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3 months ago
Tuesday is Election Day! When you go to vote for your candidate of choice, please don’t forgot to flip your ballot over and vote on the amendments. I have a attached a brief summary of each amendment. Feel free to share it as you wish. I have also been asked by several people to share my thoughts on them. I will try to be as brief as possible. Ratification of the 2022 Alabama Constitution - It is time that we get rid of the 1901 Constitution. Voting yes will get rid of the racist language, reorganize the constitution so similar subjects are located together, get rid of repealed and repeated language, and arrange local amendments by county. I am voting YES.Amendment 1 (Aniah’s law) - There is a lot of misinformation about and misunderstanding of Aniah’s law. To be clear, judges in Alabama currently DO have a lot of discretion when it comes to denying bond, revoking bond, and holding individuals accused of a non-capital offense in jail without a bond. Hearings are commonly held to determine whether or not an individual accused of a crime should have their bond revoked or even have a bond. Individuals with multiple offenses, those who are a danger to themselves or others, or a flight risk are often held regardless of offense. As with most issues, this is more a “people” issue, than a “law” issue. So, whether or not Amendment 1 passes on Tuesday, rest assured that Judges currently do have the power to deny bond to and revoke the bond of individuals that are not charged with capital offenses. The real issue here isn’t the law. It is whether or not DAs file motions to ask judges to use their power to revoke and deny bonds. And, to that end, whether or not a judge will use that power. Because of this, I don’t believe that it is necessary to expand or increase that authority. I plan on voting NO on Amendment 1.Amendment 2 - This amendment will make it clear that the state, the county or a city in Alabama will be allowed to give federal (American Rescue Plan funds for example) and state money to public or private entities to recruit broadband companies to help expand access to broadband across the state. Alabama desperately needs to be able to use all resources available to help expand access to high speed internet to all areas of the state especially in our rural areas. Currently, there are millions of dollars available for this purpose. I plan on voting YES on Amendment 2. Amendment 3 - This amendment will require the Governor to notify the Attorney General and the victim’s family before postponing or reducing a death sentence. Failure to provide notice could void the Governor’s action and allow the Attorney General to seek a new execution date. For the sake of full disclosure, I am not a big fan of the death penalty. I also believe that the Governor’s power to commute sentences should remain independent. Therefore, I plan on voting NO on Amendment 3.Amendment 4 - This amendment would require any legislation that relates to the conduct of a general election to have an effective date at least six months before the date of the general election to which the legislation applies.With all of the BS floating around about election security and folks wanting to change the law so they change the outcome of an election if they don’t like the result, I can’t think of a better idea than to limit the power of the legislature to change laws in an election year. Also, the Governor and the Secretary of State both have emergency powers that allow them to temporarily change laws if it becomes necessary. It happened throughout the pandemic. So, I plan on voting YES on Amendment 4. Quite frankly, I’m upset that there isn’t a HELL YES option.Amendment 5 - This amendment would remove outdated language, "orphans' business," from the general jurisdiction of the probate court.This amendment does exactly what it says. It just removes antiquated language from our Constitution. I plan on voting YES.Amendment 6 - This amendment would authorize certain named municipalities that are already authorized to levy and collect, after approval at a referendum, a special ad valorem tax of five mills ($.50 on each $100 of assessed value) for special purposes, to additionally use the proceeds from that tax to directly pay the costs of public capital improvements on a pay-as-you-go basis, and to pay the principal and interest on bonds to finance the capital improvements. The specified municipalities are Tuscumbia, Sheffield, Hurtsboro, Russellville, Lanett, Demopolis, Pell City, Heflin, Columbiana, Carrollton, Opelika, Fairhope, Pine Hill, Scottsboro, Stevenson, Ashland, Brewton, Pollard, Flomaton, Atmore, Inglenook, Tuskegee, Aliceville, Gordo, Reform, Livingston, Camden, Monroeville, Phenix or Girard, Birmingham, Bessemer, Florence, Huntsville, Selma, Fairfield, Anniston, Athens, Jacksonville, Auburn, Carbon Hill, and Lafayette. This amendment would also ratify prior actions by the municipalities.This amendment provides that cities/towns already allowed to collect a special property tax may use those tax dollars to directly “pay as you go” for construction projects instead instead of borrowing money and going into debt. This is a good idea. Why borrow money and incur debt when you can avoid it? I plan on voting YES on Amendment 6.Amendment 7- This amendment would revise the requirements that must be satisfied by counties and municipalities for incurring debt for economic development projects and where notices of public meetings may be published by counties and municipalities considering lending to private entities. This amendment would also ratify actions and agreements made prior to this amendment's ratification date.Currently, the Alabama Constitution provides that some counties and cities/towns may use public funds to sell public property, lend their credit, or become indebted for economic development purposes.This amendment will give all counties and cities/towns those same powers. Currently, the governing body is required to give notice of its proposed action in the newspaper having the largest circulation in the county or city/town. It will also allow the public notice to be given in any newspaper in circulation in the county or city/town. That is, of course, if you can find one. Voting Yes on this amendment will allow 14 counties to have the same ability as all other counties in the state to be able to borrow money from public-private partnerships without first getting approval from a judge. Because most counties are already doing this and it will also help all areas with economic development, I plan on voting YES on Amendment 7.Amendments 8 and 9 - Amendments 8 and 9 only apply to Shelby County and the town of Lake View in Tuscaloosa and Jefferson County. These amendments seek to place privately owned sewer systems that use the public rights-of-way of public roads to be certified and regulated by the Public Service Commission. If the county, a municipality, or a governmental utility service corporation enters into a rate control agreement with a sewer system, the governmental entity may opt out of regulation by the PSC. Specifically for Amendment 9, this amendment would require any privately owned sewer system that has customers in the city limits of Lake View which uses the rights-of-way of public roads would be required to be certified and regulated by the Public Service Commission from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2027.Usually, I tell people to not vote on local amendments if you do not live in the affected area. That certainly goes for this situation as well. However, if you need to know why these amendments are absolutely necessary, google “Mike White Private Sewer”. After reading the stories that pop up, please join me in voting YES. Amendment 10 - This amendment depends upon the approval of the official Constitution of Alabama of 2022. This amendment provides that any new amendments will be properly organized. This amendment will not change any court decision related to any provision of the previous Alabama Constitution.Voting Yes on this amendment will allow all amendments passed on November 8th to be recompiled and reorganized with the effort to shorten and streamline the state’s constitution (if the ballot measure to remove the constitution’s racist language is passed). If we vote to replace the 1901 Constitution with the 2022 Constitution, then Amendment 10 will make sure that the new Amendments we ratify during this election cycle will be added to related areas instead of just adding them to the end. Please vote YES on Amendment 10 so we don’t mess up our brand new shiny 2022 Alabama Constitution.I realize that this is a long post so I will post a short recap. Amendment 1 - NOAmendment 2 - YESAmendment 3 - NOAmendment 4 - HELL YESAmendment 5 - YESAmendment 6 - YESAmendment 7- YESAmendment 8 - YESAmendment 9 - YESAmendment 10 -YESFeel free to ignore everything I wrote and just print out the attachment. I promise you that it will not hurt my feelings. These are just my thoughts. I encourage you to make up your own mind.With all that being said, please go vote tomorrow. GET UP, GET YOUR ID, and GET OUT, and GO VOTE! ... See MoreSee Less
11 months ago
I’m so glad that our Attorney General Steve Marshall wrote this Op-Ed that I wanted to make sure you saw it. He wrote this in opposition to HB57 which is a bill I sponsored. So, since it is out there now, let me correct some “misrepresentations” in it and also give you some facts about pardons and paroles in Alabama.HB57 would create the Criminal Justice Policy Development Council to update the inmate classification system; 2) create parole guidelines; 3) adopt a validated risk and needs assessment for felony offenders; and 4) provide quarterly reports to Legislature about the Council’s work.Also, the bill would require the Board to 1) use parole release guidelines in parole decisions; 2) provide an explanation when deviating from these guidelines; and 3) provide written notification to the applicant of their right to appeal if the denial deviates from the guidelines.Once the Council’s work is complete, it will dissolve on January 1st, 2025. It will not live on in perpetuity to “oversee” the parole board. The pardon and parole board will continue to exist as it does now with the same discretion the members currently have. Contrary to what the AG says, it doesn’t take away the Board’s authority or independence. It just requires the use of guidelines to inject some objectivity to the process to assist the Board. And, when they deviate from the guidelines, it requires the Board to give a reason.I’m glad that Steve Marshall mentioned the 2019 legislation he pushed to “reform” the system. What’s interesting is that he doesn’t mention the fact that the 2019 bill created parole guidelines that the Board currently uses. However, now they just ignore the recommendations. I guess mentioning that the 2019 law he supported created guidelines for the board to use doesn’t fit his narrative. But, the facts are the facts. They were put in the law to be used. Unfortunately, the current Board ignores them. Hell, the current Chair often changes them.All HB57 would do is give meaning to what he supported back in 2019. It would allow the Legislature to adopt a validated risk and needs assessment to objectively assist in making the final decision. Again, not taking away independence or authority, but giving evidence based help.Now, a lot has changed since 2019. There is a reason why I keep mentioning objectivity in the process. Since @AGSteveMarshall 2019 law was enacted and his pick to lead the board, Leigh Gwathney, was appointed, some extremely disturbing trends have emerged. Let’s talk about them.Here are the parole numbers from Nov. 2019 until Jan. 2022.White Applicants? 904 released, 3061 denied.Black Applicants? 428 released, 3814 denied. Of the 1332 Paroles granted, 66% of them went to White Applicants. Those numbers are terrible.November 2019 is important because that’s when @AGSteveMarshall’s pick to Chair the board, Leigh Gwathney, was appointed. Since she has been in charge and the Legislature passed the AG’s “reform” bill, White applicants are 2 times more likely to get released than Black applicants.This isn’t a personal attack on anyone. These are the facts as provided by the Board. Facts don’t care about feelings. If you believe that the Board is doing what they are there to do, then you are going to have to explain why this significant racial disparity exists. And since Steve Marshall supported Gwathney, the reform bill, and he wants to make sure that the board maintains its independence free from objective guidelines, I wonder if he has an explanation as to why the racial disparity has developed and currently exists.And while we are it, I don’t want to forget to mention that there is not only a racial disparity in who gets paroled but also who gets pardoned as well. Don’t take my word for it. The numbers are available on their website. Any information that isn’t posted can be requested.Also, after denying damn near every applicant, the Chair will often set the rehearing date off longer than the statute allows. To deny applicants an opportunity for rehearing for as long as possible, she will often BREAK THE LAW to get it done. Apparently that is ok these days.The Board’s new set date cannot be more than 2 years following denial for applicants serving sentences of 20 years or less for nonviolent offenses or 5 years following denial for all other applicants. Despite that, the chair often set them all for 5 years in violation of the law.What can be done about it? Well, nothing really. The board has no real oversight. While there is a limited ability to appeal the Board’s decisions, the standard is so high that it proves ineffective to provide any way to reign in the board in the event it becomes necessary.HB57 will create that oversight. It will inject objectivity into the process to ensure due process is in place and that people are treated fairly. Public safety is paramount here because the guidelines are based on evidence based standards instead of subjective opinions.So now that Steve Marshall has told us that the board is doing the what it is there to do, maybe he will talk to his constituents about the racial disparity. Maybe he will tell us why it is ok for the Board to ignore guidelines and to break the law to hold people longer.Or, maybe Steve Marshall wont say anything else because his Chair Leigh Gwathney and his 2019 parole reform legislation are doing exactly what he wants them to do. If that is in fact the case, then I can see why he opposes HB57. #alpolitics ... See MoreSee Less
The Committee on Reapportionment will be meeting on Tuesday, October 26 at 1 PM in Rm.317 at the Statehouse. Here is a link to the livestream. www.legislature.state.al.us/aliswww/audiovideo/SenateRoom317Video.html #redistricting #Reapportionment #alabamalegislature #specialsession2021 #alpolitics ... See MoreSee Less