The Wire

  • Mo Brooks Wins FreedomWorks’ Prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award

    Excerpt from a Rep. Mo Brooks news release:

    Tuesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) was one of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks, a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide. Only members of Congress who score better than 90% on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award. Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top 4% of all Congressmen in 2017.

    Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017. If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great. I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

  • 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.”

9 hours ago

Backed by Alfa, Rick Pate rolls to victory in Alabama ag commissioner race

(Campaign/Facebook)

Lowndesboro Mayor Rick Pate on Tuesday survived late-campaign attack ads dredging up a three-decade-old divorce to claim the Republican nomination for Alabama commissioner of agriculture and industries.

Pate defeated state Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) with about 57 percent of the vote. With no Democrat on the ballot in November, Pate is all but assured of succeeding Republican incumbent John McMillan, who is term-limited.

“We thought we would win,” Pate told AL.com. “We had the right message. I am a farmer and a businessman. I thought that is what people would want.”

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Dial made it to the runoff after running light-hearted ads featuring a catchy jingle proclaiming, “It’s Dial time.” Trailing by a significant margin, however, Dial went negative this month.

Ads by Dial’s campaign referenced a 1986 divorce petition filed by Pate’s ex-wife, Carolyn, that accused Pate of domestic violence.

Pate hotly disputed the allegation.

“I denied that then and I deny that now,” he told the Decatur Daily earlier this month.

Pate told the paper that he and his ex-wife now exchange Christmas cards and that she wrote a note in May explaining that she and her ex-husband hurled hurtful words at one another at the end of what had been a good marriage.

Pate had the backing of powerful agriculture and business interests, including the Alabama Farmers Federation, or Alfa. The group’s political action committee donated nearly $100,000 in cash and in-kind donations. That was nearly a fifth of Pate’s total.

Pate also racked up endorsements from the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Forestry Association, the Associated General Contractors of Alabama and the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, among others.

The Lowndesboro mayor, who owns a cattle ranch and runs a landscaping company, pledged to use the department to help farmers improve productivity.

Pate also promised to attack “over-regulation,” taxes and barriers to investment. He pointed out on his campaign website that some have estimated that food production will have to double by 2050 to meet worldwide demand.

It will take “visionary leaders who understand that we have to work smarter, not just harder, to achieve these goals,” according to the website.

Pate’s victory was broad. He won 59 counties — including Choctaw by a single vote — compared to just seven that went to Dial, who even lost his home base in Clay County.

The loss means Dial, come next year, will be out of elective office for the first time in 44 years.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

 

3 months ago

Pharma Kaleo donates overdose-reversing drugs to Alabama

(T. Wolf/Flickr)

A major pharmaceutical company is donating 1,744 devices that contain an overdose-reversing drug to Alabama’s volunteer rescue squads to combat the opioid crisis.

Kaleo Inc. announced the donation of 872 boxes, which include two devices, to the state’s rescue vehicles at a press conference at the Alabama State Capitol Wednesday. The Evzio device auto-injects the life-saving drug naloxone and contains a recording that talks a non-medical professional through administering it.

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Republican state Sen. Gerald Dial said the donation to Alabama will last three years. Kaleo Vice President of Corporate Affairs Mark Herzog didn’t commit Wednesday to extending it.

Kaleo came under fire for raising the price of the device from $690 to $4,500 in 2015. Last month the company said it would sell the drug for $360 to government agencies.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

Pro-life, Ten Commandments on Alabama’s ballot in November

(Pixabay)

Alabama voters will face the choices of whether to declare the state pro-life and allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed on state property under ballot proposals for the November election.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill threw his support behind both proposed constitutional amendments passed this year at a bill signing at the Alabama State Capitol Friday.

The first amendment by Republican Senator Gerald Dial would authorize the display of the Ten Commandments on state property such as schools.

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Critics say it will incite lawsuits. Dial said he’s prepared to fight up to the Supreme Court, although no state funds could be used to defend the law.

The second amendment by Republican Senator Jim McClendon would support the “sanctity of unborn life” in Alabama’s Constitution but wouldn’t change any laws.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 months ago

Alabama voters to face Ten Commandments ballot proposal

Alabama voters will face the choice of whether to allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed on state property such as at schools under a ballot proposal for the November election.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment ballot provision 66-19 on Thursday. The proposal has already been approved by the Senate and does not need to be signed by the governor.

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If the proposal by state Sen. Gerald Dial, a Republican, is passed by voters, the Ten Commandments will not automatically be displayed in public buildings. No state funds could be used to erect the laws but individuals could use private money to display them.

Democratic critics said the proposal violates the separation of church and state and would incite federal lawsuits that cost the state money.

Roy Moore, who lost Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election in December, was sued and removed as chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court in 2003 because he refused a federal court’s order to take down a marble monument of the Ten Commandments.

“The Supreme Court and federal courts already ruled. We are going to get sued,” said Rep. Berry Forte, a Democrat.

“I’m opposed to the bill because it’s unconstitutional and I’m trying to be fiscally conservative to try to save the state and courts money if they put it up there and it gets struck down,” said Rep. Marcel Black, a Democrat.

Republicans said they supported the bill because the Founding Fathers expressed their Christian faith. The proposed amendment reaffirms religious liberty, which is already under law.

“I wish and pray that we get to a point where people would be free to express faith without fear of being sued,” said Rep. Danny Garrett, a Republican.

Dial, who is running for state agriculture commissioner, has introduced the bill for years. Democrats said attempts to pass such legislation constituted a political push by Republicans seeking conservative support during a state election year.

“This constitutional amendment is done for feel-good and political purposes,” Black added.

Other Democrats questioned whether people from other religions who displayed similar texts in public places would receive the same treatment.

“Public places belong to all people regardless of religion,” said Rep. Adline Clarke.

The final decision will be up to Alabama’s voters in November.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 months ago

Alabama Senate delays vote on power of lieutenant governor

A proposal to strip the powers of Alabama’s lieutenant governor was delayed Thursday in the state Senate.

The proposed constitutional amendment would remove the lieutenant governor as Senate president and make the primary responsibility of the position to succeed the governor if he or she resigns, is impeached or dies. It would also require the lieutenant governor to run on the governor’s ticket.

The Senate voted to carry over the bill, meaning it could come up for debate again on Tuesday.

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Sen. Gerald Dial, the Republican sponsor, said Thursday that previous lieutenant governors have abused the position.

“Everyone spends our taxpayer money sitting in that office running for governor,” Dial said.

Critics questioned what the point of the job would be if its powers were stripped.

“Would there be any other purpose to this position other than to wait for the governor to die or be impeached?” said Sen. Phil Williams, a Republican. “I feel like we’re creating a hollow position.”

Gov. Kay Ivey has spoken out against the bill. She most recently held the position of lieutenant governor and became governor last year after former Gov. Robert Bentley quit amid a sex scandal with an aide.

The lieutenant governor’s position is currently vacant. Republicans Will Ainsworth, Twinkle Cavanaugh and Rusty Glover and Democrat Will Boyd are running to fill it this year. Ainsworth condemned the constitutional amendment.

“It would stop all power,” Ainsworth said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh said the bill was a priority, although it faces a tight deadline for passage in the House before the session finishes at the end of March. If passed, voters would decide whether to change the constitution.

(Image: Rep. Will Ainsworth & Gerald Dial)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

7 months ago

Alabama politician to give 10 percent of campaign donations to Children’s Hospital

State Senator Gerald Dial
State Senator Gerald Dial

 

 

State Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), Republican candidate for Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, this week announced his intention to give 10 percent of all campaign contributions received to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. He challenged all candidates in Alabama to do the same, which would generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the important healthcare facility.

“Every voter in Alabama is sick of the constant campaigns and incessant political advertising,” Dial said. “The least us candidates could do is give a small portion of what we raise to help out an outstanding institution like Children’s Hospital.”

In 2014, the last state legislative and constitutional office election cycle, candidates for statewide office and the state legislature raised $57,479,285. Instead of spending all that money on flyers, TV ads, and phone calls, Children’s Hospital would have received nearly $6,000,000 in additional funding to care for ill and injured children.

“I’m proud to support Children’s Hospital in their mission to provide the finest pediatric health services to all children,” added Senator Gerald Dial. “If that means less money for my campaign, I trust the voters to realize my campaign funds are better spent improving our state instead of solely promoting myself.”

More information about Gerald Dial and his campaign issues is available at this link.

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9 months ago

Gerald Dial Announces Candidacy for Alabama’s Ag Commissioner

Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville)
Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville)

State Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) announced today that he plans to seek the Republican nomination for Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Industries for the state of Alabama. His campaign is focused on “creating jobs in the state – whether it be agriculture, professional services, or anything in between. Current Commissioner John McMillan is term-limited.”

A retired general in the National Guard, Dial’s press release said he’s a “get-it-done conservative who said he is ready to serve the people of Alabama.”

“I have a reputation of rocking the boat, stepping on the status quo,” Dial said. “We need someone to carry on Commissioner McMillan’s legacy, who will stand up for Alabama farmers and continue to bring more jobs to our great state.”

Agriculture, forestry, and related industries have an annual economic impact of more than $70 billion and account for 580,000 jobs in the state of Alabama. As a third-generation Alabamian, Dial knows the importance of agriculture. He wants to continue to grow agriculture and industry in the state by putting Alabama jobs first. This includes promoting Alabama’s agricultural exports with Cuba and South America, developing a statewide irrigation program, and creating an agricultural cabinet that would share best practices and feedback from farmers.

As a third-generation Alabamian, Dial believes the agriculture industry is vital to Alabama’s economy, and he says he wants it to grow by putting Alabama jobs first. His plan to do so includes promoting Alabama’s agricultural exports with Cuba and South America, developing a statewide irrigation program, and creating an agricultural cabinet that would share best practices and feedback from farmers.

“I want to grow all of Alabama by creating jobs and better opportunities for the people of our state,” Dial said. ”We have to increase agricultural exports, protect our farmland and food sources, and work with our agricultural research universities to ensure the future of farming in Alabama.”

Gerald Dial’s short announcement video announcement can be viewed at www.itsdialtime.com.

 

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9 months ago

Alabama Senate Republicans Applaud Federal Court Decision Upholding Redistricting Plan

(NEWS RELEASE)

MONTGOMERY, AL – Legal challenges to Alabama’s legislative districts reached a milestone yesterday when the federal three-judge court presiding over the case unanimously dismissed all remaining objections to the districts. The new districts were first drawn in 2014 and were revised earlier this year in response to guidance from the United States Supreme Court. In 2018 the state will use the new districts to elect members of the 2018-2022 Legislature.

“We went through an exhaustive process to ensure that the new districts were drawn fairly, and I am glad the courts agreed that the legislative districts map for 2018 is clearly constitutional,” said Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment. “More counties are made whole in the new maps and we adhered to a strict one-percent population variance between districts.”

In the 2017 session earlier this spring, the Republican-led Legislature made slight adjustments to the districts originally drawn in 2014, under guidance from the U.S. Supreme Court. All of the majority-black districts in both the State Senate and House of Representatives were redrawn, which by necessity required changing the lines of many adjacent and nearby districts.

“It has been an interesting and educational process, but one that I’m glad to have finished. Our ultimate goal was to draw a good map and to honor the wishes of the court,” remarked Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville), a member of the Joint Committee on Reapportionment. “I believe we did that and that we have guaranteed that the voters in Alabama will be accurately represented in the state legislature.”

“The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the authority to draw electoral districts and we have been faithful stewards of this responsibility,” McClendon concluded.

Primaries for the 2018 election cycle will be held on June 5, 2018.

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10 months ago

Lawmakers Push to Change Role of Lieutenant Governor

Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville)
Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville)

It has been five months since Kay Ivey assumed the office of Governor of Alabama, leaving the state without a Lieutenant Governor. With that empty seat, some lawmakers are exploring the possibility of changing the Lt. Governor’s role.

According to the Decatur Daily, Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), has said that he will sponsor a constitutional amendment that would require the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to be elected jointly. The Lieutenant Governor would then be relocated to the Capitol to serve more like a Vice President, except without presiding over the Senate as the Vice President does. The idea is that the Lieutenant Governor would help more with economic development and job recruitment. A similar bill was passed by the Alabama Senate last year but died in the House of Representatives.

Currently, one of the Lieutenant Governor’s main tasks is to oversee the proceedings of the Senate for the four months Alabama’s legislature is in session. With Kay Ivey now across the street in the Governor’s office, those duties have been transferred to Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, who supports Dial’s bill. As he told Yellowhammer,

“This bill moves the Lt. Governor across the street to work hand-in-hand with the Governor to focus more on economic development, making the office a more effective position. By doing so, I believe we are better served with a Lt. Governor who’s hard at work everyday promoting Alabama economically,” Marsh said.  “With 35 Members in the Senate, we shouldn’t ever need the tie-breaking vote of the Lt. Governor,” he added, “so my tendency is to support this bill.”

When asked about the budget of the Lt. Governor’s office and how it would be impacted by this move, Marsh said:

“I don’t know the exact figures but the budget for the Lt. Governor’s office is close to a million dollars a year. So I’d certainly think a portion of this could be folded into the Governor’s office budget, as I believe that budget could be more efficient,” Marsh stated.

Many of the Lt. Governor’s duties were stripped away by the Democrats in the 1990’s (the majority party at the time), who made the move to attenuate the powers of then-Lieutenant Governor Steve Windom, a Republican.

According to the National Lt. Governor’s Association, the Lt. Governor in Alabama now “has more than thirty statutory duties. These duties include serving as a member of more than 20 boards or entities and appointing 400 positions to approximately 167 boards and commissions. The state constitution says the lieutenant governor shall be president of the senate. The lieutenant governor has additional duties created by the state constitution, Governor’s executive order, legislative act, and the Rules of the Senate. For example, chairing the Alabama Job Creation & Military Stability Commission is a significant duty of the office, but that duty is established by legislative resolution rather than statute.”

Nevertheless, since the vacant Lt. Governor’s office will not be filled until at least next year, Dial is re-introducing this bill to shift the focus of the office to an economic development role, without powers in the Senate, while also ensuring that if a Governor were forced to step down, they would be replaced by a Lieutenant Governor of the same party.

Obviously, the 2018 candidates for Lieutenant Governor—State Rep. Will Ainsworth, Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh, State Sen. Rusty Glover, and Alabama State Board of Education member Mary Scott Hunter—will be keeping an eye on this bill as it’s introduced to the legislature again this year.

When asked about the measure, Hunter told Yellowhammer:

I think it’s a good idea for the Governor to choose their running mate and for the Lt. Governor to have a more defined executive role. It makes the Governor and Lt. Governor a stronger team. It does make a lot of sense to have these two offices run and work as a team. I understand it wouldn’t take effect until 2022. So, I’m not sure it affects my race. I’m reading through it, asking questions, and look forward to learning more about it.

RELATED: Candidates Making Waves in Alabama’s Lt. Governor’s Race

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3 years ago

Alabama lawmaker pushes Convention of States to pass balanced budget amendment

United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)
United States Capitol (Photo: Eric B. Walker)

A state senator is pushing to renew Alabama’s call for a Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) has pre-filed a bill for the 2016 Legislative Session that would compel Alabama to join the “Compact for a Balanced Budget,” a group of states “uniting to fix the debt” through a federal Balanced Budget Amendment

The idea of a Convention of States gained steam in 2013 after conservative talk show host Mark Levin advocated for a states-led convention in his book The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution says that a convention of the states can be convened if two-thirds of the state legislatures (34) approve an application for the convention to occur.

By design, that’s a high bar to clear. And the bar gets even higher when it comes to actually passing a constitutional amendment.

Each state would then choose delegates to represent them at the convention, but each state would only get one vote on proposed amendments. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the constitution.

In short, the convention of the states is widely viewed as a last-ditch effort to push back against an overreaching federal government. 27 states have so far passed resolutions calling for a convention to pass a federal balanced budget amendment.

The Alabama Legislature passed a resolution earlier this year strictly limiting the purpose of a proposed convention to three areas:

1) Imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government through a balanced budget amendment;
2) limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government; and
3) implementing term limits on federal elected officials.

Members of the Alabama House and Senate who supported the effort say it was necessary because “the federal government has created a crushing national debt” and “invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative power of federal mandates.”

The resolution Sen. Allen is now proposing is even more narrowly defined. It would limit the convention to only addressing the question of a balanced budget amendment.

“Even if we don’t get enough states behind it, we’ll send a clear message to Congress,” Allen told the Anniston Star. “Get your house in order.”

The possibility of a “runaway convention” is the most often cited concern with convening such a meeting of the states.

“In the course of our work advising state and federal lawmakers and conservative allies across the country, we have been giving this issue close attention and study,” said Dr. Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “The lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue.”

But Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton), who has sponsored a resolution calling for a Convention of States during the last couple of legislative sessions, said those concerns are overblown.

“Because we’ve never done it, the idea that there could be a ‘runaway convention’ is always brought up as a concern,” Johnson told Yellowhammer earlier this year. “The convention would be limited to a small set of issues. But on top of that, the safeguard is that it only takes 13 states to kill any runaway convention. If there aren’t 13 conservatives states left, we’re in trouble, period. And Washington is a runaway train right now anyway. How much more damage could be done?”

Alabama’s two Senate Budget Chairmen have also been actively involved in the rule-making process for a possible convention. Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) and Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) traveled to Mt. Vernon, Virginia to discuss the ground rules of a potential convention.

“We discussed the reality that the biggest threat to America is an irresponsible Federal Government,” said Pittman. “Checks that need to be put on the Federal Government have not been accomplished and based on current activity appear not to be likely… 32 (states) participated in the Mount Vernon Assembly, to prepare rules and form committees within a strict framework… to discuss and build support for a possible amendment convention of the States.”

Sen. Allen’s latest bill calls for a 24-hour, one-issue convention to convene in Dallas, Texas, the Wednesday after Congress receives the petition from the required number of states.


RELATED:
1. Two Alabama senators discuss potential constitutional convention at Mt. Vernon Assembly
2. Two top Ala. Senators propose bills laying out guidelines for Convention of States
3. Alabama officially applies to Congress for Convention of States


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3 years ago

Alabama Senator: No more using education dollars to prop up general fund (Opinion)

general fund education budget

 

By Alabama Senator Gerald Dial

Over the years, to bear the weight of lacking and reduced Education Trust Fund dollars, educators and support personnel have had to cover higher healthcare costs out of their own wallets, weather changes in retirement, withstand cuts to their classrooms, transportation, and other foundational program needs, and forego much needed salary increases.

Like our state employees, every time the executive branch and lawmakers have gone to them, they have given more.

Not only has education given more, but while going without they have also repaid debt and set aside dollars in savings.

I have always been a staunch supporter of public education and have done whatever I can to protect funding for the Education Trust Fund.

It is no secret that we have issues with both of our budgets. However, the real issue is how we fund those budgets.

Both need help, but the General Fund needs more.

Make no mistake: combining two budgets into one whether by percentage or outright does nothing to address our state’s funding issues.

We’ve been there, done that and we don’t need to do so again.

In simple terms…we have a revenue problem, not a budget problem.

As a long-serving state legislator, I have been committed to doing whatever I could to support revenue measures that would aid both budgets even if it meant that my handling of some of those revenue measures would be met with resistance.

When the second special session convened with still no operating budget in place, a $200 million hole needing to be plugged in the General Fund, and a majority of the Alabama Legislature opposed to the idea of imposing any taxes, my agreement to be the Senate sponsor of a cigarette tax on behalf of the Governor was not an easy decision.

But it was the right decision.

Hits came from inside as well as outside the State House – from all directions – from those within the GOP and from those who are not.

Despite also having taken some punches, education advocates came to the table and pitched in to help the struggling General Fund.

With promises by the Governor and the Legislature of back-fill dollars, the Education Trust Fund gave up $80 Million in use tax and a reduction in its take-in percentage – 47 percent – going forward.

However, within 24-hours after adjourning the Governor said he believes that next year the remaining $125 million left in the use tax belonging to the Education Trust Fund needs to be transferred over to the General Fund.

He also doesn’t think the ETF dollars taken from the use tax need to be backfilled.

To add fuel to the fire, the Governor, who is also the president of the State Board of Education, said that education did not lift a hand to help.

I am not sure what State House Governor Bentley visited during the special session.

I, along with ETF Budget committee chairs Senator Pittman and Representative Poole and other legislators, worked hand-in-hand with education leaders to make a very difficult budget work.

No one needs to support the concept that the education community was not willing to help.

We also cannot support the unrealistic notion of sitting on the sidelines and continuing to rob education funds in order to fix problems with prisons, state troopers, and others.

I will stand firm on my word that no more education dollars need to be taken for the General Fund – enough is enough.


Senator Gerald Dial represents District 13 in the Alabama Senate, which includes all or parts of Randolph, Lee, Cleburne, Clay, Cherokee, and Chambers counties. He is a retired brigadier general in the Alabama National Guard.

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3 years ago

Alabama lawmakers float a new Boat Tag proposal to help state parks budget

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

MONTGOMERY, Ala. —  Outdoor enthusiasts are breathing a sigh of relief knowing that Alabama’s state parks will not close now that a General Fund budget is passed.

A looming financial shortfall may have been averted during the special legislative session this September, but three state lawmakers are not planning a relaxing picnic in the park just yet… At least not until there is a proposal to deal with the $3 million dollar transfer made from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to the General Fund.

Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Arab), and Rep. Maggie Wilcox (R-Mobile) are introducing a plan to develop specialty boat tags to help recover that loss to the state parks’ budget.

“One of the greatest things we have in Alabama is our state parks,” said Sen. Dial. “The recent General Fund budget again reduces funding for parks, so I have been looking for innovative ways to find additional funding to keep all of our state parks open. This plan doesn’t raise taxes, it’s just an opportunity for boat owners to purchase specialized tags, and a portion of the proceeds will go to state parks.”

The tags would cost around $50 dollars, and would included an insignia of choice by the purchaser. That insignia could be of universities, non-profit organizations, and  special interest  groups—the same idea behind specialty vehicle tags. The total price of the tag would be split between the state park and whichever entity chosen.

The bill’s authors estimate that if 13 percent of the 280,000 boat owners in the state, the same proportion as car drivers, purchase a specialty tag it would raise $5 million for the parks each year.

“Alabama’s state parks are a treasure, and I think this idea holds great potential to give an additional source of funds to the parks, without raising taxes,” Senator Scofield explained. “Tough economic times have meant many state agencies have had to make cuts, but I think this is an innovative way to restore some badly-needed resources to the operation and upkeep of our parks. I look forward to moving this proposal through the Senate in 2016.”

Dial and Wilcox  both chair the legislative oversight committee that regulates boat tags, and came up with the idea as a way to offset the constant challenges to the state parks’ budget, which as Dial noted, had been cut for the fifth year in a row. He says the concerns expressed by his constituents are not so much about education or prison reform, but whether the parks are going to stay open.

“As a resident of Mobile County, I can tell you many boat owners would be excited to purchase specialty tags, if they were available, so I think this can generate a good bit of money for our parks,” said Rep. Wilcox Wednesday.

Dial and Wilcox are presenting the idea now to garner feedback from other members of the tag oversight committee at the next meeting scheduled for October 13th, 2015.

If the idea moves through regular session in Montgomery in February 2016, the boat tags would be available for purchase in the coming Spring.

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3 years ago

Alabama Senator calls for major reform, not taxes, to fix budget

Paul Bussman
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Following the brief first day of the special session of the Alabama Legislature, Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) held a press conference where he called for sweeping changes to the way the state budgets and spends $11 billion in state revenue annually, proposing combining Alabama’s two budgets, un-earmarking all revenue, and placing spending caps on Medicaid and Corrections, the two largest items in the General Fund budget.

For decades, Alabama has constructed two separate budgets, the larger education budget which funds schools and other educational endeavors, and the general fund budget which funds Medicaid, corrections, the Department of Human Resources (DHR), and public safety.

Within each of those budgets are hundreds of earmarks which require certain revenue streams to go toward particular programs. With the vast majority of Alabama’s tax revenues already earmarked, it is difficult for the state to prioritize spending in years where there are shortfalls.

For Fiscal Year 2016, Alabama faces a $250+ million shortfall in the general fund, while the education fund has a surplus of approximately the same amount.

“It’s time to rip off the Band-Aid and stop budgeting from crisis-to-crisis,” said Sen. Bussman in the press conference. “We are looking at a $290 million shortfall in the General Fund, which is a paltry 2.6% of total state revenue. Having separate budgets and around 85% of revenue earmarked is holding us back from permanently fixing the problem.”

Alabama is one of only three states that maintains separate budgets. It also has the highest percentage in the country of earmarked revenue, with only approximately 15% of total state revenue available to be budgeted at the discretion of the legislature. Part of Bussman’s plan involves restructuring the Education Trust Fund’s Rolling Reserve Act to ensure the law’s stabilization fund is not overfunded at the expense of immediate educational needs.

Bussman’s proposed spending caps on programs currently funded through the General Fund would limit Medicaid to 15% of all available revenue and Corrections to 4.5%. They currently are at 14.9% and 4.3% respectively. Additionally, the proposal will establish ten legislative subcommittees with specific agencies and budget areas for regular review. Each subcommittee would be tasked with detailed study to better identify budget priorities, which would be reported back to the respective General Fund committees in each chamber.

“The money is there. Now it’s our job to get rid of the shell games, make the tough decisions, and institute real budget reform,” concluded Sen. Bussman.

A bill similar to Bussman’s plan introduced by Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) in May was a proposed constitutional amendment and would have removed all earmarks, unified the two budgets, and given lawmakers more leeway in constructing a budget that would fulfill all of the government’s duties without the need to raise taxes. With Alabama’s regular session ending without a budget at all, the proposal was indefinitely postponed.

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3 years ago

The Alabama legislature just approved a backdoor tax increase

YH Alabama Tax
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Legislature, including a majority of Republicans, on Thursday gave final passage to a bill that will allow state agencies to increase their own fees without a vote of the legislature. The Senate concurred with House changes first thing Thursday morning, and the bill will now head to the Governor’s desk.

Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) issued a statement after the House vote Wednesday lashing out at Republicans for their tactics.

“It’s amazing that Republicans are trying to pass the buck and hide behind a bill that will raise your fees!” Ford wrote. “A fee is just another word for tax, and Senate Bill 216 would allow for unlimited fee increases. Instead of doing the job they were elected to do, the Republicans are trying to shirk their responsibilities by shifting the burden, and avoid raising taxes by making government agencies raise fees. That’s not just bad policy; it’s plain gutless and cowardly!”

The bill allows agencies to increase their own fees by as much as 2 percent a year, but can be retroactive for the last 10 years. In other words, if the consumer price index shows a 2 percent per year increase over the last decade, agencies can immediately bump up their fees by 20 percent.

Everything from driving and hunting licenses, to marriage licenses and anything else the state charges a fee to use will be eligible for these fee increases.


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3 years ago

Commission to study total overhaul of Alabama’s budgeting process in effort to avoid tax hikes

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn)
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) announced Monday the formation of the Commission on Earmarking and Budget Reform.

“Prior to Republicans taking control of the budget process in 2011, proration had been declared six times in 10 years, but since passage of the Proration Prevention Act, also known as the Rolling Reserve, it hasn’t occurred once,” Speaker Hubbard said in a press release. “It’s my hope that this commission will recommend similar commonsense solutions to Alabama’s budget challenges so we can avoid the need for new taxes and ensure that funding for schools and state services is stable, secure, and completely transparent.”

The Commission, consisting of 7 members (5 Republicans and 2 Democrats), is tasked with studying Alabama’s budget-making process, how it stacks up to other states, and how it can be improved.

The Commission will meet multiple times over the next several months, compiling their recommendations to be delivered to the Speaker. The report is expected to inspire legislation simplifying and bringing accountability to the budgeting process to be introduced next session.

Hubbard said he believes the commission’s efforts will provide much needed flexibility in the budgeting process and build upon already successful Republican government reforms that were implemented during the last quadrennium.

The members of the Commission on Earmarking and Budget Reform are:

· Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville)
· Rep. Elaine Beech (D-Chatom)
· Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur)
· Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark)
· Rep. Allen Farley (R- McCalla)
· Rep. Bill Poole (R- Tuscaloosa)
· Rep. Rod Scott (D- Fairfield)

For decades, Alabama has constructed two separate budgets, the larger education budget which funds schools and other “educational” endeavors, and the general fund budget which funds Medicaid, corrections, the Department of Human Resources (DHR), and public safety. Only two other states—Michigan and Utah—have separate budgets. The majority of “growth” streams of revenue, those that increase as the economy improves, are relegated to the education budget, while the general fund subsists on flatter fees and taxes.

Within each of those budgets are hundreds of earmarks which require certain revenue streams to go toward particular programs. With 91 percent of Alabama’s tax revenues already earmarked, it is difficult for the state to prioritize spending in years where there are shortfalls.

This isn’t the first time Alabama leaders have suggested combining the two budgets. In early 2012 Governor Robert Bentley (R) made such a proposal, highlighting the growth problem facing the general fund.

“When you have two checkbooks, and you don’t have enough money in one and you do in the other one, what are you going to do at home? Well, you’re either going to move some money or you’re going to combine them,” Bentley said in January, 2012.

His proposal did not gain any traction at the time.

More recently, Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) introduced a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would combine the two budgets and rid them of all earmarks, an effort he believes will not pass this year.

For Fiscal Year 2016, Alabama faces a $250+ million shortfall in the general fund, while the education fund has a surplus of approximately the same amount.

A number of proposals have been introduced during the 2015 regular legislative session to address the general fund’s shortfall, ranging from the governor’s proposed tax increases to instituting a lottery, though none have passed both houses of the legislature.

Thus far, only the House has passed a general fund budget, one which Governor Robert Bentley called “unworkable” and has threatened to veto which makes cuts to every program it funds, including Medicaid and corrections.


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3 years ago

Bill to remove earmarks, consolidate budgets filed in Alabama Senate

general fund education budget
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A three-page bill filed Friday in the Alabama Senate could have huge ramifications for the way the state budgets are constructed in future years.

For decades, Alabama has constructed two separate budgets, the larger education budget which funds schools and other “educational” endeavors, and the general fund budget which funds Medicaid, corrections, the Department of Human Resources (DHR), and public safety. Only two other states have separate budgets.

Within each of those budgets are hundreds of earmarks which require certain revenue streams to go toward particular programs. With 91 percent of Alabama’s tax revenues already earmarked, it is difficult for the state to prioritize spending in years where there are shortfalls.

For Fiscal Year 2016, Alabama faces a $250+ million shortfall in the general fund, while the education fund has a surplus of approximately the same amount.

The bill, a proposed constitutional amendment (CA), would remove all earmarks, unify the two budgets, and give lawmakers more leeway in constructing a budget that would fulfill all of the government’s duties without the need to raise taxes.

The bill’s sponsor, Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), said he introduced the bill because he continually hears from his constituents that they feel they already send enough money to Montgomery, but because the money is earmarked the legislature can’t move it around the address budget issues.

Dial told Yellowhammer News Friday that despite what he’s hearing from people in his district he’s not sure that the people have enough trust in the state legislature to pass the amendment.

“There’s a time when you have to be responsible and quit worrying about reelection and do what needs to be done for this state,” Sen. Dial said, “and I think we’re at that point.”

The bill has 8 co-sponsors in addition to sponsor Senator Dial, including Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston).

Just a few years ago such a proposal would have been unthinkable; the then-powerful Alabama Education Association (AEA) would have quashed any hint of budget unification in a heartbeat. But as the AEA has steadily lost power and Republicans have gained control of the legislature the idea has gained traction.

The road to passage will not be easy, as there is expected to be opposition even from within the Republican party, and time is running out for the session.

President Pro Tem Marsh told Yellowhammer News Friday that, while passage of the bill may be difficult this session, it is a step in the right direction.

“I believe if you unify the budgets you incentivize everyone to come to the table,” Marsh said. “Right now with the problems being in the general fund, the education fund has no incentive to worry.”

Education budget chairman Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) reportedly asked one reporter if the bill’s co-sponsors had “lost their friggen minds.”

While the proposed CA, should it pass out of both houses and be approved by a majority of Alabama voters, would not affect the problem for FY 2016, it could go a long way in giving legislators the wiggle room to resolve future budget issues without drastic measures.

That also means, however, that lawmakers are still on the hook for coming to a compromise for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1st.

Thus far, only the House has passed a general fund budget, one which Governor Robert Bentley called “unworkable” and has threatened to veto which makes cuts to every program it funds, including Medicaid and corrections.

The bill, SB502, will be heard in the general fund budget committee next week.


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3 years ago

Alabama Senate passes Medicaid reforms that could save $1.5 Billion over 10 Years

YH Medicaid Expansion
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed major reforms to the state’s Medicaid program that are estimated to save the state $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.

The savings, calculated by a national actuarial consulting company, assume a 3 percent growth every year in the program, and will come from new Integrated Care Networks (ICNs) contracting with Medicaid to provide long-term care under a capitated system.

Capitation means the providers will be given a set dollar amount to treat each patient in their care.

The bill would also allow the nursing home-care to home-based care ratio to increase from 75/25 to 50/50. The ICNs must be in place by October 1st, 2018.

“Our state has an obligation to provide crucial long-term care services for the elderly eligible for Medicaid coverage, while at the same time finding ways to protect taxpayers from cost increases,” said the bill’s sponsor Senator Greg Reed. “My bill will help us better care for patients and cut spending.”

This is Senator Reed’s second major Medicaid reform in the last several years. In 2012 a bill he sponsored to establish Regional Care Organizations across the state operating under a similar premise to the ICNs.

Savings in long-term care services such as nursing homes and in-home assistance will become particularly important as baby boomers begin to retire and require more healthcare—the number of people aged 75 and older is expected to double by 2028.

“This is projected to add 9,000 more seniors to the Medicaid long-term care roles,” said Senator Gerald Dial, who chairs the Senate Health & Human Services committee. “I am proud to support Senator Reed’s bill to save more than a billion dollars and allow for more home-based care.”

While these savings won’t be realized immediately and don’t solve the current budget crisis, they could go a long way toward making the federally-mandated program more sustainable in the long term.

The bill will now be considered by the House where it is being sponsored by Rep. April Weaver. It is not expected to meet significant resistance.


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3 years ago

Influential Ala. senator comes out in support of gambling expansion plan

Jay Williams)

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

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Another influential Alabama Senate Republican has thrown his support behind expanding gambling as a solution to the state’s general fund budget woes, while slamming the House’s proposition to give casino exclusivity to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

“The only plan I have seen that makes any sense is Senator Marsh’s proposal to create an ongoing stream of revenue, produce 11,000 jobs, and generate a $1 billion annual economic impact,” said Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville). “Above all else, the Marsh plan allows the people to make the final decision on this issue. It’s time to let the people vote and define their own future for the state.”

Sen. Dial said the deal proposed by the House to grant the Poarch Creek Indians exclusive gaming rights in exchange for a one-time $250 million check sounded “like a bribe.”

“I believe this proposal is illegal and that the state would be prohibited from taking the money even if it wanted to,” Sen. Dial remarked.

To help incentivize members to pass a budget during the regular session, and keep costs of a potential special session down, Dial also sponsored a resolution stating that lawmakers would forgo compensation during any special sessions this year.

“We got elected to come do a job, and that job is to pass a budget,” he said. “We have yet to do that this session and if we have to come back in a special session, it should be on us – not the taxpayers.”

Neither the Senate nor House have voted on any of the proposals to balance the general fund budget. There remain only 9 legislative days left before the end of the 2015 regular session.


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4 years ago

Simple math is the storyline worth watching on Election Day in Alabama

There’s very little drama at the top of the ticket this year in Alabama, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a storyline worth watching.

That storyline is math, simple math. And no, believe it or not, it has nothing to do with Common Core.

Here are a few reasons why math is the storyline worth following when it comes to Alabama’s 2014 General Elections.

1. The Makeup of the Legislature

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

There’s no doubt there will be Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the Alabama legislature once all the votes are totaled Tuesday night. However, you can bet your bottom dollar Republican leaders are keeping a close watch on the final tally, and not just because they want to run up the score for bragging rights.

Although the Republican primaries held earlier this year were an unmitigated disaster for The Alabama Education Association (AEA) — the state’s de facto Democratic Party — they did manage to get a handful of their choice candidates elected. In fact, some of them have already been meeting separately from the full GOP caucus.

If Democrats manage to peel off a couple more Republican candidates in the General Election, the AEA could be positioned to block some of the “heavier lifts” Republicans try to make by combining the AEA-aligned Republicans with their Democratic allies to erode the GOP’s filibuster-proof majority.

A few races to watch where Democrats are hoping to take out a Republican incumbent include House District 7 (Ken Johnson), HD 8 (Terri Collins), HD 89 (Alan Boothe), Senate District 10 (Phil Williams) and Senate District 13 (Gerald Dial).

The open seats the two parties are battling over are HD24 (Republican Nathaniel Ledbetter vs. Democrat David Beddingfield) and HD37 (Republican Bob Fincher vs. Democrat Josh Burns).

The AEA has also spent well over a million dollars against each of the GOP’s top legislative leaders, House Speaker Mike Hubbard (HD79) and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (SD12). They should be able to hold off their challengers, but they’ve had to fight, and it’s worth watching any time a group spends that much money in a state legislative race.

But while a lot of the attention is being paid to whether Republicans can hold on, there are a few Democrats who are fighting for their political lives, as well, most notably state representatives Daniel Boman (HD16) and Greg Burdine (HD1).

2. Can $1.5 million+ make a Democrat viable in Alabama?

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (Photo: Yellowhammer)
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (Photo: Yellowhammer)

The electoral math is heavily stacked against any Democrat runnings statewide in Alabama, but is $1.5 million spent on a scorched earth campaign enough to make a Democrat viable? Probably not, but the Poarch Band of Creek Indians has donated that stunning sum to Democrat Joe Hubbard, basically single-handedly funding his effort to unseat Republican Attorney General Luther Strange.

The Cook Partisan Voting Index rates Alabama as a “R+14” state, meaning a generic Republican running statewide starts with a 14-point lead against a generic Democrat. The deluge of negative ads might make this one closer than it should be, but it’s still hard to imagine Hubbard pulling off the upset.

3. Can $20 million buy you, well, anything?

AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry (Photo: YouTube)
AEA Executive Secretary Henry Mabry (Photo: YouTube)

Since we’re already having so much fun with math, how about a word problem?

Combine the $10+ million of teachers’ dues AEA has spent directly with the $4 million in loans they’ve taken out from Regions Bank and the untold millions they are widely believed to have funneled into so called “dark money” groups not required to disclose their donors, and what do you get?

That’s the question the AEA’s board will get an answer to on Tuesday night. Their total expenditures on this election cycle are so obscene that one would expect them to regain their stranglehold on the state. Yet, even in the AEA’s best case scenario, they only stand a chance at picking up a handful of legislative seats.

We’ll have more on this in our election postmortem, but a lot of folks in Montgomery are watching this one closely.

4. Bentley’s pursuit of 57.45%

YH Robert Bentley

The perceived rift between Gov. Bentley and the so called “Riley” faction of the Alabama Republican Party has been overblown a lot over the last few years, especially when it comes to the governor’s relationship with GOP legislative leadership. However, don’t think for a second that Bentley’s camp isn’t trying to eclipse former Gov. Bob Riley’s performance in his 2006 re-election bid.

Riley bested Democrat Lucy Baxley with 57.45% of the vote that year, which was a disastrous cyle for Republicans around the country. The electoral dynamics are reversed this year, which looks like it might be a banner year for the GOP.

Most projections suggest Bentley will outperform Riley in his bid for a second term. With the results of the gubernatorial race a forgone conclusion, this is the closest thing Alabama’s got to drama at the top of the ticket in 2014.


RELATED:
Everything you need to know about voting in Alabama
9 quotes that will inspire you to go vote today


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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4 years ago

Alabama’s Republican primary was an unmitigated disaster for the AEA

Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry
Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry

The months leading up to last night’s Alabama Republican primary elections were engulfed by a tsunami of negative advertising. The ads, which were delivered to voters via television, direct mail, radio, the Internet and over the phone, were designed to drown Republican incumbents with wave after wave of attacks. Many of them were paid for directly by the Alabama Education Association (AEA), others were funded by a couple of groups widely believed to be fronts for the AEA created to hide their involvement from voters.

In all, the AEA spent roughly $7 million this primary season. $7 million worth of teachers’ dues was spent with the sole purpose of eroding the current Republican supermajority.

So what did $7 million buy them?

Zero statewide races. Zero state senate races. And only a handful of state house races.

AEA successfully took down incumbent Republican House members Richard Baughn (HD14), Wayne Johnson (HD22), Charles Newton (HD90), Bill Roberts (HD13) and Kurt Wallace (HD42).

But those AEA wins were in many ways offset by defeats in races they thought they had in the bag going into election day, but ultimately couldn’t push over the finish line.

For instance, AEA consultants were confident that incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) was going down, but he ended up winning comfortably by 6 points.

They also thought they were in good shape in east Alabama where long-time Democrat-turned-Republican senator Gerald Dial was struggling to beat back challenger Tim Sprayberry. The race was so close that many outlets, including Yellowhammer, believed at one point during the night that Dial had lost. But when all the votes were counted he had won by about 400 votes.


RELATED: ALGOP Chairman: AEA is ‘invading’ Republican primaries


Up in north Alabama, AEA believed they had a sure-fire victory with Republican state representative Todd Greeson, an AEA ally, stepping up to run for the open senate seat in District 8. They pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Greeson’s campaign, only to see him fall to conservative businessman Steve Livingston by 12 points.

In the Wiregrass, the AEA was 0 for 2. They sent hundreds of thousands of dollars down to challenger Garreth Moore, only to watch him lose by 16 points to incumbent senator Jimmy Holley. And they spent a half-million dollars to drag state representative Barry Moore through the mud, but didn’t even come close to beating him at the ballot box.

In statewide races, they supported Stan Cooke’s ill-fated challenge of Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, and Jim Perdue’s third-place finish in the race for secretary of state.

The list could go on and on.

But the highest profile races of the primary were the AEA’s challenges to Republican House and Senate leaders Mike Hubbard and Del Marsh. They spent an unprecedented amount of money to take down the GOP’s top two legislators, but lost both races by 20 points. In Hubbard’s race, the AEA spent somewhere in the neighborhood of a whopping $500 per vote.

So, again, what did $7 million in teachers’ hard-earned money buy the AEA’s political operation?

Not much.

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5 years ago

The Top 5 Tax & Spenders in the Alabama Legislature

1. Rep. Joe Hubbard:

What makes Joe Hubbard the top “tax & spender” in the legislature? He strategically chooses the tax hikes he thinks might have the best chance of passing, then tenaciously fights for them as if his legislative life depends on them.

There’s no way an income tax hike could ever make it through the legislature. There’s no chance a statewide sales tax hike could make it through the legislature. But Hubbard believes he can rally enough public support to pass a cigarette tax (HB9 in 2012), or an additional income tax on companies who do business in Alabama but aren’t “based” here (HB373 in 2011).

Those are the types of tax hikes Hubbard dreams up.

Hubbard tried twice in 2012 to raise taxes and fees on cigarettes. With HB9, he tried to increase taxes on cigarettes, and with HB 712, he tried to also tack on a $1 fee for every pack of cigarettes. “Sin taxes” are some of the lamest and most unimaginative ways to grow government — but they also happen to be some of the most effective.

In an environment where tax hikes are basically impossible, the craftiest “tax & spenders” turn to the tactics outlined above to keep the gravy train rolling. Fortunately for us, Hubbard’s efforts continue to be thwarted by the conservative Republican majority.

2. Sen. Quinton Ross

Senator Ross has one of the legislature’s longest track records of working to increase government spending.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management is already a burden on small businesses, but in 2005 Senator Ross thought it was time to expand the state government’s capacity to regulate the environment, so he introduced SB335. This bill would have established the “Division of Environmental Justice and Health,” a whole new government entity charged with monitoring the environment… another giant government agency in need of giant government spending to prop it up.
Alabama Senator Quinton Ross
In 2007 Senator Ross sponsored SB426 which would have increased taxpayer funded benefits for some government employees, and SB424 which would have increased the expense allowance for the Montgomery County Commission. More government spending.

Then last year, Senator Ross sponsored SB215 which would have reestablished the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP). DROP was allowing the heads of the AEA and other individuals to pile up hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions in some cases, in retirement cash that would be paid out by the taxpayer funded State Retirement System. Even more government spending.

These bills are just snapshots of the larger body or work Sen. Ross has created over the years while fighting tooth and nail to spend taxpayers’ money as fast, and in as big of chunks, as he can.

3. Rep. Craig Ford:

Craig Ford says the darndest things.

He also tries to pass the darndest tax hikes — and a lot of them. Ford has sponsored no less than 10 bills since 2006 that increased, or tried to increase, taxes and/or fees on the people of Alabama. He has introduced bills that would raise taxes or fees on credit transactions, boats, tourism, property, higher education, hunting and countless other businesses and sectors of our economy.

Ford wants to be Governor so bad he can’t stand it. But he’ll have a tough time pulling that off with the tax & spend record outlined above.

4. Rep. John Rogers

Even though it’s next to impossible at this point to get a statewide tax hike passed, some legislators still look for ways to raise taxes through “local legislation” that only affects their county. Rogers was in the news recently for his proposal to reinstate the Jefferson County occupational tax. “We are proposing a reinstatement of the 0.5% occupational tax that will apply to everyone who works in the county,” Rogers told AL.com.

The other bills we found that were attempts at tax raises were also local legislation. Jefferson County has had it’s fair share of issues, many of which weren’t the creation of the legislature. But history has proven that taxing your way out of a hole doesn’t work. Rogers hasn’t yet figured that out.

5. Sen. Roger Bedford

Sen. Bedford has a particular set of skills. He knows the Senate rules better than anyone, and uses them to his advantage constantly. To put it bluntly, he’s just plain better at “the game” than pretty much anyone else in the Senate. Unfortunately he has been known to use his skills to attempt to raise taxes and spending.

Alabama allows a deduction for your total federal tax liability from your federal return minus any federal tax credits you claimed. In 2006, Senator Bedford tried to pass a bill (SB354) that would no longer allow Alabama state taxpayers to deduct their federal income taxes.

He’s also introduced a bevy of local bills (SBSB498 and SB500 in 2007, among many others) imposing and extending fees on the unsuspecting people of the counties he represents.

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5 years ago

AEA Files Suit in Desperate Attempt to Block Education Reform [With Updates]

The Alabama Education Association has filed a lawsuit and petition for a temporary restraining order to prevent Governor Bentley from being able to sign the GOP’s landmark education reform bill as planned on Tuesday.

Democrats have been threatening to file suit since the moment the Accountability Act of 2013 made it to the Senate floor, so this is hardly a surprise.

But it’s clearer now that it’s ever been: the AEA will do absolutely anything to regain their power and control in Montgomery, even if it means forcing children to stay in failing schools, some of which have graduation rates below 50%.

Here’s what we’ve heard as of right now:

1. The AEA has launched a hail mary attempt to stop conservative reform and signed up a who’s who of far leftwing lawyers to represent them

According to Montgomery County Circuit Court records, the AEA late last night filed a complaint and petition for a temporary restraining order. The attorneys currently involved include the following:

James Anderson:
Anderson is a well-known liberal trial lawyer who has represented the Democrat Party and has been heavily involved in bingo proceedings. He was the Democrat Party’s nominee for Attorney General in 2010 against Republican Luther Strange.

Bobby Segall:
Segall is well-known to Yellowhammer readers as one of the AEA’s go-to hired guns. He’s one of the state’s top trial lawyers and has long been an attorney for the uber-liberal ACLU.

William Patty:
Patty is James Anderson’s law partner and has represented the AEA numerous times in the past.

Edward Still:
Still was general counsel to the Alabama Democrat Party for six years. In the past he represented former Democrat Attorney General Bill Baxley and numerous other Democrat elected officials. He has worked literally hundreds of cases under the voting rights act.

2. Parties named in the complaint are as follows:

Plaintiff: Lynn Pettway
Pettway is a Montgomery area AEA UniServ Director.

Defendants: Sen. Del Mash, Rep. Chad Fincher, Sen. Gerald Dial, Rep. Jay Love, Speaker Mike Hubbard, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, Clerk of the House Jeff Woodard, and Gov. Robert Bentley

The Clerk of the House is named because they are seeking a restraining order to keep him from sending the bill to the Governor for his signature. The rest of the defendants are named because the suit claims they either violated open meetings laws or the rules of the legislature.

3. Here’s what the AEA has cooked up in their lawsuit:

Count 1: Unannounced Private Meeting of a Quorum of the Conference Committee

This count claims the four Republicans on the conference committee met in private during a Senate recess to discuss HB84 and therefore broke open meetings laws.

Count 2: Violation of Rule 21 Requirements Governing Appropriation Bills

Without getting too down in the weeds, this count claims House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey broke legislative rules in the way they presided over the votes on the bills.

Count 3: Invalidating the Adoption of HB84

This count seeks to invalidate the Accountability Act of 2013 based on the allegations above.


UPDATES:


11:13


Judge granted the temporary restraining order and has blocked the Clerk of the House from transmitting the bill to the Governor for his signature.


11:25


House Speaker Mike Hubbard just released this statement:
“Union boss Henry Mabry will use whatever tactic, no matter how frivolous, to preserve the broken status quo that has failed our state for decades. An effort to ensure a quality education for every children is something that deserves support, but Mabry’s misguided priorities have led him to believe failing schools are acceptable. This is a lawsuit against every Alabama student and parent who wishes for a better future and a better public education.”



Yellowhammer Founder Cliff Sims interviewed by Matt Murphy this morning on the AEA Lawsuit


4:12


Senator Del Marsh just released the following statement:

“Unfortunately union bosses are attempting to disrupt the legislative process in order to serve their own selfish interests – to the detriment of every child trapped in a failing school.

“While this judicial hail mary may delay the process today, it will not deter our commitment to providing parents and children in failing schools with better educational options. These stalling tactics are a sham by the same special interest elite that have held our state back for far too long.

“We are very confident that the passage of this bill was consistent with both the House and Senate’s governing rules. We look forward to standing with Governor Bentley as he signs the Alabama Accountability Act into law – marking a day when no child has to be stuck in failing schools without options for a better education and a brighter future.”

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