The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

Byrne: As Democrats fight, national security loses

(N. Pelosi/Flickr, A. Cortez-Ocasio Campaign, CBP/Flickr, YHN)

Protecting the safety of the American people is our must fundamental duty in Congress. In a city where few things receive bipartisan support, providing for the national defense has remained an area of compromise.

For 58 straight years, the House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Last month, the Senate did its job. By a vote of 86 to 8, it passed a bipartisan defense authorization bill. In the House, things were to play out differently.

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If you’ve followed anything going on in Washington the past several weeks, you’ve seen the drama and infighting within the House Democrat Caucus. It truly is open warfare. Speaker Pelosi has had to deal with everything from radical socialist demands for legislation that won’t pass and even Twitter battles between her own members.

Recently the top staffer for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the leader of the radicals, called a group of Democratic Congressmen – several of them people of color – racists. Their crime in the eyes of the socialist regressives was supporting a bipartisan, Senate-passed bill to provide aid to migrants at the border.

However, to this new class who want nothing less than a complete breaking apart of our society and a restructuring of our entire way of life, nothing Pelosi offers them will ever be enough.

In a caucus meeting last week, Pelosi pleaded with her members to keep their internal battles private. It remains to be seen if the public spectacle will subside. Recent history suggests it will continue.

As the storm within the Democrat Caucus continued, the NDAA came to the House floor. I voted against this bill when we marked it up in the Armed Services Committee. This is a bad bill that does not provide the funding our military leaders insist is necessary to keep us competitive against China and Russia. It cuts personnel and nuclear deterrence spending. It strips aid from our allies overseas and limits President Trump’s military and diplomatic authority. It prohibits the funding of critical national security efforts at our border. It even begins the process of shuttering detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Republicans offered good faith amendments to improve the bill.

House Democrats blocked my amendment to prohibit the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States from even being debated on the House Floor. Forty detainees remaining in Guantanamo are architects of the September 11th attacks, Osama bin Laden body guards, and Al-Qaeda operatives. These are bad people who have done harm to the United States in the past and would again if given the opportunity. The fact that my amendment did not even get a chance to be voted on tells you a lot about the new Democratic party.

Even undercutting our national defense was not enough for many in the Democrat party. Speaker Pelosi did not yet have the votes to pass her bill.

Pelosi could have done what Speakers and leaders of the House Armed Services Committee have done for 58 years. She could have sought a middle ground to ensure our men and women in the military have what they need to protect us. Unfortunately, Pelosi caved to radical demands and went in the other direction.

For days, the House voted on amendment after amendment offered by Democrats. Dozens of items from the socialist wish list were added to the bill. In the end, the bill received enough votes from Democrats to pass, but this bill will never become law.

Despite this leftward turn, the most extreme House members still did not vote for the NDAA. For them, nothing will be enough except the radical remaking our country, even at the expense of national security. This war among Democrats will continue.

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

5 days ago

Battling on and off the field

(FOX Soccer/YouTube)

The U.S. Women’s soccer team is fighting two battles this year. On the field in France, they successfully defended their World Cup title. In March, team members sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination. The case highlights gender pay equity and potential discrimination by sports fans.

Determining compensation is trickier than you might think, due to differences in numbers of games and whether either team is playing a World Cup. Court filings suggest that for an equivalent schedule, women are paid 62 percent less than men. If this is true, is it fair?

If you think pay should depend on performance, the U.S. women should make much more than our men. The women have won four World Cup titles and Olympic Gold medals each; the Men have never won either and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

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If you think pay should depend on effort and hard work, equal pay probably seems fair. The members of both teams undoubtedly train and play extremely hard.

Economists would focus on revenue generation by each team. Total player compensation across major professional sports leagues is generally 50 to 60 percent of revenue. Economics would find the pay differential fair if based on a revenue difference.

Economics explains how athletes’ compensation depends on revenue, but is this fair? We can offer a fairness defense as follows. Participation on the national soccer teams, like all market activity, is voluntary. And fans choose voluntarily to attend games, watch on TV and purchase merchandise. Voluntary participation means that events like the Women’s World Cup make the world a better place than otherwise. And pay differentials provide people an incentive to supply more labor, if possible.

Sports economics also suggests why unequal pay may persist even with equal revenue. Competition between employers in labor markets drives salaries up to the value a worker generates. Competition in sports is less intense than other professions because athletes make so much more in their sport than other work. Salary caps and other measures can further limit bidding for players. U.S. Soccer could potentially indulge prejudices regarding gender and pay if desired.

Whether the soccer pay gap is due to revenue is unclear. Gate revenue from women’s and men’s matches has been equal since 2015, but the gate is only one component of overall revenue. Litigation will likely reveal the truth.

Let’s turn then to a more challenging question: do revenue differences reflect fan prejudice against women’s sports? The prize pool for the Women’s World Cup was $30 million, versus $400 million for the 2018 Men’s World Cup. Huge earnings differences also exist in professional basketball. In 2017-18, the average WNBA salary was $72,000, compared with a minimum NBA salary of $838,000. These enormous pay gaps are primarily due to differences in revenue. Do sports fans just not like watching women play?

Economists have tested for racial discrimination using sports data, particularly focusing on salaries from within the same sport. Different sports leagues, to my mind, represent different products. Economists generally attach little moral significance to people’s preferences across products. Americans like football more than soccer, but so what? Such differences in preferences simply make the world more interesting.
Differences in fan interest though may well be due to gender stereotypes and consequently be disturbing. Even so, separating gender stereotyping from other, less problematic, preferences would be difficult. Should we try to mandate equality in fan attendance and spending for the NBA and WNBA? Should companies have to sponsor both the men’s and women’s national soccer teams for the same amount?

The long run provides reason for optimism. Women’s sports are relatively new – the WNBA is 21 years old and the first Women’s World Cup was held in 1991 – and sports loyalties are often formed young. As gender stereotypes break down, fewer fans will be biased. The 2019 World Cup’s record TV audiences worldwide demonstrate progress. When the revenue gap between men’s and women’s soccer disappears, if it still exists, equality in pay should follow.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

Roby: Be prepared during hurricane season

(Rep. Roby/Facebook)

It’s hard to believe that July is halfway over, and summer will be ending soon. Temperatures here in Southeast Alabama continue to reach nearly 100 degrees on any given day, but fall and cooler weather will be here before we know it. In less than a month, students across our district and state will begin another school year, and shortly after that, college football season kicks off.

While this time of year brings a lot of excitement, be mindful that hurricane season lasts until the end of November, and it’s extremely important that we take the necessary precautions to protect our loved ones and property. Hurricanes are one of nature’s most powerful and destructive forces. On average, 12 tropical storms, six of which become hurricanes, form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico during this time each year.

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Unfortunately, many people who live in the Second District recently experienced the devastation this season can bring when Hurricane Michael made landfall last October. Last month, I shared that Congress approved and the President signed into law disaster relief legislation that will aid our farmers. It is my understanding that the process of making these funds available will soon be underway.

As we continue to rebuild together, and as we monitor the ongoing severe weather events happening in the Gulf of Mexico, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some safety tips from the National Weather Service (NWS) to prepare for storms that may impact us in the months ahead. Here’s a useful checklist to review prior to warnings of a hurricane:

  1. Know your zone. The Second District doesn’t have any hurricane evacuation zones, but our neighbors in Baldwin and Mobile Counties reside in hurricane evacuation areas. Keep this in mind if you’re vacationing nearby in the upcoming months or if you have friends and relatives who live further south in Alabama. A list of evacuation zone maps is available at www.flash.org/2017EvacuationZones.pdf.
  2. Assemble an emergency kit. Your kit items should be stored in airtight plastic bags, then placed in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as plastic bins or duffel bags. Your emergency kit should include the following items: one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and a manual can opener, battery-powered radio, a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, a whistle to signal for help, and local maps. You can download the rest of the recommended supplies list and read about additional suggested supplies by visiting www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.
  3. Write or review your family emergency plan. Before an emergency happens, sit down with your family and close friends and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go, and what you will do in a weather emergency. Keep a copy of this plan in your emergency kit. You can start working on your plan by visiting www.ready.gov/hurricanes.
  4. Review your insurance policies. This is an important step to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your home and personal property.
  5. Understand the NWS forecast language. There’s a difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning, and it’s important to have a strong understanding of the two. Read about this by visiting www.weather.gov/safety/hurricane-ww.

Hurricanes can happen along any U.S. coast and can impact areas more than 100 miles inland. I hope you will share this information with loved ones during this time of year especially, remembering that hurricanes are typically most active during the month of September. In many cases, planning and preparation can make a huge difference, so I encourage you to prepare now and remind your friends and family to do the same. In the meantime, my family and I will be praying for an uneventful hurricane season in Southeast Alabama.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

Rogers’ report from Washington: Socialism has no place in America

(M. Rogers/Facebook)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The push for a socialist agenda is alive and well in Washington and it is causing major problems within the Democrat party.

Members, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are offering ideas like the Green New Deal which would cost American taxpayers over $90 trillion over 10 years.

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Many of you may have also seen during the televised Democratic presidential debates that every single candidate raised their hand when asked if their health care plan would include coverage for immigrants in this country illegally.

This same group wants to eliminate private health insurance. They want to offer debt-free college. They want to change our way of life in America.

But while they put forth these radical notions, the real problems our country faces are not being dealt with.

The national security and humanitarian crisis that has dragged on at the southwest border is real. And although Democrats were supportive of building a border wall in the past, now they are completely opposed because President Trump is for it.

But that aside, the Trump administration requested $4.5 billion to help with just the humanitarian crisis as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) runs out of money to take care of families and unaccompanied minors that illegally crossed into our country. That request for funding did not include a dime for building the wall, but strictly money for shelter, transportation, etc.

Republicans tried to bring the funding legislation to the floor over 80 times. The Democrats kept blocking without offering solutions. It took weeks and weeks to finally get a bill passed. That would not have happened until the small group of moderate Democrats left in the House threatened to join Republicans there by forcing Speaker Pelosi to act.

Speaker Pelosi has had a heck of a time trying to rein her party in. It seems Democrats remain more interested in playing politics than taking care of the People’s business.

On top of all of this, there is still chatter of impeaching President Trump – even with nothing to base it on other than being sore losers.

I hope Democrats will stop playing games because Americans deserve better.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks. 

and 1 week ago

Alabama: The ‘backbone of national security space launch’

(NASA/Contributed, YHN)

Since the very beginning of America’s foray into space, Huntsville has been the city behind some of the greatest technological advances the world has ever seen. From the Apollo program landing the first humans on the moon to present-day rocket technology that launches satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office, we have shown the world the strength of Alabama engineering and manufacturing.

While the Marshall Space Flight Center is widely recognized as the epicenter of space activity, important drivers of the aerospace industry can be found all around the state. More than 300 aerospace and defense companies call Alabama home and employ over 61,000 across the industry. Their ingenuity and manufacturing strength have led to over $8 billion in defense contracts in recent years.

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Those of us who live in Alabama feel the economic impact directly. Whether you work for NASA, a big aerospace company, or a small business that builds tools and parts, you know that rockets mean jobs. And the impacts of Alabama-built rockets extend far beyond the jobs that put satellites and astronauts into orbit. The effects can be seen at thriving local businesses including restaurants and retail stores.

Space tourism is also an important part of this equation. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Space Camp and even the Blooming Rockets at the Huntsville Botanical Garden bring visitors from around the world to our community. It is no surprise that Huntsville was featured as one of the 52 places to travel in 2019 by The New York Times. Our spaceflight heritage is synonymous with Huntsville’s nickname – Rocket City.

Now, we are watching as Alabama’s space legacy continues to grow.

Several years ago, Congress challenged the American aerospace industry to design a new rocket for national security. This rocket would need to be able to perform more complex missions and have an American-made engine – replacing the Russian built RD-180.

United Launch Alliance (ULA), which currently builds the Atlas and Delta rockets in Decatur, decided to rise up to the challenge and build this next generation rocket – the Vulcan Centaur – here in Alabama.

Through the Air Force’s competitive procurement process for this next generation rocket, two companies will be chosen for future national security space launches.

If the Vulcan Centaur, which is currently being built in Decatur, is chosen, it has the potential to power both launches and the state’s economy. Nearly 200 supplier companies from across the state work with ULA to produce their rockets – creating an economic impact of $285 million.
One thing is clear – a win for the Vulcan Centaur rocket is a win for Alabama.

Just last week, we got a first look at the robotic welders in the Decatur. Using state of the art manufacturing techniques like this, Alabama is leading the pack when it comes to innovation that supports our national security.

As the Air Force assesses rocket development for the next generation of national security space launches, the competition has been heating up and Congressional leaders have been working to slow down and change the competition for rocket companies in their home states.

However, Washington should not be playing politics with our national security. America needs the most capable rocket. A rocket built by Alabamians in a city that has a storied history of advances in space.

Alabama has been the backbone of national security space launch for generations, and if ULA’s Vulcan Centaur is chosen by the Air Force, we will continue that strong tradition.

Jeremy Nails is president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association and John Seymour is president and CEO of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce.

Byrne: Remembering the stories of our heroes

(White House/Flickr)

For Americans from coast to coast, Independence Day is a celebration of our nation’s birthday with friends and family. The day also offers an opportunity for reflection.

In Washington, President Trump held a “Salute to America” celebration on the National Mall in honor of our troops. The patriotic spectacle, featuring military bands, aircraft flyovers and fireworks, was highlighted by a speech in which President Trump praised our “truly extraordinary heritage” and recounted our unique American story.

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“It is the epic tale of a great nation whose people have risked everything for what they know is right and what they know is true,” he said. “It is the chronicle of great citizens who never give up on the dream of a better and brighter future and it is the saga of 13 separate colonies that united to form the most just and virtuous republic ever conceived. As long as we stay true to our course, as long as we remember our great history, as long as we never, ever stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America cannot do.”

His speech was given during an important time in our nation’s history. Growing threats overseas represent significant challenges to our sovereignty and increasing danger to our military men and women and citizens at home.

In the Middle East, we have seen an escalation of Iranian provocations that began with repeated attacks on oil tankers and led to the Iranians shooting down an American drone over international air space. The United States came close to retaliatory strikes in Iran.

Iran now boasts it will continue enriching uranium in pursuit of a nuclear weapon. This longstanding threat will not go away soon.

During a time of so much geopolitical turmoil, it’s important for us to, in President Trump’s words, “remember our great heritage” of the men and women who fought and sacrificed so that this great American experiment can continue.

Like many of yours, my family has shared in this sacrifice.

On June 3, 1942, during World War II, my uncle Jack Langsdale, a merchant mariner, was stationed aboard the City of Alma as it was torpedoed by a German U-boat about 400 miles northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The explosion ripped a 40-foot hole in the side of the vessel, and she sank within three minutes. The radio operator, who died on board, did not even get a chance to relay a message.

Of the 39 men on board the City of Alma that day, 29 lost their lives. Sadly, my uncle was among the dead. I never got the chance to know him.

I recently had the opportunity to talk about my uncle’s story to the Captain Richard Phillips Lane Kirkland Maritime Trust as we honored three World War II veterans in attendance. It was a special experience to thank these brave men for their role in securing our freedoms and to hear their stories of crossing the sea to fight for our country.

Captain Phillips himself knows the dangers our merchant mariners face on the high seas. In 2009, as the captain of the USS Maersk Alabama, Somali pirates boarded and commandeered his vessel. After several tense days of negotiations, escape attempts and dangerous confrontations, Navy SEAL snipers eliminated the pirates and rescued Captain Phillips, who had heroically presented himself as a hostage to save his crew. A 2013 film starring Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips depicts his remarkable saga.

Countless sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen have given so much so that we can continue to celebrate Independence Day. Though we can never repay them, we must do what we can to remember their stories.

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

2 weeks ago

2020 races around the corner

(D. Jones, K. Harris, C. Booker, B. Sanders, E. Warren/Facebook)

Folks, don’t look now, but the 2020 presidential election is upon us. Indeed, as many as 21 Democratic aspirants are already announced and campaigning.

They are quite a liberal group as you might expect. Leading the pack of Democrats trying to take Donald Trump out of the White House is an avowed, true socialist, Bernie Sanders. Behind ole Bernie are a host of ultra-liberal U.S. Senators who are socialists wannabes. They hail from either the left coasts of California or New England. Included in the pack of CNN/MSNBC/Stephen Colbert watchers are Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren of Massachusetts. She makes Teddy Kennedy look like a conservative. You also have Kamala Harris of California, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and losing Texas Senate candidate, Beto O’Rourke, in the race.

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Our own anomaly Democratic Senator Doug Jones really should run for president next year. He would have a much better chance of winning the Democratic nomination for president than winning a seat in the U.S. Senate from the Heart of Dixie.

He has been a liberal Democrat in Alabama his entire adult political life. He has been the soul of the liberal Alabama Democratic Party for decades. He has campaigned and voted for George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Teddy Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.

Since he has been in Washington for the past year, he has organized with and voted with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Therefore, he is just as liberal with a much lengthier liberal pedigree than all of the aforementioned liberal Democratic Senators in the race; plus he has a proven Civil Rights record.

The scenario that occurred in last year’s special election to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat was a perfect storm that will never occur again. First of all, it was the only show in the country and the first opportunity for liberals all over the country to show their distaste for Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Having Judge Roy Moore as an additional lightning rod just added fuel to the fire. It attracted over $20 million of liberal, left-wing money to Doug Jones. He was able to outspend Moore 21 to 3. That is almost impossible to overcome, plus, with it being a special election it became a referendum on Doug Jones versus Roy Moore and the Republican vs Democratic delineation became obscured.

During this race, Doug Jones built a national liberal fund-raising base from left-wing America, much like Beto O’Rourke did in Texas. They both have become national stars as Democrats in Red States. Although O’Rourke probably has an edge on Jones in looks and youth. However, recently, Jones appeared on the left-leaning Democratic “Stephen Colbert Show.” Jones may very well be eyeing national politics.

Doug Jones, as a lifelong stalwart Democrat, has worked diligently for the State and National Democratic party for most of his adult life. In recent months, he has tried to wrestle some control away from longtime Democratic dictator Joe Reed. It is practically impossible to understand what is going on in the State Democratic Party. Eventually, there may be a new vote on the party chairmanship. The National Democratic Party has mandated a new election due to the clandestine way that Nancy Worley was elected. The state hierarchy has ignored the National Party.

There is no doubt that Joe Reed is still in control of the Alabama Democratic Party. You can bet your bottom dollar that he calls all the shots. My guess is that he has his horse picked out of the 21 Democratic presidential candidates. He asked California Senator, Kamala Harris, to be the keynote speaker at his Alabama Democratic Conference June annual event. Therefore, Senator Harris might be a good horse to bet on to win next year’s March third Alabama Democratic Presidential Primary.

The Democratic Party in Alabama continues to be a big mess. The bottom line is that on the state level the party is essentially irrelevant. The odds of a Democratic candidate for President carrying Alabama or a Democratic nominee winning any statewide race in the Heart of Dixie is slim to none.

2 weeks ago

Flowers: Legislative session for most part successful, especially for Governor Kay Ivey

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

The 2019 legislative session was one of the most controversial yet productive sessions in memory.

Governor Kay Ivey’s first Session of the Quadrennial was a roaring success. It’s hard to remember a governor getting everything they wanted since the George Wallace heydays.

Wallace in his prime simply controlled the legislature. It was more like an appendage of the governor’s office. Kay Ivey has apparently taken a page from the old Wallace playbook. By the way, that is probably apropos as Kay cut her teeth in Alabama politics working for and learning from the Wallaces.

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Governor Ivey started out the session by passing a gas tax increase which will fund major transportation/highway needs in the state. She ended the last week of the session by garnering legislation to give the governor control of the Pardons and Parole Board and then topping that off with legislation that will allow a vote next March on Alabama having an appointed state school board rather than an elected one. If this controversial amendment is approved by voters, then the governor will make most of the initial appointments.

One would have to say that Kay Ivey has pretty much got a lot of influence with this legislature. Kay’s years of experience and probably more importantly her relationships with legislators is paying dividends for Alabama’s female Republican governor.

Any legislative session could be considered a success if both budgets pass. It is, by the way, the only constitutional mandate for a regular annual session.

The Education Budget is record-breaking. It is a $7.1-billion-dollar budget with a $500 million dollar increase over last year’s budget. This largest in history budget gives teachers and education employees a four percent cost of living raise. It will also increase funding to the state’s heralded pre-kindergarten program. Alabama Community Colleges will get a significant increase. Legislators seem to realize the importance of technical training in the state in attracting manufacturing jobs. State Senator, Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Representative Bill Poole (R- Tuscaloosa), the Chairmen of the Education Budget Committees in the Senate and House did an excellent job of shepherding the school budget through the legislative labyrinth.

The General Fund Budget which generally lags behind the Education Budget was also passed on a positive note. The budget calls for spending $2.2 billion dollars. It includes a two percent cost of living increase for state employees as well as an eight percent increase for the state’s understaffed prison system. Representative Steve Clouse (R–Ozark) is the veteran chairman of the House General Fund Committee.

One of the downsides of the Session was the Legislature’s inability to pass a Constitutional Amendment to allow Alabamians to vote to have a lottery like 45 other states, including all of our neighboring states.

It would pass overwhelmingly if put to a vote. Alabamians are simply tired of seeing their money going into the state coffers of Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida.

State Senator Jim McLendon (R-St. Clair) offered the best opportunity and most modern and profitable lottery proposal. However, his Bill was ignored in deference to the Indian Casinos legislation which was overtly written to continue to give these Indian Casinos a monopoly on electronic gaming in the state. The Indian casinos arrogantly flaunted their influence in the legislature by offering a watered-down, archaic, paper only lottery that would be obsolete within five years.

McLendon’s Bill would have generated $250 million. The Indian Casino’s Lottery would have given the state a paltry $100 million at best for a few years. The House Democrats boldly and wisely killed the Bill with the hopes that if you are going to approve a lottery, that it would be one that would benefit the state and not the Indian gambling syndicate.

In essence, the Choctaw Indian Casino’s in Mississippi killed the lottery 20 years ago with last-minute money before balloting. The Poarch Creek Casinos beat it this time before it could get out of the gate. The power that the Poarch Creek Indian casinos are building in the Alabama Legislature is dangerous.

CBS 42 in Birmingham took a poll the last week of the session asking how their viewers rated the legislature and legislative session. It was 86 percent negative. However, this is nothing new. Alabamian’s have always rated the legislature negatively. However, if you ask them about their own legislators they will either not know who they are or they like them.

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

2 weeks ago

Tuberville: Americans must stop abandoning our history

(T. Tuberville for Senate/Facebook, Wikicommons, YHN)

A shoe company has once again divided our nation.

An iconic American brand, Nike, fell victim to the re-writing of history after briskly pulling a new line of USA-themed sneakers from shelves after harsh controversy arose over their patriotic design. The shoes, which displayed Betsy Ross’ flag, sparked outrage from critics, who reportedly denounced the symbol as offensive and inappropriate for present-day wear. Nike’s response has deemed an important piece of history unworthy of celebration during what’s supposed to be a week of unity honoring our nation’s independence.

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The Continental Congress adopted Betsy Ross’ flag as the first official symbol of an independent America in 1777. It’s claimed that General George Washington tapped the Philadelphia seamstress to sew the original flag a year earlier. The design — 13 alternating red and white stripes and 13 white stars — represented the 13 original colonies as a newly unified nation. Betsy Ross’ flag waved with pride as soldiers fought for hard-won independence from an overseas monarch during the American Revolution. When examining the symbolism of the first American flag, we must travel back in history to its creation and understand what it represented during the Revolutionary era: a democratic, indivisible nation established on the core ideals of liberty and justice.

In a recent tweet, Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona stated, “[Nike] has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism. It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it.”

Critics are allowing misguided political interpretations to reshape the significance of Betsy Ross’ flag in history. For an American company to abandon such an important historic symbol in an effort to conform to ‘political correctness’ is downright dishonorable.

Extremist groups have grossly misused and misinterpreted Betsy Ross’ flag for their own individual purposes, to be sure. But those cases are just more examples of how present-day interpretations of significant historic symbols have been warped by political biases and employed by misguided missions.

Betsy Ross’ flag symbolizes patriotism and pride for the new nation that would, over the course of history, develop into and prove itself to be the greatest and most powerful in the world. As Americans, we must unite to honor our country and what it stands for during Fourth of July celebrations. We must advocate for our flag — old versions and new — and pay tribute to what it represents: the forefathers who earned our independence, the veterans who fought for our freedom against tyrannical enemies and the armed services around the world who continue to defend our great country every day.

Tommy Tuberville is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama

2 weeks ago

Rogers’ report from Washington: Celebrating our freedom

(Congressman Mike Rogers/Facebook)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As we celebrate Independence Day, I always like to reflect on how very blessed we are to live in America.

The American flag is the symbol of our freedom – throughout wars, hard times, terrorist attacks – the flag is what gives us hope, inspiration and reminds us of the sacrifices made over the past 233 years for our liberty. Our American flag should be honored, respected and revered.

I cannot fathom why any American would kneel at the National Anthem much less burn our flag.

Recently, I signed on as a cosponsor to H.J Res. 65, a bill that would propose an amendment to the Constitution of the United States giving Congress power to prohibit the physical desecration of the American flag.

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We have so much to be proud of today.

I am thrilled about how well our country is doing under President Trump. Our economy is thriving. People are back at work and have good-paying jobs. Our military is being rebuilt and America is once again respected in the world.

Regardless of one’s political views, we all should take pride in America. We should be able to disagree respectfully while putting America first. There is no better example of this need than the crisis we face at our Southwest border.

Massive waves of illegal immigrants are overwhelming the resources of our brave Border Patrol agents. Instead of acknowledging this crisis and working together to resolve it, House Democrats refuse to lift a finger. My bill to provide the $4.5 billion President Trump requested to help with just the humanitarian relief has been rejected 17 times by House Democrats as of writing. By not agreeing to this bill, Democrats are hurting the very people they claim to want to help and jeopardizing our sovereignty.

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, let’s remember America is strongest when we are together as a people and that freedom is not free. God Bless America!

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

A republic, if we can keep it: The cost of counting illegal aliens in the U.S. Census

(S. Marshall/FB)

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, liberal or conservative, you have a right to have your voice heard in the halls of Congress. The 4.8 million Americans who live in Alabama have the same right to representation as 4.8 million Americans living in Southern California or the Texas Panhandle. But that right—the right to equal representation — is quietly under attack.

You see, following the 2020 census, Alabama is likely going to lose one of our seven seats in Congress. That is because Alabama has a relatively low number of illegal aliens residing here. Today, as you may be aware, it is estimated that there are at least twelve million individuals currently living in America illegally—a figure almost certainly far lower than the real number, given that it is based on self-reporting—yet it is believed that half of those individuals live in just three states. When the census forms are mailed out to homes across the country, many of those 12 million people will be counted for the purposes of determining the number of congressional districts and electoral votes that each state will be given. This means that states like California and Texas, with large illegal populations, will be given additional seats in Congress and additional votes in the Electoral College.

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Whatever your political leanings, ponder for a moment what this means. There is absolutely no credible argument to be made that the Constitution allows illegal aliens to vote in U.S. elections. At an even more basic level, now as a resident of Montgomery County, I can no longer vote in a local election in Marshall County, despite my frequent visits there with friends and family. Why is that so? Because our country was founded as a representative democracy. “We the people,” who control our government, control it by way of elections. When you vote in an election, you must prove that you are who you say you are, and that you live where you say you live—that is appropriate because you are choosing who will represent you and your neighbors in Washington or in Montgomery.

If we accept that individuals who are in our country illegally do not enjoy the right to vote in our elections—and there is no sound legal argument that they do—then it must follow that these individuals cannot possibly be entitled to the same level of representation in government as American citizens. Otherwise, citizens of states that have more illegal aliens residing there at the time of the census are given disproportionate representation in Congress and in the Electoral College—an irrational proposition. In a state in which a large share of the population cannot vote, those who can vote count more than those who live in states where a larger share of the population is made up of American citizens. Counting large illegal-alien populations in the census unfairly takes voting power—the weight of one vote—away from American citizens based on the presence of citizens of other nations. This cannot be reconciled with the principle of equal representation enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Last year, my office filed suit against several federal agencies—including the U.S. Census Bureau—in an effort to guard against our looming loss of representation due to our low illegal-alien population. Recently, we succeeded against an attempt by the federal government to have the suit dismissed. Still, we have many more battles ahead. And we will fight them all, up to the hilt, because our cause is just.

We will defend the right of the people of Alabama to equal representation.

Steve Marshall is Alabama’s Republican attorney general

Byrne: Border battle reveals Democratic divisions

(A. Ocasio-Cortez/Facebook, YHN)

For months, Speaker Pelosi and my Democratic friends have denied a crisis on the border exists. Nothing to see here!

But the American people, our border agents, video footage and even the liberal media insisted otherwise and called for action.

The public pressure was immense.

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Now, in a development as stunning as it is sudden, Democrats have dramatically shifted gears, speaking out against the housing of illegal immigrants in detention and the need for immediate action to improve conditions.

This comes after Democrats refused for months to give the Administration the funding it needs to provide food, medical care, and temporary shelter to the very people Democrats now claim to be so concerned over.

Over the past several weeks alone, Democrats repeatedly blocked a Republican bill that would have offered aid while also providing border security funds to alleviate this problem going forward.

Last week, to stave off the mounting public pressure, the Democrats rammed through a partisan border bill that catered to the far-left fringe of their party but offered nothing to address the underlying problem. The partisan bill stood no chance of passing the Senate, and the President would not have signed it into law.

On the other hand, across the Capitol, under the leadership of Senator Shelby, the Senate passed a $4.5 billion package with bipartisan support. The deal does not include everything Republicans and President Trump wanted. But, in addition to improving conditions for migrants, it actually offers some funding priorities of our border agents and immigration judges. Remarkably, 84 United States Senators voted for it, including 34 Democrats.

To demonstrate the bipartisan nature of the Senate approach, Senate Republicans brought up the Pelosi bill, too. It was easily defeated, only earning 37 votes. That is only three more votes received from Democrats than the Republican bill!

After gaining such overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate, the Shelby bill placed Pelosi in a difficult position with her Democratic Caucus. She was caught between many of her freshman members, who were feeling the heat from constituents back home, and her radical progressive wing. Those radicals, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, favor open borders and want to defund and even abolish ICE. They threatened an open rebellion if Pelosi moved a package that included any funds for border security.

After days of tense internal squabbling, Pelosi reluctantly brought forth the Senate bill, which passed and will immediately begin providing for some modest improvements of conditions at our border.

By refusing to bring the Senate bill to a vote, Speaker Pelosi would have turned down $2.88 billion for shelter for children in immigration custody, $1.2 billion for processing and medical care, and $200 million for the Department of Justice to process immigration cases. She would have blocked the very resources we need to address the humanitarian crisis on the southern border. Sadly, many in her caucus preferred that option.

I am glad we were able to send the bill to the president and give much-needed aid to the border, but the men and women patrolling that border are not out of the woods yet. More must be done going forward to solve our immigration crisis, including fixing our asylum laws. I will continue advocating for legislation to help alleviate the problem, including the Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act.

Unfortunately, as we have seen all year in the House, Democrats seem too concerned with impeachment to address the concerns of American citizens. And with the growing power of the Democrat’s radical wing, passing legislation will only get more difficult.

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

3 weeks ago

Rep. Martha Roby: Why does it matter?

(M. Roby/Facebook)

I have always held a deep appreciation for the musicians, songwriters, television and film producers who work hard to create the music, songs, shows and movies people around the world know and love. At one point in my life, I even aspired to work in the Nashville music industry, which I ended up doing for a period of time, but God had a different plan for my life long-term.

Now, this dream has come full circle. With my role in Congress, I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, where I am in a unique position to advocate for the core copyright industries and related workforce that contribute so much to our economy and our culture.

Just recently, the Judiciary Committee held a Copyright Office oversight hearing to focus on this issue that is critical to our economy. According to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, core copyright industries, like music, television, and film, contribute more than $1 trillion to our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and make up almost 7% of the economy.

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In Alabama specifically, the music industry contributes $636.09 million to the GDP and supports more than 14,000 jobs. The motion picture and television industry is responsible for more than 10,200 jobs and $387 million total wages in our state. There are 958 music businesses in Alabama and nearly 720 motion picture and television businesses, including 381 production-related companies.

So, you see, these industries have a significant impact on the economy, both on a state level and on the national level, but unfortunately, these hardworking, creative professionals don’t always receive the recognition and compensation they deserve due to several factors that we’re tackling in the House Judiciary Committee.

First and foremost, we must work to ensure our copyright laws are up-to-date and address the needs of today’s hyper-connected, digital world. Many of these laws are decades old and no longer function as they were intended. This subject was covered in-depth in our recent committee hearing.

Still, even when copyright status is in place, and even with the rise of legal streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, creative industries face significant challenges with illegal piracy in this digital age. A quick Internet search of the word “piracy” yields the following definition: the unauthorized use or reproduction of another’s work. The definition also includes a handful of synonyms, like illegal reproduction, plagiarism, copyright infringement, stealing, and theft.

In our efforts to combat piracy and ensure the creative industry receives the compensation it deserves, we face several major hurdles:

1) It is shockingly easy to download, stream, and reproduce almost any movie, television show, song, etc. with a quick Internet search.
2) Since it is so easy and so common, some people don’t even realize they are doing anything wrong, much less committing a crime.
3) Sometimes, even when people know they’re doing something wrong, they don’t view it as being “that big of a deal.”

But, illegally downloading and streaming someone else’s creative content is a big deal, and I would like to take this opportunity to explain why it matters.

Many, many more people and entities besides just big-name celebrities are involved in creating music, television shows, and movies. In fact, these creative industries support thousands of indirect jobs that most of us probably wouldn’t even think of. Consider a movie set, for example. From a personnel standpoint, all types of professionals are necessary to make a movie happen, from camera crews and lighting specialists to scriptwriters, makeup and hair artists, florists, caterers, seamstresses, and the men and women who perform manual labor to build and take down sets. This doesn’t even account for the many dollars’ worth of materials required to put together any given movie set.

I say all this to make the point that when an individual illegally streams, downloads, or shares creative content, they are stealing from all the many hardworking people who offer their labor, skills, and products to make a song, movie, or show happen – and most of these people aren’t the lead actor or actress; most of them go unnoticed at the very end of the long credits list.

Of the more than 10,000 jobs in Alabama supported by the motion picture and television industry, the vast majority of them aren’t actors and actresses, but rather the many other professionals that don’t immediately come to mind.

As we continue to enjoy our favorite music, movies and television shows, I hope we all strive to be responsible and ethical consumers, being mindful and cautious when using the Internet to download and stream to make sure we are only obtaining these creative works legally.

Many Americans and Alabamians are severely and negatively impacted by illegal piracy, and I will remain engaged with this issue in my role on the House Judiciary Committee to ensure we are fiercely combatting these copyright infringements while improving the industry for its many hardworking individuals.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

3 weeks ago

Not in my backyard: How zoning restrictions create construction gridlock

(Pixabay)

Zoning and land use regulation has largely choked off housing construction in many American cities. This is an unintended but predictable consequence of requiring government permission for building.

Understanding why requires starting with the why of zoning. Some land uses interfere with the use and enjoyment of nearby property. These nuisances include noise, smells, vibrations, and smoke, and often have a very limited range of impact. Consequently physically separating conflicting uses can address the problem. Zoning typically establishes residential, commercial, and industrial zones.

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Zoning requires government control over building. A planning board exercises this control. Some boards are elected, and others appointed by the city council or mayor. Importantly, we have government permission and electoral control.

Zoning protects against a factory being built next to a house. The factory lowers home values, and moving does not make back this loss. People will naturally seek to protect what is for many families their largest investment.

Building homes or apartments nearby typically imposes costs on homeowners. The building is noisy. The homes or apartments, once occupied, increase traffic, make parking scarcer, lead to longer lines at local grocery stores, and create more noise problems. Adding housing also burdens local government services, like water and sewer, although impact fees on developers and the property taxes paid by new construction can cover these costs. Building smaller homes on smaller lots can also lower property values. So zoning often specifies minimum lot and home sizes.

People will want to use the government permission process to protect their neighborhood. Residents frequently rally to the NIMBY cause (Not in My Backyard). NIMBYism dominates in local politics. Why? Aren’t planning boards supposed to make land use decisions in the best interest of the entire community?

Consider, however, the position of an elected local official. Most citizens will not follow most of the actions of the planning commission. The neighbors of a proposed subdivision or apartment complex will be aware and attend the planning commission meeting. They might well take revenge on commissioners in the next election. Approving building typically looks like a losing electoral proposition: you lose the neighbors’ votes and win few others (except perhaps from the developer’s).

Repetition of the NIMBY refrain significantly restricts housing supply. High housing prices and rents limit growth in some of America’s most productive cities, as I discussed last time. Economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti estimate that zoning and land use restrictions lower income nationally by $4,000 annually.

The restricted supply benefits home and apartment owners and hurts lower-income families who rent who have difficulty finding affordable and decent housing. Nonetheless, I see high house prices as a by-product of NIMBY. Homeowners turn out at planning commission meetings to oppose building in their neighborhood, not to boost home prices city-wide.

Requiring government permission to build is the root of the problem. Proponents might say zoning will be used to rationally plan cities, but elected officials will listen to the people who participate in the political process. And this produces NIMBY and gridlock.

Government permission is not necessary to coordinate land use in cities. Houston has never enacted zoning, and McAllen, Texas, where I previously lived, had almost no zoning. Our realtor cautioned us when we were house-hunting to buy in a planned community with a neighborhood association. Otherwise, a neighbor might start raising goats or put six old trailers on their property.

Neighborhood associations and the legal covenants behind them allow homeowners to control nuisances within their neighborhood. But developers can build homes on lots without covenants. Without the requirement for government permission, neighbors can only limit building as specified by the covenants.

People will understandably want to protect the value of their homes. Zoning can avoid conflicting land uses, but permission to build will be given as electoral forces dictate. The predictable result is no building in anyone’s backyard.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision.  The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

Byrne: Religious freedom is worth defending

(B. Byrne/Facebook, Fox News/YouTube, Wikicommons)

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled on an important case with significant implications for the future of religious expression in our republic.

The case, American Legion v. American Humanist Association, was brought by a nonprofit atheist organization seeking to remove an almost 100-year-old monument in Maryland’s Prince George’s County.

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The 40-foot granite and cement cross, called the Bladensburg Peace Cross, was built on public land and paid for by local families, businesses and the American Legion in 1925. It has stood in memory of local residents who died in World War I for almost a century. A state commission now owns the land and pays for its upkeep.

On its face, the claims made by the American Humanist Association that the Bladensburg Peace Cross represents an unconstitutional endorsement of religion do not seem legitimate or offered in good faith.

While the cross unquestionably has origins as a Christian symbol, for centuries it has also represented memorialization, remembrance and respect for the dead at cemeteries, parks and public spaces around the world.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s first choice for the Supreme Court in 2017, wrote that he would have dismissed the case, saying that the challenger’s claim to be offended by the sight of the monument did not hold legal merit.

But the Court chose to issue a ruling and rejected the out-of-state organization’s legal arguments that the memorial cross located just outside of Washington, DC represented an endorsement of religion that violated our Constitution. In a 7 to 2 decision, the Court ruled that the cross may continue to stand on public land.

Justice Samuel Alito, recognizing that a court-ordered removal of the cross would be the true violation of the Constitution, wrote in the main opinion that “tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion.

“…[D]estroying or defacing the Cross that has stood undisturbed for nearly a century would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment.”

The Court’s decision was met with cheer and relief in Prince George’s County where the Bladensburg Peace Cross enjoys broad support.

The ruling “ensures that this memorial — a dignified tribute to those who came before us and made the ultimate sacrifice — will stand tall and proud for the ages,” Republican Governor Larry Hogan said.

Thankfully, we live in a country of religious freedom where no one is forced to practice religion but can practice any religion they choose. That is one of our most fundamental freedoms as Americans.

What cases like these are truly about is undermining religion. Lawsuit-happy groups like the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation seek to advance their own agenda by making it more difficult for Christians and believers of other religions to publicly practice and share their faith.

With the rise of these lawsuits, it is more important than ever that we place jurists on our courts who will adhere to our Constitution and protect our religious liberties.

Regrettably, these attacks on religious freedom are taking place in Congress too. Last month, Democrats passed the so-called Equality Act which included an explicit carveout of Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protections. It was only a few decades ago that Democrats Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy shepherded this legislation through Congress, but times and the Democrats have changed.

Just this week, the Committee on Education and Labor, on which I sit, has focused its attention on the “misapplication” of RFRA. I see this for what it is: an attempt to undermine our religious freedoms.

Our Constitutional protections are worth defending, and I pledge to continue the fight.

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

4 weeks ago

The high cost of zoning

(PIxabay, YHN)

The state legislature gave Alabama’s public school teachers a 4 percent raise this year. Relaxing zoning and land use laws in America’s most productive cities could give us all a similar raise. Zoning illustrates the costs of a permission-based economy.

How do land use regulations in New York or San Francisco affect America? Businesses with new products or new technology can create value for our economy but need to hire workers. While virtual offices are now a possibility, workers still generally need to be on the premises.

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A growing economy needs people to move to new jobs. The auto industry’s growth in the 20th Century illustrates this. Thousands of families moved to Michigan from states as far away as Alabama and Mississippi. The good paying jobs lifted these families into the middle class, and the workers helped the industry reach its full potential.

The families that moved to the jobs were better off, while affordable cars improved life for Americans. The migration also benefitted those who stayed behind. The departure of some workers to Michigan increased wages for the people remaining in Alabama or Kentucky.

Yet people can move to jobs only if housing is available where industry is thriving. Michigan built homes and apartments to accommodate new workers. Over the past 40 years, zoning and land use regulations have largely choked off building in East and West coast cities with thriving industries like finance and high tech. As Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser puts it, the “most productive parts of America [have] stopped adding population” due to regulatory barriers.

Productive industries will pay high salaries to attract people to their jobs. Economic theory tells us that with residential construction limited, house prices and rents will rise to offset high salaries. People choose not to move to the high paying jobs because of high housing costs. Thriving businesses cannot hire all the needed workers, making our economy poorer.

How much poorer? Economists Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti offer an estimate. To do so they use estimates of available land and the stringency of regulatory barriers on construction in 220 U.S. metro areas. They particularly focus on New York, San Francisco, and San Jose. Between 1964 and 2009, productivity increased dramatically in these cities, indicating the potential to add high paying jobs, and salaries rose. Employment, however, did not increase relative to the economy, and housing prices spiked. Hsieh and Moretti estimate that restrictions on building reduced growth nationally by 36 percent between 1964 and 2009, leading GDP to be 4 percent lower today than otherwise.

News reports put a human face on the housing shortage. Since 1990, California’s average household size has increased while declining nationally. High rents – median rent is $2,500 a month in Los Angeles – force people to share space. Adults rent rooms, sleep in bunk beds, and use dividing walls or curtains to break up rooms. One fortunate company, RoomDividersNow, is riding the crest of this “boom.”

Unfortunately, many Californians now want government rent control. Legally limiting the maximum rent landlords can charge does nothing to increase the supply of apartments, but that is a topic for another day.

The effects of restricting housing in America’s cities are enormous. Thousands of young people have not moved to highly productive cities, arguably reducing opportunities for upward mobility. The inability of people to move to the coasts has depressed salaries in Southern cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston which have built housing to accommodate new residents. The young professionals priced out of New York or San Francisco must compete for jobs in these cities.

How did America arrive at this situation? It is a complicated tale involving largely unintended consequences. Zoning regulates land uses that might cause conflict and nuisance but effectively requires permission from current residents for new construction. Further details will have to wait until next time.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

4 weeks ago

Roby: Advocating for Alabama’s military installations

(M. Roby/Facebook)

In Congress, I consider it a tremendous privilege and responsibility to represent a district that is home to two of our country’s finest military installations – Fort Rucker down in the Wiregrass and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. Even beyond the Second District, Alabama as a whole has a significant military footprint, and we should all be very proud of our state’s role in defending our freedom.

I just recently had the opportunity to attend the Change of Command ceremony at Fort Rucker. Major General David Francis is now the Commanding General of USAACE and Fort Rucker, taking over the post from Major General William Gayler.

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I have enjoyed working with Gen. Gayler, and I appreciate his steadfast leadership. I wish him the very best as he moves forward with his impressive career. Of course, congratulations are also in order for Gen. Francis. I look forward to continuing to build a strong relationship with him as we work together to advocate for Fort Rucker. It was a really exciting time to be in the Wiregrass, and I was glad to be on-post again to visit with some of our district’s military leaders.

Shifting focus to another part of our state, I also recently had the opportunity to speak on the House floor during consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill to raise awareness for the facility updates needed at Dannelly Field in Montgomery to support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter mission.

In December of 2017, we received the exciting news that the 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field was selected as a preferred location for the bed down of the coveted F-35 mission. The first aircraft is scheduled to arrive in the next few years, and Dannelly Field needs a correctly sized and properly configured maintenance facility to support and repair this next-generation fighter. The existing facilities that currently service the F-16 Red Tail’s squadron are inadequate. Aircraft maintenance is housed in three temporary trailer facilities, maintenance shops are 43 percent undersized, and the required tool storage is kept in aircraft parking spaces inside the hangar.

As we await the arrival of this cutting-edge aircraft, and as we continue through the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process, I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to address this pressing issue. We must provide our men and women in uniform adequate and acceptable working spaces so they can perform their jobs accurately and efficiently, and I will continue to advocate for these necessary facility updates at Dannelly.

The military installations in our district and across our great state perform vital work for the security of this nation, and I will always advocate for their proper support through my role in Congress. It is a true honor to have this platform to fight for the men and women who serve us all.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

4 weeks ago

Flowers: One vote can make a difference

(S. Flower/Twitter, ARMY/Contributed))

Some of us who were former legislators, who served our counties in the legislature a long time, were considered by many to always be their legislator. A good many of my former constituents still call me with questions or problems. Some ask me how to get in touch with their congressman or senator about a certain issue so that they can express their opinion. They invariably ask will their letter or email make a difference.

My response is, “Yes, it will.”

All legislators or congressmen want to know what their constituents are thinking. They generally want to vote their district’s feelings and needs. When I was a legislator, I would cherish this input and actually solicit it.

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One year, I received a nice note from one of my favorite retired teachers. I loved her. She had not only taught me but also taught my mom and dad. She was as fine a lady as I have ever known. Her note simply asked me to vote for some issue. I was not even cognizant of the issue until she made me aware of it. She even referred to it by a bill number. It did not pertain to education and I did not perceive it to have much opposition or controversy. I do not even remember now what the issue was. However, I revered this lady and she was asking me to vote yes on a matter I had no position on anyway. So I called her and told her that due to her interest I would vote for the measure. I kept her note on my desk with the bill number referenced. Lo and behold, about halfway through the legislative session, I saw the bill on the special order calendar for the day. I got primed for the vote. I voted for the bill simply because that lady had asked me to. To my amazement, I looked up at the large electronic vote tally machine and the bill passed by one vote.

One vote can make a difference.

Having told you that story reminds me of my first year in the legislature. I was a young 30-year old representative representing Pike and Barbour counties. Like today, Wallace was passing a gas tax for roads and bridges. This was a common occurrence and expected during the Wallace era. He knew the people of Alabama didn’t even notice that their gasoline tax had been raised. However, they knew that Wallace had built them a four-lane highway in their county. He knew Alabama politics better than anybody in state history.

Another political legend, Big Jim Folsom, left an indelible legacy as governor with his legendary and necessary Farm-to-Market road program. Recently while making a speech in Dothan, I told the group this Big Jim story about their region. Big Jim was a native of the Wiregrass. As a young man, Big Jim was making a futile run for Congress in the Wiregrass. One day he was campaigning down a dirt country road in Geneva County. He met and befriended an old farmer and his wife at the end of the road. The couple gave Big Jim cold buttermilk to drink. Big Jim bonded with those folks on their front porch as he drank a gallon or two of buttermilk. As he was leaving the old farmer shouted out to his new friend, Big Jim, “Boy if you get elected to anything will you pave my road?” Big Jim smiled and said, “Sure I will.” Ten years later Big Jim got elected governor and guess which county road in the state got paved first? You are right, it was that road in Geneva County. They named it Buttermilk Road.

For folks in the Wiregrass, guess who built the Ross Clark Circle around Dothan? You got it, Big Jim Folsom.

For any of you legislators that are reading, my advice to you is that your average constituent isn’t going to know whether or not you voted for the state tax on gasoline. But, they are going to remember that highway or bridge you brought home to your county. If you play your cards right, you might even get it named after you.

Speaking of legislators, legendary Black Belt legislator Rick Manley passed away in January. He represented Marengo County and the Black Belt for over 25 years in the House and Senate. He was one of the most able and effective legislative leaders in state history. He served as chairman of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. He was also speaker pro tem of the House.

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

4 weeks ago

Dad-deprived homes reach crisis levels in Alabama

(PIxabay, YHN)

Father’s Day has come and gone, and sadly so too has the concept of fatherhood in many parts of Alabama.

Nearly half of all babies born here are to unmarried women, according to the latest information from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

This is a crisis.

It is a crisis that researchers have shown significantly contributes to nearly every challenge facing our state – education, health, addiction, crime, and economic mobility to name just a few.

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While dad-deprived homes cause problems for both sexes, it has a particularly damaging impact on young men.

“The boy crisis resides where dads do not reside,” said Warren Farrell, author of “The Boy Crisis” during a recent episode of the 1819 podcast.

While single mothers are making heroic efforts in Alabama, Ferrell said that young men growing up without a father in the house face enormous odds. Boys in this situation, he said, stand a greater chance than their female counterparts of doing poorly in school, being overweight, being both the bully and the bullied, of going to prison, and becoming addicted to drugs, pornography, and video games.

A father’s natural way of parenting, Ferrell explained, adds something that boys critically need and do very poorly without.

“While boys who are motivated can become many of society’s most constructive forces … boys whose energies are poorly channeled can become society’s most destructive forces,” he wrote.

The research indicates this is a slow-moving train wreck that doesn’t show any signs of stopping. In 2005, the Alabama Department of Public Health found that a little more than 35 percent of babies were born to unmarried mothers. By 2017, and despite a statewide initiative and many programs aimed at improving fatherhood across the state, that number had skyrocketed to more than 47 percent.

The research cited in Farrell’s book is alarming:

· “Children who were born poor and raised by both married parents had an 80 percent chance of moving to the middle class or above; conversely, children who were born into the middle class and raised without a married dad were almost four times as likely to end up considerably poorer.”

· “A study of boys from similar backgrounds revealed that by the third grade, the boys whose fathers were present scored higher on every achievement test and received higher grades.”

· “71 percent of high school dropouts have minimal or no father involvement.”

· “Around 90 percent of runaway and homeless youths are from fatherless homes.”

· “Every 1 percent increase in fatherlessness in a neighborhood predicts a three-percent increase in adolescent violence.”

Farrell offered many partial solutions, from increasing recess time during school to recruiting more male teachers to educate people about the uniquely helpful aspects of dad-focused parenting.

But to solve this problem, we must first identify and agree that it’s indeed a problem and one worth marshaling our collective resources to solve.

Yet it doesn’t appear to be on anyone’s radar.

It doesn’t show up on the latest survey by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama detailing what issues are most important to our state’s citizens. Not to conservatives. Not to liberals. Not to men or women. Not even to those who the report highlights as “experts” in public policy.

I don’t recall it being a noticeable talking point during any recent political campaign either.

Yet on every one of the report’s lists, and in many recent campaigns, were issues that are symptoms of fatherlessness – poor education, crime, poverty, substance abuse. The correlations go on and on.

To be fair, there are many fathers performing admirably in Alabama. I see such examples every day. We should be thankful for them and use their work to build a foundation upon.

But we must face the fact that we’re not doing too well in this regard as a state, as a society.

And not until we confront this problem as a society – liberals and conservatives, through government and private-sector efforts – will we be able to reverse this trend.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute and host of the 1819 podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

1 month ago

America’s impending divorce

(YHN)

The New York Times recently published a very insightful article pointing out the political polarization among America’s state governments. We read that a full 29 state legislatures are dominated by Republicans. Democrats control 18. The Times pointed to a specific example of Illinois and Alabama to show the extreme contrast in social policy.

In Illinois, the Democrat-dominated legislature recently declared abortion a fundamental human right. In Alabama, the Republican-controlled government voted to ban nearly every abortion. Other polar opposite decisions on drugs, gambling, and tax policy were also cited. Extrapolate this across the country and what emerges are two distinct Americas struggling to make the national marriage work. But what the Times did not say in the article is that this is nothing new.

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America has always been pretty diverse on a social level— much like Europe. Some states had religious tests for those wanting to serve in local government. The right to vote was restricted on the basis of race, or sex, or property ownership or all the above. As an extreme example, slave and free states existed simultaneously for decades.

In other words, states in the early days of the Union retained great latitude to organize their communities in such a way as uniquely represented their peculiar interests, or even prejudices — except in one critical area which would later challenge the young Republic in a way not perceived when the Constitution was ratified in 1789: the national economy.

Late 18th century America pretty much looked the same to most observers. Yes, there were some marked differences between each state. But every state was similar in that they had a relatively small population, were mostly rural, and benefited from open immigration and a free-trade economic policy.

So it made perfect sense for the Framers to create a common market between the States, and a largely free-trade policy with other nations.

But as chattel slavery disappeared in the North —replaced by an industrial economy— and slavery (with its reliance on exports) expanded in the South, a tug-of-war developed in the federal government over whether the country’s economic policy would favor protectionism or laissez fare free trade.

Since the Constitution empowered Congress — and Congress alone — to rule on this issue (which actually impacted people’s pocketbook depending on where they lived), America began to divide. In 1860, this internal friction led to the bloodiest war in American history. So it’s important to note that America’s first “state divorce” was precipitated, not by slavery per se, but by two diverging economic systems vying for control of a single common market.

Following the defeat of the Confederacy, a uniform economic policy of protectionism was enacted, and the South began to industrialize. When a monument honoring Southern Commander Robert E. Lee was erected in Richmond in 1890, several Northern newspapers protested Southern “disloyalty,” but the New York Herald scoffed at such a charge, noting that the only real rivalry then existing in the country between North and South was the same “as between the East and the West. It is based on commercial prosperity, products, and money-making. [Today] we are all hunting for dollars…” [emphasis added].

Space does not allow us to go into the details of the post-Civil War history of America’s economic rise. Suffice it to say that America’s rapid industrialization, population growth, and westward expansion created unprecedented economic growth and development — which went into overdrive following the devastation that World Wars I and II caused among traditional European competitors.

With the growth of America’s influence, and the emergence of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, America’s economic policy shifted from domestic to international. America became a global super power — and America’s industry and finance likewise jumped the border. This was good for business if you owned shares in General Electric (or its debt). Less so if you built cars for GE.

In 1970, America’s median household income, in today’s dollars, was $63,877. In 2018, it was $62,175. But that’s not all. In 1970, roughly 60% of households had a single income earner. In 2012, those numbers had flipped, and 60% of households had two earners.

This cursory glance at basic census data shows that most American households today work twice as long to achieve less income than they did nearly 50 years ago.

Of course, this economic bleed-out of American households took place when average CEO compensation rose from $1.5 million to $16.3 million.

All of these factors and more should have warned America’s political ruling class about the storm approaching. But they weren’t paying attention, and in November 2016, a hurricane hit Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump won because he tapped into the very heart of the gutted-out American landscape. He spoke to people who actually remember what it was like living in a single-earner household, and the enormous “social capital” it produced in communities with more parents (mostly mothers) able to take care of the myriad of community responsibilities now either provided by cash-strapped government agencies, or just ignored altogether.

A generation ago, people didn’t just have more money, they had a higher quality of life. More families were intact. Kids were less medicated. There wasn’t as much divorce, single parenthood, obesity, depression, chronic diseases, etc. Don’t believe me? If you’re over 40, how many pharmaceutical commercials do you remember as a kid?

The UK has experienced a mirror-image of this story. Likewise, Britain is also in the midst of a major political transition. The economic promises of the EU common market have not created a net-gain for the British economy or British society. Brexit was the UK suing the EU for a divorce.

Like the European Union, the American Union has also not achieved its stated objectives of “securing the blessings of liberty” to its people and their posterity. Simply put, America has become too big to succeed. Spread over 50 States, 3.5 million square miles of diverse landscape, and containing a population of 330,000,000 souls, how can one central government not turn into a colossal battleground between polarized extremes fighting for supremacy over an ever-stretched pie chart of budget resources?

America is the Western Hemisphere’s EU. The sooner American States realize this, the less messy the divorce will be. If people in Illinois cannot abide a society in which someone in Alabama is denied an abortion, then perhaps Illinois should start seeing other people, because, love ‘em or hate ‘em, most Alabama voters (both men and women) heavily support their state’s abortion policy — and don’t care how people in Illinois feel about it.

The trouble comes with the reality that the Constitutional wall separating a national economic policy from a state’s social policy was torn down a long time ago. America’s economic consolidation, and later globalization, led to an attempted social amalgamation using the billy club of federal power — not the “consent of the governed.”

For the American Union to survive, it must politically downsize and allow states to once again govern their own social policy. This means Illinois gets to marry gays and Alabama gets to ban abortions. The trouble is getting the political Genie back into the bottle.

As the Times article illustrates, American states are already culturally divorced. States disagree on the most fundamental of social policies. Whether it is education, or the environment, or family, or tax policy, there is no compromise. Even words like “personhood,” “justice,” “equality,” “choice,” “tolerance” or “rights” have disputed definitions.

The importance of a dominant culture is that it provides a “moral dictionary” of terms. Without this common moral dictionary, people living in a community find it hard to even have a conversation, much less find consensus on social policy. Imagine how this challenge compounds when it’s scaled up to 50 States and 330 million people? America has become a new Tower of Babel simply because people in Alabama don’t speak the same cultural language as people in Illinois.

And the danger of today’s two Americas is that the growth and scope of federal power is much greater than it was in 1789 — and far greater than the EU. Brexit may be a messy affair, but no one in Brussels is seriously advocating rolling tanks down Piccadilly Circus to stop it. But just ask Democratic presidential hopefuls in America how far they’re willing to go to stop Alabama from outlawing abortion, and their answers may shock you.

American states are headed for divorce. The only question is when it will happen, and how messy it will be.

For a marriage to be tolerable, it requires give and take from both parties. It means he gets his bowling nights and she gets her Downton Abbey. What doesn’t work is when one party gets to win 100% of the time. But that is the reality of America’s political forum today. It’s winner-take-all. There is no compromise. No middle ground.

Remember what I wrote at the outset: America’s first state divorce was caused by two diverging economic systems vying for control of a single common market. The second divorce will most likely be caused by two diverging cultures seeking control of a single “common market” of social policy.

It’s good news that more Americans are waking up to the disaster of economic globalism, which eliminates borders, destroys the middle class, rapes the environment and profanes green meadows with the exact same big box mart stores in every other community (then measures human happiness based on a nation’s GDP!).

But the question remains: when will America’s states realize that Washington has done to their social capital the same level of damage as globalism has done to their economic capital?

We may get our answer in 2020.

Jamie Carmichael is a writer in Alabama

1 month ago

Ensuring parity for all Huntsvillians

(Leadership Greater Huntsville/Facebook, Wikicommons)

There is a lot going on in the metropolitan area west of Redstone Arsenal these days. An entirely new retail opportunity has entered the Huntsville market and provided citizens local access to products only available to us online previously. Welcome, Duluth Trading Company.

The Rocket City will once again offer families access to minor league baseball. One of America’s last bastions of wholesome family entertainment at a price point most can still afford, the Trash Pandas should not have much trouble filling their stadium with entertainment-starved west siders.

Residents are anxiously awaiting the opening of a brand new multi-use complex that promises a significant increase in the quality of life for area neighborhoods. No more trips to the other side of the arsenal to enjoy mix use venues like Providence, Campus 805, Lowe Mill or Stovehouse. Town Madison has the potential to bring a unifying element to the random hodgepodge of underserved west side neighborhoods.

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Unfortunately, not one of the aforementioned quality of life increasing ventures is within the City of Huntsville. More disturbing, the thousands of Huntsville citizens residing south of I-565 have only about 10 retail businesses with which to do business in all the square mileage between County Line and Zierdt Roads.

Roughly 10 retail businesses paying taxes and fees to the city. Approximately 10 retail businesses, all but one small businesses, potentially providing jobs for west side residents. These numbers put our beloved Huntsville neighborhoods on par with the City of Triana. No offense to Triana, but Huntsvillians deserve better considering the tax burden we shoulder.

If investment in west siders and the wellbeing of our families was the only metric, many would say the City of Madison cares far more about west side Huntsvillians than our own city government. However, we know better. We know Mayor Tommy Battle cares and has invested heavily in upgrading city streets to accommodate the needs of west siders.

We know the Velvet Hammer cares. She cared enough to spend her political clout to remedy another west side road issue, one that will definitively prevent the loss of property and potentially human life. Thank you, Councilwoman Frances Akridge!

We know Council President Devyn Keith and Councilwoman Jennie Robinson care. Both have worked tirelessly to ensure a smooth and efficient appointment process to replace outgoing District 5 School Board Member Pam Hill.

Oddly enough, the only person in local government who has shown absolutely no concern for west siders is the man elected to represent us. Make no mistake, the man does care about Huntsville — north Huntsville. This is by no means a bad thing. He does represent north Huntsville. I just wish he would represent the west side as well; after all, we are a part of his district too and some west siders even voted for him.

Given west siders are effectively without representation and have been for years, the time has come for the City of Huntsville to acknowledge the blatantly obvious — west siders need their own city council and school board representatives.

A council member cannot effectively balance the needs of north Huntsville and west Huntsville residents. Their issues and concerns are just too distinct.

For instance, not a single north Huntsville resident has a Madison or Harvest address. Consequently, they could not care less about the issue and the negative impact having a non-Huntsville address has on emergency service response times.

Not a single north Huntsville resident has water service provided by Limestone County authorities and could not care less that those residents pay significantly more than north Huntsville customers of Huntsville Utilities. Nor do those calling north Huntsville home care that west siders don’t have a city library, ballpark, gymnasium or pool. And north Huntsville children aren’t forced to spend hours on a bus every day getting to and from school.

The westward expansion of Huntsville has created a unique set of issues and reality of life for those who live on the wrong side of the arsenal. The current configuration of District 5 promotes animosity between the residents of north and west Huntsville — the haves and the have nots.

The creation of a sixth district in the city of Huntsville, with council and school board members focused exclusively on the unique needs of west siders is the only way to ensure parity for all Huntsvillians.

John Meredith is recognized as one of America’s most influential black Republicans. Son of civil rights icon, James H. Meredith, John earned two national lobbying awards in Washington, DC before relocating to Huntsville where he provides political commentary for Alabamians through radio, television and print media

1 month ago

Alabama has one of the nation’s strongest … campus free speech laws?

(UA/Facebook)

Alabama has been in the news lately for recently passing the nation’s strongest anti-abortion law, but it also just enacted what is being hailed by one expert as “one of the most comprehensive and effective campus free-speech laws in the country”

Last week Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law requiring the state’s public colleges and universities to adopt a number of significant policies and procedures to protect free speech on campus.

“Freedom of expression is critically important during the education experience of students, and each public institution of higher education should ensure free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation by students,” the law states.

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It goes on to declare that it is not the proper role of schools to “shield individuals from speech that is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, including ideas and opinions the individuals may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.”

The state’s powerful higher education lobby didn’t fight the bill, and the only opposition came from a handful of lawmakers who expressed concern that it offers protections to racist speech. But as shown in the landmark Skokie ruling, such protections are already offered by the United States Constitution.

Alabama’s strong move comes on the heels of a trend on college campuses that is chilling the free speech rights of faculty, students and visiting speakers who dare mention controversial or unorthodox views.

In recent years some institutions of higher learning have created “free speech zones,” which are meant to move certain discussions away from where they could offend listeners, or be heard at all. Others have speech codes, which limit acceptable topics to an ever-shrinking list of progressive-leaning beliefs. And some quickly yield to the heckler’s veto, giving the power of censorship to a loud minority.

The issue has been mostly observed on campuses located in the progressive-leaning areas of the northeast and the west coast. But is campus free speech really a problem in conservative-leaning states like Alabama?

Yes, at least according to one expert who has helped draft other campus free speech laws in other states.

“Although it’s sometimes argued that the campus free speech crisis only affects deep-dyed blue states like California and Massachusetts, the problem is national,” wrote Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Kurtz noted how Alabama A&M recently made it on the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” list maintained by the individual-rights advocacy group FIRE for having the most “red light” rated policies that, in their view, restrict free speech.

The Washington Examiner wrote an article last year accusing the University of West Alabama of having a “free speech zone” by limiting any demonstrations to a spot near its student union building.

And at the University of South Alabama, a pro-life student club founded by Katherine Sweet was told that they had to set up their display on an arguably low-traffic portion of the campus that’s designated for free speech.

“I went to South thinking it would be a place where I could debate freely with other students, engage in discourse, and ultimately learn from not only our professors, but each other,” Sweet wrote in an AL.com guest opinion article. “Aren’t universities supposed to be atmospheres that promote just that?”

Yes, and Alabama’s recent action seeks to ensure they do through various measures, including:

• Ensuring that faculty and students are free to take political positions, to express themselves in outdoor areas of the campus, and to assemble, speak and pass out literature,

• Prohibiting the establishment of any “free speech zones,”

• Keeping the campus open to anyone invited by student groups to speak,

• Forbidding the imposition of excessive security fees that discourage some speakers,

• And suspending members of the “campus community” who disrupt the free speech of others.

“Free speech is the cornerstone of our rights as American citizens — and those First Amendment rights certainly apply to college students on university campuses. Around the country, there have been chilling examples where administrators and professors have discriminated against students,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo. “With this law, we are making it very clear that in Alabama, the First Amendment rights of all students, liberal or conservative, will be protected from unfair and discriminatory university speech policies.”

Indeed, yet it remains troubling that such legislation is even needed in a nation founded upon the unalienable freedoms of expressions recognize by our First Amendment.

Voltaire’s beliefs in freedom of expression were once famously summarized with the phrase, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

But unless our lawmakers in other states follow Alabama’s lead, what you may hear on your local college campus could someday be, “I disapprove of what you say, so I will restrict your right to say it.”

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute and host of the 1819 podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

Byrne: Border crisis needs lawful fix, not amnesty

(CBP/Flickr)

Decades of bad immigration policies have undermined our laws and led to the worst conditions at our border we’ve ever seen.

U.S. Border Patrol agents have apprehended a staggering 56,278 unaccompanied minors this fiscal year. The Department of Health & Human Services, tasked with housing the largest number of children in its history, had 13,200 minors in custody this month, and they warn they will soon run out of funding for the year.

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Yet Democrats refuse to support funding relief. Even the liberal New York Times Editorial Board has called for Congress to act, but House Democrats continue to block bills to provide humanitarian aid for the border.

Democrats seem content with blaming President Trump for the problem instead of providing funding needed to care for unaccompanied migrant children, jeopardizing the health and safety of the very children they claim they want to help.

Not only do we need to address the current crisis, but we must strengthen our laws and change flawed policies drawing illegal immigrants in record numbers. However, Democrats have other plans.

Earlier this month, House Democrats passed H.R. 6, the poorly named American Dream and Promise Act. This bill flatly fails to address the escalating humanitarian and national security crisis at our border and, in fact, will make it much worse by incentivizing the continued lawlessness and abuse of our generous immigration system that has resulted in 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States.

This bill will reward approximately 2.7 million individuals who have broken our laws with a pathway to citizenship. This is a fundamental injustice to the hundreds of thousands who are following our immigration laws, spending the time, money, and energy to come into this country legally.

Under this bill, illegal immigrants convicted of multiple crimes, including multiple DUIs, would be eligible for not only amnesty but American citizenship. Moreover, the limited exclusions in the bill for felonies only apply to convictions. If an illegal immigrant has been arrested for a heinous crime, he or she could still be eligible for amnesty. And, while the majority gives lip service to claims that the bill prevents gang members from receiving green cards, the majority intentionally has written the bill in such a way that the provisions will never work.

The Democrats know these issues, yet they rejected Republican amendments to exclude known criminal gang members, illegal aliens with firearm convictions, and illegal aliens convicted of two or more DUIs from receiving amnesty.

We know from history, when we provide mass amnesty, it only spurs additional illegal immigration into the United States. Without stopping the problem that led to this issue, in another 20 or 30 years we will be back in the same place – faced with providing additional amnesty for a new class of illegal immigrants.

In his famous pamphlet Common Sense, Thomas Paine said that “in America, the law is king.” John Adams, one of the most indispensable founders of our Constitutional Republic, sought to create “a government of laws not of men.” If our immigration laws are unjust or, as I believe, inadequate, let’s debate how to change or improve them. But to undermine the rule of law through mass amnesty will erode the very foundation of our Constitutional government, weakening the protections it offers both to Americans and those who will one day gain citizenship. That course of action is not compassionate.

Rather than reward those who have engaged in illegal behavior, we should be working to secure our border, end asylum abuse, and close loopholes in our laws that are contributing to the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America.

This bill ignores one of the most fundamental challenges of our time to pander to a political base. The American people deserve better.

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

1 month ago

Are you afraid to answer the phone?

(Pixabay, YHN)

Millions of Americans fear answering their phone due to a plague of billions of robocalls. These calls have made a mockery of the national Do Not Call Registry and touch on several public policy questions.

We had seemingly ended the problem of unwanted telemarketing calls. Congress authorized the Do Not Call Registry in 2003 after more than a decade of calls disrupting the peace and quiet of our homes. Fines of $11,000 per violation largely put telemarketing companies, with hundreds of thousands of employees, out of business.

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Why have unwanted calls returned? VOIP technology (voice over internet protocol) allowed anyone with a computer and an internet connection to make thousands of calls. A handful of responses can make thousands of calls worthwhile when the cost is almost zero. Furthermore, technology makes robocallers mobile and elusive.

By contrast, telemarketing firms employed hundreds of people at call centers. The authorities could find and fine telemarketers. Firms had to comply with the Do Not Call registry, even if forced out of business.

Technology further frustrates the control of robocalls. Spoofing makes a call appear to be from a different number. Spoofing a local number increases the chance of someone answering, defeats caller ID, and makes identifying the calls’ source difficult.

By contrast, technology allowed the elimination of spam email. It’s easy to forget that fifteen years ago spam threatened the viability of email. Email providers connected accounts to IP addresses and eventually identified and blocked spammers. Google estimates that spam is less than 0.1 percent of Gmail users’ emails.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) banned almost all robocalls in 2009 (political campaigns and schools were excepted). Yet the volume of calls and complaints from the public rise every year. And the “quality” of the solicitations is lower: legitimate businesses employed telemarketers, while most robocalls seem to be scams.

Telephone companies and entrepreneurs are deploying apps and services to block robocalls. The robocallers then respond, producing a technological arms race. The technology of this arms race, however, is beyond me.

I’d rather consider some issues robocalls raise. The root of the problem is some people’s willingness to swindle others. Although we all know there are some bad people in the world, free market economists typically emphasize the costs and consequences of government regulations over the cheats and frauds who create the public’s demand for regulation. People can disagree whether a level of fraud warrants regulation, but free marketers should not dismiss the fear of swindlers.

Robocalls also highlight the enormous inefficiency of theft. Thieves typically get 25 cents on the dollar (or less) when selling stolen goods. Getting $1,000 via theft requires stealing goods worth $4,000 or more. In addition, thieves invest time and effort planning and carrying out crimes, while we invest millions in locks, safes, burglar alarms, and police departments to protect our property. America would be much richer if we did not have to protect against thieves or robocallers.

Finally, having the government declare something illegal does not necessarily solve a problem. Our politicians like to pass a law or regulation and announce, “problem solved.” Identifying and punishing robocallers is difficult; the FTC had only brought 33 cases in nearly ten years. And less than ten percent of the over $300 million in fines and relief for consumers levied against robocallers had been collected. Government has no pixie dust which magically solves hard problems.

The difficulty of enforcing a law or regulation does not necessarily imply we should not act. The Federal Communications Commission, for instance, recently approved letting phone companies block unwanted calls by default, and perhaps this will prove effective. We should weigh the costs of laws and regulations against a realistic projection of benefits and laws failing to solve problems as promised should be revised or repealed.
Still, a law that accomplishes little can have value. Cursing robocalls accomplishes little yet can be cathartic. A law that costs little might provide us satisfaction until technology solves the problem.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.