1 week ago

Speaker McCutcheon: Rebuild Alabama passed House despite misinformation, lies from opponents

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey held a press conference with leaders from the Alabama House of Representatives after the Rebuild Alabama Act passed the chamber Friday afternoon, with the governor hailing the 84-20 vote and proclaiming, “[Y]ou’re going to see for the first time in a long, long time what a bipartisan effort can do to bring success for the people of Alabama.”

Ivey praised Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) for the statesmanlike way he presided over the House during the special session. She also had extensive praise for State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), the sponsor of the legislative package in the House who was given a standing ovation after its passage.

The governor called the Rebuild Alabama Act a “reasonable increase in our infrastructure funding [that] also has strong accountability so that all the monies raised will indeed go straight to infrastructure.”

“Y’all, this is a great day,” Ivey said.

She added, “I especially want to ask you to salute to Minority Leader Anthony Daniels. His leadership with the minority caucus is phenomenal.”

HB 1, HB 2 and HB 3 received their first readings in the Senate after passage in the House Friday. The bills are in line for a public hearing at 1:00 p.m. Monday, which would likely be followed by a committee vote and second reading the same day, with a possible third reading and final vote before the full Senate to come Tuesday.

“My goal and hope is [sic] we take this momentum that the House of Representatives has given us today, take it to the Senate and let’s finish this job for the people of Alabama,” Ivey emphasized. “Because this is a job well done in a class-act way as a result of team effort, [along] with facts and passion and commitment. This is leadership for the people of Alabama.”

Overcoming ‘[lies] by the groups that were trying to destroy this effort’

The speaker was up next to speak, first thanking the governor for her leadership before the many other supporters of the legislation.

“[A]ll across this state, people stepped up because they saw the need,” McCutcheon said. “They saw the need. I told the members in the House today as we were getting ready to go into session: 27 years. 27 years since this issue’s been addressed. I said, ‘We will make history today. And our children will see the benefits of what we’ve done today.'”

“[I]t did not come easy,” the speaker advised. “Because there was a lot of pressure involved in this.”

“I hope, I really hope, that as the debate went on today on the floor of the House, I hope that the people of Alabama were listening. Because many of the facts, many of the things in this bill that had been disputed and had been lied about by the groups that were trying to destroy this effort, those things were refuted. The facts came out and people could understand what we were truly, really trying to do,” McCutcheon stressed.

The speaker praised Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) for his leadership in helping solidify support for the legislation

McCutcheon then moved onto lauding Poole, reiterating that Poole’s opening statement to the House the Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee Thursday was the best he had ever heard.

“And I want to say, too, when the move came down today, as we have spent all week working with Leader Daniels and the minority caucus, Chairman Poole and myself, we’ve been meeting with the minority caucus, making sure that everybody was onboard, every legislator. It was not a Democrat or Republican, they were a legislator and a member of the House of Representatives. That’s the way we approached things,” McCutcheon outlined.

He concluded, “This was a group effort, this was a group effort. And, I think being Speaker of the House of Representatives, I think this is one of the proudest moments that I’ve had… It’s a great day, a great day for Alabama.”

‘This is just the beginning’

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) spoke after the speaker, beginning by echoing the gracious sentiments of Ivey and McCutcheon and thanking the people who made overwhelming passage come to fruition.

“We started out in one place and we ended up where we all needed to go,” Daniels said.

He singled out Poole for accepting constructive feedback from all members of the body into the Rebuild Alabama Act.

“Thank you for your leadership, and for moving forward and being transparent and open from the very beginning, bringing us to the table to have input. Thank you for accepting the amendment that we agreed upon beforehand, that provided an additional layer of oversight and transparency, which is what is needed,” the minority leader told Poole. “You really worked with our caucus on making certain that there was language in there to open opportunities up and to make certain that the small businesses in Alabama … have an opportunity to be able to compete for the work [funded by the infrastructure revenue].”

“This was truly a group effort,” Daniels advised.

He added, “This is just the beginning of what’s going to be an extremely exciting four years of bipartisanship. We’ve dealt with infrastructure today, we’ll be dealing with human infrastructure tomorrow.”

Clouse, next up, quickly thanked Ivey, McCutcheon, Daniels and Poole for their leadership.

Clouse specifically highlighted Poole’s “cool, calm demeanor” that helped him work with all the members to reach an 84-20 final margin.

‘I am proud to be an Alabamian’

Poole then took to the podium, commenting, “I’m excited about today.”

After a heartfelt show of appreciation for the previous speakers and “all of the legislators in the body,” Poole said, “This was an important day and a difficult issue that brought a lot of passion. But there’s a lot of support around the state.”

“Our citizens know that we have to do something to address our infrastructure in Alabama. We have to build that infrastructure out for our future, for our children, for our prosperity and our opportunity to compete across the southeast, across the United States and across the entire world,” he emphasized. “And today we’ve moved forward with a plan that I think is effective, it’s fair, it’s transparent, it assures accountability, and I’m very pleased.”

“I’m excited about this day, I’m excited that the body stood together, firmly committed on this issue, showed leadership on the issue. And I think it demonstrates that when Alabamians – and I’m just proud to be an Alabamian,” Poole concluded. “I am proud to be an Alabamian. I always have been, I always am every day. But I am certainly proud today as we commit ourselves to invest in our future… I look forward to the days ahead for Alabama.”

Ivey took to the podium once more to conclude the statements.

“Remember, this is [a] historic day – a great day – and [a] historic act that has shown today that we can work together as a bipartisan group to put the people’s needs and the people’s benefit ahead of self,” the governor emphasized. “Y’all, this is monumental. And I am so proud to be a part of it.”

You can watch the full press conference here.

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

4 hours ago

Watch: Doug Jones refuses to answer question on Trump impeachment

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), cognizant that he was being recorded at the time, would not answer a question about the merits of impeaching President Donald Trump.

During a book tour event in Birmingham on Saturday, Jones was addressing questions that the audience submitted on notecards, but when he came to one question, he flat-out refused to answer.

The incumbent from Mountain Brook burst out laughing when he saw the question, and then read it aloud to the crowd: “Would the country be better off if Trump is impeached or beaten in 2020?”

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“Well, I think I’m just going to hold that one for a little bit,” Jones said to laughter and applause. “I’m sure there’s a tracker here recording this.”

Watch:

RELATED: Jones: ‘Doesn’t matter to me who the opponent is,’ ‘I’ll be back here for another term’

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

5 hours 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.

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“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

5 hours ago

Join Us: Yellowhammer ‘News Shaper’ series kicks off with its 2019 legislative edition

Join the Yellowhammer News team Tuesday, March 19th for a “Yellowhammer News Shaper” event in Montgomery. The gathering will offer a reception as well as a live interview with Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia).

The discussion will be moderated by Yellowhammer News editor and owner Tim Howe and will cover issues surrounding this year’s legislative session.

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The event will take place at the Alabama Association of Realtors, 522 Washington Avenue, and will begin at 5:00 p.m. with a networking opportunity followed by the moderated interview and questions from the audience.

Several more Yellowhammer News Shaper events will take place across the state this year. The series is non-partisan, on-the-record and designed to localize issues and highlight thought leaders.

Continue to visit Yellowhammernews.com for announcements during the 2019 calendar year.

5 hours ago

Groups across US take in dogs, cats after Alabama tornado

People across the nation are helping to find homes for animals evacuated from shelters in an Alabama community that was devastated by a tornado.

The twister left 23 dead and dozens of people injured as it roared across the community of Beauregard on March 3.

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The Humane Society of the United States contacted several humane societies across the nation to ask for help, Al.com reported.

The Oregon Humane Society says it was asked by the national organization if it could take any of the 150 pets that were being evacuated from Lee County shelters.

In Tennessee, the Nashville Humane Association says it received 21 cats and dogs affected by the tornado. It said those animals will be up for adoption soon.

“They have been through a lot,” said Laura Charvarria , executive director of the Nashville Humane Association.

“One of the shelters, Southern Souls, the tornado touched down actually in their backyard, so they experienced that, on top of, they just went through a 6-hour drive from Alabama to Tennessee, so that is extremely stressful on the animals,” Charvarria said.

Many of the animals from Alabama were flown on a jet to Oregon about a week after the tornado.

Staffers from animal shelters in that region met the dogs and cats when they touched down.

“There was a great camaraderie among the group 7/8— a wonderful testament to the collective compassion in the Northwest.

As the plane touched down the group erupted in applause,” the Oregon Humane Society said in a news release.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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7 hours ago

Failed state House candidate wants to challenge gas tax in court

Former candidate for state House and Republican Executive Committee anti-tax resolution sponsor, Tom Fredricks, is preparing a legal challenge on the Rebuild Alabama Act based on the perceived unconstitutional nature of the Port of Mobile dredging.

When the Rebuild Alabama gas tax increase was being debated, for all of five days, opponents were throwing everything they could at the gas tax.

All of this was for naught as the bill passed both chambers of the legislature and was signed by the governor. Your gas tax will go up over the next three years.

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The state Republican Party Executive Committee went as far as opposing the gas tax with a resolution at their winter meeting. The committee rightly argued very few politicians ran on raising taxes. In fact, many opposed tax increases or ran on keeping taxes low.

Foes of the tax, yours truly included, felt the use of the special session was a nefarious work-around the legislative process.

Lastly, a small group of insurgents pushed the ingenious argument that the portion of the law spending millions of dollars every year on dredging for the Port of Mobile was unconstitutional.

And now, the opponents of this gas tax are moving on to the next level of the battle: the courts

Fredricks appeared Monday on “The Dale Jackson Show” on WVNN in Huntsville to lay out his legal strategy.

“It appears that it’s in direct violation of Amendment 354 … the constitution says that that money shall be used on the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges,” he outlined.

Fredricks has even launched a GoFundMe page to fund this endeavor after one lawyer told him he would need $25,000 to pursue this challenge.

But, former Senator Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), an anti-tax advocate, believes this is a non-starter after initially thinking there would be an issue in battling the tax increase.

Sanford posted his findings on Facebook.

Fredricks himself believes this is a long-shot, but stated that he believes the people of this state need to continue having a voice on this issue.

Listen:

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