1 month ago

Five things to watch as Alabama legislative session enters final two weeks

MONTGOMERY — The 2019 regular session of the Alabama legislature is expected to wrap up next week, and there are still a lot of important issues to be decided.

Legislators have already made history by passing the Rebuild Alabama Act in a special session and have used the regular session thus far to pass bills ranging in purpose from economic development competitiveness to challenging Roe v. Wade, with dozens of local bills and constitutional amendments flying under the radar.

While the Department of Corrections crisis will likely be considered later on in the year during another special session, the Yellowhammer State is set to see a whirlwind finish on Goat Hill leading up to Memorial Day and through either Thursday, May 30, or Friday, May 31.

Here are the top five issues to watch before then:

1. Show me the money. Regular sessions start and end with the budgets, and 2019 is no different. The main hang up has been the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), with Governor Kay Ivey proposing that the $35 million program be funded out of the Education Trust Fund (ETF) this time around instead of the General Fund. Remember, this was done to offset Ivey ending approximately $30 million of the annual diversion from roads and bridge that has been covering for shortages in ALEA and court system funding.

Legislators have been haggling over whether the full CHIP amount proposed by Ivey will be funded through the ETF in the final version of the budget, with neither the Senate-passed education budget nor the House-passed General Fund budget paying for it.

The education budget is set to be amended by the House Ways and Means Education Committee on Tuesday, with that committee voting on Wednesday. The general fund budget awaits consideration before the full Senate after the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee proposed to pay for half of the total CHIP funding ($17,500,000). Keep an eye out to see if both budgets end up partially paying for CHIP or whether one will indeed pay the full amount.

2. It’s a crapshoot. The lottery hangs in the balance in the House, with a combination of hardline conservatives and the Democratic Caucus threatening the people of Alabama’s ability to vote via referendum on the issue.

Despite Democrats for decades advocating for a state lottery, it is their party’s block of votes in the House that could end up sinking the proposal this time around. There are enough Republicans with moral and fiscal objections to the lottery making Democrats’ votes very much needed to get to the 60% threshold needed for a constitutional amendment.

These Democrats have complained that the clean, paper-only proposal does not expand other gaming across the state, saying more forms of gambling like slot machines would increase revenue even more. Keep in mind that Senate Deputy Minority Leader Billy Beasley’s (D-Clayton) bill to legalize electronic bingo in Macon County failed on the Senate floor on Thursday, receiving 19 “yay” votes and only one “nay” while not reaching the necessary 60% mark of 21 affirmative votes. VictoryLand and GreeneTrack sideshows could very well lead to Democrats doing a backflip on their longstanding commitment and torpedoing the best chance a lottery has to pass in this quadrennium — and for the foreseeable future.

3. Irony? Sure, this is an exaggeration, but it seems like the legislature is taking longer to consider direly needed legislation to reform the Board of Pardons and Paroles than it took for the board to prematurely release some inmates.

The House certainly took awhile, but did finally pass HB 380 by State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) two weeks ago. This legislation is supported by Attorney General Steve Marshall and Ivey, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) is carrying the bill in the Senate.

However, HB 380 and its companion bill sponsored by Ward have yet to even get consideration in his own committee. The lack of movement is seriously concerning many around Montgomery, as the board tries to cling onto its power with the session nearing its end.

4. Should the state school board be a popularity contest? The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a groundbreaking constitutional amendment that proposes to turn the state school board into a commission appointed by the governor, with the superintendent replaced with a secretary chosen by those board members. The legislation, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and supported by Ivey, would also mandate that Common Core is replaced in Alabama.

As a constitutional amendment, this bipartisan legislation would go to a referendum of the people on the March 2020 primary election date, just like the lottery if it survives the House. Observers view this measure as a major first step in turning the state’s dismal k-12 public education rankings and outcomes around.

5. It’s never over. The abortion issue isn’t going away. A bill by State Rep. Ginny Shaver (R-Centre) to safeguard against infanticide is expected to be debated on the House floor on Tuesday.

Along with a bill to eliminate the custodial rights of a parent convicted for rape or incest if the crime resulted in the conception of the child that has been passed by the House and is set to be considered by the Senate, this means that Alabama’s recently passed HB 314 will continue to factor into proceedings in both chambers.

Honorable mentions: While we listed only five issues here, the end of this regular session is going to be jam-packed with interesting legislation. A few honorable mentions that come quickly to mind are State Rep. Kyle South’s (R-Fayette) daily fantasy sports contests bill, the package of different rural broadband bills that still need final passage and State Rep. Terri Collins’ (R-Decatur) Alabama Literacy Act.

Follow @sean_yhn for live updates from the State House as the session winds down.

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

11 hours ago

University of North Alabama adopting new tuition plan

The University of North Alabama is switching to a tuition plan that officials say will result in increased costs for some students but not others.

Officials at the school in Florence say they are reducing the total number of student fees from seven to one, and fees will be included in the overall tuition cost.


A statement says students taking 15 hours will see a maximum increase in expenses of 4.1%.

But some could pay less, and costs will not change for others.

School officials say a lag in state funding is a continuing problem.

North Alabama’s vice president for business, Evan Thornton, says the school has deferred maintenance and capital needs totaling more than $160 million.

The school has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,200 students.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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11 hours ago

Nathan Lindsay joining governor’s office from BCA

Another high profile staffer from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is joining Governor Kay Ivey’s senior level team.

The governor on Monday announced that Nathan Lindsay will join her office as director of appointments effective July 1.

This position is charged with spearheading the meticulous work that goes into Ivey meeting her duty to appoint qualified, representative and appropriate people to positions on the state’s various boards and commissions.

A press release from the governor’s office outlined that Lindsay assumes the role with an extensive background in state government and the private sector, which uniquely qualifies him to advise the governor in this capacity.


Most recently, through his work in political and governmental affairs at the BCA, Lindsay interacted with members of the business community throughout the Yellowhammer State, which significantly adds to his ability to identify and select candidates for various appointed posts.

Additionally, Lindsay’s early career included time in then-Governor Bob Riley’s office where he served as aide to the governor from 2006 to 2011. Lindsay also worked in the governor’s communications office as deputy press secretary and advised Riley on education policy.

“Nathan brings to our team a wealth of knowledge that I know will serve the state well,” Ivey said in a statement. “In addition to his expertise and insight, Nathan is a man of character. The men and women of my staff must have a strong work ethic, a depth of knowledge and a heart for public service. Nathan certainly embodies all of these characteristics.”

Lindsay earned his bachelor’s degree from Faulkner University. During his time at Faulkner, he served as SGA president and later, in 2018, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“As governor, I have the important responsibility of appointing qualified individuals to serve on the more than 450 boards and commissions in our state. These men and women must not only be highly-qualified, but they should also be a true reflection of our great state,” Ivey added. “I am confident we will continue to find the best people to serve our state, just as I am certain Nathan will serve my Administration exceptionally well in this position. His experience speaks for itself, and he shares my goal of moving Alabama into a better future.”

This comes weeks after Leah Garner departed BCA to become Ivey’s communications director.

Mark Colson also left BCA to become head of the Alabama Trucking Association recently.

Update 5:55 p.m.:

BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt released a statement commending Ivey on the hire of Lindsay.

“Nathan’s background and expertise in political affairs combined with his political acumen uniquely qualify him to serve the governor and the state in this capacity,” Britt said. “I have no doubt Nathan will do an outstanding job, and I commend Governor Kay Ivey on this excellent addition to her staff.”

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

12 hours ago

Alabama listed as one of the top 20 most patriotic states in America

A WalletHub report released Monday revealed Alabama to be on of the top 20 most patriotic states in America.

Ranked 19 overall on the list, with a score of 47.43, Alabama ranked first for the “Civics Education Requirement.”

The report “compared the 50 states across 13 key indicators of patriotism” and “ranges from share of enlisted military population to share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.”


With one as “Most Patriotic” and 25 as “Average,” Alabama received the following rankings:

  • 5th – Average Number of Military Enlistees per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 30th – Active-Duty Military Personnel per 100,000 Civilian Adults
  • 17th – Veterans per 1,000 Civilian Adults
  • 1st – Civics Education Requirement
  • 12th – Share of Civilian Adult Population in Military Reserves
  • 10th – Share of Adults Who Voted in 2016 Primary Elections

Alabama also ranked eight overall for ‘Military Engagement.’

The report, which compared red states to blue states in terms of patriotism, found that red states were more patriotic. Red states received an average rank of 23.67, while blue states received an average rank of 28.25.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

12 hours ago

Brooks: ‘Really dumb’ for Democrats to elect candidates mainly on ‘skin pigmentation or their chromosomes’

In an interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show”on Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) lamented that many Democrats have become more interested in racial and gender identity politics than the welfare of America.

Coming off of her much maligned comments comparing American immigration facilities to “concentration camps,” host Dale Jackson asked the north Alabama congressman if he believes that Democrats in Congress will allow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to continue to serve as their “de facto face and leader.”

“Yes,” Brooks answered succinctly, promoting a follow-up request for his reasoning.


“Well, she is where she is,” Brooks explained. “She’s got a lot of political power. She’s got a lot of support — surprisingly.”

“There are large, large numbers of American citizens who have bit off on this socialist stuff, who have bit off on this victimization stuff, who have bit off on thinking that the most important criteria in determining whether to elect someone is their skin pigmentation or their chromosomes — which is really dumb, OK,” he continued. “We oughta be electing people based on their character and based on their public policy positions.”

“But, notwithstanding that, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the face of the Democratic Party in many different respects, and she does have great influence as evidenced by the presidential candidates on the socialist Democrats’ side who are trying to cultivate her support,” Brooks added. “They want her endorsement.”

Listen, starting at the 8:25 mark:

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

13 hours ago

Democrats hope it’s 2017 all over again, Republicans just want the nightmare to end

In 2017, Roy Moore won a Republican primary run-off against an extremely flawed Luther Strange. Strange wasn’t just a regular candidate — he had the cloud of his appointment, and he was dogged by former Gov. Robert Bentley’s investigation, impeachment and resignation.

Alabama Republicans, outside of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), were reluctant to criticize Roy Moore because they knew doing so would hand the Senate seat to now-Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

But this is different.


State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Montgomery Advertiser that he blamed the GOP establishment in 2017, but still thinks Moore can’t win in 2020.

He stated, “I do not believe, with the numbers I look at, that Roy Moore at the end of the day can get the nomination.”

State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) dismissed Moore when asked about the candidates, saying, “If you look at the candidates, you got Roy Moore. I don’t think we need to say more there.”

Later, he all but endorsed U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) by saying Byrne “would do the best job.”

Secretary of State John Merrill, a potential future Moore opponent, believes Moore has an uphill battle against Jones.

“I think it would be extraordinarily difficult for Judge Moore to be successful in a general election campaign against Senator Jones,” Merrill outlined.

He added, “I also think it would be difficult for Judge Moore to secure the Republican nomination.”

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who endorsed Moore in 2017, has already endorsed State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and is on record saying former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions would be a favorite.

“I do believe that Jeff Sessions would clearly be number one in the poll rankings, based on his having been such a great senator on three principle issues: free enterprise versus socialism; deficit and debt; and border security,” he explained.

Say what you will, but you do not usually see these kinds of pronouncements from Republicans in the middle of a primary.

Democrats hope 2017 is going to be repeated in 2020, but there are many different factors that will matter.

Roy Moore is already fatally flawed as 300,000+ Republicans voters abandoned him in 2017 and stayed home. Many of those voters will vote in the primary in 2020, but will not vote for him.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) expressed a similar sentiment on CSPAN last week.

“I personally don’t think Roy Moore is going to be our nominee, but whoever our nominee is will prevail in November because you’ll have the full complement of Republican voters turning out turning out to vote,” he said.

This is not 2017.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.