3 weeks 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

16 mins ago

Dick, Liz Cheney to headline Bradley Byrne Senate fundraiser

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) will be the “special guests” at a U.S. Senate campaign fundraiser for Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) on November 21 in Birmingham.

The fundraiser invitation obtained by Yellowhammer News outlines that there will be a VIP reception and a general reception. The VIP reception calls for a sponsor contribution level of $5,600 per couple, while the general reception allows for either a $2,800 host level or $1,000 attend level — both amounts also per couple.

The event is being held at The Club.

Rep. Cheney is currently the chair of the House Republican Conference — the GOP caucus within the lower chamber. As such, she holds the third-highest position in Republican House leadership.

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Like her father, Liz Cheney has been critical recently of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Northern Syria. The Cheneys generally have found themselves at odds with Trump on foreign policy issues for years, carrying through his time in office.

Back in 2011, Trump in a since-deleted YouTube video said of former VP Cheney, “He’s very, very angry and nasty.”

“I didn’t like Cheney when he was a vice president. I don’t like him now. … Here’s a guy that did a rotten job as vice president. Nobody liked him,” Trump added.

His criticism of the George W. Bush administration has continued in recent days and weeks. Trump in one tweet emphasized, “GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY!”

Similarly to her split with Trump on foreign policy, Rep. Cheney has found herself in a heated spat as of late with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). The two have fundamentally different worldviews when it comes to intervention abroad and the United States’ national security strategy.

Byrne has found himself somewhat split between the Cheneys and the Trump/Paul side of things recently when it comes to foreign policy. While Byrne signed on as an original cosponsor to Rep. Cheney’s resolution to impose “very tough sanctions” on Turkey over the Syria/Kurdish conflict, the coastal Alabama congressman also voted against a resolution opposing Trump’s decision to withdraw. As Byrne outlined in a column published on Tuesday, his public stance on the issue does not fit neatly on one side of the debate or the other.

Yellowhammer News sent a request for comment to the Byrne campaign on the upcoming Cheney fundraiser, as well as posing a few specific questions.

Yellowhammer asked whether Byrne more aligns with Trump or the Cheneys on foreign policy, as well as whether Byrne would be more like a Senator Paul or Rep. Cheney on foreign policy if elected to the Senate. Rep. Cheney herself is heavily rumored to be weighing a U.S. Senate bid in Wyoming, and the three could even find themselves to be colleagues. Yellowhammer further asked the Byrne campaign if he would support a Cheney Senate bid.

Additionally, given Rep. Cheney’s high leadership perch in Congress, Yellowhammer asked, “Does this signal leadership in D.C. getting involved on behalf of the Byrne campaign?”

The request for comment and questions were met with a brief response from Byrne’s campaign press secretary.

“Think you’re making something out of nothing. See below— we’re excited about the event!” Lenze Morris wrote in an email.

Morris pointed to a Monday tweet from Trump thanking Rep. Cheney for backing him against House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, as well as an article from August detailing that both Cheneys are helping the RNC and the Trump 2020 reelection campaign with their joint fundraising efforts.

While the Byrne campaign is “excited about the event,” so too are the other leading Republican 2020 Senate campaigns.

A spokesperson for former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville’s campaign told Yellowhammer News, “Politicians are supporting a politician while the Alabama Farmers Federation is supporting Coach. He’ll take Alabama farmers over the swamp any day.”

In a statement, Secretary of State John Merrill told Yellowhammer News, “My campaign is focused on traveling around the state to all 67 counties meeting with Alabamians from all walks of life and listening to their concerns. When I am in the United States Senate, my only concern will be representing Alabama thinking and Alabama values and not the thinking and values of the Washington, D.C. elites.”

State Rep. Arnold Mooney’s (R-Indian Springs) campaign declined to comment.

Read about the latest fundraising numbers from these GOP Senate candidates, as well as former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, here.

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

47 mins ago

Sewell: Trump tweet comparing impeachment inquiry to ‘lynching’ is ‘despicable’

Along with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), count Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) as an ardent critic of President Donald Trump’s Tuesday tweet comparing the ongoing House impeachment inquiry to a “lynching” of him.

Trump tweeted, “So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!”

In a Facebook post sharing a screenshot of that tweet, Sewell outlined, “From Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement, 3,446 African Americans were murdered by lynching.”

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“The history of lynching in our nation is one of white supremacy, humiliation and dehumanization,” she continued.

Sewell, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, represents a district that includes Selma.

“For President Trump to liken the impeachment inquiry—a lawful investigation—to the racial terror millions of African Americans endured is despicable,” she concluded. “And for the people of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, who marched, bled and died to end this type of terrorism, the sting of the President’s words is especially sharp.”

RELATED: Rep. Sewell: ‘You don’t need a quid pro quo’ for an impeachment inquiry

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

1 hour ago

Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce launches initiative to support local startups

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday launched a new  initiative to help boost the River Region’s entrepreneurial  ecosystem.

The new “Work Together” business studio and coworking space located at 600 S. Court Street in Montgomery will be more than just a physical space, according to a press release.

Starting in 2020, “it will also feature dynamic programming and events focused on creating a haven for makers, creatives, small businesses, entrepreneurs, freelancers and the community to connect, innovate, create and learn.”

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The Work Together location offers flexible space for working, training and community building that can accommodate up to 100 individuals and includes WIFI and audio-visual resources. Additional smaller spaces inside Work Together provide areas for small group or one-on-one meetings, and it also offers a conference room set-up that can accommodate up to 10 people.

The chamber announced the new initiative at InnovateMGM, a half-day event celebrating  those who are innovating within traditional and non-traditional businesses, start-ups and creative ventures.

The event served as a taste of the community building that Work Together aims to provide, which goes far beyond the limits of a physical gathering space and seeks to provide meaningful programming that empowers users to achieve their greatest potential.

In a statement, Montgomery Area Chamber Chairman Willie Durham said, “Supporting and strengthening our start up and entrepreneur community is one of our biggest priorities at the Chamber.”

“Our mission is to connect people to people and people to resources and this space allows us to do just that,” he continued. “By providing the training and the space for creatives and entrepreneurs to connect, we are enhancing our ability to build community, elevate the quality of life of the region and ensure the prosperity of our business community.”

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

2 hours ago

Clyde Chambliss named 2019’s ‘Outstanding Public Official’ by American Society of Civil Engineers

State Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) was recently named the 2019 Outstanding Public Official by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

ASCE’s Committee on Advancing the Profession selected Chambliss to receive the prestigious national honor for “impeccable service and dedication to the State of Alabama, as well as to the civil engineering profession and land surveying professionals.”

“Instituted in 1963, the award is made to those members of ASCE who have contributed substantially to the status of the engineering profession by meritorious public service in elective or appointive positions in civil government,” Lawren Pratt, the ASCE member who nominated Chambliss for the award, advised in a statement.

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During his tenure in the Alabama Senate, Chambliss has led the effort to reform and modernize government regulations on the engineering profession. He was first elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018.

In 2018, Chambliss helped write and pass Senate Bill 316, which required Qualification Based Selection (QBS) to be included in the State Administrative Code and added two public members to the Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors.

Brad Williams, P.E., president of the Alabama section of ASCE, praised Chambliss’ leadership.

“Senate Bill 316 led to one of the strongest QBS laws in the nation; it would not have passed without Senator Chambliss’s leadership,” Williams outlined.

Chambliss and his wife, Tara, also a civil engineer, own and operate a civil engineering firm that provides engineering services to small towns, water systems and developers in central Alabama.

“Senator Chambliss’ knowledge of our profession as a practicing Professional Engineer was instrumental in how he was able to lead meetings, mediate between parties of differing interests, and educate legislative members on the importance of QBS,” Williams added.

In accepting the award, Chambliss said that he appreciated the collaboration between legislators and professionals in the engineering field that led to the passage of SB316.

“It is such an honor to be recognized by my peers and colleagues with this award. Passage of SB316 was truly a group effort, and I appreciate the work of my engineer and surveyor peers in the development of such a great piece of legislation. I also want to thank my legislative colleagues for their support in voting for the bill, and Governor Ivey for signing it into law,” Chambliss said.

Chambliss was recently named as a member of the 2019 Yellowhammer Power & Influence 40.

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

Byrne: How do you solve a problem like Syria?

Recent developments in Syria highlight the need for the United States to revisit its broader Middle Eastern policy.

Early last week, I joined a small meeting of House Republicans for an update on Syria from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper where he discussed a phone call from President Erdogan of Turkey to President Trump.

During that call, Erdogan notified President Trump that after years of waiting at the Syrian border, Turkish troops would finally cross over. He assured that Turkey was not coming after our troops but targeting certain Kurdish factions they consider terrorists. He gave President Trump 48 hours to relocate the two dozen or so American troops stationed on the border.

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President Trump was faced with a difficult decision. Ultimately, he decided to remove American servicemembers from harm’s way to prevent a full-blown conflict with Turkey.

Turkey’s incursion into Syria is wrong and very troubling. Erdogan should never treat our president and our country the way he did on the phone call. There will be serious consequences for his behavior.

I support seeking methods of leverage with Turkey that do not endanger our troops.

After President Trump proposed harsh economic sanctions, the administration negotiated a cease-fire with Turkey. The cease-fire has been shaky at best, but it probably prevented many more deaths in the region.

This is happening in the context of a greater strategic problem in the Middle East. For at least a decade, we’ve lacked a well-defined mission. What are our interests in the Middle East? What do we do to pursue and protect those interests?

Since coming to Congress and serving on the House Armed Services Committee, I have not seen a strategic, conventional interest for the U.S. in Syria, other than destroying the ISIS caliphate.

To be sure, Kurdish forces were the largest part of the successful campaign against the caliphate, and we need to stand by them as best we can under these challenging circumstances.

But Syria is a failed state. It is bewildering the number of groups in some form of combat. With so many factions, it is often difficult to know who the good guys are. Problems between the Turks and Kurds will persist for generations, but this dispute is one of many combustible problems in the Middle East today. Just weeks ago, Iran attacked our Saudi Arabian ally.

We need to work with our allies to determine our strategic goals and how to reach them. We should continue providing assistance to our allies, including the Kurds, but progress requires buy-in from all of our allies in the region.

Turkey, as a NATO member, does currently play a role in supporting our alliance goals. Turkey is the home of an important U.S. airbase and many other critical NATO assets including U.S. nuclear weapons.

However, Turkey’s actions cast serious doubts on whether they will honor their NATO commitments going forward, and frank discussions between Trump, Erdogan and other NATO leaders are needed.

We must be tough with Turkey. I still believe strong sanctions to weaken and punish Turkey are needed, and I signed on as an original cosponsor to Liz Cheney’s resolution to impose very tough sanctions.

After the Turkish incursion, I was disappointed that the House hastily put forward a resolution condemning President Trump’s actions without knowing the full facts. The very next day, I received a classified briefing shedding more light on his tough decision. I think everyone in Congress should have access to these classified briefings to gain a fuller understanding of what happened.

Instead of attacking the president, we need to have sincere bipartisan conversations and propose concrete solutions for Syria and the Middle East. On critical national security issues, we must put America first.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.