June 2019 newsletter

The 2019 session that was, and the one yet to come

By Chris Sanders, communications director

Alabama legislators ended their 2019 regular session May 31, but they’re not done yet. With federal intervention looming, the Legislature likely will hold a special session this fall to address horrendous conditions in our state’s overcrowded prisons.

Arise will continue making the case that meaningful prison reform must include Medicaid expansion. We also will renew our call to fund needed investments by fixing Alabama’s upside-down tax system. Untaxing groceries and ending the state’s deduction for federal income taxes would be two huge steps in the right direction.

Arise executive director Robyn Hyden holds a press conference on Medicaid expansion during Arise Legislative Day on March 19, 2019, in Montgomery.

Arise members’ advocacy led to progress on civil asset forfeiture and voting rights this year. Lawmakers voted unanimously for SB 191, which will increase transparency around forfeitures. And they passed SB 301 to expand access to absentee ballots.

Our supporters helped stop numerous proposals to erect harmful barriers to Medicaid and SNAP food assistance. We also saw breakthroughs on several recent issue priorities and endorsements:

  • HB 225 will forbid pay discrimination based on race or sex.
  • SB 30 will ensure that inability to pay filing fees won’t block low-income Alabamians from pursuing their rights in court.
  • SB 228 will increase jail food funding and prevent sheriffs from pocketing any leftover money.

Two other topics dominated the headlines at the State House this year. Legislators moved quickly to pass an abortion ban that is certain to face a lengthy court challenge. They also hustled to pass a 10-cent gas tax increase for infrastructure improvements in March.

What the Legislature left undone

But lawmakers showed much less urgency on investments in human services. State funding for K-12 and higher education is up, but it’s still well below 2008 levels. General Fund revenues also are rising, but not nearly enough to reverse decades of underinvestment in Medicaid, mental health care, child care and other services.

Nearly 300 Alabama Arise supporters gathered at the State House in Montgomery on March 19, 2019, to urge lawmakers to expand Medicaid to cover more than 340,000 low-income Alabamians.

Some climbs remain steeper than others. Reforms of payday lending and the death penalty struggled to gain traction this year. So did proposals for automatic voter registration and early voting. But Arise members – unafraid and undeterred – will keep working for those changes and others to promote opportunity, prosperity and justice for all Alabamians.

We’ve almost met our fundraising goal!

By Brenda Boman, development director

It’s mid-June, and I’m filled with gratitude. I’m grateful to the Arise staff for all their hard work promoting policies to help low-income Alabamians. I’m grateful to our board of directors for their dedication to our mission.

I’m grateful to the state legislators who, with nearly 1,100 bills introduced this session, found the time to pass an equal pay law and require a civil asset forfeiture database.

And I’m especially grateful to Arise members, who provide financial support and who take the time to communicate with their elected officials. Y’all are awesome!

Arise is less than $9,000 away from our funding goal as we near the end of our budget year on June 30. I thank you in advance for any gift you can make to help us reach that goal and get our next year of advocacy off to a strong start. Together, we’re making a difference in people’s lives!

Why Arise is focusing on racial equity in our work

By Robyn Hyden, executive director

It seems to me that we’re living through a time of historic political upheaval and transformation. While we continue to push forward policies to increase dignity, equity and justice, too often we end up playing defense.

Against this backdrop, our board and staff have adopted a commitment to racial equity and inclusion. We know we can’t address poverty without acknowledging how Alabama’s history of racial exploitation and discrimination created policies that built wealth for a few, while disenfranchising the many. And if we don’t have a direct narrative to address ongoing racial inequality, extremists will tell a story about race that serves their own agenda.

Using this framework, we hope to create more advocacy tools, data and messaging to acknowledge race’s role in public policy. We also hope to give grassroots advocates and communities the tools they need to fight, and win, in policy discussions w here racial prejudice is too often the subtext.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments as we frame our work more directly to address racial injustice.

It’s an essential part of our agenda to increase dignity, equity, justice and opportunity for all Alabamians.

An overflow Legislative Day!

With the 2019 regular session in the books, we wanted to acknowledge the enthusiasm that everyone displayed from the start. Our 2019 Legislative Day on March 19 had a record turnout of nearly 300 people! Folks were fired up to talk to their legislators about Medicaid expansion and other issues. And that energy lasted throughout the session, with members flooding lawmakers with calls and emails in response to numerous action alerts. Thank you for all that you do!

Organizers Debbie Smith (left) and Mike Nicholson help attendees at Arise Legislative Day on March 19, 2019, in Montgomery.
Policy analyst Dev Wakeley speaks on payday lending reform at Arise Legislative Day on March 19, 2019, in Montgomery.
Nearly 300 Arise supporters packed out the State House’s largest room for Arise Legislative Day on March 19, 2019, in Montgomery.
Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, speaks with Arise supporters at Arise Legislative Day on March 19, 2019, in Montgomery.

Your voice, your actions make a better Alabama for all!

By Presdelane Harris, organizing director

At each Arise annual meeting, you shape an agenda grounded in our vision of a better Alabama. And well before arriving there in September, you take action to make sure we are addressing priority issues of Alabamians living in poverty.

Many of you either attend or host a summer listening session each year. Our organizers already have begun holding these sessions across Alabama to inform issue selection for 2020. We want to know what you think, and we need to hear different perspectives. Communities often are not encouraged to voice their concerns, but Arise is ready to hear you!

We invite you to host a listening session. Our organizers will go wherever we are asked. A session takes about an hour to 90 minutes, depending on your needs.

Another reminder: Member groups in good standing can propose a new issue priority for member consideration by July 12, 2019. Click here for details about submitting a new issue proposal. We’ve also sent instructions to contact people for member groups. Please call 334-832-9060 or email me at if you have any questions. Thank you!