Bentley Announces 34 Additional ATRIP Projects

July 31, 2012

By  Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley on Monday announced 34 additional, supplemental road and bridge projects that can move forward as part of Round 1 of funding for the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP).

Gov. Bentley said, “With these additional projects, we are moving closer to our goal of improving the safety of roads and bridges throughout Alabama.  Many of our bridges are in desperate need of repair or replacement.  Many of our roads are outdated and cannot handle current demand.  Through ATRIP, we are able to make needed improvements to enhance public safety and quality of life in our communities.”
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Why Medicaid Is Critical And Must Be Fully Funded

July 31, 2012

By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford  

We’ve all heard about the Medicaid program, but what exactly is Medicaid and why is it so important?

Medicaid is a health and long-term care program that provides critical health services to low-income families, children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with disabilities.

It isn’t just the poor who rely on Medicaid for their healthcare. Of the 26,000 Alabamians currently living in nursing homes, over 70 percent of them (18,200 to be specific) receive assistance from Medicaid, while 51 percent of babies born in Alabama were born under care provided by Medicaid. In fact, over a quarter of Alabama’s population is eligible for Medicaid.
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“What Are We Really Teaching Our Children”?

July 31, 2012

By Alan Farley

Is the Golden Rule still “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?  Or, is it now “Those who have the most gold make the rules”?  Is it about power?  What would our children say?

Is the role of an elected official to “take care of the individuals living in his, or her, district”?  Or, is it to “take care of the individuals who can provide the financial resources needed to keep them in office”?  Is it about Power?  What would our children say?
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Dr. Henry Mabry: Part Three, The Lord has provided Alabama…

July 31, 2012

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Alabama is faced with difficult times and the outcome of the special constitution vote will determine how much worse things will become.

“The bottom line is the money is there,” says Dr. Henry Marby executive secretary of the Alabama Teachers Association. The state is holding a special referendum to pass a constitutional amendment to allow the state to take money from the state’s savings account to fund Medicaid, the department of corrections and keep other vial services from collapse.
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Bachus Supports Bill Giving Small Business Relief from Federal Red Tape

July 31, 2012

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Congressman Spencer Bachus (R) from Vestavia issued a written statement after he voted Thursday in favor of the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act.  The bill addresses federal regulatory overreach that Bachus says is discouraging the hiring of new workers.  According to Rep. Bachus’s statement, “The bill would place a hold on costly new regulations while the economy remains weak, prevent the rushed issuance of “midnight regulations,” require a study of the costs as well as the benefits of proposed rules, and enhance regulatory accountability.”
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Bonner Says House Stands Behind America’s Job Creators

July 31, 2012

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Congressman Jo Bonner (R) from Mobile addressed the subject of the economy this week in a written statement.

Rep. Bonner said, “Last week the president took credit for his handling of the economy, noting in a California speech, “We tried our plan and it worked.”  With all due respect, Mr. President, you are wrong.  More than a trillion dollars in questionable stimulus spending, on top of a steady rise of onerous government red tape on business, have failed to put Americans back to work.  These policies weigh down the economy through massive new federal debt and have rendered our businesses less profitable and less competitive.  This is hardly a plan that has “worked.””
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API Speaks to Red Mountain Republicans

July 31, 2012

By Brandon Moseley

Alabama Political Reporter

The Red Mountain Republicans met at Salvatore’s in Mountain Brook on Monday night.  The Speaker at the event was  Gary Palmer, President of the Alabama Policy Institute (API).  According to Palmer, API is Alabama’s version of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Palmer said that API is not opposed to any borrowing from the trust fund; but that they are for paying the money back to the trust fund if it is borrowed and any borrowing should be conditioned upon the state dealing with fundamental reform on how the state operates its current budget.  Palmer says that the Constitutional Amendment being proposed on September 18th does not meet either of those criteria so conservatives should vote against passage of the amendment. The proposed constitutional amendment would raid $437 million from the Alabama’s Trust Fund for three years so that the state can pay for Alabama General Fund spending for the next three years.

Palmer said that there are other things the state can do to reform its spending other than raiding the trust fund.  Palmer said that he was appointed to a commission for reforming Alabama state government by Governor Robert Bentley.  Palmer says that they identified 500 properties which the state owns which they are not using and another 2,400 pieces of property which the state owns that could potentially be downsized by a legislature which was more committed to downsizing state government.  He said the state even owned two (now closed) bait shops.  None of the Commission’s recommendations were implemented.  Instead of rightsizing and reforming state government the state legislature passed a budget based on raiding the state’s trust fund.

Another example that Pres. Palmer cited of state government wasting tax dollars is that state agencies pay a per diem rate for employees who are traveling on state business.  Most private sector employees only get reimbursed on their actual expenses and never rack up any per diem money.   Palmer also pointed out examples of technologically obsolete offices that still fill out time sheets and then use state troopers to drive the time sheets to Montgomery.  Technology like time clocks could save taxpayers millions of dollars Palmer said.

Palmer pointed out that Alabama Medicaid squanders tens of millions annually because the program doesn’t have an assisted living option for seniors who have become wards of the state in their retirement years.  Only Alabama and Kentucky do not have an assisted living option.  Instead Alabama pays for more costly nursing home care.  Over 60% of seniors in Alabama nursing homes have become so impoverished that their families have turned over responsibility for their care to the state of Alabama.  Palmer suggested that an assisted living option would be just one way that the state could find saving in the Alabama Medicaid budget.  The state of Alabama’s share of the Medicaid budget is expected to cost state taxpayers $604 million next year.  An assisted living option instead of warehousing poor Alabama seniors in nursing homes for the sunset years could save Alabama Medicaid $40-50 million a year according to Palmer and API.

Palmer was also critical of the Alabama state employees’ pension fund.  Palmer pointed out that RSA head Dr. Bronner has invested over 30% of RSA’s money into nonpublic assets like golf courses, newspapers, and TV stations so it is difficult (if not impossible) to accurately value the real worth of the pension fund.  Where Dr. Bronner estimates that his assets will generate an 8% annual return per year, Palmer thinks that rate of return is too high given the poor returns the fund has produced in the last decade.  This means that state taxpayers are on the hook for several $billion more in unfunded liabilities to pay for state pensioners than the numbers that Dr. Bronner and Mark Reynolds gave the state legislature.  Palmer says that the state should offer early retirement packages to state employees that are within five years of retirement.  If just 1750 of the ~11,000 such employees take the buyout that could save taxpayers $95 million a year.  Palmer said that there are already more state retirees drawing state pensions than there are current state employees paying into the plan.  He believes that the state should switch from a defined benefit pension plan to a hybrid plan like 401ks. 

Palmer also lamented the failure of charter schools during the last legislative session. Palmer said, “The AEA flat out lied about it (charter schools) and the school superintendents were off base on it.”  “We were targeting failing schools.”  Palmer says schools like Woodlawn HS in the City of Birmingham have a graduate rate as low as 33%.  “That is who we want to focus on.”  “If we can just reduce the male drop out rate alone in Alabama by 5% it will save the state $125 million a year.”  Palmer said that whole sections of Birmingham are boarded up because of the crime and the horrible schools and that will only continue if Alabama does not improve the performance of its school systems.  API has studied the other 41 states that have charter schools and Palmer believes that Alabama can learn from those state’s successes and from their mistakes.

Palmer said, “It is inexcusable for a Republican supermajority to surrender on this issue (charter schools).  We are better than this.”  “I got farther with the Democrats than I got with the Republican supermajority.  What we are lacking on this is leadership.  People are afraid to stand and fight.”  Pres. Palmer said that both caucuses leadership needs to get together.  Speaking bluntly Palmer said, “Some guys in the upper chamber are not Republicans.  We need to tell a couple of them to go back to where they came from,” (referring to Republican State Senators who vote with AEA and not with the Republican Caucus).

API President Gary Palmer said that after the 2014 election, Republicans could end up with 25 State Senators and 72 state representatives but he warned, “I don’t think the party leadership and the Governor understand how angry the grassroots are.”  Palmer warned that that grassroots anger on conservative issues like state spending and charter schools could lead to primary battles in Republican districts.  “I am very scared that the AEA will bring their candidates into the primaries.”

Palmer said, “I think we ought to have a full public discussion on the (September 18th) CA.” “We need to talk about what this is and need to talk about all the other things that we can do.”  Palmer said that the language used on the ballot is “ridiculous” and is purposely designed to mislead voters about what will happen if they vote “No” on September 18th as he believes that they should do.

Palmer said that what the state needs most is leadership.  “People will rally too fighters” and cited Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as an example.

 

 

With Leadership Comes Obligation

July 30, 2012

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Noblesse oblige is a French phrase literally meaning “nobility obliges.”

It is a phrase that has been used through the centuries to mean for those who have attained wealth, power and prestige there comes implied responsibilities.

It is also a phrase that has been used as a derogatory slur toward the wealthy who are perceived as having gorged themselves at others’ expense.

This has risen of late in the guise of the occupy movement verses the one percenters.
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Part Two: Dr. Henry Mabry discusses what some have called “luxuries”

July 30, 2012

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Recently, talk radio, Facebook and Twitter were buzzing with accolade for a State Representative who wrote that we need to “cut the luxuries” out of state government including Medicaid.

When Dr. Henry Mabry was reminded of the legislators remarks he said, “What luxuries? Is that providing dialysis? Is that a luxury? I think the people receiving dialysis would beg to differ. Providing help for quadriplegics? I don’t think that is a luxury.”
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Judge Roy Moore Supports Chick-Fil-A

July 30, 2012

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) from Gallant and the Foundation For Moral Law announced his support for Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family’s stand for traditional marriage.

Judge Roy Moore said in a written statement that, “Marriage between one man and one woman is an institution ordained by God and is the foundation of the family, upon which the future of our nation rests.  Like the great majority of the country, Alabama has recognized in its law that marriage, to be valid, can only occur between one man and one woman.”
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