2 months ago

7 Things: Gas tax increase looks inevitable in Alabama Senate, Democrats say Trump’s budget is DOA, no impeachment if Speaker Pelosi has her say and more …

7. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) hit plenty of issues at an appearance in Montgomery, including infrastructure, immigration and President Donald Trump

— While speaking at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Eggs and Issues” event, the state’s senior senator spoke on important issues in Alabama and where he sees the nation going forward. Comments included pointing out that China is America’s largest economic and military foe, and he called Russia “dangerous” and Vladimir Putin “ruthless.” Domestically, he praised the economy and discussed the benefits of legal immigration. Without mentioning the state’s current gas tax issue, he mentioned that we need a “huge infrastructure deal,” but lamented that no one is saying, “I want to put a 25-30 cent per gallon of gas tax or diesel fuel [tax] on the American people,” so there is that.

6. Former Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) wins the right to appeal his case at the Alabama Supreme Court

— The saga involving the former Alabama speaker of the House could be entering the beginning of the end as the Alabama State Supreme Court has agreed to hear his appeal on ethics law convictions that could see him go to prison. Fellow Republican, Attorney General Steve Marshall, issued a statement that appeared to show the AG’s office is eager to defend the conviction. It read, “Until now, the Alabama Supreme Court has only heard from Mike Hubbard. Once my prosecution team has the opportunity to brief the issues and argue the case, we feel confident the result will be the same as with the lower court rulings and justice will prevail.”

5. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) joined Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) as she ripped her state without evidence

— After Jones ripped Alabama nationally without evidence on “Face the Nation” and said Republicans don’t want minorities voting, Sewell wanted to get in on the act as well by declaring Republican are for “making it harder for folks to vote, or certain segments of the population, most vulnerable parts of our population, harder to vote.” She also referred to her state as one of the “old states of the Confederacy” in response to a question from MSNBC’s Joy Reid where she asked, “Do Republicans believe if more people get to vote, they won’t win?” Sewell apparently is ignorant to the fact that Alabama had record turnout in 2018.

4. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says she is a “no” on impeachment

— In a statement that angered the media and their Democrats, Pelosi came out against impeachment unless  “there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.” In an attempt to soften the blow, she declared that Trump is “not worth it.” Democrats aren’t having any of this. Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) marched with people who want impeachment, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) talked about impeaching Trump in numerous interviews, Reps. Al Green (D-TX) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) have articles of impeachment ready and Democrat billionaire Tom Steyer, who considered running for president, has been pushing impeachment in TV ads for over a year.

3. President Donald Trump’s budget looks to significantly cut parts of the government while continuing to grow the debt and has no chance to become law

— The president’s proposed budget would cut domestic spending, slow entitlement growth and increase spending on the nation’s military while cutting discretionary domestic programs by $1.1 trillion over a decade, which never happens. With Democrats controlling the House, and having already won a budget showdown with President Trump, they seem unlikely to be on board with massive cuts, new military spending and expenditures on wall buildings. This story has played out already when Trump signed a budget that ignored his rhetoric on plans to massively cut in spending and instead expanded spending when Republicans controlled the House and the Senate.

2. A new round of polling indicates Alabama voters are not in line with the decisions being made by the Alabama legislature and Governor Kay Ivey

— The polling released by Alabama First, led by former Tuscaloosa County Commissioner Don Wallace shows that a vast majority (78 percent) of Alabamians believe we need to spend more on roads and bridges. In spite of this, those surveyed don’t like how this is being done, with 82 percent saying the Alabama legislature should use money from the Alabama Trust Fund, 85 percent opposing the vote plan to increase taxes and 83 percent opposing the automatic indexing that will lead to higher taxes. The belief that there is other spending to cut to get the money for road construction permeates the thinking of Alabamians; 79 percent think there is excess waste at the Alabama Department of Transportation with 84 percent wanting a full audit of the agency. Incorrectly, 71 percent of Alabamians believe Governor Ivey “purposefully concealed” her desires to increase the gas tax.

1. The Rebuild Alabama gas tax increase clears another hurdle and looks ready to pass today

— It looks all but inevitable that Alabama’s State Senate will vote to raise the gas tax by 10-cents on Tuesday. The act passed the Alabama Senate Transportation and Energy Committee unanimously, as did the companion accountability pieces. Don’t expect the bill to change much in the debate on the floor, according to Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), who said, “I think that everybody should have the ability to offer amendments. I’m going to encourage that, but I do believe that you’ll see the [final version of the] bill pretty close to where it is. I have not heard of any amendments that, as I would say, have legs on them. So I think right now the bill is going to end up passing pretty close to where we see it now.”

6 mins ago

‘Our hero’: Slain Auburn officer’s neighborhood lights up blue to honor him

Neighbors of murdered Auburn Police Department Officer William Buechner are backing the blue in a very visible way, honoring the fallen hero’s life of selfless service.

As reported by WSFA, the Opelika subdivision that Buechner and his family lived in is showing their solidarity en masse.

In a moving tribute, many of the neighborhood’s homes have replaced their regular porch lights with blue lights, shining proudly in Buechner’s memory.

Tracy McDaniel is among those neighbors paying tribute to the officer and beloved community member.

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Tracy McDaniel’s home, as contributed by her. (Sally Pitts/Facebook)

McDaniels’ home is far from the exception. One photo shows an entire street the neighborhood turned blue to honor the fallen officer.

Photo by Samantha Xaysombath Smith (WSFA/Twitter)

“William was a lot of great things. A great man, friend, husband, and father, police officer, neighbor, the list goes on,” Smith explained. “His son will grow up to learn that his daddy was a hero, and we will forever remember that he was our hero too.”

Another woman in the neighborhood, who asked to remain anonymous when speaking with WSFA, said she was aware of at least 15 homes participating in the special tribute but expected that number to increase.

“We all have rallied to find each other more lightbulbs,” the woman said, “and contact those who have been out of town or may need assistance reaching their fixtures. It’s been a true team effort.”

The lights are reportedly expected to remain on at least through Saturday, the day after Buechner’s funeral.

Buechner is survived by his wife of three years, Sara; son, Henry; and step-daughter, McKenna.

“This village we speak of, he knows we will take care of Sara and the family,” Smith added. “After all, it does take a village. We back the blue.”

There has been a GoFundMe set up for Buechner’s family.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

50 mins ago

Palmer introduces bill to stop federal funding of anti-ICE ‘sanctuary airports’

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) is taking a major stand against airports in liberal strongholds that try to subvert federal law.

Palmer’s office on Thursday announced that the Birmingham-area congressman has introduced the PLANE Act, the Prohibiting Local Airports from Neglecting Enforcement Act (H.R. 2955).

In April, an airport in Seattle, Washington, banned flights known collectively as “ICE Air,” which included flights that deported illegal immigrants or transported detainees to the appropriate detention center.

If passed, the PLANE Act would withhold federal grants from airports that violate grant agreements by attempting similar action, such as imposing unreasonable conditions or restrictions on airplanes operating under ICE or other contracted government agencies.

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“Airports that refuse to cooperate with ICE should not receive federal grants,” Palmer said in a statement.

“The rule of law must not be thwarted by so-called ‘sanctuary airports,’ especially when they potentially delay the removal of people accused of crimes like human trafficking and rape,” he added. “Political posturing cannot be permitted when an airport has agreed to cooperate with law enforcement in exchange for federal funds.”

Palmer is now serving as the chair the Republican Policy Committee, which is the fifth highest ranking leadership role amongst Republicans in the United States House of Representatives.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VIII

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Hey Arnold! State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) caused a bit of a stir this week when he introduced a request to censure State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) for comments Rogers made during the chamber’s debate of the abortion bill. Numerous GOP House members were upset by the move, not so much for the substance of the request as much as for the timing — and the perceived motivation behind it.

The request came as the body was attempting to address a “ten-minute” calendar of bills. The aim of a ten-minute calendar is to quickly dispose of some of the more mundane pieces of legislation with the idea being that each member gets ten minutes to pass their bill or else the House moves on to the next item. As soon as Mooney introduced his letter of censure, the environment in the chamber became hostile, resulting in an adjournment and the end of the calendar. Dozens of members lost the opportunity, at that point at least, to pass their individual pieces of legislation, including an anti-human trafficking bill and legislation to help feed needy children in the state.

Some members wondered why Mooney waited nine days to introduce his letter. His letter was dated May 13 and not introduced until May 22. This event came on the heels of Mooney previously sending out a campaign letter to supporters questioning the ideological bearings of his fellow Republican legislators. When asked if Mooney had expressed any of these concerns to the GOP caucus at-large prior to his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, one member responded, “No. He had not.”

2. A tale of two cities. As Mooney spent the week trying to burnish the type of outsider credentials attractive to Club for Growth, another one of his colleagues spent his week in D.C. trying, presumably, to lay a similar foundation. State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) was boots on the ground in the nation’s capital this week. Dismukes has let it be known that he was contemplating his own run for the U.S. Senate. He has done a fair job of keeping those cards close to the vest, although his trip to Washington would lend to the notion that he continues to have interest in a federal office.

The mathematical side effect of Dismukes’ absence nearly reached a heightened level of consequence. Consideration of any legislation prior to the passage of both budgets requires a 3/5 vote of those in the body voting. The lottery failed this week because it did not receive the required 3/5 threshold of those voting. In Dismukes’ absence from the state, someone voted his machine on his behalf as an abstention rather than simply not voting at all. He was the only legislator to vote to abstain. This still raises the threshold of required votes.

There were 90 total members that voted — which means the lottery needed 54 votes to proceed. It only received 53. Had someone not voted Dismukes’ machine and 89 members had voted, the lottery would still have needed 54 votes but by a much slimmer margin since 3/5 of 89 equals 53.4. That’s how close the lottery came to advancing to full consideration by the House.

3. Is broadband really a priority for members of the Alabama House? While the state legislature’s budget negotiations have been relatively smooth so far this session, there is one major issue that has seemingly popped up at the last minute.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Senate Finance and Taxation Education Chairman Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) put $30 million in the Senate-passed Education Trust Fund Budget for the state’s rural broadband grant program established last year by State Senator Clay Scofield’s (R-Guntersville) landmark legislation.

As the legislature continues to work on beefing up last year’s legislation through Scofield’s SB 90 this year, the House is now seemingly set to slash the broadband funding approved by the Senate. The House Ways and Means Education Committee this week approved an education budget that cut the broadband funding by 73%, dragging the total down from $30 million to only $8 million.

Proponents of the larger number have said that there is not a better use of one-time money than to expand broadband services across the state. Will Chairman Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and the House at-large work with the Senate and restore the important broadband funding?

4. Art of the Deal. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) once again proved his master negotiating skills this week, securing a crucial disaster relief package deal against seemingly insurmountable differences between the increasingly polarized factions in Washington, D.C.

This package will provide much-needed aid to many in the Yellowhammer State, including those in southeast Alabama devastated by Hurricane Michael.

Shelby bridged the gap between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, while even managing to get President Donald Trump to drop his demands to include non-disaster related earmarks in the package — a concession that was key to getting enough votes in the Senate and House. The legislation quickly passed the Senate 85-8 Thursday before a lone House member objected to its unanimous passage on Friday. The House can take the legislation up after Memorial Day on Tuesday, when it is expected to overwhelmingly pass that chamber and then be signed into law.

One keen observer told Yellowhammer News that this type of achievement will not make nearly the number of headlines it should back at home, but once again Shelby has delivered for his state as he continues to cement his legacy as “Alabama’s greatest statesman.”

2 hours ago

Alabama legislature passes bill to ensure accuracy in meat labeling

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday took steps to ensure that the definition of “meat” when applied to food labeling should only apply to products sourced from livestock on farms and ranches and harvested through processing; the bill clarifies that laboratory-grown products may not be labeled as meat, protecting Yellowhammer State consumers from potentially misleading packaging.

In a unanimous vote, the Senators passed HB 518, sponsored by State Rep. Danny Crawford (R-Athens) and State Sen. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay). The bill was previously passed by the House 97-2 and now heads to Governor Kay Ivey’s desk.

“This is proactive legislation to ensure clarity in food labeling. Around the country, there are more and more companies trying to market lab-grown products as meat, which is misleading since they aren’t derived from actual livestock production,” Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions pointed out that the nutritional and safety risks of foods developed in labs from animal cell cultures are still unknown.

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“These new lab-produced foods are, at best, synthetic meats, and their nutritional effects are unknown right now. Let’s see how the science develops through further research, and make a clear distinction between meat that is farm-raised on the one hand, and lab-based products on the other,” he advised.

The beef cattle industry represents a $2.5 billion industry in Alabama and is the number two agricultural commodity in the Yellowhammer State, with over 20,000 cattle farms. Beef continues to be a favorite protein among consumers worldwide, with exports of American beef representing an $8 billion industry by itself.

“The Alabama Cattlemen’s Association represents over 10,000 members across the state. As alternative proteins enter the marketplace in coming years, we think it is imperative that the integrity of all meat labels are protected and clear for consumers when they go to the meat case,” Erin Beasley, executive vice president of the Alabama Cattleman’s Association, commented.

She concluded, “The passage of this bill is a win-win for the consumers who love to buy beef, and the cattlemen who work hard to produce a high-quality product. We would like to thank the Alabama Legislature for the support of this bill, and especially Senator David Sessions and Representative Danny Crawford for carrying the bill.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Nine illegal aliens arrested in north Alabama in possible human trafficking racket

Law enforcement officers in DeKalb County this week arrested nine men, all reportedly illegal aliens, in connection with what they suspect is a human trafficking operation.

WAFF reported a DeKalb County patrol sergeant and K-9 deputy conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle from Texas late Tuesday night.

Upon further investigation, authorities reportedly determined that the suspects were in the United States illegally and were involved in a human trafficking operation.

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Department of Homeland Security investigators were called, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers were placed on the suspects.

An investigation is still ongoing, but the office said it appears two of the men were traffickers.

However, there is debate over whether human “trafficking” or “smuggling” was occurring in this case.

David Pinkleton with the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force explained that there is an crucial difference between trafficking and smuggling.

“When you think about the human trafficking it’s exploitation based,” he said. “You think about the sex trafficking, you think about the labor trafficking. There’s some forced fraud or coercion that’s actually involved.”

Smuggling would simply be the illegal act of getting these individuals into the United States covertly.

“[The] [s]muggling side is actually transportation-based,” Pinkleton advised.

Per WHNT, DeKalb County Sheriff Nick Welden released a statement on the arrests.

“This [was] a great bust on I-59,” the sheriff emphasized.

Welden said, “Due to the highways and interstates intersecting our county, it’s highly likely that human trafficking as well as illegal narcotics regularly move through. We have an opportunity to do our part as a department and help curb this illegal activity. Pro-active law enforcement can not only build a better county, but also help clean up our country. I’d like to commend these deputies on their dedication to this.”

Federal charges are pending, and the nine men are all in ICE custody.

The incident came right before the Alabama House passed three anti-human trafficking bills this week: HBs 261, 262 and 264.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn