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Opinion | From government shutdown to district travel

Martha Roby

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By U.S. Rep. Martha Roby

As you are all too aware by now, our federal government shut down for three days recently because Senate Democrats refused to support a reasonable funding bill over their unreasonable immigration demands. We should never be in a position where one party is allowed to hold our military and government hostage over an unrelated policy issue.

This government shutdown was completely unnecessary and should not have happened. Before the shutdown occurred, the House had passed all twelve of our government funding bills and voted four times to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as All Kids here in Alabama. All of these bills were blocked repeatedly by Senate Democrats, which led to this pattern of short-term funding resolutions and ultimately the government shutdown.

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I have serious concerns with short-term funding measures and firmly believe that this is no way to govern. It is irresponsible to run the government for a few weeks or months at a time. Despite this, I supported the short-term bill in the House because I believe it is critical that we support our men and women in uniform and fund CHIP. While short-term funding measures are bad, government shutdowns are much worse – especially as it relates to our military.

Fortunately, Senate Democrats decided to end the irresponsible government shutdown, and I was able to get out of Washington to travel throughout the Second District as planned. During this first district travel week of the year, I visited with constituents, local leaders, and business owners. From Autauga County to the Wiregrass and many places in between, it was a busy week!

I had the opportunity to speak to the Brundidge and Ozark Rotary Clubs at their weekly meetings. We had productive conversations about some of the things our unified government accomplished in 2017, and I shared with them some of my policy priorities for 2018, including rebuilding our nation’s aging infrastructure and working to craft a farm bill that treats our Alabama commodities fairly.

I visited my friends at the International Paper facilities in Dothan and Prattville to tour their sites and learn more about the many details that go into their operations. One day, I stopped by Troy Cable to learn about some of their upcoming projects and discuss recent rural broadband initiatives. I have said several times that one of my top priorities for 2018 is rebuilding our infrastructure, and an important part of that is expanding access to broadband. This month President Trump signed two executive orders to expand broadband access in rural America, demonstrating commitment to building more broadband availability throughout our nation. There’s no doubt that areas in our community will greatly benefit from enhanced broadband capacity and efficiency.

Also while in Troy, I had the privilege of speaking to seventh graders at Charles Henderson Middle School about what it’s like to be a member of Congress. I told them how important it is to set goals for yourself but also to keep your eyes wide open and be willing to take opportunities that aren’t necessarily part of your plan. I always enjoy talking to students about our government – the more they know, the stronger our country will be when they are leading it one day.

I am so glad that the gridlock in Washington didn’t impact my plans to visit with so many people. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for me to hear directly from you. Hearing firsthand the concerns and issues that are important to those I represent enables me to be a better representative for you in Washington. I really appreciate everyone who took the opportunity to talk with me, and I am looking forward to continuing to fight for issues that are important to the people who live and work in Alabama’s Second District.

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 | Let’s get our facts straight on the bridge

Tony Kennon and Robert Craft

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It’s always amazing how some people can misinterpret the facts. A case in point is the recent controversy over the proposed coastal bridge in Baldwin County. It’s hard for us to comprehend the opposition because we live here.

Opponents have deemed it a “bridge to nowhere,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth, because the Gulf Coast is Alabama’s largest economic engine. There isn’t a place in Alabama that contributes more tourism revenue than the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Check our state budgets for the revenue we contribute. Check the studies performed to assess our economic impact to the state. This new bridge is headed to the future of our state.

The fact is, we are at capacity in our transportation system with the exception of a toll-paying option for a privately-owned, unregulated bridge many motorists aren’t willing to choose. Drivers will approach that toll bridge, but then cut across to Highway 59. That was fine when we had 10,000 to 15,000 visitors a day, but now those numbers are increasing at an overwhelming rate. Today, traffic is backing up through Foley toward Summerdale putting traffic at a standstill during peak seasons.

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This can have a damaging impact on state revenue because, not only does congested traffic make our visitors less likely to return, but we can’t grow our capacity when the transportation infrastructure won’t handle the load. Their “bridge to nowhere” is our bridge to the future.

Those few who oppose it say there haven’t been enough studies and that it hasn’t been proven to be in the public interest. We would invite anyone with any concern to take a ride to our beaches. They are welcome to study the parking lot called Highway 59. Approaching the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, they will witness the traffic bottleneck caused by a bridge which is woefully over capacity.

Building a bridge wasn’t our first option. There was an attempt to purchase the existing toll bridge. But, why would we want to pay more for a bridge than we could build a new one ourselves?

And speaking of the bridge owners, let’s get down to who’s really opposing this project. Outside of a handful of local residents, the real opposition comes from the toll bridge company. After previous liquidation and bond actions, their investors want to get their money back. They have launched an ambitious, but misleading, campaign to stop the project so they can sell their bridge for hundreds of millions in taxpayer money.

These bridge owners want to attack this project as not being in the public interest. Let’s be honest with ourselves, who really thinks the bridge owners have the public interest at heart? Furthermore, when the public drives on Highway 59 or the proposed new coastal bridge, that is without a doubt a public interest.

As elected mayors, we’ve both served our communities for over a decade. And as such, we know what is in the public interest. There is no need for additional studies. We’ve listened to the travelers and our residents who must navigate our congested roads. We realize there is a desperate need for infrastructure expansion to move the growing traffic to and from the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Doing so will improve the daily lives of our local citizens and entice our guests to return for years to come. And, it will create more and more revenue for the State of Alabama.

It’s time to put the wishes of the driving public first. And, it’s time to look after the interests and needs of those who live on the Gulf Coast and the millions who visit here every year.

 

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Opinion | Education is key to Alabama’s future

Rusty Glover

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As a former high school educator my time in the classroom gave me many valuable life lessons. Not a single year passed where I did not see the effects that cuts had on our students, their achievements, and even their parents.

While we are beginning to see an economic renaissance nationally, the figures from the latest hard data in 2016 show just how slow the recovery was for many people. In my own area of Southwest Alabama, the most recent figures show an underemployment rate of 23.7% – nearly 1 in 4 people are looking for better jobs and are willing to commute longer distances for those jobs.

Yet, of the five fastest growing occupations in the same area – four of the occupations can either be taught or outright require a community or technical college training.

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Education will be part of the next legislative session. In a time when it seems everything is in flux – education and its impact on our communities remains a constant.

In a 2017 article, it was reported that of 67 counties – 18 had either local school systems or colleges as the county’s largest employer. It should be noted, that of the top eight counties for population – the largest employer in six of them are education institutions or school systems.

However, what is our plan? I never taught without planning my own lessons. How then can we effectively seize our future without a plan?

What I propose is to get back to the basics. Greater localized control, while working with every school system in the state to reduce classroom sizes can help our children quickly.

For those in high schools, I pledge to work and develop more streamlined pathways to community and technical college training. Increasing access to broadband at the same time will allow students across the state to take advantage of our higher education resources in a quick, thorough, and efficient fashion.

This can deliver to Alabama both the higher personal incomes and long term tax base our state needs – without raising personal taxes.

As your Lieutenant Governor, I would bring the perspective of a teacher – one who understands what cuts to education looks like at the dinner table and who understands the importance of education to our local communities.

As a native of Mobile, Glover has served in the Alabama Legislature for 16 years as a member of Alabama House of Representatives (2002-2006) and Senate (2006-present). Glover is a graduate of B.C. Rain High School, Faulkner State Community College and the University of South Alabama. He retired after 25 years of teaching from Mary G. Montgomery High School in Semmes, where he lives with his wife, Connie. Together they have two daughters, Kellie and Katie; a son-in-law, John McGraw; and a new grandson, Beau Monroe McGraw. He is a member of Wilmer Baptist Church in Wilmer, AL. Visit rustyglover.com to learn more. 

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Opinion | Strengthening our hand with Iran

Martha Roby

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President Trump recently announced he will withdraw the United States from the Iran Nuclear Agreement. From the very beginning, I said this was a flawed, weak deal that serves the interests of bad actors in Iran at the expense of our own. I support the Trump Administration’s efforts to ensure that we truly end Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

After all, wasn’t that the point of this agreement in the first place? Under the deal, the Iranian regime was to dismantle their nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Needless to say, this didn’t work out, and that’s largely because the Obama Administration failed to uphold the basic tenets they laid out for this agreement from the start.

For example, when the previous Administration was negotiating this agreement more than three years ago, they originally said the United States would perform inspections on suspected Iranian nuclear facilities that could occur anywhere, at any time, to ensure that this rogue regime wouldn’t be able to quietly continue their efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. In reality, the Iranians ended up having up to 24 days’ notice in many cases before inspections were allowed to occur. Even then, Americans were prohibited from unilaterally performing them. This is just one example of the many ways the Iran deal fell far short of accomplishing what the Obama Administration promised Congress and the American people.

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Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism, and that hasn’t changed over the last three years. While actively supporting terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, the nation has been part of horrific terrorism in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. The regime has also been developing long-range ballistic missiles. Their ballistic missiles program threatens Israel, our allies in the region, and even U.S. forces.

It is no secret that Iran has not stopped its mission to obtain a nuclear weapon, and Israeli intelligence actually proved Iran deceived negotiators from the outset by covering up their nuclear weapons program prior to signing the agreement in 2015. So now, the regime has the best of both worlds: relief from economic sanctions and the freedom to continue their nuclear weapons program without consequence.

For starters, I believe it is imperative that we reinstate the economic sanctions against Iran that were in place prior to the Obama-era nuclear agreement. In the House, I have supported policies like this that strengthen our hand towards Iran, including the Iran Sanctions Extension Act, which Congress passed in 2016 to reauthorize for ten years the economic penalties used by the United States to deter Iran from furthering developing ballistic missiles and supporting terrorism.

Clearly, there is great room for improvement in our dealings with this rogue nation. As I have said many times before, the Obama Administration’s behavior towards Iran was truly baffling, and I am glad that we have now reversed course. I am hopeful that the Trump Administration can strengthen our hand with Iran after eight years of it being severely weakened. At the end of the day, the bottom line is that Iran’s nuclear weapons program, support for terrorist organizations, and development of ballistic missiles pose a direct threat to the United States and our allies. We must take this very seriously throughout future negotiations with this regime. To do otherwise compromises our own national security.

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 | From government shutdown to district travel

by Martha Roby Read Time: 3 min
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