2 weeks ago

Alabama Senate Minority Leader calls for shutting churches, restaurants back down

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would effectively end the distinction between so-called “non-essential” and “essential” businesses when it comes to states of emergency imposed by the State of Alabama.

HB 103 is sponsored by Rep. Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville) and was carried in the Senate by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman).

If a business or other entity such as a church were able to comply with current health orders, that entity would be able to continue conducting business and keep its doors open under HB 103; the government would not be able to selectively pick and choose which businesses remain open and which have to close.

Kiel introduced the bill in response to pandemic-related policies that unilaterally shuttered small businesses while allowing big-box stores to remain open.

Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), a medical doctor, during the Senate floor debate stressed that government should not pick winners and losers.

However, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) asserted that government should not be “worried about” winners or losers.

This came amid a filibuster by Singleton in which he spoke passionately against the bill.

He advocated for indefinitely closing back down all churches in Alabama for in-person worship services. Churches have been allowed to reopen, at least in some form or fashion, since May 11, 2020.

“They’re not going to do right,” Singleton said, speaking in a blanket manner about churches following health orders and guidelines. “These people ain’t following no guidelines.”

The Democrat said people can simply “have Jesus at their house.”

“It doesn’t take sitting in a building to get Jesus,” Singleton said, while dictating how others should practice their faith. “You can fellowship with your family. … Fellowship ain’t all about somebody else. See, y’all get church all mixed up.”

Melson questioned Singleton on why he believes the government should shut down churches but not big-box stores. The Democrat responded by indicating he was fine with shuttering big-box stores, too.

Singleton also expressed his desire that certain other businesses that he views as nonessential, such as restaurants when it comes to on-site dining, be shut back down.

Without evidence or data supporting him, Singleton claimed that the pandemic was currently getting worse and that we “still don’t know enough” about COVID-19. He simultaneously accused HB 103 of being “anti-science” while saying “soap and water” kills the coronavirus.

“We can’t afford to be opening up businesses,” Singleton commented. “We’re setting people up to die … the legislature is in the killing business.”

This drew bemused laughter from Gudger. To reiterate, HB 103 only allows entities to operate if in compliance with state health orders.

“This has been an extremely difficult year for people across our state. Many Alabamians have suffered from and even lost loved ones from this virus, people have had to go extended periods of times without seeing loved ones, schools have been cancelled, and many parts of life that we hold dear have been put on hold,” Gudger stated. “One of the most disappointing aspects of this entire crisis has been the countless small businesses being forced to close their doors to their customers, and churches and religious institutions being told they cannot meet and worship in person, while businesses ranging from Walmart to liquor stores were given free rein to continue to operate and carry out business as usual. This bill ensures this will never happen again in Alabama.”

Singleton, however, argued that since the state government’s budgets were not shrunken as a result of the pandemic, complaints of the past year being hard on businesses are overstated. “We’re not missing anything,” he bragged, speaking to the State of Alabama’s coffers.

“Business didn’t lose a whole lot of money,” Singleton said. “Some of them just made false reports because they knew federal dollars were there. That’s all they were doing. They made a whole lot of money.” He criticized Republicans for caring about “brick and mortars.”

“This blood’s going to be on your hands,” Singleton claimed. “So, when people start dying in churches, when people start dying in restaurants because they traced it back to they got a super spreader out of a restaurant or out of a store somewhere, when they start dying this blood’s going to be on your hands. My people on my side of the aisle are going to sit around and say, ‘I told you so.'”

HB 103 was passed by the Senate as amended in a 26-6 vote, with all Democrats present voting “nay.”

The House then voted to concur with the Senate-passed version of the legislation, sending the bill to Governor Kay Ivey’s desk.

“This legislation ensures that small businesses in future pandemics won’t be told that they aren’t essential enough to stay open while others are,” Gudger concluded. “I appreciate my colleagues in the Senate and the House for working together in a bipartisan way to get this bill passed. The people of Cullman have asked for it. The people of Alabama have asked for it. And now Alabamians can rest assured that in any future public health outbreaks like this the people of our state are protected.”

Kiel in a statement said that he was proud to see this legislation pass the legislature on Thursday.

“I was proud to see this important legislation I sponsored in the House pass the Senate today,” he stated. “This bill creates a level playing field for all businesses so that if one business can be open under certain guidelines that are sent down by the governor, then all businesses could be open under those same guidelines.”

“Throughout this pandemic, we have seen businesses, both small and large, forced to close down while their customers flocked to big box stores that were allowed to remain open,” he continued. “And while institutions such as liquor stores were allowed maintain business as usual, churches were forced to close their doors to their congregations. This legislation gives Alabamians confidence that all businesses and religious institutions who follow proper guidelines will be able to stay open in future public health outbreaks.”

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Alabama state director Rosemary Elebash praised the passage of the bill.

“This is great news for Alabama’s small businesses. HB 103 is going to help employers get through another crisis without shutting down and without cutting jobs,” she remarked. “You should be allowed to open if you follow the government’s guidelines for keeping customers and employees safe.”

“On behalf of NFIB’s small business members, I want to thank Rep. Jamie Kiel and Sen. Garlan Gudger for driving this legislation through the Alabama House and Senate, and we look forward to Governor Ivey signing it into law,” Elebash concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Shameful’ Pelosi blocking Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act — ‘Simply supporting infanticide’

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) on Wednesday released a scathing statement regarding House Democrats blocking consideration of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Rogers announced that he has signed onto a discharge petition that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to bring this legislation — H.R. 619 — up for a vote in the House.

“As a father of three children and a Christian, this legislation is so important to me,” stated Rogers, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

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All six Alabama Republicans in the U.S. House are cosponsors of H.R. 619, which was was introduced by Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) in January. The bill would ensure any baby born that survives an abortion would receive the same standard of medical care as a baby born under normal circumstances.

“I will never understand how any human would not support caring for a tiny, living baby that survives an attempted abortion,” he continued. “Anyone who is okay with not helping these babies is simply supporting infanticide. I will always stand up for the rights of the most innocent among us, and it’s shameful that Nancy Pelosi will not even bring this critical legislation up for a vote.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes bill banning biological males from competing in female sports

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed HB 391, which would would prohibit biological males from competing in public school female sports — and vice versa.

The legislation, which only applies to public K-12 schools, would prohibit competition by one gender against another, unless the event specifically is intended to include both genders.

HB 391 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and is sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle).

“A public K-12 school may not allow a biological female to participate on a male team if there is a female team in a sport. A public K-12 school may never allow a biological male to participate on a female team,” says the amended version of the bill passed by the Senate.

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In sports where there are not separate competitions for females and males, such as football, both genders would still be able to participate together.

“This bill is significantly important to protecting the integrity of women’s sports,” stated Gudger. “Our sisters, daughters and granddaughters deserve to compete in fairly organized sports without being put at a disadvantage. I appreciate Representative Stadthagen for having me carry this bill in the Senate, and I commend him for his diligent work on this critical issue.”

More than a dozen states are considering similar restrictions on high school athletes to prevent what they view as an unfair advantage in competition.

The Senate’s vote on HB 391 was on party lines, 25-5. This comes after two Democrats supported and one Democrat abstained in a committee vote on the bill just two weeks ago. View a tweet thread from Thursday’s Senate debate here.

HB 391 now heads back to the House for concurrence or nonconcurrence. It originally passed the lower chamber in a bipartisan 74-19 vote.

“It is unreasonable for biological males to compete against females in high school sports,” Stadthagen commented. “Allowing this to happen does not put female athletes on a fair and level playing field with their biological male counterparts, and that is what this bill aims to resolve. I was pleased to hear that my colleagues in the upper chamber value the integrity and justness of female sports, and I thank Senator Gudger for handling this bill in the Senate.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Senate passes Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed SB 358, which would create the Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act.

Sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), the bill would outlaw state and local governments — including law enforcement agencies thereof — from enforcing any federal firearms act, law, order, rule or regulation that becomes effective after January 1, 2021.

The party-line vote by the Senate was 22-5.

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“I took an oath of office when sworn into this body to defend the Constitution of this country and this state,” stated Allen. “As an elected official, I will do everything in my power to preserve the rights of Alabamians, especially those granted by the Second Amendment, and I will always push back on any proposals that seek to limit the freedoms bestowed upon us.”

“The Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act ensures the people of Alabama are protected from any unnecessary overreach by the federal government and is meant to be a check on proposals that infringe on our right to self-defense coming from the Biden Administration or the Democratic controlled Congress,” he continued. “SB358 is about safeguarding our God-given rights to protect our families and homes. The Second Amendment says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon, and with this piece of legislation, Alabamians can feel confident that their rights are being protected.”

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) argued that SB 358 would violate the Supremacy Clause. The Democrats said the act, as a result, would ultimately be ruled unconstitutional by the judicial system after costing the State of Alabama significant money to defend it in court.

“We don’t need a ‘Second Amendment Preservation Act’ in the state of Alabama,” said Singleton. “The constitution does that already.”

He noted “the bill really does no harm,” before adding that he does not like the message it sends.

You can view a tweet thread on Senate debate regarding SB 358 here.

The Alabama Senate’s vote came after President Joe Biden last week began rolling out executive orders on gun control.

RELATED: Speaker Mac McCutcheon: As Biden attempts to roll back Second Amendment freedoms, Alabama House Republicans stand in the breach to protect them

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Tim Vines confirmed as newest Auburn University trustee

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama CEO Tim Vines as an at-large member of the Auburn University board of trustees.

He will complete the final three years of the unexpired term of Gen. Lloyd Austin, who resigned from Auburn’s board in January after he was confirmed as the nation’s secretary of defense.

Vines has worked at BCBS of Alabama since 1994. He rose through the management ranks at Blue Cross until he was elected to his present position in 2018. The LaFayette native graduated from Auburn’s Harbert College of Business in 1988 with a degree in finance. He was also a member of the Auburn baseball team.

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“In addition to his business and management credentials, the Trustee Selection Committee nominated Tim Vines for the position because of his dedication to Auburn University and its students,” stated Wayne Smith, who serves as board president pro tem.

This dedication includes Vines giving an annual scholarship to the Harbert College of Business. He is an Auburn Alumni Association lifetime member, a member of the James E. Foy Loyalty Society and a member of the 1856 Society. The Birmingham Auburn Club awarded Vines its 2019 Distinguished Auburn Alumnus Award.

He also served as the 2018 Auburn University summer commencement speaker, where he encouraged graduates, “Serve well by serving others. In life or in your chosen profession, ask what you can do to help others. … Whatever you do, make sure you do it with excellence.”

Vines’ term will expire on February 8, 2024.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Alabama State Parks launching historic corporate giving, improvement campaign

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday joined the Alabama State Parks Foundation, local corporate leaders and other stakeholders at Oak Mountain State Park to announce unprecedented efforts aimed at investing millions of dollars into park improvements.

The governor spoke about an $80 million bond issue for park improvements that must be approved by voters through a constitutional amendment in the 2022 general election if the state legislature approves it this session. House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) are sponsoring this legislation, which passed the House on Tuesday and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“Alabamians love and cherish the State Parks, and we must make sure they are maintained and available for generations to come,” Ivey remarked. “I support the use of state bonds to make the needed enhancements throughout the state parks system.”

Additionally, the non-profit Alabama State Parks Foundation (ASPF) on Thursday announced the launch of its corporate giving campaign with a goal of raising an additional $14 million in the next five years for needed park improvements.

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ASPF kicked off this campaign with pledges of $250,000 by Buffalo Rock Company and $100,000 from the Alabama Power Foundation.

“Since the creation of the Alabama State Parks Foundation in 2018, we have worked to improve and enhance our State Parks, and our corporate giving campaign is another significant and important step for our organization,” ASPF president Dr. Dan Hendricks stated. “I also applaud and thank Governor Ivey for her visionary leadership and support of the State Parks system.

“We believe this innovative public-private partnership will maximize our efforts to help the Alabama State Parks system maintain its place as one of the state’s true treasures,” he added.

The prospective bond issue and ASPF’s fundraising would fast-track projects to expand campgrounds, add cabins and improve internet connectivity, among other priorities.

A majority of funding for Alabama State Parks – 80-90% annually – is generated through user fees for rental, lodging, golf and other amenities in the parks. The system’s finances can also be impacted unexpectedly, such as the tornado that damaged Oak Mountain last month, Hurricane Sally damaging Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores last fall, and another tornado wreaking havoc on the campground and day-use areas at Joe Wheeler State Park in December 2019.

State parks attracted a record 6.27 million visitors in fiscal year 2020, and enhancing facilities or building additional ones should help that number continue to grow.

“Our state parks system is run as efficiently as ever, but there are plenty of needs in every one of the 21 parks — both the small and larger parks,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation. “What Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Parks Foundation have done is create a funding framework for how we can modernize and enhance an already dynamic State Parks system and make it better than ever.

“We plan to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, as well as funds so generously donated by the corporate community,” he concluded. “Our state parks offer so many amazing outdoors adventures for all Alabamians, and we appreciate so many people working so hard to help us continue that legacy.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn