9 months ago

State Rep. Steve Clouse: Prison reform, CHIP top issues for general fund; ‘Not this year’ on Medicaid expansion

DOTHAN — The next general session of the Alabama legislature will not convene in Montgomery for another four and a half months. However, very significant challenges lie ahead for the members when they meet in 2020.

House General Fund budget committee chairman Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) discussed those challenges Tuesday during an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN.

Clouse said prisons would likely top the list for the legislature. However, determining what that will be is on hold he said until Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration offers a plan.

“The prison situation will be front and center here,” Clouse said on “The Jeff Poor Show” during an on-location broadcast from Dothan. “We’re still basically waiting on the governor’s office, the administration to present a plan. They have got a couple of companies that are working on different alternatives for us – a lease-build type situation, and possibly going in and passing a bond issue ourselves that would have to come through the legislature.”

“I don’t know exactly where that’s going to go right now,” he added. “We’ll just have to look at the numbers when they come out.”

Clouse also cited the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which will soon require state governments picking up more and more of the cost, which will be upwards of an additional $70 million price tag in the coming year.

“One of the issues that we had last year was getting members in the legislature aware of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the demands are going to be placed more and more on the states,” he said. “That is the last 20 years since the program has been in existence, basically the federal government has been picking up the whole tab on that. Over the last four or five years, it has been under a one-year authorization, and you know, not knowing if it was going to be reauthorized or not — and even if it was, not knowing how much the feds were going to pick up. At the last minute, they’ve always picked it up, you know.”

“Of course, it is what led to last year – January of last year, when the federal government shut down the first time for four or five days – that was the impetus that brought everybody together to get the government back going again past continuing resolution in Washington to make sure CHIP got reauthorized,” Clouse continued. “Of course, they picked up the full tab last year and are doing it this year right now. But, starting October 1 with the new budget, we’ll have to pick up about $35 million of that cost, which we’re going to be able to do. And then next year, the full amount is going to be kicking in on us. That’s going to be about an additional $70 million.”

As for the possibility of Medicaid expansion, a policy favored by many of the state’s elected Democrats, Clouse said he did not think it would come this year and said a determination on that would happen when what direction national health care policy was going to take after the 2020 elections.

“I don’t think so right now – not this year,” Clouse said. “I think it’s going to be an issue, another national issue in the presidential race. It will probably come up a lot in our U.S. Senate race, and our congressional races about the national health care situation and whether or not we’re going to continue Obamacare. And if we do, what’s going to be the guidelines going forward.”

@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.

9 mins ago

Attorney general backs Wednesday tear gas usage by law enforcement officers in Huntsville — ‘Crowd was found to have backpacks full of weapons’

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Thursday afternoon released a statement supporting the dispersal of a crowd in Huntsville the day previous by law enforcement officers.

Officers on Wednesday evening used tear gas and pepper spray to break up the crowd after they reportedly refused to comply with orders to disperse. At least one police officer was injured by the so-called protesters, and a reporter on the scene said objects were thrown at law enforcement vehicles. One local business was damaged.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle on Thursday morning released a statement about what occurred, noting that “people who were not part of our community” were responsible for the unpermitted gathering that led to the clash.

A release from the attorney general’s office said Marshall supports “law enforcement in their efforts to protect the public from violence spurred by anarchists attempting to hijack peaceful protests.”

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Given the infrequency with which tear gas is employed, the attorney general’s office explained that Marshall believed it was his duty to examine what necessitated its use in Huntsville.

A review of the incident by Marshall resulted in him backing the law enforcement officers’ usage of the non-lethal tool.

“The appropriateness of police actions must always be judged by the circumstances in which they occur,” Marshall said in a statement. “After talking with the Huntsville Police Department and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, I am well-satisfied that the actions taken by police were reasonable under the circumstances.”

“After a peaceful protest, hosted by the local chapter of the NAACP—which abided by the law and should not be blamed for what came after—hundreds of hostile demonstrators ignored multiple requests by law enforcement to leave the area. Rather than leaving, those demonstrators put on gear and readied for battle,” he outlined. “After an hour and a half of warnings and with daylight dwindling, law enforcement dispersed the crowd with the least amount of force possible and using no lethal weapons. This, despite the fact that the crowd was found to have backpacks full of weapons and spray paint, and which attacked officers with rocks and bottles full of frozen water.”

The attorney general’s office stressed that they have zero tolerance for aggressive acts against law enforcement.

“Alabama is fortunate in that most protests taking place in recent days have been conducted peacefully,” Marshall concluded. “At the same time, over the last 10 days—and even as we speak—law enforcement intelligence from around our state indicates the intent of some to infiltrate protests with violence, property damage, and targeting of law enforcement officers.”

RELATED: Huntsville mayor: ‘People who were not part of our community’ led Wednesday protest which resulted in tear gas usage, police officer injury

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

34 mins ago

Jerry Carl endorsed by Coastal Alabama business, civic leaders

Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl on Thursday announced that he has been endorsed for Congress by Coastal 150, a group of community leaders who work to further the mission of the Coastal Alabama Partnership to advance the interests of coastal Alabama.

In a statement, Coastal 150 executive director Wiley Blankenship said, “Our members believe that Jerry Carl is the right person to serve our region in Congress. He understands our unique needs and supports our shared vision for coastal Alabama.”

“We expect that Mr. Carl will represent coastal Alabama well and we look forward to working with him in Washington,” Blankenship continued. “The experience, character and leadership that he brings to the office is what we believe is necessary to solve the challenges facing our region and our nation.”

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Carl is running against former State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) in the Republican primary runoff to be held on July 14. They are vying for the congressional seat currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01).

“Coastal 150 represents many of the job creators in south Alabama, and I am thankful for their endorsement,” Carl commented. “I have worked closely with these business leaders to foster economic growth and a job-friendly environment. They understand the unique needs we have here in south Alabama and know what it will take to get our economy back on track. As a small businessman who has created jobs right here in our community, I am honored to have their support and will fight tirelessly alongside Trump to get our economy open again.”

This comes shortly after Carl received the endorsement of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s political arm, FarmPAC. He has also been endorsed by the third and fourth place finishers in the AL-01 GOP primary, State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) and businessman Wes Lambert.

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

2 hours ago

Protests don’t have to end in tear gas

The latest contentious protest in Alabama took place in Huntsville Wednesday night as the city made it clear that it would not be tolerating lawlessness and open-hostility in the street.

How long can they hold this position? Time will tell.

Before we get started, let’s take a second to remember all of this is predicated on the unanimous agreement among citizens and politicians alike that an event that happened over 2,000+ miles away was horrendous, illegal and needs to be aggressively punished to the full extent of the law.

No one in Huntsville has expressed a different opinion or begrudged anyone for being outraged.

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This was not a clear lie, much like the Michael Brown situation in Ferguson. This was clearly a situation where a man was killed at the hands of the police while in restraints and unarmed. Period.

But this is still a society where free speech is not only important — it is necessary.

That means that the government will not infringe on your right to assemble and voice your opinion. The value of that opinion is irrelevant. Klan members and Nazis have utilized it because unpopular speech is what needs to be protected.

Stating that George Floyd should be alive is not controversial in any way, and no one has pretended otherwise.

As protests across the country indicate, a multi-racial cross-section of America has taken to the streets to share this opinion.

But, and this is important, I can’t walk into a judge’s chambers or scream my opinion while running down the freeway expressing it as cars try to avoid me.

In Huntsville and everywhere else, you need a permit to close city streets, and the city appears to have even been lax on that in this matter.

Trust me, I know something about this:


Obviously, you can just walk in the road and force the authorities to stop you. Maybe they will give you “space to destroy,” maybe they won’t.

Much like Monday’s protest, Wednesday’s protest ended with most protesters going home. Both were followed with a standoff that ended in tear gas (quibble if you want, that’s what it was).

Why? Because after the protest, a portion of the protesters moved on while a remaining mob decided they were going to stand in the street until the cops made them move.

They wanted negative attention, and they got it.

Where does this end?

Huntsville’s downtown area was already shut down for two days this week. Is this to be expected every other day until those protesting declare we have racial equality? It’s unlikely we ever get there.

So at some point, the city will be required to open up the street and the protesters will have to move on.

The warning was given repeatedly. It was obvious that the crowd was not going to leave the road until a reaction from law enforcement was obtained.

So they got one. Tear gas was deployed, things were thrown, an officer was hurt and 24 non-protesters were arrested.

Did this advance the cause of the actual protests? No. It hurt them.

Was disruption the goal after the fact? Probably, so mission accomplished.

Citizens do not want this strife in their city, especially when they already agree with the cause.

Most Americans know we can always be better as a society.

Most Americans know we have come a long way from where we have been.

Most Americans want peace and fairness but they also want law and order in their communities.

Some in the media are sitting at home egging-on the protesters and hoping for more lawlessness.

But that is about them. Bad behavior at protests and after them emboldens the elected officials and law enforcement to give less leeway to actual protesters. It will also make citizens equate the actual protesters to the rioters and looters we see all day on cable news, and no one should want that.

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

3 hours ago

Alabama Democratic Party chair calls on Jefferson Davis state holiday to be abolished

State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), the chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, on Thursday sent a letter to Governor Kay Ivey in support of ending the state holiday that recognizes Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

The holiday this year was on Monday, June 1; it is recognized on the first Monday in June of every year in accordance with state law (Section 1-3-8, Code of Alabama 1975).

In his letter, England requested that Ivey include amending this section of state law if she calls a special session this year. The 2020 regular session of the legislature ended last month.

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A spokesperson for Ivey’s office told Yellowhammer News in response to England’s letter, “That is a conversation that would have to begin with the Legislature. However, Governor Ivey is certainly open to sitting down with lawmakers to discuss this proposal.”

England has been a member of the state legislature since November 2006.

Yellowhammer News’ search of online legislative archives found that no bill has been introduced during England’s tenure in the legislature to end Alabama’s state holiday recognizing Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

Before Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010, both the Alabama Senate and the House had been majority-Democrat since 1868.

State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) brought a bill in 2015 that would have made both Jefferson Davis’ birthday holiday and Confederate Memorial Day unpaid state holidays, unless decided otherwise by the governor each year. The holidays are currently paid. That bill passed out of committee but never received a vote on the Senate floor.

Jefferson Davis, a member of the Democratic Party, served as president of the Confederacy from 1861-1865.

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

4 hours ago

Legislation easing restrictions on PPP loan payback supported by Alabama congressional delegation

Each member of Alabama’s congressional delegation voted in support of a bill to ease restrictions on businesses receiving loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that passed Congress this week and now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk.

The bill extends the time businesses have to spend their loans from eight to 24 weeks. Additionally, to qualify for loan forgiveness, borrowers would now be required to spend 60% of the loan on payroll where it had been 75% previously.

The Trump administration told Politico that the program has saved 50 million jobs across the country. The Birmingham Business Journal is reporting that $6 billion in PPP funds have been distributed in Alabama.

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The PPP was created as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus packages known as the CARES Act that Congress passed in March as an attempt to alleviate the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program proved so popular that legislation to replenish the funds proved necessary later in April.

The initial rollout of the program saw overwhelming demand that swamped many loan providers and led to some small businesses not receiving their loans in a timely fashion.

The kinks were later ironed out, and currently, the federal government holds $120 billion in PPP funds still available for a small business in need.

The initial eight-week deadline to pay back the loan for businesses that did not qualify for loan forgiveness was rapidly approaching for many PPP recipients.

Both payroll and rent/mortgage costs are eligible for forgiveness under the program.

Politico reported that some lenders expect an amount of renewed interest in the loans given the extended time available for repayment.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95