4 weeks ago

ALGOP talks gas tax at annual meeting – ‘You can’t just say no’

BIRMINGHAM — After a harmonious slate of officer elections Saturday, the Alabama Republican Party’s annual winter state executive committee meeting got heated.

The festivities came to a head when a resolution authored by Morgan County’s Tom Fredricks was brought to the floor. The resolution, aimed at the upcoming state legislative session that begins March 5, concluded that the party “reject[s] any increase to the current state fuel tax.”

However, that is not the conclusion Fredricks wanted people to reach. In fact, he told Yellowhammer News Friday night that he supports Alabama Policy Institute’s position on the gas tax, which explicitly says, “It is possible to be a conservative and still debate an increase in taxes.”

When it comes to his own resolution, Fredricks said, “The intent is to hold the level of cumulative taxation [at 8.7 percent].”

API’s proposal lays out a pathway to a revenue neutral gas tax increase that is premised on finding offsetting tax decreases elsewhere.

Former state Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) had worked with Fredricks to reword his original resolution to better fit the author’s intended result, but Fredricks the day before the meeting scrapped the substitute version the two had agreed to and reverted back to the original.

This led to shouting matches between members of the party’s executive committee Saturday, with many people worried that the resolution as presented was not worded in a constructive way.

The version of Fredricks’ resolution that made it to the floor. (S.Ross/YHN)

For example, in contrast to the version that reached the floor, the substitute resolution concluded, “THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we reject any increase in the current state fuel tax that is not met with an equal reduction elsewhere in existing state revenue and that does not prevent an increase in the ratio of per capita cumulative state and local tax burden to average income.”

After a lot of back and forth and confusion over what was actually being debated (you can read the live-tweet thread here), the Alabama Republican Party executive committee voted to adopt Fredricks’ original resolution.

Dial Time

In an interview with Yellowhammer News after the proceedings, executive committee member and former state Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) said that he wanted his fellow state executive committee members to trust the governor and the legislators that they helped elect. Dial unsuccessfully tried to substitute Fredricks’ resolution for something expressing just that on the floor.

“We elected them – a supermajority – and the governor ran on that platform. She told everybody, ‘I’m for fixing infrastructure.’ Now we’re telling the governor, ‘Hey, you can fix infrastructure but if you do you’re going to have to let 2,000 prisoners out, you’re going to have to take 200 troopers off the roads, you’re going to have to do away with a lot of the programs that you’ve got out there that the people demand. If you’re going to raise taxes over here, then you’ve got to take it off somewhere else,'” he outlined.

Dial added, “So, I don’t think these people – these people are just hollering, ‘I don’t want taxes.’ They don’t understand: this is a user fee. If you ride a bicycle, you don’t pay a gas tax. If you drive two miles to work, you don’t pay as much as you do if I drive 20 miles.”

“I voted for the tax increase in [1992], and if it wasn’t for that, these people would’ve come down here [to Birmingham] on mud. Most of ’em wouldn’t have gotten here if we hadn’t had that increase,” he said.

Dial lamented a lack of awareness that a large portion of gas tax revenues in Alabama is paid by people from outside of the state just traveling through the Yellowhammer State.

“Twenty-five percent of the people who will pay that tax are out-of-staters,” he explained. “Speaker McCutcheon and I two years ago did statewide roundabout public hearings. We went from Mobile to Dothan to Huntsville to Birmingham and such and we heard the complaints, we heard the industry, we heard the people tell us that the number two thing you look at when you come to a state to do site selection is infrastructure. Workforce is one, infrastructure is two. And [some state party members] just want to throw it to the bottom. But, the legislature will work through it.”

The former state senator also spoke about Trump’s support of raising the gas tax to fund infrastructure improvements. While the state party talked at length about proudly supporting the president during the annual winter dinner on Friday and the meeting on Saturday, Dial saw the state party’s vote on Fredricks’ resolution as opposition to Trump and his policy.

“And the other thing, if we don’t do something, we will not have the state money to match the federal money [that could be made available by the Trump Administration for infrastructure],” he warned. “It’ll go to New York and California, and we won’t get our federal tax dollars back.”

Pittman – “You can’t just say no”

In an interview with Yellowhammer News after Fredricks’ resolution passed, Pittman also emphasized that taxing gas is a user fee.

He mentioned that he and Fredricks view API’s proposal as a good model of what they could support – something that does indeed raise the state gas tax in order to improve infrastructure investments but is offset by tax cuts elsewhere so as to not increase the tax burden on the average Alabamian.

“I think that there is a move afoot that Tom [Fredricks] and I were trying to work on, that API’s doing… and I think that’s what needed to be [put to a vote of the state executive committee],” Pittman outlined. “In the legislature, it’s awful hard when the party sits there and talks about how they just elected a supermajority and how strong they are, then you have to govern. Governing means you have to make tough choices and tough decisions. You can’t just say no.”

Asked why that compromise – a framework or guidelines similar to what API proposed – did not make it to the floor as a substitute to Fredricks’ original resolution as they had agreed to, Pittman responded, “I think that there were powers that be, just people that wanted to draw a hardline position.”

“The fact is that there is a reasonable suggestion in both of these resolutions that says, ‘Hey, if we’re going to increase one, then we’re going to make it revenue neutral,” he said.

Pittman stressed that even in the version of the resolution that ended up passing, the intent was to convey they do not want “an overall increase in the tax burden.” Given this intent, which was put into words in the “whereas” portions of the now-passed resolution, Pittman sees enough wiggle room for legislators to operate and still pass a gas tax increase without going against the ALGOP.

“I think that even though the press is probably going to pick up that the Republican Party objected to the increase, what they really said is that, ‘No increase without an equal reduction somewhere else.’ The press a lot of time just wants to stir debate – what actually passed still leaves the flexibility for the legislature to relocate revenue streams,” he explained.

Pittman specifically pointed to the “regressive” grocery tax as something that could be trimmed, which was suggested in API’s proposal. Pittman also spoke to the fact that gas tax money goes into the general fund while most grocery tax revenue goes into the education trust fund.

“The education budget’s in pretty good shape,” he advised. “They’ve got these surpluses, so there’s a legitimate argument about reducing the grocery tax a little bit, putting it in infrastructure. Which will then increase trafficability, which is an economic improvement, increase safety, save peoples’ lives. You put a lot of people to work…the aggregate – the sand, the asphalt, the equipment – and the people would be a great economic impact – you get income tax, more income tax, more revenue from that. When you improve roads, you improve trafficability, which improves economic activity… so I think the argument can be made if the education budget were to give up a little bit, then they would also – and also because they are flush.”

State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), who is slated to carry the infrastructure bill in the legislature, is chairman of the Ways and Means Education Committee. This committee has jurisdiction over the education trust fund in the House.

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

4 hours ago

Illegal immigrant charged in death of Mobile woman

Domingo Francisco Marcos, a Guatemalan immigrant in the United States illegally, has been charged with vehicular homicide and fleeing the scene of the accident with injuries in the Monday death of Mobile’s Sonya Jones on US 98.


According to WKRG, the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office said Marcos, 16, hit Jones’ vehicle head-on and then tried to run away. However, he was injured too badly to do so and collapsed after leaving the immediate scene.

Marcos was then taken to USA Women’s and Children’s Hospital for surgery. Prosecutors plan on asking the judge not to grant him bond.

He reportedly entered the country via Mexico and was apprehended in Arizona by federal law enforcement officials in 2017. Before he could be deported, he claimed asylum and was released awaiting a hearing. Marcos never showed up in court to speak to his claim, so it was denied. However, authorities had no way to locate him so he was never deported.

In a statement, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1), who represents the Mobile area, decried yet another illegal immigrant allegedly responsible for the death of an Alabamian.

“Yet again we have someone who is in our country illegally taking the life of an American citizen,” Byrne said. “How many more Americans have to die before we take action to crack down on illegal immigration, secure the border, and keep the American people safe? Enough is enough!”

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

Will Ainsworth: Common Core is a failed, Obama-era relic that must come to a quick and immediate end

Alabama took a strong step toward independence in its public schools this week when the State Senate approved legislation to repeal the Obama-era curriculum mandates known by most as Common Core.

Everyone agrees that Alabama needs strict academic standards that our children must meet. It is vital to economic development, it is vital to our workforce development and it is vital to our children’s future success.

Where we differ in the Common Core debate is who should set those standards.


I believe Alabamians should determine the curriculum and standards for our state’s schoolchildren based upon our available resources, our needs and our first-hand knowledge of what makes Alabama great.

We should not rely upon some out-of-state entity or liberal, Washington, D.C. bureaucrats to determine our standards, and we certainly should not continue embracing this most damaging legacy of the disastrous Obama administration.

When Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best,” he understood that a top-down approach and governing from afar denies the important knowledge and details that those on the local level possess.

Perhaps the most asinine theory behind Common Core mandates is the cookie cutter approach it takes to schools across our nation.

Rather than recognizing and accounting for the differences among the states, their workforce needs, and the public educations they should offer, Common Core demands an across-the-board, one-size-fits-all mandate that is typical of liberal policy pronouncements.

Moreover, the public schools in a politically conservative state like Alabama, where character education and allowing students to acknowledge God are important, are vastly different from the schools in ultra-liberal cities like San Francisco and New York City, where educators consider themselves enlightened and the groupthink doctrine of political correctness dominates.

But, in the end, the most effective argument for repealing Common Core is the fact that it has proven to be an unmitigated failure.

When Alabama first adopted Common Core roughly a decade ago, advocates labeled it as the cure-all for our public education system, but the magic elixir they promised has proven to be just a worthless bottle of snake oil.

Prior to the adoption of Common Core, Alabama’s students ranked at or near the bottom in almost every education metric that was tested, and, a decade later today, our state still ranks 49th in math and 46th in reading.

For these stated reasons and too many others to detail, it is time for Alabama to abandon this liberal social experiment and chart its own, independent path toward success in education – one that is rooted in conservative principles and one that embraces long-proven, fundamental teaching concepts.

Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), who filed the legislation, and the co-sponsors of his bill should be commended for working to end this unnecessary Obama-era relic. Dropping the gavel when the repeal of Common Core passed the State Senate was one of the happiest and most satisfying moments of my time in public service.

Will Ainsworth is the Republican lieutenant governor of Alabama.

6 hours ago

Bill to repeal Common Core in Alabama passes Senate

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama passed the State Senate as amended by a 23-7 vote on Thursday afternoon, despite a passionate filibuster by Democrats in the chamber.

The bill, SB 119, now heads to the House to take up after the legislature’s spring break next week.


SB 119 was given a unanimous favorable recommendation on Wednesday by the Education Policy Committee.

State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) introduced a friendly amendment that was adopted by the Senate before they passed the bill. The amendment would move Alabama away from Common Core standards directly to new standards adopted by the state school board in 2021-2022 (instead of using transition standards next school year and then new standards in 2020-2021).

Gudger’s amendment also addressed concerns that the bill would inadvertently bar Alabama from utilizing things like AP tests and national certifications and exams.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL), who presides over the Senate, told Yellowhammer News Wednesday that he strongly supports the repeal of Common Core.

Update 4:20 p.m.:

Marsh released the following statement:

In the past I have made it clear that we have an elected school board who should dictate policy when it comes to education in Alabama. However it is clear that we have a dysfunctional school board who is incapable of making decisions that give our students and teachers the best chance at being successful.

We have used the Common Core standards in Alabama for nearly a decade and while we do have some blue-ribbon schools, the vast majority are severely behind. We are still ranked 46thand 49thin reading and math according to National Assessment of Educational Progress. This is unacceptable so it is time to try something new.

I have worked and will continue to work with the education community in developing high standards so that we have the most competitive and rigorous course of study in the country, we cannot accept the status quo and this is a good first step.

I want to thank the Senate for their support and their work as we ended up with a piece of legislation that went through the legislative process to become the best possible bill we could pass and addressed everybody’s concerns. This was a fantastic first step as we move to address sweeping education reform in Alabama.

RELATED: Ivey on Common Core: ‘We should be deliberate in determining a course of study for our state’

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

7 hours ago

Marsh’s bill to help build Trump’s wall passes Senate

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’ bill (R-Anniston) that would voluntarily allow a taxpayer to divert a portion or all of their own state income tax refund to We Build the Wall, Inc. passed the Senate by a vote of 23-6 on Thursday afternoon, overcoming an organized Democrat filibuster.

The bill, SB 22, now is set for a first reading in the House, which can take up the legislation after the legislature’s spring break next week.

“I thank the Senate for their support on this matter and I look forward to working with the House to give Alabamians a voice and are able to express their desire to support President Trump and stronger border security,” Marsh said in a statement.


After Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) started a filibuster Wednesday, Marsh carried the bill over.

On Thursday, the bill was named to the Senate special order calendar and was again filibustered when it came up, this time with multiple Democrat senators joining in the effort. Republicans, seeing the filibuster was set to continue for hours, successfully adopted a cloture petition to end the filibuster so the Democrats would not continue blocking the chamber from conducting business.

“People I talk to across Alabama are sick and tired of politicians in Washington D.C. talking and nothing being done about the crisis on our borders. This bill is about sending a message to Washington that we support President Trump and his mission to secure our southern border,” Marsh advised.

He added, “Alabamians overwhelming favor securing our borders, protecting our citizens and their jobs and supporting President Trump. This bill simply allows citizens, if they choose, to send a message that they want to see our borders secured by sending a portion of their tax refund to donate to build the wall.”

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

BONEFROG, ‘The world’s only Navy SEAL obstacle course race’ heads to Alabama this Saturday

Do you love anything military, obstacle course or NASCAR racing-related? If so, you’ll want to head down to Talladega Superspeedway this Saturday for BONEFROG. With obstacles placed every quarter mile, BONEFROG is sure to test even the most seasoned athletes.


Brian Carney, CEO and Founder of BONEFROG, said the race is designed to push racers past their limits and see that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

“We try to replicate the same type of obstacles we trained on in SEAL training but on a smaller and safer scale,” said Carney. “With BONEFROG you can feel the military authenticity throughout the entire event and especially throughout the course.”

This year, the race will offer several options: the 3-mile Sprint, 6-mile Challenge, 9-mile TIER-1, 8 Hour Endurance and the all-new 18+ mile TRIDENT.

For those with children, BONEFROG will also offer quarter and half-mile courses with scaled down obstacles.

Set up at Alabama’s historic Talladega Speedway, Carney says the Alabama BONEFROG race isn’t one to miss.

“There’s so much history here and we utilize every inch of the speedway to make this race stand out from any other. If you’re coming to BONEFROG to race then Talladega tops them all in that department,” Carney said.

At BONEFROG racers can expect not only to be challenged but inspired. Carney says he will never forget watching Alabama veteran, and former Dancing with the Stars contestant Noah Galloway complete the race’s Black OP’s obstacle.

“For those who don’t know, Noah’s an army vet who lost an arm and a leg in combat. To see him on the monkey bars in front of our massive American Flag taking on one of our toughest obstacles just sent chills through my body,” Carney said.

Carney continued, saying that moment continues to linger in his memory.

“To say it was inspirational would be a massive understatement. It’s stayed with me ever since and pushed me and my entire team to always strive to put on the best events we possibly can because our racers deserve just that.”

With 20,000 to 30,000 racers expected to participate in this year’s BONEFROG races, it’s safe to say popularity is unmatched.

More than just a fun and challenging race, BONEFROG partners with nonprofits, like the Navy SEAL Foundation, to give back. Carney said the company has raised over $200,000 for charity to date.

If you’re ready to test your limits and join the race, there’s still time. To register or to learn more about the company, visit the BONEFROG website at www.bonefrogchallenge.com