Join us for Arise’s Membership Mondays!

Membership Mondays are an opportunity for Alabama Arise members to network and get more energized in our work together. In these online sessions, members will get the latest updates on the legislative session. Then they will break into groups to talk to other Arise members around the state.

In the breakouts, participants can share about their advocacy actions and learn what others are doing. Meeting attendees will choose the issue topics for the breakout sessions.

Ideally, we are designating these meetings for Arise members. If you are not yet a member of Arise, we invite you to join thousands of other Arisers advocating for our vision of a better Alabama for all.

Click here to join Arise for as little as $15 a year. Add the strength of your voice to the work of making policies that improve life for struggling families across Alabama.

Registration is required. Sign up for one or both events below:

Membership Monday 2021 – March 15th, 6 p.m.

Register here.

Membership Monday 2021 – April 12th, 6 p.m.

Register here.

We still make change: Advocating in Alabama in the time of COVID-19

The voices and needs of people matter. And engaging those voices in the policymaking process is key to building the better, more inclusive Alabama that we envision.

Alabama Arise remains committed to informing and equipping our members to influence policies that affect their lives and communities. As we look toward the Alabama Legislature’s 2021 regular session, we’re prioritizing ways to keep constituent voices at the forefront of the policymaking process.

The legislative session beginning Feb. 2 will be the most constrained in decades due to COVID-19’s impacts. Access to traditional methods of contacting and monitoring legislators in person at the State House, including public hearings and floor debates, will be severely restricted for the general public.

The Alabama Legislature’s 2021 regular session will begin Feb. 2.

In fact, there is considerable uncertainty about how long and exactly which days the Legislature will be in session. While many bills will be introduced, the only constitutional requirement for lawmakers is to pass state budgets.

Lawmakers will meet for three days in each of the first two weeks before pausing until Feb. 23 for further assessment, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said last week. The full Legislature can gather for up to 30 meeting days in 15 calendar weeks.

Because of the session’s uncertain flow and the difficulty of meeting with legislators to discuss issues, we must use every method possible this year to inform and influence our legislators at the local level. Below are some of the key approaches you can take.

Methods of contact to use

Personal letters

Legislators may have significant breaks and limited contact from constituents during the session. An old-fashioned and powerful way to ensure they hear your voice is to write and mail them a letter. Be sure to make your case in your own words. (Information from Arise can help with explaining the issue and your stance.) Letters sent to lawmakers’ personal addresses or district offices are best, but letters to their Montgomery offices are important, too.

Phone calls

Give your local legislators a call on the issues that matter to you. To develop a connection with them, ask them for information and tell them about yourself in addition to asking them to support or oppose particular bills. When you reach out to lawmakers, ask for their preferred contact number. If they give you a cell phone number, ask if you can text them about important matters during the session.

Facebook

Most legislators have Facebook accounts. You often can use them to message lawmakers directly or provide critical information privately or publicly. Arise organizers are compiling an up-to-date list of Facebook accounts to share with you for your local legislative delegation.

Twitter

Twitter can be a quick, powerful and public way to contact legislators, even as they debate issues on the floor. Arise organizers are compiling an up-to-date list of Twitter accounts for you to use to contact your local delegation.

Texting

Text messages can be the most effective way to contact your legislator quickly at any time. Legislators invariably read text messages on the floor, during the session and at many other times. If you don’t already have a close relationship with the lawmaker, consider limiting your use of this method to critical moments when there isn’t time to use other approaches. Note: It’s important that you call and ask your legislator if you have permission to text them.

Email

Email is sometimes seen as an overused tool, but it remains an important and necessary one. When the session is underway, tons of emails come in to lawmakers. You should email them as well to ensure they hear from people who believe as you do. Emails sent while legislators are not in session have a better chance of getting read and influencing their position.

A few basic tips for speaking with legislators

  • Always be courteous and address lawmakers as “Senator” or “Representative.”
  • Remember to tell them where you live and that you vote in their district.
  • If you are asking them to support a certain position or bill, ask them for a response.
  • If they support your position, be sure to thank them.
  • If they oppose your position, ask them politely to explain why.
  • Share what you hear with Arise. (Find the organizer for your area here.)

Alabama Arise condemns insurrection, demands protection and expansion of voting rights

Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden released the following statement Friday on this week’s events in Washington, D.C.:

“The assault on the U.S. Capitol this week was a violent and racist attack on the very idea of democracy. It was an effort by white nationalists and other extremists to reject the results of a free and fair election and to tear the fabric of our shared freedoms. Alabama Arise condemns this disgraceful, reprehensible insurrection in the strongest possible terms.

“The peaceful transfer of power is essential to the continuation of our representative democracy. Everyone’s freedoms are jeopardized when lawmakers attempt to disregard the results of free and fair elections or when mobs attempt to overrule those elections by force.

“Arise denounces incitements to violence and insurrection by elected leaders and political extremists. We also denounce the white supremacist ideologies that fuel attempts to reject legitimate votes from people of color.

“Alabama has a painful history of overturning legitimate election results by disregarding the will of Black voters. Similar strategies were used to ratify our racist 1901 state constitution, which disenfranchised Black voters and explicitly aimed to establish white supremacy under the law.

“Our ability to progress as a state and a nation will be limited as long as any person or group is unable to exercise their constitutional right to vote. We call upon all of our elected officials to acknowledge and affirm the 2020 election results. And we demand that everyone involved in carrying out or inciting Wednesday’s insurrection be held accountable for their actions.

Steps toward a better, more inclusive future

“Arise applauds the grassroots organizers and elected leaders who have worked for years to expand access to free and fair elections. In recent months, we have witnessed amazing levels of mobilization and grassroots engagement to ensure that all eligible voters can participate in deciding their political future. The fact that nearly 160 million Americans voted despite a pandemic, a crushing recession and rampant voter suppression efforts is a testament to these organizers’ work.

“Ensuring that every eligible voter can access the ballot must be a top priority to protect our democratic republic. We call upon Congress to strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and provide protections from further attempts to suppress votes. And we urge Alabama lawmakers to protect and expand voting rights by instituting automatic voter registration and lifting barriers to voting rights restoration.”

It’s Election Day! Check out Alabama Arise’s 2020 voting resources

We made it! Today is Election Day across the United States. More than 300,000 Alabamians have voted already, shattering the state’s previous record for votes cast before Election Day. And we’re likely to continue to break records today.

The presidential and U.S. Senate races are drawing the biggest share of the attention in Alabama this year. But voters also will decide on their U.S. representatives, six statewide constitutional amendments and a host of state and local offices.

Have you made a plan to vote? Below, Alabama Arise has information about how to vote in person, what to do if you face barriers to voting, and why we urge Alabamians to vote YES on Amendment 4.

Vote!

Heres what you need to know for Election Day:

If you face any intimidation, threats or other barriers to voting, trained volunteers are ready to help:

  • English: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)
  • Spanish: 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682)
  • Asian languages: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683)
  • Arabic: 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287)

Alabama Arise supports Amendment 4

Vote Yes on Amendment 4!

From our blog: “It’s past time for Alabama to tear down the policy legacies of slavery and segregation. And Alabamians can take an important step in that direction this fall by voting yes on Amendment 4. …

“Amendment 4 would allow the Legislature to remove racist language from the constitution. Examples of these provisions include references to separate schools for Black and white children and the prohibition of interracial marriages. This change would address one of the constitution’s original sins: its authors’ explicit intent to establish white supremacy in Alabama.”

Read more about Amendment 4 here.

Alabama Arise resources for the 2020 general election

Election Day is officially Nov. 3, but the 2020 general election is well underway. More than 206,000 Alabamians have voted already, shattering the state’s previous record for votes cast before Election Day.

The presidential and U.S. Senate races are drawing the biggest share of the attention in Alabama this year. But voters also will decide on their U.S. representatives, six statewide constitutional amendments and a host of state and local offices.

Have you made a plan to vote? Below, Alabama Arise has information about how to vote by mail or in person. And we explain why we urge Alabamians to vote YES on Amendment 4.

Vote!

It’s not too late for absentee voting!

  • The deadline to submit a standard absentee ballot application or to vote absentee in person this year is Thursday, Oct. 29.
  • The last day to postmark an absentee ballot is Monday, Nov. 2, the day before the election.
  • Due to potential mail delays, voters who are interested in voting absentee should consider safely doing so in person. Absentee ballots must arrive at the election manager’s office by no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2 (if hand-delivered) or by noon on Tuesday, Nov. 3 (if returned by mail).
  • Alabamians may vote absentee if they are worried about crowded polling places during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the application, they should check the box that says “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”
  • You can find much more information and resources on absentee voting on the Alabama Secretary of State’s website.

What you need to know for Election Day

Alabama Arise supports Amendment 4

Vote Yes on Amendment 4!

From our blog: “It’s past time for Alabama to tear down the policy legacies of slavery and segregation. And Alabamians can take an important step in that direction this fall by voting yes on Amendment 4. …

“Amendment 4 would allow the Legislature to remove racist language from the constitution. Examples of these provisions include references to separate schools for Black and white children and the prohibition of interracial marriages. This change would address one of the constitution’s original sins: its authors’ explicit intent to establish white supremacy in Alabama.”

Read more about Amendment 4 here.

Why Alabama Arise supports Amendment 4

It’s past time for Alabama to tear down the policy legacies of slavery and segregation. And Alabamians can take an important step in that direction this fall by voting yes on Amendment 4.

Alabama Arise favors an overhaul of the racist 1901 constitution, so adding new amendments is not something we take lightly. But Amendment 4 would improve the constitution by authorizing the Legislature to “recompile,” or clean up and reorganize, the document in certain limited ways during the 2022 regular session.

Most importantly, Amendment 4 would allow the Legislature to remove racist language from the constitution. Examples of these provisions include references to separate schools for Black and white children and the prohibition of interracial marriages. This change would address one of the constitution’s original sins: its authors’ explicit intent to establish white supremacy in Alabama.

Vote Yes on Amendment 4!

Amendment 4 would make other structural changes to the constitution as well. It would remove language that is repetitive or no longer applies. It would consolidate amendments related to economic development. And it would group local amendments by the county to which they apply.

How Amendment 4 differs from previous efforts

Two other efforts to modernize the constitution and remove racist language have lost statewide votes in recent years. In 2004, voters rejected a proposed amendment that also would have removed language saying Alabama children had no right to a publicly funded education. Some conservatives feared that change could force lawmakers to increase taxes and boost public school funding.

In 2012, Alabamians voted against another proposed amendment that many Black lawmakers opposed. The legislators cited concerns that it could undermine education funding and would not remove all racist language from the constitution.

This year’s amendment would allow the Legislature to identify racist language for removal. Voters still would have the final say on whether to approve the new revision of the constitution. Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, sponsored the amendment, which the Legislature approved unanimously in 2019 for a public vote this year. Coleman worked as an Arise policy analyst before she was elected to the House.

More information on other proposed amendments

Voters in the 2020 general election will consider five other proposed amendments to Alabama’s constitution, already one of the longest in the world. Alabama Arise urges a Yes vote on Amendment 4 but does not have a position on the other amendments. We do, however, encourage you to learn more about them in this guide to all six amendments from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA). You also can read the state Fair Ballot Commission’s summaries of the measures on the secretary of state’s website.

Thank you for your commitment to Arise’s work to advance opportunity and justice in our state. And thank you for your interest in making wise policy choices for a better Alabama!

Alabama Arise unveils members’ 2021 roadmap for change

Sentencing reform and universal broadband access are two new goals on Alabama Arise’s 2021 legislative agenda. Members voted for Arise’s issue priorities this week after nearly 300 people attended the organization’s online annual meeting Saturday. The seven issues chosen were:

  • Tax reform, including untaxing groceries and ending the state’s upside-down deduction for federal income taxes, which overwhelmingly benefits rich households.
  • Adequate budgets for human services like education, health care and child care, including Medicaid expansion and extension of pre-K to serve all eligible Alabama children.
  • Criminal justice reform, including repeal of the Habitual Felony Offender Act and changes to civil asset forfeiture policies.
  • Voting rights, including automatic universal voter registration and removal of barriers to voting rights restoration for disenfranchised Alabamians.
  • Payday and title lending reform to protect consumers from getting trapped in debt.
  • Death penalty reform, including a law to require juries to be unanimous in any decision to impose a death sentence.
  • Universal broadband access to help Alabamians who have low incomes or live in rural areas stay connected to work, school and health care.

“Arise believes in dignity, equity and justice for all Alabamians,” Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said. “And our 2021 issue priorities would break down many of the policy barriers that keep people in poverty. We can and will build a more inclusive future for our state.”

Graphic naming Alabama Arise's 2021 issue priorities

The urgent need for criminal justice reform

Alabama’s criminal justice system is broken and in desperate need of repair. The state’s prisons are violent and dangerously overcrowded. Exorbitant court fines and fees impose heavy burdens on thousands of families every year, taking a disproportionate toll on communities of color and families who are already struggling to make ends meet. And Alabama’s civil asset forfeiture policies let law enforcement seize people’s property even if they aren’t charged with a crime.

Arise will continue to seek needed reforms in those areas in the coming year. The organization also will work for repeal of the Habitual Felony Offender Act (HFOA), the state’s “three-strikes” law. The HFOA is an unjust driver of sentencing disparities and prison overcrowding in Alabama. The law lengthens sentences for a felony conviction after a prior felony conviction, even when the prior offense was nonviolent. Hundreds of people in Alabama are serving life sentences for non-homicide crimes because of the HFOA. Thousands more have had their sentences increased as a result. Repealing the law would reduce prison overcrowding and end some of Alabama’s most abusive sentencing practices.

Universal broadband access would help struggling Alabamians stay connected

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the essential role that the internet plays in modern life. Remote work, education, health care and shopping are a reality for millions in our state today. But far too many Alabamians, especially in rural areas, can’t access the high-speed broadband that these services require. These access challenges also reveal a racial disparity: About 10% each of Black and Latino households have no internet subscription, compared to 6% of white households.

Policy solutions can facilitate the investments needed to ensure all Alabamians can stay connected. Lawmakers can help by guaranteeing that all communities have the right to own, operate or deploy their own broadband services. The Legislature also can enact targeted and transparent tax credits to promote broadband for underserved populations.

Help us raise Alabama’s Census participation!

Arise has partnered with the Hard to Count Collaborative to ensure every Alabamian is counted in the 2020 Census. The collaborative is conducting a texting campaign to reach folks in Alabama who may have trouble hearing about the Census. And they need help from volunteers like you!

Now that the Census Bureau has moved up the response deadline by a month to Sept. 30, this effort is more urgent than ever. Alabama’s response rate is lagging behind, so we have work to do. Our state’s Census participation rate is about 61%, but the national average is closer to 63%.

The Census is important for our state’s future. It significantly affects federal funding for education, health care, child care and other services that increase opportunity for people who struggle to make ends meet. We only have a few more weeks to ensure Alabama gets our fair share of funding for the next decade.

The Census brings money back home to your community! In 2016, Alabama received more than $13 billion for 55 federal programs based on our Census numbers. Here's where some of those dollars went. Health: $4.6 billion. Education: $2.7 billion. Nutrition: $1.6 billion. Housing: $965 million. Family supports: $272 million. Community development: $201 million. Worker supports: $80 million. Source: The George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, January 2019.

You can help without even having to leave your home. Volunteers will attend a brief online training session to learn how to download and use an outreach app. The app will allow volunteers to text people throughout Alabama who may not have internet access or may not have heard about the Census and its importance.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the texting campaign, please email me, Mike Nicholson, at mike@alarise.org. I’d be happy to explain the process, help you sign up and answer any questions. Thanks for helping us fight for Alabama’s future!

P.S. – If you haven’t completed your Census, now is the time! You can fill it out in under 10 minutes here.

Education, health care, nutrition and more: Why the Census matters to Alabama

The 2020 Census is nearly here. In mid-March, the Census Bureau will begin mailing out informational postcards to all U.S. residents. The postcards will provide instructions on how to complete the Census for your household.

Filling out the Census is important for a number of reasons. Alabama’s count impacts our state legislative districts and our representation in Congress. But it also influences the quality of life in our communities in a whole host of ways.

In 2016, Alabama received more than $13 billion for 55 federal programs based on data from the 2010 Census. Our Census count affected $4.6 billion that year in federal funding for health coverage through Medicaid and ALL Kids. It also shaped another $2.7 billion for education, including special education, student loans, and Title I grants to schools with high shares of students from households with low incomes.

The effects of Alabama’s Census numbers don’t stop there. The Census count guides more than $1.6 billion annually for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meals and other nutrition services. And it affects funding for a range of other services, including affordable housing, child care, transportation and water treatment. The Census has important implications for virtually every aspect of our daily lives.

The Census brings money back home to your community! In 2016, Alabama received more than $13 billion for 55 federal programs based on our Census numbers. Here's where some of those dollars went. Health: $4.6 billion. Education: $2.7 billion. Nutrition: $1.6 billion. Housing: $965 million. Family supports: $272 million. Community development: $201 million. Worker supports: $80 million. Source: The George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, January 2019.

What you need to know to participate in the Census

Here are a few important things to know regarding the Census:

  • Postcards from the U.S. Census Bureau are scheduled to arrive between March 14 and April 1.
  • Officials encourage people to fill out the Census online if possible. But you also can complete the survey over the phone or request a paper copy in the mail.
  • The Census survey is just 10 questions, and it should only take you about 10 minutes to complete.
  • You will not need to provide a Social Security number to take the survey. Just your address will do.
  • Your responses are completely confidential. The Census Bureau uses them only for statistical purposes.
  • If you have any questions, visit census.gov or call 800-923-8282.

Alabama Arise is putting together informational toolkits for groups to share with folks all across the state. If you want information to share with your community, please email me at mike@alarise.org. Let’s make sure we each take 10 minutes to secure the funding we need for the next 10 years!

Why we’re spreading the word about the Census across Alabama

Filling out your Census form is quick and easy. It only takes about 10 minutes to answer 10 questions. You won’t have to do it again for 10 years. And your answers are completely confidential.

It may not seem like much, but the stakes are high. The accuracy of Alabama’s 2020 Census count will shape our state and local communities every day. Census results determine how many U.S. House members represent each state. They also guide the distribution of more than $700 billion in federal resources every year.

Alabama Arise organizer Mike Nicholson speaks to Madison County community representatives about the Census on Jan. 28 in Huntsville. Arise has partnered with VOICES for Alabama’s Children to conduct similar meetings across the state.

That money funds health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as ALL Kids in Alabama. It also supports Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and many other services that help struggling families.

Census outreach across Alabama

Alabama Arise is part of a statewide effort to protect these programs by getting as many Alabamians counted as possible. We’ve teamed with VOICES for Alabama’s Children to travel to as many counties as we can to meet with folks and come up with a plan to make sure everyone is counted. We’re providing information and assistance to grassroots partners so they can help their communities understand how the Census affects Alabama.

Alabama Arise organizer Debbie Smith (left) speaks to Madison County community representatives about the Census on Jan. 28 in Huntsville.

Please help us spread the word. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more information about the Census’ importance and tips on persuading your community to participate. No one is a better messenger for your community than you, and Alabama’s future depends on it!