AL Attorney General Luther Strange played chicken with California & lost. He extended his losing streak in federal court yesterday when a federal judge threw out a lawsuit Strange & 5 other Attorneys General filed against California - over chickens. What's significant is that the judge didn't even consider the merits of the case. Instead, she rebuked the states "because they were representing only the economic interests of egg farmers rather than "a substantial segment of their populations."
At issue was Proposition 2, a California animal welfare law passed by California voters in 2008. It mandated that commercial chickens live in more humane conditions:
Today, commercial egg-layers are crammed four, six, eight to a cage, depending on the size, each bird with less space than an 8-1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper. No perching. No dust bathing. That's the bad.
The aim of Proposition 2 is to corral all egg-laying hens into barns that, although crowded, leave enough room to turn "in a complete circle without any impediment." That means not having to touch another bird.
Wow. Talk about the "bare minimum" in humane conditions - "the right to turn around."
Prop 2 is slated to take effect in 2015. In 2010, the state's poultry farmers supported legislation to require that all eggs sold in California meet these new requirements. Otherwise, the state could be flooded with cheaper eggs from miserable hens.
That ruffled some feathers, so Luther Strange & his buddies sprang into action! Alabama, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Iowa all sued in federal court, charging that egg producers in these states would lose millions if they couldn't sell eggs in California.
Strange & the GOP supermajority believe that this is the state's right. Although I disagree in many cases with the policies, they are correct that states have a great deal of autonomy in these matters. They can rightly claim that voters have put them in office & this is what residents want.
But here's the question: don't they recognize that California voters have the same rights?
Imagine Strange & company's reaction if states with higher minimum wages and better worker & consumer protection laws sued Alabama on behalf of an industries in their states that are put at an "unfair disadvantage" by Alabama's almost-third-world wage & benefit laws.
This isn't the first time that Strange has cost the state money tilting at federal windmills. His crusade against women's healthcare in Alabama costs hundreds of thousands - with much of the money going to a bunch of shady "professional witnesses."
In November, voters have an opportunity to elect an Attorney General who is more interested in protecting the people of this state than in protecting the "economic interests" of contributors.
Attorney General candidate Joe Hubbard & newly-selected congressional candidate for CD-06, Mark Lester, will be the featured speakers at Tuesday night's OTM Democrats' meeting. The meeting begins at 6:30 pm in the Homewood Main Library auditorium on 1721 Oxmoor Road.
Both candidates will deliver short speeches & then do a short Q&A session. This is a terrific opportunity to meet two qualified, serious candidates for public office.
Hubbard, a state representative, is well-known to many in the state and he's been campaigning hard for Attorney General for months now. Mark Lester, a history professor at Birmingham Southern Collegs is less well-known, but no less qualified to represent Alabama in Congress. If elected, both candidates will be public servants who put the good of the state & country over partisan concerns and personal advancement.
Change in Alabama starts with us - but only if we turn out to vote on November 4th.
The study argues that expanding Medicaid would bring a number of financial benefits, as well, both for recipients and governments. It estimates a reduction in the number of Alabamians facing "catastrophic,"out-of-pocket health costs of 10,500. The total reduction among all holdout states would be 255,000. Also, 33,400 fewer Alabamians and 810,000 fewer Americans overall would have trouble paying other bills because of medical costs if the other states expanded, the study argues.
For states, the report states, declining federal expansion funds will cost states $88 billion through 2016. Alabama will lose $3.63 billion in federal funds and will miss out on 15,100 additional jobs and $2.65 billion in increased economic activity through 2017, according to the study.
Nationwide, the holdout states could boost employment by 379,000 jobs through 2017 and increase economic activity by $66 billion if they all expanded Medicaid, according to the report.
The UAB study projected the state would gain some $6.8 billion in federal funds through 2017, with an indirect economic impact of 4.7 billion.
A follow-up study by the University of Alabama last year, commissioned by the Alabama Hospital Association, estimated an even greater employment impact – some 30,000 new jobs.
The bulk of those losses came from the public sector. Despite local governments adding 1,300 jobs, state government shed nearly 4,000 positions, for a net loss of 2,600 jobs in Alabama government.
But beyond the state's shrinking government, Alabama's private sector is shrinking, too. Employment in Alabama's private sector shrank by about 1,000 jobs from May to June, according to the report.
The construction, financial activities and education and health services industries each shed jobs from May to June, the report shows. Construction employment remains below 80,000 jobs; at its peak, Alabama's construction industry employed more than 110,000 people.
Don't worry campers! The GOP Supermajority has a plan! Lay off more state workers. What the heck... we don't need those stinking crime labs, state troopers, or people auditing state inventory, right?
The leader of the Alabama Senate on Monday emphatically rejected the possibility of new taxes to address a looming budget shortfall in 2015, instead saying the answer could be further reductions in the state's work force.
We certainly need to trim the state payroll in one place: the Legislature. We have a crew down there now with no interest in good government. They exist to serve their campaign contributors and line their pockets in the revolving door from legislator to lobbyist.
I'll admit: I was pretty turned off by some of his votes in the Legislature this past session. Against the spay/neuter clinics & anti-sick leave, for example. But I think this young man may be evolving in a good way - instead of following the dark path of so many promising candidates who think they have to act like neo-Confederate throwbacks in order to get elected.
It's almost like a schoolyard fight of the "I know what I am, what are you?" variety. In the case of the Attorney General race in Alabama, the question is who's most indebted to gambling interests. Looks like both candidates are - but only one candidate is trying to hide it.
Incumbent Republican Luther Strange asserts that Democrat Joe Hubbard is "bought & paid for" because he's received money from the Poarch Creek Indians. Perhaps Strange is agitated because he thought they'd give him with at least another $100,000, the amount he received in 2010 when it was funneled through an out-of-state PAC.
But the back-and-forth over Indian gaming obscures a larger issue: does Alabama's current Attorney General understand the campaign finance laws he's supposed to be enforcing?
He's had plenty of time to learn. In 2011, former Governor Riley's Republican State Leadership Committee received an illegal PAC to PAC transfer from a Virginia-based PAC. The director of the RSLC was Strange's former campaign manager.
And yet, just this week, Strange's campaign returned a $50,000 donation from a PAC that had received the money from another PAC. This violation of state ethics laws was only remedied when the media started asking questions.
The route that cash traveled began in Washington, D.C., at the Republican Attorneys General Association. In January, the Internal Revenue Service granted that organization 527 status. [...]
In April, the Republican Attorneys General Association's political director, Scott Will, set up a political action committee in Alabama called the RAGA Alabama PAC.
According to its campaign finance reports, that committee has accepted one donation -- $50,000 from the national 527.
And it has made one contribution -- $50,000 to Strange's campaign.
"If I'm going to give you $50,000, write you a check tomorrow, and I'm some big banker, whatever I am, if you're like most politicians, you're going to feel obligated to me or indebted to me," Hubbard said then.
I agree with that, and one reason we have mandatory reporting of campaign contributions is to give voters a way to tease out the connection between policy and money.
Hubbard sponsored legislation in 2010 that would have limited contributions to $2500, but the bill didn't pass. Unfortunately, it takes big money to run against even bigger money. The difference between Hubbard & Strange is that Hubbard is up front about the source of his campaign cash, while Strange prefers to keep his as murky as possible.
Finally, I have to say that Hubbard's campaign so far has been a refreshing change from the dreadful 2010 strategy of the Alabama Democratic Party, which seemed to be "let's keep quiet and don't annoy the GOP and maybe they won't be mean to us."
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.
You know how Republicans say they're against "big government" & we should "return power to the states?" Well, the Alabama Legislature neglects to mention that they want power to stop at the state level. Certainly, we can't have those pesky city and county governments regulating... well.... pretty much anything.
The latest manifestation of that is ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) member Rep. Jack Williams' bill - HB360. It prohibits Alabama local governments from requiring employers within their jurisdication to offer any sort of paid sick leave, vacation time, or leave that's not already mandated by the federal government.
It's one of the few 2014 session bills that doesn't have some fancy, misleading title, so let's offer a couple:
The Go to Work Sick Act of 2014
The Spread Disease to Restaurant Patrons Act
The Take Your Child To Day Care Sick Act
The Give Your Boss The Flu Act
How many of us have had co-workers who insisted on coming to work sick bragged about it, like it's some badge of honor to spread germs through the office instead of taking a day of sick leave? Well, a lot of people go to work sick because they have no choice, and that's nothing for anyone to brag about.
And then there are the parents who dose sick children with decongestants, fever-reducing drugs, etc. and drop them at day care or school because the parent can't afford to lose a day's pay - or be fired like this Chicago Whole Foods worker.
Lack of sick leave puts workers and customers at risk. Productivity declines, and the lives of low-wage workers are even more stressful and unstable. Do you stay home with your sick child and risk losing your job - and managing the cascading effects that come with unemployment? Do you go to work sick and sniffle your way food prep in the restaurant kitchen or go to the doctor instead - losing a day's pay and possibly your job if your boss is a jerk. As a customer, do you want to eat in that restaurant?
The bill passed the Alabama House by a vote of 84-9 on Feb. 18. Democrats voting in favor included: Attorney General candidate Joe Hubbard & House Minority Leader Craig Ford.
Yesterday, the bill passed the Senate Committee on Business & Labor by a 4-0 vote. The eight members of that committee consist of 5 Republicans and 3 Democrats. The Democrats can always be outvoted, but what's up with not voting at all?
At times like this, you can't tell the Democrats from the Republicans even with a scorecard! This bill puts one more nail in the "home rule" coffin, and it's a bi-partisan effort. Is it any wonder at all that many Alabama rank & file Democrats are dissatisfied with party leadership?
Two thirds of workers at the bottom 25% of the pay scale -- the country's lowest earners -- do not receive paid time off for illness, according to a Labor Department report this year. Three quarters of part time employees are not paid when they miss work due to illness.
Sadly, I've come to expect most GOP legislators in Alabama to be callous, indifferent, and often just downright mean. But, hello... calling all Democrats..... Aren't these the hardworking people that we're supposed to be out fighting for? Not in the Alabama Legislature, apparently.
Hubbard's role in this is a real disappointment. He voted against the bill in committee and appeared to be working closely with Buttram to not only feed friendly questions to opponents, but also was an ally when Buttram tried to inject a poison pill amendment on the floor yesterday during debate. Buttram's amendment would have imposed means testing on the use of the clinics.
These clinics run on shoestring budgets and having to collect and verify financial information would be burdensome in the extreme. Opponents didn't even try to hide their real motivation: money.
Rep. David Standridge, R-Hayden, said the clinics have an unfair advantage over veterinarians who provide the same services, and he argued vociferously against the bill. Standridge said he had spoken to many veterinarians who were opposed to it. Standridge did not mention in the debate that, according to his profile page on the Alabama House's website, his son is a veterinarian.
Rep. Dan Williams insisted the non-profit clinics exist to make money.
"Why are these (clinics) being set up if they're not going to make money?" he asked.
Well that's great; we have an Alabama legislator who was previously the mayor of Athens, who doesn't understand the concept of a non-profit organization.
This is the third year that the Legislature is dealing with this issue, and it's time to pass the bill and move along. An estimated 150,000 unwanted animals are killed in shelters each year in Alabama.
Legislators who did stand out as supporters during the debate include:
Rep. Howard Sanderford (Madison County)
Rep. Michael Holmes (Elmore & Coosa Counties)
Rep. Chris England (Tuscaloosa Couny)
Rep. Patricia Todd (Jefferson County)
In the Senate, the bill will be considered by the Senate Health Committee, where Senator Paul Bussman is a vice-chair. Bussman has been a vocal opponent in the Senate in previous sessions.
* Note: The original post cited five low-cost clinics, but that was a mis-reporting from the information I received from a bill supporter. I got this correction today:
There are only FOUR limited-services, non-profit spay/neuter clinics in Alabama, not five. Dr. Welch of the ASBVME has recently included Mobile's South Alabama Spay and Neuter Clinic as the fifth clinic but SASN is a full-service, for-profit veterinary clinic that offers discounted prices on spay/neuter surgeries. Dr. Welch recently claimed to the House Committee on Boards, Agencies and Commissions that the Mobile clinic is the only spay/neuter clinic in compliance with the Veterinary Practice Act.
The crowded gubernatorial primary we were hoping for lost a candidate yesterday. AL State Senator Billy Beasley disappointed many Alabama Democrats yesterday when he announced that he's seek re-election to the legislature instead of challenging Gov. Robert Bentley. But they cheered State Rep Joe Hubbard's announcement for Attorney General. Former Rep. James Fields is running for Lt. Governor. He officially opened his campaign HQ in Birmingham yesterday.
Beasley noted that challenging an incumbent governor is always difficult and was concerned about his ability to raise enough money to mount an effective campaign.
Meanwhile, Hubbard's current district was a casualty of Gerald Dial's gerrymandering efforts, so there had been speculation that he'd either retire or seek a different office. And he's in for Attorney General!
Hubbard, an attorney, said Strange has been largely absent as an attorney general in the past four years. He said Strange hasn’t properly addressed consumer protection, problems with crime and public corruption.
“We can’t ignore (these problems) any longer,” Hubbard said. “As attorney general, I’m going to take a stand on these issues and I’m not going to back down.”
Hubbard also attacked Strange for his ties to businesses during his time as a lobbyist.
“Either way, he’s not there when the people of Alabama need him,” Hubbard said. “They need an attorney general that will show up and do the job.”
Parker Griffith has yet to make a definitive announcement, but it looks like the Democratic Party will allow him into the primary to run for governor. No matter what vote of confidence he received from party leaders, the rank & file remain skeptical (to put it charitably). Griffith surely knows he faces a task of bridge building that rivals the construction of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.
Qualifying closes at 5pm today, so if you're planning to run for a county party office, the State Democratic Executive Committee, or any other office, there's no time to dither. All qualifying paperwork and fees are due at Democratic Party HQ in Montgomery no later than 5pm. View a list (Excel format) of qualified candidates at the ADP Web site.
Call the party office at (334) 262-2221 for more information.
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."