There are many things I believe a person in leadership should be - responsive to constituents, strong in core values, possess the ability to make tough decisions and most importantly, function as a good steward of the taxpayers’ money. And being a good steward of taxpayers’ money means finding real solutions to the budget problems of our state, not simply
One of the biggest threats to our children’s education is when the politicians think they know better than the professional educators.
Last month, 30 of Alabama’s public school superintendents joined in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the so-called Accountability Act, and asking the Alabama Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision that the Accountability Act is unconstitutional.
Among those 30
Recently, our state leaders have been going around patting themselves on the back for how much they have changed things over the past four years. They say that over the next four years, they are going to “be bold,” if not “bolder,” than they were before. They plan to go even further than they have in the past. This should
We celebrated Labor Day earlier this week in honor of the working families throughout this country. It is a fitting time to celebrate working families, since jobs are by far the No. 1 issue on most peoples’ minds these days.
As we get closer to Election Day, you will see more and more political ads talking about “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” But
Alabama is definitely facing some major problems with our state budgets, and it’s time for state leaders to take these problems seriously and find real solutions. But combining the two budgets is not a real solution.
Our state leaders need to realize that simply taking money from one pile and moving it to another is not a good idea.
There’s no doubt we have a jobs problem in the state of Alabama. We are the only state in the country with a rising unemployment rate, which is now at 7 percent. Last year, the state created only 366 new jobs, and we are now ranked 49th in the country for job creation. By Gov. Robert Bentley’s own measuring stick,
Back when Gov. Robert Bentley was campaigning in 2010, he made some bold statements. Statements such as, “I believe the people of Alabama need to decide at the ballot box on a YES or NO vote whether to allow gambling or abolish all forms of gambling.”
And Gov. Bentley and I were 100 percent in agreement. I firmly believe that we
This week students and educators across the state will return to school. What makes this year different from the last two years is that they will be going back to school two weeks sooner than before.
In 2012, the Alabama legislature passed a school start date bill that gave schools more flexibility in setting their schedules and allowed summers to last
I believe that education is the great equalizer. If you give children a quality education, then with hard work they can make their dreams come true. That is why it is so disheartening to see millions of dollars taken from their education every year so that a handful of (mostly wealthy) donors can get yet another tax break.
It seems the
There is a simple business principle that many understand and that economists have spent years dissecting and discussing in books, on television and in newspaper articles - creating jobs for people means generating revenue for all sectors.
Unfortunately, for Alabama, there are people in leadership that don’t understand that simple principle. Instead of wanting to create jobs that will help solve
Maybe it’s because I am a father and my wife is a teacher that I have a unique perspective. But I believe, wholeheartedly, that every child deserves a quality education. Regardless of if they are zoned for this school or that school, can afford private school or can’t afford private school.
Alabama should provide a quality education for all of our
It’s politics 101. You don’t make promises you can’t keep or lead people on to think you might do something you know you will not be able to do.
But that is exactly what Gov. Robert Bentley did to educators this year.
At the start of the year, Bentley proposed a 2.5 percent pay raise for teachers and support personnel. Newspaper headlines
There is no doubt that God has been good to me. I have received so many blessings in my life, but none have been better or more rewarding than being a father.
With all the responsibilities a person can have today, being a parent is by far the most important in significance, and it is a responsibility that I take more
There were a lot of surprises that came out of last week’s primary elections. One thing that was not a surprise was all the ads and mail pieces about Barack Obama.
It only makes sense. Republican legislators don’t want to talk about their own record. They want to make every election a referendum on Obama’s presidency.
I don’t blame them. What record
My, how the tables have turned.
Four years ago, Republican politicians in Montgomery were applauding Republican prosecutors for investigating public corruption in the bingo trials - an investigation that led to exactly zero convictions.
Now, these same Republican politicians are claiming that politics is behind the investigation into their own corruption, and that the investigation is nothing more than an attempt to
John 15:13 reads, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Thousands of men and women in the United States Armed Forces have not only given their life for their friends, but for all of us. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those men and women who lost their lives for
What if Etowah County and the 4th Congressional District had the same leadership in our congressional representative as they do in South Alabama?
Last week, Congressman Bradley Byrne of Mobile made a strong public stand for construction of a bridge on Interstate 10 over the Mobile River. The congressman called the project “a national priority” and warned that inaction would endanger
I have always believed in the power and value of education. That is why I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all those who are graduating this month.
Whether you are finishing high school, a vocational program or a college degree, you should be proud of how hard you have worked and what you have accomplished!
Getting an education is a
The storms that hit Etowah County and Alabama last week left a devastating impact on our community. While the EMA is still working on a damage assessment, it is already clear that in Etowah County we have suffered far more damage than the required threshold to be declared a federal disaster area.
In my opinion, if even one house or business
Earlier this month, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau briefly granted approval to a new powdered form of alcohol. A couple of weeks later, the agency withdrew its approval, saying it was given in error.
The incident brought powdered alcohol to the national media’s attention, as well as the attention of many parents and addiction experts. I believe Alabama
“Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.”
It’s an election year, and you have probably seen that campaign slogan on billboards and yard signs all across the state. But are we really creating jobs here in Alabama? Or is job creation just more election year rhetoric, like the teacher pay raise?
The news seems to be mixed at best. On the one hand, economists at the
Despite months of promising a pay raise for educators, it turns out that all the governor’s talk was just that - more election year rhetoric.
After four years of constant assaults on our public schools, this budget and the governor’s empty promises for a pay raise are just one more attack on education from the Republican Supermajority in Montgomery.
Gov. Robert Bentley
Another legislative session has ended in Montgomery. And like most years, this session had its share of disappointments.
While there were some positive things that came out of this legislative session, the $400 bonus and conditional 4 percent pay raise for state employees next year, as examples, the bad outweighed the good.
Once again, legislative leaders refused to pass bills
There is no doubt that I would not be the man I am today had it not been for the women in my life. From my mother to my wife and daughter, they have all shaped who I am. But more importantly, they have also helped shape the community we live in. I have seen in all of them a
Budgets are about priorities. Whether it’s your personal budget or the state’s budgets, we find a way to pay for the things that are most important. What we have learned this year is that a pay raise for our educators and retirees is not important to the leadership in the Alabama legislature.
Just compare the budget proposed by Gov. Robert Bentley
We are now more than two-thirds of the way through this year’s legislative session in Montgomery and, once again, our state leaders have denied the voters of Alabama the chance to vote on a statewide lottery.
This goes beyond just arguing over the merits of a state lottery. This is about democracy!
How can we trust the voters to elect us but
State employees play a vital role in our state’s economy and in providing critical services that we rely on. We ask a lot of our state employees and trust them with tremendous responsibility. They run the state’s Board of Nursing and the Medical Licensure Commission. They maintain our roads as well as operate our courts and the Department of Forensic
We’ve all heard the old saying that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” There’s a lot of wisdom in those words. Our founding fathers understood this concept and the necessity for and value of compromise. So when they created our government, they created it to operate within a system of checks and balances in order to avoid extremism. They also created it
Expanding dual enrollment has been a goal for both Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature this year. Last week, we came one step closer to achieving that goal when the members of the State House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass a bill that will increase funding for dual enrollment by $10 million.
This is a big step in the
When it comes to education, it’s not often that Alabama Democrats and Republicans agree. But one issue where we have found common ground is supporting dual enrollment for Alabama’s high school students.
Dual enrollment allows kids to get a head start on their college degrees or vocational training programs by enrolling in college courses while still in high school. The program
Alabama has seen its share of weather disasters in recent years. From snow and ice storms to horrific tornados, we all have been impacted in one way or another. But these situations have also shown how we come together as a community and help one another in times of need.
Last week was no different. From the good Samaritans who opened
There is a disturbing trend happening in Alabama - the growing number of people enrolling in Medicaid and what this says about our economy and job creation.
Every year for the past five years, Medicaid’s enrollment has dramatically increased. In 2010, the state spent $307 million on Medicaid, with a significant portion of that coming from the federal stimulus money. Last
If you watched Gov. Robert Bentley’s State of the State Address last week or read about the budgets he has proposed, then, like me, you are probably both encouraged and disappointed.
I was very encouraged to see the governor so strongly support our state’s pre-k program and vocational and workforce development training. These are things that Democrats have supported for years,
I am proud to represent the people of Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives. On Jan. 14, I had the honor of giving the Democratic response to Gov. Bentley’s State of the State address.
We heard the governor talk about the condition of our state.
And to his credit, the governor and his administration have had to deal with some
Most of us would agree that every child in Alabama deserves a quality education. That is why we have a public education system. Most families cannot afford a private school, so without public schools their children would not have a chance to get an education.
It is also true that some of our public schools are struggling to keep up with
The two most important issues that the state of Alabama will be facing in 2014 are education and job creation. These two issues are usually tied together because education is so critical to getting a good job, as well as recruiting and growing business.
But education and job creation are also connected to two other important issues: gaming and a statewide
Christmas is a special time of year for so many reasons.
Most importantly, it is the time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is truly the reason for the season, and every day I am grateful for the miracle of His birth and the salvation that He has given us.
Christmas is also
What would you do if you had $40 million to spend on education? Would you spend it on classroom supplies like textbooks and computers? Would you improve school security by hiring resource officers? Would you invest in academic programs like the Alabama Math, Science Technology Initiative (AMSTI), the Alabama Reading Initiative or the state’s pre-k program?
This year, every public school
Next year is an election year, and one of the topics you will hear the most about is jobs.
You don’t have to be a politician or a pollster to know that jobs are the number one issue on most voters’ minds - and with good reason!
For the past five years, our economy has been limping along, struggling to create jobs.
One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. I love it for many reasons.
It’s a time of year to be with family, and of course, there is always so much good food. But I also love Thanksgiving because I think it is important that we take some time out of the year to think about all the blessings that
In two months, the state legislature will reconvene for the final time before the next election cycle. State leaders have announced that this session will move faster than normal.
That is to be expected in an election year. Legislators want to finish business before the primary elections get underway.
A faster legislative session is also good for the taxpayers. The fewer trips
We are very good in this country of remembering our veterans and celebrating our freedom.
Every year, we devote three holidays to our country and those who have served in the military: Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day.
As a veteran, I am proud and grateful that our country honors it’s veterans. But sometimes I wonder if our country truly understands
Over the past five years, Medicaid enrollment in our state has increased more than 20 percent, while at the same time the number of Alabamians on food stamps has increased over 61 percent. This means that the jobs we are creating do not come with health benefits or pay enough to feed a family.
Over the course of that same five
Without a doubt, the biggest issue our state is facing is creating jobs and getting our economy back on track.
Recent reports show that our statewide unemployment rate is at 6.3 percent, which represents more than 134,000 Alabamians who can’t find a job.
We have seen thousands of jobs leave the state, while the jobs that we have been creating do not
Ever since it was passed, the Accountability Act has been controversial and politically damaging for those who supported it. The most recent and obvious example of this was the recent special election in Montgomery.
Two weeks ago, a special election was held in Montgomery to fill a state House of Representatives seat left vacant after former Rep. Jay Love resigned to
One of the most sacred things a person can trust you with is his/her money. For elected officials, this is the most important responsibility we hold. We have a duty to make sure that we are careful stewards of the taxpayers money, and that we spend your tax dollars as wisely and efficiently as possible.
But for too many politicians, this
Normally, I write my editorials about political issues facing our state is facing. But sometimes it is better to use my position as an elected official to help raise awareness for worthy causes that aren’t political but need our support.
As you may be aware, October is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is a time when we help raise
It’s not often that Sen. Del Marsh and I agree on political issues (take the Accountability Act, for example). But there is one issue that he and I strongly agree on, and that is the need to stop the revolving door that has become elected office.
Since the 2010 elections, there have been 10 elected officials who have resigned. Some
That is the only word to describe the state’s decision this week to raise insurance premiums on state employees instead of choosing to tap into the board’s reserves for next year.
It would be one thing if this were a small increase or if there were no other options. But this is not a small increase we are talking about.
When the Republican Supermajority in Montgomery rammed the Accountability Act through the legislature, it did so without any idea as to how much it would cost.
So when the supermajority wrote the education budget, it took a guess and set aside $40 million of your tax dollars (just for this year) to pay for tax credits to send kids in certain
One of the signs that our economy is still struggling to recover is the fact that over the past five years, Medicaid enrollment in Alabama has increased more than 20 percent. It means that more and more Alabamians are struggling to meet their basic needs.
Last year, 52 percent of the babies born in Alabama were born under care paid for
This week we celebrated Labor Day, a time to recognize and honor the contributions made by working and middle class families to our nation’s economy.
But for many families, Labor Day is just a reminder that they are unemployed or cannot find a job that comes with quality pay and benefits.
Job creation and economic growth are among the most
As the new school year has begun, the Accountability Act has once again made its way into the headlines of newspapers across Alabama.
The Accountability Act was sold to the public as giving families with children “trapped in a failing school” the opportunity to claim a $3,500 tax credit to send their children to a better-performing private school.
Federal law already allowed
Education should not be a partisan issue. We should always do what is in our children’s best interests.
I believe strongly in working with the business community to develop curriculums that prepare our children not just for a college education, but also for entering the workforce.
Last week’s announcement of the new Business Education Alliance (BEA) brings this idea to the center
I have always been a believer in the value of education. And that is why I have always fought to protect our public schools and to fund them to the level that our children deserve.
But over the past three years, state leaders in Montgomery have done a very poor job of supporting our schools. And - for no other reason
Alabama needs leaders who will be your representative to government, not the government’s representative to you
When I was growing up, one of the most important lessons my parents taught me was to always remember who got me to where I am. Like that old saying goes, “you dance with the one that brung ya.”
As a state representative, I have tried my best to be true to that principle. So when I vote in the state
I was very glad to see Gov. Bentley come out this week in support of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, more commonly known as the AMSTI program.
This program is something that Democrats have long been in support of, and I am glad to see Gov. Bentley and other Republicans joining with us Democrats in supporting AMSTI.
It is obvious
Earlier this month, a new Gallop poll was released showing that sixty-four percent of Americans do not want their children to pursue a career in politics.
While I understand why Americans feel this way, I am also deeply disappointed by the results of the poll.
Certainly, politics has earned a bad reputation. There’s no shortage of stories about corrupt politicians
Last week, in recognition of Independence Day, I wrote about freedom and democracy and how these are both a right and a privilege. Freedom and democracy are what makes this country great. They are the reason that people are willing to risk their lives to come to this country.
But freedom and democracy are not the only the reasons why this
The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. It is a special time each year when we celebrate our nation’s birthday (this year is our 237th birthday) with fun, food, fireworks, family and friends.
But it should also be a time when we reflect on what it means to be free and to have democracy.
Thousands of Americans have given
Alabama’s state employees work hard. They make our state and local governments function. They keep our courts running and our streets safe. And for the past five years, they have done so while having their pay and their budgets cut. Even merit raises, which are given solely on the basis of the employee’s performance, have been frozen for the past
It is no secret that things in Montgomery have become much more partisan and tense since 2010. Some of that you would expect. After all, politics is a contact sport.
But over the past three years, our legislature - under the leadership of the Republican Supermajority - has embraced dishonest tactics to sneak radical legislation in through the back door.
One of the things I love about the summertime is the celebration of our country and all that our nation represents, values such as freedom and opportunity.
A couple of weeks ago, we honored our fallen men and women in uniform with Memorial Day, and in about a month we will celebrate our nation’s freedom with Independence Day.
But this week also
If there was any doubt before as to whether the Alabama Republican Party and the Republicans in the Alabama Legislature are waging a war on public education, those doubts have been put to rest now.
Last week, the Alabama Republican Party ann-ounced that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker would be the party’s keynote speaker at its summer dinner in Montgomery this August.
Earlier this week, we took a day to remember our veterans and fallen heroes who have sacrificed their lives for our country.
We have all heard the famous quote: “Freedom is not free.” And it is good that we take time to remember those who have given their lives so that we can be safe and free.
Since the Civil War, Americans
It has been a telling year in the Alabama legislature. The taxpayers have learned a lot about their representatives in Montgomery from what has taken place over the past few months.
Of course, the most notable event was the Republican supermajority’s decision to deceive the people of Alabama (and even their own education advisors) by ramming through the Accountability Act with
For the past three years, the Alabama legislature, under the leadership of the Republican Supermajority, has waged a war on public education in Alabama.
It started with cutting educators’ take-home pay. Next, the Republicans “dropped the DROP program,” though they waited until they could get their payout from it first.
This year, it started with the Accountability Act. Plenty has been said
I learned a lot of values from my dad. He served in the state legislature for 26 years, and one of the most important values he practiced as a legislator and that he passed on to me is that our government should operate honestly and out in the open so that the taxpayers can see what they are getting for
This week, the Alabama House of Representatives once again has to vote on legislation that is meant to “fix” a bill that was rushed through the process and not thought-out before it became law.
If there has been a theme for the past three years since the Republican Supermajority took control of the state legislature, it has been “unintended consequences.”
It’s that time of year when the state legislature writes the budgets that will fund our schools and government services.
Last week, the Alabama House of Representatives passed the Education Trust Fund, which funds all things related to public education. This week, the House will turn its attention to the state’s General Fund budget, which funds all state departments, agencies, and
It has been a rough year for public education in Alabama. In fact, for the past three years, the Republicans in the Alabama legislature have been waging a war on public education.
And because of the education budget that passed the state House of Representatives last week, next year isn’t looking much better.
Particularly, there are two proposals included in
Repeal is the only solution
When Gov. Bentley signed the Alabama Accountability Act into law, he acknowledged that there were, in his words, “Some concerns [that] have been raised regarding the impact of this legislation.”
The governor also said he believed those concerns could be fixed through more rules and regulation.
At the same time, Republicans in the state legislature are saying
The Bible says in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I believe in the truth of that scripture, and over the next couple of months we will see where our state’s leadership is putting their hearts.
As the legislature returns for the second half of the legislative session, one of its top priorities will
Be careful what you wish for…
We’ve all heard the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.” It seems that Republicans in the Alabama legislature are learning the meaning of this saying the hard way after they failed to show up for work this past Tuesday and ended up burning a legislative day and
It is amazing to read what some legislators have written in the weeks since the state legislature passed the so-called Alabama Accountability Act.
The Republicans in the Alabama legislature who concocted this bill and the deceitful (not to mention illegal) tactics to pass it, are now trying to tell us that they followed the rules and thoroughly debated this bill, which
There has been a lot said over the past two weeks about the tactics used by Republicans in the Alabama legislature to pass the so-called Alabama Accountability Act. You have also read about how Democrats have responded by filibustering legislation and using the rules to slow the legislative process down.
I want to explain why Democrats are doing what we are
If there has been a theme for the Republicans in Montgomery this legislative session, it would be that the federal government is bad and we don’t need the federal government’s money.
While I am all for the state being in control of its own destiny, the truth is that we rely on the federal government in order to provide the services
I never thought that I would live to see a governor brag about how he has eliminated 4,000 jobs, especially in the middle of a recession! But two weeks ago, that is exactly what Gov. Robert Bentley did in his State of the State address.
The only thing more shocking than hearing the governor brag about how he has put 4,000
Public education is one of the most important services our state and local governments provide. All of us want to see our schools improve and our children’s quality of education rise.
For Republicans in Montgomery, their signature proposal for public education is a bill they call the “School Flexibility Act.”
What this bill would do is allow local school systems to seek
Since 2010, some people have argued that the Democratic Party is dead in Alabama.
They are wrong.
There are several reasons why Democrats not only are alive, but in good position to take back several seats we have lost.
First, the 2010 and 2012 elections are not a good indicator of what is going to happen in 2014.
As legislators prepare to return to Montgomery next week for the 2013 Legislative Session, one of the biggest issues we will address will be public education.
Last week, Republicans in the state legislature announced their legislative agenda for this year. Their only education proposal was a school flexibility bill that would allow local school systems to seek waivers on state statues,
“…there is nothing greater in all the world than freedom. It’s worth going to jail for. It’s worth losing a job for. It’s worth dying for. My friends, go out this evening determined to achieve this freedom which God wants for all of His children.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jan. 1, 1957
As our country celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As legislators prepare to return to Montgomery on Feb. 5, we have to determine what issues will be our priorities in the coming legislative session. In the coming weeks, House Democrats will announce our official legislative agenda for the year. But today, I’d like to discuss what the legislature’s top priorities should be when we return to the capitol.
Schools should be a safe place where our children can learn and grow without fear or danger. And when you consider
I don’t envy Gov. Bentley. He has a tough job to do and has had to make some tough choices over the past two years. But one of the choices he has made should not have been tough at all. Yet he took months to make his choice, flip-flopped on that choice, and ultimately made the wrong decision.
I’m talking about
The holidays are a time for giving. We give gifts to our friends, families and co-workers. We give money and other donations to charities like Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army or a local food bank. But money and presents are the only gifts we can give, and sometimes are not the gifts that are most needed.
One thing we all
This week, I lost a true friend, colleague and mentor when Rep. Yvonne Kennedy passed away.
When I first heard the news, I was shocked. It was very unexpected. But as I began to mourn her passing, the thought occurred to me that this shouldn’t just be a time for saying goodbye to a friend we lost.
This should also be a
When our founding fathers wrote the Bill of Rights, they made the “right to keep and bear arms” a priority. In fact, the right to own a firearm comes second only to the First Amendment rights to free speech, freedom of religion and the freedom of the press.
The founding fathers were wise to provide constitutional protections for gun ownership.
I have been very disappointed to read that Gov. Bentley has chosen to hand over control of the state’s health insurance exchange to the federal government.
Federal law requires the state to set up an insurance exchange. Because the governor has refused to follow the law, the federal government is going to set up the exchange anyway and without any input
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, and, in my opinion, it could not come soon enough.
This year has been filled with political fights, Hurricane Sandy and a scandal involving the head of the CIA.
With all of that, it can be easy to get consumed with the bad and forget all the good we have in our lives.
I was deeply disappointed last week when I read about the Republican leaderships’ hypocrisy on gambling in Alabama and the subsequent threats they made to the papers that printed the story.
Disappointed, but not surprised.
For years, there have been accusations that the Alabama Republican Party and its leadership have actively sought out contributions from gaming interests in Alabama and Mississippi while
November is a special time of year. The leaves begin changing, the fall becomes winter, and there is plenty of great football on television. Every November, our nation takes a day to give thanks for the blessings God has given us.
But November is also the month when we take a day to honor America’s veterans and to thank them for
Recently, I wrote an article about the 11 statewide amendments that will be on our ballots next week. Today, I want to talk a little more about Amendment 4, which would remove some of the racist language that is currently in our state constitution.
If you only read the description of Amendment 4 that will appear on our ballots, it appears
In two weeks, we will cast our votes in several crucial elections. But there will be more than just political offices on our ballots. This year’s ballot also includes eleven statewide amendments, some of which will have significant impacts on our state.
To help voters have a better understanding of what these amendments will do, I have written a summary of
Recently I wrote an editorial about October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month and what we can do to help raise awareness and support the work to end breast cancer.
But did you know that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
Domestic violence occurs when one person uses force or threats to control another person. This is typically done through
We must repay the trust fund sooner and with interest
One of the reasons that voters approved the constitutional amendment to allow the state to borrow $437 million from the state’s Trust Fund was because the Governor and legislative leaders promised that they would repay the money.
The bill that Republican Sen. Bryan Taylor filed would require the state to
Did you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Most of us know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s an illness that can affect any woman, regardless of age, race, where they live, or their socio-economic background.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012 alone, 226,870 more women will be diagnosed with new cases of