4 months ago

Palmer champions simplified tax code, regulatory reform at Yellowhammer event

TRUSSVILLE — Yellowhammer Multimedia on Tuesday held its sixth News Shapers event of 2019, with Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) making a special guest appearance.

The event, held at the Trussville Civic Center, featured a panel discussion focused on small businesses in Alabama.

About 35 minutes into the forum, Palmer joined the panelists in the front of the room to discuss issues affecting economic growth and jobs in the Yellowhammer State.

The congressman, who is currently the fifth-highest ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives as chair of the Republican Policy Committee, also commented on matters of the day and ways his fellow party members could govern more conservatively.

However, to open his remarks, he explained what conservatives have done especially well since President Donald Trump took office.

“What the Trump administration has done … the thing that really got the economy growing was not the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the Trump tax cuts of 2017) — that accelerated the growth — but what got it starting was the first 14 bills that we passed in the 115th Congress: broad Congressional Review Act bills that rolled back Obama administration proposed regulations that were really hamstringing the economy,” Palmer advised.

Palmer detailed that a Gallup report had shown there were 100,000 more businesses opening than closing in 2008, compared to 70,000 more closing than opening in 2014.

“The primary reason [for that] was regulation,” he remarked.

Palmer then made several series of remarks on the federal tax code — including the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

He explained that he was part of the working group on this historic piece of legislation.

“I kept making the point that (tax) rates are important, but they’re not the most important,” Palmer said. “Businesses are not tax averse, they’re not regulation averse. What they’re averse to is a lack of predictability. Business does not like operating in an unpredictable environment — there’s enough risk already without adding to that additional risk from not knowing what the regulation is or not knowing what the tax laws are.”

“The thing that I pointed out to my colleagues and to Jared Kushner is that money is like water,” he continued. “It will always seek the path of least resistance. So, if you want your economy to grow, you’ve got to create a predictable environment. It doesn’t mean that you’re totally unregulated. It doesn’t mean that you go without paying taxes. It means that you operate in an environment where you know what the regulations are, you know what the taxes are and you can make the decisions about how to invest your capital.”

Palmer then added, “I think we’re seeing the benefits of that.”

Transitioning into reforms to federal commercial driver’s license (CDL) law, Palmer commented, “We’re moving toward that in Congress. Having the Democrats impeach the president I think will give us some other stuff [that we are preoccupied with].”

After chuckles from the crowd, Palmer added, “We kind of joke about it, but we’re really in the midst of something we’ve never seen before.”

“As I described it today, it’s a bloodless coup that’s taking place,” he emphasized.

Later during the discussion, Palmer described the gap between what the IRS believes it should be collecting in taxes annually and what it actually does. This gap, he said, is over $400 billion.

“It’s going up every year,” Palmer lamented.

Over a 10-year window, not even considering interest on the added debt the country is taking on by not collecting that money, the gap comes to well over four trillion dollars.

Palmer told the crowd that he believes the United States should adopt a consumption tax in lieu of the current federal tax code to simplify things and reduce the collection gap.

He added that this would be “the best thing that we can do for the economy.”

This would be along the lines of the “FairTax,” which has been proposed for years in Congress with no meaningful traction towards passage.

Palmer said “a simplified average tax” would also be better than the current code, which is far too complex, in his opinion.

He reiterated this would increase the predictability factor that he harped on earlier, while also putting more money back into the economy in capital investments.

Palmer subsequently commented further on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

“Congress should stop passing these huge, comprehensive bills, because inevitably we screw something up,” he said. “And we did in this one.”

Palmer added that they almost messed something up that was a crucial priority of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) regarding pass-through entities, too.

“We almost did [screw something up] with the NFIB, but we did with the restaurants on the deprecation — that’s really hurt them,” Palmer stressed, saying he has made this same argument on other major legislative issues such as healthcare.

He said these “huge” legislative efforts need to be done in phases rather than all at once.

One other issue Palmer touched on was the growing national debt.

He lamented that the federal government is set to have a deficit of over one trillion dollars this fiscal year alone.

Admitting he was “getting in the weeds,” Palmer then described a plan to get to a healthy level of debt again instead of the increasing hole of over 22 trillion dollars that America currently faces.

“We’re right now at 80% debt to GDP — that means that our debt is 80% of what our whole economy is,” he outlined. “In 25-30 years, it’s going to be 150%… To get back down to a manageable level, and government’s always going to have debt… it needs to be in the 40-50% range. To get there, we need about seven trillion dollars.”

Palmer mentioned the tax collection gap he previously outlined as a way to eat into this target of seven trillion dollars.

He then added eliminating improper government payouts as a $1.6 trillion savings over 10 years.

Finally, he mentioned a bill he filed earlier this year that would require unappropriated funds collected by federal agencies to be transferred to the U.S. Treasury and subject to the congressional appropriations process.

This would mean fines and fees levied and collected by agencies could not simply be swallowed up and spent by these agencies without Congress accounting for the money and having a say so. Palmer believes this could mean huge annual savings in tax dollars.

“So, there’s a way to get us back to where we need to be on our debt to GDP [ratio],” Palmer summarized.

On a final note, Palmer said the permitting process, especially for infrastructure construction, needs to be seriously sped up and streamlined.

He stated that this was a huge problem right now with the Northern Beltline Project in Jefferson County.

“The Northern Beltline is the key not just to Birmingham but for the whole region — maybe even the whole state — in terms of our future economic development and in terms of keeping us from becoming like Atlanta or Nashville, where our economic development overwhelms our infrastructure,” Palmer advised. “They’re predicting that it will be finished by 2054.”

“And the president’s really big on this part,” he continued. “He wants to reduce permitting time to no more than 18 months.”

Palmer says this plays into the predictability factor he mentioned earlier in his remarks.

“That’s the kind of stuff that’s really holding us back,” he concluded. “The economy would take off again if we took care of those things.”

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

14 hours ago

Goat Island Brewing is an Alabama Maker concocting interesting beers

Their slogan is “Life is too short to drink baaad beer” and Goat Island Brewing Co. is doing its part to produce nothing but good brews in Cullman.

Started by a couple of homebrewing friends, Goat Island has added a head brewer, who is a microbiology major with no homebrewing history. The result is an array of tasty beers that are finding a following in northern Alabama.

“People across the board love all of our beers,” said Mike Mullaney, president and co-founder of Goat Island Brewing. “If you want to come in and have a whole bunch of good, variety of craft beers that have a lot of flavor, try us out.”

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Goat Island Brewing is an Alabama Maker of interesting beers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The brewery is open to community events and fundraisers in Cullman.

“I like the fact that we are kind of a cultural community center,” Mullaney said.

With seven beers on tap – excluding a seasonal or a small batch – there is always something for any beer drinker. The Blood Orange Berliner Weisse is the bestselling beer on tap, and keeping up with the demand has been a little challenging. A new canning line should help.

The growth is welcome, but the beer has to be the star.

“We always emphasize quality and making sure everything we put out of here is up to the highest standard,” said Paul White, head brewer and operations manager.

Goat Island Brewing Company

The product: Craft beer.

Take home: A growler of Blood Orange Berliner Weisse.

Goat Island Brewing Co. can be found online and on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

16 hours ago

Renew Our Rivers kicks off 21st year

The third decade of Renew Our Rivers (ROR) gets underway in February with the first of the year’s 32 cleanups of Alabama rivers and waterways. If last year is any indication, there will be more volunteers and more trash removed in 2020, said Mike Clelland, ROR coordinator.

Since 2000, when the program began, 122,000 volunteers have collected almost 16 million pounds from waterways and shorelines in the South. In 2019, more than 5,000 volunteers removed almost 450,000 pounds of trash, including old boats, mattresses, tires, appliances and other unsightly items, a 4% increase over the previous year’s haul.

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“We not only picked up more trash in 2019. We also had more volunteers,” said Clelland, an Environmental Affairs specialist for Alabama Power who helps coordinate the cleanups with multiple partners. “Twenty years in and the enthusiasm and participation remain strong. I fully expect 2020 to be just as successful as 2019, if not more so.”

An Alabama River cleanup in Autauga County on Feb. 15 leads off this year’s schedule, which concludes the first week of November at Lake Martin.

Volunteers elevate Alabama through Renew Our Rivers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Renew Our Rivers began in 2000 with a cleanup by Alabama Power employees along the Coosa River at the company’s Plant Gadsden. It has grown to become one of America’s largest river cleanup initiatives, with the help of community partners, volunteers and organizations.

“Alabama is a beautiful place with extraordinary natural resources,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power vice president for Environmental Affairs. “Protecting those resources, while providing reliable, affordable electricity for our customers, is at the heart of our company’s mission. The commitment by Alabama Power employees to Renew Our Rivers remains strong, but we couldn’t do it without the support of our community partners across the state who support the effort year after year.”

Renew Our Rivers is one of many initiatives in which Alabama Power partners with others to promote conservation and environmental stewardship in communities across the state. The 2020 schedule of Renew Our Rivers cleanups is below. For updates to the schedule, visit alabamapower.com/renewourrivers.

2020 Renew Our Rivers Schedule

Feb. 15: Alabama River

Contact: John Paul O’Driscoll at 334-850-7153

or johnpaulod@juno.com

 

Feb. 29: Bankhead Lake (Warrior River)

Contact: Ronnie Tew at 205-908-4857

 

March 7: Lake Eufaula (Chattahoochee River)

Contact: Brad Moore at bmooreless@gosuto.com

 

March 14: Valley Creek (Spring)

Contact: Freddie Freeman at 205-424-4060, ext. 4188

or ffreeman@bessemeral.org

 

March 21: Lake Mitchell (Coosa River)

Contact: Mike Clelland at 205-354-9348

 

March 28-April 4: Logan Martin (Coosa River)

Contact: Bud Kitchin at 256-239-0242

 

March 28: Minor Heights Community at Village Creek

Contact: Yohance Owens at 205-798-0087

or yohancevilcreek@yahoo.com

 

March 28-April 4: Lay Lake (Coosa River)

Contact: Judy Jones at 205-669-4865

 

April 11: Lay Lake at E.C. Gaston Plant (Coosa River)

Contact: Tanisha Fenderson at tfender@southernco.com

 

April 4: Cahaba River

Contact: David Butler at

info@cahabariverkeeper.org

 

April 14-15: Mobile River (Plant Barry)

Contact: Bo Cotton at 251-331-0603

 

April 18: Lake Jordan (Coosa River)

Contact: Brenda Basnight 334-478-3388

 

Date TBD: Plant Miller (Locust Fork)

Contact: TBD

 

April 22-23: Smith Lake (Winston County)

Contact: Allison Cochran at 205-489-5111

 

April 24: Smith Lake (Cullman County)

Contact: Jim Murphy at 205-529-5981

 

April 25: Weiss Lake

Contact: Sam Marko at 404-626-8594

 

May 1: Plant Gorgas (Mulberry Fork)

Contact: John Pate at 205-686-2324

or johpate@southernco.com

 

May 15: Lake Seminole

Contact: Melanie Rogers at mlrogers@southernco.com

 

May 16: Chattahoochee River (Plant Farley)

Contact: Melanie Rogers at mlrogers@southernco.com

 

May 18-19: Smith Lake (Walker County)

Contact: Roger Treglown at 205-300-5253

 

Aug. 8: Holt Lake (Black Warrior River)

Contact: Becky Clark at 205-799-2449

 

Aug. 14: Plant Miller (Locust Fork)

Contact: Madison Maughon at 205-438-0150

or mtmaugho@southernco.com

 

Aug. 15: Valley Creek

Contact: TBD

 

Aug. 15: Upper Tallapoosa River

Contact: Lex Brown at 256-239-6399

 

Sept: 8-9: Smith Lake (Walker County)

Contact: Roger Treglown at 205-300-5253

 

Date TBD: Village Creek

Contact: Yohance Owens at 205-798-0087

 

Sept.18: Smith Lake (Cullman County)

Contact: Jim Murphy at 205-529-5981

 

Sept. 24: Smith Lake (Winston County)

Contact: Jim Eason at msgjeason@yahoo.com

 

Oct. 2-3: Lake Demopolis

Contact: Jesse Johnson at 334-289-6160 or 251-238-1257

 

Oct. 13: Dog River (Mobile County)

Contact: Catie Boss at 251-829-2146 or clboss@southernco.com

 

Oct.17: Lake Mitchell (Coosa River)

Contact: Dale Vann at 205-910-3713

 

Oct. 20-22: Lake Harris (Tallapoosa River-Lake Wedowee)

Contact: Sheila Smith at 205-396-5093

or Marlin Glover at 770-445-0824

 

Oct. 26-31: Neely Henry Lake (Coosa River)

Contact: Lisa Dover at 256-549-0900

 

Nov. 6-7: Lake Martin (Tallapoosa River)

Contact: John Thompson at 334-399-3289

or 1942jthompson420@gmail.com

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Time-lapse video of Birmingham’s new downtown interstate bridges

The new Interstate 59/20 bridges through downtown Birmingham are scheduled to open within the next few days, 12 months after they were closed for replacement.

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) announced Jan. 13 the contractor, Johnson Brothers Corp., would have the bridges completed and ready to open no later than Jan. 21. The interstate bridges were closed to traffic Jan. 21, 2019, as part of ALDOT’s phased repair plan for the more than 45-year-old bridges.

Alabama Power recorded the demolition and construction of the western half of the bridges from a 17th-floor window overlooking the junction of the bridges with I-65. The 12-month recording was condensed into a one-minute time-lapse video.

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Time-lapse video of Birmingham bridges replacement from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was scheduled for Friday, Jan. 17 at 2:00 p.m. Once the bridges reopen to traffic, ALDOT says crews will spend the rest of 2020 repairing detours and completing work around the bridges. Plans to develop public space underneath the bridges are not yet finalized.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

19 hours ago

Roby: More flexibility for America’s working parents

The American workforce has witnessed considerable change in dynamics during the 21st Century: it is more diverse than ever before.

Statistics consistently show the percentage of U.S. families with at least one working parent is on the rise, and it’s no secret that today’s working parents struggle to balance the demands required of them by their jobs and their children.

Time is the most precious resource, especially for mothers and fathers who are putting forth their best efforts to manage families while simultaneously excel in their careers. These hard-working parents deserve and need more choice and flexibility in their daily schedules in order to accomplish both. As a working mom myself, I understand the challenges parents face in managing these responsibilities. I always say that Congress cannot legislate another hour into the day, but we can update our laws to allow more choice and fairness in how employees choose to use their time.

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As the dynamics of the workplace have changed over time, our policies that govern the workplace have not adapted to keep up with these changes. I am proud to again introduce the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2020. This piece of legislation offers compensatory time, or “comp time,” benefits in lieu of cash wages for overtime, allowing private-sector workers the same opportunity that currently exists in the public sector.

This bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and removes an outdated and unnecessary federal restriction on the use of comp time in the private sector for hourly employees. Comp time would be completely voluntary for the employer and employee with strong worker protections to prohibit coercion. This is the same legislation I have introduced numerous times, and it passed the House on several occasions. This change in law would provide more flexibility for working moms and dads who need more time to manage their families.

Think about it this way: should a working dad be forced to use all of his vacation time to be involved in his child’s school? Should a military mom have to take sick leave in order to make sure her child is properly taken care of? Whether it’s a parent coaching a child’s sports team, caring for a sick or elderly family member, or getting children to and from school and extracurricular activities, family responsibilities often require parents to take time away from work.

As times have changed, so have demands on our time. This is one proposal that would offer private-sector American workers more freedom and more control over their time in order to spend it the way they choose. This piece of legislation is about the working moms and dads across the country who value their time. I am honored to introduce this bill again in order to show my support for all of the working parents across our nation and to hopefully make life a little easier for the moms and dads in our American workforce.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

20 hours ago

Alabama hunter grants wishes for kids

Jeff Carter didn’t have a plan in 2011 when he started Pine Hills and Oak Hollars Child Classic, an organization that takes sick kids on a weekend hunting trip in northwest Alabama.

“At that time I really didn’t know what it looked like,” Carter said. “The Lord put it on my heart and he called me to do this. We stepped out on faith.”

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Pine Hills and Oak Hollars Child Classic grants wishes for kids from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Carter’s faith paid off. The event, now in its ninth year, has grown from a hunting trip for one child into an extended weekend experience for three kids at a time. The kids are selected through the United Special Sportsman Alliance, all recovering from a life-threatening illness, such as cancer, or a life-altering disorder like autism.

“This is just an opportunity that God has given us to be able to give these kids and their families a chance to get away and get their mind off of a lot of what they’ve been dealing with,” Carter said.

Beau Terry, 18, is one of the young people hunting in this year’s classic. Terry said he was thrilled to get the chance.

“It’s kind of like having a lot of uncles around,” Terry said. “It means a lot.”

In addition to the hunting trip, the kids are given hunting clothes, a DVD video of their weekend and a canvas picture. Carter said their smiles are a blessing to him and his volunteers.

“It’s awesome,” Carter said. “When God calls us to do something, there’s no sense in worry about how much and how, just step out on faith and roll with it because he’s got it figured out already. He will provide.”

For more information about the Pine Hills and Oak Hollars Child Classic, visit the organization’s Facebook page here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)