The Wire

  • Cagle named president of Alabama Coal Association

    Patrick Cagle has been named the new president of the Alabama Coal Association, succeeding George Barber, who has elected to retire after seven years of service to the coal group which was first formed in 1972.

    Cagle, who has worked with the association on legislative matters in the past, has more than 10 years of experience in navigating Alabama’s political landscape. As executive director of JobKeeper Alliance, a 501c(4) nonprofit whose mission is to protect and create quality jobs, he previously worked hand-in-hand with the coal industry to oppose onerous, job-killing regulations.

    Cagle and his wife, Molly, have a 15-month-old son, Bankston. They are active members at Church of the Highlands. Cagle is an avid outdoorsman and a member of the Conservation Advisory Board, which assists the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with the formation of hunting and fishing regulations.

  • Don’t call $1K in tax cut savings ‘crumbs’ — U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer

    U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) delivered a speech on the House floor today about how tax reform has impacted Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District.

  • Fatal deer disease would impact more than hunters in Alabama — Montgomery Advertiser

    Chronic Wasting Disease is a neurological disease affecting deer; mule and whitetail deer, elk and moose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. It is fatal to animals that contact the disease, there is no vaccine, the CDC says.

    And it’s getting closer to Alabama.

    “The economic impact, of course, is huge,” Sykes said. “Hunting is a major part of the economy in rural areas of Alabama. And hunting is a huge part of the culture in Alabama. It is a part of the fabric of so many people’s lives.”

    Land values will likely be the first indicator of bad news if CWD comes to the state, said Jeff Roberts, a real estate agent who sells hunting land in the Black Belt.

    “For farmers and landowners, leasing the hunting rights to their places is a huge secondary income for many,” he said. “If CWD comes to Alabama, the land values are going to go into the basement. I’ve had clients turn their backs on absolutely beautiful hunting tracts when they found out feral hogs were on the property. You can imagine what CWD would do to spook buyers.”

6 days ago

Prattville police crackdown after school shooting threats

Law enforcement criticized parents and students Wednesday after two 12-year-olds were charged with making school shooting threats on social media. A girl was detained last week and a boy Sunday for threatening Prattville public schools.

Prattville Police Chief Mark Thompson said any threat that “has already terrorized” is taken seriously.


Juvenile Judge Joy Booth held parents accountable for not monitoring children and said parents and students could “lose their freedom.”

Chief Assistant District Attorney C.J. Robinson said police investigated 20 threats against county schools since the Parkland massacre. The department was under strain with three officers working overtime Sunday.

An Alabama House of Representatives committee held public hearings on Wednesday to debate proposals about arming teachers or security forces. Superintendent Spence Agee said Prattville has “no intention to arm teachers.”

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

6 months ago

Ginny Shaver Announces Candidacy for State House District 39

On Saturday, Ginny Shaver, a lifelong conservative Republican and community activist, announced her candidacy for the Alabama House of Representatives District 39. District 39 includes all of Cherokee County, the city of Piedmont in Calhoun County, and portions of Dekalb and Cleburne Counties. Shaver made the announcement in her hometown of Leesburg Day in front of friends and family.

In a news release from her campaign, Shaver stated:

“After devoting my life to supporting my husband, raising our children, and working in the public and private sector, I now feel the time has come for me to use my experience and leadership ability to represent the interests of the people of District 39.

I’m proud to be a 5th generation Alabamian, and District 39 has been our home for the past 34 years.  During that time our regional political landscape has transformed to a solid conservative majority and our representation should reflect that change.  President Trump was elected because people are tired of political insiders and special interests in all levels of government.  That is why I must step forward now and give the voters a clear choice and an opportunity to elect one of the people, for the people.”

Shaver states her belief that any representative should consider how every piece of legislation will affect the constituents in their district. Her top priorities are job creation and support for education.

Shaver points to her strong background in community service. She is president of the Cherokee County Republican Women and Vice-Chair of the Cherokee County Republican Executive Committee. She was also recently appointed to the Cherokee County Industrial Development Board and previously worked with the Gadsden Airport Authority. She is also a Certified Municipal Clerk and is currently working for the city of Gadsden.

Shaver has been married to her husband Jeff for 36 years. They have three adult children: Jake, Jennilee, and Harry. Ginny and Jeff are members of Tates Chapel Baptist Church.

For more information on Shaver’s platform and campaign, be sure to visit her Facebook page.

9 months ago

President and CEO of Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama Launches State House Bid

PRATTVILLE, Ala. — Jeremy Arthur, the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, announced his run for the Alabama House of Representatives yesterday. He will run as Republican in District 88, which represents parts of Autauga and Elmore Counties.

“The hardworking men and women of District 88 deserve a representative who looks out for their best interests at the State House. I pledge to work every day to ensure our conservative principles are heard and respected in Montgomery,” Arthur said in a press release. “I uniquely understand the needs facing our local area. I will work hard to guarantee that Autauga and Elmore counties have what they need to continue to lead, grow, and succeed.”

Arthur has an extensive background working in organizations that represent Alabama businesses. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Main Street Alabama Board of Directors, the Business Education Alliance, the Governor’s Small Business Council, and the Governor’s Board on Broadband Development.

A graduate of Auburn University, the Prattville resident has served in many state and local organizations that work to give back to the community. He has served as president of the Prattville Rotary Club, campaign chair for the River Region United Way- Autauga County, president of Leadership Autauga, and president of the Prattville Baptist Hospital Advisory Council.

The seat is currently held by Republican Paul Beckman, who announced he will not run for reelection. The Republican Party primary election will be held on June 5, 2018.

10 months ago

Condoleezza Rice blasts efforts to ‘sanitize history’ by removing historic monuments

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Photo: Fox News Screenshot)

The nation’s first black female Secretary of State is pushing back against liberal activists that are trying to remove historic monuments across the country.

During a Monday appearance on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends,” Condoleezza Rice, a Birmingham native, was asked if she felt embarrassed over statues that honored slave owners. She responded by saying that, rather than try to shield future generations from the flaws of our nation’s founders and former leaders, that such monuments should serve as a reminder of progress that has been made.

“I am a firm believer in ‘Keep your history before you,’” Rice responded. “I don’t actually want to rename things that were named for slave owners. I want us to have to look at those names and recognize what they did, and be able to tell our kids what they did and for them to be able to have a sense of their own history.”

“When you start wiping out your history, sanitizing your history to make you feel better, it’s a bad thing,” she added.

Rice often speaks frankly about the ways her family has witnessed the shaping of the country through the Civil Rights Movement, and later as she rose to become one of the nation’s most powerful political figures.

“The Constitution originally counted my ancestors as three-fifths of a man. In 1952 my father had trouble registering to vote in Birmingham, Alabama. And then, in 2005, I stood in the Ben Franklin room and took that same oath of office, and it was administered by a Jewish woman Supreme Court justice,” Rice said. “That’s the story of America.”

Last month, the City of New Orleans, Louisiana removed several confederate memorials from public grounds, leading to many protests and counter-protests at the sites. According to the mayor of New Orleans, the monuments were removed because they “failed to appropriately reflect the values of diversity and inclusion that make New Orleans strong today.”

In response, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it significantly harder to remove a designated monument from government property.

Dozens of cities across the state of Alabama contain their own Confederate monuments that were constructed post-reconstruction. Montgomery, for instance, has the Monument to Confederate Soldiers and Sailors on the grounds of the State Capitol. Partially funded with state grants, the monument has stood since 1886, and the person who laid the cornerstone was none other than CSA President Jefferson Davis.

11 months ago

Alabama House unanimously approves largest education budget since 2008

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In a rare 100 to zero vote, the Alabama House of Representatives approved the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget Wednesday night with a few minor changes to the Senate version. The budget authorizes $6.4 billion in education spending for the next fiscal year, which will pay for the hiring of approximately 150 new fourth through sixth grade teachers across the state.

In order to be signed into law, the Senate must now re-approve the budget with the changes or reconcile them with House members in a conference committee. It would become the state’s largest education budget since the $6.7 billion appropriation in 2008. It also represents a $90 million increase from the fiscal year 2017 ETF budget.

The proposed House version increases Pre-K funding by $13.5 million, keeps funding for the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Program (PEEHIP) flat, increases retirement funding by $7.4 million, but does not fund a teacher’s pay raise. The Senate bill budgets $15 million for Pre-K and increases the funding for PEEHIP by $9 per employee.

According to Education Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Poole (R- Tuscaloosa), the unanimous vote shows that the legislature is doing right by children, teachers, and taxpayers. “I think it validates that we hit the right priorities and right needs at every level, whether it’s rural or urban, west or north, all of the members voted for what I thought was a very positive education budget,” Poole told The Montgomery Advertiser.

Alabama’s four-year colleges would not receive funding boosts under either version. However, the state will increase the program for veterans scholarships by $35 million due to increasing popularity.

11 months ago

Alabama House approves bill to protect historical monuments

Confederate memorial in Linn Park

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill late last week that will make it significantly harder to remove historical monuments from government property. The so-called Alabama Memorial Preservation Act was approved by a vote of 72-29 after intense opposition from Democrats.

Democrats openly called the bill racist, but bill sponsor Rep. Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) says that the purpose of the bill is to protect architecturally significant structures, such as the state capitol building.

Last week, the City of New Orleans, Louisiana removed several confederate memorials from public grounds, leading to many protests and counter-protests at the sites. According to the mayor of New Orleans, the monuments were removed because they “failed to appropriately reflect the values of diversity and inclusion that make New Orleans strong today.”

Dozens of cities across the state of Alabama contain their own Confederate monuments that were constructed post-reconstruction. Montgomery, for instance, has the Monument to Confederate Soldiers and Sailors on the grounds of the State Capitol. Partially funded with state grants, the monument has stood since 1886, and the person who laid the cornerstone was none other than CSA President Jefferson Davis.

Montgomery is also home to numerous civil rights movement monuments including the Civil Rights Memorial, located on Washington Avenue. The granite display contains the names of 41 people who died during the fight for civil rights.

11 months ago

Alabama House passes bill to legalize midwifery

(Flickr user Christine Szeto)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After the Alabama House of Representatives approved HB 315 on Monday, the practice of midwifery became one step closer to legality in the state. The House passed the bill by a vote of 84-11, and it now heads to the state senate.

HB 315 would require that midwives receive certification from an accredited organization in order to avoid criminal prosecution.

Midwives are trained health professionals who assist women in the process of birthing children either in hospitals or in the home. Their care differs from doctors because they rely on more natural techniques and minimal medical intervention.

Under current Alabama law, the practice of midwifery is mostly illegal, and home birth is only legal without a midwife present.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), noted that the bill’s passage is a victory for freedom of choice. “It was a milestone for these mothers who want this freedom and the choice to have natural home childbirth, where it’s not restricted by the government,” he told

HB 315 had bipartisan support in the House, and marked the first time a pro-midwife bill has even made it to the floor for a vote.

However, praise has not been universal. The Medical Association of the State of Alabama remains critical of the practice and continues to lobby against it. “The decriminalization of the practice of midwifery will lead to more home births, and we have strong concerns about home birth in this state, regardless of who the provider of that service is,” Mark Jackson, executive director of the association, told

Johnson also proposed HB 316, which focuses on the regulation of midwives if the practice is decriminalized. It would create a State Board of Midwifery to craft more specific regulations. That bill has not yet been passed.

11 months ago

Rep. Ed Henry declares candidacy for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat

Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) declared on Tuesday that he intends to run for Alabama’s contested U.S. Senate seat in the upcoming special election. Originally scheduled by former Gov. Robert Bentley (R) to take place in 2018, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) moved the election up to this December in compliance with state law.

RELATED: Alabama special election for U.S. Senate seat moved up to this year

Henry led impeachment efforts against Bentley in Montgomery from the very beginning of the former governor’s scandals. He, along with Craig Ford (D-Gadsden), introduced the original articles of impeachment that alleged that Bentley was neglectful, corrupt, and incompetent.

While many backed down in their pursuit to hold Bentley accountable, Henry never backed down and constantly remained on the forefront of impeachment efforts. However, as a devout Christian, Henry has longed hoped that the governor will find reconciliation with God and his family.

RELATED: A Profile in Courage: Rep. Ed Henry’s Stand for Justice Fighting Bentley’s Corruption

On today’s edition of Yellowhammer Radio, Henry explained that he felt God is calling him to run for the Senate to represent the people of Alabama. “I don’t know about draining the swamp, but I have found out that if you throw some dynamite in the swamp, the bottom-dwellers tend to float belly-up,” he said.

However, he said he’s not getting into this race to make friends; especially with new campaign rival Sen. Luther Strange (R). In Henry’s eyes, Strange is not capable of helping President Trump drain the swamp, as he is a political lobbyist at heart.

Before resigning as part of a plea deal, Bentley appointed then-state Attorney General Luther Strange to fill the Senate seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R). Strange has also declared his intention to run to keep his new seat.

Henry has served in the Alabama House of Representatives as one of its most outspokenly conservative members since winning his seat in 2010. In his six years in the legislature, Henry has sponsored numerous conservative bills, such as those protecting the right to life and the Second Amendment.

1 year ago

Alabama House approves General Fund Budget without state employee raise

Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Flickr user Joel יוֹאֵל)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After hours of debate, the Alabama House of Representatives passed the General Fund Budget without a pay increase for state employees. Approved by a vote of 72-28, the latest budget would spend $1.8 billion in the next Fiscal Year.

Alabama liberals and Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) called for a state employee pay raise at the beginning of the legislative session. In his State of the State address, Bentley called for a four percent raise, which conservatives worried about for cost reasons.

State employees last received a raise in Fiscal Year 2009, which raised their pay by 3.5 percent.

Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Prichard) told the Alabama News Network that state employees should not go ten years without a raise. Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said that such a move is unwise because future budgets will be tighter due to the exhaustion of the BP Oil Settlement money.

Since FY 2009, some state employees have gotten merit pay raises, and the state pays for the increases in the health insurance costs.

Alabama is one of only three states that maintains separate budgets. It also has the highest percentage in the country of earmarked revenue, with only approximately 15 percent of total state revenue available to be budgeted at the discretion of the legislature.

(h/t Alabama News Network)

1 year ago

Alabama bill would specify which crimes trigger the removal of voting rights

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A new bill on its way to the Alabama Senate would provide clarity over which criminal convictions would remove the voting rights of Alabama residents. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), HB 282 unanimously passed in the House of Representatives thanks to the support of Republicans and Democrats.

Current Alabama law only states that those convicted of felonies involving “moral turpitude” lose the ability to vote. However, Alabama officials have had a hard time deciding what falls into that category.

The House bill specifically lists 42 different crimes that would disqualify a person from voting. Convictions for murder, forgery, crimes of moral terpitude, and several others are all included in the new definition.

Republicans have described the bill as compromise legislation. While Democrats ultimately supported the bill, Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery) remains concerned about Alabamians losing their voting rights.

(h/t Alabama News Network)


McCutcheon: My Vision for the Alabama House

Rep. Mac McCutcheon
Rep. Mac McCutcheon, House Rules Chairman

As the newly-elected Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, I thought it important to take a moment and let readers here know something about my background, my philosophy, and my vision for how the legislative chamber should operate during the upcoming regular session and thereafter.

Though unorthodox, I will begin by letting you know the things I am not.

I am not a career politician. After 25 years in law enforcement, I was elected to the House in 2006 during my first run for office, and I serve solely to give back to the state, community, and neighbors that have been so good to me. My only priority is the office I currently hold I am not guided by a desire for riches, power or the other temptations that elected office sometimes offers. As a retired police officer living on a monthly pension, my future resources are already determined, and my wife and I are quite thankful for all that life has already provided us.

I am not beholden to any special interests groups. As a lawmaker and public servant, I am beholden to the 45,000 citizens in House District 25, to the people of Alabama, to my family, and to my Lord and Savior.

Now let me tell you the things that I am.

I am a man who is humbled by the confidence and trust that my colleagues have offered by electing me as Speaker of the House, especially following such difficult and often controversial times in our government.

I am determined to utilize the talents, ideas, and input of every member of the House whether man or woman, Republican or Democrat, conservative, moderate, or liberal. A legislator’s worth as a member should not be solely determined by whether a D or an R follows their name on the roster, but rather by their work ethic, their commitment to understanding important issues, and the soundness of the ideas and initiatives they have to offer.

Moving Alabama forward is going to require us to adjust the way the House has operated over the past several decades.

I plan to create a system that opens and embraces the legislative process and allows bills to sink or swim based upon their own merits and the sponsors’ ability to convince their colleagues to offer support. Taking a turn from the politics of the past will not be simple or easy because old habits die hard, but we must begin the effort anyway.

The motto of the Alabama House is “Vox Populi” which means “Voice of the People.” This statement serves as my driving force and rulebook for how the body will operate moving forward. We consist of 105 members, with 105 districts, and 105 different constituencies. It is important to me that our Representatives have every opportunity to be the voice of their district, and this will be the defining feature of our House.

I have discussed the ideas outlined above with members of House and Senate leadership, the lieutenant governor, and Gov. Robert Bentley, and all have indicated some level of support for them.

As a result, I am confident that if we work together, lawmakers can improve Alabama’s future by helping to create jobs for the jobless, offering hope to the hopeless, and providing a quality education to the children who are our future and will one day take our places in this Alabama State House.

Evidence of this fact was on display during the September special session when House members of both parties joined together in passing landmark legislation that pays down a significant portion of our state’s debt, provides needed funding for road and bridge projects related to economic development on the Gulf Coast, and shores up funding needs in the Medicaid agency’s budget. And, best of all, we were able to do all of this with no new taxes.

On the day my colleagues elected me Speaker, I stood in the well of the House and asked God’s blessings on every action, every decision, and every vote that takes place in the chamber so that we may fulfill the calling in Peter 4:10, which reads, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I believe that if we simply follow that biblical admonition, House members will succeed in doing our jobs well.

Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw) serves as Alabama’s Speaker of the House and represents District 25 which encompasses the communities of Madison City, Huntsville, Capshaw, Monrovia and East Limestone. Follow Speaker McCutcheon on Twitter via @MacDistrict25 and Facebook at

2 years ago

South Alabama lawmakers fight rest of state over remaining BP Oil Spill money

A worker cleans up an Alabama beach in the wake of the BP Deewater Horizon Oil Spill.
A worker cleans up an Alabama beach in the wake of the BP Deewater Horizon Oil Spill.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Partisanship has taken a backseat to regional politics in the Alabama State House, with south Alabama lawmakers banding together to fight the rest of the state over the remaining BP Oil Spill money.

With Medicaid facing a perpetual funding shortfall, the House almost two weeks ago passed a bill that would use BP money to pay back $448.5 million in state debt, immediately free up about $35 million for Medicaid, and send the rest of the money — about $191 million — to the coast for road projects.

The bill sat on the legislative back-burner as the House and Senate wrestled with numerous lottery proposals, but re-emerged Tuesday as lawmakers faced the possibility of adjourning the Special Session without addressing the Medicaid issue.

The Senate passed a bill that would send $300 million of the BP money to Medicaid over the next three years — presumably buying the legislature time to work out a longer-term plan — then send the rest of the funds toward paying down debt, completely stripping out all funding for south Alabama road projects.

The House unanimously voted against the Senate plan, prompting legislative leaders to create a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two chambers. The conference committee will consist of three House members and three Senate members, who will seek to come to an agreement that can pass both chambers.

It will be a tall order.

Sens. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) will be joined on the conference committee by Reps. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and John Knight (D-Montgomery).

One lobbyist Yellowhammer spoke with Tuesday evening put the odds of a stalemate at about 50 percent, with the House dug in on earmarking money for coastal infrastructure projects and the Senate opposed.

Senator Slade Blackwell (R-Mountain Brook) seemed to sum up the perspective of many non-South Alabama legislators when he told ABC 33/40 he believes it’s “more important to help disable children verse sending more money to Mobile and Baldwin county after they have already received over $2.1 billion is BP settlement money.”

“The citizens of Mobile and Baldwin County suffered from that oil spill,” Sen. Vivian Davis Figure (D-Mobile) said on the other side. “They did the suffering.”

The conference committee will meet Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., with both chambers reconvening an hour later.

2 years ago

DENIED: House panel rejects Bentley’s request to suspend impeachment proceedings

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley

Gov. Robert Bentley’s latest attempt to end his impeachment ordeal has failed.

State Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has denied the governor’s request to suspend the impeachment proceedings, as well as the request that certain committee members be recused from the hearings.

“After careful consideration and a close examination of constitutional law and other reference sources, the motions are denied,” said Rep. Jones.

Articles of impeachment were first filed on April 5 in the wake of revelations that the governor may have misused state resources to facilitate and cover up an affair with his top political advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. House members levied four articles of impeachment against the governor: neglect of duty, corruption, incompetency, and offenses of moral terpitude.

Gov. Bentley’s attorneys in mid-August contended that the accusations of “willful neglect of duty” and “corruption in office” violated his right to due process because he did not have enough time to mount a defense. They also requested that three Judiciary Committee member recuse themselves from the impeachment proceedings, contending that Reps. Mike Ball (R-Madison), Allen Farley (R-McCalla) and Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) should recuse themselves because they signed the original articles of impeachment, along with twenty other House members.

In his eight page response to Gov. Bentley’s filings, Rep. Jones said those complaints are “premature and erroneous,” and that committee members are not required to recuse themselves since “the governor has no legal or political authority to dictate to the House of this Committee” which members can sit on the committee.

“It is entirely proper for a legislator both to sponsor a resolution and to sit on a committee to which it is referred,” he said.

Jones, who has earned a reputation for being extremely thorough in his role as House Judiciary Committee Chairman, also cited rules of the Alabama House of Representatives, reports from the U.S. House Judiciary Committee prepared during the impeachment of then-President Richard Nixon, and printed works by constitutional and impeachment scholars.

The committee has also asked for the governor to turn over information, including communication between Gov. Bentley and Mrs. Mason, transportation and calendar records, and more, and has warned that not complying with the committee’s requests could itself be an impeachable offense.

The committee investigation into the articles of impeachment continues and no date has been set for the next committee meeting.

2 years ago

What they didn’t tell you: Alabama lawmakers were only presented with half a lottery plan

Signs advertise the lottery outside of a convenience store (Photo: Sivi Steys)
Signs advertise the lottery outside of a convenience store (Photo: Sivi Steys)

When Gov. Robert Bentley summoned lawmakers for a special session to consider the creation of a state lottery, I traveled to Montgomery with apprehension as what the Governor was up to. Soon after the debate began, however, it quickly became obvious that the real fiscal and systemic problems problems facing Alabama’s state government cannot be solved by a state lottery, and certainly not by the one that was presented to us.

As a result, I voted against placing the lottery on a referendum ballot and would like to outline just a few of the facts that led to my decision.

Creating a lottery requires two pieces of legislation, a constitutional amendment that allows that particular form of gambling to exist, and “enabling legislation” that spells out in vivid detail exactly how it would operate. The Legislature was provided only the constitutional amendment for consideration, and we were told that enabling legislation would be introduced sometime next year, after the referendum vote.

Passing an open-ended, blank-check constitutional amendment is dangerous and demands a level of trust that I, quite frankly, do not believe Montgomery has earned. Once the amendment is passed, the enabling legislation that followed could open the door to corruption, cronyism, and broken promises with absolutely no accountability to the citizens of our state.

You cannot bake a cake with just one ingredient – you must have all of them – and I do not believe that we can create a fair, honest, and well-run lottery with just one piece of the necessary legislation, we must have all of them, as well. The amendment and the enabling legislation must travel together.

The legislation submitted to us did not even have an accompanying fiscal note, which is usually required on measures we consider, so there is no way to determine how much it would cost to set up the lottery, the amount of the annual operating costs, or even a good barometer of how much it would add to state coffers each year. You cannot open any successful business without a detailed financial plan, and a lottery is no different.

But the few details that were provided to us cause even greater concern.

While most states dedicate most, if not all, of their lottery revenues to public education needs and programs, the Alabama lottery would send only 10% of its profit into our children’s classrooms. Instead, the dollars would be earmarked directly toward the state Medicaid program and other non-education agencies. The costs of providing Medicaid services in Alabama are already spiraling out-of-control, and funneling a dedicated stream of lottery revenues to the agency removes any incentive for spending to be reduced or efficiencies to be implemented.

In addition, this magic elixir for our financial problems that is being peddled to us like a bottle of snake oil will not have any effect for the next several years. Not one dime of revenue will be realized until 2018, and even then, the undetermined start up costs that I mentioned earlier could swallow any expected profits.

The experiences of other states provide even more evidence that the lottery is not a panacea for fiscal ills. Nine of the 10 states with the most insolvent budgets in the nation, for example, have lotteries. In Illinois, state lawmakers even had to borrow money in order to pay the winners of its lottery their promised awards.

Other questions about how the lottery would affect the overall economy and whether this amendment, as written, would allow forms of Las Vegas-style gambling to operate in Alabama remain unanswered.

I believe more than ever that Alabama can solve its financial problems only by implementing conservative principles, like un-earmarking the tax dollars we currently collect and reforming the way we draft the budget.

It is disappointing that we were summoned into special session with a desperate, eleventh hour deadline and presented with only half of a lottery plan that raised more questions than answers. Given time, I think the Legislature would be able to craft a lottery amendment worthy of consideration, but this one certainly did not meet that standard.
A constitutional amendment is difficult, if not impossible, to adjust once it is ratified, so we must be extremely careful before placing it on your ballot.

For these and other reasons, I voted against the lottery amendment, and I felt it important to let you know why.

Republican Barry Moore represents District 91 in the Alabama House of Representatives

2 years ago

Here’s how each Alabama House member voted on the lottery

Mega Millions lottery tickets (Photo: Mark Ou)
Mega Millions lottery tickets (Photo: Mark Ou)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After spending roughly eleven hours debating Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery proposal and working late into the night on Thursday, pro-lottery House members finally rallied enough support for the legislation to pass.

The bill will send the first $100 million of lottery revenue to Medicaid, followed by a 90-10 split of the remaining revenue between the General Fund Budget and Education Budget. Additionally, 1 percent of the 90 percent General Fund allocation will be earmarked for rural fire departments.

RELATED: BY ONE VOTE: Alabama House passes lottery bill after marathon debate

The bill now moves back to the Senate, which must approve of the changes before a constitutional amendment enabling a state-sponsored lottery goes to a statewide vote.

Here’s how each member of the Alabama House voted on the lottery.


Ron Johnson
Speaker McCutcheon
Mary Moore


Mike Holmes
Ken Johnson
Barry Moore
Williams (JD)
Williams (JW)
Phil Williams

2 years ago

BY ONE VOTE: Alabama House passes lottery bill after marathon debate

Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Yellowhammer)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After spending roughly eleven hours debating Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery proposal and working late into the night on Thursday, pro-lottery House members finally rallied enough support for the legislation to pass.

The bill will send the first $100 million of lottery revenue to Medicaid, followed by a 90-10 split of the remaining revenue between the General Fund Budget and Education Budget. Additionally, 1 percent of the 90 percent General Fund allocation will be earmarked for rural fire departments.

The bill now moves back to the Senate, which must approve of the changes before it goes to a statewide vote.

Lawmakers spent much of the day trying to amend the lottery bill for a multitude of reasons, sparking familiar criticism from conservative lawmakers who have characterized the lottery as little more than a way to grow the size of state government.

Around 10:30 p.m., the first House vote on the lottery actually fell two votes shy of the three-fifths support needed for the bill to pass.

Some procedural maneuvering revived the bill as pro-lottery lawmakers worked to round up more votes and wrangle colleagues who had left the chamber early.

In an example of how contentious the eleven-hour debate was at certain points, Democratic Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) took to the mic on the House floor at one point to declare, “I question the intelligence of those who voted ‘no.'”

A second vote finally took place around 11:30 p.m. and the bill was approved 64-35. It needed 63 votes to pass.

Secretary of State John Merrill reiterated Thursday that the lottery will not appear on the November General Election ballot because lawmakers missed the Wednesday deadline. Many pro-lottery lawmakers are still convinced the deadline is arbitrary and may be tossed aside. Otherwise the state will spend between $6 million and $8 million to organize a special lottery vote.

The Medicaid funding shortfall — which was the stated reason Gov. Bentley called a Special Session in the first place — will also be a focus in the coming days.

The House earlier this week passed a bill that would allocate money from the state’s BP oil spill settlement to pay down debt, cover the shortfall in Medicaid, and fund infrastructure projects on the gulf coast.

The bill, sponsored by General Fund Budget Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), would use BP money to pay back $448.5 million in state debt, free up about $35 million for Medicaid, and send the rest of the money — about $191 million — to the coast for road projects.

Governor Bentley is currently sitting on $35 million from BP’s Fiscal Year 2016 payment to the state, so combining that with Clouse’s bill would ultimately make about $70 million available for Medicaid.

The Senate has been waiting to consider the bill while the lottery debate played out in the House.

2 years ago

Alabama House member: Lawmakers are already spending lottery money before it passes

Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise)
Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama House members are already angling to earmark lottery funds for certain projects although the lottery has multiple hurdles left to clear before it even exists in the Yellowhammer State.

The Secretary of State’s office confirmed Thursday that the legislature had missed the deadline to pass a lottery bill that would put it up for a vote on the General Election ballot in November. Lawmakers continued to debate the issue, though, possibly setting up a Special Election ballot that would include a Constitutional Amendment bringing the lottery to Alabama for the first time. Secretary of State John Merrill estimated such an election would cost the state $6-8 million.

The current lottery bill being debated in the House would send the first $100 million of lottery revenue to Medicaid, then it gets a little murky after that. Members seemed to be operating under the assumption that 90 percent would go toward the General Fund Budget and 10 percent to the Education Budget. But an avalanche of amendments have been proposed, and one was approved to send to rural fire departments 1 percent of the 90 percent General Fund allocation.

The process sparked familiar criticism from conservative lawmakers who have characterized the lottery as little more than a way to grow the size of state government.

“We’re spending money we haven’t raised from a lottery we haven’t passed,” State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), who opposes the lottery, said at the mic on the House floor.

Earmarks have been a longtime problem with Alabama’s budgeting process.

The state earmarks over 90 percent of its tax revenue, far more than any other state in the country, meaning that budgeters have very little flexibility when shortfalls emerge, as they have recently in the state’s exploding Medicaid program.

If the House passes a lottery bill that the Senate agrees to and the governor signs, a statewide vote of the people in a Special Election would determine whether Alabama would have a state sponsored lottery. If it clears all of those hurdles, it appears that whatever revenue it brings in will be spent long before it even enters state coffers.

2 years ago

Alabama lottery will not be on November ballot after vote blocked in House

Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Yellowhammer)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Procedural wrangling in the Alabama House of Representatives will keep a statewide lottery constitutional amendment from appearing on the ballot in November.

Wednesday, August 24, was the deadline for the legislature to authorize a constitutional amendment to appear on the General Election ballot on November 8th.

However, House rules stipulate that committee meetings must be advertised at least 24 hours in advance, unless four-fifths of the House votes to suspend the rules and allow a meeting to happen on shorter notice. Realizing that the committee meeting time on the lottery was not advertised in advance, a group of House members banded together and did not allow the rules to be suspended, thereby making it impossible for any proposal to pass by the Wednesday deadline.

Pro-lottery lawmakers blasted their colleagues for “delaying” throughout the day.

“You can call it a delay, I call it being deliberative,” quipped Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), who has expressed concerns about rushing through such a major constitutional amendment so quickly.

Republicans in Democratic-leaning areas of the state were pleased with the development, as they had voiced concerns that a lottery vote might increase Democratic turnout in November and jeopardize Republican officeholders.

The House last week passed a bill that would allocate money from the state’s BP oil spill settlement to pay down debt, cover the shortfall in Medicaid, and fund infrastructure projects on the gulf coast.

The bill, sponsored by General Fund Budget Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), would use BP money to pay back $448.5 million in state debt, free up about $35 million for Medicaid, and send the rest of the money — about $191 million — to the coast for road projects.

Governor Bentley is currently sitting on $35 million from BP’s Fiscal Year 2016 payment to the state, so combining that with Rep. Clouse’s bill would ultimately make about $70 million available for Medicaid.

The Senate is expected to consider the bill on Wednesday.

If it receives final passage, the stated reason for the current special session — to patch a hole in Medicaid funding — will have been accomplished, possibly leaving a lottery vote in doubt.

2 years ago

Pro-lottery Alabama politicians are lying, contributing to the breakdown of the family (Video)

(Video above: Terrell Kennedy discusses the prospect of an Alabama lottery.)

Terrell Kennedy is the founder of Fit for Life, an after-school tutoring program for adolescent men in Birmingham. Kennedy started Fit for Life in 2005 as a way to give back and bring hope to his community, in contrast to what he believes pro-lottery Alabama politicians are now offering Alabamians: false hope.

The Alabama Senate approved lottery legislation last week. The bill, which was approved by a margin of 21-12, would send $100 million of lottery revenue each year to Medicaid, which is facing a $70 million shortfall this year, and the rest to the General Fund. The House is set to debate the bill this week. If it passes, a Constitutional Amendment will appear on the November ballot for statewide approval by the voters.

“I grew up in the projects,” Mr. Kennedy says in a video produced by the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank in Birmingham. “And I wanted to be to my family what I did not have. I wanted to be a good dad. And I’m just so concerned about the condition of the family today. We are already struggling. We’re going against headwinds. And, it’s unbelievable to me that our politicians, many of them who are of the same color as I am, who grew up just like I did, and now they have the power to make great decisions for our people—and [gambling] is what they’re offering them?”

“Who truly benefits from gambling?” He continues. “It’s not those at the bottom. We know that the rich will continue to get richer, those who are behind gambling. And we know that the politicians will continue to do well. They will be unaffected by all that takes place, all the destruction that takes place.”

Mr. Kennedy specifically mentioned the addictive nature of gambling that leads individuals to “put their hope in this activity” and ultimately “lose the money that is necessary to feed their kids, to feed their family.”

“Households break down,” he laments. “People do all kinds of things for addiction. It’s no different than being addicted to drugs. You do what’s necessary to get the money to try to make that big hit. With all of the issues that we’ve got in our society, we surely do not need to make decisions that will add to those problems.”

Mr. Kennedy also said the promise of a financial windfall for the state is unlikely, based on the experience of other states.

A Washington Post report published in 2012, for example, called into question whether so called education lotteries actually benefit public schools. According to the report, legislators in many states have concocted ways to keep the additional funds from ever making it into classrooms. In Texas, lottery funds paid for about two weeks of schooling for public school students in 1996. By 2010 it was down to three days.

“The evidence is bountiful,” concludes Mr. Kennedy. “Many states were told what we are being told by our politicians, and they were lied to—just like our politicians are lying to us.”

2 years ago

McCutcheon’s first words as Alabama House Speaker: The ‘imperial speakership’ is over

Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)
Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In his first words as Alabama Speaker of the House, State Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) declared “the days of the imperial speakership are over.”

McCutcheon was elected by a vote of 68 to 28, defeating the Democrats’ nominee, Rep. Joe Knight of Montgomery.

“I am not my predecessor. The days of the imperial speakership are over,” he said as members of both parties applauded. “I will work every day, every hour, every minute and every second to be the people’s speaker.”

RELATED: Alabama House Republicans just elected a new Speaker. Here’s what you should know.

McCutcheon’s rise to the speakership comes two months after a jury convicted former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) on 12 counts of using his public office for personal gain. The conviction immediately removed Hubbard from office, prompting a crowded by uncontentious race to succeed him.

McCutcheon was previously one of Hubbard’s top lieutenants in his role as House Rules Chairman, a powerful position atop the committee that decides which bills make it to the floor for a vote each day. But while Hubbard earned a reputation for ruling the lower chamber with an iron fist, McCutcheon garnered respect on both sides of the aisle for his even-handed approach.

Speaker McCutcheon’s new approach will immediately be tested as the legislature convenes for a special session to debate Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery proposal.

The Governor’s call includes the following:

“A constitutional amendment enabling a state lottery to support the General Fund” and “Legislation providing funding for Medicaid, infrastructure investment, and/or debt repayment.”

“This call is designed for the Alabama Legislature to address adequate support of essential state services including children, the elderly, people with mental illness and support for men and women in law enforcement,” the Governor said in a statement. “A primary focus of this special session is for legislators to allow the people within their district the right to vote on a statewide lottery. I am looking forward to working with lawmakers over the next few days as we address legislation that is simple, clean and transparent.”

Gov. Bentley has been saying for weeks that a state-sponsored lottery is the only solution left to fully fund Alabama’s Medicaid program, even calling for anti-gambling faith leaders to get down off of their “high horse” to help children.

RELATED: Bentley lays out Medicaid funding options: Create a lottery or let sick children die

“Which is the most immoral: Buying five lottery tickets with money you earned or allowing a child to die?” He asked. “I don’t think there’s even a choice there, so we must fund Medicaid, we must take care of our sick children, our disabled people, those in nursing homes, those with mental illness.”

Gov. Bentley went on to say that the government has a moral obligation to fund such programs.

“Because you know what? [The sick children] didn’t choose any of that,” he said. “Nobody did, and that’s one of the big functions of government is to take care of those that can’t take care of themselves.”

Alabama is one of only six states that does not have a lottery, but a gambling expansion of any kind is already facing fierce opposition from conservative and religious organizations.

In 1999, Alabamians voted down then-Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposed education lottery 54% to 46%. Since then, numerous statewide candidates — most of them Democrats — have run on a platform of letting the people vote again.

The special session of the Alabama Legislature began Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. Any constitutional amendment for a lottery must be approved by August 24th for it to appear on the General Election ballot in November.

RELATED: Bentley’s lottery panic is a sham. Here’s how Alabama can pay its bills without it.

2 years ago

You’ll want to hear why Alabama’s next House Speaker felt ‘guilty’ the day after being elected

Members from the McChord Field Honor Guard pallbearer team carry a casket to a hearse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)
Members from the McChord Field Honor Guard pallbearer team carry a casket to a hearse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)

Alabama House Republicans on Tuesday tapped Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) to be the next Speaker of the House, setting him up to assume arguably the most powerful job in state politics when the legislature reconvenes in the coming weeks.

The looming special legislative session prompted the House GOP caucus to reconvene sooner than they would have otherwise, and the timing of the election was particularly tough for Mr. McCutcheon, who was preparing to leave the state on a wedding anniversary “bucket list” trip that had been planned for months, if not longer.

Everything ended up working out — Republicans met and elected Mr. McCutcheon their leader, and he was able to fly out shortly thereafter.

But it was a solemn moment during a whirlwind few days that compelled Alabama’s next House Speaker to share an update on his Facebook page.

Yesterday Debbie and I flew to Seattle to celebrate a “46 years of marriage” trip. We were excited and looking forward to it.

During the approach into Seattle the pilot told the passengers we had a fallen U.S. SOLDIER on board and his body was being taken home for burial. Not sure of the circumstances surrounding his death, the flag draped casket spoke volumes to us.

We were ask to stay seated while the honor guard and family got off of the plane. It was a sad moment! As we watched, the mother and the soldier’s young boys were standing in front of us. The mother was weeping and Deb put her arm around her. I tear up thinking about it.

I felt guilty at first because we were on a trip to celebrate and here stood a family that had suffered a great loss. As Deb and I walked away I felt a real sense of gratitude for my freedom. Freedom is not free there is a price that is paid and Deb and I just witnessed our freedom being paid in full.

It sounds like Mr. McCutcheon will be taking some perspective with him into one of the toughest jobs in the state.

2 years ago

Alabama House Republicans just elected a new Speaker. Here’s what you should know.

Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)
Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)

In the wake of former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard being removed from office after being convicted on 12 counts of felony public corruption, House Republicans have tapped one of his top lieutenants, Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville), to take over as speaker.

This decision led to immediate backlash from some grassroots activists and members of the media, who said the House GOP had chosen to maintain the status quo, rather than seek the major shift necessary after Hubbard’s conviction undermined Republicans’ ability to lead the state.

Mr. McCutcheon’s recent past support for tax increases worries conservatives who are hungry for reforms, but it was his decision to stand by Mr. Hubbard throughout his legal ordeal that has raised the most eyebrows.

But McCutcheon’s election is not as simple as “they chose the status quo over change.”

Having watched Mr. McCutcheon closely for the past six years, and after talking to dozens of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, one major change at the top of the House will be that the new speaker’s character is beyond reproach.

Alabamians will not have to endure another round of embarrassing scandals or ethics questions with Mr. McCutcheon, a longtime law enforcement officer, holding the gavel. That change alone is enough to spark optimism in Yellowhammer State residents who have grown sadly accustomed to their leaders disgracing themselves.

But how could he stand by Mr. Hubbard after he was indicted?

The answer to this question is really quite simple: Mike Hubbard lied, and the members of the House, to many of whom Mr. Hubbard had been fiercely loyal, believed him. And so did his constituents. Mr. Hubbard was overwhelmingly re-elected to his House seat just weeks after being indicted. He was subsequently re-elected speaker two months later by a unanimous vote of both Republicans and Democrats.

In other words, a lot of people were victims of Mr. Hubbard’s fraud.

On the first day of his trial, numerous House members from both parties expressed dismay at what they learned for the first time, because all of the facts had previously only been disclosed inside grand jury proceedings and private business dealings.

The most important question now is, in what direction will Mr. McCutcheon lead the people’s House?

Conservatives in the House — and across the state — are hungry for a return to the reform-minded approach GOP leaders took just after Republicans seized control of the legislature in 2010. The lack of reforms in recent years has left some newer members of the legislature wondering aloud why they even bother going to Montgomery.

“I don’t really know if I’m going to run again,” one frustrated Republican told Yellowhammer. “If we’re not going to do anything, then what’s the point?”

Conservatives are wanting to know if the McCutcheon-led House is going to pass tax cuts, rather than push tax hikes, and if pro-gun and pro-life will finally be priorities.

Mr. McCutcheon’s personality is the polar opposite of Mr. Hubbard’s. And even if it wasn’t, House members will no longer stand for being ruled with an iron fist. That change will take care of itself.

The one primary criticism that the well-liked gentleman from north Alabama receives is that he has in the past had a tendency to appease, rather than lead.

The real change in the House will come if Mr. McCutcheon re-ignites the GOP’s passion for conservative reform.

The floor is yours, Mr. Speaker.

What are you going to do?

2 years ago

TROUBLE: A grand jury may be looking into whether Bentley broke the law

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley Robert Bentley leads a tour of Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Thursday March 31, 2016. (Photo: Governor's Office, Jamie Martin)
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley Robert Bentley leads a tour of Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Thursday March 31, 2016. (Photo: Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Governor Robert Bentley’s illicit affair with his former senior advisor, Rebekah Mason, has for months made him the subject of public scorn, and it now appears that it has made him the target of a grand jury investigation.

According to court documents, multiple reports and corroborating Yellowhammer sources in Montgomery, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office has empaneled a special grand jury in Alabama’s capital city and tasked it with unraveling the tangled web of accusations that have been levied against the sitting governor and individuals around him.

Among those who are believed to have already testified before the grand jury are numerous current and former law enforcement officials who were among the first to find out about the Bentley-Mason affair, which set off an internal power struggle that ultimately resulted in Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier being replaced by Stan Stabler.

Mr. Bentley is also believed to have testified. Some legal experts Yellowhammer spoke with Thursday said this could cast doubt on assumptions that Bentley is a target of the investigation, because it is rare for a targeted individual to testify under such circumstances.

Mr. Collier served as the state’s top cop before being terminated by Governor Bentley in March of this year. A civil suit filed by Mr. Collier alleges that Governor Bentley terminated his employment after Mr. Collier refused to lie to a prosecutor in matters related to then-House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s ethics case. He also says the Bentley administration purposefully planted false stories about him in the press and suggests Governor Bentley promoted Stan Stabler to take his place because Mr. Stabler remained loyal to him in spite of growing evidence Bentley was abusing his office to facilitate his affair.

Governor Bentley says Mr. Collier was “terminated for cause” after an internal investigation revealed Mr. Collier had misappropriated state funds.

In March Yellowhammer released audio recordings exposing Bentley’s intimate relationship with Mrs. Mason.

In the wake of those revelations, information began to trickle out that revealed the depth of the Bentley-Mason affair and the potential misuse of state resources to facilitate it.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency confirms it delivered Bentley’s wallet via helicopter
Bentley, Mason, Vegas, and Celine Dion: the trip experts are calling ‘illegal’
UNCOVERED: Bentley and Mason co-own secret safe deposit box together
‘Neglect of duty, corruption, incompetency’ — Here’s what’s in Bentley’s articles of impeachment
Economic developers frustrated as Bentley scandal chases away companies, jobs

The Alabama House of Representatives went on to begin impeachment proceedings against Governor Bentley, which he called “political grandstanding.”

Impeachment proceedings have since then been bogged down in the House Judiciary Committee led by Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), a Bentley defender, but the lawmaker who spearheaded the initial impeachment push believes the grand jury could add new fuel to the fire.

RELATED: Meet the Alabama lawmaker quietly promising to save Bentley from impeachment

State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) released the following statement Thursday:

I filed articles of impeachment against Gov. Bentley in April because it was apparent even then that dishonesty, deception, and corruption were running rampant behind the locked doors of his office, so I am gratified to learn that a grand jury is conducting a criminal probe into his actions and those of his closest aides.

If we, as public officials, are going to be true servants of the citizens who elected us and offer ourselves as good stewards of their taxpayer dollars, we must root out wrongdoing wherever it may occur in government regardless of party affiliation.

I know that Democrats across the aisle may be tempted to exploit this revelation for partisan purposes, so it is important to remember that a Republican filed the articles of impeachment against Gov. Bentley and Republicans passed the toughest-in-the-nation ethics law that is achieving success in punishing corruption that takes place. It is also difficult for Democrats to point fingers when the last Democrat elected governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, remains confined to a prison cell in Louisiana.

If anything, this grand jury probe offers further evidence that it is time to hand the reins of state government over to a new generation of Republicans who are ready to step away from the corrupt politics of the past and have the courage to implement needed reforms that are rooted in proven conservative ideals and principles.

*This article has been updated to include some legal experts’ opinions casting doubt on Bentley being a target of the grand jury.

2 years ago

With no ‘faith in government,’ Auburn student wants to succeed convicted House Speaker

Auburn University's Samford Hall
Auburn University’s Samford Hall

AUBURN, Ala. — One Auburn University student is taking on the tremendous task of running for the Alabama House seat formerly occupied by convicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Not only is the college junior trying to win the 79th district, but he is attempting to do so under the banner of the Libertarian Party.

Gage Fenwick, an economic major, hails from Pell City and worked for libertarian-leaning U.S. Senator Rand Paul as his statewide student coordinator during his presidential campaign. But once Paul dropped out after a disappointing Iowa Caucus, Fenwick — like many libertarian-leaning Republicans — felt lost and abandoned by the GOP.

After determining the remainders in the Republican race were unacceptable, the Auburn student looked into the Libertarian Party. “I fell in limbo, I didn’t really know where to go as far as politically,” he told Auburn’s student paper. “I’ve always had libertarian ideals, but I never really looked at the party.”

After joining the LP, Fenwick became a delegate and supported the conservative libertarian candidate Austin Petersen. “He was the one who made me realize I should join the Libertarian Party,” he said to The Plainsman. “It’s really for one major reason. It’s because of the Liberty movement — this movement to push freedom for the people [and] to take away that authoritarian rule of government.”

Libertarians generally support limiting or eliminating government intervention across the board. On economic and social policy, libertarians assert that the government should have at best a minimal role, and leave such grand determinations to voluntary private interactions.

In the United States, the Libertarian Party is currently considered a minor or third party. Because of its classification, candidates representing it face a tremendous uphill battle to even get on ballots. According to Alabama law, for Fenwick to even participate, he needs 276 verified signatures by Sept. 13 to get on the ballot in November.

In 2016, both the Republican and Democratic presumptive nominees have the highest unfavorables in U.S. history, and many are contemplating voting for a third party for the first time ever. “I just realized that within the current two-party system, the people are limited with their choices,” Fenwick said. “I want to give the people another option. I don’t want it to be whoever wins the Republican primary that’s the de facto representative.”

In perfect libertarian fashion, Fenwick says he is not running to restore people’s faith in government, despite the flurry of recent scandals that have rocked the state.

“I do believe people have absolutely lost their faith in the Alabama state government, and the thing is: I don’t want to restore people’s faith in government,” he said. “I want people to question their government everyday. I want it to be a situation where people are always questioning their representative on how they voted — always calling them out on why they made certain decisions.”

After Hubbard’s conviction, Governor Robert Bentley set the date for the 79th District’s special election November 29. If there is a run-off in the hotly contested Republican Party Primary, the election will be moved to Feb. 7, 2017.

(h/t The Plainsman)