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6 months ago

‘Bama gun ban? — Medicaid to work — Ethics overhaul, and more in today’s Alabama Legislative session update



Editor’s note: This is a round-up of the day’s major events in Montgomery.

The Alabama Legislature wrapped up work for the week on Thursday with discussion of a much-debated proposal to overhaul the state’s ethics law, a new gun-restriction proposal and postponement of a prison health contract.

Here is a look at the major developments in Montgomery on Thursday:

The big story: Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, along with Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) and Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton unveiled proposed changes to the Alabama Ethics Act.

But legislative leaders do not expect a vote until next year. Instead, Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) will sponsor legislation to set up the Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission, which would review the proposal.

Sponsors described the legislation as an effort to strengthen the ethics law.

“After nearly two years of work and the input from many around the state, I am pleased to join with the legislative leadership in announcing the introduction of legislation to improve the Alabama Ethics Act,” Marshall said in a statement. “The updated Ethics Act, which was written with direct input from the Attorney General’s Office, is meant to strengthen and add further clarity to the current Alabama ethics law passed in 2010.”

Republicans passed the sweeping ethics law in 2010 immediately after the newly elected GOP majority took office. Signing the law was one of outgoing Gov. Bob Riley’s last acts.

But in the ensuing years, some lawmakers complained that the rules were too restrictive and deterred qualified people with business interests from seeking office.

Supporters of the proposed changes argue they will achieve three goals — encouraging honest people to serve by better defining the line between legal and illegal behavior; creating a clear process for people serving in government to seek guidance on potential ethical conflicts; ensuring that people who violate the public trust are held accountable.

“My office had a strong hand in the writing of this bill, but we didn’t do it alone,” Marshall stated.

Critics have castigated the proposal as a naked effort to weaken the ethics law, including legalizing some conduct for which former House Speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted of in 2016.

According to, Albritton called the proposal a “good starting point” that needs further discussion.

“There’s a lot of good in there, and there’s a lot in there I don’t like,” he said.

Making Medicaid recipients work: The Alabama Medicaid Agency will seek a federal waiver to allow it to impose work requirements on able-bodied adults, the Montgomery Advertiser reported Thursday.

The newspaper reported that the agency had begun soliciting comments as part of the process to get permission from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Currently, both the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) program in Alabama contain certain work requirements for individuals participating in these programs,” the application to CMS states. “Alabama Medicaid plans to utilize the resources that have been successful in these programs to assist Medicaid recipients in gaining the tools necessary to become more self-sufficient.”

The vast majority of Alabama’s roughly 1 million Medicaid beneficiaries are children, elderly or disabled and would not be affected by a work requirement.

But critics contend that the requirement unfairly would make some recipients ineligible for Medicaid by boosting their incomes above the low eligibility limit. This includes low-income residents who qualify because they care for children or dependents who benefit from the health care program.

“The state really needs to ask two questions,” Jim Carnes, policy director for Arise Citizens’ Policy Project, told the Advertiser. “Do we want to get people to work, or do we want to get people off Medicaid? Because this would kick people off Medicaid.”

Prison contract delay: Amid questions over a health care company’s connection to a Mississippi bribery case, an Alabama legislative committee held up a contract for prison health care, according to the Associated Press.

The Legislative Contract Review Committee delayed the proposed $360 million contract with Wexford Health Sources to supply medical and mental health care to inmates until 2020.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said Wexford offered the best bid in terms of quality and price. But Wexford is among a dozen firms facing a lawsuit by the state of Mississippi over alleged kickbacks the Magnolia State’s former prison commissioner.

“There are just some questions floating around out there,” Contract Review Committee Chairman Jack Williams told the AP. “I held it up in order to give the governor’s office time to evaluate these others concerns that have been raised primarily from the state of Mississippi.”

Under state law, the committee can delay a contract for 45 days, but cannot block it indefinitely.

Gun ban in Bama? Alabama would not seem to be fertile ground for a sweeping gun ban, but that is just what a state lawmaker has proposed, according to

Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) introduced a bill to ban the sale of all semiautomatic guns — rifles and handguns.

“It’s time that we had that conversation in the state of Alabama as well as across the country,” she told the website. “Because it appears as though it’s all right for our children to be killed. And nothing is done about it.”

Moore’s bill comes after a mass shooting killed 17 people at a high school in neighboring Florida on Valentine’s Day. She accused gun supporters of wanting to “hide behind the Second Amendment” but argued that semiautomatic guns are “used for war.”

Speaker McCutcheon told that he did not know how Moore’s proposal would be received. He said he intended to discuss various gun and school safety proposals next week.

“What are they trying to accomplish with this and how does it promote safety in our state?” McCutcheon said.

Tweet of the day:

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.


1 hour ago

What is it with Alabama Democrats’ dumb obsession with debates, town halls?

So you’re a Democrat in Alabama, and you want to be elected to high office? You approached your run for office thinking that Doug Jones showed what’s possible for a Democrat in Alabama. Therefore, you determined the time is right to run.

And here you are. You put up your qualifying fee and made it through the primary. It’s you versus a well-funded Republican incumbent in a state outside the Seventh Congressional District, and a handful of other urban minority precincts elects very few Democrats.

It’s a David versus Goliath story. It’s going to require a solid ground game, a fair amount of travel and a campaign message that will sway some Republicans to overlook party labels and mark the ballot for a Democrat.

What’s Walt Maddox’s first significant push? Perhaps it could be the success story of Tuscaloosa and all the things he has accomplished as mayor. Tuscaloosa is still a place people might want to visit – several nice restaurants, an up and coming riverfront, an affluent and diverse population, or yeah – and the University of Alabama and all it has to offer.

It’s a simple message: Do you want Alabama to be more like Tuscaloosa? Vote for me.


Instead, the one big thing – the thing that he has tirelessly played up to the media, the topic about which he made internet videos and the one upon which his off-the-rails, left-of-center allies in the media seem to agree is Gov. Kay Ivey’s refusal to debate him.

In Alabama’s Second Congressional District, there’s a similarly mystifying event taking place in the race between Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and her Democratic opponent Tabitha Isner.

Unlike Maddox, Isner doesn’t have a public service resume on which to run. She has to make the case in what is now arguably the most conservative congressional district in Alabama that she is a better alternative to the incumbent Roby.

She has to find vulnerabilities in this heavily agricultural congressional district. Whereas Roby’s Republican opponents ran against her for not being Trump-y enough, she might be served by saying Roby is way too much Trump – supporting tariffs and restrictions on labor. Her best shot would be to build a coalition of Democrat-voting Black Belt Democrats in Butler, Conecuh, Bullock and Barbour Counties and win over the handful of pockets of Republican-leaning swing voters in Montgomery, Elmore and Autauga Counties.

The math is very tough. But what does she do instead? She makes Roby’s lack of town hall meetings an issue with bizarre performance art in front of the Bird Dog Monument in Union Springs and posting it on YouTube.

A few of Alabama’s media celebrities have taken the bait. Alabama News Network’s senior political reporter Tim Lenox confronted Roby with the video, who shrugged it off.

“I have a packed August where I’ll be spending a lot of time with my constituents both in public meetings and in private meetings,” Roby said at an appearance earlier this week in Montgomery. “[P]rivate meeting scheduled previously scheduled one-on-one meetings — there’s lots of different ways to communicate with your constituents.”

Doug Jones didn’t win a U.S. Senate seat in 2017 because he hammered Roy Moore for not debating him. He had a big assist from the Democratic Party’s opposition research wing known as the mainstream media. He also did a few other things the Democratic Party of Alabama’s past and present won’t do, and that’s work beyond preserving the status quo – but that’s a subject for another time.

Is it noteworthy that a Republican opponent is reluctant to debate or hold town halls? Sure. Is it something to harp on as if it is the magic ticket to higher office? No, it’s just a dumb obsession.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

1 hour ago

Officials investigating Brewer High School hazing report

A sheriff’s department in Alabama is investigating a report of hazing at a high school earlier this year.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office is working with the county school system on an incident involving students at Brewer High School in February.


Schools Superintendent Bill Hopkins Jr. told WHNT in Huntsville the incident involved the junior varsity baseball team.

Hopkins said the incident happened in a locker room and involved middle school students who played for the junior varsity team.

The students involved were suspended from all summer programs and started the new school year in in-school suspension.

Hopkins says school officials will work with the coaches and team members to provide extra training on bullying.

Sheriff Ana Franklin says investigators are working to determine whether charges should be filed.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 hours ago

Rep. Robert Aderholt remembers Aretha Franklin, her time recording in Muscle Shoals

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) is paying tribute to Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” who died on Thursday.

Aderholt posted a video on his Facebook page documenting Franklin’s time recording at the renowned FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, along with these words:

“The music world has lost a legend in Aretha Franklin. While I was just a young child in Haleyville, I had no idea that just a few miles up the road in Muscle Shoals, she was recording some of the world’s most famous songs. She recorded RESPECT in Muscle Shoals on February 14, 1967. And what a Valentine gift it was. Her voice was one of the many that gave richly to the Muscle Shoals Music, and it will never go silent.”

“We consider it an honor that many of her songs were recorded in the 4th District and here in Alabama,” Aderholt’s office said in a statement obtained by Yellowhammer News. “Besides being an honor, it’s just plain cool.”

3 hours ago

You’re not alone, Alabama: South Carolina also has a billion-dollar defunct nuclear site — but it’s worse

The Yellowhammer State and the Palmetto State share many things: heat, southern culture, a love for football.

A more unfortunate commonality between the two, and one receiving lots of attention in both states, is that each has an unfinished nuclear power plant just sitting there, continually making news but not power.

Alabama’s Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station, which has never generated a single watt of power, has become over the years a (literally) concrete representation of the federal government’s vast ambition coupled with its occasional  – or frequent, depending who you ask – inability to follow through.


Recent developments indicate that the massive power plant could eventually be put to use, but that is still a long way off.

Still, Bellefonte is a case study of taxpayer investment in a dead-end project

In a way, though, Alabamians can be grateful that they themselves weren’t required to fund the dead-end project through increased monthly energy rates, as consumers in South Carolina were.

Back in March 2008, South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) – the South Carolina equivalent of Alabama Power – began the process of applying for authorization to built two new nuclear reactors at its VC Summer site just north of Columbia. The company already operated one reactor at the site.

SCE&G was approved and established contracts for construction. The project was estimated to cost $9.8 billion.

To help with the project’s funding, SCE&G proposed a rate increase, got it approved by the Public Service Commission in May 2008, and construction began later that fall.

Over the years, there were numerous project delays and extra project costs which have, up to the current day, resulted in nine rate increases.

Last July, the project was abandoned after Westinghouse, the company building the reactors, filed for bankruptcy.

As the legislative session winded down this year, the legislature passed a temporary 15 percent rate cut for energy consumers who have paid an estimated $2 billion into the nuclear project fund.

A disaster of nuclear proportions, you could say.

The failure of both Bellefonte and the expansions at VC Summer are disconcerting generally, and downright infuriating for those who were forced to pay into them. Both projects have the potential to succeed, but that will require some kind of co-aligned effort between ambitious big business and government, both of which delivered the failed projects in the first place.

Read about developments on the Bellefonte front here.

Marion Mayor uses tools to prep residents for AlabamaWorks Success Plus Initiative

By: Dexter Hinton, Mayor of Marion, Alabama

When I was elected in late 2016 as Mayor of Marion, I knew there were certain areas in which our town needed to improve. One was education and work preparedness for those who did not want to attend a four-year college. We had gaps that needed to be filled.

As an Industrial Maintenance and Robotics Instructor at the Career Center in Greene County, I know what resources are available to assist those seeking a job or a skills education. When people come to the center, our team has a plethora of tests, assessments, job listings, resume-building sessions and other items at our disposal to help folks get the right position or training that matches their needs or abilities.


As Mayor, I realized we needed to get educational tools to Marion residents, especially after Moller Tech announced that it would be locating in Bibb County, adjacent to Perry County, and bringing 222 jobs with it. But with a small town like Marion (population 3,432) not having a dedicated resource center, we didn’t quite know how to unite the two. Then one day, I attended a Central AlabamaWorks meeting and saw AIDT’s mobile unit, which is the Department of Commerce’s skills education center on wheels.

I spoke with Mikki Ruttan, director of Central AlabamaWorks, after the meeting and asked her about the possibility of getting the unit to our area. I learned it could be customized for the needs of its audience. After numerous discussions with other local leaders, we selected basic resume building and a Ready-to-Work course as the initial offerings. I knew the mobile unit would be key in obtaining career readiness for the citizens of Marion. I also felt that our citizens would welcome the chance to improve their skills and knowledge base.

After dozens of conversations, we got the mobile unit scheduled this past April. We posted and delivered flyers all over the city, announcing when and where the unit would be located, and we created a Facebook page. We had no idea what kind of response we would have for this type of educational opportunity. But, our citizens realized how such training could give them a leg up in the job market. As a result, they turned out in droves to learn more and better position themselves for entry into the job market, or to simply upgrade their skill set.

With Gov. Kay Ivey’s Success Plus initiative rollout a few months ago, I knew we had to get our citizens more training to help them, and our state, reach the goal of 500,000 people with post-high-school credentials by 2025. The mobile training unit seemed like the perfect way to deliver those opportunities to our residents.

After some discussion, we were able to get the unit at The Lincoln School. We focused the training on Ready-to-Work. The classes filled immediately, and a waiting list soon formed. Our people were eager to gain knowledge to improve their lives and that of their families. Once they completed the course, they received credentials as an Alabama Certified Worker; a Career Readiness certificate; a free three-credit-hour course at Wallace Community College Selma (if they had a high school diploma); three credits toward a high school diploma (if they didn’t have one); and a referral to the Selma Career Center for free certificates or degree information from WCC in welding, industrial maintenance, electrical technology or nursing.

The unit has been so popular with our citizens that two classrooms are now being refurbished at The Lincoln School specifically for AIDT courses. This means we will have a permanent place for our people to get not only Ready-to-Work training, but also training in other much-needed professions offered by Wallace, such as cosmetology, carpentry, welding, automotive technician and others.

The excitement continues to build for our city. In fact, AIDT has already completed one Ready-to-Work training with several graduates who have received employment.

With the extra effort by Central AlabamaWorks, AIDT, the Career Centers and the Alabama Community College System – combined with the excitement and work ethic of our citizens – I know Marionites can and will be a valued part of the Success Plus endeavor. I look forward to seeing what our citizens can achieve for themselves, their families and our community.