Governor Bentley tells Alabamians that the state is broke

Talking prisons, education and taxes, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley got real with Alabamians on Tuesday night. During his annual State of the State address, Bentley said that the state must increase revenues to pull itself out of debt.

Now, as we look to the future, we must take the steps necessary to help get our state out of debt and find secure financial footing. Revenue must increase. There must be growth money in the State’s General Fund.”

120313_robert_bentley_ap_605One of the ways Bentley plans to ease the debt is by closing a tax loophole that allows nearly 60 percent of Alabama Fortune 500 companies to bypass paying income tax.

That sounds like a line pulled directly from President Obama. Continue reading

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Bills to follow during the 2015 Alabama Legislative Session

The 2015 Alabama Legislative Session kicks off it’s marathon session tomorrow in Montgomery. Tackling issues such as charter schools to consumer debt, Alabama legislators will have plenty to deal with.

Here are a few issues to keep an eye on as session prepares to start.

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Death by electric chair – Sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Not so much according to this bill. SB11 would bring back use of the state’s dormant electric chair. Under current state law, if one is sentenced to the death penalty, they may choose between lethal injection or the electric chair.

According to AL.com, an inmate sentenced to death row hasn’t been executed since 2013 because the state does not have the drugs available.

SB11 would alter that provision. Inmates may still choose their way of death, but if lethal injection is unavailable, the state would put them to death with the electric chair.

Priorities for Republicans, I guess.

Continue reading

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice back for ‘Moore?’

A bill that would increase the “maximum age for election or appointment to judicial office increased to 75” will be introduced when the 2015 Alabama Legislative Session begins on March 3.

In short, the bill would allow for current Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore to run for re-election. As dictated by the state’s constitution, the current age limit for election to a judicial office is 70 years old.

Moore is 68 and was re-elected to the bench in 2012 to a six-year term, almost a full decade after he was removed from office for defying a federal court order.

That order stated that Moore had to remove a two-and-a-half ton Ten Commandments monument that he installed soon after his first election. He defied the order and was promptly removed from office.

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

Moore went nine years without the title of chief justice but assumed the high office again in 2013. Continue reading

Race to Watch: House District 30 Republican Primary

Incumbent Karen Castor-Dentel had a successful freshmen term in the Florida House. She was a strong advocate for education in the house as she filed five different bills with an education theme.

Castor-Dentel also raised a lot of money.

As of the latest filing period for the end of December, she raised almost $100,000 with $6,173 coming in January.

But the interesting portion of her race is listed on the other side of the political fence.

Republicans Jonathan Sturgill and Robert Cortes are battling for the chance to take down Castor-Dentel. So far, both men have raised a respectable amount of money; $66,235 for Cortes, $25,000 of that amount coming from a personal loan, and $36,717 for Sturgill.

According to Sturgill’s website, he operates Durable Safety Products, wants to “remove government barriers to private-sector job creation and run local and state governments with a business mentality.”

The narrative for Cortes is a little different as he is a city commissioner in Longwood, Florida. He’s held that post since 2009 and recently received the endorsement of every member of the commission along with Representatives Ritch Workman and former Representative Steve Precourt.

As of right now, it would seem that Cortes has a slight edge. He has more money and is a sitting city commissioner. That doesn’t discount Sturgill’s chances, just makes his hill a little tougher to climb.

Even with all of the money, endorsements and stature; which candidate will have enough to take-on the formidable Castor-Dentel?

She’s a sitting representative, has name recognition, money, and precocity. Castor-Dentel may now be considered a political veteran, and she’s savvy enough to use her experience as a lawmaker against her opponents.

Once the general election comes and she faces Strugill or Cortes, which one can convince voters that Castor-Dentel needs to be replaced after two short years in Tallahassee?

-JH

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5 Things to Know About the Farm Bill

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Photo courtesy of http://www.foodandwatch.org

Don’t let the name fool you, the much talked about farm bill will impact you whether you live on a farm or not.

On Tuesday evening, the Senate passed a $1 trillion farm bill that’s been debated on for over three years. The bill includes cuts to the food stamp program, expanded crop insurance, and has $956 billion in tax dollars over the next decade.

The bill will be sent to President Obama where he is expected to sign it on Friday during a visit to East Lansing, Michigan.

But what’s included in the bill, and how it affects you, is most important.

Here are five things you should know about the farm bill, or more importantly, the food bill.

1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Cut by $8 Billion – One of the more controversial portions of the bill includes cuts to the food stamp program. Language in the farm bill states that about 1.7 million Americans will feel the impact of the cut.

Additionally, these cuts will be spread out over 10 years, so while the number may seem small, many low-income Americans will take a hit.

2. A New Crackdown on Food Stamp Fraud – Many on the left and right have chided those who abuse the food stamp program. In an effort to regulate the federal program, the Agriculture Department will have the ability to track so-called SNAP trafficking and stamp out fraud by businesses who sell food stamps.

But fraud sounds sexier when salacious activity is involved. No longer will lottery winners, convicted murderers or sex offenders have the ability to receive SNAP benefits.

3. Most Dollars From the Farm Bill Will be Spent on SNAP Benefits – The yearly cost of the farm bill is about $100 billion, and the federal government spends about $80 billion on food stamps.

The cuts will hurt many poor and working class Americans, but the government is still spending a grand amount of money to aid Americans who need food assistance.

4. The new farm bill has almost $600 million to be spent on crop insurance – This type of insurance shields farmers if a major loss happens to their property.

The major change in this insurance policy is that farmers will no longer receive direct payments. Formerly, farmers would receive money from the federal government whether they farmed or not. The new policy states that farmers may only collect if there is a loss.

5. While the Food Stamp Program Was Cut, the Crop Insurance Program Was Not – According to the New York Times, the 18 companies who pay 62 percent of farmers’ premiums will not receive a hit.

These companies are paid almost $1.5 billion each year and will still receive every penny. The bill also forbids the Agriculture Department from “renegotiating lesser payments to those companies over the five-year life of the bill.”

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Will Carlos Lopez-Cantera Help Keep Rick Scott in the Governor’s Mansion?

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Photo courtesy of http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera

Miami-Dade Property Appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera was introduced as Governor Rick Scott’s lieutenant governor on Tuesday. Lopez-Cantera is a former legislator who served when Senator Marco Rubio was only known as House Speaker.

Lopez-Cantera is the state’s first Hispanic lieutenant governor and will serve as a bridge to the Hispanic community for Governor Scott.

While Lopez-Cantera may be qualified to serve as Scott’s number two, his pick underscores why the Republican Party continues to struggle in every area but white.

According to the Miami Herald, when asked about immigration and “other policies,” Lopez-Cantera decided not to answer. He instead leaned on the ceremonial nature of the day as his excuse.

Eventually he’ll have to take a position on things like immigration and Medicaid expansion, but I’m sure whatever that position is, it will fall in line with Governor Scott’s history and politics.

Overall, Scott is banking on Lopez-Cantera’s ethnicity and charisma to push him toward another term.

Scott’s potential opponent, former Republican and Florida Governor Charlie Crist, will have money and a swell of anti-Scott support behind him.

Scott can combat any monetary support that Crist will have because his funds are limitless, but will he bank on voters hanging on the superficial nature of Lopez-Cantera’s skin color?

Instead, at least this is my hope, voters will want to know how Lopez-Cantera will aid in growing Florida’s economy, altering or fixing our education system, his stance on crime, recidivism, privatization of our public services and etc…

If Lt. Lopez-Cantera can help Scott fix those problems, and articulate it to Florida’s voters, then maybe Scott has a shot at remaining Florida’s top politician.

-JH

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What You Need to Know About the Budget Deal

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Photo courtesy of http://www.upi.com

President Obama will have a shiny new budget deal to sign when he sits at his desk on Thursday morning as the United States Senate approved a two-year budget deal late Wednesday night.

The deal was approved by the House last week and is considered bi-partisan as it was supported by Democrats and Republicans.

That’s all well and good, but for most Americans interested in this story, what does it do for them?

Here are the main takeaways from Wednesday’s budget deal.

-“Domestic agencies” will receive a $22 billion increase in funding.

-Though sequestration remains alive with the new budget deal, the hit of the across-the-board spending cuts will be eased as the deal includes a $63 billion sequestration provision.

-Additionally, sequestration will graduate into 2023 in an effort to reduce the deficit.

-Spending for the Pentagon in 2014 will be $1.01 trillion.

-$6 billion in reduced payments to student-loan debt collectors.

-A $12 billion reduction in contributions to federal pensions.

-Airline security fees for passengers will increase by $12.6 billion.

A full budget summary is available via The Washington Post but some of the more important aspects of the deal are listed above.

-JH

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