Sen. Hank Sanders

Number 1469 - August 4, 2015







            What shall we do?  That is the question every Alabama legislator is asking. What will they do?  That is the question many Alabama citizens are asking about Alabama legislators.  The central question is what? What? What?

            Legislators return to a special session of the Alabama Legislature on August, 3, 2015.  The Governor of Alabama hastily called this special session for July 13.  The Legislature came into session on the day specified and hastily adjourned to August 3.  What impelled Alabama’s Governor to quickly call a special session of the Alabama Legislature without consulting legislative leaders?  I can’t answer that “what.”  What impelled the Alabama Legislature to hastily adjourn to August 3?  I can’t really answer that “what” either. It’s just What?  What?  What?

            What brought us to this sorry situation?  The immediate answer is the lack of a General Fund Budget.  The Legislature previously passed an inadequate budget for fiscal year 2016 with $250 million in additional cuts and adjourned sine die.  The Governor vetoed the budget.  The result was no budget for the operation of general government come October 1.  Everyone knew that a special legislative session was coming.  What caused it come in the way it did, I can’t tell you.  It’s just What?  What?  What?

            What really brought us to this moment?  It’s a long, long story.  The short story of the long story is Alabama’s terrible tax tragedy.  The short story of the long story is Alabama’s failure to fix its terrible tax system.  The short story of the long story is the complete exhaustion of every fake fix conceivable.  It’s just What?  What?  What?

            What will we do in the special session?  The short answer is “I don’t know.”  An even shorter answer may be “nothing.”  We now know what the Governor is proposing:  shift certain taxes from the education fund to the general fund; eliminate the FICA state tax deduction; remove certain revenue earmarks; loosen up the Rolling Reserve Act; increase the business privilege tax; increase taxes on cigarettes and soft drinks; repeal the withholding tax exemption for individuals; earmark the BP settlement monies to repay the Alabama Trust Fund; and so on.  I realize that most of these items will not mean much to you, but I have no space to explain them at the moment.  The Governor made these general proposals but did not release specific bills until the last minute.  Of course, the Devil is always in the details.  Some are asking, “Does it matter what the Governor proposes to this Legislature?”  It’s just What?  What?  What?

            Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh is proposing casino gambling at four sites along with a lottery and a compact for the Poarch Creek Indians.  This would require a Constitutional Amendment adopted by a 3/5 vote separately in the Senate and House and a majority vote by the people of Alabama.  Any benefits would come down the road, way too late to help this budget crisis.  Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard says he is opposed to Senator Marsh’s casino plan.  Does it really matter what Senator Marsh is proposing?  It’s just What?  What?  What?

            The Poarch Creek Indians have gambling at two locations and are raking in many millions every week.  They say that they will advance Alabama some $250 million to fill the hole in the general fund budget providing they get a compact that will allow even more gambling.  Their ads are all over the media.  The Governor and the Senate President Pro Tem are opposed to this approach.  Does it matter what the Poarch Creek Indians are proposing?  It’s just What?  What?  What?

            I hear that Senate and House leaders are developing a plan.  I don’t even know what are the outlines of that plan.  No one else seems to know.  The planners may not even know.  Does it really matter what they propose?   It’s just What?  What?  What?

            As I write this Sketches, rumors are rife that the House and Senate may adjourn sine die on Monday, August 3 with the Governor calling a new special session commencing August 5.  Mind you, this is just a rumor, and rumors flourish when there are no answers.  It’s just What?  What?  What?

            It seems to me that our leaders are trying to find an easy way out.  However, there is no real way around raising taxes.  I am afraid that we will rob Peter to pay Paul.  Worse yet, we will even rob Peter’s children to pay Paul.  However, robbing one to pay another only goes so far.  Eventually there will not be anyone or anything left to rob.  Until we fully embrace the real challenge, it will be just What? What?  What?           

Now on to the Daily Diary.

            Saturday, July 25, 2015 - We started leaving Los Angeles, CA early in the morning but the plane developed a defect.  By the time we arrived in Atlanta, our connecting flight was long gone.  We finally made it to Birmingham where we visited with our nephew Kenyatta Gaines and my son, Kindaka.  We made it to Selma and went by the home of Wallace Community College Selma (WCCS) President Dr. James Mitchell for his birthday, but no one was there.

            Sunday – I did Radio Sunday School with Dr. Margaret Hardy and Radio Education with Perry County School Superintendent John Heard.  I worked from early to late into the night.  I briefly took off for a very special lunch with my oldest granddaughter, Askhari Little, who is getting ready to go off to Spelman College.  I had a late dinner with Askhari’s family.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Rev. Gary Crum of Selma; Connie Tucker of Atlanta who is very sick; Dr. Fannie McKenzie of Georgia; Lester Brown of Greene County; Amadi Sanders of Nashville, TN; and Malika Fortier and Franklin Fortier of Selma.

            Monday – I walked, handled many matters, traveled to Lowndes County, returned to Selma and worked deep into the night.  I communicated with the  following:  Kenneth Boatner and Dr. Thelma Adair of New York about the death of her daughter, Jeanne Adair; Lorraine Capers of Selma; Paula Bird of Greene County; Stewart Burkhalter on his 79th birthday; Mary Pons of the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama (ACCA); Gloria Pompey of Selma; Sharon Wheeler of Montgomery; Greene County Board of Education member Leo Branch; Sometria Purifoy of Selma; Lowndes County Commissioners Robert Harris, Dickson Farrior, Joey Bargainier, Brent Crenshaw and Carnell McAlpine; Lowndes County Administrator Jackie Thomas, Engineer David Butts and Assistant Administrator Kim West; Greg Foster of Birmingham; Kathy Viet of Atlanta; Holly Caraway of Montgomery; Earl Ford of Perry County; Barbara Pitts of Auburn; and Ainka Jackson and Josiah Jackson of Nashville (Josiah was in the hospital).

            Tuesday – I walked, participated in several conference calls, traveled to Montgomery, returned to Selma, handled various matters and worked into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Dr. Roberta Watts of Gadsden; Dr. Daniel Boyd and Yvette Patterson of the Lowndes County School System; The Clinton Foundation; Television Reporter George McDonald; Ola Morrow of Maplesville; and new mother Michelle Alexandre of the University of Mississippi Law School.

            Wednesday – I walked, read a Sketches on Faya’s Fire Radio Program, handled various matters, participated in multiple conference calls, co-hosted Radio Law Lessons, attended a meeting and worked into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford; Roger Watts of Gadsden; Shelley Fearson of Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC); Veronica Williams and Donita Clay of Selma; Sharon Calhoun of Montgomery; Stephen Martin of Mobile; and Greene County Interim School Superintendent Dr. James Carter.

            Thursday – I walked, read a Sketches on Faya’s Fire, handled various matters, traveled to Greene County, returned to Selma, did an interview with national media and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Greene County School Board members Dr. Carol P. Zippert, Leo Branch, William Morgan, Carrie Dancy and Morris Hardy; Susan Slater of the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB); Frank Barragan of the Alabama Coalition of Immigrant Justice (ACIJ); Gus Townes of Montgomery; Cheri Welch of Atlanta; and La Tanya Cockrell of Greene County.

            Friday – I handled many matters, participated in several conference calls and a meeting, traveled to Montgomery, returned to Selma and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Rachael Riddle of the Legislative fiscal Office (LFO); Senator Quinton Ross; Sam Walker and Edwin Ellis of Selma; Representative Thad McClammy; Retired Law Professor Martha Morgan; Retired Birmingham Businessman Julian Smith; Jason Copeland of Gadsden; and the Clinton Campaign.

            EPILOGUE – Sometimes there are no easy answers.  Because we will not embrace hard answers, we are often left with nothing but What?  What? What?  The answer is in us if we just embrace it.