2 weeks ago

Alabama execution method change advances, budget passes, Ten Commandments debated — Alabama Legislature Session Update

Editor’s note: This is a round-up of the day’s major events in Montgomery.

Republican legislative leaders in Alabama on Thursday continued to execute the election-year game plan they set for the legislative session — no frills, no controversy and get home in plenty of time to campaign for re-election.

Committees in the state House of Representatives advanced the general fund budget, a death penalty change and a DUI bill.

Here are the major highlights from Wednesday.

The big story: Some years, fights over budgets get ugly. This year, the two major spending bills largely have been headache-free.

On Wednesday, the state House of Representatives general fund budget committee approved a $2 billion blueprint and a separate bill to grant a 3 percent pay raise for state employees and a bonus for retired state workers, according the Montgomery Advertiser.

“I think we pretty well covered our bases,” House Ways and Means General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse, (R-Ozark) told the paper. “There’s going to be a lot of questions about the budget, but I haven’t found any particular agency, any particular legislator who’s opposed to anything in any great degree.”

The cost-of-living adjustment would be the first raise for state workers since 2008. It would mean an extra $1,238 a year for people making the $41,258 median salary for state employees.

The full House is expected to vote on the budget next week.

In a sign of how painfully slow the recovery from the Great Recession has been, the budget will be the biggest since 2008.

Other highlights, according to the paper, include:

  • a $55 million increase in funding for the state prison system, the largest increase for any agency.
  • a $53 million increase for the Alabama Medicaid Agency.
  • an $8.9 million increase for the Department of Mental Health.
  • a $3.1 million increase for the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
  • a $2.4 million increase for Alabama Department of Public Health.

Executions: A never-before-used method of execution moved another step closer to becoming a sanctioned execution technique in Alabama, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

Already passed by the Alabama Senate, the House Judiciary Committee approved a measure to make nitrogen the method of execution. It has not been used anywhere for executions in the United States, although two states allow it as an option, according to the paper.

The Alabama bill would not mandate use of nitrogen hypoxia

“It’s about giving the prisoners the option for an alternative to what is currently being used, in terms of lethal injection,” state Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), the sponsor in the upper chamber, told the House committee. “This is a more humane method. One that is less invasive, and one that I think needs to be an option for the condemned.”

Supporters of the bill noted that the availability of drugs used in the lethal injection cocktail have become scarce. They also argued that nitrogen hypoxia is painless and cheaper than drugs.

But some lawmakers questioned whether nitrogen hypoxia should receive more study. Some also raised questions surrounding the fact that there are no court precedents related to the drug, according to the Advertiser.

Ten Commandments: A state House committee voted 9-3 in favor of a bill to allow public display of the Ten Commandments on state property or in public schools, according to AL.com.

The bill would not compel schools or other facilities to display the commandments and would require any display to include a “historical context.”

Supporters argued that a lack of faith contributes to a host of social ills.

“They forgot who Christ is in their life,” Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) said.

Opponents characterized the proposal as a distraction, according to the news website.

“This state has gone through this before,” Rep. Ralph Howard (D-Greensboro) said. “This bill does not solve one problem or any problem that this state has.”

DUI loophole: A bill offered by state Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) and Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Birmingham) would close what they regard as a loophole in a 2014 law that authorized judges to require ignition interlocks to disable vehicles if drivers are drunk.

The lawmakers announced the bill at a news conference on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

The bill would require drunken drivers to use an ignition interlock device after their first offense.

The law passed in 2014 did not require the devices for offenders who entered pretrial diversion programs. According to the AP, Mississippi — which requires the device for all first-time offenders — prevented twice as many drunken drivers as Alabama in 2016.

McClendon said making the device mandatory would deter drinking and driving.

Tweet of the day:

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

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4 hours ago

Evidence mounts of full-scale Russian campaign to undermine American energy

The U.S. government for the first time ever blamed Russia for hacking into American energy infrastructure. The Trump administration action comes a little over two weeks after a House committee detailed Russian attempts to influence energy markets.

U.S. officials said a “multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors” that began in March 2016, possibly earlier, is part of a campaign to target critical infrastructure, including energy, nuclear and aviation facilities.


The FBI and Department of Homeland Security on Thursday said hackers targeted small facilities “where they staged malware, conducted spear phishing, and gained remote access into energy sector networks,” Reuters reported.

It’s the first time the U.S. has directly called out Moscow for infrastructure hacking. It’s still unclear whether or not the hacks were successful or led to any damage, and the security alert did not name the companies targeted.

The Trump administration condemnation comes more than two weeks after the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology found Russian agents used social media outlets to embolden opposition to American energy production.

“Russia exploited American social media as part of its concerted effort to disrupt U.S. energy markets and influence domestic energy policy,” reads the committee’s report on Russian activities.

The committee found accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm, published 9,097 social media posts from 2015 to 2017 targeting energy policies and projects. Thirteen Russians connected to IRA were indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“The IRA targeted pipelines, fossil fuels, climate change, and other divisive issues to influence public policy in the U.S.,” the House committee found.

For years, Republicans and energy industry experts have worried Russian money was being used to undermine U.S. energy policy.

Intelligence officials confirmed in early 2017 in a declassified report on election meddling that the state-owned media outlet Russia Today (RT) ran “anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health.”

The House committee began the investigation in 2017 and asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to investigate whether or not Russians were using an offshore Bermuda-based law firm to funnel money to U.S. environmental groups.

Lawmakers asked Mnuchin to investigate whether or not the U.S.-based environmental group, the Sea Change Foundation, took $23 million from a Bermuda-based shell company with ties to Russian oligarchs in 2010 and 2011.

Sea Change gave millions to U.S.-based environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. All of those groups oppose hydraulic fracturing.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.)

5 hours ago

VIDEO: PA-18’s lessons — dangerous teachers — student walkouts … and more on Guerrilla Politics

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories including:

— Were the results in Pennsylvania’s special election a rejection of Trump or Pelosi?

— Why did the executive director of the state’s superintendent association imply teachers were unstable and dangerous?

— Will the student walkouts bring about some real change on gun issues?

Clayton Hinchman joins Jackson and Burke to discuss his campaign for Congress in Alabama’s 5th Congressional District.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at Hillary Clinton where he begs her never stop talking.

6 hours ago

AlabamaWorks! is holding a career event for students to learn about jobs in the state

Edie Gibson and Antiqua Cleggett talk “Worlds of Work at SkillsUSA” which will be held April 24-25 at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Complex.

Worlds of Work at SkillsUSA is designed to help 8-12th grade students “connect the dots” and clearly identify steps toward a college or career pathway as they enter their high school education.

More information is available here.

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

7 hours ago

Wounded Warrior running for Alabama State House representing Chambers and Lee Counties

Back in 2003, while U.S. Army Specialist Todd Rauch and his buddies were patrolling the streets of Abu Ghraib, an Iraqi city made famous by its notorious prison, a remotely-detonated mortar exploded near his patrol. His right shoulder and hand were severely injured in the blast.

Rauch was eventually flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and endured 12 surgeries to save his limbs from amputation.

He is now running as a Republican for the State House of Representatives district representing Chambers and Lee Counties.

So how did this Illinois-native find himself running for office in Alabama?

While recovering at the hospital, Rauch’s roommate was from Fort Payne and “all he talked about was Auburn and Auburn and Auburn,” Rauch told Yellowhammer News.


Rauch soon recovered from his injuries, and then his plans for a transition to civilian life became all about … Auburn, Auburn, Auburn.

“I applied to Auburn and felt like it was a good place to get a fresh start,” he said

Rauch studied psychology at Auburn University, with the intention of working in veteran services or military intelligence. He then worked for a time as an intelligence analyst and then began working in veterans’ services, helping his brothers and sisters in arms receive the benefits they were promised.

He’s running on a platform strengthening communities.

Rauch has a firm conviction that a community’s representative ought to be more present in the community itself, something he said he hasn’t seen much at the 75 city and county commission meetings he has attended over the last few years.

“I realized that there was no one there who was representing us in Montgomery to take those voices and those issue and those problems to Montgomery,” he said.

Rauch has put improving jobs and education among his platform principles.

He is a stanch supporter of the community college system, of which both he and his wife are products.

“It’s a good and affordable way to get your education and to get experience in college without jumping into a four-year university,” he said.

Rauch also supports expanding broadband access to rural areas. He said it is critical to the development of rural areas that have little internet and cell service.

“You’re not able to do your banking,” he said. “Some of these people aren’t even able to have home security systems because some of that works off of cell service.”

With the campaign motto, “Community. Country. Service,” Rauch said he wants to work to improve life for his constituents, and by extension, the rest of the state and country.

“Focusing on the community creates better environment for the kids, inspires better leaders, and provides better community for our state, and provides a better state for our country,” he said.

The GOP primary is June 5.

(Image: Todd Rauch for Alabama/Facebook)

The conservative alternative to Martha Roby gains momentum as Terry Everett, lawmakers endorse Barry Moore

State Rep. Barry Moore’s campaign for Congress recently received strong endorsements from the district’s former congressman and a dozen of Alabama’s most conservative state lawmakers.

“Since I left Congress, government has grown, our representation has wavered, and District 2 values have been casted aside,” said former Republican Congressman Terry Everett, who represented the district from 1993-2009. “We need to make a change, and I am privileged to support Representative Barry Moore for Congress.”

Everett’s powerful endorsement comes days after 12 of the state’s most conservative lawmakers gathered in Montgomery to endorse Barry Moore, whose conservative record they witnessed firsthand while working alongside him in the State Legislature.

Wetumpka State Rep. Mike Holmes told reporters that the district has “an opportunity to send a strong, unapologetic conservative to Washington,” and Montgomery State Rep. Dimitri Polizos agreed, saying that Moore is a “proven conservative leader” who will “stand with President Trump and give our district the representation it deserves.”

Visit Barry Moore’s website, his Facebook page and @RepBarryMoore on Twitter to learn why Terry Everett and others believe in his vision to Make Alabama Great Again!

(Paid for by Barry Moore for Congress)