Arise's new approach to public transportation funding picked up momentum Wednesday as the House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee approved HB 454, sponsored by Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills. The bill would create the Alabama Public Transportation Trust Fund as a repository for future state appropriations to expand public transit options in the state. The bill now awaits consideration by the full House.
Under HB 454, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) would administer the trust fund, including making and auditing project awards. The bill would require ADECA to adopt trust fund rules, conduct a public transportation needs assessment and make annual reports.
An amendment defines the composition of the trust fund’s advisory committee. The committee, which would include individuals recommended by Alabama Arise and other advocacy organizations, is designed to ensure that projects supported by the trust fund address the needs of rural areas, seniors, and people with disabilities.
Alabama is one of only five states that provide no state funding for public transportation. Every year, Alabama leaves millions of dollars in matching federal transportation funds on the table because we can’t put up the state portion. Arise considers HB 454 a sensible first step toward expanding public transportation options in Alabama.
By Jim Carnes, policy director. Posted April 19, 2017.
2017 legislative update: 'Ban the box' bill clears first hurdle, wins Alabama Senate committee approval
Alabama lawmakers took a first step Wednesday toward enacting a policy that would make it easier for people to re-enter the workforce after serving their time for a criminal offense. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 for SB 200, which would create a “ban the box” policy for many state and local government jobs. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, goes to the Senate.
Ross’ bill would remove the criminal history checkbox from applications for many jobs with state and local governments in Alabama. SB 200 would include exceptions for certain public jobs, including ones where federal or state law deems certain convictions to be automatic bars to employment. The bill also would not apply to private employers.
SB 200 would not require state or local government employers to hire any particular person, and it would not forbid them to ask about an applicant’s conviction history. Instead, the bill would delay that inquiry until after an applicant has received a conditional job offer.
“Ban the box” advocates say such policies give applicants a fairer chance to be considered on their merits rather than being instantly eliminated from the applicant pool. “Increasing employment opportunities for people with records will reduce recidivism and improve economic stability in our communities,” Section 1 of SB 200 states.
Alabama would be far from alone in adopting a “ban the box” policy for public jobs. Twenty-six states have some form of “ban the box” or “fair chance” policy as of April 2017, according to the National Employment Law Project. That list includes Southern states like Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee. Many private employers – including Home Depot, Target and Walmart – have “banned the box” on their initial job applications as well.
By Chris Sanders, communications director. Posted April 12, 2017.
Arise has worked for more than 25 years to build a better Alabama for all – and that work has never been more important than right now. We face a challenging policy landscape on health care, education, consumer protection and many other issues. It’s unclear what may happen to the groundwork Arise has laid for Medicaid reform and expansion in Alabama, or to recent federal proposals to protect consumers from high-cost payday and title loans.
It’s time to get to work, and we need your help every step of the way. Please become an Arise member today and help us strengthen our efforts to make life better for all Alabamians.
The stakes are high for families across our state. Arise will continue to fight for access to affordable health care for all Alabamians. We will continue to work to save important reforms enacted under the Affordable Care Act that protect patients like you and your family. We will continue to press Alabama legislators to act on important state issues like increasing the minimum wage, protecting borrowers, and investing in housing and transportation.
Arise is moving forward, and we need you with us. If you’ve been intending to become an Arise member, now is the time! Join our movement for a better Alabama today and add your voice to our call for a better Alabama for all.
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2017 legislative update: A victory for justice: Legislature votes to end judicial override in Alabama
UPDATE: Gov. Kay Ivey signed SB 16 into law on April 11, 2017, ending judicial override in all future capital cases in Alabama.
The age of judicial override in the United States is about to come to an end. The Alabama House voted 78-19 Tuesday to end the practice, which allows judges to override juries’ sentencing recommendations in death penalty cases. Alabama is the last state in the country to allow judicial override in capital cases.
SB 16, sponsored by Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road, now goes to Gov. Robert Bentley for his consideration. Bentley is “looking forward to signing this bill,” he said in a statement. The state Senate already passed the bill 30-1 in February.
“Judicial override is about to become a thing of the past, and Alabama’s justice system will be better as a result,” Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister said. “It’s time for our state to put the sentencing decisions in death penalty cases where they belong: in the jury’s hands. We’re happy to see such strong support in the House and Senate for ending this outdated practice, and we hope the governor will sign it into law quickly.”
Judicial override regularly has been used to impose death sentences in Alabama despite a jury’s sentencing recommendation of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Alabama judges used judicial override 112 times between 1978 and early 2016, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. In 101 (or 90.2 percent) of those instances, override was used to impose a death sentence despite a jury’s recommendation of life without parole. (Read Arise’s fact sheet to learn more about judicial override.)
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, the House sponsor of legislation to end judicial override, said the decision of whether to sentence someone convicted of a capital crime to death was a weighty moral question that should be entrusted to a jury of one’s peers rather than a judge. “A law degree does not make you more qualified to decide whether to sentence someone to life or death,” England said.
The House vote came after England agreed to amendments that made his judicial override bill (HB 32) match Brewbaker’s version. England then substituted SB 16 for his own bill, allowing the House to vote on the measure and send it directly to Bentley.
SB 16 explicitly states that it would not apply retroactively to defendants sentenced to death before the bill’s passage. It also would preserve current Alabama law allowing juries to recommend death if 10 of 12 jurors agree. England’s original bill would have required a unanimous jury vote to impose the death penalty, but he accepted the changes to win support for ending judicial override.
By Chris Sanders, communications director. Posted April 4, 2017.
Arise Citizens’ Policy Project policy director Jim Carnes issued the following statement Friday, March 24, 2017, in response to U.S. House leaders’ withdrawal of the American Health Care Act:
“The House health plan would have taken coverage away from 24 million Americans and put essential protections at risk for tens of millions more. It would have forced devastating Medicaid cuts that would have hurt children, seniors, and people with disabilities across Alabama. And it would have done all that to fund huge tax cuts for wealthy people and big corporations. It was a bad bill that deserved to die, and we’re glad it did.
“Defeating this bad bill was essential, but it was only the first step. Everyday Alabamians must keep up the pressure on lawmakers to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and make quality health coverage a reality for everyone. We urge Gov. Robert Bentley to expand Medicaid immediately to ensure that low-wage workers and struggling families across Alabama can get the care they need to stay healthy and productive.”