1 month ago

Legislature update: Day care center regulations, pay day loans and capital murder


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

The Legislature on Thursday moved closer to passing a law subjecting unlicensed day care centers to more regulation, adding to the list of circumstances that can elevate murder to a capital offense and encourage the development of high-speed internet.

A powerful senator also took the latest stab at a years-long campaign to rein in pay day loan companies.

Here are Thursday’s major developments:

The big story: The state House of Representatives voted 86-5 in favor of legislation to make it harder for day care centers to become exempt from existing regulations.

The bill also would add additional reporting requirements.

“It will be a giant step forward,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee) told the Montgomery Advertiser after the vote. “Because they’ll know someone is looking.”

Under current law, church day cares and those affiliated with religions are exempt from licensing requirements. The Advertiser reports that the Department of Human Resources monitors only about half of the state’s 1,934 day cares.

Momentum for new regulation has gained steam amid a string of recent injuries and deaths at unlicensed facilities, including a 2015 incident at Montgomery’s Sunny Side Day Care in which more than 80 children became ill with staph infections caused by spoiled food, according to the Advertiser. In addition, a 5-year-old child died in August inside a van operated by a Mobile day center.

Under the bill passed by the House, exempt day cares would have to provide the Department of Human Resources with fire and health inspection records, information about employees’ criminal records and proof of property insurance.

The agency also would be able to inspect exempt day cares if there is reason to believe child safety is at risk or if the center fails to comply with records requirements.

Warren originally proposed requiring annual inspections, but lawmakers this week amended the bill to require the center to provide notice of operation to fire and health departments each year.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) told the Advertiser it was a “good compromise.”

The bill now moves to the Senate.

New capital crime: Killing someone could become a crime punishable by the death penalty if it occurs in front of his or her child, under a bill passed by the House, according to the Associated Press.

Murder charges can be upgraded to capital murder for a variety of reasons under current state law, including killing during a robbery, burglary, drive-by shooting or rape. Killing a child younger than 14, killing a law enforcement officer and hiring someone to commit murder all also are capital offenses.

The bill passed Thursday on a 77-17 vote would make it a capital offense to kill someone “with knowledge of the presence of a child under the age of 14 years.”

It is part of the Republican agenda for the 2018 legislative session.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.

New push to regulate pay day loans: A bill introduced by state Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) would give borrowers more time to repay their loans, according to AL.com.

Payday lenders currently can set the terms of loans from 10 days to 31 days and can charge a fee of up to 17.5 percent of the principal. That means, according to the website, a 14-day loan would have an annualized interest rate of 455 percent.

Under the legislature proposed by Orr, the loan term would be set at 30 days.

“In the process, we cut the rate from over 400 percent to a little over 200 percent,” Orr said at a news conference, AL.com reported.

Sens. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison), Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) and Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) are co-sponsoring the bill, which has the support of the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as the mayors of Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa.

The bill will be considered by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

Rural broadband: The Senate passed a bill that would encourage development of broadband in rural parts of the state.

The Alabama Rural Broadband Act, which passed 29-0, would provide a 10 percent investment tax credit and sales and use tax exemptions to companies that build qualified broadband telecommunications network facilities in underserved areas of the state. All incentives would expire in five years, unless renewed by the Legislature.

“In the 1930s the infrastructure challenge was electricity, and in the ’60s and ’70s it was ensuring rural areas had clean drinking water,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) said in a statement. “Expanding access to broadband internet is the infrastructure challenge of our day. We must ensure that all Alabamians have an opportunity to succeed in the digital economy.”

Scofield added, “Currently, thousands of families and businesses in rural Alabama are without access to fast broadband. That’s unconscionable.”

The Legislative Fiscal Office projects that the bill would cost the Education Trust Fund up to $20 million a year from fiscal year 2019 through fiscal year 2024.

Scofield pointed to a World Bank study in 2015 indicating that a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration could increase economic growth by 1.2 percentage points and that doubling internet speeds could boost gross domestic project by three 10ths of a point.

“Students, families, and business owners in rural Alabama desperately need fast broadband internet,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said in a statement. “Senate Republicans are committed to making sure that all of Alabama thrives as our state economy continues to grow.”

The bill now moves to the House.

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)