- Created on 01 October 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, September 30, Alabama House candidate Walton Hickman (D) announced that he favored a lottery to pay for Alabama kids to go to college upon graduation from high school.
Hickman said in a statement, “The single most important factor that has the greatest impact on a person’s future is education. Education translates into higher income, a better quality of life, and a more secure retirement. But, in the face of that fact, Alabama continues to lag behind the rest of the country in education funding. The most effective way to ensure progressive change in Alabama is to guarantee an education for the young people of Alabama through improved access to educational opportunities.”
Hickman said, “Tuition for Alabama colleges/universities has increased by nearly 35%, which is more than twice the rate of the growth of the average family income. In many cases, the ever-growing costs of educational opportunities are simply out of reach for many deserving young people. While schools are overcrowded and poorly funded, underpaid teachers continue to teach increasingly at-risk students whose eagerness to attend public higher education diminishes because the cost has made paying for college an impossibility.”
Hickman said that if he is elected to the House of Representatives, “I will support legislation to create and education lottery in Alabama so that all of our children can once again dream of bright futures secured with a quality education.”
Hickman said that a, “A student who maintains a solid academic record should be guaranteed a scholarship to a public Alabama university, two-year college, or technical program of their choice. All students who graduate from high school should be guaranteed a technical or trade education. Our lottery should also provide funding for apprenticeship programs in both union and non-union craft training facilities.”
Governor Bentley has said that if there is a lottery, at least part of the money should go towards the State’s struggling General Fund. The prison system is woefully underfunded and potentially facing a takeover by the Federal courts and the State’s Medicaid System is growing much faster than State revenues are……..even though Alabama offers the smallest Medicaid benefits package of any state in the country and can not afford that. Hickman’s lottery proposal would add yet another government benefit.
Critics of the lottery worry that if revenues from the lottery are not sufficient to pay for the promised scholarships and free technical education that the state is promising, parents who relied on the State to fund their children’s education instead of saving money for it themselves will then come to the state in mass and demand that the state pay for the promised scholarship even though there are not enough Alabama lottery players. Obviously Georgia and Florida, being much bigger states, are going to have the much bigger jackpots and thus continue to draw money from Alabama lottery players.
Many people also are critical of the State preying on people’s stupidity to pay for State services. Popular money advice writer and radio host Dave Ramsey says of lotteries. “You’re more likely to be hit by lightning five times and survive than you are to win the lottery. Five times! How many people do you know who have been hit once by lightning and survived, much less five times?...You’re not going to win, Dawn. Think I’m just being negative? No, I’m not. I’m being positive. I’m positive you’re not going to win! Stop placing your hope in the wrong things. Honestly, as a Christian, ask yourself if you believe God thinks this is a good use of your money. The lottery is a tax on poor people and people who can’t do math.”
Hickman’s Republican opponent in Alabama House District 90 candidate Chris Sells from Greenville announced on Friday that he was also supportive of a statewide votes on: the lottery as well as on school prayer, and other issues.
Sells said in a written statement, that he issued the statement to make clear his position on the right of the people to vote on important issues. Sells said, “I believe it is the people's right to vote on issues such as the lottery. I also believe it is the people's right to vote on issues such as prayer in schools. We had that right taken away from us. I believe the people should be controlling the government and not the government controlling the people.”
Sells did not offer specifics on what sort of lottery plan he supports.
House District 90 represents Butler County, Crenshaw County, and parts of Coffee, Conecuh and Montgomery counties. Sells said he is the only candidate in the race to present an education plan.
Sells narrowly won the Republican Party Primary over incumbent Charles Newton. Newton who has been a member of the Alabama legislature since 1989 had been elected as a Democrat, but changed parties only days before the qualifying deadline. Republican Primary voters selected Sells: 51.1 percent (1,767 votes) to 48.9% for Newton (1,691 votes).
The General Election will be November 4.
- Created on 01 October 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, September 29, the Alabama Voter's Coalition announced that they have endorsed a slate of Democrats for the upcoming 2014 General Election in Alabama. This liberal leaning political group declared that the fight is on for positive leadership.
Chairman Gary Johnson said in a written statement, “We have a great amount of Democrats with tremendous amount of experience on the ballot this fall to lead this great State. We cannot continue to remain in the status quo mode, and expect our poor and working class to move forward. We are experiencing a setback in our State government and leadership, as corporate welfare and the interest of a select few continue to grow, and the quality of life, jobs, and education continue to decline under Republican leadership.”
The group, as expected, endorsed every Democrat on the ballot for statewide office or for the U.S. Congress. The Alabama Voter’s Coalition has endorsed: Parker Griffith (D) for Governor, James Fields (D) for Lt. Governor, Joe Hubbard (D) for Alabama Attorney General, Lula Albert-Kaigler (D) for Secretary of State, Miranda Joseph for State Auditor, Doug Smith (D) for Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, Burton LeFlore (D) for Alabama’s First Congressional District, Erick Wright (D) in Alabama’s Second Congressional District, Jesse Smith (D) for Alabama’s Third Congressional District, and Mark Lester (D) in Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District.
The Alabama Voter's Coalition said in a statement that they believe the upcoming election is important to the great State of Alabama and its citizens, and that Democrats are the best choice to represent the citizens of the Great State of Alabama.
Gary Johnson said, “We need representation for the people and not the select few and special interest. Our government supposed to serve and represent all people, and our elected leaders are to be a voice for all citizens. Alabama Voter’s Coalition believes that Democrats will do just that.”
In their statement, the Alabama Voter’s Coalition said that it believes that Democrats know the issues and the needs of the people of Alabama. “With the experience and resume on the 2014 General Election ballot, we believe that each of the endorsed Democrats would do a great job in representing the citizens of this great State.”
Chairman Johnson said, “It’s about protecting the rights of our citizens, voter’s rights, women rights, education, jobs, and a better quality of life.”
The Alabama Voter's Coalition states that they are a non-profit political organization that seeks to elect qualified Democrats to public office, increase minority voter turnout, and make sure that minorities are educated and informed about the political process and candidates, so they can be well prepared on election day.
The Alabama Voter’s Coalition stated goal over the next 34 days is to educate the voter’s with our “Let’s Do It” campaign, which encourages voter’s to get registered, get involved and vote.
Chairman Johnson said, “We cannot make change that we all can believe in if we do not vote.”
As the Alabama Democratic Party has grown more liberal, on both economic and social issues, it has grown increasingly smaller. The last time a Democrat won a statewide race in Alabama was 2008 (Lucy Baxley for PSC President and Sue Bell Cobb for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court). The Republican Party has held six of Alabama’s Seven Congressional seats since 2010. The Alabama Voter’s Coalition hopes that that pattern changes in 2014.
- Created on 01 October 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, September 26, the Mark Lester for Congress Campaign announced that Lester has received the endorsement of equal pay for women activist, Lilly Ledbetter.
Lilly, whose unsuccessful lawsuit of Goodyear in Gadsden over allegations that she received less pay than her male peers for what she claims was equal work, helped lead to the passage of the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” in 2009, said that she was impressed with Lester’s enthusiastic support for women getting equal pay for equal work. Ledbetter said in a written statement, “There is no doubt where Mark Lester stands on this issue. He supports the notion that women should be paid the same as men for the same work, without any ‘ifs,’ ‘ands,’ or ‘buts.’”
Ledbetter was also sharply critical of Lester’s opponent, Gary Palmer, for answering an Eagle Forum PAC Questionnaire that he would vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act. Ledbetter said, “There is a clear choice for women in this race. Mark Lester supports the idea that women should get equal pay for equal work and his opponent opposes this idea. Gary Palmer’s position on equal pay for equal work devalues women, it is as simple as that.”
Lester expressed gratitude to Ledbetter for her endorsement. Lester said in a statement, “Lilly Ledbetter is one of the great heroes of our time. She stood up to powerful forces and pointed out the absurdity of gender discrimination in pay. She is an example to us all, and I take great pride that she would endorse my candidacy. There is simply no place in our great nation for gender-based discrimination in pay.”
Lilly Ledbetter was in Birmingham on Thursday evening at an event in support of a Jacksonville State University scholarship that is being established in her honor.
Mark Lester is a history professor at Birmingham Southern College. Dr. Lester is a lifelong Democrat, who was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. He and his family have lived in Homewood for the past 23 years. He attended Rhodes College, received a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. In 1991 Lester earned a Ph.D. in Modern British Economic History from the University of Oxford. He joined the faculty of Birmingham-Southern College in 1991 where he has received the "Outstanding Professor Award" given by students. He has also taught a course on First Amendment law as an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama School of Law.
After he finishing law school, Mark Lester was appointed Assistant United States Attorney where he prosecuted drug dealers and white collar criminals. He later formed a small law firm, specializing in commercial litigation. Lester co-founded an organization to provide legal assistance for the poor. For his efforts, he was named his county's "Lawyer of the Year."
The seat is currently held by Republican Representative Spencer Bachus from Vestavia who is retiring after 11 terms in the Congress. Congressman Bachus served the District in the Alabama State Senate before going to Congress by defeating Representative Ben Erdreich (D) in 1992.
The Republican nominee, Gary Palmer grew up the son of a small logger in Hackleburgh where his mom still lives. Palmer attended the University of Alabama where he got a bachelor’s of science degree in Operations management. Palmer went on to co-found the Alabama Policy Institute, where he was President for 24 years.
The General Election will be on Tuesday, November 4.
- Created on 01 October 2014
by Steve Flowers
Old Fob James had an unusual political personality. When he was out of the Governor’s office he showed a tremendous yearning to get back. The proof is he sought the office in 1986 and lost in the Democratic primary and lost again in 1990 in the primary. However, he came back and won in 1994 as a Republican. However, once he got the job he acted as if he did not want it.
As mentioned a few weeks earlier, Fob set a new standard for alienating his friends and supporters during his first term from 1978-1982. If you were his friend or supporter he refused to even see you. He seemed a little detached during his first term. However, if you think he fumbled his first term, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” because the second term was a nightmare.
Fob seemed completely out of focus during his second term and gave the appearance that he was completely uninterested in being governor. He made multiple mistakes right out of the gate and seemed to not really care. By mid-term it was assumed that whoever ran against Fob would beat him. When polls indicated this to be true, Don Siegelman made the decision to pull the trigger.
Siegelman had been elected lieutenant governor in 1994 as a Democrat and now saw his chance to grab the brass ring. In the 1990 Governor’s race Siegelman ran second to Paul Hubbert in the Democratic primary, this being his only defeat. Hubbert, who now had two losing battles under his belt, one in 1990 and again in 1994, would not be a candidate again.
Siegelman, who had been secretary of state, attorney general, and currently lieutenant governor, focused on being elected governor in 1998. He started running hard and scared off any major Democratic opposition. He outdistanced Birmingham lawyer Lenora Pate 85% to 15% in the Democratic primary, even though she received lots of editorial support.
Fob was not so lucky in his GOP primary. The Democrats were not the only ones who were disenchanted with Fob and sensed his vulnerability. However, Fob had the religious right wing of the Party in his corner because he had done their bidding.
Winton Blount III had been toiling in the Republican Party vineyards for a decade. He had plenty of time as his father, Red Blount, had made his son wealthy by birth. Winton III took his father’s millions and went after Fob with a vengeance. He cornered the moderate wing of the Republican Party and spent millions on media trying to corral conservative independents into the Republican primary. This worked to some extent. It was a tough 50/50 race, but Fob edged out a victory in a tough runoff primary that split the Republican Party.
Fob was weakened and had spent all of the money he could raise. Fob was not a good fundraiser and although the religious right is big on talk they are small on giving and the business PACs could see the polling that showed Fob would lose in the fall. Winton’s supporters never came home. The primary fight had been too bitter. Winton never even endorsed fellow Republican Fob.
Siegelman worked tirelessly. It was the chance for the job he had been working toward all of his adult life. He ran hard on a platform favoring a state lottery. When the votes were counted in November, Siegelman trounced Fob. Siegelman won the 1998 Governor’s race and became one of only two Democratic governors in the south. Republicans had won in all of the other southern contested governor’s races. Indeed, Alabama has not elected a Democrat as governor since the 1998 Siegelman victory.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.
- Created on 01 October 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, September 30, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a man who was hospitalized on Friday in Dallas is the first case of Ebola conclusively diagnosed in the United States.
According to a statement by the CDC, Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.
CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said health officials use two primary guidelines when deciding whether to test a person for the virus. McDonald said, "The first and foremost determinant is have they traveled to the region (of West Africa). The second is whether there's been proximity to family, friends or others who've been exposed.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden said that they, "don't believe there is any risk to anyone who was on the flight at that time."
Der. Frieden said that the patient came to the U.S. from Liberia to visit family and arrived on Sept. 20. The patient sought care Friday and has been hospitalized in isolation since the weekend.
State health officials say no other cases are suspected at this time in Texas. The traveler from Liberia in Africa is the 13th person that the CDC has tested for the disease in the United States. The previous 12 tested negative.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas officials said that the patient was placed, “in strict isolation" due to the symptoms and the fact that the traveler had come from West Africa where Ebola is raging in an epidemic on the largest scale in history.
According to the CDC in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) as of September 29, 2014 there have been 6574 cases of suspected Ebola. 3626 of those cases have been confirmed by laboratory analysis. 3091 of the patients have died to this point.
In Guinea there have been 1074 suspected cases, 876 have been confirmed by lab work, and 648 people have died. In Liberia there have been 3458 suspected cases. Only 914 have been confirmed by laboratory analysis, but 1830 of those people are now dead. In Nigeria there have been 20 suspect cases, 19 of those were confirmed in the lab, and 8 have died. The Nigerian cases are believed to all be traceable to a traveler from Liberia. In Senegal there has only been one confirmed case but no deaths. The Senegal patient is a man from Guinea. In Sierra Leone there have been 2021 possible cases, 1816 of those have been confirmed, and 605 people are dead.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has reported cases of Ebola, but the CDC reports that these cases are not related to the ongoing outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and are not included in the totals.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has contracted with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. to develop and manufacture ZMapp. Mapp Biopharmaceutical will manufacture a small amount of the drug for early stage clinical safety studies and nonclinical studies.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) will begin initial human testing of an investigational vaccine to prevent EVD in early September and is working with a company to develop an antiviral drug to treat Ebola.
The U.S. Department of Defense has funded two companies which are developing drug therapies for Ebola and is working with another company to develop an Ebola vaccine.
This Ebola outbreak is the largest in history and the first Ebola epidemic the world has ever known —affecting multiple countries in West Africa.
Although there is presently an infected man in a hospital in Dallas the CDC believes that the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is still very low.
Presbyterian Hospital says that it is taking measures to keep its doctors, staff and patients safe.
Four American aid workers became infected while volunteering in West Africa. They have been treated in special isolation facilities in hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska, and a U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.
There are only four such isolation units in the entire country but the CDC insists that any hospital can safely care for someone with Ebola.
The U.S. military now has forces on the ground in Liberia as part of an effort to fight the further spread of the deadly virus. Army Major General Darryl A. Williams, who commands the U.S. Army Africa Command, is now in Liberia with a team of U.S. military personnel that began arriving on Friday, September 19.
Pentagon Spokesman Admiral Kirby said that the U.S. military personnel will need in terms of support infrastructure to sustain operations for up to six months, “or however long U.S. military assistance is required” in West Africa.
Kirby said that DoD has requested to reprogram two rounds of $500 million each in fiscal year 2014 overseas contingency funds to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to fight Ebola and is prepared to devote up to $1 billion to its Ebola response efforts.
Kirby said that there, “Is no intention right now that [deployed troops] will interact with patients or be in areas where they would necessarily come into contact with patients.” “They're not doctors. They're not nurses. They're not trained for that and not equipped for that. That's not part of the mission. They will be kept in locations where they can do their jobs without coming into contact with patients.” The troops will be acting in support of health care workers.
Admiral Kirby said, “The disease itself is the threat. We understand that. We get paid to deal in risk and to manage that and to mitigate it the best we can. It's difficult in any military operation to eliminate it, and the men and women who sign up and serve in the military understand that when they do.”
Operation United Assistance is being led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department and the Liberian government not the U.S. Military.
Anticipating the threat, on Thursday, August 8 the Alabama Department of Public Health issued a message to primary care providers in Alabama to report any suspected Ebola cases and to collect specimens from any suspected patients for testing.
Ebola is characterized by sudden onset of fever and weakness that may be accompanied by other symptoms including headache, joint and muscle aches, vomiting, and diarrhea, stomach pain and lack of appetite.
The Ebola virus can be transmitted to others from: direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person or exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
The state of Alabama is warning residents to avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
If you must travel to places where Ebola is a danger, the state urges that you make sure to do the following: practice careful hygiene and avoid contact with blood and body fluids; do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids; avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola; avoid contact with animals or with raw meat; avoid hospitals where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities that are suitable for your needs; seek medical care immediately if you develop fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash or red eyes; limit your contact with other people when you travel to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else; pay attention to your health after you return from your Africa excursion; monitor your health for 21 days if you were in an area with an Ebola outbreak, especially if you ignored any of the earlier rules; and tell the doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms before you go to the office or emergency room in order to help the doctor care for you and protect other people who may be in the office.
The Alabama Department of Public Health is warning health care workers that if they become exposed to people who might have the disease they should: wear protective clothing, including masks, gloves, gowns and eye protection; practice proper infection control and sterilization measures; isolate Ebola patients from unprotected people; avoid direct contact with the bodies of people who have died from Ebola; and notify health officials if you have been exposed to someone with Ebola. For more information, see “Infection Control for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers in the African Health Care Setting.”
The State is urging healthcare providers that all persons with onset of fever within 21 days of high-risk exposure be tested for the African disease.
This report is based on information from the CDC, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Alabama Department of Public Health, and includes some information from recent reporting by both Fox News and the Associated Press.