Obama to speak in Birmingham, Medicaid expansion opposition and Alabama bike summit

Mar 26, 2015

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama will be in Birmingham this afternoon to talk about the economy.

The President will be speaking at Lawson State Community College on consumer protection issues and the contrast between his vision for the American middle class and Republican efforts to undermine that vision.

According to a White House press release, Congressional Republicans are continuing to roll back progress toward a safer financial system and stronger economy, encouraging the types of abuses that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

One achievement the President will be discussing is the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency tasked with protecting American consumers from threats like abusive lenders or fraudulent debt collectors. He'll also describe how some congressmen are trying to keep the CFPB from doing its job.

President Obama's remarks are expected to begin around 3 PM this afternoon.

While the state’s lawmakers are out of the capitol until next week, one of the main topics yet to be discussed is Medicaid Expansion.

Alabama is one of 19 states that opted out of the program that was part of the Affordable Care Act. The program is designed to help low income families and individuals afford health care instead of paying for medical expenses out of pocket.

Republican senator Cam Ward says this issue is not a legislative problem because Alabama citizens haven't weighed in.

“I just don’t hear the clamoring from the voters. I get people from time to time that want it, typically a lot of mental health advocates who are going to have their benefits increase as a result of this. We’re just not hearing people say, ‘Yes, I want to raise taxes to increase Medicaid.’ That’s just something you don’t hear.”

Ward adds the state has bigger issues right now, mainly the state’s estimated $700 million shortfall. He is optimistic the legislature will eventually pass a separate program rather than expanding Medicaid.

Tourists have riding trolleys this week in Montgomery to learn about the civil rights movement.

Two groups are meeting to talk today about tourism by bicycle. The Alabama Bicycle Coalition and the Montgomery Bike Club are hosting the first ever Statewide Bicycle Summit. The event will also talk about bike-friendly road designs and safety.

Jamie Miernik is the president of the Alabama Bicycle Coalition. She says cycling is a perfect way to see the sights in the state capitol.

“People want to come to Montgomery and see the sights, state house, or older areas and that riverfront area that has been developed. There is opportunity for pedestrians and cyclist to see that area by bike, and that’s really good way to see an area rather than stay in your car all the time.”

The Summit is today and tomorrow at the RSA Plaza in downtown Montgomery.

State officials will hold a public meeting next month to hear comments on a plan to pump sand onto Dauphin Island's badly eroded East End Beach.

Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier says the federal government's Coastal Impact Assistance Program would fund a $5 million project that would pump around 300,000 cubic yards of sand onto the beach.

The state Department of Conservation and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management are hosting a meeting to gather public comment on the plan. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. on April 16 in the Shelby Center at Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Mayor Collier says the town and its engineer can advertise for bids once the two state agencies sign off on the plan. He hopes to be working on this project by summer or fall.