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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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Arise has done it again! We’ve created the most accessible, awe-inspiring and mind-blowing guide to Alabama’s finances since 2005 – the last time we published The Alabama Tax & Budget Handbook.
The 10th anniversary edition has everything you always wanted to know about where state dollars come from and where they go, complete with eye-catching new charts and graphs! (Not to mention cartoons! Who doesn’t love cartoons?)
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Arise Daily News Digest 12-6-2016
AL.COM - Gov. Robert Bentley, Rebekah Mason's husband Jon together at state Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
AL.COM - Alabama building weapons in defense of Europe.
AL.COM - Alabama anti-violence LGBT organization loses headquarters after last week's storms.
AL.COM - Inmates who harmed themselves say care lacking in Alabama prisons.
AL.COM - Alabama teacher organization calls for ban on paddling.
AL.COM - Federal trial begins on mental health care in Alabama prisons.
AL.COM – Contributor Matt Tyson: Five ways Democrats can win in 2018.
AL.COM - WikiLeaks exposes Democratic smear campaign against Jeff Sessions.
AL.COM - Verizon to add 300 full-time jobs at Huntsville call center.
AL.COM – Columnist Roy Johnson: After decades of profiling, refusing to comply with police is understandable for African-Americans, but consequences are real.
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - 1978: Gov. Wallace appoints Mrs. Allen to US Senate.
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - Reporter Bill Britt: The incomparable cost of gross incompetence.
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - Roy Moore to deliver keynote address at Constitution Party National Committee meeting.
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - Contributor State Sen. Cam War: Take a break from politics this Christmas season.
ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER - Contributor U. S. Rep. Bradley Byrne: A bill that can save lives.
DECATUR DAILY - Agency: Young children, infants face greatest risk from tainted water.
DECATUR DAILY - Statewide burn ban lifted.
(FLORENCE) TIMES DAILY - Bill would get rid of state income tax on most 401K earnings.
ANNISTON STAR - The Anniston Star: Real Trump and Fake Trump
DOTHAN EAGLE - The Dothan Eagle: Costly errors and scapegoats.
WASHINGTON POST - Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste.
WASHINGTON POST - As Trump vows to stop flow of jobs overseas, U.S. plans to make fighter jets in India.
WASHINGTON POST - HUD job to pit Carson ideology against long-standing housing policy.
WASHINGTON POST – Columnist Richard Cohen: Trump isn’t Hitler. But the United States could be another Germany.
WASHINGTON POST – Columnist Eugene Robinson: Trump is the Old Faithful of fake news, and that can cause real damage.
WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post: Trump’s pick of Ben Carson is beyond baffling.
WASHINGTON POST - Supply of U.S. high school graduates is stagnating, posing challenge for colleges.
WASHINGTON POST - Experts: Trump’s tax breaks may not be enough to keep jobs in U.S.
NEW YORK TIMES - House G.O.P. Signals Break With Trump Over Tariff Threat
NEW YORK TIMES - Both Feeling Threatened, American Muslims and Jews Join Hands
NEW YORK TIMES - The Problem With One-Size-Fits-All Health Insurance
NEW YORK TIMES – Contributor Christopher Surprun: Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump
NEW YORK TIMES – The New York Times: Why Does Donald Trump Lie About Voter Fraud?
BILL MOYERS - The War on the Poor Is Already Underway
24/7 WALL STREET - The Best and Worst Run States in America: A Survey of All 50
HUFFINGTON POST - The State Of Public Education In Trump’s America
Alabama's K-12 funding decline since 2008 among nation's worst, report finds
Alabama has the nation’s second worst decline in state formula funding for K-12 schools since before the Great Recession, according to a report released Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.
K-12 schools in Alabama will receive 14.2 percent less through state formula funding this year than they did in 2008, adjusted for inflation. Only Oklahoma has cut its formula funding more deeply since 2008, the CBPP finds. Alabama’s K-12 funding increase this year restored only a fraction of the support that was cut during and after the recession.
“Alabama needs to invest more in education now to enjoy broad prosperity and thriving communities in the future,” Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister said. “Our children and grandchildren deserve the opportunity to succeed in life and be able to compete for highly skilled jobs in a fast-paced economy.”
The erosion in support for K-12 education will have damaging economic consequences for Alabama both now and in the future, Forrister said. The cuts undermine promising education reforms such as reducing class sizes, improving teacher quality and expanding early childhood education, he said.
Greater investment in education would allow Alabama to increase learning time and hire more teachers to reduce class sizes, especially during the critical middle-school years. Those steps would help children build a stronger foundation to succeed in college and the workplace.
“At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more – not less – so our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, CBPP’s director of state fiscal research and a co-author of the new report.
What to know about Alabama's 2016 statewide constitutional amendments
Alabamians will vote on 14 proposed statewide constitutional amendments on Nov. 8, 2016. Arise recommends a Yes vote on Amendment 4 and a No vote on Amendment 11 but takes no position on the other amendments.
Arise’s brief descriptions of each amendment are below. To read the more thorough summaries prepared by the Fair Ballot Commission and shared by the Secretary of State, visit AlabamaVotes.gov. Neither the commission nor the Secretary of State has taken a position on any of the amendments. The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama also has detailed analyses of the statewide amendments here.
Amendment 1: Ensures that no more than three members of the Auburn University Board of Trustees have terms that end in the same year and adds two more members to the board.
Amendment 2: Prohibits using revenue generated by state parks for purposes other than maintaining state parks, but reduces other revenue to state parks and redistributes it to the General Fund if guest revenues exceed $50 million (annually adjusted for inflation) in a budget year. The amendment also allows (but does not require) the state to hire private companies to operate hotels, restaurants and golf courses at certain state parks that are now subject to contracting restrictions related to a bond issue under Amendment 617 to the Alabama Constitution.
Amendment 3: Allows the Legislature to make the final decision on whether proposed constitutional amendments are voted on locally or statewide. That decision would occur in a separate vote after the Legislature votes to pass an amendment. If any legislator objected to a local vote on an amendment, it would appear on the statewide ballot.
Amendment 4: Gives counties more “home rule” powers related to public transportation, county personnel, emergency assistance, safety on public roads, and other functions without first having to seek permission from the Legislature. The amendment does not apply to Jefferson County. Arise recommends a Yes vote on Amendment 4.
Amendment 5: Reorganizes constitutional provisions relating to separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches and modernizes the language in those provisions.
Amendment 6: Requires a two-thirds vote of the Alabama Senate to remove an impeached state official from office. The amendment adds members of the state Board of Education to the list of officials subject to impeachment and removes the appointed state Superintendent of Education from that list.
Amendment 7: Places most employees of the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office under the authority of the Personnel Board of the Office of Sheriff of Etowah County beginning June 1, 2017.
Amendment 8: Re-emphasizes current state law by declaring Alabama to be a “right to work” state where employees cannot be forced to join a union. The amendment would write existing state statutory provisions into the state constitution.
Amendment 9: Allows a person to be elected or appointed as probate judge in Pickens County until age 75, up from the current age limit of 70.
Amendment 10: Prevents any city or town not located completely or partially in Calhoun County from exercising police or planning jurisdiction over any territory in Calhoun County.
Amendment 11: Allows cities and counties to sell property that they own within a Major 21st Century Manufacturing Zone to a private entity for less than fair market value. Current state law allows cities and counties to buy and redevelop private property in such zones by pledging projected property tax increases in those areas for those purposes. Cities and counties then can sell that property to a private entity, but current law requires the sale to be for no less than fair market value. Arise recommends a No vote on Amendment 11.
Amendment 12: Allows the Legislature to pass a local law to create a toll road and bridge authority for a city or town in Baldwin County.
Amendment 13: Eliminates maximum age restrictions on the election or appointment of any non-judicial public official and prohibits the Legislature from passing such a law in the future.
Amendment 14: Declares local bills passed between 1984 and Nov. 8, 2016, to be deemed approved as long as they passed in accordance with legislative rules in place at the time. A 1984 state constitutional amendment said a budget isolation resolution (BIR) – which is required before lawmakers can vote on a non-budget bill before passing the state budgets – requires the approval of 60 percent of legislators who are present. House rules since then, however, said BIRs require the approval of 60 percent of members who are present and voting. That means many BIRs passed on “local courtesy” votes without the approval of 60 percent of House members who were present during the vote.
Posted Oct. 19, 2016. Last updated Nov. 2, 2016.
2016 legislative update: Alabama avoids deep Medicaid cuts. What's next?
Alabama Medicaid is safe – for now. State lawmakers wrapped up their special session last week with a sigh of relief after approving a one-time solution to stop deep Medicaid cuts. The Legislature agreed to use BP oil spill settlement money to address Medicaid’s $85 million shortfall for 2017 and to give the program another $105 million in 2018.
HB 36, sponsored by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, will reverse the 30 percent Medicaid payment cuts to pediatricians and other primary care doctors that had begun in August. The bill will allow Alabama to move forward with the Medicaid regional care organization (RCO) reforms that will emphasize preventive care in an effort to save the state money and keep patients healthier. The measure also will prevent Medicaid from having to cut outpatient dialysis, prescription drugs and other services next year.
The House on Sept. 7 voted 87-9 to approve the conference committee’s version of the bill. Later that day, the Senate passed it 22-8. This Associated Press story has more about the plan.
“We’re relieved that the Legislature pulled Alabama back from the brink of devastating Medicaid cuts that would have hurt more than 1 million people – mostly children, seniors, and people with disabilities,” Arise executive director Kimble Forrister said. “And we’re pleased to see lawmakers take steps to help shore up Medicaid funding for the next two years. But vulnerable Alabamians’ access to health care shouldn’t be left up to stopgaps or one-time money.”
BP bill was a short-term answer to a long-term problem
The bottom line is that HB 36 is yet another temporary solution. Lawmakers uttered the phrase “kick the can down the road” many times while debating the plan, and with good reason. The bill represents another missed opportunity for the Legislature to meet Medicaid’s need for a permanent, stable source of revenue that can meet the needs of a growing population.
Fortunately, the bill includes some modest relief for the General Fund (GF) budget. Lawmakers freed up a projected $35.2 million a year on average through 2026 for Medicaid and other GF services. That is the result of using most of the BP settlement funds to repay the Alabama Trust Fund (ATF) for money borrowed to prevent GF cuts in recent years. (The ATF receives royalties from oil and gas drilling off Alabama’s shores.) The bill also gives the state longer to repay ATF money borrowed in 2013-15, extending that deadline from 2026 to 2033. Those moves should ease pressure on the GF budget over the next decade, but they are still nowhere close to an adequate solution to Alabama’s recurring GF shortfalls.
The GF supports vital services like health care, child care, corrections and public safety in Alabama. The budget relies on a hodgepodge of revenue sources, most of which grow slowly even in good economic times. That leaves the GF with a structural deficit, meaning revenue growth is not strong enough to keep pace with ordinary cost growth. Read The Alabama Tax & Budget Handbook for more on how this deficit came to be and how Alabama can end it.
The GF’s recurring shortfalls have dire implications for Medicaid, which is the backbone of Alabama’s health care system. Medicaid provides vital health coverage for more than one in five Alabamians – mostly children, seniors, and people with disabilities – and helps many rural hospitals and clinics keep their doors open.
“Medicaid is essential to the hospitals and clinics on which we all rely,” Forrister said. “Putting our state’s health care infrastructure at risk is no way to build a stronger Alabama. Neither is lurching from one crisis to another because of a repeated failure to solve the General Fund’s long-term shortfall.”
Alabama needs a lasting funding solution for Medicaid, and there is a strong economic and financial case that the solution should include Medicaid expansion. Closing the coverage gap for working adults and college students would mean a healthier, more productive workforce. It would mean thousands of new jobs across Alabama. And it would mean big savings for the state on mental health care and other services. Click here to read Arise’s fact sheet on how Medicaid expansion would benefit Alabama’s health, economy and budgets.
Lottery proposal dies, returns to life, then dies again
Alabama’s latest Medicaid funding crisis began in April when the Legislature enacted a GF budget that left Medicaid $85 million short of the amount needed to maintain current services. That move prompted public outcry and motivated the #IamMedicaid social media campaign that Alabama Children First launched with Arise’s support in April to help show the human faces behind the Medicaid debate. Responding to pressure from the public, advocates and health care providers, Gov. Robert Bentley called the Legislature into special session in August to consider two possible solutions to the Medicaid crisis.
Bentley’s proposed long-term answer was a state lottery with proceeds dedicated to Medicaid. (Arise takes no position for or against a state lottery, but no lottery plan would have generated revenue in time to stop the 2017 Medicaid cuts.) As a short-term measure until lottery revenue became available, Bentley proposed a bond issue against the state’s BP oil spill settlement, freeing up state dollars for Medicaid in 2017. Clouse, who chairs the House GF budget committee, had proposed a similar measure during the regular session.
The two plans met drastically different fates. By the slimmest of margins, the Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment to establish a lottery. After a rollercoaster debate, dozens of proposed amendments and reconsideration of an initial vote against the plan, the House sent the lottery back to the Senate either to approve or refer to a conference committee. Instead, the Senate effectively voted to kill the lottery after passing one only a few days earlier. Disagreement over whether to allow casino-type games at dog tracks and other facilities led to a three-way deadlock among pro-lottery, anti-lottery and pro-casino senators, losing the lottery the supermajority of votes it needed for Senate passage.
Legislature passes BP bill to stop Medicaid cuts after touch-and-go debate
With the lottery dead, the Legislature’s only remaining option was to pass short-term funding for Medicaid during the final days of the special session. The result was a complicated bond issue guaranteed by proceeds from the BP oil spill settlement. By issuing bonds instead of accepting periodic payments from BP, Alabama could pay off state debts and create savings that would help fund Medicaid in 2017 and subsequent years.
The original House-passed bill would have given Medicaid an additional $70 million in 2017. Medicaid supporters in the Senate insisted on longer-term support and full Medicaid funding for 2017. Eventually, both chambers approved a conference committee report that provided Medicaid with the $85 million needed to avoid cuts in 2017, as well as $105 million in 2018.
In addition, the BP bill will support $120 million of road projects in Mobile and Baldwin counties and repay $400 million that the state borrowed in past years from the ATF. Legislators engaged in extensive and often heated debate over how much of the state’s BP settlement money should go to the coastal areas most deeply hurt by the 2010 oil spill. The debate broke largely along regional lines, with many north Alabama lawmakers arguing for more debt repayment and many south Alabama legislators seeking more investment in the Mobile area.
What’s next for Medicaid in Alabama?
Alabama Medicaid’s imminent funding crisis is over, but much work remains to ensure a strong future for our state’s health care system. Revenue from the BP bill should help Medicaid avoid further cuts in 2017 and will reduce the program’s projected shortfall in 2018. But when the Legislature returns in February, Medicaid funding for 2019 and beyond still will be uncertain.
Arise will continue to push for Medicaid expansion and permanent, adequate and stable tax revenue to help secure health coverage for children, seniors, people with disabilities, and working families across Alabama. “Closing the coverage gap for working people and college students would keep folks healthier, create thousands of jobs, and save the state millions of dollars on mental health care and other services,” Forrister said. “Expanding Medicaid would be a victory for Alabama’s economy, budgets and families.”
By Carol Gundlach, policy analyst, and Chris Sanders, communications director. Posted Sept. 15, 2016.