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5 years ago

Bentley channels Reagan, shuns government dependency in State of the State address


(Above: Gov. Bentley receives a standing ovation before delivering the 2014 State of the State address)

Thinking back over the last couple of years, I’d guess I’ve seen Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley deliver somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 speeches to large crowds — from Chambers of Commerce to College Republicans, Rotary Clubs to ALGOP banquets. I’ve also been in the Old House Chambers to witness three of his State of the State addresses firsthand.

Last night’s State of the State — his fourth — may have been his most impressive effort yet.

The only new initiative mentioned in the speech was the creation of a “Small Business Advisory Council” to provide resources and support to small business owners trying to expand their operations.

Bentley touted Alabama’s unemployment rate, 6.2%, which is the lowest in the southeast. But some economists are quick to point out that Alabama’s shrinking workforce is contributing to that number. The governor also ran down an extensive list of companies that have either come to Alabama or significantly expanded their footprint in the state since he took office in 2011.

But that’s the kind of stuff that politicians talk about everywhere they go, and it’s certainly not what made last night’s speech particularly compelling.

What set last night’s speech apart was that after three years in office, Gov. Bentley finally gave us peek into the core belief system that informs every decision he makes as the state’s chief executive. This was him laying out his philosophy of governance, rather than discussing the politics of governing.

Want to know why he’s got a borderline obsession with pre-k programs? Trying to figure out why he keeps hammering on the need to better train Alabama workers? Confused about his staunch opposition to expanding Medicaid? Last night’s speech puts it all in perspective.

Not to skip to the last page of the book, but everything comes back to Bentley’s belief that access to education and job opportunities will break the crippling cycle of poverty in this state far more effectively than any government program ever could.

With that in mind, here are three key moments from Gov. Bentley’s fourth State of the State Address:

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley receives a standing ovation before delivering the 2014 State of the State Address.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley receives a standing ovation before delivering the 2014 State of the State Address.
1. Resolve to Reverse

The poorest county in the United States of America is located just 73 miles from where we sit tonight. If we were to drive a little over an hour from this historic hall we would find ourselves in Wilcox County where the median household income is below that of any other county in this nation. 11-thousand of our fellow Alabamians live in Wilcox County where the unemployment rate is chronically in double digits and consistently ranks above the national average.

That was the first paragraph of Gov. Bentley’s State of the State. And with that, the tone was set.

The governor immediately laid out some stunning statistics, including the fact that one in four Alabama children live in poverty and nearly 1-million Alabamians depend on food stamps.

Then Bentley delivered the sentence that set up the entire rest of the speech.

We recognize the challenges that we face and we resolve to reverse the trends that have troubled our state for decades.

2. Channeling Reagan

After Bentley directly addressed the issue of poverty in Alabama and committed to taking it head-on, the 53rd Governor of Alabama delivered seven sentences that could have come directly out of the mouth of America’s 40th president.

We will never see an end to the plague of poverty by offering a deeper dependence on a flawed government system. We will never help our poorest citizens, or our future generations by casting over them the net of federal government giveaway programs.

We can break the cycle of poverty, but not with programs that drag our communities and our people into the downward spiral of dependence.

That is why we will not expand on a flawed and broken system that encourages greater reliance, not on self, but on government, pulling even more of our vulnerable citizens into what President Ronald Reagan called the “spider’s web of dependency.”

We will help no one if we continually make decisions that ultimately offer little hope for our citizens while driving this great nation deeper into debt.

There is never freedom for the breadwinner who is dependent on the government.

Freedom is only found in the land that offers opportunity. That comes from hard work and sacrifice.

This was a Bentley that I don’t think we’ve seen before. This wasn’t the hometown, grandfatherly doctor telling the sick state to “take two and call me in the morning.” This was a governor with a fire in his belly delivering a full-throated indictment of government dependency.

3. The Final Word on Medicaid Expansion

This is where the rubber met the road last night. The soaring rhetoric was used to illustrate the thought process behind the governor’s position on expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare.

Bentley has endured intense criticism from various special interest groups, editorial writers and policy makers for his refusal to expand the costly program. It’s also been the rumor du jour among insiders that the governor would bide his time, get re-elected, then expand Medicaid to placate some of his advisers and Montgomery lobbyists.

He’s kept mostly quiet as his critics piled on, but last night he unloaded.

The Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare and Medicaid expansion is taking our nation deeper into the abyss of debt, and threatens to dismantle what I believe is one of the most trusted relationships, that of doctors and their patient.

Essential to Obamacare is Medicaid expansion – a federal government dependency program for the uninsured, which is administered by states. Since 1980, Medicaid spending has increased nationally by over 1,500-percent.

Here in Alabama, Medicaid takes up 35% of our General Fund.

Under Obamacare, Medicaid would grow even larger… Here in Alabama alone, an estimated 300,000 more people would be added to the Medicaid role, to a system that by our own admission is absolutely broken and flawed.

The federal government has said they will give us money to expand. But how can we believe the federal government will keep its word? The anything but Affordable Care Act has done nothing to gain our trust.

First, they told us we could keep our doctor – that turned out not to be true. Next, they told us we could keep our policy – that’s not true. Then they told us our premiums would not go up – nothing could be further from the truth. Now they are telling us we’ll get free money to expand Medicaid.

Ladies and Gentlemen, nothing is free. The money the federal government is spending with wild abandon is not federal dollars – those are your dollars, your hard-earned tax dollars. There is no difference between federal money and your money.

Our great nation is 17.2 trillion dollars in debt and it increases by 2-billion dollars every single day.

That is why I cannot expand Medicaid in Alabama. We will not bring hundreds of thousands into a system that is broken and buckling.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Gov. Bentley came back later in the speech to hammer the point home one more time.

Nearly 1 million people in Alabama are on Medicaid. It is not my goal to put more people on Medicaid but to have less. It is not my intent to put able-bodied individuals on a government dependency program.

Yellowhammer created a word cloud that highlights the words Gov. Bentley used the most during his State of the State address. It can be seen below. To read the entire text of the speech, visit the Governor’s website.

2014 Word Cloud


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

19 mins ago

Alabama to receive $49M in BP oil spill restoration grants

Four Gulf states are getting an additional $280 million in restoration grants from the BP oil spill of 2010.

Louisiana is getting $161.4 million to restore two barrier islands and a headland in the Terrebonne Basin.

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The work will restore Timbalier and Trinity islands, which “are currently at a critical minimum width in some areas,” and the West Bell Headland.

“Additionally, this proposal includes funding to enhance plans for the long-term sustainability of the entire length of Louisiana barrier islands,” the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said Monday.

Florida is receiving $53 million for seven projects, including $16 million to protect coastal forest and wetlands along the Lower Suwanee River and Big Bend coast, the foundation said in a news release.

Nearly $49 million will go to eight Alabama projects, including $22.5 million to create and restore artificial reefs.

Texas will get $19 million for five projects, including $6 million to protect 575 acres of coastal habitat in Cameron County, next to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge’s Bahia Grande Unit.

The foundation is getting $2.5 billion over five years for restoration projects.

The money’s coming from criminal damages paid by BP PLC and drilling company Transocean Deepwater Inc.

Monday’s grants are the sixth round and bring the total so far to $1.3 billion.

The spill was off Louisiana, which suffered the worst damage and has received more than $625 million for 13 projects.

Alabama has received more than $195 million for 32 projects; Florida more than $160 million for 33 projects, and Texas more than $150 million for 47 projects.

Foundation spokesman Rob Blumenthal said Mississippi, which has received nearly $140 million for 18 projects, did not have any new projects considered for this round of grants.

The smallest grant awarded Monday was $100,000 to remove invasive species and debris from Hurricane Harvey and then plant native vegetation at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center within the Port Aransas Nature Preserve.

“Hurricane Harvey destroyed two miles of boardwalk and uprooted significant stands of wetland vegetation in the preserve that settled as debris, smothering existing wetland vegetation and causing significant degradation of coastal marsh habitat,” a news release said.

“The debris has prevented the regrowth of marsh vegetation and limited the flow of freshwater to the area.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

7 Things: Controversial deputy AG is out, Walt Maddox gets a participation trophy from himself, the SPLC demands no penalties for unpaid speeding tickets and more …

7. Ivanka Trump has a Hillary Clinton problem

— In what will surely be viewed as hypocritical and foolish behavior, President Donald Trump’s daughter and White House official, Ivanka Trump reportedly had been using a personal email account to conduct government business including interactions from a private email account with cabinet secretaries and forwards of her schedule to her assistant.

— There are no serious allegations that Trump used the email for anything that would be considered classified, but with the Democrats taking over the House of Representatives, they will surely be looking to exact revenge for the issues raised in the 2016 campaign. The fact that Jared Kushner set up a series of ijkfamily.com email accounts will also be scrutinized.

6. Alabama native and Yellowhammer founder Cliff Sims has written “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House” about his time in the White House

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— While going from Trump’s campaign to the West Wing, Sims kept pages of notes from his time as one of Trump’s trusted confidants.

— Sims summed the book up with a twist on one of Trump’s famous quotes, “Lincoln famously had his Team of Rivals. Trump had his Team of Vipers. We served. We fought. We brought our egos. We brought our personal agendas and vendettas. We were ruthless. And some of us, I assume, were good people.”

5. The dumb fight with the Trump administration and CNN may be over

— After suggesting the White House would still revoke the press pass from CNN’s Jim Acosta, it appears they are prepared to give him back his pass permanently and issue a series of rules that all reporters must follow.

— The rules state that reporters may only ask one question, follow-ups are given “at the discretion of the president or other White House officials” and reporters must “physically surrender” the microphone when asked to, but these have not been agreed to by the press so this could enter another contentious phase.

4. Another federal judge has decided he is in charge of immigration enforcement and stops President Trump from enforcing new asylum rules while the border patrol had to close a border entry point yesterday

— A federal judge says the Trump administration can no longer deny asylum to migrants who illegally cross the southern border. The judge added, “[H]e may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden” while the previous president’s DACA decision still stands.

Democrats are also raising concerns about an email conversation between Trump administration officials wondering if the administration will share census information with other agencies, making it less likely that illegals will fill out the census.

3. The Southern Poverty Law Center thinks Alabama shouldn’t be able to use unpaid traffic tickets to suspend licenses — They already want bail ended 

— The SPLC wants to block Alabama Law Enforcement Agency from suspending driver’s licenses of drivers with unpaid parking tickets, leaving the tickets unpaid and without penalty for not paying them.

— The lawless argument the SPLC is making here is basically that people shouldn’t have to pay the penalties for the offenses they commit, which is similar to their argument that bail is illegal.

2. Failed gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox gifts himself a participation trophy for getting 20,000 more votes than Senator Doug Jones and still losing

— In what millennials would call a “weird flex,” Tuscaloosa’s mayor decided to take to Twitter and post an infographic laying out how his loss to Governor Kay Ivey in early November was a really some symbolic victory.

— Maddox cited his 20,000 more votes than Sen, Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) got in 2017, claimed he had enough votes to win any other gubernatorial election since 2018 and surpassed his expected vote total and his number of donors. But he still lost by 300,000+ vote.

1. Alabama’s Attorney General fires/accepts the resignation of controversial prosecutor Matt Hart

— Matt Hart, the deputy attorney general of Alabama who led the Special Prosecutions Division, left his position on Monday. Hart has a series of high-profile government corruption convictions under his belt.

— Hart oversaw the convictions of former Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, the deal that saw Governor Robert Bentley resign and numerous other high-profile cases, but his tactics have been questioned repeatedly and many have alleged there is something more to this move than meets the eye.

2 hours ago

Doug Jones at Mobile U.S. Senate trade roundtable: Pentagon could play role in national security tariffs

MOBILE – Although President Donald Trump remains very popular in Alabama, his trade policies among the state’s business leaders appear to be mixed.

For the steel industry, which has been a fixture in Alabama for generations, the Trump administration’s handling of trade is a resounding success. Yet, for those in agriculture and auto manufacturing, there is much room for improvement.

That seemed to be the takeaway from a roundtable convened by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) at the University of South Alabama on Monday.

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The roundtable, an event sanctioned by the U.S. Senate under the body’s Homeland Security Committee, will be part of the permanent record of the Senate and that will be considered for legislation.

“I have a couple of bills pending involving automobile tariffs and national security tariffs,” Jones said. “So, it will be part of that record in the legislative history should those come to the floor or come to a vote.”

A statutory change under consideration according to Alabama’s junior senator regarding trade has to do with which cabinet department handles tariffs levied on a national security basis.

Jones says that could be best handled by the Department of Defense and not the Commerce Department.

“Under the national security threat, it bifurcates the process and moves the initial determination about national security – for instance, automobile – whether or not automobiles are a national security threat – that would move that to the Defense Department, who is better equipped to address national security concerns rather than the Commerce Department.”

Jones told Yellowhammer News the roundtable provided insights into how current trade policy directly impacted Alabama and influenced decision-making by business executives.

“It confirms what we’ve been saying – that the uncertainty of this policy is creating some problems,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “People are holding off. They’re not sure whether or not to expand their business, whether it is a small business or whether it is a big business. It shows there can be some serious consequences if certain tariffs are imposed. At the same time, it shows you where there can be successes – with the steel industry to stabilize markets.”

“One of the purposes of the hearing is to make sure the public is aware, people are aware,” he continued. “I think one of the takeaways that people will understand is that this policy and the retaliatory tariffs right now are having a devastating impact on farmers. We stand to lose a lot of overseas markets if this is not resolved. That’s the whole point of this. Let’s get it resolved one way or another, so we know where we stand. It’s gone on long enough.”

Jones elaborated on his personal views on trade when asked if a “free trade” or “fair trade” label could be applied to his views. He acknowledged there needed to be a balance of elements of free and fair trade. However, he also said his preference is trade alliances as opposed to trade wars.

“I don’t if you can really describe – I think fair trade is the most important aspect of that,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “There is always a strong element of free trade that’s included in that. You’ve got to balance trade with rogue countries like China has been over the years. And you got to make sure that countries that are subsidizing their trade do not have an unfair advantage because we want to protect our workers here in this country.”

“At the same time, we are much more of a global economy now and interconnected than we have ever been in the history of this earth,” he added. “And we got to recognize that – that what we can do, work together, is the way to try and manage this and help our country help other countries and help the global economy as well as our own. We want to make sure our workers are protected. We can do that better by forming alliances instead of doing trade wars.”

Monday’s roundtable participants included Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama vice president Robert Burns, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International general counsel Rick Clementz, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama assistant division manager Allyson Edwards, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama president David Fernandes, Aker Solutions project director Graham Jones, Baldwin County farmers Mark Kaiser and Daniel Perry, Nucor Steel Decatur vice president Mike Lee, Alabama State Port Authority Director & CEO Jimmy Lyons and Fairfield Works Tubular plant manager Brent Sansing.

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

3 hours ago

Terri Sewell slams Kay Ivey — Claims ‘daughter of the Black Belt’ would not help save Camden hospital

SELMA – One of the primary themes at a town hall hosted by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) on Monday night was health care, which is also one on which that House Democrats campaigned in this year’s midterm elections.

Although Democrats nationally had success in the midterms, in Alabama they were unable to capitalize electorally on health care, especially given the emphasization Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox gave to expanding Medicaid in his failed gubernatorial bid.

Nonetheless, Sewell argued before a crowd assembled at the Selma Interpretive Center for her town hall event in downtown Selma that Medicaid expansion was a priority and she decried the unwillingness of Alabama policymakers to agree.

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“States like Alabama were not supposed to be able to opt out of expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “The last two governors have not done that. It’s horrible. The reality is the fact that we have not expanded Medicaid means rural hospitals are under threat. Alabama has a bare-bones Medicaid system. They pay less than 10 percent on a dollar for the services for Medicaid.”

According to Alabama’s lone Democratic member of Congress, the closure of rural hospitals was the result of not expanding Medicaid.

“We have missed out on millions – actually billions of dollars in the state of Alabama in not expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “We could use that money, and the fact that we don’t have that money means that so many of our rural hospitals are under threat of closing. I don’t have to tell the Black Belt.”

Sewell referenced the John Paul Jones Hospital in nearby Camden, which was on the verge of closing in 2017 but got a last-minute reprieve after an agreement was made with UAB earlier this year.

She took aim at Gov. Kay Ivey, a native of Camden, for not doing more to save the Wilcox County hospital.

“We saved [John] Paul Jones Hospital, but we did so with the help of UAB,” she said. “Now, that’s not a model that can be done to scale. What I did is I begged UAB because our own governor, who is from Wilcox [County], would not help us to save Wilcox County’s hospital. That’s unacceptable, by the way. And I’m not telling her anything that I wouldn’t tell her to her face and have told her because when you’re a daughter of the Black Belt, you have to understand that you have got to take care of home.”

Sewell told those in attendance she went to UAB Health System CEO William Ferniany and warned if Camden’s John Paul Jones Hospital closed, hospitals in Selma and Demopolis could be threatened, and that might result in everyone “bum-rushing” UAB for health care.

“Rural hospitals are on the chopping block and the number-one priority for me is keeping the doors open and making sure access is there, but also making sure quality is there,” she added.

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

17 hours ago

Assistant U.S. attorney to replace Hart in leading Special Prosecutions Division

Multiple sources have told Yellowhammer News that Anna “Clark” Morris, the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, will take over the Special Prosecutions Division of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

The announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday. Attorney General Steve Marshall accepted the resignation of Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, who has led the division for years, on Monday morning.

Morris served as the acting U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s middle district last year, in between President Donald Trump firing former USA George Beck in March of 2017 and now-USA Louis Franklin being confirmed that September.

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Morris is an Alabama native and a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law.

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