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7 Things: COVID-19 relief is big money for Alabama, federal judge wants more clarity from DOJ on prison lawsuit, supply chain issues force Alabama school system into remote learning and more …

7. The federal government has time to continue the whipping investigation

  • Despite the claims that Border Patrol agents were whipping Haitian migrants at the southern border in September already being disproven, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has continued its investigation that was only supposed to take “days.”
  • A spokesperson for DHS said that they are “committed to a thorough, independent, and objective process,” vowing that they’re “committed to transparency” and are planning to make their final finding public once the investigation has ended. 

6. Zeigler warns new prison construction could result in tax increase push

  • Alabama plans to use $400 million of the funds they received from the federal government through the coronavirus relief plan to build new prisons in the state, which has received some pushback from those within the government.
  • Now, State Auditor Jim Zeigler has predicted that if the plan to use federal funding fails, the state legislature will have to develop another plan. He stated, “And there may be a push for tax increases to pay for the prison plan. That’s not going to be politically popular or feasible to do that.”

5. Texas has banned vaccine mandates by any entity

  • While Alabama seems unlikely to be headed towards a ban on vaccine mandates, other states are looking at taking up such a ban that would keep government entities and private companies from requiring their employees to be vaccinated. Yesterday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) used an executive order to issue the vaccine mandate ban saying, “The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced.”
  • Alabama already bans its government entities from requiring a vaccine. Many of Alabama’s political leaders, including Attorney General Steve Marshall and Governor Kay Ivey, have been outspoken about opposing Biden’s mandate, but no push for a ban on private business vaccine mandates has gained traction.

4. Severe weather seems to only impact Southwest Airlines gates

  • Over the weekend, more than 1,000 Southwest Airlines flights were canceled, and while the company has claimed that this was due to “operational challenges” with air traffic control and severe weather, the cancellations continued this week with 365 flights canceled Monday.
  • In addition to the canceled flights, over 600 were delayed. The Federal Aviation Administration has also contradicted the company’s claims about air traffic control. Instead, the cancellations line up with the union that Southwest’s pilots are a part of filing to block the company’s vaccine mandate, but the union also said they weren’t staging a sickout. Instead, the union said that the company’s conduct “has become brittle and subject to massive failures under the slightest pressure.”

3. Supply chain issues are hitting Alabama schools; Some may be closing

  • Due to not receiving expected food deliveries from vendors, the Alexander City Schools system has warned parents of a possible food shortage and have had to ask that children eat breakfast at home or be sent to school with food in the morning. School officials posted on Facebook, “This is a situation that is frustrating for you as a parent, and for us as well as our ability to feed our students has been greatly impacted.”
  • However, this isn’t an isolated incident. This is an issue seen across the state and country since there has been a shortage of workers within the shipping industry. Dothan City Schools could be moving to virtual learning due to their shortage, with the district asking parents to prepare for that possibility, for at least “a few days out of the week to alleviate the stress of our food supplies.”

2. DOJ needs to be more clear about what they want to see in Alabama’s prisons

  • U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor has denied the request from Alabama to dismiss parts of the lawsuit brought against the state by the Department of Justice concerning the conditions of the state prisons. While the request was denied, Proctor has ruled that the DOJ has to make more specific claims.
  • The lawsuit was first brought in 2020, and the state has maintained that the allegations were too vague. Proctor agreed with some of this reasoning, saying that the claims of “lack of adequate surveillance cameras,” “insufficient convex mirrors,” and “defective locks” were “shotgun pleading.” The DOJ will now have to refile their claims.

1. Billions in COVID relief has come to Alabama

  • Deputy director of the Legislative Services Agency Kirk Fulford has said that in Alabama, $30.3 billion in coronavirus relief has gone directly to residents of the state, while the state overall received $46.8 billion in relief funds.
  • Of the funds that went to individuals, $12.6 billion was through stimulus checks and $6.3 billion was the Paycheck Protection Program. Alabama also had an increase in the taxes that went to the Education Trust Fund, increasing 16.42%, gross personal income tax increased 13.03%, and gross corporate income tax increased 61.25%.