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

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

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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The Congressional Millionaires Club

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Photo courtesy of lovemmclub.com

Political season has officially arrived. That cold weather that dipped into Florida earlier this week that forced you to cover your plants with those old colored fitted sheets, that brisk puff of cold air was actually the emptied souls left behind from political seasons past.

It had nothing to do with the so-called “polar vortex,” so don’t believe the weatherman.

Tis the season to go knocking, right? When those politicians, and want-to-be politicians, come knocking at your door asking for your vote, and they tell you that D.C. is broken, tell them to kick rocks.

According to a new report issued by the Center for Responsive Politics, just about half of all members of Congress are millionaires. Those same lawmakers who claim to represent the least of the; those same men and women who either want less government for the good of the country or a little more for the good of the country are delivering that message from an ivory tower.

Take the sometimes pompous chair of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa. He recently said that the testimony that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave to the committee was false. That has little to do with his ability to connect with voters and more to do with his disdain for the Affordable Care Act, but I digress.

Superficially, wouldn’t Issa’s words sound better if his political affiliation was different and he wasn’t reportedly worth almost $600 million?

For any member of Congress, that’s a lot of dough. Doesn’t take away from Issa’s ability to govern or look after his constituents, just shows that there may be a disconnect.

“Washington D.C. is broken” is the narrative that we’ve heard for a long time now. President Barack Obama was swept into office promising to change the culture in D.C. because the politicians there were so out-of-touch.

So what does this financial report prove?

I’ll give you a hint. Last year, Speaker of the House John Boehner said that “when you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it.”

Translation is that he and the majority of his Republican colleagues do not support an increase.

Now I understand that the argument against or for an increase in the minimum wage isn’t simple, but hearing that those who oppose it make at least $900,000 a year is a little sickening.

This all just means that the gap between the haves and the have nots has turned into a gulf.

Oh, and one of the richest members of Congress resides in Florida. Vernon Buchanan is a Republican who represents Florida’s 16th is potentially worth a cool $235 million.

Good luck finding him at the local Winn-Dixie picking through the good grapes.

-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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House Republicans Vote To Slash Billions From Food Stamp Program

Photo courtesy of Politico.com

Congressman Daniel Webster/Photo courtesy of Politico.com

Maybe it’s time that someone SNAP on the House Republicans who voted to cut almost $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

That joke was flat and off key, but I’m just emulating Republican leadership.

As reported by the USDA, 14.5 percent of Americans are considered to lack food security. That means that many families do not have the financial means to purchase “enough food for active, healthy living.”

In an attempt to fill that hole, some families depend on SNAP, the program formerly known to many as food stamps.

Since the financial crisis of 2007, some Americans have been forced to apply for SNAP benefits. Without it, America’s food insecurity rate would likely triple. In 2011 alone, 18 million households were considered to be food insecure.

Taking that statistic further, four of the seven states with the highest food insecurity rates in America are in the south. That’s Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia. Add North Carolina and Texas for good measure, and that just about makes up the entire list.

Oh, did I also mention that almost 85 percent of SNAP households have incomes at or below the poverty level?

Getting down to it, I could rattle off more statistics about why this vote was wrong, and how I believe Republicans are bad for America, but I won’t. The good thing about this vote is that it was just symbolic.

As Senator Debbie Stabenow said after the vote in the House, that version of the bill “will never see the light of day in the Senate.” There is still a chance that there may be cuts to this program, but a Jason from Friday the 13th type of slash probably won’t happen.

If this irks the nerves, which I hope it does, scream and yell at the Republican Congress person in one of the 50 states for voting for this bill. If they did, I suspect that they are bereft of empathy, comprehension, insight, and etc…

Maybe House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, one of the worst in the House, said it best when talking about the vote. According to NPR, Cantor stated that the system is being abused, and that it’s wrong to make hard working Americans pay for that exploitation.

Never mind the fact that Cantor failed to point to any specific abuse, or that his party could not produce pointed statistics about misuse of the food assistance program.

This just smells like an attempt to further marginalize the poor and working class.

I’ve never been a fan of Republicans, and that won’t change. Today’s vote on cutting government funded food assistance for the least of us just proves how much the party of Reagan really loves this country.

P.S. but not really: 15 Republicans voted against this nonsensical bill, and none take residence in Florida.

-JH

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