The Importance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

There are a lot of things that make October a special month: the playoffs in Major League Baseball, the heart of football season, the changing weather just to name a few. But October is also important because it is the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I’ve always been proud to support those who fight against this terrible disease, and I am proud to see the national spotlight pointed on the effort to help raise awareness for one of the most deadly diseases in America.

It’s hard for those of us who haven’t personally gone through it to imagine what a diagnosis like this would do to us or our families. But most of us know someone who has gone through it, and we know how important it is to both raise awareness and support research for a cure.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 39,000 American women are expected to die from breast cancer each year—only lung cancer kills more women—while an estimated 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women, and the second deadliest after lung cancer.

Take a moment to think about those numbers: over 39,000 families losing a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, aunt or niece. How many children who have to grow up without their mother? And hundreds-of-thousands more who live but have to go through the terrifying and harsh experience of being diagnosed and treated. These are just numbers in a report; they are millions of lives throughout our state and our country, living this experience each and every day.

In Alabama, we have a very, very high rate of breast cancer deaths among African-Americans. The American Cancer Society ranks Alabama in the second highest tier, estimating that for every 100,000 African-American women, between 30 and 32 will die from breast cancer. That statistic is both shocking and unacceptable!

In my life, I have had the privilege of knowing many women who have gone through breast cancer. When they tell me about their experience, they usually begin by praising God for getting them through it. But the second thing they talk about is how early screenings and self-examinations saved their lives. The best treatments in the world wont help you if you don’t know you need them. Checking yourself on a regular basis can save your life!

I also encourage everyone to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCFRA.) Founded in 1996, BCRFA is behind the most recognizable symbol of breast cancer awareness in the state: the pink plate. Thanks to the pink plate and other fundraisers, BCFRA has raised over $5.1 million for breast cancer research since its inception.

It’s because of people that support organizations like BCFRA and the American Cancer Society that more and more women are able to win their fight against breast cancer. I’m proud to wear pink to show my support, and I encourage you to do what you can to help.

Whether it’s raising money for cancer research through phone apps like Charity Miles, buying the BCFRA pink plate the next time you renew your car tags, or encouraging the women in your life to perform regular self-examinations, all of us can do something to help make a difference.


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



Fifty years ago, American Democracy fundamentally shifted right here in Selma, Alabama. As men and women from all walks of life joined together to march in solidarity for the precious principle of “one man, one vote,” the nation watched and took note. What happened in Selma 50 years ago changed this nation–and what’s happening in Alabama is rolling the clock back.

The Selma to Montgomery march brought us the Voting Rights Act, which banned discriminatory voting practices and resulted in mass-enfranchisement of minorities across the nation, but especially across the South.

One of the most critical components of the Voting Rights Act was the pre-clearance provision–a requirement that areas with a history of discriminatory practices had to have any changes to voting laws approved by the Department of Justice to ensure they were fair. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court overturned this provision in 2013–paving the way for states and municipalities to make any changes they deem appropriate.

Without pre-clearance, Alabama was free to enact legislation to require a photo ID in order to vote, making voting more difficult, especially for those in low-income, rural communities. They’ve been able to push the voter registration deadline back and make it harder to vote absentee, all of which has a disproportionate impact on working families.

Now, Alabama has taken it a step further by closing 31 of the state’s driver’s license offices, leaving a large swath of the Black Belt without access to a DMV.

Now the Department of Public Safety is claiming that these closures are purely based on the populations of these counties and the volume of business done at the DMV–but these are state services, not a for-profit company.

The people who live in Hale County and Greene County and Perry County are just as important as the people who live in Jefferson, Mobile, Madison and Montgomery counties, and they deserve the same access to services–especially the services that guarantee the fundamental right to vote.

All families look forward to celebrating as children achieve milestones when they get their driving permits and licenses, and all drivers must get their licenses renewed every four years.

The DMV lines are already long, but now they will be backed up even further in the counties that have DMV offices–imagine the expensive inconvenience of taking a day off work, leaving the children with a caretaker and driving 50 miles across the state, only to arrive and find out that there are no more appointments available for the day.

Today, the impact may only be an expired license and a potential ticket if you get cited. But the primary election is right around the corner–and there’s at least one special election in North Alabama coming up on December 8. These closures have the potential for a tremendous impact on Alabama families and the Democracy that we fought so hard for on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Running the state isn’t about making business decisions and cutting services where there isn’t a sufficient Return on Investment–it’s about providing services adequately to preserve liberty and justice for all.


Rep. Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.


Bentley Got His Tax Increases, But He’s Still Closing Parks and Drivers License Offices

As if $86 million in new taxes and an $80 million raid on public education weren’t bad enough, Gov. Bentley has now announced that he will close more than thirty drivers license offices, as well as some state parks and National Guard armories.

The governor has spent this entire year trying to convince legislators and the people of Alabama that higher taxes were the only thing that could prevent these closures. The Republican Legislature gave the governor the tax increases he wanted, but Gov. Bentley is still closing these parks, armories and most drivers license offices.

Gov. Bentley and the Republican leadership in this state have lost all credibility!

This is not the first time Gov. Bentley has not kept his promises. Asking for higher taxes itself was a violation of his campaign promises not to raise taxes. In 2014, Gov. Bentley promised he would not sign the education budget if it did not include a pay raise for teachers. But when it came time for the governor to keep that promise, he turned his back on educators and signed the budget without a raise.

And of course there was the disaster that was the first special legislative session this summer. Gov. Bentley had promised legislators that he would not call us into session until mid-August—giving legislators time to negotiate. But then the governor turned around and called legislators back in on July 13th.

Gov. Bentley said he was using “the element of surprise,” but the truth is that it was just another deception—and an expensive one at that. Not only did the first special session fail in spectacular fashion, it cost the taxpayers more than $320,000 at a time when the state cannot afford to waste a penny!

So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that after nearly a year of trying to convince legislators and the public that tax increases would avoid these closures; the governor is now, once again, going back on his word and closing these parks, offices and armories.

Now the governor’s hypocrisy and deceptions are hurting legislators in his own party.

Almost all of the Republican legislators in the House and Senate voted to raise your taxes. Most, if not all, of them campaigned just last year on a promise to never raise taxes. Rep. Paul Lee, a Republican from Dothan, believes so strongly in raising taxes that he made a passionate speech on the House floor where he said those of us who voted against the taxes should be “ashamed.”

Now Rep. Lee sure has egg on his face, just like all the other legislators who insisted that these tax increases would prevent closures and solve the budget problem. I can assure you that nothing is solved. The crisis has only been delayed. When legislators return to Montgomery in February, we will be right back in the same position we were just in: Talking about another shortfall and debating more taxes, budget cuts and raids on public education funding.

The governor’s hypocrisy and deceit are not just costing him politically any more. Now, you and I are paying the price through higher taxes, less funding for our children’s education and the loss of some state parks, National Guard armories and drivers license offices.

We will never be able to get our budget back on the right path as long as our state leaders keep misleading the public and legislators. The governor has lost his credibility with the public, and certainly with legislators. Without credibility, how can the governor lead the state?


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



“We dare defend our rights.” The state motto has been flaunted by politicians across Montgomery to promote partisan agendas for years, however Governor Bentley is taking the motto a step further by asking the Alabama Supreme Court to determine whether certain parts of the state’s General Fund budget are unconstitutional.

Bentley’s camp is saying that the Constitution creates certain powers for the Executive Branch that the General Fund budget attacks. Bentley is daring to defend his rights as Chief Executive Officer of the State of Alabama by challenging those provisions in court.

Let’s not forget that this is the same governor who has signed multiple pieces of blatantly unconstitutional legislation into law in the past five years–so the constitutional violations must be egregious for Bentley himself to ask the state’s highest court for a ruling. Nope.

The provisions Bentley is challenging are all safeguards to protect the people of Alabama from harmful effects of poor leadership in Montgomery. One provision Bentley is attacking says that DMV offices must remain open across Alabama–to ensure that drivers can renew their licenses and to ensure that voters can get photo IDs that are now required by law. Another aspect Bentley is challenging says that cuts must be made on the administrative end before cuts could impact services provided to Alabama citizens–to ensure that people who depend on state services for health care or child care are insulated from cuts as long as possible.

Now don’t get me wrong–I’m not defending this budget by any means. I’m unhappy with cuts to our classrooms and state employees while we leave billions in Medicaid Expansion money on the table. But I also don’t support resorting to cheap political tricks to rewind the process. We’ll continue the conversation and work on improving the budget next year.

Bentley, on the other hand, has no problem with political tricks. He never worried about unconstitutional laws at the same time he was bragging about saving the state over a billion dollars–mostly on the backs of working families who lost jobs and benefits. And he certainly didn’t care about constitutionality when he thought it was good politics–like when he signed the Anti-Immigration Bill or rushed to sign the Alabama Accountability Act into law. But now that it’s his own power that is being attacked, Bentley has suddenly found a new appreciation for the Constitution that he has so casually disregarded for the past 5 years at the taxpayers’ expense.

Truly, Bentley didn’t raise any of these concerns when the budget hit his desk–he simply raised his pen and signed. Now he’s trying to find a loophole to bring the budget back for consideration or increase his own authority where he has none. If Bentley wanted to protect Executive authority, he should have started by using his veto to kick back a bad budget, returning it to the Legislature without his approval.


Rep. Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.