Posts Tagged ‘alabama’
March 11th, 2013 at 11:07 am
Bama School Choice Battle Brewing

In Alabama two weeks ago, the state Legislature pulled an old switcheroo in conference committee to push through a sweeping but focused statewide school choice bill. The bill provides a tuition tax credit (refundable) to any students in districts where there are officially “failing” schools, to attend any school, public or private, of their choice (assuming they meet any other eligibility requirements). It also allows individuals and businesses to take a tax credit for donations to what amounts to a scholarship fund, to be used for the same purpose.

The problem is, the “choice” elements of the bill were not part of the original bill in the state House or the state Senate (instead, it was a narrower “school flexibility” bill, good in itself, but not involving any widespread parental choice). The broader elements of the bill were appended to the bill in conference committee, with almost no debate, and then rushed through both the House and Senate floors with almost no debate, but with huge majorities.

The state education union filed suit, claiming the procedures used violated both the state Constitution and the sate’s unique “Open Meetings” law. While I don’t discuss the constitutional issue here (I don’t think the complaint holds water), I do explain on WKRG-TV in Mobile why schoolchildren will be the winners, and why the law will probably succeed legal challenge based on the Open Meetings law, but also be a short-term political detriment to the Republicans who pushed it through.  For school choice advocates, not just locally but nationally, this Alabama brouhaha won’t fade away any time real soon, and it bears close scrutiny on numerous levels. I personally think it is a wonderful bill. But the politics of it all are likely to be dicey for a while. Anyway, again, please watch this very short news segment (3:39) for an overview.

February 26th, 2013 at 9:00 am
Bama GOP Rebukes Shelby re: Hagel Support

I reported last night at The American Spectator that the Alabama state Republican Steering Committee passed an emergency resolution requesting that U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby reverse course and return to opposing the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. I noted that this is a rare, and major, request, and that it represents overwhelming grassroots opposition to Hagel. Now, here, for the first time, I can post the resolution itself, rather than just quote from it.

In addition to slamming Hagel for a strange friendliness to enemies such as Iran and for hostility toward Israel, the resolution also hit him hard for incompetence, as demonstrated at his confirmation hearing where his performance was “not satisfactory to many persons who value the capability of this country to defend itself against foreign enemies.”

Rarely does a state party so openly take on its own senior U.S. senator — albeit in very respectful terms toward Shelby himself. This should send a message to other senators about just how outrageous this nomination is.

Again, the resolution itself is here.

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July 12th, 2012 at 1:10 pm
One More Exception on Education Reform
Posted by Print

Quin’s right to point out Alabama’s Robert Bentley as an exception to the growing trend of conservative governors pushing education reform pointed out in my column this week. Bentley deserves every ounce of scorn he’s getting for knuckling under to the unions. And while we’re in the midst of handing out demerits, I’ll also nominate Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Around the same time that Bobby Jindal’s education reform package in Louisiana was doing its victory lap, Brewer vetoed a huge expansion of school vouchers in the Grand Canyon State with an explanation that defies exegesis:

… Brewer, while describing herself as a long-time advocate of school choice—citing other legislation she has signed promoting educational competition—also said “there is a careful balance we have to maintain.”

“We must enhance educational options wherever we can, but we must also ensure that government is not artificially manipulating the market through state budget or tax policy that would make an otherwise viable option so unattractive that it undermines rational choice in a competitive market,” the governor explained.

Impenetrable. This reads like a veto statement by James Joyce.

Obviously Brewer didn’t want to deal with the backlash from the educational establishment, so she sold out the members of the state legislature who were brave enough to take up the fight. How folks like Bentley and Brewer can look their state’s schoolchildren in the eyes is beyond me.

July 12th, 2012 at 11:21 am
On Education, a Sad GOP Exception

I commend Troy for his excellent column on school reforms being pushed by Republican governors.

Alas, there always seems to be one exception that proves the rule, one skunk in a beautiful garden party, one, uh, floatie in the punch bowl… and one cliche too many in an otherwise insightful blog post (meaning mine). In this case, the exception is Alabama’s Robert Bentley, elected at least in part with the help of the Alabama Education Association, who (I reported recently) had watched the defeat of what should have been a simple effort to allow charter schools, all while he provided scant leadership on the issue. Well, now Bentley has done even worse: He has announced that he will not even include a charter-school bill in his legislative package next year, despite the fact that the House and Senate leadership (Republicans all) want it.

The editorial board of the Mobile Press-Register gently chided Bentley for his abandonment of the cause. But that promises to be just the start of the reaction. Some Tea Party groups are rumbling about the abandonment, and there will surely be more public opprobrium heaped on the governor. After all, if Jindal, Christie, Daniels (and in earlier iterations, Jeb Bush, Tommy Thompson, and Lamar Alexander, among others) can push meaningful school reforms, why can’t Bentley, in a state desperately in need of them?

June 21st, 2012 at 7:28 pm
Error in Otherwise Good Column by Archbishop

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has an otherwise excellent column in today’s Washington Post about the need to protect religious liberty from the assault represented by the HHS abortifacient mandate. But he makes an important misstatement, a wholly gratuitous one, that MUST be corrected, and will be in a moment.

First, here’s what is good, indeed terrific, about the column: It captures the essence of the state’s intrusion into internal religious affairs. As in:

According to HHS, an entity deserves religious freedom only if it primarily hires and primarily serves its co-religionists. But the state has no competence or authority to define the church and her ministries, let alone to impose on her such a restrictive, inward-looking definition.

This definition is a blow to any religious community, but especially to Catholics, who are called to serve anyone in need. As we often say, we serve people because we are Catholic, not because they are. It is why so many Catholic schools enroll so many non-Catholics; Catholic hospitals don’t ask for baptismal certificates upon admission; and Catholic soup kitchens don’t quiz the hungry on the Catechism.

Do read the whole thing. It’s good.

That said, there is a terrible mistake in the column that appears again and again in the talking points of Catholic clergy across the country. I’ll first quote Lori’s claim, and then show why it is flatly inaccurate. Here’s what he wrote:

And the federal government is not the only problem either. In Alabama and other states anti-immigrant legislation is so draconian as to make it a crime to give basic help–such as food, or a ride to church, or counseling–to an undocumented immigrant. This imperils the good work of pastors who are called to care for all souls, not just those recognized by government.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is an ignorant re-statement of an assertion that was never true in the first place. In a Weekly Standard piece last December, I showed how and why the assertion is false:

Then there is the absurd notion that priests or pastors might be arrested while providing humanitarian assistance under the part of the law that would make it unlawful to “harbor” an illegal alien. For one thing, the anti-harboring provisions match, almost word for word, an extensive anti-harboring section of federal law (8 U.S. Code 1324) that similarly makes it unlawful to “conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation”​—​a federal law that never before has been thought to put clergy in the slightest danger. For another thing, the Alabama law contains a host of exceptions for primary and secondary education and for just the sorts of humanitarian actions Obama described​—​among others, any “emergency medical condition,” “emergency disaster relief,” and “soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter.”

To add to the protections for those in the ministry, Alabama’s constitution contains a “Religious Freedom Amendment” more extensive than the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, namely “to guarantee that the freedom of religion is not burdened by state and local law; and to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious freedom is burdened by government.”

Finally, when Obama was using the Hispanic media to spread alarm, a federal judge had already enjoined the Alabama law’s “harboring” sections on technical grounds, mooting (at least for now) the entire alleged danger.

“I’ve made it clear in every public statement that there is nothing in this law that would prohibit anyone from being a good Samaritan,” said Luther Strange, Alabama’s mild-mannered, moderate-conservative attorney general cast by the New York Times in the role of the viciously segregationist former governor George Wallace, with all of Wallace’s “defiant history of intolerance and minority oppression.” The characterization fits Strange about as well as a tuxedo would fit a porpoise.

There. That just about sums it up: No different from federal law/mutliple specific exemptions/state constitutional protections/federal court enjoinment/state AG assurances.

It’s time the bishops, in the course of their brave and noble opposition to the HHS mandate, stop reaching for an unnecessary and unfair additional point that obviously is intended merely to make their complaint look bipartisan.

June 27th, 2011 at 10:47 pm
Pray for Full Recovery for Bob Riley

Former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, the best “unknown” governor of the last few decades of any state in the union, had a rather bad motorcycle accident yesterday in Alaska. The good news is that he is expected to make a full recovery, although it sounds like he is more than a little bunged up and his injuries sound painful. The bad news is that this ruins the second half of a trip he had dreamed about for years.

Some of us wished that Gov. Riley had run for president this cycle. I personally know him as a good and decent man, kind and well-motivated. He did a great job for Alabama. Here’s hoping for a rapid recovery, and many good and enjoyable years ahead.