2 years ago

Marsh predicts lottery, infrastructure addressed next session; Rejects Medicaid expansion — Also ‘looking at’ 2020 U.S. Senate run

In an appearance Friday on Mobile’s FM Talk 106.5’s “Midday Mobile,” Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) discussed some of the issues of the day, including Tuesday’s election, next year’s legislative session and what his plans could be looking ahead.

Marsh told FM Talk 106.5 he expected the statehouse to remain about the same as it is now, a GOP supermajority. He said there were two competitive races to watch: Alabama’s Senate District 6 race between incumbent Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) and his Democratic challenger Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay), and the State Senate District 10 race between Rep. Craig Ford (I-Gadsden) and Cherokee County Republican Andrew Jones, who are both running to be Sen. Phil Williams’s (R-Rainbow City) replacement.

“I think you’re going to see the Republicans hold a supermajority in the Alabama legislature – both the Senate and the House,” Marsh said. “I think the Senate will end up somewhere between 24 and 27 [seats], the House about the same as it was the last quadrennium – both being supermajorities. I just don’t see this blue wave.”

“I may be fooled like everybody else, but we’ve only got two Senate races that we’re watching really close – that the Larry Stutts race up in North Alabama and Andrew Jones running against Craig Ford, who is running as an independent in Etowah [County]. Those are the two that are closest based on our polling,” he continued.

Marsh added they were watching everything else, including Sen. Tom Whatley’s (R-Auburn) race, who he credited for getting out and campaigning in his district to keep it in Republican hands.

He also credited federal issues, particularly Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation and a late-election cycle immigration threat, and the efforts of Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) and his campaign. Rogers’ congressional district includes Whatley’s State Senate district and Marsh’s as well.

“I think our base based on that should be fired up,” he added. “But again, you got them fired up on the other side for the same two reasons. The question is who is fired up more.”

With record lottery jackpots making headlines and Democratic candidates running on establishing a lottery, a lottery in Alabama has been an issue at the fore. Marsh predicted there was an “appetite” in the legislature to allow for a public vote on a lottery.

“That’s an odd situation,” he said. “Any polling we’ve done on the lottery in the last four or five years, even among Republicans, 65 percent are fine as long as they get a vote. They’re fine with it on the ballot. For some reason, a lot of our members have been real weak-kneed about bringing lottery legislation.”

He credited the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding sports gambling and Mississippi’s decision to establish a lottery for creating a political environment that makes it likely for a lottery bill to be introduced.

“I do believe that there’s an appetite more than ever to deal with a lottery bill,” Marsh added.

In an interview a day earlier, Marsh’s counterpart in the Alabama House, Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), suggested the possibility of a gas tax hike in 2019 as a means to finance any efforts to address Alabama’s infrastructure woes.

Marsh indicated infrastructure was on his radar and said the state needed to “be in a position” to receive federal money, which may require the state to raise a certain percentage to be eligible for that money.

“We want to be in a position if the feds pass an infrastructure bill – as you know, any time you want to take advantage of that, you have to be able to match it with state dollars,” he said. “We want to be in a position to do that. We want to make sure as we look into the future that our port’s, because we consider the port’s infrastructure – the reality is if we deepen the port down in Mobile, we could double the freight coming in and out of the port.”

He estimated there were 400 bridges in need of replacement and repair and said for Alabama to remain competitive that infrastructure would have to be addressed.

“The last time a tax was put in on infrastructure in Alabama was in 1992, 26 years ago,” Marsh explained. “The problem – it wasn’t a percentage. If it were a percentage, it would have moved with the price of fuel. We’d have seen more revenue for the state over the last 26 years. But it was a flat-number and what compounds that problem is there has been no growth because most people are driving cars today that get a third-more or more miles per gallon. They’ve basically been driving more miles on the road with the same amount of tax revenue paid in.”

“It’s a dilemma we got to ask ourselves – I think there is an appetite to look at it, where it goes, I don’t know,” he added. “There will be a serious discussion. It will have to start in the House. I’m going to continue to talk to the Speaker. I’m going to give him the information I’ve gathered over the summer based on the meetings we’ve had and see if we want to address this issue and look at a long-term infrastructure plan for the state.”

Last month, Marsh predicted a record education budget next session and stuck to that declaration in the interview.

“We should have a record budget on education,” Marsh said. “At the same time, we’ve also been working on a comprehensive plan for education for the state of Alabama.”

The Anniston Republican said his goal was to have a “seamless pre-K all the way to higher education plan.”

“It may take some legislation requirements once we get back in session,” he said. “We’re not sure. But we plan on having something ready to go in place by the time we come back in March because the education issue effects so much.”

Marsh tied the education issue to the struggles of Alabama’s prison system and health care system. He noted that 60 percent of Alabama’s prisoners don’t have a high school education and that obesity can also result from poor education on health issues.

Recently, the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA), legislation shepherded by Marsh earlier this decade has been under fire from local school boards, including Baldwin County’s School Board and the Montgomery County Public School Board.

The AAA gives parents the option of transferring students from schools deemed “failing” by the state. Marsh defended the law, noting the lack of accountability for public schools and argued competition was the missing component.

“There may be a run at that, but I’m fully supportive of the Accountability Act,” he said. “Of course, that was my bill some years ago. The reality is this: We have failing systems in Alabama. Our math scores are 49th in the country. Our reading scores are 46th, and that’s at an eighth-grade level. You can’t accept that.”

“We’ve got some great educators out there,” Marsh continued. “We got some great schools. We’ve got a lot of areas we got problems, and we can’t just ignore that. There’s no accountability system in education. They’ve got no competition. And the Accountability Act really basically puts some competition out there.”

Marsh blamed the Alabama Education Association (AEA) teachers’ union for this sudden push to eliminate the AAA.

“It’s the union – it’s the AEA union that is fighting this because they want no competition,” he said. “They do not want to be held accountable.”

On health care, Marsh dismissed the possibility of expanding Medicaid, which has been one of the key planks of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Walt Maddox.

“I can tell you – we have got a Republican-controlled legislature and they have no appetite to expand Medicaid. Medicaid already gets the bulk of the budget that we have discretion over. We’re trying to control costs. We’re doing a pretty good job with that. We’re going to continue to try to control those costs, and until we get those costs under control, we are not going to expand it.”

In national politics, Marsh said he expected the U.S. Senate to remain under GOP control and perhaps even gain some seats. On the House side of Capitol Hill, he said he anticipated the GOP to lose seats, but was not convinced the GOP would lose control.

“I think it’ll be close and I think if that happens, it’ll be a huge win for President Trump if he just holds the House,” Marsh said. “We’ll move forward. We’ll see how it goes. But I’m not buying into this blue wave. That’s my opinion.”

Marsh has been mentioned among the possible Republican challengers for Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), who is up for reelection in 2020. Marsh acknowledged to FM Talk 106.5 he was looking at that possibility when asked.

“It’s obvious I’m looking at that,” he replied. “I want someone to take that seat back as a Republican. I think Jones is a one-termer and somebody has got to challenge. And so, we’ll see. Right now, I’m focused on winning my race on Tuesday. But I’m going to leave an option to look at that when the time comes.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

5 hours ago

Sen. Doug Jones misleads on Trump administration’s coronavirus response

It should come as no surprise that the media and their Democrats are blaming President Donald Trump and his administration for the COVID-19 virus.

Call it predictable, call it politics, call it sad, but at the end of the day, call it wrong.

When U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) took part in what should have been a non-partisan conference call with the Alabama Department of Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, he took the time to call out the Trump administration for its lack of action early on in the pandemic.

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After blaming the actual people responsible for this pandemic, China and the World Health Organization, Jones said, “I’ve been disappointed in the administration and their early responses.” He added the president and his team had a “cavalier attitudes.”

Too bad he’s wrong.

And truthfully, it’s not even an original thought as former comedienne Sarah Silverman beat him to it by two days.

In response to Silverman, the Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra took her apart with a timeline that tells a different story.

January 3: Tried to get CDC into China (numerous attempts made/China never allowed)
January 6: Began issuing travel notices (issued multiple)
January 7: Created issue management system
Janurary 17: Began screenings at airports
January 20: Announces work on development of a vaccine
January 21: Activated its emergency operations center to provide ongoing support to the coronavirus response
January 23: Sought a “special emergency authorization” from FDA to allow states to use its newly developed coronavirus test
January 23: China finally quarantines Wuhan, had lied to the world for weeks about what was going on and how contagious the virus was and deadly
January 29: Creates Coronavirus Task Force
January 31: Bans travel from China / Declares public health emergency / suspends entry from foreigners who pose risk of transmitting coronavirus
February 2: CDC expands screenings at airports
February 5: Briefs lawmakers about pandemic
February 6: CDC ships tests
February 9: Briefs governors about pandemic
February 11: Expands efforts with private sector to expedite vaccine
February 14: Partners with local labs to conduct influenza surveillance to see if alarms are going off
February 24: Writes Congress asking for billions to combat coronavirus
February 29: Bans travel from South Korea / Iran
March 3: Donates entire quarter’s salary to fighting coronavirus
March 4: Announces massive buy in N95 masks (which Obama-Biden admin depleted and never replaced
March 6: Signs $8.3 billion to combat coronavirus
March 11: Bans travel from Europe/made numerous moves to lower interest rates

March 13: Declares national emergency, freeing up $42 billion.

Over 100,000 Americans are dead, but Jones has to play politics because his job depends on it.

I don’t blame Jones. He’s mostly echoing the talking points of his party, their true leaders like Silverman, and rightly expecting very little actual push-back.

His only hope of hanging on to his job is pleasing the people who fund his campaign and hoping they will keep dumping their money into his account from New York, California and Washington, D.C. He can only do that by blasting Trump, whether he needs it or not.

But President Trump listened to his health officials and our current trajectory is far below the early projections of 2.2 million dead. This is a success.

Monday morning quarterbacking might make Jones and his handlers feel better, but if he is going to do it, he needs to be accurate.

On this front, he fails miserably. And he looks like another politician who doesn’t know what he is talking about.

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

6 hours ago

UAH Hockey saved after supporters successfully raise over $750K in less than five days

Just one week after the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced that its men’s hockey team would be discontinued, UAH on Friday confirmed the program has been saved by supporters.

The university last Friday had listed financial shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for cutting the popular program.

Following that announcement, a GoFundMe was launched on Monday evening in an effort to raise $500,000 by close-of-business on Friday. That ambitious goal was reached shortly after noon on Friday, with hours to spare.

As of 2:30 p.m. CT, the GoFundMe had garnered a total of $516,585 from more than 2,200 donors. Additionally, a t-shirt fundraising page had raised an additional $29,792.

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In addition to these crowdfunded donations, UAH in a statement advised that two long time hockey supporters, Taso Sofikitis and Sheldon Wolitski, have each gifted $125,000 to support the program.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, UAH Athletic Director Cade Smith confirmed that these funds, combined with the crowdsourced funds, will enable the program to continue for the duration of the 2020-2021 season. The total amount of almost $800,000 in private dollars is the largest athletic campaign contribution in the history of UAH.

In addition to the private funds, UAH President Darren Dawson has committed dollars from the university to cover the balance of the hockey team’s operations during the upcoming season. The program will continue to compete in Division I.

Moving forward, supporters of the program will still need to secure long-term funding and competitive stability.

“We are thankful and gratified from the loyal support that has been demonstrated this week by the fans and alumni of Charger hockey,” stated Dawson. “We are hopeful that this support will translate into a sustainable funding model that will allow the UAH hockey program to rise again to high levels of success.”

Smith said, “The university is fully committed to the upcoming season. The university will work with the supporters of the UAH hockey program and a newly formed Hockey Advisory Board to develop a plan that will allow the Chargers to thrive in 2021-2022 season and beyond.”

One key obstacle moving forward besides funding will be UAH Hockey finding a new conference, as their current conference is disbanding following this upcoming season.

Smith stressed that “UAH is committed to building a world-class D1 hockey program with a permanent conference home that will allow the Chargers to continue past the 2020-2021 season.”

To continue beyond the current season, UAH said that the Chargers must develop a five-year philanthropic funding model and resolve the associated conference-related issues.

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

7 hours ago

Alabama Lt. Governor Ainsworth comments on death of George Floyd

The death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police Department custody on Monday evening has sparked bipartisan national outrage, including in the Yellowhammer State.

The situation on-the-ground in Minneapolis has gradually deteriorated since video footage of Floyd’s death surfaced. Four officers have been fired, however no one had — as of Friday morning — been charged. What began as peaceful protests demanding justice for Floyd have escalated into heavily publicized rioting, looting and arson.

President Donald J. Trump on Friday tweeted that the Minnesota National Guard has arrived in the city to get a hold of the situation.

This came shortly after Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) in a social media post warned, “Chaos rules without law and order.”

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“The death of George Floyd In Minneapolis was inexcusable and angers me greatly, but we must remember that all but a few officers are dedicated servants who risk their lives daily,” Ainsworth said. “My thanks to those who serve in law enforcement. Your brave service is appreciated. Chaos rules without law and order.”

Earlier in the week, Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge shared a photo of the since-fired officer who was video taped kneeling on Floyd’s neck, with Partridge saying, “This is not a police officer. This is not American law enforcement. This is someone who has no integrity, honor, emotion, or respect.”

Partridge currently serves as president of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police.

“These four people have stained every professional law enforcement officer who swore an oath to protect and defend the communities they serve,” he continued, referring to the former Minneapolis PD officers.

“It is up to every officer, supervisor, and administrator to stand against this type of abuse of power. Each of these four officers will be prosecuted, as they should,” Partridge advised.

“As a police officer, I do not see color; I see human beings with thoughts, feelings and I will be the first to stand and say enough is enough to this type of rogue behavior by anyone,” he added. “To see this type of brutality makes me sick and disgusted. But, I know justice will prevail in this case. We just need to allow the system to work.”

Partridge remarked, “While Americans have the right to peacefully assemble and protest, they do not have the right to riot, loot and destroy innocent people’s property.”

“Please know that 99.9% of American law enforcement officers do the job flawlessly every day and risk their lives doing so. We work extremely hard to make inroads into the community and build strong relationships,” the Alabama police chief concluded.

UPDATE:

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis PD officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck, has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, media outlets reported Friday afternoon.

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

8 hours ago

Alabama’s OWA to reopen amusement park on June 5

OWA this week announced that it will officially reopen its popular amusement park on Friday, June 5, at 11:00 a.m. CT, incorporating enhanced health and safety measures that were developed based on guidance from the CDC and health officials.

The heightened health and safety measures are being implemented for guests and team members to ensure the well-being of everyone visiting OWA, which is located in Foley, Alabama.

The new policies, which can be found here, will include health screenings for guests before entering The Park at OWA, installation of additional hand sanitizing stations throughout the resort, enhanced cleaning and sanitization practices, and added signage to encourage social distancing.

“Our entire team has worked tirelessly the past few months to get The Park ready for guests. We are excited to see guests enjoying the rides and share special family moments once again,” stated Kristin Hellmich, OWA’s director of marketing/PR.

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“We have always taken great pride in our Parks’ safety and cleanliness,” she continued. “The upcoming Park reopening will be no exception as we continue to implement recommended health and safety practices to ensure our guests have a great experience.”

Additional steps are being implemented to accommodate social distancing, such as limiting the number of guests allowed in the amusement park at one time. Riders will continue to purchase an attractions wristband to enjoy a day filled with unlimited access to amusement park rides. Guests wishing not to partake in any attractions can purchase a $5.00 Non-Rider Pass, which allows guests to enjoy strolling The Park and watching loved ones without having to purchase a full-priced ticket.

Downtown OWA businesses began reopening in April consistent with state health orders and continue to welcome guests using recommended health and safety standards.

Restaurants now open at OWA include Groovy Goat, Crazy Donuts, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant, Trattoria Pizza & Italian, Hershey’s Ice Cream Parlor, C’est Le Vin Wine Bar & Shop, Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon.

Retailers currently open include Fairhope Soap Company, Parker & Co. (a women’s boutique), Alvin’s Island, The Spice & Tea Exchange and Body Tune Plus.

Brandon Styles Live is currently welcoming guests to both his Magic and Variety shows six days a week. Clash eSports Center, OWA’s state-of-the-art video gaming venue, and Sweet Tooth at OWA are set to open on June 5 in conjunction with the amusement park.

The Park will be open seven days a week during the summer season. Learn more at OWA’s website here.

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

9 hours ago

Auburn offering on-campus instruction beginning with second summer mini-term

Auburn University on Friday announced plans for its second summer mini-term that include a variety of instructional delivery methods, including on-campus instruction.

In March, the university announced its decision to suspend on-campus instruction for the full 10-week summer session and the first of two summer five-week mini-terms following guidance from public health officials due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision announced Friday comes following months of careful preparation, with the recently amended State Health Order allowing for increased access to educational institutions beginning June 1.

Beginning June 29, Auburn plans to offer multiple course sections during the second summer five-week mini-term through a variety of instructional delivery methods. Consistent with the updated order, the university’s options incorporate important measures designed to protect students, faculty, staff and the broader campus community.

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“Following the Governor’s guidelines, Auburn is preparing to start re-opening our campus to students slowly,” stated Auburn University Provost Bill Hardgrave.

“While the pandemic has not affected our ability to offer quality instruction, it did restrict our options for delivering instruction,” he continued. “With the new guidance from the state, we can utilize instructional delivery modalities that will enable our campus to implement important protocols as we prepare for the broader re-entry of students this fall.”

In addition to the face-to-face and online options Auburn traditionally offers, the university will also offer blended and Hyflex courses. With blended courses, students utilize both face-to- face instruction and remote learning. Hyflex courses provide a structure that gives students the flexibility of attending sessions in the classroom, participating online or doing both through synchronous delivery. As the university prepares to implement physical distancing guidelines across campus, both blended and Hyflex options will reportedly enable students to experience some face-to-face instruction while remaining flexible to accommodate the institution’s safety protocols.

Auburn advised that more than 3,000 students are currently registered for courses in the second summer mini-term, with almost 150 faculty slated to teach. By working with their colleges and schools, faculty can select which of the four modalities best align with the learning outcomes for their courses to deliver instruction. The type of delivery method will be published so students can make informed choices when building their course schedule.

Opening academic buildings and offering face-to-face instruction during the latter part of the summer will allow the university to begin implementing several new protocols developed for students preparing to return in the fall.

Among these, the university will employ a mobile COVID-19 health check for all students and faculty, and appropriate social distancing will be followed in classrooms.

Following the university’s transition to remote teaching this spring, all faculty going forward are being asked to create a “syllabus B” in the event of a resurgence of the coronavirus that requires the institution to once again transition to full remote instruction.

“The second summer mini-term will allow us to glean important information for the fall,” Hardgrave concluded. “The current plan is to implement some key elements for summer that we see as necessary for fall and prepare to welcome our students, faculty and staff back to learning environments that support the well-being of our campus.”

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