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Gov. Bentley Supports Tobacco Tax Increase

Governor Bentley continues to travel the state encouraging the Legislature to raise revenue taxes, such as cigarette tax and car tax. Read more about Governor Bentley’s stance and notice given to the legislature to pass the budget before it's too late for Alabamians.

Throughout the 2015 Legislative Session, the American Heart Association worked as a member of the Alabama Healthy Change coalition to educate lawmakers and other stakeholders about the real need for Alabama to raise its tobacco tax. Although tax is such a small word, it can have a HUGE impact. When you're talking about tobacco tax, a meaningful increase means healthier kids and a healthier state budget. An increase of $1 on a pack of cigarettes should reduce the number of kids smoking by up to 15 percent, reduce healthcare costs, and raise $215 million annually.

Although the 2015 Alabama Legislative Session is officially over, the American Heart Association will continue to work with coalition partners to increase the state tobacco tax during the upcoming special session.

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Alabama Special Session Expected This Summer

Alabama legislators are heading to special session sometime this summer after arriving at an impasse over the state’s general fund budget.

The session ended with a vetoed spending plan and plenty of finger-pointing over who was to blame. Getting a budget this summer will depend on something in short supply this spring: agreement.

“The Legislature was not ready to solve this in February. They were not ready. They have become more ready,” Gov. Robert Bentley said.

Read more at TuscaloosaNews.com.

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Lobby Day MVPs in the Spotlight

There were SO many amazing stories surrounding this year’s Hill Day that it was hard to narrow down our annual lobby day award winners. Not a bad problem to have! Please join us in congratulating these You’re the Cure MVPs, and then learn more about their stories in this video.

  • Science Advocate of the year – Dr. David Yu-Yiao Huang

Dr. Huang has been involved with AHA advocacy since 2003. From submitting expert written testimony and attending in-district meetings, to speaking before lawmakers, his passion for policy and his belief in the positive change policy can achieve has contributed significantly to big wins in North Carolina.

  • Volunteer Advocate of the Year – Theresa Conejo

Theresa has been one of the key proponents of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive smoke-free law. Last year, she signed a smoke-free op-ed which was picked up by major news outlets across the state. She also aggressively advocated for the proposed Clean Indoor Law. In addition, she recruits new You’re the Cure advocates at every opportunity. In fact, just recently, she signed up an additional 35 volunteers to join her in Pennsylvania’s smoke-free fight.

  • Survivor Advocate of the Year – Jim Bischoff

Jim’s own struggle with heart disease, as well as his experience with his son-in-law’s stroke, gives him a unique perspective to share during state and federal lobby days and meetings with lawmakers. His family history inspired him to provide leadership on stroke systems of care legislation. He also dedicates his time to tobacco issues, and attends in-district meetings with his lawmaker to discuss both of these important issues.

  • Youth Advocate of the Year – Cassidy Collins

Cassidy uses her story as a congenital heart survivor to illustrate the importance of AHA’s policy issues. At the age of 16, her resume is already quite impressive – she’s met with U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin to advocate for tobacco control funding; she has been a top fundraiser for the Roanoke Heart Walk for two years; and she has applied to work as a youth advocate for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Check out this video below highlighting the award winners!

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How to Keep the Winning Game Going

You're the Cure on the Hill isn’t the only opportunity to connect with members of Congress! As their constituents, you have the power and the RIGHT to tell them at any time to step up to the plate on the heart and stroke issues you care about most.


Here are some tips for getting your lawmaker off the bench and into the game:

 

  • Follow them on social media and send them messages on issues you care about.
  • Sign up for their e-newsletters on their websites. This is a great way to learn about events where you can meet the lawmakers in person and stay informed.
  • Work with your local AHA advocacy staff to schedule an in-district meeting. Members of Congress come home throughout the year on recess breaks, so they use this time to meet with constituents back in the district. Take advantage of their time at home and schedule a meeting to discuss the heart and stroke issues that matter to you and your family.
  • Most importantly, take action year round. Watch your inbox for calls to action from You’re the Cure and continue engaging your lawmaker through emails, phone calls and tagging them in your social media posts.

We had a real impact this week, but we need to keep the momentum going. Let's keep reminding our members of Congress that they need to step up for heart health all year round!

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Alabama Advocates Rally in Support of Healthy Food Access

Currently more than 1.8 million Alabamians, with nearly half a million being children, reside in communities with little or no access to fresh healthy food. To address the issue, the American Heart Association urges the Alabama Legislature to support the Healthy Food Financing Act. The legislation would encourage grocers to locate or expand in underserved communities with low-interest rate financing from private foundations, federal grants or state dollars. The Healthy Food Financing Act has passed the Senate and is in the House of Representatives.

To garner support in the House, the American Heart Association helped VOICES for Alabama’s Children organize Healthy Food Access Day at the Alabama State House on April 28. Approximately 75 people attended, including You’re the Cure advocates. Participants rallied in front of the State House in support of the Healthy Food Financing Act. Guest speakers included Melanie R. Bridgeforth, Executive Director for VOICES for Alabama’s Children, Sen. Clay Scofield, Rep. Tom Whatley and Rep. Darrio Melton. Folks also met with their legislators for more personal conversations about the importance of improving access to healthy food. View photos of the event at MontgomeryAdvertiser.com.

To learn more about the Healthy Food Financing Act, visit al.com.

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Alabama’s Healthy Food Financing Act is Here

For nearly a year, the American Heart Association has been working in partnership with VOICES for Alabama’s Children to provide low-interest loans for grocers in underserved areas of the state where people lack access to healthy food options near their homes. This issue affects over one million Alabamians. 

Fortunately, Sen. Greg Reed and Rep. James Buskey have sponsored our Healthy Food Financing Act (Senate Bill 260 / House Bill 283) and the bills are moving through the legislative process. Senate Bill 260 recently passed the Senate and now heads to the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee, where House Bill 283 also awaits a vote.

Read more about this initiative at TimesDaily.com. 

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Healthier Budget and Lives in Alabama

Alabama has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation, yet it doesn’t allocate any of the money to tobacco cessation and prevention.  According to advocacy groups across America, this is a common situation.

Right now, the American Heart Association is working hard to engage Alabama advocates in the fight for an increase on the 42.5 cents state tobacco tax.  With the state budget downfalls, a tobacco tax increase can generate much needed revenue for a healthier budget and create healthier lives.  Studies reveal that tobacco tax increases can prevent youth from smoking and encourage smokers to quit. 

To learn more about how the tobacco tax affects Alabama, read "Advocacy groups say tobacco fight is underfunded" at DothanEagle.com.

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Gov. Bentley Releases Plan for Tobacco Tax

Recently, Governor Bentley has come forward with a plan to raise taxes on Alabamians to ensure that the state can make budgets balanced in the upcoming years. The plan includes a proposal to increase the cigarette tax by 82-cents, which would raise $205 million. You can read more about the Governor's plan on AnnistonStar.com. 

The American Heart Association supports raising taxes on tobacco products, which motivates people to quit and discourages kids from starting, while providing funding for smoking cessation programs. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, claiming on average 443,000 lives every year. It increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, especially in those who are genetically predisposed. 

Stay tuned for future You're the Cure alerts on the issue! We hope you'll join us in encouraging the governor to take a stand to raise the tobacco tax in Alabama.

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Alabama Needs Improved Access to Care

Building healthier lives depends on access to quality health care for all Americans, regardless of gender, race, age, or ethnicity. Medicaid Expansion would help protect more Alabamians against cardiovascular disease. Kentucky and other states are taking the lead to expand Medicaid. Read the Washington Post article to see how we as Alabama can also take a stand. 

Let your legislators and Gov. Bentley know that we need Medicaid Expansion in Alabama.

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Gadsden is Officially Smoke-Free

In June of 2014, Gadsden City Council passed an ordinance protecting citizens and workers from secondhand smoke. In December, our coalition learned that Gadsden was going to delay implementation. As such, advocates from across the Gadsden area called city council members and the mayor in January, encouraging them to stick with their plan to make Gadsden smoke-free. Thanks to the grassroots support, the Gadsden City Council decided on January 20 to stick with their original vote from June and implement the ordinance.  

A smoke-free Gadsden would not have been possible without help from You're the Cure advocates. As we strive to make Alabama smoke-free, we need to continue to grow our You’re the Cure network. Please invite a friend to join our cause at www.yourethecure.org as we fight to cure cardiovascular disease and stroke in Alabama.   

 

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