Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rewriting Alabama's State Motto One Legislative Session at a Time

If it looks like a tombstone...
Alabama's official state motto adopted in 1939, "Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere" (We dare defend our rights) will be soon be changed again by our current legislature to "Audemus Jura Cape" (We dare to take your rights) at the rate our lawmakers are moving in furthering empowerment to the state and corporations and away from the citizens.

There's nothing great about the state of Alabama if you're not in the loop, a political player, a generously political corporation or one of the many bottom feeders known as lawyers for the state's interests.

Don't be from the wrong side of the tracks, exhibit any complexion hue other than lily white (or the occasional golden lily color during Redneck Rivera months) and above all else make sure you attend the white right church.

And have your politics straight, as in tunnel vision like--capable of focusing only on one narrow view of the world and everyone around you.

We've become a state of the privileged few unable to shake off our racist past. We've gotten more PC about it and hidden the more overt racism into the now accepted classicism the religious right is so fond of, but what was ugly then is still hideous now.

The gambling trial going on in Montgomery has opened up a view to an unseemly and intolerant attitude that pervades our State House like a skunk shot. We've learned that our lawmakers are not only prejudiced to great faults, but we've also found out just how corruptly they operate right out in the open, with unabashed shamelessness.

For the most part, it appears we are short on how many hides ought to be on the stand and under indictment.

We have one republican that's an I-go-to-church-but-play-me-a-little-poker-on-Friday-nights hypocrite who's taking thousands of dollars from a lobbyist for admittedly doing absolutely 'nothing' annually. Other republicans who gather in groups and denigrate minority citizens and the counties they live in like they were at a Saturday night Klan meeting. Political snakes lying in the tall grass of morality and lying in wait (courtesy of hidden recording devices) for one of their own to stroll by so they can strike and deliver a fatal political bite.

Montgomery rightfully earns its nickname of Goat Hill--it's a literal animal farm of bad behavior from top to bottom.What makes the whole sordid bunch even worse is their attitude of us first, you citizens last.

No grocery tax relief passed the legislature this year, while corporate friendly tax abatement and incentives sailed through. Alabama taxes its people at the lowest rate of  income seizure in the nation--$4,500. If you make $4,500 per year, by God you are going to pull your weight and pay the state its share, but if you're a giant corporation like Thyssen Krupp, the state of Alabama will allow you millions in goodies from state coffers, and a generous reduction in tax revenues, to come to Alabama for "the good of the people."

Former Governor Riley stormed through the Alabama Senate in 2007 demanding lawmakers step-up the handouts through big business legislation by telling them if they didn't, he would defy them to "go back home and say I'm doing the right thing for the people of this state."

It's always about corporate coddling and never about giving "the people of this state" one whit of relief for their families.

An issue came up towards the end of the legislative session about Public Adjusters. PA's act as insurance policy advocates who are hired by policy holders to even the tilted playing field of the claims process. They're consumer advocates who know every in and out of the meant to confuse complicated lingo in insurance policies. And they're under attack in Alabama:
In at least 44 states, insurance policyholders can hire their own adjusters, called public adjusters, to help settle claims after a loss. But the legal status of public adjusters is cloudy at best in Alabama.
Following April’s savage tornadoes, the Alabama State Bar warned that public adjusters are illegal in Alabama, saying that they are practicing law without a license and could face criminal prosecution.
We have our fair share of natural disasters in Alabama--hurricanes, tornadoes and severe droughts that wreck not only our communities, but our chances as average citizens to be made whole after a tragedy of Mother Nature. We need the power to hire representatives who will fight on our side when one of the state's big insurers refuses to honor protection we have faithfully paid for in the form of premiums.
When someone files a claim with an insurer, the company sends an adjuster to examine the damage and determine how much repairs will cost.
A public adjuster, however, represents the policyholder, working up a separate damage estimate and bargaining with the insurer. The policyholder pays for the service, *giving a public adjuster 10-25% of a settlement depending on the state and type of claim. *(Avg. fees are 10-15%)
Insurance companies are huge players in Alabama's political process gifting millions to candidates that are raised by premiums payments from policyholders. One large insurer ALFA, has had its dirty hands in legislative sessions bills for years, directing lawmakers to favor their own corporate interests with increased campaign donations. They've bought their way into the statehouse and pay for laws designed for their sole agenda--decrease policy holder rights and increase our immunity and profits.

The right of citizens to hire PA's is an issue that will have a huge effect on everyday citizens in ways they don't fully comprehend. This July 3rd story from the Mobile Press-Register entitled "Public Insurers Called Illegal in Alabama" lit a fire under commenters who roundly thrashed the state's stance of no rights for you John & Jane Q. Public, and if you try, we'll make it actionable:
 "Alabama does not license claims adjusters so any claims settled by such third-party recovery firms are considered to be the unauthorized practice of law, which is subject to criminal prosecution," the statement said. "Anyone assisting third-party adjusters attempting to settle claims on behalf of claimants could also be charged with aiding and abetting in this illegal activity."
Alabama insurance Commission Head Jim Ridling sent a letter to Alabama AG Luther Strange for an opinion on the legality of PA's in Alabama. Shortly after, Ridling pulled the request back and said through his spokesman that he would seek a "legislative solution instead." He knows what agreeable minds he'll find in the insurance friendly legislature.

Predictably the insurance industry wants to deride PA's, but when we are entertaining the idea of making it illegal for citizens to hire advocates on their side of things, we are going way too far. Taking it a step further and suggesting that even the citizens who seek these advocates may also be charged with a crime moves it into Gestapo territory.

Like the bad model of Arizona's anti-immigration law that Alabama picked up and ran with, charging straight into a you-should-have-seen-it-coming legal wall of trouble soon after, Florida is serving as the model for Alabama's war on Public Adjusters:
Several bills are floating around the Florida legislature which deregulate the insurance industry in Florida or strip away vital rights held by insureds in disputes with their insurance carriers. The legislative session launched earlier this month with bills which allowed Citizens to raise its rates by as much as 25% each year, prohibited Citizens insureds from retaining a public adjuster to assist in the handling of their claim, and rewording the consumer protections contained within the bad faith statute. 
Following Florida's anti-citizen rights governor's lead is an idea that makes as much sense as, well, what Alabama does all the time! Name one meaningful bill that has come out of Montgomery in the last 50 years that gave any power to the people. Next, see if you can name how many have come out of Montgomery that have ensured power remains centralized in Montgomery. You should have one blank piece of paper and a stack of page after page with the latter.

We are at the bottom of the pile on so many other issues what's this one more going to hurt?

This one will, a lot. 

We hope that citizens will begin to pay more attention to what Montgomery is doing to their rights before they wake up one day and realize they have very few left. Bit by bit the legislative goats continue to gnaw away at the tree of citizen's rights. How much more are we, as a collective people, willing to allow them to take away from us?

*if you let us we will take it
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  1. We'll let them take it alright because all the average person cares about is football, football and more football.
    I can't remember there was a big show of citizen force in Montgomery, I mean a big one, as in hundreds, with pitchforks and torches ready to go.
    Anybody else remember one?
    But if Nick Saban or Chizik was coming to the state house for a public invited function, the population of the state would drain to zero a hundred miles outside Monkeytown.
    No hope, but some of us will keep trying.
    Good article Max.

  2. Rights removed are rights lost.

  3. Let's look like we're doing something meaningful---

    MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Montgomery today announced plans to collect nearly $2 million in money owed by businesses.

    According to a city press release, letters will go out in the next several days to some 1,000 delinquent businesses and owners.

  4. Ridling never met an insurance anything he does not love. What's the matter Jimmy boy? You afraid of what the AG may say and have to run back to your enablers in the legislature to do your bidding?
    What a transparent cretin!

  5. Pitchforks and torches are almost too good for those scoundrels, but hey, it's a start!

  6. These politicians treat us all like barefoot and pregnant gals.

  7. i'myourhuckleberryJuly 7, 2011 at 8:51 PM

    Let me guess, we won't need the advocacy of someone we hire because the churches will step forward and make it allll better.
    Would these be the same churches who pour righteous gravy on their guilt and say but I give to the poor and the blacks, so how can I possibly be racist?
    Those are the ones?
    No thanks.

  8. Jim Ridling is on the BOD of Jackson Hospital huh?
    That explains a lot.
    The hospital has been in the tank for years now and patient care is similar to a third world country.
    Their collection department has earned a notorious reputation to boot.

  9. How about we douse them in red/whte paint and the other half in orange/blue and send all the really rabid fans down there and shout fight?

  10. Since 1901 we have lived under a state constitution that was borne out of corruption, and written by greedy men who were devoutly Christian and steeped in prejudice. That was the way of times then.
    It's time for a change.
    It's time for our lawmakers to take heed to the language of "people are the source of power."
    Why are we still so silent?

  11. Yes, Max you are dead on as usual.

  12. I am going to borrow your Network motto for a sec.


    Okay, momentarily better.

  13. Well lookee here in the Sunday edition of the Bham Schooze, a supposed "insurance reform commission" packed with insurance company members!!!

    "The lack of affordable insurance is an important issue that many in Alabama face. After the devastating tornadoes of April, insurance reform needs to be examined now more than ever," Bentley said in a statement. "I want this new commission to work together to stop the rising cost of insurance for the benefit of all Alabamians."

    Right on the heels of the PA story no less. Coincidence?
    I think NOT!

    Bentley creates insurance DEFORM commission


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