The Wire

  • ‘I could not in good conscience’ vote for spending bill — Gary Palmer

  • Bill passes House to allow terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs — Mo Brooks

    Excerpt from a news release issued by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks:

    “I’m proud the House passed Right to Try, and I was honored to co-sponsor of the Right to Try Act in the memory of Steve Mayfield, who died from ALS after being denied experimental treatments that could have prolonged his life and alleviated his pain. No American should have to suffer when their government holds the keys to lifesaving drugs. These terminally ill patients are already in the fight of their lives—they don’t need to fight their government, as well.

    Congressman Brooks was inspired to co-sponsor the Right to Try Act by the story of Steve Mayfield, a respected high school football coach at Central High School in Lauderdale County, Alabama, who in March 2017, died after a lengthy fight with both Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and a federal bureaucracy that denied him the right to try potentially life-saving experimental treatments.

  • Mayor Battle asks Gov. Ivey to appear with him at Huntsville and Birmingham area debates

    Excerpt from Battle for Governor advisory:

    Top Republican gubernatorial challenger Tommy Battle, emailed a letter addressed to Governor Ivey on Tuesday. The letter invited Ivey to appear with Battle at events throughout Alabama to discuss the qualifications of each candidate.

    Tommy Battle has committed to attend all of the following:
    — April 12 – 7 a.m. – A debate hosted by the Birmingham Business Journal
    — April 12 – 7 p.m. – A debate hosted by NBC 13 in Birmingham
    — April 14 – 8 a.m. – A candidate forum hosted by the Mid Alabama Republican Club in Birmingham
    — May 9 – 2 p.m. – A candidate forum hosted by the Association of Builders and Contractors in Huntsville
    — May 10 – 11:30 a.m. – A candidate forum hosted by the Moody Area Chamber of Commerce

5 months ago

Reynolds Announces Run for Alabama State House District 21

Former Huntsville Police Chief Rex Reynolds has declared his candidacy to fill the seat for Alabama House District 21 following the tragic loss of Representative Jim Patterson. Governor Ivey has set a Special Election for January 9, 2018, to fill this vacant House seat.

Reynolds retired from the City of Huntsville in 2013 following 34 years of public service. During his tenure at the city, in addition to serving as Police Chief, Reynolds also had stints as Public Safety Director and City Administrator. In 2015, he became the President of Sharp Communication, and he owns a cattle farm in Hazel Green, Alabama. Rex holds a Master’s Degree from AUM in Justice and Public Safety Administration and the 58-year old Huntsville native grew up in District 21. He’s lived in Northeast Huntsville, where the local baseball park is named after his Father, Royce Reynolds. Royce died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) in 1980.  Rex is a member of Jackson Way Baptist Church, where the former “Ms. Helen” served the church daycare for over 20 years.

Rex is married to the former Mary Fennell and the couple has two sons, Matt and Brett.  Matt is married to the former Rachel Weaver, and they have two sons, Kipton and Kaden.  Rex enjoys being a grandfather, a farmer, and running a small business, but feels the need carry on Rep. Patterson’s legacy in the Alabama Legislature. On his decision to run, Reynolds said: 

 “Our District is unique, covering farms and neighborhoods to the north, though a thriving downtown district, and into Southeast Huntsville. I feel I have the unique skill set to serve all of District 21, given my childhood home place, my schools, my service to the city, running a small business, and farming.”

Rex also believes his years of community service have exposed him to many of the needs of the district. Since retirement, Rex has continued his role on the boards of Boys and Girls Club, Crime Stoppers, Partnership for a Drug-Free Community, and the Madison County Alternative Sentencing Board.  In 2014, he received the Legislative appointment to the Madison County Judicial Commission, and this year he was appointed as a representative to the Alabama Retired State Employees Association.

Rex looks forward to engaging in the conversation about how to best position our state for continued growth, recruiting jobs, and workforce development.  As his campaign’s press release noted, “With growth comes a continued focus on education, jobs, roads, and infrastructure, and social services to serve those most vulnerable in our communities.  Quality of life is also important to Rex; it starts with having a safe community, and creating a positive environment of work, live and play.”

6 months ago

The Loss of American Civility…And is Alabama Next?

There are few places left in America where one consistently encounters friendly faces, warm smiles, courteous neighbors, and hospitable strangers. Alabama is one of those places, but in a world that’s increasingly losing its civility, we must ask ourselves, what makes Alabama different and how long can it last?

As this first week of October has unfolded, we’ve been confronted with the heinous news of the Las Vegas massacre, the sad news of  Tom Petty’s passing, and the heartbreaking loss of one of Alabama’s finest sons, Rep. Jim Patterson.

Given the timing, I couldn’t help but juxtapose these three events and reflect on the implications.

Sunday night In Las Vegas, a psychopath murders helpless people who’d gathered for an evening of fun and entertainment, 45 minutes after they sang God Bless America, unified in appreciation of everything our nation once stood for, and the hope of what it can again become.

The next day, Tom Petty passes from this earth, and millions of Americans take to social media to remember his songs and the emotions they evoked. And on that same day, one of Alabama’s finest sons passes as well, leaving friends and family to grieve, but with a certain hope.

While crazy people like the Las Vegas murderer Stephen Paddock have always existed, events that outrageous do beg the question—how has America fallen so far? The answers to this question are complex, debatable, and multi-faceted, and I don’t pretend to know even most of them.

One factor that is beyond reasonable doubt, however, is that America has lost its sense of civility because America is increasingly losing its families. The connection between the two is that the family is where civility is fostered because it’s where broken human beings learn to overcome selfishness, forgive wrongs, and genuinely regard others as more important than themselves.

Yet, the thriving family that was once the epicenter of American life is slowly but steadily slipping away. A few statistics make this point.

Fewer people are marrying than ever before in America: Pew Research says the share of Americans who are married is at its lowest point since at least 1920. Half of Americans 18 and over were married in 2015, compared with 72% in 1960. In 1950, that number was about 78%. One factor driving this change is that Americans—particularly men—are staying single longer. According to Pew, “In 2012, 78% of 25-year-old men had never married compared with 67% of their female counterparts, and by 2016, the median age at first marriage had reached its highest point on record: 29.5 years for men and 27.4 years for women.”

More children are fatherless than ever before in America: According to the National Center for Fathering, more than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. The social maladies that flow from children growing up without a father are staggering.

Granted, people like Stephen Paddock are still statistical anomalies, notwithstanding the increase of such horrific incidents in recent years. For this reason, let’s throw him out of the discussion and consider the lives of Tom Petty (or at least those represented in his songs) and Jim Patterson.

I’m sure the slightest hint of anything negative about Tom Petty will draw the outrage of many, which I completely get. I really liked most of his music, and he was a great at what he did—making us turn up the radio and sing along. But let’s have the courage to examine a few facts for the sake of a cultural discussion.

As soon as I heard the news of Petty’s passing, the song that instantly came to mind is one of his greatest hits, Free Fallin’. So let’s recite its lyrics, which I suspect many (including me) know by heart:

She’s a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too

It’s a long day, livin’ in Reseda
There’s a freeway, runnin’ through the yard
And I’m a bad boy, cause I don’t even miss her
I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart

And I’m free, free fallin’
Yeah I’m free, free fallin’

All the vampires, walkin’ through the valley
Move west down Ventura Blvd
And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows
And the good girls are home with broken hearts

According to, here’s what Free Fallin’ means:

The bottom falls out as one bad boy realizes that in pursuing the ideal of freedom, he sacrifices meaningful connection.

Reseda was a family-oriented suburb of LA when the song was written
Freeways in LA cut right through residential areas in some places
West down Venture leads out of the suburbs
Mulholland is a district of LA and a highway that leads west

Figurative Language:
Bad boys are vampires because they exploit women for sex, money, or experiences and then leave them hurt

Meaning of final verse:
The lines “I wanna free fall out into nothin’ / Gonna leave this world for awhile” express escapism. His lifestyle is idealized as the pursuit of freedom and superficial experience, which he realizes through his fling with the good girl lacks meaningful connection. This realization hurts him, and these lines reveal the true face of his lifestyle: an escapist’s addiction, an ephemeral place of loneliness and worthless experiences. But he lacks the courage to return to her (I’m gonna leave this world) and decides to continue his pursuit of freedom (fall out into nothing).

The final chorus is a bittersweet reaffirmation of his freedom, now that he realizes it isn’t the high ideal he had thought it was.

I am not saying that Free Fallin’ is a summation of Tom Petty’s life, not at all. What I am suggesting is that these lyrics provide a compelling snapshot of American culture. Its misguided notions that love is but an illusion and the best kind of connection anyone can hope for is one that’s fleeting—the kind that leaves a hole in a person’s heart—have shaped the last couple of generations, and the slope seems more slippery by the day.

I believe the evidence of just how deeply those notions have grasped American culture is reflected in the statistics above—fewer marriages, far more children left to figure it out on their own, and far less lasting love.

As a result, an American boy’s best play is to stand in the shadows, like a vampire, and break a good girl’s heart.

This tale of such foreboding hopelessness is quite stark when compared to the life of Jim Patterson, who left this earth the same day as Tom Petty. Facebook was replete with tributes to Jim that said the one thing he always did was gloat about his beloved wife, Susan, and their three children whom he adored.

In other words, Jim Patterson’s life was the converse of the anonymous American boy in Free Fallin’.  Jim was a man who devoted his life to lasting connection and thriving community. He was a man who spent his life protecting, pursuing, and providing for the hearts of those he loved, not breaking them.

He was also a great friend. As Rep. Donnie Chesteen told me today, “There is a void in my life that will probably never be filled. Jim truly was my best friend and brother, but I know he would not want us to be sad because he lived life to the fullest.”

Now for those who don’t know Donnie, he’s a man’s man—an ole football coach, a husband, dad, and a leader of men. In other words, Donnie Chesteen is the epitome of true masculinity. Yet, today, he tearfully mourns the loss of his buddy Jim Patterson because they both understood the value of a friend who sticks closer than a brother—and that kind of friend doesn’t come along every day.

And I can say with confidence that they are both that kind man because they realized a long time ago that they were not placed on this earth to merely serve themselves, to use other people, to accumulate things, or even to find happiness. They understood as boys the age of Tom Petty’s mythic character that the real joy in life comes in sacrificial friendships, volitional commitments, gracious forgiveness, and abiding love.

That is the fountain from which Alabama’s most redeeming qualities flow, and it’s a fountain that I hope will one day soon flow freely again across America. For that to happen, however, we must restore the value of families who raise sons like Donnie Chesteen and Jim Patterson. If we don’t, countless more lost souls will  stand in the shadows waiting to break a good girl’s heart, because no one ever told them a better life awaits.

The good news is, as Jim Patterson well knew, God offers us all—even the vampires in the shadows—a certain hope that makes men (in the words of Tim McGraw) both humble and kind, and that is a fountain that never runs dry.

6 months ago

Honoring A Life Well Lived—Tributes to Alabama Rep. Jim Patterson

Rep Donnie Chesteen (left) with his longtime close friend Rep. Jim Patterson (right) in 2011 at their House inauguration (Facebook)
Rep Donnie Chesteen (left) with his longtime dear friend, Rep. Jim Patterson (right) in 2011 at their House inauguration (Facebook)

Below is a compilation of excerpts from tributes written in the past 24 hours that honor the life of Representative Jim Patterson.

Clearly, Jim was more than a politician. He was a Christian man, a devoted husband, a loving father, and a loyal friend. He was a lover of people who understood the importance of serving “the least of these.” He was not defined by what he knew, or even what he ahieved, though he was a wise man who achieved a great deal. His life was defined by how he treated others.

In posting these excerpts from Facebook, we hope to honor the memory of a man who left a treasured legacy of a life well lived.


Rep. Donnie Chesteen:

Jim was a true joy to know, whether you personally knew him or knew of him. He lit up every room he entered with his smile and charisma. His positivity, genuineness, and heart of gold were contagious. Jim had a true servant’s heart. He loved The Lord with every fiber of his being and anyone who knew Jim witnessed how much he valued his faith and was a firm believer in placing it first, above all else. Jim’s walk as a man of faith, his kind heart, selflessness and compassion are just a few qualities which exemplify his humble character. He had a zest for life. The loss of Jim will impact many people, but knowing his strong faith brings me much peace. I have comfort in knowing when Jim entered into the gates of Heaven, he heard these words, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” I love and will miss you more than you could ever imagine my brother, Jim Patterson.

Rep. Barry Moore:

Incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Rep. Jim Patterson. Jim was one of a kind. He was a great American and a hard-working legislator. He was also my friend. He will be missed. If you have an autistic loved one, hug them tonight and tell them Jim fought for them until the end. He stood for what he believed in, regardless of the cost. Praying for Susan Patterson and Jim’s family.

Rep. Cam Ward:

I am absolutely heartbroken about the passing of Rep Jim Patterson. He was a champion of the autism community and a good public servant for his district. His dedication to his wonderful wife Susan Patterson, his family and to his friends was absolutely an inspiration to everyone who knew him. The world was a better place because of him. God be with this family!

Todd Panter:

When he got elected I believe what the Lord had been preparing him for all his life became a reality. He gave me hope in politicians again. There was so many things he did and people he helped that was behind the scenes.,,,that few knew about. He was a regular supporter of our ministry and has blessed us greatly. He was what the world would call a self-made man…though Jim knew that his success came from the Lord. He will be missed by many including Denise and I but he left behind in his family and others his love, wonderful memories and a set of values that will live on.

Denise Tate:

I have a million stories of Jim Patterson. They all make me laugh. He had such an infectious personality. He was larger than life. I can only say something that Brother Sammy Gilbreath once said. Either what we have believed is real or it is not. I believe that Jim is with our Heavenly Father at this moment. I know he has won the victory. He has run the race. I believe our Father said, well done my good and faithful servant.

Jim Perdue:

It was an honor to serve with Rep. Jim Patterson in public service. He was a champion of good causes. He stood tall for people who needed a champion.

Karen Millican:

I will never forget this man’s big personality, big love for his family, and big go-out-of-his-way-and-take-precious-time-for-somebody-he-doesn’t-know-because-he-truly-cares actions. He was a great man!!

Robin Rozar:

I remember when he first announced he was running for office he said he would work tirelessly to help North Alabama and never wavier in his convictions, his beliefs. He did exactly what he said he would do. He worked hard to lead by example in Montgomery, his community, and his church. Jim was a example for many of us to strive to be. I know you are rejoicing in heaven.

Nathan Curry:

I had the good fortune of sitting down with Rep. Jim Patterson recently at his home over coffee. I appreciated the invitation, and the depths of our conversation. Jim was frank and direct—things I both admire and appreciate. He may not have known how his words impacted me, but I’m using his advice to this day. Thank you Jim for your service to Alabama, and you will be missed.

I’m thankful for the impact you’ve had on our schools, our children and families. You knew how to light up a room, and you could talk! Thank you for your words of wisdom to me as a new school board member, as you had served in that role for many years.

Thank you Jim. Rest well.

Dexter Hern:

Some people come into your life and leave a lasting impact. Rep Jim Patterson was one of those people. It is obvious that these two angel boys immediately took to him; they won his heart, and obviously, he won theirs. He got some good hugs from those two (they are professional huggers), but even in that nice suit, he never flinched when getting down on their level to hug back! He fought tirelessly for these boys and many others during Leni’s Law and during Autism Insurance Reform. It is hard to believe that the same man who posted requesting our prayers last night is no longer here tonight. However, the impact and legacy his work left will bless many for years to come.

Laci Colvert:

Today has been a day with such tragedy and loss. A true hero was lost today in Alabama. House Representative Jim Patterson was suddenly taken from his earthly body today. He is a hero to Coop, myself, and every family in Alabama affected by autism. If it was not for his courage and persistence, insurance would still not cover Autism therapies. He was a great man, a humble man, and a godly man, whom I will forever be grateful. My prayers are with his family and all those that loved him. #hb284

Mary Vaugh Pettus:

Representative Jim Patterson will be missed. He was a dear friend, kind hearted, loved his family dearly and the Lord. He loved Susan’s good cooking and always bragged about his sweet wife. He was loved by so many. The Alabama ball games will not be the same without Jim. Prayers for our precious Susan and the family.

1 year ago

Obamacare-Style Health Law Introduced in Alabama House (opinion)

ObamaCare premiums and deductibles continue to rise in Alabama.

“People’s [health] premiums are getting higher. Their deductibles are soaring. And their choices are dwindling.”

These were the words of U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at a recent press conference referencing the effects of Obamacare, and his plan to repeal and replace it. However, he could have been referring to efforts by some Alabama legislators who are working to impose an Obamacare-style health insurance mandate.

The measure, HB284 sponsored by Alabama Rep. Jim Patterson, would require all health insurance policies offered in Alabama to cover an expansive array of autism therapies, most of which are prohibitively expensive and demand long-term treatment. His bill has no age restrictions, no limitations on annual benefits, and allows virtually any treatment, all paid for by employers. It would apply to all public and private health plans, including more than 500 county and city government employee health plans.

To pay for this government-mandated benefit, Rep. Patterson’s bill essentially imposes a new health care tax on all Alabamians and businesses with health insurance. If the Alabama Legislature is going to start aggressively inserting itself in health insurance agreements, they should be honest about who is footing the bill and call it what it is: a new health insurance tax.

It’s easy for politicians to hide behind the misnomer that health insurance mandates like Rep. Patterson’s are just directed at “big health insurance companies.” The truth is all Alabamians and businesses with health insurance ultimately will bear the brunt of this government-mandated benefit.

A similar bill was promoted last year by the Bentley Administration but did not receive traction. In an effort of good faith, the business community, medical stakeholders, autism advocates, and members of the Legislature met over a 10-month period to collect facts and discuss potential solutions. The result of these meetings produced some interesting facts:

    • The fiscal note on the cost of this proposed legislation is missing, unknown, or being hidden.

    • Alabama’s state government provides health insurance coverage to more than 400,000 public education employees, government workers, and retirees, and it currently chooses not to cover all available autism therapies due to the high costs.

    • Alabama’s Medicaid agency is supposed to cover these therapies for their plan participants, but they elect not to due to the high costs.

    • The “Riley Ward Act” passed by the Legislature in 2012 already requires all insurers to offer autism spectrum disorder treatment to large group customers.

    • Applied Behavioral Analysis, a type of autism treatment considered to be the Cadillac of autism therapies, costs approximately $100 per hour and requires upwards of 40 hours of treatment each week to produce desired results. That equates to more than $200,000 a year.
    There are no state-licensed or regulated ABA therapists operating in Alabama; therefore, this health tax would be imposed for a service that ultimately cannot be provided.

    • No hard numbers or even rough estimates have been provided explaining how many individuals in Alabama would qualify for these therapies.

Rep. Patterson’s bill lacks details and is reminiscent of then-U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s now infamous remark about Obamacare and having to “Pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” We certainly learned that lesson the hard way.

Instead of mandating a service that currently can’t be provided to a population that is unknown at a cost that is prohibitively high, Sen. Gerald Allen proposed a different and more thoughtful solution. His pilot program would have covered children through age nine and would have sought initial funding through the Education Trust Fund.

Additional age groups could be added over time as accurate costs and autism populations are identified while continuously benchmarking health outcomes. This proposal was recently carried over by the Senate Health Committee and is not supported by many autism advocates.

Speaker Ryan and the Trump Administration are trying to chart a different course for health care in America. “That means more choices and lower costs. It means real protections and peace of mind. And it means returning your care to your control. Patients and doctors should be making the big decisions—not government or bureaucrats.” Well said, Speaker Ryan.

Hopefully, the Alabama Legislature will follow his lead rather than pursue Obamacare-like policies such as Rep. Patterson’s bill.