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5 years ago

Power points, prayer controversy & protestors: just another day at the PSC


(Above: Environmentalists protest at the Alabama Public Service Commission)

The Alabama Public Service Commission on Wednesday hosted the third and final public hearing of their open rate review of the Alabama Power Company.

The purpose of the meeting was to conduct an in-depth examination of the financial aspects of Alabama Power’s business. That certainly happened, but finances were hardly the only topic of discussion during the 12+ hour hearing.

Tea Party leader and local minister John Jordan opened the meeting in prayer, which immediately set off a firestorm on Twitter as members of the Alabama media and an environmental group representative expressed their outrage that prayer was allowed in a public meeting.

Michael Hansen, a communications specialist for GASP, a Birmingham-based environmental group, repeatedly called Jordan’s prayer “batsh** crazy” on Twitter. “I hope to have the clip of that dumb prayer rant ASAP,” Hansen said.

While that was taking place inside the PSC chambers, environmental protestors lined the street outside exercising their first amendment rights.

“Alabama wildflie isn’t a business to buy out,” one sign said. “Coming to a faucet near you,” said another sign, with pictures of dirty water below painted below.

But while most of the signs contained negative messages about the ills of fossil fuels and warnings of impending doom, the one sign with a positive message may have been the most noticeable of them all.

“WE [heart sign] Dunn” the sign said, referencing Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn who has been the only Commissioner on the panel to actively support the environmentalists’ agenda.

While none of the activist would agree to be interviewed on camera, and many of them simply said their signs “speak for themselves,” several of them expressed appreciation for Commissioner Dunn’s support of their efforts.

“Terry Dunn is the only commissioner who realizes none of us are going to be alive ten years from now if things don’t change,” one of the activists said.

Yellowhammer asked if they were concerned with electricity rates spiking if fossil fuels were no longer used as part of Alabama’s energy mix, several of them conceded that was a steep, but necessary, price to pay.

“You don’t care about your energy bill when you have emphysema or the earth is ruined,” the activist quipped. “And you can’t pay an energy bill if you’re dead.”

Back inside, a robust exchange of information was taking place, including over five hours of testimony and Power Point presentations from Alabama Power experts on the company’s financial operations. A diverse array of interest groups and private citizens were given another 5-6 hours to cross-examine Alabama Power representatives and each other.

Advocacy groups and research organizations represented at the hearing included AARP, Southern Environmental Law Center, League of Women Voters, JobKeeper Alliance, PACE, the Alabama Policy Institute, GASP, Alabama Environmental Council, and others.

But although a review of Alabama Power’s finances was the purpose of the public hearing, advocacy groups from both ends of the political spectrum continued to debate during the meeting over the process being used for the review.

Environmental groups and Commissioner Dunn have repeatedly called for closed legal proceedings, while conservative groups and Commissioners Cavanaugh and Oden preferred the open format achieved through the public hearings.

The Commission recently concluded the open review process with Mobile Gas Company, which resulted in a rate reduction for Mobile Gas customers and a decrease in the company’s profits.

That result hurt the narrative of some environmental groups, not to mention Commissioner Dunn, who have attempted to hide behind consumer-friendly rhetoric.

Cameron Smith of the conservative think tank Alabama Policy Institute called for the environmental groups to come clean about their true intentions. Moments later that’s basically what happened as Michael Churchman of the Alabama Environmental Council gave his closing remarks.

Churchman openly proclaimed that AEC wants to be part of the decision making process. In other words, being able to participate in the public debate is not enough for them. They don’t just want to have their voice heard, they wan’t control over the final decision.

But isn’t that why Alabama voters elect their officials? The open review process keeps the decision in the hands of the elected officials who were voted into office by the people of Alabama. The closed legal proceedings being advocated for by Commissioner Dunn would suddenly put lawyers and advocacy groups in a position to be decision makers.

Other members of the Alabama media have called this debate a “side show.” Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban disagrees. No, Coach Saban didn’t comment on what’s going on at the PSC. However, Saban is famous for his focus on “the process.” Even this week at SEC media days, Saban wasn’t talking about a three-peat, he was talking about his focus on the process Alabama will use as they prepare to compete. The correct process yields the correct results.

The process the PSC used on Mobile Gas resulted in rates being dropped for consumers and Mobile Gas remaining a strong utility able to adequately serve their customers. Win-win.

The same process is being used to review Alabama Power. We’ve watched it closely over the last couple of months. Everyone has had a chance to speak in public. All the information was presented in the light of day. As the Commission proved after the Mobile Gas hearings, if action needs to be taken, it will be done.

With that in mind, it is hard to see how anyone could have a legitimate issue with how this has all played out. As a matter of fact, Commissioner Oden stated in his concluding remarks that this process could end up being a model for other states around the country based on its efficiency and openness and the extent to which info is exchanged publicly.

PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh said the commission staff will now begin coming up with a proposal and a decision will likely come some time in August.

None of the activists from either side of the political spectrum were elected. They are given a voice as citizens and are allowed to participate in the open public meetings. But the freely elected representatives of the people should control the decision. We’ll find out next month what their decision is.


Related:
1. Clear contrast continues at PSC hearings
2. The War on Coal Hits Home
3. AARP environmental push part of increasingly liberal agenda

What else is going on?
1. The Byrne Identity: The front-runner with the target on his back
2. Enviro representative: It is ‘batsh** crazy’ to pray at public meetings
3. Mo Brooks: Senate ‘Gang of 8’ immigration reform would lower US standard of living
4. Roby seeks reforms to ‘No Child Left Behind’
5. Freshman Rep. Bill Poole to Chair Powerful Ways & Means Committee

2 hours ago

Krispy Kreme offering coffee-glazed doughnuts this week only: Here’s where you can get them in Alabama

Krispy Kreme will offer their new “Coffee Glazed” doughnut and “Original Glazed” flavored coffee starting Monday, and 13 Alabama locations will participate.

While the new coffee will become a permanent fixture on the menu, the coffee-glazed doughnuts will only be available through Sunday.

In addition to enjoying both new products throughout the week, Alabamians can grab a free Krispy Kreme coffee, of any size, on National Coffee Day – Saturday, September 29 – at participating locations, with no purchase necessary. Krispy Kreme Rewards members receive the extra perk of a free doughnut with their coffee on that day.

Here are the participating locations:

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  • Auburn
  • Birmingham
  • Decatur
  • Dothan
  • Florence
  • Foley
  • Gadsden
  • Hoover – New Patton Chapel Road
  • Hoover – Highway 280
  • Huntsville
  • Mobile
  • Montgomery
  • Tuscaloosa

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

5 hours ago

AL House Speaker Mac McCutcheon ‘can say for sure that you’ll see a lottery bill’ in 2019

With Mississippi recently adding sports betting to its legal gambling options, the pressure is on for Alabama to not only follow that lead, but to institute a state lottery as well.

While one prominent Republican state lawmaker already has predicted a sports gaming bill will be considered by the Alabama Legislature in 2019 yet be a long-shot to pass, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) told WHNT that a lottery bill will definitely be on their agenda. However, its fate will be determined by the specifics of that now-hypothetical bill.

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“I can say for sure that you’ll see a lottery bill in the first session coming up,” McCutcheon said. “Now, I can’t determine what the vote’s going to be because I’ve got to see the bill.”

A sizable part of the debate will revolve around where the lottery proceeds would go: to education, the general fund or a combination of the two.

“Could be both, it’s hard to say at this point,” McCutcheon advised.

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), who chairs the important senate appropriations committee entitled Finance and Taxation Education, echoed that specifics will shape a lottery’s case, adding that education should be a part of the equation.

“I do think if you’re going to have a lottery, earmarking money for educational purposes tends to generate a more successful lottery than monies just going to the government,” Orr explained.

While McCutcheon knows a lot of the details are yet to be determined on a proposed lottery, he outlined what could sink the bill-to-be.

“If we have a lottery bill out there, it must be clearly defined so that the people of Alabama have no doubt what the lottery issue is going to be,” McCutcheon emphasized. “We don’t want to confuse that bill with other gambling interests. If it’s going to be a lottery, let’s make it a statewide lottery, so the people can look at it, and then let’s make a determination on how we’re going to vote on it.”

The lottery would go to a referendum of the people as a constitutional amendment if it was passed by the state legislature. The governor has no power to sign or veto a lottery bill.

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

7 hours ago

VIDEO: Sen. Doug Jones’s easy out on Kavanaugh, Democrats must navigate state’s love of Trump, Alabama Socialist seek municipal office and more on Guerrilla Politics…

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will Judge Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed or not based on the he said/she said accusation?

— Does Sen. Doug Jones view his issues as a reason to vote against him or as an excuse?

— How much does Alabama’s love of Trump effect Alabama Democrats’ chances?

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Jackson and Burke are joined by Republican candidate for State House (District 3) Andrew Sorrell.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” directed at those who judge Kavanaugh’s accuser as telling the truth with no evidence.

9 hours ago

Rep. Gary Palmer warns Brett Kavanaugh brouhaha threatens America’s ‘experiment in self-government’ — ‘I think this is going to have consequences for the Democrats’

On Friday’s broadcast of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) expressed his skepticism over the sincerity of Senate Democrats regarding the sexual misconduct allegations aimed at U.S. Supreme Court associate justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Palmer warned that weaponizing a “scandal” in these situations may impact the country’s ability to self-govern.

“It looks to me like since the Democrats had this information as early as July, or maybe earlier than that, and they didn’t bring it forward — this was intended to derail the confirmation, not to do justice for an individual who claims to have been harmed,” he said. “And the thing that really concerns me about all of this, regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on, is how this impacts our ability to continue this experiment in self-government because when you weaponize scandal as a political weapon  — it’s very destructive to the process, not just the individuals involved, but the entire process.”

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He added that ultimately, this could backfire on Democrats.

“I think this is going to have consequences for the Democrats,” Palmer added. “At some point, you can cry wolf too many times. And again, I think this is dangerous for people that have been harmed. It will get to the point where it’s just another claim. And at the same time, you’ve got Keith Ellison, who I serve with in the House, who has a claim against him by a woman who is being totally dismissed by the left, even though there’s more evidence there. There’s text messages, documentation from her doctor — you see where this is heading? I’m very concerned for our country and what we’re doing to ourselves. I think it has dire consequences down the road.”

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

11 hours ago

Rep. Martha Roby: Tax reform 2.0 gains momentum

Less than a year ago, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to simplify our complicated tax code and lower rates for all Americans. Thanks to tax reform and other pro-growth policies, our economy is booming. You don’t just have to take my word for it – here are some numbers from the month of August:

–U.S. employers added more than 200,000 jobs as wages increased at the fastest year-on-year pace since June of 2009.

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–Unemployment claims reached a 49-year low. The last time jobless claims fell to this point, it was December of 1969.

–Small business optimism hit a new record high.

–The number of individuals employed part-time who would prefer full-time work but could not find it has fallen to the lowest level since before the 2008-2009 recession.

–U.S. manufacturing grew at the fastest pace since May of 2004.

These numbers all serve as proof that the American people are better off now than they were just two years ago. I am eager to see this strong momentum continue, and I am glad to report that we aren’t slowing down our efforts to foster economic growth right here in the United States. Recently, the House Ways and Means Committee passed Tax Reform 2.0, a series of bills that would modify and build upon the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The first bill in the series, H.R. 6760, the Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018, would put in place several changes to the individual income tax rate. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provisions are set to expire at the end of 2025, perhaps the most important changes H.R. 6760 would implement are making the tax rate changes and the Child Tax Credit permanent.

According to a Tax Foundation study, making these individual income tax changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent would increase long-term Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2.2 percent and create 1.5 million new full-time equivalent jobs.

The second bill in the series, H.R. 6757, the Family Savings Act of 2018, includes a number of important reforms to retirement accounts. For example, individuals would be able to contribute up to $2,500 into a savings account annually, and any withdrawals would be tax free.

The third bill in the series, H.R. 6756, the American Innovation Act of 2018, would allow businesses to deduct their start-up costs. Businesses could either deduct the lesser of their start-up expenses, or for firms with more than $120,000 in expenses, deduct a flat amount of $20,000.

Our tax reform overhaul provides much needed relief to American families, creates jobs here in the United States, grows our economy, and allows hardworking taxpayers to keep more of their own money in their pocket. We now have a unique opportunity to continue delivering on our promise to give the American people more of the results they deserve.

Committee passage of Tax Reform 2.0 is just the first step in the legislative process to make parts of our tax overhaul permanent. I will continue to listen to the people I represent in Alabama’s Second District and work alongside my colleagues in Congress to improve this package of legislation as we move towards advancing these pro-growth policies to the House floor for a vote.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.