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.
Even with Trey Glenn leaving his post as the EPA’s Region Four administrator, Alabama will still have strong ties to the leader of that office.
According to The Hill, Mary Walker was named by EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler to fill the vacant role in an acting capacity after Glenn resigned on Monday following his indictment on ethics charges in Alabama.
Walker is a native of the Yellowhammer State and had been serving as Glenn’s deputy.
The Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine,” a magical prom night experience for people with special needs, is coming to Birmingham.
Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church will serve as one of the nearly 500 churches around the world to host Night to Shine on February 8, 2019.
Night to Shine is an event for people 14 and older with special needs to receive royal treatment. Guests will enter the event on a red carpet filled with a crowd and paparazzi. Once they make it into the building, guests will be able to choose from an array of activities to partake in including hair and makeup stations, shoe shining areas and limousine rides. They can also choose their corsages and boutonnieres.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Blue Cross and Blue Shield adds Ted Hosp to its governmental affairs team
Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Alabama is adding one of the state’s top legal minds to its already first-class governmental affairs team.
On Monday, BCBS announced that Ted Hosp has been officially named as the company’s executive director of governmental affairs.
Hosp joins Blue Cross from Alabama-based Maynard, Cooper and Gale, where he most recently chaired the prominent law firm’s governmental and regulatory affairs practice group. Hosp is widely recognized as a leader in the areas of government ethics laws and the legislative process. He is a graduate of Brown University and received his law degree from Fordham University.
In a press release, Robin Stone, BCBS vice president of governmental affairs, lauded the impact that Hosp is expected to have.
“Ted’s experience at Maynard working with our company on legislative and regulatory issues will enable him to bring immediate and long term value to our advocacy on behalf of our customers at the local, state and federal level,” Stone said.
Hosp currently chairs the Alabama Access to Justice Commission, established by the state Supreme Court in 2007. Additionally, he serves on the Alabama State Bar Committee on Volunteer Lawyers Programs and on the board of the Middle District of Alabama Federal Defender’s Program. Hosp has previously served on the boards of the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program and the Montgomery Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program.
He is married to Alison Wingate Hosp, who handles governmental affairs for the Alabama Retail Association as its vice president.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
Exclusive — Speaker McCutcheon, House Majority Leader Ledbetter discuss priorities for 2019 legislative session
Yellowhammer News sat down with Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) and Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) to discuss the “red wave” that resulted in the largest Republican supermajority ever in the Alabama House of Representatives, the major issues expected to be the focus of the 2019 legislative session and their respective leadership roles and styles.
In the second of this three-part series, we touch on a few of the legislative issues that the Alabama House Republican Caucus, led by McCutcheon and Ledbetter, will likely have to tackle this coming spring, including the hot-button topics of infrastructure, the lottery and ethics reform.
They also mentioned economic and workforce development, along with education reform and school safety as focuses moving forward.
If you missed it, you can read the first part here. Check Yellowhammer News in the coming days for part three.
Both McCutcheon and Ledbetter applauded the state of Alabama’s economy and the boom seen under recent Republican leadership in the state. However, they used this as a natural segue into talking about the major issues facing the legislature on Goat Hill come March, saying that with the success comes even more work needed to continue the positive trend and reach greater heights.
This was articulated especially well by McCutcheon’s new chief of staff Mark Tuggle, who decided not to run for re-election to a third term in the State House this election cycle.
“We have a record that we ran on [as a Republican House Caucus]. We had brand new people, good candidates, who ran on our record, our eight-year record. Voters, the constituents, are buying into this record. They have seen the successes. They’re seeing it in their wallet, they’re seeing it with some of their kids and their ability to have some de minimis parental choice in education and that’s a big deal,” Tuggle outlined.
“We’ve made generational changes, decisions that are going to impact this state for generations,” Tuggle added. “And we’re just in the infancy of seeing that [come to fruition]. But people are seeing it. And they’re buying into the narrative, they’re buying into our leadership and the Republican brand. And I say, going forward, we’ve got to govern to protect that brand and not take any of it for granted.”
McCutcheon said, “I tell people all the time – the best days are ahead in Alabama. And I really believe that.”
“I’m excited. As the Speaker said, I think our best days are ahead of us,” Ledbetter remarked.
He continued, “For me, in my lifetime, the growth in the economy going the way it is in Alabama, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it moving this strong. And I think what we’ve got to do as leaders, we’ve got to quit kicking the can down the road and solve problems.”
‘Our biggest issue’
While there will be several key items on the 2019 legislative agenda that cannot be kicked down the road, perhaps the “biggest issue” will be infrastructure.
Ledbetter advised, “The biggest problem we’ve got facing our state right now, for us to continue the economic growth that we’ve seen over the past two years, is we’ve got to fix our infrastructure.”
He continued, “You know, when we’ve got CEOs of companies – Mercedes stands up and says unless we get the infrastructure fixed, it’s going to be harder for us to expand because we can’t move our product from Tuscaloosa to the Port of Mobile – it gets tougher and tougher. So, I think infrastructure is our biggest issue.”
McCutcheon also emphasized the importance of the issue and the gravity of the task ahead for the legislature.
“One of the big issues we’re going to face early on in this next session is infrastructure, transportation. There’s no doubt about that the need is there, we’ve got to continue to educate the public – we’re working through all of the issues that are out there with previous infrastructure bills,” the speaker said.
This is an item that affects every Alabamian, and it hits where it matters most – not only the wallet, but road safety can quite literally be a life or death issue. It also might mean, metaphorically, life or death for the state’s economic surge.
“I think if we don’t step up to the plate and fix it, my fear is that growth that we’re seeing right now in our state’s economy is just going to hit a brick wall and stop, cease to continue. That’s how important it is,” Ledbetter advised.
While important, the infrastructure issue is also perhaps equally as complex, even though some people only equate it to raising revenue, as the last time that was done in the state was 1992.
“Some people want to just stop when you mention ‘gas tax,’ but this thing is bigger than that,” McCutcheon explained.
“It’s about funding formulas, how do you distribute money with counties and cities – we’re talking about road miles in each of our counties versus our cities. Looking at revenues coming in the populated areas, for example I-65, the major route north and south in our state that connects North Alabama to the docks in Mobile. All of these issues are important. And so because of that, the governor has said herself, as well as the Senate [leadership] and myself here in the House, that infrastructure is going to be a priority moving forward,” McCutcheon detailed.
He continued, “We’ve got to have some new revenue, there’s no doubt about that. Gas tax at the pump is going to be a part of the discussion. But also funding formulas, also maybe having some legislative [input] into how the money’s being spent on certain projects to help and assist ALDOT, looking at a growth product so it’s not another 26 years later and we’re sitting here struggling with this issue again, these are all things that are going to be a part of that bill.”
Changing technology is an interesting facet of the discussion, not just with the advances in fuel efficiency.
“Electric vehicles, too,” McCutcheon said. “When you look at the technology and you talk to some of the auto manufacturers, they’re talking about in 5-10 years a huge percentage of all vehicles on the road will be electric. Well, how do we maintain revenue for those vehicles? That’s got to be a part of this discussion and this bill.”
While some of these important details certainly require nuance in an eventual infrastructure proposal in 2019, Ledbetter wanted to remind readers that this comes down to the local level across the state, from rural areas to urban ones.
“My county, just in my county, which Dekalb is a rural county, the [local] superintendent [of education] got me some numbers for our buses, and our buses had to travel over 30,000 miles last year alone just to go around bad bridges. So, it’s also become a safety factor. And it’s been  years now since we increased the gasoline tax [in Alabama],” Ledbetter shared.
The legislators will need to hammer out all of the crucial details and a final proposed bill is still a ways off, but the majority leader framed this as not a political consideration, but as a policy necessity.
“I don’t know what the whole package will hold, but we’ll see going forward. I certainly think that infrastructure is a major, major issue for our state. And, you know, the thing about it is if we are truly public servants and not politicians, we need to fix the problems for the next generation and not the next election,” Ledbetter said.
How does Trump fit in?
McCutcheon and Ledbetter also stressed the importance of Alabama having the requisite matching funds if the Trump administration and Congress are able to pass federal infrastructure legislation in the coming year.
McCutcheon advised, “We can’t do all of the necessary things we need to do for our roads without some federal dollars coming in. Because of that, if we can get support from Washington, D.C., it’ll go a long way of helping us [in Alabama].”
While federal support is needed in Alabama, the state also will have to do its part to utilize that support.
“The last thing we want to see is for Washington, D.C. to pass some type of road/transportation funding that requires a match and then here we are in Alabama and we don’t have any money to match with and we lose out,” McCutcheon emphasized.
“That’s [another] problem we have right now,” Ledbetter added. “If the federal government were to pass an infrastructure package, and I do think we’ll see that bill coming, we couldn’t do anything with it right now. Because we don’t have the matching funds for it. There’s not going to be a federal infrastructure package that’s not going to call for matching monies. So, with our state’s situation right now as far as our roads and bridges, we don’t have the money to match. We’d lose billions and billions of dollars [in federal funding] if they were indeed to get that package passed through Congress if we don’t have something in place in Alabama.”
The speaker and the majority leader both think that President Donald Trump’s support for infrastructure funding, including a gasoline tax increase, could help Republican state representatives in Alabama, some of whom may be on the fence ahead of the session, get behind the issue, given the president’s approval ratings in the Yellowhammer State.
“I think certainly with his help and locally, the governor met with our Caucus and that was her primary focus when speaking with us – she said we’ve got to do something with our infrastructure, we’ve got to work on a bill that’s going to be productive for all our counties and cities and for the state,” Ledbetter shared.
He continued, “I certainly think [President Trump] getting behind it and then our governor getting behind it is going to help tremendously. And we’ve got lots of different folks in our state pushing it, too. Truckers, farmers, all these people see a need and they’re on board.”
Ledbetter also noted that the Caucus’ members are included in the large, diverse group of Alabamians who see the need for an infrastructure bill in 2019.
“I think that is the general sentiment [that there is a need] … I think, for the most part, we’ll have wide support for it, if it’s the right bill – we’ve got to get the right bill. And everybody’s got to have input for it. But once that happens, I think we have a really good chance, I really do,” Ledbetter added.
‘We’re just going to try and put a little more common sense into a good ethics bill’
The speaker had a few comments to frame the discussion around an anticipated ethics reform bill in 2019, with the Attorney General’s Office and the Ethics Commission, along with the Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission, set to play major roles in this debate.
“I think you’re going to see some discussion on possible ethics amendments,” McCutcheon advised. “We’re not trying to [redo] the ethics bill by any means, we have a good ethics bill in place, it’s doing its job – as it should. And I support that, it’s a strong ethics bill. But there are some little things in it that need to be amended and clarified. I like to say that we’re just going to try and put a little more common sense into a good ethics bill. So, you’ll see some discussion on ethics coming in 2019.”
‘They’re constantly calling me about the lottery’
Another interesting discussion will involve whether or not to allow Alabamians to vote on a constitutional amendment that would institute a lottery in the Yellowhammer State.
On this, McCutcheon shared some of his personal perspective.
The speaker said, “When you look at some districts that are on out state lines, on our state borders, every state around us has a lottery.”
“I’ll just use my district as an example, up there in north Alabama – constituents in my district, they’re constantly calling me about the lottery and talking about all the Alabama tags they see going across the Tennessee line to buy a lottery ticket. And they’ve said, ‘Representative McCutcheon, when are y’all going to address this issue in Alabama?’ So, I think the people are just slowly but surely educating themselves and they’re talking about it, so I think you should maybe see some good debate on a lottery bill this time,” McCutcheon added.
Both ethics reform and the lottery segued well into Ledbetter’s concluding sentiment.
“There’s a lot of talk about ethics reform. And there’s been a lot of talk about the lottery. And then there’s talk about the prison system and other issues. So we’ve had a lot of success, we really have and we’ve been blessed to see Alabama take the strides it has over the last few years. But, with that being said, we’ve got a lot to do,” Ledbetter remarked.
He concluded, “I think there’s tremendous opportunity for us to do good. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I know that with the group that we’ve got and the leadership that we’ve got, we’re willing to do it. And I think that’s good for our state.”
In Yellowhammer News’ third part of this interview series, we will provide insight into the respective leadership style and perspective of both McCutcheon and Ledbetter, explaining how they will lead the Caucus and see some of these issues solved through legislation.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
Who will run? Previewing Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate Election
Yellowhammer News previewed the 2020 U.S. Senate race three months ago, but things are really taking shape now that Alabama’s midterm election has passed.
However, there has been a “known unknown” thrust into the mix: will Jeff Sessions run to reclaim his former seat? That has become the key dynamic in the race that hopefully will be answered soon.
Yet, as much as that could shake up the Republican primary, there is one thing that has not changed and, in fact, became even clearer to the masses after Tuesday’s general election: Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) will not win a full term of his own, barring another Roy Moore-type debacle.
Who will be the Republican to defeat Jones? Here are the eight most compelling candidates to do just that, broken down by whether Sessions does or does not run.
If Sessions does not run: Ainsworth is on the rise in Alabama politics, and a jump to the United States Senate in 2020 now does not look like too much of a leap. He built solid name identification this year and would have a recency advantage over most of the pack in a primary season expected to kick off within months.
Another advantage Ainsworth has going is age. Alabama could really benefit from someone getting into the Senate who can stay for 30 – 40 years, in the mold of legendary statesman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa), and Ainsworth certainly fits the bill.
He knows the issues and seems comfortable talking to Republicans of all stripes. From economic development to immigration and abortion, Ainsworth has a wide-ranging portfolio of topics he is already on the record about. Coupled with his multi-millions in self-funding ability and his family’s ties to top-level federal donor networks, Ainsworth would be a major player if he decided to run. It would be a “free shot” for him considering his term as lieutenant governor will end in 2023, so keep a close eye on this young gun from Marshall County.
If Sessions does run: Ainsworth has a long future ahead of him and would be unlikely to risk his rising stock with a run against the venerable former senator. It would be best to wait for a better opportunity in this scenario.
If Sessions does not run: Someone from the Huntsville area will run for the Senate in a free-for-all field, with Battle being by far the strongest candidate from the area. The mayor has proven that he has a stronghold of votes in and around Madison County. For both fundraising and turnout, Huntsville’s reliance on federal dollars and policies will be a big boost for him.
By staying positive and building name identification in his television advertising against Governor Kay Ivey, Battle fostered good-will amongst some of the Republican Party faithful and built a base of favorability for this future run. However, it’s unclear how Battle will fare in a statewide race in which multiple candidates will be throwing jabs at him, probably all from the right. His social conservative bona fides will come under attack, and pivoting to economic development talking points will not work with the vast majority of Republican primary voters.
There is also speculation he still really does want to be governor and may wait until 2022 to try and do so. If Battle does not run for the Senate in this scenario, look for someone like Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-5) to carry the banner for north Alabama.
If Sessions does run: While Sessions is from south Alabama, his base runs statewide and federal industries in Huntsville have known him as a friend already in the Senate. Battle would stand little chance against Sessions and would be very unlikely to challenge him, as any credible Sessions challenge would have to come from Sessions’ right.
If Sessions does not run: Byrne has been the one potential candidate that has been out working across the state, traveling to different civic meetings, touring economic development sites to lay the groundwork for his campaign and sending press releases out left and right (well, right and right). Now that he won re-election on Tuesday, Byrne confirmed that he is officially exploring a Senate run.
In what is sure to be a crowded primary field, candidates with strong geographic bases like Byrne’s in vote-rich Baldwin and Mobile counties already have a leg-up as they seek to make a primary runoff. Byrne also has experience running statewide, a resulting name I.D. advantage over Alabama’s other seven members of the U.S. House, economic development success stories to tell and proven big-league fundraising ability. He also has over $1.1 million on hand as of October 17, and can continue raising money under his House committee, that can be transferred to an eventual Senate committee.
From his messaging in the past few months, it also looks like Byrne is aware that he needs to prove that he has learned from his 2010 upset defeat and better message to base Republican primary voters because he has been out front on social issues. If Sessions does not run, Byrne has vaulted himself to the front of the pack with his early hard-work.
If Sessions does run: This is a big question. Again, Byrne has been out working, which may scare some other credible candidates off. However, would Sessions put him off? They are both from the Mobile-area, so Byrne’s geographic advantage would be shot. It is unclear if this was his intent, but Byrne also signaled deference to the now-former attorney general after his resignation, saying he expects to meet with him in the “next few weeks.” This would seem to box Byrne in now, with it being expected that Byrne’s respect for Sessions would outweigh his ambition to run for the seat. Byrne is still going to be out working until that meeting, but he would have been better off framing any Sessions meeting as a talk about policy issues or a chat between friends instead of letting it look like a request for permission to run.
If Sessions does not run: Cavanaugh is amongst the most recognizable names in state politics, with the sky-high name identification that normally takes millions of dollars and many years to build. In what would be a relatively crowded field if Sessions sits the race out, a 2020 run would make a lot of sense for Cavanaugh. Her name I.D. alone would see her at or near the top of preliminary polls, and this kind of early success normally has an effect on donors, endorsements and earned-media coverage.
Consider also that Cavanaugh proved herself as a prolific fundraiser this past cycle, raising over $1.6 million in the lieutenant governor’s race and building a strong network of donors and influential supporters. Combined with her strong favorability with the Republican base, proven political savvy and leadership on social conservative issues (she co-chaired the successful effort to pass Amendment Two), she has the balance that most other candidates do not. And, as potentially the only woman in the race, she would stand out from the crowd.
If Sessions does run: Cavanaugh would be extremely unlikely to challenge Sessions, who she greatly respects and considers a friend.
If Sessions does not run: Like Ainsworth, this would be a free shot for Marsh, as his sixth term in the State Senate will not end until 2022, and his prolific self-funding ability is right up there with the best of them, which could give him a significant cash-on-hand head-start on almost all other elected officials on this list. Marsh also has a top-notch fundraising network to add onto his own funds, making him tough to compete with on the air waves.
As evidenced by this television ad he released last month, Marsh does have a compelling story to tell, too – it is one that resonates with Alabamians. Between his entrepreneurial successes and records of public service, Marsh will sell well on the campaign trail and in ads. He still has a long way to go in building the necessary name I.D., yet the silver lining – money and time, two things Marsh has on his side, can accomplish this.
Keep an eye on the major issues expected to come up in the Alabama Legislature in 2019 – infrastructure (probably a gas tax), the lottery and education reform – and how these could affect Marsh’s potential campaign.
If Sessions does run: Do not expect to see Marsh challenge Sessions. He can bide his time waiting on a better opportunity as Pro Tem.
If Sessions does not run: Not much has changed for Palmer since Yellowhammer News’ last preview. While Byrne has been out working and Marsh and Ainsworth impressed with recent television ads, Palmer has been laying low statewide as he works away on Capitol Hill.
This being said, if no other serious candidate from the Birmingham metropolitan area enters the race, Palmer would have the potential to collect a sizable vote from his ruby-red district. As a member of the House Freedom Caucus and given his tenure at the Alabama Policy Institute, he will have significant grassroots and Republican base appeal. Palmer not only knows conservative issues, he knows how to message conservative issues. He will be able to raise money competitively from the Birmingham business community and as a sitting Member of Congress, plus he has around $520,000 currently in his campaign coffer. His challenge will be low name identification outside of his district, and if the last few months are good indicators, being proactive in laying campaign ground work and promoting himself.
If Sessions does run: While Sessions likely clears the field of credible candidates completely or near it, Palmer seems more likely to run under this scenario than Byrne and certainly more so than Marsh (the two other candidates besides Palmer most rumored to be strongly weighing runs). He put out a statement on Sessions’ resignation a day after the fact, and it read like one that was trying a little too hard to not say much.
If Sessions does not run: People close to Roby do not seem to see this in the cards, but it makes a lot of sense. Besides Cavanaugh, she is the only woman with name recognition who could enter the race. Alabamians also tend to elect candidates who have the potential of acquiring and leveraging seniority in the Senate. Having just turned 42 in the last few months, Roby could serve for forty years if elected, matching one of Ainsworth’s strengths.
Assuming Roby would only enter the race if Cavanaugh did not, she could garner a sizable vote in the River Region and the Wiregrass, a Republican stronghold. Committee assignments will change with the new Congress, but Roby will hold some degree of fundraising leverage still and currently boasts a campaign balance of approximately $450,000.
She has almost entirely moved past her infamous opposition to President Donald Trump and could mount a compelling campaign if she wants to. That seems to be the biggest question, though. At her age, this might not be the best cycle to risk losing her House seat.
If Sessions does run: Roby will not run.
While Yellowhammer News has seen credible polling that shows Sessions’ net favorability is now slightly under water, he enjoys nearly universal name recognition in the state, as well as a record of service in the U.S. Senate that Alabama Republicans revered. Time will significantly heal the Trump wounds, and the president may very well publicly give his backing to Sessions in the near future and speed up his favorability recovery. Consider, too, that Sessions has approximately $2.5 million sitting idle in his campaign account.
Regardless, Sessions would clear the field completely or almost so of all credible candidates. Elected officials, party activists and conservative politicos have deep respect for Sessions and his lifetime of service, and many consider him to be a personal friend. Out of deference/respect, it would be hard to imagine a big name challenger to him returning to his seat, if he really wants it. Nominating Sessions would also be a guaranteed win against Doug Jones.
One aspect to ponder is whether Sessions would get his seniority back. Senate rules and recent precedent seem to suggest the answer would be “no,” however Sessions and Leader McConnell go way back, and Sen. Shelby would also probably have a thing or two to say about this in Sessions’ favor.
At the end of the day, this race is frozen for awhile until Sessions makes a decision. Knowing this, he holds a lot of power, and even if he eventually does not run, he could help tilt the race in a specific candidate’s favor by how long he keeps his cards close to the vest.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
This new site, launched on Memorial Day, examines Bentley’s time serving as Alabama’s 53rd governor and provides contemporary updates on his life since leaving office.
The platform also makes available to the general public archived digital content from the Bentley Administration and both of his gubernatorial campaigns.
“Governor Bentley was Alabama’s first governor to serve during the rise in popularity of digital mediums and social media platforms,” the site notes, before outlining the litany of online resources that it provides.
In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Bentley discussed his new project, his post-public life and even left the door open on a 2020 U.S. Senate run.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: What would you like people to know about Bentley for Alabama and what’s the goal of this new endeavor?
BENTLEY: Bentley for Alabama is really a continuation of the work we began during my Administration. The goals and initiatives of all the people who worked so hard in our Administration are important and matter to our people, such as job creation, Pre-K growth and even the need to build new prisons. We were inspired by President George W. Bush, and the philanthropic work he continues to do after leaving office. The Bush Administration makes available its digital resources from his time in office.
I love history, and we felt that is was important to preserve the work we did, and the recording of that work. It just so happens now that’s all in a digital format where it can be accessed by anyone. We wanted to make it easily available online for anyone.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Should we expect frequent social media posts from you?
BENTLEY: Absolutely! Social media really exploded during our administration, and we found it to be very effective when it came to communication with both the media and the people of our state. The Internet can be dark and dirty, but it can be used for good. I love staying in touch with what people are thinking and talking about, social media is a great way to do that.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: What are you most proud of from your tenure as governor?
BENTLEY: Without a doubt, lowering unemployment and changing the state’s jobs strategy. We were over 10 percent unemployment when I became governor, and we hit full employment when I left office. It’s gratifying to see the strategy we put into place, Accelerate Alabama, net so many good jobs. Especially in Wilcox County and other small towns that were hurting. I always believe if you educate people and give them an opportunity to succeed in a good job, they’ll be fine. I believe we are helping do that by expanding Pre-K, and by creating jobs. I’m also proud of how our administration responded and rebuilt after the 2011 tornadoes.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: How has the adjustment back to private life been?
BENTLEY: It was a little awkward at first, sometimes you feel like a baby giraffe learning to walk, especially driving around town when you really haven’t driven much in seven years. I had a few health issues, and I needed some time just to rest and get re-acclimated. I actually enjoy doing ordinary things like going to Winn Dixie to buy groceries. I’ll see folks and they still want to ask me how I’m doing, tell me they appreciate my time as governor and get their picture made with me. That’s always sweet and very humbling.
I opened a new medical practice June of 2017. I started on that a few days after coming home, and it has been an absolutely blessing. We are busier that I could have ever imagined. The practice is a true miracle, and God gets the glory for every bit of that. My medical practice staff is top-notch and like family to me. I’m a creature of habit, so I just settled back into my old routines at my house. I love to get out and cut grass when I have some free time. But people have been so kind and supportive and I can’t thank them enough.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Would you consider a return to public office? Maybe the U.S. Senate in 2020?
BENTLEY: I love serving the people of this state. Serving as governor was the greatest honor of my life. I have a heart for our people and I believe we are all called to serve one another in some capacity. I found public service was a way to do that. I believe what is missing in public service today is loving the people that you serve and wanting to help those who need help, especially those who are less fortunate and really have nothing. If God shows me a new avenue where I can do that, I’ll do it.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: How do you want people to remember Robert Bentley?
BENTLEY: I just want people to know how much I truly care about them. I love being a physician and taking care of patients. Being governor opened up a whole new world to me, and it changed how I see people. Especially after the tornadoes. When you go through something like that, you realize hurt and suffering are no respecters of people.
We’re all equals and that’s how I see the people of Alabama. White Republican governors in their 70’s usually don’t push to fund Medicaid for the disabled, elderly or poor, much less try to make people care about building a new women’s prison where female inmates were once subjected to humiliation, shame and abuse. And politically speaking, doing that probably hurt me. But I always tried to put the people first. And I’m proud of that.
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS: Is there anything else that you want our readers to know?
BENTLEY: I would just thank them again for allowing me to serve as their governor. In this campaign season, just remember public service is tough, and credit goes to anyone who is willing to step in the arena. I never intended to be a caretaker governor. If you want to be a public servant and see change, be ready to get bloodied. As a voter, look for a candidate who cares about people, not just one who panders
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
Who’s running? Previewing Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate Election
Alabama has been stuck in what seems like one endless election cycle since 2015. And it’s not going to end anytime soon.
As signaled by the start of Governor Ivey’s first television buy ahead of the November 6 General Election, the summer political lull – a seeming oasis of respite from wall-to-wall political advertising that turned out to be a mirage – lasted a mere 16 days after the July 17 Primary Runoff. That’s 1.6 Scaramuccis for those keeping track at home.
This respite, however temporary, still might be one of the longer political advertising breaks Alabama experiences before December 2020. Besides the upcoming local, statewide and Congressional midterm races that are now gearing up ahead of November, the 2020 U.S. Senate Election looms large on the horizon. Potential Republican candidates and savvy power brokers have already started the behind-the-scenes jockeying that will set the table for defeating incumbent Sen. Doug Jones 27 months from now.
We still have a long way to go before knowing who will go on to defeat Sen. Jones, but serious and wannabee contenders are already emerging from the pack.
Advantages: Battle proved that he has a stronghold of votes in and around Madison County. For both fundraising and turnout, Huntsville’s reliance on federal dollars and policies will be a big boost for him. By staying positive in his television advertising this year, Battle fostered good-will amongst some of the Republican Party faithful and built a base of statewide name identification and favorability for this future run.
Challenges: It’s unclear how Battle will fare in a statewide race in which multiple candidates will be throwing jabs at him, probably all from the right. His social conservative bona fides will come under attack, and pivoting to economic development talking points will not work with the vast majority of Republican primary voters.
Things to consider: Battle’s run for governor became an expensive trial balloon for a future campaign once Governor Ivey assumed office and righted the ship of state. His team was and still is playing the long game.
Rep. Bradley Byrne
Advantages: In what is sure to be a crowded primary field, candidates with strong geographic bases like Byrne’s in vote-rich Baldwin and Mobile counties will have a leg-up as they seek to make a primary runoff. Byrne also has experience running statewide, a resulting name I.D. advantage over Alabama’s other seven members of the U.S. House, economic development success stories to tell, and proven big-league fundraising ability.
Challenges: Byrne will have to prove that he has learned from his 2010 upset defeat and better message to base Republican primary voters.
Things to consider: If Byrne does indeed run for the Senate, this will leave his First Congressional District seat wide open. Expect outgoing state Sen. Rusty Glover, state Rep. Chris Pringle and outgoing state Sen. Bill Hightower to lead a lengthy list of hopefuls for this would-be opening.
Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh
Advantages: This will be a free shot for Marsh, as his sixth term in the State Senate will not end until 2022. His prolific fundraising ability is well-known, but he also has the means to self-finance his campaign, which could give him a significant cash-on-hand head-start on the other elected officials on this list. Marsh’s entrepreneurial successes and experience will also sell well on the campaign trail.
Challenges: Members of the state legislature simply do not have much, if any, name recognition outside of their relatively small districts. Marsh does get some statewide press as Sen. Pro Tem and ran television advertising in the Birmingham television market this primary cycle, but he still has a long way to go in building the necessary name I.D. The silver lining – money and time, two things Marsh has on his side, can accomplish this.
Things to consider: Expect to see Marsh continue advertising on Birmingham television, Alabama’s largest media market, this cycle as he plans a possible 2020 run. Jockeying in the State Senate and the upcoming legislative session will unfold with the future in mind.
Secretary of State John Merrill
Advantages: As a statewide elected official, Merrill has broader geographic name recognition than U.S. Reps. and members of the state legislature. He is also quite possibly the best retail politician in the state and will outwork just about anyone on the campaign trail.
Challenges: While his name recognition is relatively broad in terms of geography, it still isn’t very high. The lesson here is that television and television only can get your name identification up past a certain point. Merrill will need to find a large amount of money to spend on advertising to build on his solid name identification in order to be competitive against better-funded opponents. He does not yet have the type of ready-built fundraising machine necessary to win a big-league statewide race.
Things to consider: This would be a free shot for Merrill, as his second term serving as Secretary of State will last until January 2023. He could use this opportunity to build towards a 2022 run for Governor or another opening a couple years down the road.
Rep. Gary Palmer
Advantages: If no other serious candidate from the Birmingham metropolitan area enters the race, Palmer would have the potential to collect a sizable vote from his district. As a member of the House Freedom Caucus and given his tenure at the Alabama Policy Institute, he will have significant grassroots and Republican base appeal. Palmer not only knows conservative issues, he knows how to message conservative issues. He will be able to raise money competitively from the Birmingham business community and as a sitting Member of Congress.
Challenges: Palmer’s low name identification outside of his district could hurt him.
Things to consider: This would be a risky play for Palmer. He’s in a safe House seat, and the odds of him winning the Senate race might not be high enough to leave a sure thing. If Palmer does try to make the leap to the Senate in 2020, this opens up his House Seat to another 2014-like scrum. Expect former state Rep. Paul DeMarco and former state Sen. Scott Beason to be in the mix again, along with the likes of outgoing state Sen. Slade Blackwell, state Sen. Cam Ward and Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington.
Rep. Martha Roby
Advantages: Roby is likely to be the only woman with name recognition in the race, and would do well to capitalize on her natural lead with female voters. Alabamians also tend to elect candidates who have the potential of acquiring and leveraging seniority in the Senate. Having just turned 42 last week, Roby could serve for forty years if elected.
Challenges: Even though the runoff was a landslide victory, do not forget that Roby’s support in the Second Congressional District has diminished since 2016. Her triumphant runoff showing, against a Democrat and after being endorsed by President Trump, still only amounted to 48,000 votes – which would’ve amounted to a 51 percent razor-thin victory if turnout from the primary held. What should be a major advantage for Roby has turned into a liability – she has the weakest foothold with her geographic base out of all of Alabama’s Representatives. If Roby is interested in running for the Senate, or even keeping her seat in 2020, she needs to spend much more time in her district repairing her image in the coming year.
Things to consider: If Roby runs for the Senate, there are plenty of viable contenders in Montgomery and the Wiregrass who would be interested in running for her open seat. Outgoing State Treasurer Young Boozer, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and state Rep. Paul Lee immediately come to mind.
President and CEO of Coleman World Group, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, and former Chairman of the Business Council of Alabama, Coleman has the background and authentic charisma that would make for an ideal U.S. Senate candidate. He would have a steep name recognition hill to climb, but he has all the tools to do it.
State Rep. Bill Poole
A practicing attorney in Tuscaloosa, Poole will be serving his third term in the Alabama House of Representatives when the 2020 race for Doug Jones’ seat unfolds. He has chaired the House Ways and Means Education Committee since 2013 and is widely respected for his fiscally conservative policy expertise. Poole is the state’s preeminent rising young political star and has the potential to serve Alabama on the national level in a major way, in the mold of Sen. Richard Shelby.
Better known as “the Yella Fella,” Rane is the richest man in Alabama and a gregarious one to boot. He has long considered a run for office and has the perfect self-financed-outsider credentials to mount a competitive bid. His close friendship with Gov. Ivey would be an interesting factor, too.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Never say never. Out of all the crazy Alabama political storylines, even just recent ones, this would not even rank as a surprise. If Sessions did run, he would immediately become the frontrunner and clear out most of the field.
Former Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Glenn Murdock
And a bunch of not-gunna-happen state legislators. A free shot is always appealing, though.
Rep. Robert Aderholt
If Aderholt does run, he will be a serious contender. However, he is in line to be Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and will not leave the House if this holds true. There are two factors that need to be resolved first:
If Republicans lose the House in November, Aderholt is stuck being the ranking minority member on the committee. He would have to decide whether he wants to play the long game by waiting until the Republicans win back the majority again or take a gamble by running for the Senate.
If the Republicans maintain control of the House in November, Aderholt still has some political maneuvering ahead of him. The Texas Congressional Delegation has promised their votes to Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid in exchange for control of the appropriations committee. For what it is worth, I expect that the vice president will be working behind the scenes to deliver the chairmanship to Aderholt. However, if Aderholt loses this battle, he may very well decide to leave the House and take a shot at the Senate seat.
Former Rep. Jo Bonner
If Rep. Byrne does not run, that opens up a lane for Bonner to be a serious contender.
Rep. Mo Brooks
Likewise, if Mayor Battle for some reason doesn’t run, Brooks has a serious foothold in the Fifth Congressional District to run from. The likelihood of Alabama losing a Congressional seat also factors in here, because Brooks could be drawn out of his current job and on the hunt for a new one.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson
Same situation as Bonner. If Rep. Byrne doesn’t run, that opens up a pathway for Stimpson.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
Gov. Ivey’s new ad, which can be viewed below, is titled “Strong Start, Strong Finish,” a nod to her trademark education initiative that was launched to integrate Alabama’s early childhood education, K-12 education and workforce development into a seamless educational experience for students across the state.
Under Gov. Ivey’s brief administration, investment in Alabama’s nationally recognized First Class Pre-K program received its largest single-year increase ever in program funding. And, as part of the first half of “Strong Start, Strong Finish,” she is working hard to make this program available to all Alabama families who wish to participate.
“Here in Alabama, we are focused on workforce preparedness, because we are creating record jobs,” Ivey explains in the ad, referencing a tenet of the latter half of her initiative. “That means we have to teach students today to be ready for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Gov. Ivey has branded herself using job growth first and foremost, with her campaign’s tagline of “Alabama is working again” fresh on people’s minds. Now, she is building on this success, showing Alabamians that education, job training, and economic development are all intertwined.
As for Mayor Maddox, his latest campaign commercial is based on his propensity to run.
In political campaigns, the battle often is fought over competing answers to the questions of the time; e.g., “how do we create jobs?” However, in reality, campaigns are won and lost on the questions themselves.
This is playing out in front of our eyes in the governor’s race. Mayor Maddox cannot win the answers to key questions people have on their minds. After all, unemployment has been at record lows and jobs are being created left and right under Gov. Ivey’s leadership.
Maddox’s solution? Change the question. Generate process stories about debates. Jog. Because on the issues, he loses every time.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn
What do Alabama candidates really think? API, Yellowhammer News partner on questionnaires to find out
Candidates for public office, once elected, bring their underlying principles and perspectives on policy issues into office with them, thus defining how they govern. It is important for citizens to know and understand the candidates for which they are voting, and Yellowhammer News and the Alabama Policy Institute (API) are partnering to bring that information to Alabama voters.
Over the course of the next three weeks, candidates will be issued a questionnaire from API and Yellowhammer with questions ranging from political philosophy to state-specific questions on fiscal responsibility, education, and job creation. By providing an outlet for candidates to address these topics, the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer hope to foster a more engaged and informed electorate in Alabama.
Why are API and Yellowhammer issuing these questionnaires?
It is a difficult task to get each candidate running for office on the same stage. When they do share a live audience, candidates are rarely given the opportunity to answer challenging policy questions. These questionnaires provide this opportunity – one that will benefit both candidates and the electorate. This format will give candidates time to provide more thoughtful responses and will give Alabamians the information they need to cast their vote. Issuing the questions on a public platform provides accountability and transparency between the candidates and voters, which is vital to a more informed citizenry.
How will the process work?
API and Yellowhammer will release a list of questions, which will be posted on the Yellowhammer News website, on the Alabama Policy Institute website, and sent to the campaigns of each candidate. The candidates will each be allowed two weeks to respond to the questionnaire. The answers will be posted by Yellowhammer News and the Alabama Policy Institute and available for the candidates to post on their respective websites.
Today, the questions were sent to the campaigns of the gubernatorial candidates, who were told that they have until May 11 to submit answers. As responses come in, they will be posted online. On Wednesday, candidates for lieutenant governor will be given questions to be answered by May 15. Next Friday, questions will be sent to the candidates for attorney general to be submitted by May 18.
API and Yellowhammer challenge all of the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general to answer these questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. Prior to casting our votes, Alabama voters deserve to know what their candidates believe and how they will view the issues presented to them.
As election day draws near, we look forward to receiving their responses and sharing that information with you.
Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News
2018 Gubernatorial Questionnaire
POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES
What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you govern?
How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?
What is the most important role of the governor?
What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?
Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?
Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?
ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
Dr. Eric Mackey was recently named Alabama’s next State Superintendent of Education. The governor serves as a voting member of the Alabama State Board of Education. What vision for Alabama do you share with the new superintendent and where do your philosophies differ? How will you prioritize Alabama’s school children in your role on the Board?
The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida reignited the discussion about school safety. President Trump has suggested arming teachers while others have argued for increased use of school resource officers and funding for mental health programs. As governor, how would you ensure the safety of Alabama’s children in public schools?
In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should school choice fit into Alabama’s education system?
In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?
STATE AND LOCAL TAXES
According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?
US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi—has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?
Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?
THE RIGHT TO WORK
The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?
ROLE OF LABOR
Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?
OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA
The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would you address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?
According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As governor, how would you tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?
Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?
Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?
CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE
Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Do you support the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?
This article has been updated to reflect new dates by which the candidates were asked to respond.
Judge Debra Jones running for Alabama Supreme Court, Place 1
(Judge Debra Jones Campaign)
Circuit Judge Debra Jones has qualified as a candidate for the Alabama Supreme Court, Place 1. She has been a Circuit Judge in Calhoun and Cleburne counties since 2010. Judge Jones, a Republican, is running for the open seat created by the resignation of Justice Glenn Murdock. The Republican primary is June 5, 2018.
“My judicial philosophy is that judges should follow their oath of office by respecting the rule of law, by strictly interpreting the law according to the constitutions as they are written, and by applying the law without fear and without favor. As Circuit Judge with years of criminal and civil jury trial experience, I have served with integrity, discernment, and honesty. I have consistently and fairly applied the law equally to everyone according to the constitutions of Alabama and of the United States. As an attorney, I have practiced in many areas of the law, particularly in criminal, civil, probate, juvenile, and family law. This invaluable experience will be an asset to the Alabama Supreme Court and the people of Alabama.”
Judge Jones has a distinguished 28 year legal career. Before her election to the bench, Jones served the citizens by advocating for the rights of abused women and children. She began her legal career as a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s office where she founded the Calhoun Cleburne Children’s Advocacy Center. The children’s center is a professional residential place for children to be interviewed by trained counselors when they have been victims of abuse or neglect. Jones wrote the Sexual Torture Act, which criminalized the sexual abuse of any person with an inanimate object as a class A felony and she wrote the Felony DUI Act. After forming her own practice, Judge Jones co-founded Daybreak Rape Crisis Center, a free counseling center for rape victims. She also founded and operated Mercy House, a faith-based domestic violence shelter for women and children.
Judge Jones is a graduate of the University of Alabama and of Cumberland Law School. Jones and her husband, William, have been married 26 years and have five children. Three children attended Alabama colleges with two having recently graduated and one completing a degree. Two children are in public high school. “Alabama is our home. We were born, raised, and educated in Alabama. We have lived, worked, and worshipped here our entire lives. I want to give back to this great State by serving on the State’s Highest Court.”
Taylor’s Top Four: Legislative Review for Weeks 1 and 2
Hang on to your wallets. Lawmakers have returned to Montgomery.
The Alabama Policy Institute presents Taylor’s Top Four, here to fill you in on the things you ought to know from the legislative session. Since we’ve had a couple of slow weeks in Montgomery for lawmakers, we’ll keep this one short and sweet.
1. So many agenda items, so little time.
Things in Montgomery officially kicked off last Tuesday, and by the end of the week, both the House and Senate Republican Caucuses had released legislative agendas for this year. On the House agenda, “Flag, Family, and Country”, you’ll see child trauma and domestic violence prevention bills, Veterans Employment Act, Parks for Patriots Act of 2018, a guarantee to consider proposals from Governor Ivey’s Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council, and a commitment to provide the public with immediate access to budgetary information.
From the Senate side, which was released on the second official day of the session, you’ll see an agenda entitled “Fighting for Alabama,” which includes a provision for a state income tax break, growth of broadband in rural areas, making child sex trafficking a capital offense, and creating a pathway to save money on the state’s largest line-item in the budget—Medicaid.
2. Smoking in cars with kids is a bad practice, and the legislature wants to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore.
A proposal this week by Representative Rolanda Hollis (D-Birmingham) would ban smoking in a vehicle with anyone under the age of 19. Now, don’t get me wrong—I think it’s cruel to smoke in a vehicle with a child. But I think we need to really think about whether or not this is the type of thing the state needs to be legislating. There are arguments and precedent to be considered on both sides of this issue, but this ought to be thought about very carefully before we decide whether or not this is the kind of law we should ask our lawmakers to support.
3. My spirits have been Lyft-ed and I’m Uber excited about one bill in particular.
Honestly, you should have known it wouldn’t take me long to include a cheesy joke.
Last week, Governor Ivey, Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), and Representative David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook) announced a bill that will set statewide regulations for ride sharing. That means that ride sharing services—like Uber and Lyft—will be available to all Alabamians.
Regarding the bill, Governor Ivey said, “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.” On Thursday, the bill received a favorable report from the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee.
On Tuesday, Representative Mike Ball (R-Madison) introduced a bill that would change the primary election procedure in Alabama. His proposal is that all candidates in a primary election, regardless of the party affiliation, are put on the same ballot. The top two finishers in that election go on to the general election. His hope is that this will increase voter turnout. The Montgomery Advertiser reports: “As filed, the bill applies to all elections save presidential primaries, though Ball said he wanted the legislation to apply only to special elections, citing the long lag time between vacancies and the choice of successors. Two House seats in north Alabama are empty. Montgomery will likely have one vacant Senate seat for the entire regular legislative session this year. The general election for the seat will not take place until May.”
Other things that you might want to know about:
•A bill that would regulate all child care facilities, including religious facilities, was introduced by Representative Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskeegee) on the first day of the session. If you remember from last year, a bill similar to this one was very contentious. It passed the House and died in the Senate last year.
•Representative Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) introduced a bill that raises the age for buying tobacco products in Alabama from 19 to 21.
•A bill from Senator Greg Albritton (R-Range) passed by the senate this week would eliminate state marriage licenses. Similar proposals have come up in the past.
Kay Ivey appoints Circuit Judge Brad Mendheim to Alabama Supreme Court
(Office of Governor Kay Ivey)
Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced she had appointed Circuit Judge Brad Mendheim to fill the vacancy on the Alabama Supreme Court created by the resignation of Justice Glenn Murdock.
Mendheim, a graduate of Auburn University and the Cumberland School of Law, was serving as the circuit judge for Alabama’s 20th Judicial Circuit, which includes Houston and Henry Counties. Prior to that, he served as Houston County District Judge from 2001 to 2008.
“In appointing someone to serve on the Alabama Supreme Court, it is imperative to appoint someone with impeccable legal credentials and with unquestioned character and integrity – Judge Brad Mendheim exceeds those requirements,” Ivey said in a statement accompanying the release making the announcement. “With more than 17 years of judicial experience, Judge Mendheim will bring the valuable knowledge of a trial judge to the highest court in our state. As an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, I know Judge Mendheim will follow the law and serve with honor.”
I'm pleased to appoint Circuit Judge Brad Mendheim to serve on the Alabama Supreme Court. With more than 17 years of judicial experience, he will bring the valuable knowledge of a trial judge to the highest court in AL.https://t.co/3cq33vizhL
Mendheim’s appointment as an Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court will be effective starting Tuesday according to the release.
“I appreciate the confidence placed in me by Governor Ivey, and I commit to serving the people of Alabama with diligence and integrity,” Mendheim said in a statement regarding the appointment. “I’ve been a trial court judge for most of my career, and I look forward to bringing that experience to the Supreme Court, while working with my new colleagues to ensure justice is achieved in every case we hear.”
Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.
Yellowhammer News to host Q&A event with Alabama State House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem
Speaker Mac McCutcheon and President Pro Tem Del Marsh
Yellowhammer News will host a reception with Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the Alabama Association of Realtors, 522 Washington Ave. in Montgomery.
Topics discussed will include issues surrounding this year’s legislative session.
Huntsville talk show host and Yellowhammer News contributor Dale Jackson will also moderate a lively question and answer session and audience members will have an opportunity to submit their own questions.
Alabama House Republicans approve resolutions urging respect for American flag and support for border wall
(Pixabay & Wikicommons)
The House Republican supermajority accomplished two items in its 2018 “Flag, Family, and Country” legislative agenda this week by passing caucus resolutions that call upon Congress to quickly fund and build a secure wall along the U.S./Mexican border and urge respect for the American flag during patriotic displays such as the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Both resolutions were passed unanimously.
“Like most Alabamians, our Republican House members believe the on-going protests involving the American flag are unpatriotic and disrespectful, and we understand that our nation’s borders must be secured against those who wish to break our immigration laws,” House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville) said. “Because Republicans posses a supermajority in the chamber, these caucus resolutions carry the same weight as House resolutions since they reflect the body’s prevailing opinion on issues of importance.”
State Rep. Rich Wingo (R – Tuscaloosa), who played linebacker for the Green Bay Packers from 1979 to 1986, offered the caucus resolution urging all individuals to show respect for the American flag and other symbols of national pride and said his action was prompted by NFL players who kneel, sit, or make disdainful gestures during the National Anthem.
“Our flag and other patriotic symbols are intended to unify all of us as one nation and one people, but this handful of professional athletes are using them to divide us while setting a bad example for our young people,” Wingo said. “Alabamians of all colors and creeds are a largely patriotic people, and this resolution is meant to speak for all of us who love the American flag and appreciate the soldiers who have served and shed blood to defend it.”
The resolution supporting construction of an impenetrable wall along the nation’s southern border, which was a cornerstone promise of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, was sponsored by State Rep. Will Ainsworth.
“Our nation’s borders are not simply suggestions that can be ignored and violated on a whim, but, instead, they are vital security checkpoints that must be secured, closed, and regulated against those who wish to do harm to our citizens and our economy,” Ainsworth said. “We must take strong and public actions against those who would break our laws with their simple presence, and construction of the border wall is the first and most important step in that effort.”
Editors’ Note: The full text of both House GOP Caucus resolutions accompany this release
Resolution of the Alabama House Republican Caucus
Whereas, the Alabama House Republican Caucus holds a significant supermajority in the Alabama House of Representatives and represents the prevailing opinion of the members of the body; and
Whereas, the American flag has for generations been a symbol and a beacon of hope, democracy, and freedom here at home and throughout the world;
Whereas, “The Star Spangled Banner,” which was penned in response to courageous American soldiers who victoriously fought against a British invasion and which later became our national anthem, honors the American flag and the principles it embodies, as well as all of the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives and livelihoods protecting our country and the freedoms we hold dear; and
Whereas, the ceremonial presentation of our American flag and the playing of the national anthem are inextricably linked to the sacrifices of our great men and women who fought for our country and continue to fight for our country; now therefore,
Be it resolved, that by the position taken herein, the prevailing opinion of the members of the Alabama House of Representatives is as follows in regards to the presentation of our American flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the playing of our national anthem:
That the ceremonial presentation of our American flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the playing of our national anthem are sacred times of unity and pride for all Americans, as well as a remembrance of sacrifice for our country, and deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, and honor.
That while freedom to protest and petition the government to remedy grievances are rights that are among the cornerstones of our nation’s principles, to use any such times as the presentation of the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the playing of the national anthem to make demonstrations of protest is to trivialize these symbols of the very freedoms that ensure such rights, as well as the great sacrifices made to protect those freedoms
That the United States of America, because of its principles and its citizens who are committed to tirelessly defend its freedoms and cultivate its virtues into an even more excellent government of the people, is the best institution of freedom, democracy, and liberty for people who strive for peace and prosperity for all, and the best defender against tyrants and evildoers who seek power, wealth, and influence at the expense of the rights of others.
Be it further resolved, that the Alabama House Republican Caucus urges the citizens of this state and our nation to treat the presentation of the American flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the playing of the national anthem with a sacred dignity out of respect for the freedoms that these symbols represent, and in honor of the brave men and women who fought and died protecting such freedoms, and to find other meaningful and productive ways to bring attention to issues of concern, as noble as they may be.
Resolution of the Alabama House Republican Caucus
Whereas, the Alabama House Republican Caucus holds a supermajority in the House of Representatives; and
Whereas, the Republican supermajority maintains the prevailing opinion among members of the Alabama House; and
Whereas, statistics show that nearly 1,000 aliens are caught and captured each day while trying to illegally cross the Mexican border into the United States; and
Whereas, it is estimated that a significant number of aliens successfully avoid detection and capture, and break our immigration laws by crossing the border and establishing residency illegally; and
Whereas, established procedures already exist that allow immigrants to petition the U.S government to enter the country legally, hold lawful employment, and become legal citizens if they choose, and
Whereas, President Donald J. Trump was elected upon a cornerstone promise to build a secure and impenetrable wall across the United States’ southern border in order to deter illegal crossings; and
Whereas, an Alabama-based company is among a handful that is building a prototype border wall for consideration by the Customs and Border Protection Agency; and
Whereas, securing our nation’s border is vital to protecting U.S. interests, shielding taxpayer dollars from abuse, deterring terrorism, and enforcing the rule of long-standing immigration laws; and
Whereas, the U.S. Congress has proven reluctant to provide full and immediate funding for the border wall and has not yet embraced the need for an aggressive initiative to seal our nation’s borders from those who break our laws with their simple presence; now therefore,
Be it resolved, we, the members of the Alabama House Republican Caucus, call upon the U.S. Congress to support, fund, and help quickly construct the secure border wall that Americans endorsed when they elected Donald Trump as president.
What do you want to hear from your Alabama candidates?
Most of the talk I’ve heard this legislative session has been preceded with “well, you know it’s an election year. . .” as if to indicate that we shouldn’t expect too much from our lawmakers in 2018.
Rather, our expectations for our elected officials in 2018 should be as high as ever, if not higher.
Many of our elected officials are running for reelection for their current office or entering an election for a new office, and four years have passed since the last time most of them were elected. Before we cast our ballot, it is important for each of us to understand how our candidates will view the issues put before them during their term. API is prepared to ask the tough questions, and we want to know what you will be asking too.
Over the course of the next few months through our “Candidate Call” series, we’ll be exploring topics from good governance and fiscal responsibility to education and protections under the first amendment. And we will be proposing questions to candidates on those issues.
Here are a few examples of the questions we will be asking.
What foundational principles will shape how they will govern and consider policy decisions if they are elected? Hundreds of bills on a wide array of policy issues are introduced each year. While the issues may change, the lens of principle through which we see these issues should not. API views each issue through a lens of strengthening free markets, defending limited government, and championing strong families. How will your candidate use their core convictions to make decisions?
What do the candidates think is the best way to see Alabama rise in national education rankings?As I’ve said before, education is one of the most important things our state can give to its schoolchildren. We need candidates who are willing to stand for all students and not be swayed by the direction of the political wind of the moment. Do they support efforts to increase school choice? Will they hold the state school board accountable?
How would members of the executive branch work with the legislature and local leaders to ensure fiscal responsibility to taxpayers? For example, take the gas tax. If the gas tax is increased, lawmakers should strongly consider decreasing or eliminating another state tax to make the policy revenue neutral. What is the best way to balance meeting the state’s needs and being responsible with the resources that taxpayers already provide?
What qualities are most important for a leader to possess in order to be most effective? Seeing meaningful reforms accomplished in Montgomery will require both sides of the aisle to work together, humility and willingness to consider other perspectives, and wisdom to put politics aside in the best interest of our state’s future. Do they have a record of exhibiting the traits that you want to see in a leader, whether in public office or in another part of their lives?
These are just a few examples of the types of questions that we’ll be digging into this year. Send us a message on Facebook, tweet at us using the hashtag #candidatecall, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what questions you want candidates to answer.
Heads up: the first installment in this series will come on the week of January 22-26, which is National School Choice Week. If you have any school-choice related questions to ask our candidates, let us know!
Taylor Dawson is director of communications for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.
Tired of incentives for big manufacturers and nothing for the little guy? OK, Senator Brewbaker, do something about it.
(Brewbaker of Prattville/Facebook)
(Opinion) Most Alabamians are excited about the new $1.6 billion Toyota Mazda plant coming to Alabama. However not everyone is thrilled with how this stuff goes down. Senator Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) lamented the fact that he created 50+ jobs and the state didn’t even say “thank you.” So I asked Senator Brewbaker what he could do to benefit those employers on my radio show this morning, here is his response:
“If you are bringing in a new enterprise, not replacing an existing one, like, there was no Chrysler dealership in Prattville when I built mine. That would be a new enterprise. I think there are all sorts of tax abatements that would help.”
Why this matters: The state of Alabama has chased large manufacturing with overwhelmingly positive results. Opponents of these incentives regularly complain that the little guy gets ignored. If legislators like Senator Brewbaker believe small businesses need incentives to create new jobs, that should start in the legislature. I propose a bill that puts a two-year moratorium on payroll taxes for every new job created. Candidates tell us all the time that we need to elect businessmen to government, and we did with Senator Brewbaker. He should draft and propose this legislation to create new jobs in Alabama.
— Alabama has attracted foreign production to the state by using a patchwork of state and local tax incentives.
— Companies like Mercedes, Toyota, Remington, Polaris and more have made Alabama home after taking advantage of these incentives.
— According to media outlets in North Carolina, that state offered far more in incentives (1.5 billion) to Toyota Mazda and they still chose Alabama.
— ThyssenKrupp is cited as the poster boy for incentive failures after they sold their plant in Calvert, but that plant is still operating as of today (they are hiring too).
Dale Jackson hosts a daily radio show from 7-11 a.m. on NewsTalk 770 AM/92.5 FM WVNN and a weekly television show, “Guerrilla Politics,” on WAAY-TV, both in North Alabama. Follow him @TheDaleJackson.
What is it about Alabama Democrats and standing in schoolhouse doors?
Alabama Democrats have a sordid history on school attendance. We all know about then-Governor George Wallace famously standing in the doorway at the University of Alabama as he attempted to keep black students from attending. Today’s Alabama Democrats obviously don’t fall too far from that poisonous tree, only when they stand in front of the schoolhouse door today, they want to keep the students in the troubled school system. Jefferson County State Senator Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham) has proposed a bill that would hinder local municipalities’ attempts to form their own school systems.
“Under existing law, any incorporated municipality in the state with a population of 5,000 or more may establish a city board of education. This bill would increase the minimum population requirement from 5,000 to 25,000.”
Why this matters: Local governments that wish to create their own school districts, and have the means to do so, should be able to work toward that end. If a school district is clearly not performing to the wishes of the parents and citizens it serves they should have options and the legislature shouldn’t be standing in the schoolhouse door making it harder for the kids to get out.
— No municipality that is happy with the status quo will attempt to leave a school system.
— Senator Coleman-Madison’s bill is a direct response to the city of Gardendale attempting to leave the Jefferson County School district.
— She has cited the economic impact that such a move would have on the larger Jefferson County School District, but that indicates Gardendale residents may not be getting the best bang for their bucks.
— SB44 also erects another hurdle for a new school system by requiring the “State Department of Education to determine the financial capability of a city to sustain a school system before the city could establish a city school system.”
Dale Jackson hosts a daily radio show from 7-11 a.m. on NewsTalk 770 AM/92.5 FM WVNN and a weekly television show, “Guerrilla Politics,” on WAAY-TV, both in North Alabama. Follow him @TheDaleJackson.
Read it for yourself — Gov. Kay Ivey’s state of the state address
Gov. Kay Ivey (Office of the Governor)
(The following is the text of Gov. Kay Ivey’s state of the state address, as prepared and provided by her office, delivered on Jan. 9, 2018, in Montgomery.)
President Marsh, Speaker McCutcheon, members of the Alabama Legislature, Chief Justice Stuart, justices of the Alabama Supreme Court, distinguished guests – and my fellow Alabamians:
As we begin the 2018 legislative session, we recognize Alabama has experienced a significant transformation in government since the first day of the 2017 legislative session.
On this occasion last year, I sat where my friend President Del Marsh sits tonight. And now, due to a successful transition in state government, I humbly stand before you as the 54th Governor of Alabama.
I’ve been called upon to report on the state of the state. When I became governor on April 10th, the ship of state government was adrift. We needed thoughtful and straightforward leadership.
Over the past nine months, together, we have proven Alabamians seek progress, not stagnation.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to report, we have successfully steadied the ship of state; I declare that the state of the state is strong and our future is as bright as the sun over the Gulf.
Tonight, let’s take a brief journey to consider where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going.
Most governors have 3 months to prepare. I had three hours. Yet, after being sworn in as governor on April 10, 2017, in the Old Senate Chamber, just across the hall from where we are gathered this evening, I promised the people of Alabama there would be no disruption in the ongoing functions of the state. That’s a promise kept.
I promised the people of Alabama, even though challenges lay ahead, we would seize the opportunity to make Alabama even better and our government more effective. That’s a promise kept.
My immediate pledge was to steady the ship of state, navigate Alabama through the storm we found ourselves in, and seek a calmer path for this state we dearly love and proudly call home. That, too, is a promise kept.
When I was sworn in, there were many decisions to be made. I was focused, committed and prepared. My first full day was the 16thlegislative day in the 2017 legislative session – exactly half way through a session that I began as president of the Senate. As governor, last session, working closely with the Legislature, I signed 333 bills and resolutions into law.
Together, we’ve made significant progress with our budgets. We avoided proration and practiced fiscal responsibility. We renewed the Alabama Jobs Act, ensuring economic development continues, and we provided the tools and flexibility needed to attract new investments, creating more jobs for Alabama families.
Many bills I signed as governor also bore my signature from my time as president of the Senate. The smooth transition of government, brought me full circle – from the legislative to the executive – and I am better able to lead and govern because of it.
I support having a lieutenant governor who presides over the Senate. Our current order of succession serves the state well. I know this firsthand, having experienced it. I strongly support our current order of succession.
My first major effort in leading the state was to evaluate the cabinet and staff of the new administration. With this evaluation, I made changes resulting in nearly half of the 22 cabinet members being replaced.
My cabinet and staff are capable, honest and dedicated. They take their charge to serve the people of Alabama seriously. They provide the people of Alabama with the open, honest and transparent government that they deserve. My administration includes public servants who are subject matter experts and who work tirelessly to make Alabama a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
My second major effort was to connect with and hear directly from Alabamians, so that together we would restore confidence in state government.
An effective leader does four things: listen, learn, help, and lead.
To help and lead the people of Alabama, it was essential that I first listen to and learn from the people of Alabama.
Throughout July, August and September, I embarked on my Listen, Learn, Help and Lead tour where I visited communities across the state. I spent an entire day in these communities, meeting with local leaders and visiting their businesses and schools. I wanted to learn about their successes and their challenges. I wanted to hear from everyday people, not just from the politicians and lobbyists in Montgomery.
These meetings were beneficial and well received. People were excited about reconnecting with their governor.
I wanted to restore our state’s image. To do this, government must be efficient and transparent. With executive orders, we’ve streamlined state government, dissolved unneeded task forces, and banned lobbyists from appointments by the executive branch, ensuring more citizens have an opportunity to serve and contribute. I also established the Opioid Overdose & Addiction Council to address the urgent opioid epidemic that is impacting Alabama families.
Administratively, I’ve appointed more than 350 qualified and diverse individuals to boards and other groups which affect the day-to-day lives of Alabamians.
One of the most important duties of government is providing safety and protection. I have worked closely with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and local officials across our state during six weather related States of Emergency. Through coordinated efforts, we have improved our communication and our response to natural disasters.
The people of Alabama desire leadership that is willing to get things done. As a result of our team approach, I am proud to report, Alabama’s economy is performing well – revenues are up, unemployment is down, economic development is on the rise and improved educational opportunities abound.
Since I became governor, over $3.5 billion dollars in new direct investments have been committed in the state. These investments will create nearly 8,000 new jobs for Alabama workers. The unemployment rate has fallen every month since I became governor. Our most recent unemployment numbers put the unemployment rate at 3.5 percent – the lowest rate ever recorded in Alabama! My friends, Alabama’s economy is supporting more jobs than ever before!
News of our economic successes seem to be a daily occurrence. In fact, I am proud to announce this evening that Kimber Firearms will build a $38 million dollar production facility in Troy, bringing with it 366 new jobs! These are good, high-paying jobs, and will enable more of our citizens to provide for their families while taking part in the rich history of the Second Amendment. We are proud and honored to welcome Kimber to Alabama!
This announcement and countless others like it make one thing clear: what we are doing is working, and as a result, the people of Alabama are working and providing for their families.
When I meet with global CEOs of companies considering Alabama, or who already have companies here, they tell me their Alabama facility operates at a level that cannot be rivaled. My fellow Alabamians, that is because of you, — the hard-working people of Alabama. Companies choose Alabama because of your dedication and our skilled workforce. When a company invests in Alabama, it is investing not just in our state, but in you, our people.
We should do everything we can to help every Alabamian find work.
One of the most meaningful experiences I have had as governor was to participate in the first ever Governor’s Disability Job Fair with Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington, Commissioner of Mental Health Lynn Beshear, Dr. Graham Sisson, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office on Disability, and Commissioner Jane Elizabeth Burdeshaw of the Department of Rehabilitation Services. The fair consisted of more than 95 employers looking to fill over 3,100 positions. 1,100 people attended the Disability Job Fair.
One of those job-seekers is with us tonight – Caryn McDade. Caryn walked into the Governor’s Disability Job Fair, on Oct. 30th, looking for an opportunity. As a teenager, Caryn’s learning disabilities plagued her until she saw no alternative other than dropping out of school. She took GED classes at the Birmingham Career Center and was referred to the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services to work on resumé writing, job development, interviewing and placement. Rehabilitation Services paired her with Harold Reynolds, an employment specialist with Easter Seals of Birmingham, to prepare her for job interviews at the job fair. During the fair, Caryn met and interviewed with staff from Southern Hospitality Home Health Care of Fultondale. Within 48 hours, she had completed a second follow-up interview. By the end of the week, she was employed full-time as a home health care aide.
Caryn, thank you for being with us tonight. You are a perfect example of the intrinsic value we all have, and a reminder that what we do as public officials affects the lives of real Alabamians.
For Alabamians to have career opportunities, they must be prepared when the right job comes along. My education initiative, Strong Start, Strong Finish, does just that. Under Strong Start, Strong Finish, we will coordinate our efforts and bring all stakeholders to the table in order to improve education all the way from Pre-K to the workforce.
I instituted Strong Start, Strong Finish, because we must prepare our people for the jobs of today and for the jobs of tomorrow. By 2020, 62 percent of all jobs available in Alabama will require some form of postsecondary education. However, today, only 37 percent of our workforce has achieved such an education. We must ensure that our students graduate high school and then earn a postsecondary certificate or degree.
Effective education requires a strong foundation in a child’s early years. In 2017, under the leadership of Secretary Jeana Ross, Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program increased the number of classrooms to 938 statewide. Research shows us that students who participate in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program are more likely, than other students, to be proficient in reading and math at every grade level.
For the 11th year in a row, our First-Class Pre-K program was recognized for being the highest-quality Pre-K in the nation. In fact, Harvard University is currently developing a full-length documentary on Alabama’s Pre-K program to share across the country with those interested in following our lead. Our First-Class Pre-K is certainly a bright spot for Alabama.
I’m proud to have quickly become known as a governor focused on education. Over the past nine months, I have devoted a great deal of my time to my role as president of the State Board of Education. In less than two years, Alabama has had four different K-12 superintendents. That is nothing to be proud of. The members of the State Board of Education must ensure continuity to see progress. Board members must set goals and adopt strategies to achieve student learning at high standards. Our central focus must be on our students, not on personal agendas or political maneuvering.
Tomorrow marks nine full months since I unexpectedly became governor. A lot has happened since then. We have lifted the dark cloud, wounds have started healing, and the people’s faith in a government “for and by the people” is being restored.
Though it is important to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are – we must place most of our focus on where we are going.
Former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “What lies ahead of us, or what lies behind us, is of little importance when compared to what lies within us.”
In that spirit, I say to you, instead of dwelling on what adversity we have previously faced or what mountains we may soon climb, we must focus on being who we are – a resilient people, a people dedicated to doing what’s right and to making a difference in the world.
Like always, our budgets are at the forefront of state government. However, this year, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar position related to our budgets. We are clearly in the midst of our recovery from the great recession. Unemployment is at an all-time low, housing prices have increased for the 3rd consecutive year and Alabama is rated 12th nationwide for financial health.
When I came into office, the relationship between the executive and legislative branches was strained – but that too has been corrected. I have worked closely with legislative leadership, and the Senate and House budget chairs, to draft fiscally responsible budgets. We’ve righted the ship of state; now, my proposed budgets will move Alabama in the right direction.
Just as Alabama families work on their budgets around their kitchen tables to get them just right, we too must get the state’s budgets right. I am proposing strong, manageable budgets that responsibly fund state government without raising taxes on the people of Alabama.
Our improved economy, allows us to not just fund state programs, but to expand the ones making a positive difference. It is tempting, when times aren’t as tight as before, to spend generously. We must resist that temptation.
As a lifelong conservative, I believe in being fiscally responsible and in being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Not a single appropriated dollar belongs to government; rather, it belongs to the hard-working men and women of Alabama who have earned it. In that vein, my General Fund Budget restores fiscal responsibility by paying down Alabama’s debt earlier than required. We will fund government appropriately, but with prudence and care.
As a positive sign of progress, there are fewer people eligible for Medicaid today than one year ago. Good news on the jobs front means more Alabamians are working and less dependent on government services. Accordingly, Medicaid will require less General Fund appropriations than expected.
We are proving conservative government creates economic growth, lessens government overreach and moves people toward self-sufficiency.
Our strong economy, with ample employment opportunities, positions us not just to cover the basics, as we have in past years, but to ensure we fulfill our duty to the citizens of Alabama. We will pursue efficient government, which makes good use of our resources, while appropriately funding state services. Government is called on to serve and protect the people. My General Fund Budget does just that. We will put more state troopers on our roads and add more corrections officers, all in an effort to serve and protect Alabama families.
Perhaps our state’s biggest challenge is found in our prison system. For far too long, we have neglected the state’s prison system. This neglect has created an environment that is overcrowded and understaffed. Our facilities are worn and old. Correctional professionals work diligently to provide security, medical, mental health and rehabilitative services in a challenging environment. They deserve our attention and support. We must also work diligently to provide appropriate, constitutional care to those placed in the custody of the Department of Corrections.
Immediately after taking office, I instructed Commissioner Jeff Dunn and his staff, working closely with my staff, to develop a viable plan to address correctional staffing, which will improve the delivery of inmate healthcare and make capital investments in our infrastructure.
We have commissioned comprehensive reviews to determine the compensation levels necessary to recruit and retain corrections staff. We have entered contract negotiations with a new healthcare provider to expand and improve inmate healthcare at a reasonable cost. I have instructed the Commissioner to hire a project management team to help us develop a master plan, so we will be able to make smart, cost-effective decisions when addressing our outdated prison infrastructure.
We will no longer guess about possible fixes. Instead, I will present to the people a workable solution to this generational problem. I am committed to meeting this challenge head-on. Together, with the support of the legislature, we will solve this problem for generations to come. This is an Alabama problem that must have an Alabama solution. Now is the time to act.
As many of you know, I am from Camden, in rural Wilcox County. Rural communities, like Camden, have a very special place in my heart. I understand the challenges rural areas face and it is my intention to do all I can to help make a difference in the lives of people in rural areas. Supporting rural Alabama is central to my legislative agenda.
Though we are almost two decades into the 21st Century, many of our rural communities do not have adequate access to broadband. Adequate broadband enhances educational opportunities, increases economic development prospects and develops critical communication systems. I strongly support legislation to encourage new broadband investments, and I ask the legislature to join me in assessing our state’s broadband needs, to ensure resources are placed where they are most needed.
I am also proposing funding for loan repayment programs for dentists and physician’s assistants who agree to work in underserved areas of Alabama. Many of Alabama’s citizens live in rural areas, and we must be attentive to their needs and ensure they have the same access to quality healthcare as those in urban areas.
Just as we address the needs of our rural citizens, we must also take care of those who have taken care of us: our veterans. My father served in World War II; thus, I understand the sacrifices our military men and women make, and I am proud that more than 1 in 10 Alabamians have worn our nation’s uniform. Sometimes, when veterans finish their service, they struggle to find work; that is why I support extending tax credits to small businesses that hire veterans. For those veterans who own their own businesses, they need our support as well. I am proposing legislation that will give preference to veteran-owned businesses that bid on state contracts. Our veterans have given much to protect our state and nation. As a state, we must step up and repay them for their sacrifice.
Tonight, I am proposing a pay raise for all teachers and state employees. Every day, we depend on state employees. Whether it’s a state trooper patrolling our highways, a teacher staying late to help a struggling student, or a social worker rescuing an abused child, quality state employees are essential to good government. It is long-past time for us to honor their service with better pay.
Like the General Fund Budget, my education budget is conservative, practical and wisely funds state services, while guaranteeing every Alabamian an opportunity to achieve a Strong Start and a Strong Finish to their educational journey.
Education is the key to a better life for all. I am focused on ensuring all Alabama children get a good start and have the resources they need to complete school, be prepared for the workplace, and ultimately succeed.
I am very proud that the education budget I am submitting to the Legislature is the largest investment in education in a decade.
In addition to raises for all teachers and support personnel, my proposed budget fully funds the K-12 request of $144 million dollars, and provides an additional $50 million dollars for higher education.
We will continue to implement Strong Start, Strong Finish, by increasing funding for our First-Class Pre-K program by an additional $23 million dollars. I am also proposing funding for our Pre-through-3 initiative, the Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates Program, and for education scholarships for math and science teachers. These additional dollars are investments in our children and young people, and thus are investments in our future.
Education is especially effective when there is a concentration on particular subjects or skills. The Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, and the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science in Mobile, are special-focus schools which effectively prepare their students for rewarding careers. As workforce needs evolve, we must create educational opportunities that prepare our people to meet those needs.
Tonight, I am announcing, the formation of the Alabama School of Cyber and Engineering, which will be based in Huntsville. This school will prepare some of our state’s highest-achieving students to enter the growing fields of cyber technology and engineering. Just as Huntsville has always been on the leading edge of the rocket and aerospace industries, the Alabama School of Cyber and Engineering will ensure that Alabama students are at the forefront of today’s emerging technologies.
With this budget, we will improve educational opportunities for all Alabamians.
We are now in year two of a three year celebration culminating in Alabama’s Bicentennial in 2019. Our 200th anniversary as a state, gives us an opportunity to reflect on who we are as a people.
Our Legislature has adopted an official state creed, which I would like to share with you:
I believe in Alabama, a state dedicated to a faith in God and the enlightenment of mankind; to a democracy that safeguards the liberties of each citizen and to the conservation of her youth, her ideals, and her soil. I believe it is my duty to obey her laws, to respect her flag and to be alert to her needs and generous in my efforts to foster her advancement within the statehood of the world.
As we ponder this past year, and indeed the past 200 years, and as we contemplate where we are going, we should embrace this creed. We should look to it as a guiding light for action, in hopes that it may one day be a testament to the courageous leadership which brought this state from some of its toughest times into some of its greatest.
Despite our differences, despite our varying viewpoints, despite party labels, I sincerely believe we all have one common goal – to each play our part in making Alabama a better place to live, raise and educate our children; own a home and create jobs and business opportunities.
As I look across this historic chamber filled with men and women who have made a commitment to public service, I propose a question to each of you.
Why do we serve – why have we chosen this path of public service?
These questions are not new ones. In fact, they have been around for centuries.
Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the world’s greatest composers. You probably already know this and likely agree. However, something you may not know about Bach is that he also had 20 children – can you imagine?
To say the least, Bach was a very busy man.
He was once asked, “why do you write music?”
He could have said, because he had a large family to provide for. Or, because music came naturally. He could have said these things, but he didn’t.
He simply replied that he wrote music “for the Glory of God and the good of mankind.”
Consider his response. It was concise, honest, and revealed the character of his heart and the driving force behind his actions. He wasn’t driven by himself or even his family. His motivation was much deeper, much more significant.
How would you respond when asked the same question?
Why do you serve? Why did you swear an oath to support this nation and our great state at all costs?
You may have been motivated by certain issues, causes, philosophies or individuals to seek office – and those are good reasons to serve.
But when our efforts, actions and accomplishments are evaluated, will we leave a legacy like Bach? Are we motivated by pride, power, or greed? Or are we moved by an innate desire to make a difference in our state and world?
I say we can make our state better, if our purpose is the same – to serve for the Glory of God and the good of mankind.
I challenge you to reflect on Bach’s response as you enter the legislative chamber each day.
From the moment our country declared its independence, we embraced the truth that to be an American is to seek the impossible, to dare to dream despite opposition. Together, let us dream of a brighter Alabama that, in keeping with Bach’s example, brings glory to God and brings about a greater good in the lives of our people.
The ship of state has been steadied. Together, let’s move it in a new direction toward progress and sustainability.
I am honored to be at the helm of this magnificent ship we call Alabama, which benefits from a strong and committed crew, the good people of Alabama.
May God bless each of you and the great State of Alabama.
Gov. Kay Ivey gives first state of the state address — ‘The ship of state has been steadied’
Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News
MONTGOMERY — It was described as the biggest speech of her political career and according to many, Gov. Kay Ivey delivered.
Alabama’s governor delivered her first annual state of the state address, which also happens to be her last before this year’s gubernatorial election, at the old House chamber in the state capitol on Tuesday just nine months after assuming the office.
Before offering lawmakers a list of her accomplishments, she kicked the speech off by proclaiming, “What a game,” a reference to Monday night’s college football national championship game that featured the University of Alabama Crimson Tide defeating the University of Georgia Bulldogs 26-23 in an overtime thriller.
The focus of the address was on the state’s economy and her proposed legislative agenda that included pay raises for state employees, including teachers, prison reform and efforts to bring broadband Internet to rural areas.
#SOTS2018#alpolitics from @GovernorKayIvey Teacher raises✅ State employee raises ✅ More Troopers✅ State of the art cyber/tech school✅ Lowest unemployment ✅ Broadband to rural areas✅ No new taxes✅
Her biggest applause of the night appeared to come when she announced the pay raises.
“Tonight, I am proposing a pay raise for all teachers and state employees,” she said. “Every day, we depend on state employees. Whether it’s a state trooper patrolling our highways, a teacher staying late to help a struggling student, or a social worker rescuing an abused child, quality state employees are essential to good government. It is long-past time for us to honor their service with better pay.”
Ivey also announced a new school that will educate high school students about cybersecurity to be formed in the Rocket City.
“Tonight, I am announcing, the formation of the Alabama School of Cyber and Engineering, which will be based in Huntsville,” she said. “This school will prepare some of our state’s highest-achieving students to enter the growing fields of cyber technology and engineering. Just as Huntsville has always been on the leading edge of the rocket and aerospace industries, the Alabama School of Cyber and Engineering will ensure that Alabama students are at the forefront of today’s emerging technologies.”
Another announcement that was well received by the attendees was the news that Kimber Firearms would be building a facility in Pike County.
“News of our economic successes seem to be a daily occurrence,” Ivey said. “In fact, I am proud to announce this evening that Kimber Firearms will build a $38 million production facility in Troy, bringing with it 366 new jobs! These are good, high-paying jobs, and will enable more of our citizens to provide for their families while taking part in the rich history of the Second Amendment. We are proud and honored to welcome Kimber to Alabama.”
Ivey closed her speech by noting that although the “ship of state” was in need of a course correction when she assumed the office, it is now headed in the right direction.
“The ship of state has been steadied. Together, let’s move it in a new direction toward progress and sustainability,” she said. “I am honored to be at the helm of this magnificent ship we call Alabama, which benefits from a strong and committed crew, the good people of Alabama.
Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.
Local small business owner, farmer running for Alabama State Senate
Andrew Jones (Press Release)
Andrew Jones, Centre native and owner of Deep South Coffee Factory, has announced his candidacy for State Senate in District 10. Jones, who is also a 4th-generation Cherokee County farmer, will run as a Republican. In addition to serving on both the Cherokee County and State Republican Executive Committees, Jones is active in the Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmers group and is also a member of Centre First Baptist Church, where he serves as pianist.
“As a small business owner and farmer, I’ve seen how government regulation and misguided policies often break the back of our small businesses and family farmers. Ladder-climbers and career politicians in Montgomery have lost track of what is important- developing our local economy, repairing our crumbling roads and bridges, and providing our children with a first-rate education,” said Jones. “We have so much potential here, and we need a State Senator that can be trusted to represent our Northeast Alabama values while not shying away from tackling the difficult decisions our state faces. This means keeping taxes low, supporting faith-based initiatives, and fighting for our families. Above all, I will work to move our area forward, make sure our needs are addressed, and ensure that we get our fair share of dollars from Montgomery.”
Jones holds a Master’s of Public Policy from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, but says that the best education he ever got was growing up on his family’s farm. “Everyone in the legislature would benefit from some time spent on a family farm to see how much hard work it takes just to make ends meet,” said Jones.
“Too many politicians tout their Montgomery ‘experience,’ yet use their position as simply just another stepping stone to a higher office,” Jones continued. “This has resulted in a legislature that kicks the can down the road and fails to address the challenges facing all of us in Etowah, Dekalb, and Cherokee Counties. Our legislators can’t just say “no” all the time. They need to tell us what they are for. A prime example of this was how a handful of legislators blocked critical infrastructure reform without offering any other solution.”
Infrastructure is a key component of Jones’ platform. “There was a situation in Cherokee county where a small bridge collapsed just an hour or two after a school bus had crossed over it. That is totally unacceptable. Unfortunately, we are in a bare-minimum maintenance situation with our infrastructure. There will be no funding for new infrastructure unless we get legislation passed.
There are many projects which I want to see completed, including extending I-759 in Gadsden and completing the Highway 411 4-lane project between Etowah and Cherokee counties. Many people travel that road for work, and the bottleneck there is dangerous.”
Supporting farmers and small business, recruiting new industry, and providing workforce development are also important to Jones. “Getting rid of outdated regulations and making it easier for folks to start a small business will help our local economy. Alabama is one of the least-supportive states for small business creation in the nation. Additionally, we must aggressively recruit new industry. We are competing with surrounding states, and we need to do everything we can to get those jobs. We have the best workers in the nation, but we must train our workforce and equip our people for the jobs of tomorrow. We must be prepared for the next economic downturn.”
“When it comes to education, the most important thing we can do is expand access to pre-K,” said Jones. “We need to get that done, even if it means rearranging some of our priorities. Most families are not able to get their children into pre-K because very few spaces are available. Studies have shown that if you can get a child reading at the appropriate level by 3rd grade, then she is more likely to graduate high school. In addition, I believe that we should give our local school boards as much say in our children’s education as possible. We must also make sure that our students at smaller schools have the same opportunities as everyone else.”
The public can visit www.ANDREWandYOU.com or www.facebook.com/ANDREWforSENATE to find out more. The State Senate District 10 seat is currently held by Phil Williams, R- Rainbow City who is not seeking reelection. The Primary Election will be held on June 5th, 2018 and the General Election will be held on November 6th, 2018.
“The other candidates are burning as much money as they’re bringing in,” the consultant said. “The governor’s burn rate is exceptionally positive, which positions her to invest when it comes time.”
Burn rates are important because a candidate can flameout too early if they’re not wise with their investments. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, an early contender in the last presidential election, didn’t even make it to the first GOP primary because he spent wildly, hiring nearly 100 expensive staffers while other campaigns scaled-up gradually.
4 New Year’s resolutions Alabama’s elected officials should make in 2018
Ah, January, the make-or-break month for New Year’s resolutions. Don’t you think that our elected officials—members of the legislature, state school board, executive branch, and others—should adopt some resolutions? I’ve got a few ideas for them.
1. Commit to protecting taxpayers.
Want to raise taxes? Meet them with an offset elsewhere. Want to accept additional federal funding? Ask your constituents what they think, and make sure the program for which you’ll be accepting funding won’t put the taxpayers on the hook for an additional financial burden down the road. Want to help more Alabamians find jobs and start businesses? Consider doing something about burdensome occupational licensing restrictions. Fiscal responsibility and standing strong against policies that hurt taxpayers requires resolve, but it isn’t difficult.
2. When we’re talking about matters of education, put schoolchildren first.
For the longest time, matters of education in Alabama have been far too political. This year, as we look for a new state superintendent of education and the state school board continues to make decisions on programs and curriculum in our public schools, remember that the needs of our schoolchildren should come first before political games. Education is one of the most important things our state can give children. Their futures deserve to be taken seriously, not sacrificed in the interest of politics.
3. Think long-term.
Alabama’s elected officials are historically really good at kicking the can down the road in terms of the problems facing our state. Short-term “fixes,” like the lottery proposal to “solve” the budget “crisis” in 2016, just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Alabama is my home, and it’s a place where I want to raise my children and grandchildren. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that for those of us who share that sentiment, we’re not too happy with the idea that our future generations might have to be saddled with financial burdens that we created — or allowed to persist — during our time.
4. A year without a scandal would be the dream.
I’ve sure had enough for a lifetime. Haven’t you? This is an election year, so I think — or at least I hope — that most folks in public service will use that, if no other reason, to keep their noses clean this year. We’ve all learned that Alabamians are none too fond of scandals. Every state has their problems, so let’s let the national media focus somewhere else for a bit, shall we?
And for the rest of us? We should resolve to ask our candidates and elected officials the tough questions, expect more from them, and hold them to the values they claim.
Taylor Dawson is Director of Communications for the Alabama Policy Institute. API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.
Crossing Mobile Bay – a century-old problem for southwest Alabama
For well over a hundred years, southwest Alabamians have grappled with getting from Mobile across the Mobile Bay to Baldwin County and back, and that is a problem that predates the founding of the state.
If you have made that journey recently, you would know there are a number of ways to cross the bay. Most people use Interstate 10, which includes the Wallace Tunnel to get to a series of bridges known as the Bayway. Some use U.S. 90-98, which consists of the Bankhead Tunnel and the causeway built in 1926.
Another option is the Cochrane–Africatown USA Bridge, the designated truck route, to get to the Causeway or the Bayway via Prichard.
For those with a little more time, you opt to head north on Interstate 65 and cross the “Dolly Pardon Bridge,” then head back south to Spanish Fort. Finally, if you’re feeling up for a scenic excursion, you can head down to Dauphin Island and take a $16 ferry ride to Fort Morgan across the Mobile Bay.
Either way you go, the 400-plus square mile geographic water barrier is evident. And now in 2018, all those routes are inadequate for the area’s transit needs.
In the early days of automobile transportation in Alabama, the primary means to get from Mobile to Baldwin County’s Eastern Shore was by ferry. It was expensive, and that made Baldwin County isolated from Mobile.
In 1927, the Cochrane Bridge, a vertical lift bridge, opened. It connected Mobile to the newly built Causeway, and ultimately ferry transit was no longer needed.
Other east-west means of crossing the Mobile River opened in the decades to follow. The Bankhead Tunnel came in the 1940s, providing a more direct approach than the Cochrane Bridge to the Causeway from downtown Mobile.
In the 1970s, both I-10 and I-65 were completed, offering travelers those two routes from the north and east into the city.
The latest addition to crossing the Mobile Bay came in the early 1990s with the cable-stayed Africatown-Cochrane Bridge that replaced the above mentioned Cochrane vertical lift bridge.
Even with all these means to cross Mobile Bay, traffic is still an issue for the primary route, which is the Interstate 10 Bayway. At the time of the construction, the Eastern Shore cities of Spanish Fort, Daphne and Fairhope in Baldwin County weren’t expected to be the bedroom communities for Mobile that they are today.
Now in addition to the usual east-west traffic that is making the trek on I-10 to points anywhere from Jacksonville, Fla. to Los Angeles, Calif. you have commuters headed back and forth from home to work.
Tuesday in an appearance on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) hinted the latest iteration of the solution to crossing Mobile Bay could be part of President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan.
Byrne told host Sean Sullivan that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was familiar with the region’s need for a new crossing but was waiting to see if it would indeed be part of Trump’s plan.
“I can’t give you the precise particulars because we haven’t seen the president’s infrastructure plan,” he said. “But I think you’re going to see the president – we’ll be working with him and the Department of Transportation prioritizing our bridge project because it fits exactly in with what he’s trying to do.”
Given the state would have to offer up a portion of the financing for the bridge, a new I-10 bridge will likely include a toll, Byrne said.
“Yes, it will be [a toll bridge] because the state is trying to come up with its money and the state’s been very clear that they’re going to come up with their money by putting the toll on the bridge.”
If completed as a toll bridge, the new I-10 bridge would be Alabama’s most significant toll project by far.
There are already a few toll bridges in Alabama – bridges crossing the Alabama and Tallapoosa Rivers north of Montgomery, the Joe Mallisham Parkway near Tuscaloosa and the Foley Beach Expressway headed from mainland Baldwin County to Orange Beach.
A new toll I-10 bridge would easily dwarf these projects in size given the amount of traffic it would serve. The latest figures estimate at least 53,000 automobiles in both directions enter in and out of the western side of the Wallace Tunnel daily, and that is likely to increase.
Will this bridge be enough to last at least for the next 100 years?
Given the prior solutions have not lived up to long-term expectations (at least by highway standards in the United States), one has to ask if in the year 2050 the government will once again be seeking another solution.
Whatever the current solution is, it is long overdue. Accidents on I-10 headed in and out of the Wallace Tunnel are a daily occurrence that results in traffic backing up several miles.
Even though it wasn’t a big issue in the last U.S. Senate special election, making a new I-10 bridge priority is something voters in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, the second- and sixth-most populous counties respectively, could be swayed by in the upcoming gubernatorial election later this year.
Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.
Yellowhammer Presents: Guerrilla Politics … Roy Moore’s refusal to concede, the best/worst of 2017 in Alabama politics, and more!
Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories including Roy Moore’s attempt to stop the Senate race from being certified, the Democrats’ shady tactics in Alabama, and the best and worst of 2017. Dale offers a “Parting Shot” to everyone who thinks 2018 will be better than 2017 (it won’t).
Astounding percentage of Alabama’s budget is automatically spent, leaving state little flexibility
Did you know that ninety-three percent of Alabama’s budget is earmarked? A recent report from the Alabama Policy Institute explores this little-known fact about Alabama’s budget.
Originally, an “earmark” was a sign of ownership–a mark in the ear of a sheep or other animal. Today, earmarks are the sign of bad fiscal policy.
Earmarking is the dedication of certain tax revenues to the financing of specific programs. Currently, 93 percent of Alabama’s tax dollars are earmarked, by far the highest of any state. To put this into perspective, the state with the second-highest percentage of earmarks is Michigan at 63 percent.
This means that state officials only have discretion over how to spend 7 percent of Alabama’s tax dollars.
The excessive amount of earmarking in Alabama’s budget denies our state the financial flexibility that is necessary for taxpayer money to be spent efficiently and effectively.
So, what can be done about the earmarking issue? The Alabama Policy Institute offers two recommendations to drastically reduce its excessive amount of earmarking: setting a target of 25 percent or less earmarking in Alabama’s budget, and eliminating all earmarks that do not align with Alabama’s needs and priorities.
By implementing the recommendations of this Guide, state officials would be able to shoulder the responsibility of Alabama’s budget—and start spending taxpayer money so that it best meets Alabama’s needs and priorities.
Taylor Dawson is director of communications for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.