The Wire

  • Stray dog shot with arrow between its eyes in Walker County

    Excerpt from ABC 33/40:

    On Wednesday afternoon, the Walker County Humane Society rescued a stray dog who had been shot with an arrow between its eyes. The arrow has since been removed, and the dog is recovering at the humane society.

    Carbon Hill residents who noticed the injured dog alerted authorities after unsuccessful attempts at catching her last week. The humane society says the dog was so scared that rescue workers had to use sedative-laced cat food to catch her.

  • Trump explores tariffs on autos, auto parts

    Excerpt from AP:

    The Trump administration launched an investigation into whether tariffs are needed on the imports of automobiles into the United States, moving swiftly as talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement have stalled. President Donald Trump predicted earlier that U.S. automakers and auto workers would be “very happy” with the outcome of the NAFTA talks.

    The White House said in a statement Wednesday that the president had asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to consider whether the imports of automobiles, including trucks, and automotive parts threaten U.S. national security. The president said in the statement that “core industries such as automobiles and automotive parts are critical to our strength as a Nation.”

    The U.S. remains far apart on the talks over rewriting the trade pact with Canada and Mexico, with the discussions at an impasse over rules for car production. The initiation of the trade investigation could be seen as an attempt to gain leverage in the talks with the two U.S. neighbors. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that efforts to renegotiate the trade agreement could spill into next year.

  • Alice Martin stresses experience in campaign for attorney general

    Excerpt from Montgomery Advertiser:

    Before Alice Martin was an attorney, she was a nurse.

    “The nurses have the minute-by-minute contact with the patients, versus the doctors making rounds in the morning and afternoon,” Martin said in a recent interview. “It was so important to be the eyes for the physicians when they weren’t there, so you could tell them more than what you could chart.”

    While she ended up going into the law, Martin said her time as a psychiatric nurse proved valuable in a career where she’s worked as a private attorney, a prosecutor and a judge.

    “I used it in criminal cases when I was looking at autopsy reports, in forensic reports,” she said. “You can use it because it’s so much easier to communicate with doctors and nurses when you’re defending them in liability cases.”

    It goes with Martin’s chief argument in her campaign for attorney general: She has a resume no other candidate can match.

4 months ago

Alabama leads the nation in political corruption, new study shows

 

Alabama tops the country in public corruption, according to a new study examining perceptions of wrongdoing across the country.

The report by Illinois State University’s Institute for Corruption Studies ranks Alabama as the most corrupt state in the union for 2017 when it comes to what researchers call “legal corruption” — conduct by public officials that is technically legal but unethical. The state comes in second, behind Kentucky, in “illegal corruption,” conduct that is out-and-out against the law.

Oguzhan Dincer, director of the institute, said the findings have been mostly consistent since he and research partner Michael Johnston conducted their first annual study in 2014.

“Quite frankly, it’s been pretty sticky, especially states like Alabama,” he said. “Once a state becomes corrupt, it stays corrupt for a while.”

Dincer and Johnston, an emeritus professor at Colgate University, started the project when they were fellows at Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Dincer said other studies have tried to quantify corruption by examining conviction data. But he said that method has some drawbacks. For instance, he said, prosecutors in one state may be more aggressive than prosecutors in another. He also pointed to research indicating a partisan bias — Democratic prosecutors are more eager to pursue Republican wrongdoing, and vice versa.

What’s more, Dincer said, the Department of Justice’s definition of corruption is broad. He said it counts a postal worker who steals mail and an assistant district attorney who snorts cocaine, for example. He said neither would seem to fall into the same category as a politician on the take.

So Dincer and Johnston sought to solve those problems by turning to the people who should know the most — journalists who cover state government. He said it is modeled after groups like Transparency International, which ranks country-by-country corruption by polling citizens.

Dincer said asking journalists has the advantage of zeroing in on the men and women who spend their careers watching government up close.

“Instead of randomly selecting thousands of individuals in every state, we decided to ask reporters,” he said. “We thought they would know better.”

Dincer’s team surveyed 1,000 journalists covering state politics, getting responses from 48 states. They rated their perception of corruption on a scale of 1 to 5 for the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Alabama’s composite score for all three branches was 11 points for “illegal corruption” and 13 for “legal corruption.” It was not significantly different from 2014, when Alabama was tied for sixth in legal corruption with 11 points and tied for fourth for illegal corruption with 9 points.

Dincer said the difference between one place in the rankings and the spot just below or above it is not large enough to be significant. He said it is more useful to group states. And Alabama consistently ranks in that top tier in the corruption index. The 2017 ranking put Alabama in the top group when it comes to both kinds of corruption for all three branches.

Perhaps that is not a surprise considering the heads of all three branches have left office involuntarily in the last few years. Robert Bentley resigned as governor last year after pleading guilty to criminal charges related to misuse of state resources to conceal an affair with an adviser. A 2016 criminal conviction cost Mike Hubbard his job as speaker of the state House of Representatives. And a state judicial committee suspended Roy Moore as chief justice of the state Supreme Court for his conduct following a federal judge’s ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

Dincer acknowledged that relying on journalists has drawbacks, too. He said it is inherently subjective and prone to swings depending on high-profile cases. But he said he is convinced that the advantages outweigh the shortcomings compared to other methods and hopes to build 10 years’ worth of data to track changes in perception and policy.

“None of them is perfect,” he said. “And all are telling you different stories.”

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

 

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4 months ago

House passes bill to bring ‘much-needed certainty’ to Poarch Band of Creek Indians

(Courtesy Poarch Band of Creek Indians)
(Courtesy Poarch Band of Creek Indians)

 

Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, successfully shepherded a bill through the House of Representatives last week that resolves any potential legal confusion about the land governed by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians after an unrelated Supreme Court ruling in 2009.

The bill, titled the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Land Reaffirmation Act, unanimously passed the House by voice vote and is currently awaiting committee action in the Senate.

Key quotes from Byrne’s speech on the House floor:

— “This legislation is necessary due to the legal uncertainty caused by the Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. This decision has unnecessarily created legal ambiguity about whether the Poarch Creek land is actually in trust or not.”

— “To be clear: This legislation would not have any change over the way the Poarch or their land are currently being treated in Alabama. In fact, this legislation simply provides legal certainty to help prevent future challenges regarding the status of the Tribe’s land.”

— “The Poarch Creek Indians are a valued and trusted part of our community in Southwest Alabama. Their economic impact in Escambia County, Alabama, speaks for itself. From their help with funding for community projects to their business enterprises that employ thousands of Alabamians, the Poarch help make life better for so many people in our area.”

Watch the congressman’s speech here:

 

(Take this post over to social media and start a conversaiton with your family and friends).

1
4 months ago

Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne to hold 100th town hall meeting tour next week

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

 
 
Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, will hold a full slate of town hall meetings across Southwest Alabama next week as part of a tour celebrating his 100th in-person town hall meeting since being elected to Congress. It will be called the “100th Town Hall Tour.”

The 100th Town Hall Tour will include stops in all six counties that make up the First Congressional District. The actual 100th Town Hall meeting will be held on Monday, January 22 at 5:30 p.m. in Bay Minette. Bay Minette was the site of Congressman Byrne’s first-ever town hall meeting back in 2014.

Congressman Byrne is known for holding in-person town hall meetings across Southwest Alabama to hear directly from the people he represents. The town halls allow constituents to ask questions, provide feedback, or share their ideas directly with their Member of Congress. The town halls are free to attend and open to the public.

You can find all the details about Congressman Byrne’s busy town hall schedule online at Byrne.House.Gov/townhalls.

 

What: Frisco City Town Hall Meeting

When: Monday, January 22nd at 3:00 p.m. CT

Where: Frisco City City Hall; 3861 Bowden Street, Frisco City, AL

 

What: Bay Minette Town Hall Meeting

When: Monday, January 22nd at 5:30 p.m. CT

Where: Bay Minette City Hall; 301 DOlive Street, Bay Minette, AL

 

What: Chickasaw Town Hall Meeting

When: Tuesday, January 23rd at 10:00 a.m. CT

Where: Chickasaw City Hall; 224 North Craft Highway, Chickasaw, A

 

What: Chatom Town Hall Meeting

When: Wednesday, January 24th at 9:30 a.m. CT

Where: Chatom Town Hall; 27 Cochran Avenue, Chatom, AL

 

What: Grove Hill Town Hall Meeting

When: Wednesday, January 24th at 12:00 noon CT

Where: Grove Hill Town Hall; 111 Church Street, Grove Hill, AL

 

What: Jackson Town Hall Meeting

When: Wednesday, January 24th at 1:30 p.m. CT

Where: Jackson Senior Center; 1701 College Avenue, Jackson, AL

 

What: Creola Town Hall Meeting

When: Wednesday, January 24th at 4:00 p.m. CT

Where: Creola City Hall; 9615 Old Highway 43, Creola, AL

 

What: East Brewton Town Hall Meeting

When: Thursday, January 25th at 1:30 p.m. CT

Where: East Brewton City Hall; 615 Forrest Avenue, East Brewton, AL

(News Release/Office of U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne)

1
4 months ago

Alabama State Legislature Update: Committee action delayed on taxation vote

 

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

Sometimes, what does not happen in the Legislature is more important than what does.

Such was the case Thursday when lawmakers reconvened in Montgomery after a snow day. An Alabama Senate committee considered a bill to change the way the state taxes online sales but took no vote.

Here is a summary of a light day in the capital:

The big story: As mentioned, senators debated the online tax bill, sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), according to AL.com. The Legislature created the Simplified Sellers Use Tax in 2015 allowing online retailers to voluntarily collect an 8 percent use tax imposed on out-of-state purchases. That provided $56 million to the state in fiscal year 2017, with money split evenly between the state and local governments.

AL.com noted that Amazon, the largest contributor to the voluntary tax fund, recently acquired Whole Foods. That changed the company’s tax status. Under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, states cannot force out-of-state companies to pay sales taxes unless they have a physical presence in the state.

Since there are Whole Foods locations in Alabama, Amazon would pay regular sales taxes, which would cost the state government revenue. Hence, Pittman’s bill, which would allow Amazon to continue paying the voluntary use tax instead.

But officials in Mobile and other cities have complained that the bill could prompt other large retailers, like Wal-Mart, to switch over to the use tax for their online sales. That could cost local governments money if they receive less from the fund than they get from their local sales taxes.

The bill faced opposition. AL.com quoted Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), as saying that Amazon cannot be eligible for the program. “I’m OK with us sitting where we’re at and letting the chips fall where they may,” he said.

But Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Alabama Association of County Commissions, backs the bill. He tweeted that opposition by cities was “very confusing!”

Pittman indicated that he would bring the measure back to the committee at a later date after further discussions with his colleagues, according to Al.com.

California dreaming? A bill to copy California’s primary election system got a first reading in the Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison), the bill would require all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, to run on the same ballot. The top two candidates would face off in the general election.

In California, the so-called “jungle primary” has resulted in some elections in which the top two finishers are of the same party. In the 2016 U.S. Senate election, for instance, Democrat Kamala Harris defeated Democratic U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez. No Republican made the general election.

“You get in areas that are predominantly Republican or predominantly Democrat, the people on the other side really don’t have a say,” Ball told Brian Lyman of the Montgomery Advertiser. “For special elections, there’s a really low turnout. This might increase participation.”

Ball’s bill, if passed, would take effect after this year’s elections.

Give me a Lyft: Lawmakers took the first step toward passing a bill that would provide uniform rules and regulations statewide for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Alabama is one of only a few states that have not statewide regulations.

On Thursday, the Alabama Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee approved the bill.

Cason tweeted that a substitute bill would include changes requested by cities.

Tweet of the day:

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

 

1
4 months ago

Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne: ‘I’m committed to fighting for rural America’

 

Approximately 46 million people call rural America home, according to information from the Department of Agriculture. These rural communities make up the backbone of our state and play a substantial role in the overall American economy.

Unfortunately, rural communities are facing some serious challenges. For the first time on record, the rural population in our country is shrinking. Job growth since 2011 has been below that of urban areas, and the economic recovery has been much slower for rural areas.

There are several reasons for the challenges facing our rural communities, but I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress and President Donald Trump to make life better for those in rural America.

Just last week, President Trump became the first sitting U.S. president since 1992 to address the American Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau serves as a leading voice for our nation’s rural communities and farmers.

Agriculture is the top industry in rural America, and it remains the number one industry in Alabama. In his speech, President Trump declared that “our farmers deserve a government that serves their interest and empowers them to do the hard work that they love to do so much.”

This year, Congress will need to pass a new Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is critical because it sets the federal policies that govern our nation’s farmers. As a strong champion for agriculture, I have already started working with Alabama’s farmers to ensure the bill is good for them and our rural communities.

Farming is unlike most other industries and dependent on so many external factors, like weather, that are outside the control of the farmers. It is important farmers have the certainty they need to provide the American people with a safe and reliable food source.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the major tax reform legislation that passed in December, includes several provisions that will help farmers in rural America. In addition to lowering individual tax rates, the bill allows farmers to deduct 100% of the cost of new equipment in the year you make the investment. Farming is a very capital-intensive industry, so this is a real victory for farmers.

Another significant issue facing our rural communities is a lack of broadband access. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 39 percent of rural Americans lack sufficient broadband access. Without access to broadband and internet, individuals struggle to keep up in an economy that is increasingly dependent on technology.

In an effort to expand broadband access, President Trump recently signed two Presidential Orders to help get faster and better internet coverage to rural America. The goal is to cut back on some of the government regulations and processes that make it harder to expand broadband access while also increasing the overall investment from the Department of Agriculture.

One other key to boosting rural America is to focus more on career and technical education programs to ensure individuals have the skills that they need to excel in today’s economy. By putting more money toward these workforce training programs, I believe we can help revitalize rural America and increase access to high-paying jobs.

I firmly believe the investment in these programs is well worth it in the long run because it helps keep people off government welfare programs, improves the overall economy, and makes the individual’s life better.

These are just a handful of ways we can help restore rural America and revitalize our rural communities. Our nation is strongest when rural America is strong, and I am committed to that fight.

(U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.)

1
4 months ago

Alabama State Legislature Update: Racial profiling and requiring Medicaid recipients to work

(State of Alabama)
State House/State of Alabama

 

On a day when lawmakers kept weary watch over deteriorating weather conditions in much of Alabama, the Legislature passed its first bills of the session Tuesday and began work on the state’s General Fund budget.

The Legislature will shut down Wednesday because of weather and plans to return to work on Thursday.

Here is a look at Tuesday’s major developments:

The big story: State Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) introduced Gov. Kay Ivey’s proposed $2.01 billion General Fund budget, which includes a 3 percent pay raise for state workers and seeks to impose a work requirement on able-bodied Medicaid recipients.

“I am pleased to learn that my budget was introduced today by Senator Pittman,” Ivey said in a statement. “My proposed budget is a strong, manageable budget, and is highlighted by the bright spot of a lower than expected Medicaid appropriation. Improving Medicaid delivery and controlling costs is central to my budget; that is why I instructed Commissioner Stephanie Azar in October 2017, to begin working on implementing work requirements and increased copays for Medicaid recipients.”

President Donald Trump’s administration recently signaled that it would allow states to experiment with work requirements as long as such rules did not apply to children, the disabled or elderly beneficiaries.

Azar said in a statement released by the governor’s office that a work requirement and co-pays would make the health program more efficient.

“Thanks to the improved economy and continued efforts to seek efficiency and decrease cost in the program, Medicaid is requesting less money than expected,” she stated. “We are certainly moving in the right direction to take care of the Alabamians that depend on our services.”

It is unclear how many Alabama Medicaid recipients the work requirement would affect. The vast majority of recipients in Alabama are elderly, disabled or children. Only able-bodied adults with extremely low incomes qualify for assistance.

The budget assumes nearly $221.7 million in federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, although Congress has yet to actually reauthorize the national CHIP program. Many observers expect federal lawmakers ultimately to do so, but if they don’t, it would wreak havoc on the state budget.

Racial profiling: The Alabama Senate passed a bill to prohibit racial profiling and to require law enforcement officials to keep records of traffic stops. AL.com’s Mike Cason tweeted that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), said he had been stopped near his home because he is black. “It happens on a daily basis,” Cason quoted Smitherman as saying.

The vote was 27-0. It now goes to the House of Representatives.

Tax incentives: The Senate passed a bill related to the auto plant that Toyota and Mazda announced they will build in Huntsville. The bill, which now goes to the House, would allow local governments to charge lower property taxes under certain circumstances.

Fresh air for Vets: The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to give veterans and current members of the Armed Services free admission to state parks.

Alabama washing its hands of marriage? The Senate voted 19-1 to do away with marriage licenses and instead empower probate judges to accept affidavits from couples as official marriage records, according to Al.com. Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Bay Minette) has tried in the past couple of years to pass the bill, first proposing it after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Under Albritton’s proposal, the state would not be required to solemnize a marriage.

Special elections: State Rep. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) said he plans this week to introduce legislation to change the way vacancies in the Legislature are filled, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. In the event of a death or resignation, an election would be held eight weeks later, with all candidates from all parties and independents sharing the same ballot.

“If a vacancy occurs in a legislative seat it can be months and months before it is filled,” he told the publication. “One of our districts in Montgomery. They are just without a senator.”

Trooper shortage? The Alabama State Trooper Association on Tuesday demanded that legislators address what it regards as a critical shortage. The Associated Press reported that David Steward, president of the association, said the state has about 250 troopers patrolling state highways but that studies indicate that it should have more than 1,000.

“Seconds count in an accident and troopers are having to cover hundreds of miles,” he said in a statement. “Often one trooper is handling multiple counties.”

Robyn Bradley Bryan, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, told the AP that the state has 268 troopers on the road and will add another 10 after they graduate from the training academy in May.

Paying condolences: Tuesday brought news of the death of state Rep. George Bandy, a Democrat from Opelika who had represented Lee and Russell counties since 1994.

“Rep. Bandy dedicated almost a quarter century of his life to serving his state, his district, and the citizens of Lee and Russell counties,” House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) said in a statement. “The institutional knowledge that he gathered during his long service often provided needed insight and guidance to his colleagues. We will miss his presence in the hallways, committee rooms, and chambers of the Alabama State House.”

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

 

1
4 months ago

Alabama bill would increase penalties on pet owners for dog attacks

(Pixabay)
(Pixabay)

 

Dog owners would face stiffer penalties for attacks by their pets under legislation supported by a top Alabama House Republican.

Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainesville) announced Monday he would introduce a bill to crack down on irresponsible dog owners.

“Ultimately, dog owners are responsible for any damage, injuries, or even deaths that their animals inflict, and I believe increasing the criminal penalties for such incidents will lessen their frequency and occurrence,” he said in a statement. “By bringing together the legislators and district attorneys from the areas in which recent attacks have taken place, I am confident we can craft a bill that protects the public and encourages owners to prevent their animals from doing harm.”

The bill comes after a series of recent violent dog attacks that have resulted in deaths and serious injuries in northern Alabama. Ledbetter participated in a study group that included state Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro), state Rep. Tommy Hanes (R-Scottsboro), DeKalb County District Attorney Mike O’Dell and Jackson County District Attorney Jason Pierce.

Recent dog attacks include:

  • An attack in early December in which a Jackson County woman died and another suffered serious injuries when five pit bulls attacked. A sheriff’s deputy shot one of the dogs, and authorities took the other four into custody.
  • An attack in November in which four dogs in Marshall County killed a Guntersville woman and seriously injured another.

Ledbetter indicated that 57 people in the United States and Canada died during dog attacks last year, up from the previous record of 46 set in 2015. Another 645 people suffered disfigurement in dog attacks last year.

Ledbetter did not specify the specific penalties he will propose when he introduces the bill. Current law mentions “dangerous and vicious animals” but does not define the terms. Anyone keeping dangerous or vicious animals through negligent management is liable to anyone whose suffers injure or sustained property damage, according to the code.

According to a 2015 report by Michigan State University’s Animal Legal and Historical Center, 39 states and several municipalities have dangerous dog codes. Some allow for the euthanasia of the dog. Dog owners face criminal penalties in some states, as well. Euthanasia is mandatory in 18 states, while 27 states give discretion to the body responsible for adjudicating violations.

Alabama law does not specifically provide for euthanasia.

Penalties for owners range from fines to bans on dog ownership to imprisonment. Owning dangerous dogs is a felony in 13 states.

The report estimated that some 5 million Americans suffer dog bites each year and that 800,000 are serious enough to require medical attention. It is one of the most common reasons for emergency room visits by children, the report states.

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

 

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4 months ago

Alabama GOP Rep. Byrne: Trump ‘sh*thole’ remarks a distraction

(Screenshot / WKRG)

 

(Screenshot / WKRG)

 

On Friday, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) fielded questions from reporters shortly before a town hall meeting at the city hall in Robertsdale. One of the questions he took concerned a report that President Donald Trump described certain nations as “sh*thole countries” during an immigration policy meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers earlier in the week.

According to WKRG’s Bill Riales, Byrne called Trump’s comments “an unfortunate and major distraction.”

Byrne also argued the Congress had more pressing concerns than immigration at the moment.

“I’m just disappointed that we’re having an immigration debate before we get this funding bill done,” Byrne said. “I mean, we — the government has got to be funded a week from today, and we still don’t have a deal on that.”

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

1
4 months ago

Condi Rice tells CNN #MeToo movement threatens to turn women into ‘snowflakes’

Alabama-native and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during an interview
Condoleezza Rice

 

The #MeToo movement threatens to turn women into “snowflakes,” former Secretary of State and Alabama native Condoleezza Rice told CNN in an interview that airs tonight.

Speaking to former Barack Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod for an episode of “The Ax Files,” Rice said the movement that sprung up in the wake of a wave of sexual harassment scandals is positive but risks going too far.

“Let’s not turn women into snowflakes,” she said, according to CNN. “Let’s not infantilize women.”

The show airs at 6 p.m. on CNN.

Rice, the first black woman to serve as secretary of state, told Axelrod that she has never been the victim of what could be considered an assault. But she said she has not been immune from bad behavior.

“I’ve certainly had people suggest that maybe we should just go out — and you know — and situations in which it was somebody more senior than I,” she said.

Rice also said Oprah Winfrey ought to make sure she is ready for the rough-and-tumble world of politics if she is serious about running for president. She said she personally prefers policy to politics.

“You know there’s a funny thing that happens when you’re secretary of state, or you’re a celebrity. You’re out there representing the world,” she said.

If Winfrey actually does run, Rice said, she will not be the same afterward.

“But I would just say, if you’re contemplating running for office, just recognize that we put people through a brutal process,” she said. “And they don’t come out quite the same.”

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

 

1
4 months ago

Today in the Alabama State Legislature: Proposed tax cuts and term limits

 

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

Alabama Senate leaders on Thursday talked up a modest tax cut plan, and the House passed a resolution supporting term limits on a relatively quiet day in Montgomery.

The Senate met for just a half-hour before adjourning until Tuesday. No votes were taken.

The big story: Republican leaders talked about their priorities for the 2018 legislative session, including a proposal by Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) to allow more taxpayers to claim the maximum $7,500 standard deduction on their state income taxes.

AL.com reported that Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said that opportunity for a tax break exists because fiscal discipline in budgeting has put the state government’s finances on sound ground. Al.com also reported while there are few details, Marsh said that tax relief is aimed at the middle class.

“This is not a tax break for the rich,” he said at a news conference, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. “It’s a tax break for working class Alabamians.”

According to the Advertiser, residents earning up to $20,000 a year can claim the full deduction. It tapers off at incomes higher than that. Under Marsh’s proposal, the full deduction could be taken on incomes up to $23,000.

Other agenda items for the session include incentives to encourage broadband development in the rural parts of the state; making child sex trafficking a capital offense; and requiring able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work. President Donald Trump’s administration announced Thursday that it would allow states to impose such work requirements.

In the House: The state House of Representatives approved a resolution Thursday calling for term limits for members of Congress, according to Alabama Today.

The resolution calls for a constitutional convention of the states to amend Article V of the Constitution to allow for term limits.

Rep. Kerry Rich (R-Albertville) sponsored the resolution, which now goes to the Senate.

Tweet of the day:

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

 

1
4 months ago

Governor, lawmakers to unveil bipartisan bid to create uniform rules for Uber, Lyft in Alabama

 

 

Gov. Kay Ivey and a pair of legislators today will unveil plans for statewide regulation of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, which currently operate under a hodgepodge of local rules.

State Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), Rep. David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook) and supporters plan an 11 a.m. news conference at the Alabama State House in Montgomery to discuss a soon-to-be introduced bipartisan bill that would set statewide rules to regulate ride-sharing companies. The legislation would put the Public Service Commission in charge of overseeing the industry in Alabama.

Currently, Alabama is one of just six states that do not have statewide regulations for ride-sharing companies.

Faulkner said in an interview that ride-sharing companies serve only 11 cities in the state. He said statewide rules would relieve drivers and riders, alike, of the headache of navigating differing rules or a complete prohibition on service.

“The reality is that it’s not going to expand to other parts of the state (without uniform rules), and we need it to,” he said.

Faulkner said the bill offers “two huge wins” for Alabama. Uber and Lyft have the potential to be an important source of both income and transportation in rural counties without public bus systems, he said. He added that an Uber car might be the only means of transportation in some places.

“A lot of people don’t have family that can give them rides places,” he said.

Faulkner said the bill has the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and an advocacy association for the blind.

The bill also has the full backing of the governor, who will attend the news conference.

“To embrace the future, Alabama must accommodate modern transportation demands. The ability to request an on-demand ride is no longer considered a perk of being in a big city, it is an expectation no matter where one lives or works,” Ivey said in a prepared statement. “Having consistent rules statewide for ride sharing is the sensible way to give Alabamians access to safe, consistent and efficient transportation options.”

TechBirmingham, which is charged with promoting technological innovation in the Birmingham region, also backs the legislation.

“We obviously have an interest in promoting technology and innovative systems,” said Deon Gordon, the group’s president. “Hopefully, passage of this will facilitate that.”

Gordon also noted the complexity of dealing with different and sometimes conflicting regulations — particularly in a place like Jefferson County, which has 37 municipalities.

“It creates a patchwork where you have to go to Hoover. You have to go to Birmingham. You have to go to Homewood,” he said.

Gordon said he believes Uber, Lyft and similar companies are in Alabama to stay. He said people in the Birmingham metro area at this point could not imagine life without them and that it also is an expectation of travelers who visit the state.

“When they get off an airplane, they are expecting to pull up their phone and order an Uber or Lyft to get to their destination,” he said.

Uber has come under fire in communities across the country by critics who accuse the company of lax hiring standards, exploiting their part-time workers and unfairly competing against traditional cab companies that have to follow regulations from which ride-sharing companies are exempt.

Faulkner said the bill he and Singleton are offering does not deal with the allegations of unfair regulation. He said it regulates a transportation network, not the vehicles, which are property of the drivers — not the companies they work for.

But Faulkner said the bill does address public safety concerns, mandating criminal background checks.

“One thing we’re not going to to do is compromise safety,” he said.

Gordon said it is important that Alabama support and cultivate technological change and stay ahead of the curve.

“We haven’t seen the last change,” he said. “We’re going to see autonomous driving.”

UPDATE: Link to the ride share campaign’s website added here.

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

 

1
4 months ago

As officials announce Toyota plant, Alabama gets ‘making progress’ grade on economic incentives

(Made in Alabama)
(Made in Alabama)

 

Alabama has made strides in assessing whether the state is getting the biggest bang for its buck with economic incentives designed to lure large development projects, an expert told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Josh Goodman, an economic development analyst at the Pew Charitable Trusts, co-authored a report last year examining how states evaluate their economic programs — a timely presentation given Wednesday’s announcement of a new auto plant to be constructed in Alabama.

The Pew report ranked Alabama among 18 states that are “making progress” on the issue, a cut below the 10 judged as “leading” on the matter.

Alabama’s standing was largely due to a 2016 law providing for state agencies to review economic incentives they administer to new projects every four years.

“One potential weakness of this law is that agencies are responsible for evaluating incentives they administer,” the report states. “Most states that have been successful at evaluating incentives have designated one state office to review all these programs to help ensure that the information is consistent and of high quality. Alabama’s law attempts to ensure that the evaluations will be consistent by requiring the Department of Revenue to develop a standard format for the studies.”

State and company officials on Wednesday unveiled “Project New World,” a $1.6 billion joint venture between Toyota and Mazda projected to manufacture 300,000 vehicles a year in Huntsville and employ up to 4,000 people at an average salary of $50,000.

To seal the deal, Alabama offered about $380 million in tax incentives and a promise to build a $20 million training center.

How much is too much when it comes to foregoing future tax revenue in order to chase a white whale?

“That’s a tricky question,” said Dan Sutter, acting director of Troy University’s Marietta Johnson Center for Political Economy. “I don’t think there’s any way to for sure measure that.”

In an ideal world, Sutter said, Alabama would have low and uniform taxes that applied equally to all businesses. But he said the state faces pressure to keep up with other states competing for the same multinational corporations.

Giving up some future tax revenue may be worth it if that was the sweetener that snagged a project that otherwise would not have happened. But if the company would have come anyway, it is just wasted money.

“That’s another thing that makes this so complicated,” Sutter said. “Could you have gotten the company to locate there with fewer incentives? Could you have gotten the company with no incentives?”

Sutter agreed with the Pew report that designating one agency to evaluate all of the incentives is wise.

“It definitely would be a good idea to separate out the agency that’s giving out the incentives from the agency that evaluates the incentives,” he said.

The rationale for tax incentives is that they create jobs, raise wages and attract businesses. But the Pew report notes that most states until recently made very little attempt to judge whether the expensive incentives actually achieved those goals.

“We pass these tax credits and people tell us they’re going to be great for the state; they’re going to create jobs; there’s going to be a big payback,” Senate Pro Temp Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told Pew for its report. “It’s time to look at some of these closer to see if they have a net gain for the state.”

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

1
4 months ago

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Things to look for in 2018

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)
(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

 

 

Last week, we recapped major highlights from the past year, so this week I want to look ahead at some of the important things to watch for in 2018.

2018 is an election year, and the midterm elections for all House members and the one-third of the United States Senate will be held in November. I expect a very busy legislative session in the run-up to the midterms.

A big thing to watch will be the continued growth of the American economy. From cutting back regulations to reforming our tax code, the conditions are ripe for the economy to continue to boom. Our tax reform bill alone is expected to result in higher wages, greater investment in the economy, and more money in the pockets of hard-working Alabamians.

On the international front, North Korea most certainly bears watching. Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s rogue leader, continues to threaten violence as he builds up his country’s nuclear weapon programs. Given the substantial number of U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea, and North Korea’s advancing weapons programs, this is a very real and serious threat.

President Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis continue to take necessary steps to ensure the United States is prepared should North Korea act. In the meantime, it is important we continue to use diplomatic and economic tools to put pressure on the rogue regime. It is also important that China do more to hold North Korea accountable.

Along the same lines, a top priority for me early in 2018 is to secure adequate funding for our nation’s military. Budget cuts over the last five years have really hurt our nation’s military and decreased our overall readiness.  A strong and capable military is the best tool for peace. I will continue fighting to increase military funding for our service men and women.

President Trump has made clear that infrastructure is a top priority for him in 2018, and I share that priority. Here in Southwest Alabama, we have several projects that need attention. The biggest project is the need for a new I-10 bridge over the Mobile River, but there are other major projects deserving attention like Highway 98 in Mobile County, Highway 45 in Washington County, Highway 84 in Monroe and Clarke Counties, and Highway 181 on the Eastern Shore.

Infrastructure improvements are not limited to just road projects. We have also seen a lot of positive developments at the Port of Mobile over the last few years, and I look forward to working with Senator Richard Shelby and other leaders to continue making improvements to the Port, which greatly increases our area’s economic potential.

I have also heard from numerous people about the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2018. In Alabama, our CHIP program is known as All Kids. I am a huge supporter of the program, and I firmly expect the program to continue in 2018 and beyond. The House has already passed a bill to reauthorize CHIP for five years, and I anticipate the issue will be resolved early this year.

We will also need to pass a new Farm Bill in 2018, which is vitally important for our local farmers and foresters. Agriculture remains the top industry in Alabama, and I look forward to doing my part to ensure the Farm Bill is good for Southwest Alabama.

These are just a few highlights of the major things to look for in 2018. As we work through our business, I encourage you to stay informed on my website at Byrne.House.Gov.

Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

1
5 months ago

Here’s how young black conservative women are changing the face of the GOP

Antonia Okafor (Antonia Okafor)
Antonia Okafor (Antonia Okafor)

 

It’s pretty easy to name a couple of black women working in progressive circles and organizations, but it’s a lot harder to name the ones working within the conservative movement.

There’s a substantial national conversation about progressive black women like Tamika D. Mallory, an organizer of the Women’s March or Alicia Garza, a queer black woman who founded Black Lives Matter, who brought police brutality to the forefront of America or Tarana Burke who first created the #MeToo campaign that launched a conversation about the sexual harassment women face daily.

What’s less discussed are the young conservative, black women who are working every day to change and influence the Republican Party.

These women want to bring home a message of empowerment, not only to black women across the country, but also to the black community at large. Women such as Antonia Okafor, the founder of gun rights advocacy organization EmPOWERed, Ayshia Connors, a senior policy adviser to a Pennsylvania congressman and president of the Black Republican Congressional Staff Association and Candace Owens, the director of Urban Engagement for Turning Point USA, all work tirelessly in advocating for their community and to make black conservative voices heard.

“Essentially, I believe in this day and age, for whatever reason, there is a largely ignored, growing group of voices which is essentially black conservatives. We’ve been largely dismissed and de-legitimized in the media as something that is not allowed to exist,” Owens, who labels herself an independent thinker, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Owens is currently working on creating the first black leadership summit for Turning Point USA with the intent to bring young black conservatives from across the country to hear from other black leaders on how to become trailblazers and entrepreneurs within their community. Owens especially wants these young black conservatives to hear from fellow black leaders who don’t carry with them the same message the mainstream media does.

Okafor and Connors are also trying to make big strides within the conservative movement.

“I’m spreading the message of female empowerment through gun ownership, one that transcends all races” Okafor said of her focus on her EmPOWERed college tour.

Connors, as the president of the Black Republican Congressional Staff Association, has not only doubled the number of members since she entered, but is also intent on using the organization to help young black Republicans and conservatives find jobs on Capitol Hill. Before joining as Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s senior policy adviser, Connors also worked with the Republican National Committee during the 2016 election.

Okafor is currently on her EmPOWERed tour, visiting college campuses to talk about female empowerment through gun ownership, a message not only for black women, but women of all races. Her tour includes stops at historically black colleges such as Howard University and Spelman College, where she hopes the face-to-face interaction with students will open their eyes.

“I think that what I hope to gain is that they see I am a person, a human being and I’m like them,” Okafor told TheDCNF. “I’m doing it because I want to empower the black community. I came out of being a closeted conservative and I’m vocal because when other people can see that there is someone else who looks like them and believes like them,unlike what society tells them to be like, it gives them courage.”

What many people don’t know is American history is a rich history with black women being unashamed of having conservative values.

There was Mildred Fay Jefferson, a pro-life activist, who was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, as well as Constance Berry Newman, a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under the former President George W. Bush’s administration. Also, Ida B. Wells, a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, fought against the lynching of black people in America.

There’s still a lot more work that needs to be done, according to the women TheDCNF spoke to. They noted the GOP should work on messaging and how the party conveys their values to the black community should they wish to be successful with minorities in the future.

“A lot of the times when they have good ideas, they have trouble communicating them in a way that seems attainable,” Owens, also a vlogger, told TheDCNF, adding that the GOP should develop a sense of humor. “I think they just need a lot more personality.”

Connors also agreed that the Republican Party needs to work on messaging, but also how they explain those ideas to the black community. Most black Americans are naturally conservative and receptive to a message that centers around education leading to upward mobility. Criminal justice reform, often advocated by GOP Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky, also needs to pushed to the forefront, Connors said to TheDCNF.

Connors suggested making access for young people who want to serve on Capitol Hill, but may not have the resources to do so is crucial.

“You see a lot people who aren’t able to come and intern on Capitol Hill because of financial hardship. Normally, it’s unpaid internships and a lot of people aren’t able to come and get that experience on Capitol Hill, which is why I don’t think you see a lot of minorities,” Connors told TheDCNF.

Okafor emphasized face-to-face interactions with people, saying the only way there can be a huge shift is if people talk one-on one. She pointed to Paul’s actions when he visited Howard University in 2015. Too often Republicans only enter the black community during an election cycle. Paul entered a black space and spoke to them about his conservative values, but focused on issues that resonated with the black community, Okafor told TheDCNF.

“He talked about criminal justice reform, he talked about economic empowerment zones, he talked about school choice,” Okafor said. “Those are thing that African-Americans have been wanting as a percentage to do something about but they only go to progressive policies because we haven’t done much to bring the message home that our conservative values actually do empower them in those problems.”

The GOP is often quick to dismiss diversity efforts and it shows in numbers — seven percent of the black community identifies as Republican and recent GOP presidential candidates have received between eight to nine percent of the black vote in recent elections. This leads to the question: Should the GOP focus on diversity?

Connors gave an empathetic yes, but also pointed out the GOP often doesn’t get enough credit for their efforts with minority outreach. Owens doesn’t care about the color of someone’s skin, but said she’s more concerned with the results they achieve for the black community.

“But I definitely think that we can do more and that’s kind of what the Black Republican Congressional Staff Association is doing on the public sector side,” Connors told TheDCNF. “They do a lot with trying to bring in diversity and trying to create space for people to be involved with the party, whether that is employment or deploying people out for campaigns or getting people involved in policy discussions.”

The Republican National Committee did not return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment in time for publication.

(By Amber Randall, Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.)

1
5 months ago

Heard in the Hallway: Alabama Power has a new director of legislative affairs

 

Yellowhammer News just heard in the hallway that R.B. Walker has returned to Alabama Power as its director of legislative affairs after serving more than two-years as the director of government relations at the University of Alabama System.

The power company is familiar territory for Walker. He served in a number of capacities there from 2008-2015 and left as the assistant to the executive vice president.

Yellowhammer News thinks this is a good move for Walker but an even better move for Alabama Power. The former SGA president at ‘Bama is a well-known and well-respected player in the Montgomery scene.

(Have a tip for Heard in the Hallway? Send it to editor@yellowhammernews.com.)

1
5 months ago

Well-known corporations, Hollywood elites and unions helped fund the deceptive campaign ad that targeted black voters in Alabama’s Senate race, and the PACs plan to do it again

That deceptive campaign ad that targeted Alabama’s black voters, warning them that their “community” would know if they didn’t support then-candidate Doug Jones because their vote was “public record,” was partially funded by some of the most well-known corporations, film makers and unions in the nation, according to data from the Federal Elections Commission.

A complicated process of transfers between political action committees and donors paid for the ad, but the money trail is clear as pebbles shining on a forest path.

Follow the money:

The ads were purchased by a previously unknown super PAC called Highway 31, which spent about $6 million attacking Roy Moore and supporting Jones. Nobody knew who ran this organization or where it received its money during the election because it was created in the “dead zone” between financial reporting deadlines.

Weeks after the election, it was learned that Highway 31 was “predominantly funded” by Senate Majority PAC, a group dedicated to electing Democrats to the U.S. Senate, and at least $1.5 million of the ads were bought through a partnership with Priorities USA, best known for running ads in support of President Barack Obama in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

According to data from the Federal Elections Commission, Senate Majority PAC was funded in this election cycle by the Methodist Health Foundation ($1 million), online payment company Allied Wallet ($500,000), American Federation of Teachers ($250,000), the National Association of Letter Carriers ($250,000), the pharmaceutical giant Merck ($25,000), health insurance company Anthem ($25,000) and even iHeartRadio ($16,000) and Pepsi ($8,000).

Another report from the commission shows that during the last cycle Priorities USA received money from George Soros ($10.5 million), the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union ($4 million), Steven Spielberg’s film studio DreamWorks SKG ($2 million), the National Air Traffic Controllers Association ($1.2 million), and J.J. Abrams’s film and television company Bad Robot Productions ($1 million).

The ad:

— “If you don’t vote and Roy Moore – a child predator – wins, could you live with that?” the ad asked. “Your vote is public record, and your community will know whether or not you helped stop Roy Moore. On Tuesday, Dec. 12, vote for Doug Jones for Senate.”

— Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill called the ad a “targeted effort to misinform and confuse voters” and reminded them that “no individual voting record is made available to anyone at any time, including the voter who cast the ballot.”

— The ad was so awful that even Google took it down, along with several television stations in Alabama.

What’s next?

The PACs believe they’ve found an effective trick to boost black turn out, so we should expect to hear the ad in other races later this year.

“Hopefully this race can serve as a blueprint for campaigns in 2018 — embrace digital campaigning and devote the necessary resources to persuading and turning out African-American voters early, not just the final weekend of a race,” said Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for Priorities USA.

(Do you think this ad was racist? Take this article over to social media and tell your family and friends why.)

1
5 months ago

With slow growth, Alabama at risk of losing seat in Congress

(Wikicommons)
(Wikicommons)

 

If the decennial redistribution of seats in the House of Representatives occurred this year, Alabama would be OK.

Unfortunately for the Yellowhammer State, the census figures that will be used to make that determination will not be gathered for another two years. And short- and long-term trends do not bode well for Alabama.

The political consulting firm Election Data Services last week ran three different scenarios and each projected that Alabama will lose a seat after the next census. The firm’s president, Kimball Brace, said in an interview that Alabama stands out among its faster-growing neighbors in the Southeast.

“It is unusual,” he said. “What we have seen since 1950 is a loss of population in the North and Northeast and states in the South and West are growing.”

A map prepared by Election Data Services projects changes in state congressional representation based on short-term population growth.

That growth has passed over the Heart of Dixie, however.

The Constitution requires that House districts be reapportioned based on population changes every 10 years. The bigger the state, the more representation it gets in the House. It was part of the great compromise that allowed populous and small states to buy into the new form of government that those statesmen crafted in Philadelphia in 1787.

Based on the latest estimates released last month by the Census Bureau, Alabama had 4.87 million people as of July, up about .2 percent from 2016. Both Election Data Services and the University of Michigan Population Studies Center agree that Alabama would not lose a seat if reapportionment occurred today.

But it would be close.

Alabama would avoid losing a seat by just 19,589 residents. Only Colorado and Rhode Island crossed the threshold with fewer people to spare.

By 2020, however, Alabama could be in trouble. It has grown less than half as fast as the rest of the country since 2010, and markedly slower than many of its peers in the Southeast.

The Election Data Services projects Alabama will lose a seat in each of three scenarios:

  • Based on the growth rate from 2016 to 2017, Alabama’s population in 2020 would be 4.91 million — 48,850 fewer people than would be needed for a seventh seat.
  • Based on the growth rate between 2014 and 2017, Alabama’s population in 2020 would be 4.9 million — 70,512 fewer people than would be needed for a seventh seat.
  • Based on the growth rate from 2010 to 2017, Alabama’s population in 2020 would be 4.92 million — 88,485 fewer people than would be needed for a seventh seat.

Of course, nothing is written stone.

“There could be an event in the next three years that could change that projection,” Brace said.

A map prepared by Election Data Services projects changes in state congressional representation based on medium-term population growth.

But Alabama has been stuck in a slow-growth pattern for decades. From 1913 to 1933, that state has 10 House districts. But in each successive census, the state either held steady or lost ground during reapportionment.

Steven Taylor, a political science professor at Troy University, said it is not entirely clear why Alabama has lagged its peers in the South.

“We haven’t done a good job of attracting a lot of outside investment,” he said.

Taylor said North Carolina and Georgia, for instance, have outperformed Alabama in education. He added that while the state’s taxes are low, government services are skimpy.

If Alabama does lose a seat, how important is it?

“I don’t know that it’s super dramatic,” Taylor said.

A map prepared by Election Data Services projects changes in state congressional representation based on population growth since 2010.

Brace agreed. He said the state would have a marginally smaller voice in Congress but added that the ability and seniority of the members of the delegation are more important than the size. Still, he said, all things being equal, “It’s always better to have more members than less.”

Taylor said the biggest impact would be that members of the House would be even more distant from their constituents with more people living in their districts. He noted that the size of the House had not been increased since 1912, when it was set at 435 districts.

The average member of the House had 210,000 constituents. Since then, the U.S. population has grown from 92 million to more than 325 million. but the size of the House has remained unchanged.

“It really is a more of a representation quality issue. … that doesn’t really get talked about much,” he said.

The ideal number of constituents per district is debatable. But there is one group that indisputably would be affected by a reduction in Alabama’s House delegation — politicians. An unfavorable result from the census would force state legislators to redraw the lines and cut out one of the districts.

Ordinarily, a Republican-dominated legislature would target Democrats to take the hit. But since the only House Democrat in Alabama is Rep. Terri Sewell, who represents a majority-black district, she probably would be safe. That means two incumbent Republicans might well end up running against each other.

“Ultimately, if you do lose a seat, the question is who’s the one who takes the bullet?” Brace asked.

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

1
5 months ago

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Murdock to resign, expresses interest in possible Senate race

(Supreme Court of Alabama)
(Supreme Court of Alabama)

 

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Glenn Murdock announced Thursday he will resign effective Jan. 16 to purse “other professional opportunities,” telling Yellowhammer News he is interested in a possible Senate run.

Murdock’s letter to Gov. Kay Ivey made no mention of politics. But he has been mentioned as a possible Republican challenger to Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) when he comes up for election to a full six-year term in 2020.

“I am interested in that and don’t know when that might be, in three years or five years,” he said in an interview. “I’m concerned about the nation and some of the things that are happening in our country.”

Murdock offered a preview of some of the issues he might run on if he opts for a Senate race — helping to boost economic growth, repealing Obamacare, preventing illegal immigration and strengthening the military. He said he also is troubled by a declining respect for traditional values.

“As someone who’s a father and a grandfather, that concerns me, as well,” he said.

Murdock, 61, is a Christian conservative first elected in 2000 to a seat on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals after an unsuccessful run for Supreme Court justice two years earlier. He won election to the state’s high court in 2006 and re-election in 2012.

The Enterprise native had expressed interest in the Senate seat after now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned to join President Donald Trump’s Cabinet. But then-Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Luther Strange instead.

In addition to eyeing a possible political campaign, Murdock said he will also consider options outside of politics, such as business or practicing law.

Murdock would have been up for re-election this November. By leaving now, he gives himself plenty of time to set up a campaign for the Senate — if that is what he chooses to do — and build name recognition free from the distractions of a demanding job as Supreme Court justice.

Murdock said it also allows him to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

“I feel like you can more freely and ethically discuss those things if you’re not a sitting justice,” he said.

During his tenure, Murdock wrote a landmark ruling in 2009 laying out a detailed definition for what constituted bingo. The decision gave then-Gov. Bob Riley the green light to target electronic bingo casinos that had been operating under unsettled legal authority.

Murdock joined his colleagues on the all-Republican Supreme Court in 2015 in denying a request by Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis to review then-Chief Justice Roy Moore’s administrative order directing state officials to ignore a federal judge’s order striking down a ban on same-sex marriage. The eight justices — Moore recused himself — concluded that only the governor or Legislature could ask for such a review.

Later that year, Murdock also joined the other justices in ordering probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ultimately, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court made gay marriage legal everywhere in the country.

Murdock has not been afraid to dissent on occasion, sometimes even by himself. He was the only dissenting justice from a 2015 ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Alabama Accountability Act, which allows some students to use tax credits to attend private schools. Murdock concluded that lawmakers improperly passed the law by largely rewriting a bill that previously had passed a conference committee of the House and Senate.

In 2016, Murdock was on the losing end of a 4-3 ruling against a Mobile man who was trying to gain custody of his son after discovering that the child’s mother had faked his death while planning to give him up for adoption. The majority determined that the man could not appeal on those grounds because he had not raised the issue at trial.

Murdock disagreed in a blistering dissent.

“Not only do his actions confirm (the father’s intentions), but the mother’s actions in concocting her deceit as to the child’s death confirms that she believed the father was seriously interested in pursuing his relationship with his child and would not be in favor of the adoption,” he wrote. “And, though I am not at all suggesting the adoptive parents share the mother’s guilt as to the fraud she committed against the father, the adoptive parents nevertheless knew that the father was not ‘unknown’ when they filed their petition.”

Murdock said that when he looks back on his judicial career, it is more than any single case or ruling.

“I can’t pick just one thing. There are thousands of cases,” he said, estimating the total number at about 20,000.

Instead, Murdock said, he focuses on how he conducted himself on the job.

“You’ve got to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know everything you did was right, without conscious bias,” he said. “I just tried to do what was right.”

Ivey will appoint a replacement for Murdock. That person would serve until the regular general election in November.

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

 

1
5 months ago

Heard in the Hallway: Business Council of Alabama funds political news website, Alabama Daily News


 
 

Yellowhammer News just heard in the hallway that the Business Council of Alabama has, at least in part, funded the launch of a new political website called Alabama Daily News.

“The idea is to deliver quality news content, smart analysis, and needed commentary on Alabama politics on a daily basis,” wrote the site’s editor, Todd Stacy, in an email sent recently to political players around the state.

Stacy, a native of Prattville, was most recently the press secretary to U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery. He also served as a communication aide to former Speaker Mike Hubbard and former Gov. Bob Riley. He earned a solid reputation as a political flack and is well liked by the press corps and among political insiders.

Yellowhammer News welcomes Stacy to the profession and wishes him the very best because Alabama needs more reporting, not less.

And lately, it’s been less.

We remember a time when the state’s large newspapers, such as they were, had teams of reporters covering state politics. Not only were experienced journalists covering big issues – the governor, the legislature, the courts – but the state’s major cities, departments and agencies were thoroughly examined and reported upon, as well.

While most of those journalists were liberals whose articles required a dash of salt (or a pound), they often managed to uncover important stories the public needed to know. Yellowhammer News still fondly recalls the enormous resources that the Mobile Register devoted to uncovering the many scandals of the Siegelman Administration … coverage that helped paved the way for the greatest governor our state has ever known.

Alabama lost much of that reporting capacity in the last decade when traditional newspapers contracted and dozens of reporters lost their jobs. We like to kick the liberal media around … and they deserve it, mostly … but we conservatives should be mindful of why the Framers chose the press as the only profession they mentioned by-name in our constitution.

We may not like the press, but we need the press.

Questions about independence and standards will certainly, and understandably, come with how media companies are formed and become profitable in today’s climate, but the proof will always be in the pudding.

And Yellowhammer News looks forward to the contributions of Todd Stacy and his team.

Alabama deserves their very best.

(Have a tip for Heard in the Hallway? Send it to editor@yellowhammernews.com.)

 

1
5 months ago

Parents, please teach your kids respect of country, flag and president

(Pexels)
(Pexels)

 

As a society, many parents are failing. Not only are they failing themselves, they are also failing their children. This “failing” has a lot to do with the techniques they use in raising and teaching their children.

Children must be taught to love while abiding the law and others. It seems as though more and more parents are unwilling to parent their children properly. Usually, it isn’t that they don’t care, they just aren’t sure what to do. One thing parents must be sure of is that they instill American values in their children. Values to love and protect this land and all that it stands for. What we have seen within the last year from certain organizations like Antifa is a rebellion of children, and sometimes adults, who did not get their way. They are disgruntled because they can not act or do as they please.

What is it that these childish beings seek? A leader? A teacher? A friend?

They search for all of this, when in fact they should be searching for respect and patience. No riot or protest where fighting and destruction is involved will change things for the better in America.

I see young adults in the streets burning America’s flag while saying, “Not my president!” That is heartbreaking. It is hard for me, as someone who loves this country and its many opportunities, to sit back and watch these brats spit on, step on, and burn the American flag. Flag desecration and the destruction of others’ property is beyond disgusting. Millions with that flag sewn into their clothing have died while fighting to provide a better life for all of us here on American soil.

I have news for all of you who parade around each day protesting: It is 2018, and Donald Trump is your president. Along with millions of others, I sat back for 8 years and allowed Obama to run this country the way he saw fit. I see now that the way he saw fit included greatly increasing our debt, sparing the lives of some of our country’s greatest heroes, and creating an uncontrollable race war. I had the decency to stay at home while Obama wasted tax dollars. I didn’t argue with radical leftists. I was raised properly. My parents taught me respect. They taught me how to learn from others and associate with others in a moral manner. For that, I am eternally grateful.

To all parents and caretakers in America: I ask that you sit down with your children and discuss these problems. If you aren’t sure of what guidance to give them so that they can become a more caring and loving person, read articles or books. Show them that they matter while also telling them that others matter. The days of children thinking that the world revolves around them should be no more. At our current state, we have too many other problems to worry about. Show your children the great things America offers and reveal to them the dangers of Venezuela, North Korea and Iran. Show them how great they are being treated in America.

It is time for millennials to change the political realm in America. Be the generation that assisted them in doing so. Millennials must reach across the aisle and work with one another and that all begins with the values that you teach them when they are a child.

Kyle Morris is a senior at the University of Alabama and a Yellowhammer News contributor. He also writes for The Daily Caller.

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @RealKyleMorris

1
5 months ago

With 2018 election looming, Alabama lawmakers anticipate low-key legislative session

 

Don’t expect the Legislature to tackle big, long-simmering problems in the legislative session that begins this month.

As is typical during years when members of the state House of Representative and Senate are up for re-election, each lawmaker will have an eye on the looming fall campaign. That means the session that begins Tuesday likely will be a keeping-the-lights-on exercise.

“Of course, this is an election year,” House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) said in an interview with Yellowhammer News. “And because of it being an election year, we want to try to get in, take care of our constitutional requirements — which the budget is priority for that — and let’s address our budgets and let’s try to make it as quick a session as possible and get out and let members go back and start campaigning for the new quadrennium.”

By law, legislators must pass a budget to fund education on the one hand and a spending plan for the rest of state government on the other.

Making the numbers balance in the general fund budget has become an annual headache for lawmakers, but the task will be easier this year because the state managed to carry over $93 million from the previous fiscal year.

McCutcheon said that “speaks volumes for the fiscal responsibility for the legislative body.”

One major factor of uncertainty, however, is the fact that Congress has yet to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to children in lower-income families. Before leaving for the Christmas break, Congress extended the program only through March.

The House passed a long-term funding plan, over the objections of Democrats, who disagreed with how Republicans chose to fund the program; the Senate has not acted.

Without last month’s temporary stop-gap, Alabama would have run out of federal funds for its CHIP program by March, which would have forced the state to spend up to $50 million. That would have eaten into the general fund cushion built up last year.

Many experts believe congressional Republicans and Democrats ultimately will strike a deal, since no lawmaker has suggested killing the popular health care program. But McCutcheon is taking nothing for granted as state lawmakers head to Montgomery.

“I’m not confident in anything the federal government’s doing right now,” he said. “I’m just in a wait-and-see mode.”

Sen. Trip Pittman, a Montrose Republican who chairs the general fund budget committee in the upper chamber, said a $90 million surplus can vanish quickly.

“So, one of the things that’s important is to have fiscal discipline,” he said.

Pittman said there will be continued pressure on the Legislature to raise taxes and expand the Medicaid program, a step Alabama repeatedly has rejected since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act and dangled additional federal funds to cover more people.

“We have to balance our appropriations and revenue. … We’ll have to make choices and hard votes,” Pittman said.

McCutcheon talked about a number of other issues, most of which likely will not be resolved this year:

Education — pay raises and pre-K

McCutcheon said he would like to expand the state’s highly regarded pre-kindergarten program.

“And then, also, as we look at the general fund budget and the education budget, we’re hoping that we may have an opportunity to have a discussion for some pay increases for state employees, to include education and state employees,” he said.

Pay for teachers and other state workers mostly has been stagnant for a decade, although lawmakers did approve a 4 percent hike in 2016. Lawmakers several years ago rebuffed then-Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposed pay hike, opting instead to hold the line on health insurance premiums.

McCutcheon said the Legislature may explore allowing state employees to choose between pay raises or avoiding increases in employee costs for benefits. A fatter paycheck likely would be preferable to employees who could get health coverage through a spouse.

“Indirectly, it’s been talked about, about ways to try to give more flexibility to the employee as to the benefit packages,” he said. “But at this point, it’s nothing that’s been put into legislation.”

The speaker also said lawmakers will discuss ways to unify the education from kindergarten through college.

“We’d like to have the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing and everybody working for the same common goal,” he said.

Prisons — litigation hovers

McCutcheon said legislators also will try to pass legislation to address issues sparked by a lawsuit alleging that the state prison system offers constitutionally inadequate mental health services to inmates.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in June ripped Alabama’s “horrendously inadequate” staffing. The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which brought the suit, has asked for a tripling of mental health workers in the Department of Corrections.

McCutcheon did not commit to any specific measure but added that legislators would take up the issue.

“I feel like that’s going to be part of the discussion outside of the budgets, and of course, that may have some dollars attached to that,” he said. “There’s going to be some talk of additional staffing for the Department of Corrections, and that could be very costly.”

McCutcheon said he hopes to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs in the prison suit.

“All of these things are part of the discussion,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a one size fits all in this mandate that will come from the court … I think that we can come up with some good things — which will be many things — but we can come up with some good things that will help our corrections system. We’re ready to address it.”

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

Alabama has come under scrutiny by interest groups that fault the state for rules that give law enforcement authorities broad power to seize money and property from suspected law-breakers, even when prosecutors do not win criminal convictions.

McCutcheon was noncommittal when asked about the issue.

“The jury’s still out, if you will, on that,” he said. “Let’s see what comes up and see what the discussions are.”

Gas tax hike? Unlikely

The Business Council of Alabama has pushed for a gas tax increase in recent years to fund transportation improvements, but McCutcheon said a change in the levy is unlikely in 2018.

The only way that would change, McCutcheon said, is if Congress were to pass a large-scale infrastructure bill that made billions of dollars available to the states.

If that happened, McCutcheon said, Alabama might need a gas tax increase or some other mechanism for attracting increased federal matching dollars for roads, bridges and other needs.

“That would cause some urgency that we would have to address,” he said.

“Last session was a difficult session. We had a lot of issues to deal with. It was a tough session.”

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

 

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5 months ago

7 Things You Should Be Talking About Today: Papadopoulos continues to be a problem for Trump, Governor Ivey attacked by grinches, Paul Finebaum is to blame for Sen. Doug Jones, and more …

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

 

1. Latest headache for President Donald Trump comes from a former campaign staffer, George Papadopoulos.

— The New York Times alleges that a drunk Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russia had Hillary Clinton’s deleted e-mails.

— When stolen e-mails appeared online, Australian authorities alerted “their American counterparts” about the conversation.

— Papadopoulos has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential election.

2. President Donald Trump warns Iran that the world is watching their response to protests in the street.

— Early Sunday the Iranian government warned protesters will “pay the price” for their actions.

— Trump tweeted: “The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

— Trump campaigned against Iran, calling it the world’s “No. 1 terror state”.

3. President Donald Trump stakes out a very different position than former President Barack Obama did during 2009’s Iranian protests.

— Obama’s administration backed the Iranian regime in 2009 because they were seeking a nuclear deal.

— Former United Nations Ambassador said, “You have President Trump, members of his administration, taking the side of the demonstrators,” he added. “180 degrees the opposite of what Barack Obama did in 2009.”

— U.S. Lindsey Graham criticized Obama’s reaction to those 2009 protests saying he didn’t want to get involved because it would mess up the nuclear deal.

4. Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation is going after Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s Facebook page.

— Governor Ivey, like many politicians, used her Facebook page to wish her followers a Merry Christmas.

— The Freedom from Religion Foundation claimed her Christmas cheer was “unconstitutional”.

— In the past the group has targeted Alabama schools and local governments to mixed results.

5. Roy Moore’s election loss was really all sports talker Paul Finebaum’s fault.

— Finebaum claimed in his 2014 book, “My Conference Can Beat Your Conference” that he is responsible for Gov. Robert Bentley being elected in 2010.

— The influential talker claims Bentley would tell people Finebaum “got me elected”.

— Bentley’s scandal-plagued 2nd term led to an appointment of Sen. Luther Strange and that set the wheels in motion for Democrat Doug Jones to win in a very red state.

6. While the media tells you 2017 was amazing for Democrats, the reality is far different.

— Democrats predicted the stock market would plunge, instead it soared.

—  Democrats predicted world-wide chaos in Trump’s first year, instead United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has secured votes for sanctions for North Korea from Russia and China.

— With the help of a complicit news media, Democrats waged a massive misinformation campaign against tax cuts, it still passed.

7. As the new year begins, many forget President Trump’s biggest victory is how he is packing the court with conservative judges.

— Trump and the Republican Senate have confirmed a record 12 appellate judges this year.

— The last two confirmed judges were conservative Twitter-darling Don Willet and Taiwanese immigrant Jim Ho.

— Many Trump voters cited his list of conservative Supreme Court possibilities as the reason they voted for him.

Yellowhammer News contributor Dale Jackson hosts a daily radio show from 7-11 a.m. on NewsTalk 770 AM/92.5 FM WVNN and “Yellowhammer News Presents: Guerrilla Politics” on WAAY-TV, both in North Alabama.

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5 months ago

$$$: Roy Moore can spend his leftover campaign cash in a variety of ways

 

Failed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore may have solicited funds for a recount that never happened, but federal election law gives him wide latitude in deciding how to spend it.

Paul S. Ryan, vice president for policy and litigation at Common Cause, said Moore could refund that money to the people who gave it.

“If I were a donor to Mr. Moore, I think I’d want my money back,” he said.

But nothing in the law requires Moore to do so. Those funds, along with any other money left over from the Senate campaign, can be used for a wide variety of purposes.

“Some candidates out of good faith give it back,” said Brad Smith, a professor at Capital University Law School in Ohio who previously served on the Federal Election Commission. “But as a general matter, when you give to a candidate, you are giving for him to spend. … There are some who have done that (returned money) from time to time. I would not say that’s common.”

Campaign finance law experts said about the only bright-line restriction is that Moore cannot convert the money for his personal use.

“That, you definitely cannot do,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow who previously served on the Federal Election Commission. “That would get you in a lot of trouble.”

It is unclear how much money Moore has, and a spokeswoman for the former state Supreme Court chief justice did not return a phone call seeking comment. According to Moore’s last campaign finance report on Nov. 22, he had $636,046 cash on hand in his race against Democrat Doug Jones in the special election to fill the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A solicitation email sent by the campaign a few days ago claimed to have raised $71,375 for its “election integrity” effort.

Ryan said losing candidates typically do not end campaigns with much money. But depending on how successful Moore was in generating additional contributions to support a possible recount, his coffers might be healthier than the typical candidate.

Moore has lots of options.

“The list of what he cannot do is much shorter than the list of what he can do,” Ryan said.

The options include keeping the campaign account active for use in a future race. If it is another federal race, according to experts, there are few restrictions. Transfers from a federal campaign account to a state campaign might be limited based on state law. But Alabama lightly regulates campaign spending and has no restrictions on how much money donors can give.

Moore could give the money to a party or leadership political action committee, although given his contentious relationship with GOP leaders, that would seem to be an unlikely choice. He could give to a university or charities. He could contribute money to other candidates, subject to normal limits on campaign contributions.

Or he could convert his campaign fund to a super PAC, which has fewer regulations on how money can be spent. Ryan said that is a popular route for ex-politicians who go into lobbying. The ability to dole out campaign contributions makes a lobbyist all the more effective, he said.

Moore could also do something that seems quaint in modern politics — he could return the money to the people who donated it.

“It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen,” Ryan said.

Smith said Moore could donate the funds to a university or a nonprofit organization.

“It’s fairly common to give to a private nonprofit or some entity aligned with the candidate’s views,” he said.

For Moore, that could mean transferring the money to the Foundation for Moral Law, an organization he founded to promote Christian values in the law.

FEC regulations would allow the transfer as long as the donated money is not used to pay salaries of Moore or his wife or benefit them personally in some other way. Ryan offered an example of a prohibited use that would involve a campaign endowing a position at a university and then the school hiring the candidate for that position.

Smith said a circumstance in which Moore contributed leftover campaign funds to his foundation and then took a salary would constitute a legal gray area.

The foundation became an issue in the campaign, dating to the primary. Moore’s opponents accused him of using the foundation to enrich his family.

Ryan said that at the very least, the receiving organization would have to demonstrate a separate stream of revenue that would be sufficient to pay the candidate’s salary. He said it is a question that is best avoided.

“From a public policy standpoint, that would be far from an ideal scenario,” he said.

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

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5 months ago

Read it for yourself: Here’s the full legal complaint filed by Roy Moore

Roy Moore speaks at his campaign headquarters on election night (NBC News/YouTube)
Roy Moore speaks at his campaign headquarters on election night (NBC News/YouTube)

 

Defeated Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore filed a complaint in Montgomery County Circuit Court last night seeking to block the formal certification of Democrat Doug Jones’ victory.

Certification was scheduled to happen today.

Here’s a copy of the full complaint:

2017 12 27 Complaint Moore v King by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

 

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