The Wire

  • Black Bear Sightings Continue to Increase in Alabama

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    Add Jackson, Limestone, Marshall, Morgan and St. Clair counties to the growing list of black bear sightings in Alabama in 2018. In recent years, bears have also been recorded in Chambers, Elmore, Jefferson, Lee, Macon and Tallapoosa counties. These recent sightings are more evidence of the state’s expanding black bear population.

    Biologists from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources say the increase in sightings may be due to a combination of factors including changes in bear distribution, habitat fragmentation, seasonal movement and the summer mating season. However, most spring and summer bear sightings are of juvenile males being pushed out of their previous ranges by their mothers and other adult males.

    Historically, a small population of black bears have remained rooted in Mobile and Washington counties. Baldwin, Covington and Escambia counties on the Florida border host yet another population of bears. In northeast Alabama, bears migrating from northwest Georgia have established a small but viable population.

    “While seeing a black bear in Alabama is uncommon and exciting, it is no cause for alarm,” said Marianne Hudson, Conservation Outreach Specialist for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “There has never been a black bear attack on a human in Alabama.”

    Black bears are typically secretive, shy animals that will avoid human interaction. Occasionally, a curious bear will explore a human-populated area in search of food.

    “If you are lucky enough to see a bear, simply leave it alone,” Hudson said.

  • Rep. Byrne Releases Statement on Russia

    From a Bradley Byrne news release:

    Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this morning in Helsinki.

    Congressman Byrne said: “I applaud President Trump’s decision to start a dialogue with President Putin and I’m glad he is making it a priority. However, we must remember that Russia is not an ally – economically or militarily. They are an adversary. The United States should not tolerate actions by the Russians that intervene in our domestic affairs or pose a threat to our national security.”

  • Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Season Closes July 22

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD) announces the closure of Alabama state waters to the harvest of red snapper by private anglers and state-licensed commercial party boats at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 22, 2018. The quota of 984,291 pounds issued under NOAA Fisheries’ Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) is expected to be met by the closure date.

    “Alabama anglers fished extremely hard on the good weather days during the season,” said Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon. “That level of effort, coupled with larger average-sized fish harvested this year as compared to last year, resulted in a daily harvest rate two times higher than 2017, which prompted an earlier than anticipated closure.

    “The purpose of the EFP was to demonstrate Alabama’s ability to establish a season and monitor landings within a fixed quota and I think we have shown we can do that,” said Bannon.

    Anglers are reminded of the following:

    — Possession of red snapper in Alabama waters while state waters are closed is prohibited regardless of where the fish were harvested.
    — Alabama anglers may fish in federal waters off the coast of Alabama (outside of 9 nm) and land in a state that is open to the landing of red snapper, but they must adhere to the open state’s rules and not transit in Alabama state waters with red snapper on board.
    — The season for federally-permitted charter for-hire vessels will close at 12:01 a.m. July 22.

2 years ago

Estimated 12M Dems voted in GOP primary, renewing calls for Alabama to close primary

Alabama Republicans believe a large number of Democrats have voted in their primaries in recent years. (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Alabama Republicans believe a large number of Democrats have voted in their primaries in recent years. (Photo: Yellowhammer)

A conservative activist’s research estimates 12 million Democrats crossed over to vote in the 2016 Republican primary, accounting for roughly 38 percent of the total votes cast. That revelation, published on conservative blog RedState.com, has renewed calls for Alabama to close its primaries.

Alabama is one of 20 states around the country with “open primaries” for congressional and state races, and one of 16 states with open presidential primaries. This means that while voters have to choose which primary they will vote in when they arrive at their polling precinct, they do not have to register with one party or the other ahead of time.

Critics of open primaries argue that such a system can become particularly problematic in states like Alabama where one party is dominant.

During the 2014 election cycle, for example, liberal groups sought to take advantage of Alabama’s open system by working to get traditionally Democratic voting blocs to the polls to vote not for Democrats, but for their chosen Republicans.

Some Republicans also blame the open primary system for the election of current GOP Gov. Robert Bentley, who was heavily aided by the traditionally Democratic-leaning teachers union.

RELATED: Robert Bentley is running the same administration his Democratic opponent would have

Alabama Republican Party chairwoman Terry Lathan told Alabama sports website and liberal political blog al.com that the current system is analogous to Alabama football coaches being able to pick the players on Auburn’s team, or vice versa.

“We do not want people from another party picking our team and I’m sure they wouldn’t want us picking their team,” she said. “It’s pretty much that simple.”

The Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee, a large panel of party activists from around the state who set party policy, seem to agree with Mrs. Lathan. Seventy-six percent of them voted for closed primaries earlier this year.

That cannot be done, however, without a vote of the legislature. Sen. Tom Whatley sponsored a bill to close Alabama’s primaries, but it failed to pass.

Meanwhile, some Republicans have criticized efforts to close the state’s primaries, saying such a move would send the wrong message and hurt the party’s ability to attract new voters, particularly minorities.

A record 11 black Republicans sought elective office in Alabama during the 2014 cycle, compared to just one in both 2010 and 2012.

One of those candidates, Darius Foster, has voiced concerns that closing Alabama’s primaries could be a shortsighted move.

“Dispelling the myths about minority conservatives will take years to accomplish,” he said.

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2 years ago

DENIED: House panel rejects Bentley’s request to suspend impeachment proceedings

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley

Gov. Robert Bentley’s latest attempt to end his impeachment ordeal has failed.

State Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has denied the governor’s request to suspend the impeachment proceedings, as well as the request that certain committee members be recused from the hearings.

“After careful consideration and a close examination of constitutional law and other reference sources, the motions are denied,” said Rep. Jones.

Articles of impeachment were first filed on April 5 in the wake of revelations that the governor may have misused state resources to facilitate and cover up an affair with his top political advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. House members levied four articles of impeachment against the governor: neglect of duty, corruption, incompetency, and offenses of moral terpitude.

Gov. Bentley’s attorneys in mid-August contended that the accusations of “willful neglect of duty” and “corruption in office” violated his right to due process because he did not have enough time to mount a defense. They also requested that three Judiciary Committee member recuse themselves from the impeachment proceedings, contending that Reps. Mike Ball (R-Madison), Allen Farley (R-McCalla) and Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) should recuse themselves because they signed the original articles of impeachment, along with twenty other House members.

In his eight page response to Gov. Bentley’s filings, Rep. Jones said those complaints are “premature and erroneous,” and that committee members are not required to recuse themselves since “the governor has no legal or political authority to dictate to the House of this Committee” which members can sit on the committee.

“It is entirely proper for a legislator both to sponsor a resolution and to sit on a committee to which it is referred,” he said.

Jones, who has earned a reputation for being extremely thorough in his role as House Judiciary Committee Chairman, also cited rules of the Alabama House of Representatives, reports from the U.S. House Judiciary Committee prepared during the impeachment of then-President Richard Nixon, and printed works by constitutional and impeachment scholars.

The committee has also asked for the governor to turn over information, including communication between Gov. Bentley and Mrs. Mason, transportation and calendar records, and more, and has warned that not complying with the committee’s requests could itself be an impeachable offense.

The committee investigation into the articles of impeachment continues and no date has been set for the next committee meeting.

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2 years ago

Sims: Liberals using Kaepernick protest as ‘flash point’ to eradicate ‘racist’ National Anthem


(Video above: Cliff Sims discusses the National Anthem on Yellowhammer Radio)

During Tuesday’s episode of Yellowhammer Radio, host Cliff Sims warned that liberals are trying to use Colin Kaepernick’s sit-down protest during the playing of the National Anthem as a cultural “flash point” to spark a movement to eradicate “The Star Spangled Banner” for being racist.

Mr. Sims noted that the tactics being used in the wake of Mr. Kaepernick’s protest mirror the movement to eliminate the Confederate Battle Flag from the culture after a “white supremacist idiot” killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston last year. As a result of the social pressure, even the popular “Dukes of Hazzard” reruns were pulled from TV Land because the iconic “General Lee” car in the program had a Confederate Flag painted on its roof.

“They use these kind of flash points as a ‘cultural cleansing’ opportunity,” Mr. Sims explained. “I think that’s what is about to happen with the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ You’re already seeing it. If you Google search ‘Star Spangled Banner’ right now, you get things like, ‘Colin Kaepernick Is Righter Than You Know: The National Anthem Is a Celebration of Slavery.’

“I’m telling you, the Star Spangled Banner is about to be under attack by the Left.”

In other examples over the last several days, Black Lives Matter activist Shaun White wrote that he will “never stand again” for the current National Anthem because the author was “a terrible human being;” popular lifestyle publication Paste Magazine posted an article praising Kaepernick for taking on “our racist, warmongering National Anthem;” and self-described “anti-racism strategist” Tariq Nasheed tweeted that the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was “written by a slave owner to defend slavery.”

Critics of the Anthem point to the little-known third stanza of the poem from which it was derived. In the verse, the author, Francis Scott Key, writes that there will be “no refuge” for mercenaries and slaves who fought against the United States during the War of 1812. Mr. Key was also a slaveholder. His poem did not become the National Anthem until it was set to the current music some 100 years after it was written.

On Tuesday, Mr. Sims defended the anthem as its sung today as “aspirational,” and pointed specifically to the line, “the land of the free and the home of the brave” as a description of “what the United States is and aspires to be.”

“Francis Scott Key was a thirty-five-year-old attorney and amateur poet,” Sims explained. “He was on a British ship off the coast of Baltimore and witnessed the bombardment of Ft. McHenry (during the War of 1812). Now, why was he on the boat? He was basically being held prisoner. He had gone to the boat in his capacity as an attorney to try to free other captives. While he was there he found out about the plan to bombard Ft. McHenry, so the British couldn’t let him leave.

“And as he went to sleep that night, through the smoke, he could still see the giant U.S. flag waving over Ft. McHenry. When he awoke the next morning, he rushed to the side of the ship to see if that flag was still there, because he knew if it was still flying, the Americans had withstood the bombardment and still held control (of the fort). He saw that it was still there, and ran back down and told all the prisoners it was still there, and there was a huge cheer… Then he wrote the song.

“So when he says, ‘O! say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?’ In other words, he’s saying ‘The first thing I saw this morning was the flag that was waving last night when I went to sleep.’ Then he describes the flag. And then, when he gets to the end, what a powerful line when he says, ‘O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?’ What could be more aspirational, a better description of what the United States is and aspires to be — ‘The land of the free and the home of the brave’? But the Left has decided, ‘This is our opportunity. We must eradicate this from American culture.’ And I’m telling you it’s coming.”

When asked by Yellowhammer Radio co-host Scott Beason how liberals were going to achieve their goal, Mr. Sims said he expected them to shame people into submission.

“It will be social pressure,” he said, “it always is.”

The full clip of the radio segment can be heard in the YouTube video above. To subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio podcast on iTunes, click here.

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2 years ago

Alabama doubles down on effort to block Syrian refugee resettlement, files court appeal

11th Circuit Court of Appeals
11th Circuit Court of Appeals

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The State of Alabama is once again asking a federal court to intervene on the issue of Syrian refugee resettlement, arguing that the Obama administration is violating the Refugee Act of 1980, which requires that states be consulted before refugees are placed within their borders. A federal judge dismissed a previous suit, prompting the state’s appeal.

“Today I have filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit after the dismissal of Alabama’s suit against the federal government on July 29, 2016,” Gov. Bentley explained. “The District Court based its dismissal on a technicality, a finding that Alabama may not sue to enforce the Refugee Act; the District Court did not find that the federal government was fulfilling its obligations under the Act.

“Alabama’s case against the federal government seeks a court order requiring the government to comply with its statutory obligations to consult with the state before placing refugees within its borders. My problem is not with individual refugees, rather my issue is with the federal government and the unwillingness to enforce their own laws and follow their own procedures.

“In the Refugee Act, Congress specifically required the federal government to consult with the state regarding the placement of refugees before placement within the state’s borders. That consultation with Alabama has not occurred, as the federal government implicitly acknowledged in its legal filings by not arguing that it is consulting with the state. I will continue to fight this issue until the federal government is held accountable for its non-compliance and is properly including the states in this important decision-making as required by law.”

Last November, Governor Bentley announced that his administration would seek to block Syrian refugees from being relocated to the Yellowhammer State.

The move sparked a tense back-and-forth between his administration and the White House, which denied the governor’s request to view classified information on refugees slated to be placed within his state.

More than 7,500 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the U.S. since last year, but to this point none have been placed in Alabama.

RELATED: Zero Syrian refugees have been resettled in Alabama

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2 years ago

Robert Bentley is running the same administration his Democratic opponent would have

Parker Griffith, Democratic candidate for Alabama governor in 2010.
Parker Griffith, Democratic candidate for Alabama governor in 2014.

“Robert Bentley is out of ideas,” Democratic gubernatorial nominee Parker Griffith proclaimed during his 2010 campaign against Gov. Robert Bentley.

A cursory glance at his second term suggests Mr. Griffith may have been right, since Gov. Bentley seems to have ended up implementing — or at least attempting to implement — most of Mr. Griffith’s platform, rather than his own.

On taxes, for example, Mr. Griffith expressed an openness to hikes of some sort, while Bentley’s campaign plastered billboards with his “No New Taxes” pledge all over the state. Once elected, he proposed what would have been the largest tax hike in Alabama history, then went even further by declaring, “For the next four years we’re going to raise taxes.”

On the lottery, Mr. Griffith made the issue one of the main planks in his campaign platform.

“Everybody wants a lottery,” he said in a campaign ad. “The only thing standing in our way is Robert Bentley.”

When Yellowhammer asked if Gov. Bentley had any plans to push for a statewide vote on the lottery, the governor’s Communications Director replied with one word: “No.”

Flash forward to 2016 and Gov. Bentley has called a special legislative session entirely devoted to trying to pass a lottery.

When it comes to their rhetoric on Medicaid, Mr. Griffith came unhinged during the campaign.

“Alabamians are dying!” Griffith declared in a television ad.

The Bentley campaign scoffed at Mr. Griffith’s hyperbole, but in recent weeks the governor said opponents of a lottery to boost funding to Medicaid were in favor of allowing children to die.

After the legislature refused to pass his bill, Mr. Bentley added that, “It was not a vote against me, it was a vote against those children — those half a million children who are in poverty today.”

When it comes to their relationship with the legislature, Mr. Griffith was a fierce critic of Republican legislative leadership on the campaign trail, which would have likely just been a prelude to a contentious relationship with them once he was in office. But Gov. Bentley appears to have butted heads with Republican lawmakers as much or more than Mr. Griffith would have, and the legislature generally dismisses his suggestions.

Interestingly enough, a then-relatively unknown Bentley campaign staffer named Rebekah Mason responded to Mr. Griffith’s proposals during the 2014 campaign by saying, “What Parker Griffith needs is a plan to tell the truth.”

Which is ironic considering the only difference between Gov. Bentley and Mr. Griffith is that the latter seems to have been willing to tell the truth about who he was and what he planned to do.

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2 years ago

What they didn’t tell you: Alabama lawmakers were only presented with half a lottery plan

Signs advertise the lottery outside of a convenience store (Photo: Sivi Steys)
Signs advertise the lottery outside of a convenience store (Photo: Sivi Steys)
Signs advertise the lottery outside of a convenience store (Photo: Sivi Steys)

When Gov. Robert Bentley summoned lawmakers for a special session to consider the creation of a state lottery, I traveled to Montgomery with apprehension as what the Governor was up to. Soon after the debate began, however, it quickly became obvious that the real fiscal and systemic problems problems facing Alabama’s state government cannot be solved by a state lottery, and certainly not by the one that was presented to us.

As a result, I voted against placing the lottery on a referendum ballot and would like to outline just a few of the facts that led to my decision.

Creating a lottery requires two pieces of legislation, a constitutional amendment that allows that particular form of gambling to exist, and “enabling legislation” that spells out in vivid detail exactly how it would operate. The Legislature was provided only the constitutional amendment for consideration, and we were told that enabling legislation would be introduced sometime next year, after the referendum vote.

Passing an open-ended, blank-check constitutional amendment is dangerous and demands a level of trust that I, quite frankly, do not believe Montgomery has earned. Once the amendment is passed, the enabling legislation that followed could open the door to corruption, cronyism, and broken promises with absolutely no accountability to the citizens of our state.

You cannot bake a cake with just one ingredient – you must have all of them – and I do not believe that we can create a fair, honest, and well-run lottery with just one piece of the necessary legislation, we must have all of them, as well. The amendment and the enabling legislation must travel together.

The legislation submitted to us did not even have an accompanying fiscal note, which is usually required on measures we consider, so there is no way to determine how much it would cost to set up the lottery, the amount of the annual operating costs, or even a good barometer of how much it would add to state coffers each year. You cannot open any successful business without a detailed financial plan, and a lottery is no different.

But the few details that were provided to us cause even greater concern.

While most states dedicate most, if not all, of their lottery revenues to public education needs and programs, the Alabama lottery would send only 10% of its profit into our children’s classrooms. Instead, the dollars would be earmarked directly toward the state Medicaid program and other non-education agencies. The costs of providing Medicaid services in Alabama are already spiraling out-of-control, and funneling a dedicated stream of lottery revenues to the agency removes any incentive for spending to be reduced or efficiencies to be implemented.

In addition, this magic elixir for our financial problems that is being peddled to us like a bottle of snake oil will not have any effect for the next several years. Not one dime of revenue will be realized until 2018, and even then, the undetermined start up costs that I mentioned earlier could swallow any expected profits.

The experiences of other states provide even more evidence that the lottery is not a panacea for fiscal ills. Nine of the 10 states with the most insolvent budgets in the nation, for example, have lotteries. In Illinois, state lawmakers even had to borrow money in order to pay the winners of its lottery their promised awards.

Other questions about how the lottery would affect the overall economy and whether this amendment, as written, would allow forms of Las Vegas-style gambling to operate in Alabama remain unanswered.

I believe more than ever that Alabama can solve its financial problems only by implementing conservative principles, like un-earmarking the tax dollars we currently collect and reforming the way we draft the budget.

It is disappointing that we were summoned into special session with a desperate, eleventh hour deadline and presented with only half of a lottery plan that raised more questions than answers. Given time, I think the Legislature would be able to craft a lottery amendment worthy of consideration, but this one certainly did not meet that standard.
A constitutional amendment is difficult, if not impossible, to adjust once it is ratified, so we must be extremely careful before placing it on your ballot.

For these and other reasons, I voted against the lottery amendment, and I felt it important to let you know why.


Republican Barry Moore represents District 91 in the Alabama House of Representatives

1
2 years ago

BY ONE VOTE: Alabama House passes lottery bill after marathon debate

Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Flickr user Joel יוֹאֵל)
Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Yellowhammer)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After spending roughly eleven hours debating Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery proposal and working late into the night on Thursday, pro-lottery House members finally rallied enough support for the legislation to pass.

The bill will send the first $100 million of lottery revenue to Medicaid, followed by a 90-10 split of the remaining revenue between the General Fund Budget and Education Budget. Additionally, 1 percent of the 90 percent General Fund allocation will be earmarked for rural fire departments.

The bill now moves back to the Senate, which must approve of the changes before it goes to a statewide vote.

Lawmakers spent much of the day trying to amend the lottery bill for a multitude of reasons, sparking familiar criticism from conservative lawmakers who have characterized the lottery as little more than a way to grow the size of state government.

Around 10:30 p.m., the first House vote on the lottery actually fell two votes shy of the three-fifths support needed for the bill to pass.

Some procedural maneuvering revived the bill as pro-lottery lawmakers worked to round up more votes and wrangle colleagues who had left the chamber early.

In an example of how contentious the eleven-hour debate was at certain points, Democratic Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) took to the mic on the House floor at one point to declare, “I question the intelligence of those who voted ‘no.'”

A second vote finally took place around 11:30 p.m. and the bill was approved 64-35. It needed 63 votes to pass.

Secretary of State John Merrill reiterated Thursday that the lottery will not appear on the November General Election ballot because lawmakers missed the Wednesday deadline. Many pro-lottery lawmakers are still convinced the deadline is arbitrary and may be tossed aside. Otherwise the state will spend between $6 million and $8 million to organize a special lottery vote.

The Medicaid funding shortfall — which was the stated reason Gov. Bentley called a Special Session in the first place — will also be a focus in the coming days.

The House earlier this week passed a bill that would allocate money from the state’s BP oil spill settlement to pay down debt, cover the shortfall in Medicaid, and fund infrastructure projects on the gulf coast.

The bill, sponsored by General Fund Budget Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), would use BP money to pay back $448.5 million in state debt, free up about $35 million for Medicaid, and send the rest of the money — about $191 million — to the coast for road projects.

Governor Bentley is currently sitting on $35 million from BP’s Fiscal Year 2016 payment to the state, so combining that with Clouse’s bill would ultimately make about $70 million available for Medicaid.

The Senate has been waiting to consider the bill while the lottery debate played out in the House.

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2 years ago

Trumpapalooza one year later: The night Alabama was the center of the political universe

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Donald J. Trump waves to a crowd of tens of thousands in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)
Donald J. Trump waves to a crowd of tens of thousands in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo: Julie Dermansky)

MOBILE, Ala. — In what one attendee referred to as “something between a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and the Daytona 500,” tens of thousands of Donald Trump supporters flocked to Ladd-Peebles Stadium one year ago this week for the largest event of the Republican presidential primary.

It was a stunning show of populist might for Mr. Trump at a time when prevailing wisdom was that he would be a political shooting star, shining brightly before quickly burning out.

At an early stage of the campaign, while most candidates were flying commercial and traversing the country on buses, the first sign of Trump’s presence in The Port City was the silhouette of “Trump Force One,” the billionaire real estate mogul’s private Boeing 757.

Ever the showman, Mr. Trump directed the jet’s pilot to perform a flyover of the stadium before landing at the nearby airport. Every major media outlet in the country was there to capture the mayhem.

Trump was preceded on stage by a host of local and state elected officials who endorsed him before an anxious crowd. Then with anticipation reaching a fevered pitch, the man himself emerged, backed by “Sweet Home Alabama” blaring over the PA system.

“We have a great politician here,” Trump began. “We have a man here who really helped me. He was the one person I sought his counsel because he’s been so spot-on. He’s so highly respected. Has anyone ever heard of senator Jeff Sessions?”

The crowd erupted in applause and exploded when Sessions briefly donned a “Make America Great Again” hat before taking the mic.

“Donald, welcome to my hometown, Mobile, Alabama,” Sessions said as the crowed roared. “The American people — these people — want somebody in the presidency who stands up for them, defends their interests and the laws and traditions of this country. We welcome you here. Thank you for the work you have put into the immigration issue. I’m really impressed with your plan. I know it will make a difference. And this crowd shows a lot of people agree with that.”

Jeff Sessions officially endorses Donald J. Trump for Presidenti in Madison, Alabama (Photo: Screenshot)
Jeff Sessions officially endorses Donald J. Trump for Presidenti in Madison, Alabama (Photo: Screenshot)

Sessions stopped well short of endorsing Trump at the time — he would not make that official for another six months — but it was clear the senator was pleased to see the immigration ideas he had long espoused being a major plank in the Trump policy platform.

Trump heaped praise on Sessions, noting the senator and his staff had advised him on his recently-released immigration plan. “We’re going to build a wall!” He declared, launching into his remarks.

The candidate then delivered an hour-long meandering speech — the kind that had been a staple of his campaign since he tossed his prepared remarks aside when first announcing his candidacy just two months prior.

“We have politicians that don’t have a clue,” declared Trump. “They’re all talk, no action. What’s happening to this country is disgraceful.”

Trump’s decision to hold an event in Mobile raised some eyebrows at the time. South Alabama is not typically a hotbed of national politics. But talking heads later acknowledged the Trump campaign’s savvy maneuver.

Several southern states, including Alabama, had teamed up to hold their primaries on March 1 in the so-called SEC primary. By banding together, the South was positioned to be much stronger force in the nominating process. Trump’s stadium event was a statement that he was going to play to win in the South, where many rock-ribbed conservatives were attracted to his tough talk on immigration and trade. It ultimately paid off, as Trump swept every one of Alabama’s 67 counties and steamrolled across the South.

Trump fittingly exited the stage in Mobile to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” before making his way back to his plane in typical Trump fashion — a giant motorcade of black Cadillacs.

Flash forward a year and Trump is the Republican nominee entrenched in a tough fight with Hillary Clinton. The Sessions staffer who had helped craft his lauded immigration position paper behind the scenes has since then become one of Trump’s most influential advisors, even crafting his nomination acceptance speech. And Senator Sessions himself is one of Trump’s most prominent surrogates and chairman of his National Security Advisory Committee.

As a sure win for Trump, Alabama has not played as prominent a role in the General Election, but Yellowhammer State residents won’t soon forget Trumpapalooza 2015: the night Alabama was the center of the political universe.

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2 years ago

Alabama lottery will not be on November ballot after vote blocked in House

Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Flickr user Joel יוֹאֵל)
Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: Yellowhammer)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Procedural wrangling in the Alabama House of Representatives will keep a statewide lottery constitutional amendment from appearing on the ballot in November.

Wednesday, August 24, was the deadline for the legislature to authorize a constitutional amendment to appear on the General Election ballot on November 8th.

However, House rules stipulate that committee meetings must be advertised at least 24 hours in advance, unless four-fifths of the House votes to suspend the rules and allow a meeting to happen on shorter notice. Realizing that the committee meeting time on the lottery was not advertised in advance, a group of House members banded together and did not allow the rules to be suspended, thereby making it impossible for any proposal to pass by the Wednesday deadline.

Pro-lottery lawmakers blasted their colleagues for “delaying” throughout the day.

“You can call it a delay, I call it being deliberative,” quipped Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), who has expressed concerns about rushing through such a major constitutional amendment so quickly.

Republicans in Democratic-leaning areas of the state were pleased with the development, as they had voiced concerns that a lottery vote might increase Democratic turnout in November and jeopardize Republican officeholders.

The House last week passed a bill that would allocate money from the state’s BP oil spill settlement to pay down debt, cover the shortfall in Medicaid, and fund infrastructure projects on the gulf coast.

The bill, sponsored by General Fund Budget Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), would use BP money to pay back $448.5 million in state debt, free up about $35 million for Medicaid, and send the rest of the money — about $191 million — to the coast for road projects.

Governor Bentley is currently sitting on $35 million from BP’s Fiscal Year 2016 payment to the state, so combining that with Rep. Clouse’s bill would ultimately make about $70 million available for Medicaid.

The Senate is expected to consider the bill on Wednesday.

If it receives final passage, the stated reason for the current special session — to patch a hole in Medicaid funding — will have been accomplished, possibly leaving a lottery vote in doubt.

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2 years ago

Two Alabama senators resigned from Republican caucus after lottery vote. Here’s why.

Sen. Paul Bussman (left) and Sen. Dick Brewbaker (right) announced their resignations from the Senate Republican Caucus.
Sen. Paul Bussman (left) and Sen. Dick Brewbaker (right) announced their resignations from the Senate Republican Caucus.
Sen. Paul Bussman (left) and Sen. Dick Brewbaker (right) announced their resignations from the Senate Republican Caucus.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Two senators have resigned from the Senate Republican Caucus in the wake of last week’s vote to approve a statewide lottery, citing policy differences and claiming senate leaders violated their own rules in an effort to muscle the bill through.

The bill, which was approved by a margin of 21-12, would send $100 million of lottery revenue each year to Medicaid, which is facing a $70 million shortfall this year, with the rest going to the General Fund.

RELATED: Here’s how each Alabama Senator voted on the lottery

The bill endured a filibuster on the senate floor, which requires a three-fifths vote (21 of 35 senators) to “cloture,” or end.

Republicans have a long-standing agreement not to cloture each other, but as the caucus grew (there are currently 27 Republican senators), senate leaders knew it would become more difficult to avoid splintering on some divisive issues. As a result, the Senate Republican Caucus adopted a rule stipulating that Republicans could not cloture one of their own without 21 Republicans banding together to do it.

The rule had not been tested to this point, but as conservative lawmakers continued filibustering the lottery, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) moved to end the debate by circulating a “cloture petition.” The petition received enough signatures to break the filibuster, but it did not have the 21 Republican signatures required under the GOP caucus rules.

However, since caucus rules are not binding for the full body — they are more akin to gentlemen’s agreements — the decision was made to push forward to pass the lottery bill. Not all members of Senate leadership supported the move; Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) did not sign the cloture petition.

But as a result of the way the vote was handled, Sen. Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) announced he is resigning from the Republican caucus effectively immediately, and released the following statement:

As a Republican, I have strongly support the Republican mission of fiscal responsibility, limited government and personal freedom. I am a proud member of the Republican Party and will remain a proud member of the GOP. However as of Monday, I will no longer affiliate with the Senate majority caucus. In order for the Alabama Senate to operate fairly, we have a set rules by which all members must abide. In both the Republican and Democrat caucuses, there are also rules that apply. This organized process is crucial to a fair and transparent government. It is when these rules are not followed that the breakdown of the system occurs.

The process broke down last week when these rules were violated. These rules cannot be used when convenient and discarded when it is inconvenient. This is not about me. This is not about a lottery. This is about who controls the government of Alabama. Do the people control the government or is it still the back room deals and special interest groups that continue to control the state? I can no longer sit back and ignore the actions of the Alabama Senate Republican Caucus leadership, which are misguided, unequally applied, punitive and divisive. As a result, the Caucus has made a significant shift in priorities since 2010. In order for us to be successful in Alabama, we cannot return to the old ways of doing business. We are expected to do better and we must do better.

This is not Sen. Bussman’s first run-in with Senate leadership. He was stripped of his vice-chairmanship of the powerful Senate Rules Committee earlier this year for a previous dispute.

Senator Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) also announced he is exiting the Senate Republican caucus, echoing Sen. Bussman’s concern over the rules and telling the Montgomery Advertiser, “If you’re going to be in a political group, you need to make sure you share political priorities.”

Both senators have expressed concerns about the GOP-controlled legislature not being as committed to limited government reforms as it once was.

A request for comment from Sen. Del Marsh’s was not immediately returned.

1
2 years ago

Black Alabamian’s pro-voter ID tweet goes viral: ‘It’s racist to assume we can’t get an ID’

(Photo: Flickr)
(Photo: Flickr)

A black Alabamian is tired of Democratic politicians calling photo voter ID laws “racist,” and has taken to Twitter to declare that “it is racist,” however,” to “assume minorities are too incompetent to get an ID.”

The latest Gallup survey caught some Democrats by surprise this week when it revealed that 80 percent of Americans support “requiring all voters to provide photo identification at their voting place in order to vote.”

“As partisan-fueled court battles over state voting laws are poised to shape the political landscape in 2016 and beyond,” explained Gallup’s Justin McCarthy, “new Gallup research shows four in five Americans support both early voting and voter ID laws.”

The 2016 Democratic Party platform declared the Party would collectively “fight against discriminatory voter identification laws, which disproportionately burden young voters, diverse communities, people of color, low income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, and women.”

Prior to that, during an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Vice President Joe Biden also chided supporters of voter ID laws.

“These guys never go away,” the vice president said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

“It’s not racist to require an ID to vote,” responded an exasperated Pam Besteder, a black Alabamian who identifies on her Twitter profile as an independent voter who “loves God and Country and the American flag.”

“It IS racist,” she continued, “to assume minorities are too incompetent to GET an ID.”

The tweet has already been retweeted over 2,000 times and continues to spread around the internet.

Despite calls of racism, Alabama’s implementation of the voter ID law does not seem to have suppressed turnout.

To vote in Alabama, individuals must show a photo ID. This could include a drivers license, non-driver ID, State or Federal-issued ID, US Passport, government employee ID, student ID from a public or private Alabama college, military ID, tribal ID, or, if none of those are accessible, a free photo voter ID provided by the state.

To acquire a free ID, citizens can go to their local Board of Registrars office; there is one located in every one of Alabama’s 67 counties. Additionally, the Secretary of State’s office has visited every county with a mobile photo voter ID van in an effort to reach people right in their neighborhoods.

Alabamians go to the polls Tuesday for municipal elections and will return November 8 for the presidential election and other state-level races.

1
2 years ago

Lottery ‘on life support’ in Alabama legislature, budget fix still up in the air

Alabama State House (Photo: Creative Commons/Jay Williams)
Alabama State House (Photo: Creative Commons/Jay Williams)

RELATED: Bentley’s lottery panic is a sham. Here’s how Alabama can pay its bills without it.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Lottery proposals in the Alabama legislature appear to be having a tough time gaining momentum, as lawmakers wrestle with how to patch an $85 million hole in Medicaid funding. The program provides healthcare to approximately 1 million Alabamians.

Competing lottery proposals have struggled to garner widespread support, but pro-lottery senators have threatened to hold up other budget-related bills if a lottery proposal is not given a vote, according to Yellowhammer sources.

“I plan on voting [a lottery] bill after lunch today,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told reporters.

Multiple senators Yellowhammer spoke with Thursday morning said they do not envision any lottery proposal garnering the three-fifths vote (21 out of 35) needed to make it onto the November ballot as a Constitutional Amendment.

“The lottery is on life support,” said one senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to antagonize his pro-lottery colleagues. “I don’t see any scenario right now where a lottery passes. The reality is it just doesn’t have the votes.”

In the House, state representatives passed a bill that would allocate money from the state’s BP oil spill settlement to pay down debt, cover the shortfall in Medicaid, and fund infrastructure projects on the gulf coast.

The bill, sponsored by General Fund Budget Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), would use BP money to pay back $448.5 million in state debt, free up about $35 million for Medicaid, and send the rest of the money — about $191 million — to the coast for road projects.

Governor Bentley is currently sitting on $35 million from BP’s Fiscal Year 2016 payment to the state, so combining that with Clouse’s bill would ultimately make about $70 million available for Medicaid.

The State Medicaid Agency responded to cuts earlier this year by reducing reimbursements to doctors back to 2013 levels, which was before ObamaCare implemented a “fee bump.” That decision saved the state roughly $15 million, meaning that the $70 million made available in Clouse’s plan would cover the remaining shortfall.

The BP bill is on the back-burner in the senate, however, until a lottery proposal is given a vote.

A joint Republican caucus meeting on Wednesday also revived discussions about un-earmarking.

The state of Alabama earmarks an unprecedented 91 percent of its tax revenue, meaning state lawmakers are only in a position to allocate 9 percent of the state’s resources each year. As a result, an $85 million shortfall — about .003 percent of the state’s total budget — can be turned into a crisis.

There is very little support for diverting education dollars to patch the hole, but there is a growing sentiment that General Fund dollars should be freed up.

Alabama’s General Fund Budget is approximately $1.85 billion, but there is another approximately $3.6 billion that flows into General Fund agencies, but is earmarked to go to certain places and therefore cannot be utilized by lawmakers.

“There are a lot of agencies who don’t even have to justify their existence because they’re going to get their earmarked money no matter what,” one lawmaker explained on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss caucus conversations with the press. “It’s time for them to have to justify the millions of taxpayer dollars that they’re swimming in. There’s no incentive for these agencies to cut waste. That has to change.”

1
2 years ago

McCutcheon’s first words as Alabama House Speaker: The ‘imperial speakership’ is over

Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)
Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)
Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In his first words as Alabama Speaker of the House, State Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) declared “the days of the imperial speakership are over.”

McCutcheon was elected by a vote of 68 to 28, defeating the Democrats’ nominee, Rep. Joe Knight of Montgomery.

“I am not my predecessor. The days of the imperial speakership are over,” he said as members of both parties applauded. “I will work every day, every hour, every minute and every second to be the people’s speaker.”

RELATED: Alabama House Republicans just elected a new Speaker. Here’s what you should know.

McCutcheon’s rise to the speakership comes two months after a jury convicted former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) on 12 counts of using his public office for personal gain. The conviction immediately removed Hubbard from office, prompting a crowded by uncontentious race to succeed him.

McCutcheon was previously one of Hubbard’s top lieutenants in his role as House Rules Chairman, a powerful position atop the committee that decides which bills make it to the floor for a vote each day. But while Hubbard earned a reputation for ruling the lower chamber with an iron fist, McCutcheon garnered respect on both sides of the aisle for his even-handed approach.

Speaker McCutcheon’s new approach will immediately be tested as the legislature convenes for a special session to debate Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery proposal.

The Governor’s call includes the following:

“A constitutional amendment enabling a state lottery to support the General Fund” and “Legislation providing funding for Medicaid, infrastructure investment, and/or debt repayment.”

“This call is designed for the Alabama Legislature to address adequate support of essential state services including children, the elderly, people with mental illness and support for men and women in law enforcement,” the Governor said in a statement. “A primary focus of this special session is for legislators to allow the people within their district the right to vote on a statewide lottery. I am looking forward to working with lawmakers over the next few days as we address legislation that is simple, clean and transparent.”

Gov. Bentley has been saying for weeks that a state-sponsored lottery is the only solution left to fully fund Alabama’s Medicaid program, even calling for anti-gambling faith leaders to get down off of their “high horse” to help children.

RELATED: Bentley lays out Medicaid funding options: Create a lottery or let sick children die

“Which is the most immoral: Buying five lottery tickets with money you earned or allowing a child to die?” He asked. “I don’t think there’s even a choice there, so we must fund Medicaid, we must take care of our sick children, our disabled people, those in nursing homes, those with mental illness.”

Gov. Bentley went on to say that the government has a moral obligation to fund such programs.

“Because you know what? [The sick children] didn’t choose any of that,” he said. “Nobody did, and that’s one of the big functions of government is to take care of those that can’t take care of themselves.”

Alabama is one of only six states that does not have a lottery, but a gambling expansion of any kind is already facing fierce opposition from conservative and religious organizations.

In 1999, Alabamians voted down then-Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposed education lottery 54% to 46%. Since then, numerous statewide candidates — most of them Democrats — have run on a platform of letting the people vote again.

The special session of the Alabama Legislature began Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. Any constitutional amendment for a lottery must be approved by August 24th for it to appear on the General Election ballot in November.

RELATED: Bentley’s lottery panic is a sham. Here’s how Alabama can pay its bills without it.

1
2 years ago

SECRET AUDIO: Bentley sought to keep AG from investigating affair allegations fueled by ‘gambling people’

Gov. Robert Bentley (Photo: Governor's office)


(Video above: Gov. Robert Bentley and Rep. Allen Farley discuss allegations during a phone conversation)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In secret audio recordings obtained exclusively by Yellowhammer News, Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) accuses “casino gambling people” of fueling affair rumors and urges a state lawmaker not to ask the attorney general to investigate allegations that he had misused state resources to facilitate or coverup the alleged affair.

On August 31, 2015, State Rep. Allen Farley (R-Bessemer) received a phone call from Gov. Bentley, whose wife had filed for divorce just three days prior. The divorce fueled rumors that Mrs. Bentley had left him after discovering he was having an affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a married staffer who had risen to become one of the governor’s closest advisors. Audio recordings of conversations between Gov. Bentley and Mrs. Mason released by Yellowhammer in March of 2016 confirmed the affair, but at the time of the Farley-Bentley recording, the governor was vehemently denying the rumors.

“Alan, first of all let me say this,” the governor begins. “There is no affair going on, okay? That’s one thing. Now, I do have some close advisors. Rebekah is one of my close advisors. And unfortunately there has been jealousy on the part of my wife. But I can tell you that we’re not having an affair.”

Gov. Bentley said the divorce came as a complete surprise to him, adding that it was the result of him working too hard.

“Bless her heart, it’s not her fault,” he said of Mrs. Bentley. “I blame myself for working too hard. I blame myself for not spending the time with her. It’s just unfortunately one of the casualties of working 12 to 14 hours a day and not spending the time with her that I should have. There are reasons that this has happened, but it was a total shock to me. I did not know. She had talked about it once or twice, but I said, ‘Dianne, that’s not the answer. We don’t believe in divorce. That’s not the answer.’ But when this happened the other day, I had no clue. I found out about it from WSFA. I found out about it the same time you did. It was a shock to me.”

Gov. Bentley went on to explain that an elaborate PR campaign was being waged against him, involving numerous blogs and journalists, and being quarterbacked by gambling interests.

“I read some of that stuff… It’s just an avalanche,” he said.

“This is a slimy guy,” he added with regard to one of the bloggers. “Casino gambling people are feeding this story.”

The reason gambling interests were fueling the affair rumors, Gov. Bentley explained, was because “they know I’m anti-gambling.”

“These guys, let me tell you what they’re most concerned about. They’re most concerned about a lottery and me signing a compact with the [Poarch Band of Creek] Indians,” said the governor. “That’s what they’re concerned about… That is the loaded gun right there. And they will do anything because these guys are poised to make hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Gov. Bentley went on to say that gambling interests were fighting him on two fronts. On the policy front, they were trying to block his tax increase proposals to build momentum for a gambling expansion, and on the personal front they were trying to “discredit” him by hurting his marriage and fueling unfounded rumors of an affair.

“I’m not saying that my divorce was totally caused by that but some of it was because they fed my wife [this stuff],” he told Rep. Farley. “This is not as simple as people think… There is a concerted effort out there to not pass any taxes. Not passing any taxes means that there has to be a solution because we’re going to have to cut government, and that’s going to make people unhappy. So how do you solve all this without raising taxes?”

As the conversation proceeded, Rep. Farley mentioned allegations that Gov. Bentley had misused state resources to facilitate or coverup the alleged affair. He believed the quickest way to put those rumors to bed was to ask the Alabama Attorney General’s office to investigate the matter.

“I want the AG to step up and say, ‘I will look into it and make sure that the state dollars were properly spent by the governor,’ said Rep. Farley. “This is the reason we have an attorney general’s office. I’ll ask him to clear that up. Then we’ll turn the divorce situation over the God. He’ll deal with that. But the AG can go in and look at the records and the travel logs and things like that, and then people don’t have to talk about that anymore. That can be cleared up.”

Gov. Bentley immediately suggested such a move was not necessary.

“Well, the travel logs and all that, that’s public record,” he insisted. “It’s already out there right now, Allen.”

Rep. Farley agreed, but said that most people would not take the time to read them all or would think the records had been doctored, making a definitive statement from the attorney general’s office the best way to put the issue to rest.

“I think when Luther comes back and says, ‘We looked at it.’ And when Luther comes back and says that, I’ll stand up and say, ‘I’m satisfied with it. I’m absolutely, positively satisfied with it. Now let’s move on and talk about something else. Let’s not be distracted by this.'”

“Allen, I’ve explained things to you,” Gov. Bentley shot back. “I don’t think you need to get Luther involved in it, personally. I mean, there’s nothing that we’re trying to hide… The only thing I’m saying is, y’all are using — I mean, whoever’s doing it — is using rumors and innuendo to make accusations that are not founded.”

Rep. Farley continued to push the need to get the AG involved.

“We’ve got one agency that can look into this — that’s what they do, they can look into this — and say, ‘It’s our opinion, as the AG it’s my opinion, that there’s nothing improper there.’ And then move on,” he said.

In spite of Gov. Bentley’s pleas, Rep. Farley ultimately wrote a letter to Attorney General Luther Strange, which reads, in part, as follows:

More than one allegation has mentioned the possibility of Governor Bentley utilizing his state security team, state vehicles, and state aircraft to assist in facilitating the alleged adulterous relationship while serving as Alabama’s governor.

I understand that a divorce case is not something the Attorney General’s Office would normally be associated with. However, I believe the allegations swirling around Governor Robert Bentley’s divorce case are different. In this situation we are talking about the improper use of Alabama tax dollars.

General Strange, as Alabama’s Attorney General, I am requesting that you immediately initiate an investigation to determine if Governor Robert Bentley did in fact utilize any of Alabama’s resources outside the official capacity of his elected office.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office told Yellowhammer they are not able to comment on the matter. The Governor’s office did not reply to Yellowhammer’s request for comment.

Roughly six months after insisting to Rep. Farley that he had not engaged in an affair, audio emerged proving that he had. Now, roughly a year after insisting to Rep. Farley that the attacks against him were being orchestrated because he was “anti-gambling,” Governor Bentley is preparing to call the Alabama legislature into a Special Session in an attempt to pass gambling legislation aimed at patching the hole in the state’s General Fund Budget.

The full conversation between Gov. Bentley and Rep. Farley can be heard in the video above.

(This story may be updated as additional information is made available.)

1
2 years ago

As students return, Alabama urges schools to ignore Obama’s transgender bathroom order

Gender neutral bathrooms have become a controversial topic nationwide (Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)
Gender neutral bathrooms have become a controversial topic nationwide (Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)
Gender neutral bathrooms have become a controversial topic nationwide (Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As public school students across Alabama returned to class Wednesday, Attorney General Luther Strange reiterated that he believes local schools should disregard President Barack Obama’s transgender bathroom order until the issue works its way through the federal court system.

RELATED: Yellowhammer Radio Podcast — Transgender bathrooms in Alabama’s schools

Alabama and a coalition of 13 states have filed a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for promoting a federal directive that local schools must allow transgender access to campus restrooms or face a loss of federal funds.

The filing included an affidavit from the Alabama Department of Education detailing the extensive federal funds at risk because of the “illegal order” and the impact the loss of such funds would have on Alabama school children.

“On May 26, I wrote a letter to the State Board of Education advising Alabama educators to ignore the May 13 federal guidance letter which attempts to change the law by redefining a student’s sex in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to mean ‘gender identity,’” Attorney General Strange told Yellowhammer in a statement. “I continue to stand behind my advice to state schools not to follow the Obama administration’s transgender guidance until the issue is settled in federal court… We hope to receive a decision soon.”

Strange noted that the U.S. Supreme Court recently stayed (put a hold on) a lower federal court order that would have forced a Virginia high school “to allow transgender access to school restrooms based on gender preference.”  Alabamians opposed to the similar mandate issued by the Obama administration see the ruling as a reason for optimism.

“This is a positive development and an indication that the U.S. Supreme Court could eventually overturn the Obama administration’s order,” said Attorney General Strange. “I believe Alabama and the other states will ultimately prevail in federal court against the new restroom order because federal law allows schools to have separate facilities based on the ‘sex’ of the individual, not their gender preference.”

Four Alabama congressmen have also signed on to a letter demanding President Barack Obama walk back his effort to coerce all public schools around the country to offer gender-neutral bathrooms.

The decision, which the administration claims “gives administrators, teachers, and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies,” will affect all of Alabama’s 1,637 public schools that service almost 745,000 children.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

In response, congressmen Bradley Byrne (R-AL1), Robert Aderholt (R-AL4), Mo Brooks (R-AL5) and Gary Palmer (R-AL6) signed on to a letter to President Obama, which reads as follows:

Dear President Obama:

We are extremely concerned with the recent directive from your Administration threatening legal actions against or denial of congressionally appropriated funds to local school districts that do not allow students to use their bathroom of choice regardless of gender. We ask that you rescind your poorly executed threat to school districts across the country and reaffirm their right to govern themselves as they see fit within the bounds of the law.

To date, neither statute nor legal precedent has extended civil rights protections based on gender identity. Furthermore your actions threaten to infringe on the constitutional right of Congress to appropriate funds. We view this as an effort to implement your Administration’s political agenda outside the bounds of the law and against the will of the American people.

We insist that you withdraw this legally unfounded threat immediately.

President Obama defended his plan, telling BuzzFeed News it is society’s duty to protect vulnerable students.

“We’re talking about kids, and anybody who’s been in school, been in high school, who’s been a parent, I think should realize that kids who are sometimes in the minority — kids who have a different sexual orientation or are transgender — are subject to a lot of bullying, potentially they are vulnerable,” Obama said. “I think that it is part of our obligation as a society to make sure that everybody is treated fairly, and our kids are all loved, and that they’re protected and that their dignity is affirmed.”

1
2 years ago

Al.com’s ‘dark money’ hypocrisy costs Alabama taxpayers millions

(Capital Research)
(Photo: Capital Research)
(Photo: Capital Research)

Apparently frustrated by their unsuccessful attempt to stoke racial tensions at the University of Alabama late last year, Alabama sports website and liberal political blog al.com is back with another shot at the UA System. With an “investigative report” titled, “How the University of Alabama System funneled $1.4 million through a ‘dark money’ web,” an al.com blogger takes great pains to give readers the impression that the System is just plain up to no good.

Here’s the gist of it:

The UA System is a member of an organization called the Alabama Association for Higher Education (AAFHE), a 501(C)(6) non-profit group whose stated goals are as follows:

• Inform the citizens of the State of Alabama and its leaders on important issues in Alabama’s higher education.
• Foster an ongoing rational discussion of higher education among the people of the State of Alabama and its leaders.
• Promote higher education as a driver of economic success in the State of Alabama.
• Maximize the impact higher education has on Alabama’s economy.
• Promote higher education as a catalyst for recruiting industries and creating jobs in the State of Alabama.
• Advocate for the advancement of healthcare research in Alabama.

According to the al.com report, “the UA System has contributed more than $1.4 million to the AAFHE since 2014, defending the payments as beneficial to the system’s interests.”

“The University of Alabama System has a close relationship with AAFHE as a founding member,” said UA System spokesperson Kellee Reinhart. “We are actively involved in the association’s efforts to support higher education in Alabama.”

The report also notes that AAFHE has donated several hundred thousand dollars to a political action committee called Innovation PAC, which unlike AAFHE is able to make campaign contributions to state-level political candidates.

Mrs. Reinhart told al.com AAFHE “makes independent decisions about expending resources” and added that the UA System is one of “numerous members in the association.”

“[W]e are not using AAFHE to make campaign donations. That organization makes its own decisions about any campaign donations, which such organizations are allowed to make by law,” she said. “The UA System’s goal as a member is to support the association’s advocacy of education issues.”

The al.com report does not accuse the UA System of breaking the law. In fact, it concedes that the whole structure is “keeping pace with a rapidly evolving campaign finance landscape.”

But the writer bemoans the existence of so called “dark money” arrangements that shield from public view the names of donors.

In a country where the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate calls out private citizens by name hundreds of times for donating to candidates and causes with which he disagrees, it’s no wonder donors don’t always want their names dragged through the mud for their beliefs.

But the money in politics argument is a debate for another time.

Today’s topic is hypocrisy.

You see, the Alabama Media Group, which owns al.com and its associated print publications, is a member of an organization called the Alabama Press Association (APA). The APA is a 501(C)(6) non-profit organization, just like the dreaded Alabama Association for Higher Education, whose stated purpose is to “represent the interests of the newspaper industry,” which is does by employing at least three lobbyists.

And what do these lobbyists do for the APA and its members, including the Alabama Media Group?

Well, for one, they fight off any changes to a system in which the State of Alabama (i.e. your government) pays print publications millions of dollars to publish legal notices. Since 2014, almost $2 million of your tax dollars — $1,827,789.80, to be exact — have been paid to the Alabama Media Group to publish such notices, a major stream of revenue for a company that has desperately struggled to survive in the changing media landscape.

So, to recap, the University of Alabama System is a paying member of a 501(C)(6) non-profit organization that advocates for higher education and donates to a PAC that supports candidates who presumably do the same. Alabama media group is a paying member of a 501(C)(6) non-profit organization that advocates for the print media and lobbies government officials to keep millions of taxpayer dollars flowing into their coffers.

Again, the central issue here is not whether these types of arrangement are good or bad, but that al.com is calling for transparency while conveniently leaving out that they themselves benefit from a pretty sweet little “dark money” setup of their own.

hillary clinton shrug

1
2 years ago

Bentley proposes lottery to fund Medicaid, prisons, other General Fund agencies

(Mark Ou/Flickr)
Mega Millions lottery tickets (Photo: Mark Ou)
Mega Millions lottery tickets (Photo: Mark Ou)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Governor Robert Bentley on Friday released a proposed Constitutional Amendment (CA) that would institute a state-sponsored lottery, with the revenue from it flowing into the General Fund, rather than the Education Budget, to fund Medicaid, prisons and other agencies.

The synopsis of the CA reads as follows (read the full CA here):

Under existing law, lotteries and gift enterprises are prohibited.

This bill would propose an amendment to Section 65 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to authorize an Alabama Lottery and dedicate the proceeds from the lottery, after expenses and prizes, to the state General Fund, for the ordinary expenses of the executive, legislative and judicial departments of the state.

The amendment would establish an Alabama Lottery Commission to implement, administer, and regulate the operation of such State Lottery. The amendment would further require the Legislature to pass general laws
necessary to implement this constitutional amendment.

Constitutional Amendments require a vote of the people, so for it to appear on the General Election ballot in November, the legislature would have to pass a bill authorizing the CA vote by August 24th.

“In order for our state to be the best that it can be, we must once and for all solve problems that have held our state back for decades,” said Gov. Bentley, alluding to Alabama’s perpetual General Fund Budget crisis. The state’s Medicaid program, which has almost doubled in size over the past decade, is the primary driver of the funding shortfall.

While speaking to doctors at Monroe County Hospital earlier this year, Gov. Bentley said he believes 70 percent of Alabamians would support a lottery proposal that is directly tied to funding Medicaid, a major source of revenue for rural hospitals. Recent polling, however, shows Alabama Republicans split on the lottery, while remaining overwhelmingly opposed to a further expansion of casino gambling.

Gov. Bentley asked the Legislature to include an additional $100 million appropriation for Medicaid this year, bringing the total request to $785 million. In 2007, Medicaid’s line in the General Fund Budget was only $400 million, and the program’s explosive growth is likely to continue in the years to come. That has resulted in some lottery critics calling into question Gov. Bentley’s claim that a lottery would be a “long term solution” to the perpetual funding issues in the General Fund.

The legislature ultimately included $700 million in the budget for Medicaid, $85 million short of Gov. Bentley’s request, saying it would be difficult to go any higher than that without slashing other state services.

The State Medicaid Agency responded by reducing reimbursements to doctors back to 2013 levels, which was before ObamaCare implemented a “fee bump.”

“This is a difficult, but necessary cut due to the budget crisis the Medicaid Agency is facing at this time,” said Commissioner Stephanie Azar. The decision saved the state roughly $15 million.

“We must find a way to solve Medicaid’s $85 million budget shortfall, both to protect a program that nearly one million Alabamians rely on, and to move forward with these long-term reforms that will slow Medicaid’s exploding costs,” said Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), who in 2013 sponsored a bill overhauling the state’s Medicaid program.

Gov. Bentley believes the only tenable longterm solution is to approve a lottery that could bring in over $200 million annually.

Alabama is one of only six states that does not have a lottery, but a gambling expansion of any kind will face fierce opposition from the state’s large swath of evangelical voters.

Dr. Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), an almost 80-year-old organization that describes itself as “Alabama’s moral compass,” earlier this year expressed concerns that “illegal gambling is taking over this state” and reiterated his group’s opposition to an expansion of any kind. Influential Christian conservative talk radio host Rick Burgess added that he believes the lottery is “a lazy plan” for politicians who cannot balance a budget.

In 1999, Alabamians voted down Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposed “education lottery” 54% to 46%. Since then, numerous statewide candidates — most of them Democrats — have run on a platform of letting the people vote again.

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2 years ago

You’ll want to hear why Alabama’s next House Speaker felt ‘guilty’ the day after being elected

Members from the McChord Field Honor Guard pallbearer team carry a casket to a hearse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)
Members from the McChord Field Honor Guard pallbearer team carry a casket to a hearse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)
Members from the McChord Field Honor Guard pallbearer team carry a casket to a hearse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)

Alabama House Republicans on Tuesday tapped Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) to be the next Speaker of the House, setting him up to assume arguably the most powerful job in state politics when the legislature reconvenes in the coming weeks.

The looming special legislative session prompted the House GOP caucus to reconvene sooner than they would have otherwise, and the timing of the election was particularly tough for Mr. McCutcheon, who was preparing to leave the state on a wedding anniversary “bucket list” trip that had been planned for months, if not longer.

Everything ended up working out — Republicans met and elected Mr. McCutcheon their leader, and he was able to fly out shortly thereafter.

But it was a solemn moment during a whirlwind few days that compelled Alabama’s next House Speaker to share an update on his Facebook page.

Yesterday Debbie and I flew to Seattle to celebrate a “46 years of marriage” trip. We were excited and looking forward to it.

During the approach into Seattle the pilot told the passengers we had a fallen U.S. SOLDIER on board and his body was being taken home for burial. Not sure of the circumstances surrounding his death, the flag draped casket spoke volumes to us.

We were ask to stay seated while the honor guard and family got off of the plane. It was a sad moment! As we watched, the mother and the soldier’s young boys were standing in front of us. The mother was weeping and Deb put her arm around her. I tear up thinking about it.

I felt guilty at first because we were on a trip to celebrate and here stood a family that had suffered a great loss. As Deb and I walked away I felt a real sense of gratitude for my freedom. Freedom is not free there is a price that is paid and Deb and I just witnessed our freedom being paid in full.

It sounds like Mr. McCutcheon will be taking some perspective with him into one of the toughest jobs in the state.

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2 years ago

Alabama evangelist makes the case for Trump: I’m fearful of what Hillary will do

Scott Dawson speaks at the Kansas City Royals 2015 "Faith & Family Day" event at Kauffman Stadium. (Photo: Contributed)
Scott Dawson speaks at the Kansas City Royals 2015 “Faith & Family Day” event at Kauffman Stadium. (Photo: Contributed)

During an interview on Yellowhammer Radio Wednesday, nationally-known, Alabama-based evangelist Scott Dawson made the case for why Christians who are apprehensive about supporting Donald J. Trump for president should reconsider their position.

“We don’t know what Donald’s going to do, but we do know what Hillary’s going to do,” he said. “That, to me, is the basis (for supporting Trump). Are you going to go with the unknown factor, or are you just going to go with the known factor? I am more fearful of what I know she’s going to do than I am of what he may do.”

Mr. Dawson also addressed Americans who are considering just not voting in the presidential election, saying they would not only be shirking their duty as citizens, but as Christians as well.

When I hear this, “Well, I’m just not going to vote,” I’ve got two problems with that. One, in Romans 13 Paul does address that we should be involved in our politics, be involved in our government… The second thing is Jesus when he said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” What he’s basically saying is render unto government what is government’s. Now, what is our government? Who is our government?… We’re a government “of the People, by the People, for the People.” We are our own government. So if we don’t vote, we’re not rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…

This theory that it’s better to vote for no one than the lesser of two evils, that sounds awesome if on the first Wednesday in November no one would be elected president. But, in reality, we are going to have a president the first Wednesday in November. The Supreme Court lies in the balance this next election for me, my kids and for my grand kids. We’ve got some serious issues going on and I’m imploring people: You know what one’s going to do, you don’t know what the other’s going to do. I mean, my gosh, ObamaCare got in because of a Republican-nominated Supreme Court justice. So for all these people going, “We’ve never had this happen before,” my gosh, it’s always been the lesser of two evils. We haven’t had an infallible one since Jesus, and he’s not running.

Mr. Dawson, who was recently the keynote speaker for “Faith and Freedom Day” at two Major League Baseball Stadiums, said he believes Mr. Trump is particularly appealing to regular Americans because he is so reviled by the country’s business and political elites.

RELATED: How God turned an Alabama ‘personality’ into one of America’s most effective evangelists

You know what’s so attractive about Trump? No one wants him. Every politician doesn’t want him. Every mega-millionaire that made money off the stock market that’s been driven by this globalization doesn’t want him. Eventually I as an American — not as a preacher — I go, man, this is weird. Again, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. But we do know that if one person goes into the White House, the Supreme Court nominees are going to be very progressive… Now, when we hear progressive, it always makes (people think) new ideas, new thoughts. No, no, no — a Progressive is someone progressively moving away from our Founding Fathers.

Looking toward Alabama’s next gubernatorial election in 2018, Mr. Dawson believes the Yellowhammer State could also be hungry for a non-politician to seek to lead the state, although he would not yet say who he has in mind.

Alabama could be in a position to elect a non-politician. I think this Trump awareness could filter down to a state election. I think Alabama is looking for someone who’s not been a politician their entire life, but has been an outstanding citizen his entire life. And I think I know the guy that needs to be governor of the State of Alabama.

To hear the full Scott Dawson interview, subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio podcast on listen on YellowhammerRadio.com.

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2 years ago

Alabamians optimistic SCOTUS will block Obama’s transgender school bathroom mandate

Could gender neutral bathroom signs be rolling out soon in Alabama public schools?
Could gender neutral bathroom signs be rolling out soon in Alabama public schools?
Could gender neutral bathroom signs be rolling out soon in Alabama public schools?

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed (put on hold) a lower federal court order forcing a Virginia high school to allow transgender access to school restrooms based on gender preference, not the sex of the student. Alabamians opposed to a similar mandate issued by the Obama administration see the ruling as a reason for optimism ahead of the approaching school year.

“This is a positive development and an indication that the U.S. Supreme Court could eventually overturn the Obama administration’s order mandating that America’s public schools allow students access to restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity rather than sex,” said Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. “The Supreme Court’s 5 to 3 decision in the case of Gloucester County School Board v G.G. certainly raises the possibility that the High Court will also rule in support of a separate legal challenge against the Obama administration filed by Alabama and ten other states in May.”

The State of Alabama has joined a coalition of states seeking to block the Obama administration’s order that schools must allow students access to restrooms and locker rooms of their gender “identity,” rather than their sex, or lose federal funding.

The states filed a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court that included an affidavit from the Alabama Department of Education detailing the extensive federal funds at risk because of the “illegal order” and the impact the loss of such funds would have on Alabama school children.

“On May 25, I joined a legal challenge to the Obama administration’s restroom mandate,” said Attorney General Strange. “With schools nearing the beginning of a new year, time is short and school administrators need clarity about the impact of this controversial new order on their school systems. Alabama and the other states are asking the federal court to grant a preliminary injunction of the transgender restroom edict until the court has reached a decision on its legality.

“I believe Alabama and the other states will ultimately prevail in federal court against the new restroom order because federal law allows schools to have separate facilities based on the ‘sex’ of the individual, not their gender preference.”

Alabama joined Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin in filing the motion for a preliminary injunction.

Four Alabama congressmen have also signed on to a letter demanding President Barack Obama walk back his effort to coerce all public schools around the country to offer gender-neutral bathrooms.

The decision, which the administration claims “gives administrators, teachers, and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies,” will affect all of Alabama’s 1,637 public schools that service almost 745,000 children.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

In response, congressmen Bradley Byrne (R-AL1), Robert Aderholt (R-AL4), Mo Brooks (R-AL5) and Gary Palmer (R-AL6) signed on to a letter to President Obama, which reads as follows:

Dear President Obama:

We are extremely concerned with the recent directive from your Administration threatening legal actions against or denial of congressionally appropriated funds to local school districts that do not allow students to use their bathroom of choice regardless of gender. We ask that you rescind your poorly executed threat to school districts across the country and reaffirm their right to govern themselves as they see fit within the bounds of the law.

To date, neither statute nor legal precedent has extended civil rights protections based on gender identity. Furthermore your actions threaten to infringe on the constitutional right of Congress to appropriate funds. We view this as an effort to implement your Administration’s political agenda outside the bounds of the law and against the will of the American people.

We insist that you withdraw this legally unfounded threat immediately.

President Obama defended his plan, telling BuzzFeed News it is society’s duty to protect vulnerable students.

“We’re talking about kids, and anybody who’s been in school, been in high school, who’s been a parent, I think should realize that kids who are sometimes in the minority — kids who have a different sexual orientation or are transgender — are subject to a lot of bullying, potentially they are vulnerable,” Obama said. “I think that it is part of our obligation as a society to make sure that everybody is treated fairly, and our kids are all loved, and that they’re protected and that their dignity is affirmed.”

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2 years ago

Alabama House Republicans just elected a new Speaker. Here’s what you should know.

Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)
Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)
Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives (Photo: House GOP Caucus)

In the wake of former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard being removed from office after being convicted on 12 counts of felony public corruption, House Republicans have tapped one of his top lieutenants, Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville), to take over as speaker.

This decision led to immediate backlash from some grassroots activists and members of the media, who said the House GOP had chosen to maintain the status quo, rather than seek the major shift necessary after Hubbard’s conviction undermined Republicans’ ability to lead the state.

Mr. McCutcheon’s recent past support for tax increases worries conservatives who are hungry for reforms, but it was his decision to stand by Mr. Hubbard throughout his legal ordeal that has raised the most eyebrows.

But McCutcheon’s election is not as simple as “they chose the status quo over change.”

Having watched Mr. McCutcheon closely for the past six years, and after talking to dozens of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, one major change at the top of the House will be that the new speaker’s character is beyond reproach.

Alabamians will not have to endure another round of embarrassing scandals or ethics questions with Mr. McCutcheon, a longtime law enforcement officer, holding the gavel. That change alone is enough to spark optimism in Yellowhammer State residents who have grown sadly accustomed to their leaders disgracing themselves.

But how could he stand by Mr. Hubbard after he was indicted?

The answer to this question is really quite simple: Mike Hubbard lied, and the members of the House, to many of whom Mr. Hubbard had been fiercely loyal, believed him. And so did his constituents. Mr. Hubbard was overwhelmingly re-elected to his House seat just weeks after being indicted. He was subsequently re-elected speaker two months later by a unanimous vote of both Republicans and Democrats.

In other words, a lot of people were victims of Mr. Hubbard’s fraud.

On the first day of his trial, numerous House members from both parties expressed dismay at what they learned for the first time, because all of the facts had previously only been disclosed inside grand jury proceedings and private business dealings.

The most important question now is, in what direction will Mr. McCutcheon lead the people’s House?

Conservatives in the House — and across the state — are hungry for a return to the reform-minded approach GOP leaders took just after Republicans seized control of the legislature in 2010. The lack of reforms in recent years has left some newer members of the legislature wondering aloud why they even bother going to Montgomery.

“I don’t really know if I’m going to run again,” one frustrated Republican told Yellowhammer. “If we’re not going to do anything, then what’s the point?”

Conservatives are wanting to know if the McCutcheon-led House is going to pass tax cuts, rather than push tax hikes, and if pro-gun and pro-life will finally be priorities.

Mr. McCutcheon’s personality is the polar opposite of Mr. Hubbard’s. And even if it wasn’t, House members will no longer stand for being ruled with an iron fist. That change will take care of itself.

The one primary criticism that the well-liked gentleman from north Alabama receives is that he has in the past had a tendency to appease, rather than lead.

The real change in the House will come if Mr. McCutcheon re-ignites the GOP’s passion for conservative reform.

The floor is yours, Mr. Speaker.

What are you going to do?

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2 years ago

Roy Moore tops crowded potential field in first 2018 Alabama gubernatorial poll

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is weathering another round of attempts to have him removed from the bench, but he still enjoys the support of a majority of Alabama Republicans.

The Alabama Forestry Association, one of the state’s most influential conservative groups, commissioned a survey of 600 likely Republican primary voters and found that Moore’s sky-high name recognition makes him the GOP’s current top choice for governor in 2018 in what promises to be a crowded field.

If the 2018 Republican Primary were held today, here’s who GOP primary voters say they would support:

Chief Justice Roy Moore: 28%
Undecided: 24%
Attorney General Luther Strange: 19%
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle: 9%
Congresswoman Martha Roby: 6%
Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan: 3%
Secretary of State John Merrill: 3%
Tim James: 3%
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh: 2%
State Treasurer Young Boozer: 2%

If Republican primary voters’ first choice does not make the runoff, here’s who they say their second pick would be:

Undecided: 31%
Luther Strange: 23%
Roy Moore: 10%
Tim James: 7%
Young Boozer: 6%
Martha Roby: 6%
Tommy Battle: 6%
John McMillan: 5%
John Merrill: 4%
Del Marsh: 3%

Although Moore is currently Republicans’ top pick at 28%, he is the second choice of only 10% of GOP primary voters, suggesting he may have trouble making it to the 50%+1 threshold needed to secure his Party’s nomination. However, that appeared to be a problem for him in his last run for Chief Justice as well, and he managed to pull it off.

Attorney General Luther Strange, the second most well-known of the field that was polled, is the second choice of almost a quarter of GOP primary voters, indicating that he could be in a strong position if he were able to get into the runoff.

Other potential candidates have a lot of ground to make up when it comes to name recognition, but current Gov. Robert Bentley overcame a similar issue in his first run, proving that it’s possible.

One other interesting number from the survey shows just how short voters’ memories can be.

Conservative businessman Tim James, son of former Gov. Fob James, and a two-time gubernatorial candidate himself (2002 and 2010), is currently known by less than half of the GOP electorate.

The favorability of each candidate polled can be found below (in alphabetical order).

HUNTSVILLE MAYOR TOMMY BATTLE
Favorable: 22%
Unfavorable: 5%
Heard of – No Opinion: 13%
Never Heard of: 60%

STATE TREASURER YOUNG BOOZER
Favorable: 27%
Unfavorable: 9%
Heard of – No Opinion: 35%
Never Heard of: 30%

TIM JAMES
Favorable: 14%
Unfavorable: 12%
Heard of – No Opinion: 21%
Never Heard of: 53%

SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEM DEL MARSH
Favorable: 20.1
Unfavorable: 13.8
Heard of – No Opinion: 25
Never Heard of: 41

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER JOHN MCMILLAN
Favorable: 24%
Unfavorable: 7%
Heard of – No Opinion: 31%
Never Heard of: 38%

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN MERRILL
Favorable: 16%
Unfavorable: 7%
Heard of – No Opinion: 30%
Never Heard of: 47%

CHIEF JUSTICE ROY MOORE
Favorable: 58%
Unfavorable: 29%
Heard of – No Opinion: 11%
Never Heard of: 2%

CONGRESSWOMAN MARTHA ROBY
Favorable: 23%
Unfavorable: 9%
Heard of – No Opinion: 15%
Never Heard of: 53%

ATTORNEY GENERAL LUTHER STRANGE
Favorable: 44%
Unfavorable: 19%
Heard of – No Opinion: 30%
Never Heard of: 7%

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2 years ago

This Abraham Lincoln quote perfectly sums up Robert Bentley’s failed governorship

Gov. Robert Bentley (left) and President Abraham Lincoln (right)
Gov. Robert Bentley (left) and President Abraham Lincoln (right)
Gov. Robert Bentley (left) and President Abraham Lincoln (right)

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln

Gov. Robert Bentley this week called a Special Legislative Sessions for the sole purpose of passing a statewide lottery.

For some, Bentley’s announcement sparked the opportunity for a do-over. The lottery failed as a statewide referendum in 1999 and proponents have been clamoring for another chance ever since.

For others, it signaled the start of yet another dreaded battle over an issue that just won’t die.

For all, it was a reminder that this governor is completely devoid of the credibility and moral standing necessary to lead this state.

By almost all accounts, the Robert J. Bentley who ran as a long-shot candidate for governor in 2010 was the man he portrayed himself to be: A caring, church-going family man who wanted to be the doctor to cure what ailed his state.

By almost all accounts, the man who stands before us today is but a sad shell of his former self.

Many have placed the blame for this transformation on a woman. But Mr. Bentley’s willingness to throw away his marriage of 50 years for an illicit affair with a married staffer is but a symptom of a much deeper issue: His character was not prepared to endure the power with which he has been entrusted. The philandering and lying are just some of the ways this deeper character flaw has manifested itself.

When running for office in 2010, Mr. Bentley had this to say about the lottery and gambling in general:

“Taxing gambling is not the answer. There is not a single state in the country that has benefited from gambling.”

When he was trying to push a $700 million tax hike plan last year, he added this:

“We cannot depend on gambling for the 2016 budget, or really for future budgets.”

And now he is telling us this:

“(The lottery) is our best chance to solve this problem.”

“This solution will provide funding that we can count on year after year without ever having to raise taxes or put one more Band-Aid on the state’s money problems,” he added.

He knows this statement is simply not true. Mr. Bentley estimates the lottery will bring in upwards of $200 million annually. Even if that is the case — and it’s probably not — at the rate Medicaid is growing, that money will be devoured in a matter of a few short years.

This is, of course, not the first time Mr. Bentley has been untruthful with the people of Alabama. We are talking about a politician who proposed what would have been the largest tax hike in the state’s history while his website still had his “No New Taxes!” campaign pledge plastered all over it.

Public trust in government continues to hover near historic lows, and Alabama-based, New York Times bestselling author Andy Andrews says he believes it has a lot to do with politicians becoming more and more willing to outright lie.

“Our nation is at a tipping point,” said Andrews. “Frankly, I believe candidates from both parties have lied to the American people. Furthermore, I believe that many are slipping dangerously close to creating a habit of lying and rationalizing that their purpose in doing so is for their own good.”

In his 2012 book titled “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?” Andrews uses the horrific example of Nazi Germany to illustrate what can happen when the electorate disengages and become “sheeplike in following their leadership.”

“The question every American should be asking is, ‘What is our standard for being led?’” Andrews said. “We need to think about that in earnest, because that one question will lead us to common ground… The main purpose of this book is to find that one universal theme we can all agree on: Our politicians must not lie to us, anymore. And we build from there.”

In addition to his “character and power” quote, Lincoln also said of sticking to his principles, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.”

It’s hard not to think how much better shape Alabama had been in if Robert Bentley had been the living embodiment of that second Lincoln quote, rather than a cautionary tale of the first.


Note: As with many historical quotations, there are conflicting opinions on whether President Lincoln said this famous “character and power” quote himself, or if it was only said of him at the time, and many times since.

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2 years ago

Scandal-ridden Bentley refuses to disclose records of who he’s with during work hours

Governor Robert Bentley (photo: Flickr of Governor Robert Bentley, March 21, 2016)

Governor Robert Bentley (photo: Flickr of Governor Robert Bentley, March 21, 2016)
Governor Robert Bentley (photo: Flickr of Governor Robert Bentley, March 21, 2016)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Governor Robert Bentley’s office is refusing to release many of his calendar records, which include his scheduled appointments, transportation arrangements and information on the people with whom he spends his working hours.

According to the Bentley administration, complying with such an open records request made by Alabama sports website and liberal political blog al.com would be “detrimental to the best interests of the public.”

The records from before January 1, 2016 would provide more insight into the relationship between Gov. Bentley and his former senior advisor Rebekah Mason. Earlier this year, Yellowhammer News released audio recordings exposing an illicit affair between the two.

“In response to your request for the remaining calendars entries, we are unable to provide those to you at this time because these involve recorded information received by a public officer in confidence, sensitive personnel records, pending criminal investigations, and records the disclosure of which would be detrimental to the best interests of the public are some of the areas which may not be subject to public disclosure,” Bentley spokeswoman Yasamie August told al.com in an email. The specific reason for denying the request was not provided.

The governor has tried to move past the affair revelations, most recently by pushing a statewide lottery vote, but his troubles have persisted.

Articles of impeachment were first filed on April 5 in the wake of revelations that the governor may have misused state resources to facilitate and cover up an affair with Mrs. Mason.

RELATED: ‘Neglect of duty, corruption, incompetency’ — Here’s what’s in Bentley’s articles of impeachment

And despite the governor’s expressed desire to focus on economic development, business leaders have warned that the governor’s actions may now be impacting the state’s ability to attract jobs.

“We’ve got all this momentum with aerospace and Airbus suppliers are moving in and Google’s coming to the state and fiber broadband is going in and then boom — just like that the momentum is stopped by a scandal that none of us can do anything about,” one local economic developer told Yellowhammer. “To say it is frustrating would be understating it.”

RELATED: Economic developers frustrated as Bentley scandal chases away companies, jobs

Bentley has insisted that nothing he has done is ground for impeachment and has accused his detractors in the legislature of political grandstanding.

“There are no grounds for impeachment, and I will vigorously defend myself and my administration from this political attack,” he said.

(h/t al.com)

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