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Why The Rush To Choose A New Speaker?

Jack Campbell

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By Jack Campbell

The half-hearted joke around The Capital City is that Mike Hubbard’s trial corpse wasn’t even cool before lobbyists in Montgomery were getting out their rosters of State House members and firing up their calculators to see who might have the inside track to be the next speaker. Former Speaker Hubbard will face sentencing next Friday, and folks are coming out of the woodwork to test the waters to replace him. And lobbyists are shamelessly doing their damnedest to own the Hubbard successor.

Why do we have to elect a new Speaker right now? We have a Speaker Pro Tem whose job is to preside in the absence of the speaker. That man is Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), a long-time House member (30-plus years) whose reputation is one of integrity and affability. I have known Victor since he was elected, and I can’t think of any reason he can’t at least finish out Hubbard’s term which ends in 2018. I favor term limits, but we may as well utilize Victor’s knowledge of the system, the rules and the people. I believe with a certainty Victor is inherently honest, and that means a great deal in this sketchy environment. Victor bowed out recently, but could he be persuaded to serve only until Hubbard’s term expires? It’s worth asking him.

Make no mistake, others are burning up the phones trolling for votes. Mac McCutcheon (R-District 25) is a name we hear most mentioned. My problem with Mac is his coziness to the old regime, so much so, he went to the post-indictment pep rally and he sponsored some stinky legislation pushed by Hubbard. And, even after the guilty verdict, he made public statements that Hubbard still has the right to appeal. Sorry, Mac, twelve counts are a stout hill to climb in court. That, and, wake up, Mac, Mike is simply not a trustworthy man…period.

Alan Harper (R-District 2) is another name. That’s a joke on its face. Harper, it has been rumored, collects a check for 100 percent disability. How can a disabled man take on such a tough job? Then, there’s a rumor his residency claimed on his Statement of Economic Interests does not match that of his Secretary of State financial disclosure report. Does that mean he lives outside of his district on a lake? Hmmm. And he’s a hothead with one of those Porter Waggoner hairdos with a brushy, outdated mustache. We don’t need a charlatan like that in the Speaker’s office.

Then Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) has feelers out. I’ve known Steve since college and like him very much personally. But he’s afraid of his own shadow, and he chaired the Budget Committee that allowed the 23 word change that got Hubbard one of his guilty verdicts. Not a good fit if we are truly putting the corrupt Hubbard era in the rear view mirror.

Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) announced he was running while Hubbard was still in power. While it was a ballsy move, Phil seemed to fizzle since then. He’s rich and shouldn’t have a penchant for stealing, but the fire in the belly, it appears, consists merely of embers at this point.

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Some folks say Lyn Greer (R-District 61) wants a shot. Talk about a re-tread, let’s hope this is just a bad publicity stunt.

Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) wants the job. He’s chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel that voted “aye” on the $800 million no-bid prison construction bill. That’s problematic, at least in my book. Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how was that ride through Dallas? Actually, Mike is an overall good guy who doesn’t need outside income to survive, but we have to ask him about the prison issue.

Is there a dark horse? No one seems to know because, unfortunately, this vote is on the fast track. This legislature is known for quick votes so that the public doesn’t have time to study the bills and time to voice opposition. Looks like the same holds true in electing a new Speaker.

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Is it too much to ask for someone squeaky clean to emerge? Or is there such a thing as squeaky clean anymore? Well, we erroneously believed Bentley was until the pesky revelation of his personal on-staff trollop.

I like Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley). He’s a successful and honest small-town lawyer with no steppingstone agenda. He was fearless in saying no to Mike Hubbard’s demands, and he won’t be a puppet to lobbyists. Tim’s only electability issue is that he’s only served since 2014. That’s what I like about him. He’s new, smart, fair and uncorrupted.

Ricky Ricardo’s famous rant when Lucy veered off the reservation was that she had “some ‘plaining to do.” The voters deserve some explanation as to why these guys are running and why they are worthy to lead, and lead with integrity.

This hurry-up vote makes me suspicious that the Billy Canarys and Bob Rileys in the lobbying world have one hand on their cell phones while they come up for air from the feeding trough to dial the call. Once again, the tail in Alabama continues to wag the dog. When will it end?

Victor, please reconsider, with the promise you’ll be no Mike Hubbard and that you won’t seek re-election to the House in 2018. That will give these speaker wannabes a chance to prove themselves in the next couple of sessions to come.

(The official Alabama House of Reps. website does not provide district office mailing addresses nor names of hometowns of the members. Imagine that! That is why District numbers rather than hometowns have been listed beside certain members’ names above. I just did not want the readers to think I was too lazy to look them up.)

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Opinion | Amendment 4 is an opportunity to clean up the Alabama Constitution

Gerald Johnson and John Cochran

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The 1901 but current Alabama Constitution has been amended about 950 times, making it by far the world’s longest constitution. The amendments have riddled the Constitution with redundancies while maintaining language and provisions — for example, poll taxes — that reflect the racist intent of those who originally wrote it.

A recompilation will bring order to the amendments and remove obsolete language. While much of this language is no longer valid, the language is still in the document and has been noted and used by other states when competing with Alabama for economic growth opportunities.

The need for recompilation and cleaning of Alabama’s Constitution has been long recognized.

In 2019, the Legislature unanimously adopted legislation, Amendment 4, to provide for its recompilation. Amendment 4 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot will allow the non-partisan Legislative Reference Service to draft a recompiled and cleaned version of the Constitution for submission to the Legislature.

While Amendment 4 prohibits any substantive changes in the Constitution, the LRS will remove duplication, delete no longer legal provisions and racist language, thereby making our Constitution far more easily understood by all Alabama citizens.

Upon approval by the Legislature, the recompiled Constitution will be presented to Alabama voters in November 2022 for ratification.

Amendment 4 authorizes a non-partisan, broadly supported, non-controversial recompilation and much-needed, overdue cleaning up of our Constitution.

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On Nov. 3, 2020, vote “Yes” on Amendment 4 so the work can begin.

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Opinion | Auburn Student Center named for Harold Melton, first Auburn SGA president of color

Elizabeth Huntley and James Pratt

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Auburn University's Student Center (VIA AUBURN UNIVERSITY)

The year 1987 was a quiet one for elections across America but not at Auburn. That was the year Harold Melton, a student in international studies and Spanish, launched and won a campaign to become the first African American president of the Auburn Student Government Association, winning with more than 65 percent of the vote.

This was just the first of many important roles Harold Melton would play at Auburn and in an extraordinarily successful legal career in his home state of Georgia, where his colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court elected him as chief justice.

Last week, the Auburn Board of Trustees unanimously named the Auburn student center for Justice Melton, the first building on campus that honors a person of color. The decision was reached as part of a larger effort to demonstrate Auburn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In June, Auburn named two task forces to study diversity and inclusion issues. We co-chair the task force for the Auburn Board with our work taking place concurrently with that of a campus-based task force organized by President Jay Gogue. Other members of the Board task force are retired Army general Lloyd Austin, bank president Bob Dumas, former principal and educator Sarah B. Newton and Alabama Power executive Quentin P. Riggins.

These groups are embarking on a process that offers all Auburn stakeholders a voice, seeking input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials and more. It will include a fact-based review of Auburn’s past and present, and we will provide specific recommendations for the future.

We are committed to making real progress based on solid facts. Unlike other universities in the state, Auburn has a presence in all 67 counties through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Our review has included not only our campuses in Auburn and Montgomery but all properties across our state. To date, we have found no monuments or statues recognizing the history that has divided our country. We will continue our fact-finding mission with input from the academic and research community.

Our university and leadership are committed to doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time. We believe now is the right time, and we are already seeing results.

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In addition to naming the student center for the Honorable Harold Melton, we have taken steps to highlight the significant role played by Harold Franklin, the student who integrated Auburn. We are working to enhance the historical marker that pays tribute to Mr. Franklin, and we are raising its visibility in campus tours as we pay homage to his contributions as our first African American student. Last month, we awarded Mr. Franklin, now 86 and with a Ph.D., a long-overdue master’s degree for the studies he completed at Auburn so many years ago.

We likewise endorsed a student-led initiative creating the National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza, which will recognize the contributions of Black Greek organizations and African American culture on our campus.

In the coming months, Auburn men and women will work together to promote inclusion to further enhance our student experience and build on our strength through diversity. The results of this work will be seen and felt throughout the institution in how we recruit our students, provide scholarships and other financial support and ensure a culture of inclusion in all walks of university life.

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Our goal is to identify and implement substantive steps that will make a real difference at Auburn, impact our communities and stand the test of time.

Naming the student center for Justice Melton is but one example. In response to this decision, he said, “Auburn University has already given me everything I ever could have hoped for in a university and more. This honor is beyond my furthest imagination.”

Our job as leaders at Auburn is more than honoring the Harold Meltons and Harold Franklins who played a significant role in the history of our university. It is also to create an inclusive environment that serves our student body and to establish a lasting legacy where all members of the Auburn Family reach their fullest potential in their careers and in life.

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Opinion | Alabama lags behind the nation in Census participation with deadline nearing

Paul DeMarco

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The United States Census is starting to wind down around the country with a Sept. 30 deadline for the national population to be completed. However, a United States District Court has recently ruled that the date may be extended another 30 days to allow more time for the census to take place.

Regardless of the deadline, Alabama has work to do when it comes to the census.

To date, the national average for participation around the country has been almost 65 percent for the census.

Unfortunately, Alabama residents are providing data to the census at a lower percentage, around some 61 percent of the state population.

There is already concern among state leaders that if that number does not reach above 70 percent, then the state will lose a seat in Congress, a vote in the electoral college and millions of federal dollars that come to the state every year.

The percentage of participation has varied widely around the state, from a high of 76 percent in Shelby County to a low of 36 percent in neighboring Coosa County.

State leaders are making a final push to request Alabama residents fill out the census in the last month before it is closed.

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We will find out later this fall if Alabama passes the national average of participation in the census compared to other states to retain both its future representation and share of federal dollars.

In the meantime, Alabamians need to fill out their census forms.

The state is depending on it.

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Opinion | This Labor Day let’s honor Alabama’s workers

Bren Riley

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In July, the Southwest Alabama Labor Council made the tough decision to cancel what was going to be our 75th annual Labor Day Parade in Mobile in order to ensure the safety of our affiliates, members, and the general public.

Needless to say, I’m crushed. Each year, there’s nothing I look forward to more than gathering with union members far and wide to celebrate Alabama’s union members. After all we have been through in 2020, no one deserves a day of love and celebration more than our workers.

For many of us, Labor Day represents a day off to enjoy our last day of summer. But Labor Labor Day is so much more than just picnics and gearing up to go back to school—it is a day to honor America’s working people. In the face of this unprecedented pandemic, it’s important now more than ever to support Alabama’s workers first.

Unfortunately, Alabama was ranked the worst state in the country to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. When I first read this, I was heartbroken. Then I got angry.

The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted challenges that have always faced Alabama’s working people. Inequality. Poor working conditions. No mandated sick or family leave. For decades, Alabama’s labor movement has fought tooth and nail for these sorts of protections, only to be pushed back by members in Congress who want nothing more than to destroy unions at the expense of our working people.

In Steve Flowers’ Sept. 3 column, Flowers points out how different things were in Alabama not too long ago. From 1946-66, “Alabama was the most unionized state in the South by far. In fact, every major employer in the State of Alabama was a union shop.”

Ordinarily, I’d feel crushed reading such a statement. But like my anger mentioned earlier, this time around, I’m determined.

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This Labor Day, we have a chance to build back the power of the labor movement in our state by gearing up for what could be the most important elections in Alabama’s modern history.

At the forefront, we have the opportunity to elect Joe Biden as the President of the United States, thereby ending the most virulently anti-labor administration we have seen in the last century.

And here in Alabama, we all-in for the fight to re-elect Senator Doug Jones. Sen. Jones has been nothing but an ally to our working people, especially in pushing his Senate colleagues to take up HEROES Act — a comprehensive COVID-19 relief bill currently sitting untouched in Mitch McConnell’s lap.

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In total, the Alabama AFL-CIO has endorsed ten candidates running for office in 2020. By electing politicians who will fight for America’s working class and uplift the labor movement, we can keep making real progress in the fight for a fair economy and a just society.

This Labor Day, whether it’s time to head in after a socially-distanced gathering with loved ones or a Zoom call with friends, take the time to reflect on why we get to celebrate this holiday.  Labor unions bring the freedom to balance life and work — the freedom in knowing that one job is enough, that you can be with a sick child or parent without losing your job, that you can report hazards without being fired. This Labor Day, let’s get fired up for a better Alabama.

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