Category: Budget

Alabama Consolidated State Plan Recommendations (9-26-17 Draft)

Eagle Forum of Alabama

October 5, 2017

Alabama Consolidated State Plan Recommendations (9-26-2017 Draft)

 

INTRODUCTION

Alabama is a sovereign state of the United States of America. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution reserves the right of Alabama to govern its own education programs. It states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The statutory purpose of ESSA is to “allow States and LEAs the flexibility to target Federal funds to the programs and activities that most effectively address the unique needs of Sates and LEAs.” Sec. 5102.  ESSA further states that, “Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, LEA, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curriculum or program of instruction, as a condition of eligibility to receive funds under this Act.

Recommendation Summary:

1. Alabama’s Consolidated State Plan should acknowledge Alabama’s protection from federal control restored under ESSA, and reflect this statutory return of power to Alabama’s education authorities throughout our Plan. (Page 2)

2. Remove social and emotional learning requirements, along with other complicated psychological evaluation that exceeds the training of public school educators and administrators. (Page 2)

3. Remove mandatory requirements to use “College and Career Readiness” standards (also known as ‘Common Core’ Standards), and allow ALSDE the flexibility to use other standards as well as CCR. (Page 4)

4. Eliminate supplemental information that is superfluous that can result in creating unintentional requirements and unintentional relinquishment of state control to the federal government. (Page 8)

5. Remove ‘birth’ from the age requirement in Early Childhood Education. (Page 9)

6. Replace “democracy” with “the United States Constitution and how a Republic” works. (Page 10)

7.  Remove references to “every student” and “all students,” and replace with “every public school student,” and “all public school students.” (Page 10)

 

Eagle Forum of Alabama Recommendations the Following Changes to the Revises State Template for the Consolidated State Plan 2-26-2017 Draft:

In order to establish a high-performing system of public schools, and to enhance the experience of Alabama’s education for its students, parents, teachers, and administrators, Eagle Forum of Alabama recommends the following:

  1. Alabama’s Consolidated State Plan should acknowledge Alabama’s protection from federal control, and reflect this statutory return of power to Alabama’s education authorities throughout our Plan. The statutory purpose of ESSA is to “allow States and LEAs the flexibility to target Federal funds to the programs and activities that most effectively address the unique needs of Sates and LEAs.” Sec. 5102. ESSA further states that, “Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, LEA, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curriculum or program of instruction, as a condition of eligibility to receive funds under this Act.RECOMMENDATION: Overview, Page 7, paragraph 6, remove and add wording:On March 14, 2016, … Executive Order Number 16 (Appendix A) establishing an ESSA Implementation Committee, states in part:WHEREAS, offering greater stability and flexibility, the ESSA allows states to determine best practices for the implementation of academic standards, testing, accountability, school improvement, and teacher quality;WHEREAS, giving states control of academic standards, prohibiting the Secretary of Education and other federal agent from incentivizing states into adopting specific standards, this flexibility will allow governors to tailor state plans to best fit the needs of local communities;Therefore the governor authorized the following appointees to “The Alabama ESSA Committee: Appointees were”

Remove social and emotional learning requirements, along with other complicated psychological evaluation that exceeds the training of public school educators and administrators. This is not the role of public school educators, and these issues fall outside of the ALSDE purview. They may violate parents’ rights, and  will likely result in unknown costs to the education system including legal fees.

“When the Every Student Succeeds Act was enacted, speculation swirled that states might use it as a launching pad to use measures of students’ social and emotional competencies to determine whether their schools are successful. Nearly two years later, not a single state’s plan to comply with the federal education law—and its broader vision for judging school performance—calls for inclusion of such measures in its school accountability system.

 
  1. [Emphasis mine.] Blad, Evie “No State Will Measure Social-Emotional Learning Under ESSA. Will That Slow Its Movement?” Education Week. (October 4, 2017) 4 pages.RECOMMENDATION: Pages 34-35, remove wording:“Strategies and Activities: Create Restorative Justice practices for school discipline – Restorative Justice is a powerful 
approach to unacceptable or at-risk behaviors that focuses on retooling consequences so that they are less negative and punitive. Rather, the consequences involve constructively “repairing” the “damage” done by the student in a way that shifts the focus from punishment to learning” … “Train LEAs on Positive Behavior Supports philosophy (PBIS) 
o Work with LEAs that have high numbers of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions of special education students. o Analyze the data determining the incidents, develop a plan, implement the PBIS philosophy to fidelity and review the data, adjust strategies as needed. o Review the end-of-year data.
o Support all schools and LEAs in the PBIS philosophy. o Support all schools and LEAs in the PBIS philosophy.”

RECOMMENDATION: Pages 35, remove wording:

Bullying PLU/CEU – Collaborative effort of the ALSDE and Alabama Education Association (AEA): Closing Achievement Gaps through Community Conversations that Lead to Collective Action – The Community Conversation focuses on helping a broad cross-section of the community engage in a discussion about how all students can be free of bullying. It is about meeting the educational and social emotional needs of children-as well as their health needs-and engaging families and communities in addressing those needs as prerequisites to learning in school.

RECOMMENDATION: Pages 24, remove wording:

The ALSDE has recently organized and is finalizing the staffing plan of its Office of School Improvement and Turnaround (OSIT). A primary function of this office will be to create and review existing policies and practices for school improvement and intervention, in addition to developing supports for the LEAs requiring assistance. These supports will include evidence-based improvement strategies and models; addressing human capital capacity through professional learning and development; school and district audits with action planning to address priority needs; matching schools and districts with vetted external partners to address specific needs; and technical assistance by a cadre of OSIT staff that includes academic content experts, school improvement and strategy personnel, in addition to climate, culture, and mental health specialists.

RECOMMENDATION: Pages 51, remove and add wording:

The ALSDE will use Title IV, Part A, Subpart 1 state-level funds to support activities to address behaviors identified through the ALSDE’s data collection sources such as Attendance Reports, School Safety Reports, Student Health Reports and Students Incident Reports (discipline). Some examples of state-level activities, not an exhaustive list, follow:

  • Promoting community and parent involvement in schools.
  • Providing school-based mental health services and counseling.
  • Promoting supportive school climates to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline and promoting 
supportive school
  • Establishing or improving dropout prevention.
  • Identifying and utilizing strategies to address chronic absenteeism.
  • Supporting re-entry programs and transition services for justice-involved youth.
  • Implementing programs that support a healthy, active lifestyle (nutritional and physical education).
  • Implementing systems and practices to prevent bullying and harassment.
  • Developing relationship building skills to help improve safety through the recognition and 
prevention of coercion, violence, or abuse. 
conflict resolution programs.
  • Establishing community partnerships.

3. Remove mandatory requirements to use “College and Career Readiness” standards (also known as ‘Common Core’ Standards), and allow ALSDE the flexibility to use other standards as well as CCR. The 2015 NAEP results place Alabama dead last in Math and English in the Nation. This is a significant decline from where Alabama was trending before Common Core/College and Career Readiness Standards were implemented in 2012 – 2013.  Prior to implementation of these standards, Alabama had been trending upward.

The terms ‘college and career’, ‘college and career readiness,’ and ‘world-class expectations’ have pre-defined meanings connected to common core standards. These terms would otherwise have highly favorable implications for Alabama education if they actually resulted in a “world-class education” or an education that truly equipped ALL Alabama students for the future. However, these terms have been nationally hijacked by Common Core advocates to embrace common core standards which fail to equip some students with the ability to pursue a college education following high school graduation. Further, these standards have been proven to be conspicuously detrimental Alabama students’ academic education. Effectively, a “career or career readiness” path may limit students’ job opportunities to the labor pool or lower paying jobs. Rather than equipping students with a world-class education or inspiring students to dream of future college possibilities and equipping them to pursue such possibilities, a career readiness path can mean limiting Alabama students’ creativity, potential and education.  More importantly,using these terms in the Alabama Consolidated State Plan, straps the ALSDE and Alabama students, educators and administrators to predefined national standards and assessments resulting in federal expectations and oversight. This is a violation of the ESSA Act. See Introduction.

RECOMMENDATION: Page 18, Baseline Date paragraph, remove and add wording:

Alabama’s English proficiency assessment went through a standards setting study in 2016 in order to meet the rigorous Alabama language demands. of College and Career Readiness standards. Alabama will use the 2016-2017 school year test results for baseline data.

RECOMMENDATION: Page 20, paragraph 2., remove wording:

Alabama’s English proficiency assessment went through a standards setting study in 2016 in order to meet the rigorous language acquisition demands of College and Career Readiness standards. Therefore, Alabama will re-calculate the target percentages with the 2016-2017 baseline data once we have two years of data. Alabama’s EL committee compared our English language proficiency assessment to other states that use the same assessment to set targets for growth.

RECOMMENDATION
: Page 21, paragraph iv.,a., remove bullet labeled “CCR – (College and Career Readiness)(Schools with a Grade 12) from the Alabama ESSA indicators graph. It is the second bullet in the purple box located on bottom right of the graph. The purple box is labeled “School Quality/Student.” This is a second and unnecessary indicator, that can be easily replaced:

 
 

RECOMMENDATION: Page 23-24, paragraph iv.,e., remove paragraph and graph:

Alabama understands the impact school has on career and or college success. As a result, we have included our college and career ready indicator as another measureable indicator for high schools in this area. Students have multiple opportunities to be declared college and/or career ready. Students can be identified as college or career ready by the successful completion of one of six options. Our goal is that our students will benefit from challenging, world-class standards in all subjects. One of the supporting structures for this goal is that all students will earn at least one college or career readiness indicator prior to leaving school. As a measure of success, our goal is to increase the college and career readiness rate of all students in a cohort to 94% by 2030. The six indicators of college and career readiness currently utilized are achieving a benchmark score on the ACT, scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on an Advanced Placement exam/scoring a 4, 5, 6, or 7 on an International Baccalaureate exam, scoring silver level or above on ACT Work Keys, earning a transcripted college credit while still in high school, earning an Industry Credential, or being accepted for enlistement into any branch of the military. These indicators are periodically revisted to determine if additional indicators need to be included. A screen shot of the current Alabama College and Career Readiness Dashboard can be found in Appendix C.

Re-letter Appendixes D to C, and E to D.

Remove this graph as well:

RECOMMENDATION: Page 26, Schools with Grade 12, and bottom picture to reflect percentage changes, remove and add information:

Schools with a Grade 12:

  1. Academic Achievement as measured by proficiency: 20 25%
  2. Growth as measured by Learning Gains: 25 30%
  3. Graduation Rate: 30%
  4. Progress in ELP: 5%
  5. School Quality/Student Success: Attendance (Chronic Absenteeism): 10%
  6. College and/or Career Ready: 10%

RECOMMENDATION: Page 45, paragraph 4, remove wording:

Title II, Part A state-level funding will support the needs of educators statewide by funding a variety of a professional learning opportunities designed to assist teachers, principals, and other school leaders with resources to identify students’ specific learning needs. These opportunities will offer professional learning that is designed to address the needs of students with disabilities, students at-risk of failing and not meeting state academic standards, English Language students, gifted and talented students, students transitioning from neglected and delinquent facilities, homeless students, and foster care students. Currently this is being accomplished through various means to include both seminars and virtual opportunities. Alabama’s eLearning uses a web-based model to provide educators with effective professional learning that leads to gains in content knowledge, improvements in their practices and increases in achievement of their students. In addion, Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX) web portal delivers and sustains support for teaching, leading and learning through a repository of lesson plans, podcasts, web resources and learning assets aligned to Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards. This portal also houses ALEX Resource Development Summits, Girls Engaged in Math and Science(GEM-U), ALEX Certification for Excellence Program, Podcast Camps, Project –Based Learning seminars and training sessions, and Alabama History digital Content eTextbook Resource Project. These resources in addition to the face-to-face professional learning opportunities assist in addressing special population students
RECOMMENDATION: Page 69, remove Appendix C, and Re-letter Appendixes D to C, and E to D.

Eliminate supplemental information that is superfluous and can result in creating unintentional requirements and unintentional relinquishment of state control to the federal government. We do not want to limit the way in which Alabama is allowed to use the federal dollars, nor do we want to obligate ALSDE to utilize our allotment in any particular way, now or in the future.

RECOMMENDATION: Page 7, paragraph 2, remove and add wording:

“This law requires the state to use state-authorized Alabama will use assessments and other key performance indicators that give a total profile of the school or school system, or both, a school’s grade, at a minimum shall be based on a combination of student achievement scores, achievement gap, college and career readiness, learning gains, and other indicators as determined by the State Superintendent of Education to impact student learning and success.”

RECOMMENDATION: Page 9, paragraphs 1, remove and add wording:

“…Recognizing that our students and teachers need access to technology to personalize instruction and learning, Alabama recently funded, with the help of E-Rate, wireless access to support 30 devices in every classroom in every school to provide the essential infrastructure for technology rich learning. Our next step is to increase the number of portable devices and technology tools for students in those classrooms for use in coding, robotics and other STEM courses. Teachers will need avail themselves to continuing quality professional development in the use of these 21st century learning tools and resources.”

We do not want students to increase the use of electronic devises unless absolutely necessary. “Study by faculty members at West Point finds students perform better academically when laptops and tablets are banned from the classroom.” Straumsheim, Carl. “Leave It In the Bag.” Inside Higher Ed (May 13, 2016) 10 Pages.

 
  1. RECOMMENDATION: Page 18, paragraph 4.c, remove wording:To fulfill ESSA requirements,ALSDE has created long-term goals for English learners to determine increases in the percentage of students making progress in achieving English proficiency that are both ambitious and achievable.RECOMMENDATION: Page 20, paragraph 2., remove and add wording:

    As a part of ensuring that English learners succeed and meet the long-term goals, the ALSDE has collaborated with the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC). The SECC will support ALSDE with co-developing will develop an EL Plan that will guide local education agencies and schools with supports designed to enhance and improve instructional programs for EL students. This project will include co-planning and co-facilitation of EL stakeholder meetings for developing the plan. SECC will provide ALSDE with expertise, resources, strategies, and tools for working with ELs. In addition to developing an EL plan and resources, the SECC support will enable the ALSDE to will measure the impact professional learning has on EL students and the change in practice at the local level.RECOMMENDATION: Page 20, paragraph iv.,a., remove wording:Alabama embraces utilizing multiple measures for student success and is working to create a system of public education that is equitable, accountable and just. Through meetings with various stakeholders, the Alabama ESSA Accountability Workgroup, and other state-wide meetings, it was apparent that stakeholders shared an interest in having indicators supportive of Alabama’s personal allegiance to the continuous self-improvement and commitment to helping children find their success. not only in school but in their careers and lives thereafter.RECOMMENDATION: Pages 27-29, remove all yellow highlighting. The yellow highlights set up a new, unnecessary, costly state agency called the Office of School Improvement and Turnaround (OSIT.) Existing ALSDE currently performs these responsibilities.RECOMMENDATION: Page 36-37, remove entire REACH section. This is another new, unnecessary, costly state program that will put a strain on existing ALSDE staff and limited resources.

Remove “birth” from age requirement in Early Childhood Education. The Plan currently requires Alabama to provide early childhood education from birth through third grade. Alabamians strongly disagree about the value of early childhood education. Certainly infants and toddlers are not pursuing an academic education as charged by the ALSDE. Not to mention, that there are exorbitant costs associated with these programs. The Department currently doesn’t require any formal education until age 7. Further, there is proof that there is little value if any in early childhood education, and that any gain is quickly lost by th third grade. Since Alabama is not required to commit to an early childhood education it is certainly unnecessary to commit to begin education for families at birthThis is can be extremely invasive and violative of parental rights. Therefore, to do so will place unnecessary requirements on Alabama’s students, educators and administrators, not to mention a cost burden we are not capable of bearing. Alabama should not commit to this age requirement in our State Plan.
RECOMMENDATION: Page 9, paragraph 2, remove wording:

Additionally, Alabama is committed to providing a strong educational foundation built by a high quality early childhood education (birth through third grade). The Every Student Succeeds Act provides an opportunity to address the importance of high quality early learning experiences, and to support the development of a seamless learning continuum providing the fundamental skills needed to succeed in later years. Alabama will work with LEAs to enhance early learning and improve coordination and alignment of early learning programs from birth through third grade across Titles I, II, III, IV, V, and VII. Please refer to Appendix D C for all allowable uses of Title funds.

Alabama students need to understand the requirements of the United States Constitution and how a “Republic” works. The ACSP summarizes the ‘world-class expectations’ for students. It is commendable that the ACSP encourages students to understand the requirements of our government, an essential component of a well-educated society; however, the ACSP inaccurately identifies the United States government as a democracy. The United States is not a democracy; it is a REPUBLIC! Two very different forms of government. This wording is a poor reflection on Alabama’s academic improvement. 

RECOMMENDATION: 
Page 9, paragraph 1, replace wording:

“… public schools that challenges all children with world-class expectations for understanding English and its rich literature, mathematics, history and the requirements of a democracy the United States Constitution and how our Republic works, the sciences and the arts.”

RECOMMENDATION: Page 10, paragraph 1(4), replace wording:

“… that challenges all children with world-class expectations for understanding English and its rich literature, mathematics, history and the requirements of a democracy the United States Constitution and how our Republic works, the sciences and the arts. Such a system demands educators with a deep understanding of the subject being taught, a personal allegiance to continuous self-improvement and a commitment to helping all children find their success in school, careers, and their lives.”
7. Remove the repeated references to “every student” and “all students,” and replace with “every public school student,” and “all public school students.” We have private school students and homeschooled students, who do not come under this act. This language is potentially harmful to unintended recipients.

RECOMMENDATION: Do a document search and replace appropriately.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,

MARGARET SMITHSON CLARKE, Esq. (ret.)
Policy Analyst, Eagle Forum of Alabama

Better Policy Alternatives Available Than Fiscally Irresponsible SB302 and HB487

Eagle Forum of Alabama finds that SB302 and HB487 are bad policy and will not properly address important public policy issues within Alabama’s prisons and infrastructure.

In the last two weeks of the Alabama legislative session, there are two bills that will have profound and lasting effects on the pocketbooks of Alabama taxpayers. The gas tax (HB487), if passed, would be a $300 million tax increase—the largest tax increase in Alabama in modern times. The other (SB302) is the prison bill. We need to address both the prison and infrastructure issues realistically with pay as we go measures that require transparency, accountability, and a vote of the people.

Instead, the legislature is about to be asked to pass (1)The $2.4 billion bond issue for transportation and (2) the now $845 million prison bill.  These two measures together equal at least a 50% increase in state indebtedness.

First, on Tuesday a SUBSTITUTE VERSION of Gov. Bentley’s PRISON BILL that increases bonding from $800 million to $845 million is being dropped in committee. It has NOT been posted.  See Eagle Forum’s prior analysis here.  Does the bill address the immediate need of medical care and mental health care? Are competitive bids required?  Will prisons be moved from communities that now depend on them for employment? Does new construction now address overcrowding?  Citizens won’t know if objections that stalled Gov. Bentley’s plan have been alleviated until after the committee vote, but it is certain that the cost has been increased, not cut.  Therefore, Alabama taxpayers would be saddled with an ultimate cost of well over $1.5 billion over at least 30 years.  See prison recommendations here.

Second, the Alabama Legislature is considering the largest tax increase in modern history in the form of a transportation bill that calls for $2.4 billion in highway bonds without a vote of the people.  This can accurately be called the largest tax increase on Alabamians in modern history because it amounts to $300 million a year in perpetuity.  There is no sunset.

Thankfully, the Speaker of the House has assured the people of Alabama that the gas tax (HB487) would not come back up this session.  Please thank Speaker McCutcheon for his commitment and ask him to continue to resist attempts to ram HB487 through.  There are sound alternatives being proposed for future action.

Please contact your state representatives to let them know that you do NOT support the gigantic bond issues for prisons or roads.  Ask them to look at sound alternatives!

AGENDA 2: Masters of Deceit and Curtis Bowers in Birmingham next Monday!

Join Curtis Bowers in Birmingham, Alabama for a special screening of AGENDA 2: Masters of Deceit.

2016 is a critical year for America. We can’t get discouraged and we can’t look away.  We’re facing a presidential election, the rise of ISIS, Common Core’s claim on the minds and hearts of our children, the onslaught of the LGBT agenda, a rising national debt, failures of a “conservative” congress, and silence of the church.

Is it possible to make sense of this confused world?  Is there hope? And, is there a solution we can be a part of?  In AGENDA 2: Masters of Deceit, Curtis Bowers says yes.

Watch the trailer here:

AGENDA 2: Masters of Deceit (Trailer) AgendaDocumentary.com from Copybook Heading Productions LLC on Vimeo.

“When filmmaker Curtis Bowers hit the road in 2010 with his film AGENDA, people began to wake up.  AGENDA became one of the best selling independent documentaries of all time, and grass roots America finally had a tool to connect the dots.

“As he continued to travel, Bowers found that people were overwhelmed by the seeming myriad of issues they were facing.  From the promotion of Islam to the propaganda of climate change, from the deceit of Common Core to the manufactured economic crisis, and from the manipulation of the Evangelical Church to the unsustainable debt burden, it seemed as if America had a hundred different enemies with a hundred different agendas.  But he knew from his research that wasn’t the case.

“Join Curtis Bowers as he heads out again to expose the Masters of Deceit and their purposeful, premeditated, treasonous attacks on our freedom.

“‘The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.”

www.AgendaDocumentary.com

Host: Eagle Forum of Alabama, alabamaeagle.org

When
Monday, January 18, 2016 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (CST) Add to Calendar
Where
Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA) – 2200 Briarwood Way Birmingham, AL 35243 – View Map

Please Call NOW:  Congress to Pay for Obama’s Agenda!

December 16, 2015

On Friday, the House of Representatives will vote on a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government for the next year. This bill represents the final opportunity for the Republican-led Congress to rein in the Obama Administration using the powers given them by Article One of the Constitution .

After weeks of negotiations behind closed doors, the results are in, and once again, the American people lose while special interests and the president win. Here are five of the biggest problems with the omnibus:

  1. Spending. When Republicans controlled only the House, they got the White House and Harry Reid to impose budget caps in 2011, one of the few accomplishments of John Boehner’s speakership. In October, although having control of both chambers, John Boehner surrendered this one accomplishment. The omnibus spends at these much higher levels set in the final Obama-Boehner budget deal, which was rejected by two-thirds of House Republicans.
  2. Life. Planned Parenthood will continue to receive funding. In fact, no pro-life victories can be found in the bill. Republican negotiators are left bragging about their ability to keep pro-life provisions that have been attached to funding bills for years.
  3. Immigration. No new restrictions are placed on refugee resettlement programs, sanctuary cities, or President Obama’s lawless amnesties. On the contrary, a provision was slipped in quadrupling H-2B visas in fiscal year 2016, bringing in tens of thousands more low-skilled workers.
  4. Environment. In exchange for lifting the crude oil ban, environmentalists are given free rein to advance their destructive agenda. Nothing in this omnibus will stop President Obama from implementing the climate change agreement reached in Paris last week. Furthermore, the EPA can continue imposing new regulations in areas such as water and carbon emissions that will affect our daily lives in many ways.
  5. National Security. Our national security will be diminished. President Obama can continue to implement his dangerous deal with Iran. Women will be allowed into combat units, lowering their overall effectiveness and increasing risks to men and women in the front lines.

With less than three days to digest a 2000+ page spending bill, no one should expect Members of Congress to fully understand what they are voting on when the omnibus comes to the floor.

Please email or call your senators and representative and tell them to vote NO on the omnibus spending bill.

Senator Jeff Sessions (202) 224-4124

Senator Richard Shelby (202) 224-5744

Congressman Robert Aderholt (202) 225-4876

Congressman Mo Brooks (202) 225-4801

Congressman Bradley Byrne (202) 225-4931

Congressman Gary Palmer (202) 225-4921

Congresswoman Martha Roby (202) 225-2901

Congressman Mike Rogers (202) 225-3261

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (202) 225-2665

Budget Decisions: Consequences of Gambling Expansion (Compact) Vs. Other Ways

May 13, 2015

To:   Governor Robert Bentley

Members, Alabama Senate and House

From: Eunie Smith, Eagle Forum of Alabama

You are in our prayers as you make the hard, limited-government choices that result in the most cost-effective government and the most liberty for our citizens.  We wish to share the following four points with you as you wrestle with budget decisions. Explanations follow.

  • It is NOT a foregone conclusion that the Poarch Creek Indians will have any gambling going forward.
  • We’re not just talking about gambling on Indian Reservations.
  • Gambling interests will take control of politics and policy making in Alabama.
  • There is Another Way.

1.      It is NOT a foregone conclusion that the Poarch Creek Indians will have any gambling going forward.

The push for a compact is premised on the notion that Indian gambling is here to stay, and therefore we might as well tax it.  This is a false premise!  It is being used to convince conservative legislators who would otherwise oppose gambling to give up and support a compact!

The Alabama Attorney General has a strong case pending in the federal Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (in Atlanta) that could be decided in a matter of weeks.  If the appeal is successful and the Attorney General eventually wins the case, it will undermine the right of the Poarch Creek to conduct any gambling operations in Alabama!

For over five years, the issue of “electronic bingo” has been fought out in case after case in Alabama state courts.  It is this form of gambling that has been conducted up until now on both Indian and non-Indian land in Alabama.   Just a few months ago, in a case called Houston County Economic Development Ass’n. v. State (November 21, 2014), our Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling that finally settles the matter once and for all:  so-called “electronic bingo” is illegal under Alabama law.  Only paper bingo is allowed.  Now that this ruling is in place, there is good reason to believe that the federal courts will take notice and rule that, since this gambling is illegal under Alabama law on non-Indian land, federal law will not permit it on Indian land either.

In addition, the case brought by the Attorney General also includes a sound argument that  the land on which all of the Indian gambling is being conducted in Alabama was not even properly taken “into trust” for the benefit of the Poarch Creek tribe.  In a 2009 case called Carcieri v. Salazar, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that only Indian tribes recognized as such by the federal government in 1934 could benefit from land taken into trust for them by the Secretary of Interior.  Alabama’s Poarch Creeks were not recognized as a tribe until the 1980’s!

2.  We’re not just talking about gambling on Indian Reservations.

If we enter into a compact with the Poarch Creek Indians, non-Indian gambling bosses will never let us hear the end of it.  They will keep pushing until they have the same rights.  Once we “cross the Rubicon” and become a gambling state, the political pressure from non-Indians to be treated “equally” will be relentless.   (The tools available will include massive political contributions to those who favor increased gambling and equally massive contributions to recruit and support opponents for those who oppose increased gambling.)

The result of gambling expansion is NOT more reliable net revenue to the state.  However, the costs are reliable: more addictions, more family breakdown, more divorces, increased crime, increased law enforcement and public assistance programs, business and restaurant closings …   See http://stoppredatorygambling.org/

3.     Gambling Interests will Take Control of Politics in Alabama.

In Mississippi today, whenever a new law is proposed in the legislature, the first question legislators ask is “Where are the casinos on this?”  Do we in Alabama really want to turn control of our state politics over to the gambling bosses?

Right now the two biggest donors in Alabama state politics are the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Business Council of Alabama.  Of course there are other “players,” but these are the two dominant forces.  But if we legalize casinos, the amount of cash generated will easily swamp the combined political resources available to current donor groups.  The gross profits from three or more Las Vegas style casino operations could easily exceed $2 million dollars a day.   Whether Indian or non-Indian, the gambling money is huge, it is politically minded and it will likely not be chasing after conservative candidates.  Gambling money will control Alabama politics.   (While there is talk of restricting political participation by casinos, this is only being proposed as to Indian casinos; and, besides, substantial First Amendment questions exist as to whether any such restrictions will be enforceable.)

Make no mistake:  Signing a compact with the Indians will usher in a new era in which gambling bosses will control Alabama politics.  They will have much more influence than most people realize over who we elect to our courts, as our Governor, and as our representatives in Montgomery and even in Washington.

4.  There is Another Way – Un-earmarking and combining the budgets

“The solution to Alabama’s budget ‘crisis’ is so simple it will blow your mind,” according to Yellowhammernews, which explains that there will be a surplus in education trust fund tax revenues this year of $287 million!  This is almost exactly the same amount as the projected shortfall of $290 million in this year’s general fund budget!  So without one dollar from gambling interests, the State already has enough money to fund essentially the entire deficit!    What is required is that we un-earmark all or even just part of the excess money that is now restricted.  And much of this money can be un-earmarked simply by an act of the legislature.

Additionally, the legislature can continue to cut out inappropriate expenditures; and it is time to combine our education and general fund budgets.  If 47 other state legislatures can manage dollars used for education without a separate budget, so can Alabama.  Please consider these options as you move forward.

Two Different Views on the Cromnibus Bill

Congressional Republicans who voted for the Cromnibus bill are experiencing a great deal of backlash.  Following are two articles on each side of the issue.  One is an op-ed from Rep. Martha Roby  (AL-2) published in Yellowhammer.  The other is from Gaston Mooney, Executive Editor of Conservative Review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No More Subsidies!

President Obama and the Democratic leadership are trying once again to subsidize alternative energy.  H.R. 1380 (A.K.A.the Natural Gas Bill or the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011) is an effort to create a federal subsidy for production and use of natural gas vehicles.  There is an effort underway to get some of the language from HR1380 and the government subsidies into a continuing resolution before Congress finishes for the year.

The national debt is now over $15 trillion dollars.  We cannot afford to keep subsidizing private sector production. Even if we could afford it, the federal government should not be picking winners and losers in the marketplace.  If natural gas is a viable alternative form of energy then private sector investment will provide the “subsidies” necessary to develop it. And to further add fuel to the fire, the current Senate version of the bill has a new tax on natural gas users.  We need to be cutting spending–not raising taxes!

Federal subsidies have got to stop.  We all saw what happened with Solyndra and that was just the tip of the iceberg.  These types of subsidies distort the market and result in some companies getting taxpayer funded advantage over others.  We’ve got to say “Enough is enough” and stop this kind of government interference before we wind up in a European-style debt crisis.

S&P Says Internet Sales Tax Bills Will Yield Little

Wall Street credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s say the current push by states to collect sales tax on internet purchases will yield little in the way of increased revenues:

America’s state governments won’t see many revenue gains any time soon if they triumph in battles to tax sales by out-of-state Internet retailers, a leading Wall Street credit-ratings group said on Monday.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said that state governments were increasingly targeting Internet sales outside their borders but still faced legal hurdles and were unlikely to see much top-line benefit soon.

“At this time, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services does not think that the amount of revenue states are foregoing by not collecting tax on Internet sales is significant enough to influence state or local ratings,”

States across the country are facing tough budget battles this year and Alabama is no exception. State legislators are under a lot of pressure by retail associations and others to help close that gap by collecting sales tax on internet purchases. Before they act on that, legislators should consider the cost of imposing a tax increase on the people of Alabama. Is an insignificant increase in revenue worth asking citizens to pay more sales tax in what are already tough economic times?

You Can Attempt Meaningful Reform And Live To Tell About It

Excellent piece from the Wall Street Journal about the recall elections in Wisconsin. Conservative Governor Scott Walker and Republican legislators were under harsh attack from unions and left-wing organizations across the country and still managed to win with the voters of Wisconsin.

They called it Armageddon. They promised political revenge, and they said it would be the beginning of the end of the GOP ascendancy of 2010. Unions across the country threw everything they had to defeat Wisconsin state senators who voted for collective bargaining reforms for government workers, and on Tuesday the unions lost.

Maybe we’re not Greece yet.

In the six months since Governor Scott Walker introduced his reforms, Big Labor and Democrats have tried to make the Badger State a national demonstration that some political lines can’t be crossed. Union power, once granted, is sacrosanct. Even President Obama denounced Mr. Walker. The legislative brawl consumed Madison in European-style protests and turned a judicial election into a national spectacle before the law was upheld by the state supreme court.

On Tuesday, voters delivered another verdict, favoring Republicans in four of six state senate recall elections and keeping the GOP in the majority. The two losses came in races where the GOP incumbent was troubled for other reasons. Dan Kapanke lost in Democratic-leaning La Crosse, while Randy Hopper lost after he left his wife to take up with a barely-legal Republican aide.

The unions can’t say they didn’t go all-in. Spending in the recalls totalled around $28 million, only a few million less than total spending in the state’s 2010 gubernatorial election, and Democrats are widely estimated to have outspent Republicans two to one. For the bucketloads of cash, the political impact is negligible. Two Democrats face recalls next week and if they were to lose, the net senate recall effect would be zero.