The Wire

  • Dale Jackson: As long as Nancy Worley leads the Alabama Democratic Party, they will remain stuck on the toilet

    Excerpt:

    In December of 2014, Alabama Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley wrote a Christmas letter, and it included details about an embarrassing ordeal where she was unable to get off the toilet, which is still a pretty good metaphor for Alabama Democrats.

    “April brought another trauma to my knees which balked when I tried to rise from my lowly 14″ commode. Again, I sat for hours awaiting Wade’s scheduled arrival; however, his attempt to lift me was futile—when he pulled me up, he fell backwards and I fell on my knees again. Solution: we installed the tallest available, 17 1/2 inch commode and a pull-up bar on my bathroom wall,” Worley wrote.

    The current head of the Alabama Democratic Party, who just won re-election, has overseen a pretty embarrassing period for her party. The only real victory that she can claim is the election of Senator Doug Jones. But even that victory was nothing to write home about. Most observers believe that election result was more about the national media descending on Roy Moore during the special election than the strength of Worley’s Democratic Party.

    And Jones’ failed wish that Worley be removed shows anyone watching that he doesn’t give her any credit; he wanted her gone and he explained to the Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman that the Alabama Democratic Party has issues he wants addressed without Worley at the helm:

  • ‘The Lord had his hand on me’: Alabama pastor struck by lightning after church service

    Excerpt:

    Pastor Ricky Adams, of the Argo Church of God in Walker County, was struck by lightning after the church’s service on Sunday.

    The Argo Area Volunteer Fire Department dispatched to the scene and discovered church members already assisting Adams upon their arrival.

    The pastor, who had been hit indirectly by a lightning strike, did not sustain any major injuries and did not even need to be transported to the hospital.

  • Alabama ranks second worst state for having a baby

    Excerpt:

    A newly-published ranking of states judges Alabama to be the 50th best – or 2nd worst – state in which to have a baby.

    The ranking, developed by the personal finance website WalletHub, compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia using four categories: cost, health care, baby-friendliness and family-friendliness.

    Its cost metric includes things like average cost of insurance premiums, cost of newborn screening and average annual cost of early childcare.

Chess Bedsole responds to Alabama attorney general questionnaire

Chess Bedsole and family (Chessbedsole.org)

Alabama Attorney General Republican nomination candidate Chess Bedsole recently responded to the 2018 Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News Attorney General Candidate Questionnaire. His responses are below.

ACTING PHILOSOPHY

Interpreting the Law

Question: Attorneys general are in the business of interpreting and enforcing the law.  If elected, would you see your role as Attorney General (AG) as that of an activist, with freedom to interpret the law to new situations, events, and presidential administrations, or as that of a constructionist, interpreting the law strictly through the lens of original intent?

Bedsole: Philosophically, I believe that the original intent, or original construction, of laws is paramount in interpreting laws: that laws must be applied as actually written. This belief has most recently been associated with conservative Justices Antonio Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. Accordingly, I have been a member of and worked with the Federalist Society to advance these values off and on for decades — most visibly for both Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump.  Changing the law is the job of the legislative branch, not the Attorney General. If you want to change laws, you should run for the legislature.

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Enforcing the Law

Are you willing to aggressively defend state statutes and policies, even if you disagree with them? 

Absolutely. It is the job of every lawyer to advocate for their clients without regard to personal opinions. I will always work to uphold the rule of law. That stated, I firmly believe that some of Alabama’s laws need to be updated. For instance, I strongly believe we can do better at securing schools in Alabama.  I will work with the legislature to try to affect improvements to the code, even while defending existing policies.

Balancing Roles

How do you plan to balance your role as chief law enforcement officer in the state with your role as chief legal representative of the state? 

In the recent past, the law enforcement role has taken a backseat to the legal and policy roles in the AG’s office, and we are paying the price.  In my opinion, more attention was paid to DC and Montgomery legal/policy issues than to our core crime problems. As a result, crime has exploded. Alabama is ranked number 3 among all states for murder, we have violent crime increasing by double-digit rates each year, and drug sales are off the charts, even number one in some categories. Birmingham’s murder rate has almost doubled in 3 years. We have thousands upon thousands of untested rape kits waiting at the lab for analysis.  It is critical that we provide local law enforcement with the money, equipment, training, coordination and manpower to really get crime back under control.  What we need is leadership — servant leadership. I believe that balance must be restored to the law enforcement and legal roles and that a written plan must be drafted and followed, using crime statistics, to ensure success.

MANAGEMENT

Budget and Staff

The AG oversees a staff of more than 160 and a budget of over $10 million. What has prepared you to lead such a large organization and to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars?

I have served in senior management roles in much larger but also smaller operations, with taxpayer dollars.  In the 90’s, I started my career serving as legal counsel for conservative firebrand and United States Senator Jesse Helms.  I managed a large file of his business, under budget and with success. For years as a private sector lawyer, I served with Treasurer Boozer and others on three Alabama state boards, including the 529 Board, which has grown to manage billions of dollars for college education (and is NOT related to the PACT Board or its problems). Twice in my life, I served as legal counsel for Presidential Transitions (George W. Bush and Trump), managing teams to achieve our goals under deadline and budget.  I served with President Trump for almost 2 years total (one of the longest tenures), where the operations under my purview came in under budget every single month and with taxpayer dollars in the end. Lastly, I ran my own criminal court for 5 years, where I earned a reputation for being frugal and implementing policies to save taxpayer dollars.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Given limited resources, the AG must use discretion in deciding which crimes to prosecute.  What is your overall position on the extent of prosecutorial discretion? Should prosecutorial discretion ever be used to avoid prosecuting an alleged corrupt government official?  Do you think a prosecutor ever has the right to not prosecute a broad range of accused people/crimes?

Simply put, prosecutorial discretion is the power prosecutors have over whether to bring charges, which charges, and also the severity of plea bargains and sentence recommendations. Traditionally, prosecutorial discretion in the US has been almost limitless and without review, for two good reasons:  First, prosecutors operate under limited budgets and know what they can afford to pursue. Second, they have the best information to determine the merits of a case and the chances of success.

More recently, liberal outside groups have alleged that prosecutorial discretion has been applied in unfair ways and should be limited. However, they miss the obvious: prosecutorial discretion is already limited, both by ethics rules and also the ballot box. For these reasons, I am not in favor of further limiting prosecutorial discretion. This discretion, without merit, should never be used to justify avoiding a difficult job, such as prosecuting corrupt government officials. I believe in the traditional power and application of prosecutorial discretion, mostly because I know that those who shirk their duty can and often do pay a price, either by a tribunal or a vote of the people.

ETHICS

Code of Ethics 

Both the current and the preceding AGs proposed comprehensive reforms to Alabama’s ethics laws.  The Legislature recently established a Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission “to reform and clarify the Code of Ethics”.  The AG will co-chair this Commission with the Ethics Commission Director.  Would you recommend amendments or revisions to the ethics code?  If so, what are your suggestions in doing so? 

Yes, our ethics laws must be strengthened and clarified. We must also strengthen our laws to ensure those who misuse government resources and use their positions for personal gain are fully penalized. It’s time we start putting the criminals who wear suits every day in the same prisons as everyone else. No ankle bracelets and no country club prisons.

In the Office of Attorney General

While the Alabama Attorney General’s office is one of the state’s largest legal offices, it has been a common practice for AGs to outsource lucrative legal work to politically connected law firms. The firms often then contribute large sums to the AG’s campaigns for reelection or higher office. Is this an example of the AG using the powers of the office for personal benefit? If so, how will you make changes to this practice? 

No, it’s an example of the AG using the powers of the office for political benefit, an important distinction. Several decades back, more law firms had the chance to do work for the state. In the recent past, the AG’s office began serving larger chunks of state legal business to fewer and fewer firms, basically picking winners and losers in the legal community. This has led to at least three problems: 1.  smaller firms are shut out for no good business reason. 2. Larger law firms could be performing work in cases that might be conflicted. 3. The Attorney General appears bought and paid for, or at least rented.  When outsourcing legal work makes sense, I would prefer to open up state contracts to more firms, given they all have the relevant expertise.

Ethics and Economic Development

Alabama House Bill 317 exempts certain economic developers from being required to register as lobbyists and drew heated discussion across the state this past legislative session. Is this exemption, in your opinion, as innocuous as proponents claim or likely to lead to abuse as opponents suggest?

This law continues a pattern of gray area and loopholes within our ethics laws and allows the Montgomery status quo to turn a blind eye to back room deals. Corruption has undermined public trust in our elected officials. We will not clarify our ethics laws and give citizens confidence in our elected leaders while simultaneously passing laws, which take away accountability measures. We need to revisit this legislation and reform our ethics laws in order to turn the page on public corruption.  

INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

Campus Free Speech

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said there is “too much suppression of free and open speech on college campuses today.” Do you believe this is an issue in Alabama and, if so, how should the AG respond?

There is a clear bias against conservative views on college campuses. While college campuses should be a place for free and open debate, there have been multiple documented cases of college administrators acting to silence opinions, which are contrary to their own beliefs. This is unacceptable. As AG, I will support legislation to ensure First Amendment rights on our college campuses. Additionally, I will not hesitate to file suit protecting conservative speech on campus from the liberal snowflakes and haters.

Religious Liberty

Do you think that individuals and small business owners should be forced to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with anti-discrimination laws?  

No. We must protect religious freedom at all cost, including the preservation of Christian values. In the bigger picture, I believe that President Trump will get to appoint at least one more Supreme Court Justice and that we will get the first conservative court in more than 50 years — thank God!  The next Alabama AG must be a committed and proven conservative — willing, able and experienced in fighting for conservative causes.  Otherwise, we risk losing the best opportunity of our lifetimes to reverse 8 years of Obama regulations and 50-plus years of liberal court decisions. For more than 20 years I have been a champion of conservative causes, fighting alongside U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, Presidents George W. Bush, President Donald Trump. Working to protect our values and preserve freedom. We must not lose this fight.

FEDERAL ISSUES

Federal Overreach

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott was the Lone Star State’s Attorney General, he made headlines by saying, “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and I go home.” What role should the AG take in fighting federal government overreach? Would you be willing to file suit—and use state resources—to prevent such overreach?

I would use state resources to prevent such overreach because the cost of not filing these suits is far greater to Alabama business and their ability to grow and thrive.

Immigration

Many state attorneys general have sued the Trump administration for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. On May 2, 2018, Alabama joined six other states suing to end the program permanently. In your opinion, how effective is this form of joint action and how do you plan on upholding Alabama immigration law if executive action on the federal level runs contrary?

These forms of joint action can be very effective. We must put a permanent end to the unconstitutional disaster that is DACA. I will fight to protect our citizens from dangerous illegal immigrants. When I am AG, illegal immigrants will know that if they come to Alabama illegally and commit a crime, they are going behind bars.

Opioid Epidemic

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As AG, how would you address Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

Opioids have ravaged Alabama, and we’ve got to fight both the supply and the demand. On the supply side, we must end doctor-shopping to get multiple prescriptions, prosecute illegal pill-mill practices and provide clear limits for how many doses can be prescribed for minor procedures, without getting in the way of long-term pain care for folks with chronic conditions.  We must coordinate with federal law enforcement to arrest multi-state dealers and fight gangs. Regarding opioid demand, we must continue to add drug courts where needed to manage not only caseloads but the rehabilitation of opioid users.  Successful rehab often includes churches, families and employers, and we must include them in the process where possible.

RULE OF LAW

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Would you support legislation that reforms the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

I believe civil asset forfeiture is a necessary tool for law enforcement. However, I would support legislation providing more transparency to the process.

Prison Reforms

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

Prison reform is an issue that must be tackled by the legislature. As AG I would advocate for better mental health facilities and the expansion of services for veterans. As a former criminal court judge, I supported law enforcement efforts to fight drug sales and worked with local charities and churches to help victims of domestic violence. I also cut costs to taxpayers by requiring work or school of young, able-bodied, nonviolent offenders. I will continue to support law enforcement in these efforts. However, I will fight against any prison reforms, which will create a revolving door and put criminals back on the streets.

Gaming 

In its 2009 Cornerstonedecision, the Alabama Supreme Court held that local laws in Alabama legalizing “bingo” games for the benefit of churches and other charities authorized only the old fashioned, or “traditional” game commonly known by that name.  The Court repeated itself over a half dozen times in the seven years after Cornerstone. In light of the Alabama Supreme Court’s decisions on this issue, should casinos—like the ones operating in Macon and Greene Counties—be allowed to operate as they are today?  Explain your answer in detail, including whether you consider Alabama Supreme Court decisions on matters of Alabama law to be “the law of the land.”

In 2009, the Governor of Alabama appointed a special task force to enforce the gambling laws of Alabama in the absence of any action by the then Attorney General to shut down or prosecute the operation of gambling machines in Macon, Greene and other counties.  This action by the Governor succeeded in shutting down casinos in these counties.  Should that enforcement action have been taken by the Attorney General instead of the Governor?

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows certain Indian tribes, including the Poarch Creek, to conduct gaming operations on reservation land if such operations are permitted by the law of the state in which those reservations are located. Numerous Alabama Supreme Court decisions have been written arguing that electronic machines of the nature at issue are illegal under Alabama law. Should these machines continue to be permitted on Indian reservations within the State of Alabama? If elected Alabama Attorney General, would you work with the United States Attorney General to make sure that the all gambling laws, including federal law applicable to Indian reservations, are properly enforced? 

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of Governor Riley and clearly defined gaming laws in our state. I will uphold the laws of our state as defined by the court.

The courts have also clearly outlined the state’s jurisdiction in relation to regulating gaming operations on reservation land. As AG, I will work with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to enforce all federal laws related to gambling in our state.

Chris Christie responds to Alabama attorney general candidate questionnaire

(Christie Campaign)

Democrat candidate for attorney general Chris Christie recently responded to the questionnaire prepared by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. His answers are below.

ACTING PHILOSOPHY

Interpreting the Law

Attorneys general are in the business of interpreting and enforcing the law.  If elected, would you see your role as Attorney General (AG) as that of an activist, with freedom to interpret the law to new situations, events, and presidential administrations, or as that of a constructionist, interpreting the law strictly through the lens of original intent?

My role as AG would be based on my philosophy that courts should interpret law as originally intended and should avoid activist result-oriented decisions that are inconsistent with what those drafting the law would have intended. For example, in Citizens United, the United States Supreme Court essentially found that a public corporation has religious rights under the United States Constitution, even though a corporation is only a separate fictitious legal person without a spirit or soul. When drafting the United States Constitution, no one would have intended the activist interpretation in Citizens United.

On the other hand, to enforce laws, the rule of law requires courts to interpret laws. Since the founding of our nation, every state (other than Louisiana), has had common law. Consistent with the United States Constitution and original intent, and especially with common law systems, American courts interpret laws, and should interpret laws, to apply them to unforeseen situations or events.

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Enforcing the Law

Are you willing to aggressively defend state statutes and policies, even if you disagree with them?

As Attorney General, I would defend state statutes even if I disagree with them, so long as they were not unconstitutional. First, the United States Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, is the supreme law of the land. Then, the Constitution of Alabama’s provisions are over state statutes. As the lawyer for the people of Alabama, my responsibility as Attorney General will include protecting individuals’ constitutional rights. Moreover, as Alabama Attorney General, I will work with the legislature to avoid creating new unconstitutional laws.

Balancing Roles

How do you plan to balance your role as chief law enforcement officer in the state with your role as chief legal representative of the state?

The AG’s role as chief law enforcement officer and as chief legal representative should not and will not normally conflict. If a clear conflict between enforcing law applicable in Alabama and representing the State of Alabama were to arise, the law applicable in Alabama is to be enforced so we have the rule of law. If an arguable conflict arose between enforcing law applicable in Alabama and representing the State of Alabama, how to handle that hypothetical would probably depend on facts and circumstances for that particular situation. Overall, the AG’s role should be working with the legislature so that these types of problems are avoided.

MANAGEMENT

Budget and Staff

The AG oversees a staff of more than 160 and a budget of over $10 million. What has prepared you to lead such a large organization and to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars?

More than any other Attorney General candidate, my work experience has prepared me to handle the staff and budget of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. First, with my former law firm, I supervised more lawyers than the number of lawyers with the Attorney General’s Office. During my 30 years there, I was part of growing the firm to be, in the State of Alabama, one of the most successful law firms, if not the most successful, and one of the most successful private businesses of any type. We grew from about 80 lawyers to over 550 lawyers, with recent annual budgets of over $200 million. Second, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, from June to August during the University of Yaoundé’s break, I set up, ran, and closed a government training facility that housed and fed over 100 new Peace Corps Volunteers and over 100 teachers and staff. In that role, I successfully supervised staff, handled the paperwork, and worked within a tight government budget. Through this experience, I understand that government spending and budgeting is different than for a private business, but also know my success in a great private law firm makes me the AG candidate best prepared to manage the AG’s staff and budgets.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Given limited resources, the AG must use discretion in deciding which crimes to prosecute.  What is your overall position on the extent of prosecutorial discretion? Should prosecutorial discretion ever be used to avoid prosecuting an alleged corrupt government official?  Do you think a prosecutor ever has the right to not prosecute a broad range of accused people/crimes?

When I am AG, government corruption (along with public safety) will be a top priority.  In my Attorney General’s Office, we will have the resources to prosecute corrupt government officials and we will aggressively prosecute government corruption.

When considering all of the AG’s responsibilities, given limited resources, enforcing the laws of Alabama requires using discretion in making many decisions. For example, past Alabama Attorneys General have used discretion to intrude into lawsuits filed in other states. As an outsider, those Alabama AG efforts in other states more likely hurt the party supposedly being helped, as well as waste scarce Alabama resources that need to be used to enforce and improve Alabama laws. Another example, in April 2018, the news media reported that a prosecutor exercised discretion to prosecute as an adult a 15-year-old child, who had not hurt anyone and did not have a gun during a burglary. The Court convicted the child of felony murder and sentenced him to 65 years in prison. If that 15-year-old child had been from an affluent suburb, it is hard to imagine the prosecutor would have used his discretion in the same manner.

At times, prosecutorial discretion should be exercised, and cases not pursued. For example, if a government corruption case after a thorough investigation appears unlikely to be won at trial, it probably should not be pursued further. Another example, a prosecutor should not use too many resources to prosecute people for jay-walking across empty streets or for traveling five miles per hour on the interstate over the speed limit. So, one does not prosecute all crimes, as a practical matter, but should focus on those prosecutions that will help move Alabama forward.

ETHICS

Code of Ethics

Both the current and the preceding AGs proposed comprehensive reforms to Alabama’s ethics laws.  The Legislature recently established a Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission “to reform and clarify the Code of Ethics”.  The AG will co-chair this Commission with the Ethics Commission Director.  Would you recommend amendments or revisions to the ethics code?  If so, what are your suggestions in doing so?

The Alabama ethics laws need to be clear and then explained well, with a focus on compliance. The AG should take the lead on these issues, working with the Ethics Commission and the legislature. Most people want to comply with the ethics laws, either wanting to do right or to avoid penalties or both.

The Alabama legislature considered ethics reforms in 2018 that were generally improvements, but additional amendments are needed. A huge gap is dealing adequately with Alabama’s “dark money” problem. Dark money led to Governor Bentley’s acting chief of staff’s being paid, indirectly from secret sources, more than twice what the Governor was paid. That should be against the law. Another gap is the issues underlying 2018 HB 317, which I address further in response to another question below. As the Attorney General, I will make pushing these ethics law reforms a top priority.

In the Office of Attorney General

While the Alabama Attorney General’s office is one of the state’s largest legal offices, it has been a common practice for AGs to outsource lucrative legal work to politically connected law firms. The firms often then contribute large sums to the AG’s campaigns for reelection or higher office. Is this an example of the AG using the powers of the office for personal benefit? If so, how will you make changes to this practice?

An AG’s outsourcing legal work to law firms based on political connections is wrong. The AG should not personally benefit from outsourcing legal work and should not allow the appearance or perception of his personally benefitting. But common sense and experience teach that the AG should at times outsource legal work. A hospital would not have a general surgeon perform invasive heart surgery just because the general surgeon is already on the medical staff. Similarly, certain rare legal matters require experience and expertise not in the Attorney General’s Office. For example, if hiring for the state of Alabama outside lawyers with needed experience and expertise would most likely lead to more additional recovery than the additional legal fees, then the AG should hire the best firm for the matter. And some legal matters require so much of the Attorney General’s Office’s resources that not outsourcing the legal work could limit the Office’s ability to pursue top priorities, such as prosecuting government corruption and promoting public safety. For the rare legal matters best handled by outside counsel, an AG should negotiate with a number of law firms, who have the experience and expertise, to secure the best representation and lowest costs to the state, thereby choosing the best result for the people of Alabama.

Ethics and Economic Development

Alabama House Bill 317 exempts certain economic developers from being required to register as lobbyists and drew heated discussion across the state this past legislative session. Is this exemption, in your opinion, as innocuous as proponents claim or likely to lead to abuse as opponents suggest?

House Bill 317 is not as innocuous as proponents claim and is not as likely to lead to abuse as opponents suggest. Foremost, the new law poses problems. Supporters of HB 317 apparently recognized the new law was imperfect, because it sunsets (goes away) twelve months after it became law. The alternative proposed by the Ethics Commission seemed better and another even better alternative likely can be developed to address the concern of losing economic development opportunities.

Based on House Bill 317, unchecked corruption and abuse is not as likely as some have suggested. Tools to handle corruption related to economic development are still available even with the new law. Under section 5 and section 7 of the current ethics law, corruption related to economic development can still be prosecuted. Addressing these issues should be part of amending the ethics laws, which should be a top priority of a new Attorney General in 2019.

INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

Campus Free Speech

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said there is “too much suppression of free and open speech on college campuses today.” Do you believe this is an issue in Alabama and, if so, how should the AG respond?

The First Amendment rights of expression and assembly are among the most important parts of our United States Constitution, for unpopular speech as well as any other speech. Those rights must be protected. In Alabama, suppression of free speech and open speech on college campuses does not appear to be an issue that warrants the involvement of the Attorney General.

Religious Liberty

Do you think that individuals and small business owners should be forced to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with anti-discrimination laws?

To me personally, religious liberty is one of the most important rights secured by the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Other important federal rights include not being discriminated against based on one’s race or religion. For example, can a restaurant owner in the United States, who objects to serving persons of another race or another religion, claim a religious basis to discriminate based on race or religion. No, such discrimination violates federal laws that apply in Alabama based on our United States Constitution. Alabama generally does not have additional anti-discrimination laws. Therefore, for an Alabama Attorney General, enforcing anti-discrimination laws is a federal law matter and does not involve enforcing Alabama law.

FEDERAL ISSUES

Federal Overreach

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott was the Lone Star State’s Attorney General, he made headlines by saying, “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and I go home.” What role should the AG take in fighting federal government overreach? Would you be willing to file suit—and use state resources—to prevent such overreach?

Alabama needs an Attorney General who will focus on government corruption and public safety in Alabama, not on chasing lawsuits arguing federal overreach in other states. Courts and parties in other states do not need an Alabama AG intruding into their lawsuits. As an outsider, those Alabama AG efforts in other states more likely hurt the party supposedly being helped and waste scarce Alabama resources that need to be used to enforce and to improve Alabama laws.

As far as I know, I am the only AG candidate who has litigated and won a major trial in Alabama against the federal government when it was overreaching. So, while the possibility seems remote for an Attorney General to need to do so, if appropriate, I am the AG candidate who has the experience and skills to handle and win a lawsuit against the federal government.

Immigration

Many state attorneys general have sued the Trump administration for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. On May 2, 2018, Alabama joined six other states suing to end the program permanently. In your opinion, how effective is this form of joint action and how do you plan on upholding Alabama immigration law if executive action on the federal level runs contrary?

Immigration is a federal law issue; there is little Alabama law. It is hard to imagine circumstances where Alabama immigration law would be enforceable if contrary to federal law. If an Alabama law were contrary to federal immigration law, the federal law controls, as specifically provided in the United States Constitution. As a practical matter, Alabama’s suing the federal government on immigration issues would usually be an ineffective waste of scarce Alabama resources. As Attorney General, my priorities would be using the Attorney General’s Office scarce resources to address government corruption, public safety, and other issues in Alabama.

Opioid Epidemic

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As AG, how would you address Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

As with a number of public health issues (for examples, infant mortality, mental health care, and the number of diabetics), as to opioids, Alabama has the worst problems in the country. If our football team was last or almost last year after year, we would fire the coach. Foremost, Alabama needs new leadership, including a new Attorney General who has not been part of these past failures.

Addressing the opioid crisis specifically includes three approaches as a start. First, drug treatment and mental health treatment for those addicted, keeping as many out of our overcrowded prisons as possible. The opioid crises should not turn into a new war on drugs, which has been called a war on the poor and in part led to our current mass incarceration problems. Second, the number of opioid prescriptions must be addressed, including the rare doctors who run pill mills should be prosecuted, all doctors should have accurate and readily available data bases so that the doctors can easily see what prescriptions an individual already has had, and people should be educated about the addictive nature and risks of these drugs. Third, Alabama was almost the last state to join the national litigation attempting to hold accountable manufacturers who have profited from misleading the public about these drugs. Such efforts should continue so Alabama recovers as other states recover.

RULE OF LAW

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Would you support legislation that reforms the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

Documented abuses of civil asset forfeiture laws are rare but make clear that legislative reform is needed to provide transparency and prompt due process when assets are seized as part of a criminal investigation. At times, law enforcement finds assets that are clearly related to illegal activity, but the individuals responsible cannot be prosecuted. So, a criminal conviction should not always be required.

Legislation failed in the last legislative session that would have require law enforcement agencies to report data, including how and when assets are seized, the suspected crime, how the agency used seized assets, and whether the seizure resulted in a conviction. Such information should be gathered to have transparency. We also need to consider whether funds from forfeited assets should continue to go to the law enforcement agency or instead into the general funds of state and local governments. Such a change would remove the arguable profit motive from law enforcement.

As to due process, legislative reform is needed. If no conviction has been yet obtained, the state should promptly have to establish in court why a seizure was appropriate and why a criminal conviction should not be required, and individuals should not be in the position of having to initiate and pursue court actions to have their assets returned.

Prison Reforms

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

Alabama’s prisons are horrendous. As AG, I will work with Alabama legislature on criminal justice reform and work with local courts, district attorneys and law enforcement on public safety, which includes prisons.

Instead of addressing prison problems, Alabama has spent millions of dollars on lawyers to defend our cruel treatment of prisoners. As was expected, Alabama already lost a lawsuit on prison conditions, the federal judge ordered the state to remedy the problems, and Montgomery has failed to do so.  The current Alabama leadership apparently waits until the federal judge orders and forces the state to provide constitutionally required care (not provide care that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment), showing the lack of leadership in Montgomery.

Alabama has had mass incarceration as a misguided public safety policy. Alabama’s prisons are grossly overcrowded with many non-violent offenders and many who need mental health or drug treatment. Moreover, our prisons are warehouses for people; our prisons do not provide adequate job training, education, or re-entry services to help those released stay out of prison. And almost all prisoners are eligible for eventual release.  The result is more crime, making our crime rates worse, with those leaving prison too often ending up back in prison.

Alabama’s horrendous prisons make our crime rates outside prison worse for a second reason. Alabama’s Correctional Officers are so overwhelmed with mental health prisoners and the overcrowding, paperwork for crimes in prison usually goes undone. Because crimes (rapes, stabbings) in prison normally are not prosecuted and many crimes in prison usually are not even administratively documented, the prisons too often release the dangerous prisoners we all agree should be in prison. Alabama’s bad prisons cost taxpayers over $20,000/year per prisoner, hurt individuals needlessly incarcerated, and hurt all in Alabama.

Private prisons are a bad, bad idea. Private prisons create a profit incentive to underspend on feeding and caring for prisoners. In addition, private prisons create incentives for a company to lobby to increase the prison population, when our prisons are already overcrowded with people who are non-violent offenders or who need drug treatment or mental health treatment. I will oppose private prisons.

Gaming

In its 2009 Cornerstone decision, the Alabama Supreme Court held that local laws in Alabama legalizing “bingo” games for the benefit of churches and other charities authorized only the old fashioned, or “traditional” game commonly known by that name.  The Court repeated itself over a half dozen times in the seven years after Cornerstone. In light of the Alabama Supreme Court’s decisions on this issue, should casinos—like the ones operating in Macon and Greene Counties—be allowed to operate as they are today?  Explain your answer in detail, including whether you consider Alabama Supreme Court decisions on matters of Alabama law to be “the law of the land.”

Personally, I do not gamble and dislike how gambling often becomes a tax on the poor. But gambling has become part of what the states around Alabama have and a source of revenue Alabama could have for education, prisons and healthcare. Alabama needs new laws making clear what gambling is allowed, regulating that gambling to make sure it is above board, and raising revenue. Without question, Alabama Supreme Court decisions on matters of Alabama law are “the law of the land.” The 2009 Cornerstone decision is not as clear as implied. A number of Alabama counties have laws specific to the county on these issues. Generally, local law enforcement should enforce local laws and the Attorney General should focus on government corruption, public safety, and other state-wide issues.

In 2009, the Governor of Alabama appointed a special task force to enforce the gambling laws of Alabama in the absence of any action by the then Attorney General to shut down or prosecute the operation of gambling machines in Macon, Greene and other counties.  This action by the Governor succeeded in shutting down casinos in these counties.  Should that enforcement action have been taken by the Attorney General instead of the Governor?

The Supreme Court of Alabama made clear that Alabama law allows the Governor to take actions like those in 2009, which should be only under certain rare circumstances. The people of Alabama, however, elect the Attorney General. The AG has the duty to enforce the laws of Alabama, not the Governor.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows certain Indian tribes, including the Poarch Creek, to conduct gaming operations on reservation land if such operations are permitted by the law of the state in which those reservations are located. Numerous Alabama Supreme Court decisions have been written arguing that electronic machines of the nature at issue are illegal under Alabama law. Should these machines continue to be permitted on Indian reservations within the State of Alabama? If elected Alabama Attorney General, would you work with the United States Attorney General to make sure that the all gambling laws, including federal law applicable to Indian reservations, are properly enforced?

As Alabama Attorney General, I will work with the federal government and anyone else to make sure that laws, including federal gambling law applicable to Indian reservations, are properly enforced. Generally, federal law arguably allows gambling operations on reservation land if that class of gambling is allowed in the state. So, a specific Alabama Supreme Court decision on a specific gambling machine does not necessarily mean that the same ruling applies to the same gambling machines on Indian reservations.  Alabama should, as part of changing gambling laws, reach a compact with certain Indian tribes, including the Poarch Creek. Personally, I do not gamble and dislike how gambling often becomes a tax on the poor. But gambling has become part of what the states around Alabama have and a source of revenue Alabama needs if we are to avoid raising taxes and still address our problems with education, healthcare and public safety.

AG Steve Marshall responds to Alabama attorney general candidate questionnaire

(Marshall Campaign)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall recently responded to the questionnaire prepared by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. His answers are below.

ACTING PHILOSOPHY

Interpreting the Law

Question: Attorneys general are in the business of interpreting and enforcing the law. If elected, would you see your role as Attorney General (AG) as that of an activist, with freedom to interpret the law to new situations, events, and presidential administrations, or as that of a constructionist, interpreting the law strictly through the lens of original intent?

Marshall: As Attorney General, I am primarily responsible for enforcing and defending the laws of this state and the Constitution. Through the formal opinions process, I also have a role in interpreting Alabama’s laws. I take seriously my duty to enforce and interpret the law as it is written, looking to the plain meaning of the text and not my own opinion of what is the best or right result. When the law is not clear, I do not believe that trying to discern legislative intent is an appropriate means for interpreting law. Instead, I apply Alabama’s well-established principles of statutory construction and look to relevant case law for judicial interpretations of the statute in question.

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Enforcing the Law

Are you willing to aggressively defend state statutes and policies, even if you disagree with them?

Yes. As Attorney General, I have aggressively defended our state’s laws regardless of whether I believed that a particular law made for good policy or good politics.

Balancing Roles

How do you plan to balance your role as chief law enforcement officer in the state with your role as chief legal representative of the state?

As Attorney General, I serve the law enforcement community as a partner, resource, and advocate on an array of criminal and public safety matters. My office maintains a criminal trials division, a public corruption unit, and handles all of the state’s criminal appeals and capital litigation. My ongoing Initiative on Violent Crime is an example of how an Attorney General, as the chief law enforcement officer, can take the lead and galvanize federal, state, and local law enforcement around a common goal. Simultaneously, I am the state’s attorney and run what is often referred to as “the people’s law firm.” That includes protecting Alabama’s consumers, defending Alabama’s laws, and pursuing the state’s interests beyond Alabama’s borders. For me, the keys to balancing both of these important roles have been laying out a clear mission  and vision, selective hiring, and smart delegation.

MANAGEMENT

Budget and Staff

The AG oversees a staff of more than 160 and a budget of over $10 million. What has prepared you to lead such a large organization and to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars?

As Attorney General, I have managed an annual budget of over $20 million dollars—$10 million of that is the amount appropriated to my Office through the General Fund. For 15 years prior to becoming Attorney General, I served as District Attorney of Marshall County. In addition to managing the staff and budget of that office, I also directed the Marshall County Drug Task Force. Both the office and the drug task force completed successful audits every year under my leadership. In any spending decision, I am cognizant of the duty I have to use taxpayer dollars in an efficient and responsible manner that is directly responsive to the demands of public safety and protecting the public’s interest.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Given limited resources, the AG must use discretion in deciding which crimes to prosecute. What is your overall position on the extent of prosecutorial discretion? Should prosecutorial discretion ever be used to avoid prosecuting an alleged corrupt government official? Do you think a prosecutor ever has the right to not prosecute a broad range of accused people/crimes?

As Attorney General, I have the discretion to prioritize the resources of my office in the manner that I believe will best serve public safety and the public’s interests. In doing so, I do  not have the discretion to pick and choose which laws my office will enforce. With my approval, prosecutors are able to exercise discretion over when criminal charges are appropriate under the laws of our state based solely upon the facts and the evidence before them. Throughout my twenty-year career as a prosecutor, I have demonstrated that I will always apply the law fairly and equally to those who violate it.

ETHICS

Code of Ethics

Both the current and the preceding AGs proposed comprehensive reforms to Alabama’s ethics laws. The Legislature recently established a Code of Ethics Clarification and  Reform Commission “to reform and clarify the Code of Ethics”. The AG will co-chair this Commission with the Ethics Commission Director. Would you recommend amendments or revisions to the ethics code? If so, what are your suggestions in doing so?

Yes. As Attorney General, I have advocated for reforms that would draw clearer lines between legal and illegal activity and ensure that those who violate the public’s trust are held accountable. My comprehensive ethics reform package, written under the direction of my corruption unit, was filed by Senator Marsh during the 2018 legislative session as Senate Bill 343. This legislation will serve as a guiding document for the legislature’s Ethics Review and Clarification Commission, of which I am the co-chair, and I will advocate for it within that body.

In the Office of Attorney General

While the Alabama Attorney General’s office is one of the state’s largest legal offices, it has been a common practice for AGs to outsource lucrative legal work to politically connected law firms. The firms often then contribute large sums to the AG’s campaigns for reelection or higher office. Is this an example of the AG using the powers of the office for personal benefit? If so, how will you make changes to this practice?

As Attorney General, I have become intimately familiar with the manpower and capacity of my office through the work of our divisions and units. Proportionally, Alabama maintains one of the smallest Attorney General Offices in the country. As a result, it can be both necessary and cost effective to utilize outside counsel in extraordinary cases in order to pursue the state’s interests without overburdening or disrupting the daily work of a particular division.

State law sets clear parameters on hiring outside counsel and how their compensation can be structured, but an Attorney General can do even more to ensure fiscal responsibility in these matters. As Attorney General, I have contracted with outside counsel on one occasion—in consumer-protection litigation related to the deceptive marketing of opioids—and capped attorney’s fees nearly 50% lower than what state law allows.

Alabama ethics and campaign finance laws are abundantly clear in regard to quid pro quo arrangements and using one’s office for personal gain. An Attorney General must strictly adhere to these laws, as I have.

Ethics and Economic Development

Alabama House Bill 317 exempts certain economic developers from being required to register as lobbyists and drew heated discussion across the state this past legislative session. Is this exemption, in your opinion, as innocuous as proponents claim or likely to lead to abuse as opponents suggest?

The public has every reason to be skeptical when ethics questions are raised in the policymaking process. When House Bill 317 was introduced, I too had significant concerns with the way that economic development was dealt with in the context of the ethics law. After working with the Department of Commerce for several weeks, the bill was amended to reflect my Office’s preferred approach of narrowly defining who an “economic development professional” is and then excluding those “professionals” from the definition of “lobbyist.” This was in line with the comprehensive ethics reform bill that was proposed by my office and filed as SB343. I found the enacted version of HB317 to be acceptable, particularly given the sunset date that was inserted at my request. This sunset provision will ensure that this issue will be further analyzed, debated, and dealt with by the Ethics Review and Clarification Commission prior to the 2019 legislative session.

INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

Campus Free Speech

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said there is “too much suppression of free and open speech on college campuses today.” Do you believe this is an issue in Alabama and, if so, how should the AG respond?

I agree with Attorney General Sessions—without question, we have seen significant erosion of free speech on college campuses across the country. We have also seen numerous attempts to stifle the religious expression of students in Alabama’s public K-12 schools via numerous threatening letters and lawsuits from outside interest groups. The Attorney General can play a valuable role in the protection of First Amendment rights both by providing guidance to involved parties on what is protected speech and by assisting in national and state-based cases in which the state has a distinct interest in protecting individual First Amendment rights.

Religious Liberty

Do you think that individuals and small business owners should be forced to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with anti-discrimination laws?

No. As Attorney General, I have taken a stand for the religious liberties of individuals and private business owners in several notable cases. These cases include: defending a Kentucky t-shirt printer from being compelled to print shirts containing messages that were in conflict with his religious beliefs; defending faith-based pregnancy centers in Maryland and California  from being compelled to disseminate pro-abortion materials; and defending a Colorado bakeshop from being compelled to design cakes that support a message in violation of his religious beliefs. The California and Colorado cases are currently pending with the U.S. Supreme Court. In each of these cases, I have maintained that the First Amendment freedom of expression is  violated when the government attempts to compel private speech that is in conflict with an individual’s sincerely-held religious beliefs.

FEDERAL ISSUES

Federal Overreach

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott was the Lone Star State’s Attorney General, he made headlines by saying, “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and I go home.” What role should the AG take in fighting federal government overreach? Would you be willing to file suit—and use state resources—to prevent such overreach?

As Attorney General, I have proudly led and joined cases with fellow conservative Attorneys General designed to limit federal overreach and protect our liberty. Many of our cases deal with federal actions taken during the Obama Administration. For example, I led a case challenging the federal government’s redefinition and dramatic expansion of the Endangered Species Act. The effect of this rule change, made by unelected bureaucrats in Washington, was a very real and substantial threat to private property rights—a foundational freedom. Fortunately, in this case, the Trump Administration agreed to work with us toward a swift resolution. Though lawsuits will continue to be necessary at times, I am optimistic about my ability to work with the Trump Administration to reclaim the sovereignty of the state and expand individual freedom.

Immigration

Many state attorneys general have sued the Trump administration for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. On May 2, 2018, Alabama joined six other states suing to end the program permanently. In your opinion, how effective is this form of joint action and how do you plan on upholding Alabama immigration law if executive action on the federal level runs contrary?

As Attorney General, I made the decision to join with six other states to ask a federal court to declare the DACA program unconstitutional. We argued that the program is unconstitutional for several reasons: DACA was not approved by Congress, it is in conflict with federal immigration law, it violated the Administrative Procedures Act, and it violated the “Take Care Clause” of the Constitution. This form of joint action is extremely effective—Alabama won a significant victory in a nearly-identical case over the constitutionality of DAPA in 2014. At least three activist federal judges have attempted to prohibit the Trump Administration from closing the DACA program. Our lawsuit argues that the program was never constitutional to begin with and provides a means by which this question can be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Opioid Epidemic

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As AG, how would you address Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

As Attorney General, I have put the full resources of my Office behind tackling the complex and devastating opioid crisis in our state. In addition to co-chairing the Governor’s Overdose and Addiction Council, I have joined with various federal partners within the Trump Administration to chart the best course toward a solution. The work of the Addiction Council has already produced some fruit—we have outlawed the trafficking of dangerous illegal opioids and have established a better system of data collection which is vital in pinpointing the problem in our state. While I have spent a great deal of time focused on the responsibilities of law enforcement in dealing with opioids, I am convinced that we do not have all of the answers. To that end, I have traveled our state promoting greater community education and engagement on this issue. In April and May, I have held “Faith Forums” in Alabama’s 4 major cities to encourage members of the faith community to join the fight and reach out to those struggling with addiction.

RULE OF LAW

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Would you support legislation that reforms the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

As Attorney General, and as a prosecutor for over two decades, I have used and directed the use of civil asset forfeiture where appropriate and find it to be a vital tool for law enforcement that must be preserved. Like U.S. Attorney General Sessions, I believe that the state has a rightful interest in removing the fruits and instrumentalities derived from crime. That is not to say that the system is perfect, however. To that end, I would support efforts to make the forfeiture process more transparent to increase public confidence. Further, though due process does exist under Alabama’s forfeiture laws, I would be willing to establish within my Office a process of review for alleged abuse of civil asset forfeiture.

Prison Reforms

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

As Attorney General, I must decline to offer a personal opinion on a matter that the state is currently litigating.

Gaming

In its 2009 Cornerstone decision, the Alabama Supreme Court held that local laws in Alabama legalizing “bingo” games for the benefit of churches and other charities authorized only the old fashioned, or “traditional” game commonly known by that name. The Court repeated itself  over a half dozen times in the seven years after Cornerstone. In light of the Alabama Supreme Court’s decisions on this issue, should casinos—like the ones operating in Macon and Greene Counties—be allowed to operate as they are today? Explain your answer in detail, including whether you consider Alabama Supreme Court decisions on matters of Alabama law to be “the law of the land.”

As Attorney General, I have enforced the law against illegal casinos in Alabama. When I took office, there were casinos operating illegally in five counties. I filed lawsuits to shut them down and, as a result, one of the casinos was immediately closed. The remaining cases are pending in court. As I said at the time those suits were announced, the Alabama Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that electronic bingo and the use of slot machines are illegal in all Alabama counties. It was incumbent upon me to take action to hold accountable those who defy the laws of our state.

In 2009, the Governor of Alabama appointed a special task force to enforce the gambling laws of Alabama in the absence of any action by the then Attorney General to shut down or prosecute the operation of gambling machines in Macon, Greene and other counties. This action by the Governor succeeded in shutting down casinos in these counties. Should that enforcement action have been taken by the Attorney General instead of the Governor?

An Attorney General abdicates his or her lawful duties by failing to enforce the law. In 2009, the Governor was compelled to take action when the sitting Attorney General refused to enforce Alabama’s gambling laws.

It is also important to note that, though attempted in 2015, the Governor has no authority to prevent or hinder the Attorney General from fully enforcing the law.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows certain Indian tribes, including the Poarch Creek, to conduct gaming operations on reservation land if such operations are permitted by the law of the state in which those reservations are located. Numerous Alabama Supreme Court decisions have been written arguing that electronic machines of the nature at issue are illegal under Alabama law. Should these machines continue to be permitted on Indian reservations within the State of Alabama? If elected Alabama Attorney General, would you work with the United States Attorney General to make sure that the all gambling laws, including federal law applicable to Indian reservations, are properly enforced?

As Attorney General, it is my responsibility to enforce the laws of our state and to abide by binding decisions of the court. In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that the State of Alabama has no right of action to sue the Poarch Creek Tribe over enforcement of state gambling laws and that the federal government alone has regulatory authority over Indian gaming. To the degree that it is lawful and appropriate, I will work with the National Indian Gaming Commission and U.S. Department of Justice to ensure that all applicable laws on gaming are enforced.

Alice Martin responds to Alabama attorney general candidate questionnaire

(Martin Campaign/Facebook)

Republican attorney general candidate Alice Martin recently responded to the questionnaire prepared by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. Her answers are below.

ACTING PHILOSOPHY

Interpreting the Law

Question: Attorneys general are in the business of interpreting and enforcing the law.  If elected, would you see your role as Attorney General (AG) as that of an activist, with freedom to interpret the law to new situations, events, and presidential administrations, or as that of a constructionist, interpreting the law strictly through the lens of original intent?

Martin: As Attorney General my interpretative method will be as a textualist and originalist guided by the words of the governing text. This shows respect for the rule of law and the separation of powers.

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Enforcing the Law

Are you willing to aggressively defend state statutes and policies, even if you disagree with them?

Yes. Regardless of personal beliefs, it is the responsibility of the Attorney General to defend a state statute unless it is clearly unconstitutional.

Balancing Roles

How do you plan to balance your role as chief law enforcement officer in the state with your role as chief legal representative of the state?

As Chief Deputy Attorney General from 2015 to 2017, I balanced both roles and gave equal weight through executive leadership and providing strategic direction to the career men and women who ably serve Alabama in providing the day-to-day legal services. I will use that process as Attorney General.

More specifically, as chief law enforcement officer I will work with state, local and federal law enforcement colleagues to develop and execute a strategic plan to address violent crime, public corruption, economic crime, healthcare fraud and exploitation of children and the elderly in Alabama.  Through 15 years with the Department of Justice I’ve experienced that collaboration through ‘joint task forces’ delivers greater success to communities. For example, as U. S. Attorney I formed the North Alabama Public Corruption Task Force with then AG Bill Pryor which obtained 140 federal corruption convictions and dozens of convictions in state court. I formed the North Alabama Healthcare Fraud Task Force which recovered $750+ million in fraud for the Medicaid/Medicare programs. And I oversaw the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force which worked with chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys in 31 counties to combat drug trafficking organizations that operated across jurisdictional lines. These experiences as a state, local and federal prosecutor for 20 years and over 5,000 criminal convictions, provide relationships and skills work strategically to benefit Alabama as chief law enforcement officer.

As chief legal representative we will balance providing legal opinions to various officials (required by law) with quality representation of the state in civil litigation while being proactive in defending and preserving the Constitution against liberal attacks on religious liberties, personal freedoms, gun ownership rights, and the sanctity of life. The AG is the tip of the spear in protecting these freedoms, as well as the last line of defense for states’ rights against federal overreach which can impose unnecessary regulation.  Of great importance will be the Consumer Protection Division to protect consumers against fraud and dangerous products. Having resolved over 10,000 cases in state and federal court in Alabama I am prepared to balance the civil and criminal responsibilities of the office.

MANAGEMENT

Budget and Staff

The AG oversees a staff of more than 160 and a budget of over $10 million. What has prepared you to lead such a large organization and to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars?

Past experience. I successfully led the Office through three fiscal years 2015-2017, without layoffs and near level funding requests. This was especially challenging in 2015, when the legislature provided no funding to the Office.

While the Office receives $10+ million from the general fund, it actually requires $24+ million to operate annually.  So, there are two challenges to funding: (1) effective advocacy to the Governor and Legislature to ensure funding is increased and not reduced, and (2) proper management of revenue generating services within the office.  While serving as Chief Deputy Attorney General, I successfully navigated both challenges despite the legislature provided the Office no funding in 2015. Yet we worked with the Governor and Legislature to restore funding in FY16. We also successfully and creatively managed the revenue generating services of the Office to ensure that we could fully serve the state and its people. For example, in the fourth quarter of 2015, we faced a 15% layoff. If we had not earned the $10 million attorney fee awarded in the BP oil spill litigation, layoffs would have occurred.  Following that close call, I directed efforts to improve revenue generation through: (1) negotiation of new legal services contracts with state agencies and boards (to whom we were not required by law to provide services) to increase our hourly legal fee from $50/hour to a more market rate; (2) reallocation of staffing to the Consumer Fraud Division so Alabama could participate in more multi-state litigation and earn attorney fees and greater recovery for the State;  and (3) increased collection efforts for registration fees due the Office. These measures generated operating revenue needed for 2016, 2017, and 2018.

In addition to this fiscal leadership experience, I have 10 years of budget experience as U.S. Attorney and as Vice President of the Ethics and Compliance Division for a multi-state $1 billion healthcare organization.  I also have served on the Office, Management and Budget Subcommittee of the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of United States Attorneys responsible for 93 U. S. Attorneys’ Offices.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Given limited resources, the AG must use discretion in deciding which crimes to prosecute.  What is your overall position on the extent of prosecutorial discretion? Should prosecutorial discretion ever be used to avoid prosecuting an alleged corrupt government official?  Do you think a prosecutor ever has the right to not prosecute a broad range of accused people/crimes?

As a prosecutor for 20 years I have exercised prosecutorial discretion based on principles that focus on consistency in the decision-making process and fair administration of justice, while recognizing the reality that resources are limited and must be managed.  This to be especially true in economic crimes as opposed to violent crime, where resource expenditures may exceed the potential recovery. However, potential monetary recoveries do not control charging decisions, and that is especially true in public corruption cases where the deterrence message of prosecuting a corrupt official may outweigh monetary recovery.  For example, a court clerk who is not prosecuted for stealing $10,000 may impact the local community, and potentially communities across Alabama, if it leads other public officials to believe they will not be held accountable under Alabama’s Ethics Law. My goal is to preserve public trust and faith in government and put corrupt officials on notice that they will be held accountable as public servants.

ETHICS

Code of Ethics

Both the current and the preceding AGs proposed comprehensive reforms to Alabama’s ethics laws.  The Legislature recently established a Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission “to reform and clarify the Code of Ethics”.  The AG will co-chair this Commission with the Ethics Commission Director.  Would you recommend amendments or revisions to the ethics code?  If so, what are your suggestions in doing so?

Yes, I would recommend amendments to the ethics code to clarify and strengthen existing law and those recommendations are contained in HB343 which was introduced in the 2018 legislative session at a press conference.  However, the leadership immediately ‘kicked the can’ down the road in this election year and created a study ‘Commission’. I favored action in 2018, since this had already been studied from the fall of 2016 through early 2018 with the Ethics Commission, defense lawyers, and various parties interested in and subject to the Ethics Act. It was time for action in 2018, but election year politics prevailed. As Attorney General I would have rejected participation in the “Commission” and stood with the strong HB343 to protect the people who are tired of special interest receiving special treatment in Montgomery.

While the Alabama Attorney General’s office is one of the state’s largest legal offices, it has been a common practice for AGs to outsource lucrative legal work to politically connected law firms. The firms often then contribute large sums to the AG’s campaigns for reelection or higher office. Is this an example of the AG using the powers of the office for personal benefit? If so, how will you make changes to this practice?

Alabama lawmakers tried to address this concern in 2013 by adopting a more transparent contracting process (Alabama Code 41-16-72) requiring the AG to make a “determination of necessity” that any outsourced legal work was both cost-effective and in the public interest. The legislature enacted this law following reports that former AG King’s retained a private law firm in the BP oil spill litigation under a lucrative contingency fee contract. AG Strange cancelled that contract in 2011, reportedly allowing the state to recover an additional $130+ million instead of it going to the private law firm.

Outsourcing can create the problematic optic of a private firm being rewarded, and empowered with the powers of the office, for political support.  I have that concern with the February 2018 contract entered by AG Marshall with two private firms in the opioid litigation. The bare bone statements of why the contract was necessary, combined with the large contributions made by those firms engaged to AG Marshall’s campaign just months before this contract, illustrate the questions these contracts can raise and the wisdom behind the 2013 law.

When I served as Chief Deputy AG, several firms approached the office about contingency contracts to sue corporations on behalf of the state. The AGO did not enter such contracts instead opting to use in house expertise to represent the state and maximize recovery to the state. As AG, if I determined outsourcing would provide the best representation for the state in a cost-effective manner, my administration would provide a detailed “determination of necessity” document for public review.

Ethics and Economic Development

Alabama House Bill 317 exempts certain economic developers from being required to register as lobbyists and drew heated discussion across the state this past legislative session. Is this exemption, in your opinion, as innocuous as proponents claim or likely to lead to abuse as opponents suggest?

In my opinion this exemption is likely to lead to abuse. I objected to HB317 when it was introduced and outlined my concern that lobbyists will exempt themselves from the Alabama Ethics Law merely by calling themselves ‘economic development professionals’. Likewise, principals may call themselves ‘economic development professionals’ to try to muddy the waters as to how the law applies to them.  With no definition of an ‘economic development professional’, no educational requirements, and no credentialing body provided by this law, as well as the extension of the exemption to ‘less than full-time’ economic development professionals, the exemption is a glaring ‘red flag’ carve out to benefit special interests. It removes their activities from the needed transparency and accountability of our ethics laws.  A narrow exception, for true economic site developers could have been developed, but it was not. Make no mistake, as a member of the Mike Hubbard prosecution team, I can attest that HB317’s enactment will make prosecuting public officials who corruptly take things of value from lobbyists or principals much more difficult.  It is fortunate that it sunsets in one year, but that also begs the questions why it was so needed.

INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

Campus Free Speech

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said there is “too much suppression of free and open speech on college campuses today.” Do you believe this is an issue in Alabama and, if so, how should the AG respond?

Students do not lose their freedom of speech upon entry to a college campus. While I have made no independent review of campus speech policies in Alabama, a review by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports finding restrictive policies on numerous campuses.  If unconstitutionally restricted speech policies exist the AG should respond by encouraging policy reform through campus policymakers, or by promoting legislation through the legislature.

Religious Liberty

Do you think that individuals and small business owners should be forced to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with anti-discrimination laws?

No. Religious freedom was a bedrock for our founding fathers and is a constitutionally recognized freedom that must be protected.

FEDERAL ISSUES

Federal Overreach

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott was the Lone Star State’s Attorney General, he made headlines by saying, “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and I go home.” What role should the AG take in fighting federal government overreach? Would you be willing to file suit—and use state resources—to prevent such overreach?

The role of the Alabama Attorney General is to employ the last line of defense for a state’s rights – the Tenth Amendment – when the federal government overreaches. As a principled federalist, I will protect our state’s rights by filing suit and using state resources if federal overreach occurs as it did during the Obama Administration in regards to immigration, environmental, and religious liberties issues.

Immigration

Many state attorneys general have sued the Trump administration for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. On May 2, 2018, Alabama joined six other states suing to end the program permanently. In your opinion, how effective is this form of joint action and how do you plan on upholding Alabama immigration law if executive action on the federal level runs contrary?

Joint action by states’ attorneys general can be very effective in persuading and educating the court.  The Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal government has broad and exclusive power to regulate immigration, often preempting state and local laws that impact immigration issues. Any executive action that ran contrary to Alabama immigration law, but was permissible under federal authority would have to be carefully reviewed to determine if it violated the Tenth Amendment.

Opioid Epidemic

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As AG, how would you address Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

The opioid crisis is both a public health and a public safety issue. As a former registered nurse and prosecutor, I believe we must address this crisis through a multi-disciplinary approach involving education/prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. Our partners are medical providers, public health officials, legislators, faith-based community, educators and law enforcement.  In order to combat the crisis, I would continue efforts started in 2015 and provide leadership to execute the Governor’s State of Alabama Opioid Action.

Education: In 2015, as Chief Deputy AG, the AGO worked to educate prescribing partners that Alabama had an ‘over-prescribing problem’ with 2.4 active prescriptions for every man, woman and child in the state, the highest in the nation.  The AGO noted the lack of narcotic prescribing education, the lack of Prescription Data Monitoring Program (PDMP) utilization and the need for chronic pain management for those in need. I held meetings with medical and pharmacy board leaders and investigators in 2016,  and discussed proactive steps. In 2017, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners adopted new regulations, effective January 1, 2018, that require mandatory education for controlled substances certificates every two years and mandatory PDMP checks when prescribing certain amounts of opioids.

In 2016 I attended the National Association of Attorneys General’s (NAAG) 2-day Opioid Abuse: Consumer Protection and Enforcement Training, a course specifically designed to teach attorneys general staff, investigators, and other allied professional about opioid education and enforcement. We planned to bring this training to Alabama in 2017, before a change in leadership. Bringing this training to Alabama would be a top priority under my administration.

Treatment: As a former RN, I recognize Alabama needs additional drug treatment facilities to deal both with substance addiction and chronic pain management.  Opioid addiction treatment reportedly takes an estimated two-years and requires drug therapy.  We will need to make treatment available to those who need it and de-stigmatize the label of ‘addict’ in public conversations to encourage affected patients to seek help rather than turn to street drugs like heroin.  Facilitating these difficult conversations necessarily will involve public health officials, medical providers, lawmakers, the faith-based community, and educators.  As AG, I would partner with leaders in each of these groups and use all available resources to try and obtain additional funding through grant programs for the state.

Law Enforcement: Currently there is no tool to prosecute a prescriber who writes a prescription without a legitimate medical reason, i.e. a ‘pill mill’.  Legislation was proposed in 2016, but failed under industry pressure. This legislation is needed and would be a top legislative priority for 2019. The AG’s Office will also work to prosecute and support District Attorneys’ prosecution of individuals and organizations that traffic in heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids.

RULE OF LAW

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Would you support legislation that reforms the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

Yes, I would support legislative reform of Alabama’s civil asset forfeiture laws. I support the seizure of criminal ill-gotten gains where there is a criminal conviction.  However, in matters where there is no conviction or even a charge, reform of existing law would ensure that a presumption of ‘guilt’ does not flow to an innocent property owner.  There needs to be a protection of due process rights for innocent property owners and safeguards of transparency and reporting to protect against so-called ‘policing for profit’.

Prison Reforms

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

While this issue must ultimately be addressed by the Governor and Legislature, one prudent reform would be to expand drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans’ treatment courts to help relieve prison overcrowding while also improving access to much needed rehabilitation and treatment services.  While corrections and criminal justice reform experts are best qualified to formulate a strategic plan for prison reform, as AG my focus will be to ensure that any reform does not create a ‘‘catch and release’ environment that jeopardizes the safety of law abiding citizens. I often here local law enforcement say that with current ‘presumptive sentencing guidelines’ and the new Class D felony in Alabama, jail has become a ‘bus stop’ and street criminals know that they will not be held accountable under the current prison reform scheme. While I am not opposed to community corrections programs, diversion programs, and re-entry programs, my principal mission as AG will be to evaluate any changes to the prison system in terms of their impact on community safety.

I do not categorically oppose private prisons; however, Alabama should be cautious in light of the pros and cons experienced by other states who have experimented with private prisons.

Gaming

In its 2009 Cornerstone decision, the Alabama Supreme Court held that local laws in Alabama legalizing “bingo” games for the benefit of churches and other charities authorized only the old fashioned, or “traditional” game commonly known by that name.  The Court upheld this interpretation of Alabama’s constitution multiple times over seven years after Cornerstone. In light of the Alabama Supreme Court’s decisions on this issue, should casinos—like the ones operating in Macon and Greene Counties—be allowed to operate as they are today?  Explain your answer in detail, including whether you consider Alabama Supreme Court decisions on matters of Alabama law to be “the law of the land.”

The Alabama Supreme Court has consistently interpreted the Alabama Constitution to ban gambling and made clear that any exception to the ban based on a local amendment, like amendments that allow the playing of bingo in certain counties, must be narrowly interpreted.  Since the Alabama Supreme Court is the highest court of this state, its rulings are the law of the land.  As AG it would be my job to enforce the law consistent with those rulings. Accordingly, if a casino in Alabama is engaged in illegal gambling, I would take appropriate action to enforce the law.

In 2009, the Governor of Alabama appointed a special task force to enforce the gambling laws of Alabama in the absence of any action by the then Attorney General to shut down or prosecute the operation of gambling machines in Macon, Greene and other counties.  This action by the Governor succeeded in shutting down casinos in these counties.  Should that enforcement action have been taken by the Attorney General instead of the Governor?

Yes, the enforcement action should have been taken by then AG King rather than Governor Riley.  The failure to act timely allowed the illegal activity to continue and proliferate, resulting in over 10 years of litigation in multiple counties in the state.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows certain Indian tribes, including the Poarch Creek, to conduct gaming operations on reservation land if such operations are permitted by the law of the state in which those reservations are located. Numerous Alabama Supreme Court decisions have been written arguing that electronic machines of the nature at issue are illegal under Alabama law. Should these machines continue to be permitted on Indian reservations within the State of Alabama? If elected Alabama Attorney General, would you work with the United States Attorney General to make sure that the all gambling laws, including federal law applicable to Indian reservations, are properly enforced?

The State of Alabama sued to stop electronic machines on Poarch Creek territory in federal court. On September 2, 2015, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the state had no jurisdiction to regulate gambling on the Poarch Creek reservation.  When elected I will work with United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ensure all gambling laws, including federal law applicable to Indian reservations, are properly enforced.

Dr. Will Boyd responds to Alabama lieutenant governor candidate questionnaire

(Boyd Campaign)

Dr. Will Boyd, the Democrat nominee for lieutenant governor, recently responded to the questionnaire prepared by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. His answers are below.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you lead as lieutenant governor?

Boyd: My political philosophy would likely be described as pragmatic as I consider myself a practical progressive. As Lieutenant Governor, I will put people over politics—concerning myself with the needs of all Alabamians versus a political platform. My compassion would lead me to work tirelessly to help every Alabamian seeking work get employment. My empathy would fuel my drive to expand Medicaid, protect of the Education Trust Fund many Alabamians depend on, and work towards a fairer tax system that does not unfairly burden low- and middle-income families while providing tax breaks for the rich.

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How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

Over the past ten years alone, I have strongly supported policies that benefit those I was elected to serve or seek to serve. As an elected official, I listened to the concerns of voters on “both sides of the aisle” and supported projects or policies that provided for the needs of the many—even if it such support led to criticism from my own party.

What should be the role of the lieutenant governor?

While my campaign motto is “leading Alabama forward,” my aim is to “be number one at serving as number two.” Said differently, I want to employ my servant-leadership experience as a pastor and public servant to support the Governor in leading the State of Alabama with the understanding that my role is to serve as president of the Senate and make nearly four hundred appointments to more than one hundred and sixty agencies, boards, and commissions. Of course, I am prepared to step in at any time and serve as Alabama’s chief servant and executive should the Governor be rendered unable to execute her of his duties.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

I believe the most challenging issue facing families in Alabama is still racial inequality. A lack of inclusion has resulted in many Alabamians being left behind. Unemployment rates are higher in African American communities. Many people of color are without healthcare and continue to be locked up disproportionately to their counterparts. On the campaign trail, I have noticed that predominately African-American communities have been left to tackle some of the most complicated environmental issues that have disgracefully and unethically been caused by chemical spills, toxic dumping, and infrastructure deficiencies that resemble those of developing countries. 

Lack of environmental cleanup and protection has purportedly resulted in central organ complications, exposure to carcinogenic materials, nausea, and death. All of these problems could easily be remedied by legislators and the government agencies working to provide every Alabamian with a fair shot to achieve the American dream—no matter the color of skin.

As Lieutenant Governor, I will not only use my bully pulpit to advocate for high speed rail to improve the odds of job acquisition or an educational lottery that will help provide needed funding to public schools, I will also advocate for broadband and more mobile towers in the black belt. I will work tirelessly to ensure that STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math jobs) are not reserved for Alabama’s biggest metropolitan areas; but, I will fight to make sure these STEAM jobs are also available in the rural areas of Alabama. After all, there is no reason why any Alabamian who wants to work should live in poverty, be too far from a good public school, or be without affordable healthcare.

ETHICS

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Alabama receives a D+ grade for integrity. When the state is in the national news, it is often because of a lack of ethical behavior by state officials or candidates. How would having you as Lieutenant Governor improve our state’s image nationally and, more generally, what suggestions do you have to ensure integrity throughout the state government?

In the absence of exemplary leadership in the “highest offices” of the State of Alabama, I believe we need to restore public trust through ethics reform. The recent controversies surrounding moral failures in all three of Alabama’s branches of government have presented the state with a greater need for demonstration of ethical behavior and social responsibility. I strongly believe that leadership derailment often occurs as there is a lack of articulation of values and beliefs or no demonstration of the same.

Public trust cannot be restored by state officials and candidates by simply placing religious monuments around government buildings or even running political advertisements with candidates holding The Bible in hand. Public trust will not simply be restored with an influx of “religious” leaders into government. As a bishop and professor, I believe that ethics reform involves much more than posting codes of conduct and ethics in the chambers and halls of government or demanding more transparency. I strongly believe, and argue as much in my publications, that public trust in our state officials and candidates will come as we, state candidates and officials, embody the highest levels of ethical responsibility and engage in exemplary leadership practices which ultimately look out for the well-being of all Alabamians.
As the thirty-first Lieutenant Governor of Alabama, I will work to restore public trust, character and integrity statewide by:

— Pushing for reforms which lead to ethical and social audits of government offices.
Ensuring that state officials, like business executives of for-profit organizations, are socially-conscious of the concerns of the citizens, employees and all (domestic and foreign) who stand to gain or lose from the decisions they make.

— Encouraging government offices and agencies to benchmark their ethics and behavior to those of world-class providers of goods and services.

— Encouraging all elected officials to become critically reflective of their own actions in public and “behind closed doors”, seeking feedback from the citizens and promoting higher levels of their accountability to the people which elected them to serve our state and nation.

As Lieutenant Governor, you will be responsible for appointing more than 400 people to state positions. How can Alabamians be sure that you will appoint qualified and experienced candidates and not simply supporters from current or previous electoral campaigns?

Nepotism and “pay to play” tactics have rendered Alabama officials vulnerable to bribery, corruption, and other unethical practices. As an administrator, manager, executive and overseer working within for-profit and nonprofit organizations, I am required to ensure that job applicants possess the right skills and qualifications to fill job vacancies. Committed to the overarching goals of the organizations I served, I never have or will appoint anyone who is not qualified or experienced. Neither will I appoint someone solely on their current or previous connections to my electoral campaigns. As Lieutenant Governor, I will be held responsible for every appointment I make. Therefore, I am committed to seeking out the most qualified and experienced woman or man—no matter his or her race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education,and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

While serving in higher learning, I had the pleasure of serving as Dean of Student Success while also teaching Business Management. My responsibilities included oversight of career services and providing professional assistance for student success. I have a passion for preparing students for educational success and connecting them to the right people to help improve job acquisition. I know many Alabama educators share my beliefs. 

I believe Alabama has the best administrators and educators; however, our legislators have not chosen to make funding of public education a priority. We cannot spend more money on housing a prisoner than educating a child in public school system and expect to succeed. We cannot raid our Educational Trust Fund or allow tax credit scholarship programs to pour money into schools where financial assistance is not needed.

My four year-old just graduated from a Pre-Kindergarten program. She was truly blessed to have the opportunity to matriculate through such a program; however, every four year-old in Alabama should be afforded the same opportunity without respect to level of household income. Pre-K must be fully funded statewide and this could be achieved through an Educational Lottery. As it relates to public education reforms, Alabama needs to rethink how it provides education.

I am a product of both traditional “brick-and-mortar” and nontraditional “brick-and-click” schools of higher learning. I want Alabamians to be afforded the same opportunities to become continuous learners. While there are nearly seventy-five thousand Alabamians out of work, there are more than thirty thousand jobs that have remained unfilled because of a lack of the right skillsets. We don’t need to teach students to test. We need to introduce students to learning experiences and programs that prepare them for changing economies and global marketplaces. We need to invest in STEM and STEAM programs. We need to explore ways to improve both our pedagogy (educating of children) and andragogy (educating of adults).

As Lieutenant Governor, I intend to introduce Alabama to my “Blue and Gold” program that brings educators together with blue collar workers to ensure that students are able to find more jobs in the private sector upon completion of high school and community college while also readjusting blue color workers for a greener economy through trade readjustment.

In order to move Alabama forward, we need to rethink how we prepare inmates for reentry into society and the workforce. We must introduce postsecondary learning to prisons to reduce recidivism. As we are increasing Alabama Department of Corrections salaries, we need to also raise the salaries of teacher to the level of a living wage. It is sad that our educators have to work two or more jobs to reach a living wage.

Having served as a Dean of Student Success for a private college, I propose that state educators in primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools partner together to:

— Identify ways to better engage all students and parents through targeted electronic messages or social networks such as Facebook,

— Find ways to help the financially at-risk successfully persist to graduation,

— Help students discover their strengths or areas of interest sooner,

— Provide psychological counseling to students who willfully disrupt the learning experience or purposefully do not engage in the classroom,

— Create special summer college prep programs for first generation college students,
Connect college students to the right people and resources within their community to improve the chances of job acquisition in the State of Alabama,

— Benchmark test performance against similar sized communities in the state in efforts to provide continuous improvement and hire the best teachers and administrators,

— Provide Career Services support to all juniors and seniors in High School and College (i.e. resume and cover letter training, graduate school and career advising, transportation to job fairs, and access to internship/job posting databases), and

— Create a nonprofit State Board of Education Counselors similar to the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) dedicated to education and career advising.

Through these collaborative efforts, I believe Alabama will see:

— Students will be able to sooner discover the places they can go with their interest, hobbies (ultimately leading to a more satisfied workforce),

— A decrease in class interruptions and fewer altercations with teachers and other students (on and off campus, including gang-related activities),

— Students/Parents finding it less needful to seek out private schools outside their own communities,

— Elementary, Middle and High School educators gaining a better understanding the effectiveness of their teaching pedagogy, perhaps even better understanding the educational challenges for students in a geographical region,

— Improved retention (and satisfaction) of students attending community, private and public colleges as there is less “run around” required to register for classes or gain access to services needed on campus,

— Better prepared job seekers (the best prepared are likely to acquire the best paying jobs), and
Improved retention of Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

EDUCATIONAL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should educational choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

The Alabama State Department of Education has published findings that a number of public schools have, over many years, failed to make their Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals. National Assessment of Academic Progress (NAEP) data has also reflected somber proficiency levels in math, science and reading for elementary students. Having the choice of a public charter school has been well received by many as research has reflected public charter schools have a positive effect on college success indicators like ACT scores and graduation rates. 

At first glance, it seems appealing to provide parents and students with more choices to control educational endeavors. Regrettably, the policy issues regarding educational choice in Alabama should carefully be considered. While the assumption that spending more money public students has been hotly debated, it is a fact that tax-credit scholarships, intended to provide thousands of students in failing school districts with increased funding, have gone to a high number of students who are not even enrolled in failing schools.

While Alabama should offer its educators compensation that is comparable or even more favorable than other states, the legislature should ensure that education options like tax credit scholarships are not being used merely to provide individuals and business with financial incentives at the expense of Alabama’s public school system. I believe that public schools should be at the heart of every Alabama community. Every Alabama child deserves access to a quality school—no matter the geographical location.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would you propose be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

Alabama has an upside-down tax system that is unfair. It is regressive because lower income earners pay more in sales taxes than higher income earners. Proportional income taxes, though viewed as fair to some, don’t offset the revenues lost to the tax breaks provided to higher income earners and businesses that do not pay their fair share in taxes. The wage gains of low- and middle-class Alabamians cannot keep pace with inflation. Even worse, Alabama’s tax system fails to keep pace with the State’s needs as 57% of the top fifth of income earners only pay 44% of the state and local taxes collected.

In order for Alabama to avoid structural deficits, I propose that Alabama takes a serious look at moving to a proportional and progressive tax system that will fairly tax all Alabamians rather than saddling the cost of Alabama services to the backs of low- and middle-income households. Some feel it would be too difficult to make changes in the Alabama tax structure as it would require changes to the Alabama Constitution. However, as Lieutenant Governor, I support the following proposals presented by Arise Citizens’ Policy Project which includes:

— Increasing the personal exemption,

— Increasing the standard deduction,

— Increasing the dependent deduction,

— Making Alabama’s deductions and exemptions keep pace with annual cost of living increases,

— Create a state earned income tax credit, set at 10%, to help low-income working families offset the cost of high sales taxes, and

— Create a new rate structure.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

Alabama has a regressive state and local tax system. Alabama’s regressive tax system results in $100 in groceries costing $110. Regressive state and local taxes hit low- and middle-income families hardest in Alabama as much of their income is spent on goods that are taxed at this high rate. When elected Lieutenant Governor, I will work hard to support any legislation that seeks to do away with the grocery tax. Alabama remains one of less than a handful of states that fully tax groceries. There is no reason why Alabama should tax low-income families even deeper into poverty.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi – has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?  

While Alabama’s roads and bridges have been ranked as 16th and 21st in the country, respectively, much of our infrastructure is outdated. Alabama needs broadband, energy, transportation, water, and wastewater infrastructure updates.

Alabama needs to modernize its infrastructure with prioritization being placed on broadband service. It is awful that there are areas of the state where there is no mobile phone reception, no broadband and concern about clean drinking water. Kids can’t search the internet for nontraditional learning at home as their parents have to visit local restaurants with Wi-Fi just to complete job applications. How can we expect businesses to be attracted to these areas to infuse more money for infrastructure improvements?

While Alabama roads and bridges will always be under construction, I believe it is time legislators progressively look to investing in high speed rail to provide Alabamians with greater access to employment opportunities while also lessening the amount of traffic on state roads and bridges. Each year, Alabama leaves millions in federal funding on the table each year by not investing in a high speed intercity rail system like other states. A high speed rail project in Alabama could create more than 20,000 permanent jobs over a 10 years of construction, cause a rise in property values near stations, lower fuel emissions, and shorten commute between major cities.

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

I support a state-run lottery—especially an education lottery as Alabamians have expressed their frustration educating the children of Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. An educational lottery, restricted solely to educational use, would help fully-fund pre-K, invest more in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math programs that better prepare students for job acquisition, help provide public schools more wraparound services, and help provide teachers with salaries competitive with other states.

FEDERAL DEPENDENCY

Alabama is currently the fourth most federally dependent state in the country. What do you think should be the federal government’s role in our state finances?

As previously mentioned regarding public transportation, Alabama needs to progressively work towards getting federal dollars to invest in infrastructure projects like high speed rail that will move the state forward. While other states receive an average of one quarter of their budgets from the federal government, Alabama receives nearly forty percent. This equates to two dollars from the federal government for every five dollars Alabama spends. While Alabama depends on this funding to support basic services, we need to be more progressive and consider looking for more matching grants and funding for infrastructure improvements. While I support the federal government’s role in supplying federal grants, I believe Alabama needs to do a better job identifying opportunities to contribute more to federal programs that provide “matching dollars “back to the state.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As lieutenant governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

While I oppose disproportionate tax cuts, I believe tax rate reductions can lead to economic expansion. I support increasing the money supply at state and local levels. I also support tax increment financing and offering incentives to businesses to attract them to Alabama.

“Leading Alabama forward” requires supporting our workforce, especially our manufacturers. We need sound policies, modernization of infrastructure (including broadband in rural areas), detangling of regulations, education of the next generation of manufacturing, developing alternative energy sources, promotion of global trade, and even provision of tax incentives to businesses that truly provide job creation in areas where economic growth has been nonexistent.

Having served as a city councilman and an assistant adjunct professor of Business Management, I know the effectiveness of offering incentives to attract businesses to an area seeking economic development; however, I believe a better way of attracting a good workforce is ensuring that these communities seeking economic development have great education systems to attract a good workforce.

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

I am a “Friend of Labor.” I seek to be a strong voice for Alabama’s Working Families. I know from experience that organized Labor is one of the keystones of our Democracy. I will fight for Alabama’s working families as Lieutenant Governor by standing in solidarity with Labor to strengthen and defend worker’s rights to organize and bargain collectively. I will demand economic freedom for Alabama’s working families as support an increase in the Federal Minimum Wage to achieve a Realistic Living Wage. I have pledged to stand with Labor on the issues of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Employee Free Choice Act, Banning Striker Replacement, Davis-Bacon, Safety Standards and Fair Trade. I have been regarding as a “friend of Labor” who will fight for Alabama’s working families. I will stand with Labor to demand that the exporting of jobs overseas be stopped and that more good paying jobs are created here in Alabama.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

Occupational licenses benefit consumers by insuring that products or services are offered with quality and safety. While occupational licensing is needed for practitioners in higher skilled occupations, Alabama has requirements for licenses in over 150 different occupations, presenting barriers and hurdles for practitioners like auctioneering, barbers, locksmiths, manicurists, massage therapists, and other fields. These fees, erect barriers and exact burdens for people seeking to enter professions that provide services to Alabamians.

Acquisition of occupational licenses has been estimated to cost Alabamians over $80 million annually. It has also been estimated that Alabamians working in occupations requiring these licenses collectively pay $30 million annually just to maintain licensing. The fees can prevent Alabamians from entering certain occupational fields and ultimately get passed on to customers—driving up the cost of either of the services provided by these 151 different licensed occupation workers.

As Lieutenant Governor, I would work to reform occupational licensing. I would encourage more use of certification rather than licensing. Certification would allow more Alabamians pay an upfront fee for initial training and allow trained individuals to work within their fields without the burden of licensing fees that have been proven to be disproportionately unfair to low-income and minorities seeking work. Alabama has nearly 75,000 people out of work and 900,000 living in poverty. Changes in licensing laws alone could provide more Alabamians an opportunity to find work to improve their quality of life.

Interestingly, occupational licensing can be harmful in areas dealing with disasters. Without emergency declarations for occupational licensing, immediate healthcare can be delayed. Long term, reconstruction can be delayed in the aftermath of a disaster like tornados. For the many reasons provided above, Alabama needs to scale back licensing regulations that impede Alabamians from working and ultimately pass higher costs of services provided on the Alabama customers who may ultimately elect to do the job themselves rather than investing in Alabama’s economy.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As lieutenant governor, how would you help the governor tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

According to the Center for Disease Control, Alabama has seen more prescriptions filled than people living in the state. In 2015, one study reflected that 5.8 million opioids were prescribed in our state that has a population of 4.8 million. In 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses as an even greater number of Alabamians are suffering from addiction. As lieutenant governor, I will help the governor tackle Alabama’s share of this national crises by supporting priorities which include: 1) overhauling Alabama’s prescription monitoring system, 2) providing addicts treatment programs versus incarceration, and 3) working to provide medication that prevent the effects of opioid and overdose. While these are remedial efforts as they offer assistance after addiction, I would support efforts to also facilitate more behavioral and educational research that leads to prevention of opioid addiction for those suffering from chronic pain and are on opioid analgesics due to injuries sustained by way of trauma.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As lieutenant governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

For too long, candidates have campaigned on being “tough on crime” without providing away to prepare inmates for reentry into society or lower recidivism. Furthermore, these same politicians have made way for “pipe ways to prison.” As legislators entertain the privatization of prisons, even more people are concerned with housing prisoners rather than preventing crime.

I’m concerned about Alabama’s prison overcrowding and lack of adequate correctional and mental-health staff. Some of these problems could be addressed with “fairer sentencing,” more investment in mental health treatment, more reentry preparation, and increased pay for Alabama Department of Corrections employees.

This year, it has already been announced that the Alabama Department of Corrections is cutting the amount of money it spends on drug rehabilitation, making prisons weaker and less productive in their mission to reform prisoners so they do not return to criminal activities upon their release.

In conclusion, I believe changes in the economy can have more pronounced effects on crime rates than incarceration. I also believe providing postsecondary learning “behind bars,” even to those with only elementary education levels, can significantly reduce recidivism and improve reintegration into society.

Commissioner Twinkle Cavanaugh responds to Alabama lieutenant governor candidate questionnaire

(Twinkle Campaign)

Twinkle Cavanaugh, president of the Alabama Public Service Commission and a candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, recently responded to the questionnaire prepared by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. Her answers are below.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you lead as lieutenant governor?

Cavanaugh: Since casting my first vote for Ronald Reagan in 1984, I’ve embraced the conservative principles of smaller government and fiscal responsibility. As a born-again Christian, I believe that elected officials are called to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.  There is no higher calling in public service than keeping a careful watch over every single cent sent to the government.  I want all state agencies to follow the example we set at the Public Service Commission by examining their budgets line by line and eliminating wasteful spending.

Since last January, I have traveled well over 50,000 miles on my personal vehicle while meeting, speaking with, and listening to thousands of Alabamians. I strongly believe that Alabama’s brightest days are ahead and am firmly committed to bringing this positive vision to fruition.

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How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

I brought my conservative principles to the PSC where I led by example, cutting staff by 38% without firing anyone, reducing the number of state cars by 59%, turning down a state car for myself, and shrinking my personal office space by 2/3. Over the past 7 years, I have “rightsized” the PSC and reduced overall spending by 30%. This has saved the taxpayers over $50 million and will continue to save our state over $10 million annually. In 2017 alone, the PSC returned a record $13 million to the general fund.

No one knows the true magnitude of wasteful spending across state government right now.  As Lieutenant Governor, I will make it my mission to give the people of Alabama a full accounting of all state agencies.  Once we know where we stand, we can go in and rightsize like we did at the PSC.  We have critical challenges facing our state, and we must ensure we are spending all tax dollars properly.

What should be the role of the lieutenant governor?

I understand the role of the Lieutenant Governor in helping move our state forward.  Besides calling the balls and strikes in the Senate, the Lieutenant Governor’s job is much like being a second-string quarterback.  I am committed to helping the leadership triangle of the Governor, Senate President Pro Tem, and Speaker of the House succeed.  We need someone that will work with these leaders to advance a conservative, pro-jobs agenda.  Whether it is going on a 67-county tour to speak in support of the conservative agenda or assisting the governor with industrial recruitment, I will help the team move our great state forward.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

Abortion is the most heinous social problem of our time. I am staunchly pro-life and strongly believe that abortion is murder. I went door-to-door campaigning for President Trump because I knew that the balance of the Supreme Court and the lower appellate courts was at stake. By defeating Hillary Clinton and ensuring conservative, pro-life judges are appointed, we are close to Roe v. Wade being a thing of the past. We, as conservatives, must continue to proudly fight for the unborn, from grassroots activism all the way to public policy changes. I support legislative and executive actions that reduce and ultimately end abortion; we must continue to think outside of the box to save lives.

I am proud to have the endorsement of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List and view it as a moral duty to stand up for my pro-life values at every opportunity.

ETHICS

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Alabama receives a D+ grade for integrity. When the state is in the national news, it is often because of a lack of ethical behavior by state officials or candidates. How would having you as Lieutenant Governor improve our state’s image nationally and, more generally, what suggestions do you have to ensure integrity throughout the state government?

First, Governor Ivey should be applauded for steadying the ship of state and making us proud of our leadership team once again. I want to help continue the charge to restore Alabama’s image and rebuild trust in state government. We live in a state brimming with potential, full of smart, hardworking, God-fearing people; and there isn’t anything we can’t do when we put our minds to it. But people are tired of the surprises and embarrassments from politicians who say one thing and then do another. We deserve leaders who don’t just talk the talk- we need leaders who prove themselves through their actions.

I have led by example at the PSC, where we passed the strongest ethics package in commission history right after I was first elected (before the state legislature took up ethics changes). Public servants are elected to serve, not be served. That’s the philosophy I have followed and will continue to follow. Ultimately, it is hard to fully legislate ethics; you need to have trust in the elected person’s intentions. I still remember what my dad told me when I was first elected: “Twinkle, you’ve always paid your own way. You buy your own breakfast and your own supper. You pay for your own car and expenses. Don’t let being elected change anything about you or how you live your life.” I’ve taken that to heart, and to this day, I don’t accept anything from anyone except publicly disclosed campaign contributions- not even a cup of coffee.

Strong ethical leaders are also key for economic growth. Businesses need integrity, predictability, and certainty to succeed, not instability.

As Lieutenant Governor, you will be responsible for appointing more than 400 people to state positions. How can Alabamians be sure that you will appoint qualified and experienced candidates and not simply supporters from current or previous electoral campaigns?

Through my experience serving as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, along with my time spent fighting in the trenches for conservative causes, I have developed relationships in all 67 counties. It is important that the next Lieutenant Governor have statewide networks to lean on when vetting and ultimately selecting people for these hundreds of important boards and commissions. We have a big state, full of knowledgeable stakeholders. Our leaders have a responsibility to pick candidates who will help move our state forward, and I am committed to utilizing my background in small business and public service to accomplish this.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

We’ve made progress in some areas, but there’s so much more to do when it comes to education. We aren’t just competing against other states anymore.  We must continue investing in pre-K and early elementary education while at the same time giving our children a strong finish.

By 2020, 62% of available jobs in Alabama will require some type of post-secondary education.  I like to call this the “13thgrade.”  Whether it is a certificate, credential, 2-year college degree, or a 4-year degree, our children will need to compete for quality, high-paying jobs.  Right now, only 37% of our workforce meets this criterion.  This is nowhere near good enough, so focusing on a strong finish to our children’s education is much-needed for not only our families but Alabama’s economy, too.

For some of our students, that means a college degree from one of our world-class colleges or universities, but for many, it means getting a technical certification or job training. Workforce development programs, technical schools, public-private partnerships, and dual enrollment programs with local community colleges will prepare our children for good, high-paying jobs and make Alabama an attractive place to start or grow a business. The bottom line is that each child should be equipped for and allowed to choose his or her own path to success.

EDUCATIONAL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should educational choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

For far too long, Alabama has ranked nearly last in the country in education.  Our children are our most valuable resources, and they deserve nothing less than the absolute best.  As a former teacher, I know that it is well past time that we turn things around and compete for number one instead of settling for forty-seventh.  We need an educational renaissance in our state, and every option at our disposal should be utilized- including school choice.  We need to ensure that our public education system is top-notch. Public education must be properly funded, including treating and paying our teachers as the true professionals they are. However, when an area’s public school is failing the community and its students, we cannot let a generation of children suffer. School choice is a vital safety net- an oasis in the system in which at-risk students can excel. The competition that charter, private, parochial, and vocational schools provide is also useful in pushing public schools to higher standards.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would you propose be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

My background in public service informs my core belief that government should do the best job with the least amount of money. Having owned a small business, I have signed both sides of a paycheck and understand that Alabamians already send enough of their hard-earned money to Montgomery.  I served as the State Director of Citizens for a Sound Economy, helping to push President George W. Bush’s tax cuts through Congress. Alabama families can, and deserve to, spend their own money better than Montgomery can.

I’m also proud of my work over the last seven years at the PSC in helping to keep taxes low. I work with great commissioners and employees who are as dedicated as any public servants and employees I’ve ever known.  I’ve asked a lot of them as we’ve trimmed the fat in our budget and slashed expenses by 32% – or $3.2 million annually. Every dollar we save at the PSC allows the state legislature to appropriate those dollars to other areas of need, like infrastructure, education, mental health, and law enforcement.  As a result, our savings at the PSC help keep taxes and fees as low as possible in Alabama.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

I’ve said it before, but I cannot stress enough how much President Trump’s tax cuts are helping our state.  This is one of the core reasons why I went door-to-door campaigning for him. Recently, these massive tax cuts allowed us at the PSC to return $337 million back to Alabama Power ratepayers over the next two years alone. I will support tax cuts whenever possible. The more money back in the pockets of hardworking Alabamians, the better.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi – has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?  

Infrastructure is the backbone of commerce.  So many of our roads and river ways need work.  And it is our duty to provide job creators with high speed connectivity, low-cost electricity, and a dependable network of roads, bridges, and waterways, so they can thrive and create new jobs.

When I grabbed the reins of the PSC, we had 119 employees. I undertook a careful analysis and learned we could do the same job, probably better than ever before, if we sharpened our staff and reduced the headcount. Without firing a single employee, the PSC now has 72 employees, down more than 39% from when I got there. As employees retired or took other positions outside of the commission, we reorganized, retrained, reduced our numbers, and remained laser focused on making sure the commission continued its inspections and regulatory functions without missing a beat. We are saving $10 million annually because of the rightsizing we’ve done at the commission, without sacrificing our pipeline and railway safety duties.  Imagine the money we can save throughout state government if all agencies did the same thing- there is untold money being wasted every year that should be going to much needed priorities like infrastructure. Until we do a full accounting throughout state government, we will not know how much money we have in Montgomery to invest in infrastructure.

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

As Lieutenant Governor, I believe that my role in the State Senate is to be the “umpire” calling the balls and strikes. People across Alabama elect their legislators to represent them in the House and the Senate, and their voices deserve to be heard fairly and fully on all issues.  If the legislature votes to send a lottery bill to the people as a constitutional amendment, it will be the people of Alabama who get the final say.

FEDERAL DEPENDENCY

Alabama is currently the fourth most federally dependent state in the country. What do you think should be the federal government’s role in our state finances?

Federal funding is extremely important to our state, but we cannot allow ourselves to be tied into knots by the strings often attached to these funds.  I believe that we need to take full advantage of the Trump Administration’s conservative policies, including any matching money that could soon become available for infrastructure. It is our tax dollars that help fund the federal government, so we need to do everything possible to bring this money back to Alabama from D.C.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As lieutenant governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

As your Lieutenant Governor, I will make job creation my number one priority and do everything I can to create an environment where small businesses, farmers, and large corporations can grow and thrive, so that everyone can get a quality, high-paying job of their choice.

By focusing on these five pillars of growth, we will grow our economy and build a brighter future for Alabama families.

First, we need honest, capable leadership in government.  Businesses need integrity, predictability, and certainty to succeed, not instability.

Second, we need to fix Alabama’s infrastructure.  Infrastructure is the backbone of commerce.  So many of our roads and river ways need work.  And it is our duty to provide job creators with high speed connectivity, low-cost electricity, and a dependable network of roads, bridges, and waterways, so they can thrive and create new jobs.

Third, Alabama must offer high-quality, affordable healthcare.  We do this by fully repealing Obamacare, eliminating waste and fraud, and putting doctors and patients in charge, not bureaucrats.  We must end healthcare mandates and continue to push back on federal over-reach, because Nancy Pelosi shouldn’t tell a doctor in Clarke County how to do his or her job.

Fourth, we need regulatory reform.  Government doesn’t create jobs, businesses do. So, government needs to get “out of the way” and let job creators do what they do best.  Government needs to start moving at the speed of business and end burdensome regulations.

Finally, we must fix our education system.  We’ve made progress, but there’s so much more to do. We aren’t just competing against other states anymore, we are part of a modern economy.  We must invest in pre-K and early elementary education while at the same time giving our children a strong finish.  Workforce development is absolutely key to economic development.

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

Simply put, I want Alabama to be the most business-friendly and worker-friendly state in America. We currently have tremendous working relationships between organized labor and business management, and we need to keep it that way.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

We need a one-by-one audit of all occupational licenses in our state. Frivolous regulation hinders job creation and economic growth, holding our state back. President Trump understands this, and that’s why our national economy is booming.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As lieutenant governor, how would you help the governor tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

The Lieutenant Governor should work with the Governor and the Attorney General at every turn to help end this devastating epidemic. We have seen constructive initial steps with informed stakeholders putting their heads together on the Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council. Now, we must keep pushing and change the culture in our state regarding opioids. I will support the Council’s efforts in every way possible as Lieutenant Governor.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As lieutenant governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose? 

I strongly oppose sanctuary cities and illegal immigration and support securing our border- including President Trump’s Wall. As a mom and a grandmother, safety is at the top of my priority list. Our children and grandchildren deserve the best, and safety must come first. We need to hold dangerous criminals responsible to the fullest extent of the law, and rehabilitate non-violent offenders who can become productive citizens instead of a drain on our tax money.

State Sen. Rusty Glover responds to Alabama lieutenant governor candidate questionnaire

(Glover Campaign)

State Sen. Rusty Glover, a candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, recently responded to the questionnaire prepared by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. His answers are below.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you lead as lieutenant governor?

Glover: My political philosophy is for less government and less government intervention. I firmly believe that the least government is the best government. As Lt. Governor, I can influence legislation that will reflect a less government approach, one where the individual can flourish – free of the shackles of bureaucratic administration.

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How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

I sponsored legislation against common core in 2015 and 2016. This year I sponsored, and passed, a resolution (SJR101) to have Alabama adopt Daylight Savings Time permanently, which would be of enormous benefit for businesses in the state. As early as 2010, I sponsored legislation to allow health care providers, health care institutions, and health care payers the authority to refuse to perform or to participate in health care services that violated their conscience.

In 2016, the American Conservative Union gave me the “Award for Conservative Achievement,” due to my conservative voting record. Many would like to hide behind their voting record – I proudly submit it to the people of Alabama for their review.

What should be the role of the lieutenant governor?

The role of the Lt. Governor is to act only within the express powers given to the office by the Constitution of the State of Alabama of 1905. All other powers must come from the consent of the People of the State of Alabama. The Constitution of Alabama directs the Lt. Governor to preside, to maintain order and dignity, in the Alabama Senate.

A Lt. Governor with integrity will conduct the office in a manner as to avoid the embarrassments, conflicts, and altercations that have occurred in previous sessions. On the Senate floor, the Lt. Governor can allow for efficient consideration and passage of legislation for the people of the State of Alabama. The Lt. Governor is also charged with overseeing travel, and other administrative functions of the Legislature – where I can continue to save the people of Alabama money.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

I passionately believe that the breakup of the home – and children who are lacking guidance from parents – are the most pressing and challenging social issues facing Alabama families. Often the parents are not involved with the children’s education. I support Faith based initiatives – which are proven time and again to truly help families attain a better quality of life.

As someone who taught history in high school, I uniquely understand that, as a society, we need to get back to the basics of Alabama values – faith, family, and freedom. These are the ideas which are the foundation of our state, our people – and these are the values which can again best allow families to flourish.

ETHICS

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Alabama receives a D+ grade for integrity. When the state is in the national news, it is often because of a lack of ethical behavior by state officials or candidates. How would having you as Lieutenant Governor improve our state’s image nationally and, more generally, what suggestions do you have to ensure integrity throughout the state government?

As I stated in an earlier response, I believe that a Lt. Governor with integrity will conduct the office in a manner as to avoid the embarrassments, conflicts, and altercations of previous sessions. In the next session of the Legislature, Ethics Reform will come up. I want to be at the table to ensure that our Ethics laws are stronger.

I have a record of making stronger ethics laws a priority. In 2009, I sponsored and passed Senate Bill 274 that called for the manifest, destinations and any guests on the Governor’s airplane to be named and posted on the Governor’s website. As the only candidate in the race who has been in the Senate, I know the senate rules and I know how best to support ethics legislation that fosters transparency and clarity – and I also know how to best defeat the attempts to cut, water-down and harm ethics legislation.

As Lieutenant Governor, you will be responsible for appointing more than 400 people to state positions. How can Alabamians be sure that you will appoint qualified and experienced candidates and not simply supporters from current or previous electoral campaigns?

Alabama government can use all the transparency it can attain in every process. The integrity that I have exhibited in my years in the legislature will continue if I am elected Lt. Governor. As for appointees – I am fully committed to interviewing individuals for each position – selecting the best candidate based on credentials and qualifications.

To further transparency in the Lt. Governor’s office – I pledge and promise that my appointment calendar will be public information through the Lt. Governor’s website. This website will make my appointment calendar available to the public – and not just who I meet with, but also when I meet with them.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

I support streamlining a pipeline for high schools students to trade schools. It has been said that not all knowledge comes from college, but skill is always a matter of degree. The economy of tomorrow belongs to the skilled knowledge economy. Every child in Alabama should go through intensive STEM education. Smaller schools in rural areas deserve and need access to better courses, which can be delivered in a cost-effective manner through broadband technologies.

By encouraging a seamless transition between high school and community colleges, technical colleges and trade schools, while also supporting college and graduate degree retention, we can develop the kind of economic strength which will be the envy of the South. But this can only happen, if our K-12 schools are given the critical support they need in these trying times. Teachers and administrators need tools to improve discipline in schools.

For too long Montgomery elites, have not listened to the very ones who are charged with implementing reforms the legislature and government bureaucrats try to pass – and I should know, I was a teacher for 25 years. I will travel the state to hear from teachers and parents and administrators by hosting roundtables – and continue to gain insight for better legislation.

EDUCATIONAL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should educational choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

We all want higher graduation rates, and the way to that is through public charter schools which allow at risk students a better chance – allowing students to learn and teachers to teach. As a former teacher for 25 years, I appreciate the way Mobile County has implemented a public charter school for at-risk students. The proof is there – better results in grades and graduation rate exists. We’ve seen great results from this because charter schools like the one in Mobile County can head off problems, before they become overwhelming in the student’s and community’s life.

In addition to these specific charter schools, signature academies in Enterprise, Troy, and Mobile are meeting great success for our young people. These signature academies are giving our young people the critical experience they need to succeed, and succeed earlier – while also advancing their academic preparation, streamlining pathways to the workforce and filling workforce gaps sooner.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would you propose be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

I am not for any tax reforms which would call for a raise in taxes to pay for another’s tax cut.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

If the grocery tax is reduced, our budget is immediately $507 million short. When you reduce the grocery tax, the Legislature must make it up somewhere else – the revenue must be there. Therefore, any reform I would support must show that taxes will not be raised on anyone or anywhere else to pay for this tax cut.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi – has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?  

The knowledge economy, based in the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, demands a digital infrastructure. We started with the broadband bill, which can ensure a better quality of service, which will in-turn attract businesses to Alabama – and especially those areas of rural Alabama which needs jobs the most.

I do support President Trump’s infrastructure plan. Limited government best sees itself limited to proper roles, one of which is infrastructure. There are monies which should be going to the Alabama Department of Transportation, yet these monies are often spent on other agency shortfalls. This needs to stop. Honesty and transparency demands that we use dollars for their intended purpose. Coupled with President Trump’s infrastructure plan for roads, bridges, and ports, Alabama can jump start an economic engine – the benefits of which could last for generations.

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

The Lt. Governor, nor Governor, have a vote for any voter-approved lottery per the Constitution of Alabama. Having said that, I am opposed to a lottery funding our government, which happens at the expense of our most vulnerable.

I’m from a district which borders Mississippi. I’ve seen and heard the horror stories of how gambling has left more problems for families and children in its wake. Not only do families suffer, but small businesses also suffer as consumers spend money with the government lottery instead of buying locally – hurting the very ones who desperately need to see improved economic gains and growth.

FEDERAL DEPENDENCY

Alabama is currently the fourth most federally dependent state in the country. What do you think should be the federal government’s role in our state finances?

If Alabama wants to curb federal dependency, then we as its leaders must market Alabama – not to the special interests, but to those expanding businesses that recognize that our low taxes, willing workforce and right to work laws, create an environment of opportunity. Mercedes, Honda, and a host of other companies are helping us through better employment and higher returns on wages.

Of course, our position as a recipient state as opposed to a donor state from the federal government – puts us in an odd position, but I believe this can be overcome through better, smarter, and more effective economic expansion as more people work, and as we respond to the needs of a new economy.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As lieutenant governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

As the Lt. Governor, while the legislature is in session, I will gladly work with the Governor on economic recruitment, streamlining government, and seeking opportunity. While not in session, I will work with the Governor to meet with industries to get jobs here, to Alabama. Attracting the best and brightest people and businesses to Alabama must be a cornerstone of the Lt. Governor’s office.

As a pro-business leader, I see what our quality of life and low taxes at offers to businesses. Better digital broadband and physical infrastructure, coupled with cutting government bureaucracy and paperwork, will make small businesses grow – the true greatness of Alabama’s economic engine.

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

I believe that Alabamians were wise to put in our constitution that we are a right to work state – which has allowed us to recruit and attract more businesses. We only need to look to other states that do not have such laws and see the difference in growth and opportunity.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

I think that we need to intensely examine all occupational taxes and regulations – to ensure that there exists a clear benefit to the consumer. For many of these licenses, the benefit isn’t so clear – either for the consumer or for the business. Those should be eliminated quickly as government bureaucracy often stands in the way of economic growth. I pledge to work toward the elimination of business licenses by 20% every single year I’m in office.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As lieutenant governor, how would you help the governor tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis? 

The Lt. Governor must work with district attorneys and listen to their suggestions. I call for a total state plan. The opioid crisis we are in is not just the governor’s problem, a local problem, or a family problem. It’s an Alabama problem. Let’s get back to the basics of faith, family, and freedom – I see economic development as part of the solution, as one of the surest ways to defeat drugs in life is a job.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As lieutenant governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

Closing the border to illegal immigration is part of the solution. But here again, we must work in concert with the district attorneys, the Attorney General, State Troopers and city police forces. In order to propose legislation that will help solve the problem we must listen to the very ones charged with enforcement.

State Rep. Will Ainsworth responds to Alabama lieutenant governor questionnaire

(Ainsworth Campaign)

State Rep. Will Ainsworth, a candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor, recently responded to a questionnaire from the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. His responses are below:

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

 Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you lead as lieutenant governor?

Ainsworth: I am a deeply committed Christian Conservative, and my faith-based political philosophy guides all of my thoughts and decisions as a public servant.  I am also a straight shooter who opposes political double-talk and believes that the flawed doctrine of political correctness is a direct threat to the basic freedoms and liberties that our U.S. Constitution guarantees us.

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 How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

I am not a career politician.  I am currently serving my first term in the Alabama House, and my actions in office demonstrate my commitment to conservative principles. During the past four years I have focused my efforts on sponsoring term limits and recall legislation, championing pro-life measures, defending against liberal attacks on the Second Amendment, and fighting against federal intrusion with a 10th Amendment approach.

Unlike another candidate for lieutenant governor who campaigned in favor of Bob Riley’s massive Amendment One tax increase, I have worked with a group of fellow House conservatives to kill more than $1 billion in taxes over the past four years.  When Robert Bentley broke a re-election campaign promise by proposing almost $800 million in new taxes, I was among the first lawmakers to point out his deception and oppose his wrong-headed effort.

What should be the role of the lieutenant governor?

According to the 1901 Constitution, the lieutenant governor is responsible for presiding over the State Senate and stepping in if a governor leaves office, but I believe the office can be expanded to include other roles. As the second highest ranking constitutional officer in the state, the lieutenant governor has a natural bully pulpit that can be used to promote ideas, reforms, and policies that should be considered.  Because the lieutenant governor runs separately from the governor – unlike the president and vice president – these initiatives may be completely separate from those that the governor promotes.

I also believe that the lieutenant governor can play a much larger role in the economic development efforts of the state.  Responsibilities and duties require the governor to be largely tethered to the Capitol, but when the Legislature is not in session, the lieutenant governor may be utilized to meet with business leaders, foreign companies, and other prospects who show an interest in locating, investing, or expanding in Alabama.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

 I believe abortion is among the biggest social issues facing not only Alabama families but all people.  Abortion is murder.  Those three simple words sum up my position on the issue, which many falsely claim is a complex one.

 My mother, Sharon, is the director of the Real Life Crisis Pregnancy Center in Marshall County, and she uses that role to stress adoption as the proper response to unwanted pregnancies.  My father, Billy, is a man of deep and abiding faith who supports my mother’s mission and helped foster my relationship with Christ.

Earlier this year, I carried and passed legislation that provides a generous tax credit to families that adopt children whether in-state or out-of-state.  It is my hope that this incentive will provide a stable home and a caring family to children who simply want to be loved.

As a state legislator, I helped pass a constitutional amendment that will appear on the November ballot and declares Alabama to be a pro-life state so that we may stand ready to take action as soon as the abomination known as Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

When a surreptitiously recorded video showed representatives of Planned Parenthood cavalierly discussing the sale of unborn infant body parts as if they were a publicly traded commodity, my fellow lawmakers and I enacted the Unborn Infants’ Dignity of Life Act, which criminalizes such transactions in Alabama.

If we are going to win that war and preserve the traditional values and cornerstone morals upon which this nation was built, we must have leaders at all levels who have the courage to join the battle, the voice to win the debate, and the determination to keep fighting until victory is ours.

 ETHICS

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Alabama receives a D+ gradefor integrity. When the state is in the national news, it is often because of a lack of ethical behavior by state officials or candidates. How would having you as Lieutenant Governor improve our state’s image nationally and, more generally, what suggestions do you have to ensure integrity throughout the state government?

Those who steal from others to enrich themselves are criminals whether they wear a ski mask in a bank or a suit and tie in the Alabama State House.  That is why I spoke out against Mike Hubbard and Mickey Hammon and risked their punishment in return.  As a member of the House Health Committee, I was also among the first signers of the Articles of Impeachment that were filed against Robert Bentley.

Far too often, career politicians lose their perspective, become numb to corruption, and fall prey to the temptations that the political systems offers.  As a newcomer to public service, that is why I sponsored term limit legislation in the Alabama House, and it is why I’ll help ensure that politicians who engage in corruption will experience the inside of a jail cell.

During my term in the House, I have passed two ethics bills into law – one that strengthened the prohibition against double voting and another that tightened the revolving door barring public officials, state employees and others from resigning their jobs and immediately cashing in on their positions by becoming lobbyists.

As Lieutenant Governor, you will be responsible for appointing more than 400 people to state positions. How can Alabamians be sure that you will appoint qualified and experienced candidates and not simply supporters from current or previous electoral campaigns?

As I stated earlier, I am a devoted Christian Conservative who embraces a strict interpretation of the Constitution, free market ideas, and a faith-based political philosophy.  I will seek out and appoint those who share these ideas, beliefs, and traits.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

I witnessed firsthand the importance of Pre-K programs to a child’s development because my wife was a Pre-K teacher.  That’s why I’ll work to expand Alabama’s nationally-recognized First Class Pre-K program throughout Alabama.  I understand that exposure to voluntary Pre-K programs can often make the difference in whether a child later excels in school or falls behind.

 Watching my wife, Kendall, work with the children in her Pre-K program opened my eyes to its importance in a child’s development.  Studies have shown that if a child can read at grade level by third grade, they can maintain their progress until graduation, but if a child cannot read at level by that time, their chances of ever catching up drop dramatically.  That’s why I want to expand Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program and give our children a jump start when it comes to learning.  Believe it or not, Pre-K programs can pay dividends years later in terms of having a prepared workforce that can fill 21st Century jobs.

I want to place an emphasis on funding for career technical training and expanding its potential in our schools.  It’s a fact that not every child is going to go to college, and we need to make sure that those who don’t are adequately prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation, and career technical training is the key to that goal.  Even students who do attend college benefit from acquiring the skills that career tech can provide them in high school.  Schools in Marshall County, where I live, already offer programs in areas like cyber security and IT, and public school officials tell me there is a desperate need for advanced robotics courses, as well, but we lack the necessary equipment.  Training in the traditional trades also provides much-needed skills to fill the long-standing jobs that fewer and fewer individuals are prepared to fill.  Emphasizing, encouraging, and funding career technical training will greatly benefit our economic development efforts.

 If we really want to have the best schools in the country, we need to pay our educators like we want to have the best schools in the country.  It’s time we put as much emphasis on being successful in the classroom as we do on being successful on the football field, and the first step toward that goal is paying our teachers a wage that recognizes their efforts.

 EDUCATIONAL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should educational choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

Charter schools and the Alabama Accountability Act in its current form are not one-size-fits-all solutions to our education problems.  The Accountability Act doesn’t work for my home county of Marshall, for example, because we do not have the infrastructure to support it, and since our schools already perform well, we simply don’t need it. 

Charter schools, school choice, and similar ideas may work well in inner city school systems or underfunded systems, but they do not work well in areas where educators are succeeding and positive results are being produced.  We must find solutions to endemic public education problems, but we must not enact politics that harm areas where schools are performing well in an attempt to help areas where schools are failing. 

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

 In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would you propose be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

 The disparity you note is not related to Alabama’s income tax, but, rather, the state’s reliance on sales taxes for revenue. Because the drafters of the 1901 Constitution smartly required most tax increases to be ratified by voters, career politicians and special interests have largely relied on raising one of the few taxes that doesn’t require public approval – sales taxes.  As a result, more than 90% of Alabamians live in areas with total sale taxes of at least nine cents on the dollar.  The solution is to elect public officials like me who not only oppose new taxes but seek to cut them whenever possible.

 Alabama currently collects enough revenue to meet our needs and provide essential services, but our state government lacks the flexibility to shift money to meet emergencies and unexpected challenges.

 In years past, whenever a new tax was approved, its proceeds were earmarked for one specific purpose or another.  Some of these earmarks are constitutional, which means the voters, in their wisdom, dedicated the taxes to an agency, initiative, or spotlighted need during referendum elections. 

Many of Alabama’s statutory earmarks, however, were put in place many years ago through back room bargains between lobbyists and long-retired politicians who no longer roam the State House halls.  Removing these earmarks will allow us to avoid new taxes and set priorities based on need, not on decades-old, money-hoardingschemesthat lobbyists locked into our budgets.

At 91 percent, we have the highest percentage of earmarked tax dollars in the nation.  The national average is just 24 percent, and the next highest state behind Alabama is Michigan with 63 percent.  Rhode Island is the lowest in the United States with only 4 percent of its tax revenues being earmarked.

Attempting to raise taxes without first addressing earmarking is like pouring water into a bucket that has a large hole in the bottom of it.  No matter how much water you pour, the bucket is never going to fill up.  That is why I sponsored legislation that attempted to plug the hole in the bottom of the bucket first and prevent any more trips to the taxpayers’ well.

My bill would have removed the statutory earmarks that exist in our code, which would allow us the freedom to budget like families gathered at the kitchen table – placing our bills on one side, our income on the other, and setting priorities that meet critical needs while living within our means. 

Unfortunately, the same special interests that carved out those earmarks and the career politicians that do their bidding united against my legislation.  If elected, I plan to use the bully pulpit of the lieutenant governor’s office to make another push for commonsense, conservative unearmarking legislation.

 STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

I think the premise of your question is misleading because only 4% of the sales tax on groceries is controlled by the state, and the rest is levied by cities and counties at various levels.  In addition, Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax as part of his roughly $800 million tax increase proposal, which would have been a massive mistake to enact.

I support removing the grocery tax, but liberals have called for accomplishing this by repealing Alabamians’ ability to deduct their federal income taxes from their state taxes, which, in my opinion, would result in an overall tax increase on working families and allow income that taxpayers already sent to the federal government to be unfairly double-taxed by the state.

For any repeal effort to work, the state must prohibit cities and counties from raising taxes on groceries after the state has reduced them, or at least require a local referendum to be approved beforehand.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi – has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?  

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-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

I personally oppose a lottery because it preys on the poor, erodes our morals, and embraces risky fiscal policy.  Because a constitutional amendment goes straight from the Legislature to a vote of the people and by-passes the governor’s desk, neither the governor, nor certainly the lieutenant governor, can block one in any case.

FEDERAL DEPENDENCY

Alabama is currently the fourth most federally dependent state in the country. What do you think should be the federal government’s role in our state finances?

Our taxes fund the federal government, so to say that Alabama taxpayers are dependent on the federal government is a misnomer.   It is more proper to say that the federal government is dependent on Alabama taxpayers.  I believe our state should demand every dime we can get back from the federal government, but I would prefer that it comes here with a no-strings-attached policy.  Federal block grants with absolutely no mandates would be the preferable form.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

 JOB CREATION

 The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As lieutenant governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

Census Bureau records may not be the best measure because in terms of per capita creation, Alabama is more than holding its own.  In fact, we currently have the lowest unemployment rate in state history and are running close to the point of having more jobs available than qualified workers who can fill them.

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.

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 ensuring our workforce is prepared to fill 21st Century jobs.

Career tech in our K-12 system, as I noted in the response to your education reform question above, is certainly a firm foundation upon which we can build our economic future.  Expanding and enriching workforce development opportunities is our community college system is another integral part.

And, as I also noted above, I plan to be an active lieutenant governor who is deeply involved in the economic development and industrial recruitment efforts of the state. As a businessman, I make my living in sales, and Alabama’s economic success story is certainly a product that is easy to promote to prospects.

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

Voters spoke loudly and clearly on this issue when they approved a constitutional amendment permanently declaring Alabama a “right to work” state, and as a member of the House, I was proud to help place that measure on the ballot.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

As a small businessman, I know firsthand that government regulations have a crippling effect on our ability to succeed and demand unnecessary hours and dollars in order to meet compliance.  As lieutenant governor, I would like to see a top down review of not only licensure regulations, but ALL state regulations and mandates.

When President Donald Trump took office, he issued orders that for every new federal government regulation that was added, two had to be repealed. During his first six months in office, the Trump administration exceeded his orders by repealing 16 old rules for each new one added.

I would like to see us accomplish something similar in Alabama.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As lieutenant governor, how would you help the governor tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

Solving this epidemic is going to take the efforts of all involved parties, including law enforcement officials and medical professionals, working in a cooperative fashion and finding solutions together.  The Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council that recently submitted its findings and report to Gov. Kay Ivey is a good first step.

During the past legislative session, I supported a new law that increases penalties for the unlawful distribution of Fentanyl, a potent opioid that produces a heroin-like effect.  The measure also sets minimum mandatory prison sentences based on the weight that is distributed.

Fentanyl is considered to be 100 times more powerful than morphine, and coming into accidental contact with even the smallest amount can quickly kill first responders who treat overdose cases.

Rampant opioid addiction is destroying lives, families, friendships and futures. Focusing efforts on combatting Fentanyl opens a new front in the war on drugs and targets distributors, who deserve punishment, over users, who need help and rehabilitation.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As lieutenant governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

Liberal activists and street thugs have worked in recent years to convince portions of our communities that police officers are the enemy and the instructions of law enforcement personnel should be defied, not followed.  This message and this approach is dangerous, dishonest, and threatens the very fabric of our social order.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear.  The men and women who wear badges and protect our cities and counties are heroes to be celebrated, not enemies to be attacked.  The same holds true for firefighters, paramedics, and ambulance drivers and also for the support personnel who enable them to do their jobs.

These first responders will find no better advocate or cheerleader than me, and I pledge to provide every resource in my power to keep them safe and assist them in carrying out their duties.

We must adopt a no-nonsense, get-tough policy on lawbreakers and teach them the meaning of the phrase, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” This hardline approach should apply to all offenses from violent crimes to property thefts to public corruption and white collar transgressions.

Governor Kay Ivey responds to 2018 gubernatorial candidate questionnaire

(Governor K. Ivey/Flickr)

Governor Kay Ivey recently responded to a gubernatorial candidate questionnaire from the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. Her responses are below:

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you govern?

Ivey: Growing up on the family farm in Wilcox County, I learned to put in a hard day’s work, to live within our means, and the importance of faith, family and community. These are the same values I have carried with me throughout my life.  As a public servant, I have always fought for conservative principles: promoting economic growth, protecting taxpayer dollars, fighting for the unborn, preserving our Second Amendment rights and restoring the people’s trust in government.

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How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

When I became Governor, I told you we’d clean up the mess in Montgomery and bring back conservative values—and we have. Immediately upon assuming the role of Governor, I turned over nearly half the cabinet and replaced them with people of integrity. With executive orders, I’ve streamlined state government, shut down unnecessary task forces, and banned lobbyists from appointments by the executive branch.

From my experience as Lieutenant Governor, I understood and prioritized open communications between the Executive and Legislative Branch to make sure we were effectively working together for the people of Alabama – and we did. In only one year, I signed hundreds of bills and resolutions – nearly one for every day I’ve been in office – and now Alabama is working again. But, I’m not done yet.

What is the most important role of the governor?

First and foremost, a Governor should have a vision and plan to promote conservative values, incentivize economic prosperity, improve education, and maintain the trust of the people. As Governor, I have made it my job to make sure you have a job with a good paycheck. Under my leadership, Alabama has created more than 13,000 new jobs, achieved the lowest unemployment rate in Alabama history, and most recently, I signed the largest middle class tax cut in a decade.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

As a pro-life conservative, I believe every life is precious, starting at conception. Throughout my time as a public servant, I have championed policies such as protecting the unborn and preventing the use of taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions.

Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?

I have and will always advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves. I’m pro-life because God teaches us to love life, and he created us and wants us to love one another, and I will always fight to protect the unborn.

As Governor, I supported President Trump’s action to rollback Obama-era regulations and stop the use of state Medicaid dollars from paying abortion providers. Prohibiting the use of tax dollars for abortions or abortion-related services is just one small step towards saving the unborn.

I am honored to have been recognized for my pro-life record, receiving endorsements for Governor from Alabama Citizens for Life and Susan B. Anthony List, two leading pro-life groups.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

I have an experience in my life that makes me unique among a lot of Governors—I began my career as a teacher. Being a teacher shows you what a school can do, and what an adult in the life of a child can help them achieve.

Alabama needs a comprehensive approach that improves education from Pre-K to the workforce, that’s why I launched “Strong Start, Strong Finish.” The “Strong Start, Strong Finish” education initiative focuses on three stages of education: 1) early childhood education, 2) computer science in middle school and high school, and 3) workforce preparedness. I instituted Strong Start, Strong Finish because we must prepare our people for the jobs of today and for the jobs of tomorrow. By 2020, 62 percent of all jobs available in Alabama will require some form of postsecondary education.  However, today, only 37 percent of our workforce has achieved such an education. We must ensure that our students graduate high school and then earn a postsecondary certificate or degree.

I am also proud of the education budget that I signed into law.  We added another $216 million in education funding, for the largest investment in education in a decade, and this money goes straight into the classrooms.

Education is the cornerstone of a better life, and I am committed to doing everything I can to make sure Alabama children have the resources they need to complete school, be prepared for the workplace and succeed.

ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Dr. Eric Mackey was recently named Alabama’s next State Superintendent of Education. The governor serves as a voting member of the Alabama State Board of Education. What vision for Alabama do you share with the new superintendent and where do your philosophies differ? How will you prioritize Alabama’s school children in your role on the Board?

Choosing the next State Superintendent is one the most important decisions entrusted to the Board. Before we began the process, I laid out a thorough and deliberate process to ensure we chose someone with a forward thinking vision that would improve the quality of education for all Alabama students.

Ultimately, I voted for Dr. Mackey because of our shared vision and commitment to ensuring children have a strong start to their educational journey and a strong finish so they can succeed when they enter the workforce. I also appreciate Dr. Mackey’s plans to improve assessments,  the quality and quantity of our teachers, and to reduce administrative overhead. Dr. Mackey also demonstrated an important and strong commitment to continue and complete the Montgomery Public School intervention.

As president of the Board, I am focused on setting clear goals to improve learning and adopting strategy for educators to implement. I believe the Board must also see that Dr. Mackey is fully empowered to focus on students, unhindered from personal or political agendas.

SCHOOL SAFETY

The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida reignited the discussion about school safety. President Trump has suggested arming teachers while others have argued for increased use of school resource officers and funding for mental health programs. As governor, how would you ensure the safety of Alabama’s children in public schools?

Earlier this year, I unveiled the “Smart on Safety Initiative”, a four-pronged plan to ensure the safety of our children at school. It’s an unfortunate reality but we must be prepared to prevent and respond to violence on our school grounds.

Details on the Smart on Safety Initiatives:

Secure Schools: While each school is different, the state will support local educators and administrators as they meet their own safety needs. As part of this plan, I signed a bill that allows schools to access funds from the Education Trust Fund Rolling Reserve Acts for the improvement and enhancement of school safety.

We Know Our Schools: A key part of the plan includes prevention. Schools are encouraged to identify at-risk students through student engagement and intervene before they harm themselves or others.

Emergency Operations Plan (EOPs): If a tragedy does occur, school personnel need to be empowered to act before first responders arrive. Schools should work with first responders and law enforcement on an ongoing basis to develop and maintain a current coordinated response to emergencies. Teachers and students will also receive regular trainings.

SAFE Council: An issue this critical does not leave room for error, which is why I established the SAFE Council. Composed of the Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Secretary of the Office of Information Technology, the Alabama State Superintendent of Education and the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, the SAFE Council carefully and thoroughly developed a report focused on the improvement of physical security, threat assessments and mental health and coordinated training. Some of the council’s recommendations will be immediately implemented, and I will be working with the State Legislature on the items that require further action and consideration.

SCHOOL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should school choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

As president of the Board of Education, an intimate knowledge of the education system is critical to our children’s success and ultimately the success of this great state. As a former teacher, I appreciate the benefits of school choice. School choice provides healthy competition, and competition can effectively raise student performance, teacher attendance, and financial management. As a conservative leader, I will always support and empower local administrators.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

This year, I was proud to work together with the state legislature to pass the largest middle class tax cut in a decade. Under the new law, we increased the threshold for claiming the maximum exemption for state income taxes.

I understand that every dollar spent by the government belongs to the people. And with the economy booming, I am pleased that we were able to give back to Alabamians some of their hard earned money.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

During my first year in office, I focused on giving Alabamians back some of their hard earned money with the largest middle class tax cut in a decade. This is a first step, but we are certainly not finished. With support from the people of Alabama, I would dedicate the next four years to continuing the good work we have begun.

Tax reform requires a comprehensive approach. As families know, financial planning requires an examination of how much money is being earned and how much money is being spent. Before we can determine what taxes should be changed or eliminated, we must conduct a thorough review of government spending to identify and eliminate unnecessary spending.

Promoting economic growth is another important step to reducing the tax burden on families. As Governor, I have made it my job to make sure everybody has a job with a good paycheck.

In less than a year, we steadied the ship, achieved record low unemployment, approved record funding for education and still managed to give Alabamians the largest middle class tax cut in a decade. Imagine the progress we can make if given four years to implement our agenda.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi—has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?

Infrastructure is a critical component to job creation efforts. If we want to be competitive in the 21st Century economy, we must invest in our roads, bridges and broadband Internet.

However, current infrastructure funding in Alabama provides for only two of three important aspects:  1) We are able to provide for the general maintenance of roads and bridges; and 2) We periodically fund priority projects to alleviate some of the state’s most congested roadways.  The third aspect which we are unable to fund under our current structure is that of 3) priority projects which continue to be on our state’s “wish list.” This wish list is typically driven by the recommendations of local officials as they determine their greatest needs.

Shortly after being sworn in as Governor, I was chosen as one of eight governors to work with President Trump on how to improve our infrastructure.  As we have worked with President Trump and the Federal Highway Administration, we have begun to implement alternative methods to address the expansion of infrastructure. For example, we have applied the utilization of public-private partnerships (P3s).  The greatest example of this is the I-10 Mobile River Bridge.  This project is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in the United States, and we will take a business-minded approach by leveraging the private sector for a more efficient and cost-effective outcome to the state and its residents.

Infrastructure is not just limited to our roads and bridges. Our ability to continue to attract world-class companies and improve access to quality education and health care is dependent on widespread access to high speed Internet. I prioritized broadband access by supporting and signing “The Broadband Accessibility Act” into law during my first full legislative session as Governor.  This law is an important step to moving Alabama forward by ensuring our citizens have the tools and resources needed to succeed in this modern economy. But I’m not done yet.

I plan to continue to work with existing Internet providers, education leaders, healthcare providers and others to identify even more ways to expand our broadband capabilities so that every citizen who needs access will have it available.

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

In Alabama, a state lottery would require a Constitutional amendment, which requires the state legislature to pass a bill which then goes directly to the people for a vote.  If the state legislature passed a bill, I would support allowing the people of Alabama to vote.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

Under my leadership, Alabama is attracting world class companies. In only a year, more than $6 billion have been invested, 13,000 jobs have been created and we have achieved record low unemployment. But, we’re not done yet. If we want to continue to recruit job creators, we need to improve education, modernize our infrastructure and strengthen our workforce development.

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

Yes, workers should be entitled to work without being forced to join a labor union. This affords workers more freedom, including financial burdens. Being a right to work state is not only good for workers, it’s good for the overall economy as it increases competition and promotes more economic growth. I believe a free marketplace is most effective.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

I am fully committed to reducing the size and scope of state government.  I have led efforts to streamline government operations and continue to make that a priority. Government should exist to protect citizens, help the most vulnerable, and create an optimal environment for job creation.  Our economic development successes over the last year prove that companies see Alabama as a state with a favorable economic and regulatory climate.  However, government can always operate more efficiently and effectively for the people.

I will continue to push for more friendly policies for businesses and individuals and fully commit to President Trump’s policies for a less burdensome government. Government was created for the people and by the people.  It should not be an “us vs. them” mentality.  The dollars that support state government do not belong to the bureaucrat – but to the residents of this state.  We must always remember to spend them with meticulous and thoughtful results in mind.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As governor, how would you tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

The opioid crisis is an issue that touches all our communities. This isn’t a political issue, it’s destroying lives regardless of political parties, and we must do everything in our power to stop it.

That is why I signed an executive order to establish the Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council, which is tasked with addressing the urgent epidemic that is ravaging our families.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

Any efforts to target crime reduction must begin early in an individual’s life with commitment to create a different culture, environment and opportunity for everyone.  For Alabamians to have career opportunities, they must be prepared when the right job comes along. My education initiative, Strong Start, Strong Finish does just that. Under Strong Start, Strong Finish we will coordinate our efforts and bring all stakeholders to the table in order to improve education all the way from Pre-K to the workforce effective education requires a strong foundation in a child’s early years. In 2017, under the leadership of Secretary Jeana Ross, Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program increased the number of classrooms to 938 statewide. Research shows us that students who participate in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program are more likely than other students to be proficient in reading and math at every grade level.

For the 11th year in a row, our First-Class Pre-K program was recognized for being the highest-quality Pre-K in the nation. In fact, Harvard University is currently developing a full-length documentary on Alabama’s Pre-K program to share across the country with those interested in following our lead. Our First-Class Pre-K is certainly a bright spot for Alabama.

I’m proud to have quickly become known as a governor focused on education. Over the past nine months, I have devoted a great deal of my time to my role as president of the State Board of Education. In less than two years, Alabama has had four different K-12 superintendents. That is nothing to be proud of. The members of the State Board of Education must ensure continuity to see progress. Board members must set goals and adopt strategies to achieve student learning at high standards. Our central focus must be on our students, not on personal agendas or political maneuvering.

PRISON REFORMS

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

Perhaps our state’s biggest challenge is found in our prison system. For far too long we have run our state’s prison system in a way that risks a takeover by the federal courts. Now, one federal court has found that our prisons are overcrowded and understaffed, due at least in part to facilities that are worn and old. Correctional professionals work diligently to provide security, medical, mental health and rehabilitative services in a challenging environment. They deserve our attention and support. We must also work diligently to provide appropriate care to those placed in the custody of the Department of Corrections.

Immediately after taking office, I instructed Commissioner Jeff Dunn and his staff to work closely with my staff to develop a viable plan to address correctional staffing and make capital investments in our infrastructure.

We have commissioned comprehensive reviews to determine the compensation levels necessary to recruit and retain corrections staff. And I have instructed the Commissioner to hire a project management team to help us develop a master plan so we will be able to make smart, cost-effective decisions when addressing our outdated prison infrastructure.

We will no longer guess about possible fixes. Instead, I will present to the people a workable solution to this generational problem. I am committed to meeting this challenge head-on. Together, with the support of the legislature, we will solve this problem for generations to come. This is an Alabama problem that must have an Alabama solution; now is the time to act.

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Do you support the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

I support reform to protect personal property and due process rights of all Alabamians. This year, the state legislature took an important step by starting the conversation. It is my hope that we can build upon the foundation that was laid and implement real reform that balances individuals’ protection of personal property and the flexibility necessary for law enforcement to hold criminals accountable.

Scott Dawson responds to the Alabama gubernatorial questionnaire

(Dawson Campaign)

Scott Dawson, a candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor, recently responded to a questionnaire from the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. His responses are below:

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you govern?

Dawson: I’m conservative, which means that I agree with Ronald Reagan that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” I’m also a Christian, which means that my everyday decisions are guided by a biblical worldview—summarized by the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Both of these principles will drive my administration to empower individuals, families, communities, and businesses to do what they can do better than government ever will: make Alabama the best it can possibly be.

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How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

It’s who I am and who I’ve always been. We’re not looking for perfect people, but I do believe people look for consistency in their leaders. Alabama has elected a politician as governor for the past forty years and nothing has changed. I have never held political office, and that’s exactly why I’m running. It’s time to elect a principled, conservative leader who is not beholden to the special interests, nor has any ties to our political past. For the last thirty years, I’ve served as a husband and father, as the founder and CEO of a non-profit ministry, as an evangelist, and as a regular citizen. The lessons learned throughout my lifetime have equipped me as a leader in ways that no amount of political experience ever could.

What is the most important role of the governor?

Leadership—in the fullest sense of the word. Some will say that we need a seasoned politician. Others say that we need a businessperson. I believe that we need a leader who’s willing to serve, rather than be served—a leader who will cast a vision, rally the troops, quickly analyze situations, provide solutions, build consensus, admit mistakes, delegate effectively, say “no” when it’s hard, and act decisively from the front. Alabama needs a leader to regain the people’s trust and restore faith in our future and we’re not going to get that by electing just another politician as governor.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

A strong society is marked by strong families. Statistics and empirical examples cited by doctors, teachers, pastors, law enforcement professionals, and others will tell you that broken relationships and unhealthy home environments are a significant contributing factor to the social ills we face each day. Poverty, divorce, neglect, alcoholism, drug-abuse, violence, and crime aren’t problems that government alone can solve. We can’t be turning to government as a panacea for every social problem.  I want to be sure that our churches, communities, charities, and corporations are increasingly activated and involved in the lives of Alabamians because it is vital that we work as a team to restore faith in our future.

Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?

Abortion is one of the greatest human rights issues of this generation and reflects even deeper cultural issues that need to be addressed. It’s unconscionable that our tax dollars are employed to fund the practice of legal murder that violates the moral conscience of Alabama’s pro-life majority. I will work to defund Planned Parenthood on a state level and work with the Trump Administration to defund Planned Parenthood on a national level. I will also see to it that abortion clinics aren’t given a pass on the laws that do exist—especially when they fail to report suspected sexual abuse of a minor as they have done multiple times. I hope and pray to see the end of abortion in this state and will work to that end.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

Last year, President Trump signed an Executive Order giving the Department of Education liberty to begin reversing harmful Obama-era education policies and give more power back to states, locals, and parents. The Trump Administration understands what we all know to be true: parents, local schools and teachers know what’s best for our kids. We certainly don’t need any more cookie-cutter education plans like Common Core coming from politicians in Washington, D.C. or San Francisco. 1. I want to see Alabama standards and curricula modeled from the best programs in the nation by the best teachers in the state—we’ve got to let our teachers teach the basics with excellence. 2. I will work to implement mentorship programs that unite the generations for mutual benefits. 3. I want to initiate leadership training for middle school students—character, economics, work ethic, and attitude. 4. We all talk about getting drugs out of our schools. I have plan to work alongside parents and schools to partner with private entities and faith-based rehab programs to require drug testing of any kids who participate in an extracurricular activity in order to allow them to get the help that they need. 5.  I want to see vocational schools thriving again. Today, experienced welders, machinists, and mechanics are being paid two and three times more than the average graduate coming out of college and we need skilled workers who are prepared to take on a trade throughout this state. College isn’t a must for everyone anymore.

Ultimately, I want to empower parents, private and faith-based schools, teachers and local systems to do what they do best. With sound guidelines, less bureaucracy, and more freedom, I believe that Alabama can top the nation in education.

ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Dr. Eric Mackey was recently named Alabama’s next State Superintendent of Education. The governor serves as a voting member of the Alabama State Board of Education. What vision for Alabama do you share with the new superintendent and where do your philosophies differ? How will you prioritize Alabama’s school children in your role on the Board?

The Governor of Alabama is a voting member of the school board and also serves as President of the Board. I’m not a politician, so I’ll actually attend the meetings—even the ones that aren’t during an election year. I’ll also work hard to be sure that our children and their futures are the primary focus; we’ll look at facts and studies—not dollar signs, and we’ll listen to parents and teachers—not bureaucrats. I believe that a successful State Board of Education will eventually work itself out of a job by effectively dishing out decision-making power to local boards, teachers, and parents. I look forward to working with Dr. Eric Mackey to see Alabama’s children succeed.

SCHOOL SAFETY

The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida reignited the discussion about school safety. President Trump has suggested arming teachers while others have argued for increased use of school resource officers and funding for mental health programs. As governor, how would you ensure the safety of Alabama’s children in public schools?

I’ll start by disbanding Kay Ivey’s task force and replacing it with decisive action. I don’t want another child to die because of a school shooting before we’ve done everything we could to prevent it. Seventeen other states have laws allowing school personnel to arm themselves and I’ll encourage similar legislation with five parameters: 1. It must be voluntary. 2. Extensive training will be required. 3.  Local law enforcement will be involved with coordination at the schools. 4. A background check for mental health issues will be performed and verified. 5. School personnel who volunteer for the program will receive a stipend for their extra effort.

SCHOOL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should school choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

We all believe that our kids are the best kids, that their teachers are the best teachers, and our kids’ schools are the best schools—and while there’s some truth to all of that, the fact is that education in Alabama is at the bottom. We all have to face the reality, stop settling for being at the bottom, acknowledge that pouring additional millions into the Education Trust Fund won’t ultimately solve our problems, and be willing to try new ideas that will launch us towards the top. School choice should be a priority for all of us because it’s exactly what we all talk about: giving more choices back to parents, who also happen to be taxpayers. I’m open to all of the ideas—private schools, Christian schools, charter schools, and home schools, through school vouchers, tax credits, and education savings accounts—as long as we require the highest standards of financial accountability and respect the rights of parents to make educational decisions for their children.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

Just in the last few months, we have watched company after company after company give bonuses or pay raises to employees as a result of the Republican tax reforms passed by Congress. This is tangible and exciting evidence of what conservative tax reform is all about. While I’ll encourage reform of any kind, I can’t help but be honest about the broader situation: we’ve amended and re-amended our tax structure year after year when we could start with a clean slate and create a simpler, fairer model with a streamlined process that makes Tax Day better for all Alabamians—not just tax-and-spend Democrats.  I would support a flat tax or the Fair Tax. Both proposals are better than the confusion that we have now and both would make tax season less of a headache for all of us who spend countless hours and incalculable dollars on tax preparation each year.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?  

Decreasing the grocery tax is a tax cut for everyone and who wouldn’t support that? That said, it’s important for all of us to understand that a tax cut means a cut to the state’s budget, which many grocery tax supporters believe needs even more money. Under our current tax structure, I would support a gradual grocery tax decrease in those years when the natural growth of the Education Trust Fund would make the cut hardly noticeable. And as soon as the legislature works to unearmark our revenue, budget responsibly, cut unnecessary allocations, and fund necessities, I’ll support any and all tax cuts to give more money back to hard-working Alabamians.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi—has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?

Based on our national rankings, our roads and bridges are doing okay compared to education or transparency—where we’re in the bottom forty. That said, we all know that I-65 is terrible, I-10 needs expansion because beach tourism brings millions of dollars of revenue which benefit the entire state, and I-565 will face significant traffic increases with the coming of Mazda-Toyota. And don’t get me started on the county roads I’ve been travelling every day.

I’ve heard several pandering politicians in this race who promise improvement on whichever roads are travelled by the group being addressed that day. I’m sitting there shocked, thinking: We have a road plan in Alabama already, groundwork is happening for future projects, and work is getting done on current projects. A politician on the trail can’t just change up the priorities by the minute. Some projects have been on this plan for decades. I will do three things when I get to Montgomery: 1) make sure that we are prioritizing road projects fairly, 2) free up project funds by pushing for responsible budgeting, and 3) make sure that we’re hiring the workers who can get the projects finished with speed and efficiency.

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

The lottery is just another illustration of how Democrats keep us in the past while funneling more money into Montgomery—which we don’t need. As an evangelist I counseled students to be good stewards of their money. As governor, it’ll be my job to be a good steward of Alabama’s money. Lottery math simply doesn’t add up. That’s why today, there are states, like Illinois, that can’t even afford to pay its winners. Misguided fantasies only suck real wealth out of the economy and take money from those who need it most. The results are an increase in welfare recipients and higher taxes on the rest of us. While there will be a very small number of folks who actually win big prizes, the true jackpot winners will be the bureaucrats in Montgomery who will promise big results to get their hands on more money. I want to bank Alabama’s future on solid solutions where everyone can win—not a game of chance.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

I can’t wait to sit down in a conference room, pull the experts together, group counties together, and recruit industry to every corner of our state. That said, we all have to remember that when we bring in a company from out-of-state, the incentives that we utilize to draw them are based on giving away free taxes. The takeaway is that 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 being financially responsible! I’m a conservative who knows that free market capitalism works. A Dawson administration won’t be picking economic winners and losers behind closed doors. Instead, government will operate at a minimum, businesses will compete on fair playing fields, and job creation will skyrocket all across the state!

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

I support the fact that in Alabama, everyone has a right to work—with or without a labor union affiliation. Labor unions often become bureaucratic organizations that hold a monopoly over a certain trade. Even though it may seem like a safe space for those within the union, those who aren’t allowed inside or who are laid off face a disadvantage in the real world. Alabama’s right-to-work amendment approved back in 2016 protects the ability of every Alabamian to get the job they’re trained to do, regardless of their affiliation with a labor union.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

No one starts a business for the purpose of hiring an accountant and a lawyer, or to add a government oversight agency to the speed dial. In Alabama, I don’t hear complaints about taxes as much as I hear about onerous 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.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As governor, how would you tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

The opioid crisis breaks my heart. The death and destruction left in its wake doesn’t discriminate, it impacts absolutely everyone. There’s no one-paragraph solution; it’s going to take a comprehensive approach where everyone—communities, parents, churches, schools, businesses, charities, and even government agencies—carries their part of the burden. 1) Everyone needs a reason to live, the confidence that they can overcome, and hope for the future. I want everyone pulling together to provide that. 2) Just a few days ago, Walmart self-imposed prescription limitations on opioids. All physicians ought to be limited in the prescriptions that they write and we need medical guidelines for the treatment of chronic pain. 3) I believe that the implementation of mandatory drug testing for students involved in extracurricular activities will help to prevent drug addiction early on and get kids the help that they want and need. 4) I want more education about the dangers of opioids, the reversal power of Nalaxone, and drug rehab organizations like Teen Challenge that exist to help.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

The lives lost or impacted by violent crime in Alabama aren’t just a statistic; each and every one is a valuable human life. From a state resources standpoint, it’s incumbent upon the next governor to work closely with state law enforcement and the state’s judiciary to make sure that they are equipped with the tools that they need to enforce our laws, bring swift justice to criminals, and always prioritize the safety of the people of Alabama. I’ll also go back to an earlier question where I addressed the problems we face in our society from the breakdown of families and the lack of regard we hold for each other as fellow citizens. That kind of regard to essentially “love one another as you love yourself” has to be instructed at an early age—and reinforced often.

PRISON REFORMS

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

As somebody who was raised in the streets of Ensley, I can tell you that there isn’t a mother in Alabama praying we build a bigger, more expensive prison for her child. She’s praying, “Lord, you better get ahold of him or her, ‘cause I can’t do anything with them.”

I understand that some of our prisons have deteriorated with age. We have deteriorated schools too (and houses for that matter). It happens. I also understand that with new and improved prisons, we may see some cost savings and I also understand that Alabama must comply with court orders to ensure necessary inmate care. I also know that we have unused state properties that could be converted. The Department of Corrections itself is an old Montgomery hospital!  One thing that I won’t support is a mega-prison proposal that will not even solve the overcrowding problem and would cost taxpayers over a billion dollars. We can build the largest prisons on earth and talk about consolidating resources, but if we don’t work to eradicate the source of our problems, those facilities will be overcrowded and deteriorated soon enough.

We’re supposed to be running correctional facilities, not generational facilities. I’m proposing increased partnerships with the faith-based community, non-profits, and vocational schools and colleges to bring back structure to the daily lives of our prisoners through instructive educational programs, release and diversion programs, and effective treatment programs for drug offenders.  While there is a cost to sin and crime that we must bear, I hope that for every dollar that goes into construction, we will spend an equal amount to give prisoners hope beyond the bars and reduce recidivism.

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Do you support the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

Civil asset forfeiture is a tool used by law enforcement to fight crime, but it is also an issue that goes to the heart of our Fourth Amendment which protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures and gives all of us the right to due process. Current civil asset forfeiture law needs reform.

I believe that basic transparency and accountability are prerequisites to considering additional reforms and I’d like to see Alabama following the lead of 37 other states to enact stricter reporting requirements—answering questions like: How were the assets seized? What was the assumed violation or crime? Was there a later conviction in the case? How were the assets used by the agency? This data should be published in a timely manner for optimum transparency and accountability.

I believe that with proper reforms to the practice of civil asset forfeiture we can ensure that the constitutional rights of Alabamians are protected and that law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line everyday are given the tools that they need to keep all of us safe.

State Sen. Hightower responds to Alabama gubernatorial candidate questionnaire

(Bill Hightower/Facebook)

State Sen. Bill Hightower, a candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor, recently responded to the questionnaire prepared by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. His answers are below.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you govern?

Hightower: My conservatism has been formed by multiple experiences, observations, & teachings.  My earliest lessons were in reading National Review during the 1980’s along with conservative economic philosophy writers from the Austrian School of Economics (Hayek, Von Mises, Freidman).  More recently I am an avid listener to George Mason University’s, Russ Roberts, PhD., and other conservative policy leaders.

My experience in business reinforced my conservative views as I worked in China, where private property rights are not highly valued, and Europe, where regulation and government intrusion is so massive as to be oppressive and unpredictable.  Their economies somehow survive, but at times I think it miraculous they do.

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My political philosophy is also shaped by my faith in God through Christianity which makes clear that we must do good unto one another, and serve one another.  But I am also keenly aware that the organization of government is all too often harnessed by the powerful to take from those who have not, or to keep them in check.  The later often being the case in Alabama.  It is because of sin that we need government, but it is also because of sin that we need limited government.  We must have limited government.

Government takes over where communities, churches, and synagogues relinquish their role to help and serve others.  And because government can take from anyone, using the law to do so, it will continue to grow to the degree society allows it to do so.  (The government that can give you everything you want, is the same government that can take everything you have). Because of this I believe in the principal of limited government, with a high degree of encouragement toward community solutions. There are activities the government can and should perform for the community, but these should be minimized.  One of Government’s primary roles should be protecting the weak from the strong. I also believe that government should not play favorites, picking winners and losers.  The tax code, governing committees, occupation boards, and all functions of government should create or enable a level playing field and not pick favorites.

Lastly, having had leadership positions in global companies which have budgets the size of Alabama, using best-in-class practices, I intend to bring those practices and expectations with me to Montgomery.  This will include performance-based measurements, budget spending justification, and metrics to measure and reward progress and results.

How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

My voting record as an Alabama State Senator is the best demonstration of my commitment, as is the resiliency and creativity of my ideas, as seen in my Alabama-First Ideas (www.BillHightower.com).

While serving as an Alabama State Senator, I have pushed for tax reform in the form of a Flat-Tax, but also worked on development of the Fair-Tax concept for Alabama.  I have successfully brought Term-Limits to the floor of the Alabama Senate for a vote, to end the cycle of cronyism and professional politicians, in our state.  I have proposed budget reform in the form of un-earmarking of our state budget, to find waste, and increase spending on core state responsibilities, such as education and law enforcement (particularly the State Troopers).  Additionally, I have fought for religious liberties, protecting Alabama’s much needed, and highly valued, Faith-Based Adoption services.  My pro-life position has been defined by my long-term, and continued work with Save-a-Life, as well as the passage of a law making it illegal to sell baby-body parts in Alabama.

Although this is what I have done in my past, I intend to carry these same types of conservative, business-friendly, governmental reforms forward as Governor.

What is the most important role of the governor?

The Governor’s most important role is to be an effective and honorable CEO for the state.  This includes advocating for the less fortunate, while empowering those who already excel towards their productive goals.  As the CEO, he/she must lead Alabama toward broad improvement, enhancing our many successes even further, while breaking down the barriers to people’s liberty and upward mobility.  Key barriers to success in Alabama are things such as the tax code which is riddled with $4.4 billion of perpetual special tax carveouts for special interest, with little to show of benefit to the state, a budget system which is crippled with entitlements (earmarks), which allow for little re-prioritization on important core responsibilities such as education.  This budget system has been in place since the 1940’s, giving Alabama the most ear-marked budget in the USA at 93%; Michigan is next most ear-marked at 63%.  No respected think-tank on state reform, recognizes Alabama as a leader in this area.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

The most challenging issue for Alabama families is the breakup of the Alabama family.  But from that comes unproductive behavior such as an increasing dependence upon opioids.  The state must better control these substances without harming those who legitimately need them to overcome chronic pain.  Many people are first introduced to opioids upon the removal of their wisdom-teeth.  There is also not enough education regarding the threat of opioids and addiction.  The state can play a role by working with the medical community on proper prescription amounts, educating the public on how and where addiction starts and ways to prevent ongoing dependence.  I would also consider a mandatory reduction in the number of days an opioid prescription is given; with exceptions for those with physician certified chronic pain.

Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?

Planned Parenthood will be defunded under my governorship.  Those resources will be refocused upon Women’s Resource Centers, which focus upon the life and well-being of the whole family.  They offer pre-natal care, child-raising seminars, sonograms, and other critical care elements in a healthy environment.  Additionally, I will work to make adoption easy and at a lower-cost.  We not only need to stop abortion, but must also care for the children, when a brave mother choses to carry their child full term.

My wife and I have worked in the pro-life movement since the 1980’s and as a State Senator I have passed such laws which make it illegal to sell baby body parts in Alabama and have written and passed a resolution condemning our junior senator in DC for his vote against the Pain Capable Abortion Bill, which would have stopped abortions at 20 weeks; the time that clinical studies have determined the baby feels the pain of the abortion.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

Our focus upon this has the potential to affect much more than education.  My Alabama-First plan includes the introduction of certification programs into high school at a much more robust level than we see today.  They will no longer need to wait until after graduation, but upon graduation will have the training they need to enter the workforce.  Junior college resources (often underutilized) will be utilized to accomplish this but will be in conjunction with local market needs and driven by business requirements.  Giving purpose to high school students, toward hope and a job, will keep many of them out of unproductive lifestyles as the strive to prepare for a well-paying job.

I will reinvigorate the award-winning reading program Alabama had years ago and increase funding of STEM (hands-on science & technology learning).  Additionally, I will create special turn-around groups which will be mobile and can go into schools, to turn-around failing schools. Using technology through broadband, I will take teaching content and courses, previously not available in rural areas, to the student.  This will broaden course availability to give each student the same advantage of learning.  I will also work to shrink the level of bureaucracy in our education system to ensure more of our tax dollars reach the classroom. I have never met a teacher who doesn’t want to do a good job in preparing their students for the future. What our teachers need is support, not more administration. Education is the “doorway” out of poverty.

ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Dr. Eric Mackey was recently named Alabama’s next State Superintendent of Education. The governor serves as a voting member of the Alabama State Board of Education. What vision for Alabama do you share with the new superintendent and where do your philosophies differ? How will you prioritize Alabama’s school children in your role on the Board?

Dr. Mackey brings significant experience to this critical role.  I would, however, not have selected a lobbyist to lead this core responsibility of our state, where change and innovation are required to remain competitive with the other states in the Southeastern USA.   I think we need more outside perspectives, rather than insiders, in state government.  I agree with Dr. Mackey on his desire to institute long-term planning for education, but want to see less administration, and more enabling of our teachers at the local level.  I continue to have concerns about our ability to fully fund education without budget reform and un-earmarking.

I will prioritize Alabama’s school children in my role on the board, as I have outlined in the previous question.

SCHOOL SAFETY

The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida reignited the discussion about school safety. President Trump has suggested arming teachers while others have argued for increased use of school resource officers and funding for mental health programs. As governor, how would you ensure the safety of Alabama’s children in public schools?

My preemptive measures would include increasing the collaboration between teachers, local police, DHR, Juvenile Hall, etc. (such as deployed in the “Helping Families Initiative” in Alabama).  We know from recent incidents that some of this behavior is predictable and that often certain families have higher incidences than others. (i.e. “The Familial Concentration & Transmission of Crime”, K.M. Beaver, Florida State University, 2013).  This information should be used to preemptively work for solutions.

In addition to preemptive efforts I would encourage small police centers in schools so the officers could use the school as a base for their activities.  This would be similar to shopping mall’s on-sight police offices.  In this way police would get to know the students, and the students would get to know the officers.  This would improve the relations between the two as the students would develop relationships with the office and the public relations between them would improve.

In some cases, ex-military or certain designated individuals with appropriate training, would be able to carry a weapon, but I am not supportive of every teacher being armed.  Teachers don’t need additional responsibility, they need to focus upon teaching.

SCHOOL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should school choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

Our children are required to attend schools whose boundaries and members are determined by the courts, due to the unfortunate history of racial inequality in our state.  I believe the historical concept of neighborhood schools is still a good one, as it increases parental involvement and reduces the inefficiencies of travel time on the bus (not to mention the enormous costs).  However, that is something which is most likely unreachable to the fullest measure, in the near term.

Parents should be given a choice to place their child in the type of school they desire.  This is not a new perspective for me, but a principle.  The parent has the ultimate authority; not the state.  We must always respond to the parent and child needs.  I am supportive of responding to the needs of parents in terms of their child’s education.  If a school is not succeeding, either the school should change, or the parent should be allowed to make a change.  That way, the focus is on the child.

The creation of community lead alternative schools is one way to make our education system more responsive to the needs and interests of children.  It also increases community involvement, which is often a key corollary to a school’s success.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

Alabama’s current income tax structure is outdated, overly complex, and it hinders free-market growth. As a result, hardworking families suffer.

More than 25 states across the nation have embarked on significant tax reform in the last few years. It is apparent that each of them realizes they are in a competition for jobs and growth. By improving their tax policies, they create a business and family-friendly environment which lends itself to prosperity for those who live and do business there.

But here in Alabama, special interests and career politicians have spent years rigging the tax code with special interest tax carve-outs.  I want to make Alabama’s tax code simple, low, and effective in order to compete with neighboring states. In my short time in Montgomery, I have vigorously fought for tax reform in our state. Why? Because I know we can do better.

As Governor, I will promote legislation that would create a flat tax (or alternatively a fair tax) for all individuals. This will lessen the complexity of filing your taxes, saving many families an average of $300 per year. It would also have a much more generous exemption for low income families and retirees.  I believe the best way to attract new businesses and create jobs is to radically change our tax code so it’s fairer and flatter.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

This is not a binary decision over one item (i.e. to have, or not to have a grocery tax), therefore all elements of our tax code should be considered, such as the Flat Tax for an income tax along with the grocery tax.  I would lower or eliminate the Grocery Tax if other tax reform measures could be achieved.  I am especially sensitive to our significant agricultural community and realize that high grocery taxes make their products less competitive in our own state.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi—has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?

The roads and infrastructure of Alabama are in desperate need of repair. I have always taken the position that we need to find ways to fund these repairs without raising taxes. As Governor, I will propose legislation to:

  1. Sell and exchange our large inventory of un-used lands & buildings owned by the state, to create a funding mechanism to begin repairing our roads. This will include selling dormant state land as well as utilizing creative business mechanisms such as sale-lease-back. Some of America’s greatest companies utilize this method, so why shouldn’t we? The state should not be holding onto dormant buildings and land, while expecting you to pay more taxes. Sell the land, build the roads.
  2. Privatize and streamline the Department of Transportation to save the state millions of dollars and redirect those resources to pay for infrastructure improvements.
  3. Create an Alabama Road and Bridge Commission to make the state government more responsive to local needs. Presently, road building is driven by political favors and not sound infrastructure planning cycles. My plan will enhance commerce, save lives, and address community needs in a prioritized manner. It will also ensure that long-term construction plans are predictable and steady, so Alabama’s road and bridge builders can build, equip and maintain their staff, which holds tremendous institutional knowledge. This will improve our roads and help job growth.
  4. Extend the period of use of currently lightly-used state fleet cars to create additional capital to invest in road improvement.
  5. Commission a High-Speed Rail Study Commission to explore the feasibility of connecting our major cities. This will increase tourism from the North Alabama mountains to the sunny coast, assist lower income households, and increase the linkage between major cities of the Southeast. The Southeastern United States is a powerful economic resource, and we need to continue to build on our past success.
  6. Recognize that technology is rapidly changing how we view and utilize transportation, and plan Alabama’s future with that in mind. Alabama will be a leader in technology adoption, improving the quality of life and decreasing harmful emissions in our state.

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

I am not an advocate of the lottery for Alabama for a number of reasons.

1. This is not an optimal way to fund state government. I do not support this alternative because it doesn’t solve the state’s financial problems. In the past few years 20 states have had budgetary crisis due to a lack of funding. 19 of those states have a lottery. It didn’t solve their problem and it won’t solve ours.  We need budget reform.

2. History shows that the promises made by people who say the lottery will bring in substantial revenue are never correct. The shortfall in expected revenue is then used as an excuse to expand forms of gambling in a state.  After its initial limited introduction, because it doesn’t produce the revenues promised, the advocates then expand the gaming beyond the level with which anyone is comfortable.  It eventually begins to run the state; especially through the wealthy gamming lobbyists who begin to walk the halls the State House.

3. The marketing target for the gambling industry is largely the minority population. Is that the right approach for those less fortunate?  I think not.

Before any new revenues are created by an involuntary or voluntary tax (such as a lottery) I will require budget reform.  The core problem is a budget whose priorities were set in the 1940’s, with entitlement programs (earmarks).  If progress is made on eliminating the waste and fraud of our current budgetary system, then I can with good conscience have a substantial discussion about revenue.  Otherwise, we are only throwing money at a problem, and not dealing with the core issue; budget system for the state which is admired by no one.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

I am the first candidate to identify this problem (in addition to the fact that those state’s growing faster than Alabama) and develop a plan to deal with it.  Until we solve the core problems of our state, we will not grow.  Those high priority core problems are:

1. A tax code which picks favorites and provides tax carve-outs without any return, or expected benchmark, to the state. That is why I want to reform the tax code by implementing the Flat Tax (of Fair Tax) concept.  Alabama’s current income tax structure is outdated, overly complex, and it hinders free-market growth. As a result, hardworking families suffer.

More than 25 states across the nation have embarked on significant tax reform in the last few years. It is apparent that each of them realize they are in a competition for jobs and growth. By improving their tax policies, they create a business and family-friendly environment which lends itself to prosperity for those who live and do business there.

But here in Alabama, special interests and career politicians have spent years rigging the tax code with special interest tax carve-outs.

I want to make Alabama’s tax code simple, low, and effective in order to compete with neighboring states. In my short time in Montgomery, I have vigorously fought for tax reform in our state. Why? Because I know we can do better.

As Governor, I will promote legislation that would create a flat tax (or alternatively a fair tax) for all individuals. This will lessen the complexity of filing your taxes, saving many families an average of $300 per year. I believe the best way to attract new businesses and create jobs is to radically change our tax code so it’s fairer and flatter.

2. State Budget Earmarking (which is an entitlement program similar to the Federal Level) which promotes waste and abuse.   Budget earmarks are a serious threat to Alabama’s future. In fact, as much as 93 cents of every dollar in Alabama’s state budget is already spent before our leaders even make a budgeting decision (The average amount of earmarking in the budgets of other states is less than 25%)[1].  And shamefully, Alabama leads the country as the state with the most earmarked budget. This is wrong, and it has to end.

Without the flexibility of re-prioritizing the budget, we cannot sufficiently fund core government responsibilities such as Education or our State Troopers.  Yet, this is how the career politicians in Montgomery manage the state budget. The current earmarks reflect priorities that were set decades ago, and they are a huge reason why our taxes have been increased.

No other state in the nation has a budget like this — for good reason.

As Governor, I will push for legislation that bans all earmarked spending. It’s not just the right thing to do, it also will allow you to hold your elected leaders more accountable. And with no earmarks in the budget, we will be able to increase efficiency and better determine which essential programs should receive funding.

3. As a businessman, I have built a career helping businesses grow and prosper, both nationally and internationally.I have worked firsthand with states and business to move and relocate operations where it makes the most sense for all of those involved. I intend to take that experience to the governor’s office.  I know what businesses are looking for and know what we need to do to make Alabama the first choice for businesses.

To emphasize the strategic importance of the job-growth effort, as governor, I will make Workforce Development a cabinet level position. This role will work closely with high schools, community colleges, and universities to meet the needs of Alabama businesses.  I will also propose legislation to make Alabama more competitive with other southern states — including tax reform and zero-based budgeting.

I want all companies nationally and internationally to know that “Alabama is Open for Business.”

4. The state of Alabama needs to do a better job helping parents prepare children to enter the workplace and give them the tools they need to succeed.

Not every student has the desire to go to college, so why does the state continue a one-size-fits-all approach to education? I believe our education system should be focused on developing each child’s God-given talents, instead of simply assuming everyone wants a four-year college degree.

As Governor, I will propose legislation to:

1. Create a dual track diploma system in our high schools so students can continue studying liberal arts in preparation for college, or they can work toward a vocational track that teaches them real hands-on skills, so they can enter the workplace upon graduation.

2. Improve distance learning capabilities at our two-year universities and connect them with our high schools to teach specialized courses for dual enrollment or vocational training for certification programs. I want to work with local businesses – that desperately need skilled workers – to develop these programs.

3. Shrink the level of bureaucracy in our education system to ensure more of our tax dollars reach the classroom. I have never met a teacher who doesn’t want to do a good job in preparing their students for the future. What our teachers need is support, not more administration. This support includes such things as expanded STEM programs, mobile material experts who support teaching, and more nurses in the schools to free the teachers up so they can focus upon what they do best… teach.

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

It is imperative that Alabama remain a right-to-work state.  This is a key reason we have been able to recruit many fine companies to Alabama.  Efforts to organize the state are often efforts by northern state’s labor unions to make Alabama less competitive for jobs, so they can protect their own.

In my experience as an executive, I have learned that non-organized companies that are threatened by “organized” labor often do not treat their employees with dignity and respect.  This is not always the case, but in my experience, it is often the case.

Alabama companies shouldn’t need to be “organized” to accomplish their strategic goals, which includes a workforce that is treated and paid well, and I would work to keep it that way.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

Montgomery has been a place where industries and companies come to pass laws to give them a market advantage, while oppressing or locking out others.  This should stop.  Labor must be mobile and flexible for Alabama to succeed.  Doing so will help the minorities, and less fortunate of our state, to begin a career and also enable small business to flourish.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As governor, how would you tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

The opioid crisis is ruining lives across Alabama. It’s impacting our neighborhoods and our families — and it’s not a partisan issue. Quite simply, it’s a public health crisis.

Our leaders in Montgomery should be working urgently to help local communities take action.

As Governor, I will immediately declare the opioid crisis a statewide public health emergency. This critical step alone will increase coordination among state and local governments, law enforcement, medical professionals, first responders, and community organizations in finding solutions that save lives.

I will propose a one-time funding package that ensures first responders have access to the lifesaving drug NARCAN.  I will also reduce the quantity of prescriptions for all, except the exceptions who have physician certified chronic pain issues.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

While prosperity and lower unemployment will help in this problem, it will not totally solve the problem.  The communities themselves must want a change and law enforcement is a partner in that effort.  As governor I would first ensure that our amazing State Troopers are funded, properly staffed with people, and armed with the latest technology.  An increase in law enforcement expenditures as a priority, will help.   But law enforcement cannot be successful unless the community wants it to be successful.  As Governor I would work with local community leaders to introduce policies and procedures which communicate the value of life and the benefits of a peaceful and caring community.

PRISON REFORMS

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

I will approach this in the most cost-effective and positive way possible.  I will support mental health efforts and a further segmentation of the prison population in order to treat each situation more specifically.  The mega prison concept proposed by Bentley was not politically feasible, so we must attend to our existing sites, building workable structures that enable the safety of the staff, while also permitting access by the community and family members, to enable re-integration, which will lower recidivism.  We must enable the prisoners to re-enter society and to be successful.  Our churches and communities are vital to its success.

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Do you support the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

Civil asset forfeiture helps law enforcement to capture the bad “actors” of our society.  It is not an un-checked process in our law enforcement and criminal justice system.  For instance, the DA must approve such actions by law enforcement and there are reasonable tests in place to determine this.  I would support measures which require law enforcement to report – improving transparency – but I am not yet ready to eliminate law enforcement’s ability to use this as a tool in their arsenal against crime.

Note:  Answers to these questions were largely taken from Bill Hightower’s Alabama-First ideas, which he personally drafted in 2017.  Alabama-First as well as other information, can be found at:   www.BillHightower.com.

[1] As quoted in The Guide to the Issues: State Budget Earmarks by API referencing Arturo Pérez, National Conference of State Legislatures, Earmarking State Taxes 5 (2008), http://www.ncsl.org/documents/fiscal/earmarking-state-taxes.pdf [http://perma.cc/57N6-GKDV].

The Alabama Policy Institute, headquartered in Birmingham, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families. To learn more about their work and how you can help, please visit alabamapolicy.org.

Mayor Maddox responds to Alabama gubernatorial candidate questionnaire

(Walt Maddox/Facebook)

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor, recently responded to the questionnaire prepared by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. His answers are below.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you govern?

Maddox: — I believe in effective and transparent government based on sound policies, and ethical leadership that relies on best management practices.

— I offer Alabama a New Covenant where our leaders wake up every day ready to fight for the people without regard to party. By placing results above rhetoric, we will forge a way forward that will make a real difference in the issues facing Alabamians.

— My approach to policy proposals is to identify the issues, opportunities, and problems related to making Alabama better; learning all relevant facts; establishing policy goals that serve Alabama citizens; cataloging potential policy alternatives that support those policy goals; balancing the interests of all parties affected; and then through careful analysis determining the best policy moving forward.

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How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

— As Mayor of Tuscaloosa, this approach to transparent and effective government has been part of my everyday practice in serving the people for almost two decades. Important data is posted on the web, policy initiatives are discussed openly in public meetings that are webcast and archived, the concerns of stakeholders are heard and considered, and policies are implemented in a fair and equitable manner.

— The Tuscaloosa Forward Plan that was developed in the recovery from the tornado of April 27, 2011 is an excellent example of how I see solutions to problems being developed by bringing all stakeholders together with experts and area leaders, to sort through what was often competing interests with both short and long term components, to find solutions that best meet the needs of the entire community.

What is the most important role of the governor?

— The governor must first and foremost fulfill the constitutional oath to support and defend the constitutions of the state of Alabama and of the United States, acting as the chief executive officer of the state to see that the laws are faithfully executed.

— Equally important, the governor must be a leader in proposing laws and policies that benefit all of Alabama, and be the face of the state who takes responsibility for its direction, progress, and even mistakes.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

— Perhaps the best answer is to identify the common theme underlying the solutions to most of Alabama’s problems: they are opportunities for economic development. The expansion of Medicaid will not only provide insurance to our most vulnerable citizens, it also will stoke our healthcare industry with more high paying jobs and creation of advanced medical treatments. The Alabama Education Lottery will instill $300 million new dollars per year into Alabama’s economy even as it improves workforce development, making Alabama more attractive to new industries. Fixing our roads and bridges will not only make us safer, it will create jobs both directly through highway construction, and more importantly by providing the quality infrastructure that new factories and businesses look for in site selection.

Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?

— I’m a pro-life Democrat who is concerned that many Republicans are more pro-birth than pro-life. Perhaps Sister Joan Chittister best summed up my feelings when she said “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

— Although I am personally opposed to abortion, under the law of the land a woman has a right to choose up until the point of fetal viability. The federal Hyde Amendment prohibits use of federal funds to pay for abortions except those that endanger the life of the woman, or that result from rape or incest, and Alabama law does not provide any state funds for abortions. The courts will ultimately decide which of Alabama’s several laws regulating abortion are constitutional, including any restrictions on new abortion clinics. As a governor sworn to uphold the federal and state constitutions and the laws of Alabama, I will faithfully execute Alabama’s laws within the constitutional limits defined by the Supreme Court.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

— Initiatives for reform arise from good intentions, but they all run head on into a major problem: chronic underfunding. My proposal for the Alabama Education Lottery will infuse Alabama with $300 million new dollars annually, to be spent in four major areas: Universal First Class Pre-K, to extend Alabama’s top tier Pre-K program to all of our children instead of less than a quarter or a third of 4-year olds; The Foundation Program Promise, which will help close the funding gap between schools systems with fewer resources and those with more; Community Innovation Grants, which will provide wrap around services to address problems like mental health and poor family environments which prevent learning; and College Scholarships and Workforce Readiness, which will be there for our high school graduates to lift themselves even higher.

ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Dr. Eric Mackey was recently named Alabama’s next State Superintendent of Education. The governor serves as a voting member of the Alabama State Board of Education. What vision for Alabama do you share with the new superintendent and where do your philosophies differ? How will you prioritize Alabama’s school children in your role on the Board?

— I look forward to working with Dr. Mackey and learning more about his philosophy of education. I agree with much of what I know about him, that Alabama needs long-term solutions instead of quick fixes, and that education curricula must be more rigorous, with an emphasis on preparing students for a 21st century economy based on information and technology. I admire his work in helping make Alabama Pre-K a highly respected program, which still needs to be expanded statewide. I will expect Dr. Mackey to elevate Alabama’s public schools. That starts with closing the funding gaps between schools where property values are high and rural schools which struggle. Our schools also need more wrap around services because health, mental health, and social problems all stand in the way of learning. My Alabama Education Lottery will address all these issues as well as send more students to colleges, universities, and work force training.

SCHOOL SAFETY

The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida reignited the discussion about school safety. President Trump has suggested arming teachers while others have argued for increased use of school resource officers and funding for mental health programs. As governor, how would you ensure the safety of Alabama’s children in public schools?

— My School Safety Plan was released earlier this year and calls for five areas of action. (1) We must harden our schools through better design standards, use of technology, and the presence of armed law enforcement security officers. (2) Faculty, staff, and security officers at all schools must be trained in the proper reaction to active threats. (3) Ban weapons at schools except those possessed by trained security personnel. (4) Develop protocols to identify and act upon potential attackers. (5) Support reasonable gun control measures like universal background checks, higher age limits for the purchase of assault weapons, and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill who are a danger to themselves or others, and those on the terrorist watch list.

SCHOOL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should school choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

— I’m certainly for better schools but charter schools and use of public funds for private schools don’t appear to be the answer their advocates claim. Rather they’re just another source of controversy and a diversion of public funds from school that are already underfunded. What I’d prefer to see is all the momentum and energy behind advocating for school choice be put into making all our public schools better. Many of the ideas behind alternative schooling can be generalized, but this should be done within the system that serves all public school children.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

— Alabama’s regressive tax structure problems involves more than just its income tax. Powerful land owners have long successfully lobbied to keep property taxes low. This in turn causes an unhealthy dependency on income, sales, and other taxes, which for the most part are not distributed according to wealth or ability to pay. Once Alabama is ready to have a serious discussion with itself and face the truth, it will be possible to enact revenue neutral tax reform that distributes the burden of operating state and local governments in alignment with how wealth is distributed. Those with an interest in keeping the current system falsely characterize such tax reform as tax increases or redistributions of wealth, and it is that perception that we must overcome before reforms win the support of the people.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

— I support eliminating the state sales tax on groceries. But to do so we must offset the lost revenues with another source. One idea is to eliminate the state deduction for federal income taxes, which would require a constitutional amendment to be voted on by the people. Unfortunately, at the local level, state law limits sources of revenue municipalities and counties can adopt, which would make eliminating local sales taxes on groceries impossible unless a new source of revenue replaces it. We must look at ways to free up the dependency of local governments from sales taxes so that all taxes on groceries can be eliminated.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi—has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?

— I support the plan put forth by the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure, which was founded by the Business Council of Alabama, Chambers of Commerce across the state, businesses, industry associations, and professional groups – all of whom understand that quality roads and bridges are critical to improving Alabama’s economy. Not only must we take a long, hard look at our decreasing fuel tax revenues, which today bring in the equivalent of 35 cents per gallon less than in the mid-1990s, we also must look toward the future as hybrid and electric vehicles continue to cause the same wear and tear on roadways while paying less in fuel taxes. We get what we pay for, and right now we’re paying for roads and bridges that become more dangerous every day and are less attractive to new industries.

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

— The Alabama Education Lottery is a cornerstone of my campaign. It will bring in $300 million every year to make college more affordable for Alabama students, expand Pre-K to every child in the state, provide wrap around services to address health, mental health, and social problems that prevent learning, and close the funding gap between school systems in high and low property value districts.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

— The first thing we must do is get our workforce ready for jobs of the 21st century. This is an employer’s number one concern and so it should be our number one priority. The Alabama Education Lottery will provide funding for workforce development and apprenticeships as well as higher educational attainment, and restructuring our workforce development efforts to be more effective and efficient will make every dollar invested in our future count. Second, we must rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges. Economic development cannot happen if new businesses and industries have no confidence that essential transportation infrastructure will be in place. Alabama is blessed with a strong work ethic, abundant natural resources, and a geographic location that puts us in position to lead the south in job and wage growth. All we need are the missing pieces of the puzzle that have been neglected for too long.

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

— I support the right of labor to organize. The minds and muscles of Alabama workers are the backbone of all our industries, and those workers have a legal right to unite for the betterment of them all. Unions have done so much to help wage growth and job safety of working people. Understanding this, in 2016, Alabama voters included right to work as part of our constitution. Therefore, so long as it remains the law of Alabama, as governor I will be sworn to uphold the individual rights of all workers, even as I continue to support the right of workers to unite for their common good.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

— Much of Alabama’s occupational licensing structure is an inconsistent, ad hoc, unreasonable mess. Licensing should be about assuring only that individuals who perform services to the public are qualified and properly regulated, and should not be an income generator that squeezes money out of multiple layers of the same business and falls disproportionally on lower wage jobs. We should start with common sense reforms. Many lower level licenses can be subsumed by license holders who are responsible for their performance. For example, there’s no need to require a license to shampoos someone’s hair when a licensed cosmetologist is responsible for 100% of the training, approval, and supervision of the person doing the shampoo. We must eliminate duplicative and unnecessary licensing boards. We must align fees for licenses that legitimately have rigorous standards with the costs of administration.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As governor, how would you tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

— The expansion of Medicaid is a major first step in overcoming many of Alabama’s problems, including opioid and other drug abuse. The expansion will increase the availability of and access to treatment and counseling that we so desperately need. We also need to improve prescription drug monitoring and make medical treatments more widely available, like Suboxone, which alleviates the pain of opioid withdrawal but is too expensive for most to afford without assistance. Detox units, residential and outpatient services, consultation among addiction specialists and other providers must be expanded. UAB’s Addiction Recovery Program provides an effective model that can be replicated statewide for a medically supervised approach to early sobriety including intensive therapy, 12-step fellowship, trauma and grief work, and family support. Overdose remedies like Narcan must be widely available to both emergency first responders and the general public. We must implement common sense initiatives like warm handoffs so that people who seek emergency medical treatment for drug overdoses are automatically connected to a treatment program – and, of course, that begins by making sure treatment programs are available.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

— The governor should meet with leaders in law enforcement and experts in criminal conduct to find the most effective ways to reduce crime, with consideration given to such approaches as keeping children in school longer – a proven deterrent to criminal behavior; identification of threats in the community; behavioral intervention programs; using technology tools that detect patterns of criminal behavior and provide evidence to make arrests; providing our youth with opportunities for learning skills, recreation, and service to the community as alternatives to drugs and crimes; hot spot and focused policing – faster reaction to crime trends to proactively stop crimes from being committed; eliminate blighted housing; community policing; and responsible and reasonable gun laws.

PRISON REFORMS

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

— Alabama’s prison system is driven largely by court order or continuing efforts to stave off court orders, and private prisons are a pathway to even more headaches. Nobody likes to talk about prisons, but it is our duty as a society to provide safe and secure prisons that comply with standards of human decency while also serving their punitive purpose. Our prison system is severely overcrowded and are at risk for federal court takeover. We are not rehabilitating our prisoners or treating those with mental health problems, which puts them at high risk to commit further crimes and return to prison. Once we embrace the fact that 90% of prisoners will one day return to society, then perhaps we can accept the fact that rehabilitation of prisoners – with educational opportunities, job skill training, and mental health and drug abuse treatment – is just as important as meting out punishment for the crime.

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Do you support the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

— Civil asset forfeiture can be an effective tool in combatting drug trafficking. However, there are too many stories about people who are never charged with crimes falling victim to the relatively low standards for seizing property when there is a mere suspicion of criminal activity. I believe in the 2nd amendment, but I also believe in the due process clause of the 14th But before we eliminate what can be an effective law enforcement tool, we need to gather evidence of how Alabama law enforcement agencies are using civil forfeitures. Therefore, I support the bill that failed in the last legislative session to require detailed reporting by law enforcement agencies as to how and when assets are seized, the suspected crime underlying the seizure, how the funds or assets are used by the agency, whether there was ultimately a conviction in the case, and similar data. We also need to consider whether funds from forfeited assets should continue to go to the law enforcement agencies or instead into the general funds of state and local governments. This would remove the so-called profit motive from law enforcement. We must work toward the day when assets are not seized unless there’s strong assurance they were used in criminal activity, ideally only after a conviction. Gathering data so that we may formulate strategies that fight crime effectively while retaining fundamental fairness in our justice system is the best start.

The Alabama Policy Institute, headquartered in Birmingham, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families. To learn more about their work and how you can help, please visit alabamapolicy.org.

Former State Rep. Fields responds to the Alabama gubernatorial candidate questionnaire

(Fields Campaign)

Former State Rep. James Fields, a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor, recently responded to the questionnaire prepared by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. His answers are below.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you govern?

Fields: Ours is a government of laws applicable to all the people. Officials are elected by the people of a specifically defined jurisdiction to serve them as prescribed by the duties of the office. The oath sworn as well as the law upon which it is based, affords no official the authority to limit the service of their office to only those who support them. They must strive to serve friend and foe alike, with transparency, and though reciprocal communication, see beyond actions that divide, while working to find the common good for all. Leaders have an obligation to identify laws which favor some over others with no redeeming justifications, and to propose new laws & provide direction for actions that help all people without prejudice.  Failing these obligations is a violation of the official’s oath as well as a dereliction of their duty.

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if elected, how would it shape the way you govern?

Decisions & actions of government must no longer be made based upon fear, superstition, or ill-informed whim; thus, my administration will be devoted to finding solutions to problems based upon empirically demonstrated evidence, ensuring that state agencies are working to fulfill their statutory missions in a fiscally responsible manner, and providing a legislative agenda which proactively addresses the needs of all the people of the state.

How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

I have demonstrated my principles, character, and leadership skills to the people of my community all my life. I’m the first African-American ever elected to the Alabama House from an almost entirely white district in Cullman Co. They know my principles. They’ve seen me coach children’s sports, pastor a church, bring people together, and represent them in Montgomery.

What is the most important role of the governor?

The governor is the leader and face of state government. The governor leads by upholding the law and establishing the goals and standards of how state government serves the people.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

The most challenging social issue facing Alabamians is inequality in opportunity. Inequality in wealth, education, and health. As equality is a fundamental concept of a democracy, remediating inequality is a principal responsibility of government.

Equality in opportunity begins with equality in education. Every school district must have equal and sufficient funding. I will propose a state “lottery,” to be voted on by the voters, which would direct all the revenue generated to education. This new revenue could not supplant any tax revenue earmarked for the Education Trust Fund. Additionally, I will propose a reform of Alabama’s regressive tax structure toward a sensible tax on real property so that rather than the long-placed burden on those less able to pay, everyone and every corporation pays their fair share.

Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?

The governor swears an oath to uphold the law. As these clinics provide numerous services which women may choose to acquire that are legal under Federal law I would, to the best of my ability ensure that they are supported by every relevant agency directed by my office. I would not support any effort to hinder their operation, including their right to qualify as a Medicaid provider. To be clear, as an abortion procedure cannot be funded by Medicaid, I would, as sworn, ensure that the Alabama Medicaid Agency complied with all laws.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

Equality in a quality educational opportunity is imperative for Alabamians to compete in the 21st century. Alabama government must launch a full commitment to public education. Such a commitment would be manifested by repealing laws which take money from public schools to pay for private schools and most notably line the pockets of privileged lobbyists. It includes supporting educators at all levels, (Kindergarten – Post graduate); as well as ensuring that all public schools have the most up-to-date technology for learning and that those technologies are utilized in healthy, comfortable, and safe environments. It also includes a curricular philosophy which encompasses a broad general education which fosters critical thinking and creativity as well as STEM.

ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Dr. Eric Mackey was recently named Alabama’s next State Superintendent of Education. The governor serves as a voting member of the Alabama State Board of Education. What vision for Alabama do you share with the new superintendent and where do your philosophies differ? How will you prioritize Alabama’s school children in your role on the Board?

Dr Mackey has stated “…So, that every child that finishes from our system, whether they’re in a rural county or they’re in downtown Birmingham or they’re in a suburban school system — every child has the opportunity to do what they want to in life. And that’s our responsibility as educators — that we give them the opportunity to make their own choices.” As governor, I would work to support Dr. Mackey’s goal along with ensuring that these opportunities are available to all of Alabama’s students.

As a member of the State Board of Education my priority will always be the students. They are always Alabama’s future.

SCHOOL SAFETY

The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida reignited the discussion about school safety. President Trump has suggested arming teachers while others have argued for increased use of school resource officers and funding for mental health programs. As governor, how would you ensure the safety of Alabama’s children in public schools?

“Ensuring the safety of” anyone today, with the plethora of firearms in our society is not possible, however, “ensuring” that we have done as much as is identifiably conceivable is. This includes, but is not limited to, resource officers, metal detectors, and refusing to tolerate bullying.  I will demand sufficient funding for education that includes adequate numbers of school counselors, as well as well as training educators in identifying & helping students with problems is critical in making schools safer. Funding for mental health programs, mostly a red herring in this context, is another of our healthcare deficiencies which will be addressed. Arming teachers is a terrible idea.

SCHOOL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should school choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

“School choice” is non-existent in most areas of Alabama. As intended by those who profit from it, the term is alluring and promising, but it’s methodology, the “Alabama Accountability Act,” does nothing to improve the public education opportunities Alabama desperately needs. In fact, it is detrimental to the public schools it touts to help.

Alabama’s “school choice” model is simply code for furthering inequality of educational opportunity for most of the three quarters of a million students in our public schools. Public tax revenue, all of it, should be used for public schools.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

The disparity in the income tax burden in Alabama is as immoral as the tax on food. Even after an increase in 2006, the threshold of GROSS income for paying any income tax for a family of four is $12,600, which is well below the poverty limit by any assessment. If the taxing of income is to continue, it must be overhauled to place the responsibility on those most able to pay, RATHER THAN THE LEAST.  I will propose a reform of Alabama’s regressive tax structure toward a sensible tax on real property, so that rather than the long-placed burden on those less able to pay, everyone and every corporation pays their fair share. This can provide the stable base of revenue which Alabama desperately needs.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

The tax on food is as immoral as the disparity in the income tax burden. I would work to repeal it and work for tax reform which places the burden on those most able to pay, RATHER THAN THE LEAST. I will propose and work to accomplish these changes.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi—has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?

The condition of Alabama’s roads and bridges are rated as “at risk,” almost “unfit” by the American Society of Civil Engineers!” The condition of dams cannot be classified because there is no consistent data available. Clearly many dams, due to age alone, pose a danger. I will propose legislation to establish dam inspection and remediation.

The foolishly exalted shrinking of state government and refusal to even consider additional taxes continues to limit Alabama’s ability to access the federal funding which was supporting our infrastructure.

My proposal of a sensible tax on real property so that rather than the long-placed burden on those less able to pay, everyone and every corporation pays their fair share can provide the stable base of revenue which Alabama desperately needs.

The lack of broadband availability limits the opportunity for many to connect to the vastness of the internet. It limits education, healthcare, social, and economic opportunities for these communities. Cities and towns who can mandate access prosper and contribute revenue to the state. Others, unable to make the investment, continue the cycle of inferior education, limited economic opportunity, and suppressed ability to contribute to the state and local tax base. I will work for ensuring that every corner of Alabama has affordable access to broadband.

Infrastructure for Alabama’s future includes high-speed commuter rail service between the major metropolitan hubs in Alabama and those in other southeastern states. Reducing dependence on automobiles will pay dividends in cleaner air, less wear on roadways, lower demand for fossil fuels, as well as adding spending power to the economy.

Certainly, the most innovative options to fund infrastructural needs, given Alabama’s taxation philosophy since 1901, is to shift the burden from those least able to pay to those most able to pay, including large corporations. A fair and equitable property tax based upon a market value model rather than current use model could allow for a stable base for all of state government functions. I will support efforts for fair and equitable tax reform.

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

I support the idea of a lottery as an additional source of revenue for education. If an amendment authorizing a lottery was approved by a vote of the people, the projected revenue would not however, “solve the state’s fiscal woes.” Alabama’s fiscal woes are a result of dependence on its highly regressive, unstable, economy based tax structure in which people with lower incomes account for an inordinate share of the revenue collected. Alabama’s fiscal woes will continue until the burden is balanced proportionally amongst all payers.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

Short term economic growth and job creation is important, but Alabama must escape its dependence upon giving away the farm as the only strategy to lure industry and jobs here.  Solid, diversified economic growth, such as that experienced by our neighbors to the north, south, and east, has come because of their cultures of progressive prosperity which are based on more adequately funded schools, community colleges, and universities; better healthcare; and wide-ranging infrastructure advantages. These cultures can attract industries with less emphasis on tax giveaways. I will work to end the failed, short-sighted strategy of squeezing government, giving away the farm, and cutting taxes for corporations with the expectation that an economy will suddenly prosper.

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

I am opposed to the illusory concept of “right-to-work.” Though now enshrined in Alabama’s Constitution, it is one that many Alabamians likely cannot even correctly define. I fully support organized labor and appreciate what is has accomplished for America’s workers. Its role to represent, support, and defend workers in a state that seeks to minimize workers’ rights at every opportunity is vital.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

The opinions of the Obama or Trump Administrations regarding occupational licensing is not important. What is important is what protections do Alabama’s citizens need weighed against the practice of occupational and industry protectionism. I will entertain scientific methodology-based peer reviewed research of the impact of regulations on specific occupations as well as overall patterns of regulatory practice. I will not support pell-mell attacks on regulations that impact consumers.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As governor, how would you tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

We must stop the dying. Naloxone saves the lives of people who have overdosed on opioids. Its availability must not be an issue. I will direct the Department of Public Health to work with pharmaceutical companies and use state resources to make it available to emergency responders. The expansion of Medicaid along with what should be willing initiatives by health insurance providers will help off-set state expenditures.

Good professional work has already been accomplished, but it must be fully implemented. I will work with legislators to ensure that the multi-disciplinary initiatives generated by the “State of Alabama Opioid Action Plan” are fully funded, calling a special session of the legislature if that is necessary.

I will work to end Alabama’s failed, “lock-um-up” solution to substance abuse, utilizing strategies identified through the Opioid Action Plan.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

The US Department of Justice cautions: “…rankings [of reported crime figures] lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions.”  They further explain that there are many variables which are not pervasively applicable to all geographic areas.

Alabama’s simplistic “tough on crime” or “lock-um-up & throw away the key” approaches imprisons people at rates more than 100 per 100k people in both jails and prisons compared with the national rates.  If these approaches were effective, Alabama would be one the safest places on earth. Clearly, that approach has not and does not work.

I will direct and support reform efforts based upon scientific methodology-based peer reviewed research and knowledge in the areas of criminal law, sentencing, & prison reform. Accepted knowledge affirms that crime is impacted by myriad psycho-socio-economic factors. Pragmatic actions based upon true knowledge of specific problems has been demonstrated time and again to increase the likelihood of success. Education is a tide that tends to lift all boats, and would be at the core of my approach.

PRISON REFORMS

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

Prison reform in Alabama will be a priority. The cost to the state to operate prisons cannot be sustained. The massive loss of productivity, including restitution, from those for who incarceration is not necessary is foolish; and the direct & indirect socio-economic impact of incarcerating so many people, particularly those of color is immoral.

I will heartedly support reforms including criminal law, sentencing, education and training for non-violent offenders as well as those serving out their time. I will support reinstatement of voting and civil rights for those who have completed their sentence, and will additionally work with faith and charitable organizations to challenge the culture of dehumanizing any individual who is convicted of a crime.

As previously noted education is a tide that tends to lift all boats. Alabama should be ashamed of its approach to “corrections.”

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Do you support the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

NO. In my opinion it is not only unconstitutional, it is a tool just waiting to be misused even in the hands of a well-intended government, and most egregiously dangerous in the hands of one which is ill-intended. I will work diligently to prohibit this practice in Alabama.

The Alabama Policy Institute, headquartered in Birmingham, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families. To learn more about their work and how you can help, please visit alabamapolicy.org.

 

Just released! Questions for Alabama’s lieutenant governor candidates

(YHN/Pixabay)

Candidates for public office, once elected, bring their underlying principles and perspectives on policy issues into office with them, thus defining how they govern. It is important for citizens to know and understand the candidates for which they are voting, and Yellowhammer News and the Alabama Policy Institute (API) are partnering to bring that information to Alabama voters.

Over the course of the next few weeks, candidates will be issued a questionnaire with questions ranging from political philosophy to state-specific questions on fiscal responsibility, education, and job creation. By providing an outlet for candidates to address these topics, we hope to foster a more engaged and informed electorate in Alabama.

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Why are API and Yellowhammer News issuing these questionnaires?

It is a difficult task to get each candidate running for office on the same stage. When they do share a live audience, candidates are rarely given the opportunity to answer challenging policy questions.  These questionnaires provide this opportunity—one that will benefit both candidates and the electorate. This format will give candidates time to provide more thoughtful responses and will give Alabamians the information they need to cast their vote. Issuing the questions on a public platform provides accountability and transparency between the candidates and voters, which is vital to a more informed citizenry.

How will the process work?

API and Yellowhammer will release a list of questions, which will be posted on the Yellowhammer News website, on the Alabama Policy Institute website, and sent to the campaigns of each candidate. The candidates will each be allowed two weeks to respond to the questionnaire. The answers will be posted by Yellowhammer News and the Alabama Policy Institute and available for the candidates to post on their respective websites.

Last week, the questions were sent to the campaigns of the gubernatorial candidates, who were told that they have until May 11 to submit answers. As responses come in, they will be posted online. On Friday, questions will be sent to the candidates for attorney general, to be submitted by May 18.

API and Yellowhammer challenge all of the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general to answer these questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. Prior to casting our votes, Alabama voters deserve to know what their candidates believe and how they will view the issues presented to them.

As election day draws near, we look forward to receiving their responses and sharing that information with you.

2018 Lieutenant Governor Questionnaire

Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you lead as lieutenant governor?

How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

What should be the role of the lieutenant governor?

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

ETHICS

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Alabama receives a D+ grade for integrity. When the state is in the national news, it is often because of a lack of ethical behavior by state officials or candidates. How would having you as lieutenant governor improve our state’s image nationally and, more generally, what suggestions do you have to ensure integrity throughout the state government?

As lieutenant governor, you will be responsible for appointing more than 400 people to state positions. How can Alabamians be sure that you will appoint qualified and experienced candidates and not simply supporters from current or previous electoral campaigns?

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

EDUCATIONAL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should educational choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would you propose be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi – has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects,  and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?  

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

FEDERAL DEPENDENCY

Alabama is currently the fourth most federally dependent state in the country. What do you think should be the federal government’s role in our state finances?

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As lieutenant governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As lieutenant governor, how would you help the governor tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As lieutenant governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

What do Alabama candidates really think? API, Yellowhammer News partner on questionnaires to find out

(YHN/Pixabay)

Candidates for public office, once elected, bring their underlying principles and perspectives on policy issues into office with them, thus defining how they govern. It is important for citizens to know and understand the candidates for which they are voting, and Yellowhammer News and the Alabama Policy Institute (API) are partnering to bring that information to Alabama voters.

Over the course of the next three weeks, candidates will be issued a questionnaire from API and Yellowhammer with questions ranging from political philosophy to state-specific questions on fiscal responsibility, education, and job creation.  By providing an outlet for candidates to address these topics, the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer hope to foster a more engaged and informed electorate in Alabama.

Why are API and Yellowhammer issuing these questionnaires?

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It is a difficult task to get each candidate running for office on the same stage. When they do share a live audience, candidates are rarely given the opportunity to answer challenging policy questions.  These questionnaires provide this opportunity – one that will benefit both candidates and the electorate. This format will give candidates time to provide more thoughtful responses and will give Alabamians the information they need to cast their vote. Issuing the questions on a public platform provides accountability and transparency between the candidates and voters, which is vital to a more informed citizenry.

How will the process work?

API and Yellowhammer will release a list of questions, which will be posted on the Yellowhammer News website, on the Alabama Policy Institute website, and sent to the campaigns of each candidate. The candidates will each be allowed two weeks to respond to the questionnaire. The answers will be posted by Yellowhammer News and the Alabama Policy Institute and available for the candidates to post on their respective websites.

Today, the questions were sent to the campaigns of the gubernatorial candidates, who were told that they have until May 11 to submit answers. As responses come in, they will be posted online. On Wednesday, candidates for lieutenant governor will be given questions to be answered by May 15. Next Friday, questions will be sent to the candidates for attorney general to be submitted by May 18.

API and Yellowhammer challenge all of the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general to answer these questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. Prior to casting our votes, Alabama voters deserve to know what their candidates believe and how they will view the issues presented to them.

As election day draws near, we look forward to receiving their responses and sharing that information with you.

Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News

2018 Gubernatorial Questionnaire

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you govern?

How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

What is the most important role of the governor?

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Dr. Eric Mackey was recently named Alabama’s next State Superintendent of Education. The governor serves as a voting member of the Alabama State Board of Education. What vision for Alabama do you share with the new superintendent and where do your philosophies differ? How will you prioritize Alabama’s school children in your role on the Board?

SCHOOL SAFETY

The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida reignited the discussion about school safety. President Trump has suggested arming teachers while others have argued for increased use of school resource officers and funding for mental health programs. As governor, how would you ensure the safety of Alabama’s children in public schools?

SCHOOL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should school choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi—has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would you address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As governor, how would you tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

PRISON REFORMS

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Do you support the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?


This article has been updated to reflect new dates by which the candidates were asked to respond. 

Believe it or not, here’s how American liberals and conservatives share a common foundation

(W.Miller/YHN)

Political discussion in the United States is often framed by party allegiance.

When people are asked to explain the rationale behind their choice to identify with a specific party, however, they often cannot give an answer beyond listing particular positions that they support or oppose.

While an understanding of specific policies is important, limiting debate to the realm of policy misses out on the deeper questions that lie at the heart of any political society.

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Ultimately, politics is more than just a set of proposals; it reflects fundamental principles that derive from the values that an individual or society holds. In an increasingly polarized world, understanding the central principles of political philosophy is more important than ever, as they not only provide markers for navigating the policy sphere, but also enable fruitful debate between people regardless of their political viewpoint.

In the United States, the core principles that shape political debate stem from the philosophy of liberalism (also known today as classical liberalism).

Although the term “liberal” is now typically associated with the Democratic party, that has not always been the case. The current usage of terms such as “liberal” and “conservative” as indicators of party affiliation is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Liberalism is a political philosophy organized around the individual. In contrast to earlier conceptions of society, which were structured around heredity and social status, liberalism views the individual as the fundamental building block of society. Thus, the structures in a liberal political system are designed to promote individual liberty by limiting government, protecting private property, and promoting capitalism, an economic system that allows the free participation of individuals in the marketplace.

These ideas were central to the American Revolution and codified in the U.S. Constitution, particularly in the Bill of Rights.

While the merit of these principles seems obvious to Americans today, it was not necessarily the case at the time of the American Revolution and the years that followed. In fact, for the first half of the 1800s, liberalism was considered a radical ideology, one that spurred a series of revolutions across Europe and South America.

Initially, “conservatives” opposed these revolutions, as they challenged the more traditional understanding of society that was symbolized by the monarchy and aristocracy. Over time, however, the liberals gradually won out, and by the late-1800s, liberalism (along with capitalism) had become the primary political/economic system in the Western world. The spread of liberalism also coincided with the Industrial Revolution, generating tremendous increases in economic productivity.

It was not until the twentieth century that the terms liberal and conservative took on their modern connotations. By the 1900s, the distribution of wealth that had resulted from the Industrial Revolution was far from equal, with capital highly concentrated in the hands of a few while workers endured horrible working conditions for meager pay.

The Great Depression also caused many to doubt the stability of the free-market, as millions were put out of work and economic productivity ground to a halt. Some liberals began to question these developments, arguing that liberalism was failing to provide the freedom and prosperity that it had promised.

These liberals argued that the government, instead of allowing the market to operate freely, should work to regulate and reform the marketplace in order to secure greater liberty and equality for the working class, and became known as progressives.

These progressives were also referred to as “reform liberals,” because they advocated for a new understanding of liberalism. Those who opposed this shift were called “conservatives”, since they adhered to the free-market principles of “classical” liberalism. This shift (among others) would result in the political divisions that persist today, with progressives associating with the Democrats and conservatives with the Republicans.

Even such a cursory overview can shed some light on the current political climate. Despite the vitriol and disagreements that characterize political debate (on both sides), it is important to remember that modern liberals and conservatives ultimately share the same basic commitment to a democratic form of government that exists to serve the people, a notion that was key to America’s founding.

While the disagreements between liberals and conservatives are by no means insignificant, having a shared foundation makes conversation possible. Dialogue between diverse viewpoints is necessary for the functioning of a democratic republic.

Without a proper understanding of the underlying principles, politics can quickly devolve into a chaos of competing policies with no real connection to the values that are held by the society. Thus, it is crucial to understand political philosophy, not only to better grasp matters of policy, but also to foster a vibrant political community.

(Image: File)

Andrew Sasser, a native of Decatur, is a policy fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute.