Sweet Home Politics

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018   |   Español

Category Archive: Letters to the Editor

  1. Hidden Costs of Stagnant Minimum Wage

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    This past week I was speaking with a group of small business owners and professionals in Dothan. One business owner felt that an increase in the Alabama minimum wage will make them need to raise prices at least a little, but that prices for all goods were already going up even without a wage hike, so maybe minimum wage workers needed higher pay. Another noted that very few people in Alabama get only minimum wage: the men who do yard work or home repairs for these professionals are getting a lot more than $8/hour (even the neighbor boy who dog sits for us gets more than that).

    Probably the only employers in Alabama paying minimum wage are larger companies like Wal-Mart or corporate franchises for fast food. With rising prices, minimum wage is not enough to take care of the costs of living, even in low cost Alabama. Despite inflation of 11% over the last 5 years, the minimum wage has not been increased since 2009. I look at it this way: when I last earned minimum wage, that $3.35 bought what is now worth $9.70, not the current minimum wage of $7.25. Many families with children supported by a minimum wage worker will qualify for food stamps and their children will qualify for Medicaid. Health insurance for the parents can cost 1/3 to 1/2 or more of the annual pay of a minimum wage worker so the parents have to go without if their company does not provide health insurance.

    Alabama tax payers support these minimum wage workers (and their employers, who get a worker for less than they really cost to feed, house, and get medical and child care) with food stamps, public housing, child care assistance, Medicaid for the children, and unpaid emergency room costs when an uninsured worker has a serious medical problem. As many have pointed out, the profits from Alabama tax payers picking up the tab for these costs go directly to the owners of the companies which pay minimum wage because they do not have to bear the burden of higher wages.

    An old economic maxim is this: give a rich man a raise and he’ll probably put the money away for later; give a poor man (or woman) a raise and they’ll buy Baby shoes! Every increase in minimum wage will come straight back into the Alabama economy; not the case for big businesses that continue to see skyrocketing corporate earnings. If we do not raise the minimum wage, we should consider asking employers to contribute a little more to the state funds that support those minimum wage employees who receive state benefits because of their lower wages. As it stands, those stingy employers are just forcing the rest of us to subsidize their profit margin.

    We all recognize that raising the minimum wage may contribute a little bit to inflation, but maybe it’s time for some wage inflation instead of just price inflation!

  2. Right Women, Right Now (Kay Ivey)

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    When I entered college in the 60s, women generally had three choices: teacher, nurse, or homemaker — very worthy occupations and endeavors, but what if you wanted to become an accountant? A doctor? An engineer? Or run for office? Those options were not readily available. 50 years later, trends have evolved to women’s benefit. In fact, more women than men now graduate from college. More women are the breadwinners than ever before and more women hold political office than ever in history. These are significant strides, but there are still advances to be made and a part of our history, an old habit, that’s hard to break. Whether it’s positive or negative, most women are raised with the notion that we have to be asked to go to the dance, even if we really want to go. A recent study on women supports this idea. It reveals 7 out of 10 women would consider running for political office, if asked. So we need to get better at asking. That’s why I am supporting a national effort to recruit the Right Women, Right Now.

    The Republican Lieutenant Governors Association and Republican State Leadership Committee are leading the charge. Qualified and capable women across the nation are being asked to run for office and serve as leaders in our state governments. They are being trained and supported with the resources of Right Women, Right Now.

    Women possess all of the necessary qualities and skills to be elected and serve as outstanding public servants, but they have to make the commitment when asked. The movement is gaining traction. Right Women, Right Now has already surpassed its goal of 300 first time women candidates well ahead of the filing deadlines for candidates across the nation, but there’s room for more. In Alabama, women currently hold a small proportion of elected offices available. On average, only 2 in 10 elected offices are held by women. This provides a tremendous opportunity for ambitious women who are willing to say yes.

    When I was elected in 2010, I became the second female Lieutenant Governor in our state’s history and the first Republican woman.

    There has never been a better time for the right women to make a difference in the public sector than right now. And they can do it in more ways than one. Women are not just capable of being effective leaders; they are capable of deciding elections. Women outnumber men among registered voters nationwide and female voters have exceeded the number of male voters in every election since 1980. The power of the woman voter is undeniable. By harnessing that power and recruiting and supporting the right candidates, the woeful underrepresentation of women in state government can be reversed.

    Learn more about Right Women, Right Now

  3. The Greatest Joy and Responsibility A Man Can Have (Craig Ford)

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    There is no doubt that God has been good to me. I have received so many blessings in my life, but none have been better or more rewarding than being a father.

    With all the responsibilities a person can have today, being a parent is by far the most important in significant, and it is a responsibility that I take more seriously than anything else I do. Whatever else I may do in life, being a father and husband will always come first.

    And that is a value I learned from my own father. I would not be the man, the husband or the father I am today were it not for my dad.

    My dad was always a busy man. Between his career in public education, his military service and his time in the legislature, my dad had a lot of demands on his time. But he never let any of that get in the way of being a father. Being a father was always his number one priority.

    My dad was always there for me, looking out for my best interests even when I wasn’t.

    When I went to college and my grades started to slip, my dad pulled me out of school and put me to work at the Gadsden Goodyear plant. He and those men at that plant straightened me out real quick, and I learned that I could either get busy working or get busy getting an education. So when I got the chance to go back to school, I didn’t waste it.

    My dad also taught me that a man always repays his debts. That first year of college when my grades slipped was not cheap, and my dad made me pay him back every cent he spent on me that year.

    And paying my dad back led me to make another life-altering decision: to join the military. My dad had always taught me the value of service and the need to give back to our country and our community. Like my dad, I chose to give back by joining the Army Reserve and later the Alabama National Guard, where I spent 14 years as a tank commander.

    My military service allowed me to give back to my country and repay my dad for the money he spent on my education.

    My dad’s commitment to service is what led him to serve in the state legislature. Pops loved Etowah County and Alabama. Outside of his family, his greatest joy in life was serving our community and helping those in need. Because he instilled those values in me, I also chose to run for the legislature after he passed away.

    My dad had a greater impact on my life than he ever knew when he was alive. I am so fortunate to be his son and to have learned the lessons he has taught me. There were three moments in my life that I wanted to share with my dad: the birth of my children, for him to pin my lieutenants bars on my uniform when I was commissioned an officer in the Army and to see me elected to the Legislature. I am grateful that he was there for the first two, and I know he got to see the third from Heaven.

    My dad influenced my life in so many ways. I would not be the man I am today were it not for him. He taught me what it means to be a father, and I have tried to follow his example as I have raised my own children.

    I hope all of the dads reading this have had a great Fathers’ Day! Being a dad is the greatest joy and responsibility a man can have. We are blessed to have so many good fathers in our community and throughout Alabama. Happy Fathers’ Day to you all!

  4. Questions Linger on Taliban Prisoner Exchange (Bradley Byrne)

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    Two weeks ago, five mid to high-ranking Taliban officials were exchanged for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive in Afghanistan for the past five years. I don’t blame President Obama for wanting to bring home an American prisoner of war, but I do have serious concerns about how it happened.

    It is a longstanding policy that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists, and for good reason. I worry this exchange has set a dangerous precedent, and that our military members serving in the Middle East, and Americans the world over, are in greater danger today due to the release of these hardened terrorists. The Taliban now has even greater incentive to capture Americans and use them as bargaining chips.

    Last week, I had the opportunity to question Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. While I appreciate Secretary Hagel spending over five hours answering questions from committee members, his testimony actually raised more questions than it answered.

    I specifically pressed Secretary Hagel and Department of Defense General Counsel Stephen Preston about why the Obama administration ignored a provision in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress 30 days before releasing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Obama consulted with Congress in the months leading up to the Osama bin Laden mission, so why couldn’t his administration keep Congress apprised of this exchange?

    Every American should be concerned that the President believes he can unilaterally decide when he will ignore the law. It is eerily reminiscent of the Nixon administration idea that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” President Obama’s continued disregard for the rule of law is now affecting our national security.

    When I held town hall meetings in Monroeville, Flomaton, and Lillian earlier this month, many of those in attendance expressed the same concerns.  I understand this prisoner exchange has already occurred, and there is little Congress can do to change that. But I believe we must get answers to ensure that a future exchange of this nature doesn’t happen again. Our men and women in uniform deserve it.

  5. State Leaders Singing A Different Tune Now That The Tables Have Turned (Craig Ford)

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    My how the tables have turned.

    Four years ago, Republican politicians in Montgomery were applauding Republican prosecutors for investigating public corruption in the bingo trials – an investigation that led to exactly zero convictions.

    Now these same Republican politicians are claiming that politics is behind the investigation into their own corruption, and that the investigation is nothing more than an attempt to influence the outcome of this year’s elections.

    Never mind the fact that the prosecutors investigating the corruption are also Republicans. Never mind the fact that one former state legislator has already taken a plea deal while another lied to a grand jury about threats he made in a recorded phone call.

    In 2010 – which was also an election year – Republican leaders went to the press and stated, “…there’s going to be indictments. I think it’s going to happen. I don’t think they would have invested this much time and energy investigating it if there’s not something to it.”

    Now that these same politicians are the ones being investigated, they’ve changed their tune.

    Instead of praising the prosecutors for their attempts to clean up the corruption, Republican leaders are now claiming these investigations are “political,” and an attempt to undermine the upcoming elections.

    This blatant hypocrisy reminds me of when Sen. Shadrack McGill (R-Scottsboro) tried to claim that educators did not deserve a pay raise but legislators did. McGill actually tried to argue that raising teachers’ pay would attract people who were not called to teach, but raising legislators’ pay was necessary to attract better people to run for office.

    Or when Sen. Phil Williams tried to provide pay raises for educators with nine years or less experience while veteran educators would get nothing (which is an insane proposal that is a slap in the face to all educators), but then voted to cut all educators’ pay by 2.5 percent during his first year in office.

    And even just last week Republican legislators fully embraced hypocrisy after a court ruled their signature legislation, the Accountability Act, is unconstitutional.

    When the ruling came down, Republican legislators across the state flocked to the press to claim the decision was political because the judge was a Democrat. Then they immediately turned around and claimed the decision would be overturned once it was appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court because that court has no Democrats on it.

    Do they not hear themselves? Do they honestly believe the voters are not smart enough to catch them?

    Republicans swept the 2010 elections on a platform of cleaning up the corruption in Montgomery. But instead, they immediately embraced the culture of corruption. Now they are the ones being prosecuted – by Republican prosecutors.

    Our state leaders are masters of the politics of distraction. They know they cannot win re-election if they campaign on their record. So they are trying to change the subject. They do not want to talk about education and how they have devastated our schools. So instead they talk about President Obama.

    If Republican leaders could have done anything about President Obama don’t you think they would have by now?

    And if they get called out for their corruption, they just blame it on “politics.”

    Hillary Clinton used to talk about a “vast right wing conspiracy.” Now Republicans in the Alabama legislature are claiming they are being attacked by a “vast left wing conspiracy.”

    Do they not hear themselves? Do they not see their hypocrisy? Or maybe they believe they can say and do whatever they want without any consequences? After all, that is what they did when the passed the Accountability Act. And that is why it was ruled unconstitutional.

    It is amazing to see the transformation in our state leaders. My how the tables have turned!

  6. We Must Stand Up for Alabama at the Ballot Box (Darrio Melton)

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    Today, the polls are open for Alabama’s primary elections and voters around the state are heading to cast their ballots in the party primary elections.

    Despite the millions of dollars that candidates and political organizations have spent trying to persuade you to head to the polls to support a particular candidate, many voters will stay home today.

    I’ve heard a range of reasons why voters won’t be voting on Election Day, but I don’t think there’s any excuse not to go cast your ballot.

    People say they are tired of the Red versus Blue hyper-partisan nature of politics. They’re ready for compromise and collaboration, not fighting and finger pointing.

    Voters don’t think any of the candidates running actually want to help Alabama, just fight President Obama. They’re ready for candidates to stand up and say what they want to do to fix our state.

    People are tired of hearing about the corruption in Montgomery and the grand jury investigations. They’re ready to elect good, honest leadership and just don’t feel like anyone will look out for the public’s best interests anymore.

    But the truth is, there are good candidates on both ballots who will work together, conduct government with integrity, and fight to make Alabama better for all of us. Those people will not have the opportunity to serve if you don’t go to the polls and exercise your right to vote.

    If we sit at home on Election Day, we will continue to elect more of the same. We will continue to elect leadership that dismantles public education in back-room deals in the middle of the night.  They will continue to shut down dissenting voices in the legislature and waste millions of state dollars defending unconstitutional legislation like the Accountability Act.

    If we don’t vote, we will have four more years of tax breaks to big business and poverty wages for their employees.  We will continue to live in a state with 600,000 uninsured citizens, half of which could be covered if the state’s leadership would choose to expand Medicaid.  Alabama will continue to be last in everything that is good and first in everything that is bad.

    It’s up to you. That’s the beauty of Democracy–we create the government we want on Election Day.  Today, we choose the future of Alabama.

    We can go to the polls and choose to stand up against the corrupt, Montgomery elite or we can choose to stay home and let others decide for us.

    As for me, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m ready for change in Montgomery. And I’m ready for you to stand with me to create it.

    Do your research. Go vote. Bring a photo ID. Make your mark on Alabama.

  7. Back from Afghanistan (Martha Roby)

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    Over Mother’s Day weekend, I once again had the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan to meet with our service members and get a status check directly from Afghan and U.S. military officials. This marked the fourth straight year I visited Afghanistan around Mother’s Day, and the third time I have led the bi-partisan women’s Congressional Delegation.

    While in Afghanistan, I always make it a priority to meet Alabamians deployed in service to our country. This year I visited with members of the 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard, which is based out of Montgomery. As you may know, the 187th is famous for its “Red Tails” heritage and reputation as a well-trained and organized unit. I’ve also met many Army aviators who trained at Fort Rucker. I am pleased to report that our service members are doing great work and their spirits are high.

    Our region has a proud presence in the war against terrorism, and it is an honor to be able to visit deployed Alabamians. I know I was able to speak for all of us here in Alabama in wishing them a successful mission and a safe return home to their families.

    Our annual Mother’s Day trip allows us to spend time with military moms deployed overseas. This year we visited Marmal Air Base near Mazar e Sharif, where soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force are stationed. We hosted them for a Mother’s Day luncheon and brought them cards made by school children from Alabama. We listened to their stories and learned of the special challenges deployed military moms face. These women warriors are a special kind of brave who have a unique appreciation for what they are fighting for.

    An important part of our Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan is to observe human rights gains made by the Afghan people, especially Afghan women. Under the Taliban regime, Afghan women were denied basic rights and protections, barred from pursuing education or employment. Thanks to the sacrifices of American, Afghan and coalition forces, the quality of life for women is improving rapidly. They are going to school, seeking careers, and even service in the government and military. New laws criminalize violence toward women and offer them unprecedented legal protections. The struggle is far from over, but these women are now participants in a society that once systematically subjugated them.

    It is easy for war weary Americans to think that the status of the Afghan women is inconsequential to us here at home, but I would disagree. The status of Afghan women and girls has implications far beyond their borders. The status of women in Afghanistan directly affects our national security and the security of other countries in the region, like Israel.

    After all, an Afghanistan that is more committed to human rights is less hospitable to terrorism.

    Just this past week, President Obama announced that American troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond his original withdrawal goal of this December – about 10,000 stationed there until 2015, with a smaller contingent remaining until 2016.  Some special operations forces will continue to focus on counter-terrorism missions, while other forces will concentrate on critical Afghan military training.

    No one wants our troops to stay in Afghanistan one moment longer than is necessary. I certainly want our deployed Alabamians to come home as soon as possible. However, at this critical juncture when the stability of Afghanistan hangs in the balance, our nation must not vacate its responsibility to ensure a lasting peace – not just for Afghanistan, but for ourselves and our allies.

  8. Committee Passage of Fisheries Bill Means Relief (Bradley Byrne)

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    So often, it seems that Washington operates outside of the realm of common sense. The Red Snapper issue is no different, with the federal government refusing to sample on reefs for this reef fish, hurting our coastal communities. Thankfully, last week the House Natural Resources Committee, of which I am a Member, passed the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act. This bill, which reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, was last reauthorized in 2006 and has jurisdiction over all federal fisheries – including authorizations for setting Red Snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico each year.

    More than anything, our fishermen and coastal communities need relief. This bill will grant it to them.

    First, the bill repeals Section 407(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which imposed inflexible quotas on Red Snapper fishing. Earlier this year, I introduced legislation called the SNAPR Act which mirrors this language in order to give the courts added flexibility to restore our season back from the devastating 9 days that was ordered this year.

    Second, this legislation extends the Alabama state water boundary from the current 3 nautical miles to 9 nautical miles from shore. Fishermen’s groups have made the case for this reform, arguing that it would effectively give the state more control over its own resources and the option for a more reasonable fishing season as well as creating equality in state water boundaries between all the Gulf states. We know that the federal government’s incompetence in regulating this issue is the root of this problem. This is a step in the right direction to direct more power back to the states.

    Finally, I am pleased the committee adopted my amendment to remove stock assessment and data collection responsibilities for reef fish currently held by the federal government. Local experts like Dr. Bob Shipp at the University of South Alabama have long argued that the federal government’s data collection practices are flawed and do not accurately reflect the Red Snapper stocks in the Gulf. By removing this authority from the federal government and placing it in the hands of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, a state-run organization, we will clear the way for the Gulf Council to be able to rely on better data to make decisions moving forward.

    This fight is not over, but we are making progress. We are forcing the federal government to give back power to those who know what they are doing and have a vested interested in caring for these stocks. I’m glad to restore common sense into the regulatory process and provide relief to our fishermen who are in dire need, and I’ll keep working to make steps forward on this issue.

  9. How Alabama’s Poorest County Landed Golden Dragon (Kay Ivey)

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    A phone call and impromptu site visit settled it. Chinese company Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group would build its first U.S.-based manufacturing facility in the small town of Pine Hill in Wilcox County, my home county.

    But every “overnight success” has a backstory and this one was many years in the making.

    George Alford, Director of the Wilcox County Industrial Development Authority, and Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day in neighboring Clarke County forged a working relationship through the years. With more than four decades in economic development, George knows a thing or two about forming relationships. In his words, “It’s like an old dance contest. You get a good partner and you keep dancing.” Thomasville was getting new prospects and Wilcox County had good sites. Together, they worked to attract economic development to their shared region of the state.

    In March 2011, Golden Dragon announced its plans for the U.S. manufacturing facility. After a competitive process against 62 other sites, the company selected a 50 acre plat in Thomasville. The project would add 300 new jobs and generate millions for the local economy. Meanwhile, a pipe coating company was prospecting a 260 acre site in Pine Hill.

    On a hot day in August 2011, George was meeting with Mayor Day on the company’s proposal. Mayor Day left the meeting to take what ended up being a critical phone call. The plan was off. The company had decided to triple the size of the project. It would need a bigger site and Clarke County didn’t have one. Golden Dragon Copper engineers had already begun initial work on the project so they were conveniently in town that day. Mayor Day asked George if he would let the engineers survey the site in Pine Hill. It had all the necessary amenities – water, sewer, natural gas and power and was situated adjacent to rail. Not to mention, it was five times the size of the Thomasville site. Within a few hours, Golden Dragon representatives laid eyes on the land and agreed almost on the spot. The $100 million investment and now up to 500 new jobs would be coming to Wilcox County.

    This month the company officially cuts the ribbon on the new facility. I am proud to be a part of the ceremony for this significant economic success in my home county, its first new major industry development in 45 years. Even in Alabama’s poorest county, progress is being made.

    This story is a testament to the value of local officials working together. Many State, business, and community leaders, as well as key legislation also primed the pump and played an important role in landing Golden Dragon; but at a critical moment when Alabama was at risk of losing the project to another state, it was the fortified relationship between George and Mayor Day that saved it. As George said, “We did not let a county line stop us from working together.” As the old adage goes, it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.

  10. A Day of Remembrance (Craig Ford)

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    John 15:13 reads, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Thousands of men and women in the United States Armed Forces have not only given their life for their friends, but for all of us. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those men and women who lost their lives for our great nation.

    Far too many Americans have heard the unforgettable notes coming from the bugle or trumpet. These notes are etched in many of our hearts and minds forever. Every time I hear Taps play I am reminded of those men and women who gave their all for our country.  I hurt for the widowed wives and husbands, the fathers and mothers who lost their child, and for the children who have to grow up without their parent. They should never be forgotten. We must remember our fallen every day, not just one day out of the year.

    Today, our men and women in the Armed Forces are spread across the globe. Every day they wake up without knowing what the day holds for them, they put on their boots, strap on their gear, and walk into the unknown and into danger .Not one day is promised to any of us. I have so much pride in our country because of the men and women who so selflessly serve and defend her every day. They make me proud to be an American.

    I served fourteen years in the Army Reserve and the Alabama National Guard as a tank commander. I had the honor and privilege of serving alongside some of the most loyal and faithful men and women I have ever met. I am truly humbled by serving our great country.  All of us gave some, but some gave all. The men and women who serve and protect our country are among the most courageous people on the face of the earth. Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” As a fellow American, former service member, and as an elected member of the Alabama House of Representatives, I try every day to follow the example of our servicemen and women. It is a calling, an honor, and a great responsibility.

    It is of the utmost importance that we all stand strong and firm behind the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. They sacrifice their time with their families and risk their lives for us all each and every day; asking nothing in return. They deserve far more than they are given, and deserve our respect and unwavering support.

    Let us take the day to remember all those who have fallen. They have not died in vain. They are the true American heroes.  America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, but that comes at a great cost. Freedom is not free and bravery and courage is rare. Remember those we have lost, and thank all our men and women in uniform whenever you get a chance.

    “Falling night,

    Trumpet call, as the sun, sinks in flight

    Sleep in peace, comrades dear,

    God is near”—Taps