Archive for January, 2009
Alabama Representative Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) has agreed to introduce a bill to lower the number of signatures needed for minor parties and non-presidential independent candidates. He has been in the legislature since 2003. Thanks to Steven Gordon for this news.
Posted to IPR by Paulie.
Disclosure: I am a member of the executive committee of the Libertarian Party of Alabama. I have also personally gathered tens of thousands of signatures to get the Libertarian Party of Alabama on the ballot in 1998-2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008, as well as recruited and managed other petitioners. As a result of our work in 1998-2000, LPA was able to overcome the highest retention requirements in the nation (20% in a statewide race) and run 58 candidates for office in 2002. I have also personally lobbied legislators for ballot access reform in our state.
In other news discussed at the LPA exec comm meeting yesterday:
Cam Ward’s bill mentioned above also has a possible sponsor in the Senate, Trip Pittman (R-Baldwin County).
In addition to the ballot access bill, Independent Alabama is working on a proportional representation bill with Rep. Demetrius Newton, (D-Jefferson County). Proportional representation would move the state from a winner-take-all system for electoral votes to a proportional allocation of the statewide presidential vote. Currently, the state has nine electoral votes, so any party or independent presidential candidate that gets one ninth of the statewide vote would get a presidential elector. It would also help the Democrats, since Alabama is currently a solidly reliable Republican state in presidential elections – as well as help the entire state of Alabama, since currently, with the state’s electoral votes being a foregone conclusion, national candidates and national media have little incentive to pay attention to Alabama.
Independent Alabama will meet at 6 PM this Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 2330 Highland Ave. in Birmingham (the LPA headquarters and the law firm of Cleveland and Cleveland building). Directions.
Also this Tuesday, at 7:30 pm, there will be a meeting of the UAB (Birmingham) Students for Liberty. Heritage Hall room 124 at UAB. LPA Vice Chair Mike Rster will be attending (and possibly speaking – I’m not sure on the latter). I will try to attend both meetings if possible.
Also on the LPA legislative agenda, No2REAL ID and no to National Animal Identification System (NAIS). It was reported that Liberty House in Madison, Alabama is working on this issue. We are also hoping that Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), an opponent of “REAL ID,” will address it in his keynote speech to the Alabama Republicans.
We also heard from Jesse Adkinson, who is working with Alabamians for Tax Free Food, a new organization that is working to repeal grocery sales taxes in Alabama. Currently, the group only has a web presence on LinkedIn, a social networking site.
Jesse explained that the current bill in the legislature is less than ideal from the group’s perspective, since it offsets cuts in grocery taxes by making federal taxes non-deductible on state income tax forms. The bill has support from the legislature’s Black Caucus. We discussed the possibility of friendly amendments, as well as ideas about working on repealing grocery taxes at the county and city levels, including an effort already being organized in Birmingham. Additionally, we floated the idea of also working to repeal sales taxes on medicine, although no concrete action on that has yet taken place.
Members of the LPA are working with Project HOPE and the Alabama Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty.
We are also helping start a new group, Alabamians for Transparent Government. Among the issues we hope to work on: Putting itemized state and local government expenditures online. An Alabama Right to Know bill is being introduced by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison) that will include:
1) Transparency in government spending. A searchable database of all state expenditures; contracts; legislative grants; and state grants.
2) Requiring electronic filing of campaign contributions and expenditures.
3) Disclosure of all public officials or family members of public officials who are employed by the state, or who have a contract with the state, county or a municipality.
Further innovations could include live web casts of the public’s business so that any citizen could view key legislative budget-writing committees at work, key public boards and commissions, perhaps even the governor’s cabinet meetings.
In the past, Alabama Arise and coalitions of the state’s newspapers have worked on pushing for open meetings and enforcement of state sunshine (open meeting) laws.
We heard from several candidates who are interested in getting on the ballot as Libertarian candidates: Scott Glennon in US House District 5, Jason Granholm in US House District 3, Leo McDermott in US House District 1, and our previous write-in Governor candidate, Loretta Nall, who is planning to run in Alabama House District 81. Loretta reports that current incumbent, Democrat Betty Carol Graham, has not had a challenger for her seat in over a decade. More information about these candidates in a separate upcoming post.
Loretta also updated us on legislation. Alabama compassionate care (medical marijuana) legislation will be introduced this term by Jefferson County Democrat Patricia Todd, who Loretta believes will be more proactive in pushing the legislation than the bill’s previous sponsor, Democrat Laura Hall of Madison County.
Our next Compassionate Care meeting will take place on Jan. 31 from 1-3 pm at the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge (same place as last time) located at 4th Ave N and 17 st. This will be our last meeting before the legislative session starts so it is important that y’all be there with as many people as you can round up.
Pass this invite along to everyone you know and I hope to see you on Saturday Jan. 31.
If anyone needs further info I can be reached at 256-625-9599 or email@example.com
The address above is in Birmingham. The meeting will focus on citizen legislative lobbying training.
Among other legislation she has been monitoring, Loretta pointed out HB 59, by Democrat Chris England (District 70 – Tuscaloosa), which would allow for expunging drug arrests from arrestee’s records, a bill to introduce Initiative and Referendum by Republican Mike Ball of Madison County, and a bill to stop police from disarming citizens during emergencies by Democrat Marc Keahey of District 65 (Choctaw, Clarke and Washington counties) as legislation to support.
On the flip side, Loretta recommended that we work to stop Republican Attorney General Troy King‘s crime package, which includes a proposal to mandatorily test all pregnant women in Alabama for illegal drugs, and put them in prison as well as take away their children if they test positive. Additionally, King’s legislative would make parole application more difficult, further worsening the state’s prison overcrowding crisis.
Loretta’s report on King’s package:
Here is the 2009 legislative package of bills that Attorney General Troy King wishes to pass this session. There are some very bad bills here that we need to KILL until they are DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! The ones that need killing the quickest are in bold.
AG King’s 2009 legislative package to fight crime
* Revisions to the Community Notification Act, known as the Adam Walsh Act, sponsored by Representative Ken Guin and Senator Wendell Mitchell.
This bill provides greater protection to the public by providing for more effective monitoring of convicted sex offenders, including their online activities. There would be greater information sharing between all levels of government, so that sex offenders could be more effectively tracked and monitored. The bill adds YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs to those facilities of which a sex offender may not live within 2000 feet. It updates Alabama law to cover technological crimes such as video voyeurism. It makes it a crime for someone else to help a sex offender circumvent the notification and registration law. Numerous additional safeguards and restrictions are included. Most of these changes in this proposed legislation are required by federal law, and noncompliance would cost Alabama loss of certain federal funding.
* Online Solicitation Bill, sponsored by Representative Steve McMillan and Senator Myron Penn.
This bill moves the law forward in two important ways. First, it specifies that attempted solicitation of a child victim is a crime, regardless of whether an actual child is involved. Currently, the law is not clear that a person can be charged with soliciting a child by computer if the person being solicited is, in fact, a law enforcement officer, and not a child. Second, it expands the law to make clear that it is a crime to solicit a child not just by computer, but by any online method to ensure that new technologies are covered. The class B felony of soliciting a child by computer could be charged if a person who is at least three years older than his victim believes he or she is soliciting a child less than 16.
* Chemical Endangerment of an Unborn Child Bill, sponsored by Representative Frank McDaniel and Senator Lowell Barron.
Currently, unborn children whose mothers abuse drugs have no protection of the law. This bill redefines the crime of possession of a controlled substance, to include also the presence of a controlled substance in a person’s body. Therefore, pregnant women who test positive for a controlled substance would be subject to a class B felony. The sentencing judge could suspend the sentence and order a drug treatment program upon a first offense.
* Notoriety Bill, sponsored by Representative Cam Ward and Senator Zeb Little.
This bill also has two primary goals: to provide better opportunities and enforcement of restitution for victims of crime, and to prevent criminals, particularly those on death row, from profiting from the notoriety of their crimes. If felons created artwork or any thing of value and attempted to sell it, the profits would be seized to compensate their victims. The bill would establish mandatory minimum compensation for capital murder at $50 thousand, and for a second or more rape conviction at $10 thousand. The Attorney General could ask a court to seize the offender’s assets to satisfy the restitution order, and prison officials could seize any outgoing mail to search for anything of value that could be used to satisfy restitution to victims.
* DUI Revisions, sponsored by Representatives Marc Keahey and Spencer Collier and Senator Rusty Glover.
This toughens penalties for DUI offenders, especially the very worst, and closes a loophole that kept courts from considering DUI convictions that were older than five years when they were sentencing repeat offenders. Penalties would be increased for all offenders, and those who repeatedly drive while drunk–with four or more convictions–would be sentenced to serve at least six months in jail. Penalties would also be enhanced for the “extremely intoxicated” driver, whose blood alcohol content is more than double the legal limit.
* Nolo Contendere Bill, sponsored by Representative Jamie Ison.
This bill helps keep criminals from hiding their out-of-state criminal records from Alabama Courts. Alabama law currently does not recognize “nolo contendere” or no contest pleas made in other states, where the defendant does not actually plead guilty to the crime but accepts a conviction by not contesting the charge. For example, during the 2005 trial of Jeremy Jones for a brutal rape and murder, prosecutors were barred from informing the jury of his evil past, which included three separate nolo contendere pleas to sexual assault. Attorney General King has named this The Lisa Marie Nichols Justice for Victims Act, in honor of the victim that his office convicted Jones for killing. The proposed law treats allows the State to use the nolo contendere plea to impeach the testimony of a witness, to count as an aggravating circumstance in sentencing for a capital murder, and for enhanced penalties under the Habitual Offender Act.
* Families to be Present at Executions, sponsored by Representative Billy Beasley.
Under current law, only two immediate family members of the victim may be present at an execution. This bill would increase that number to eight immediate family members. It would also allow for the presence of the prosecuting district attorney or his or her representative, and one officer from the arresting branch of law enforcement.
* Concurrent/Consecutive Sentencing and Parole Eligibility Reform, sponsored by Representative Cam Ward and Senator Ted Little.
This law would give real meaning to each consecutive sentence, in determining when an inmate becomes eligible for parole consideration. Currently, the law treats consecutive and concurrent sentences the same if the sentence is more than 30 years. Under Attorney General King’s proposal, each sentence would be measured separately and for each sentence, the inmate could not be considered for parole until he or she had served one-third of the sentence or ten years, whichever is shortest.
* Photo Voter ID, sponsored by Representative Greg Canfield and Senator Larry Dixon.
Voter fraud continues to be a serious problem throughout Alabama, and this bill is designed to stop the fraud and corruption that plague Alabama elections. Any person voting in person or by absentee ballot would have to submit valid photo identification. The photo ID would have to be a driver’s license or state ID card from the Department of Public Safety, passports, or other photo ID cards issued by the federal or state governments.
* Felon Voting Bill, sponsored by Representative Randy Wood.
This legislation would resolve any confusion over which convicted felons are ineligible to vote because their crimes may have involved moral turpitude. Attorney General King proposes the simple remedy that all convicted felons lose their civil and political rights-including the right to vote-and sets aside any question of whether the particular felonies involved moral turpitude. Convicted felons would not be able to vote unless and until they successfully applied to have their rights restored by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. This is a proposed amendment to the Constitution of Alabama, and would have to be ratified by the voters of Alabama.
* Reporting of Gunshot Wounds to Law Enforcement, sponsored by Representative Billy Beasley.
Under existing law, except under limited circumstances, health care providers in Alabama may not initiate reports to law enforcement about gunshot wounds and stabbings without written consent of the patient. This bill would mandate reporting by health care providers, and would supersede any privilege under state law such as doctor/patient privilege.
* Cock fighting Legislation, sponsored by Representative Cam Ward.
Cock fighting is one of the most serious forms of animal cruelty and Alabama law in this area is antiquated and inadequate, providing at most a $50 fine. This bill would make it a class C felony to fight cocks, own, train or keep cocks for fighting, keep a cockpit, or promote cock fighting. There would be a stiff fine of up to $1,000 a day for the owner or operator of the cockpit, or, up to three times the gross receipts derived from cock fighting. Property purchased with profits from cock fighting, or used in connection with cock fighting, would be subject to forfeiture. Furthermore, it would be a class A misdemeanor to be knowingly present at a cock fight.
* Bid Law Reform.
This bill would provide more transparency and accountability in governmental transactions. Current law allows certain municipalities to make purchases from elected officials, employees or board member. As a safeguard, this law adds a requirement that two items be filed with the State Ethics Commission: a written finding that conditions of the law had been followed, and a copy of the contract. Any contract that was in violation of the law would be voided, and any public official who knowingly authorized such a contract would be subject to a class C felony. Current law provides certain exemptions to bid law; if a governmental body entered into a contract without submitting it for bid, it would have to clearly state in writing what exemption was used and the report would be open to public inspection. Additional reforms would help to ensure honesty and integrity in Alabama’s public contracts.
* Attempting to Elude Law Enforcement, sponsored by Representative Spencer Collier and Senator Rusty Glover.
This legislation seeks to reduce the number of individuals who flee from law enforcement, particularly by means of a vehicle. Intentional flight from law enforcement would start as a class B misdemeanor, but it would become a class C felony if a motor vehicle is used, and it would be a class B felony if the flight created a risk of injury or death to bystanders. This bill is a high priority for law enforcement and would keep our streets safer for the citizens of Alabama. Attorney General King has named this bill in honor of Montgomery police officer Keith E. Houts who was shot and killed in 2006 while making a traffic stop.
* Civil recovery for Illegal Gambling, sponsored by Representative Randy Wood.
Under existing law, there is no specific provision for a civil cause of action to recover monetary penalties for illegal gambling devices. In the past, owners and operators and others who profit from illegal gambling activities have considered the payment of criminal fines as a cost of doing business. This law provides a strict liability that would make their costs much higher than the potential profits. These new penalties would be used in conjunction with existing criminal and civil causes of action.
Loretta reported that King has stopped his efforts to put teeth into Alabama’s Sex Toy ban since she sent him a blow up pig. Many LPA members believe that now is the time to get on the offensive and work to repeal the sex toy ban completely. Loretta reports that she has more blow up pigs to send to members of the legislature, and other props ready to go.
One additional issue some LPA members are working on is to help stop and repeal mandatory smoking bans on businesses.
In other business, we approved Leo McDermott as interim District Chair for the Mobile area, which previously seceded from the state party several years ago. A concern was raised that Mr. McDermott disagrees with the Libertarian Party’s official non-interventionist foreign policy position. I asked Mr. McDermott if, as the party’s regional representative, he will be able to separate his personal views on foreign policy issues from those of the party. He said he would. Given his answer, I made a motion to accept Mr. McDermott as the interim Mobile District chair, and it passed unanimously.
Ballot access report from Andy Jacobs:
I recently finished a fundraising letter which I e-mailed to a bunch of Libertarians around the country. George Phillies posted this letter on one of his websites and is going to feature it in the next issue of his newsletter.
We have an agreement with a woman named Christy whom we have worked on campaigns with in the past to help us with our fundraising efforts. Christy moved to Tennessee a few months ago and is also planning to come down to Alabama to gather signatures after the fundraising bears more fruit. Christy is in the midst of a move to another apartment and plans to start working on the fundraising after she gets settled. She also recently ordered one of those Magic Jack internet phones which will help with her fundraising efforts.
Here are some pictures of Christy and me at a third party debate that
was held in Nashville, Tennessee last year. Note that neither of us
supported the views of all of the candidates in the debate, but we
did support the concept of having an open debate with candidates that held a variety of views.
I recently finished organizing a big fundraising list from which Jake,
Christy, and I will be making calls. We have one or two other
people who may join us in the telephone fundraising effort. We may
also put together a fundraising letter to send to potential donors via
Gaining full party status in Alabama is a major undertaking and will
prbably take a while to complete. Keep in mind that in the last
election cycle it took the Libertarian Party of North Carolina 3 1/2
years to gather the 69,000 (and something) valid signatures for them
to regain ballot status. Alabama requires around 40,000 valid
signatures for full party status, but keep in mind North Carolina has
almost double the population of Alabama and that the Libertarian Party
of North Carolina is bigger than the Libertarian Party of Alabama.
Note that we are also trying to raise enough money to get ballot
access efforts going in some of the other states were we can legally
start ballot access petitioning this early. For far too many years
the Libertarian Party has been doing ballot access in an inefficient
manner and we are trying to change this. The way that I see it the
Libertarian Party can either start now and do things in an efficient
and intelligent manner, or the Libertarian Party can put it off and
pay more later and do things in an inefficient and stupid manner
(which is more likely to end in failure).
If anyone here has not done so yet, I encourage you to make a
donation to get ballot access going in your own state. Here’s the link…
Be sure to type ballot access in the box for how you want your
donation to be spent.
If everyone in the Libertarian Party of Alabama could kick in say
$25-$100 each it would help jumpstart the Alabama LP ballot access
drive as it would show Libertarian Party members outside of Alabama
that Alabama Libertarians are serious about getting back on the
ballot. If anyone out there is going through financial hard times
even kicking in just $10 or $20 would help.
Every member of the Alabama LP should also be given copies of the
ballot access petition for 2010 and 2012. Contact Paulie as he has copies of them. Sign the petitions yourself and at the very least get your family and friends to sign them.
I outlined the framework of a business plan for LPA ballot access and field organizing:
> It will cost $180,000 over 3.5 years for field organizers and fund raisers, plus about $20,000 in overhead such as maintaining the HQ (over 3.5 years). [Total $200,000]
This is far more than we have raised previously; it will get us statewide ballot access for all races in 2010 and 2012.
In addition to getting about 40,000 valid signatures for each year
(about 60,000 raw) we want to:
- Database contacts and give out thousands of brochures/fliers/business cards for the party.
- Get thousands of voters to sign postcards to their state
legislators to improve our state’s ballot access laws, and for the other legislative issues we are pushing.
- Start county chapters in all 67 counties, or as many as we can.
- Start campus groups at every college in the state, or as many as we can.
- Hand out fully informed jury rights information in every county.
- Register thousands of voters and spread information about restoring ex-felons voting rights to as many people as possible.
- Help organize and build single issue lobbying groups in every county on issues such as: compassionate care (medical marijuana), No to REAL ID and National Animal Identification Systems (NAIS), Proportional representation, Government transparency, Repealing the grocery sales tax, Free the Hops, ending the death penalty, Ending mandatory smoking bans for businesses, Ending the ban on sex toys, and other issues we identify in the course of field organizing throughout the state.
- Identify and recruit teams of candidates to run as a slate of Libertarian candidates for local and state office in each and every county.
- Market the Libertarian Party door to door to small businesses
throughout every single county in the state.
Let’s take the lemons that the state legislature has handed us in the form of prohibitive ballot access barriers and turn them into lemonade!
This business plan needs a lot of work; if anyone reading has experience with writing business plans and would like to help, please let me know how to get a hold of you in the comments.
We would like to turn it into a presentation-quality business plan folder which we will distribute to attendees at the upcoming LSLA/LNC in Charleston, SC, Feb 27-Mar. 1st.
We would also like to send an email fundraising letter based on this plan to the thousands of opt-in subscribers to LPA chair Steve Gordon‘s company, LibertarianLists. We are also interested in finding out more about other lists we can borrow, rent or purchase to raise money for implementing this plan as it progresses.
During the course of the meeting, Steve had to turn the gavel over to Vice Chair Mike Rster because for a portion of the meeting because he was being interviewed by CNN.
After the meeting ended, Steve was just starting to help me with writing the business plan when he had to leave unexpectedly, due to his grandfather having his feeding tube pulled. Condolences and best wishes to Steve Gordon and his family.
The Panties for Peace campaign was launched by a group of women peace activists from a Burmese peace activist group called – Lanna Action for Burma which is based in Thailand. Since we initiated the panties for peace campaign for Burma, women’s panties (as well as male underwear) have been mailed out by activists to Burma’s foreign missions in Australia, Singapore, and European countries.
Our act of delivering our underwear to the Burmese foreign missions across the globe is of immense importance and symbolic in protest of Myanmar junta’s violent crackdown of monks-led rallies in Yangon last month, and to oust the generals ruling the country from power.
Lanna Action for Burma organized the action dubbed “Panties for Peace” and we have been sending and delivering the panties this week and will be doing so over the next few days, weeks and months. One of the main reasons for which we are encouraging people to send out their panties to Burma’s foreign missions is because the generals ruling Myanmar are superstitious and they believe that touching panties or the traditional women’s outfit sarong will eliminate their powers.
This campaign is a chance for you as a woman to take away the power of the military junta by sending your knickers to Burmese embassies which is a culturally insulting gesture of protest against the brutal crackdown there which received worldwide condemnation for violently suppressing the pro-democracy protest on September 26th & 27th, 2007 resulting in a number of deaths. The junta also ordered the arrests of protest leaders, including Buddhist monks.
Please click here to view the list of Burmese foreign missions worldwide and you can post, deliver or fling your panties at your closest Burmese Embassy in your local area any day from today. Send early, send often! This is your chance to use your Panty Power to take away the power from the Burmese military government and support the people of Burma.