6 months 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 mins ago

Alabama’s Coach Saban undergoes hip replacement surgery

Alabama coach Nick Saban has undergone hip replacement surgery.

Dr. Lyle Cain said Monday the 67-year-old Saban is expected to make a full recovery and “should be able to return to work in the very new future.”

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Cain says the right hip replacement was “robotic assisted” at Andrews Sports Medicine, with hip specialist Benton Emblom.

Cain says Saban could now have “a few more yards off the tee” in his golf game.

Saban said after Alabama’s spring game that his hip problems would be evaluated and that he could need six to eight weeks of recovery.

He said he wanted to get it fixed “because I don’t want to coach for one more year, I want to coach for a lot of more years.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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35 mins ago

Jefferson County ending misdemeanor marijuana arrests

Alabama’s most populous county will immediately end arrests for misdemeanors including the possession of small amounts of marijuana, officials announced Monday.

Officers will begin issuing tickets for nonviolent misdemeanor offenses rather than taking people to jail, Capt. David Agee, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, told a news conference.

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“People are always talking about criminal justice reform,” he said. “Well this is more than talk, this is action. This is big.'”

People could still wind up in jail if misdemeanor offenses are tied to more serious crimes.

Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway advocated curtailing arrests for small amounts of marijuana during his campaign last year.

The change will save jail space and supplies and allow officers to concentrate on more serious offenses, Agee said.

He also questioned whether young people caught with a small amount of marijuana should have to spend a night in jail.

“I think this is going to help a lot of people and get a lot of people back on track. Those who want help will be able to get help,” he said.

The state attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the change in Jefferson County, which has a population estimated by the Census at 659,300.

The change in Jefferson County came as the Alabama legislature is considering a measure that would reduce the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana meant for personal use.

The bill would make possession of less than 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana punishable by a fine instead of jail time.

An offense would be classified as a violation, a step below a misdemeanor and carry a fine of up to $250.

The measure would also allow for charges to be expunged in some cases.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

7 Things: Marsh out of U.S. Senate race as Tuberville moves up, SSN in big trouble, court battle over Trump’s financials begins and more …

7. “Homophobic” Facebook post leads to suspension of Madison County Sheriff’s deputy

— Madison County Deputy Jeff Graves is being disciplined for a series of comments on Facebook about the suicide of a high school student which include a meme about LGBTQ/BBQ. The more controversial comment on a Huntsville TV station’s Facebook page about a story involving a group of drag queens holding an anti-bullying event reads, “I’m seriously offended there is such a thing such as the movement. Society cannot and should not accept this behavior.” This isn’t a hateful comment. It’s rather milquetoast, but local and national media outlets have jumped on the story calling the comments “homophobic.” The Madison County Sheriff Office has launched an “audit” and stated, “The Sheriff’s Office holds all its employees to [a] high standard.” The office added, “The involved employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the audit.”

6. Surprising poll shows a majority of Alabama voters oppose removing permit requirement to conceal carry

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— Results of a poll show that 87 percent of Alabama voters support requiring a background check to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun, while 71 percent of voters oppose removing the permit requirement. If passed, Senate Bill 4 would allow people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit or a background check. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America released the poll and had 100 volunteers from across the state travel to the Capitol last week to voice their opinion. Judy Taylor, one of the volunteers, said, “As a responsible gun owner, I know that when we remove the permitting system that keeps our communities safe, no one wins.”

5. The U.S. will no longer exempt any countries from sanctions for importing oil from Iran

— On Monday, the Trump administration announced that sanctions waivers that expire on May 2 for China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey won’t be renewed. The White House released a statement that said the intent of this decision is to bring Iran’s oil export to zero. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that they want to remove Iran’s main source of cash. U.S. officials claim not to expect a significant reduction in oil supply since the U.S. and other top oil producers have agreed to take action to assure that global demand is met as Iranian oil is removed from the market.

4. Bus driver who skipped stops fired

— The general manager of Apple Bus, which has a contract with Huntsville City Schools, announced on Monday at a school board meeting that the driver who skipped stops and was accused of refusing to let kids off the bus has been fired. The driver claimed that he skipped stops because the children were misbehaving, and he told the children that he wouldn’t stop unless they behaved. The driver also told the children that he was “taking them home to be disciplined.” The children got off the bus when the driver stopped at a red light, and police were called by witnesses who said the children were crying and scared. The driver’s name has not been released, and he will not be charged with a crime.

3. President Trump sues to block subpoena for his financial records

— On Monday, President Trump’s lawyers filed a lawsuit naming Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Peter Kenny, the chief investigative counsel of House Committee, as its plaintiffs. Cummings has said that he would subpoena the accounting firm Mazars USA LLC for Trump’s annual financial statements, periodic financial reports and independent auditor reports, as well as communications with Trump. Trump’s lawyers have asked the court to declare the subpoena invalid and unenforceable. They also requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prohibit Mazars from providing the requested information. Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano weighed in on the issue saying that Democrats can’t get President Trump’s financial records “because they want to torment him” and went on to say that “Congress will have to state for what purpose they want this.”

2. Social Security won’t be solvent to by 2035 and will be in the red in 2020

— An annual report was released by trustees of the government’s two largest entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare. The report stated that Social Security’s trust funds will be gone by 2035. Retirees will still receive checks, but the program will only have enough funds to pay three-quarters of benefits from 2035-2093. Of course, the trustees urged lawmakers to make sure that Americans will be able to receive their full benefits. Lawmakers have avoided addressing Social Security because fixing the funding issue will likely result in higher payroll taxes, curtailing benefits or a combination of both. It’s also expected that Social Security’s cost will be higher than its income in 2020.

1. Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh says he is out of the U.S. Senate race — new poll has Tommy Tuberville in the lead

— In a move that surprises those watching the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, Marsh announced he is out, telling The Anniston Star “I’m not running, and I’ve not made any plans to run. This comes on the heels of a poll showing Marsh polling around 4 percent and trailing announced candidate Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), unannounced candidates, including two other congressmen, and Judge Roy Moore. Another poll included Tommy Tuberville that featured the former Auburn head coach leading with 23 percent of those polling choosing him. With Marsh and Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) out, this race could be far less crowded than most people expected it to be.

 

 

3 hours ago

Ad challenges Doug Jones on assertion that Boston Marathon Bomber should be allowed to vote while in jail

Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) partisan pledge to back whomever the Democrats nominate against President Donald Trump in 2020 is already manifesting itself as a major political – and policy – blunder by the incumbent from Mountain Brook as Jones seeks re-election of his own.

Hours after the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) erected an Alabama billboard tying Jones to far-left “socialist” healthcare plans, a new video ad was released challenging Jones to answer whether he agrees with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), two leading contenders for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination, when they said during a CNN town hall Monday evening that the Boston Marathon Bomber and all other U.S. citizens currently serving domestic prison sentences should be allowed to vote.

Watch:

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This is not the only radical policy issue that Jones has tacitly promised to support with his blanket presidential pledge, nor could it be the last.

Expect to see Republicans continue to tie Jones to national Democratic ideas that the clear majority of Alabamians disagree with. In 2016, Trump beat Hillary Clinton 62.9 percent to 34.6 percent, which was a difference of almost 600,000 votes.

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

4 hours ago

Major bills to get committee hearings on Tuesday

MONTGOMERY — Tuesday is expected to be an interesting day in the Alabama legislature, as respective bills dealing with the lottery and constitutional carry are set to receive committee consideration.

State Sen. Greg Albritton’s (R-Range) lottery bill – SB 220 – and State Sen. Gerald Allen’s (R-Tuscaloosa) bill eliminating firearm permit requirements – SB 4 – are on the Senate Tourism Committee’s meeting agenda for 2:00 p.m. You can listen live here.

Additionally, State Sen. Cam Ward’s (R-Alabaster) open records reform bill, SB 237, is on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee’s meeting agenda for 1:00 p.m. Listen live to that here.

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Both meetings are in room 825 of the State House.

SB 220 and SB 4 have each received a public hearing in recent weeks.

SB 4’s public hearing was in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 220 is the only clean lottery legislation that has been filed this session.

SB 237 is known as the “Alabama Open Records Act.” State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) is carrying the bill in the House.

The House will gavel in at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, while the Senate will begin its legislative day at 3:00 p.m.

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