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4 years ago

Alabama’s Republican Congressmen co-sponsor bills defunding Planned Parenthood

Martha Roby in a press conference announcing the congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood (screenshot)
Martha Roby in a press conference announcing the congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood (screenshot)

WASHINGTON — Every Republican member of Alabama’s congressional delegation has signed on to two bills defunding Planned Parenthood and refusing federal funds to other family planning organizations that perform abortions after revelations Planned Parenthood—which receives much of its income from federal grants—was harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted babies.

The first bill, called the “Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015,” would institute a one-year moratorium on federal funding for Planned Parenthood. During that year, Congress would investigate the organization.

Planned Parenthood annually receives more than $500 million in funding from the federal government, mostly through Medicaid and Department of Health and Human Services grants. The organization is the largest abortion provider in the country, performing over 300,000 abortions every year.

The second bill, dubbed the “Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act,” amends the Public Health Service Act to “prohibit the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) from providing federal family planning assistance to an entity unless the entity certifies that, during the period of assistance, the entity will not perform, and will not provide funds to any other entity that performs, an abortion.”

Alabama Republicans Bradley Byrne (AL1), Martha Roby (AL2), Mike Rogers (AL3), Robert Aderholt (AL4), Mo Brooks (AL5), and Gary Palmer (AL6) have all signed on to cosponsor the two pieces of legislation.

Both bills were originally introduced by Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Diane Black.

“The things we’re just now finding out about the conversations involving the people at Planned Parenthood, where they’re selling babies’ body parts, is unbelievable and terrible,” said Rep. Byrne in a video statement. “The idea that they’re getting any federal money is just not acceptable.”

Rep. Martha Roby stood with other Republican members of Congress last week to declare, “I don’t care how much political weight Planned Parenthood throws around this town. No one is above the law!”

“The video provided proof positive for the world to see the argument that so many have been making for so long about Planned Parenthood and its disregard for human life,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt. “Congressional hearings have already been called and Planned Parenthood will have to publicly answer for these actions. As people hear about just exactly what is going on, I think you will see the minds and attitudes changing across the nation as to what this group is doing.”

Furthermore, Alabama’s U.S. Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions on Wednesday signed a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell urging her agency to cooperate with upcoming investigations into Planned Parenthood and warning DHS not to delete any relevant records.


13 hours ago

Birmingham lawmaker aims to make it easier to view police body camera video

An Alabama lawmaker from the Birmingham-area is reportedly trying to make it easier to access public records regarding police body cameras.

Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) and her staff are rewording a bill that first stated access to public recordings should not be accessible.

“Why isn’t that body cam treated like any other public document? Why it is any different from the Freedom of Information Act?” Givan asked, via WBRC.

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Givan claims House Bill 36 would give victims, families, their family members, attorneys and the media more access to police body camera footage. Givan’s mission was initiated after the police-involved shooting death of E.J. Bradford at the Galleria Mall in Hoover.

“No one should have to go six months, three months, four months out without being able to see a video or see a recording,” Givan said.

Per WBRC, the Alabama Broadcasters Association is claiming that body camera footage is essential in being transparent and accurate reporting.

“Broadcasters have that responsibility It’s part of their roles as public servants,” Sharon Tinsley, president of the ABA, said. “We’re licensed in the public service and it’s our role to be in that place for the public where they can’t often be.”

While Givan’s plan has been met with positivity surrounding her mission, she has also been met with pushback.

Sgt. Heath Boackle, an executive board member with the Birmingham Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, says a rush to release body camera video could potentially jeopardize investigations.

“The concern would be if it comes out and it’s not the totality of the events before the case is even heard in a court of law, it could taint the jury and it also could give issues or concerns to the people that are seeing it without knowing all the facts,” Boackle said.

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

13 hours ago

Two winners from an Alabama law that requires local government fund newspapers: Goodloe Sutton and Alabama Media Group

Alabama’s law on legal notices and public notification is not that different than the laws of other states that require state and local government must advertise in local print newspapers for matters of the public interest. This means government entities must take tax dollars and hand them over to media companies in exchange for advertising that almost no one reads.

These laws may have served a purpose decades ago, but in 2019 it is hard for anyone to argue that counties should have to publish entire voter roles in local newspapers and pay for the privilege to do so. But that is the law right now and it is costing state and local government in Alabama millions of dollars.

The law is absurd for multiple reasons, but it is also an unfair burden on some cities.

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The city of Huntsville spent close to $115,000 on this issue in 2018, while the city of Hoover spent roughly $10,000 dollars on state-mandated advertising on local matters.

Why?

As Hoover City Councilman John Lyda put it, they are lucky enough to not have a newspaper in their city limits.

“We are a bit unique in that the law states that certain things must be advertised in a paper that is ‘published in your city.’ Other items must be published regardless,” he stated. “Oddly enough, we do not have a paper published in Hoover so our costs are significantly less. In the last fiscal year ending Sept 30, 2018, we only spent $10,800.”

Sorry, citizens of Huntsville, we have a completely archaic law in place that forces you to spend tax dollars on an issue that is so important that there are some cities that don’t have to participate in it at the same level and cost.

So, we have established that the costs are uneven and that taxpayers are the big losers here.

Who are the winners? Media outlets, and I will highlight two big winners.

The newspaper editorial that garnered national attention from Linden, Alabama, was published in a newspaper that made $350,000 last year because of current Alabama law.

Excerpt via Montgomery Advertiser:

On Twitter, Joshua Benton, the director of Nieman Journalism Lab, posted an archived advertisement that Sutton posted in late 2018 in an attempt to sell the paper.

In the sales pitch, Sutton said the paper pulled in over $350,000 in “legal ads.” Benton posited that those ads may serve as a major funding source for the paper, which, if correct, would bring in $6,700 in government-mandated funding per weekly issue.

Not bad for a local rag with 3,000 subscribers.

Alabama is funding these racist rants.

The other big winner? Alabama Media Group.

AMG operates newspapers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville. All of those local papers are raking in gobs of money from local governments (see $115k from Huntsville and $153k from Madison County).

But it gets worse. Alabama Media Group received over $500,000 from the state of Alabama last year (some may be non-mandated spending, but most is not).

How about 2019 so far?

This is an affront to fiscal conservatism and common sense. Alabama legislators must reign this in.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

15 hours ago

Gas tax increase should be ‘Even Steven’ — raise one tax, lower another

Can Alabamians support raising our gas tax for better roads while remaining true to our belief in limited government and protecting a beneficial, low-tax environment for our businesses, our families and our future?

Yes … if taxes are lowered elsewhere so that the overall amount of money taken from the people doesn’t increase.

The concept is called “revenue neutral tax reform.” It essentially means that if Alabama raises one tax by $100 million next year, then it should have a comparable decrease in something else.

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So, if you’re going to pay an extra $400 at the gas station, you should save an extra $400 at the grocery store.

Even Steven.

A solid majority of Alabamians support the revenue-neutral approach, as well.

Nearly 62 percent of respondents said they’d support raising gas taxes if grocery taxes were decreased by the same amount, according to a statewide poll commissioned earlier this month by the Alabama Forestry Association.

But why shuffle taxes around if it doesn’t ultimately change the government’s total haul?

Because taxes change behavior, encouraging some actions while discouraging others, and they also impact people differently.

Everyone who pays taxes on a gallon of gas uses roads and bridges. Fair enough.

But the rich man and the poor widow pay the same tax on a gallon of milk. That may not be entirely fair, or at least not kind, especially if that tax is relatively high.

Shuffling things around can also simplify things, making taxes predictable and sustainable for both the citizen and the state. And lowering those that discourage economic growth may actually produce more revenue in the long term.

In our nation’s great laboratory of democracy, Alabamians can look near and far to find examples of how raising the gas tax has worked well in other states.

In 2017, Tennessee raised its gas tax by 6 cents, its natural and liquefied gas tax by 8 cents, and its diesel fuel tax by 10 cents. To balance the scale, it cut the sales tax on food from 5 to 4 percent, decreased certain taxes on its state’s manufacturers, and eliminated taxes on some income from bonds, notes, and stocks.

In one swoop, Tennessee improved its roads, lowered the cost of food, and removed obstacles to job growth and investment.

And in the end, they were Even Steven.

Americans for Tax Reform, the watchdog group known for its fierce opposition to tax increases, didn’t oppose Tennessee’s plan. Its president, Grover Norquist, found it didn’t violate their popular Taxpayer Protection Pledge that many candidates sign during election season.

Tennessee’s voters were pleased with the result and reelected the Republican majority to the legislature the following year.

Americans for Tax Reform also supported former Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to raise the gas tax in New Jersey in 2016. His plan raised gas taxes there from 14.5 cents to 23 cents per gallon, but eliminated the state’s death tax, lowered its sales tax from 7 percent to 6.6 percent, and increased the earned income tax credit.

Even Steven.

Same goes for South Carolina. Americans for Tax Reform supported then Gov. Nikki Haley’s plan to combine an increase in gas taxes with a significant decrease in the state’s income taxes on individuals, families and small businesses.

Again, Even Steven.

Unfortunately, there are other examples of how gas taxes were raised without the benefit of lowering anything else. They either failed to pass or, ultimately, harmed the communities they sought to help. We must remember that high taxes are one of the chief reasons why people and businesses are fleeing places like New York for places like Alabama.

And there are also other reform measures that Alabamians should consider during this debate that were raised in a recent report issued by the Alabama Policy Institute.

Meanwhile, our lawmakers should remember another lesson from Tennessee’s experience raising their gas tax – the need for open debate about the details.

The chairman of the transportation committee in the Tennessee House of Representatives, State Rep. Barry “Boss” Doss, was accused by some of breaking the chamber’s rules so he could “ram” through the gas tax increase. He ended up drawing a challenger in the Republican Primary and ultimately lost his seat, and some say his parliamentary maneuvers were partly to blame.

They say history doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme.

If that’s the case, let’s hope Alabama’s lawmakers will be less like Boss Doss by being transparent in the process and more like Even Steven by balancing any increase in the gas tax with decreases elsewhere.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

16 hours ago

Ivey secures disaster relief for Elmore County tornado victims from federal Small Business Administration

More assistance from the Trump administration is now being made available to Alabamians affected by the severe weather and tornado that occurred in the River Region on January 19.

Governor Kay Ivey, along with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) Director Brian Hastings, announced Friday that businesses and residents affected can apply for low-interest disaster loans from the SBA.

SBA Administrator Linda McMahon made the loans available in response to a letter from Ivey on February 14, which requested a disaster declaration by the SBA. The declaration covers Elmore County and the adjacent counties of Autauga, Chilton, Coosa, Macon, Montgomery and Tallapoosa.

“With the approval of my request for federal assistance, the Small Business Administration is providing a much needed opportunity for recovery funding to the citizens of Wetumpka,” Ivey said in a statement. “Many individuals and businesses will benefit greatly from the federal disaster loans that SBA offers as they continue to recover following the devastating tornado that heavily damaged parts of the community.”

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McMahon advised that this type of disaster relief is the SBA’s “highest priority.”

“The SBA is strongly committed to providing the people of Alabama with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist businesses of all sizes, homeowners and renters with federal disaster loans,” McMahon said. “Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA.”

This is the latest example of a strong working relationship between the respective administrations of Ivey and President Donald Trump.

“The approval of the Governor’s request for a Small Business Administration disaster declaration demonstrates the diverse partnerships that exist to provide assistance and an opportunity to eligible individuals in the City of Wetumpka, Elmore County, and the contiguous counties to create a better tomorrow,” Hastings outlined. “Long-term recovery is an arduous process and SBA has always played a strong role in helping our citizens in their time of need. We appreciate having them as part of the Emergency Management team.”

The governor’s office provided the following information regarding SBA relief:

SBA’s Customer Service Representatives will be available at the Disaster Loan Outreach Center to answer questions about the disaster loan program and help individuals complete their applications.

The Center is located in the following community and is open as indicated:

Elmore County

Elmore County Commission

100 E. Commerce St.

Wetumpka, AL 36092

Opening: Saturday, Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Closed: Sunday, Feb. 24

Closes: Saturday, March 2 at 2 p.m.

Businesses and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other
business assets.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.

“Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property,” said Kem Fleming, center director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes. Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter, sump pump, French drain or retaining wall to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.

Interest rates are as low as 3.74 percent for businesses, 2.75 percent for nonprofit organizations, and 2 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amount and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at DisasterLoan.sba.gov.

Businesses and individuals may also obtain information and loan applications by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing), or by emailing edisastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Loan applications can also be downloaded at www.sba.gov. Completed applications should be returned to the center or mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is April 22, 2019. The deadline to return economic injury applications is November 21, 2019.

The SBA announcement came near the end of Alabama’s Severe Weather Awareness Week. The state is holding a sales tax holiday Friday, Saturday and Sunday for residents to stock up on preparedness supplies.

Find out more here.

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

18 hours ago

Former Alabama legislative leader Zeb Little arrested

A former Alabama Senate leader has been charged with felony theft.

The Cullman Times reports that 50-year-old Zeb Little was arrested Thursday on three theft charges.

He was booked into the county jail and released on bond.

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Court records are not yet available to show what Little is accused of stealing or whether he has a lawyer to speak on his behalf.

Little is a lawyer, and records show a one-time client sued him in September for failing to turn over money from a settlement.

The case is still in court, and Little is no longer practicing.

Little represented the Cullman area for 12 years as a Democrat in the state Senate.

He was the majority leader for eight years ending in 2010, when he was defeated by a Republican challenger.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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