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Opinion | ALGOP House rule changes eliminate democracy

Josh Moon

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Elections have consequences.

In Alabama, the consequence is the death of democracy.

Or, at least, it will be if the Republicans who increased their supermajority stronghold in the state Legislature in November have their way.

On Monday, APR received a copy of Republicans’ proposed rules changes for the upcoming 2019 legislative session. The changes are set to be approved in upcoming organizational meetings.

There is a clear theme: No more debate.

Of any kind. Anywhere in the State House.

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Republicans are proposing cutting debate time on the special order calendar, which allowed members to debate for two hours over which bills would hit the floor for consideration, and they want to speed through any bills being read at length.

They also want to give the Speaker of the House the authority to remove unruly people from the House chambers, including active representatives. They also want to allow every committee chairman to have the same authority in committee meetings.

The exact language gives the Speaker and committee chairmen the authority to remove other elected representatives for UP TO A FULL DAY in instances in which those members — or members of the general public attending the meetings or House sessions — “breach the peace.”

Now, just what “breach the peace” means, who knows? Because it’s not defined in the proposed changes.

But something tells me that voicing displeasure over spineless lawmakers melting into mush around the lobbyists for big business would be a breach.

As would lawmakers passionately questioning other members’ morals when the latter chooses money over the safety of children attending unlicensed daycare facilities.

The Speaker also will have the authority, under the proposed changes, to oust observers from the public gallery for creating a disturbance or even bringing a placard.

Basically, the ALGOP wants to do whatever it wants to do and it wants you to shut your damn mouth about it.

Oh, and it wants to run your county, too.

There’s already a rule on the books that requires any local bill — which are routinely handled by local legislative committees made up of reps from each county — that involves gambling or an environmental issue be sent through a standing House committee once approved by the local committee. Now they want ALL local bills involving constitutional amendments to first go through a standing committee.

Because it’s not enough that local bills are voted on by the full legislature. They want every opportunity to kill bills before those uppity Democrats in Jefferson, Montgomery and Mobile plant good ideas in everyone’s heads.

(Democrats believe they’ve successfully talked Republicans out of this change, but we’ll see.)

This is a shameful, and harmful, grab for unnecessary power.

Republicans can already do whatever they want to do. Democrats are virtually powerless to stop them. In fact, all the Dems can do is force debate and raise hell on the floor, maybe force GOP lawmakers to consider the consequences of their bills.

There’s a reason we have debate time. There’s a reason ample time is given for an exchange of ideas and to allow for opposing views to be heard. That’s sort of the basic idea of our entire government.

It’s anti-American to establish a system of governance in which you attempt to stifle debate from the outset. And it’s even worse to threaten dissension with ouster based on the Speaker’s discretion.

That’s a lot of power placed in the hands of one guy. Maybe I should remind you all that your last speaker is on his way to prison.

And maybe I should also remind you that the 2010 Republican takeover of the legislature should make it impossible for you to forget that no one stays in power forever. Eventually, the power will shift, even if it takes 100 years.

And today’s ridiculous power grabs will be tomorrow’s headaches.

 

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Opinion | New federal judges in Alabama — Future legacy

Steve Flowers

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Regardless of what happens in Donald Trump’s administration over the next two years, he will have a proven record of success as President especially if you are a conservative American.

One of, if not the most important accomplishment of any president is the opportunity to appoint a United States Supreme Court Justice. Folks, Trump has appointed and gotten confirmed two members of the Supreme Court in two years. This is a remarkable achievement. Justices Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh will have an immense impact on American laws and values for more than likely over two decades, long after Donald Trump is dead and gone. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are young, in their early 50s and will be a part of many landmark rulings that will profoundly affect American public policy.

Trump’s selection of these two extremely well qualified jurists were wise ones, both are exceptionally groomed and scripted to be outstanding Justices. They are considered mainstream, moderate conservatives with the perfect educational and judicial background and experience.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation was more controversial because his choice is a pivotal swing vote on the Court that tilts the Court to a conservative majority. Gorsuch was an even swap, a conservative for a conservative. He replaced conservative Justice Anton Scalia.

Kavanaugh’s appointment was critical. The liberal Democrats had to go to the wall and declare all out war by whatever means to derail and delay the Kavanaugh confirmation. The Court swung to becoming a conservative tribunal with Kavanaugh. The Court had four liberals and four conservatives. Kavanaugh replaced the swing vote on the Court, Anthony Kennedy. Therefore, the Court is now five conservatives to four liberals. Make no doubt about it, the confirmation of a Supreme Court Judge is very political.

The liberals had to resort to extreme measures to preserve the possibility that the Republicans could lose their control of the U.S. Senate which, gives consent to a President’s SCOTUS appointments.

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In today’s extremely partisan politics, lines are drawn and there are no prisoners kept, both sides go for the jugular vein. Therefore, the only way for Trump to be successful in his garnering the placement of two conservative justices is because he has a Republican majority Senate with some very adroit veteran GOP Senate leaders like Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley and Richard Shelby paving the way.

Speaking of our Senior Senator, Richard Shelby, he has masterminded and orchestrated a legendary coup of his own when it comes to our U.S. Federal Judges in Alabama.

In conjunction with the Trump administration, Shelby has placed six new Federal Judges in Alabama, all young and conservative. This Shelby/Trump triumph has secured a two to three decade dominance of conservative federal judges in the Heart of Dixie.

During the Obama years at least six federal judgeships became vacant in Alabama. President Obama appointed replacements but Senator Shelby and our former Senator Jeff Sessions sat on them and refused to allow them to be confirmed. These seats have remained vacant due to partisan gamesmanship. Shelby and Sessions were hoping that a day would come when there would be a Republican President and they could place these lifetime appointments into conservative hands. That day miraculously arrived last January.

Senator Shelby and his former Chief of Staff and now BCA President, Katie Britt, spent the entire year of 2018 interviewing, vetting and selecting these judges to assure that they were young, conservative, qualified, and confirmable.

They have indeed accomplished this lifetime feat for Alabama. Liles Burke and Anne Marie Axom are the two new judges for the Northern District. Emily Marks and Andrew Braden will join conservative Chief Judge William Keith Watkins in the Middle District. The Southern District will have two new Trump-Shelby appointees in Terry Moorer and Jeffrey Beaverstock.

Senator Richard Shelby has further enhanced his legacy for decades to come and has placed an indelible stamp on the federal judiciary in Alabama with these judicial appointees.

See you next week.

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

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Opinion | Let’s put a wall around petty Donald Trump

Joey Kennedy

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How can one quantify how petty our infant-acting president, Donald J. Trump, really is?

Trump is so dim, he actually may be an unwitting tool of Russia. Hard to believe somebody as thin-skinned and brain-challenged as Trump could be working for the Russians intentionally. Yet, he may be doing that, too. Evidence looks strong.

Trump is way past the simple disgrace to the United States that Richard Nixon was. And his idiocy is dangerous.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Trump to postpone his State of the Union address, for good reasons, until after the partial government shutdown is over, petty Trump retaliated by postponing an international trip Pelosi was going to make, refusing to allow military aircraft to transport her. That trip was being kept on the down-low for security reasons, until petty Trump released the details.

As the now 28-day shutdown has no end in sight, the only reason 800,000 federal employees, thousands of them in Alabama, aren’t getting paid is because of petty Trump.
Trump refuses to budge on his demand for $5.6 billion for a near-useless wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

The president is stubbornly low-information, ignoring facts that show technology and more border agents will better deter undocumented immigrants entering the country than a physical barrier that can be easily defeated.

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People can climb over walls. They can dig under them. And that’s not the only way they can get through.

Perdido Vineyards’ Jim Eddins, 85, a 1957 graduate of the Naval Academy and a retired colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps, has plenty of experience with walls. He was a combat engineer in the Marines, and he established Perdido Vineyards in 1972 and started Alabama’s first farm winery in 1979.

Walls, Eddins says, have “many useful and peaceful purposes.”

“They support roofs, enclose space, help with privacy and secrecy, help with protection and security, define perimeters and boundaries, help with flood control; they work in prisons, make obstacles,” Eddins says.

But will a wall on the southern border do what petty Trump says it will: Keep out immigrants? Stop the drug trade? Keep terrorists out? Keep us free of these terrible “diseases” the president wrongly claims immigrants bring in?

“No,” Eddins says emphatically. “None of the above.” Those dangers cited by petty Trump are wildly exaggerated anyway, Eddins says.

“Disease? Ebola flies in: mosquitos, birds, animals, vehicles. The history of walls is ancient, as failures for the above reasons,” Eddins says. “A determined aggressor is only temporarily impeded. They tunnel under, fly over, go around, destroy, or breach. (Walls) often cause more damage than they prevent.”

The mobility of modern military criminal forces, with aircraft and explosives (and other technologies) – make a wall particularly vulnerable.

“A wall can very quickly cease to be a defense and become a prison or target,” Eddins says. “Hitting a fixed target is easy. Hitting a moving target is not so simple. Ask a deer hunter or bird hunter.”

Yet, petty Trump demands his wall be paid for by U.S. taxpayers – the one he said Mexico would pay for – or else he’ll keep the government shut. Republicans in Congress, and especially in the U.S. Senate and in Alabama, are complicit in the pettiness.

So, 800,000 federal workers are going without their paychecks, for a full month now and counting, the longest shutdown in U.S. history. For a wall that’ll do little to secure the southern border as petty Trump claims.

Tests have already shown that the wall or barrier or fence – whatever somebody wants to call it – is easily breached. Officials discovered a tunnel under an existing section of wall only a short distance from where Trump was visiting when he was at the Texas border last week. Most drugs come to the United States through the air or hidden in ground vehicles that come through existing border entries. A prototype of the wall Trump wants was sawed through by testers.

But Trump wants it his way or the highway. Democrats and a growing number of Republicans are telling Trump that he can’t always get his way.

“The United States has been wracked with the politics of division, religion, and immigration for its entire history,” Eddins says. “And the lessons of this experience are currently being ignored, and the same mistakes are being made for the self-serving purposes of mind control and a dictatorship.”

Walls are not for a democracy, Eddins says. “A wall is a physical object for dictators to impress foolish people,” he says. “Israel has a wall, and the Palestinians shoot missiles over it. Walls did not stop the Crusaders or Muslims.

“Putting a ‘wall’ around propaganda and sick minds is a logical option,” Eddins says, adding we must fight bad ideas with better ideas. And keep in mind, Eddins says, who is pushing “this noise.”

“Someone with corrupted, evil intent,” Eddins points out. “There are better and less expensive alternatives. It will definitely cost more than $5 billion to build and maintain a wall. In short, a political slogan and promise from a pathological liar is no basis for spending billions on this, especially when political ideology is the only purpose.”

Trump is a legend only in his own mind. His pettiness is the real legend, assaulting all of our tired, frustrated minds. His disastrous term is half over. I don’t know if our nation can survive the next 24 months. We don’t need a wall, and we certainly don’t need Donald Trump.

It is, indeed, Mueller time.

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

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Opinion | Mayor Woodfin: Tear down that statue

Josh Moon

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Dear Mayor Woodfin,

Tear it down.

Get a few blow torches and axes, maybe a jackhammer or two, and tear down that Confederate monument in Linn Park. If you’d like, to appease the phony historians out there, save a portion to be put in a museum in town.

But tear it down.

A Jefferson County Circuit Court judge ruled Monday night that you have the authority to remove it, and why wouldn’t you? It’s your city. It’s your city park. You maintain it. You should have complete authority over what goes or what stays in it.

As Judge Michael Graffeo wrote in his order, “Just as the state could not force any particular citizen to post a pro-Confederacy sign in his or her front lawn, so too can the state not commandeer the city’s property for the state’s preferred message.”

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It’s the perfect ruling. Because it’s so obviously accurate.

In fact, numerous people who worked in several cities around the state tried to explain to the legislature that this law was ridiculously encroaching — to the point of being counterproductive.

And a number of attorneys tried to explain to state lawmakers that the overreach was troubling and likely illegal.

But as the Legislature usually does, it ignored those cries of rationality. And instead chose the path of pandering.

Pandering to the most awful among us.

Pandering to the racists. Pandering to those who refuse to believe in an accurate history. Pandering to those who don’t care that statues honoring traitors and murderers offend large numbers of citizens in this state.

How couldn’t they offend black citizens?

Imagine learning stories of the horrific ways that your ancestors were treated — beaten, raped, tortured, bought and sold like cattle, and separated from their children — and then being told there was a statue of the men who did those things in the town square.

If this state’s citizenry had half the decency and morals that we proclaim, we’d be ashamed that we ever had the gall to erect these statues, or to honor the dishonorable men who led the fight to preserve slavery.

But instead, our state’s citizens have been brainwashed by decades of an absurdly whitewashed history, and will, in response to fact-based arguments for why the statues should be removed, talk passionately about the southern general’s great strategic mind or explain that this confederate treated his slaves well or tell you with a straight face that the whole damn thing wasn’t and isn’t about race and slavery.

Quite honestly, Mayor Woodfin, I am tired of the stupidity and the phony arguments and the wink-and-nod racism from closeted racists. They don’t really care if the statue is in the park. It’s not like they’re bringing their families by on Saturday afternoons to have picnics in front of the Confederate monuments and soak in the history.

They only want the statues to remain because those statues are one last poke in the eye to the people who say they have to treat black people as equals.

That’s it.

They get a little demented joy out of knowing that that statue is aggravating the blacks and the libs and the yankees.

That’s why they’ve erected a huge confederate flag beside the Interstate north of Montgomery. It’s why three confederate groups attempted a couple of years ago to put up a large confederate flag across the Interstate from Alabama State University, a historically black college.

And it’s why, most of all, they run around waving a flag that was never an official flag of the Confederacy, but was the battle flag of one confederate army and was later adopted by the KKK and other hate groups.

Because the history doesn’t matter to these people. And those who are interested in it would be just as well served visiting the monuments in a museum.

So, Mayor, I’m suggesting you do the right thing and set an example for other cities around the state to follow.

Tear that statue down.

 

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Opinion | What will our Congressional districts look like after the 2020 Census

Steve Flowers

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Preparations are being made to take the 2020 Census. This process is not just a fun game to spell out demographic changes and interesting tidbits about us as Americans. It is a very important mandate dictated by the Constitution. The number of people counted determines how many seats each state has in Congress. Thus, it is taken every 10-years.

The Country has been changing, demographically, over the last decade, as it always has over the course of history. The states of California, Texas and Florida continue to grow exponentially. All Americans, not just older ones, seek the sun. They like a sunny, warm climate. That is why our neighboring state of Florida is and has been for decades America’s growth state.

Last week I visited with you about our 1940’s Congressional Delegation. At that time we had nine seats. We lost one after the 1960’s census. We lost another after 1980. We are projected to lose another one after this upcoming Census of 2020. We now have seven seats. It is predicted that we will only have six after next year. We most certainly will lose one to California if they are allowed to count illegal immigrants.

The State Legislature is constitutionally designated as the drawer of lines of congressional districts for each respective state. Currently, we have six Republican seats and one Democratic seat. If indeed we drop from seven to six Congressional districts, how will it shake out.

The census will reveal that Huntsville and North Alabama have been our growth spots. Alabama’s population continues to move toward the northern tier of the state. Two out of every three Alabamians live in Birmingham, Hoover, and Tuscaloosa north.

The Black Belt continues to lose population. The census will also reveal quite a disparity of financial prosperity. It will show that the same Black Belt counties are some of the poorest areas of the country and conversely Huntsville will be one of the most prosperous.

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So who are the winners and losers under Congressional redistricting? You start with one premise. You have to have one majority minority African American district. The federal courts have mandated this edict. Therefore, Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s district is sacred. It now is very large, geographically. It will become even larger. The district will take in most of the African American population in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, and the entire Black Belt stretching from south of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa all the way to Mobile. It will be a big geographic district and be numbered district six rather than seven.

This leaves us with five Republican districts and six incumbent Republicans. Therefore, who gets the short end of the stick. A cursory look says the odd person out is Martha Roby in the second district.

However, our current delegates have already come up with a plan to save everybody. Mo Brooks, the Congressman from Huntsville, will choose to move up or out in 2022. He is assuming that Senator Richard Shelby retires at age 88. Therefore, Brooks will see his fast-growing Tennessee Valley district divided and delved out to a plan that grows the districts north, which complies with the growth pattern.

Our senior and most seniority laden Congressman, Robert Aderholt, will opt to stay in Congress rather than risk a run for the Senate. This is a very wise and prudent move for him and the state. He has over 24-years in seniority and is in line to be Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He will move north and pick up part of the Huntsville area and he will cut Gadsden loose. Mike Rogers will move north and pick up Gadsden and all of northeast Alabama, which is a more natural fit for him with his native Anniston area.

Rogers’ move north will allow him to abandon Auburn-Opelika, which in turn allows Roby’s district to exist primarily like it is with the population centers of East Montgomery, Elmore, Autauga, and the Wiregrass and Dothan and that district will add Auburn-Opelika.

The current 6th District of Jefferson-Shelby represented by Gary Palmer will remain essentially the same. Its upscale suburbs will make it one of the most Republican in the nation.

The last district seat of Mobile-Baldwin will remain intact and will still be District 1. However, the tremendous growth of Baldwin will require that the district only contain Mobile and Baldwin. The cadre of rural counties north of Mobile that are currently in the District will have to be cut loose to probably go to the Black Belt district.

The current 1st District Congressman, Bradley Bryne, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2020. However, his replacement will be a conservative Republican.

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 | ALGOP House rule changes eliminate democracy

by Josh Moon Read Time: 3 min
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