The Wire

  • Three takeaways from Alabama’s Runoff Election

    Excerpt:

    With Alabama’s primary election runoffs now in the books, here are three takeaways from the results.

    North Alabama has spoken.
    When this election cycle began, it became evident that north Alabama saw a window of opportunity to increase its influence.  The results from the Republican primary runoff have shown the electorate in that area of the state was eager to flex its muscle.

    Will Ainsworth pulled out an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Lt. Governor’s race. Steve Marshall enjoyed a resounding win in his bid to retain the Attorney General’s office.

  • On Roby’s win: One false media narrative dies, a new one is born

    Excerpt:

    Like Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts comic strip fame repeatedly pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he lines up to kick it, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) once again has shown you can’t beat her in a Republican primary.

    Similar to when she defeated “Gather Your Armies” Rick Barber in the 2010 GOP primary and “Born Free American Woman” Becky Gerritson in the 2016 GOP primary, Roby defeated former Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright for a second time on Tuesday night, this time by a whopping 36 points.

    Heading into yesterday, many national media reporters were sent into Alabama’s second congressional district looking at the possibility that Roby might have to answer to a revolt for not sticking with then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the infamous Billy Bush weekend during the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • Mo Brooks Wins FreedomWorks’ Prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award

    Excerpt from a Rep. Mo Brooks news release:

    Tuesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) was one of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks, a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide. Only members of Congress who score better than 90% on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award. Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top 4% of all Congressmen in 2017.

    Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017. If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great. I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

3 months ago

Don’t let the left do it to Pruitt

(G. Skidmore/Flickr)

The left’s crusade against Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt should be seen for what it is — a witch hunt. We don’t need any more conservatives hanged by leftists who major in criminalizing political differences and minor in slander.

How dare a Republican president appoint an environmental heretic to head an administrative agency the left views as its sole, separate and absolute property? This agency exists to serve the deep state — the entrenched federal government bureaucracy that is tailor-made to advance the left’s agenda and operate above accountability.

This conspiratorially organized assault against Pruitt is precisely what Barack Obama and his friends mean by community organizing. It is vicious, relentless street fighting aimed at discrediting Pruitt and taking him down because he is one of the rare administrative officials who won’t put politics above the law and will stand up to those who do.

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The left — always projecting its own malicious practices onto its political opponents — is framing this as its benign campaign to protect the rule of law. Leftists claim that it is Pruitt, appointed by Dr. Donald Evil himself, who is imposing his political agenda. These Alinskyites understand the impact of words and the force of propaganda. Anyone who doesn’t swallow whole their radical assumptions on the environment is a menace, especially one who is in a position to make a policy difference.

Leftist activists and their media co-pilots are hellbent on disgracing Pruitt and destroying his reputation to effect his removal, so they are throwing all kinds of phony scandals against the wall of public opinion to pressure the White House to give them Pruitt’s head.

The energy they are expending on this should tell you how important progressives view unelected, unaccountable administrative agencies in implementing their draconian regulations, which have been choking our individual liberties and wreaking havoc on our economy.

The left is blowing a lot of smoke about alleged improprieties with Pruitt’s travel expenses. Thank goodness media conservatives, whose very existence leftists lament every day, are on the case. The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel, in a series of tweets, dismantled this bogus charge simply by comparing Pruitt’s travel and security costs with those of his predecessors, whose similar expenses dwarf Pruitt’s. And when you add the disturbing factor that Pruitt has been the target of death threats, which have required greater security measures, the contrast between Pruitt’s expenses and those of his dutifully liberal forerunners is even more pronounced.

There is also the earth-shattering matter of the alleged sweetheart deal Pruitt was given on a condo lease, a transaction that was reviewed and found proper by the EPA’s ethics office, which is hardly staffed by Trump supporters.

Leftists don’t care a whit about these nonissues; they are just using them as cudgels to thwart the democratic process — the legitimate effort of our duly elected president to appoint people who will not advance radical policies by being lawless agents. No matter how desperately leftists want to brand Pruitt as a renegade activist, he is just a cog in the wheel of their activism or, in some cases, the driver who is going to put their environmental vehicle in reverse and slam his foot on the pedal.

The left has bullied its way into imposing administrative regulations that are disastrous for business and onerous for individuals. They aren’t just horrible in substance; they’re also terrible in process. The Obama administration shamelessly thwarted the rule of law and exceeded its authority in issuing many of these regulations.

Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA has eliminated regulations gratuitously detrimental to the coal industry that Obama crafted to achieve his stated agenda of bankrupting that industry. Pruitt has determined, in light of recent data, that the current greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2022-25 are inappropriate and require revision. In announcing his decision, Pruitt said that “Obama’s EPA cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high.”

That is, Obama’s regulations were not only inappropriate based on the data but also issued unlawfully pursuant to a political agenda. You won’t hear leftists or their media water carriers complaining about this.

In addition to their angst over Pruitt’s revision of the fuel emissions standards, which, incidentally, could reduce the price of new cars by as much as $7,000, The Heritage Foundation’s Genevieve Wood offers two reasons the left is going after Pruitt — and neither of them has to do with ethics issues. He has led the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle Obama’s “expensive and ineffective climate legacy piece by piece.” And his EPA is scrapping the transparency-hostile practice of developing regulations based on studies that are kept secret from the public.

One thing I appreciate about President Trump is that he is taking action in certain areas that would have been unthinkable to entrenched politicians, many of whom are so used to the inertia of bad policy that they seem to be paralyzed with feelings of futility. The EPA is one of those areas. We are actually seeing concrete results, and it’s immensely refreshing.

Like many others, I’ve long said that we can’t afford to sleep for one second in our ongoing battles against leftists because they don’t. We need to shed some of the defeatism that has crippled the conservative agenda and celebrate the kind of progress we’re seeing at the EPA.

The left considers Pruitt a hill to die on. So should we.

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. 

(Creators, copyright 2018)

4 months ago

VIDEO: Attacked from right in Alabama, Rep. Martha Roby called conservative in D.C.

At home, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) is preparing for a primary in which she faces allegations that she is insufficiently conservative. In Washington last week, a right-leaning think tank singled her out for her conservatism.

Roby, in her fourth term representing the 2nd Congressional District in the Montgomery area and the Wiregrass, was one of four Republican women in the House of Representatives selected to participate in a panel sponsored by The Heritage Foundation to discuss empowering women through conservative policy.

Roby talked about the Working Families Flexibility Act, a bill she sponsored that would give workers in the private sector the same right enjoyed by government workers to take time off instead off overtime pay.

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“If you want to coach your child’s soccer team, or you want to take a mission trip in the summer, and your work is such that you compile overtime hours and you’d rather use that time for paid leave instead of cash payments for overtime if you work in the public sector, you can currently do this,” she said.

But the Fair Labor Standards Act does not allow companies to offer the same flexibility to workers. Roby’s bill would grant that right if the employee chose it and if the employer wanted to offer it as an option.

“There’s no mandates here,” she said. “This is completely voluntary. … This is about making life work.”

The bill passed the House last May on a largely party-line 229-197 vote. But the Senate has not acted.

“We’re continuing to wait on the Senate, as we are on a lot of things, to get things done,” she said. “I talk at home about [how] we pass many great conservative bills in the House of Representatives that are way too important, to go to the Senate to die.”

Participating on the panel with Roby were House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Reps. Mia Love (R-Utah) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

Roby addressed a number of topics related to how women can contribute to developing conservative solutions to America’s problems:

— On what it is like to run for Congress as a woman: Roby said it never occurred to her that seeking office as a woman was remarkable. “I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where my father told me every single day, ‘Martha you can be anything you want to be.’ To the point where my sister and I took it for granted.” She said Congress needs more conservative women. “When you ask for the doors to open, you have to have the courage to walk through them,” she added.

— On whether women bring different priorities to Congress:
Roby said Republican women remind their male colleagues that the GOP conference has great talent from people of all backgrounds and all walks of life. At the same time, she added, all issues are important to women. “We all have issues that we are interested in focusing on,” she said. “But at the end of the day, we care about the same things as our male counterparts do, as conservative Republicans making sure that we’re pushing policy that is helpful to the American people.”

— On national security:
Roby said women have an instinctive understanding of threats to their families. “We know that women care about national security,” she said. “It’s in our DNA as caregivers, as mama bears, to be concerned every day about the safety of our families and our communities.” Roby added that her district has a large military footprint, with Maxwell Air Force Base and Fort Rucker. She also said she is proud that a plant in Troy, Alabama, builds the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAD, that is deployed on the Korean peninsula.

“So the men and women of Alabama’s 2nd District certainly have skin in the game,” she said.

Here’s the video from the forum:

(Image: The Heritage Foundation/YouTube)

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

2 years ago

Jeff Sessions is the right pick for Attorney General. Here’s why.

Jeff Sessions

By Hans von Spakovsky

Jeff Sessions has a problem. A big one.

No, not getting confirmed as the 84th Attorney General. His critics are trying their best to derail his nomination, but he’s more than qualified for the job. The problem will be rooting out the partisanship and unprofessionalism that has infected the U.S. Justice Department over the last eight years.

Fortunately, Sen. Sessions won’t have a learning curve. He is an experienced federal and state prosecutor who knows exactly how a law enforcement agency should be run. Sessions was an assistant U.S. attorney for two years, one of the front line prosecutors who go into court and do the hard work of trying the cases the Justice Department prosecutes.

Sessions then spent 12 years as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. That made him the chief lawyer in charge of supervising the many DOJ line prosecutors responsible for all of the federal cases in southern Alabama. He went on to become the Attorney General of Alabama, in charge of enforcing Alabama’s state laws as well as defending the state when it was sued – the same job the U.S. Attorney General has for the federal government.

Contrary to the unfair and untrue criticisms of his opponents, Sessions had an outstanding record, one that any lawyer or public official would be proud of. He helped break the back of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama. He played a leading role in solving (and prosecuting) the murder of Michael Donald, a 19-year-old African American whose KKK killer, Henry Francis Hays, got the death penalty.

He also prosecuted Bennie Jack Jays, Henry’s father and the “great titan” of the Alabama KKK, for instigating that murder, although he died prior to trial. He was involved in numerous civil rights cases that were filed to protect the voting rights of black Alabamians, including one of the first cases filed by the Justice Department to stop the suppression of black voters, U.S. v. Conecuh County.

Sessions has almost the perfect professional resume to serve as Attorney General, from supervisory experience to practical experience in the most important prosecutorial work that the Justice Department does every day: enforcing the criminal, civil rights, and civil statutes of the United States.

There is no question that Sessions is going to have a very tough job reversing the downright unethical conduct that has infected parts of the Department in recent years — the result of decision-making driven by politics rather than a commitment to uphold the law. That includes cases such as the successful lawsuit filed by 26 states against President Obama’s immigration amnesty plan, in which a federal judge found that Justice Department lawyers repeatedly lied to him about whether the plan was being implemented. Or a federal prosecution in New Orleans where the judge concluded that prosecutors had engaged in “grotesque prosecutorial abuse.”

Sen. Session’s entire career, and his actions as a U.S. senator, shows a keen appreciation of the fact that we are a constitutional republic. He understands that the federal government has strictly limited powers, and that state governments are independent sovereigns, not subdivisions of the federal government whose behavior can be dictated by the executive branch. That will be quite a contrast from the past administration.

As a senator, Sessions also appreciates the constitutional oversight role of Congress over agencies such as the Justice Department. This is very important given the dismissive attitude of former Attorney General Eric Holder, the first attorney general in history to be held in contempt by Congress for withholding documents related to Operation Fast & Furious, the most reckless law-enforcement operation ever conducted by the Justice Department.

Expect Jeff Sessions to ensure that the department is once again run on a professional, ethical, objective and non-political basis — one that respects the Constitution, the rule of law, and the best interests of justice.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org) and former Justice Department official. He is the co-author of “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk” and “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department.”

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3 years ago

Alabama lawmaker pushes Convention of States to pass balanced budget amendment

United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)

A state senator is pushing to renew Alabama’s call for a Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) has pre-filed a bill for the 2016 Legislative Session that would compel Alabama to join the “Compact for a Balanced Budget,” a group of states “uniting to fix the debt” through a federal Balanced Budget Amendment

The idea of a Convention of States gained steam in 2013 after conservative talk show host Mark Levin advocated for a states-led convention in his book The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution says that a convention of the states can be convened if two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) approve an application for the convention to occur.

By design, that’s a high bar to clear. And the bar gets even higher when it comes to actually passing a constitutional amendment.

Each state would then choose delegates to represent them at the convention, but each state would only get one vote on proposed amendments. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the constitution.

In short, the convention of the states is widely viewed as a last-ditch effort to push back against an overreaching federal government. 27 states have so far passed resolutions calling for a convention to pass a federal balanced budget amendment.

The Alabama Legislature passed a resolution earlier this year strictly limiting the purpose of a proposed convention to three areas:

1) Imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government through a balanced budget amendment;
2) limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government; and
3) implementing term limits on federal elected officials.

Members of the Alabama House and Senate who supported the effort say it was necessary because “the federal government has created a crushing national debt” and “invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative power of federal mandates.”

The resolution Sen. Allen is now proposing is even more narrowly defined. It would limit the convention to only addressing the question of a balanced budget amendment.

“Even if we don’t get enough states behind it, we’ll send a clear message to Congress,” Allen told the Anniston Star. “Get your house in order.”

The possibility of a “runaway convention” is the most often cited concern with convening such a meeting of the states.

“In the course of our work advising state and federal lawmakers and conservative allies across the country, we have been giving this issue close attention and study,” said Dr. Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “The lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue.”

But Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), who has sponsored a resolution calling for a Convention of States during the last couple of legislative sessions, said those concerns are overblown.

“Because we’ve never done it, the idea that there could be a ‘runaway convention’ is always brought up as a concern,” Johnson told Yellowhammer earlier this year. “The convention would be limited to a small set of issues. But on top of that, the safeguard is that it only takes 13 states to kill any runaway convention. If there aren’t 13 conservatives states left, we’re in trouble, period. And Washington is a runaway train right now anyway. How much more damage could be done?”

Alabama’s two Senate Budget Chairmen have also been actively involved in the rule-making process for a possible convention. Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) and Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) traveled to Mt. Vernon, Virginia to discuss the ground rules of a potential convention.

“We discussed the reality that the biggest threat to America is an irresponsible Federal Government,” said Pittman. “Checks that need to be put on the Federal Government have not been accomplished and based on current activity appear not to be likely… 32 (states) participated in the Mount Vernon Assembly, to prepare rules and form committees within a strict framework… to discuss and build support for a possible amendment convention of the States.”

Sen. Allen’s latest bill calls for a 24-hour, one-issue convention to convene in Dallas, Texas, the Wednesday after Congress receives the petition from the required number of states.


RELATED:
1. Two Alabama senators discuss potential constitutional convention at Mt. Vernon Assembly
2. Two top Ala. Senators propose bills laying out guidelines for Convention of States
3. Alabama officially applies to Congress for Convention of States


1
3 years ago

The voter-ID fracas in Alabama is much ado about nothing (Opinion)

(Photo: Flickr)
(Photo: Flickr)

This op-ed was originally published by National Review Online.

By Hans A. von Spakovsky

Many on the left are in a ferment over Alabama’s closure of some part-time Department of Motor Vehicles offices. It’s being done for budgetary reasons, but liberals are claiming it’s being done to raise a “barrier for poor and minority voters” in getting an ID to vote, according to the Washington Post. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that “it’s a blast from the Jim Crow past” and Jesse Jackson claimed that “this new Jim Crow isn’t subtle.”

It’s really a sign of how desperate critics of voter-ID laws are that they would raise such inflammatory, ridiculous claims over a budget issue that has nothing to do with race, Jim Crow, or discrimination. After all, they’ve been steadily losing their fight against voter ID in the courts, with only a few exceptions, and in the realm of public opinion.

Alabama’s new voter-ID law for both in-person and absentee voting went into effect last year. Despite the outcries that it would “suppress” votes, there have been no problems or complaints that anyone has been unable to vote because of the new requirement. It’s been the same in all of the other states, such as Georgia and Indiana, that have implemented such ID laws. I’ve written numerous papers looking at turnout data in states after ID laws became effective — ID laws have no discernible effect on decreasing or preventing turnout.

Alabama has 44 driver’s-license offices throughout the state. It apparently also had 31 satellite offices that were open only part-time and that accounted for less than 5 percent of the driver’s licenses issued each year. Because of the budget passed by the state legislature, Alabama’s state government had to “allocate scarce limited resources in Fiscal Year 2016,” according to a letter sent by Governor Robert Bentley to Representative Terri Sewell (D., Ala). So the state government decided to close these satellite offices. Sewell is one of the critics whose “impulsive, ill-informed” comments about that decision were, Governor Bentley says, “based on irresponsible media reports.”

What all of the media and critics missed or deliberately ignored is that, in addition to being able to use a driver’s license to meet the voter-ID requirement, you can get a free voter ID in every single county in the state. In addition to DMV offices, the secretary of state offers free voter IDs in all 67 counties through the local election registrar.

Furthermore, as Governor Bentley points out, those satellite offices being closed are typically “located in the county buildings where the registrars and probate judges offices are located.” So individuals who would have used one of the part-time satellite DMV offices to get an ID will be able to simply walk to another office – in the same building — to get the ID they need for voting. And that is supposed to be the reimposition of Jim Crow?

Alabama even provides a free birth certificate or marriage license if you need it to get an ID. And if you can’t access a polling place because you are disabled or elderly, you don’t have to have an ID to vote by absentee ballot. Additionally, Alabama will continue to provide “mobile units to register and develop photo identification cards to those who need it throughout the state, and who may find themselves limited by lack of transportation,” according to Governor Bentley.

Finally, none of the critics mention that, in addition to driver’s licenses and the specially issued voter-ID cards, you can vote in Alabama also using an ID issued by any state or the federal government — a passport; a local, state, or federal-government ID; a student ID issued by any private or public Alabama college; and a military or tribal ID.

Jesse Jackson is headed to Alabama to protest what he calls an effort “to suppress the vote, skewed to discriminate against minorities.” And he is demanding a Justice Department investigation, although the only thing the Civil Rights Division lawyers would have to investigate is how many additional steps a voter will have to take to walk to the registrar’s office in the county government building to get an ID.

How many extra steps would it take to violate the Voting Rights Act in the view of the Obama Justice Department? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.


Hans A. von Spakovsky is an Alabama native and a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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3 years ago

Heritage Foundation features Alabama prison reform in three-part series

"Lady Justice" Flickr user Scott*

"Lady Justice" Flickr user Scott*
“Lady Justice” Flickr user Scott*

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank based out of Washington, D.C., is taking a closer look at the positive effects of criminal justice reform in Alabama. This week, their news website, The Daily Signal, spotlighted the use of community corrections programs.

The Alabama Legislature passed sweeping prison reform with only 5 dissenting votes during this year’s Regular Session, culminating several years of work by a broad coalition seeking to ease overcrowding in the system while maintaining public safety.

The bill is expected to shrink the prison system’s population by 4,500 inmates over the next 5 years. It also reduces the penalties for some nonviolent and drug-related crimes and strengthens the state’s parole program in an effort to reduce recidivism.

Under the new plan, convicted felons would have expanded opportunities to serve their sentences in their home communities rather than prison.

In a community corrections program, adopted and run at the county level, the offender must attend counseling and treatment programs at a facility during the day. In most cases, he or she has the freedom to go home at night.

Though they get to live at home during their time in the program, everyone sent to community corrections is still considered an inmate. If they skip required classes and meetings, they can be punished.

When only made available to nonviolent offenders, advocates of criminal justice reform say that community-based treatment provides a more effective outlet to rehabilitate people and keeps them from returning to a life of crime.

Many of these offenders have a drug or mental health issues that prison could exacerbate since it is a place where solid role-models are lacking.

Prison is essentially LinkedIn for criminals. Non-violent offenders go in to an environment surrounded by negative influences and those who have committed hard crimes. In The Daily Signal piece, Bennet Wright, director of Alabama’s Sentencing Commission, put it this way:

“The idea is that prison and community-based treatment are two wildly different environments. Just think about it. If you are surrounded by hardened criminals, you are basically doing social networking. That’s how we did criminal justice for a long time: ‘I am going to send you to prison to make you better.’ There’s definitely certain people that need to go. But if someone really is in need of programs and treatments, prison is not the ideal setting for them to get that.”

Under the new state law, assuming it is fully funded in the Special Session, there will be a new class of felonies for the least serious nonviolent crimes. These offenders will rarely see prison time. Instead, judges, who know the costs of prison more than anyone, would have greater discretion to sentence them directly to community corrections.

Research shows that offenders are more likely to commit new crimes within the first year of release from incarceration. Despite this fact, about one-third of those who left Alabama prisons in 2013 had no supervision as a safeguard against recidivism.

Half of all Alabama offenders complete their sentence in prison and then are released without supervision. Those very offenders are the most likely to return to the activities that got them in to prison initially.

The new law aims to break the cycle by mandating that all those released from prison be supervised in some form and that most offenders serve the back end of their sentences in community corrections.

While the reform bill expands access to community-based programs, several counties in the state have been running them for years. Jefferson County, home of the state’s largest city, Birmingham, has a system considered to be the model in the state.

In 2013-14, of those who came to Jefferson County from prison through the re-entry program, 80 percent successfully completed their treatment plan. 90 percent remained off drugs and alcohol after six months, and 69 percent were employed or attending school in that same period.

Currently, community corrections programs exist in only 45 of Alabama’s 67 counties, so it’s not a sentencing option available everywhere in the state—especially in poorer, rural counties.

The lack of sentencing flexibility has caused several problems for the Yellowhammer State including a rising prison budget, overcrowding, and a threat of a federal takeover.

1 in every 148 Alabamians is incarcerated in some manner. As of July 2010, only 43 percent of Alabama’s prisoners were serving time for violent crimes. The cost of housing inmates in prisons has risen 95 percent over the last two decades. As of 2008, the state was spending $15,178 per inmate each year. That’s $41.47 for each inmate every single day funded directly by state taxpayers.

The Daily Signal’s News Editor and author of the piece, Josh Siegel believes that the reforms could have a positive effect for both ex-felons and taxpayers.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Siegel said that criminal justice reform is a conservative issue from a costs and rehabilitation perspective. A major tenant of conservatism is reducing the price of government, and one of its main drivers at the state level has been the rising cost of prisons. Solutions that keep non-violent offenders out of prison and away from crime long-term creates benefits for everyone, he argues.

When asked about why he chose Alabama, Siegel said it was because he “saw that a lot of deep south states, Alabama in particular, have really become leaders on this issue.”

South Carolina, another pioneer in the field, is further along in the reform process than Alabama, and Siegel believed that the state would more effectively illustrate the benefits of system transition. “Here’s Alabama, that hasn’t implemented anything yet, but we wanted to see what’s providing impetus for this and provide details on how people are trying to fix the problems,” he said.

Siegel also believes that criminal justice reforms in Alabama can help remold standards at the federal level. He cited Governor Bentley’s trip to D.C. to discuss Alabama’s progress before the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee as a sign that Alabama’s progress is noted.

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3 years ago

Alabama Policy Institute debates: Should the IRS have more power to censor non-profits?

API campaign contributions
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Alabama Policy Institute hosted an event Tuesday debating the merits of IRS controls over non-profits and tax-exempt groups that “benefit social welfare.”

The Internal Revenue Service announced earlier this year it is seeking to broaden a rule policing political nonprofits to include political parties and political actions committees. By changing this rule, many current 501(c)(3) groups could fall under 501(c)(4) status requiring the disclosure of their donor lists.

501(c)(3) non-profits are largely not allowed to participate in the political process—but are only allowed to provide educational, issue-based materials. and 501(c)(4)s have a little more leeway, but are still not allowed to have any contact to strategize with candidates or their committees.

Hans Von Spakovsky, a Huntsville native and researcher at the Heritage Foundation, argues that this donor disclosure of private donations constitutes a chilling effect on free speech and a violation of privacy.

Craig Holman, of the advocacy group Public Citizen, strongly disagreed. He argues that the use of undisclosed “dark” money “harms democracy” and places elections in the hands of an elite few.

Alabama has had a major part to play in the world of campaign finance post Citizen’s United. During the IRS scandal in which conservative political groups were targeted, the Wetumpka Tea Party had its 501(c)(4) nonprofit status super-reviewed by the tax agency. The landmark Supreme Court case of McCutcheon v. FEC, which declared aggregate contribution limits to campaign finance unconstitutional, came from a suit brought by Birmingham native and conservative donor Shaun McCutcheon.



Related: Alabama Tea Party group leader on Fox News: Obama lied about IRS targeting of conservatives


During much of the API debate, Holman argued that many Super-PACs that help candidates get into office have mysterious origins and voters cannot truly tell what their intentions are without donors being known. He said that “With groups like the NRA and Sierra Club, we generally know where the money is coming from. But with these other groups, voters have no idea.”

Spakovsky countered that America post-Citizen’s United, is actually more democratic and more free. He pointed out that since the 2010 election, the first cycle after the landmark court decision, the rate of incumbency has gone down at a faster rate since any time back to the 1930s.

Transparency became a major point of disagreement where both sides could not agree about the balance between it and privacy. Holman suggested a system where groups have a “political account” in which people donate to and knowingly acknowledge their disclosure. But, Spakovsky took umbrage with the point that the everyday man, or even CEO, could, without consequence, let everyone in the world know their political beliefs.

Spakovsky cited the firing of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich after the dating site OK Cupid publicized Eich’s donation to Prop. 8, a California ballot initiative that barred same-sex marriage in the Golden State. “There are a lot of Americans that can’t afford to have their opinions known,” he added.

“Transparency is about us trying to keep an eye on what the government is doing, not about the government keeping an eye on what we’re doing,” Spakovsky said.

In the 2012 election cycle, $7.3 billion were spent on all federal elections. To put that number in perspective, $7.3 billion represents less than 5 percent of the total ad spending in all U.S. media in the same year.

You can watch the entire debate on API’s YouTube channel.

1
3 years ago

Study: Obama climate agenda will cost Alabama over 10k manufacturing jobs

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and state officials visit the Golden Dragon plant
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and state officials visit the Golden Dragon plant

A newly released study by the Heritage Foundation estimates that Alabama will lose 10,718 jobs as a result of the Obama Administration’s climate policies. That represents a reduction of 4.14 percent of the state’s total number of manufacturing jobs, making Alabama the seventh most negatively impacted state in the country, by percentage.

“Every state would experience overwhelming negative impacts as a result of these regulations, but especially those with higher-than-average employment in manufacturing and mining,” said Nick Loris, one of the Heritage Foundation energy experts who authored the study.

For context, the massive $600 million Airbus manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala., will sustain up to 1,000 jobs at full capacity. In other words, the Heritage study predicts that President Obama’s climate policies will ultimately cost Alabama the equivalent of losing 10 Airbus-sized manufacturing projects.

Alabama’s large coal mining industry will undoubtedly take a significant hit if the administration’s proposed environmental regulations continue to be implemented, but the Heritage study paints an even bleaker picture by noting the subsequent impact on manufacturers.

“Our analysis shows that it’s not just coal-country that’s hit hard by the federal government’s climate regulations,” said Loris. “Because America’s industrial base relies on affordable, reliable energy, these regulations would deal a crushing blow to the manufacturing sector

Tiffany Bittner, the executive director of Coal Jobs Count, a grassroots advocacy organization whose stated goal is to “fight the overreach of EPA regulations,” made a similar point during a statewide bus tour late last year.

“More than 16,000 jobs are tied to Alabama’s coal industry,” she said. “Alabama families and businesses depend on coal for affordable power rates. If Washington takes away the state’s coal industry, those jobs and affordable power bills disappear.”


Estimated job losses broken down by Alabama congressional districts:
AL-01: -1,276
AL-02: -1,418
AL-03: -1,788
AL-04: -2,050
AL-05: -1,809
AL-06: -1,167
AL-07: -1,209
TOTAL: -10,718


The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize its carbon regulations on existing power plants by mid-summer. Their goal is to force states to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

The EPA begins by setting target emissions caps for each state, then tasks the states with crafting plans for complying with the guidelines.

EPA Press Secretary Liz Purchia said states and businesses are pleased with the flexibility they are being given to implement the new regulations.

“[B]usinesses are concerned about the immediate and long-term implications of climate change,” she said, adding that “tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century.”

But the Heritage Foundation’s energy experts believe the flexibility being touted by the EPA will do little to alleviate the costs involved with the regulations.

“To attract state buy-in, the EPA is touting these regulations as being cooperative with the states and awarding the states flexibility in crafting the regulations,” Loris said. “But flexibility would merely shift the costs around, not prevent them from happening.”

“Instead of trying to cash in and protect special interests, both federal and state legislators should flat out reject the administration’s plan,” he concluded. “That is the only true way to protect the families and business owners in their states.”

Loss of manufacturing jobs

(h/t The Daily Signal)


1
4 years ago

Hiring Sessions & Heritage staffers signals Palmer’s intent to be staunch conservative

Republican Gary Palmer speaks during the Alabama 6th Congressional District debate at Regions Field Thursday, June 19, 2014. (Photo: JeffCO GOP)
Republican Gary Palmer speaks during the Alabama 6th Congressional District debate at Regions Field Thursday, June 19, 2014. (Photo: JeffCO GOP)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — If Congressman-elect Gary Palmer’s recent staffing decisions are any indication, he’ll be charting a staunchly conservative course in his new job representing Alabama’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Palmer, who was elected in November and will officially succeed 10-term Congressman Spencer Bachus in January, has chosen one current and one former aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-Ala.) to be two of the top staffers in his Washington, D.C. office.

Palmer tapped William David Smith, Jr. to be his chief of staff, his most senior advisor.

Smith currently serves as Sen. Sessions chief counsel on the Budget Committee. In this capacity, he chairs an oversight working group with House and Senate staffers and conducts oversight investigations of government programs for waste, fraud, abuse and ineffectiveness. Smith also served under Sessions as chief counsel on the Judiciary Committee. In this role, he worked on the confirmation process of the four most recent Supreme Court justices and shepherded Alabama’s federal judicial nominees through the confirmation process.

Sessions called Smith “a patriot, a man of action, a man of principle, and a man of faith,” and predicted that he will be “a terrific leader” for Palmer’s D.C. team.

In addition to his more than 10 years working with Sen. Sessions, Smith served as Executive Director of Congressional Relations for Americans for Limited Government, where he advised members of Congress and their staff on fiscally conservative policies and instructed more than 20 grassroots organizations on how to impact Congress’ legislative agenda.

“William is a man of utmost integrity and high intellect,” said Palmer. “He is an Alabama native and his vast experience will be an asset as we work hard to accomplish great things for our state and nation.”

Coming on the heels of the Smith hire, Palmer announced this week that Cari Kelly will serve as his Legislative Director, overseeing his policy staff.

Kelly worked for Sen. Sessions as oversight counsel on the Budget Committee, but most recently she worked as a legislative strategist for Heritage Action for America, the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, widely regarded as the top conservative think tank in D.C.

In her role at Heritage she focused on immigration, the 2nd Amendment, religious liberty, social issues, financial services and housing.

Perhaps most notably, she worked closely with the Heritage Foundation to educate members of Congress on current issues by providing analysis and recommendations for upcoming votes. The “Heritage Action Scorecard,” which rates how conservative each congressman is on a scale of 1-100, has become one of the most effective tools activists use the bludgeon members who do not toe the conservative line on tough votes.

“I am thrilled to welcome Cari to our Washington team,” said Palmer. “She has vast experience working for conservative principles. Her background and knowledge on key issues will be invaluable in our work.”

Two Sessions staffers, one of which also worked for Heritage… It’s starting to become clear what type of congressman Gary Palmer intends to be.

1
4 years ago

Report: EPA’s global warming agenda will cost the economy $2.23 trillion

YH EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency’s climate rules aimed at phasing out coal-fired power in favor of low-carbon fuels will come at a high cost, according to a newly released report.

Over the next two decades, the EPA’s rules to fight global warming will cost the economy $2.23 trillion, raise energy prices and lower families’ incomes.

Using economic models based on the federal government’s National Energy Model System, the conservative Heritage Foundation found that, by the end of 2023, EPA climate regulations will cost the U.S. nearly 600,000 jobs and reduce a family of four’s income by $1,200.

EPA rules would also raise energy prices and cost the economy $2.23 trillion from 2015 to 2038.

“Higher energy prices as a result of the regulations will squeeze both production and consumption. Since energy is a critical input for most goods and services, Americans will be hit repeatedly with higher prices as businesses pass higher costs onto consumers,” writes Nick Loris, a Heritage Foundation economist and co-author of the report.

“However, if a company had to absorb the costs, high energy costs would shrink profit margins and prevent businesses from investing and expanding,” Loris adds. “The cutbacks result in less output, fewer new jobs, and less income.”

Last summer, President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan, which heavily relied on capping carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. Federal regulators moved quickly to craft rules that would limit power plant emissions, eventually publishing such a rule earlier this year.

Obama doubled down on his climate agenda this year, saying that he would continue his push to move the country away from fossil fuels and towards low-carbon energy.

“The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way,” Obama said in his 2014 State of the Union Address. “But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say, ‘Yes, we did.’”

But the EPA’s power plant emissions limits faced intense criticism for setting emissions limits for new coal plants impossibly low, effectively banning them unless they used carbon capture and storage technology (CCS). Such technology, however, is not commercially proven and the only known projects in the U.S. are federally funded.


Related: Rogers urges Congress to pass bill to stop EPA’s ‘War on Coal’


House Republicans have questioned the legality of requiring new coal plants use CCS, when the Energy Policy Act of 2005 specifically prohibits the EPA from using federally-funded projects to prove that a technology is commercially proven.

“No credible basis exists to state that CCS is adequately demonstrated today, since no large-scale power plant in the U.S. has CCS,” reads the Heritage report, adding that one large-scale CCS project under construction in Mississippi has gotten $400 million from the federal government.

The Heritage report urges Congress to block the EPA from imposing such strict standards that would cripple the coal industry. Congress has made several efforts to block the EPA from regulating carbon emissions — the most recent one being a bill proposed by West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield.

The Manchin-Whitfield bill limits the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions by requiring that any such regulation must be proven to be economically feasible and have a positive environmental impact.

“To truly ensure that the technology is cost-effective, Congress should strip away all subsidies and Department of Energy spending for CCS in order to prevent the federal government from presenting a handful of fundamentally uneconomic CCS plants as proof that the standards are legitimate,” Heritage notes. “However, the most effective policy solution would be to prohibit the EPA and all agencies from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.”

1
4 years ago

7 reasons Alabamians should oppose the online sales tax money grab

Internet Sales Tax

Over the weekend, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley voiced his support for the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act, which should be more approprietly named the Internet Sales Tax Mandate. Bentley estimated that Alabama’s beleaguered General Fund budget would gain roughly $150 million a year if online retailers were forced to collect taxes for things they sell online to consumers all over the country.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill last year that exempted businesses with under $1 million in annual revenue from having to collect the tax, but Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, is said to be working on a new version of the Internet Sales Tax Mandate that would remove that exemption and impact all small businesses.

Here are just 7 of the many reasons Alabamians should oppose the Internet Sales Tax Mandate:

1. It hurts small businesses

Many proponents of the Internet Sales Tax Mandate are trying to make this out to be a fight between the Internet and Main St. — big, bad online retailers vs. your local mom & pop shops. In reality, the online retailers who would be hit by this tax are small businesses, just like the brick and mortar stores in your local community.

It’s the big box stores who are spending millions of dollars to pass this legislation. Small businesses should be banding together to fight this overburdensome tax, not allowing propaganda funded by large corporations to tear them apart.

This legislation would have a direct negative impact on small businesses, which employ over half the U.S. population and are responsible for the vast majority of new job growth in recent years.

2. This is exactly the kind of thing Reagan opposed

The Internet is the one place left where there are low barriers to entry for entrepreneurs. We are seeing massive economic growth online. The Internet has given local brick and mortar stores the ability to have a worldwide reach. Why would the government want to stifle that?

Oh, actually, President Reagan told us why…

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” – Ronald Reagan

3. It’s not the “silver bullet” states think it is

If an online retailer has a physical location in a state, customers located in that state are already paying sales tax for their products. 9 of the top 10 retailers in the U.S. already collect sales taxes for 100 percent of the country. Big companies like Best Buy, Wal Mart and Apple are already collecting taxes pretty much everywhere because they have physical locations all over the country. Amazon is opening distribution centers all over the United States because they want to offer same-day delivery on as many items as they possibly can.

In other words, the companies from which a big chunk of sales tax revenue comes are already paying the sales tax the Internet Sales Tax Mandate advocates say it would help collect. States that think its a silver bullet for their budgets are wrong.

4. It reduces competition

This is why the giant companies with high paid lobbyists love it. The Internet made it possible for a mom & pop store to compete with the giants. If they sell a better product at a better price, they can now reach potential customers all over the world. That has made the Internet a consumer’s dream.

But history has proven that the big boys don’t like all that competition. Once most companies reach a certain size, they tend to try to increase the barriers to competition, rather than continue to innovate. Some of the largest corporations in the world are pushing the Internet Sales Tax Mandate because they can afford to take on the costs of calculating and collecting sales taxes in different jurisdictions all over the country, where their smaller competition cannot.

5. It hurts consumers

Pushing out mom & pop shops, which this legislation will do, leaves consumers with fewer choices.

On top of that, anyone with an elementary understanding of economics knows that when the government imposes a new tax or regulation on a business, they pass that cost on to their customers.

The Internet Sales Tax Mandate will cause consumers to pay more for the products they buy online.

6. Widespread “showrooming” is a myth

“Showrooming” is one of the reasons misguided brick and mortar retailers want the Internet Sales Tax Mandate. “Showrooming” takes place when a customer sees a product in a store, but decides to go home and buy it online instead.

But this entire concept discounts one of the main reasons people shop online in the first place — convenience. If I’m already in a store and see a product I want to buy, why would I leave the store, go home, get one the computer, find it again, order it, then wait a week for it to get to me?

Studies have shown that “showrooming” is extremely rare.

7. Conservative groups you trust oppose it

The Heritage Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, Freedomworks, Madison Project and just about every other conservative group you know and trust opposes the Internet Sales Tax Mandate. Small government conservatives like Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio oppose it as well.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Heritage Foundation hails Sessions as ‘Senator who most vigorously opposed amnesty’

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

At the height of the debate over the so-called Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill last May, Yahoo! News published an article in their “Power Players” section titled “Sen. Jeff Sessions almost single-handedly trying to derail ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration bill.”

Although he wasn’t able to stop it in the Senate, the consistent pressure he put on House Republicans to hold the line was a major factor in getting the bill bogged down in the lower chamber.

And that wasn’t his first rodeo.

“Many blame [Sessions] for the defeat of the last immigration reform bill in 2008,” Yahoo! News noted.

But last week, House Republican leadership released a new blueprint for immigration reform.

Sessions immediately sprang into action.

Once again, we have the same recycled talking points—crafted, it would appear, with the help of the same consultants and special interests. Each time, the talking points are followed by legislation that fails to match the promises — legislation that, at bottom, ensures only the amnesty and not the enforcement. The leadership talking points look like an attempted repackaging of the tired Gang-of-Eight-style formula that has been proposed, rejected, and re-proposed for years. It is no surprise then that Senator Schumer and former Speaker Pelosi are so encouraged by these developments. But while Democrat leaders and interest groups appear satisfied, this document was not voted upon by the GOP conference and clearly does not represent the consensus of Republican members. Is it not time we pushed aside the stale proposals stitched together in concert with the same lobbyists, and asked what is in the best interests of the hardworking American citizen—and the nation?

With that kind of rhetoric being aimed at members of the Washington establishment in both parties, it’s no wonder that conservatives around the country are starting to realize what we here in Alabama have known for a long time — Sen. Sessions is one of us.


#SESSIONS2016: Here’s an idea for the 2017 State of the Union Address

Over the weekend, James Carafano of The Heritage Foundation, one of the nation’s top experts on defense and homeland security, wrote a piece for The Washington Examiner praising Sen. Sessions for his efforts.

“In person Sessions doesn’t look like the bill-slayer type,” Carafano wrote. “Polite and affable, he comes across as a perpetual ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ rather than a bulldog. Yet over the years, Sessions has proved to be very serious about some very serious issues. He hates higher taxes, has no use for Obamacare, and has a passion for providing for the common defense.”

The Heritage Foundation scholar noted that Sessions’ decision to get so far out in front on the immigration issue has made him a favorite target of leftwing bloggers and TV personalities like Rachel Maddow.

“But, Sessions doesn’t back off,” Carafano proclaimed. “One might wonder why he picked an explosive issue like immigration for his lonely crusade. But the impetus for his determined stand is clear: a total commitment to the rule of law. Before running for the U.S. Senate, he served as both a federal prosecutor and state attorney general. After serving as a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, Ronald Reagan nominated him for a federal judgeship, but later withdrew it in the face of Democratic opposition. Sessions’ entire professional career has been shaped by the belief that impartial justice is the glue that holds a free society together.”

“In the end, Congress may do the right thing and put the principle of rule-of-law above a politically-driven amnesty,” Carafano concluded optimistically. “If that happens, no one will deserve more credit than the not so quiet lion from Alabama.”


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
5 years ago

Visualizing the U.S. debt so that even a liberal can understand it

As I write this at 9:00 a.m. central time on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, the U.S. Federal Debt stands at $17,315,591,424,039 — over $17 TRILLION.

During George W. Bush’s eight years in the White House, the debt soared by $4.9 trillion — which is bad enough — but it is has already increased roughly $6.7 trillion in President Obama’s first five years in office.

But we have a hard time wrapping our heads around just how much money that is. At some point — probably somewhere in the hundred million range — everything just sounds like “giant mountain of cash.”

So how much money is $17 trillion?

The Heritage Foundation released an interesting graphic this morning to help us understand.

Visualizing the Debt

For a little bit more context, here’s what $1 trillion dollars would look like if it were stacked up in $100 bills. (click image to enlarge)

US Debt Ceiling 2012 visualized

Last year, when the debt was a measly $16.3 trillion, the fine folks at Demonacracy put together this stunning visualization of what the entire U.S. debt would look like stacked up in $100 bills. (click image to enlarge)

US Debt Ceiling 2012 visualized

Now let’s go on a little “Debt Road Trip.” The highly recommended Political Math Blog released this excellent short video back in 2012, comparing the increase in debt to a road trip across the United States.

Now, the following video is from 2009, but I think it helps us even better understand what D.C. politicians are really talking about when they crank up the rhetoric about cutting spending. It’ll make your head explode.

So, next time Nancy Pelosi says something brilliant like this:

The cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make. It’s really important that people understand that.

…remember this post. In the mean time, share it with everyone you know.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
5 years ago

ObamaCare caused this Alabama family’s premium to skyrocket 344 percent

Jim & Vicki White
Jim & Vicki White

By: Katherine Rosario, Communications Deputy at Heritage Action

Our first reaction when we got the letter: I was so enraged and so was Jim.  And we had to just step back from it and just process it and look at what’s really going on in this country.  – Vicki White, Alabama 

After nearly 10 years with the individual “blue” plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, with a premium of $402 per month and a $5,000 out of pocket deductible, Vicki and Jim White received a letter in the mail that infuriated them. They are a hardworking, responsible, healthy couple, so they chose a health insurance plan with a higher deductible, and were putting money in a health savings account.

Previously a small business owner, Vicki is the office manager at a physical therapy clinic. Her husband, Jim, is a high school math teacher and coach. They are conservative to the core and suspected from the inception of the Affordable Care Act that it wasn’t going to be good for the country or America’s healthcare system. But they weren’t prepared for the massive blow Obamacare would be to them personally or how this letter would make them feel. When you hear how much Obamacare changed things for them, you’ll understand why.

The letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield notified them that under Obamacare, their insurance premium would leap from $402 per month to $1,380.28 per month – roughly a 344 percent increase – if they want coverage comparable to their current plan.  This 13 hundred dollar “gold” plan has a $6,000 out of pocket deductible.

So they went online in search of a plan that was more comparable in terms of cost.  The cheapest plan they could get from Blue Cross Blue Shield is the “bronze” plan, which has a premium of $861 per month and an out of pocket deductible of $12,600.  This means, even if they purchased the cheapest plan available to them, they’d have to spend nearly $23 thousand in one year “before a dime would be paid.”

It’s no wonder Vicki added:

We had the understanding that this whole orchestration of the quote unquote Affordable Care Act was to push the populous into a single payer system, a government controlled system, to ultimately control every facet of your life.

These concerns are not unfounded.  As the law has unfolded, it has become painfully clear that the Affordable Care Act is not about helping people get affordable health care.  In most states, insurance on the Obamacare health exchanges will cost more than existing insurance according to Heritage research.

Obamacare is about government controlling the intimate details of our lives, and in many cases, it may mean individuals are forced to violate their conscience.

Vicki’s concerns are serious and extend beyond health care to privacy and the very nature of what it means to live in America:

Once the government has your health care in the palm of their hand, they can jerk the strings on you and you will jump.

I’m involved in the medical community here, and there are HIPPA laws in place to protect privacy.  The Affordable Care Act – that’s a misnomer if I ever heard one – this law is going to expose every aspect of your medical history.  God only knows who is going to abuse that information.  There is no accountability for anyone in the Obama administration at any level.

The Heritage Foundation recently interviewed Dr. Ben Carson at the Values Voter Summit, and he reminded us of the philosophy of Vladimir Lenin, if you can control health care “that’s they keystone to creating a socialist society.”

This story – and the millions of other stories like this one – would have been different if conservatives’ warnings had been heeded, and if the Affordable Care Act had been defunded and repealed.  Tragically, leftists in government were more concerned with saving face and protecting Mr. Obama’s legacy than with listening to the voices of their constituents.

But for the sake of Jim, Vicki, and millions of other Americans being harmed by Obamacare, conservatives are going to continue to fight this unaffordable, unworkable law until it is defeated.

(H/t Heritage Action)


Follow Katherine Rosario on Twitter @KathMaryRosario

1
5 years ago

Study: Alabama insurance rates could rise 60% due to ObamaCare

ObamaCare

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, continued his all-out assault on ObamaCare over the weekend with a tweet indicating Alabamians could experience a 60 percent increase in their health insurance premiums thanks to the president’s healthcare law. Only California, Idaho, Indiana and Maryland will experience more significant increases, according to a map embedded in the senator’s tweet.

The source of the information displayed on the map was gleaned from a study called “The cost of future newly insured under the Affordable Care Act,” which was conducted by the Society of Actuaries.

“The main objective of this research is to estimate the morbidity change due to new participants in the individual market and the impact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have on filling the uninsured gap,” the Society of Actuaries states. “Research sponsored by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) predicts ACA-driven changes in individual market composition of the individual health care market could drive up underlying claims costs by an average of 32 percent nationally by 2017. The research also predicts high variability among states, with as many as 43 states experiencing a double-digit claims cost increase.”

But not everyone is convinced the data found in the Society of Actuaries study is unbiased.

Actuaries use predictive math to attempt to make sure insurers don’t run out of money to pay claims. If insurance companies didn’t exist, neither would actuaries. For that reason, ObamaCare supporters have been pushing back by pointing out ties between actuaries and the insurance industry.

The Society of Actuaries “portray themselves as this nonpartisan think tank when in fact everything about the study is by people who have a vested interest in the outcome of the study,” Birny Birnbaum, executive director of the Center for Economic Justice, told Every Day Health earlier this year.

Sen. Al Franken, D-MN, echoed that sentiment during a committee hearing in April when he asked an actuary representative what percentage of actuaries work for insurance companies. The representative could not answer the question, but Franken’s point was made — he believes the fix is in.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act have been left with no other option but to refute the flood of evidence suggesting the law is going to do anything but make health insurance more affordable.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-MT, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and one of the key architects of ObamaCare, called the law’s implementation “a huge train wreck.”

A Kaiser Foundation poll released last month showed that 44 percent of Americans aren’t even sure if ObamaCare is still the law of the land. 42 percent say they have an unfavorable view of the law, while only 37 percent hold a favorable view.

Republicans have been united in their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, but have fractured recently over the best way to roll it back.

Some lawmakers are pushing to “defund” the law by passing a bill to fund every part of the federal government except for ObamaCare. Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, aided by conservative groups like Heritage Action for America and FreedomWorks, have been leading the “defund” charge. They have garnered over 1 million signatures on their “Don’t fund ObamaCare” online petition.

[Read Yellowhammer’s exclusive one-on-one with Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint]

Other Republicans say the “defund” plan is flawed because it would require both the Democrat-controlled senate and president Obama to sign off, an outcome they consider to be highly unlikely.

Lawmakers return to Washington today after their summer recess. The Syria crisis will be addressed in short order, but attention will turn back to ObamaCare shortly after that.

Both sides of the aisle want to reach an agreement to fund the government before the current continuing resolution expires Sept. 30.

In the mean time, you can view the full Society of Actuaries ObamaCare study here.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
5 years ago

EXCLUSIVE: One-on-one with Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint

YH Jim DeMint Interview

It has been roughly eight months since Jim DeMint left the United States Senate. His reason for leaving the world’s greatest deliberative body was simple; he believes he can make more of a difference from the outside than he could as a senator.

As Heritage Foundation president, he now leads the country’s preeminent conservative policy shop. Their 2010 budget was $80 million and they boast a roster of over 700,000 supporters nationwide.

And recently they have ramped up their grassroots advocacy efforts through The Heritage Foundation’s sister organization, Heritage Action for America.

In an exclusive interview with Yellowhammer News on Friday afternoon, DeMint called it a “one-two punch.”

“The Heritage Foundation produces the policy information, and Heritage Action gets the grassroots engaged,” DeMint said.

Heritage ramped up the advocacy machine earlier this year and pressured Congress to make significant changes to the so-called Farm Bill, a pork-laden piece of legislation that both Parties in Congress pass year after year with little effort to reform.

After putting intense pressure on members of the GOP-controlled House, Heritage won what Fox News called “at least a partial victory” by “getting the House to split funding for food stamps from the rest of the bill.”

And now they are throwing their weight into a fight over the future of the president’s healthcare law.

When Congress returns in two weeks from its summer recess, they will vote on a bill to temporarily fund the federal government. DeMint and the Heritage Action army are spending every waking hour pushing to make sure the bill contains zero dollars for ObamaCare.

They announced last week that they are launching a $550,000 ad campaign targeting 100 Republican-controlled Congressional districts — including four in Alabama — with the goal of convincing Republicans to join the effort to “defund” ObamaCare.

They are also taking their message directly to the people through a nine-stop “Defund ObamaCare Town Hall Tour” that has featured some of the biggest names in the conservative movement, not the least of which is DeMint.

“I’m traveling the country talking about the dangers and consequences of this bill,” DeMint told Yellowhammer before the tour’s stop in Birmingham. “ObamaCare is not just another bill, it’s one-sixth of our nation’s economy. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid let it slip out a couple of weeks ago that this is just a precursor to a single payer system. We think it’s important enough to risk everything to stop it.”

Sounds simple enough in theory. Republicans pass a bill to fund the government that does not include funding for ObamaCare, then dare the president to shut the government down over their refusal to fund the least popular piece of domestic legislation in a generation.

But some Republicans say that’s a recipe for political disaster.

I pointed out to Sen. DeMint that even some Republicans with unquestionable conservative credentials have balked at the idea of risking a government shutdown to defund the law. They say there’s not realistic path to victory with the “defund” strategy.

DeMint disagrees.

“The only leverage Republicans have is to not fund it,” he quipped. “They need to pass a funding bill that funds the government, but doesn’t fund ObamaCare. They should go around the country and tell people ‘we funded the government, now it’s up to President Obama. He’s exempt congress from that law, he gave a year delay to big business, now it’s time for average Americans to get some relief.”

DeMint didn’t hold back from calling out Republican leadership for what he characterized as a lack of leadership.

“I think it’s shameful that Republicans’ whole assumption is, ‘we don’t believe enough in what we say, but we know [Obama] does. We know he’ll hold the line and shut the government down over his bill.’ It’s a matter of courage of conviction. We need more inspiring leadership. If we had Republicans in leadership who would stand up and say, ‘If there’s ever been something worth fighting for, this is it. Let’s go out and win one for the Gipper,’ Republicans would respond and be united. But instead, every time the president even mentions shutting the government down, Republican leadership runs for the hills.””

Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham, who was sitting in on our interview with DeMint, wholeheartedly agrees.

“We have a leadership problem in the allegedly conservative Party in this country,” Needham said emphatically. “McConnell and Boehner have been playing the political game for decades. They’re not committed to the conservative cause the way some of these younger guys are.”

And that, DeMint said, is what he is hearing from conservatives all over the country since the launch of their latest tour.

“These are the most energetic, electric crowds I’ve ever seen. These folks are serious.”

One of the Heritage faithful who attended the Birmingham tour stop was Melody Warbington, one of the state’s most involved Tea Party activists. Warbington told Yellowhammer over the weekend that the 500 grassroots conservatives who attended the event reacted strongly to finding out that no members of Alabama’s congressional delegation have signed on to the defund ObamaCare movement.

“I think most of us left with a renewed sense of hope that ‘We the People’ have the will to remind those in DC & Montgomery that they work for us,” she said. “If our reps are going to go around the state claiming to support conservative principles, it’s time they started voting like it.”

Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham said they chose to come to Birmingham because of the potential they see in Alabama’s delegation.

“Alabama is one of the most important stops on this trip. There’s so much potential for Alabama’s delegation to lead in Washington, D.C. We especially wanted to be here to motivate people here to call their member of Congress and go to their town halls during the August recess. Alabama should be leading this fight.”

DeMint closed by saying he hopes conservatives don’t lose their sense of urgency about getting rid of ObamaCare.

“We need to act now,” he said. “This could be the last chance to stop it.”


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
5 years ago

Heritage Action wants your voice to be heard in Birmingham

Heritage Action for America is hosting a town hall event in Birmingham featuring former U.S. Senator and current Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint.

Here’s what Heritage Action wants you to know:

Members of Congress are leaving Washington in August to head home—but few of them are hosting town hall events to hear what their constituents are saying.

So Heritage Action is standing in the gap: bringing education on the critical issues and our message of Congressional accountability to critical cities across the country—including Birmingham.

You can join a strategic gathering of Birmingham conservatives on August 23rd.

How the August 23rd Heritage Action town hall meeting is critical to the conservative movement

YH Jim DeMint
Unless we conservatives stand up for what we believe, liberals will continue to get their way.

At this meeting, you will find out how your voice, when added to the growing chorus of conservatives across the country, can make the all difference.

And you will hear from our guest Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint. He will explain why he left the United States Senate to lead a conservative policy organization like The Heritage Foundation.

At this exclusive, one night only event, you will:

  • Hear the latest on pressing issue fights in Washington.
  • Meet Heritage Action’s local Regional Coordinator and other conservatives from your area.
  • Learn how to get involved by joining the Sentinel Program.

Join your neighbors, friends, and other local conservatives at our town hall meeting

Come to the town hall meeting to hear directly from Jim DeMint, meet local conservatives, share your story, get educated on the issues, and build your activist network.

Our Birmingham town hall is your chance to make your voice heard:

  • Tell us what advances the conservative movement in your neighborhood.
  • Share how you are holding your Members of Congress accountable.
  • Help Jim DeMint build the conservative movement.

Attend the Birmingham town hall meeting with your friends. Come to the town hall to meet neighbors and friends that are willing to take a stand for conservative principles.

  • See the growing conservative movement in Birmingham.
  • Hear the latest on the critical fight to save this country.
  • Learn how you can break through the Washington Establishment.

Heritage Action sees great potential for Birmingham in the conservative movement. Learn why at this exclusive event.

What you need to know about the event


Date
: August 23, 2013

Time: Registration begins at 6:00 p.m. Town Hall Meeting begins at 7:00 p.m.

Location: Hyatt Regency Birmingham – The Wynfrey Hotel, 1000 Riverchase Galleria, Birmingham, Alabama 35244

Cost: Free for conservatives. Click here to RSVP.

1
5 years ago

Obama declares war

Think it’s hot now? Just wait ’til Obama’s newly declared “War on Coal” causes electric rates to spike so high you can’t afford to pay your power bill.

“The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants,” Daniel Schrag, a member of Obama’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology told the New York Times. ”…a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

And with that, the Obama Administration launched a war that will directly target every American.

The president yesterday laid out America’s first climate change strategy — and it’s bad news for anyone concerned about electric rates.

“With every passing day, the urgency of addressing climate change intensifies,” Obama wrote in a memo to his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. “[M]y Administration is committed to reducing carbon pollution that causes climate change, preparing our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speeding the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

The Obama Administration also released a 21-page report detailing their plan.

“Going forward, we will promote fuel-switching from coal to gas for electricity production,” the plan states. That will certainly be disconcerting to the 5,000+ Alabamians who provide for their family thanks to their job in the coal industry, but that statement has stark implications for every Alabamian.

The Alabama Policy Institute noted in their “Alabama by the Numbers” series earlier this year that 26% of Alabama’s energy is produced by coal-fired plants. They also pointed out that the cost to generate 1kWh of electricity from fossil fuels is 3.6 cents, while so-called renewable resources cost 4.9 cents, a 53 percent difference.

This research makes it clear that the results of Obama’s climate change policies will be devastating to Alabama jobs, and Alabamians’ pocket books.

A study by the Heritage Foundation found that significantly reducing coal’s share in America’s energy mix, which Obama’s plan calls for, would destroy more than 500,000 jobs, cause a family of four to lose more than $1,400 in annual income and increase electricity prices by 20 percent.

Obama cites the Clean Air Act of 1970 as legal justification for his executive actions in the energy sector, but John Dingell, the principal author of the Clean Air Act said Obama is using a perverse interpretation of the law to advance his ideological agenda.

“This is not what was intended by the Congress and by those of us who wrote the Clean Air Act,” Dingell said. “We are beginning to look at a wonderfully complex world, which has the potential for shutting down or slowing down virtually all industry and all economic activity and growth.”

And the worst part of all of this? None of it will make a bit of difference to the Earth’s climate.

“If America stopped all carbon emissions, it would decrease the global temperature by only 0.08 degrees Celsius by 2050,” the Heritage Foundation concludes. “The war on coal provides no hope for the economy and little change in the earth’s temperature. Not quite the hope and change Americans desired.”


Related:
1. Clear contrast continues at PSC hearings
2. Recap from the first Alabama Power PSC hearing
3. Beeker challenging Dunn in PSC Republican primary
4. Alabama climatologist crushes enviros
5. Democrats Embrace Republican Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn

What else is going on?
1. Sewell: Injustices suffered on Bloody Sunday in 1965 have ‘not been fully vindicated’
2. Sarah Palin coming back to Alabama
3. To D.C. & back again, will Wells Griffith run for Congress?
4. SCOTUS rules in favor of Shelby County in Voting Rights Act case
5. Mike Rogers to Obama: Get serious about border security

1
5 years ago

Cap-and-Trade by Other Means

Gary Palmer Yellow Hammer Politics Alabama Policy Institute
Gary Palmer, Alabama Policy Institute
The Alabama Public Service Commission recently held a public hearing concerning Alabama Power Company rates. But the hearing was really about an effort initiated by environmental groups determined to impose cap-and-trade type regulations on Alabama Power.

For the first time in my memory, the PSC was brought into a debate that is really outside their scope of responsibilities. Other than setting rates, they have no regulatory authority.

Under the guise of pressing for lower rates for lower-income household customers, these environmental groups are actually attempting to make the case for replacing Alabama Power’s coal-fired generating plants with renewable energy facilities. The impression they were trying to create is that the coal-fired plants, especially the older ones, are releasing dangerous levels of pollutants into Alabama’s air. In fact, number one on the Southern Environmental Law Center’s list of objectives is “Place stringent limits on nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide at Alabama Power’s Gorgas, Gaston, and Miller power plants, and make sure that the company follows through on installing and operating control devices to maximize emissions reductions throughout the year.”

However, an examination of the federal government’s most recent reports on air quality shows a dramatic reduction in the emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. According to the EPA, there have been no violations by Alabama cities of the EPA standard for nitrogen dioxide (NO 2) since 1980. That’s more than 30 years with no violations.

In regard to sulfur dioxide (SO 2), the EPA uses two different measurements: 99th percentile score in a one-hour period and the 2nd highest maximum in a 24-hour period. The baseline 99th percentile in one hour for SO 2 is 75 parts per billion (ppb). Birmingham hasn’t violated this standard since 2003 and no city in Alabama has violated this standard since 2005.

The baseline for 2nd highest maximum in a 24-hour period is 140 ppb. The only city to violate this standard has been Scottsboro, and that was in 1980.

If environmental groups are successful in their effort to shut down coal-fired plants, it will have a devastating impact on the Alabama economy and in turn, on households.

The Energy Information Administration estimates that electricity generated from renewable sources will be significantly more expensive. Electricity generated from biomass will cost 34 percent more than electricity produced from combined-cycle, natural gas-fired power plants. Geothermal power will cost 39 percent more; onshore wind turbine power will be 80 percent more expensive; thermal-solar will be over 300 percent more; and photovoltaic 480 percent more.

During the debate over cap-and-trade, the Heritage Foundation published a study showing the economic impact on a state-by-state basis. If cap-and-trade had passed in Congress, new regulations would have reduced Alabama’s Gross State Product (GSP) by almost $2 billion in the first year alone. In addition, the personal income would have decreased by $2.7 billion and almost 24,000 jobs would have been lost in the first year.

Energy costs for households with annual income below $50,000 already amount to about 20 percent of their disposable income and about 23 percent for households with annual incomes less than $30,000, including 31.5 million senior citizen households.

A study by the Tax Foundation showed that passage of federal cap-and-trade legislation would have had a particularly heavy impact on low-income households. Households earning between $30,000 – $39,999 would have seen their energy cost increase by almost $960 per year and $845 more per year for those earning $20,000 – $29,999 making cap-and-trade type regulations extremely burdensome and regressive on low-income households.

Alabama has become one of the most attractive places in the world to locate a business as evidenced by our success in landing majoring manufacturing companies in automotive, aerospace, steel, and now, aircraft.

One of the major factors in our success has been our low energy costs. Given the economic progress that we have made and considering the tremendous improvements in air and water quality, it seems foolhardy for us allow outside environmental groups to undermine and harm our economy under the guise of protecting Alabama Power customers from excessive rates.

Their true agenda is to eliminate all coal-fired and nuclear power generation and to force the power generation companies in Alabama to convert to renewable energy sources. But doing so will come at a high price for our economy and for all consumers, particularly lower income families.


Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society. For information or comments, contact Gary Palmer, 205.870.9900 or at garyp@alabamapolicy.org.


What else is going on?
1. Leftwing Washington Post Writer finds Sessions-Bashing Friend in AL.com
2. Apple CEO (& Auburn Grad) Tim Cook Bashes U.S. Tax System
3. EXCLUSIVE: Shelby Discusses His Economic Development Vision for Alabama
4. Legislature Rejects Bentley Amendment, Pushes Forward With Accountability Act
5. Gun Bill Passes Legislature, Goes to Governor

1
5 years ago

Rumors & Rumblings

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a weekly feature that runs each Wednesday. It includes short nuggets of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week. Have a tip? Send it here. All sources remain confidential.


AEA Gets beat again
One of the most-discussed topics on the seventh floor of the State House Tuesday night was that AEA got beat again in spite of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in March and April hammering Republican Senators for passing the Accountability Act.

“They tried to intimidate legislators into submission and it didn’t work,” a lobbyist texted Yellowhammer after the Senate voted to provide state-funded liability insurance to teachers. “They blew a million bucks they won’t have in 2014.”

But a few Republican senators did side with AEA on the issue. The liability insurance amendment passed by a razor thin margin of 18-16.

One senator told Yellowhammer he believed it was “unnecessary,” another said it was a “swipe at the AEA.”

First of all, if the teachers’ union doesn’t want to get swiped at, maybe they should consider not carpet bombing Republican districts with disingenuous negative robocalls and radio ads.

But on top of that, I would encourage everyone to put down the AEA tabloid and consider this:

If the AEA was truly doing their “job” instead of trying to hold teachers hostage for their union dues, would they not have for years been demanding the state provide liability insurance for teachers like they do for every other state employee?

Regardless, union boss Henry Mabry took another loss in what for him must seem like the session that would never end.

Rep. Barry Mask making a move?
Rumors have been quietly making their way around the fifth floor of the State House that Rep. Barry Mask may be interested in making a move out of the legislature.

Some insiders have speculated that he might fill the open executive VP slot at the Realtors’ Association.

Others have speculated that if Perry went to Finance, and Galliher moved to chief of staff, Mask could be a candidate for legislative director… But that’s speculating about speculation, which is kind of like dreaming inside a dream — at some point it becomes impossible to tell what’s reality.

The legislative director angle, while it’s fun to try to map out, is highly improbable.

The only thing we are fairly certain about is that Mask is at least entertaining the idea of making a move, and the Realtors’ position is the most likely scenario as of right now.

Everyone and their mom is looking at running for the PSC
What’s the quickest way to get yourself challenged in a GOP primary in Alabama? Apparently it’s align yourself with leftwing environmentalists… then double and triple down on your position when you’re challenged. At least that’s what Republican Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn seems to be finding out.

Republicans are coming out of the woodwork to challenge Dunn in the 2014 GOP primary.

Names in the rumor mill over the last couple of months have included journalist Steve Flowers and former College Republicans national chairman Alex Schriver.

But the lastest names are Beeker and Barbee.

Chris “Chip” Beeker ran for the PSC back in 2010, and it looks like he’s throwing his hat in the ring again.

Jonathan Barbee is a Birmingham-area communications consultant who most recently served as interim press secretary for the Alabama Republican Party. Barbee’s position was eliminated as the state Party’s finances made it necessary to cut some staff. But sources say he’s ready to jump in the PSC race as well.

Boehner not rushing Internet Sales Tax
After the Senate moved the Marketplace Fairness Act through the body fairly quickly, it looks like Speaker Boehner is planning to slow things down in the House.

When Boehner was asked about the bill earlier this week he said, “I would probably refer you to Chairman [Bob] Goodlatte of the Judiciary Committee. They have jurisdiction over this. I have not talked to him about it. I don’t know what his intent is in terms of whether he’s interested in moving it through his committee or not.”

Boehner is clearly in no rush to get it to the floor, but instead will allow the bill to be vetted through the Committee process.

This bill poses an interesting challenge for House Republicans. A decent sized group of them are privately supportive of the measure, but are concerned with the political ramifications of voting for a new tax.

Comprehensive immigration reform bill gaining unlikely supporters?
According to POLITICO, leaders from Tea Party Express, TheTeaParty.Net and Revive America, as well as Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, are expected to be among the more than two dozen grassroots leaders huddling with the Florida Senator Marco Rubio in an effort to build conservative support for the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Here in Alabama, Tea Party leaders want no part of it.

“My understanding is that POLITICO has misrepresented the national Tea Party groups’ standing on this issue,” Rainy Day Patriot founder Zan Green told Yellowhammer. “Don’t misunderstand the Rainy Day Patriots stance. Secure the border, build a proper fence, find the trespassers and send them packing.”

“No self-respecting Tea Party member supports this bill. Our government has no idea of what this is going to cost,” added RDP member Ann Eubank.

The Heritage Foundation released a controversial report earlier this week that claims immigration reform could cost U.S. taxpayers upwards of six trillion dollars.

Heritage’s study has been heavily criticized by some groups who they would usually count on to be allies.

These groups, like the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute and anti-tax champions Americans for Tax Reform, point out Heritage’s use of “static scoring” rather than “dynamic scoring.” We won’t even get into what that means right now, but the immigration debate will hinge in part on whether or not Rubio & co. are able to drive home their “dynamic scoring” narrative to conservatives.

Other top conservative groups, including Freedom Works and Club for Growth, have been largely silent on the immigration debate to this point.


What else is going on?
1. Internet sales tax bill advancing in D.C.
2. Alabama delegation punches above its weight
3. Who will be the next finance director?
4. Heritage Foundation report eviscerates Gang of Eight immigration reform bill
5. So what should we expect this week in the legislature?

1
5 years ago

Healthcare Costs in Alabama Getting Ready to Skyrocket

We heard time and time again from candidate Obama that he would “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.” But as we inch closer to ObamaCare’s full implementation in 2014, it’s becoming abundantly clear that his promise won’t even come close to being true.

In reality, premiums are getting ready to skyrocket.

Staffers for the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week teamed up with the Senate Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to project just how much premiums should increases by state.

So how will Alabama fair?

According to the staffers’ estimates, Alabama’s premiums in the individual market are going to rise a staggering 61% thanks to the President’s healthcare law.

“Obamacare’s most onerous insurance regulations will directly cause insurance premiums to skyrocket, particularly in the individual and small group markets,” writes Alyene Senger of the Heritage Foundation.

According to Senger, while there are many provisions that will increase premiums, two will have the most expensive impact:

1. Age rating restrictions. Obamacare limits variation in premium costs to a ratio of 3 to 1 based on age. But as Heritage research shows, “The natural variation by age in medical costs is about 5 to 1—meaning that the oldest group of (non-Medicare) adults normally consumes about five times as much medical care as the youngest group.” This means that under Obamacare, young adults will pay significantly higher premiums than they would have prior to Obamacare, and older adults will pay only slightly lower premiums.

2. New benefit mandates and cost-sharing rules. Heritage expert Ed Haislmaier explains, “The new law adds a number of health care services that insurers must cover and in some cases restricts the ability of insurers and employer self-insured health plans to impose limits on the amount of services patients can consume. This combination will drive up health plan costs and premiums for both individual insurance and employer-group coverage.” In addition, Obamacare prohibits cost sharing on many preventative services, which will dramatically increase utilization of those services—pushing premiums even higher.

We must always remember the words of famous free-market economist Milton Friedman: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” In other words, it’s impossible to get something for nothing. Even when the government “gives” us something, we still pay for it with our tax dollars. Or in our case, our children and our children’s children will still pay for it in new debt.

It’s probably no surprise to any of us that ObamaCare isn’t at all it was cracked up to be. But with the bulk of the law not kicking in until 2014, this is probably just the beginning of ObamaCare’s broken promises.

1
5 years ago

Four Takeaways from the Passage of Education Reform

1. Even Democrats Realize AEA is Significantly Weakened

“Everything Henry just said told you all you need to know about AEA now and what we know is that it’s weak. When you say things like ‘we were railroaded, we were lied to’ by everybody from the governor to the janitor, those are statements of weakness, not strength. This was an awful loss for AEA in about every way it could be.”

Rep. John Rogers

That’s what Democrat Representative John Rogers told AL.com’s Chuck Dean.

Until recently it would have been unimaginable for those words to come out of the mouth of a Republican, much less a Democrat. But today’s AEA is but a shell of its former self. And as the events of this past Thursday illustrated, legislators are realizing it.

“We’ve seen the polling numbers in our caucus meetings and we know they can’t hurt us anymore,” one House member emailed Yellowhammer over the weekend. “They still have a lot of money to spend in campaigns, but they can’t attack us on our record because the overwhelming majority of Alabamians agree with what we’re doing.”

It’s become clear that detractors are having trouble attacking the GOP’s education reform bill on its merits as almost every criticism has centered on the process by which it was passed, not the policy itself. But even those criticisms ring hollow. Did Republicans tactically use the rules of the legislative process to their advantage? Absolutely. Did they break a single rule or do anything illegal or unethical? Absolutely not.

Legislators aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed the AEA’s decline.

Sally Howell, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, says the difference between the AEA now and the AEA of the past is like the difference between night and day. “Three years ago, if AASB had a bill, the first thing we would hear would be, ‘Have you talked with [former AEA head] Paul (Hubbert)? What does Paul say?'” Howell told AL.com. “Today, if we have legislation, nobody says, ‘Have you talked with [current AEA head] Henry (Mabry)? What does Henry say?'”

The GOP is taking on the AEA, the Democrats and their liberal allies in the media and are still winning because the people believe in what they’re doing.

2. AEA Tactics Backfired

Members of the legislature have over the years grown accustomed to the teachers union’s process. They start by publishing vicious propaganda in the AEA Journal attacking conservative legislators. Then they send out emails to their members with legislators’ personal contact info. Then they implore their members to flood legislators with calls and emails reciting the AEA talking points. Throughout the process, AEA members corner legislators at church and other places accusing them of hating educators.

Many legislators have grown callous to the onslaught, but it’s proven to be effective at times. This time legislators had clearly had enough of the lies and personal attacks, and it played a role in the AEA receiving the biggest loss of their 40+ years of existence.

3. Del Marsh Should Have Been Higher on the Power & Influence 40

Senator Marsh this year came in 4th on Yellowhammer’s list of the most powerful & influential people in Alabama politics. He should have been higher. “His leadership philosophy compels him to delegate and empower others to succeed,” we said in his write-up for the list. That may be true, but Thursday was Del Marsh’s show and everyone else was a secondary player at best. “Del is the only guy who could have pulled that off,” one of Marsh’s Senate colleagues said Monday morning.

Marsh has been so fair to Democrats (overly fair some would say) this session that, in spite of the GOP holding a super majority, until Thursday they had not invoked cloture one single time during the 2013 session.

Marsh held off until exactly the right moment and then delivered the biggest conservative education reform in a generation.

4. Lost in the politics and process, Alabama school children and their parents are the biggest winners

Parents in struggling school districts have felt stuck for decades. They had no recourse if their local school was stuck in a perpetual state of failure. When Governor Bentley signs the Accountability Act of 2013 on Tuesday, that will no longer be the case.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “This means that children attending schools graded with three consecutive D’s or one F on the school grading card, or labeled ‘persistently low-performing’ on the state’s School Improvement Grant application will be able to leave their school for a private or public school of their choice.”
Senator Marsh and the Republicans in the legislature may have won the biggest political victory with the passage of the Thursday’s landmark education reform, but Alabama’s school children and their parents are the real winners.

1
6 years ago

Economic Freedom Waning in the United States

Read more about United States Economy.
See more from the 2013 Index.

The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal have teamed up once again to publish a fascinating look at economic freedom across the globe. Each year, these two groups release what they call their “Index of Economic Freedom.” They measure data in four overall categories — rule of law, limited government, regulatory efficiency, and open markets — to produce a score that reflects the level of economic freedom each country enjoys. Once each country has been scored, they are ranked and then classified as “free,” “mostly free,” “moderately free,” “mostly unfree,” or “repressed.”

According to The Heritage Foundation, “Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state.”

Unsurprisingly, many of the world’s most prosperous economies rank high on the Index of Economic Freedom, while the most impoverished nations find themselves mired under harsh economic restrictions.

The startling fact for Americans though is that economic freedom in the United States is waning. To put it plainly, our economic freedom rating has been dropping precipitously since 2009 when President Obama took office. Since then, the U.S. has declined from being categorized as a “free” economy to a “mostly free” economy. And this year, the U.S. slipped all the way to 10th.

This is hardly acceptable for a nation who for over two centuries has prided itself in being the beacon of freedom and prosperity to the rest of the world.

According to Heritage, “One reason for America’s lack of freedom is that its scores on regulatory efficiency have dropped… over 100 new major federal regulations have been imposed on business operations since early 2009 with annual costs of more than $46 billion.”

It’s no wonder our unemployment rate continues to hover at high levels for long periods of time — our job creators are being crushed under the weight of government regulations.

Until conservatives stand up to Washington’s assault on our liberties, we will continue our decline.

1
6 years ago

Gov. Haley: GIVE US TIM SCOTT

Nikki Haley Appoint Tim Scott to the U.S. SenateI was as surprised as anyone last week when conservative stalwart Sen. Jim DeMint resigned from his South Carolina U.S. Senate seat to become the president of conservative Washington, D.C. think tank The Heritage Foundation. While it’s never good to lose a solid conservative vote in the Senate, I think it’s great that President Reagan’s favorite D.C. policy shop will now be run by such a high profile conservative.

Since 1977, The Heritage Foundation has been led by Edwin Feulner, an icon among conservative activists and policy wonks, but a relative unknown to most people not actively engaged in the conservative movement. Heritage, which the New York Times called “the Parthenon of the conservative metropolis,” will benefit from DeMint’s high profile in Washington and across the country. I expect them to redouble their efforts in cranking out innovative conservative policy solutions and expand the reach of their grassroots organization, Heritage Action for America.

So with a seat now open in what some people call “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” all eyes swing to the Palmetto State.

South Carolina is the Major Leagues of GOP in-fighting and can sometimes make Republican squabbles in Alabama look like tee ball. But while these primary battles usually swing heavily on which candidate can build the strongest coalition within the splintered Party, the next U.S. Senator from South Carolina only needs to build a coalition of one: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. She will appoint DeMint’s successor who will serve until 2014.

Political appointments are complicated undertakings. There’s an endless list of pros and cons to weigh for each potential appointee. Personal vendettas, biases, and the interests of the individual making the appointment all come into play. Rarely is a political dilemma of this kind met with a solution so obvious that it needs no further discussion. This time, however, it is exactly that simple. One candidate so far outclasses the competition and so perfectly fits into the current political landscape that it renders pointless any sort of complex decision making process.

Congressman Tim Scott should be the next U.S. senator from South Carolina. End of discussion.

First and foremost, he’s the kind of staunch conservative that would make Sen. DeMint proud. The Washington Post is reporting that Sen. DeMint has told South Carolina Republican officials he wants Rep. Scott to be his successor. Although DeMint has denied playing any role in the appointment process, Yellowhammer sources in D.C. say DeMint has “sent the right signals” that Scott is indeed who he would prefer.

On top of being the best conservative choice, he would drive liberals absolutely insane by delivering a blow to their narrative that the GOP is a monolithic Party of old white men. Scott would be the only black senator and would immediately have a huge national profile. In case you missed that, it’s not that he would be the only black Republican senator, he would be the only black senator PERIOD… a Republican… from South Carolina. Awesome. The two brightest rising stars in the entire Senate would suddenly be a Spanish-speaking Cuban American from Florida and a Black man from South Carolina. Both would be Republicans.

I spent a good bit of time with Congressman Scott last year when he came to Alabama for a day. I was impressed with how down-to-earth he was; equally comfortable quoting the Bible or the Constitution or talking sports. The kind of man with the courage to take on the tough challenges and the charisma to give a winning pitch for conservative reforms to the American people. In other words, exactly what this country, not to mention the Republican Party, needs.

But Scott is far from a lock for the appointment. Insiders say that former South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins are also on Gov. Haley’s short list. If either of them were appointed, they would likely just serve as a “placeholder,” leading to a bloody 2014 Republican primary for the seat.

“Looking forward, Governor Haley will now appoint a new Senator, and I know she will make the right choice both for South Carolina and the nation,” Scott said in an email. And I’m sure she will. But just in case she’s not getting the message:

Gov. Haley, on behalf of conservatives all across the country: GIVE US TIM SCOTT!

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