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Straight Talk, real goals for Alabama’s future

Anthony Daniels

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By Minority Leader Rep. Anthony Daniels

Let me be blunt. The legislature is already one-third of the way through the 2017 Session and we have done very little for Alabamians and Alabama families.

Our State schools remain chronically underfunded, leaving our students and young people without the educational resources, materials, and programs they need to succeed.

Our educators are so undervalued that many must dig into their own pockets to supply classroom essentials to meet the needs of their students.

Too many of our workers are unemployed or underemployed. They’re still looking for work because we are not attracting enough high-quality jobs, nor are we adequately preparing our workforce for career opportunities. Meanwhile, small businesses and entrepreneurs – the very backbone of our economic success – continue to face mounting pressures to stay competitive in this new economy.

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Meanwhile, hardworking Alabama families struggle to make ends meet, put food on the table, and pay their bills because of the sales tax on groceries and uncertainties on medical care and coverage. Yet, too many of us in Montgomery refuse to admit we need additional revenue to serve our citizens and move our state forward. Either that or we don’t seem to think there’s a problem. I’m not sure if that’s crazy or just sad. But to me and to many of my colleagues, it’s downright unacceptable.

I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture because while there are significant challenges ahead, I have no doubt that we can meet them. These are challenges we have in common and we can attack them by finding common ground. I have no doubt that if we communicate with our constituents and if we work together in the spirit of bipartisanship, we can solve some of the most pressing issues facing our State.

All Alabama families want is a fair shot and level playing field – which is why my fellow Democrats and I have presented a policy agenda that focuses on strong schools, good jobs, and healthy communities.

The path to success in life begins with a first-class education. This calls for sufficient investments in our schools, students, educators, and classroom technology. By properly funding our public schools, we can strengthen our workforce and lay the foundation to drive economic growth for years to come.

This solid foundation also includes access to affordable higher education. Every Alabama student should have access to, at least, two years of tuition funding at in-state institutions of higher learning. In turn, our students pursuing a two-year degree from community colleges and technical school systems would be fully funded, while those enrolling in four-year colleges would receive tuition for half of their programs.

The new economy demands that we plan and quickly respond to regional, national and global changes to ensure that our workforce has all the tools necessary to compete for high-skilled and high-paying jobs. Starting with high school graduates, we must strive to craft new workforce development opportunities for young Alabamians by promoting dual enrollment programs and career and technical training. When new job opportunities become available in emerging markets, Alabama’s workers must be fully prepared and be first in line to take advantage of them.

As the main driver of our regional and statewide economies, small business owners must have access to the tools they need to thrive, expand, and hire locally. We should invest in programs that encourage entrepreneurship and small business development, especially those that allow a company to move from research and design to prototype to commercialization.

While we are working to improve access to education, employment, and economic growth, let’s remove unnecessary obstacles, such as regressive taxes and policies that threaten quality, affordable healthcare. It’s now time that we eliminate the burden of the sales tax on groceries. Let’s give Alabama families the peace of mind that an unexpected sickness will not deplete their life savings. There are viable and feasible measures we can enact to strengthen existing programs that assist our most financially vulnerable citizens, including the Medicaid program.

Of course, so many of the policy goals mentioned above are not possible without the revenue to support them. For many years, we’ve considered the question of a lottery. It’s an idea that deserves a fresh look and strong reconsideration with a specific mandate to direct all funds to critical budgetary needs that have gone unaddressed for far too long. A sustainable lottery fund can support investments in all levels of public education as well as economic development programs throughout the state, while finally eliminating the tax on groceries.

Towards these goals, our caucus members have already introduced over a dozen pieces of legislation and more will be proposed in the coming days and weeks. We are also taking this message directly to Alabamians. Beginning next month, we will hold town hall meetings across the state to discuss this agenda among many other issues important to our constituents.

Our platform is ambitious, but so are the people of Alabama. They deserve nothing less than leadership in Montgomery that listens, acts, and works together to get it done.

That said, we are committed to staying focused on this agenda for as long as it takes. We know that getting Alabama on the right track is a not a sprint, but a marathon. And we welcome both the people of our great State and all our colleagues in the Legislature to take the first steps with us.

To learn more about our agenda, check out our website at www.AlabamaHouseDems.com like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter.

 

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Standing up for ICE

Bradley Byrne

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The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, commonly known as ICE, is the federal law enforcement agency tasked with enforcing our nation’s border control, customs, trade, and immigration laws. The agency was formed back in 2002 when Congress passed the Homeland Security Act.

ICE has over 20,000 employees, including over 400 offices in the United States and additional offices in 46 other countries. ICE is responsible for enforcement and removal procedures against those who enter our country illegally. They also play a critically important role in cracking down on human and drug trafficking.

I have deep respect for the work our ICE officials and officers do daily to help keep the nation safe. In 2017, ICE made more than 76,000 drug arrests, arrested 4,818 people in gang-related incidents, and stopped 980,000 pounds of narcotics at the border. Similar efforts are already underway this year.

Given the important work ICE does, I am dismayed to see some liberals calling for ICE to be abolished altogether. Instead of supporting these hardworking law enforcement officials, it seems some are truly committed to open borders and reckless behavior.

The “Abolish ICE” movement is not something that just activists are calling for. In fact, several Democrat Senators and Congressmen have also started to call for the law enforcement agency to be shut down. This would be a major mistake that could endanger the safety of the American people.

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This is just another example of how the “resistance” movement in our country today seems much more interested in causing problems than solving them. We have serious flaws and issues with our immigration system that need to be fixed and enforced, but the answer is not to simply open our borders.

In an effort to demonstrate strong bipartisan support for ICE, the House held a vote last week on a resolution declaring our support for ICE and their mission. This was a straightforward resolution simply to make sure our ICE officers know the majority of Americans have their back.

I was shocked to see only 18 Democrats vote in support of the resolution. 34 voted against supporting ICE, while another 133 simply voted present. I know there are political differences in our country today, but it is deeply concerning that over 160 Democrats in the House were not willing to say they support ICE and the work they do to keep our country safe.

Despite their opposition, the resolution still passed. I hope all our ICE officers and employees take comfort in seeing a majority in Congress continue to stand up for them and the vital mission they carry out, despite what is often said on the news.

The issue really speaks to the larger problem about the future of immigration laws in our country. I am committed to standing up for the rule of law and ensuring our immigration laws are fully enforced.

To be clear, I support the legal immigration process, but I hear from individuals who have come into our country through the legal process who are incredibly frustrated by the idea that people can break the line, enter our country illegally, and not face any consequences. We must have a process in place that actually works and strongly punishes those who choose to enter illegally.

ICE plays a critical role in implementing and enforcing that process. Without the agency, we would be unable to control the flow of people and products into our country. As I have said before, a nation without borders and the rule of law is destined to fail.

Rest assured, I will keep standing up for ICE and will vehemently fight any efforts to abolish the agency.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Pro-growth policies are working in AL-02 communities

Martha Roby

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Over the last year and a half, Republicans in Congress and the Trump Administration have worked tirelessly to unleash our economy and foster growth right here in the United States. Since November of 2016, 3.7 million jobs have been created, and one million of those came after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law. Unemployment numbers are at the lowest point they’ve been in decades. Job openings are at a record high – 213,000 jobs were added in June alone. Also last month, there were 6.7 million job openings, which marks the first time since the year 2000 that the number of job openings is larger than the number of people unemployed.

As you may know, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act roughly doubled the standard deduction while lowering tax rates. Because of this historic tax reform, 90 percent of Americans have seen bigger paychecks this year. Plus, more than four million Americans have seen increased wages, bonuses, and expanded retirement options.

Thanks to tax reform and our efforts to spur economic growth, Americans are working and businesses are growing – and Alabama’s Second District hasn’t missed out on the momentum. Since the enactment of our tax overhaul last year, several businesses have announced they are opening branches in our district, expanding existing ones, offering pay increases to employees, and more. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly share some of the great economic news we’ve received so far.

Most recently, Alabama manufacturer Sabel Steel, which has locations in Montgomery and Dothan, announced they will provide pay increases to all employees, invest in new equipment, expand existing facilities, and hire additional workers thanks to tax reform. I believe the company’s CEO Keith Sabel said it best himself: “There’s optimism. With the previous administration, we were hammered by rule changes and regulations. It was like trying to drink water out of a firehose. The change in policy under President Trump was enormous, and the attitude among businessmen and especially other steel manufacturers has been incredibly optimistic. Tax reform and other policies psychologically have made an enormous difference.”

James Hardie Building Products announced plans to open a new manufacturing plant in Prattville. This project is the largest industrial development in Autauga County in 50 years, and it will have a significant economic impact on the area.

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U.S. firearms maker Kimber Gun Manufacturing also announced a project in AL-02. By early 2019, the company will open a $38 million production facility in Troy that will create more than 350 high-paying jobs over the next five years.

Also in Troy, Rex Lumber Co. will soon open a state of the art sawmill operation that will employ more than 100 people. This $110 million investment will create quality employment opportunities and a significant new timber market in Pike County.

In Coffee County, Wayne Farms has announced a $105 million expansion at their Enterprise fresh processing facility. This investment will bring a strong economic boost to the area.

Last, but certainly not least, Great Southern Wood Preserving based in Abbeville recently announced it will use savings from the tax overhaul to invest in additional employee benefits, including lower health care costs, more paid time off, and a new scholarship program. In addition, the company has given pay increases to employees across the board.

So you see, thanks to our pro-growth policies and a commitment to fostering economic growth in this country, Americans are confident in our economy – and rightfully so. Hardworking people in our very own communities have already benefited tremendously as a result of these important efforts, and I am eager to see this positive forward momentum continue for all Alabamians.

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

 

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Opinion | Americans are better off now

Bradley Byrne

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Two years ago, I joined other Republican House members in unveiling our “Better Way” agenda. The agenda covered everything from national security to tax reform to the economy. It was a bold vision about a different path for America that wasn’t driven by a larger, more powerful federal government. Instead, we advocated for a better way where we got government out of the way and allowed the American people to flourish.

 Working with President Trump, we have held true to our promises to the American people. Two years later and with many parts of the agenda in place, we can safely say that Americans are better off now. Our communities are safer. The economy is booming. Our military is being rebuilt. Our “Better Way” is paying off.

 Our communities are safer because we have made supporting law enforcement a top priority. We have passed historic legislation to address the opioid crisis, which is having a horrible impact on communities in Alabama and throughout the country. In addition to better policy, we have invested $4 billion in grants and programs to help combat the opioid crisis.

 We passed legislation to devote more resources to school safety, and we have made real progress in the fight against human trafficking. In fact, we have seen a 60 percent decline in online advertising for sex trafficking.

Also, important to keeping our communities safe, we set aside $1.5 billion for physical barriers and technology along the southern border and provided for over 90 miles of a border wall system. Border security is national security.

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No one can deny that the American economy is booming. Just consider these numbers: 90 percent of Americans are seeing larger paychecks under our tax reform bill. 3.7 million jobs have been created since November 2016. There are 6.6 million job openings in the United States as of May 2018, meaning more jobs than job seekers. And, $4.1 billion has been saved in agency regulatory costs by rolling back burdensome government regulations.

 One of my biggest concerns during the Obama Administration was the hollowing out of our military. We had planes that couldn’t fly and ships that couldn’t sail. We were not making the continuous critical investment in our military necessary to keep up with our adversaries. Thankfully, those days are over.

 We have made the largest investment in our military in 15 years. This means 20,000 new troops, the largest pay increase for our service members since 2010, more training time, better equipment, new ships, and much more.

 On the world stage, countries know that the United States means what we say. ISIS is on the run in the Middle East, North Korea has come to the negotiating table, and China is being held accountable for their dangerous trade practices.

 Now, I want to make clear that much work remains. For example, we have to keep working to fix our broken immigration system and ensure that our borders are finally secure. We also cannot give up on our efforts to improve health care in our country. Costs remain too high and rural communities right here in Alabama are facing dangerous hospital closures.

 But, despite what some on the other side of the aisle and the national news media want you to believe, the American people are better off now than they were two years ago. That’s a testament to our pro-growth agenda, but, more importantly, it is a testament to the spirit and drive of the American people.

Want to know more? I encourage you to visit Better.gop to learn more about the various ways the American people are better off now.

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Straight Talk, real goals for Alabama’s future

by Anthony Daniels Read Time: 5 min
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