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Two big things you may have missed

Bradley Byrne

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Bradley Byrne

By Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1)

I understand why people are so frustrated with politics these days. The American people want action, and it may not seem like much is actually getting accomplished. I share those concerns, but my frustration is not connected to my work in the House of Representatives. Despite the media’s infatuation with relitigating the 2016 election, there are very substantive bills that pass out of the House almost every week.

In fact, two very important bills passed out of the House the week before Thanksgiving, and the national news media did not give either the attention they deserved. I want to quickly bring you up to speed.

First, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a strong bipartisan vote of 356 to 70. The same bill then passed out of the Senate on a unanimous voice vote.

As some of you may remember, the NDAA is the bill Congress must pass each year to set policy and authorize funding for the entire U.S. military. It almost always earns bipartisan support because, believe it or not, there is strong bipartisan support in Congress for a strong national defense.

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This year’s NDAA makes important progress toward rebuilding our military by calling for more service members, better equipment, and additional resources. The bill also authorizes the largest pay raise for our troops in eight years and includes a number of important provisions related to our nuclear weapon program in light of continued threats from North Korea

The NDAA is important to Southwest Alabama because it authorizes the construction of three additional Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). These are the Navy ships that are built by Austal USA in Mobile. I pushed hard to ensure adequate support for the LCS program in an effort to make our Navy stronger and to protect thousands of jobs at the Mobile shipyard.

Second, on November 16th, the House passed landmark tax reform legislation that will cut taxes and help grow the American economy. The bill, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is a key part of President Trump’s agenda.

The benefits of this bill aren’t abstract. Just consider the median family of four in Southwest Alabama. That family earns a little over $77,000 a year. If that family takes the standard deduction, as most do, they will see a tax cut of $1,739.16. That comes out to almost $150 extra dollars a month.

That’s just as it relates to the individual tax code. When you add in additional reforms to the business and corporate code, studies have shown that the American economy will really take off, resulting in more jobs and higher wages. President Trump has predicted a “Middle Class Miracle.”

These are just two of the most recent examples of the over 350 bills that have passed out of the House this year. The vast majority of those bills passed with bipartisan support, much like the NDAA. Despite roadblocks in the Senate, the House is doing our job and actively working to follow through on the agenda we all ran on in 2016.

If you have a hard time cutting through the noise of the national news media, I invite you to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter to help keep up with what is happening in Washington and how it impacts Southwest Alabama. You can sign up online at Byrne.House.Gov.

At the end of the day, I am going to keep doing the job you elected me to do: fighting each and every day for our shared values and for the hardworking people in Mobile, Baldwin, Clarke, Monroe, Escambia, and Washington counties.

 

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Pro-Life Movement momentum is strong

Martha Roby

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As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have the privilege each year to advocate for the priorities most important to the people who live and work in Alabama’s Second District.  Among many other key issues, I have been proud to stand up and fight for a strong military and smart agriculture policy on this committee. On the reverse, I am also in a strong position fight against funding from being steered towards programs or organizations that I adamantly oppose. Recently when the Appropriations Committee approved our Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Fiscal Year 2019 funding bill, I had the opportunity to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves: the unborn.

As a member of the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, I am extremely proud to report that our bill passed by the full Committee includes the strong pro-life language I have fought for year after year and implements additional policy riders to defend life. Every single one of these measures is critically important and further ensures that no taxpayer dollars can be used for abortions.

Among the key pro-life provisions included in the Labor-HHS FY19 funding bill are the Hyde Amendment, which directs that no taxpayer dollars be used to fund abortions, and the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bans Labor-HHS funding from being used on research that harms human embryos.

In addition to these longstanding pro-life measures, our bill also includes several other important pro-life provisions that continue our efforts to assign greater protections for life under the law. These measures include the Conscience Science Protection Act, which protects the rights of health care providers that do not participate in abortion.

In addition, the bill includes language that prohibits funding for fetal tissue research obtained from abortion. This measure might sound familiar because it is a direct response to the 2015 scandal that revealed how Planned Parenthood officials were systematically altering abortion procedures to preserve babies’ organs in order to sell them to researchers for profit. Planned Parenthood’s action was sick, callous, and completely inhuman.

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Finally, the bill includes language to prohibit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving any available funding, including through Title X family grants. This measure works hand-in-hand with the Trump Administration’s “Protect Life” rule, which also directs that Planned Parenthood is not eligible to receive Title X grant money. As I have said many, many times: Abortion is not family planning. Abortion is not health care. Organizations that offer these services should not receive taxpayer dollars that are intended for family planning.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have remained unapologetically pro-life. I believe life begins at conception, and our laws and policies should reflect a strong commitment to defending life at every stage. I have considered it a great privilege to have a platform with which I can serve as a voice for the voiceless.

After eight long years of coming up short pro-life victories, I am encouraged that we now have a President who supports our efforts and is willing to sign important measures into law. The pro-life movement’s momentum is strong, and I look forward to seeing it grow as we continue to impact meaningful change on behalf of the unborn. I am eager to support our Labor-HHS funding bill when it comes before the full House for a vote.

 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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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Gerald Dial is a steady hand for Alabama

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Alabama’s economy is growing…but it can do so much more. The key is having the right leadership in all elected positions, people who have vision.

So far, Governor Kay Ivey has shown she has what it takes to make important changes and place our state in a position to win.

Did you know agriculture and forestry together are the biggest industry in Alabama? They contribute $70 billion each year toward the economy. Nearly 9 million acres and 600,000 Alabamians are involved in this huge business that benefits us all.

I would know; I was Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries several years back. During that time, we put Alabama’s top asset at the forefront of economic development.

John McMillian, our current commissioner who is term-limited and running for Treasurer, has done a good job, and now Alabama is at another crossroads. We need the next Ag Commissioner to find new and more ways to grow our state.

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Gerald Dial is just that person. He and I served together in the State Senate, and his Christian values and new ideas are exactly what Alabama needs right now. The key to making government work for the people is to have someone who can’t be bought but also knows how government works. Gerald Dial fits the bill, and I trust him explicitly.

Just recently Gerald Dial created a solution to a massive problem in our state – the opioid crisis. This pandemic is killing thousands of our citizens each year. Instead of sitting back and think it isn’t his problem, Gerald Dial petitioned the drug manufacturer, Kaleo, of naoxolene, an injection that can save someone experiencing an opioid overdose. The delivery device is called EVZIO.

The result is 1,744 FREE doses of an overdose-reversing drug to Alabama’s volunteer rescue squads to combat the opioid crisis. That $4 million donation to our rural first responders equates to nearly 2,000 lives that will be saved.

I could go on and on about Gerald Dial because he’s such a wonderful friend and effective public servant, but what I want to ask you is to support Gerald Dial in the July 17th Republican Primary Runoff for Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

The powerful special interest groups in Montgomery don’t want Gerald elected, because they are scared he won’t take marching order like their preferred candidate. I don’t know about you, but that’s all I need to know about Gerald Dial – the powerbrokers don’t want him, so I do!

Charles Bishop was a Republican member of the Alabama Senate. He represented District 5 from 2006 to 2010. The district covers portions of Winston, Walker, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties. He was elected as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries for the term 1999 to 2003. 

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Sez you, Nikki Haley

Kristina Scott

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While “experts” like the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley say it “is patently ridiculous for the U.N. to examine poverty in America,” Alabamians know that what’s actually ridiculous is the hundreds of thousands of Alabamians who live in poverty.

Haley’s comments came in reaction to United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip G. Alston’s examination of poverty in Alabama and a handful of other American states.

Alabama experts also failed to prioritize poverty and homelessness as a serious issue facing the state in the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama’s (PARCA’s) Alabama Priorities poll. Those experts are business leaders, civic leaders, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, political science professors, and political journalists.

In contrast, the Alabama voters PARCA surveyed ranked poverty and homelessness as the fifth most serious issue facing Alabama. Alabamians’ concerns about poverty cut across party affiliation, ideology, age, gender, education, and income.

In order to educate both experts and the general public, Alabama Possible releases a poverty data sheet each year. We recently released our 2018 Alabama Poverty Data Sheet in June, and it highlights poverty, economic security, educational attainment, and food security.

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There is good news to share: poverty is at its lowest rate since we started publishing the Alabama Poverty Data Sheet in 2010. Just over 800,000 Alabamians live below the poverty line, which is $24,257 for a family of four.

Those of us who are concerned about poverty can’t rest, however. Alabama is still the sixth poorest state in the U.S., and 17.2 percent of Alabamians live below the federal poverty line. Fifteen of Alabama’s 67 counties have a poverty rate higher than 25 percent. Eight counties have a poverty rate higher than 30 percent.

On top of high poverty rates, Alabama’s median household income is not keeping up with the nation’s. The typical Alabama household earned $46,309 in 2016, which is $11,308 less than the national median household income. That gap has grown by $1,547 over the past five years.

No wonder we are concerned about poverty and homelessness. It is getting harder and harder for Alabamians to afford the cost of living.

We also can’t overlook how our state’s complicated racial history impacts poverty and economic opportunity. All eight of the counties with poverty rates above 30 percent are majority African American, and Alabama’s median household income for African Americans is $21,165 less than that of white families.

Alabama policymakers have focused on workforce development with good reason. Alabama faces two great hurdles: not having enough good jobs that support a family and not having enough qualified workers for the jobs we do have. That’s why Alabama Possible supported the efforts of the Alabama Workforce Council in developing the Success Plus strategic plan.

Poverty is complex, and having an income is just part of the puzzle. What about hunger and food insecurity? Basic sanitation systems and clean water? Accessible, affordable mental and physical health care? The opportunity to vote?

Alabama doesn’t have a plan to address these matters. What can we do about it?

Here’s one idea: let’s make it abundantly clear to “experts” that they should be worried about what we think of them, rather than what they think of us.

Use the data sheet to start conversations at your house of worship, in civic clubs and with your colleagues to think about how to better serve low-income people and break down multigenerational barriers to prosperity. Talk about why the issue is important to you; maybe you grew up poor, or you teach in a low-income school and see how the grinding reality of poverty impacts your students.

Don’t forget that it is an election year, and there are plenty of opportunities to talk with candidates who want your vote. You can interact with them on social media, at candidate forums and even at the grocery store.  Ask them how they intend to address poverty and homelessness.

And if anyone tries to blame the poor for their economic circumstances, or make excuses for why Alabama is so poor, you can do what Alabamians have done for generations: say “sez you.”

Kristina is executive director of Alabama Possible, a statewide nonprofit organization that removes barriers to prosperity.

 

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Two big things you may have missed

by Bradley Byrne Read Time: 3 min
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