42,000 jobs saved by stimulus: In June, 215,813 Alabamians, or 10.3 percent, were unemployed according to the Department of Industrial Relations, but that number may have been significantly worse were it not for the stimulus bill. That bill, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped to create or save 42,000 jobs in Alabama since the bill passed in February 2009, according to a report from the Council of Economic Advisers cited by the Birmingham Business Journal. Nationally, the unemployment rate was at 9.5 percent in June. Recently, economists and historians, including 16 who signed a letter in the Daily Beast, have argued for a second round of stimulus, citing the high unemployment rate, the success of the first stimulus, and the relatively minuscule impact a stimulus would have on long-term deficit projections.
State teachers union boasts of ‘finishing’ fight with Byrne: The Alabama Education Association (AEA), our state’s powerful teacher’s lobby, is patting itself on the back for beating Republican Bradley Byrne, who lost his party’s gubernatorial primary run-off to Robert Bentley last Tuesday. AEA’s most recent newsletter features a front page story with a headline that reads “Byrne Acts Like a Bully and Learns a Lesson.” A subheading reads “Byrne picks fight, AEA finishes it”. Byrne, who campaigned against AEA, partly blames AEA for his loss. The lobby attacked Byrne and may have encouraged Democrats to “crossover,” and vote against Byrne in the Republican run-off. It is not clear how crossover voting affected the election, but Ed Kilgore at the highly-regarded election analysis site FiveThirtyEight.com had this to say: “Had Democratic primary voters been banned from the GOP runoff, Bentley would have won anyway, it appears.”
Lame-duck commission still working on sewer debt: Though four of the five current Jefferson County Commissioners will not be returning to their positions after the general elections in November, the Commission is still intent on fixing the county’s $3.2 billion sewer debt. That debt, which stems from a complex financing system that caused JeffCo’s borrowing rates to soar as the economy stumbled, leading JeffCo into default, has crippled the county for years. In an article in Sunday’s Birmingham News, outgoing Commissioners Jim Carns, Bettye Fine Collins, Bobby Humphryes, and Shelia Smoot all agreed that addressing the debt is a priority. Carns said he at least wants to get a structured plan in place to guide the next commission. Gen. George Bowman, who won a special election to fill Birmingham Mayor William Bell’s unexpired commission term, is optimistic that the next commission can handle the crisis.
“Bingo” supporters rally against opponents: In the last legislative session, a bill that would have legalized electronic “bingo” nearly made it through Alabama’s legislature, but that bill was hampered by a related federal bribery investigation and the legislature’s cramped session. Since then, Gov. Bob Riley has continued crusading against electronic “bingo,” which he considers to be illegal gambling (and the Alabama Supreme Court seems to agree). Riley’s anti-gambling task force has carried out raids on several “bingo” casinos, where gamers gathered to play “bingo” on machines that closely resembled slot machines. The raids effectively shut down the target establishments, putting many out of work. And the newly unemployed are pissed. The Birmingham News reported Friday that more than 220 “bingo” supporters rallied in Montgomery Friday, where they were instructed by Alabama Democratic Conference leader Joe Reed to vote against candidates that oppose gambling.