Legislative Roundup 2013: Week 1


Geek Alabama Legislative

Legislative Roundup is back for 2013!  Each week during the 2013 Alabama Legislative session; I will be talking about some of the issues that is being brought up.  For week one, I wanted to talk about the State of the State address that was delivered by Governor Bentley on Tuesday night.

I liked how Governor Bentley opened talking about the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement.  But the good news changed quickly.  The Governor said that unemployment is down.  And 26,000 new and future jobs have been recruited to Alabama in the last two years.  More than $6 billion dollars was invested in Alabama in 2012.  Companies such as Airbus and the Wrangler plant in Hackleburg was talked about as investment in Alabama.  He even talked about how Alabama workers are highly respected throughout the world.  I would say these are good things but for people like me; where are the jobs?

Then the governor talked about improving roads and bridges through the ATRIP program.  Over $614 million in road projects have been approved.  Six counties do not participate in the ATRIP program and he wants that to change. Using borrowed money to pay for roads is not a smart thing!  Then the governor talked about education.  He said the state has launched a statewide effort to bring education and the workforce together.  The College and Career Ready Taskforce was launched to make sure the students have the tools they need to compete in high-skill industries.  The governor wants high school and college students to have the skills necessary to compete in the workforce.  The governor wants Alabama to have a workforce that is second to none.  Again; where are the jobs since I have been unemployed for 19 months!

Bentley talked about the Amendment 2 vote which was to borrow money to recruit new industries and to pay for Medicaid.   Alabama consistency ranked in the top 10 friendly business environment and works as a team approach to recruit and retain businesses.  Alabama’s economy had dramatic improvements in the last three months of 2012.  When factors such as; total jobs, total unemployment, total wages, hours worked in manufacturing are combined.  Only 4 states saw higher growth than Alabama in 2012.  Again; I will believe this when I can find a job!

Sure; the governor wants Alabama to be number one. (without Roll Tide or War Eagle)  He talked about the low cost of energy because of natural resources such as coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, and hydroelectric power.  The governor will not allow the federal government or anyone else to stand in the way in the use of those natural resources.  Bentley compared Alabama’s budget to the feds.  He wants Washington to balance the budget!  While the feds are in debt over $17 trillion; Alabama has identified over $750 million in savings for Alabama taxpayers in just two years.  The governor wants $1 billion in taxpayer savings by the end of 2014.  And he wants the Alabama government to be rightsized.  Again; all while laying off people and making them suffer.

Alabama has laid off 4,000 employees to rightsize government.  And the government is running as efficiently as possible without raising taxes.  Both budgets are better than in 2012.  The governor wants the $437 million transferred from the Alabama Trust Fund to be payed back and the governor wants the repayment to be the first bill from the legislature.  Sadly; the governor then started to talk about social issues.  He talked about the constitution of America and Alabama; especially the second amendment.  The governor has the belief that people in America has the right to keep and bear arms.  He also talked about the tenth amendment and he said “the states created the Federal Government, not the other way around.” This earned a very long applause from the audience.  Here is my post about the NRA / gun control debate.  I encourage you to read it!

http://geekalabama.com/2012/12/21/the-nra-gun-control-debate/

Then he talked about the unborn; why Governor Bentley; why?  He wants to do everything to protect those who can not protect themselves and to protect freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.  He said “everyone is endowed with a right to a life.”  Should the governor and the legislature be worrying about jobs and the economy instead of social issues?  Back to education; he wants Alabama to continue funding the reading, distance learning, AMSTI, and advanced placement initiatives.  Alabama Pre-K is ranked number one in the nation but ranked number 33 for Pre-K access.  He wants the legislature to increase the access of voluntary Pre-K programs.  And the governor wants Alabama to close the achievement gap.  Where is the money for this?  I also want you to read my post about the war on women.

http://geekalabama.com/2012/03/27/the-war-on-women/

Bentley also wants to turnaround failing schools and allow the State Department of Education to fix failing schools.  He wants to give school districts flexibility without infringing the rights of schoolroom teachers.  The governor wants to give teachers and support personnel a 2 1/2% payraise to thank them for their service.  He also wants to give more frequent raises as the economy gets better.  Since the taxes in Alabama are so flawed, I do not expect to see any payraises.  He also wants to protect school personnel by forming a task force to look at ideas.  A toll free number is now posted at the governor’s website to allow people to report a threat anonymously.

After talking about accomplishments such as better services to care for the elderly, installing safe rooms, talking about the low infant mortality and teen birth rate, developing programs for students with disabilities so they can gain workforce training, record amount of children adopted from foster homes, and military service from the Alabama National Guard.   He then commended the people in Alabama like the people who helped in the Midland City, AL hostage crisis.

The final words from Governor Bentley: “Fifty years ago, the eyes of the world were on Alabama.  Today, let’s invite the world to look to Alabama again.  And let’s show them a state that works together, one that innovates and creates economic opportunity for all its citizens, regardless of color, regardless of gender, and regardless of politics.  A place we can all call Sweet Home Alabama.

God Bless you all.  And God Bless The Great State of Alabama.”

So here’s my thoughts.  Why can’t the Alabama Legislature do good things for the state of Alabama?  We need to quit worrying about things like state’s rights and start worrying on things like helping the poorer people.  Alabama needs to start a lottery, abolish the sales taxes on food, and restructure its taxes so the poor are not taxed more than the rich.  Also, there was no mention of Medicaid during the speech.  Alabama Medicaid is in big trouble and there was nothing mentioned to help save it.  Oh well; the Alabama Legislature will be busy worrying about social issues instead of the real issues.

I will be having fun talking about the Alabama Legislature in 2013!

 

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Vote NO On Amendment One


On Tuesday people in Alabama will go to the polls and vote on only one Issue.  Should the state rewrite the state constitution to make special transfers of $145.8 million a year for three years from the Alabama Trust Fund to the state General Fund?  This is the ballot language you will read when you go vote.  This is scare tactics at its worst!

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide adequate funding for the State General Fund budget, to prevent the mass release of prisoners from Alabama prisons, and to protect critical health services to Alabama children, elderly, and mothers by transferring funds from the Alabama Trust Fund to the State General Fund beginning with the state’s 2012-2013 fiscal year and concluding with the state’s 2014-2015 fiscal year; to provide a new procedure for distributions made from the Alabama Trust Fund beginning 2012-2013 fiscal year; to create a County and Municipal Government Capital Improvement Trust Fund advisory committee; and to provide further for distributions made from the County and Municipal Government Capital Improvement Trust Fund. (Proposed by Act No. 2012-490)

The leaders in Montgomery in my opinion put the election on this date for one reason.  Historically low turnout in elections like this results in the passage of an amendment.  So the state leaders are banking on low turnout from the people who would be effected the most from the amendment not passing.  I have found two great videos talking about this vote and why you should vote NO.  The first video is from Quin Hillyer who is a National Award winning journalist.  The second video shows two older ladies telling you why to vote NO.

This election is going to cost the state around $3 million which is a huge waste of taxpayer money.  Plus there is no provision to re-pay the money that might be taken out of the oil and trust fund.  The state cannot continue to run a state on an ideology of “no new taxes” and “small government.”  The only reason why the leaders want you to vote yes is so they can say “re-elect us; we ran government efficiently and we did not raise your taxes.”  The Alabama Forestry Association sent out a memo explaining why they do not support this amendment and ways the state can cut the budget.

I encourage all of you in Alabama to vote NO on September 18th.  The citizens must send a clear message to our representatives that we will not tolerate cowardly actions meant to do no more than cover their collective rear-ends.  We expect them to make the tough decisions necessary to comply with our constitution and balance our budget within the constraints of reality.  If that means raising some taxes than so be it.  The scare tactics like closing down rural hospitals and kicking seniors out of nursing homes will not happen.  If it did the elected officials would face a riot and not be re-elected.

The state needs to make out-of-state corporations pay their fair share of taxes.  The state also needs to make these large land owners pay their fair share of property taxes.  These large interest groups that likes to keep taxes super low on the rich while the poor are taken to the cleaners needs to be banned from Montgomery.  The state recently enacted a state law where some poor and disabled people will now have to pay property tax!  These people might be homeless soon.

This vote on Tuesday September 18th is just making the Alabama Legislature look like cowards.  If the amendment fails the governor most likely will call a special session to deal with the huge budget hole.  Will they release thousands of prisoners, cut numerous jobs, and shut down businesses across Alabama.  Or will the legislature do the right thing like raising taxes on large land owners and out-of-state corporations.  Or will they cut out government waste like kickbacks for rich people and wasteful spending.  Only time will tell.

By the way did you know that the state of Alabama owes the federal government around $170 million for tornado cleanup?

Alabama Legislature Wrapup


http://www.myfoxal.com/story/18493241/jeffco-commission-blames-jeffco-delegation-for-lack-of-financial-help

http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2012/05/jefferson_county_occupational_8.html

The Alabama Legislature has wrapped up the 2012 regular session.  And overall the session went very smoothly.  The budgets were approved on the last few hours of the legislative session.  We will have to see how many teachers are cut, how many state employees will be joining the unemployment line, and how many prisoners are going to be released.  The last figure I heard was around 18,000 prisoners or around 2/3 of the prison system was going to be released because of budget cuts.  Also some changes to the immigration law were passed.  But the one thing that is going to haunt the state for a long time is the failure to help Jefferson County.

The Jefferson County delegation failed to come together to pass an occupational tax bill that would have provided the revenue needed to run Jefferson County.  So now that the Alabama Legislature has failed to help the county.  All Heck is about to break loose.  The county has now said that 150 out of the 200 sheriff deputies will have to be laid off.  Also the county courthouses will have to be closed on Wednesday because of low funds.  Also more county workers will have to be laid off.  That means the lines outside of the courthouse will be much longer!

The worst part about this is all of the comments online from stories talking about Jefferson County.  Many comments say that they are glad that Jefferson County is going to get no help.  That the county has to live within its means.  Some of the comments have also gone to the extreme.  Let’s put in some white folks in there who can run things right.  Or let’s just shut down the county and let the neighboring counties annex what’s left.  Do you realize that the Jefferson County mess is effecting the entire state of Alabama.  It’s going to be harder for cities to borrow money in Alabama.  Yes this mess is going to affect you too.

But what to do to fix this problem?  For one people needs to realize that Jefferson County requires more revenue because the county is bigger and has more people.  I know some of you people hates the word “taxes.”  But Jefferson County needs more revenue; and it’s not going to kill you to pay just a little more.  Just like the property owners in Alabama as well.  They need to pay a little more as well.  I would also like to see where the money goes in Jefferson County as well.  Do they need to cut the high pay of some people?  And do they need to cut some more workers?

Because of this mess we will likely see lawsuits from the banks against the county and the lawmakers.  And we will also see massive layoffs from the county.  And there is also no telling how many companies might leave Birmingham because of this mess.  The lawmakers need to quit acting like babies and needs to start working together to fix this mess.  As for my chances to finding a job.  Good luck with that in the Birmingham metro now.  I might as well start looking in Georgia.  I can always rename this blog to Geek Georgia.

Legislative Roundup – Week 9


Well the folks down in Montgomery are back this week!  And boy you just have to hear about the general fund budget.  Every department is going to have huge cuts!  Some of the most extreme cuts include a 30% cut to the judicial system.  40% cut to the ethics commission.  And a 100% cut to the attorney general office!  Read the chart from the WSFA website.

http://www.wsfa.com/story/17337778/budget-proposal-would-zap-alabama-dept-funds

This is just sad!  Why are we not looking at our tax structure?  If we had a lottery and fair property taxes that included large land owners.  Alabama would not be in big trouble.  But we have to keep our taxes dirt cheap.  And the people who want taxes to stay super low expect the same services governments must provide.  Something is wrong here.  For the folks who want super low taxes.  Get over it!  Our taxes are eventually going to have to go up.  And if you don’t like it move out of the state.  That’s right; you will pay more taxes if you leave Alabama.  And for the large land owners and businesses who pay hardly any taxes.  How would you feel if you got no police or fire protection because of super low taxes?  You would not like that at all would you.  These folks can pay more taxes.  And if you don’t like then leave Alabama.

Speaking of something that needs to be cut.  Why have the legislators not cut their pay yet?  That should have been something that was cut long ago!  Now let’s talk about the Alabama charter school issue.  Governor Bentley and State Superintendent Tommy Bice (who I know) went down to New Orleans to tour charter schools that are in operation.  I believe the charter school issue needs to be approved in Alabama.  Charter schools are not needed everywhere in Alabama.  But in poorer districts such as the black belt and big cities; they are needed.  The only issue is how are we going to fund them?  We already have major budget cuts coming.  Once again the tax issue needs to be looked at in Alabama.  And no it’s not going to kill you to pay just a little more.

One bill that had huge support and passed is to provide tax breaks for new employees that are from the military.  This is a great bill but what about the people who have been unemployed for a long time?  I have been unemployed for around 10 months now!  I wish the state would help us in finding work but the career center in Anniston sucks!  There is one area that could be looked at in the budget cuts.