The Wire

  • 16-year-old murder suspect admits setting fire that killed mother, records state

    Excerpt from AL.com:

    Nicholas Lamons is charged in his mother’s fire death.

    A teen murder suspect admitted setting the Morgan County fire that killed his mother and sent two others to the hospital, court records state.

    Nicholas Lamons, 16, is charged in the Tuesday-morning fire death of his mother, 32-year-old Kimberly Lamons, at their Alabama 67 home in the Joppa area.

    “Nicholas was located a short time later asleep in the van in Somerville,” Investigator Jeff Reynolds wrote in an arrest affidavit. “Nicholas was questioned and admitted that he had started a fire in his bedroom prior to leaving the residence. Nicholas also stated that he came back by the house a short time later and saw the trailer burning but did not make an effort to notify anyone.”

  • Moore slams Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize in fundraising email

    Excerpt from Associated Press:

    Former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama is trying to raise money by pointing to the Pulitzer Prize that The Washington Post won for its investigation of him.

    In a Friday fundraising email to supporters, Moore’s legal defense fund, said The Post won for “lies and slander.” The email sent by the Moore for U.S. Senate Legal Defense Fund then asked for people to help replenish his legal fund.

    The Post won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting for its stories revealing allegations that Moore pursued teenage girls sexually decades ago while he was in his 30s. Moore denied any misconduct.

  • Birmingham considering another Democratic National Convention bid

    Excerpt from WBRC:

    Birmingham is going after another Democratic National Convention, but the city says this time the committee asked to make a pitch.

    Last month, the Democratic National Committee reached out to Mayor Randall Woodfin about the city applying to host the 2020 convention.

    In a statement to WBRC, Mayor Woodfin says he’s considering applying.

    “We are very excited that the Democratic National Committee has recognized the City of Birmingham as an attractive, possible site for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Such recognition shows how much progress our city is making when we receive these kinds of unsolicited invitations,” Woodfin said.

10 hours ago

Alabama monuments: Preserving our history to protect our future

(Wikicommons)

Doing the right thing isn’t always politically expedient, but a strong leader does what’s necessary regardless of her critics. Governor Kay Ivey exemplifies this kind of no-nonsense leadership.

Last year, our state faced a difficult decision: should we listen to the politically-correct, out-of-state pundits or do what’s best for the future of Alabama?

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All across Alabama, we have monuments and statues that tell our storied past. Many of these moments have affected our entire nation and shaped us to be who we are today. History doesn’t just tell us where we’ve been, it often provides signals and warnings for how to avoid repeating past errors. As George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Nearly one year ago, I sponsored the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a law that protects historic monuments and memorials in Alabama from thoughtless destruction.

More specifically, the Memorial Preservation Act prohibits the destruction or alteration of public monuments older than forty years, and established a standing committee to hear waiver requests from cities and counties, while historic artifacts under the control of museums, archives, libraries, and universities were specifically exempted from the prohibition against
removal or alteration.

This law is the result of countless discussions with other legislators, historians, and interested citizens, and the intent is to preserve memorials to all of Alabama’s history – including the Civil War, the World Wars, and the Civil Rights movement – for generations to come.

We’ve seen a wave of political correctness sweep the nation, and too often, these attempts have resulted in re-writing of the American story. This politically-correct movement to strike whole periods of the past from our collective memory is divisive and unnecessary. In order to understand our complete history and where we are today, we have to tell it as it happened.

As a lawmaker, I believe it is incumbent upon us to preserve our state’s history, and I am grateful that Governor Ivey, in the face of criticism, stood up for the thoughtful preservation of Alabama’s history – the good and the bad. As father and grandfather, I am especially grateful she understood the importance of our children and grandchildren learning from the past, so they can create a better future.

State Senator Gerald Allen is a Republican from Tuscaloosa.

1 day ago

Alabama legislators should follow Iowa’s lead in protecting the unborn

(YHN/Pixabay)

“If we conservatives truly believe abortion is what we say it is — the butchering of an unborn person — then ending the practice must be our top priority.”

Those were the words of Yellowhammer’s very own J. Pepper Bryars last week in an article he wrote after Congress failed, once again, to ban Planned Parenthood from receiving federal dollars.

Bryars couldn’t have been more accurate in his criticism, but I believe his words are also an indictment of the entire pro-life movement. For far too long we have played defense on the issue of abortion, attempting to hold the status quo while never really producing any substantial legislation on the issue. Not since Casey in June of 1992 have we attempted to make any real challenge to Roe v. Wade.

It’s for that reason that Alabama should follow in the footsteps of the lawmakers from our sister state of Iowa, who last month passed one of the strongest pro-life bills we have seen in decades.

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Iowa Senate bill 2281 (the text of which can be found here), known as the Heartbeat Billwould legally prevent all abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat has been discovered, except in the very rare case of a medical emergency.

In other words, only when it is concluded by medical personnel that the life of the mother is in danger can an abortion be performed. Not only does it not make the exception for rape and incest as pro-choice legislators like to commonly reference, but it would also charge any doctor that performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected with a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Why this matters: The earliest fetal heartbeats can be detected is 5-6 weeks after conception, which is right about the time most women are initially discovering they are pregnant. However, new research from the University of Oxford suggests that a fetal heartbeat may be detected as early as 16 days after conception. With the risk of women dying during childbirth decreasing significantly since the 1970s and the recent trends in fetal research, it is clear that a bill such as this could effectively end 99% of abortions statewide.

Also, by creating legislation that defines life as beginning the moment the first detectable heartbeat is discovered we will be using the same red line that is already in use by most professionals in the medical community.

If I were driving home from work one night and had a terrible car accident, medical personnel after arriving on scene and finding me unconscious would immediately check for a pulse indicating whether I had a detectable heartbeat. If a detectable heartbeat is found, I would be considered a living person. If a heartbeat can be used by the medical community as a means of declaring when a person is living after birth, then it makes no sense why we wouldn’t use the same scientifically backed means of declaring life prior to birth.

For far too long the pro-life movement has focused on arguments surrounding fetal viability and gestational timelines, allowing our opponents on the issue the opportunity to define the terms of the debate for us.

Finally, simply passing a bill such as Iowa’s heartbeat bill would only be the beginning of the fight. There is no doubt that the ACLU, SPLC, and every pro-choice organization in the country would descend upon our state capital like locust filing every legal challenge to the bill imaginable. They would organize large protests where people in hats resembling female genitalia will gnash their teeth, but the resulting legal challenge would finally give us the opportunity to eventually stand before the Supreme Court and reargue the merits of the worst decision it has produced since Plessy v. Ferguson.

So, it is incumbent upon our legislators to truly reflect on the very pointed philosophical question Bryars raised regarding what we truly believe as conservatives on the issue of protecting unborn life.

Do you, Governor Kay Ivey, believe as you so eloquently stated that “fighting for our freedoms means fighting for the unborn”?

Do the members of our State Legislature and the pro-life community believe this as well?

If so, then the time has long since passed for us to stand by our words and attack Roe at its very core.

@dannybritton256 is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and lives in Athens.

Alabama must do more to thank its military veterans

(AL VA/FB)

The Bible verse Isaiah 6:8 reads – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Those words from the holiest of books have always prompted me to think of the men and women who have so selflessly served in the United States military and defended the greatest of all nations.

Military service is a deep commitment that demands a great deal of sacrifice from the soldiers who serve and the family members who support them. Everyone who wears our country’s uniform deserves our respect, honor, and appreciation, and those warm feelings continue even after that uniform is removed and hung in a closet.

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Since joining the Alabama Legislature in 2014, I have placed a deep focus on serving the needs of Alabama’s military veterans, and that commitment will continue if I am elected lieutenant governor.

Most recently, I worked with State Rep. Dickie Drake (R – Leeds) and members of the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to pass the Parks for Patriots Act, which provides free, year-round admission to all Alabama state parks for active military personnel and veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserves.

I also joined with State Rep. Barry Moore (R – Enterprise) to pass legislation that makes it a crime for those who do not qualify to park in spaces specifically reserved for Purple Heart and medal of valor recipients, former prisoners of war, or other military veterans.

More and more businesses are setting aside special parking spaces reserved for military veterans who were wounded, taken prisoner, or presented a medal for valor in defense of our country. It is unconscionable to think that someone who does not fall under these categories would park in a space reserved for our nation’s heroes, but it happens quite often. This new law will ensure that those who display such blatant disrespect will be punished appropriately.

My Republican colleagues and I have also approved the Veterans Employment Act, which provides tax incentives to businesses that hire honorably discharged veterans who are currently unemployed.

The law ensures that the veterans covered by this incentive program would be hired for full-time jobs and earn at least $14 per hour, and because the program is modeled after the “pay as you go” method of awarding economic incentives, it will have no negative fiscal impact on the budgets.

And in order to ensure that the sacrifices and legacies of veterans of the past, present, and future are properly protected, I was proud to support the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a measure that prevents those with leftist agendas and politically correct notions from tearing down statues, monuments, and makers dedicated to our state’s rich military history.

Some may argue that the work we have accomplished is adequate, but I believe that more should still be done to properly thank our veteran heroes for their service.

That is why I plan to create the Lieutenant Governor’s Task Force on Veterans’ Needs if I am elected to serve the citizens of Alabama over the next four years.

This task force will include a cross section of career military veterans, National Guard veterans, disabled veterans, combat and homefront veterans, business leaders, educators, and other citizens. The task force will be responsible for recommending need laws, programs, and initiatives that will ensure Alabama’s veterans and their families are skilled, educated, employed, and provided the comforts necessary to understand the thanks of a grateful state.

As lieutenant governor, I will take the most worthy recommendations of the task force to the members of the Senate and work to enact them into law. And because the needs of veterans continue to evolve with a changing economy, emerging technologies, and shifting military responsibilities, the task force will continue to meet on an annual basis and provide new input and ideas.

George Washington, our nation’s first president and one of its greatest generals, stressed the importance of treating our veterans well when he said, “The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”

Those are wise words spoken by a great man, and I pledge to live by them as your lieutenant governor.

U.S. Rep. Will Ainsworth is a Republican from Guntersville.

Rep. Roby: I’m always fighting for Fort Rucker and Maxwell Air Force Base

(Maxwell Air Force Base/FB)

The recent district work period provided me valuable time on the road in Alabama’s Second District to have in-person meetings with many of the people I represent in Congress. I firmly believe that hearing directly from you and having face-to-face conversations about the issues that impact our community daily enables me to be a better representative for your priorities in Washington.

As you know, our district has a very large military footprint and is home to two of the finest military installations in the country – Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base. It is critically important that I stay up-to-date with the needs and priorities of our military bases, so during the last district work period I met with leadership at both installations. I recently spoke on the House floor to share an update about my visits.

At Fort Rucker, I was thoroughly briefed by General Gayler, and I truly appreciate him for taking the time to talk with me. At Maxwell, I was given the opportunity to speak to the Squadron Officer School, and then I had a productive meeting with Lt. General Cotton, Commander of Air University. This vital operation serves as our Air Force’s center for professional military education.

As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, properly funding our military is one of my top priorities. As I told General Gayler and Lt. General Cotton, I remain committed to ensuring that our district’s large military footprint continues to have the resources necessary to carry out their important missions.

Earlier this month, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base celebrated 100 years of operation – what a remarkable milestone. Their weekend-long celebration included a military tribute at a Montgomery Biscuits baseball game and a 5k race. Additionally, students from local schools participated in an art and essay contest themed “100 Years of Leadership in Airpower.” I’m confident that I speak for the entire Second District by saying that we appreciate all that these men and women do for our country and our community. I know our region looks forward to many more years of continued partnership with Maxwell. The outstanding individuals who work there truly invest so much in our state.

I will always work to ensure that Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base remain strong components in our national defense infrastructure. Over the last year, I have greatly appreciated finally working alongside an Administration that has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to rebuilding our military after years of damaging cuts. I am proud to serve as the representative for these two fine military installations, and I will continue to fight to provide the brave men and women of our military with the best possible resources to ensure they are well prepared for whatever challenges they may face as they work to keep us safe.

It is truly a great honor and privilege to be an advocate for Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force base in Congress. I will never stop fighting on behalf of our service members and their families.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.

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3 days ago

Thank you, Mrs. Bush – what you did for my friend dying of AIDS will never be forgotten

My brother Matt died of AIDS 26 years ago yesterday, passing away in his bed in my parents’ home in Houston.

It was a benighted time for people with AIDS. There were no antiretrovirals then. There was nothing much you could do for an AIDS patient but hold his hand. And many people still thought you could get AIDS by touching. My parents knew of individuals who’d been fired from their jobs for volunteering for AIDS organizations. That’s how crazy the fear was.

As Matt was dying, we were befriended by a man named Lou Tesconi, a volunteer from the local AIDS organization. Lou came by to visit with Matt and to offer whatever service and kindness he could to my mom and dad.

Shortly after Matt died, Lou began studies to become a Catholic priest. Within the year, he was diagnosed with AIDS and kicked out of the seminary. Lou was a lawyer by training and temperament. He appealed the judgment to a Catholic bishop, who then asked Lou to found and head a ministry for people with AIDS. It was called Damien Ministries and was established in a poor part of Washington, D.C.

In early 1989, when the country was still very ignorant and fearful of AIDS, Lou got a call from the White House. First lady Barbara Bush was planning to visit Grandma’s House, a home for infants with AIDS. It was one of the very first outings in her tenure as first lady, and Lou was asked to join a team of people to brief her privately before the event.

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During the briefing, Lou told me later, he said: “Mrs. Bush, it is a fantastic thing that you are holding these babies with AIDS. But the country sees them as innocent and the rest of us with AIDS as guilty. The whole suffering AIDS community needs a collective embrace from you today.”

Lou thought he was speaking metaphorically. Apparently, Mrs. Bush doesn’t do metaphor. She stood up, walked over to Lou and gave him a big hug.

After the briefing, Mrs. Bush took a tour of the facility as she talked to the press. She hugged, kissed and played with three little girls and then nailed the message: “You can hug and pick up babies and people who have … HIV. … There is a need for compassion.”

At the news conference afterward, Lou stood by his point on Mrs. Bush’s visit: “I’m afraid that it may send a message that babies are innocent and can be helped,” he said, “but that the rest of us aren’t.” He added: “I told her it would certainly help to get a collective hug from the first lady.”

Then, again, this time in front of the cameras, Mrs. Bush wrapped Lou up in a big embrace.

Mrs. Bush wrote of this visit in her memoirs. She noted that “even then, people still thought that touching a person with the virus was dangerous.” But she didn’t give herself any credit for dealing a blow against stigma by embracing a gay man with AIDS in 1989.

Lou had a buzz from that hug that never went away.

In the fall of 1991, near Thanksgiving, I got a call from a friend that Lou had gone into the hospital again. He didn’t have to tell me that it was for the last time. I called the White House and asked whether I could speak to the first lady’s office. I was a nobody press secretary on the Hill. I didn’t expect anyone in the White House to talk to me. Suddenly, I was speaking with the first lady’s press secretary, Anna Perez, who had accompanied Mrs. Bush to Grandma’s House that day. I began to recount the events of two years before, and she saved me the time: “I remember Mr. Tesconi,” she said. I explained Lou’s condition and said, “It would be so comforting for him to receive a letter from Mrs. Bush.”

A few days later, I went to see Lou in the hospital. As soon as he saw me, he reached beside his bed with a slow and shaky hand and pulled out a letter: “Look what I got,” he said.

The letter was unflinching and full of love. She didn’t duck the issue that Lou was dying. She used it as a pivot to say, “Well-done.” At the bottom, in her own hand, she wrote to Lou that his life mattered, that he had made an impact.

That was a long time ago. But some things you don’t forget — and shouldn’t. In a time of ignorance, her wise touch eased the sting of exclusion for my friend and many others.

Thank you, Mrs. Bush.

Tom Rosshirt was a national security speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and a foreign affairs spokesman for Vice President Al Gore.

(Creators, Copyright 2018)

3 days ago

Why the Alabama Legislature holds the power — and a breakdown of interesting open seats

(AL Legislature)

Our antiquated 1901 Constitution was designed to give inordinate power to the Legislature. During the Wallace years, the King of Alabama politics, George Wallace, usurped this power and controlled the Legislature from the Executive Branch of Government. Over the last couple of decades the Legislature has wrestled this power back and pretty much excluded the Governor from their bailiwick. Governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley were ostracized and pretty much ignored. Their proposed budgets were instantaneously tossed into the nearest trashcan.

Legislative power is derived from controlling the state’s purse strings. Thus the old adage, “Those who have the gold set the rules.” The Legislature has gotten like Congress in that incumbents are difficult to defeat. Therefore, the interest will be on the open Senate and House seats. Most of the Montgomery Special Interest money will be focused on these Legislative races.

Speaking of Montgomery, two open and most interesting Senate seats in the state will be in the Montgomery/River Region. One is currently in progress. Montgomery City Councilman, David Burkette, Representative John Knight and Councilman Fred Bell are pursuing the Democratic seat vacated by Senator Quinton Ross when he left to become President of Alabama State University. Burkette has already bested Knight and Bell in a Special Election last month. A rebound race is set for June 5.

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The Republican Senate seat in the River Region held by Senator Dick Brewbaker is up for grabs. This seat was expected to attract numerous well-known aspirants. However, when the dust settled at the qualifying deadline two relatively unknown candidates were the only ones to qualify. Will Barfoot and Ronda Walker are pitted against each other in a race that is considered a tossup.

The Etowah County/Gadsden area was considered one of the most Democratic areas of the state for generations. However, in recent years it has become one of the most Republican. State Representative, Mack Butler, should be favored as a Republican. Although, polling indicates that veteran Democratic Representative, Craig Ford, could make this a competitive race in the Fall. He is running as an Independent.  

Veteran State Senator Harri Ann Smith has represented the Wiregrass/Dothan area admirably for over two decades. She has been elected several times as an Independent. However, she has decided not to seek reelection. Her exit leaves State Representative Donnie Chesteen in the catbird seat to capture the seat.

Republican State Senator Paul Bussman, who represents Cullman and northwest Alabama, is a maverick and very independent. This independence makes him powerful. He will be reelected easily.

State Representative David Sessions is predicted to win the seat of Senator Bill Hightower who is running for Governor.

Most of the state Senate’s most powerful members are unopposed or have token opposition. Included in this list of incumbent State Senators are veteran Senate leader and Rules Chairman, Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, Senate President, Del Marsh, R-Calhoun, Senate Majority Leader, Greg Reed, R-Jasper, veteran Senator Jimmy Holley, R-Coffee, as well as Senate leaders Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Clay Scofield, R-Marshall, Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga, Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, Tom Whatley, R-Lee, and Shay Shelnutt, R-Gardendale. The Senate leadership will remain intact, as will the House leadership.

Almost all of the House leaders are unopposed or have token opposition. This prominent list includes: Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Madison, Budget Chairmen, Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, Speaker Pro-tem, Victor Gaston, R- Mobile, Rules Chairman, Mike Jones, R-Covington.

In addition, there are numerous Veteran lawmakers, who will be reelected, including Lynn Greer, Mike Ball, Jim Carnes, Howard Sanderford, Kerry Rich, and Jimmy Martin; as well as rising leaders: Nathaniel Ledbetter, Kyle South, Connie Rowe, Tim Wadsworth, April Weaver, Paul Lee, Terri Collins, Danny Garrett, Dickie Drake, Chris Pringle, Randall Shedd, Allen Farley, Becky Nordgren, Mike Holmes, David Standridge, Dimitri Polizos, Reed Ingram and Chris Sells.

Even though there are 22 open House seats and 10 open Senate Seats, the leadership of both Chambers will remain the same.

There are some competitive House seats that will be interesting. In the Pike/Dale County Seat 89, Pike Probate Judge Wes Allen is pitted against Troy City Council President Marcus Paramore. Tracy Estes is favored to replace retiring Mike Millican in Marion County. Alfa is going all out for Estes. David Wheeler is expected to capture the open House seat in Vestavia.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

 

Rep Bradley Byrne: The push for a balanced budget

(YHN)

When the 115th Congress kicked off last January, I immediately introduced a bill that I believe is fundamental to the future of our country: a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The premise of a Balanced Budget Amendment is pretty straightforward. The federal government should not be allowed to spend more than we take in, except in extraordinary circumstances like a time of war.

This isn’t some sort of far flung idea. When I served in the Alabama State Legislature, we were required to pass a balanced budget each year. It was not always easy, but it was the law. The vast majority of states have the same requirement.

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Balancing a budget is also a common occurrence for families in Alabama and across the United States. Every month, people sit around their kitchen table to figure out how to make ends meet and live within their means. Small businesses must do the same.

The federal government should have to play by the same rules.

To truly enact a Balanced Budget Amendment, we would need to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a reminder, in order to amend the Constitution, the Balanced Budget Amendment must pass both the House and the Senate by a two-thirds majority and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states, which is 38 out of the 50 states. The only other way to amend the Constitution would be through a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the states.

Recently, the House voted on House Joint Resolution 2, proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Despite receiving the support of a majority of us in the House, the bill did not receive the two-thirds majority necessary under the Constitution.

I was deeply disappointed that most Democrats in the House opposed the Balanced Budget Amendment. Despite talking a lot about our debt, they rejected one of the best opportunities to actually restore fiscal sanity in Washington.

Throughout the course of the debate, two important topics were raised, and I wanted to briefly address each of them.

First, despite what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe, the answer to our debt issues is not to tax the American people more. We do not have a tax problem; we have a spending problem.

To be clear, the recently passed tax cuts are not to blame for our nation’s debt issues. As the Heritage Foundation recently pointed out, “tax revenue is expected to fall by only 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and spending is expected to climb by 3 percent of GDP.” Again, we have a spending problem, not a taxing problem.

Second, the most serious drivers of the national debt are on autopilot. For example, if you eliminated every penny Congress appropriated for defense spending next year, the federal government would still be projected to operate in a deficit.   So-called mandatory spending programs must be reined in, and a balanced budget amendment would finally require Congress to tackle those programs head on.

Now, I know passing a balanced budget would be hard, but I did not run for Congress because I thought the job would be easy. We were elected by our neighbors to make difficult choices and decisions.

So, while our recent effort to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment came up short, I will not let it stop me from continuing to push for a balanced budget that requires the federal government to live within our means, just like the American people.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

6 days ago

Don’t regulate Facebook — That’s what Zuckerberg wants

(Wikicommons)

If Facebook disappeared forever this afternoon, I wouldn’t exactly be upset about it. I’m astounded when I see people post loads of personal information on the site, including posts about all their travel plans, their shopping habits, their daily routines, and their family members. Long is the list of people who have been harassed by law enforcement agencies or “child welfare” agencies in response to something they said or did on Facebook. And, given what we know about Big Tech’s willingness to collaborate with government agencies, people who are fond of posting their every move in Facebook might as well hand over their daily itineraries to the FBI.

Similar problems exist with other tech platforms as well, from Twitter to Google.

However, there is a fairly easy way to minimize the amount of information Facebook and other platforms collect on the user. The user can stop using the platform, or at least stop using it so often. Unlike the state, which is free to mandate that people use their “services,” consumers are still free to not use Facebook.

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Also, it is still the case that producers are free to create new firms that will compete with Facebook. And many have done so. Recent data suggests that Facebook users are spending less time on Facebook, and younger users are preferring to spend their time elsewhere. Facebook is expected to actually lose users in the under-25 category this year. Some will keep using Facebook-owned Instagram, but many will go to services not owned by Facebook, such as Snapchat.

For whatever reason, whether it’s increased competition or a decline in social media use overall, Facebook is not bulletproof, and it is facing competition from others. True, none of Facebook’s competitors are just like Facebook. But that’s how competition works. Other firms offer a choice for consumers, and offer different products.

After all, we’ve already seen firms like Facebook be beat by competition in the past. Remember MySpace? It was once bigger than Facebook. And now it’s not.

If consumers want to use social media platforms that aren’t Facebook, and which offer different choices, the answer lies in greater competition. But, if greater competition is what we want, barriers to entry must be kept low, government regulations must be abolished or minimized, and consumers must be free to use or not use firms as they please. So long as this is the case, Facebook will never have a true monopoly. Consumer preferences can always change. And sometimes they change drastically.

Get Ready for More Regulation

Unfortunately, this week’s Congressional hearings with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg suggest that things are going in a direction that will only end with increasing whatever monopoly power Facebook currently has. Washington politicians are interested in regulating the social media world, and ultimately, this will only strengthen the big firms that dominate the industry now — while making things harder for smaller start-ups and future competitors.

Oh sure, politicians are making a big show of how concerned they are about everyone’s privacy, although it is embarassingly obvious that the elderly and out-of-touch-with-reality members of the Senate have no idea how social media works. They most they could do was read questions written for them by staff and try to understand Zuckerberg’s answers.

(These people, by the way, will be the ones voting on any future legislation that regulates social media.)

But even if members of Congress had a wonderful grasp of the internet and social media, would anyone benefit from any new regulations on the industry?

Well, yes, of course some people would benefit. Those who would benefit include the government agents who will get jobs as regulators, the politicians who can score political points for passing new legislation, and the large incumbent firms that now dominate the social-media market.

Dominant Firms Want Regulation

It should not surprise us, then, that even before he testified to Congress, Mark Zuckerberg was calling for his own industry to be regulated:

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that he’s open to having his company be regulated. “Actually, I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated,” Zuckerberg said in an interview…I actually think the question is more ‘What is the right regulation?’ rather than ‘Yes or no, should it be regulated?’” Zuckerberg told CNN.

But why so open to regulation? Zuckerberg cleared this up himself in one of his answers to questions from members of Congress:

I think a lot of times regulation puts in place rules that a large company like ours can easily comply with but that small start-ups can’t,” Zuckerberg said as he testified for the second consecutive day on Capitol Hill.

Indeed.

Government regulations such as minimum wages and financial mandates are especially burdensome on small firms because small firms have less access to capital and enjoy fewer benefits of economies of scale.

It’s far easier for a firm like Walmart, for instance, to pay higher wages than for a small start-up. And, should the economy fall on hard times, higher costs can be weathered better by large firms that can borrow large amounts to get through a crisis. Small firms have far less borrowing power.

One example of this can be seen in the decline of small banks in the wake of the new banking regulations found in the Dodd-Frank legislation. Compliance costs created by the new legislation have led to fewer small firms, fewer start-ups, and fewer community banks. Huge financial institutions have benefited greatly from additional legislation. Market share for small firms, meanwhile, is being destroyed.

These barriers to both entry and survival for small firms, end up destroying competition. Per Bylund notes: 

Regulated markets are different from open, free markets in that they have artificial barriers to entry: they redistribute costs of business to protect some incumbent firms by forcing the cost on (some) entrants. In other words, there are fewer new businesses and thus less competition.

Moreover, this decline in competition then means that the surviving large firms can afford to be less responsive to the desires of consumers. Efforts to reduce prices also fall by the wayside and competition wanes. Bylund continues:

Under interventionism, businesses do not always need to discover accurate consumer prices because the threat from new entrepreneurs entering the market is smaller than it otherwise would have been.

In other words, government regulations diminish consumer sovereignty by reducing both competition and thus the incentive to stay in tuned with what consumers want.

Dominant Firms Control the Regulators

The other great danger in regulation exists in the fact that regulatory bodies have a tendency to be taken over by the large dominant firms themselves.

This is a common occurrence in regulatory schemes and is known as “regulatory capture.” When new regulatory bodies are created to regulate firms like Facebook and other dominant firms, the institutions with the most at stake in a regulatory agency’s decisions end up controlling the agencies themselves. We see this all the time in the revolving door between legislators, regulators, and lobbyists. And you can also be sure that once this happens, the industry will close itself off to new innovative firms seeking to enter the marketplace. The regulatory agencies will ensure the health of the status quo providers at the cost of new entrepreneurs and new competitors.

Moreover, as economist Douglass North noted, regulatory regimes do not improve efficiency, but serve the interests of those with political power: “Institutions are not necessarily or even usually created to be socially efficient; rather they, or at least the formal rules, are created to serve the interests of those with the bargaining power to create new rules.”

After all,  how much incentive does the average person have in monitoring new regulations, staying in touch with regulators, and attempting to affect the regulatory process? The incentive is almost zero. The incentive for regulated firms, on the other hand, is quite large.

So, once Congress begins its process of regulating social media firms, you can be sure that Facebook and the other major firms involved will be at the table, and will be key in writing the legislation, and in guiding it through the legislative process. And why wouldn’t they be allowed to be closely involved?  As The Verge has already shown, Facebook freely writes checks to members of Congress as “political donations.” And once the new regulatory bodies have been created, Facebook will be involved every step of the way, from selecting regulators, to writing new regulatory rules.

Needless to say, it won’t exactly be a priority for Facebook to make sure that start-ups and other small firms get a fair shake at slicing off a piece of Facebook’s market share.

Mark Zuckerberg isn’t pandering when he says that he welcomes new regulations from Congress. He doesn’t want Facebook to end up like MySpace, and new regulations are among the easiest ways to crush the competition.

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is the editor of Mises Wire and The Austrian.

Answering Alabama’s infrastructure needs in the 21st century

(Pixabay)

Toyota/Mazda, Polaris, Remington, Hyundai, Honda, Airbus, Boeing…

These are just a few of the dozens upon dozens of new and expanding industries that have chosen to locate in Alabama and provide jobs and opportunity to our citizens in recent years.

It is no secret that Alabama continues to lead not only the southeast but the entire nation in economic development categories across the board, and the state’s Department of Commerce could fill a room with all of the “Silver Shovel” awards and other industrial recruitment honors it has captured over the past few decades.

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But if we are going to continue our forward progress and provide even more jobs, hope, and security to Alabama’s families, our attention must begin to focus upon repairing the state’s crumbling transportation infrastructure.

Portions of our interstate are simply uncomfortable to drive upon, various bridges in every portion of the state are too dangerous for use, and, as someone who travels a great deal through rural Alabama, I can attest that the roads often feel like driving on broken piecrust.

A health economy and a thriving state demand a road system that allows for the easy transport of commercial goods and the safe travel of our citizens.

But critical infrastructure needs are not endemic to Alabama.

Most states rely upon gas taxes to fund their transportation needs, and the advent of high mileage vehicles and electric cars have caused those revenues to tumble across the nation. As a result, roadways from coast to coast are in need of repair.

President Donald Trump recognized these needs and campaigned for office on an expansive infrastructure proposal that will address road, bridge, highway, tunnel, railroad, and even airport improvements in each of the 50 states.

As a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, I embrace President Trump’s proposal and recognize that Alabama’s list of priority projects stretches from border to border.

Anyone who has driven I-65 between Huntsville and Mobile has, at some point in their journeys, likely been stuck at a dead-stop standstill for no apparent reason. It is frustrating, it is senseless, and it wastes drivers’ time, fuel, and money.

I believe strongly that we should work toward one day three-laning I-65 from the Tennessee border to the waters of the Gulf Coast.

State Highway 157 in Cullman currently has a completed bridge with no access road leading to it because the project remains unfinished.

U.S. Highway 98 in Mobile County has proven so deadly that it has earned the nickname “Bloody 98,” and while funding from the BP oil spill settlement will be used to jump start the project, additional funding is needed, and more work remains to be done.

Farm-to-market roads across the state have been long neglected, and they deserve attention because of the essential role that agriculture plays in our state’s economy.

Completing these projects and hundreds of others like them will require leaders with the determination to push forward and the vision to do them right.

My transportation plan includes close examination of the steps our sister southeastern states have already taken to resolve their infrastructure issues and mimicking their successes while avoiding their pitfalls.

Reducing regulations, implementing cost-cutting measures, and reexamining overly-cautions environmental mandates could dramatically reduce construction costs and help us put our money into asphalt instead of bureaucracy.

Public/private partnerships, which allow the private sector to carry the majority of construction and maintenance costs, are another area worthy of exploring.

Utilizing groundbreaking technologies in the roadbuilding industry can also cut costs in the long-term and save millions of taxpayer dollars that can be reinvested in roadways.

New high-density mineral bonds in asphalt, for example, can be used to repel the moisture and ultraviolet light rays that are major contributing factors in the cracking, raveling, and deterioration of our streets, highways, and interstates.

By implementing our sister states’ models, innovative approaches, conservative policies, and new technologies, I remain confident we can provide Alabama’s citizens and businesses with the quality transportation system that they deserve.

State Rep. Will Ainsworth (R – Guntersville) is a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Elected to the Legislature in 2014, Ainsworth currently represents Alabama’s House District 27, which includes portions of Marshall, DeKalb, and Blount counties.

6 days ago

Construction industry positions Alabama for future success

(Bailey Harris)

Alabama’s construction industry is built on a foundation of customer service, integrity and work ethic. As CEO of Bailey-Harris Construction and board chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama (ABC), I have experienced firsthand the value a career in commercial construction has on our state’s economy and future leaders.

Commercial construction is vital to Alabama’s economic footprint and touches every aspect of our residents’ lives. A study recently conducted by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama found that commercial construction stimulated nearly $13 billion of business in our state and generated 156,000 full-time jobs in 2015 alone.

According to the study, the economic impact of commercial construction has also generated a payroll of more than $6 billion a year and made a direct impact of $444 million into the state Education Trust Fund.

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These numbers showcase the impressive impact the construction industry has in our state. Because of this, we must continue to build on its success and invest in efforts that enhance education initiatives and craft training skills to create a pipeline of opportunities for future industry leaders.

Two years ago, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama and Alabama’s K-12 education system joined together to establish the Academy of Craft Training to recruit, educate and employ high school students through construction careers. The Academy gives students the opportunity to build relationships and learn from industry leaders and prospective employers. It has quickly become a model for public-private partnerships with the Associated Builders and Contractors, the State Department of Education and the Department of Commerce hitching wagons to better our workforce product and our state.

While just two years old, the Academy has quickly become a model for all-in workforce development. Within its first year of operation, the Academy of Craft Training placed 94 percent of participating seniors in a job after graduation.

By equipping students with the necessary skills and real-world experience, the Academy provides opportunities for students to learn craft skills, make a good living and eventually advance into a supervisory level with long-term career benefits. For example, our teachers are industry trained; our classrooms resemble construction jobsites with rules and regulations to which we adhere; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is worn at all times and other practices that emulate actual job conditions are employed.

Upon the course completion, we are finding our student graduates have a positive infection. Infection? Yes, a positive infection that translates to a passion for the industry. It was last a fall Saturday afternoon at an Auburn University campus jobsite and I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Jacob, a recent graduate of the Academy. “Jacob, what in the world are you doing here?” I asked. He had come to see the site crane operator, Tommy. He and Tommy had developed a working mentor relationship on a Tuscaloosa jobsite. Jacob immediately inquired, “Mr. Harris, where can I get a vest and glasses? I need to help walk the rig out.”

Late on Saturday afternoons, most young men would be hanging out with friends or relaxing. Jacob just wanted to be around the work. Passion is something our instructors talk and cultivate often at The Academy. Yes, work cures most ills.

Through stories like this, we see how Alabama’s construction industry touches lives. I encourage the Alabama legislature to continue supporting this important initiative.

By teaching students hands-on trade skills and requisite soft skills, paired with values of integrity and work ethic, we can ensure that future leaders will continue to build upon Alabama’s construction industry that supports our communities.

Allen Harris is Founder and CEO of Bailey-Harris Construction, a leading industrial and commercial contracting firm based in Auburn, Ala. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama.

1 week ago

The welcome mat: Out for legal immigrants, not for others

(W.Miller/YHN)

It’s not easy to discuss immigration these days. Nuance is out. We’re pressured to pick a side—either you favor open borders, or you’re anti-immigrant, right?

Take it from me, the grandson of four immigrants to America, that kind of polarized, either/or mindset is nonsense.

I grew up nearly 60 years ago in a community in suburban New York City that was made up of nearly all immigrant-related families. There were Italians, Irish, Poles, East European Jews, and even a smattering of Hispanics and Africans.

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Every one of them came to America legally. Many took a great deal of time and effort to do it, but they played by the rules. In fact, that’s what made America so different from pretty much every one of their respective “old countries”—namely, there were rules here, and they were followed.

Today, however, that principle has broken down. It’s even harder to get to America legally, and a huge number of people seem to have said, “The heck with the rules, we’re just going to America on our own terms.”

This has to stop.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the activist group People Without Borders, or a family who wants a better life than is currently available to them in the “old country.”

The rampant and flagrant rule-breaking has to stop. And it appears that President Trump is determined to do just that.

Sure, the same pundits who went crazy when he first proposed a wall on the southern border now rail against him for being a failure because he has not achieved that border wall (yet).

But beyond the political theater and tweets, when one considers what Trump has actually done, there is a surprise: The wall may not be there, but neither is the welcome mat to illegal immigrants that President Barack Obama had put out. That’s progress.

Mind you, the welcome mat for immigrants is certainly still out, but the one for illegal immigrants is gone.

The recent actions the administration has taken are transforming Trump’s campaign promises into policy. For example, the absurd “catch and release” policy that essentially forces law enforcement to ignore the breaking of federal immigration statutes? It’s been cancelled.

If you get caught, you are no longer getting a hall pass to stay in America until you get a hearing you don’t attend.

Trump is also shoring up our overworked Border Patrol agents with National Guard troops at the border (as both of his predecessors did). This will both free up more agents to apprehend illegal immigrants, and provide them with better intelligence and surveillance, logistics, and overall coverage of the border.

In short, fewer people will be getting into the U.S. illegally, and everyone that is caught will go back.

The administration is also ramping up internal enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is going after the lawbreakers who already reside in the U.S., starting with those who have (regularly) committed additional crimes against American citizens.

The pressure against the so-called “sanctuary” movement, which prohibits local or state law enforcement agencies from cooperating with ICE, is being increased.

This pressure is not just coming from the feds. Municipalities that are tired of putting illegal immigrants before citizens are rebelling against state governments like California’s. Mayors of sanctuary cities across the nation are being challenged in the same way.

Lastly, the president has slammed the door on a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. He previously offered an enormously “wide” path to legal citizenship for more “Dreamers” than Congress had even requested, if Congress would only aid him in securing our border.

Congress said “no,” so now he has switched gears. The major motivation for young people to get here has been withdrawn. The political games are over. The Dreamers were sold out by those who claimed to support them.

Taken together, these steps by the president make it clear that the promise of the Statue of Liberty is still in place—but those who sought to pervert it into an open door to those who see no true investment in the collective American dream are wrong.

The welcome mat is there for legal immigrants. But for those trying to force their way in, the door is being shut.

Steven P. Bucci, a former Army Special Forces officer and top Pentagon official, is a visiting fellow in the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

1 week ago

Running into the gender revolution: Transgenderism and the Boston Marathon

(Pxhere)

April kicks off marathon season. I’m in the middle of training for the Nashville Marathon on April 28. It isn’t often that my love for long-distance running intersects with the topic I have written a book on—like transgenderism.

But with the world’s most prestigious marathon happening next Monday in Boston, and with news that the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) is allowing transgender athletes to compete in its famed marathon, it raises questions about whether basic fairness in athletic competition can coexist alongside the gender revolution and political correctness. The answer appears to be no.

According to the Boston Herald, five transgender women are participating in the 2018 Boston Marathon. For those unclear on the terminology, a transgender woman is a biological male who self-identifies as female. This is not the first time that transgender athletes have participated in Boston, but this year, the Boston Athletic Association is clarifying its position on the matter. “We take people at their word. We register people as they specify themselves to be,” Tom Grilk of the Boston Athletic Association is reported saying to the Boston Herald.

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The article quotes a scientist who fully acknowledges the tilted imbalance in favor of male athletes who are competing against women due to physiological factors. The article also cites a counterview by another scientist, alleging that “there’s no physiologic advantage to being assigned male at birth.”

How a reputable scientist can make such a claim against all lived experience, commonsense, and scientific data is astounding and demonstrates the ideological falsehoods made to bolster the legitimacy of transgender women (biological males) competing against women.

Here’s the dilemma: If biological males are allowed to compete as women under the philosophically problematic category of “gender identity,” how can competition be considered fair to women?

Statistically speaking, males have physiological advantages over females when it comes to sports performance. To make this observation is not to denigrate female athletics or demean female design. It is to make an objective observation, an observation that explains why athletics have traditionally remained segregated by sex. This acknowledgement protects the integrity of the sexes, the integrity of athletic competition, and allows men and women to play on level ground.

Sex segregation in athletic competition results from recognizing the differences in male and female biology. Sex differentiation is a biological reality that follows from God making humanity male and female. The differences in males and females are stark: Different chromosomes, different reproductive designs, different bodily structures, and more.

Christians ought to proudly defend the equality of the sexes in God’s eyes, because he made them in his image. At the same time, males and females are not the same, biologically speaking. Their bodily organization produces different bodily design, and this design manifests physiological differences that produce clear-cut disparities in athletic performance. Males, as a general population, are faster and stronger than females. This is especially true in distance running, where men, as a whole, produce faster times compared to women.

host of differences contribute to increased male performance in running. According to a 2005 Sports Medicine journal article, “Running Performance Differences in Men and Women,” men have greater aerobic capacity, which makes them faster. This basic difference in men and women is the increased oxygenation rate of men over women. This is due to an increased heart size and greater ability to pump blood, the ability to create more red blood cells, and capability to produce hemoglobin from the production of testosterone. Men also have lower body fat percentages.

How should we respond?

So, what should we make of the decision to allow transgender women to compete with females?

First, it should be stated upfront that transgender women are not women. They are biological males who may or may not experience gender dysphoria that lead them to want to identity and live as women. This is not to be harsh or condemning, but truthful (Eph. 4:15). Christians should have no part in demeaning individuals who struggle with their own internal sense of gender. However, no amount of self-assertion and self-identity can override the objective biological reality of maleness. So we should be abundantly clear on what the Boston Athletic Association is allowing: They are allowing men to compete against women.

Second, by allowing men to compete in the same division as women, the Boston Athletic Association is violating a basic principle of fairness. Fairness is based on treating similar things the same way. It is unjust, for example, to use skin color as a basis for denying a black person a hotel room while at the same time allowing a white person to access one. Skin color is irrelevant to a person’s need for housing. But treating men and women differently is appropriate since, well, men and women are different when it comes to bodily distinctions and athletic performance. Treating transgender women as though they are real women is not treating women fairly, since males have a physiological advantage over women.

Third, this ought to show how far the transgender movement has reached into American culture and the level of success it has attained, despite the consequences and inconsistencies that occur from blurring sex and gender.

Fourth, this event demonstrates the fundamental hypocrisy of a culture that esteems fairness and equality, but undermines both to serve the cause of political correctness.

Fifth, the confusion that stems from blurring gender and denying the authority of biological sex is a grievous departure from God’s authority over creation. God’s lordship over creation is manifest in how he has designed men and women as distinct phenotypes. Our design as men and women is a revelation of God’s will for creation. In this, Christians declare that Christian and non-Christian alike can understand the difference between men and women. Our design reflects God’s providential governance over the world. When culture suppresses this truth, it robs God of his glory and lordship over creation, and subverts human action in society.

The Boston Athletic Association is serving its own interests by wanting to avoid controversy in allowing transgender women to compete as women. It is doing a disservice to culture by groveling to falsehood and violating the integrity of athletics. In a culture that is wanting to esteem and value women and womanhood, the BAA is undercutting both.

(Courtesy Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission)

1 week ago

Scott Dawson: Time to make Alabama a sweeter home for business

(YHN)

We’ve all heard about how important it is to recruit out-of-state businesses to Alabama. As Governor, that will be a top priority of mine. That said, I’ll never forget a comment from a Birmingham CEO as we met in his boardroom. He said that every month, sitting around that table, he and his colleagues joke about moving to Georgia so that Alabama would come with incentives and open arms to recruit them.

It’s important to remember that when we bring in a new company from out of state our incentives are based on giving away free taxes. In other words, these new companies are coming here to bring jobs, but paying little to no taxes. Here’s the takeaway: we can do all of the recruiting that we want, but if we’re not making Alabama a sweet home for the businesses or would-be entrepreneurs that are already here—which pay Alabama taxes—we aren’t doing our job!

There are nearly 400,000 small businesses in the State of Alabama and they make up around 97% of all Alabama businesses. Over 765,293 Alabama workers are employed by small businesses and that’s nearly fifty percent of Alabama jobs.

I’ve crisscrossed the state for decades and I haven’t met one business owner who wants more paperwork or regulations. No one starts a business thinking about hiring an accountant and a lawyer or adding a government oversight agency to the speed dial. We start businesses because we have a dream, a vision, an opportunity, and a desire to fulfill needs in society and serve the people around us.

In Alabama, it’s not taxes that I hear business owners complaining about. It’s regulations, occupational licensing fees, and ever-changing bureaucratic requirements that are nickel-and-diming our businesses away, creating too much paperwork, and causing unneeded stress. In fact, the Institute for Justice found that Alabama is ranked 47th in the nation in terms of having the most burdensome licensing laws and it doesn’t take much digging to find that we’re regulating entrepreneurs and business owners to death—across the board—and inconsistently.

I’m proposing a Cut the Tape Initiative. We will establish an independent council to vet boards, agencies, regulations, and statutes. Business owners can freely bring complaints about fees, regulations, statutes, or inconsistencies that stymie their productivity to the council. The council will then work with the board or agency in question, the Legislative Council, the legislature itself, and the Office of the Governor to roll back all that’s unnecessary.

I’m ready to bring a simple truth back to Montgomery: the people do not work for the government; the government works for the people.

Under President Trump, the economy is growing, we’re creating jobs on our soil, and this is no time to settle for less than the best. Alabama can have a booming economy and we’re going to do it by getting government out of the way and unleashing the power of a freer market so that big industries, small business owners, and would-be entrepreneurs can fulfill their dreams of making Alabama a better place!

Scott Dawson is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of Alabama.

1

Rep. Mike Rogers: We must secure the border now

(U.S. Customs & Border Protection)

As you may have recently seen on the news, President Trump has called for the National Guard to assist Customs and Border Patrol Agents with securing our southern border.

The Trump Administration has made securing our porous southwest border with Mexico a top priority, and we cannot wait another minute to stop the influx of illegal immigrants, drugs and weapons that are spewing into our country.

A sovereign nation is one that has control of their borders. The reality is: without border security, Americans’ lives are at risk. The list of Americans killed by illegal immigrants has continued to grow and one particular example comes to mind.

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On July 1st, 2015, Kate Steinle was walking with her father when she was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had been deported multiple times, but snuck back in to our country.

Last year, Congress passed legislation H.R. 3004, Kate’s Law, to crack down on penalties for any illegal felon who has been deported from the U.S. and returned.

But this is not enough.

The National Guard and military along the border will help, but America needs the wall built and needs to be built now.

President Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall and my legislation, H.R. 1813, would help them do just that.

The bill would build a wall with funds that would be collected by imposing a two percent fee on all remittance transactions to Central and South America. It collects this fee regardless of the sender’s immigration status.

This legislation is just common-sense and would get the wall built without being a burden to the taxpayer.

As a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, I stand with President Trump and will continue to fight for strengthening our southern border and protecting our nation from lawless, violent criminals who seek to harm Americans.  We cannot put the safety of American citizens at risk any longer.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks.

1 week ago

Combat Russian information warfare – via the Baltics

(Pixabay)

The U.S. has a long history and a vested interest in the Baltic States. On the heels of the leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia celebrating 100 years of independence with President Trump at the Whitehouse, law makers and pundits continue wringing their hands and bemoaning Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.

Meanwhile in the Baltics, they have something to moan about. The threat from Russia is worryingly real. Moscow’s sabre rattling and barely veiled threats grow increasingly grim. President Putin gleefully snatched every opportunity afforded by the cringe worthy Obama/Clinton “reset”. The Russians stepped into the vacuum in Syria and pressed emboldened into Middle East. They now stand cheek to jowl with Iran, Turkey and Syrian leader Bashar al Asad. First Crimea fell, and then began the proxy war against Ukraine. All a direct result of a flaccid, defeatist Obama Administration, where lack of foreign policy was considered policy.

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The U.S. has long adopted a defensive posture toward Russia’s interference in our system of government. The sanctions targeting Putin’s billionaire cronies imposed by President Trump is a proactive and necessary step. Perhaps now we meaningfully engage our Baltic allies and take the information warfare fight to the Russians? Launching a vigorous information operation on Russia’s doorstep will likely give their bellicose leadership pause. As my former boss and the Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep Ed Royce (R -CA) suggested, “…and why not go on the offense to release information exposing corruption at the Kremlin?”

Whilst the Baltics would stand no chance in a conventional military showdown with their giant neighbor, they can certainly disrupt and impact the information warfare battlefield. The digitization of the Baltic states is robust, advanced and coupled to the West. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are no longer deferential to the Kremlin. They are legitimate, respected allies, punching well above their weight within NATO. Estonia is one of only four alliance countries spending the requisite 2 percent of GDP on defense. Each country sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. I was privileged to serve alongside Estonian soldiers in Helmand Province.

News and social media in the United States is caught in a relentless whirl of agitation over Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have practical, long term experience with Moscow waged information warfare. This is not the Baltic states first Russian rodeo.

Media is firepower for the Russian government. To counter Moscow’s overt aggression, Estonia launched a Russian-language public broadcasting channel. They bolstered the messaging operation with blogs and counter propaganda websites, to combat pro-Moscow news which dominates the former Soviet states.

The US government would be well served to emulate Estonia’s efforts and energetically seek out and lay bare Russian disinformation and propaganda masquerading as authentic news. The U.S. already has the tools – intelligence agencies, and the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security. American resources, intelligence and resolve would strengthen our Baltic allies’ capabilities, and bolster U.S. efforts overall.

Russia will again try to interfere in our political process. Regrettably the technologies and processes they targeted in 2016 remain untouched. The Kremlin’s arsenal includes “fake news”, misinformation, control of broadcasting outlets, and publishing inaccurate “news” via state run media. There are millions of automated “bots” on social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn designed to propagate dissonance and societal perplexity. The U.S. for its part must deploy every available instrument – TV, radio, social media, algorithms, cooperation with technology companies, intelligence, diplomacy and importantly, harness indigenous outlets, forums and experts from the Baltics to Poland to Finland. It’s time to we asked our allies for help, provide the resources they need and wage information operations in the heart of mother Russia.

Anir Ruussaar, Chief of Content at Estonia’s government run Russian language network summed it up, “… US and all the EU and NATO members understand that in the modern world, strategic communications or real journalism, real information, is sometimes more important than tanks or warplanes.”

Greg Keeley of Birmingham is a retired naval officer and former congressional aide.


1 week ago

What do you know about Alabama’s congressional delegates?

(Wikicommons)

There are dramatic differences between our congressional delegation of the 1940s-1960s and our group on the Potomac today. Obviously, their partisan badges have changed, as have Alabamians. There is also a tremendous difference in power and seniority of that era versus today’s group. That bygone era of Alabama congressmen were very progressive New Deal Democrats; whereas, our delegation today is one of the most conservative in America.

Their paths to Congress were also very different. It was as though the earlier folks had been born to be in Congress. They all went to the University of Alabama for college and law school, went off to fight in the World War, came back to their hometown to practice law for a short while before going off to Congress for a 20-30 year tenure of “Going Along to Get Along.”

Today’s delegation seems to have gotten there by accident. Of the seven, two went to Duke, one to Harvard, one to New York University, one to Birmingham Southern, one to Jacksonville State, and one to the University of Alabama. Six of the seven have law degrees, which is the only similarity to the bygone era.

As we look toward next year’s election, let’s take a look at our current congressional delegates since all are on the ballot this year. Congressmen run every two years but seldom lose. Once you get to Washington the power of incumbency is tremendous. All of the Washington special interest money gravitates to incumbents.

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First district congressman, Bradley Bryne, is a Republican who was born and raised in Baldwin County in the heart of the traditional first district. This district is primarily a Baldwin and Mobile seat. Historically it has had great congressmen. Frank Boykin, Jack Edwards, Sonny Callahan, and Jo Bonner have more than aptly represented them over the past 80 years.

Byrne is a lawyer by profession. He graduated from Duke undergraduate and University of Alabama Law School. He served five years in the Alabama State Senate before becoming chancellor of the State Community College System where he served several years. He ran for governor in 2010 and led the first primary, but lost to Robert Bentley in the runoff. He won a Special Election to Congress in December of 2013. He has taken to Congress like a duck to water. He is 62 and serves on the Armed Services and Rules Committees. He will win reelection to a third term this year.

Second District Congresswoman, Martha Roby, is the only seat in play this year. She is vulnerable. Roby made a terrible mistake by saying that she was not going to vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, last year. The backlash was dramatic.

She is being challenged by three significant GOP opponents. Former Montgomery Mayor and Congressman, Bobby Bright, will be tough. State Representative, Barry Moore, of Enterprise chose to challenge Roby rather than seek reelection to the Legislature. He has been running against Roby for over a year. Rich Hobson is Roy Moore’s chief ally. He will be the heir apparent to Judge Moore’s Wiregrass organization. Bright, Moore and Hobson were all born and raised in the Wiregrass.

Third district congressman, Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, is building some seniority and will be a safe bet for reelection. At the end of this term, he will have 16-years seniority. He serves on the Armed Services and Agriculture Committees where he is building power.

The crown jewel of our congressional delegation is Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville. Aderholt got to Congress at 30 years old and has 22 years of seniority. He is only 52 and is a ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. He will be reelected to a 12th term next year.

Congressman Mo Brooks ran a very good race for the U.S. Senate last year. He will probably run again in 2020 against Democrat Doug Jones. He will be reelected to his Congressional seat this year, and get ready for another Senate run.

Sixth district Birmingham Congressman, Gary Palmer, will win reelection to his suburban Jefferson/Shelby Republican seat. He is unopposed for a third term.

Our only Democratic Congressperson is a Harvard educated lady. Terri Sewell is a lawyer, who had a successful law practice in Birmingham before being elected to Congress from the Seventh District eight years ago. The Selma native is on a fast track in Washington. She will go back for another two-year term.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reaches at www.steveflowers.us.

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Congratulating our service academy nominees

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

America’s Armed Forces are made up of young men and women who bravely answered the call of service and have accepted the challenge of defending our great nation.

As a Member of Congress, I have the distinct privilege each year of nominating outstanding young individuals from Southwest Alabama to attend our nation’s military service academies.  This process of nominating the next generation of servicemen and women is one of the most rewarding parts of being a Congressman.

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These nominees are proven leaders in their classrooms and communities who have stood out among the rest of their peers.   This is apparent simply from their choice to serve our nation.  Joining the United States military is a commitment that requires strong character and valor, and I applaud these impressive young men and women for their decision to serve.

To attend most of the service academies, students must receive a nomination from a Member of Congress, the Vice President, or the President.  The admission process is incredibly rigorous with an acceptance rate of less than 20% for each of the academies.

Once students complete their education, they must fulfill a service commitment.  Most of these commitments are at least five years active duty, but the service requirement may be longer for certain specialized fields.

I hope you will join me in congratulating these twelve outstanding individuals from Southwest Alabama who received a service academy nomination this year:

–Zyahn Archibald, from St. Paul’s Episcopal School, received a nomination to the United States Naval Academy.
–Thomas Chandler, from Murphy High School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, and United States Merchant Marine Academy.
–Jack DeTombe, from Foley High School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, and United States Air Force Academy.
–Wil Dobbins, from Baldwin County High School, received a nomination to the United States Naval Academy.
–Joshua Gardner, from Fairhope High School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, United States Air Force Academy, and United States Merchant Marine Academy.
–Justin Ingram, from Spanish Fort High School, received a nomination to the United States Military Academy.
–Bailee Jordan, from Baker High School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, United States Air Force Academy, and United States Merchant Marine Academy.
–Trae’ Lee, from Escambia Academy, received a nomination to the United States Naval Academy.
–Michelle Roca, from Mc-Gill Toolen Catholic High School, received nominations to the United States Naval Academy and United States Air Force Academy.
–Felix Ronderos, from UMS-Wright Preparatory School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy.
–Abby Warner, from Fairhope High School, received a nomination to the United States Air Force Academy.
–John Marshall Williams, from Fairhope High School, received nominations to the United States Naval Academy and United States Merchant Marine Academy.

To maintain the greatest fighting force on the face of the Earth, we must have outstanding men and women who are willing to serve in the military.  I have no doubt that if selected, these students will be a fantastic addition to our Armed Forces.  As these brave men and women head into the start of their military careers, I wish them all the best in the years ahead.

If you or someone you know would be interested in attending a military service academy, feel free to reach out to my office at 251-989-2664. Eligible applicants must be at least 17 years old, be a citizen of the United States, have good moral character, demonstrate strong leadership skills, and achieve impressive scholastic achievements.

U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope

2 weeks ago

From the perspective of a combat veteran, it is time to address the use of lethal force by police

(Pixabay)

As a trained military combat veteran with deployments in both Afghanistan and Iraq, I have sat through more hours of instruction, live fire exercises, and combat drills in my nearly eight years of service than I care to remember. Prior to a deployment it was essential that every soldier in my company understand what a real threat to our safety was as well as the safety of those around. We knew that going into the areas where we were going that it wasn’t enough to train a soldier to kill but to react with an escalation of force, steps that we designed to neutralize a threat as quickly as possible but with the least amount of force needed. Lethal force was only deemed an option when the Four S’s – Show, Shove, Shout, Shoot – had been exhausted and the threat still existed or when the possibility of death was emanant.

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The word emanant is the key when discussing the use of force. Since August 9, 2014, when police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, we have been inundated with article after article and media report after media report highlighting episodes of police brutality throughout cities and states all across this country. In far too many of these incidents, from my perspective as someone who understands what it is like to have to attempt to process a metric ton of data in mere moments in order to attempt to identify the level of a threat that is presented and the appropriate response to combat that threat, the word emanant has been replaced with the word possibility.

Because of that subtle shift in thinking, too many times we have seen that simply because a suspect drops his hands to his waist or had an unknown object in his hands or pocket the first response by police is to assume the worst and to respond using deadly force. I want to take a second and highlight two of these such incidents that have transpired over the last four months.

The first was a few months ago when a story made its rounds on social media detailing how former Mesa, Arizona, police officer Philip Brailsford was acquitted of 2nd-degree murder by a jury after a police-involved shooting of an unarmed, intoxicated individual in a hotel hallway. I watched the body cam footage released by the judge in the case and saw as officer Brailsford shouted and screamed at a man on his knees begging for his life not to be taken.

Not long after that I came across another article on Twitter detailing how four billboards in Wichita, Kansas, were demanding charges for an the officer-involved shooting of Andrew Finch. This case was much more tragic. Mr. Finch was a victim of what is known as swatting, where in response to a slight (in Mr. Finch’s case an argument over an online game) an individual makes a false call to the local police with the intended purpose of having a SWAT team called to a person’s home. When Mr. Finch noticed the commotion outside of his home and stepped onto the porch to investigate, he was fatally shot by police.

In both incidents, we can see what I believe was a complete overreaction by the police officers involved. As a matter of fact, the more I watch the body camera footage from Arizona I find myself wondering why in the world the police would ask the suspect to crawl toward them. As soldiers, we were always taught to ask the suspect to lay face down and to send one person to search and detain the suspect while the rest of us remain behind at the ready should something happen. There is no doubt that if officer Brailsford had acted in a similar fashion, Daniel Shaver would be alive today. I do believe it is long past time for police departments nationwide to redefine what exactly a threat is and how to respond appropriately before any more innocent lives are needlessly lost.

@dannybritton256 is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars lives in Athens.

2 weeks ago

Highlighting my first visit to Marion Military Institute

(M. Roby/Twitter)

During the second and final week of Congress’ Easter district work period, I traveled throughout the Second District to visit with constituents, small business owners, and local leaders. I also had the privilege of stopping by both of the fine military installations in our district, Fort Rucker and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, for meetings with leadership.

In addition to my recent district travel, I had the privilege of visiting Marion Military Institute (MMI) for the first time, and I was truly impressed. During my time on campus, I participated in MMI’s annual Leadership Symposium where I enjoyed lunch with faculty and staff, spoke to the entire student body about the importance of seizing leadership opportunities, and attended a fantastic military parade put on by the students.

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MMI’s doors have been open since 1842, making it the oldest military junior college in the country. You may remember that for many years, the school was a private institution that included both a high school and a two-year college. In 2006, the Alabama state Legislature voted to merge MMI into the Alabama Community College System, and today MMI is a fantastic military junior college where students can obtain two years of collegiate education that will prepare them for a wide variety of post-graduate tracks.

When I was on campus, school administrators informed me that MMI’s student body is comprised of students, known as cadets, who will complete their two years and then follow what can become very different paths that are all important. For instance, some MMI graduates will immediately become officers in the U.S. military. Others will go into the civilian workforce without continuing in military service. Still other MMI graduates choose to pursue their higher education by attending one of the United States service academies. In fact, the Service Academy Program that facilitates this transfer began at MMI and has been a great option for students interested in obtaining a degree from a service academy ever since.

As a member of Congress, each year I have the honor of nominating students from the Second District for appointment to one of the U.S. service academies. Every year I have been blown away by the outstanding students I have the privilege of supporting. I firmly believe in the importance of our service academies, especially their unique ability to train future leaders in our country. I was glad to learn more about MMI’s important support for students who desire to pursue this prestigious honor, and I really appreciated being on campus to learn more about their impressive school.

This year, MMI is celebrating its 175th year of educating leaders for both civilian careers and military service at their beautiful, historic campus next door to us in Marion. I am confident that their academics challenge young students while also instilling important leadership qualities and personal values. MMI has produced many noteworthy leaders in our state and nation, and I know they’ll continue to do so for years to come. We are so fortunate to have this fine institution in the State of Alabama.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.

2 weeks ago

How to shine a light on autism awareness this April

(C. Ward)

April is National Autism Awareness Month and as the father of a child on the autism spectrum, I know firsthand the importance of raising awareness for the 50,000 Alabamians impacted by autism.

Affecting one in every 68 people, autism has become the country’s fastest growing developmental disability. I have spent the past decade advocating to raise awareness so that families like mine have access to the best resources for their loved ones with autism spectrum disorders.

My daughter Riley was a non-verbal three-year-old when we learned that she was on the autism spectrum. At the time, we knew very little about autism and were unsure how her life, and our family, would be impacted with this new reality. After enrolling Riley in an early intervention program and therapy participation, her social skills improved remarkably.

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In the twelve years since we first received the diagnosis, I have been continually amazed at the progress Riley has made. One of my proudest moments as a father was listening to my now 15-year-old daughter share her story with the Senate Judiciary committee meeting last year. With all eyes and ears on her, Riley revealed how support services from the Autism Society of Alabama (ASA), in addition to therapy, helped her overcome many of the struggles that children with autism face.

Through advocacy efforts, my family and I have become heavily involved with the Autism Society of Alabama, the state’s leading source of education and resources for autism. The ASA seeks to improve services for families of those on the autism spectrum because every individual has inherent worth and dignity, and deserves accessible, individualized, comprehensive services.

This April, Alabamians have the opportunity to support individuals and families affected by autism through many programs available through the ASA.

The ASA will host several Funky Fun Run events in cities across the state during National Autism Awareness Month, bringing runners and walkers together for an enjoyable event sporting their favorite retro wear and wigs. With more than 50,000 children and adults affected by autism in Alabama alone, fundraisers like the Funky Fun Run help provide educational resources, parent networking groups, collaborative agency efforts and so much more.

Those who are unable to participate in the run, can make a monetary donation to support an Angel for Autism. These loving tributes honor and remember those affected by autism spectrum disorder to help provide family camps, regional conferences and personal assistance in accessing autism resources.

By supporting a walk, volunteering or donating this April, there are countless ways to support the ASA’s mission. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of Alabamians affected by autism and help contribute to the incredible work of the Autism Society of Alabama.

State Sen. Cam Ward is a Republican from Alabaster.

2 weeks ago

No, Justice Stevens, the Second Amendment must be preserved

(YouTube, Flickr)

I recently read with interest an op-ed written by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens calling on the American people to “repeal the Second Amendment” in the name of making us safer. I could not disagree more.

I have been a prosecutor for 20 years. I support efforts proven to reduce crime, protect children, and keep criminals from buying or possessing firearms. But the Second Amendment recognizes and protects, not grants, an individual right that is central to citizenship in an enlightened republic—the right to protect one’s home, family, and community. What Justice Stevens apparently views as frivolous could not be any more serious. Like the right to free speech or free association, the right to bear arms is a natural right—recognized in English law and early state constitutions—that pre-exists the Constitution itself.

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The New York Times is not the first forum in which Justice Stevens has advocated for repealing the Second Amendment—frighteningly, he did so from the bench. In 2008 in Heller v. District of Columbia, Justice Stevens adopted a view of the Second Amendment that would render it a nullity. His position then was the same as it is now: that the Second Amendment was a historical mistake that has more to do with military readiness than the individual right to self defense.

Five members of the Supreme Court rejected Justice Stevens’ attempt to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution in Heller, and for good reason. It was well-established in the country’s early years that American citizens had the God-given individual right to bear arms in defense of themselves and their families. That is one reason why the Supreme Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1856 infamously refused to recognize African Americans as citizens. The Court knew (and feared) that such recognition would give them the right “to keep and carry arms wherever they went.” This historical understanding of the right to bear arms is also why one of the nation’s first civil rights law, the Freedman’s Bureau Act of 1866, announced that freed slaves would have the right to “full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings concerning personal liberty, personal security, and the acquisition, enjoyment, and disposition of estate, real and personal, including the constitutional right to bear arms.”

Though I vehemently disagree with Justice Stevens, I will give him credit for his honesty—that he’s not just for stricter gun control, but is for doing away with the right to bear arms altogether. Many who share his view would have the public believe that just one more law or regulation will be enough, both to ensure safety and to satisfy the “common sense gun control” movement. They scoff at the anger and alarm from those who sense that a much broader “fix” is the true aim, while pursuing precisely that agenda.

We can recognize the right of an individual to protect himself and, at the same time, do far more to secure our schools and keep guns out of the hands of criminals. My office is working on ways to do both. The freedoms we enjoy in America come with great responsibility and we must continue to hold to account those who despicably abuse their freedoms to harm others; yet, in doing so, we need not be complicit in the erosion of a fundamental right that has stood the test of time for over 200 years.

The Second Amendment—the explicit protection of our right to bear arms and defend ourselves—must be preserved.

Steve Marshall is the attorney general of Alabama. 

2 weeks ago

The power of choice helps low-income Alabamans live healthier

(Pixabay)

Let’s face it: It can be tough to eat right.

My wife and I do our best to ensure we eat a balanced, nutritious diet full of leafy greens, fish and lean proteins—but I’ll be the first to admit we’re not perfect.

The truth is, most Americans aren’t perfect when it comes to their diets. National surveys consistently indicate a vast number of us aren’t getting all the nutrients we need from food alone—and that’s a problem.

For some of us, busy schedules and the attraction of quick, easy food on the go makes it difficult to eat three balanced meals a day—but we can always work toward making healthier choices. However, for 45 million Americans—those living in poverty—the option of eating healthier isn’t always available.

Alabama has the sixth highest poverty rate in the United States, with 18.5 percent of its citizens living below the federal poverty line. This means many families in our state are faced with the difficult decision of purchasing food based on price rather than nutritional value. Lower-priced foods can be high in calories, but may lack nutritional value, and many Alabamians must place a priority on getting the most food for the least amount of money. As a result, government data shows 40 percent of Americans in the lowest income bracket are deficient in one or more essential nutrients.

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These families are made up of our friends and relatives, our coworkers and neighbors and they deserve every opportunity to be healthy. That is why I introduced HR 3841, the SNAP Vitamin and Mineral Improvement Act, a bill that would allow low-income Americans to purchase a daily multivitamin-mineral supplement with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. This bill would add choices to SNAP while keeping the program’s cost the exact same.

Multivitamins are not a replacement for a healthy diet, but these supplements can help fill nutrient gaps by providing shortfall nutrients folks aren’t getting from their daily intake of food. Safe, convenient and scientifically-supported, multivitamins represent a cost-effective, immediate solution for SNAP recipients looking to improve their nutrition status and ensure their families receive adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals.

Making good choices about nutrition and lifestyle can help prevent chronic diseases and improve health. When we’re healthy, we miss fewer work days, we have more energy and we’re able to make better choices for ourselves and our families. These choices pave the road for success, and the choice to start the day with a multivitamin is the first brick folks can lay to ensure the path to good nutrition stays clear.

My goal as a legislator is to help people reach a point where they no longer need their SNAP benefits, and HR 3841 brings us one step closer to achieving that goal. It is my hope that by empowering low-income Americans to achieve optimal nutrition, SNAP recipients will develop lifelong habits that will eventually break the cycle of poverty and allow them to reach their full potential.

Being healthy requires effort, but should not be an option limited to the financially well-off. Access to a multivitamin supplement is an obvious first step in helping low-income Alabamans lead healthier, more productive lives.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks

2 weeks ago

Gov. Kay Ivey: Putting faith first

(Governor K. Ivey/Flickr)

My faith has always come first for me. From my earliest days on our family farm in lower Alabama, to my teenage years when I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, and every single day since. That’s why as Governor, protecting religious freedom, and our values, remains my top priority. And make no mistake: our Christian values are under attack.

This week as Alabamians across the state gathered together to celebrate Easter with friends and family, I was reminded of the unique rights and freedoms the Constitution provide for us to openly express our faith.

These freedoms, however, shouldn’t be taken for granted; They did not come freely, and we must remain vigilant to preserve this precious liberty.

Nearly a year ago, I placed my hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution, and as your Governor, I’ve stood strong in my commitment.

When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I made a decision to follow Jesus and allow him to be Lord of my life. I understand first hand that faith in God is more than a set of beliefs, it’s a way of life. No law or government should ever stand in the way of that walk of faith.

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As Governor, I am dedicated to ensuring your religious freedom is protected regardless of where you are – whether at church, your home or place of business. But we haven’t stopped there.

We know that an attack on a fellow American’s faith is an attack on our own, which is why Alabama joined together with other states to defend the right of every American to live out their faith.

As a pro-life conservative, I believe our Constitutional rights begin at conception. Fighting for our freedoms also means fighting to defend the unborn.

That’s why I supported President Trump’s action to rollback Obama-era regulations and stop the use of taxpayer money to pay for abortions. Prohibiting the use of Medicaid dollars for abortions or abortion-related services is another important step towards saving the unborn, and I will continue to defend those who can’t defend themselves.

Religious liberty is a founding principle of our nation, and as your Governor, I am working every day to protect those rights.

2 weeks ago

Inside the statehouse

(W.Miller/YHN)

Republicans took control of federal offices and presidential races in 1964 in Alabama. It was referred to as the Goldwater Landslide. The Baxley-Graddick fiasco in 1986 was the game changer for governor. In the last 32 years there have been eight governor’s races. Republicans have won all of them, with one exception. Don Siegelman was an interloper in 1998.

During that same period, Alabamians have elected all Republicans to every secondary, statewide office. There are six secondary constitutional offices. All six are held by Republicans. There are nine justices on the State Supreme Court. There are also 10 judges on the Civil and Criminal Courts of Appeals. These 19 judges are all Republicans. If you add the three seats on the PSC to this list and include the Governor, that is 29 state offices. All 29 are held by Republicans.

In addition, we have seven seats in Congress. Six-out- of-seven of our Congressional members are Republicans. Folks, that makes us a pretty Republican state.

However, inexplicably it was only eight years ago in 2010 that our state legislature changed from Democratic controlled to majority Republican. When it changed it really changed drastically. The final coup de gras was probably caused by the National Democrats electing Barack Obama president.

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As I sat on television analyzing the dramatic results in 2010, it became obvious to me that the seismic avalanche of voting Republican for legislative seats was erupting in North Alabama and especially the Tennessee Valley. This area of the state had continued to elect Democrats to state legislative seats. It was the last bastion of white Democratic voters. This allegiance and loyalty was dating back to FDR and the New Deal. However, the election of Obama changed all that
loyalty that these voters and their grandparents had to their longstanding Democratic affinity for local and legislative candidates.

The Republican legislative leadership led by former Speaker Mike Hubbard, claimed credit for this Republican tidal wave engulfing and changing the Legislature. They did field good candidates; however, it was Barack Obama that put the final nail in the Democratic coffin in Alabama. Race and religion have always driven the vote in the Heart of Dixie.

The southern two-thirds of the state had incrementally begun voting for GOP legislative candidates, especially in suburban districts. However, the northern tier of the state voted Republican with a vengeance, and it looks like they are not turning back.

Regardless of the reason our legislature is not only majority Republican, it is super majority Republican. That means that over two-thirds of the members of the State Senate and State House are Republican.

The Democrats are buoyed by Doug Jones historic victory in a Special U.S. Senate election in December. They have enthusiastically fielded a large slate of candidates for the Legislature.

Democrats believe that Jones’ win in suburban areas, especially Jefferson and Mobile, can be duplicated this year.

That is doubtful. The Jones victory was an anomaly and an isolated dislike for Roy Moore. The Republicans will return with their majorities and more than likely their lock on a super majority.

Incumbency is a powerful advantage and most of the incumbents are Republicans.

A good many of the State Senate’s most powerful members are unopposed for reelection.

Included in this list of incumbent State Senators who have been reelected by acclamation are veteran Senate Leader and Rules Chairman, Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, Senate Majority Leader, Greg Reed, R-Jasper, respected veteran Jimmy Holley, R-Coffee, Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Senator Clay Scofield, R-Marshall, Senator Shay Shelnutt, R-Gardendale, Senator Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga.

Republican Senate leaders, Del Marsh, R-Calhoun, Jim McClendon, R-St. Clair, Steve Livingston, R- Scottsboro, only have taken opposition in the Republican primary and no Democratic opponent.

Republican Senators, Cam Ward, R-Alabaster and Tom Whatley, R-Lee, only have token Democratic opponents in very Republican districts.

On the Democratic side, veteran State Senators, Rodger Smitherman, Priscilla Dunn, Bobby Singleton, and Billy Beasley are running unopposed. Senator Hank Sanders of Selma, the longest serving member of the Alabama Senate decided to not seek a 10th term. Senator Sanders has become an icon in Alabama political history. He will be replaced by another Democrat, probably his daughter.

Longtime Democratic House members Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, and Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, are retiring and Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, and Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, are leaving the House to run for the Senate. They are the last four white male Democrats in the House of Representatives. That leaves one white Democrat in the House, Elaine Beech, D-Chatom, and there will be one white Democrat in the Senate, Billy Beasley, D-Clayton. These two white Democrats will be dinosaurs in the legislature.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.