By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
With all the challenges facing the Alabama Legislature – a need for prison reform, a broke Medicaid system, apparent widespread corruption – some lawmakers seem awfully focused on non-issues that basically are intended to bash the state’s LGBTQ community.
Our politicians never get tired of these hot-button issues: Let’s get rid of undocumented immigrants; let’s close our borders to Islamist refugees; let’s make sure Birmingham can’t raise its own minimum wage or become a Sanctuary City.
And then, of course, there are them gays. Them men who like men and them women who like women and them men or women who think they’re women or men. You know, them people.
At least two gay-bashing bills are before the Legislature. Both are terrible proposals, but then, terrible has never stopped the Alabama Legislature.
Alabama doesn’t even mind not being first with these bad ideas. A few years ago, it was HB56, the anti-immigrant law that intended to outdo Arizona’s anti-immigrant law. After that hate-legislation passed, the federal courts pretty much tossed it out, about the gazillionth time the federal courts have forced Alabama to play nice over the years.
Now, there is the so-called “Alabama Privacy Act,” which will regulate access to public restrooms inside businesses. The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) just doesn’t learn. The bill “portends” to “provide security to the public at large” by regulating, of all things, toilets.
A similar bill passed in North Carolina cost that state millions of dollars in economic development. That’s a worry for Alabama business leaders as well. The conservative Business Council of Alabama, along with other business groups, strongly opposes the measure.
“Alabama has many challenges, the least of them is bathrooms,” said BCA President William Canary in an AL.com report.
Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) said quite plainly that Williams’ bill is “a solution in search of a problem.”
Like that’s never happened before in Alabama.
Another anti-LGBTQ bill in the chute is the so-called “Religious Liberty” bill that has already been approved by the House Health Committee.
Why is it that bills tagged “Religious Liberty” almost always have a bigoted purpose? This bill, sponsored by state Rep. Rich Wingo (R-Tuscaloosa) would protect the freedom of religiously affiliated adoption agencies that refuse to place a child with same-sex parents.
What’s next? Prohibiting an African-American couple from adopting a white child or Latino child? Stopping a Church of Christ couple from adopting a child whose mother is Catholic?
Study after study has shown that children raised by same-sex parents do just as well as children raised by heterosexual couples. As reported by New Jersey’s Golden Cradle Adoption Services, an analysis of 15 such studies by Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston found that “factors such as self-esteem, relationship with peers, intelligence, behavior, and gender identity were the same whether children were raised by heterosexual couples or by same-sex couples.”
With as many children as there are who need good parents, why would the state pass a law that limits the ability of any qualified couple, same-sex or otherwise, to adopt?
Meanwhile, some observers said the bill, if passed, could jeopardize more than $40 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, though Wingo disagrees with that.
But we know what pushes these kinds of bills. It’s not “religious liberty” or the fear that some transgender individual is going to molest somebody in a public bathroom.
It’s bigotry and homophobia and, sadly, for too many Alabamians, that strikes a chord.
There’s so much that’s important that the state needs to take care of rather than to spend time on bills that their sponsors cynically hope will just help them get re-elected. We have much to do, lots to fix, plenty to improve.
Let’s hope lawmakers focus on what really matters, and not on legislation that clearly discriminates against thousands of Alabama residents.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]
Opinion | Election Day is next week
This will be a memorable and historical election year. This 2020 pandemic year is hopefully only a once in a century event.
Well, folks, it is finally here. The presidential race is next Tuesday. However, a good many Americans have already voted. True early voting is available in a half dozen states and every American can vote by absentee ballot and a good many have taken advantage of that right. A record number of Alabamians have voted absentee. However, the election for president will be decided next week when most voters go to the polls.
This will be a memorable and historical election year. This 2020 pandemic year is hopefully, only a once in a century event. 2020 is a pivotal presidential year. Never before in my lifetime have I seen our country more divided politically into extremely partisan corners. We are really two nations, and we are split almost 50-50. This is understandable because the country is truly divided philosophically.
Back in the day our own George Wallace would run around the country running for president as a third-party candidate in a Don Quixote mission espousing the rhetoric that there is not a dimes worth of difference between the national Republican and Democratic parties. Nobody could say that, even in demagogic form, today.
Folks, there is a world of difference today. The Republican Party is very conservative, and the Democratic Party is extremely liberal. This divide between the two parties is enhanced and perpetuated by the media, especially, the television networks. If you are a conservative Republican you watch Fox News. If you are a liberal Democrat, you watch CNN. It is like seeing the nation’s politics and dogma through two different prisms.
The two parties should and could more aptly change their names. Republicans should be labeled the Conservative Party and the Democrats the Liberal Party. CNN, and to a large degree ABC, NBC and CBS, should take down any pretense of being impartial and simply have their broadcast from the Democratic National Headquarters. Conversely FOX News should broadcast from the Republican National Headquarters. MSNBC should be broadcast from Moscow
We in Alabama are definitely in the conservative Republican tribe as are most of the other southern and midwestern and rural states. The left coast of California and the eastern urban coast of New York are the bastions of liberalism and the Democratic party.
We do not elect our president by direct popular vote whereby the person who gets the most votes nationwide wins the presidency. Under our Electoral College system, the person who gets 50 percent plus one vote gets all of that states’ electoral votes. The number of electoral votes is determined by the number of congressional seats plus two senators. For example, California has 53 seats in Congress plus two Senators for 55 electoral votes. We in Alabama have seven congressional seats plus two senators which gives us nine electoral votes. Therefore, it does not take a math genius to tell that the liberal Democratic states like California, have more votes than rural, conservative states like Alabama.
President Donald Trump, who has been a proven conservative Republican, has been behind the eight-ball having to fight through the coronavirus disaster. It is not his fault that the Chinese sent this pandemic to the world and the United States, but voters will want to blame someone and he is the one in the Whitehouse and the one on the ballot.
In mid-September Trump’s reelection numbers and chances were dismal. However, in late September the much-discussed October surprise occurred. The death of liberal U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave the conservative President the opportunity to appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court. Trump is blessed to have a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.
This opportunity for President Trump to place a third conservative Justice to the nine-member Tribunal could be a game changer. This will energize evangelical voters throughout the country as well as devout, mainstream, Catholic voters in the crucial battleground states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona. The election will be decided in these six key battleground states.
The hay is in the barn in most other states. California will vote Democratic and we in Alabama will vote overwhelmingly Republican. President Trump will carry Alabama in a landslide. This third conservative appointment to the Supreme Court is like manna from Heaven and icing on the cake for Trump in the Heart of Dixie.
The Trump train will provide some long and heavy coattails, which will prove disastrous for our anomaly, liberal, national Democratic senator, Doug Jones. The crescendo Republican wave in Alabama will drown Democrat Jones into a watery grave. It has not helped Jones’s cause that during his short tenure he has voted right down the line with the left-wing Democratic leadership.
We will see next week.
Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies
Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C.
Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.
But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump.
“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”
Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”
Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home.
“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat.
“I rest my case.”
You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Opinion | Counting on good Neighbors
Even though Neighbors is likely a long shot, he’s at least got a shot. The people of District 4 need to vote in their best interest this year, not to help Aderholt get richer off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
There’s a lot of reasons we know it’s an election year — political ads on television, presidential debates, Donald Trump super-spreader campaign rallies.
Oh, and Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt is back in his congressional district. Every couple years, Aderholt shows up. So he can “appear” connected to Alabama’s 4th Congressional District.
The 4th Congressional District starts just north of Birmingham and stretches horizontally across the state. The district includes Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion, Marshall, Walker and Winston counties as well as parts of Blount, Cherokee, Jackson and Tuscaloosa counties.
Aderholt pops in for a few campaign events, and then pops out to his real residence in suburban Washington D.C. He’s no more an Alabamian than Florida’s Tommy Tuberville.
Aderholt does have opposition this year in Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors, a Vietnam veteran who truly helps his neighbors. Early in the pandemic, Neighbors was passing out masks door-to-door in the district. He’s continued to help his neighbors throughout the pandemic with anything he can do.
“Being in Congress means being here and working with the people,” Neighbors says on his website. “In 24 years, Rob Aderholt has left us behind to focus on his radical agenda and gotten rich in Congress.”
That’s from a campaign website, but it’s absolutely true. Aderholt is still talking about expanding broadband access in his rural district. It’s one of the few issues he talks about every two years, for 24 years, without ever getting anything done.
Seriously. Name something Aderholt has done for his district or Alabama in the more than two decades he’s been in Congress. I won’t hold my breath.
And if you don’t think Neighbors’s campaign isn’t a little worrisome for Aderholt supporters, why are all the Neighbors signs disappearing from his district?
Adults, acting like sixth-graders, love to pull up political signs. Even in my comfortably Democratic neighborhood, some Doug Jones for Senate signs disappear. And, oddly in my neighborhood, I saw an actual Tommy Tuberville sign that had been pulled down in front of some misplaced person’s yard. It happens on both sides.
But in the 4th Congressional District, and especially in the Cullman County area, it’s hard for Neighbors and his staff to keep signs in place.
“Cullman has come down, and we have had to replace almost all our signs in Winston County,” said Neighbors’s campaign manager Lisa Ward. As for Winston County, Ward said, “we were told those are gone again.”
Can anybody be more junior high?
“We’ve seen places where our sign was, and it’s been replaced by Aderholt signs,” Ward said. “When we put signs out, we leave his and put ours next to his. We joke and say everyone needs friendly neighbors around.”
The Neighbors campaign does have the right spirit. They just work to replace the signs that disappear. But it is aggravating, to say the least.
“Someone told us that Aderholt is really worried if people find out he has an opponent or doesn’t live here he could struggle,” said Ward. “That’s why he’s not mentioning (Neighbors’s) campaign. And why we think they’re taking his signs down. So people don’t know. It’s really about people not getting a chance to know they have a choice. And there is no time to hear who he is.”
Well, here’s who he is: Neighbors served three tours in Vietnam during that war, enlisting when he was 17 years old. After the service, he got a college degree, then spent 35 years in the apparel business in North Alabama.
Neighbors and his wife, Judy, have three children, and Neighbors recently earned an MBA from the University of North Alabama.
Neighbors would be a breath of fresh air for Alabama in Washington. He won’t live there. He’ll be grounded in the 4th Congressional District.
If Aderholt wins, we won’t see him again until 2022. Twenty-four years in Congress is plenty of time to get something done. But with Aderholt, there’s not much to show for all that time.
And even though Neighbors is likely a long shot, he’s at least got a shot. The people of the 4th District need to vote in their best interest this year, not to help Aderholt get richer off the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
Opinion | Election less than two weeks away
If the Republicans lose these three and one more, then Sen. Shelby loses the chairmanship of appropriations and Alabama loses all of its power in Washington.
Our 2020 presidential election is less than two weeks away. We Americans will either elect Republican Donald Trump for another four-year term or Democrat Joe Biden.
In Alabama, we will either elect Republican Tommy Tuberville or Democratic incumbent Doug Jones for six years to serve with our iconic Senior Sen. Richard Shelby. The winner will be elected to a six-year term in this august body.
Several of you took issue with my statement last week that a vote for the liberal Democrat Doug Jones is a vote against Richard Shelby and the state of Alabama. Allow me to clarify and explain to you as simply as I can why that is true and why I reiterate that declaration.
The United States Senate is steeped in and governed by time honored rules and traditions. The most revered and sacred shrine is the vestige of seniority. The rule of seniority is paramount. The longer you serve in the Senate the more powerful you become. Some become more powerful than others. Richard Shelby has become the most powerful and consequential U.S. Senator to have represented our state in Alabama history.
In my 2015 book, Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories, I have a chapter titled, “Alabama’s Three Greatest Senators.” They are Lister Hill, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby.
Sen. Lister Hill was an austere, aristocratic gentleman who was renowned for health care. He was the author of the famous Hill-Burton Act and the father of the renowned UAB Medical Center. He served 30-years in the U.S. Senate.
Sen. John Sparkman served in the U.S. Senate for 32-years. He was from Huntsville and is credited with being the father of Redstone Arsenal.
If I were writing that chapter today, Sen. Richard Shelby would be alone as Alabama’s most consequential, powerful senator in our state’s history. He is in a league of his own. During his 34-year career in the Senate, Shelby has become renowned as the bearer of good tidings and federal dollars to the Heart of Dixie. If Lister Hill was the father of UAB and John Sparkman the father of Redstone Arsenal, then Richard Shelby can very aptly be referred to as the grandfather as well as great uncle to these two premier Alabama institutions. Richard Shelby is the reason UAB and Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center are Alabama’s most prestigious as well as Alabama’s two largest employers.
Huntsville has become Alabama’s fastest growing and most prosperous city and one of America’s brightest high-tech destination locations. The City of Huntsville is soon to become the second home of the FBI. The state-of-the-art Huntsville FBI cybersecurity headquarters will employ over 2,000 very highly paid individuals. This coup for Alabama is due to one person – our senior Sen. Richard Shelby.
It is not just Huntsville and Birmingham that have benefited from Shelby’s prowess and power, it is the entire state. Every corner of the state can point to a Shelby generated road, building, industry, or military installation.
You might be asking, how has Shelby accomplished so much for our state? It is simple. It is federal dollars. Then you might ask, how does Shelby bring so many federal dollars to Alabama? It is simple. He is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He appropriates the United States budget, or in other words, he controls the federal checkbook.
In addition to being Chairman of Appropriations, Sen. Shelby is Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. If you do not think that is invaluable to Alabama, you best think again. There is no state in the nation that benefits more through defense preparedness and dollars in the United States than the good ole Heart of Dixie.
Under the Rules of the Senate, the political party that has the majority of members presides and makes the rules. More importantly, for Alabama, the majority party gets all the committee chairmanships. Our Senior Sen. Richard Shelby is a Republican. Currently, Republicans have a slim 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. There are three Republican incumbent senators in Arizona, Colorado, and Maine, who are in serious jeopardy of losing. If the Republicans lose these three and one more, then Sen. Shelby loses the chairmanship of appropriations and Alabama loses all of its power in Washington. Suppose your vote for Doug Jones, a liberal, national, California Democrat, is the deciding vote that puts the Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and puts Richard Shelby and Alabama out to pasture.
See you next week.