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Arise Daily News Digest 4-25-2015
AL.COM - Lawyers hope federal judge in Alabama will act on gay marriage before U.S. Supreme Court.
AL.COM - U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne defends 'sunset' legislation as 'rational' against criticism it's 'radical'.
AL.COM - Alabama beer wholesaler rips brewers guild over bill to allow direct sales to customers.
AL.COM - Patients on waiting list for Carly's Law study told they're approved, not guaranteed to participate.
AL.COM - Transgender in Alabama: Combat veteran, teens voice their struggles.
AL.COM - On eve of Supreme Court arguments, judge refuses to dismiss Alabama gay marriage lawsuit.
AL.COM - Alabama lawmaker introduces bill to restrict puppy mills.
AL.COM - Does Alabama's economy stand to gain more from the oil spill than it lost?
AL.COM - Making the list: Business magazine ranks Birmingham among 'American cities of the future'.
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - Reporter Bill Britt: The Reason I Go To Work
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - Legislature Passes Virtual School Bill
DECATUR DAILY - Bill would give bonus to agency leaders to make cuts.
DECATUR DAILY - GOP governors may pay price for refusing to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.
TUSCALOOSA NEWS - New group seeks the rights to stage "To Kill a Mockingbird" in Monroeville.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER - Del Marsh: Let's talk about medical marijuana.
WASHINGTON POST - A report says immigrants will account for 82 percent of U.S. growth by 2060. That’s misleading.
WASHINGTON POST - The Democrats’ white-voter problem — in 2 maps.
WASHINGTON POST - Religious freedom laws suffer another blow — in public opinion.
NEW YORK TIMES - Democrats Are Rallying Around $12 Minimum Wage
2015 legislative update: Alabama crossroads: We need new revenue
We all want to live in a healthy, secure and prosperous state. Alabama is taking important steps toward that goal now, but deep General Fund budget cuts could undo that progress.
Medicaid’s new regional care organizations will keep patients healthier while cutting costs. Prison system improvements will protect Alabamians while lowering costs and helping former inmates transition back into their communities. Investing in these changes now will save money later.
We’re at a crossroads in Alabama. Cutting vital services is the wrong path.
The devastating cuts in the no-new-revenue General Fund budget proposal would force us to abandon our Medicaid and corrections improvements. And without new revenue, Alabama faces deep service cuts that could make the state a worse place to live for years to come.
Cuts to Medicaid, which covers one in five Alabamians, would top $300 million. That would force the program to end coverage of vital services like adult eyeglasses, prosthetics, hospice care and outpatient dialysis. It also likely would lead to even fewer doctors serving Medicaid patients, most of whom are children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
The costs for Alabama’s children would be real. Cuts to the Department of Human Resources (DHR) would make Alabama the first state to end its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. That would eliminate cash assistance for more than 30,000 children living in deep poverty, as well as uniforms, car repairs and other job readiness assistance for their parents.
DHR cuts also would end child care benefits for 15,000 children. That could hurt our state’s economy by forcing thousands of working parents to quit their jobs. More than $340 million in child support payments would be risk if DHR ends collection services, and hundreds of seniors would lose adult day care services that allow them to live independently.
Mental health funding cuts would harm more than 25,000 Alabamians by reducing or eliminating community-based mental illness and intellectual disability services. That would reduce independence for thousands of Alabamians. The cuts also could cost hundreds of people their jobs by forcing them to stay home to care for family members who lose crucial support services. In addition, severe mental health cuts could land Alabama back in federal court.
Deep General Fund cuts would have serious public safety implications as well. Nearly a fourth of Alabama’s state troopers would be laid off. The prison system, which already operates at nearly twice its designed capacity, would close two facilities. That would mean even more overcrowding and an even greater chance of a federal takeover of the state’s prison system.
More than 1,100 state workers would lose their jobs, including more than 600 court employees. That likely would force courts to close at least two days a week, meaning longer wait times for criminal trials or restitution cases.
This is no way to invest in our state’s future. Alabama needs new revenue to end the chronic budget shortfalls that are holding us back. The General Fund needs a sustainable revenue stream to support Medicaid, corrections, mental health care and other vital services. Raising the cigarette tax and raising the state sales tax on automobiles to 4 percent – the same as we pay on groceries – would be two good places to start.
If we want a better Alabama tomorrow, we need to start building it today.
By Kimble Forrister, executive director. Posted April 23, 2015.
Arise Daily News Digest 4-23-2015
AL.COM - Alabama House committee approves one-year delay of Alabama Trust Fund repayment.
AL.COM - Alabama immigrants rally in Birmingham, New Orleans in support of Obama's executive orders.
AL.COM - Bill allowing adoption agencies to refuse gay couples passes Alabama house committee.
AL.COM - Bill to allow $60 million for prison construction approved by House committee.
AL.COM - Second fatal stabbing at an Alabama prison in 1 week.
AL.COM - Billionaire Koch brothers will bring Americans for Prosperity chapter to Alabama: report.
AL.COM - Alabama Senate committee gives OK to medical marijuana bill.
AL.COM - 5 budget crisis questions with Gov. Bentley, including state parks, gambling and tax increases.
AL.COM - Former US Attorney Alice Martin is Luther Strange's new chief of staff.
AL.COM - Bill Gates' foundation awards scholarships to two Birmingham high school students.
AL.COM - Legislation targeting Huntsville abortion clinic filed in Alabama House.
AL.COM - Rep. Mo Brooks rips presidential candidate Marco Rubio over immigration.
AL.COM - Alabama House committee rejects bill to repeal increase in driver's license fee.
AL.COM – Columnist Cameron Smith: Is Alabama broke or just stupid?
AL.COM - Former Alabama trooper to black people: 'Don't run from police'.
AL.COM – Columnist John Archibald: GOP 'anti-corruption' lawmaker now sounds like an Alabama Democrat.
AL.COM – Contributor Nancy Robertson: State cuts could devastate programs for elderly.
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - Fetal Heartbeat Bill Could Change Testing Requirements
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - Ziegler Addresses Tuscaloosa Bamacarry
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - Columnist Steve Flowers’ Inside the Statehouse: 2018 Derby for Governor
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS - Roby signals plan that could send shockwaves through failing veterans healthcare facilities.
SALON - Climate change by state: An interactive map of the U.S.
DECATUR DAILY - State Senate passes Orr's bill for stiffer DUI penalties.
(FLORENCE) TIMES DAILY - State parks are vital part of community.
(FLORENCE) TIMES DAILY - Mother's request to U.S. Supreme Court denied.
ANNISTON STAR - The Anniston Star: Democrats share the blame.
ANNISTON STAR - The Anniston Star: Power of the people in Alabama.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER - Amid General Fund woes, bill delaying debt payment moves.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER - The Montgomery Advertiser: Consider common good in redistricting.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER - Contributor Jim Martin: President's coal plan threatens seniors.
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS - House to debate new two-year college system board.
DOTHAN EAGLE - Courts face layoffs amid budget cuts.
DOTHAN EAGLE - The Dothan Eagle: Burning down the house.
WASHINGTON POST - Brain science: Should schools teach boys and girls different subjects?
WASHINGTON POST - Obama issues stark warning on climate change in South Florida on Earth Day.
WASHINGTON POST - Columnist Catherine Rampell: The homeless man who works in the Senate.
WASHINGTON POST - Columnist Dana Milbank: Republicans again appeal to theocracy.
WASHINGTON POST - Columnist George Will: When bootleggers and Baptists converge.
WASHINGTON POST - The Washington Post: Inequality’s big enabler? The tax code.
NEW YORK TIMES – The New York Times: The Gulf, Still at Risk
NEW YORK TIMES – Columnist Thomas Edsall: Obamacare, Hands Off My Medicare
Bills to reform payday lending, change Accountability Act clear Alabama legislative committees
Alabama borrowers would have much longer to repay payday loans under a bill that emerged from a state Senate committee Wednesday. SB 335, sponsored by Sen. Slade Blackwell, R-Mountain Brook, now awaits action by the full Senate.
Blackwell’s bill would bring substantial reform to the payday loan industry in Alabama. It would extend the length of time that borrowers have to repay their loans to six months. Alabama law allows payday lenders to set loan terms between 10 and 31 days, but nearly every transaction is a two-week loan term.
The bill received a favorable report from the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, which Blackwell chairs, by a vote of 11-1. Only Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, dissented.
Accountability Act changes clear House committee with two amendments
A bill that would expand tax credits and limit the size of scholarships under the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) won House committee approval Wednesday. SB 71, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, passed the Senate last month and awaits action by the full House.
The House’s education budget committee made two changes to the bill. Students already receiving AAA scholarships would remain eligible for that assistance as long as their family’s income does not exceed 275 percent of the federal poverty level – about $66,000 for a family of four – under an amendment offered by Rep. Phil Williams, R-Huntsville.
Another amendment by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, would require an independent comparison of the test scores of students participating in the AAA scholarship program to those of similar students in public schools. Collins’ amendment also would exclude schools that serve students with special needs from the act’s definition of “failing schools.”
The AAA, passed in 2011, allows Alabama businesses and individuals to get tax credits for donations to organizations that grant scholarships to help eligible students attend private schools. Click here to learn more about the act and how SB 71 would change it.
By Stephen Stetson, policy analyst, and Rebecca Jackson, communications and development associate. Posted April 15, 2015.
Prison reform bill would end Alabama's food assistance ban for former drug offenders
The sweeping prison reform bill that the Alabama Senate passed Thursday was amended to include one of Arise’s legislative priorities: ending the state’s SNAP and TANF eligibility bans for people with a past felony drug conviction.
Senators voted 31-2 for SB 67, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. The measure now goes to the House, where leaders have declared it a priority. Check out these stories from the Montgomery Advertiser and AL.com for more on the prison reform bill.
Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham, amended SB 67 on Thursday to seek to allow people convicted of a felony drug offense to regain eligibility for food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or cash benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Coleman’s amendment would restore eligibility for offenders who have completed their sentences or who are complying with the terms of their probation or parole.
The Senate voted 26-2 for Coleman’s amendment. Senators last year passed a bill to end the state’s SNAP and TANF bans, but the measure died in the House after losing a procedural vote.
Alabama is one of only a handful of states to ban people convicted of a drug-related felony from ever receiving SNAP or TANF assistance. The state’s prohibition punishes only one class of criminal offense and makes it harder for people to rebuild their lives after serving prison time. The ban also is particularly harsh for offenders who are mothers and must support children upon release from prison.
By Carol Gundlach, policy analyst. Posted April 2, 2015.