The Wire

  • ‘Opioid abuse is an epidemic that ignores cultural and political boundaries’ — AG Steve Marshall

    Attorney General Steve Marshall issued the following statement today praising President Donald Trump for introducing his Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand:

    “I want to thank President Trump for his dedication to fight the terrible blight of opioid abuse in America. Opioid abuse is an epidemic that ignores cultural and political boundaries; it affects all of us—and thus demands a response that includes all of us.”

    “While I am still reviewing the specifics of President Trump’s initiative, I am heartened to see that his outline includes many of the recommendations of Alabama’s Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council; recommendations such as improved prescription monitoring, increased access to treatment and recovery support for persons suffering from opioid addiction, and legislation targeting low-dosage, super-lethal drugs like fentanyl.”

    “My hope is that, in the coming months, President Trump and Attorney General Sessions will work side-by-side with state and local officials to turn these ideas into reality. Together, we can conquer what the President has rightly called the ‘Crisis Next Door.’”

  • Trump’s border wall prototype visit ‘a ridiculous waste of time’ — Ann Coulter

    Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter appeared on a Los Angeles radio program and ridiculed the president’s recent inspection of border wall prototypes, calling the photo-op “a ridiculous waste of time.”

  • VIDEO: FBI search for $55 million in lost Civil War gold buried in Pennsylvania — NBC Nightly News

    A story that $55 million in Union gold was lost during the Civil War has long been dismissed as a myth — but this week, a team of FBI agents joined the search in rural Pennsylvania.

1 year ago

LAST CHANCE: Alabama voter registration deadline is today

Clinton, Trump pick up big wins
Today is Alabama’s deadline for those wishing to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election. To become a registered voter in Alabama, a person must be 18 years old on or before election day, be a United States citizen, reside in Alabama and have an Alabama driver’s license or Alabama non-driver ID. Those convicted of disqualifying felonies are disbarred from participating in the election, unless they have had their civil rights restored.

Applications can be filed in-person at each county’s Board of Registrars or electronically at

Many have registered this cycle already. In fact, Alabama has approximately 3.3 million registered voters; a number up 500,000 from the mid-term elections in 2014. However, others have procrastinated, and the secretary of state’s office told the Alabama News Network that it anticipates a surge in applications today.

“I think we’re going to continue to see people fill out applications, try and get registered. We anticipate the highest voter turnout in the state for this general election,” said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R).

Alabama voters are also subject to the state’s voter ID law. Upon checking-in at their precinct, voters must present one of the pre-approved forms of identification, such as an Alabama driver’s license. If someone does not have one of the approved forms of ID, he or she may apply to get one from the state for free.

While the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has gotten the lion’s share of the press, Alabama’s state government and various localities have important offices up for grabs as well. On the federal level, the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Richard Shelby (R) is in contention, as are the seats of Alabama’s seven U.S. House Representatives. Statewide, Alabamians will consider fourteen amendments to the state constitution that can be approved with a majority of the vote.

To see what issues are coming to a vote in your community, you can check out sample ballots on the Secretary of State’s website linked here.

2 years ago

DNC DISUNITY: Alabama and Delaware delegates square off over seating arrangements

DNC slider
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The party disunity in Philadelphia continues as delegates from Alabama and Delaware fought over which chairs belonged to whom.

“We’re short five [chairs],” said Delaware Democratic Party Chairman John Daniello, according to Delaware Online. “We’re not gonna be.”

“This is our row,” an Alabama delegate responded.

The Delaware delegation insisted that someone moved Alabama’s sign down an additional row, thereby encroaching on Delaware’s allotment.

“The whole row is not yours,” Daniello said.

Eventually, convention officials intervened to stop a fight from breaking out. After discussion, the Alabama Democrats decided to give Delaware, Vice President Joe Biden’s home state, the seats. “I knew that was coming,” said Daniello.

Chairs are far from the only thing that has divided Democrats this week. The DNC has been rocked with sizable protests from supporters of Bernie Sanders who feel that Hillary Clinton is nothing more than a corporate shill that the party colluded with.

Several speakers have been booed by the “Feel the Bern” crowd, and protestors have even surrounded the arena in Philadelphia chanting “Hell no DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary!”

Earlier this week, the DNC was exposed by WikiLeaks when the group released tens of thousands of emails revealing collaboration between the national committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The leaks forced Chairwoman Debbie Wassermann Schultz to step down before the convention even began.

Whether its seating chairs or committee chairs, Democrats are struggling to get it together at the event that is supposed to unify them.

And in the ultimate show of disgust, the AP is now reporting that “supporters of Bernie Sanders plan to hold a ‘fart-in’ at the Democratic National Convention to protest the party’s primary process.”

(h/t Delaware Online)

2 years ago

Democrats call Alabama’s voter ID law ‘racist’ but require DNC delegates to show ID to vote

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — In a twist of irony, the Democratic National Convention is requiring delegates to show photo ID to receive their official credentials. While the Democrats require an ID to get into their convention, they have consistently fought against voter ID laws requiring citizens to show one when they vote.

During the 2011 Regular Legislative Session Governor Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) signed a voter ID law that went into full effect for the 2014 primary elections. Act 2011-673 requires an Alabama voter to have a specific type of photo identification at the polls in order to vote. Since that time, Democrats across the country have decried the law as “racist” and “hateful”.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform declares, “we will continue to fight against discriminatory voter identification laws, which disproportionately burden young voters, diverse communities, people of color, low income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, and women.” Yet, at their own convention, it seems like a different set of rules apply.

DNC voter ID

In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

Shelby County, Ala. sued the U.S. Attorney General in 2011 claiming that portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that the formula used to determine which areas were subjected to pre-clearance was unconstitutional, effectively gutting that portion of the law.

“Alabama has made tremendous progress over the past 50 years, and this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that progress,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said at the time. “We will not tolerate discrimination in Alabama.”

Despite calls of racism, Alabama’s implementation of the voter ID law does not seem to have suppressed turnout.

There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.

2 years ago

Sessions: Clinton immigration plan deliberately prioritizes foreign students over American grads

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) took a swipe at presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, calling one of her proposed policies “a concept that has been recycled by industry year after year as ‘immigration reform,’ and would damage the job prospects of U.S. students.”

As part of her immigration reform initiative, Clinton would “staple” a green card to STEM master’s degrees and PhDs of every graduate – enabling foreign students to get green cards and thus be able to remain in the U.S. permanently and take any job. Sessions argues that such a policy is dangerous because it plays to the myth of an American worker shortage and could “crowd out” American graduates looking for jobs.

The senator expresses his deep concern for American students who will soon be a part of the highly competitive job market.

He said:

Young Americans graduating with master’s degrees and PhDs in these fields have sacrificed their time and energy to pursue a career in the STEM field – often at the encouragement of policymakers and national leaders – and oftentimes carry the burden of substantial student loan debt as a result. Further saturating the STEM labor market will limit their ability to obtain high-paying jobs that will allow them to pay down their debt and pursue the occupation of their choosing.

While Sessions noted that it is best for the national interest to favor high-skilled immigration over low-skilled, he challenged the relative need for a massive influx of such workers at the present time. He cited a USA Today op-ed co-authored by several notable economists which challenged the notion that STEM professions are experiencing a labor shortage.

“There is an ample supply of American workers who are willing and qualified to fill the high-skill jobs in this country,” they wrote. “The only real disagreement is whether supply is two or three times larger than the demand.”

This is not the first time that Sessions has challenged the policies of a potential Clinton Administration. Earlier this week, the Sessions-led Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest attributed a $400 billion price tag to Clinton’s refugee proposal.

RELATED: Sessions-led committee estimates Hillary’s refugee plan would cost a jaw-dropping $400B

The committee cited statistics calculated by economists at the Heritage Foundation who determined that the lifetime cost of the 10,000 refugees pledged by President Obama is $6.5 billion. Using that number as a baseline, Sessions’ committee determined the cost of Hillary’s plan drawn out over a four year term would be roughly $403 billion.

If elected, Clinton would plan to admit 620,000 refugees over the course of her term. This proposal represents an increase of 55,000 refugees a year over President Obama’s initial target for 2017, and Congress might be helpless to stop her.

“Due to statutory flaws in our Refugee Admissions Program, the number could be as high as Hillary Clinton desires,” the analysis states. Without a congressional mechanism to prevent executive action, it could be possible for Clinton to house some refugees in Alabama.

Sessions has been a long-time supporter of GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump, who has outspokenly favored much tighter immigration policies. In the recent months, Sessions has led Trump’s National Security Advisory Committee and has also received significant buzz as a potential vice presidential pick.

2 years ago

Sessions-led committee estimates Hillary’s refugee plan would cost a jaw-dropping $400B

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Video screenshot)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Video screenshot)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton has a plan to relocate global refugees to the United States, and it does not come cheap. According to an analysis fist obtained by LifeZette, the price tag for Clinton’s proposal is north of $400 billion.

The Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, headed by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), cited statistics calculated by economists at the Heritage Foundation who determined that the lifetime cost of the 10,000 refugees pledged by President Obama is $6.5 billion. Using that number as a baseline, Sessions’ committee determined the cost of Hillary’s plan drawn out over a four year term would be roughly $403 billion.

If elected, Clinton would plan to admit 620,000 refugees over the course of her term. This proposal represents an increase of 55,000 refugees a year over President Obama’s initial target for 2017, and Congress might be helpless to stop her.

“Due to statutory flaws in our Refugee Admissions Program, the number could be as high as Hillary Clinton desires,” the analysis states. Without a congressional mechanism to prevent executive action, it could be possible for Clinton to house some refugees in Alabama.

Just this month, the Obama administration attempted such a move with illegal immigrant minors. The Federal Government considered housing illegal immigrant minors in two Alabama military institutions: the Naval OutLying Fields (NOLF) in Silverhill and Orange Beach.

RELATED: Obama angling to house illegal alien minors at Alabama military base

Due to massive public backlash from elected officials and Alabama residents, the effort was ultimately halted. An amendment brought by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) also ensured the prohibition of using any money to construct or modify facilities to house unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in Alabama.

This is not the first time that an Alabama military base has been considered as a potential shelter for illegal immigrants. Earlier this year, Maxwell Air force Base in Montgomery was also considered for settlement by HHS, but was ultimately not selected.

(h/t LifeZette)

2 years ago

Check out Richard Shelby’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo on new CBS political drama

Senator Richard Shelby's name as it appeared on CBS's BrainDead

Senator Richard Shelby’s name as it appeared on CBS’s BrainDead


U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) had a background name drop in the first episode of CBS’s new summer political/sci-fi drama, “BrainDead.”

In the final minutes of the first episode, a closed door can be seen in the background with a name card for “Senator Richard Shelby – Alabama” on the wall. Shelby is never mentioned by name or appears on screen, but the appearance of his name helps ground the show in a pseudo-reality.

BrainDead” is almost purely satire, but it puts real politics and politicians in the foreground as much as possible. The premier featured a number of television and audio clips from Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. The main characters on the show are completely fictional, but the audience is supposed to believe that they exist alongside real politicians like Senator Shelby.

The new series from Robert and Michelle King (creators of “The Good Wife”) stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”), Danny Pino (“Scandal,” “Law & Order: SVU”), Aaron Tveit (“Graceland,” “Grease: Live!”), and Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”).

BrainDead brings a different spin to the growing genre of television political dramas. The catalyst for the show’s central plot is a meteor that crashed down to the earth that released thousands of ant-like extraterrestrials that crawled straight into the brains of congressmen and other D.C. elites. The creatures alter their hosts’ brains and personalities, turning them into hyper-focused, robotic politicians. The remaining characters have to figure out what’s going on.

The balance between the science fiction aspect and real politics is designed to make viewers feel strangely uncomfortable. The central plot of the first episode involves a government shutdown after Republicans and Democrats fail to reach a compromise. Sound familiar? At the same time, the fantastic elements allow viewers to distance themselves from reality.

“I think it’s a bit of escapism. Anything that’s kind of heightened or larger than life can be a way to kind of look at what’s actually happening and laugh at it,” Tveit said in an interview with E! News. “And just separate yourself from it. That’s what’s great about these summer series, to just go on this little ride and see how it goes. With this, the reality is so kind of tough and depressing that if you can find anyway to laugh at it is good, so hopefully people can use this to laugh at it.”

The show is neither pro-Republican nor pro-Democrat, but in the current state of real politics, BrainDead hopes to give viewers a way to release the tension they may be feeling.

Who knows; maybe some other Alabama politicians will make appearances as the show unfolds.

2 years ago

Bernie: 400k white Alabamians living below the poverty line ‘don’t know what it’s like to be poor’

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

FLINT, MI. — During Sunday evening’s Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) insisted that white people do not know what it’s like to be poor, even if they are living below the federal poverty line, as almost 400,000 white Alabamians currently are.

“When you are white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto, you don’t know what it’s like to be poor,” the self proclaimed democratic socialist said in front of the audience in Flint, Michigan, to applause.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s poverty threshold for a family with two adults and one child was $19,055 in 2014, the most recent year for which there is data. This is the official measurement of poverty used by the Federal Government, and the measure used for most poverty-based data presented on State Health Facts.

Below is the percentage of whites, blacks and hispanics in Alabama who currently live in poverty, according to federal poverty data collected by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Poverty Rate Percentage

Had Sanders said that African-Americans experience poverty at a higher percentage, that would have been accurate. However, the total number of white Alabamians living in poverty actually exceeds the total number of blacks.

Poverty Rate Numbers

According to federal statistics, there are 394,400 white people that live in poverty in Alabama.

Many liberal pundits and activists have applauded Sanders’ comments during the debate, saying he was addressing “white privilege,” a frequent rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or get dragged out of a car,” Sanders said of white Americans. “I believe as a nation in the year 2016, we must be firm in making it clear. We will end institutional racism and reform a broken criminal justice system.”

Sanders is locked in a tough primary with frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who dominated Super Tuesday in the South, where blacks make up a large portion of the Democratic Electorate.

2 years ago

Alabama religious leaders grade Cruz highest, Trump lowest on biblical worldview rankings

2016 GOP Presidential Candidates
The Gatekeepers Association of Alabama, a new organization consisting of 20 clergy from around the state, has released their biblical rankings of the 2016 presidential candidates.

Candidates were graded on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with five being the best biblical foundation for their stance on the issues. The group of pastors has been meeting twice monthly since August to discuss political candidates and how they rate on biblical worldview.

The rankings are:


Ted Cruz, 3.22 Stars
Ben Carson, 3.15 Stars
Marco Rubio, 3.03 Stars
John Kasich, 2.41 Stars
Donald Trump, 0.88 Stars


Hillary Clinton, 1.88 Stars
Bernie Sanders, 1.71 Stars

“We have dealt with abortion, same-sex marriage,” said Bishop Jim Lowe, pastor of Guiding Light Church in Birmingham. “As gatekeepers, it our responsibility to not only teach congregations but protect congregations from the outside intrusion of government deciding what is right and what is wrong. We want to inform congregations of those threats that come against the church. We’re like watchmen on the wall.”

However, the association wanted to make clear that the ranking should not be taken as endorsements.

“We are making clear that we do not intend to give specific endorsements to any politicians,” said Mitch Pacwa, who hosts the “EWTN Live” talk show on EWTN Global Catholic Network based in Irondale. “Our goal is to help in the process of educating our parishioners on what we’re looking for from candidates, a bottom line below which they can’t go in breaking God’s commandments.”

Despite rankings such as these from Christian groups, evangelicals have, with the exception of Iowa, chosen Trump over contenders like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz who frequently cite their Christian backgrounds as a guidepost.

Cruz, who won the Iowa Caucuses and outperformed polls largely based on evangelical support, has a national prayer team. Trump couldn’t or wouldn’t name his favorite verse of the Bible and has made gaffes including misnaming one of its books. He did, however, suggest after Thursday night’s GOP debate that the IRS is audits him because he is a “strong Christian.”

3 years ago

AEA’s future looks a lot like its past, minus the power and influence (opinion)

AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry (Photo: YouTube)
AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry (Photo: YouTube)

After spending millions of dollars to influence Alabama’s Republican legislative primaries, and in spite of the state’s increasingly conservative electorate, it appears that the Alabama Education Association’s (AEA) present — and likely future, as well — will continue to be in the hands of Democrats.

First, here’s what we know for certain:

On Monday, the eight Democrats remaining in the 35-member Alabama Senate elected four-term senator Quinton Ross of Montgomery to the position of Minority Leader.

Ross, who was first elected in 1998, has long been a close ally of the AEA. Perhaps most notably, he got into a shouting match with Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (video below) on the Senate floor during debate over the Alabama Accountability Act, a school choice bill that the AEA vehemently opposed.

(More after the video)

Ross was at one point a principal at BTW Magnet School in Montgomery and worked in Alabama’s two-year college system as director of adult education at Trenholm State Community College. But when Republicans took the majority in the Alabama House and Senate in 2010, one of the first laws they passed prohibited legislators from holding two state jobs, a practice commonly referred to as “double dipping.” The law finally went into effect Nov. 5 of this year, the day after the General Election. So Ross and other legislators who held two state jobs had to choose which paycheck they wanted to keep.

Ross chose his legislative job, but was quickly able to land a position with his allies at the teachers union. He is currently employed as a consultant for the AEA. It could be argued that taxpayer dollars are continuing to flow to Ross — since taxpayers pay education employees and their dues are paying Ross — but it does not appear to violate the law.

With an AEA employee heading the Democratic minority in the Senate, it is unlikely they will be making any attempts to build bridges to the Republican supermajority any time in the near future. But if recent comments from GOP leadership are any indication, they’re probably not interested anyway.

“The AEA’s days are done,” Sen. Marsh said on election night. “We want to work with the education community to establish good education policies. We’re committed to that. We want to make sure our teachers are paid well. We want to make sure they have great benefits. But we can do all of that without the AEA union. Their mentality is ‘attack, attack, attack.’ I want to work with our state’s teachers directly, not with the AEA.”

Now, here’s some speculation:

After spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million of teachers’ dues on a disastrous election strategy, most people assumed AEA head Henry Mabry was on the way out. How could he not be? But we are now coming up on a month since election day and he still has a job.

There could be several reasons for that, none of which include anyone actually believing he’s done well since taking over for the late Paul Hubbert, who turned the organization into the most powerful force in Alabama politics over his four decades of leadership.

Democrat Roger Bedford, who had served in the Alabama Senate since 1982, was finally beaten this year by Republican Dr. Larry Stutts by just 66 votes. The race was so close that it triggered an automatic recount that finally concluded this week with Bedford conceding defeat.

As it became apparent that Bedford might be going down on election day, speculation immediately began to spread that he would be in the running to succeed Mabry at the top of AEA. He’s long been considered one of the savviest operators in the Senate and in spite of their constant disagreements on policy, he’s managed to maintain a solid working relationship with Republicans. With Bedford’s tenure in the senate finally officially over, will the AEA now turn to him to lead the organization forward?

And what about Ross? Is the decision to bring him in as a consultant a concrete step toward grooming him for a more elevated position within the organization?

The AEA’s initial founding took place when the traditionally white teachers organization under Hubbert joined forces with the traditionally black teachers organization under Joe Reed. Could Bedford and Ross be the AEA’s new Hubbert and Reed?

Regardless of how it plays out, it has become clear that the AEA has no plans to shift its overall direction, even with a leadership change. That means it won’t be addressing the fundamental problem — its liberal agenda is out of step with the state, and increasingly out of step with its members.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

4 years ago

Democrats distributing sample ballots for Alabama Republican primary

Democrat in Republican clothing

The Alabama New South Alliance (ALSA), a sister organization of the Alabama New South Coalition, whose stated goal is to promote “progressive” ideals and legislation, has issued a surprise sample ballot encouraging its members to abandon the Democratic primary and instead cast their ballots for Republicans.

In 2012, the ALSA endorsed a straight Democratic ticket, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden for president and vice president, Terri Sewell for Congress, Robert Vance for chief justice and Lucy Baxley for PSC president, among others. They also encouraged a “no” vote on Alabama’s anti-ObamaCare statewide ballot initiative.

This year, the liberal group has effectively thrown in the towel and is encouraging its members to take advantage of Alabama’s open primary system to swing Republican elections.

RELATED: Perfect example of Democrat efforts to swing Alabama GOP primaries

The group’s sample ballot for Tallapoosa County, which is just northwest of Auburn, can be found below. Most notably, the ALSA is encouraging its members to cast their vote for Andy Carter in Alabama Senate District 27. Carter has received multiple campaign contributions from the Alabama Education Association (AEA) during his push to unseat incumbent Republican Tom Whatley.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead recently discouraged conservatives from supporting candidates who have taken AEA money, saying the group does not share his party’s conservative values.

“Historically the AEA has been a Democrat organization,” said Armistead. “Their previous leader was even the vice chair of the Alabama Democratic Party. They have long supported Democrats, but they realize the political climate in Alabama has voters more inclined to elect Republicans. They have recruited candidates and are funding candidates in Republican primaries who do not share our values or our views.”

(ALSA sample ballot — Click to enlarge)
Sample Ballot

Yellowhammer has documented numerous examples of the AEA working alongside Democrat organizations, including “community organizers” who are former Obama campaign staffers, to influence Alabama’s Republican primary.

In the past, crossover voting efforts have been conducted as more of a “whisper campaign.” But if recent examples are any indication, Alabama’s traditionally Democratic groups have now resorted to publicly steering their members toward GOP primaries.

As Yellowhammer’s latest News in 90 Seconds feature pointed out, whether they are ultimately successful in swinging elections will come down to voter turnout. They’re banking on Republicans sitting at home today thinking their vote won’t matter.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

4 years ago

Democrats continue to go the way of the Dodo in North Alabama

Dodo Bird

North Alabama, a Democrat stronghold up until recent years, is fast becoming one of the most reliably Republican areas of the state.

Sen. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, was one of the last remaining North Alabama Senators after the Republican surge in 2010. However, redistricting left her in a much more conservative district, leading her to announce Wednesday that she will not seek re-election in 2014.

“It is with a heavy heart, but after much thought and prayer, I have decided not to seek reelection to the Alabama State Senate,” Irons said in a statement. “I have been honored and humbled by the people of The Shoals who have shown great faith and confidence in me, having elected me twice to the Alabama House of Representatives, and then to the Alabama Senate.”

Irons cited her newly drawn senate district as the primary reason for her decision.

“The new Senate District 1, which takes effect in November 2014, stretches all the way from West Lauderdale County to Memorial Parkway in Huntsville and is geographically more like a Congressional District,” Irons said. “I am concerned that covering such a large territory would take even more time away from my law practice at a time when I have many commitments this year. I am also looking forward to spending more quality time with my family.”

Irons said she was most proud of the legislative work she did to prevent elder abuse, reform the juvenile justice system, protect the Tennessee River and preserve jobs in The Shoals area.

Although former Democrat legislator Mike Curtis, who was defeated in 2010 by Republican Lynn Greer, is rumored to be considering running as a Democrat, the Senate District 1 seat looks like another prime pickup opportunity for the GOP.

Three Republicans have already qualified for the seat, including small businessman Jonathan Berryhill, Dr. Tim Melson, and early favorite Chris Seibert, an Athens City Councilman and former Univ. of Alabama football player.

A broader look at North Alabama’s political landscape reveals an area that is quickly becoming a real power center for the state GOP.

Reps. Marcell Black (Tuscumbia), Greg Burdine (Florence), Johnny Mack Marrow (Red Bay), Laura Hall (Huntsville) and John Robertson (Scottsboro) are just about the only remaining North Alabama Democrats in the Alabama House. Longtime Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, is the the last North Alabama Democrat holding on to his seat in the Senate. Redistricting appears to have been much kinder to him than it was to Irons.

But on the Republican side of the aisle, North Alabama is home to some of the top power players in state government, as well as numerous up-and-comers.

Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur holds one of the most powerful positions in state government as Chairman of the Senate General Fund Budget Committee. House Majority Leader Micky Hammon is also from Decatur. Mac McCutcheon of Huntsville is the House Rules Chairman. Rep. Mike Ball of Madison Chairs the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee. Reps. Terri Collins of Decatur and Ed Henry of Hartselle, along with Sen. Clay Scofield of Guntersville, are all considered to be among the next generation of legislative leaders.

In short, it’s a good time to be a Republican in North Alabama.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

4 years ago

Democratic Party says Alabama Republican ‘may be the worst person in the world’

Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville
Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville

When Ala. State Senator Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, introduced a bill requiring welfare recipients to perform community service to receive their benefits, he didn’t realize he was propelling himself into the pantheon of the world’s worst people.

But according to the Lauderdale County Democratic Party, that’s exactly what he did.


The tweet by the Lauderdale Democrats linked to an article by Montgomery Advertiser liberal editorial writer Josh Moon. In the article, Moon bemoans “ultra conservatives” in the Alabama Republican Party who perpetuate “every misperception, every caricature, every false narrative” of the poor in our state.

Moon specifically takes exception to Taylor’s bill, which was one of several welfare reform bills that began working their way through the Alabama legislature last week. The other bills allow drug testing of welfare recipients with a prior drug conviction; make it a crime to defraud public assistance programs; prohibit welfare recipients from spending benefits on alcohol, tobacco, strippers and gambling; and require welfare applicants to prove they’re trying to get a job.

Moon shreds the GOP for those policies, which he says aren’t based in reality, but rather fit into a false Republican narrative “that most welfare recipients are deadbeats.” He did, however, stop short of calling Alabama Republicans the worst people in the world.

That’s where the Lauderdale Democratic Party came in.

While we’re thinking about it, let’s take a quick look at a randomly ordered, off-the-cuff list of some of the worst people in the world.

• North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un imprisons tens of thousands of his political enemies in labor camps and recently sentenced his uncle to be eaten by a pack of 120 dogs. In his spare time, Kim threatens the world with “all out nuclear war.”

• Joseph Kony is the leader of a guerrilla army that has abducted tens of thousands of children to become sex slaves and child soldiers. When there aren’t people around to kill, Kony’s army slaughters elephants so he can add more ivory tusks to his collection.

• Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is the radical islamist who was the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks that killed roughly 3,000 Americans. He is currently being detained at Guantanamo Bay.

• Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, has led “a campaign of murder, rape and mass deportation” in Darfur. According to The Guardian, Bashir, “masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part” three tribal groups in Darfur because of their ethnicity. In case I’m not getting the point across, we’re talking genocide here.

…And now, the Lauderdale County Democrats would like to add Sen. Bryan Taylor and his fellow Republicans in the Alabama legislature to this list.

Taylor took a short break from his evil deeds to give us his thoughts on being one of the worst people on Earth.

“I guess that shows just how far left some Alabama Democrats have swung,” Taylor told Yellowhammer. “I’m just proposing to reinstate the bipartisan program a Republican Congress passed and Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996 as part of welfare reform. It was in effect until 2008, when Obama suspended it. Since then, the number of food stamp recipients has skyrocketed by 56 percent. If it makes me ‘evil’ to support reinstating a bipartisan program to require that unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents engage in productive activity, such as job-hunting, job training, or community service in order to keep their benefits, well, then, I guess I’m evil.”

A call to Lauderdale Democratic Party Chairman John C. Harris, Jr. was not immediately returned.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

4 years ago

So what does Congress’s trillion dollar spending bill mean for Alabama?


Negotiators on Capitol Hill unveiled a giant 1,582 page, $1.1 trillion government funding bill this week, which would fund the government for the remainder of the current fiscal year and put an end to all the government shutdown talk. The House of Representatives passed the bill today by a vote of 359-67.

Both Republicans and Democrats praised the bill, which typically means that the American people will see little — if any — progress in reining in government spending. When cuts happen, one side or the other make noise because one of their favored areas got hit.

However, it is no doubt a positive that Congress is returning to so-called “regular order” and actually passing spending bills. And it’s noteworthy that the package is $164 billion less than President George W. Bush’s last discretionary budget.

So what does it all mean for our state?

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, our very own Senator Richard Shelby served as the top Republican negotiator on the Senate side.

Here are 7 things in the Omnibus Spending Bill that might actually impact your life right here in Alabama:

COLAs are back and military folks got a pay raise

The bill repeals the recently enacted cut to cost of living adjustments, or COLAs for disabled military retirees and survivors. This is good news for Alabama’s huge population of military retirees and survivors. U.S. military personnel and civilian federal workers also got a 1 percent pay raise.

Sen. Jeff Sessions said he was glad to see retired vets being better taken care of in this deal, but insisted there’s still more that could be done.

“I was pleased that the House-Senate package includes a provision restoring the pensions for disabled veterans, after we called attention to the fact that wounded warriors would be impacted by the budget deal,” Sessions said. “However, the deal fails to restore pension payments for millions of active duty and retired military personnel and leaves more than 90 percent of the original reductions in place. For a currently-serving officer nearing retirement, this cut could exceed $120,000 in pension payments, reducing the cost-of-living adjustments by more than 60 percent.”

Sessions said he believes there are better ways to save money and suggested closing a tax credit loophole that illegal immigrants take advantage of.

“Unfortunately, Leader Reid and his conference blocked my effort to implement this fix during the budget debate in December,” Sessions said. “I hope the majority will allow us to make this fix and stop shielding these illicit tax payments. In order to end annual deficits all of us will have to tighten our belts, but our military personnel must not disproportionately bear the burden.”

North Alabama folks get bump in NASA funding

NASA has an almost $3 billion impact on Alabama’s economy, but it has been a big target for cuts by the Obama Administration. Both Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Mo Brooks, have been big advocates for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which is built in Huntsville.

Included in this week’s omnibus legislation is $1.9 billion for the Space Launch System. This figure is approximately $200 million above the President’s request in the budget he submitted to Congress. Of the $1.9 billion for SLS, $1.6 billion is for development of rocket systems at Marshall Space Flight Center in North Alabama.

“I am pleased that this legislation includes the funding necessary to continue the great work underway in Huntsville on the Space Launch System,” Sen. Shelby said. “If we are to maintain our leadership role in human space flight, we must continue to make SLS a top priority in NASA’s budget. I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that it is.”

Mobile’s getting a new federal courthouse

The bill provides $69.5 million to construct a new federal courthouse in Mobile and to renovate the existing courthouse, which was built from 1932-1934. Combined with the $49 million that is remaining from previously appropriated courthouse funding for Mobile, the total project cost will be $118.5 million. The total design and construction work is expected to take 5 1/2 years.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee

“These funds will provide Mobile with a new courthouse that meets modern security standards and facilitates efficient processing of cases,” said Sen. Shelby. “The construction and operation of this facility will also generate huge economic activity in the heart of Mobile. I am pleased that this was included in the legislation.”

Another step toward widening the Port of Mobile

The report accompanying the omnibus bill directs the Corps of Engineers to study the widening and deepening of Mobile harbor. This is a necessary, preliminary step under the Corps’ regulations before the work can be undertaken.

Sen. Shelby has in the past discussed his 10-12 year plan of making Mobile a world center of trade and commerce by making its port wide enough and deep enough to handle the world’s largest ships.

“Mobile can be one of the top five ports in the country,” Shelby said today. “Its economic potential is limitless. I am pleased that this legislation provides for the next critical step in that direction.”

Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) gets funding

The president requested and received $1.7 billion for the procurement of 4 Littoral Combat Ships, which are built in Mobile.

Alabama Tea Party groups get a small victory

The omnibus specifically instructs the IRS not to use any funds to “target citizens of the United States for exercising any right guaranteed under the First Amendment.”

It’s remarkable that those words even need to be included in a bill, and it’s a far cry from justice being served in the targeting cases that have already taken place. However, it’s a small victory for Alabama groups like the Wetumpka Tea Party who were targeted by the IRS for their political beliefs.

Environmental groups escape unscathed

Attempts by Republicans to drastically cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency were unsuccessful. The federal agency that implements heavy-handed mandates and regulations on businesses all over the country has long been reviled by conservatives. And recent efforts by Alabama-based environmental groups to speed up the process of shutting down coal plants have really put the EPA front and center in the state. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and Attorney General Luther Strange back in December challenged the EPA’s power to halt economic development. The fights will continue on the state level, but the EPA’s federal funding remains intact for now.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

4 years ago

Poll: Greer holds commanding lead over potential Democrat challenger in HD2

Alabama House of Representatives
Alabama House of Representatives

State Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, who was first elected to the Alabama legislature in 1974, announced in mid-December that he would be seeking another term in 2014.

Since then, former Lauderdale County District Court judge Deborah Bell Paseur has indicated that she’s weighing the possibility of running against Greer as a Democrat. Unfortunately for Paseur, a polling memo obtained by Yellowhammer News over the weekend shows that she would have a very difficult time unseating the popular incumbent.

The survey, which was conducted by nationally known public opinion research firm McLaughlin & Associates, shows Greer leading Paseur by 13 points in a head-to-head race, 49% to 36%, with 15% undecided. Among voters who have a firm opinion of both candidates, Greer’s lead goes up to 15 points, 55% to 40%.

Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville
Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville

“This is important, as the most informed voters are gravitating towards Greer,” pollster Jim McLaughlin wrote in the memo.

Alabama House District 2 is solidly Republican, but Independents are also breaking hard for Greer, 51% to 31%, with 18% undecided.

With both Republicans and Independents firmly in Greer’s camp, it’s tough to see Paseur gaining significant traction in the race.

“I am proud of the progress we have made in the legislature over the last four years,” Greer said. “Alabama is leading the region in job creation, we have cut wasteful spending, passed new ethics laws and invested millions of dollars in new roads. We need to continue this progress over the next four years and we have to keep conservative leadership in Montgomery to make that happen.”

The table containing Greer’s head-to-head numbers again Paseur can be seen below. (Click to enlarge)


The McLaughlin survey polled 300 likely general election voters in Alabama’s 2nd State House District. It has an accuracy of +/- 5.7% at a 95% confidence interval.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

4 years ago

Christie rises in national poll

Gov. Chris Christie, R-New Jersey
Gov. Chris Christie, R-New Jersey

Ted Cruz’s 21-hour pseudo-filibuster handed him a moment that vaulted him to the top of the polling pack.

Now it’s Chris Christie’s turn at the top.

Except that his reward is the first public general election poll of 2016 showing Hillary Clinton trailing.

Quinnipiac University, which dove into the field the day after Christie’s 22-point reelection victory, places the New Jersey governor ahead of the former Secretary of State by 1 point, 43 percent to 42 percent.

The best number contained in the poll for Christie is his support among independents. He wins them by 16 points.  And even his gender gap against Clinton isn’t atrocious.  He only trails Clinton by 9 among the fairer sex.

Christie carries middle and upper income folks and performs better with older voters than younger.

But this survey shows him garnering more crossover appeal than Clinton. For instance, whereas only 20 percent of Republicans believe Clinton would make a good president, 37 percent of Democrats say the same about Christie.

More than a third of African-Americans and 40 percent of Hispanics also think Christie would be a reputable commander in chief.

This is clearly Christie’s bump month.

Remember that it was just October when he trailed Clinton by 13 points nationally, so the first test of Christie’s staying power will come in the December Quinnipiac survey.

Other tidbits buried in the national Quinnipiac poll:

  • In the midst of his plagiarism scandal, Rand Paul remains just as competitive against Hillary Clinton as Paul Ryan.  They both lose by 9 points.
  • Just 25 percent of respondents believe Joe Biden would make a good president.  That’s just a point better than Ted Cruz.  Even more troubling for Biden, only 51 percent of DEMOCRATS say yes to that question. 
  • On Cruz, 3 percent of Democrats think he’d do the job well.
  • Twenty-one percent of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of the tea party.

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4 years ago

Rep. Mo Brooks blasts amnesty supporters

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville

Alabama’s junior U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions has led the charge against so-called comprehensive immigration reform over the last several months, but he got a big hand earlier this week from fellow Alabamian, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, who took amnesty supporters to task during an interview with Breitbart News.

Brooks warned that a flood of immigrants into the workforce would debilitate the U.S. economy and devastate American workers around the country. And Brooks didn’t restrict his criticism to just Democrats and liberal groups — he spread the blame around, even placing some of it on his fellow Republicans.

Here are the targets of Brooks’ criticism and the quotes he used to make his case:

The target: Gang of Eight

The bipartisan group of U.S. Senators commonly known as the Gang of Eight has been at the forefront of the push to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Although they got a bill through the Democrat-controlled Senate, it has failed to gain traction in the Republican-controlled house. Republican rockstar Marco Rubio saw his polling numbers plummet because of his involvement in the effort. Blowback from the conservative base has been fierce.

Rep. Brooks took the Gang of Eight to task right out of the gate.

The quote:
“The Senate Gang of Eight bill is yet another tragedy for the American worker.”

The target: Democrats

Democrats, including the president, have been the driving force behind the push for amnesty. And as usual, they’ve made it a racially-charged issue. Rep. Brooks blasted Democrats for their race-baiting tactics and accused them of not actually having minority workers’ best interest in mind.

The quote
“The Democrats don’t give a flip about the economic status of minority voters after the impact of 44 million legalized or imported foreigners. They’ll talk the game. They’ll drive the cries of racism in order to get voters on an emotional level while at the same time undermining the ability of American minority workers to support their own families.”

The target: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Big business’s support of comprehensive immigration reform has turned into a huge wedge issue in Republican primaries when the U.S. Chamber and grassroots groups find themselves backing opposing candidates. Rep. Brooks called the Chamber out for caring more about profits than they do about American workers.

The quote:
“The Chamber of Commerce cares not one twit about how many Americans lose jobs if an immigration bill improves their profit margins.”

The target: President Obama

President Obama recently renewed his call for comprehensive immigration reform. Because of his complete unwillingness to negotiate during the debt ceiling debate, a lot of folks inside the beltway say the president’s second term agenda is dead. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop trying. Rep. Brooks said the president has neglected his responsibility to enforce the immigration laws that are already on the books.

The quote:
“There would be no illegal alien problem today if the President of the United States would do his job and enforce the laws that are already on the books.”

The target: Republicans

Republicans like House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan have argued that immigration reform may be necessary to address labor shortages that could potentially arise in the future. Rep. Brooks said that argument is not supported by any data.

The quote:
“The argument advanced about future labor forces is not supported by data, it is purely hypothetical, and the net result is to hurt American citizens.”

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

4 years ago

Translating Christie’s victory speech

Gov. Chris Christie, R-New Jersey
Gov. Chris Christie, R-New Jersey
Chris Christie’s victory rally in Asbury Park, New Jersey Tuesday night had the look, feel and size of a presidential celebration.

The speech he delivered matched the grandiosity of the stage he stood on.

Following his seismic 22-point victory over Democrat Barbara Buono, it’s obvious now that Christie sought to use the address to trumpet his rationale for a presidential candidacy.

Here are 5 key points he delivered along with the larger message he was attempting to send to the country.

1. Christie’s soundbyte: “I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the folks in Washington, D.C. should tune in their TVs right now, see how it’s done.”

Christie’s message: For all the talk of my harsh, brash, pugnacious nature, I’ve proven I’m still more successful at governing than those putzes in Washington.  The government shutdown?  Woulda never happened on my watch.  I have to deal with a legislature of the opposite party too — but we’re still capable of acting like adults and working together.

2. Christie’s soundbyte: ”We show up.  We show up everywhere.  We don’t just show up in the places that vote for us a lot.  We show up in the places that vote for us a little.  We don’t just show up in the places we’re comfortable.  We show up in the places where we’re uncomfortable.  Because when you lead, you need to be there.”

Christie’s message: If (when) I run for president, I’ll strive to campaign everywhere — even in places that may be wary of an in-your-face northeastern governor, even in enclaves normally hostile to Republican candidates.  My mantra will be to win and winning means growing the party.  That means venturing into the big cities as well as the smaller far-flung towns.  And oh, punditry aside, I may just go to Iowa in the run-up to the caucuses, despite my long odds of success there.  Sure, I probably won’t win them (and frankly, I don’t need to), but I will respect their process and make my case, because that’s what I do.  I show up.  Everywhere.

3. Christie’s soundbyte: ”You can agree with me or disagree with me, but I will never stop leading the state I love.”

Christie’s message: Admit it Democrats, you probably don’t like a lot of my policies, but you can’t deny I’m not a natural leader with tremendous persuasive ability.  You gotta at least respect my no-nonsense candor, for the most part.

4.  Christie’s soundbyte: ”Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t have principles, we have many of them.  And we have stood and fought every day to cut taxes, to reduce the size of government spending, to reform pension benefits, to reform a broken education system and to make sure that we create an opportunity again for New Jerseyans.”

Christie’s message:  And to my conservative critics, look at the record, I’m a pretty conservative guy.  And I stress the stuff that matters — the stuff that will allow us to win — economic, bread-and-butter, kitchen table issues  I’m with you on the social issues too, but I’m not in your face about it.  This is part of the formula that allows me to win.  I’m one of you, just packaged a bit differently and with a bit more spunk.  So don’t even think about trying to portray me as a faux conservative. It won’t work.

5. Christie’s soundbyte:  ”I know that tonight a dispirited America angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington, looks to New Jersey to say, ‘Is what I think happening, really happening? Are people really coming together? Are we really working African-Americans and Hispanics, suburbanites and city dwellers, farmers and teachers, are we really all working together?’

Christie’s message: Remember that rebranding effort the Republican National Committee undertook a year ago?  How’s that working out for you?  Well, I’m a governor in a blue state who has built a broad coalition.  I can win women — the demographic that befuddled the other Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost this year. I can put Hispanics in play and African-Americans will at least give me the time of day.  And I’ve built a team of ambassadors here from all these different demographic groups who can vouch for me and my proclivity to be inclusive. It’s powerful and it’s just the beginning.

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4 years ago

Hillary goes after Biden for opposing Bin Laden raid

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton repeatedly mentioned Vice President Joe Biden’s opposition to the raid that killed Osama bin Laden during a speech in Atlanta, marking the first time she’s directly engaged her potential Democratic rival in a public setting since leaving the State Department, according to an account in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Her remarks at the National Association of Convenience Stores were relayed to the newspaper by a Republican state lawmaker, who is now convinced Clinton is running for president in 2016.

No ears reported any mention of whatever 2016 ambitions Clinton might have. But state Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, said the former first lady dropped a huge hint. “I know she’s running for president now, because toward the end, she was asked about the Osama bin Laden raid. She took 25 minutes to answer,” Taylor said. “Without turning the knife too deeply, she put it to [Vice President Joe] Biden.”

Time and time again, Taylor said, Clinton mentioned the vice president’s opposition to the raid, while characterizing herself and Leon Panetta, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as the action’s most fierce advocates.

For Clinton to place herself firmly in the corner of the raid advocates makes sense, given she was asked the question.  What’s surprising and a bit perplexing is why she felt the need to tweak Biden repeatedly, if Taylor’s interpretation is accurate.

National and early state polling has consistently shown she flies 50-points ahead of the vice president and most Democrats believe Biden will ultimately take a pass at the race if Hillary is a go.

Perhaps this is a preview of a more aggressive Clinton,  one who is unwilling to take anything for granted after her searing 2008 experience. Or maybe it was an opening shot across the bow to Biden and his team, who back in August, appeared to pitch the Wall Street Journal on a piece positing he could defeat Clinton.

The piece seemed to be more about reaching for a 2016-scoop than laying out a compelling rationale.

But Hillary’s remarks in Atlanta could be interpreted as the retort:  Good luck with that Joe.  Batter up.

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5 years ago

15 Republican senators join Democrats to advance immigration bill

15 Republican Senators joined all 52 Democrats in voting to invoke cloture on the Corker-Hoeven amendment, a 1,200-page substitute to the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform proposal. The motion’s passage ends debate on the amendment, moving the bill into position for final passage. Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to pass the bill by the end of the week.

Both of Alabama’s U.S. Senators voted against the cloture motion.

Senator Jeff Sessions has been the leading opponent of the bill, unleashing a barrage of press releases and making numerous appearances on national media outlets, including CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “I’m opposed to the bill because it doesn’t do what it says,” Sessions said to Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer. “This bill grants amnesty first, and a mere promise of enforcement in the future.”

Proponents of the Corker-Hoeven amendment say it will bolster border security, but opponents say it represents little more than another round of empty promises. Sessions went a step further, calling the amendment a “legislative monstrosity” and comparing it to ObamaCare, since both pieces of legislation were hastily put together and too long to read before being voted on.

“This legislation is a crushing blow to the working people of this country, a surrender to illegality, and a capitulation to special interests over the interests of the citizens we pledged to represent,” Sessions said in conclusion.

The 15 Republicans who voted in favor of the motion were:

Lamar Alexander, Kelly Ayotte, Jeffrey Chiesa, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, John Hoeven, Mark Kirk, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Marco Rubio and Roger Wicker.

1. WATCH: Sessions appears on CBS’s “Face the Nation”
2. Sessions: Can anyone explain how this immigration bill will help struggling Americans?
3. Sessions fires opening salvo in Senate floor debate on immigration reform
4. Sessions, Cruz, Lee & Grassley team up to fight gang of eight immigration bill
5. Sessions warns immigration proposal will depress wages ‘for maybe 20 years-plus’

What else is going on?
1. Alabama braces for Obama climate change announcement
2. Accountability Act Provides Incentives, Tools for Failing Schools
3. Nodine gets a shout out on MSNBC
4. Alabama delegation votes 6-1 along party lines in unexpected defeat of farm bill
5. Shelby co-sponsors bill to repeal Death Tax

5 years ago

Inside Baseball: How Roger Bedford almost turned the legislative session on its head

I’m just going to come right out and say it: Roger Bedford is good.

Did he deserve the distinction of being named one of Yellowhammer’s Top 5 Tax & Spenders in the legislature? Yes.

Do I disagree with him on essentially every major issue that comes before the state legislature? Sure.

Does he personify everything that is wrong with the incestuous, self-serving culture that has existed in Montgomery for decades? Absolutely.

But Senator Bedford is one of the savviest operators in the State House.

His unique skill set was on full display last Thursday night in the Senate where he came pretty close to single-handedly turning the entire legislative session on its head.

Before I get into exactly what Senator Bedford did in the Senate Thursday night, it’s important to understand that Senate rules make it possible for a very small number of Senators to grind the process to a halt. While it is true that the Republican super-majority can pass any legislation on which they unanimously agree, all it takes is a couple of defectors — or absentees — to stop most legislation.

As we’ve seen since Republicans passed the Accountability Act, an angry minority can slow Senate operations to a crawl. Deal making is often necessary to keep the wheels turning, so it’s a smart play to occasionally appease the minority when opportunities present themselves.

Peace broke out Thursday evening after a group of Senate Democrats cut a deal with Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh to get one of their bills up for a vote. Marsh agreed to allow the bill to get an up or down vote, and in return, Democrats would immediately let him get the mic back and allow Republicans to continue passing bills without filibustering.

A bill sponsored by Senator Billy Beasley (D- Clayton) passed without any trouble and Senator Marsh proceeded to carry one with Senate business. But the mic was yielded to Senator Bedford, who immediately began filibustering.

It was about 9 p.m., and the Senate was sent into chaos.

Senator Bedford made it clear that he had not been privy to any deal between Republicans and Democrats to allow Senate business to continue. In spite of the pleas from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Bedford said had no intentions of honoring an agreement he had nothing to do with.

Normally this would only mean that Republicans would have to invoke cloture to get Bedford off the mic. Cloture requires three-fifths of the members present to vote for it. With thirty-five members of the senate, that means twenty-one votes would meet the three-fifths threshold. There are twenty-three Republican Senators.

Unfortunately, after Republicans and Democrats had reached a temporary peace agreement earlier in the evening, at least five Republicans had left. The Senate was now at the mercy of Senator Bedford. His timing could not have been any better.

The twenty-sixth day of the legislative Session is the last day Senate bills can be sent to the House without unanimous consent. Because the legislature works Tuesday-Thursday, this coming Tuesday was set to be that day. But if Bedford and his cohorts retained control of the mic until 12:01 Friday morning, Friday would suddenly become the twenty-sixth day of the session, and therefore the last day Senate bills could be transmitted to the House without every senator agreeing.

Serving in the legislature is a part-time job, so almost all legislators work their “regular” job Mondays and Fridays during the session. So several Republican legislators would not have been able to come on Friday. This would have left Republicans without enough votes for cloture on Friday, meaning many of the GOP’s top legislative priorities would not have been passed the Senate in time to go down to the House for final passage.

Bedford had the GOP right where he wanted them.

Phone calls were made and Senate Republicans who had left earlier in the evening were told to make a mad dash back to the State House before midnight. Senators from as far as two and a half hours away jumped in their cars to try to beat the clock.

In the end, in order to get Senator Bedford off of the mic, Republicans had to agree to stop for the day and not proceed passing bills that had come up from the House — which is what the earlier agreement between the two sides was allowing Republicans to do.

Senator Bedford was stopped short of completely derailing the end of the session, but roughly 230 House messages (bills, resolutions, etc.) were left untouched Thursday night because Senators Bedford successfully hijacked the process.

What else is going on?
1. Compromise reached on gun bill
2. Sessions: Gang of Eight does not fully understand immigration bill
3. Craig Ford now knows, decisions are made by those who show up
4. Who will Bentley appoint to the Supreme Court?
5. AG Strange Gives Terse Response to Letter from Commissioner Terry Dunn

5 years ago

Fewer Americans View Their Taxes as Fair

After stroking a giant check to Uncle Sam today, I and other small business owners probably aren’t in the best of moods — and it looks like the rest of America is starting to understand why. According to a new Gallup survey, only 55% of Americans say the amount they pay in taxes is “fair,” the lowest percentage Gallup has measured since 2001.

But even that number seems a bit high, does it not? For those of us trying to navigate the ever-expanding maze of IRS rules and regulations placed squarely on the backs of entrepreneurs, I can assure you it does.

My initial expectation was that there would be a huge disparity on the answer to that question based on income brackets. However, that’s not what the data shows. According to Gallup, “Fifty-seven percent of those whose annual household income level is below $75,000 say their taxes are fair, as do 54% of those whose income is $75,000 or above.”

“In fact, there are no notable differences by most major demographic groups,” Gallup continues. “The biggest differences are based on political affiliation, with Democrats and political liberals much more likely than Republicans and conservatives to believe their taxes are fair.”

The poll also found that about half of Americans believe their taxes are “too high,” while about 45% say they’re “about right.” And then there’s the 2% of Americans who say their taxes are “too low,” and they most likely deserve to be kicked in the shin by a donkey.

What else is going on?
1. Alabamian Spearheads Effort Leading to RNC Resolution Rejecting Common Core
2. Rountree is at it again
3. The inside scoop on the biggest pot of money in the general fund budget
4. Wallace to Challenge Ivey in 2014?
5. Bentley draws first challenger, but not anyone you would think

5 years ago

Faux Conservative Democrats Botch Religious Liberty Vote

On Tuesday the Religious Liberties Act of 2013 passed the Alabama House of Representatives by a vote of 67-28. Liberal Democrats came out in strong opposition to the bill which allows “religiously motivated employers” to opt out of the ObamaCare mandate that forces them to provide contraceptive coverage and abortion-inducing agents to their employees. As a result of the Religious Liberties Act, Rep. Patricia Todd, a self-identified “Obama Democrat” from Birmingham, labeled Tuesday as “Attack Women’s Reproductive Rights Day.”

But there were a few surprising turns during the debate and vote on the Religious Liberties Act that caught my attention.

Several Democrats from some of the most conservative areas of the state chose to break with the wishes of their districts and oppose the bill. The most notable examples were Marcell Black from Colbert county, Johnny Mack Morrow who represents Colbert and Franklin counties, and Greg Burdine from Lauderdale county, all of whom voted against the religious liberty bill.

As you can see from the map to the left, Romney easily won each of the northwest Alabama counties these men represent. In years past, Democrats like these three would be able to talk one way in their district, then go to Montgomery and and vote the way they wanted, because they knew they wouldn’t be held accountable for their actions.

Not anymore.

But there was also a group of Democrats who couldn’t even bring themselves to go on record in support or opposition of the bill. The following members voted “present” —

Barbara Boyd (D-Anniston)
Dexter Grimsley (D-Newville)
Joe Hubbard (D-Montgomery)
Richard Lindsey (D-Centre)
Joseph Mitchell (D-Mobile)
Demetrius Newton (D-Birmingham)

Joe Hubbard (D-Montgomery)

As a matter of fact, one of those Democrats tried to avoid voting on the bill all together. Rep Joe Hubbard of Montgomery went to the mic prior to the vote and made a motion for the House to adjourn for the day so he wouldn’t have to vote at all.

A lot of progress was made in the 2010 election cycle, but there is clearly more work to be done in 2014.

Congrats to bill sponsor, Rep. Lynn Greer, and the rest of the Republican caucus for their work on the Religious Liberties Act. Well done.