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2 months ago

ICYMI: The Legislature last week – Tax cuts – School safety – Ethics

We are back with your recap of another week in Montgomery! What happened last week in the Legislature and beyond? Read below to find out!
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  1. Tax cuts might soon be in store for some Alabama families.

Last Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a modest tax break bill that increases the standard deduction for an estimated 180,000 lower-income Alabamians, by a vote of 89-0. Residents who file Married Filing Joint, Head of Family, or Single and make between $20,500 and $32,999 could see a decrease in taxes if they typically accept the standard deduction and do not itemize. Those who file as Married Filing Separate must make between $10,250 and $15,249 to qualify. The bill passed the Senate without opposition in January and now heads to Governor Ivey’s desk.

  1. Governor Ivey introduces her own school safety initiative.

The governor announced a school safety initiative during a press conference at the State Capitol last Tuesday. The executive order creates a council tasked with considering all school safety ideas including, from the governor herself, “arming personnel, utilizing security teams, [and] controlled access to buildings”. The council was asked to submit a report by April 30. The Legislature’s regular session will likely end this month, however, and many, including Bryan Lyman of the Montgomery Advertiser, are doubtful that any bills addressing school safety will pass this session. Governor Ivey could, however, call for a special session later this year.

Last Thursday, a Senate committee passed a bill—which was endorsed by Governor Ivey at her Tuesday press conference—that allows school systems to take money from the Advancement and Technology Fund to go toward school safety measures. The leaders of both legislative chambers—Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Representative Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia)—have both called for a responsible and thorough approach to school safety.

  1. API and the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy released new research with the hope of seeing occupational licensing reform come to Alabama.

API and the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy are pleased to announce the release of a new policy report entitled “The Costs of Occupational Licensing in Alabama.” Last Tuesday, API and the Johnson Center debuted the report’s findings to an audience of lawmakers, academics, and economists. Occupational licensing imposes substantial costs on Alabamians in terms of reduced occupational mobility, reduced entrepreneurship, higher unemployment, and higher consumer prices. Speakers at the event included API Senior Director of Policy Relations Leigh Hixon, Associate Professor of Economics at St. Francis University Dr. Edward Timmons, policy analyst at the Johnson Center and co-author of the report Courtney Michaluk, and Bruce Locke, a retired auctioneer who shared his hardships dealing with the licensing board, which ultimately led to him giving up his license.

  1. Remember last week when changes to ethics laws were moving, and then they weren’t? Well, they’re on the move again.

The Alabama House of Representatives spent last Tuesday evening debating an ethics bill that would exempt economic developers from having to register as lobbyists. Proponents of the bill argue that these changes are essential to recruiting jobs to Alabama and that current requirements are scaring away businesses. Opponents labeled the bill as an attempt to weaken Alabama’s ethics laws, a characterization that bill-sponsor Johnson flatly rejected. Although the debate lasted hours, the bill passed, 79 to 7. Two other ethics bills—one requiring lawmakers with consulting contracts to file with the state Ethics Commission and another that expands the definition of a minor ethics violation—received favorable reports from the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee early this week.

You also might want to know about…

— The House passed a bill making it a capital offense to murder a police officer, first responder, corrections officer, or a child under 14. The bill passed by a 72-20 vote, with six representatives abstaining.

— Bills were introduced in both chambers this week that would make December 1 of each year Rosa Parks Day in Alabama.

Senator Bill Hightower’s sexual harassment policy was adopted by the state Senate.

— A teacher pay-raise bill passed the state house 104-0 and now moves to the Senate.

— The BJCC may be expanding, and a bill that would allow for its funding passed a house committee this week and could be considered in the full house next week.

— State employees haven’t received a pay raise in a decade, but a bill providing for a 3% increase, which is part of the General Fund budget for 2019, passed a house committee last Wednesday afternoon.

— A public hearing last Wednesday addressed a bill aimed at racial profiling that would require police officers to document the race of those pulled over in a traffic stop.

The Senate passed a bill that changes the time to pay back a loan from a payday lender from ten days to thirty days.

A bill that would require county superintendents to be appointed by the county board of education, rather than elected, passed the Senate last Thursday. This bill only applies to counties that do not already have procedures for electing superintendents specified in the state constitution.

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11 hours ago

Tips for a beach trip with a baby (the last one is SUCH a sanity saver!)

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Sunscreen

If your baby is 6 months or older, sunscreen is an absolute must-have! Apply sunscreen before you go outside, and reapply every 60-90 minutes. I recommend using a mineral sunscreen over a chemical sunscreen to keep harmful ingredients off your baby’s skin.

I would also recommend a lotion over a spray, as lotion will ensure full coverage and sprays are difficult to apply evenly. Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates a sunscreen guide each year with great information for moms, including a list of the best and worst sunscreens for kids. Here is a link to their 2016 Sunscreen Guide, and their 2017 guide is coming out soon. PopSugar also highlighted 10 safe sunscreens for kids in this article.

Rashguard and Hat

Don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect your little one from the sun. Baby Gap and Old Navy sell super cute swimsuits and rash guards with UPF 30+ for extra protection (and extra cuteness). Buy Buy Baby and Target usually have a good selection of sun hats for babies, and their prices are budget-friendly.

Keep Baby Clean

Swim Diapers and Essentials

I went to the beach with my husband’s family a few years ago, and every time we went to the pool, it was closed because a kid had pooped in the pool. We all know accidents happen, but let’s try our best to prevent our child from being that kid!

Your options are disposable or reusable swim diapers. I personally purchased both before my 1st trip with our 9-month-old. I ended up liking the reusable diapers more; they were a better overall fit and super cute without a swimsuit on!

Tip: Do NOT put on a swim diaper until your child is actually getting into the water! Swim diapers are designed to hold in poop — that’s it! They don’t absorb liquid like a regular diaper. I learned this the hard way when pee ran down my baby’s leg as we were walking to the beach!

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to bring a wet/dry bag or a zip top bag to the beach. We also brought our portable changing pad with us in our beach bag, and it made diaper changes on the beach much easier.

Baby Powder

It magically removes all sand from hands, feet and skin. I know, right? I didn’t believe it either until I tried it.

Hand and Face Wipes

I threw some Burt’s Bees Hand and Face wipes in our beach bag, and they were really nice to have on hand, especially while snacking on the beach or reapplying sunscreen.

Keep Baby Cool

Tents

Our family brought a 10×10 tailgating tent, and I’ll never go to the beach without one! It provided shade for everyone, not just baby. Umbrellas work great too.

We also purchased a collapsible baby tent from Buy Buy Baby (hoping our little one would nap on the beach!) but that did not happen, so we never used it. But it might work for you!

Mesh Teethers

I packed a zip-top bag full of ice cubes in our cooler and gave them to my son in a Nuby Mesh Teether. It was a great distraction when he was getting fussy and also helped with teething. He LOVED chewing on the ice through the teether and letting it melt and drip all over him.

If you nurse your baby, you may also consider making breastmilk popsicles or “momsicles” to bring to the beach as well. I froze my breastmilk in an ice tray, and the ice cubes fit perfectly in the mesh teethers. Here is the inspiration behind this idea.

Spray Fan

I’ve had a spray fan since battling the heat during sorority recruitment in college, and I take my spray fan with me everywhere in the summer. I literally keep that thing in my car! My son laughs hysterically every time I spray him with it, and he loves to play with the fan.

Keep Baby Entertained

Baby Pool

I spent $10 on an inflatable baby pool at Target, and it was maybe the best $10 I’ve ever spent there (which is saying something). It kept our 9-month-old from crawling around (and eating) all the sand at the beach. We didn’t even put water in the pool; we just brought his bath toys, and he had a blast! It took approximately 2 minutes to blow up, so we were able to inflate and deflate as needed, making it super transportable.

Pool Float

While the ice-cold pool water was not his most favorite, the toys attached to the pool float were a big win for him. The big win for me was the adjustable sunshade that came with the float. If you don’t want to hold your baby the entire time you are in the pool, get a float designed for babies and enjoy some quality pool time.

 

Have Fun!

Watching your baby discover the sand and the ocean for the first time is pure joy. Soak in these moments, take a bunch of pictures, and don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen.

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Kristin Berney is the fundraising director for a Birmingham ministry and a contributing writer for Birmingham Moms Blog

12 hours ago

Alabama school district probes possible bullying by teacher

A school district in Alabama is investigating after a video surfaced that reportedly shows a Jefferson Davis High School teacher making fun of a student.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that the video captures a student alone in a classroom with a teacher while a woman narrates and taunts the student. The woman taunts the student for being alone. The man teaching the student laughs throughout the video at the woman’s commentary.

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The woman narrating the video uploaded it to Snapchat. A woman who claims to be the student’s sister shared it online Wednesday and identified the narrator. Montgomery Public Schools Senior Communication Officer Tom Salter says the school cannot confirm the narrator’s identity until an investigation into the matter is complete.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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U.S. Rep. Byrne: Appreciation for law enforcement

Each day, law enforcement officers leave the safety of their homes not knowing if they will pass back through their own front doors at the end of the work day. They leave their families behind to ensure the safety of our loved ones at schools, in neighborhoods, and on the roadways. There is never enough we can do to show our appreciation for their work.

These men and women often go far beyond their official job descriptions. Even when they are not wearing the uniform, law enforcement officers play a significant role in our neighborhoods, schools, and churches. They even serve as positive role models for our children.

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I have had the chance to ride along with some of our local law enforcement officers and witness firsthand the challenges they face on the job. Law enforcement officers encounter dangers on the job that do not exist in other professions. It shocked me to realize that even a task as routine as a traffic stop can turn hostile, and in some cases, even deadly.

That is why each year we celebrate National Police Week, which gives us an opportunity to reflect on the hard and dangerous work our nation’s law enforcement officers do daily. Police Week attracts people from across the country to our nation’s capital for memorial services, parades, and vigils in honor of our men and women in blue.

Police Week also serves as a time to pay our respects as a nation to those whose end of watch came too soon. I recognized National Police Week by speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives to honor these brave men and women and remember the life of one of our very own who was killed in the line of duty just four months ago.

Mobile Police Officer Justin Billa paid the ultimate sacrifice after being shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence call on February 20th, 2018. In such a time of immense grief, we saw our community rally together to support the family and friends of fallen Officer Billa. The impact of his death was felt throughout the United States, as officers and first responders from across the country traveled to Mobile to pay their respects.

To remember our fallen heroes and honor all of those in law enforcement, the House of Representatives passed several pro-law enforcement bills last week. The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 toughens federal penalties against people who intentionally target law enforcement officers in attacks, including ambushes.

Additionally, we passed the Justice Served Act of 2018, which provides funds to prosecute cold cases that are solved by breakthrough DNA evidence, including backlogged rape kits. This bill will strengthen our criminal justice system by making sure that newly-tested evidence is used to prosecute unsolved cases, thus ensuring violent criminals are brought to justice.

From legislation to prevent attacks on our officers to providing funding for additional resources, we are working to ensure these dedicated individuals have the tools they need to do their jobs and keep us safe.

Let us not forget that we sleep soundly at night due to the sacrifices our law enforcement officers make out on the streets. We owe these individuals far more than our thanks for the services they provide.

I ask you to join me in showing your appreciation for the law enforcement officers in Southwest Alabama for living a life of service. May we honor them each and every day.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

13 hours ago

Civil asset forfeiture: What GOP candidates for governor think

Civil asset forfeiture is a useful tool, but it needs reform.

That sentiment is unanimous among Republican candidates for governor of Alabama.

Responding to questionnaires sent by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News to all candidates, the candidates spoke in favor of asset forfeiture as a way of combating illicit behavior, with a caveat that the practice has been abused and needs some reform.

The question was: 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?

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“People who commit crimes should not benefit from ill-gotten gains; those funds should go to the use of public safety,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

“However, the abuse of this system must stop,” Battle continued. “We can find middle ground by freezing the assets of those accused of a crime and if they are found ‘not guilty’ their assets should be returned. However, if those accused are convicted then their assets should be forfeited to law enforcement.”

State Sen. Bill Hightower showed favor for the practice and defended it as “not an un-checked process.”

“For instance, the DA must approve such actions by law enforcement and there are reasonable tests in place to determine this,” Hightower said.

Still, Hightower said he would support measures that would require law enforcement to report their seizures and improve transparency, adding he is “not yet ready to eliminate law enforcement’s ability to use this as a tool in their arsenal against crime.”

Gov. Kay Ivey and Scott Dawson also spoke in favor of protecting individual rights, while supporting a reformed process that in Ivey’s words, “… balances individuals’ protection of personal property and the flexibility necessary for law enforcement to hold criminals accountable.”

“I support reform to protect personal property and due process rights of all Alabamians,” Ivey said. “This year, the state legislature took an important step by starting the conversation. It is my hope that we can build upon the foundation that was laid and implement real reform…”

Dawson looks to other states as examples of reform.

“I believe that basic transparency and accountability are prerequisites to considering additional reforms and I’d like to see Alabama following the lead of 37 other states to enact stricter reporting requirements,” Dawson said, “answering questions like: How were the assets seized? What was the assumed violation or crime? Was there a later conviction in the case? How were the assets used by the agency? This data should be published in a timely manner for optimum transparency and accountability.”

During this year’s legislative session, Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Birmingham) sponsored the Forfeiture Database and Reporting Act, which would have created a central repository of data on asset forfeitures, but the bill did not pass.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

14 hours ago

Who gets credit for job growth in Alabama? The voters may decide

Hopefully, the last week and a half of the GOP primary race for governor will be more illuminating than the race up to this point. The candidates hoping to unseat the governor should be directing their energy to job creation and ways to improve the economy.

The two front-runners have an argument for being job creators, but who should get the lion’s share of the credit?

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Governor Kay Ivey, believes she has a good track record:

“In only a year, more than $6 billion have been invested, 13,000 jobs have been created and we have achieved record low unemployment,” she wrote in response to a questionnaire by Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle’s response in the same questionnaire is pretty stunning:

“Over the last 10 years I have created more jobs than all other Alabama counties combined. That’s 63% of all jobs in the state of Alabama. I have created 53% of the jobs in this state announced while Governor Ivey has been in office.”

Why this matters:

Governor Ivey’s term in office started on April 10, 2017. For her to claim the mantle of job creator is a bit silly. Battle’s claim goes back a decade. Not to say her “righting the ship of state” will not pay dividends because stability matters. But Alabama was creating jobs with all the chaos Gov. Bentley, Speaker Mike Hubbard, and Chief Justice/candidate Roy Moore was causing for the state.

Battle’s claim to be a job creator carries more weight.

The details:

— 15,500 new jobs were created in Alabama in 2017.

— Alabama’s unemployment rate is currently at 3.8 percent, so low that Gov. Robert Bentley would be receiving a salary right now had he not been kicked out of office.

— America’s unemployment is down as well; it currently stands at 3.9 percent.

— The mood for job creation is continuing to improve, 67 percent of Americans view the job market for a quality job as “good”, which is the highest percentage since 2001.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN