1 year ago

Alabama lawmakers end session with tensions, eye on elections

Alabama lawmakers had vowed to steer clear of controversy in an election year session. They found it anyway.

In a scandal-battered state, lawmakers said they were looking toward a low-key session that focused on budgets. It remained that way largely until near the end when they adjourned Thursday amid last-minute disputes over ethics legislation, the demise of a racial profiling bill and some sniping between the House of Representatives and Senate over the pace of votes.
The House spent part of Thursday debating a bill to exempt economic developers from the state ethics law. Supporters said it was needed to clarify recent questions about whether the developers should register as lobbyists, something they said would hurt the state’s job recruitment efforts by exposing potential deals in the works. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey praised the bill’s approval, saying the state is committed to “attracting world-class jobs for all Alabamians.”

Opposing lawmakers cautioned that approving an ethics exemption was “bad optics” as lawmakers head into election season. Republicans won a legislative majority in 2010 by campaigning against Montgomery corruption.

“The horse you rode in on could be the horse you ride out on,” said Rep. Chris England, a Democrat from Tuscaloosa.

After past high-profile battles over abortion and other social issues, lawmakers seemed to put more emphasis on economic issues this session.

Amid rosier budget projections, they approved pay raises for public school and state employees and bonuses for retirees. Lawmakers approved a Republican bill cutting income taxes for low-income households. The amount was worth an average of about $22 for low-income families.

Lawmakers also voted to boost prison funding in the face of a federal court order to improve mental health care.

“The budgets were good budgets. The challenge is next year,” said Republican Sen Trip Pittman, who chairs the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee.

Pittman said he was proud the state was able to give raises and bonuses to public employees.

Alabama’s general fund budget was bolstered since lawmakers purposely decided last year to leave $93 million in reserve. That money won’t be available next year.

Some big issues were left unresolved.

Efforts to overhaul the state ethics law and the juvenile justice system fell apart, or were abandoned, before the session’s conclusion. Lawmakers said both will be revisited next year.

Several gun and school security proposals were introduced in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Florida high school that claimed 17 lives. Most were shelved as lawmakers deferred to the work of a task force. Democrats got no traction on gun control efforts in the Republican-controlled legislature. An effort to arm teachers divided Republicans and did not get a vote. Lawmakers did approve a measure to allow schools to use a state technology fund to pay for school resource officers or other security measures.

The session was conducted against the backdrop of an election year as lawmakers go straight from Montgomery to the campaign trail. Legislators face primaries in June and the General Election in November.

Lawmakers noted that they used only 26 of the allowed 30 meeting days of the session.

“We did the business of the people of the state of Alabama. We finished four days early and saved a couple hundred thousand dollars for the taxpayers. To me that’s a win all the way around,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

5 mins ago

‘Disgrace’: Six American flags stolen from Brookwood’s veterans memorial park

The sleepy Tuscaloosa County town of Brookwood is “outraged” after the brazen theft of six American flags from its veterans memorial park, according to reports.

Per CBS 42, the flags were stolen over the weekend.

Two suspects were spotted on video surveillance. The individuals are believed to be juveniles and are still at large. While local police encourage the two suspects to turn themselves in, the town is offering an $800 reward for information that helps catch the perpetrators.

The reaction from town residents and officials was swift, with the stolen flags being replaced on Monday.

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“It was immediate outrage from the community as soon as the word started spreading.  People were outraged that somebody would show the lack of respect for our town and for our flags,” park director Bill Squires told CBS 42.

“And this being our Brookwood veterans memorial, you feel like its a slap in the face of the men whose names are on that memorial, too,” he added.

Just days away from Independence Day, July 4, locals who are used to seeing the flags fly proudly at their community park shared their emotional reactions.

Austin Rico, a frequent jogger at the park, remarked, “It absolutely horrible and I wouldn’t expect this from a nice little town like Brookwood. And it hurts me a little bit because it’s the American flag and it’s everything Americans represent.”

Gregory Vaughn, who reportedly passes the monument often when going for walks, told WBRC that the theft made him angry.

“It’s a disgrace. Stealing an American flag. I mean it doesn’t make any sense,” Vaughn decried.

Watch:

Squires, speaking on the possibility of the perpetrators being juveniles, commented, “Maybe kids being kids. But stealing? If it is, we need to teach them … how the flag needs to be respected.”

Anyone with information relating to the crime should contact the Brookwood Police Department.

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

13 hours ago

University of North Alabama adopting new tuition plan

The University of North Alabama is switching to a tuition plan that officials say will result in increased costs for some students but not others.

Officials at the school in Florence say they are reducing the total number of student fees from seven to one, and fees will be included in the overall tuition cost.

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A statement says students taking 15 hours will see a maximum increase in expenses of 4.1%.

But some could pay less, and costs will not change for others.

School officials say a lag in state funding is a continuing problem.

North Alabama’s vice president for business, Evan Thornton, says the school has deferred maintenance and capital needs totaling more than $160 million.

The school has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,200 students.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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13 hours ago

Nathan Lindsay joining governor’s office from BCA

Another high profile staffer from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is joining Governor Kay Ivey’s senior level team.

The governor on Monday announced that Nathan Lindsay will join her office as director of appointments effective July 1.

This position is charged with spearheading the meticulous work that goes into Ivey meeting her duty to appoint qualified, representative and appropriate people to positions on the state’s various boards and commissions.

A press release from the governor’s office outlined that Lindsay assumes the role with an extensive background in state government and the private sector, which uniquely qualifies him to advise the governor in this capacity.

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Most recently, through his work in political and governmental affairs at the BCA, Lindsay interacted with members of the business community throughout the Yellowhammer State, which significantly adds to his ability to identify and select candidates for various appointed posts.

Additionally, Lindsay’s early career included time in then-Governor Bob Riley’s office where he served as aide to the governor from 2006 to 2011. Lindsay also worked in the governor’s communications office as deputy press secretary and advised Riley on education policy.

“Nathan brings to our team a wealth of knowledge that I know will serve the state well,” Ivey said in a statement. “In addition to his expertise and insight, Nathan is a man of character. The men and women of my staff must have a strong work ethic, a depth of knowledge and a heart for public service. Nathan certainly embodies all of these characteristics.”

Lindsay earned his bachelor’s degree from Faulkner University. During his time at Faulkner, he served as SGA president and later, in 2018, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“As governor, I have the important responsibility of appointing qualified individuals to serve on the more than 450 boards and commissions in our state. These men and women must not only be highly-qualified, but they should also be a true reflection of our great state,” Ivey added. “I am confident we will continue to find the best people to serve our state, just as I am certain Nathan will serve my Administration exceptionally well in this position. His experience speaks for itself, and he shares my goal of moving Alabama into a better future.”

This comes weeks after Leah Garner departed BCA to become Ivey’s communications director.

Mark Colson also left BCA to become head of the Alabama Trucking Association recently.

Update 5:55 p.m.:

BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt released a statement commending Ivey on the hire of Lindsay.

“Nathan’s background and expertise in political affairs combined with his political acumen uniquely qualify him to serve the governor and the state in this capacity,” Britt said. “I have no doubt Nathan will do an outstanding job, and I commend Governor Kay Ivey on this excellent addition to her staff.”

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

13 hours ago

Alabama listed as one of the top 20 most patriotic states in America

A WalletHub report released Monday revealed Alabama to be on of the top 20 most patriotic states in America.

Ranked 19 overall on the list, with a score of 47.43, Alabama ranked first for the “Civics Education Requirement.”

The report “compared the 50 states across 13 key indicators of patriotism” and “ranges from share of enlisted military population to share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.”

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With one as “Most Patriotic” and 25 as “Average,” Alabama received the following rankings:

  • 5th – Average Number of Military Enlistees per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 30th – Active-Duty Military Personnel per 100,000 Civilian Adults
  • 17th – Veterans per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 1st – Civics Education Requirement
  • 12th – Share of Civilian Adult Population in Military Reserves
  • 10th – Share of Adults Who Voted in 2016 Primary Elections

Alabama also ranked eight overall for ‘Military Engagement.’

The report, which compared red states to blue states in terms of patriotism, found that red states were more patriotic. Red states received an average rank of 23.67, while blue states received an average rank of 28.25.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

14 hours ago

Brooks: ‘Really dumb’ for Democrats to elect candidates mainly on ‘skin pigmentation or their chromosomes’

In an interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show”on Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) lamented that many Democrats have become more interested in racial and gender identity politics than the welfare of America.

Coming off of her much maligned comments comparing American immigration facilities to “concentration camps,” host Dale Jackson asked the north Alabama congressman if he believes that Democrats in Congress will allow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to continue to serve as their “de facto face and leader.”

“Yes,” Brooks answered succinctly, promoting a follow-up request for his reasoning.

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“Well, she is where she is,” Brooks explained. “She’s got a lot of political power. She’s got a lot of support — surprisingly.”

“There are large, large numbers of American citizens who have bit off on this socialist stuff, who have bit off on this victimization stuff, who have bit off on thinking that the most important criteria in determining whether to elect someone is their skin pigmentation or their chromosomes — which is really dumb, OK,” he continued. “We oughta be electing people based on their character and based on their public policy positions.”

“But, notwithstanding that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the face of the Democratic Party in many different respects, and she does have great influence as evidenced by the presidential candidates on the socialist Democrats’ side who are trying to cultivate her support,” Brooks added. “They want her endorsement.”

Listen, starting at the 8:25 mark:

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