Sign up for Our Newsletter

* indicates required
6 months ago

Alabama Sec. of State: ‘Why do we pass ethics laws and employ an ethics commission if we do not intend to enforce the rule of law?’

In the 2015 Alabama Legislative Session, the Legislature passed legislation that required all county candidates and political action committees running for public office to file campaign finance reports with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office.

The 2015 legislation did not change the requirement for all state candidates to file with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. This 2015 filing process was to be accomplished through the electronic filing portal made available by the Secretary of State at this link.

This legislation gave candidates until the 2018 election cycle to become familiar with the law. Beginning with the 2018 election cycle, the Secretary of State’s Office was required to issue civil penalties to candidates who did not meet the campaign finance filing requirements. Those who received a civil penalty can either pay a civil fine or appeal to the Alabama Ethics Commission.

The review and appeal process was put in place to allow for expungement in specific instances in which the Commission felt the candidate had extenuating circumstances which prevented them from meeting the standard deadline applied to all candidates for public office.

All committees, regardless if it is a candidate or Political Action Committee, are required to file yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, and major contribution reports to show Alabamians the source of all contributions, expenditures, and loans. The 2015 law required the Secretary of State to issue civil fines as listed below:

–1st Offense 10% of contributions or expenditures or $300 (whichever is less)
–2nd Offense 15% of contributions or expenditures or $600 (whichever is less)
–3rd Offense 20% of contributions or expenditures or $1,200 (whichever is less)
–4th Offense and all proceeding penalties are the same as the third offense but this activates our requirement to report the Candidate (PCC) or Political Action Committee (PAC) to the Attorney General and the District Attorney in the judicial circuit in which they reside.

When a committee files a report late, a comprehensive review process takes place to ensure that each penalty is legitimate and that the report in question is a required report for that candidate.

Step one involves one staff member of the Elections Division reviewing the late reports and preparing a file documenting the required reports and the violation number for the candidate or committee. That employee then delivers the penalty files to Clay Helms, the Assistant Elections Director and Supervisor of Voter Registration. Mr. Helms then reviews the files and corrects any errors before delivering the penalty files to John Bennett, Deputy Chief of Staff, who then reviews each penalty and checks the math on the amount of the civil fine. Once Mr. Bennett completes his review, he then delivers the penalty files to David Brewer, Chief of Staff, who then completes a final review. After Mr. Brewer’s review, he then delivers the penalty files to Brent Beal, Deputy Attorney General. Once signed, the letters are scanned and emailed to the email address on file for the PCC or PAC, and the original is mailed to the candidate via certified letter to ensure delivery.

This intensive review process ensures there is a system of checks and balances to protect candidates from unwarranted claims of impropriety.

As previously noted, a campaign committee can request an appeal if the committee believes extenuating circumstances caused them to not meet the deadline for filing their report. The appeal is reviewed by the Alabama Ethics Commission at their quarterly meetings.

The Ethics Commission held its first quarterly review of the fines against committees who had requested an appeal in December, and has held subsequent reviews in April and June. During each of those meetings the five member Ethics Commission voted to overturn all of the 54 requests for appeal that were submitted to the Commission for review for a total of 113 civil penalties. The fines were overturned based on concerns from the Commission that this law was a new law which campaigns could not be held responsible for accountability at this time.

The appeal process is in place for a candidate or committees first offense for which someone does not meet the standard as prescribed in state law. If they are a repeat offender, the law requires a monetary penalty be issued by the Secretary of State’s Office.

My question to members of the Ethics Commission, members of the media, and the people of Alabama is why do we pass ethics laws and employ an ethics commission if we do not intend to enforce the rule of law?

Further, the law was not established to function as an expensive, tax-payer funded, reminder to candidates who fail to timely file, but it was created to provide transparency on campaign contributions and expenses for all Alabamians to see and serve as a deterrent to candidates who wish to deceive voters by not providing evidence regarding the source of their campaign donations or expenditures.

Simply put, the Alabama Ethics Commission, like all other state agencies should follow the law, or ask the legislature to change it!

John Merrill is a Republican and the Secretary of State of Alabama

3 hours ago

Christmas with Can’t Miss Alabama has spectacular entertainment with ZooLight Safari and Galaxy of Lights

It’s that time of year to eat, drink and be merry.

ZooLight Safari

Christmas magic is at the 25th annual ZooLight Safari with seasonal songs and holiday classics. Celebrate with writing letters to Santa, crafts, ornament decorating, train and carousel rides and holiday games. Join in the fun Dec. 14-23 and Dec. 26-31 from 5-9 p.m. Admission is $10 and ride tickets are $3.50. Parking is free.

840

Learn more at https://www.birminghamzoo.com/.

Holiday Spectacular 2018

Enjoy holiday songs at the Red Mountain Theatre Company (RMTC) through Sunday, Dec. 16. Conservatory students will perform at the Holiday Spectacular with local artists to warm your heart and set the stage for a magical season. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Free parking is available on the street in front of the theater and the Park Rite deck, or on the corner of Fourth Avenue North and 19th Street. Paid parking is available in front of the building on 19th Street.

The RMTC is at 301 19th St. N. in Birmingham.

Tickets are available at RMTC.

Christmas at the Falls

It is a wonderful time of the year at Noccalula Falls. Regular park activities are closed to accommodate nightly Christmas entertainment through Sunday, Dec. 30. Festive holiday lights with a visit from Santa will create a magical adventure for all. Admission is $15 and children 3 and under are free. The venue is at 1500 Noccalula Road, Gadsden, 35904.

Call 256-549-4663 or visit www.noccalulafallspark.com.

Galaxy of Lights

Drive through Galaxy of Lights at the Huntsville Botanical Garden through Monday, Dec. 31. The light display and other traditional holiday scenes will be enjoyable from the comfort of your car. Admission is $25 for up to 10 people. Information about vans, buses and discounts are found here.

For details, go to Driving Night FAQ.

The venue is the Huntsville Botanical Garden at 4747 Bob Wallace Ave.

Just Josh – A Chili Country Christmas

Grammy-award nominee Josh Goforth will be in concert at the annual Chili Country Christmas at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge Dec. 14-15. Goforth is a traditional musician and one of the finest fiddle, banjo and guitar players in the country. Audiences will stomp and clap to his fiddle with stories of his grandpa and life in Appalachia. He has performed at the Grand Ole Opry, Carnegie Hall, throughout Europe and Japan and every state except Hawaii. Tickets are $20, which include the pre-show and chili supper.

Doors open at 6:20 p.m.

For tickets or more information, call 334-685-5524 or 334-670-6302.

Santa’s Underground Workshop at Rickwood Caverns

Santa’s Underground Workshop is underway through Sunday, Dec. 23 from 2-8 p.m. at Rickwood Caverns State Park. Visitors can experience the magic of the season, by viewing over 30,000 colored lights and holiday ornaments, as they walk 175 feet down into the cave. “We had a wonderful time last year with our first Santa’s Underground Workshop,” said Rickwood Caverns State Park Manager Amanda White. “We’re looking forward to sharing the amazing cave with our friends who are regular visitors, as well as those who may have never been here before. Admission is $10 per person, ages 4 and older. Groups of 20 or more can get tickets for $8 each.

For more information visit: https://www.alapark.com.

Lawson State Community Choir in concert

The Lawson State Community College (LSCC) Quartet Christmas Concert is Sunday, Dec. 16 at 4 p.m. at the Birmingham Public Library downtown in the East Grand Reading Room. The performers include the LSCC Quartet, comprised of Kayla King, Heavyn Leigh Whiteside, Javaris Williams, and Jemanuel Pullom. The choir will perform popular Christmas songs and carols, such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Silent Night.” LSCC is led by Dr. Jillian Johnson.

For more details, call 205-226-3746 or visit www.bplonline.org.

2018 Governor’s Mansion Christmas in Montgomery

The Alabama Governor’s Mansion holiday tour is Monday, Dec. 17 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Visitors will view the holiday décor, listen to live choir performances and have access to Alabama-made goods in the gift shop.

Call 334-242-7100 to inquire about free tickets.

Enjoy an evening with ‘Dancing with the Stars’

“Dancing with the Stars: Live!” returns to Birmingham Tuesday, Dec. 18 featuring Bobby Bones.  Enjoy everything from ballroom to jazz to modern to hip-hop dance styles. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival presents “The Sound of Music” through Sunday, Dec. 30 as a part of its 2018-19 season. The production tells the beloved story of Maria, a young and spirited nun-turned-governess, and the Von Trapp family. The 1965 film adaption starring Julie Andrews won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Other adaptions have won Tony and Grammy awards.

For tickets, click here.

Ice Skating

Ice skating at Railroad Park continues through Sunday, Jan. 6. The 50-by-80-foot rink will open seven days a week, Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.. Ticket prices include skate rental, tax and unlimited time on the ice. Children 12 and under are $10, adults are $12 and groups of 20 or more skate for $9 per person. Tickets are available online or at the rink. Tickets are valid for the entire day. Although skates are included in the ticket price, individuals are welcome to bring their own skates. The rink will be closed Christmas Day.

Visit www.railroadpark.org/iceskating for season passes.

For details, email info@railroadpark.org or call 205-521-9933.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

On this day in Alabama history: Alabama admitted to the Union

December 14, 1819

Alabama became the 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819, the only state added to the United States that year. The young United States acquired the British claims to all lands east of the Mississippi River, including present-day Alabama, as part of the treaty that ended the American Revolution. Alabama was originally part of the Mississippi Territory, which up until then was claimed by the colony of Georgia. Under pressure from white Southerners to see two slave states emerge, Congress created the Alabama Territory out of the eastern half of the Mississippi Territory on March 3, 1817. William Wyatt Bibb was named governor. The population grew rapidly, which led to petitions for statehood, which was granted two years later.

18

Read More at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Ivey’s inaugural events to promote children’s literacy

In keeping with the theme “Keep Alabama Growing,” Governor Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee on Friday announced plans to promote children’s literacy throughout the January 2019 inaugural festivities.

“Investing in the next generation is critical to our ability to keep Alabama growing,” Ivey said in a press release. “As we prepare for four more years of growing opportunities for Alabamians, I can’t think of a better place to begin than with our children’s literacy, ensuring they get a strong start.”

120

As part of this effort, the governor’s inaugural committee will be hosting book drives at the Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration on January 12 and the Inaugural Gala in Montgomery on January 14. The books collected will be donated to the Alabama Literacy Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to improving literacy in communities across the state.

Tickets to the Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration are available to the general public here. The $25 ticket price will be waived for attendees who bring four children’s books to the celebration.

The Inaugural Gala in Montgomery is invitation only.

More details will be announced in the coming weeks and posted here.

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

5 hours ago

Ohio-based Gregory Industries set to invest $4.21 million in Decatur steel plant

Ohio-based galvanized steel company Gregory Industries plans to make a $4.21 million capital investment in a Decatur steel plant, according to Decatur Daily.

The investment will consist of the purchasing of 100,000 square feet of the Willo Products building and 13 adjacent acres at the site for a galvanized steel tubing plant.

Gregory Industries recently purchased Mid-Ohio Tubing. Once the Morgan County plant undergoes renovations and begins operations, it will carry the name Mid-Ohio Tubing.

191

Company officials hope to have the plant open by June. The plan is to hire 20 employees at an average annual wage of $47,000 and add four more employees by the end of the third year.

According to Mike Rothacher, the Gregory vice president of corporate services, the company will hire a plant manager, maintenance workers, machine operators and general laborers.

The Industrial Development Board of Decatur approved $172,400 in state, city and Morgan County tax abatements for the company.

Morgan County Economic Development Association president and CEO Jeremy Nails connected with Gregory officials after Nucor found out the Ohio company was looking to expand by venturing into the south.

“We rely on existing industries to put us in contact with companies that they deal with,” Nails said. “We don’t have a lot of available buildings so we were fortunate that this building was available. It’s a win-win for Gregory and Willo.”

The Gregory plant will produce galvanized steel tubing that will be used in material called G-street metal framing. The plant will feature a tubing mill and a roll-forming mill.

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

6 hours ago

Alabama House Speaker McCutcheon hospitalized with heart issue, expects to be released following treatment

Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) announced on Friday that he has been hospitalized with a heart issue but expects to be released following treatment over the weekend.

“Deb and I appreciate the prayers of healing that so many have made on my behalf, and I am well on the road to recovery,” McCutcheon said in a press release.

“Tests indicated that I had a blocked blood vessel in my heart, which resulted in the fatigue and shortness of breath that I felt, and the issue will be treated with simple medication,” he explained.

While returning home from the legislative orientation session at the Alabama State House on Thursday, the speaker suffered mild chest pains and shortness of breath and was driven to an emergency room for examination.

123

McCutcheon outlined that he first assumed he was suffering from a case of bronchitis, but an EKG indicated a heart issue, which blood tests later confirmed.

His physician recommended a heart catheterization, and those results showed a blood vessel that had closed but did not require a stent and could be treated with medication.

During his recovery, the speaker said he will continue working on House committee assignments and other legislative issues in preparation for the upcoming organizational and regular sessions of the Alabama Legislature. The organizational session begins on January 8.

During the 2014 legislative session, McCutcheon underwent heart bypass surgery and returned to work before the session ended.

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