Is this any way to run a jail?

Paul RichardsonPaul Richardson

Remember Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who made news recently when he painted the jail cells pink and made the inmates wear pink prison garb?

Well, Sheriff Joe is in the news again.

The county was spending $18 million a year on stray animals, catching, housing, feeding, and medical care. Sheriff Joe offered to take over the department and county commissioners eagerly agreed.

The animal shelters are now all staffed and operated by prisoners. The best part? His annual budget for the entire department is now under $3 million, with most of his budget going for utilities, building maintenance, etc. He pays the prisoners out of the fees collected for adopted animals, .28 cents an hour, but most would work for free, just to be out of their cells for the day.

Sheriff Joe has a huge farm where inmates can work, and they grow most of their own fresh vegetables and food, doing all the work and harvesting by hand.

They also raise hogs, which provides meat for the jail and fertilizer for the Christmas tree nursery, where prisoners work, and the public can purchase a living Christmas tree for $6 – $8 for the holidays and plant it later.

He created a Tent City Jail where trustees are housed.

He has the cost of jail meals down to 40 cents per serving, which includes a lot of bologna sandwiches.

He banned all tobacco use and porno material on county property. Nothing but “G” rated movies are allowed.

He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails, so he hooked up the cable TV again…..BUT only let in the Disney channel and the Weather channel. When asked why the Weather Channel, he replied, “So they will know how hot it’s gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.”

He shut down the gym and took away all weight lifting equipment.

He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects. Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn’t get sued for discrimination. Prisoners wear pink jump suits, pink boxer shorts, pink socks, pink flip-flops and use, pink towels.

Last election, Sheriff Joe won 83% of the vote and never campaigned one day. So why is there an uproar?

It reaches over 100 degrees in his tent city and inmates constantly complain. Some call it “inhumane.”

“It feels like we are in a furnace,” said one inmate who has lived in the tents for a year.

But tough-guy Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not one bit sympathetic.

He told the inmates, “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear while risking their lives every day, but they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths!”

He believes if all prison systems were like his, there would be far less crime and repeat offenders.

“Criminals should be punished for their crimes,” he stated, “not live in luxury until it’s time for their parole, only to go out and commit another crime so they can get back in to live on taxpayers’ money and enjoy things taxpayers can’t afford to have for themselves.”

The best worst fight ever

Jodie FullerBy Jody Fuller

Last week, I flew non-stop from Atlanta to Korea to entertain the troops. The flight itself was 15 hours, so I spent close to 16 hours on the plane. It’s the longest flight I’ve ever been on. It was the best worst flight ever.

The night before my flight, I found myself at a local urgent care. To keep this article out of the “too much information” category, I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to not feel well at 38,000 feet for any period of time, much less 15 hours. Fortunately, I felt much better later that night after taking the prescribed medication.

The next morning, I felt like a million bucks. I felt great. Apparently the meds and the recommended BRAT diet consisting of Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast worked. Normally, my BRAT diet is more like Beer, Ribs, And Tacos.

I was wearing my Auburn attire when I went to check in at the airport. “Roll Tide,” yelled the lady from behind the counter.

From there, my day only got worse as the nausea resurfaced. I felt that I needed something light in my stomach, so I ordered a bowl of wonton soup. As I sat down to eat, the nausea intensified. Moreover, the soup was too hot to eat, so I put it back in the bag and went to my gate.

By now, I was feeling miserable and was on the verge on leaving the airport. To make matters worse, I was assigned a middle seat. I blame that on the Bama fan. The thought of sitting in a middle seat and being sick for 15 hours almost made me leave the airport, even after boarding the plane.

I nodded and smiled as a sweet little Korean lady sat next me. After telling me that she didn’t speak English, I patted her on the arm and smiled. Secretly, I was ecstatic to hear this. I was miserable and didn’t feel like talking to anyone.

Not too long into the flight, I broke out my soup. Two minutes later, the flight attendant walked by and told me I was not allowed to have my own food in the cabin.

That was another bummer. Lunch was served shortly thereafter. It was good and even came with a serving of rice. The only problem is that I was in the middle seat and looked like a Tyrannosaurus rex trying to eat without elbowing my neighbors.

Shortly before landing, I began to feel better, although I got very little sleep. The flight was smooth and uneventful. My stomach was grateful. The passengers were incredibly quiet and cordial, while the crew was very nice and helpful. The window seat was occupied by a man that didn’t get out of his seat one time for the duration of the trip. I just don’t know how he did it. I got up a half dozen times. The old lady was really sweet. We patted each other on the arm and smiled often. This was a universal language of love and respect in my mind.

Once I arrived in Korea, I was fine, albeit tired. The old lady even gave me a hug before we parted ways. We had our first show the next night, which was a phenomenal show in every way. It made the trials and tribulations of the trip more than worthwhile, and we have nine shows left.

Sometimes life is unpleasant, but it’s usually just temporary. Hang in there. The destination is often worth the struggle of the journey.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

Mike’s Musings

MikeThieves busy in Valley
One has got to be concerned about the rash of burglaries that have taken place in Valley or nearby, in recent weeks. This past weekend was particularly busy. Personally, and I probably shouldn’t say this publicly, but I have always felt Chambers County to be a relatively safe area, and thus so, rarely lock my car or home.
After reading a popular social media site in the last few days, I’ve changed my mind. Thefts are occurring at an alarming rate- at least they were last weekend.

Here’s a sampling:
-Early in the morning on October 4 a truck was stolen from a well-known community activist who has helped dozens of families in their time of need. The late model Ford F150 was used to deliver items to families in need. The same activist started the Christian Center in Valley, and on the same day, that too was broken in to.

One has to wonder what deranged individual would steal a truck that has been specifically used to help so many in the Valley area. Police really to focus on capturing this thief.

-a day earlier a 2005 black Mercedes was reported stolen. Again, brazenly swiped from the individual’s driveway.

-also on October 4, a Mule 610 XC tied down on top of a red utility trailer was again absconded right out of the driveway of a home in Valley.

-On the same day a utility work trailer was taken from a business in Valley.
Valley Police Department reports indicate six thefts were reported on their Oct. 5 log. On Oct. 6, another three thefts were reported. The October 2 log indicated there were three thefts.

Those are only the reported thefts. There are certainly more. One report after another is popping up on Facebook. Thieves had a field day last weekend, stealing trailers and ATV’s, and in some instances, trucks in Valley. Many are surmising it is a ring of thieves, that swept in to Chambers County, and grabbed what they could, and left.

Most of the crimes happened in the wee hours of the morning, when most folk are sleeping soundly in their beds. Most of the stolen items were parked in a driveway a yard, where thieves could pull up and have easy access.
I know the Valley Police Department, as well as other departments in Chambers County are on the look out and increasing their presence at this time of the night. It will be much more difficult for thieves to get away with their dirty deeds for the time being.

However, that’s no consolation for the several families that had their prized possessions taken this last weekend. I’m particularly upset about the Christian Center and the pick-up truck that was taken from them. That place and the people that started it, are truly blessed by God, and should not have to deal with this setback.
I hope law enforcement finds the thieves and the stolen goods and pounds a nail in to the coffin of thefts in the Valley and Chambers County.

Dreams without goals are simply wishes

Jodie FullerEach year, the federal government begins its new fiscal year on October 1. Their budget usually makes about as much sense as Clear Pepsi, but there’s little I can do about that. There is, however, a lot I can do about my personal budget in my very own fiscal year.

I’ve set forth financial goals over the next six, 12, 18, and 24 months, respectively. I’ll have a few personal loans paid off within six months. Ultimately, I want to have my house paid for in 24 months. At my current rate, I’ll have it paid in full in 288 months. That’s 24 years from now. I’ll be 67 years old. That’s just too darn long. It won’t be easy but with hard work and discipline, it can be done.

Last week, I mentioned purchasing Sea Monkeys when I was a kid. Sea Monkeys are just one of the silly things I’ve spent money on in my life. I also paid money to see Vanilla Ice in concert, too. Don’t judge.

Ok, so judge away. I deserve it. I bought a pair of acid-washed overalls from Gayfers to wear to that concert, too. Some nights, I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about that concert and all that it entailed.

I used to eat out a lot and felt the need to clear my plate at every meal. That’s just how we are raised in the south, but I no longer have that mentality. When I do eat out, I only eat half of it and save the rest for a later meal. That saves money in itself, but I mostly save money on food by cooking at home. Some people don’t like cooking for themselves, but I have no problem with it.

Last year, I set health and wellness goals. I not only reached those goals but have maintained them for a well over a year, and, quite honestly, it’s been easy. You simply have to believe in what you’re trying to accomplish.

I’ve wasted money on incredibly stupid things over the years, but in recent months, that has changed. I now have financial dreams that I’m tackling head on each day. On October 1, the start of my fiscal year, I turned in my cable box. Getting rid of this motivation killer will save me over $100 per month, not to mention many wasted hours that I could be using to be more productive.

Dreams without goals are simply wishes. I’ve heard this anonymous quote for years and have lived by it extensively in my professional life. For example, I used to drive 500 miles to speak for free just to be heard, to get reviews, and to get my name out there. Today, people fly me around the globe and pay me to run my pie hole, too. I’ll be in Korea and Japan for the next two weeks doing just that. That’s not bad for a stuttering guy.

American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” I’m now more disciplined than ever before and have goals in place to accomplish my dreams.

I’ve learned from my financial mistakes, but some memories just can’t be undone. I also bought fake cologne from a pretty girl in the parking lot at Kroger once—out of her trunk, no less. I’m fairly certain I wore it to the Vanilla Ice concert.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

Idle Thoughts


Paul Richardson

A regular reader sent this recently, along with a note that said “Think about it.” After reading it, I thought it might be worth sharing.

Here goes……. “The folks who are getting the free stuff don’t like the folks who are paying for the free stuff because the folks who are paying for the free stuff can no longer afford to pay for both the free stuff and their own stuff.

And the folks who are paying for the free stuff wants the free stuff to stop.

And the folks who are getting the free stuff want even more free stuff on top of the free stuff they are already getting!

Now… The free stuff people who are forcing the other people who pay for the free stuff have told the people who are receiving the free stuff that the people who are paying for the free stuff are being mean, prejudiced, narrow minded, inconsiderate, and disrespectful.

So… The people who are getting the free stuff have been convinced they need to hate the people who are paying for the free stuff. And the people being forcing to pay for their free stuff are convinced they should hate the people receiving the free stuff..

We have let the free stuff giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting free stuff than paying for the free stuff .”

Make sense to you….?

With that said, understand this.

Throughout history, all great democracies have failed and collapsed from within (economic suicide) somewhere between 200 and 250 years after being founded.

The reason…..? The voters figured out they could get freebees, benefits, and money by electing people who promised to oblige in exchange for electing them.

The United States officially became a Republic in 1776, 239 years ago. The number of people now getting free stuff, benefits, and money, outnumbers the people paying for the free stuff. Failure to change that may also spell the end of America as we know it, and apparently the clock is winding down.

Many believe the only way to correct the ship is complete new Washington leadership, including the Whitehouse and Congress, closing all borders, demanding English be not only the official language, but the only language acceptable, the Constitution and Bill of Rights be acknowledged, respected, and adhered to, there be absolutely no free ride, benefits, or recognition for non-citizens, mandatory drug screening before welfare, and every welfare receipt be given some kind of employment, if nothing more than picking up road side trash eight hours a day.

More and more well respected and renowned authorities have concluded the liberal, unbridled spending and free handout policies of the Obama Administration are the last nail in our coffin.

Let us hope they are wrong.

(All opinions are the Author’s and not necessarily shared by the publication.)

Inside the Statehouse

Steve Flowers

Steve Flowers

By Steve Flowers

 October 7, 2015:

In 1986 Richard Shelby was a 50-year-old congressman from Tuscaloosa. He was elected to congress eight years earlier, after two successful four-year terms in the Alabama State Senate. However, Shelby was ready to move up again. He was planning to run for the United States Senate.

Shelby had never lost a political race. He was six for six in races to represent his beloved Tuscaloosa and the people of West Alabama. He was a conservative Democrat, who had a stellar conservative voting record. He was safe in his U.S. House seat. In fact, it appeared that the congressional seat was his for life. His decision to challenge an incumbent U.S. Senator was a gamble.

Shelby’s friends cautioned him that a race for the U.S. Senate against an incumbent would be an uphill battle and he should not risk his safe congressional seat. However, Shelby was undeterred in his decision.

One factor that the average political observer was not aware of was that Shelby probably sensed that his congressional district was destined to be the first African American district after reapportionment in 1990. The tea leaves were correct. That is what happened to Shelby’s 7th district.

Although it would be a daunting task to upset an incumbent U.S. Senator, Jeremiah Denton had written the book on how to lose a Senate seat during his six-year term. Denton was elected as Alabama’s first Republican senator since Reconstruction in 1980. He had been swept into office on the coattails of Ronald Reagan, who carried Alabama in a landslide. Alabamians knew very little about Denton, except that he had been a naval officer and a well-known national POW in the Vietnam War. His patriotic POW position sold well in Alabama, especially with Reagan headed to the White House.

Denton let it be known early that he wanted to be the moral police chief of the U.S. Senate. He clearly wanted to be the point man and most ardent voice for morality, chastity and anti-abortion issues. He was not interested in bringing home any bacon for Alabama or fixing any potholes. He actually bragged that he was a national U.S. Senator and not an Alabama U.S. Senator, thus openly signaling that we would only have one U.S. Senator, Howell Heflin, to fight for our interests in Washington.

The examples of constituent neglect and disinterest by Denton are too numerous to recant, but a few examples will give you an idea of his cavalier attitude toward reelection. Each year the Alabama Farmers Federation sends an entourage of 200 to 300 of the most prominent farmers in the state to meet with and lobby their senators and congressmen on federal issues affecting farmers. These men are the most respected leaders and centers of influence in their counties. Heflin and the other congressmen literally met them at the airport to court them. They would have breakfast and dinner with them.

However, these farmers had to have an appointment with our “National Senator” Denton. They arrived at his office at the appointed time. All 300 of them were kept waiting 2 1/2 hours, then an aide came out to tell them that Denton was too busy dealing with national issues and did not have time to meet with them. One of the wealthiest and most prominent men in the state called Denton six times to simply express his opinion on an issue. Denton is yet to call him back. Thus, he vowed to give Denton’s opponent all the money he needed to beat Denton.

In addition to not returning phone calls, Denton never answered letters from constituents, even heartfelt handwritten notes of interest on federal legislation. He was basically considered a nut in Washington and was consistently ranked the most ineffective senator in the 100-member Senate. He made colossal blunders in the 1986 campaign. He said he was too busy to come home and campaign and kiss babies.

Shelby beat Denton but it was close. Shelby had to spend some of his personal money the last week of the campaign to carry out the upset. Alabama has been the better for Richard Shelby’s 1986 gamble. He has been our Senator for 30 years, having been reelected in 1992, 1998, 2004, and 2010. He will be easily reelected to a 6th six-year term next year.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

 

Mikes’s Musings – Caribbean not all it’s made out to be

It’s been about 20 years since I’ve taken a real vacation. The workaholic I am just couldn’t get away for more than a few days. That is until a couple weeks ago. My wife and I decided to venture down to the U.S. Virgin Islands and stay for a couple weeks in a condo on St. John.

One might be right in asking why in September, peak hurricane month. My answer would be because accommodations and rental cars are half price and c’mon what are the chances of a tropical storm hitting a tiny island in the Carribean.

It turns out I was right. Weather was not a problem. However, there were many reasons my wife and I were so happy to return to our home.

Living on a Carribean whether fulltime or for just a couple of weeks has its challenges. Despite the immense beauty of the beaches, the islands, themselves are vast wastelands filled with trash, junk cars, and used appliances. Trash is a major problem. There’s no place to put it, accept it Waste Management containers that are placed strategically throughout the island. But then the stench from the containers can be overwhelming if you live nearby. Junk cars and large appliances create another problem. Once they become inoperable they simply sit in someone yard or on the side of the road because there is no place to put them.

Essentials that we take for granted in the States, are in short supply and very costly in the Carribean. Mind you we stayed in a very modern condo, yet lost water three times during our stay. Signs are posted everywhere to please conserve the water, and rightfully so, because you never know when you will have to do without.

Ditto the electricity. The cost to hook-up to WAPA, the electrical authority is costly, but not as costly as the electricity that runs on average 3 to 4 times that in the States. And of course, like the water, it will go out often.

Food is also very very expensive. A dozen eggs will cost $3.50. A gallon of milk approaches $5. Most food items are at least double what it would be here in the States. And to go to a restaurant can be outrageous. We ordered pizza at two different restaurants, assuming it would be the cheapest item on the menu. At one establishment it cost $25 for a large pizza. At the second restaurant it was $22 for a small pizza. Forget about steak. If you can find it on the menu, it’s outrageously priced.

It’s bad enough you have to learn how to drive on the left side of the road, but when you are out of gas, and must fill-up at one of the two gas stations on the Island, you really get a sense of sticker shock. My first fill-up was at $3.94 a gallon. Fortunately a week later, the pump price had fallen to $3.40, still nearly twice what it is here.

Listen to me complain. Most couples would almost give their life to spend a couple of weeks on a Caribbean island. There are many extraordinary reasons. The beauty of the crystal clear azure water is in stark contrast to some of the murky lakes we have around here. And the marine life is awesome. There is nothing more beautiful than viewing a large sea turtle or man-a-ray as they go about their business.
And on the island there is an abundance of wildlife running wild along the roadways. We got a huge kick out of the iguanas. They are in abundance and some will feed right from your hand. Donkeys, yes jackasses, roam the streets searching for water and food. Goats are everywhere, roaming in large packs and deer can be seen often.

Despite the trash and lack of amenities, the Caribbean is a magical place. For me, however, I’d rather spend my next vacation in the good ole US of A where water, electricity and food won’t cost me an arm and a leg. But then again, when it’s time for another vacation twenty years down the road, who knows what the price of a gallon of milk will be.

Did I tell you how happy I am to be home?

Good things come to those who wait

Jodie FullerBy Jody Fuller

Good things come to those who wait is a phrase praising the virtue of patience. For example, I waited all summer for the season premiere of NCIS to see what would happen with Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs after he was shot on the season finale, and I was not disappointed. It was a great episode and well worth the wait.

Construction always seems to take forever. I believe the widening of Frederick Road in my hometown of Opelika began just after the Civil War. Perhaps I’m a bit off on the start date, but it did take a while. I think everyone agrees that it was well worth the wait.

The other night I bought a ribeye that was marked down to half-price due to its sell-by date rapidly approaching. I quickly placed it into my basket and wanted to eat it that night but decided to let it marinate overnight, and, believe you me, it was well worth the wait. The good news is that I left it on the grill just long enough to cook the bloody moo out of it, which only took about five minutes on each side. I like it bright pink but not bloody. Anything beyond that, you’ve waited too long.

I’ve been waiting on a used washer and dryer for almost two months now. I thought I’d have it much sooner, but that just didn’t happen, and that’s ok. I spent several days at the laundromat just down the road. It’s so close that I wouldn’t stay there for my clothes to wash. I’d just run back up there and put them in the dryer.

I actually enjoyed going up there, too. I talked to a lot of nice people, and it reminded me a lot of my childhood. My granddad, you see, owned a washateria in Dadeville. I spent many days in that hot facility with Bugles from the vending machine on my fingers like claws. Sadly, the laundromat here doesn’t have Bugles. For y’all from north of the Mason-Dixon Line, a washateria is a southern alternate name for laundromat.

As a person who stutters, I can say that our number one pet peeve is when someone finishes our sentences for us. We have something to say, so please be patient, and it will most likely be well worth your wait, besides it’s just the polite and respectable thing to do.

We are in such a fast-paced society and nobody wants to wait for anything. We expect everything immediately. In some instances, it’s a good thing. When we order something online, we get it in just a few days. When I was a kid, it took eight weeks to receive an order in the mail. I don’t know how my Sea Monkeys survived the trip, but it taught me patience, and I wouldn’t trade that for all the monkeys in the sea.

Right now, I’m waiting on Auburn to turn start winning again. It’s a good thing I have patience.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

Life in the sunshine state

By Paul Richardson
zipcode36862@yahoo.com

It’s not armed robbers or warring gangs who send the greatest percentage of gunshot survivors to Florida emergency rooms. It’s average, everyday people who shoot themselves, or others accidentally.

Four out of every 10 people who are rushed to a Florida hospital or emergency room last year with a nonfatal wound were shot by accident, according to hospital data collected by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and published by the Florida Department of Health.

For some reason it’s a far bigger problem in Florida than elsewhere, double the national average the past three years, according to numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

In Orange County, it’s even worse. More than half of the people treated for nonfatal gunshot injuries last year were shot accidentally.
One man managed to fire his weapon tucked away in his pants while launching a bowling ball. (Ouch!)

A husband somehow shot and killed himself while threatening one of his wife’s 13 collies.

A cop somehow shot himself in the foot while dining with friends.

Next is the man (the idiot) who decided to play Russian Roulette and, well, lost.

Another man shot himself in the hand and his buddy in the arm while cleaning his gun.

And there was a teenager who nailed himself in the groan while cleaning his gun.

And one certifiable idiot shot off his own middle finger off while cleaning his semiautomatic pistol.

Florida hospitals and emergency rooms last year chalked up more than $57 million in charges for accidental-gunshot survivors, according to officials. The average accidental-gunshot patient admitted to a hospital required $85,024 in care, and half of that was borne by government providers such as Medicare and Medicaid.

By the way, South Florida could be our 51st state if officials in South Miami get their way. Vice Mayor Walter Harris has put forth a resolution to split the state due to concerns over rising sea levels.

He proposes drawing a line along the Interstate 4 corridor, leaving about 40% of the state, including St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Orlando, and 68% of Florida’s population in the new territory. That means Disney World would be in, but Daytona Beach would be out.

The reason…? The northern part of Florida on average is 120 feet above sea level, while parts in the south are less than 5 feet above sea level. As water levels are expected to climb 3 to 6 feet in the next century, the “situation is very precarious and in need of immediate attention.”

Meanwhile, back to the subject of guns and shootings, in neighboring Georgia, a gentleman decided to shoot a pesky armadillo in his back yard. One shot from his 9MM handgun did the trick. But the bullet passed thru the animal, ricocheted off the ground and went thru the door of the house next door and wounded his 74 year old mother-in-law relaxing in her recliner.

Her injuries were not life threatening and required only minor attention. No charges were filed and no hard feelings resulted, although law enforcement officials advised the man to do his future exterminations with a shotgun.

All of these are stories right out of “the weird news” on the internet. I assume they are factual.
(Opinions are the Author’s and not necessarily those of this publication.)

INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE

Steve Flowers

Steve Flowers

By Steve Flowers

September 30, 2015:

The State of Alabama fiscal year begins this week and we finally have a budget for the year. Constitutionally, the only mandatory requirement that the Legislature has each year in their legislative session is to pass the budgets. The Education budget was approved during the four month Regular Session, but it was uncertain if we would have a budget for the beleaguered General Fund.

Gov. Robert Bentley called a Special Session in early summer to pass a budget. However, despite costing taxpayers around $400,000, there was still no budget. Therefore, the Governor called yet another Special Session for September. The third time was a charm. A budget was passed with only two weeks to go until the fiscal year begins this Thursday.

It is uncertain what would have happened if the legislature had failed on their third try. Most people assumed the state would have simply closed down. The Governor and Legislature avoided a total shut down of State government. However, most state agencies and most state workers would argue that the recently passed budget partially shuts down state operations.

It is indeed a patched together, barebones budget. The $1.7 billion General Fund Budget level funds the major departments of Medicaid, Corrections, Mental Health, Human Resources, Pardons and Paroles and the Court system. Most other State agencies saw cuts of between 5 to 10 percent from last year’s budget.

In the end, the legislature cobbled a budget together by taking $80 million dollars out of the Education coffers and also passing a 25 cents per pack increase on cigarettes, which will raise another $70 million dollars. Therefore, the General Fund is receiving around $150 million in additional funding.

Governor Robert Bentley began the year proposing a hodge podge of tax increases totaling $720 million dollars of new money for the General Fund. He later pared that down to $540 million dollars in proposals. The Legislature quickly and decisively made it clear to our old doctor governor that they were real Republicans and they did not want any part of new tax revenue. They sent Bentley a message that they adhered to the cardinal Rule of Republicanism, “No New Taxes.” It also was made apparent to the administration that the Governor might propose, but the Legislature disposes when it comes to appropriating state dollars.

In the end, however, the Legislature did adopt $150 million of the $540 million proposed by the Governor in February. As the final Special Session began, it was generally bounced about that $200 million dollars was the amount needed to keep state government at least afloat for another year. Even though the large agencies like Medicaid and Prisons were level funded, they said rising costs could still affect basic services. This budget keeps prison capacity in the state at 200 percent. The Federal Courts took over California prisons at less than 150 percent of capacity.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management was emaciated. Its budget was reduced from $1.2 million to $280,000, a 77 percent cut. Their director indicated that they would make up their deficit by raising fees on permits by 20 percent.

The Department of Senior Services and the Attorney General’s office were especially hit hard. Most insiders believe the Attorney General’s budget has been targeted the past two years because Attorney General Luther Strange’s office is prosecuting House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

The real loser in the General Fund battle is public education. For over three decades, from the 1970’s to 1990’s, education dollars were sacred. Dr. Paul Hubbert and his AEA were so powerful and dominant that he would have never allowed the Legislature to rob $80 million from the educators to balance the General Fund Budget.

When the Republicans took control of the Legislature in 2010, they made it their mission to dismantle and destroy the AEA. They accomplished their mission in four short years. Therefore, it was an easy prey to simply take education money to resolve this year’s dilemma.

This budget is only a short term fix. There were no long term solutions addressed. The General Fund Budget will need another transfusion next year, but for now the legislature has found an easy solution – just take it from education. The AEA has no political clout or power anymore. In fact, the AEA has been so decimated they do not even have a PAC.

Let the fiscal year begin. The next Regular Session is only four months away.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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