Jan
28
2015

House Minority Leader Craig Ford Statement On School Choice Rally in Montgomery

For Immediate Release: January 28, 2015

“The problem with charter schools and the Accountability Act’s scholarship granting organizations is that not every kid gets a choice or a chance. No matter how many scholarships and charter schools we create, some kids will get left behind in a failing school.

The goal of public education is to make sure every child gets a quality education, not just those who are lucky enough to get selected for a scholarship or charter school. Instead of giving up on struggling schools, we should be fixing those schools so that all our children get a chance.

The school choice debate is misleading because most kids will never get a choice. In the end, all these ‘reforms’ are is just a modern day version of busing, and simply busing some kids out of failing schools is not a solution.”

Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.

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Jan
26
2015

Grow With Those We Know

There’s a saying in the insurance business: “Grow with those we know.” It means when you are out looking for new business, always think of your existing customers first. I think this is a good concept that we need to apply to job creation here in Alabama.

Many of our state’s leaders have been touting a declining unemployment rate, even though it really isn’t declining. While our unemployment rate has gone down some, we also have fewer people actively in the workforce now. When the labor force shrinks, so does the unemployment rate.

This point was made recently in an article on AL.com that noted how workers are leaving the workforce, while the jobs we are creating are low skill, low wage jobs that often cannot provide for a family. The jobs we are creating are mostly in the service sector at the lower end of the pay scale, primarily in the hospitality sector. While these kinds of jobs can drive down the unemployment rate, they will not grow our economy or relieve the financial burden on families.

Economists cited in the AL.com report are divided as to the cause of Alabamians leaving the workforce. But many argued it is because of an education deficit. Without a higher level of education, many Alabamians are having a difficult time finding work that pays a livable wage, much less begin a new career. Better education means workers will be more qualified. That, in turn, means more good-paying jobs for the people of Alabama.

But another problem is our strategy on job creation.

When it comes to job creation, Alabama is a beggar state. Our method of choice is to offer huge tax breaks to out-of-state businesses in order to lure them here. And so far, the only changes to that strategy that is being proposed involves the way we recruit out-of-state businesses to Alabama.

While I am all for using tax incentives to bring in new business, provided we do it the right way, we also need to focus on growing existing business and industry. We need to “grow with those we know.”

That means first focusing on keeping the jobs we have here by making our schools better. This will attract growth within the companies already invested in Alabama, which saves jobs and creates new ones.

But there is also work we can do to help existing industries grow, particularly in the field of medical research.

Many states that have booming industry also limit non-compete clauses. Non-compete clauses are meant to protect trade secrets. But they also have the unwanted effect of limiting growth. The law should protect trade secrets and proprietary knowledge. But employees should also be free to leave their current employer and form their own business in the same industry if they want to.

For example, why are so many technology companies based in Silicon Valley in California? It’s because people who started out working at places like Microsoft and Apple later left those companies to form their own businesses. Protecting employees from overly strict non-compete clauses allowed that industry to thrive. We can do the same here in Alabama. Our medical research industry, in particular, could benefit from similar protections.

There will always be a place for creating new industry and recruiting new business. It is extremely important to the function of our economy. But we also cannot lose sight of job retention. We need to focus on keeping the jobs that are already here, here. We need to create a culture for those companies and industries to expand, thus protecting and creating more jobs.

And if we continue to focus primarily on tax incentives that are only given to new industries and out-of-state businesses, then we need a system of checks and balances to make sure that we can recoup our money if they don’t meet a job creation requirement.

And we need to level the playing field so that out-of-state companies aren’t being taxed at a lower rate than in-state companies. For example, we must protect our independent pharmacies, they are small business born and bred here in the state of Alabama. However, right now, instead of protecting them, we protect the out-of-state large corporate pharmacies by giving them tax breaks to open locations, putting the mom and pop pharmacies out of business.

Yes, the state of Alabama needs to be “open for business.” We need to create more, lasting, quality jobs. But almost as importantly, we need to retain the jobs we currently have, grow the businesses and industries that are already here and protect our small business owners. We need to grow with the ones we already know.

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Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Jan
18
2015

A Legacy To Live By

“I have decided to stick with love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here, 1967

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one I have spent years trying to not only fully understand, but also find myself striving to live up to. I am amazed by how powerful his faith and love was at a time when he lived among people who had so little respect for him! He didn’t back down in the face of hardship. He stood up and fought for what he believed in; for what was right. That takes tremendous courage and faith.

You have to admire the strength it takes to maintain the courage of your convictions in an environment like that! That is strength and a hope that I try to remember and apply to my life every day. What a powerful message: to stick with love, because hate is too great a burden to bear. Wow!

I am reminded of Matthew 5:44 when I reread Dr. King’s quote above: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

It can be easy to lash out and let the feelings of anger and hate into our hearts when we feel an injustice has been served. But Dr. King, with a message guided by the words of God, set forth a great example of how we can and should handle such feelings and adversity. Dr. King, who was easily one of the most prominently persecuted people of modern American times, chose not to succumb to those feelings. Instead, he chose to see the good and stay true to his faith and message: that to love and to forgive are among the greatest gifts we have been given. Dr. King was a living testament to that.

I have to admit I don’t always see the good. I don’t always feel the love. But as I, and our country, celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I urge everyone to remember that this holiday is not just about remembering a great man and all he stood for. It’s about taking his life, his message, and using it as a road map for our own lives.

Our country has come a long way since the times of Dr. King. Our country has elected a black president. Our children, regardless of color, attend the same school and play on the same sports teams. Some of Dr. King’s powerful dreams of the sixties have been realized. However, we’ve still got a long way to go.

People are not perfect, so we are not a perfect nation. But we are a nation that is making progress and moving forward. No matter what issues might arise, we will all be better off remembering Dr. King’s message of love over hate.

Remembering that Dr. King spoke not just about racial injustices, but also spoke of freedom for all people, peace for our nation, and a unity that we should all strive for. Yes, racial equality was his goal. But his message was much broader.

So I hope you will join me this year, as we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in striving to fully embrace love, because hate is too great a burden to bear.

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Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Jan
12
2015

The Importance Of Working Together

“You can’t work across party lines when there aren’t many of them. So I’m going to work across Republican Party lines because there are a lot of divisions in the Republican Party.”
-Gov. Robert Bentley

I was very disappointed when I read this quote from the governor earlier this week. Partisanship is a part of politics. And it’s no secret that Democrats lost seats in the election. But if the governor wants to build a coalition to pass his legislation, he will need support from House and Senate Democrats, not just a faction of Republicans.

I truly hope the governor just chose his words poorly when he said that, because his words imply that he has no interest in working with Democrats, and that would mean he has no interest in the people we represent.

Gov. Bentley and I have known each other a long time. I have always considered him to be a good friend and an honorable man. That is why I hope that the governor simply chose his words poorly, and intends to continue to work with Democrats on an agenda that is in the people’s best interests.

Politics throughout the country has become too partisan. Yes, we need to have competing philosophies. But we also have to remember that before we are Democrats or Republicans we are Americans. And as elected officials, our duty is to reach across the aisle and find solutions that are in the best interests of the people of Alabama.

Regardless of what the governor meant when he said those words, his comments were disrespectful to Democrats and the people we represent. And this situation makes me realize just how incredibly important it is for Democrats and Republicans to work together, because the only way we can make a better Alabama.

Governor Bentley may be right when he says there are many divisions inside the Republican Party. Internal Republican Party politics are not my concern. My concern is a better state for our citizens, and that can’t happen if the Majority party and the Governor aren’t willing to set aside differences and bridge the gap between themselves and Democrats in the legislature.

Whether Democrats hold 34 percent, 29 percent or 62 percent of seats in the Legislature, we were elected by our constituents to be their voice in Alabama, and it would be morally and politically wrong to simply ignore us.

The people of Alabama spoke and elected the current members of the legislature, including the Democrats. And many of them also voted for the governor! And those voters, regardless of which Party they voted for, are the same people that are counting on ALL elected officials to make policies helping to shape the place they call home.

Working together, working across both parties isn’t just something I want to pay lip service to. It’s something I fundamentally believe in and will continue to work for over the next four years. And I truly hope Gov. Bentley will be there working with me and other Democrats. Because working across party lines is how we are really going to see more job creation, better schools and an actual solution to the current budget crisis.

We can do great things in Alabama, but only if we work together. I hope that is what the governor meant, and that his comments last week were simply chosen poorly.

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Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.