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Opinion | There is hope for Alabama

Josh Moon

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There is hope.

It is thin and fragile and has 4th-and-18 odds, but make no mistake about it, there is hope in Alabama for a better future. For better leadership from better leaders who don’t dwell on scare tactics or divide us with racism — leaders who value ethics and who want to serve the people.

After a day’s worth of primary voting in Alabama on Tuesday, some candidates like that remained standing.

And we have a chance to actually put them in office.

Imagine what Alabama could be with a young, energetic governor who values progress and inclusion. Walt Maddox could make a real difference in this state, could turn it into a place we could take pride in.

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Maddox easily won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday night, besting the troubled and odd campaign of Sue Bell Cobb.

He will face Kay Ivey in November in the general.

And in terms of contrast, there is no more glaring image of the choice we have in this state than the one represented by Maddox and Ivey. Just look at their campaigns.

Maddox’s full of energy and progressive ambition, focused on jobs, providing health care to all citizens, fixing Alabama’s infrastructure and implementing a lottery to help put proper funding into our public schools.

And then there’s Ivey’s, filled with divisive rhetoric about Confederate monuments, pandering nonsense about gun rights and her taking credit for the work others did in attracting jobs to the state (Or even worse: her taking credit for jobs we paid tens of millions to get).

There’s a reason why even some of my most conservative Republican friends are quietly throwing their support to Maddox.

People are tired of what Ivey represents.

They’re tired of the old South image. They’re tired of the Bible thumping. They’re tired of the hatefulness. And they’re tired of being embarrassed by greedy conmen.

They want candidates who focus on issues that matter and who will actually represent them.

That’s why Martha Roby and Twinkle Cavanaugh and a handful of longtime state lawmakers all struggled on Tuesday. The people don’t trust them. They see them as malleable puppets, willing to do whatever it takes to keep living off the public dime and coasting to personal fortune.

Roby was forced into a runoff with former U.S. Congressman Bobby Bright, and no one seemed terribly excited about either lifelong politician. And why would you be when the Democrats have Tabitha Isner?

Honestly, I challenge any Alabama resident to explain why they wouldn’t vote for Isner, outside of the petty excuse of the “D” beside her name on the ballot.

She’s literally a farmer’s daughter, is married to a preacher, has a master’s of divinity herself and another master’s in public policy, has worked extensively in childhood education and is a foster parent. She is the Jesus you have been looking for. And in a debate, she’d wipe the floor with either Roby or Bright.

In the Lieutenant Governor’s race, Twinkle Cavanaugh is dealing with a similar problem — the lifelong politician who never met a campaign donation she didn’t like or take was forced into a runoff by state Rep. Will Ainsworth.

Now, Ainsworth and I don’t see eye to eye on much, but you know, I can deal with that. Differing points of view make the world go around.

What I can’t deal with is a crook. And Ainsworth isn’t that. He’s shown no sign that he’s in public service for personal gain. He’s sponsored a number of bills that would seriously restrict the ability for lawmakers to sell out the good of the people for personal enrichment and he wanted to implement term limits in his first year on the job.

Yeah, Democratic candidate Will Boyd would be a better choice. But come on. Let’s deal in reality here.

Speaking of reality, some was brought by the AG’s race, where Steve Marshall surprised the field and won. Polls had shown him to be trailing by 20-plus points as recently as two weeks ago, but polls in this state are often wrong.

Marshall’s win — even a slim one over Troy King — killed the momentum of hope, too. Because I’m struggling to remember a worse candidate, in terms of doing all the things that we should all hate by now.

He took money from suspect sources — including the attorney representing the indicted former House speaker whose case is still out on appeal — and sunk to new depths in pandering with his Trump-themed TV spots and frivolous lawsuits. He’s everything wrong with Alabama politics, and yet, there he is.

But there is hope out there. In the form of Joseph Siegelman — the son of the former governor. Looking to put the Siegelman name back in office, but more importantly, he’s looking to return the AG’s office to the task of consumer protection and fighting the opioid crisis. I’m not sure what time that would leave him for idiotic lawsuits that pander to voters and waste taxpayer dollars, but maybe we’ll survive.

Regardless, there’s at least some hope for the future of this place.

We just have to vote for it.

 

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Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: very few white Democrats left in Legislature

Steve Flowers

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The Republican tidal wave that swept Alabama’s statewide officeholders to landslide victories filtered down to legislative races.

Even though our legislature really didn’t need to become any more conservative or Republican, it did anyway. We had a super majority Republican State House and Senate. We now have a super, super GOP majority. Republicans picked up five more Alabama House seats and added another state Senate seat. That gives the GOP a 27 to 8 advantage in the Senate and a 77 to 28 edge in the House.

If you make a trip to the Capitol and view the circus-like atmosphere of the January organizational session, you will be as likely to see a dinosaur on display as to spot a white Democratic legislator. There are two in the 140 membership. The two relics are Billy Beasley in the Senate and Neil Rafferty in the House.

Three Democratic House Icons did not run for reelection this year. Retiring House members, James Buskey of Mobile, Marcel Black of Tuscumbia and Richard Lindsey of Centre, were legends and they will be missed. They epitomized the class and quality of individuals who have rendered outstanding leadership and statesmanship to public service for not only their constituents but also to the State of Alabama.

James Buskey is retiring at 81. Mr. Buskey has served 42 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. He first won election to his House Seat in a Special Election in 1976. He subsequently was reelected overwhelmingly to 10 four-year terms. His leadership has made an impact for all of Mobile County. Over his legislative career, he served on Ways and Means and Rules Committees. Over the past decade, he has been the leader and wise shepherd of the Democrats in the House even though he let young members hold the Title.

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His professional career was as an educator. He served as a Vice Principal and Principal of several Mobile High Schools. I watched him be pushed to the limit numerous times in his efforts to represent his constituents. I never saw him lose his temper or his dignified yet humorous demeanor.

As long as I live I will never forget a speech he made on the floor of the House in 1983. George Wallace was in his last term as governor and he was trying to tax everything that wasn’t nailed down. Even though Mobile had always been good to Wallace, he was aiming a good many of his tax initiatives at the Port City. Buskey took to the microphone and an impassioned yet hilarious portrayal of Wallace’s tax men in a flotilla of vessels sailing into Mobile Bay to rob the Mobilians. I will fondly call him Admiral in memory of that speech for the rest of my life.

Representative Marcel Black is retiring at age 67 after 28 years in the Alabama Legislature. Marcel is one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever known. He was born and raised in Tuscumbia and represented his hometown of Tuscumbia and County of Colbert for seven four-year terms. He is a proud graduate of the University of Alabama and Alabama Law School. Besides being an outstanding legislator, he is one of the most prominent lawyers in his part of the state. He was a great friend and admirer of Tuscumbia’s most prominent lawyer and judge and Senator Howell Heflin. Heflin, who served as Alabama’s Chief Justice and our United States Senator for 18 years, however, was not Tuscumbia’s most prominent citizen. That title belongs to one Helen Keller.

Marcel served in a host of legislative posts. He was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and would have probably been elected Speaker of the House had the Democrats retained the majority in 2010.

Representative Richard Lindsey is retiring at the ripe old age of 62. He has served 36 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. If you assume that you are an adult at 21, then that means that Richard has served almost his entire adult life representing his home folks in the Legislature, 36 of his 41 years as an adult has been as a legislator. He was elected in 1982 at age 26.

Even though he has been a State Representative for most of his life, he is first and foremost a farmer. He was born and raised in Centre in Cherokee County and runs the family farm business. He has been a leader in the Alabama Farmers Federation and his Methodist church. Like Marcel Black, Richard Lindsey is one of the finest gentlemen you will ever meet.

James Buskey, Marcel Black and Richard Lindsey exude integrity. Legislators on both sides of the aisle should strive to emulate these three gentlemen.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

 

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Opinion | Alabama voters: stupid or scared?

Josh Moon

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Is it fear or stupidity?

What is that drives voting in Alabama?

It’s not self-interest. And it’s certainly not the greater good. So, what is it that leads so many in this state to vote against themselves and all of the other people like them?

Fear or stupidity? It has to be one of those, right?

Either you don’t understand how you’re voting against your own interests, or you’re simply too afraid of taking a stand on your own, going against the grain, leaving the team.

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Or maybe there’s another option. You tell me.

Please, tell me what I’m supposed to think when I see this scenario: Alabama’s rural hospitals are failing at an alarming rate. At this point, nearly 90 percent of them are losing money. If something doesn’t change, on top of the five hospitals that have already closed, as many as 18 more — 18! — could close in the next 24 months.

Should Medicaid expansion be on the 2019 legislative agenda? Experts say it has to be

And yet, a month ago, Alabama voters went to the polls and elected, and re-elected, a group of people who have no plan to deal with this health care crisis and who have mostly opposed the one viable option for avoiding this calamity — Medicaid expansion.

But it’s actually worse than that.  

Because this crisis is not just about keeping hospitals open. It’s also about providing care to the poor, and providing preventative care to children and working adults. It’s about catching catastrophic illnesses before they become catastrophic. And it’s about supplying a reasonable level of emergency care to seniors, infants and pregnant mothers.

All of which would be solved by expanding Medicaid.

And yet, the Republicans who were just elected have no intention of doing so. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh has said out loud that the expansion is dead as far as he’s concerned, and since he controls what hits the floor in the Senate, it’s pretty much dead.

Marsh got better than 60 percent of the vote.

He got those votes despite offering no plan — nothing, zip, zero, zilch — for addressing the ongoing health care crisis in this state.

He wasn’t alone.

Not a single Republican lawmaker who was elected in November offered a single plan for addressing either the insurance coverage gap that has left more than 300,000 people in this state without coverage or the rural hospital crisis that could leave about that many people driving more than an hour to the nearest ER.

Those Republicans were elected in a landslide.

So, I ask again: Stupid or scared?

At this point, there really aren’t other options.

Because there’s not even a serious opposition to Medicaid expansion. Those who oppose it just sort of … oppose it. Without reason.

Because there is no good reason. Study after study have shown that the expansion more than pays for itself in a short period of time, bringing huge employment gains and tax revenue to the state.

If figures from a study completed two years ago are even close to accurate, it would be one of most successful economic development projects in the state’s history.

In addition, keeping those rural hospitals open and possibly increasing the number of hospitals and doctors’ offices around the state would be a huge draw for businesses looking to relocate. In fact, some businesses that have considered relocating to Alabama over the past three years have specifically cited the state’s poor health care system when choosing other states.

There’s also the small matter of how the expansion would affect everyday Alabamians. Studies in states that have gone through with the expansion have found that citizens in those states enjoy improved health, better service and care and are in better financial shape than before the expansion.

So, here we are.

We have a legitimate crisis that affects every person in this state. We have a viable, good solution to that crisis. There is no downside to that solution. But we are not implementing this solution because somehow it is more politically advantageous to resist.

Again, stupid or scared?

 

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Opinion | Trump’s con game is almost over

Josh Moon

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It’s all true.

All of the rumors. All of the speculation. All of the oh-my-God-have-you-heard-about whispers.

All of it is true.

All of the things that Donald Trump and his administration and family have been accused of doing … they actually did them. All of them.

Even the really dumb ones.

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Even the really awful ones.

They did it all.

Oh, listen, I know that the typical Alabama conservative voter has zero idea what I’m talking about right now, because they have so fully wrapped themselves in the protective bubble of conservative opinion sources that they’re still talking about the Clinton Foundation. But I don’t care.

Because this isn’t speculation. Or partisan hopefulness. Or ignorant accusations.

This is under oath.

And right now, after the last two weeks, here’s what people under oath, facing the penalty of perjury and providing supporting evidence and documentation, have said about the conman you people elected president: He has lied repeatedly. He has directed illegal payments. He has sought to cover up affairs. He has bought off a tabloid. At least 14 members of senior campaign staff were in contact with Russians. And Trump — or “Individual 1,” as he’s known in court filings these days — was involved in it all.

Trump’s personal attorney has now been convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for a crime personally directed by the president.

That makes five — FIVE! — of Trump’s top aides or attorneys who have struck deals with Robert Mueller and are now working with the broad investigation into possible (certain) Russian interference and collusion.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Trump’s personal businesses are also under federal investigation. His campaign staff’s use of funds is now under federal investigation. And most of his immediate family is under investigation.

And absolutely none of this should be a surprise to anyone.

Because all of you should have known well before this clown was elected president that he is nothing more than a two-bit conman with an ego large enough to fill a stadium and less shame than a 90-year-old stripper.

You should know because we told you. We, the media. The actual media.

We wrote story after story on this crook and his shady business dealings — how he rarely paid his bills, how he left working men holding the bill, how he created a scam college to bilk poor people out of money, how he skirted laws and tax codes constantly and how he gamed the system over and over again to stay wealthy using taxpayer money.

All of it was right there for anyone to read.

But a good portion of this country didn’t care. They were too caught up in this buffoon making jokes and calling people names and kicking people out of rallies and saying offensive things. He catered to white men and claimed he could fix any problem just by saying he could fix any problem.

And they bought it. Just like the conman planned. You didn’t even make this dude show you his tax returns!

And the white, working-class folks are still buying it. Which would make sense if he had done even one thing to help them.

But he hasn’t.

His economic policies have been a disaster, especially for the people of Alabama. And his tough talk has produced zilch in the way of foreign respect, better trade deals, lower prices for consumers or more American jobs. In fact, we’ve lost respect, have worse deals and higher prices and companies are still moving American jobs to other countries.

And yet, the supporters remain.

I don’t understand it. But you know what? I don’t have to understand it for much longer.

The walls are quickly closing around the conman president. Soon, the rest of Mueller’s investigation will drop, and the indictments will roll out. The full breadth of the Trump administration’s illegal acts will be laid out for Congress to see. Given what we already know from the few filings that have been made public, this will not go well for Trump and his closest associates.

I do not expect the Trump supporters to ever admit they were wrong.

But if there is justice in this world, and if the indictments break just right, those supporters will have to deal — at least for a brief period — with the two words that could make this whole thing almost worth it.

President Pelosi.

 

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Opinion | Do what’ll really help: Expand Medicaid

Joey Kennedy

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We’ll certainly see whether state Sen. Greg Reed’s support of the new Medicaid Integrated Care Network is worthy and that the program does what is promised. Let’s hope it does, but pardon my cynicism, because any health care program these days that promises to do more for millions of dollars less falls under my “too-good-to-be-true” doctrine.

That just doesn’t happen.

Reed wrote about the ICN for Alabama Political Reporter Wednesday, and here’s how he describes it: “In October of this year, the state Medicaid agency partnered with an Alabama health care provider that will now serve the medical needs of the 23,000 senior citizens who are receiving Medicaid’s long-term care services, 70 percent of whom are in nursing homes. By partnering with an expert health care provider based in Alabama, Medicaid can offer its long-term patients better care – and thus allow more Medicare recipients to stay longer in the comfort of their own home.”

This program, Reed writes, “is projected to save, over the long run, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

Too bad that Reed, the Jasper Republican who is Majority Leader, isn’t pushing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That would do far more to help poor Alabamians, especially the working poor. Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians can’t get health insurance because they don’t qualify for subsidies, yet make too much to qualify for Medicaid.

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While helping Alabama seniors live at home longer is a great goal, it’s doubtful they’ll get better care for millions of dollars less.

Expanding Medicaid under the ACA isn’t going to save the state money, either. It’ll cost millions of dollars more, though a fraction of what it would cost without the federal dollars that’ll come into the state with expansion.

And with that expansion comes more jobs and economic development, and many hospitals, particularly in rural areas on the verge of bankruptcy, can keep their doors open, saving good-paying jobs there and at businesses that benefit from development around hospitals.

Expanding Medicaid is about the best economic development decision the Legislature and governor could make. Alabama should have expanded Medicaid from the outset, but the politics of hating President Barack Obama kept that from happening. It was more important to stick it to the first black president than to make sure more Alabama residents had access to health care.

Frankly, that still seems to be the goal.

We just had an election, and Alabama voters decided they’d rather keep the same crew in charge – the one that continues to make life-and-death decisions against their best interests.

For too many, an unconstitutional amendment to our state constitution that practically bans a woman’s choice was more important than making sure that women have decent health care. An unconstitutional amendment glorifying the Ten Commandments is more important than making sure those commandments are kept in the way we deliver services to the least of these.

So really, I’m rooting for Reed on doing something to provide more Medicaid services to Alabama senior citizens. But I’m rooting even more that Reed and his Republican colleagues change their can’t-do mind-set and expand Medicaid under the ACA.

Even if they still, for no good reason, hate the man who made the ACA possible.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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Opinion | There is hope for Alabama

by Josh Moon Read Time: 4 min
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