November 2018 Newsletter

Lead Article

Arise unveils 2019 blueprint for change

Automatic voter registration joins priority list

It was a vote to urge Alabama to break down barriers to voting. Arise members approved automatic universal voter registration as a new issue priority for 2019 during the organization’s annual meeting Sept. 8 at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Montgomery. Nearly 200 members from across Alabama also reaffirmed their commitment to six other issue priorities, including the permanent issues of tax reform and adequate budgets.

Automatic voter registration (AVR) would allow Alabama to save money while registering more people to vote. AVR registers eligible citizens or updates their records electronically when they apply for a driver’s license or share information with public agencies in other routine ways. People can opt out if they do not wish to be registered.

Fifteen states, including Georgia, and the District of Columbia have approved a form of AVR, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. All but one offer AVR through the department of motor vehicles, and several provide AVR through other agencies as well. The policy increases voter registration, promotes greater voter roll accuracy, and reduces printing, mailing and personnel costs connected to processing registration forms by hand.

Members also urged Arise to seek to rein in civil asset forfeiture as part of its criminal justice reform work. This practice allows law enforcement to seize a home, car or other property from people who have not been convicted of a crime. Alabamians who cannot afford to hire a lawyer to try to recover the property are especially vulnerable.

Arise will support policies to reduce the burden that civil asset forfeiture and high court fees and fines place on many families living in poverty. Other priorities include state public transportation funding, stronger consumer protections on payday and auto title loans, and reforms to the state’s death penalty process.

Medicaid expansion will be a focus of intense Arise advocacy this year. Alabama’s failure to expand Medicaid to cover adults with low wages has trapped about 300,000 people in a coverage gap. They make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to get subsidies for Marketplace coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Expanding Medicaid would save hundreds of lives, create thousands of jobs and pump hundreds of millions of dollars a year into the state economy. It also would help keep rural hospitals and clinics open across Alabama.

Arise will continue its long-standing campaign to untax groceries this year. Alabama is one of only three states with no sales tax break on groceries. (The others are Mississippi and South Dakota.) The grocery tax adds hundreds of dollars a year to the cost of a basic necessity of life for families. The tax also is a key driver of Alabama’s upside-down tax system, which on average forces families with low and moderate incomes to pay twice as much of what they make in state and local taxes as the richest Alabamians do.

August 2018 Newsletter

Lead Article

Members to chart course Sept. 8

7 proposals vie for 5 slots on our 2019 agenda

We expect another lively, uplifting day when Arise members gather to pick our 2019 issue priorities at our annual meeting Sept. 8 in Montgomery. (See details and voting rules at right.) Two new proposals will compete with five current priorities for the five available slots on Arise’s issue roster next year. Two other issues are permanent priorities: tax reform and adequate state budgets.

Please RSVP by Saturday, Sept. 1, by visiting arisecitizens.org or calling us at 334-832-9060. This month’s newsletter is a resource to help you choose our 2019 issue priorities next month. Inside, you’ll find proponents’ summaries of their new proposals, as well as our policy staff’s overviews of the current issue priorities. We hope to see everyone Sept. 8 as you pick Arise’s 2019 agenda and renew our shared commitment to building a better Alabama for all.

June 2018 Newsletter

Lead Article

Goodbye and thank you, Kimble

Forrister retiring after 27 years at Arise

“I mean, what does Arise even look like without Kimble?” one of my coworkers asked earlier this year. It’d been a topic of discussion around the office for a few years, ever since our executive director, Kimble Forrister, attached a specific date to his years of warnings that he would, in fact, retire one day. Now, perhaps sooner than any of us expected, that day is at hand.

Kimble will go down in our state’s history for building Arise into a moral force for justice and opportunity for all Alabamians. For decades, he has been a leading light in statewide campaigns to restore balance to Alabama’s upside-down tax system, to improve education and housing, to invest in health care and public transportation and other services that help people get ahead. As The Anniston Star wrote, “There may be no Alabamian alive today who has done more to better the living conditions for his fellow man in the last quarter-century.”

For Arise, Kimble’s legacy is even more foundational. When he first came to the organization, it was still a small, young coalition of congregations and community groups struggling to make a name for itself. Under his leadership, we developed into a respected, well-known voice – in the media and in the halls of government – for the policy concerns of low-income Alabamians. The number of Arise member groups tripled, and the number of individual members increased at an even faster pace. The staff expanded from two to 15. With that growth came policy successes, like an increase in Alabama’s state income tax threshold, passage of a landlord-tenant law and creation of state trust funds for housing and transportation. And it all happened with a collaborative, selfless spirit that permeated the organizational culture, ensuring that “Arise after Kimble” will carry forward that essential spirit.

Kimble isn’t gone from Arise quite yet. He’ll remain as a part-time adviser for a few months to ease the transition, and he’ll be honored at Arise’s 30th anniversary celebration in October. In the long term, he plans to travel with his wife, Calli, and to spend more time with his children, Clare, Ned and Sarah Alice; and his grandson, Keys. More than one colleague has urged Kimble to write that book he’s talked about for years. And given that he’s a huge film guy, we expect him to spend plenty of time at the Capri Theatre in Montgomery.

“I’m planning for this to be a real retirement,” Kimble told me this week. At the time, he was packing up decades’ worth of memories, while also keeping an eye on the Farm Bill and compiling a monthly financial report for the board – giving Arise his all up to the very last moment. Those of us who have had the privilege of knowing Kimble would have expected nothing different.

May 2018 Newsletter

Lead Article

Hyden to be Arise’s next director

Kimble Forrister retiring in June after 27 years

The Board of Directors of Arise has chosen Robyn Hyden as the organization’s next executive director. Hyden will begin her tenure in July. She will take over for Arise’s current executive director, Kimble Forrister, who will retire at the end of June after 27 years leading the organization.

Hyden joins Arise from the United Way of Central Alabama, where she has served as director of grants management in the Department of Community Initiatives since 2017. Previously, Hyden worked as a north Alabama organizer for Arise and directed development and communications at the Birmingham-based
nonprofits Urban Ministry and Alabama Possible. She has a Bachelor
of Arts degree in anthropology from Vanderbilt University.

“Alabama Arise’s members are our state’s most outspoken advocates for dignity, justice and power for people in poverty,” Hyden said. “Arise is at the forefront of organizing grassroots advocacy, holding elected officials accountable and producing trusted policy analysis – work that is now more important than ever. I am honored and humbled to carry this work forward with Arise’s amazing staff, members and board.”

Arise Board President Cindy Lowry praised Hyden’s track record in fundraising and organizing and touted her relationships with civic organizations and faith-based groups across Alabama.

“Robyn has what we believe to be the right attributes – passion, commitment and professionalism – to lead this organization into the future,” Lowry said. “As a former organizer for Arise, she knows the organization very well and has a vision that will build on our history and strengths. Through her words and actions, we know she is fully committed to Arise and our mission.”

Forrister, Arise’s outgoing director, also offered praise for Hyden. “Robyn brings just what Arise needs: a vision for where we need to go, a vision grounded in deep relationships with a network of change-makers,” Forrister said. “She’s a collaborator. She listens. And she’s thoughtful. She steps in at a time when our staff, board and membership are strong and eager to engage the issues of 2019.”

April 2018 Newsletter

Lead Article

Session brings 4 big Arise wins

Transit fund created, ETF funding protected

The Alabama Legislature had a fairly quiet regular session in 2018 – but it was a big year for Arise. Thanks to our members’ dedicated advocacy, we made meaningful breakthroughs on public transportation and criminal justice debt reform. Arise members also led the charge to defeat a proposed state tax break for private school tuition and to prevent the Legislature from creating new barriers to food assistance and health care access.

Sometimes Arise members’ advocacy gets results in a more subtle way – such as making a bad bill a little less bad. That was the case with HB 421, sponsored by Rep. David Sessions, R-Grand Bay. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the new measure, which erodes renters’ rights by reducing the number of curable lease breaches under Alabama law. But the original version was even worse: It would have allowed just three days to correct a lease violation and would have cut the notice period for lease termination from seven days to three. After Arise members flooded representatives with calls and emails against the bill, the House adopted an amendment by Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, to delete that language.

The session is over, but our work isn’t. We’re fighting hard against a state plan to take Medicaid away from thousands of parents across Alabama. We’ll also make the case for strong investment in SNAP as Congress considers the Farm Bill this year.

February 2018 Newsletter

Lead Article

Legislative Day shatters record!

Nearly 200 urge passage of public transit bill

It’s a good “problem” for Arise to have: Our crowds keep bursting at the seams. Supporters like you helped us break yet another Legislative Day attendance record, as 199 people came to Montgomery on Feb. 6 to speak out on public transportation and other issues vital to making Alabama better.

Your advocacy helped fuel a big policy win. Shortly after Legislative Day, the House on Feb. 22 voted 99-0 for a bill to create the Alabama Public Transportation Trust Fund and sent it to Gov. Kay Ivey. Your energy and passion are setting the stage for other wins, too. Let’s keep it going!

January 2018 Newsletter

Lead Article

Legislature begins fast session

Public transit bill already passed in Senate

“Pass budgets and go home.” That’s the spirit in the air as Alabama legislators look to make quick work of the 2018 session. Even so, we still see some opportunities.

This year may bring a breakthrough on public transportation. The Senate already has passed a bill to create a state Public Transportation Trust Fund. We’ll also keep building momentum to reform payday lending and reduce the burden of criminal justice debt on families. For the latest news on our issues throughout the session, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and visit arisecitizens.org to sign up for action alerts and the Arise Daily News Digest.