Several House Democrats spoke at a rally this week in front of the Alabama legislature in opposition to HB 56, an immigration-enforcement bill patterned after Arizona's "papers please" law. They linked their own historical struggle for civil rights in Alabama to the battle being waged over immigration. As I watched, it occurred to me that Alabama might be the first state where local history provides a focus for opposition to the tea-fueled wave of pandering state immigration bills. This took place just blocks from the Civil Rights Museum and the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church:
Like much of America, Alabama is seeing an intense campaign by a new Republican majority to destroy teachers' unions and public pensions. In the second week of the session, Alabama's Republican House majority pushed hard to eliminate the state's Delayed Retirement Option Plan (DROP), calling it a "Cadillac pension." Democrats defended the program as vital to keeping qualified and experienced teachers and public servants. Here is House Minority Leader Craig Ford delivering his opening remarks to the debate:
Republicans rebuffed all attempts to modify the DROP program and put it on a fiscally-sound footing, repeatedly claiming the program would have to end or else the state would be forced to lay off 780 teachers. (Sound familiar?) Here's Lynn Greer describing the Republican version of reality:
While the DROP program does include such highly-remunerated figures as our famous college football coaches, thousands of teachers and state employees have enrolled in DROP since its inception. The Republican attack on DROP is widely seen as political payback against the Retirement Systems of Alabama and the Alabama Education Association, whose leadership have opposed the GOP's agenda.
For more on DROP, here is a pretty good diary at Left in Alabama. You can follow the Goat Hill Project through my website, where I'll (hopefully) be streaming House and/or Senate debate next week via Ustream. You can also click here to help me take this project to Netroots Nation as a model for progressive, state-level netroots.