Monday, September 29, 2014

Vote for a jobs policy that works this November

This Saturday will mark one month until the November midterm election. There is a lot at stake for the state of Alabama, and your vote will be important. Even though the president is not on the ballot, it is critical that we still stand up for the issues that matter most to our families.

Over the next several weeks, I want to write about all the reasons why I'm voting for Democrats this November, and all of the things that are on the line for our communities and our state.

Alabama is the only state to not return to pre-recession jobs numbers. We are one of only five states with increasing unemployment. The Republican supermajority's plan to "right-size" Alabama is not helping families.

In the past four years, the Republican leadership has offered millions of your tax dollars in handouts to big businesses to come to Alabama. Some of those companies have stayed and created a few hundred jobs here, but other companies have taken the money and failed to deliver.

Instead of giving our tax dollars to big businesses, I think that Alabama could use the bail out.

We need to vote for leadership that will create a plan that works for small businesses and creates a healthy competition, not an unfair advantage. Let's use those millions in tax dollars to repair and rebuild our infrastructure--this would makeAlabama more appealing to businesses who might want to move in our state, put people back to work, and use tax dollars for things that we all use.

We also need leadership who understands that we can't balance our company's budget or our state's budget on the backs of the working people. Just like how the state government doesn't work without people to carry out the tasks of government, our companies don't work without people behind the counters and on the floor doing the work to make the company great. We need leadership to understand thatAlabama needs to revisit the minimum wage. I sponsored the bill last session and I will work to see that it comes to a vote this session.

We must elect leaders who understand that a healthy jobs plan does not just start with today-- it starts with looking at tomorrow, too.

If we want businesses in Alabama, we must make sure that our workforce is trained and ready to do the jobs they bring to the state. We have to make sure that every child is educated from pre-K to graduating college or career ready.

There are people running for office in Alabama who understand these things, and they need your vote.

It's not about running for office to pad your pockets and guarantee contracts to your friends. It's about helping the people in the state who count on us to represent them in Montgomery.

If we standby on election day and let the special interests, PACs and corporations call the shots, we will only have four more years of the same. Are you better off than you were four years ago? I think we can do better.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Drugs and alcohol aren't the problem, and blaming isn't the solution

"I'm so sorry for your loss."

That's what Governor Bentley should have said when he learned of the death of 8-year-old Hiawayi Robinson.

"I'm so sorry for your loss, and I know my words can't ease your suffering. It's hard to understand when a child is taken from us, but I hope your family finds peace, and that law enforcement finds the person responsible for this terrible act."

Instead of offering heartfelt condolences, Governor Bentley gave his two-cents to reporters, blaming the problem on potential drug or alcohol problems within the family.

"There are things that happen we just don't understand. There are difficulties in families. You never know, it may be drug related, it may be alcohol related. It may be family problems. We just don't know what the situation is," Bentley said.

Let us not forget, Governor, that there are family problems everywhere there are families--from Madison and Mountain Brook to Prichard and Bessemer. 

Drug and alcohol problems aren't limited--they span the range of racial, economic and cultural backgrounds.

But family problems are no excuse for a child to get hurt, and it's certainly not a reason to rationalize it.

Last week, we talked about Ray Rice and Judge Mark Fuller, two men in the news for domestic violence. Ray Rice is a 27-year-old Black man from New York, who plays football for the Baltimore Ravens. Judge Fuller is a 56-year-old white man from Alabama, who sits as a Federal Judge. These are two very different men, but their problems are the same, and their actions are both inexcusable. 

Similarly, Adrian Peterson has made the news for beating his 4-year-old son with a switch. Stories similar to this one--detailing physical or sexual abuse of a child--line our newspapers every week. 

The only common thread in all of these stories is that there is a child who has been hurt and pain that needs to be eased. 

For the governor to jump to conclusions about the death of this child shows how out of touch he is with Alabama families. It shows he views her death as another product of an impoverished community, not as a child whose future was robbed.

We have to work together to look for the warning signs and keep children and families safe. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. We can end the violence together.

And next time there's a tragedy, Governor, try sticking to "I'm sorry for your loss."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ray Rice and Judge Fuller show why the Violence Against Women Act isn't enough

This weekend, policymakers in Washington celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, which made ending rape and domestic violence a national priority. 

Yet this national milestone was overlooked as the news told stories of NFL running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator and US Federal Judge Mark Fuller taking a plea deal after being arrested for beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel.

While these two stories made national news, an estimated three women die each day as a result of domestic violence. An estimated one in five women are victims of rape in their lifetimes, many before the age of 25.  On our college campuses, as many as one in four women are victims of sexual assault. 

Let me make myself clear: rape is never okay and violence is never the answer. No means no. There are no excuses for this type of behavior.

But in the face of so much violence and disrespect towards women, I remember the wise words of Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
I'm disappointed to see that the leadership in Montgomery isn't standing up against this type of violence, but I'm not surprised. Most of the Republican leadership in Washington voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act two years ago when it came up for a vote.

Thankfully, there are some in this state who are willing to make a stand and support legislation that takes these issues head on.

We've made productive steps by proposing legislation that revokes parental rights to first-degree rapists of any child resulting from rape, but there's more that can be done. I hope my colleagues in the legislature will work to increase the penalty for possession of date-rape drugs on college campuses, zero-tolerance legislation for rape and domestic violence, and fully funding forensics, judicial programs and resource centers.  And we must make sure these bills actually become law, not just die in committee.

There is so much we can do in Montgomery to end the violence and protect families from violence, but the solution starts at home. We must teach respect and healthy conflict resolution to young couples. We must teach our men what healthy sexual relationships look like. We must teach our women to recognize early warning signs and get help. 

I'm tired of hearing stories like Ray Rice and Judge Fuller, but my heart aches even more for the thousands of women who are victims of violence and never make the news or get a helping hand.

I'm ready to stand beside women to end rape and domestic violence, from the kitchen table to the church pew to the ballot box. I hope you'll do the same.

Monday, September 8, 2014

We don't need "BOLD" partisan policy--We need what's good for Alabama

Last week, Speaker Mike Hubbard promised that the Republicans would be "bolder" if they kept the supermajority after the election. This should be a wake up call to all Alabamians that we must stand up for our state this November.

We must stand up and vote to protect Alabama's economy from the "bold" actions of the Republican supermajority. We are 49th in job growth in the entire United States and the only state with rising unemployment. We don't need more "bold," far-right policies that only help a privileged few. We need common sense economic reform for Alabama.

We must stand up and vote to protect public education from more "bold" assaults from the supermajority. Every Alabama school has lost $1,200 in funding per student since 2008. We lead the nation in cuts to public education. This is about our children's futures, not "bold" changes that make big profits for private schools.

We must stand up and vote to protect our rural hospitals and access to health care from their "bold" disregard for Alabama's medical needs. We must elect leadership who will expand Medicaid and give healthcare to 300,000 hard-working Alabamians, not allow the Republicans to play Washington-style politics and pander against President Obama.

Most importantly, we must stand up and vote to protect the cornerstones of democracy: open government and the right to vote.

The Republicans passed the Alabama Accountability Act, robbing $40 million of our tax dollars, behind closed doors in the middle of the night. They never allowed the bill to be seen by the public before passing it, and they even admitted they couldn't have passed it through legal channels. These "bold" back room deals must stop.

In the past four years, the Republican supermajority has passed new district lines that are under Supreme Court review for stacking and packing minority voters to dilute their voices. They have passed photo ID laws to make it harder to cast a ballot and they have shortened the amount of time to register to vote.

They are afraid that we will stand up for these values that we hold dear in Alabama. That's why they have worked to restrict the right to vote and operated government behind closed doors.

The Republicans know the public will throw them out of the State House if they knew what they were doing, so they tried to hide it. They've covered their trails with "bold" rhetoric and flashy talking points.

But we know the truth. The Republican supermajority has been nothing but bad for Alabama, and we will stand up for our state this November.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day is about more than football and barbeque

This weekend was an eventful time for Alabama. We took advantage of the long weekend by heading to the lake with friends or grilling out with family. We saw the first week of SEC football and we caught up on some needed R&R.

But this weekend is about more than barbecue, football, and a long weekend.  It's about the strides we've made as a nation to protect working men and women and ensure quality of life for those who make this country great.

The labor movement has been integral to our development as a nation.  Unions fighting to make life a little easier for working people like us gave us some benefits we don't think twice about today: minimum wage, overtime pay, paycheck fairness laws, weekends, 40-hour work weeks and health and safety regulations.  They also fought to establish child labor laws and increase access to public education so that all children have a shot at the American Dream.

Because I firmly believe that every person between the ages of five and 65 deserves to be in a good job or a good school, I thank the labor movement.

Because I believe that its the working men and women who make America great, not the huge corporations who move offshore to avoid paying taxes, I thank the labor movement.

And because I believe that hard work should pay off, and that the hardest working among us shouldn't need to look to safety nets to survive, I'm proud to work to continue the labor movement by fighting to raise the minimum wage and protect health care access for hard working Alabamians.

So as we all head back to work from a long weekend, I want to thank you for keeping up the good work and keeping America running, even at a time when it's been tough to do.  It's hard working men and women doing everything they can to provide for their families that will build the next generation of leaders.

Thank you for all you do, and thank you to the brave men and women who stand for what's right.

Happy Labor Day.