Sat07262014

Last updateFri, 25 Jul 2014 6am

Under Leading GOP Plan, 1 in 5 AL Public Sector Jobs to be Cut


By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY – After a back and forth flurry of "hypotheticals" between the State's Executive and Legislative leadership last week, the leading GOP proposal on how to deal with flat revenues and an increased need for State spending has become clear: cut Alabama's public sector workforce....again.

The plan, propagated by Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, came in reaction to comments made by Governor Bentley that seemed to indicate he was open to tax increases as a method of closing the gaps between the State's spending and revenues.

“It's always my desire not to raise taxes, but I also know we have to have revenues,” Bentley told the Associated Press, a comment which left the Governor open to wide criticisms from legislative leadership, who immediately released statements gawking at even the possibility.

“Given the fact that a large percentage of our Republican legislative candidates have taken pledges against new taxes, any broad-based levies would likely be difficult to pass,” Rachel Adams, a spokesperson for Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said in a statement responding to the Governor's comments.

Sen. Marsh, though, went even further:

“I'm not going to support any tax increase,” he said. Instead, Marsh elaborated on what he thinks should be done – cutting more state jobs to improve budget numbers.

In December of last year, Governor Bentley, Lt. Gov Kay Ivey, Sen. Marsh, and Speaker Hubbard jointly announced that the state had “saved” $1.1 billion last fiscal year in a push called “Right Size Alabama,” a feat which included cutting nearly 5,000 State government jobs – 11 percent of the total AL public sector work force – including teachers, school support staff, and mental health workers.

Now, Sen. Marsh says even more state job cuts are needed to patch together the budgets. “In fact,” Marsh said after commenting on his opposition to increasing taxes, “I look at this as a further opportunity to right-size government.”

Marsh told Alabama Media Group that on top of the eleven percent cuts made last year, an additional nine percent of the workforce should be on the chopping block – a move that would affect about 3,000 Alabamians, permanently terminating their salaried positions, and leaving Alabama's public sector workforce at a total of about 32,000, eight thousand middle class jobs less than just two years prior.

As for the Governor's reaction to Marsh's plan, while it may not be written in stone, it seems Bentley is reluctant to do anything but agree with the Senator, a quality that may reflect the current (in)balance between the executive and legislative branches in Alabama government. Bentley, as one example, recently announced that a special session asking legislators – again –  to pass his recommended teacher pay raise is increasingly unlikely. Similarly, on this issue, Bentley seems to have deferred to the legislature, with his press secretary all but taking back the Governor's comments on taxes.

“The governor's goal is not to raise taxes, period,” she said. “We know there is a revenue issue in the next budget year. But it's very early and the governor is looking at all options to make up the revenue shortfall.”

In addition, the Governor's press secretary said Bentley, like Marsh, will be “looking at further efforts to streamline government,” a phrase that could mean that a nine percent “right-sizing” of Alabama's public work force is all but inevitable.

 

State Will Pay Universal Records Thousands for “Sweet Home Alabama” Rights


By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Tourism Department and the Alabama Department of Transportation have announced that the public welcome signs that can be seen upon entering the Yellowhammer State will be getting a facelift – to the tune of $136,000 over just the next five years.

The welcome signs on our interstate entryways, erected in 2003, currently don the phrase “Alabama the Beautiful,” though now the slogan will change to “Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama,” a move that will cost state taxpayers significant funding for the foreseeable future.

One one hand, temporary rights for the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama” have been negotiated with Universal Records, who owns the trademark, for a five year period at a cost of $75,000, after which the state would either renew the financial agreement with the studio or forfeit use of the motto.

Additionally, the Alabama Department of Transportation has said that it will phase out the old fifteen by eighteen interstate signs as well as several three by four signs located in welcome areas and the like at a total expense of about $61,000.

All in all, then, the cost of the new welcome signs paired with the cost of the rights necessary to use them will cost  Alabamians six figures in a time when both the Education Trust Fund and General Fund Budgets are cash-strapped.

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell emphasized the impact of state slogans since the advent of  'Virginia is for Lovers,' saying that “'Sweet Home Alabama' works for our state because it is a very popular song, and it is a very popular phrase.”

Sentell also pointed out that the tourism department is negotiating further agreements with Universal Records that would allow for the sale of t-shirts and other memorabilia in the state using the phrase.

Until this year, Alabama's license plates included the phrase, though the design was abandoned due to concerns that the plate's state of origin was not readily identifiable at the top of the tag.

According to ALDOT Director John Cooper, the first of the new signs – of which a majority will be placed over the next few months – will be placed on Interstate 85 in east Alabama.

Armistead Says Democratic Convention in Birmingham Would Show Vast Differences Between the Two Parties


By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Members of the Democratic National Convention site selection committee are in Birmingham this week to review a proposal by the City to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  Birmingham is reportedly one of the finalists for the event which brings thousands of Democratic delegates and press members to the city where the convention is held.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said in a written statement that he welcomes the members visit to Birmingham on Monday.

Chairman Armistead said in his statement, "It is with great pleasure that we welcome the Democrat Party to Alabama to consider Birmingham as the location of their national convention. I can think of no better way for the citizens of our state to see the vast differences between the parties than to have the Democrats bring their radical leftist show here. It will be interesting to see if they try once again to remove God from their platform, right here in the heart of the Bible Belt.” 

Chairman Armistead continued, “It will be good for Alabamians to get a closer look at a Democrat Party which not only staunchly supports homosexual rights and gay marriage, but promotes this lifestyle over that of traditional families. The Democrat Party is also rabidly pro-choice and believes that the life of an unborn child can be terminated at will.  There would be no better way for us to contrast the differences between the Democrat Party and the Republican Party than for them to come here and confirm everything we know about them. I am sure their conventioneers will want to address Obama's policies that have opened up our southern border for any and all to come into our country without documentation. The recent massive influx into the U.S. southern border states of thousands of children and youngsters, mostly from Central America, is a direct result of the complete disregard of enforcement of America's immigration laws by the Obama Administration.”

Chairman Armistead concluded, “So, yes, I do hope the Democrats choose Birmingham for their National Convention and explain to Alabamians and Americans why the Democrat Party, under the leadership of Barack Obama, has felt it was necessary to radically transform America rather than restoring it to the greatness we once knew.”

Most political observers doubt that the convention will be awarded to Birmingham since Alabama is solidly red.  No Democratic Presidential Candidate has carried the state since 1976.  Another concern is that because Birmingham lacks the hotel space to accommodate a convention that size.

Birmingham is reportedly competing with Columbus, OH; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Phoenix, AZ.  New York is a Democratic Party stronghold; while Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Ohio are seen as key swing states.

The Republican convention is going to Cleveland, Ohio.

Names mentioned as possible Democratic Presidential contenders include: former Senator Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, none of which appear to be actively campaigning for the job yet.

Coach Jones Says He Can Win


By Bill Britt and Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
 
MONTGOMERY—Coach Terry Jones from Hazel Green is running for the Alabama Legislature in House District 21. As a Democrat, he hopes to replace incumbent Republican, Rep. Jim Patterson, R-Meridianville.
 
Jones said he first considered a run to represent District 21 after the legislature passed the Alabama Accountability Act.
 
"Our representatives in Montgomery voted to take a million dollars out of our public schools and use that money to send kids in South Alabama to private school. That’s just not right,” said Jones.
Jones says as a legislator, he will work to promote job growth, education and break the culture of corruption in Montgomery.
 
Having been an educator in Madison County for 30 years, Jones believes he is well suited to represents the people.
 
Jones has been named “Coach of the Year” three times for baseball, girls’ basketball and fast-pitch softball. He currently teaches history, but will be forced to forego his teaching career if elected to the House, because of the State’s double-dipping law.
 
“I am willing to do this for the good of our community...we need a legislator who will put the needs of Madison County ahead of partisan politics,” said Jones.
 
Even though in recent years the State has voted a solid republican ticket, Jones believes that the individual matters more to voters than a party label.
 
“I am a conservative and I think people will vote for the person not the party,” said Jones.
He points to the recent defeat of incumbent Rep. Wayne Johnson as an example of how voters are fed-up with the Montgomery elite and are now favoring pro-education, fiscally responsible candidates.
 
Jones says that he will first target tax incentives to recruit and keep or expand business. The second is investing in local infrastructure to grow the economy and create jobs in the short-term. Finally Jones favors increasing funding and support for public education and vocational training to improve the work force and grow the economy over the long-term.
 
Coach Jones is a deacon at Locust Grove Baptist Church and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
 
Coach Jones is married to Jennifer, the school nurse at Hazel Green High School. They have two children: Matt, who graduated from the University of Alabama and is currently a graduate student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and Rachael, who has also graduated from the University of Alabama and is currently working public relations for a law firm in Richmond, Virginia.
 
House District 21 runs from Huntsville to the Tennessee State line. Rep. Jim Patterson was elected in 2010 with the Republican wave.

 

Democrats Hope to Make Case for Medicaid Expansion


By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama’s Democratic Party has taken a beating during the presidency of Barack H. Obama.  In 2008 when the controversial Senator from Illinois was first elected, Alabama Democrats won: three of Alabama’s Seven Congressional Districts, President of the Alabama Public Service Commission, and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.  Democrats controlled both Houses of the Alabama state legislature, the Lieutenant Governorship, and the Commissioner of Alabama Agriculture and Industries.  These last four years have seen crushing defeat after crushing defeat as Republicans have turned elections since 2010 into referendums on President Obama and his signature legislation, Obamacare.

Governor Robert Bentley (R) was widely praised by conservative groups for his decisions to refuse to set up a state run health insurance exchange and to refuse the massive Obamacare mandated expansion of the costly Medicaid program to include poor, non-disabled, underage 65 adults.  Some Democrats believe that a case can be made for expanding Medicaid and that that case can help return them to power in November.

On Thursday a forum will be held in Talladega about the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, better known as Obamacare), the Medicaid Expansion, and the associated economic impact of expanding Medicaid in Alabama.

The speakers at Thursday’s event include: Dr. David Becker; Mr. Joel Taylor, President of Citizens' Baptist Medical Center in Talladega; Rep. and Dr. Parker Griffith (D), gubernatorial candidate; Mr. Jesse Smith, Democratic candidate in Alabama’s Third Congressional District, and Ron Crumpton, the Democratic candidate in State Senate District 11.

Former Congressman Parker Griffith (D) said of Medicaid expansion, “Economically, this is a homerun. It’s a bigger, better deal than we could ever hope to achieve recruiting new businesses one at a time.   Right now, a failure of leadership in the governor’s office is driving up unemployment in our state, and this plan can and will put Alabama families back to work.”

Former U.S. Rep. Griffith said, “With our state ranked 49th in the nation for job creation, we can’t afford to cast aside nearly 31,000 new jobs and $2.1 billion in economic growth every year because the governor is hiding in fear of political extremists in his own party.  For the economic benefits alone, my plan to reform, retool and expand Medicaid is the best path forward for Alabama.”

State Senate District 11 candidate Ron Crumpton wrote in a recent column, “Due to the governor’s failure to implement Medicaid Expansion, 191,000 people in Alabama do not qualify for health coverage under Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act. According to a study released by the Kaiser Foundation, Alabama ranks second in the nation for the number of people falling into this “coverage gap.”  When you consider that Alabama is at the bottom of the list in terms of diabetes incidence and obesity; infant mortality and premature death rate; and cardiovascular health, it is easy to see that turning down healthcare for 191,000 Alabamians is just not practical.”

In recent weeks, reportedly there has been some intra-Democratic Party strife between Crumpton and Talladega Democratic Party Chairman Stephanie Engle.  Crumpton said on his website of Engle, “She knew that I had already circulated a press release and her press release had a name other than the name that had been discussed, and billed the event as an event sponsored by the Talladega County Democratic Party.  When I complained to Stephanie, she told me that it would not be changed and asked, “Would you like me to remove your name from the Daily Home notice?”  The ensuing debate has resulted in her removing me from the event, then adding me back, then removing me, then adding me back, and I am currently removed.  She used her status as a county party chair as her reasoning for having the authority to remove me from my own event.  County chairs do not have the right to take over a candidate’s event.”

Crumpton says he is planning more of these forums across the 11th District.  The 11th Senate District is currently held by Sen. Jerry Fielding (R) from Sylacauga.  Fielding was defeated in the Republican Primary by Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville.

Jesse J.T. Smith is running for Alabama’s Third Congressional District against Rep. Mike Rogers (R).  Smith is a lifelong Democrat and a military veteran who is passionate about veterans and their receiving the benefits they were promised.

Parker Griffith is a successful doctor and former Democratic State Senator.  He was elected to Congress in 2008 as a Democrat, then switched to the Republican Party in early 2010 after a public rift with then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D) from California.  Griffith was then defeated in the Republican Primary by then county commissioner and current Fifth District Congressman Morris “Mo” Brooks (R) from Huntsville.  Congressman Brooks defeated Rep. Griffith again in the 2012 Republican Primary.  Griffith then left the Republican Party and was allowed readmission to the Alabama Democratic Party in 2013.

While Democrats are billing Medicaid expansion as some sort of job creating panacea, Republicans complain that the general fund is struggling to handle paying for the existing Medicaid program and could not possibly afford expanding the program.  A recent study by Troy State supports the Republican view.

The forum will be held on Thursday July 24 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the historic Ritz Theater in Talladega.

 

 

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