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Guest Columnists

Sports teach lessons you might not learn in the classroom

Craig Ford



By Rep. Craig Ford

We all know that education and jobs go hand-in-hand. If you want to get a good job, you have to have a good education. And having good schools is an important part of recruiting jobs and industries to a community.

Education gets a lot of attention in Alabama. You hear a lot about how we need to invest more in reading, math, science and computer courses, and we absolutely do need to invest more in those areas.

You also hear a lot about sports. But what often gets overlooked is the educational benefits that comes from playing sports.


Sports teach important life lessons that you might not necessarily learn just in the classroom. When you play sports, you learn about hard work and sacrifice, and the importance of working together as a team toward a common goal. Sports also teach us how to win and lose with dignity and grace and how to persevere when the odds are stacked against you, or things don’t go your way.

These are all important lessons that matter in every work environment, whether you work in a plant, on a farm or in an office.

Sports mirror life and the workforce. For example, in sports you sometimes get a bad call from the referee or umpire. When that happens, you can either let it get to you and lose the game, or you can adapt, put the bad call behind you and do your best to win the game.

The same thing happens in life. Maybe your day isn’t going well, or your boss starts a new policy that makes your life more difficult. You have to earn a living, so you can’t quit your job every time things don’t go your way. When things go bad, you have to be able to move on and get the job done.

Another example is teamwork. Most jobs can’t be done without help from others. Doctors need nurses and other specialists to help them diagnose and treat illnesses. Workers on the assembly line rely on each section to do their job in order to finish the product. Farmers need workers to help them plant and harvest their crops. And I know my insurance agency wouldn’t be able to function without each agent and employee doing his or her job.

Sure, there are jobs that can be done by one person. And, yes, there are times when quitting or changing jobs is the right decision. But most jobs require some level of teamwork, and most of us have to earn a living so we can’t quit when we have a bad day or things don’t go our way.

Sports also help some kids focus and do better in school. As a volunteer coach, and the parent of two kids who played sports, I’ve seen many kids whose grades improve when their sport is in season. A full day and steady routine helps keep them focused and less distracted.

The beautiful thing about sports is that you don’t have to be a good athlete to enjoy and benefit from sports. The lessons that sports teach apply to many different aspects of life and work, and if kids can find a sport they enjoy, it can help them have a healthier lifestyle when they grow up.

Athleticism helps promote strong muscles and joints, as well as strong heart health that can help prevent painful and dangerous health problems later in life. This not only means a better quality of life, but it could also save money by avoiding medical costs that might by preventable.

We still need to invest more in reading, math, science and technology programs. And we don’t need to lose other important academic programs like social studies and the arts. But sports play an important role, and their educational benefits shouldn’t be overlooked.

Sports teach important lessons about life that you might not learn just from being in the classroom. And the lessons that sports teach are the lessons that are applicable in every work environment. Sports and academics go hand-in-hand. We need a good balance of both in our children’s lives.

Rep. Craig Ford represents Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives. He served as the House Minority Leader from 2010-2016.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | When liberals help the poor they do more harm than good

Scott Beason



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On my Scott Beason Radio program this past Monday, a regular contributor mentioned that a bill to eliminate payday lending had passed the Alabama Senate, and I was surprised. Having dealt with the issue back when I was in office, I think payday lending gets a bum rap out in the mainstream media. These short term loans are an important part of the financial lending community and are often the only access to credit that some people have. I also wondered what special interest group is driving an agenda for which the general public nor the so called “poor” is clamoring. The answer is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Republican supermajorities do not – or used to not – kowtow to the SPLC. If there is a more liberal group in the United States, this conservative is not aware of it. Maybe the legislators have bought into the SPLC propaganda that they are protecting the “poor”. … By eliminating the only means for credit the “poor” have? By eliminating the jobs of the 5,000 people in the state who work in the industry? That doesn’t make sense.

“Helping the poor” is a noble cause, in the generic sense of the words, but how does eliminating payday loans actually help the “poor”? How does making it more difficult for someone with limited means and bad credit to get the money they need to make it to the next paycheck help the “poor”? This question is the one that made it difficult for me to legislatively pursue the total destruction of the payday lending industry.

If a “poor” person needs $100 dollars on Wednesday to make it to Friday, where can he get it? The answer is nowhere, if there is no such thing as short term lending. These loans are simply too risky and too small for banks or credit unions to handle. If payday loans were workable at a lower interest rate, then someone would be doing it right now. You don’t have to change the law to do that. Just let capitalism work. I suggest that those who believe they can run a better business model for short term lending get out in the market and do so. Show us how to “help the poor” the “right” way.

What happened to free market Republicans in the Alabama legislature? There used to be enough to make up an entire caucus. Does the term, free market, mean nothing when the Southern Poverty Law Center says jump? In Washington DC Barack Obama tried to crush the payday loan industry, and now Republicans gleefully further Obama’s agenda in Alabama. Regulating a whole sector of the financial services industry out of existence is not the free market.


Another person on the radio show described working at his job and loaning his buddies $20 on Wednesday to help them make it to Friday. On payday they gave him back $25. He called it 20 for 25, and his friends appreciated being able to buy gas and food for those couple of days. 20 for 25 seems reasonable and harmless, but the cost to the borrower is more than is charged in Alabama’s payday lending industry. … I know. … It’s weird. … 20 for 25 did not seem “predatory” at all.

The “working poor” will continue to need small cash loans from time to time. That will not change, but we cannot help people by not allowing them to help themselves. All of our freedoms come with the risk of excess and of getting into trouble. Payday lending is simply another market based, regulated, and lawful financial service that replaced the mob supported loan sharks of days gone by. My friend, Senator Tom Whatley, who was apparently one of the few willing to talk about the free market on the Senate floor made a great point: the people who cannot get short term loans in Alabama will now get them online, or from people who want more than an interest rate. They want an arm or a leg. … Well said Mr. Whatley.

To help the “poor”, the legislature should stop helping. Prior legislation has straightened up the industry, and lawmakers should leave well enough alone. Let the payday lending legislation die a quiet death. It is not needed, and it hurts regular folks who are thankful that they have the option of a short term loan when they need one to make ends meet.

Scott Beason a former State Senator is the host of The Scott Beason Show on WYDE Superstation 101 in Birmingham.


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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Licensing away economic prosperity

Allen Mendenhall



By Allen Mendenhall
Executive Director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty

Do you want to alleviate poverty in Alabama? Do you want to curb the power of special interest groups over government agencies? Do you want more affordable goods and services in basic industries?  Do you want to help disadvantaged groups find good jobs and become productive citizens? Do you want to reduce the population of our overcrowded prisons?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should read a new report published by the Alabama Policy Institute titled “The Costs of Occupational Licensing in Alabama.” Coauthored by Daniel Smith (Troy University), Courtney Michaluk (Troy University), David Hall (Troy University), and Alex Kanode (George Mason University), the report details the effects of occupational licensure on our state.

What is occupational licensure? In short, it’s governmental regulation requiring people to obtain a license before entering into certain trades or fields. Sounds harmless, right? Aren’t these regulations in place to protect consumers from exploitation and inexpert practices? Such reasoning led to the rise in occupational licensure, which today extends to several zones of economic activity.


However well-meaning, occupational licensure has had unintended consequences on the people it’s designed to protect. Instead of helping average consumers, it lines the pockets of industries that have lobbied to regulate away entrepreneurial forces that drive down costs.

If you’re poor and trying to find low-skilled work as a barber, manicurist, eyebrow threader, hair stylist, school bus driver, or shampoo assistant, you must obtain a license first. This license may be prohibitively expensive because of renewal fees, coursework, continuing education, and so forth.

“Alabama licenses a total of 151 occupations,” according to the report, “covering over 432,000 Alabama workers, which represents over 21 percent of the labor force.” Think about that: more than two of every 10 people working in Alabama need a license to do what they do for a living. Licensing boards governing admission standards and prerequisites can mandate expensive training and dues that don’t affect the quality of industry services.

Economists refer to occupational licensure as a barrier to entry. Barriers to entry ensure that those already within a profession or trade can raise prices to artificially high levels, in effect squeezing out competition by using the mechanisms of government to control the market.

Inflated prices harm low-income families who cannot afford to buy what they could have bought if the market had set prices based on natural supply and demand. Spouses of military service members often suffer from occupational licensure because, when they move from state to state, they must jump through hoops to enter the licensed profession in which they practiced in other jurisdictions.

Occupational licensure is, in short, a net burden on the economy, escalating prices, limiting consumer choice, and restricting economic mobility.  The API report estimates that the overall costs of occupational licensure in Alabama exceed $122 million. That’s a lot of money. What can be done to keep some of it in the hands of the ordinary people who need it most?

The report proposes five reforms for Alabama policymakers:

  1. “[T]hey can reform current procedures for extending occupational licensing to new occupations and mandate thorough review processes to ensure that licensing is not extended to new occupations without a demonstrable and severe threat to consumer safety that cannot be overcome with the market mechanisms, such as consumer or expert reviews, reputation, guarantees, or private certification, or the already existing government laws, such as those dealing with liability, fraud, misrepresentation, and false advertising.”
  2. “[T]hey can establish procedures to systematically review all licensure requirements for currently licensed occupations to ensure that they do not require unnecessary or excessive requirements or costs for licensure.
  3. “[T]hey can systematically review all currently licensed occupations to determine, individually, whether a demonstrable severe threat to consumer safety exists. If not, they can remove occupation licensing entirely for those occupations.”
  4. “[They] can explore licensure reforms that specifically target ex-offenders” to reduce the prison population and criminal recidivism.
  5. “[They] can … explore occupational licensing reform with military members and their families in mind.”

A short article cannot capture the nuance and particulars of the entire report; readers should view the report for themselves to make up their own minds.

During this time of partisan divide and political rancor, people of good faith on both the left and the right can agree that something needs to be done about occupational licensure. The problem cannot continue to grow. It presents a unique opportunity for Republican and Democratic lawmakers to come together to ease economic burdens on the people of Alabama. Let’s hope they seize it.

Allen Mendenhall is associate dean at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law and executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty. Visit his website at

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Quail Forever, Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association come together with one conservation goal

Howard K. Vincent



I have been working with Pheasants Forever, Inc., & Quail Forever for more than three decades with one goal in mind: the conservation and restoration of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs.

Our Minnesota-based organization was formed in 1982 and now has locally based volunteer chapters in 42 states, including our newest chapter formed during an eventful visit the last week of February to the Alabama Black Belt. The Black Belt chapter will be the sixth Quail Forever group in the state.

We were fortunate to be invited to visit the Black Belt for the first time by the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ALBBAA), an organization that holds the same values as Quail Forever. The ALBBAA is dedicated to wildlife habitat conservation and economic development of the beautiful rural areas in the 23 counties that make up the Black Belt. The marketing organization, founded in 2009, relies on the plentiful opportunities for hunting, fishing, camping and many other outdoors attractions to spur tourism. Thanks to the major role Raycom Media plays in supporting this effort by providing advertising on its many television stations across the country, visitors are increasingly finding their outdoor adventures in the Black Belt – and quail hunting is a growing pursuit.

We came to the Black Belt with modest goals, hoping to capture some fresh photography, videography and content for our Quail Forever Journal, Quail Forever website and social media platforms. We also brought along friends from Realtree, Browning firearms and apparel, The Flush television program on Outdoor Channel, LandLeader TV on RFD, Covey Rise magazine and Shooting Sportsman magazine. These partners were also on the trip to learn about southern Alabama quail culture and to generate content for their own media entities. Our goals were certainly surpassed.


In Alabama, we learned that Southern hospitality is no cliché – it’s the absolute truth. We enjoyed a sunset dinner at Shenandoah Plantation in Union Springs hosted by Tom and Sue Ellen Lanier. We savored breakfast at Rex and Jacque Clark’s High Log Creek Farm and Hunting Preserve near Hurtsboro. At High Log Creek, we saddled up horses and wagons to explore the habitat in search of quail behind the preserve’s fine array of pointing dogs. Acclaimed chef and Food Network Iron Chef winner David Bancroft of Auburn’s Acre restaurant prepared a dinnertime offering of Alabama seafood and wild game at Rex Pritchett’s Great Southern Outdoors Plantation back in Union Springs. And speaking of quality Southern food, Chris Hastings of Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club prepared a lunch featuring quail on Thursday at host Thomas Harris’ Gusto plantation in Lowndes County that showed why he is a nationally renowned chef. We also had the pleasure of enjoying a magnificent final quail hunt at Gusto that allowed participants to not only enjoy the work of gorgeous pointers that weaved through the loblolly and longleaf pines, but also to see the kind of habitat that should be the goal of all quail lovers. Internationally known trainer Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels of Oxford, Miss., wrapped up the day by sharing some of his expertise with four of his British Labradors working with unbelievable precision.

Other sponsors who helped make our incredible visit happen were the Alabama Power Company, Yeti, Jon Kohler & Associates, National Land Realty, Tutt Land & Company and John Hall and Company.

Perhaps the highlight of our Alabama adventure occurred at a gathering sponsored by Caliber at the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s NaturePlex in Millbrook where Dr. Bill Palmer of Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, Fla., addressed a crowd of 100, excited to hear his quail expertise. I was energized by the group’s enthusiasm for quail and quail habitat. It was at that event that the Black Belt Quail Forever chapter was announced.

Unique among conservation organizations, Quail Forever chapters retain 100 percent decision-making control over the funds they raise locally. The group represents 140,000 bird-hunting conservationists who have been responsible for 15 million acres of habitat accomplishments while also earning Charity Navigator’s top rating for six consecutive years. Lovers of quail in the entire state have already been partners with ALBBAA through the Alabama Quail Trail, which can only be enhanced by more Quail Forever chapters.

The newly created Quail Forever chapter will work with the local community and landowners to improve the area’s habitat for quail. Ultimately, these habitat efforts will benefit all wildlife in the Black Belt, water quality, and the area’s recreational-based economy. We were proud to witness the many ways ALBBAA is already promoting quail hunting adventures in the region through media channels of Quail Forever, the country’s largest collection of bird-hunting conservationists. This an exciting new direction for Alabama, its Black Belt region and its people.

Howard K. Vincent is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Pheasants Forever, Inc., & Quail Forever

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Sports teach lessons you might not learn in the classroom

by Craig Ford Read Time: 4 min