5 months ago

Del Marsh, Greg Reed discuss infrastructure, composition of the Alabama Senate

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) recently sat down for a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Yellowhammer News, discussing the 2018 election cycle, the new composition of the Alabama Senate, the upcoming legislative session and everything in between.

In case you missed it, read the first part here. It examines the impressive electoral success that the Senate Republican Caucus experienced in 2018. Marsh and Reed outlined how their strategy was formulated, as well as how it was executed with precision.

The second part of this interview series begins to preview the upcoming session, which will be the first of the new quadrennium.  The organizational session begins on Tuesday, with the regular session kicking off on March 5.

‘A lot of energy’

With the winds squarely at their backs coming off of historic election successes, Marsh and Reed are excited to continue advancing a conservative, pro-growth legislative agenda that will move Alabama forward.

The two Senate leaders believe that the composition of the chamber is impressive – and not just purely talking about party lines, even though a 27-8 supermajority certainly gives them a blank canvas to work with.

“A lot of great people chose to run, and they’re here and they’re excited and ready to go and do the state’s work. So, Greg and I are pretty excited,” Marsh said.

Reed responded, “We are excited. One statistical topic that I think is interesting for my caucus: We’ve got 27 Republican senators, and of those 27, there’s only four men that have served in this chamber more than eight years.”

Reed advised that with the large amount of newcomers and relative newcomers in the Senate comes “a lot of new ideas” and “a lot of energy.”

And, very importantly as well, there are enough veterans to provide institutional knowledge.

Marsh added, “It also goes to the point that generally every year you see term limit legislation offered, [but] you need to ask yourself, ‘Do you really need term limit legislation when you have this kind of turnover?'”

He continued to say that they had “a good healthy mix” of veteran legislators and fresh faces – Republicans and Democrats alike.

“There’s no two ways about it, you’ve got to have some veterans still there. I think we’ve got a good healthy mix of people based on their time of service. And I think it’s better for the state to have that mix we’ve got, like we have today,” Marsh outlined.

Quality vs. quantity

It is not just the people in the chamber that have Marsh and Reed excited. The state of Alabama has pressing issues that need to be addressed this legislative session, and the Senate leaders are eager to tackle them head on.

When it comes to setting the top of the Senate’s agenda, Marsh explained that prioritizing is key.

“We’re more interested in quality than quantity,” he summarized. “We have some big issues in the state that need to be addressed.”

Marsh added, “We’re going to be very focused on the key, big issues that affect the state in so many ways. I make it very clear [to the members of the Senate] – your issues are important, they’re going to be in the system, but we’re really going to focus and get these things done first.”

Infrastructure

First comes infrastructure when speaking about the “key, big issues.” It is the 2019 legislative session topic talked about most amongst the public right now, and the Senate leaders embrace this.

“We have been studying the infrastructure of the state for months – Senate and House members have been involved, stakeholders from cities, counties, schools – [and] we want to make sure at the end of the day that our roads are as safe as possible for citizens. We want to make sure that we have an advantage in economic development through what we can offer in infrastructure,” Marsh explained.

He continued, “We acknowledge – nobody can argue this – that it has been 26 years since there’s been an increase in revenue for our roads and bridges. 26 years. There was a flat number of a tax created 26 years ago in ’92, it’s not moved. You can’t argue [with the fact] that you have more people on the roads today, getting more miles to the gallon for what they pay into that tax. All of that, the simplest way I can put it, is if you took a job 26 years ago and haven’t had a pay raise, you’d be saying it’s time that something’s got to give.”

Marsh said they were looking at “all the pieces” involved in the infrastructure issue, including the funding formula involved and the revenue challenges brought on by ever-increasing automotive technology.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure we have safe, adequate infrastructure. And we’ve got to ask ourselves, ‘What is it going to take to get there?’ We’ve got to make sure the citizens of this state understand all the facts. And from there, we’ve got to make some decisions,” Marsh summarized.

Reed built on that, saying that infrastructure falls into what he also considers a “holdover” issue – or something that they have been talking about addressing through legislation since at least last session without a solution becoming law. In his view, Governor Kay Ivey being supportive of specific issues will be a big boon to their respective chances of passing, because of her tremendous popularity and electoral mandate.

Reed considers infrastructure one of these issues that Ivey is strongly behind, which only gives him increased confidence of its passage when all is said and done.

“I think her leadership is going to be well respected by the state based on the overwhelming vote that she received from the citizens,” Reed advised. “And I know from having talked to her personally that the infrastructure topic is very important to her. And she recognizes from a safety perspective and an economic growth perspective, just a multitude of reasons, that that’s an issue we’ve got to look at.”

He continued, “How will that solve itself? How will it look? What are all the parts and pieces?”

Those answers, according to Reed, can only be determined through “the legislative process” playing out in March.

What next?

Infrastructure is certainly not the only major issue of 2019, with Marsh singling out education reform as being on par with its scope and importance. He also named sentencing reform as something he expects to be talked about seriously, while not necessarily saying that legislation would be spearheaded by the Senate leadership like infrastructure and education.

Additionally, Reed mentioned the state prison system, ethics reform, healthcare reform and workforce development as other pressing issues that will likely be discussed starting in March. And, of course, the legislature is likely to see a lottery debate.

Education reform will be the focus of the next installment in this interview series. Be on the lookout for Yellowhammer News’ follow-up article on exactly what this will entail.

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

59 mins ago

Shelby secures deal that would give Trump $4.59 billion more to combat border crisis

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) on Wednesday got legislation overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Committee on Appropriations that would provide $4.59 billion in emergency supplemental funding to address the crisis at the United States’ border with Mexico.

The compromise legislation was negotiated by Shelby, the powerful chairman of the committee, and committee vice chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The committee voted to advance the legislation by a remarkable vote of 30-1.

Before the committee voted, Shelby delivered remarks strongly supporting increased border security.

“The situation is past the breaking point. We must act,” he urged his colleagues.

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Shelby’s full remarks as follows:

The Committee will come to order. Today the Committee considers legislation to address the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis along our southern border.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 675,000 illegal immigrants have been apprehended or encountered at ports of entry so far this fiscal year.

Making this crisis even more acute, we are seeing a dramatic spike in the number of children and families making the dangerous journey north to the U.S.

Our personnel on the ground are doing everything they can to secure the border and care for these vulnerable populations.

But their determination has outstripped their resources.

Last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security stated the following:

“The volume and composition of populations arriving at the southern border are simply unsustainable. Unless Congress acts, the situation will continue to deteriorate – with grave consequences.”

The situation is past the breaking point. We must act.

I say to my colleagues, today the Appropriations Committee will act.

I am pleased that we will do so in a bipartisan manner, and I want to thank Vice Chairman Leahy for working with me to find common ground.

The legislation we bring before the Committee today contains a total of $4.59 billion to address the border crisis.

Of this amount, $2.9 billion is provided for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is tasked with caring for unaccompanied children and placing them in suitable homes.

The legislation also includes $1.3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to provide basic necessities – food, shelter and medical care – to adult migrants they detain.

An additional $145 million is provided for the Department of Defense, which has mobilized to help respond to the crisis.

And finally, $220 million is included for the Department of Justice, to help process immigration cases and detain dangerous individuals.

This package does not include everything I wanted.

It does not include everything Vice Chairman Leahy wanted.

But most importantly, it does not include poison pills from either party.

I ask for my colleagues’ cooperation in holding any such amendments until this package reaches the Senate floor – just like we did during the FY19 process with such great success.

In addition, I ask my colleagues to refrain from offering any amendments that pertain to broader immigration policy.

The appropriate venue for such amendments is the authorizing committee, and Chairman Graham is marking up immigration legislation in the Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

So I urge my colleagues interested in broader immigration policy to discuss their ideas with Chairman Graham and Ranking Member Feinstein.

By adhering to this framework I believe that we will be able to move forward together with a strong bipartisan vote here today.

Our border security professionals and the children and families in their care cannot afford further delay, and I am hopeful that a strong bipartisan vote will provide the momentum needed to assist our folks on the front lines.

Before I turn to Vice Chairman Leahy to offer his remarks and make a motion, I want expand briefly on the importance of moving forward together – not just on this package, but on fiscal year ’20 appropriations bills.

Coming to an agreement on topline numbers is very important, and I am working with Leader McConnell, Secretary Mnuchin, Speaker Pelosi and Vice Chairman Leahy on that front.

But we also need to have agreement on keeping poison pills out of our process in fiscal year ’20.

That was the foundation of our success in fiscal year ’19.

And that is what is allowing us to move forward together here today.

I believe that my colleagues agree it should also be the basis for our work ahead.

If we show that critical mass is still behind this simple and proven framework, we can move bills quickly once we have topline numbers.

But if we start chipping away at it, I fear we will return to the old frustrations and failures of previous years.

Something none of us wants. I know I don’t.

And with that, I turn to my good friend and Vice Chairman, Senator Leahy, to offer his opening remarks and make a motion.

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

1 hour ago

7 Things: Trump campaign has cash, Moore to enter Senate race, reparations circus goes on and more …

7. Montgomery parents could start paying for their kids’ crimes

  • Montgomery City Councilman Glen Pruitt has introduced a city ordinance that would require parents be punished when their children commit a crime, which is basically a copy of an ordinance that was introduced in South Fulton, Georgia, last year.
  • Legal transgressions committed by kids that could get their parents in trouble include drug and alcohol possession or use, failure to keep curfews, possession or use of firearms, truancy, improper supervision, theft and property damage.

6. The Hyde Amendment is here to stay — for now

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  • There has recently been a great deal of vocal opposition to the Hyde Amendment from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, but the Democrat-controlled House just reauthorized the Hyde Amendment.
  • This has been a big part of the Democrat presidential debate, but a vote on a spending bill that included the Hyde Amendment reauthorization passed 226-203. No Republicans voted for it and only six Democrats voted against it, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), noted historian and de facto leader of the Democratic Party.

5. A Syrian refugee was plotting an attack on a church in Pittsburgh

  • Mustafa Mousab Alowemer was admitted to the United States as a refugee in 2016, but now he is accused of planning an attack on the Legacy International Worship Center in Pittsburgh. The Department of Justice claims this was planned “to support the cause of ISIS and to inspire other ISIS supporters in the United States.” 
  • To bolster their government’s take on this, the DOJ released a statement that laid out Alowemer’s alleged crimes. It read, “Alowemer also distributed propaganda materials, offered to provide potential targets in the Pittsburgh area, requested a weapon with a silencer, and recorded a video of himself pledging an oath of allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

4. There will be no reparations

  • In the past, Democrats like President Barack Obama have opposed the proposition of paying slavery reparations. The Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties committee held a hearing to address the bill that would create a commission that would develop an answer to whether African-American citizens should be paid slavery reparations.
  • However, during the hearing, tensions were high and Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) was booed as he commented on the bill, “Putting aside the injustice of monetary reparations from current taxpayers for the sins of a small subset of Americans from many generations ago, the fair distribution of reparations would be nearly impossible when one considers the complexity of the American struggle to abolish slavery.”

3. Latest Roy Moore embarrassment kicks off today

  • Today, former Chief Justice Roy Moore will be announcing if he’s running for the Senate seat he lost to Doug Jones in 2017. But if he’s been waiting to announce without any real reason then he’s more than likely running, you do not hold this kind of an event to announce that you are not running for office.
  • Moore’s announcement will be held at 2:00 p.m. at The Ballroom in Montgomery and will likely kick off a campaign that is the dream of the media and their Democrats. Moore lost to Senator Doug Jones in 2017 and will definitely be the candidate Jones will favor in the Republican primary. 

2. Shelby wants less of Moore

  • With Roy Moore expected to announce his decision about whether he’ll be entering the 2020 U.S. Senate race on Thursday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is once again pointing out that Moore is a terrible candidate, a position that President Donald Trump agrees with. He has advised Moore to not run.
  • Shelby said that Alabama could do better than Moore, as well as noting that if Moore as the nominee would make it harder for Republicans to win back that Senate seat, and then went on to mention that if former Attorney General Jeff Sessions were to enter the race he would “probably clear the field” and win the Republican primary and general election easily.

1. Money Trumps all?

  • President Trump officially announced his reelection bid in Florida on Tuesday, and less than 24 hours later his campaign announced that they’ve already raised $24.8 million, which is far more than all of the Democratic candidates combined in the first 24 hours of their election bids.
  • It was just this week that 2020 presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden announced that his campaign has raised about $20 million. Of course, despite his substantial fundraising, Trump is still polling lower than Biden by 10 points. However, it is way too early for that to matter.

2 hours ago

Mooney praises Trump for use of tariff threat on Mexico; Says immigration remains ‘a major issue’ for Alabamians

If the early stages of the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat up in 2020 is any indicator, immigration remains a front-burner issue for Alabamians.

That is how State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, views the subject as well.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on Huntsville’s WVNN, the Shelby County Republican weighed in on the topic and offered President Donald Trump praise for his use of tariffs to force Mexico to pledge to be more proactive in stymying the flow of migrants through the U.S.-Mexico border.

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“I think quite frankly, it got the results that were needed,” Mooney said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “We got people to the table. We got people there to cooperate, begin to solve the problem. You have got to use every tool that is in the toolbox. I’m a free trade person. I believe in that, but I also understand clearly that when you have a president who delivers on his threats in the manner Donald Trump has when he has challenged people to get them to the point of doing something and working on something, he’s been successful with that. They know he may do what he’s talking about. So, they tend to come and begin to negotiate. And then we get a resolution as such that is beneficial to us and beneficial to them.”

Mooney said among voters he has talked with on the campaign trail, the U.S. immigration system is one of their primary concerns.

“I hear consistently and constantly from voters in Alabama about immigration and how important it is and how much concern they have about it,” he added. “It is a major issue in this election, and it is a major issue for our nation, and it has got to be worked on and solved.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 hours ago

DeKalb Co. deputies bust another illegal alien human smuggling operation

The DeKalb County criminal interdiction team on Wednesday busted yet another alleged human smuggling operation involving illegal aliens.

A press release from the sheriff’s office explained that the team was working the major highways and interstates within the county when interdiction deputies at approximately 10:30 a.m. conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle near the 218 mile marker of I-59.

After searching the vehicle, 10 illegal aliens were discovered.

An initial investigation determined a human smuggling operation was ongoing. The individuals were from El Salvador, Ecuador and Guatemala, according to the sheriff’s office.

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The Department of Homeland Security was then called to the scene and the suspects were taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“This is another great job by our Interdiction Team. Even though we are far from the Southern Border, we can still play a role in enforcing our nation’s laws right here in DeKalb County,” Sheriff Nick Welden said.

“While it may seem that they were trying to start a new life in our country, these people are exploited and taken advantage of. Some have to pay thousands of dollars to be smuggled in and are made to work for inhumane wages,” he added.

The investigation is still ongoing and federal charges are pending.

Welden concluded, “Again, I’d like to thank our interdiction team for another job well done. God Bless!”

Nine illegal aliens were arrested after a similar traffic stop in DeKalb County just weeks ago.

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

3 hours ago

Former Miss America Heather Whitestone McCallum rules out Alabama 2020 U.S. Senate bid

Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone McCallum will not be a candidate in Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

She told Yellowhammer News on Wednesday evening that she has finalized her decision and will not run, saying the timing was not right for her.

A Republican, she had been considering running for several months, even conducting polling in the spring to help make an informed decision.

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“Alabama has given so much to me. It would definitely be an honor to give back to the people of my state,” Whitestone said in a statement to Yellowhammer News earlier this year. “That being said, it is something my husband John and I are praying about.”

Whitestone, a Dothan native, is also a former Miss Alabama. She made history as the first deaf Miss America, having fully lost her hearing when she was 18-months old. Whitestone underwent a cochlear implant surgery to partially restore her hearing in 2002.

She has authored multiple faith-centric books, including “Listening With My Heart,” “Believing The Promise,” “Let God Surprise You” and “Heavenly Crowns.” She is a graduate of Berry High School (now Hoover High School) and Jacksonville State University.

Whitestone, 46, has lived in Georgia for over two decades, having moved there after marrying her husband, John McCallum. She and John met when they were both serving as aides to then-U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA). John ran unsuccessfully for Congress himself in 2014. She and her husband have three children.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) are the credible candidates who have formally announced Republican candidacies to unseat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) thus far.

Unsuccessful 2017 Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore will announce Thursday at 2:00 p.m. in Montgomery whether he will join that field.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is expected to make an announcement on his potential Senate bid next week after filing his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

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