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5 years ago

House Republicans: 2014 will be year of ‘taxpayer relief’ in Alabama

Alabama House Republicans announce their 2014 legislative agenda
Alabama House Republicans announce their 2014 legislative agenda

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama House Republicans rolled out their 2014 legislative agenda today in a press conference at the State House, and it doesn’t take long to figure out where their focus lies.

With bills such as the Small Business Tax Relief Act, the Business Tax Streamlining Act, the Tax Elimination Act and the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, 67 percent of the bills on the agenda are either a tax credit, a tax cut or an attempt to otherwise ease the tax burden on individuals and small businesses.

The House Republicans’ agenda, which they have dubbed the “Commonsense Conservative” agenda, consists of 9 bills that make up what will be the House GOP’s focus for the 2014 session.

“In the fourth and final year of the quadrennium, Alabama House Republicans are continuing to promote fundamental reforms, constitutional rights protections, and pro-business, job growth initiatives that will continue to move Alabama forward,” House Republicans said in a joint press release. “The ‘Commonsense Conservative’ agenda reflects the conservative beliefs and commonsense reforms that Republicans embrace.”

A quick synopsis of each bill on the agenda can be found below. Yellowhammer will have a more in-depth critique soon, so stay tuned.

1. Small Business Tax Relief Act

Sponsor: Rep. Barry Moore, R- Enterprise
What House Republicans are saying about the bill:

Currently, businesses are required to pay in advance if their average monthly estimated sales tax payment is more than $1,000. The Small Business Tax Relief Act will raise the threshold for making these payments from $1,000 to $2,500 per month. This could provide approximately 6,000 Alabama small business owners with an immediate, one-time tax cut of up to $2,500 and will inject approximately $4.6 million into the Alabama economy.

2. Business Tax Streamlining Act

Sponsor: Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery
What House Republicans are saying about the bill:

This streamlining bill will simplify the process for filing business personal property taxes and save Alabama businesses both the money and the hassle that come with reporting these taxes. The bill will create a new online tax filing system that provides a one-stop-shop for filing these taxes and will also allow businesses claiming $10,000 or less in business personal property tax to file a short form that does not require them to itemize their property.

3. Tax Elimination Act

Sponsor: Rep. Jim Patterson, R-Meridianville
What House Republicans are saying about the bill:

Under the Tax Elimination Act, House Republicans will give authority to the Alabama Department of Revenue to suspend taxes and fees when the cost of collecting the tax exceeds the amount of revenue the tax brings in.

4. Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights

Sponsor: Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood
What House Republicans are saying about the bill:

Under current law, the Alabama Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights governs the administrative procedures of the Department of Revenue and local governments relating to taxpayers’ rights and responsibilities including refunds, penalties, assessments, and appeals. This means that the Department of Revenue is judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to the tax assessment appeals process. The Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights will ensure that all taxpayers are treated fairly through an independent process for hearing tax appeals and more taxpayer-friendly procedures.

5. Alabama Taxpayer Audit Protection Act

Sponsor: Rep. Wayne Johnson, R- Ryland
What House Republicans are saying about the bill:

[T]he Obama Administration and its Internal Revenue Service have targeted certain non-profit groups merely because of the message that those groups have sought to actively promote… With the Alabama Taxpayer Audit Protection Act, House Republicans will ensure that Alabamians never have to worry about their state government threatening them for their political views.

6. Revolving Door Act

Sponsor: Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton
What House Republicans are saying about the bill:

[The Revolving Door Act] bans former legislators from lobbying either house of the legislature for two years after leaving office.

7. The Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act

Sponsor: Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden
What House Republicans are saying about the bill:

The Healthcare Rights of Conscience Act states that Alabama health care workers cannot be forced to provide a service that violates his or her conscience, specifically services relating to abortion, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research, and sterilization.

8. Adoption Tax Credit

Sponsor: Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan
What House Republicans are saying about the bill:

This legislation will give Alabama residents who adopt an Alabama child either through private adoption or through the state foster care system a one-time $1,000 income tax credit, which would apply in the tax year in which the adoption was finalized.

9. Statutory Immunity for Teachers and State Employees

Sponsor: Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia
What House Republicans are saying about the bill:

State employees, officials, and education workers will receive clear cut and codified immunity from being sued while acting in their official capacity with passage of the Statutory Immunity for Teachers and State Employees Act.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1 min ago

Alabama Republican Party elects officers

BIRMINGHAM — The Alabama Republican Party’s state executive committee elected party officers Saturday, with Chairman Terry Lathan winning re-election by acclamation as a new senior vice-chair and secretary were chosen.

The elections occurred during the annual ALGOP winter meeting at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. Outgoing Senior Vice-Chair Sam Givhan, who decided not to seek re-election to the seat after his 2018 election to the state Senate, presided over the nominating process for chairman.

Lathan was the only person nominated to head the Alabama Republican Party and was re-elected without opposition.

Two strong candidates ran to succeed Givhan as senior vice-chair, with Limestone County’s John Wahl prevailing over Autauga County’s Bill Harris.

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All of the party’s district vice-chair positions were selected by acclamation. John Skipper will represent the first and second congressional districts, Pat Wilson will continue to serve as vice-chair for the third, sixth and seventh congressional districts and state Rep. Andrew Sorrell was re-elected as the fourth and fifth congressional districts’ vice-chair.

The election for secretary saw a three-candidate contest between Jefferson County’s Virginia Doyle, Talladega County’s Gina Grant and Lauderdale County’s Josh Dodd. Dodd won without a runoff and succeeds Dale County’s Elaine Ridenour.

Last but certainly not least, Jefferson County’s Sallie Bryant was re-elected without opposition as the party’s treasurer.

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

2 hours ago

Former U.S. AG Jeff Sessions, former Air Force One Commander Mark W. Tillman highlight 2019 ALGOP Winter Dinner

BIRMINGHAM — Friday night before a packed ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel, the Alabama Republican Party hosted its annual winter dinner with not just one, but two featured guests.

As advertised, retired Col. Mark W. Tillman, who served as the commander of the Presidential Airlift Group and chief pilot for the president of the United States from 2001-2009, wooed the audience with his tales of serving in that role, including the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The evening’s festivities also included an appearance from former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who served as one of the state of Alabama’s U.S. senators from 1997 through 2017.

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During brief remarks to the audience gathered for the event, Sessions stressed advancing policies on immigration and America’s workers, especially those making less than $50,000 annually. During that address, Sessions received three standing ovations from those in attendance, suggesting he remains very much in favor with Alabama’s Republican hierarchy.

Immediately after Sessions addressed the crowd, former Alabama Republican Party chairman Edgar Welden honored Sessions and his wife by announcing they established an endowed scholarship in Jeff Sessions and his wife Mary Sessions’ name at Montgomery’s Huntingdon College, their alma mater.

Tillman, who was the featured speaker, offered attendees insight into commanding Air Force One and serving former President George W. Bush. Tillman discussed the threats and perceived threats from the “fog of war” that followed after terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in northern Virginia.

Col. Mark Tillman speaks to the ALGOP Winter Dinner, 2/22/2019 (Jeff Poor/YHN)

Tillman also appeared on Huntsville’s radio WVNN earlier in the day to talk about that and how technology had changed since his time as the Air Force One commander.

Alabama Republican Party chairwoman Terry Lathan told Yellowhammer News following the event she was pleased with the attendance and was excited they were able to honor Jeff Sessions. Lathan is up for reelection on Saturday at the party’s winter meeting.

@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.

4 hours ago

Alabama documentary up for an Oscar this weekend

Nearly 80 years after Walker Evans and James Agee shined a light on life in Hale County, Alabama, Greensboro and its environs are taking center stage again, this time in RaMell Ross’ Oscar-nominated documentary film, “Hale County This Morning, This Evening.”

“Hale County This Morning, This Evening” follows Daniel Collins and Quincy Bryant, and their families, for five years. The documentary is done in an experimental, non-narrative style. Ross says it’s more about watching and being than listening and concluding. “It’s trying to show what it’s like to be a young black man in the historic South,” he said. What you’ll see then is a whole lot of hanging out and large swaths of everyday life. Ross’ unique mix of content plus form has been heralded as revolutionary and got attention early on from grant-funders and tony arts organizations like the Sundance Institute and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

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“The reason why I didn’t make the film an installation or an art piece, why I turned it into a documentary, is because of the amount of people you can reach,” he said. “The film is an experience. It’s supposed to be participated in. I wasn’t interested in telling you anything. I wasn’t interested in making anything clear but allowing you to sort of fill in the gaps and to feel and to witness as much as possible.”

Ross grew up a military brat and considers Virginia to be “home.” He ended up in Alabama after applying to teach a photo course via the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization(HERO). After completing two weeks of teaching, he fell in love with the community and made the move to Hale County. Since arriving in 2009, Ross helped build Pie Lab and managed the HERO youth program. He also picked up a video camera and started filming.

“Hale County,” the finished documentary, bears little resemblance to Ross’ original intention. “It started off as a small project and has snowballed into what it is now,” he said. The film has struck a chord with audiences and reviewers alike. The New York Times named “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” one of the Best Films of 2018, calling it “pure cinematic poetry.” The Los Angeles Times called it “an experience that is simple, complex and revelatory,” and The Village Voice raved, “It’s not every day that you witness a new cinematic language being born. …”And then there are the awards: Sundance Film Festival “Special Jury Prize Documentary,” Cinema Eye Honors “Outstanding Non-Fiction Feature Award,” Gotham Awards “Best Documentary” and, of course, the Academy Awards nomination for “Best Documentary Feature.”

With news of the Oscar nod came a peppering of congrats and well-wishes on his Facebook page. But Ross, who remains as grounded as his subject matter, responded with a humble, “I mean, the stars have aligned on this one 🙂 thanks ya’ll.”

Despite all the accolades, which include having Danny Glover on board as the documentary’s executive producer, Ross is not planning to “go Hollywood” anytime soon. He now owns land and a trailer and plans to keep roots in Greensboro, while also teaching at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “I have a lot of projects in the works,” he said. “I’m committed to the area.”

“Hale County This Morning, This Evening” is showing in select theaters. It is available on iTunes and can be streamed on the PBS website.

The 2019 Academy Awards broadcasts on Sunday, Feb. 24.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Mentored hunts renew enthusiasm for mentors

One of the mantras adopted by those who love the outdoors is “pass it on,” which means introducing somebody to hunting, fishing or other outdoors activities when you get the opportunity.

For the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, one facet of that effort comes in the form of the Adult Mentored Hunting Program, where seasoned hunters take new or inexperienced adult hunters to one of WFF’s Special Opportunity Areas (SOAs) for a weekend in the woods hunting deer, turkeys or small game.

What WFF has realized is the mentors, who have many years of experience in the hunting field, are benefitting from their role as much or more than the folks who are being mentored.

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One case in point is Bill Gray, Supervising Wildlife Biologist in WFF’s District IV. The longtime WFF biologist was admittedly reluctant to head out just before Christmas to fulfill a mentor’s role at the hunt at the Portland Landing SOA.

By the end of the weekend, Gray had a new outlook on the experience, and he had gained a new friend.

“When you’ve hunted for a long time, you take a lot of things for granted,” Gray said. “You kind of lose the magic like when you were young and first learning to hunt. Through the progression over the weekend, I got to watch him (James Hopper) learn and be excited and notice some things that were special to him.”

One example was how excited Hopper became when he viewed a deer for the first time through a riflescope.

“That was an eye-opener for me and how important this program can be and what a great opportunity we have to share our world as hunters,” Gray said. “Really for me, it was a way for me to bring back some of that wide-eyed wonder and true joy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy hunting anymore. I do. I love it, but you get kind of numb to some of the things that are old hat to you. To these guys, it’s not. And to see how excited they get has renewed my interest in hunting and being able to usher more people across that threshold who may be interested in becoming a hunter.”

On Hopper’s first hunt, the deer came in late and were too far for his comfort zone in terms of making a quality shot.

On the second day, a buck came through about 35-40 yards from the blind, but Gray had to make sure the deer met the minimum requirements for harvest. By the time Gray saw the deer, it was weaving through the trees and disappeared.

Gray said Hopper couldn’t hide his disappointment on Sunday morning when the rest of the hunt’s participants were busy cleaning deer and feral hogs.

“I said I’ve got to try to help this out,” Gray said. “We exchanged phone numbers. I got him down to my place the first week in January. He drove five hours south to my place in Barbour County.”

One of those aspects of hunting that experience often mitigates turned into the deciding factor on the Barbour County hunt.

“He came very close to taking a deer,” Gray said. “But he spooked the deer with the safety. He was using the safety like he was taught on the range. When he clicked that safety off, he said the deer trotted away and didn’t look back. I didn’t think to show him how to put some downward pressure on the safety and slide it forward real quietly. As much as he has to learn about being a good hunter, I have as much to learn about being a good mentor.

“But he was very excited and not dejected about not getting a buck for the second time. I sent him home with some deer meat, and they loved it.”

Since then, Hopper purchased a deer rifle similar to the one he used on the mentored hunt to get ready for a new season.

“Part of my experience was I felt like I made a new friend,” Gray said. “We weren’t able to get together before the season ended, but I’m as excited about being there with him when he gets his first deer as he is about getting his first deer.”

As unlucky as Gray’s hunter was, Drew Nix had the opposite experience on his mentored hunt at the Cedar Creek SOA.

Nix, the WFF Forester, has been mentoring hunters for many, many years and has recruited quite a few people into the realm of license-buying hunters. Nix said those people he introduced to hunting included youth, adult non-hunters and physically disabled individuals.

His hunter on the Cedar Creek SOA happened to be a person who was very familiar with firearms, a retired Army guy who now serves as a military contractor to teach marksmanship.

“He was from rural New York and was very well-versed in firearms, but he had never been hunting,” Nix said. “During his active duty, he never had the opportunity to pursue hunting.”

On the adult mentored hunts, the person who draws the spot is allowed to bring a hunting companion. However, sickness forced the hunter’s companion to drop out. The hunter was then given permission to bring his 11-year-old son.

On the first hunt, several deer came into one of the fields that had recently been constructed on the SOA, including one buck that met the criteria for permissible harvest.

“I told the gentleman it was a legal buck, but I would wait because we were sitting on an exceptional piece of property,” Nix said. “He held his composure. After about 10 minutes, no other deer came in. He said, ‘If you’re telling me that’s a legal deer, I would like to go ahead and harvest that deer.’”

Nix said when the hunter got the rifle up he noticed a significant anomaly.

“It cracked me up,” he said. “From the waist up, he was rock solid. From the waist down, it was like a small earthquake was going on. His legs were vibrating the whole blind. But he took a good shot and made a clean kill. The deer ran out of the food plot about 5 yards. He and his son were really charged up and wanted to put their hands on the deer, but I told them to wait and see if a doe came in. Sure enough, he took a doe later that afternoon with another clean, ethical shot. They were just ecstatic.”

The hunter even added another doe to his take before the weekend was over, which meant he went home with a cooler stuffed with venison.

“When we were butchering the deer, the guy I mentored let me get finished with half of the first deer and then he took over,” Nix said. “He pretty well cleaned and quartered the rest of the deer. Then he called his buddies and had a processor lined up in Pelham before he left Cedar Creek.”

Nix admitted to the group of hunters at dinner one night that he wasn’t too enthusiastic to miss rutting activity where he hunts, but that he had a “great” time as a mentor.

“The big takeaway from this is this used to be done by family members – dads, uncles or grandfathers,” he said. “In today’s world, we’ve kind of skipped a generation of folks who did not hunt and are not hunters. That seems so foreign to us. For someone who has been hunting for a long time, you may not see the value in doing this until you’ve done it.”

Justin Gilchrist is the wildlife biologist in charge of the Dallas County SOAs, Portland Landing and Cedar Creek, and he is grateful to see a lot of hard work reach fruition during the mentored hunts.

“For me, these hunts have been very rewarding,” Gilchrist said. “We put in a lot of time managing the resources and getting things ready for the hunts. Getting to mentor these people who have never been in the woods in their life is very special to me. We get to take people out and teach them about firearms and hunting. We show them deer sign and what to look for when scouting, like a hard mast (acorns, etc.) crop. Nothing compares to watching their reaction when a deer walks out. Then you watch them be successful and get excited about their first deer. To see them take a deer on land where we’ve done a lot of work is very rewarding. It pumps me up.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

19 hours ago

Birmingham lawmaker aims to make it easier to view police body camera video

An Alabama lawmaker from the Birmingham-area is reportedly trying to make it easier to access public records regarding police body cameras.

Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) and her staff are rewording a bill that first stated access to public recordings should not be accessible.

“Why isn’t that body cam treated like any other public document? Why it is any different from the Freedom of Information Act?” Givan asked, via WBRC.

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Givan claims House Bill 36 would give victims, families, their family members, attorneys and the media more access to police body camera footage. Givan’s mission was initiated after the police-involved shooting death of E.J. Bradford at the Galleria Mall in Hoover.

“No one should have to go six months, three months, four months out without being able to see a video or see a recording,” Givan said.

Per WBRC, the Alabama Broadcasters Association is claiming that body camera footage is essential in being transparent and accurate reporting.

“Broadcasters have that responsibility It’s part of their roles as public servants,” Sharon Tinsley, president of the ABA, said. “We’re licensed in the public service and it’s our role to be in that place for the public where they can’t often be.”

While Givan’s plan has been met with positivity surrounding her mission, she has also been met with pushback.

Sgt. Heath Boackle, an executive board member with the Birmingham Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, says a rush to release body camera video could potentially jeopardize investigations.

“The concern would be if it comes out and it’s not the totality of the events before the case is even heard in a court of law, it could taint the jury and it also could give issues or concerns to the people that are seeing it without knowing all the facts,” Boackle said.

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