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Sunday Discussion: September 18th Vote

The vote that is coming up in Alabama on September 18th is already making the news and we are still around one month away from the vote.  The people of Alabama will head to the polls on September 18th and only decide on one issue.  Should we rewrite the state constitution to make special transfers of $145.8 million a year in each of the next three fiscal years from the Alabama Trust Fund to the General Fund.  (total of $437 million over three years)  Many people commenting on websites are already saying they will vote NO and are asking this question to the state government.  When will the Alabama Legislature actually do their job?  I will talk about this later in this post but here is the official language you will see on the voting form.  I can’t believe this is what you will read when you vote.

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)

Many politicians in the state including the governor and the legislature are telling people to vote YES and are supporting the amendment.  Many businessmen in the state are also supporting the amendment as well.  But if you ask the average joe they will most likely say we are raiding the savings account and we need no new taxes.  Since this is Shark Week I will let this political cartoon below explain what average people in Alabama wants.  The people want the shark to bite into the general fund before it reaches the trust fund.

There is a group PAC that is in support of the amendment.  Keep Alabama Working is working to have the voters say YES on Sept. 18th to avoid an “uncontrolled train wreck.” Some of the things they list on the Keep Alabama Working website is the ultimate doom and gloom!

  • Many of our rural hospitals and nursing homes will be forced to close their doors, leaving tens of thousands of Alabamians without any access to quality healthcare.
  • Many of our doctors will have no choice but to close or move out-of-state.  Many rural hospitals will be forced to eliminate services and possibly close.
  • Entire counties could be left without any health service facilities.
  • We could cripple the state’s ability to compete when recruiting jobs to the state.
  • Every Alabamian’s access to health care will be limited, and our overall quality of life will suffer.
  • It will become nearly impossible to recruit industry to Alabama because all businesses want their employees to have access to quality health care.
  • Prospective businesses are unlikely to locate in a county without access to health services.
  • We could lose 11 percent of all jobs in the private health care sector causing unemployment to soar.  Jefferson County would be hit hard.
  • Even if we eliminate every optional publicly funded health program we won’t come close to saving the money we need.  This could bring horrific and long-lasting unintended consequences for the health care profile of the state.
  • We will lose 1,185 corrections officers who work in our state prison system.
  • 3 state prison facilities could close and 9,500 state prison inmates would be released.
  • 133 workers in the Department of Human Resources would lose their jobs forcing hundreds of cases of child abuse and neglect to go without being investigated.
  • Criminal trials throughout the state would be delayed for months or even years due
    to reduced staffing in our courts and in the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences lab.
  • The burden of funding local youth detention centers will be shifted to individual counties.
  • Our food safety could be threatened.  Budget cuts in FY 2012 already required layoffs of two-thirds of the Dept. of Agriculture’s investigative staff.  Lack of inspection ability also harms local farmers when perishable agricultural products miss their shipping deadlines.
  • Pediatricians, who take many Medicaid patients, will be forced to close
    their practices or move.
  • 10,483 jobs will be lost statewide.
  • The State’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be cut by nearly a billion dollars.
  • As many as one-third of the pharmacies in the state may close.
  • We will be forced to reduce the number of first responders, which means fewer law enforcement, firefighter, and paramedic services in our communities.
  • Rural fire departments will lose funding, placing property and people at great risk. Many residents in rural areas will see a drastic increase in their homeowners insurance.
  • The state’s prisons, mental health program, Medicaid program and child protection programs will face federal lawsuits and possible federal takeover!

Some of the comments off the al.com website makes me wonder how badly this amendment vote is going to fail.

  • I am so very sorry for all of the pain voting this down will do to Medicaid and all affected agencies BUT what were these morons doing during the ACTUAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION???? Why should this cop-out tactic get their butts out of the bind they put them selves into while catering to their own special interests???? They failed to do their job this session and if any of us did that in our jobs we would be out of one!
  • This amendment will affect all of Alabama. Don’t let Taylor and his legislator friends or the governor use their scare tactics to keep you from voting NO on this amendment. If this was a good amendment they would have tried and passed it during the regular session. Instead they are having a statewide special vote on this constitutional amendment. To have this special statewide vote will be very expensive to the state according to Luther Strange. More of their irresponsible spending. Don’t let these legislators get away with putting their incompetence on us the voters of Alabama.
  • You guys want to fix this? VOTE THEM OUT WHEN THE TIME COMES. I don’t care if you’re republican, independent, or democrat – these guys are ruining our country and we’re letting them vomit BS to convince us to vote for them. Wake up and read the news for once. Educate yourself on the issues – you’ll clearly see that Washington isn’t for the people anymore.
  • If the budget is the first thing the Legislature works on (Constitution says you must) why were you working on it on the last day? It’s the same old same old. You guys had a mandate to fix the budget yet you failed us, the Citizens of Alabama. Next time you guys meet (right after we reject this shameful proposal) how about working on the budget first like the State Constitution demands and stop undermining and short-changing the current Constitution by using a technicality to work on other bills than the budget.
  • While I realize that Children’s is a true treasure for this state, now is the most up-to-date hospital in Alabama and we are talking about a huge cut that would not allow them to treat every child who comes to their doors, it is time that the politicians deal with the hard decisions.
  • For too long our politicians have kicked the can down the road so they could run for re-election saying I didn’t raise your taxes. Well neither did you address any serious problems. The government has stood for God, country and apple pie, but not for any serious reform, equal tax structure, new constitution, tough budgeting or improvements to the general welfare of the state. It is much easier to pass a law saying “English is the official language of the state” or “every classroom must have an American Flag.” Who cares if actual learning happens under that flag.
  • I will vote no, sorry Children’s, in hopes that our government will actually deal with our problems. First action should be the repeal of the legislative salary increase. Most of them were elected by running on a platform of repeal, but once in hope we will forget about that in four years.
  • I like the way they have phased “could harm children health care” why can’t government commit to something. Why can’t they say it will harm children’s health care. The reason is, because they have no idea if it will or not or they know it won’t and need more and more money to spend. What the state should do is allow gambling and the lottery to be voted on again. What gives them the right to say no and not allow Alabamians to decide. Millions and millions of Alabama dollars being spent in Florida, Georgia and in the Mississippi casino’s as well as the Indian casino’s which are filled to the brim almost every night. Alabama’s gulf coast would be a mecca for tourism and the whole state would benefit from it. Even in bad times people need an outlet from day-to-day struggles and they go to these places just for the entertainment and a dinner, I know this because I do this and I only go once or twice a month. Put this to a vote, if not I along with just about everyone I know will just continue to go out-of-state and spend our money.
  • We have a Republican Governor, a Republican majority State Senate and a Republican majority State House, and they pass a budget that requires spending the principal in a trust fund, or Medicaid and health care will suffer. I think I’m being taken for a ride. I thought they were supposed to represent fiscal responsibility, but instead I believe we’re seeing a preview of what it may be like if R & R (rich and richer) wins in November. Responsibility requires re-writing the Alabama Constitution to establish an adequate tax base to support State operations and necessary programs not abdicating responsibility for the costs of essential services…They’ll get a “NO” vote from me.

Many of the problems in Alabama are connected to the old-fashioned 1901 Alabama Constitution.  At 340,136 words, the document is 12 times longer than the average state constitution, 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution, and is the longest still-operative constitution anywhere in the world.  Alabama is one of two states that does not allow home rule in counties.  This means the legislature is always tied up with county issues during the legislative session and no real state business can be done.  This constitution also has racist language and laws plus archaic tax laws that punish the poor while the rich can run around waving their hands in a field of gold.

A documentary called It’s a Thick Book and the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform does a very good job talking about the longest constitution in the world!  If Alabama is going to get ahead of the 1950’s and attract new jobs and businesses we need to RE-WRITE the entire constitution including the portion about taxes that no politicians want to touch.  Our tax code needs to re-written to include large land owners paying their fair share of property taxes and out-of-state corporations paying state taxes as well.  And counties need to be allowed to pass any laws they want without getting the legislature involved.  But I know how backwards Alabama is so I really do not see this happening anytime soon.

After reading many stories online I have come to the conclusion that I hope this vote FAILS!  If the vote fails Governor Bentley will be forced to call a special session of the legislature to deal with the huge budget loss.  Will the legislature get smart and deal with the biggest issue called taxes.  Or will they throw many poor people under the bus.  Only time will tell.

For more info. on Keep Alabama Working go to http://www.keepalabamaworking.com/.  They are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KeepAlabamaWorking and on Twitter@KeepALWorking

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