2 weeks ago

Del Marsh says House ‘betrayed’ Senate, ‘flat-out lied’ on CARES Act list; Warns Gov. Ivey on new prison construction

It has been a few days since the Alabama legislature adjourned sine die after a tense lead-up on Goat Hill between Gov. Kay Ivey’s office, the House and the Senate. It may, however, take some more time for relationships to fully heal, especially between the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) offered his take on what happened in those days before the passage of Ivey’s proposed executive amendment to SB 161, which dealt $1.8 billion in funding allocated by Congress through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act during an interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Wednesday.

Late Friday, after Ivey announced what at the time appeared to be a deal between the House leadership and her office, members of the Senate leadership questioned as to why they were not included. Marsh voiced his frustration with his lower chamber colleagues for being left out of the process.

“I don’t know if it is as much the governor’s office as it is the House,” Marsh said. “We try to always include the House in any negotiations we have. You probably heard me talk about it. We were asked by the governor’s office with this $1.7 billion on suggestions about how we may consider spending it based on guidelines. We sat down. I called a meeting with House members. We sat in a room, 11 of us — went through things that might be considered, sent that list to the governor.”

“At the end of the day, the governor, I guess, get upset about the fact that language was in the budget that has been in the budget in past budgets that basically says federal dollars will be appropriated by this legislature,” he continued. “The governor made an issue with the talk that had taken place on the State House, which had only taken place because of public access. It became an issue, unfortunately, and inadvertently caused the House, who had voted with us to pass a supplemental appropriation giving the governor some $200 million of that money to spend as she needed to, and then call a special session so we could all decide how to spend the rest. The House voted 76-0 on that.”

“But during the week, they had apparently got with the governor,” added Marsh. “I had no knowledge. The sponsor of the legislation, [Sen.] Greg Albritton, had no knowledge. Next thing we know, there’s a deal cut to greatly change the way the dollars are going to be spent. You know, it is what it is. But the fact that the House did not consult with the Senate on this — I felt like a little bit we had been betrayed on this situation.”

When asked how long it might take for fence-mending between the House and Senate, Marsh said it would take “a while” and said he had been lied to by members of the House.

“I don’t know — I think it’s going to be a while,” he said. “There were people in the House that just flat-out lied. To say they knew nothing about a list we worked with together and sent to the governor — I can’t understand it. And I don’t understand why anybody would lie about that. I mean, it was very straightforward. The Finance Department asked for ideas. We put them on a list. It was none of this ‘wish list.’ That was developed by the governor, there again, to pass onto the legislature. It wasn’t a ‘wish list.’ It was a suggestion of things to be discussed based on what could actually be spent with coronavirus money.”

Marsh added, “If the House had just ‘fessed up and said, ‘We were in the room. Yes, we sent this list. It was to start the discussion with the governor on how best to spend these dollars. And I can’t for the life of me understand why they cowered down and wouldn’t admit they were in the room to discuss these items on the list.”

In an interview that aired Friday on Alabama Public Television, Ivey dismissed the objections from senators over being excluded in the so-called deal, saying, “The leadership of the Senate, the leadership of the House, have my cell phone 24/7.” Marsh responded by explaining he and his members had done what was asked of them by the Finance Department.

“Call out what?” Marsh replied. “I mean, there again, we were called by the Finance Department and asked to participate in ideas. We did that and sent them to the governor. What the governor was upset about was the language in the budget that stated that the legislature would appropriate those dollars. That’s why this whole thing went south. She got angry about that language, which wasn’t intended to take a swipe at the governor. It’s just constitutionally, that’s what we do. And that language has been in the budgets in the past. But she took offense to it. And, when she did — that’s when she made comments about the very list that they had asked for, and then taken shots at the legislature about us wanting a brand-new State House, which the whole State House issue came up because as I said earlier, public access, which we’re not able to allow because of the coronavirus.”

One question that looms large is how might Alabama’s prison system situation, which is under the scrutiny of the Department of Justice for violating the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment provision, be resolved with the erosion of trust between Senate and the governor’s office.

Ivey has indicated she could move forward with a leasing proposal for three new prisons, which would not require the immediate approval of the Alabama legislature. However, Marsh warned that despite Ivey having some latitude, the legislature still has to appropriate the funding for the leases.

“At the end of the day, we’ll have input because we’ve got to put the money in the budget,” he said. “We’ve expressed to the governor more than once make sure we’re comfortable with this number of what this is going to cost if you’re going to build one, two, three prisons — whatever. And of course, she’ll sign a long-term lease — the direction she’s going with, some organization to build these things. And I’m not saying it can’t be done, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to allocate the dollars to pay for this thing. I would hope that everybody understands the next session when we’re faced with the budget, and we see what the price tag of this thing is going to be, if we have no prior knowledge of that price tag, it could be a problem.”

One possible outcome, if the governor were to proceed with her plan without consultation of the legislature, could be a standoff situation between the two branches when it comes time to set money aside. Marsh said that could be possible, but there might be a backlash if funding the prisons meant stripping funding from other areas.

“They can do that if they want to,” Marsh said. “But what they better realize is this: The people of the state of Alabama — they care about things like mental health, children’s services, Medicaid and prisons. But if you think the people of want to swipe from the other departments to give the prisons more money, I think they better recalculate that. We’ve got a lot of need in departments in the state. Prisons deserve their fair share, but I’m personally not wanting to rob and kill the services or mental health to build new prisons.”

“We have to do what we have to do to fulfill the federal order of the judge,” he added. “If we all work together, we can make that happen. There again, we need to be careful on how much money we’re putting into these prisons if it is going to take from other departments.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

6 hours ago

Fmr Gov. Don Siegelman appears to be using outrage over George Floyd to sell new book

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to sell his new book is using robocalls that appear to reference the current unrest over George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody.

On Thursday afternoon, a Yellowhammer News reporter received a robocall from 1 (800) 890-5875, a number listed as “Robocaller” by the phone protection company NoMoRobo. The voiceover of the robocall was apparently recorded by Siegelman himself.

The message began, “Don Siegelman, your governor here. We’ve got to protect people from the abuse of power by police, prosecutors, or presidents.”

“My new book, Stealing our Democracy, is a wakeup call to action. It’s also number one among new releases on amazon.com,” the message added.

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An individual from the Wiregrass told Yellowhammer News that she also received the voicemail.

In addition to that, at least one Twitter user appeared to have received the robocall.

Siegelman was convicted on June 29, 2006, of conspiracy, bribery and fraud.

The former Alabama Democratic governor appeared to lump in his claimed unjust treatment by the authorities with the death of George Floyd.

Listen:

Siegelman is currently promoting his new book “Stealing Our Democracy.”

Yellowhammer News’ request for comment from Siegelman was not immediately returned. A message was left on his personal cell phone number.

He claimed the book is “#1 among new releases on amazon.com”

Yellowhammer News examined the new releases chart on Amazon.com, which revealed that Siegelman’s book is not in the top 100 best selling new releases.

However, the book is #1 in the sub-subcategory “Urban, State & Local Government Law.”

Urban, State & Local Government Law is one of 12 sub-subcategories of the “Administrative Law” subcategory.

The “Administrative Law” subcategory is one of 23 subcategories under the category “Law.”

“Law” is one of 36 categories into which Amazon divides the kinds new-release books that it sells.

As a matter of record, the book is only available for pre-order. It has not been released to the public yet.

The former governor’s book claims that his downfall and conviction of felony bribery were part of a politically motivated prosecution coordinated by Karl Rove.

His book will be released to the public on June 16.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

7 hours ago

Two charged with capital murder in slaying of Moody PD officer

Two suspects have been charged with capital murder in the case of slain Moody Police Department officer Stephen Williams.

The two suspects are 27-year-old male Tapero Corlene Johnson and 28-year-old female Marquisha Anissa Tyson. Both are from Birmingham and will be eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

At a press conference Friday, St. Clair County Sheriff Billy Murray described said the investigation is still continuing and described it as “complex and intense.”

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Williams was posthumously promoted to lieutenant at the press conference on Thursday by Moody Police Chief Thomas Hunt.

Hunt said Williams had remarked at times that he would like to achieve the rank of lieutenant someday, and now he will forever be known as Lt. Stephen Williams.

The District Attorney for St. Clair County said the two suspects had been in police custody since the shooting on Tuesday night.

Investigators say they have determined that Johnson and Tyson fired weapons at Williams who was responding to a disturbance at a Super 8 Motel.

A GoFundMe page to help Williams’ family has been raising money in recent days.

Williams served the public as a police officer for 23 years before being killed in the line of duty this week.

Governor Kay Ivey commented on the incident earlier in the week, saying Williams “died a hero.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

8 hours ago

Data shows Alabama nursing homes performing better than national average for COVID-19 cases, deaths

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday released facility-specific COVID-19 data for nursing homes across the United States, and an analysis of the data shows Alabama fairing better than the national average.

The data was collected on a mandatory basis by the CDC and currently covers through the week ending on May 31.

Nationwide, the average number of confirmed coronavirus cases per 1,000 residents in nursing homes was 91.2, while the average number of deaths from the disease per 1,000 residents was 30.2.

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In Alabama, both of those numbers were significantly lower than the national average, at 64.9 and 20.9, respectively.

Alabama Nursing Home Association president and CEO Brandon Farmer issued a statement on the data’s release.

“According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Alabama nursing homes report fewer cases of COVID-19 per 1,000 residents and fewer deaths from COVID-19 per 1,000 residents than the national average,” he confirmed.

“Because we are on the front lines of fighting COVID-19, we expect the number of COVID-19 cases to rise as more tests are administered and the data is added to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) system. The Alabama Nursing Home Association hopes this data will be used to prioritize resources for skilled nursing facilities,” Farmer advised.

“Alabama nursing homes have been transparent from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he continued. “Our members have reported cases to their local county health department and the Alabama Department of Public Health from the start. In May, we began reporting cases to the CDC. Facilities also inform residents and their family representatives and employees of cases in their buildings. We are following the guidelines set forth by the multiple state and federal agencies that regulate our sector. No other business or health care provider reports COVID-19 cases to more government entities and people than nursing homes.”

Nationwide, nursing homes reported 95,515 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 31,782 deaths through May 31. Nursing homes in Alabama reported 1,000 confirmed cases and 335 deaths.

Moving forward, CMS will release the next round of data on June 18. After that date, new data should be released weekly.

“The Alabama Nursing Home Association and its members will continue to work with local, state and federal leaders to address the needs of nursing home residents and employees,” Farmer concluded.

The CMS data can be viewed here.

As of Friday at 2:00 p.m., the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 19,073 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, with 672 deaths.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

NFIB survey of Alabama business owners shows ongoing COVID-19 related fears

A new study from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) showed that an overwhelming majority of proprietors are nervous about several aspects of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their business.

Yellowhammer News reported in the first week of May that 70% of the NFIB’s membership across the United States was concerned about individuals filing frivolous lawsuits claiming a business had caused them to catch COVID-19.

A poll from the Alabama division of NFIB this week shows that 69% of businesses in the Yellowhammer State remain nervous about lawsuits, and roughly equal amounts are worried whether customers might come back and that it may prove difficult to comply with ongoing regulations.

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The top results of the survey as follows:

  • 70% of owners say they’re very or moderately concerned about getting customers back.
  • 69% are concerned about managing the health and safety of their customers; 66% are concerned about managing the health and safety of employees.
  • 69% are concerned with having to comply with new regulations related to the coronavirus.
  • 68% are concerned about finding an adequate supply of supplies such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant.

NFIB state director Rosemary Elebash told Yellowhammer News Friday that the survey was administered to businesses in every county and every city with a significant population.

“It wasn’t just NFIB members,” Elebash added about the survey, saying the group had worked with a number of trade associations to increase the amount of responses.

The NFIB also continues to strongly support Senator Arthur Orr’s (R-Decatur) bill to grant civil immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits to businesses in Alabama.

Elebash noted in a release that Orr’s bill would be “one of NFIB’s top priorities” if Governor Kay Ivey calls a special session later in the year.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

9 hours ago

Tuberville: Nationwide unrest linked to ‘education and jobs’

Many argue there is much more to the civil unrest across the nation than the lone incident in Minneapolis involving the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the police department. Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville indicated he agrees with that.

During an appearance on Huntsville WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Tuberville, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said based on his interactions with people on the campaign trail, there is a longing to get back to a sense of normalcy in the wake of the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I speak to eight to ten places a day — groups are worried, obviously. I think they’re getting a little more confident they can go out and be around other people,” he said. “And we’re just hoping we can just put this pandemic, and it is a problem, it is serious — again, you’ve got to protect yourself. It’s not going away. It is still here, especially if you’re having health problems and those things. That will go away — but then all of a sudden we get hit with this civil unrest, and again — we’re all Americans. We’re all in this together. We’ve got to find a solution.”

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Tuberville said he is asked for his thoughts by voters while on the trail, to which he said he points to “education and jobs,” and the erosion of the American middle class.

“I had a group ask me today, ‘Coach, what do you think the problem is?’ Education and jobs. We don’t have a middle class anymore,” Tuberville stated. “There are people out there that don’t have the opportunity to advance in this country like they want to. This is not a black issue. This is not a white issue. This is an American issue. We shipped our jobs to China, bottom line. We’re finding out more and more about that every day, and we’ve got to give the opportunity for young men and women to have a chance to grow in this country, and give them a fair chance. Unfortunately, our middle class has dissipated. We have more drugs in this country, and a lot of people take other options. We got to understand — we’re all in this together, 340 million people. We’re either going to make it together or not make together.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.