2 months ago

Marshall focused on ensuring public safety, defending state law in first full term

MONTGOMERY — Now that Attorney General Steve Marshall has begun a full term of his own, his personal vision and policy priorities are more distinctly evident in driving the office’s work.

At the Montgomery Rotary Club’s weekly luncheon Monday, Marshall explained that since winning election in November, he finally had the chance to implement a long-term, big-picture plan for the attorney general’s office instead of being more “reactionary,” as he had to be after his 2017 appointment to serve the remainder of former Attorney General Luther Strange’s term. Just a few months into a four-year term now, Marshall and his team are already hard at work executing this plan and making his vision come to fruition.

“I’m a prosecutor — it’s how I’m wired,” Marshall explained. “And there really is no greater honor than to be the attorney general [given what I am passionate about].”

He summarized how he sees the role of attorney general into two relatively broad concepts: ensuring public safety and enforcing the constitutionally-enacted laws of the state.

“My job is to make sure we keep our people safe,” Marshall said, adding this was “one of the fundamental aspects of what we believe in this country.”

The second concept pertains to fulfilling his role in our democratic republic. Legislators enact laws, the executive branch (chiefly through the attorney general’s office) enforces these laws and the courts play their role by interpreting laws when settling challenges or disputes.

“My role is to defend the law of the state,” Marshall emphasized.

He then shared some of the ways his office has recently “embraced” these core duties.

‘I’m an unabashed fan of Jeff Sessions’

First, speaking on public safety, Marshall reflected on the state’s violent crime initiative that he announced last year, which led him to add, “I don’t mind telling you, I’m an unabashed fan of Jeff Sessions. To the extent I have a disagreement with the president, it’s probably chief among them.”

“One of the things Jeff Sessions did was to refocus this country on the issue of violent crime,” Marshall advised.

He reiterated a point that Sessions has also made in speeches over the last six months, including a few in Alabama — violent crime in the United States had dropped steadily starting with the Reagan Administration in the 1980’s, but sharply started to tick up again after President Barack Obama took office.

However, this trend was reversed under Session’s tenure as United States attorney general, with the violent crime rate in America dropping significantly.

“General Sessions really released our federal partners to be working with us,” Marshall outlined. “Particularly ATF, DEA and FBI. [He] told our U.S. attorney offices to start working gun cases again, because that had not been going on during periods of the Obama Administration. And for us to be able to bring people together at the state and local level to be able to work with [federal partners] collectively… Montgomery is one of those places in which we’ve seen successes from this initiative… violent crime was reduced by over 16 percent. And that matters.”

He continued, “Sometimes when we talk about those percentages, we get sort of locked into numbers. Well, y’all, that’s people. That’s lives. And that’s families that are safer today as a result of much of the work that we’re doing.”

Marshall explained that a large part of the recent violent crime focus in Alabama has been on areas in the Black Belt, especially Selma.

“People in this room who may say, ‘Why does this matter to us here?’ Well it matters because what we’re doing is tracing many of the guns that are showing up in Montgomery violent crime cases to Dallas County. We see people that are moving from Dallas County up this way to be able to commit many of their crimes. So, our efforts to be multi-jurisdictional, bringing people from throughout this region and area together, makes an impact throughout many, many communities,” Marshall said.

The attorney general said over 300 people have been incarcerated due to the state’s violent crime efforts in the last year.

Marshall, after more praise for Sessions, then transitioned into talking about digital forensics analysis. This is an area that he has emphasized as a critical focus moving forward, as there are not enough trained analysts in this field, which is one that continues to grow in importance and prevalence as technology advances. This is another field where federal, state and local collaboration is key when it comes to the sharing of resources.

Some priorities this legislative session

When it comes to the 2019 regular session of the Alabama legislature, which reconvenes Tuesday, Marshall mentioned the “right to life” as a matter of both faith and policy he was focused on and would be advocating for.

“[W]e saw our young ladies were showing up to abortion clinics, who were otherwise the victims of a crime that we know as rape second [statutory rape], but law enforcement never knew anything about it,” Marshall advised. “And I’m going to stop that.”

He said the attorney general’s office will be offering legislation to address this issue, which Marshall stressed is tied to human trafficking in many instances.

“It’s an issue of which I’m very passionate about,” he explained.

Marshall also circled overhauling the Board of Pardons and Paroles as a primary concern of his that he would be asking the legislature to address. This is something he has been working with Governor Kay Ivey on, after the board last year was discovered to have been letting violent offenders free too early and too often.

“We saw some things that were simply unacceptable,” Marshall said. “When somebody is doing a life sentence for murder, they’re not supposed to come up for parole after five years. Especially when people like me have sat down with victims’ families to say, ‘Nobody’s going to show up on offenses like that until the expiration of 15 years or 85 percent of their sentence.’ But, yet suddenly they’re getting a notice from the parole board – they’ve been convicted and sentenced for murder for life –  and showing up after five years.”

“I don’t think you believe that’s acceptable,” he told the crowd. “I don’t think you see that as something that enhances public safety.”

“[O]ne of the things that you’ll see coming from us this legislative session would be ways to make sure that never happens again,” the attorney general said. “Because, although I believe there are appropriate paroles that take place, I believe there is a role for pardons in our system, it needs to be done responsibly.”

He added that if the members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles believe it is their responsibility to address prison overcrowding, “they are greatly misunderstanding their role on that body.”

“They are a public safety body,” Marshall advised. “They need to be making decisions that are appropriate for community safety, and then making those for valid reasons.”

Opioids, mental health

Answering questions from the crowd after his remarks, Marshall identified the opioid crisis and mental health care as two key areas that are not only intertwined with themselves and public safety, but with crime, too.

After touching on his personal experience with the issues, he explained that life expectancy in America has gone down the last three years largely due to the suicide and overdose rates.

“We’re the greatest country in the world, with the best access to healthcare, and yet our life expectancy has gone down,” Marshall lamented.

He said when he became attorney general, the state had no strategic plan on dealing with opioids. He made that a priority from the start, formed a task force with the blessing of Ivey, presented her a plan in December 2017 and is now executing that plan through his office and various partnerships.

The plan “has been recognized nationally as one of the most comprehensive” plans out there, Marshall said. And, most importantly, the plan does not just exist, but it is being diligently worked.

“We’re making progress… and I’m encouraged by where we are,” Marshall concluded.

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

9 hours ago

GoFundMe raising money for fallen Auburn PD officer William Buechner

A GoFundMe has been established in memory of Auburn Police Department Officer William Buechner, who was shot and killed in the line of duty late Sunday night.

A representative of the fundraising platform has confirmed its authenticity to Yellowhammer News. The GoFundMe will establish a memorial fund to assist Buechner’s family.

While the initial goal was set at $10,000, the campaign has already blown through that benchmark in less than 24 hours, raising over $20,500 as of 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Buechner leaves behind a wife (Sara) and two children, including a one-year-old daughter.

In addition to raising funds, prayers are also being requested for the family.

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday ordered flags in Alabama to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Saturday to honor Buechner.

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

10 hours ago

Randall Woodfin: Alabama abortion ban could end two tech companies bids to locate in Birmingham

Since passage and being signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey, the fallout from the new abortion ban has been harsh for many in Alabama.

Opponents of the law warned passage would not only impact Alabama’s reputation, but it could also threaten economic development opportunities for Alabama.

On Tuesday, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin claimed that in fact was the case.

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Birmingham FOX affiliate WBRC reported that the abortion ban could be the reason two tech firms could take a pass on locating in Birmingham.

Woodfin did not disclose the name of the firms.

Yellowhammer News reached out to the Birmingham mayor’s office and the Birmingham Business Alliance, which functions as the metropolitan area’s chamber of commerce, about the merits of the report and is still awaiting a response.

@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.

11 hours ago

‘Party of no?’ Democrats block lottery bill in Alabama House, end best chance of Medicaid expansion

MONTGOMERY — SB 220, State Sen. Greg Albritton’s (R-Atmore) clean paper-only lottery bill, failed on a procedural vote in the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday, essentially killing the bill.

Democrats joined with hardline conservatives to stop the bill from even getting fully debated on the floor in a 53-36 vote, with one abstention. Fifty-four affirmative votes were needed (60% of those voting) on the procedural motion, meaning the lottery failed by a single vote.

Political observers were quick to note that Democrats have been pushing a lottery for the past two decades, campaigning on the right of the people of Alabama to vote via referendum on the issue. However, on Tuesday, Democrats stood in the way of that becoming reality.

The bill had been passed by the Senate but seems to be dead in the House. Observers believe this was the best chance a lottery had of getting to a referendum this quadrennium and for the foreseeable future.

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State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) carried the bill in the House. He presented a substitute during a committee meeting last week that changed the revenue distribution in the bill so that 75% of funds would flow to the state general fund, while 25% would go to the Education Trust Fund. The committee adopted the substitute unanimously during that previous meeting. On advancing the bill itself, the only two “nay” votes in committee were Democrats.

The bill passed beforehand by the Senate did not allow for any revenue to benefit education.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has said that lottery money benefitting the general fund would protect the education fund.

The general fund has obligations that are expected to grow significantly in coming years, including Medicaid and the corrections system.

Despite the fact that the House Minority Caucus, i.e. the House Democrats, have said Medicaid expansion is their number one priority, killing the lottery bill on Tuesday ended their best chance of achieving that goal.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) had a conversation with Marsh recently in which Marsh told Daniels Medicaid expansion was not possible right now because of a lack of general fund revenue to fund the expansion. However, Marsh added to Daniels that lottery revenues bolstering the general fund could make Medicaid expansion a realistic option.

On Tuesday, Democrats complained that SB 220 would not raise the maximum amount of money possible because it did not expand other forms of gaming, like slot machines, or legalize existing electronic bingo operations in places like Greene County or Macon County.

Clouse expressed that his bill would raise more revenue than the alternative, which of course is not having a lottery at all. SB 220 was projected to generate $167 million in revenue for the state annually once the lottery got fully operational.

Procedurally, SB 220 could be brought back up by the House if Democrats stop blocking the lottery legislation.

Update 4:50 p.m.:

Proponents of the lottery in the House will likely attempt the procedural motion again on Tuesday night. Only one attempt at reconsideration is allowed by the chamber’s rules.

It is important to note that 63 votes would be needed for final passage, even if the 60% of those voting threshold is met on the procedural vote.

Update 8:15 p.m.:

Clouse told reporters the lottery will not come back up on Tuesday.

State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) told Yellowhammer News that she intends to bring an amendment to the lottery legislation to make the revenue be split equally between education and the General Fund.

Daniels told Yellowhammer News that giving more of the revenue to the Education Trust Fund would not win over his party’s votes, saying their opposition is “much broader than that.”

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

11 hours ago

‘Real and painful consequences’: Ala. Secretary of Commerce, Toyota head ‘profoundly disappointed’ by Trump trade action

President Donald Trump has now concurred with a Department of Commerce Section 232 report that deemed imports of automobiles and automobile parts as a “national security threat,” with the president’s determination seriously worrying Alabama’s automobile manufacturing industry and economic development leaders.

The Department of Commerce report, delivered to Trump on February 17, concluded that imports of automobiles and certain automobile parts threaten to impair the national security of the United States. On Friday, Trump announced that he has completed his review of the report and agrees with its conclusion.

The president has ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to open a negotiation process with affected countries like Japan and, if agreements are not reached within 180 days, tariffs could be instituted on auto and auto parts imports from those countries.

Focusing on Japanese automobile manufacturers alone, Alabama is home to a Honda manufacturing facility in Lincoln, and the under-construction Mazda-Toyota joint venture in Huntsville features two Japanese auto giants.

In a statement on Tuesday, Akio Toyoda, who is president of Toyota and chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) emphasized that he “is profoundly disappointed by President Trump’s announcement.”

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Speaking on behalf of JAMA, Toyoda said, “We are dismayed to hear a message suggesting that our long-time contributions of investment and employment in the United States are not welcomed. As Chairman, I am deeply saddened by this decision.”

“For JAMA member companies, providing the best possible vehicle options for our customers is our top priority. We now have 24 manufacturing plants, 45 research-and-development/design centers, and 39 distribution centers in 28 states, and have cumulatively invested approximately $51 billion in manufacturing facilities alone,” he outlined. “It is also important to remember that, even during the Great Recession, JAMA member companies made great efforts to maintain employment, and currently we provide more than 93,000 direct American jobs. According to a new study, a total of over 1.6 million jobs (including intermediate and spin-off jobs) in the U.S. are supported by Japanese automakers. These numbers speak for themselves about JAMA member companies’ long history of local contributions and commitment as U.S. corporate citizens, and we are certain that neither imported vehicles and parts nor our American operations ‘threaten to impair’ the U.S. national security.”

Toyoda also warned that potential moves like tariffs down the line from the United States could have major consequences for places with large auto industries like Alabama.

“Any trade restrictive measures would deliver a serious blow to the U.S. auto industry and economy, as it would not only disadvantage U.S. consumers, but also adversely affect the global competitiveness of U.S.-produced vehicles and suppress company investments in the U.S,” Toyoda advised.

He continued, “We believe that free and fair trade as well as a competitive business environment based on international rules support the global competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry, leading to consumer benefits and sustained growth of the U.S. economy.”

“JAMA member companies strongly hope that President Trump understands our desire to further contribute to the U.S. economy and employment and that the dialogue between the governments of Japan and the U.S. leads to an outcome that supports the development of the auto industries and economies of both nations,” Toyoda concluded.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said “the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Section 232 findings… set the stage for tariffs that threaten to seriously disrupt the operations of” the state’s auto manufacturing operations “and put Alabama jobs on the line.”

Canfield explained, “Automakers based in Europe and Japan have made profound contributions to Alabama’s economy through significant investment and job creation that has enriched families and communities. Mercedes-Benz opened a manufacturing facility in Alabama 22 years ago; today, that complex has seen nearly $6 billion in investment and is home to thousands of jobs. Between them, Honda and Toyota have invested well over $3 billion in their Alabama manufacturing operations and employ more than 5,000 people in Alabama. Toyota and Mazda are currently investing another $1.6 billion to open an auto assembly plant in Alabama with 4,000 new jobs. Auto suppliers for these automakers have also invested heavily in operations in Alabama — and they continue to do so.”

“Over the years, Alabama has formed strong partnerships with these automotive companies,” he added. “We’ve also made many lasting friendships with industry leaders, including Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., who personally came to Alabama’s capital to announce the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA assembly plant in 2018, and the top leadership at Honda and Mercedes.”

“We regret to see these relationships imperiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Section 232 findings that set the stage for tariffs that threaten to seriously disrupt the operations of these Alabama manufacturing operations and put Alabama jobs on the line. We will continue to work to help the Trump administration understand that these proposed tariffs will have real and painful consequences for many hard-working Alabamians and companies that have established roots in our state,” Canfield concluded.

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

12 hours ago

Conservatives and liberals should agree — it’s time to #DefundAPTV

There is a public relations crisis gripping Alabama and it must be addressed by the Alabama legislature.

The risk is so real that tourism could plummet, businesses could flee the state and educated young people could choose to move out of their home state for a more welcoming state.

A gay rat is marrying a gay aardvark and they have invited the gay rat’s third-grade students to the wedding and Alabama Public Television  (APTV) refused to carry it.

Seriously.

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Let’s ignore how unlikely it is that a teacher would invite his students to his wedding, let’s ignore that the main character wears glasses but not on his ears and let’s ignore that this is somehow an aardvark.

(Arthur/Facebook)

Let’s ignore all of that and focus on the real issues here. Should the state of Alabama be using taxpayer dollars to fund any of this?

“Arthur” already has a controversial past in Alabama. In 2005, APTV blocked another showing of the show because there was a character with two gay moms.

A Google search says, “Arthur often deals with important issues families face such as asthma, dyslexia, cancer, diabetes, and autism spectrum disorder.”

Super-edgy stuff.

But the real problem is this kind of censorship should lead to liberals demanding that the entire entity of Alabama Public Television be disbanding for refusing to show the kind of diversity they demand out of all forms of entertainment, including Marvel’s cinematic universe.

Conservatives should be demanding that we eliminate APTV altogether because there are plenty of other outlets doing the same kind of programming and there is no need for state resources to be propping up this kind of programming.

This programming is not cheap.

These resources can go somewhere else instead of fueling the culture wars that are ripping our state apart and giving us a black eye nationally.

So…

If you are a liberal, contact your legislators and demand they #DefundAPTV for daring to erase this beautiful and brave cartoon rat and aardvark’s wedding.

If you are a conservative, contact your legislators and demand they #DefundAPTV and rein in this reckless spending on programming that is attempting to brainwash our young people.

Eliminate this menace today (and get rid of Alabama Public Radio while you are at it).

(Arthur/Facebook)

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