ACPP news releases
Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, after the state Senate voted 30-1 to end Alabama’s judicial override policy, which allows judges to impose a death sentence in capital cases despite a jury’s sentencing recommendation of life in prison without the possibility of parole:
“The Senate’s vote to end judicial override in death penalty cases is a step in the right direction for Alabama’s justice system. The right to a trial by jury is a cornerstone of our justice system, and we should respect a jury’s ability to weigh the evidence for sentencing, just as we do on guilt or innocence. Alabama is the only state that still allows judicial overrides, and it’s time to join the rest of the country in making this outdated practice a thing of the past.”
Arise Citizens’ Policy Project policy director Jim Carnes issued the following statement Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in response to the release of Gov. Robert Bentley’s letter to U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy on suggested changes to the Affordable Care Act:
“We’re glad the governor recognizes the importance of not repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement, and we’re glad he urged Congress to protect funding for Medicaid and ALL Kids. But it was deeply disturbing to see him raise the prospects of allowing ‘a waiting period for pre-existing conditions’ and giving states more power to ‘reduce Medicaid benefits or enrollment.’
“Alabama Medicaid already has one of the lowest income eligibility limits and one of the most limited benefit packages in the country. Slashing our state’s barebones Medicaid program even more deeply would hurt hundreds of thousands of children, seniors, and people with disabilities who live in poverty, and it would do nothing to make our state healthier or more prosperous. Neither would returning to the bad old days of allowing discrimination against people with health conditions like cancer or diabetes.
“The Affordable Care Act has helped millions of people and saved thousands of lives across Alabama. Nearly 200,000 Alabamians have signed up for insurance through the ACA. More than 2 million Alabamians have pre-existing conditions that would have made it hard or impossible for them to get full coverage before the ACA lifted coverage caps and guaranteed their access to insurance. And the ACA has significantly reduced the number of uninsured young Alabamians by allowing 35,000 of them to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26.
“The stakes are too high for Alabamians to stay silent. We urge Alabamians to continue pressuring their members of Congress to protect Medicaid and not to repeal the Affordable Care Act without an immediate replacement that offers comparable coverage and consumer protections.”
Arise Citizens’ Policy Project policy director Jim Carnes issued the following statement Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, after the U.S. House approved a resolution that would make it easier for Congress to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act:
“Protecting access to quality, affordable health care is more important than ever. Congress voted this week to make it easier to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but that wasn’t the end of this debate. Now comes the hard work of ensuring that tens of millions of Americans don’t lose their health coverage and important consumer protections in the process.
“The Affordable Care Act has helped millions of people and saved thousands of lives across Alabama. Nearly 200,000 Alabamians have gained insurance through the ACA, and the vast majority of them receive tax credits to make their coverage more affordable. About 2 million Alabamians have pre-existing conditions that would have made it hard or impossible for them to get full coverage before the ACA lifted coverage caps and guaranteed their access to insurance. And the ACA has significantly reduced the number of uninsured young Alabamians by allowing 35,000 of them to remain on their parents’ plans until age 26.
“We urge Alabamians to continue pressuring their members of Congress not to repeal the Affordable Care Act without an immediate replacement that offers comparable coverage and consumer protections. ‘Repeal and delay’ is a dangerous and unacceptable path.”
Alabama has the nation’s second worst decline in state formula funding for K-12 schools since before the Great Recession, according to a report released Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.
K-12 schools in Alabama will receive 14.2 percent less through state formula funding this year than they did in 2008, adjusted for inflation. Only Oklahoma has cut its formula funding more deeply since 2008, the CBPP finds. Alabama’s K-12 funding increase this year restored only a fraction of the support that was cut during and after the recession.
“Alabama needs to invest more in education now to enjoy broad prosperity and thriving communities in the future,” Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister said. “Our children and grandchildren deserve the opportunity to succeed in life and be able to compete for highly skilled jobs in a fast-paced economy.”
The erosion in support for K-12 education will have damaging economic consequences for Alabama both now and in the future, Forrister said. The cuts undermine promising education reforms such as reducing class sizes, improving teacher quality and expanding early childhood education, he said.
Greater investment in education would allow Alabama to increase learning time and hire more teachers to reduce class sizes, especially during the critical middle-school years. Those steps would help children build a stronger foundation to succeed in college and the workplace.
“At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more – not less – so our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, CBPP’s director of state fiscal research and a co-author of the new report.
More than one in five Alabama families with children lived in poverty in 2015, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016. Those numbers underscore the need for Alabama to do more to help families get ahead, ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister said.
“Alabama’s high poverty rate shows we still have a lot of work to do to ensure everyone has an opportunity to get ahead in life,” Forrister said. “By raising the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid for working adults and investing in better housing and public transportation options, Alabama can keep workers healthier and more productive, and ensure that their hard work pays off.”
Alabama’s family poverty rate of nearly 14 percent remains higher than it was in 2007 and still exceeds the national average by 3 percentage points. Overall, 18.5 percent of Alabamians lived below the poverty line (about $24,000 for a family of four) in 2015.
The state’s overall poverty rate is down since 2014, but Alabama’s child poverty rate of 26.6 percent remains one of the highest in the nation and is still higher than it was in 2007, before the Great Recession. Alabama’s child poverty rate also varies widely by region, from a low of 13 percent in the 6th Congressional District to a shocking high of 42 percent in the 7th Congressional District, which includes much of Birmingham and many rural Black Belt counties.
More than 250 Arise members met in Montgomery last week to consider ways to reduce Alabama’s persistently high poverty rate. Forrister’s policy recommendations touch on several of the issues that Arise members identified as 2017 priorities. (Read the full list of Arise’s 2017 issue priorities here.)
“Closing the Medicaid coverage gap and investing in public transportation and affordable housing would create thousands of jobs across Alabama and make our state a better place to live and work,” Forrister said. “By combining those steps with the creation of a higher state minimum wage, we can build a thriving economy and make high poverty rates a thing of the past in Alabama.”