, cooperates with their neighbors so all can rise up and everyone ends up safely back on their feet. Teamwork and cooperation is the best and fastest way to get the whole Democratic Party back on its feet.
Danny at The Political Parlor has updated his ratings on Alabama State House races. He now has 53 in the GOP column, 43 in the Dem column and 9 toss-ups. Let's pull out a few races where there's a real progressive Democrat on the ballot:
HD 12 from Lean Dem to Toss Up – incumbent James Fields (D) v. Mac Buttram (R)
HD 21 from Lean Dem to Toss Up – incumbent Randy Hinshaw (D) v. Jim Patterson (R)
HD 27 from Lean Dem to Toss Up – incumbent Jeff McLaughlin (D) v. Wes Long (R)
HD 63 from Lean GOP to Likely GOP – Susan Pace Hamill (D) v. Bill Poole (R) for the seat vacated by GOP gubernatorial candidate Robert Bentley.
HD 73 from Lean GOP to Toss Up – Joe Hubbard (D) v. incumbent David Grimes (R)
These races seem to be trending the wrong way except for HD73 in Montgomery. We've blogged frequently about Joe Hubbard. Initially he was given very little chance of upsetting incumbent David Grimes, but now pundits are saying the race is a toss-up. That's strong testimony that Hubbard and his campaign are doing something right.
The Political Parlor updated ratings of Alabama State Senate races last week putting 17 districts in the GOP column, 13 in the Dem column and rating 4 districts toss-up. The only move toward the Democratic column was this one:
SD 13 from Lean GOP to Toss Up – This is the only district moving in the Democrats’ direction in the estimation of our contributors. Democrat Greg Varner faces former Senator (and former Democrat) Gerald Dial in a race for the seat being vacated by Democrat Kim Benefield.
Greg Varner is another candidate we've frequently blogged about here, a guy who is certainly not a classic liberal but has many good government, progressive ideas that forward thinking Alabamians can and should embrace.
When the dust settles on election night, I'd like to see a lot of Democrats winning legislative races, but what I'd most like to see is the Dems running progressive campaigns doing better than those who have been doing the same old thing.
Tonight in Athens gubernatorial hopefuls Ron Sparks and Robert Bentley will meet in one final debate from 7 to 8 pm, to be followed by a one hour debate between AL-05 Congressional hopefuls Steve Raby (D) and Mo Brooks (R). Watch it live on WHNT2 or watch online. Sparks is planning to make an issue of Bentley's son's participation in a state rural medicine program. This is almost your last chance to get excited about one of the men who will be our next governor.
After Tuesday night, you can watch the debate in its entirety on WHNT.com. We will also re-air the debate on WHNT2 three times before election day:
In State House District 73 Joe Hubbard and his opponent, David Grimes (R), debated this morning on Dan Morris' Viewpoint radio show. It's the only debate format Grimes would consent to. Podcast is available here. Best I can tell part of the debate is in Hour 1 and the rest is in Hour 2.