5 years ago

Power points, prayer controversy & protestors: just another day at the PSC


(Above: Environmentalists protest at the Alabama Public Service Commission)

The Alabama Public Service Commission on Wednesday hosted the third and final public hearing of their open rate review of the Alabama Power Company.

The purpose of the meeting was to conduct an in-depth examination of the financial aspects of Alabama Power’s business. That certainly happened, but finances were hardly the only topic of discussion during the 12+ hour hearing.

Tea Party leader and local minister John Jordan opened the meeting in prayer, which immediately set off a firestorm on Twitter as members of the Alabama media and an environmental group representative expressed their outrage that prayer was allowed in a public meeting.

Michael Hansen, a communications specialist for GASP, a Birmingham-based environmental group, repeatedly called Jordan’s prayer “batsh** crazy” on Twitter. “I hope to have the clip of that dumb prayer rant ASAP,” Hansen said.

While that was taking place inside the PSC chambers, environmental protestors lined the street outside exercising their first amendment rights.

“Alabama wildflie isn’t a business to buy out,” one sign said. “Coming to a faucet near you,” said another sign, with pictures of dirty water below painted below.

But while most of the signs contained negative messages about the ills of fossil fuels and warnings of impending doom, the one sign with a positive message may have been the most noticeable of them all.

“WE [heart sign] Dunn” the sign said, referencing Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn who has been the only Commissioner on the panel to actively support the environmentalists’ agenda.

While none of the activist would agree to be interviewed on camera, and many of them simply said their signs “speak for themselves,” several of them expressed appreciation for Commissioner Dunn’s support of their efforts.

“Terry Dunn is the only commissioner who realizes none of us are going to be alive ten years from now if things don’t change,” one of the activists said.

Yellowhammer asked if they were concerned with electricity rates spiking if fossil fuels were no longer used as part of Alabama’s energy mix, several of them conceded that was a steep, but necessary, price to pay.

“You don’t care about your energy bill when you have emphysema or the earth is ruined,” the activist quipped. “And you can’t pay an energy bill if you’re dead.”

Back inside, a robust exchange of information was taking place, including over five hours of testimony and Power Point presentations from Alabama Power experts on the company’s financial operations. A diverse array of interest groups and private citizens were given another 5-6 hours to cross-examine Alabama Power representatives and each other.

Advocacy groups and research organizations represented at the hearing included AARP, Southern Environmental Law Center, League of Women Voters, JobKeeper Alliance, PACE, the Alabama Policy Institute, GASP, Alabama Environmental Council, and others.

But although a review of Alabama Power’s finances was the purpose of the public hearing, advocacy groups from both ends of the political spectrum continued to debate during the meeting over the process being used for the review.

Environmental groups and Commissioner Dunn have repeatedly called for closed legal proceedings, while conservative groups and Commissioners Cavanaugh and Oden preferred the open format achieved through the public hearings.

The Commission recently concluded the open review process with Mobile Gas Company, which resulted in a rate reduction for Mobile Gas customers and a decrease in the company’s profits.

That result hurt the narrative of some environmental groups, not to mention Commissioner Dunn, who have attempted to hide behind consumer-friendly rhetoric.

Cameron Smith of the conservative think tank Alabama Policy Institute called for the environmental groups to come clean about their true intentions. Moments later that’s basically what happened as Michael Churchman of the Alabama Environmental Council gave his closing remarks.

Churchman openly proclaimed that AEC wants to be part of the decision making process. In other words, being able to participate in the public debate is not enough for them. They don’t just want to have their voice heard, they wan’t control over the final decision.

But isn’t that why Alabama voters elect their officials? The open review process keeps the decision in the hands of the elected officials who were voted into office by the people of Alabama. The closed legal proceedings being advocated for by Commissioner Dunn would suddenly put lawyers and advocacy groups in a position to be decision makers.

Other members of the Alabama media have called this debate a “side show.” Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban disagrees. No, Coach Saban didn’t comment on what’s going on at the PSC. However, Saban is famous for his focus on “the process.” Even this week at SEC media days, Saban wasn’t talking about a three-peat, he was talking about his focus on the process Alabama will use as they prepare to compete. The correct process yields the correct results.

The process the PSC used on Mobile Gas resulted in rates being dropped for consumers and Mobile Gas remaining a strong utility able to adequately serve their customers. Win-win.

The same process is being used to review Alabama Power. We’ve watched it closely over the last couple of months. Everyone has had a chance to speak in public. All the information was presented in the light of day. As the Commission proved after the Mobile Gas hearings, if action needs to be taken, it will be done.

With that in mind, it is hard to see how anyone could have a legitimate issue with how this has all played out. As a matter of fact, Commissioner Oden stated in his concluding remarks that this process could end up being a model for other states around the country based on its efficiency and openness and the extent to which info is exchanged publicly.

PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh said the commission staff will now begin coming up with a proposal and a decision will likely come some time in August.

None of the activists from either side of the political spectrum were elected. They are given a voice as citizens and are allowed to participate in the open public meetings. But the freely elected representatives of the people should control the decision. We’ll find out next month what their decision is.


Related:
1. Clear contrast continues at PSC hearings
2. The War on Coal Hits Home
3. AARP environmental push part of increasingly liberal agenda

What else is going on?
1. The Byrne Identity: The front-runner with the target on his back
2. Enviro representative: It is ‘batsh** crazy’ to pray at public meetings
3. Mo Brooks: Senate ‘Gang of 8’ immigration reform would lower US standard of living
4. Roby seeks reforms to ‘No Child Left Behind’
5. Freshman Rep. Bill Poole to Chair Powerful Ways & Means Committee

print

5 hours ago

#FakeRacism — Alabama cops were justified in Waffle House arrest

They’re out here saying those white cops who arrested that black lady last weekend at the Waffle House in Saraland, Alabama were racists.

Reality Check: When a cop places you under arrest and you do anything other than passively comply, you may wish for him to say, “Oh, you don’t want to be arrested? My bad. I’ll just leave now.” But here’s what will actually happen, every time, and like Michael Jackson sang, “it don’t matter if you’re black or white.”

227

“Outrage growing over black woman’s arrest … by white police officers,” read the headline on AL.com, followed by an article reporting that local protestors were then “confronted by white police officers and one black man was handcuffed.”

Are y’all as sick of these #FakeRacism stories as I am?

That ugly scene could have been avoided if that lady had followed the advice my father gave me years ago.

“Don’t argue with the cops, son,” he told me. “Whether you’re wrong or right, the police deal with criminals all day long and don’t need any lip from some kid.”

“So if they ever say ‘Get out of here,’ or ‘Sit on that curb and shut up,’ then do it without a word of backtalk,” he warned. “Or they might crack you upside the head with that baton they carry or you’ll spend the night in jail.”

A version of that advice called “The Talk” is given in the black community because of their experience with the law enforcement, especially in decades past.

I personally believe those days of systemic racism are gone, but the advice should remain — obey the law.

Or you might end up looking like a fool on Youtube for being arrested at a Waffle House … and it don’t matter if you’re black or white.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

6 hours ago

Alabama judge tosses charge accusing ex-warden of leaking to blogger

An Alabama judge is dismissing criminal charges accusing a former jail warden of illegally leaking information to a blogger critical of a sheriff.

The Decatur Daily reports that a judge dismissed the charge of computer tampering at the request of former Morgan County jail warden Leon Bradley after several days of testimony.

78

Bradley was fired in October by Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin. His lawyers claimed Franklin and three employees lied to get warrants and have Bradley arrested.

The blogger’s grandson testifies that Franklin threatened to arrest him and derail his plans to join the Army if he told anyone about being a confidential informant or didn’t provide information harming his grandmother.

Two law enforcement officers testify Franklin asked them to issue search warrants they believed unjustified.

Franklin denies wrongdoing.

(Copyright Associated Press 2018)

6 hours ago

Steve Marshall and Troy King most well-known, well-liked Republican candidates for Alabama attorney general, according to poll

New polling obtained by Yellowhammer News offers a peek into Alabama’s attorney general race, with the edges in the Republican primary bid at-the-moment being given to current Attorney General Steve Marshall and former Attorney General Troy King.

The poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence, found that 24 percent of Republican primary voters have a favorable view of Marshall and 26 percent have a favorable view of King, while 5 percent have an unfavorable view of Marshall and 15 percent have an unfavorable view of King.

140

The other two Republicans running, former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin and Judge Chess Bedsole, have 13 and 8 percent favorability, respectively.

King has the highest name identification at 61 percent, with Marshall’s at 43 percent. Martin’s name identification is at 32 percent and Bedsole’s at 28 percent.

(WPA Intelligence)

Survey Methodology: WPA selected a random sample (n=500 Republican primary voters) of registered voters from the Alabama voter file using Proportionate Probability Sampling (PPS) who were contacted by phone April 15-17, 2018. The sample was stratified based on geography, age, and gender, and the study has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent in 95 out of 100 cases.

The primary election is on June 5, and the state-wide general election is November 6.

Rep. Byrne: A tax code that works

Each April, Americans across the country face great frustration and inconvenience in filing their taxes.

Fortunately, this Tax Day marked the last time Americans would file their taxes under the old tax code. Thanks to passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Americans will now have a simpler and fairer tax code. I was proud to work with President Trump to reform our tax code and make the process easier for taxpayers.

Starting next year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will bring Americans relief when filing their taxes under a more streamlined, straightforward tax code. However, making the overall filing process simpler and more convenient was just one of the many ways we worked to create a tax code that benefits and works for the American people.

459

One of the most important reforms under the new tax code is the doubling of the standard deduction. This provision increases the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. Combined with new lower tax rates, almost every Alabamian should see a tax decrease.

Also important, the new tax code prioritizes American families by doubling the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. It is no secret that raising a family is not cheap; so, this increase provides additional support for families struggling to pay for childcare and other necessary expenses associated with parenting.

To provide even more support for families, the bill preserves the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, as well as the Adoption Tax Credit. Even more, the bill makes improvements to saving options for education by allowing parents to use 529 accounts to save for elementary, secondary, and higher education.

Most people will not have to wait until the next tax season to see the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Already, many hardworking Alabamians are seeing more money in their paychecks each month. That means your hard-earned money is ending up back in your pockets, rather than the coffers of the federal government.

Tax reform has also helped spur overall economic growth. Our bill helps to level the playing field for American businesses, creating new job opportunities and finally causing wages to rise after years of stagnation.

Many businesses have also handed out bonuses and improved benefits to their workforce. Since passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, I have had the pleasure of personally handing out bonus checks at multiple businesses in Southwest Alabama. Trust me, these workers were thrilled with the extra money.

We aren’t stopping now either. The House passed a package of bills last week to help cut down on identity theft and to hold criminals accountable for IRS scams. It is important that these crooks be punished for trying to defraud hardworking Americans, including our nation’s senior citizens.

Equally important, the House also passed bills to make the IRS more efficient, effective, and accountable. The IRS should be a customer-friendly organization that responds to the questions and concerns of the American people.

In the past four months, we have seen tremendous growth right here in Southwest Alabama because of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. From our small business owners handing out bonus checks to our single-income families taking home extra money in their paychecks, evidence shows that allowing Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money is a huge boom for our economy.

As we bid farewell to an old, outdated tax code, Americans can rest easy knowing they have a simpler, fairer tax code to work with in the future.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

7 hours ago

Abortion is not a human right, says State Dept. official

The State Department released its Human Rights Report for 2017 on Friday, and State Department officials acknowledged it purposely left out a section on “women’s reproductive rights,” which had been included in previous reports during the Obama administration, noting that the administration does not consider abortion a human right under international law.

“When the State Department is talking about this represents our values as Americans, the removal of sections on women’s reproductive rights – why is that not included in values as Americans?” a reporter asked State Department officials.

“I’m going to explain why it was removed. It was introduced six years ago into the report. It hadn’t been there before,” Michael Kozak, ambassador for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said.

867

“It’s one of the few terms that are used in the report that isn’t derived from an international treaty that has a definition or derived from U.S. law, where there’s a clear definition to the term, and in this case, the previous administration intended it to mean look at the availability of contraception, at the – whether the government tried to impose or coerce people in making decisions about reproduction,” Kozak said.

“In the statements that were made – this was derived from the Beijing Declaration that was done in the ‘90s. At that time, it was very clear and our delegation made a very clear statement that this has nothing to do with abortion. It doesn’t mean abortion,” he said.

Kozak said the use of the term “reproductive rights” means different things to people on both sides of the issue.

“Unfortunately, over the last few years, groups on both sides of that issue domestically have started to use the term, and both seem to think it does include abortion and then argue about it,” he said. “So our thought was let’s just not use a term that has the opposite meaning from the one we intend.

“We went back to the term that’s used in the U.S. statute that requires the Human Rights Report, which is coerced family planning, namely coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization,” Kozak said. “I might mention too, because I went back and looked at last year’s report, the question being asked was, ‘Were there obstacles opposed to getting contraception information and means?’

“The answer in virtually every country was no, there were no obstacles other than, in almost every country, including our own, the availability in rural areas is less than it is in urban areas. But we were taking a lot of space to explain that,” he said.

“So what we’ve done, we’ve kept that information in there. We’ve done it now by a hyperlink. We used to take that information from the WHO report and put it in. We said let’s just use a hyperlink, and then there’s actually more information available that way. So that’s the rationale behind that,” Kozak said.

“It’s not a diminishment of women’s rights or a desire to get away from it; it was to stop using a term that has several different meanings that are not all the ones we intend,” he added.

A reporter later questioned whether Kozak was saying “there are no obstacles for women to get contraception in any country except for if there’s a remote issue.”

“I said with some exceptions, and the exceptions were and still are – and we’ve really gotten at it by flipping back to the original U.S. statutory language. It’s in places like China, where in order to enforce their two – now two-child policy, that there are reports of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization,” Kozak said.

The ambassador said North Korea also engages in forced abortion, although it’s usually used for political punishment. Also in the country of Belarus, women in state hospitals or who are institutionalized are forced to have abortions or if the woman or baby has disabilities.

“In North Korea, where the government also coerces or forces abortion – although sometimes that’s for political punishment rather than family planning, and we uncovered it,” Kozak said.

“So as we were digging through trying to reduce the bulk of some of this report, I found in the old country I served in, in Belarus, that it turns out that the doctors in the state hospitals, and particularly in the institutions there, if they have a woman who is pregnant and who is a woman with disabilities, the doctors insist on an abortion. Or if they believe the fetus has a disability, they’ll insist on an abortion. So we’ve called that out too,” he said.

“So it’s not – those were the cases, though, in the – under the previous formula where you would say there was a restriction on family planning, freedom of family planning. For most countries, it said, there isn’t any restriction except for the ones imposed by economics and rural-urban type thing,” Kozak said.

“So just to be clear just on that, so taking out the language about those cases therefore means that the U.S. doesn’t believe that the inability for women to get an abortion physically or by law is an abuse of human rights?” a reporter asked.

“Correct, under the previous administration and this one and the one before that. We have never taken the position that abortion was a right under – a human right under international law,” Kozak said.

“This is supposed to be internationally recognized human rights, and it’s an issue on which – some countries prohibit abortion. Some countries, like our own, pretty much no restriction on it, and we don’t say one of those is right and one of those is wrong. We don’t report on it because it’s not a human right,” he said.

“It’s an issue of great policy debate. You can have a good discussion, but there’s no internationally recognized standard as to what’s the right treatment, but the other, yes. The – it is internationally recognized that somebody shouldn’t coerce you to have an abortion or force you to be sterilized,” Kozak added.

(Courtesy of CNSNews.com)