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.

19 hours ago

7 Things: Trump fumbles Putin summit, some of Alabama’s elected officials react negatively, run-off day is here, and more …

(White House/Pixabay)

1. President Donald Trump confirms everyone’s worst fears about his trip to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin

— Media and Democrats got exactly what they wanted, a president who puts the U.S. and Russia on equal footing and at equal fault for the meddling in the 2016 election.

— Republicans got exactly what they did not want — a president who seems to acquiesce to  Russia, look weak, and gets rebuked by his own party.

2. Trump is obsessed with the idea that he didn’t collude with Russia and can’t see past that to see what actually happened


— After his meeting with Putin, Trump once again denied collusion with Russia, saying, “The probe is a disaster for our country. It kept us apart.” Mr. Trump said at a press conference following a summit with Mr. Putin, “There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.”

— Even people Trump has appointed to serve in his administration are telling him that there is a Russian-issue but he can’t just own it, which makes himself look guilty. He continues to be his own worst enemy.

3. Some Alabama lawmakers do not hold back on what Newt Gingrich calls the “most serious mistake” of Trump’s presidency

— Democrat Senator Doug Jones and Congresswoman Terri Sewell both rebuked the president. Jones reminded President Trump that Putin is a “foe,” and Sewell asked, “When will the Republicans that control Congress stand up to Trump?”

— Rep. Bradley Byrne reminded the president that it is OK to talk to Russia, saying, “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.”

4. Election Day is here: Local races, 2 statewide run-offs, and no crossover voting allowed

— Rep. Will Ainsworth spent Monday dragging a boat around the state with a fiberglass tiger. AG candidate and Alabama’s worst attorney Troy King was dragging “heavy hitter” Roger Stone around the state.

— In a more absurd moment for a Congressional race, Alabama Congressman Bobby Bright is getting attention for calling Congresswoman Martha Roby a “poot” sniffer for Trump in a race that has become a contest about who loves Trump more.

5. Gov. Kay Ivey continues to outline the differences between Republicans and Democrats

— Ivey’s press release was right to the point: “The reality is now clear as day — Maddox’s moderate talk doesn’t match his liberal walk. Alabamians won’t be fooled by a smooth talker who won’t stand up to the radical liberals who now run the Democrat party.”

— If the November gubernatorial election comes down to R vs. D, Gov. Ivey knows the R has a huge advantage, so look for her to make that distinction with Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.

6. Sending the National Guard to the border is working

— The National Guard’s deployment to the southwest border is being credited with 10,805 “deportable alien arrests,” that is 10,000+ illegals that would have made it in otherwise.

— Meanwhile, the GOP-controlled House decides not to vote to abolish ICE after the point was made that this is a ridiculous piece of political pandering.

7. Former Judge Roy Moore continues to embarrass the state of Alabama by being pranked by Sacha Baron Cohen and endorsing Troy King

— The disgraced judge and failed Senate candidate is still threatening to sue Showtime, CBS, and Cohen if any footage of Moore airs in Cohen’s absurd new TV show that gets political figures to say really stupid things.

— Moore also endorsed Troy King for Attorney General, which is odd given all of King’s gambling conflicts.

5 days ago

How a moderate Democrat could have a shot at Terri Sewell in 2020

(Screenshot / Facebook)

Let’s go ahead and put this out there: A Republican can’t win head-to-head against a Democrat in Alabama’s seventh congressional district.

Since becoming a majority-minority district in 1992 to comply with Congress’ 1982 adjustment of the Voting Rights Act, it has been solidly Democrat. The district even survived the South’s transition from conservative Democrat to Republican that showed itself in the 1994 midterm elections.

Nearly two-thirds of the voters in the district are African-American, which typically vote for Democrats. The results of the last five presidential elections bear this out. The Democratic Party nominee has earned at least double the vote tally of the Republican. In the cases of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the vote total was nearly triple that of the GOP for the Democrat.


Since voters went to the polls in the 1992 election in this reconstituted congressional district, only three people have held its seat: former Reps. Earl Hilliard and Artur Davis and its current occupant, Rep. Terri Sewell.

For both Hilliard and Davis, their tenures representing Alabama’s seventh congressional district had abrupt endings.

Hilliard’s demise came at the hands of Artur Davis in the 2002 Democratic congressional primary. Hilliard made himself a target by making an ill-advised trip to Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya despite a federal ban on travel to the rogue North African nation.

Prominent Mobilian and University of South Alabama booster Mayer Mitchell, who at the time had a leadership role in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), sought to oust Hilliard, who had been a critic of Israel.

With Mitchell’s help and perhaps the aid of a cloud of campaign finance impropriety hanging over Hilliard’s head, Davis defeated Hilliard on a second try in 2002 in a runoff election.

With that win came the rise of Artur Davis, a young Harvard Law School graduate with, at the time, what was thought to be a bright, promising future in the Democratic Party.

For four terms, Davis represented the seventh congressional district at a time when Harvard Law classmate Barack Obama, another African-American was rising to national prominence and ultimately to the White House in 2008.

While Hilliard legislated from the left flank of the Democratic Party, Davis legislated from the right flank. Davis opposed Obama’s health care reform bill, which turned out to be Obama’s signature achievement for his eight years as commander-in-chief.

Political watchers assumed Davis’ politically moderate tack was an effort to position himself as a better candidate for governor in the 2010 election.

It was that 2010 bid that wound up being the roadblock for Davis. He lost the Democratic nod to then-Alabama Agricultural Commissioner Ron Sparks by a whopping 24-point margin. Davis would go on to flirt with a Republican Party candidacy for Congress in northern Virginia. He even spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Ultimately, he wound up back in Alabama and after a failed bid to be the mayor of Montgomery, he still insists that he isn’t done yet.

That brings us to the current occupant, Rep. Terri Sewell. Sewell, who is also a graduate of Harvard Law, in addition to a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a master’s degree from Oxford.

Sewell is a historical figure in Alabama politics. After a stint practicing law in the private sector, she won the Democratic Party primary for the 2010 Alabama’s seventh congressional district election by finishing first in a crowded. A victory later that year made Sewell the first African-American woman to serve from Alabama in the U.S. Congress.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, Sewell has taken up a more active role in the so-called Resistance movement.

To her credit, she was instrumental in Doug Jones’ upset win last year over Roy Moore with her get-out-the-vote efforts in her congressional district.

But could this new strident outspokenness against Trump work against her? Could a candidate emerge as Artur Davis had against Earl Hilliard?

If this past is prologue, it is feasible a rival Democrat could emerge in 2020. The long-term prognosis of a Democratic Party fueled by Russia conspiracies and anti-Trump fervor is unknown. If Democrats have a misstep this November and don’t succeed in a national election that the party out of power traditionally does well, there could be a civil war within the Democratic Party.

There’s also the possibility Alabama could lose a congressional seat. If that happens to be the case, Sewell’s district would likely expand to take on some demographic changes. It would still probably be a majority-minority district, but the electorate could be a little more moderate than it is now.

What might that mean for Rep. Sewell? She would still be an odds-on favorite, no question. But that was the way people viewed Hilliard in 2002. In 2002, Hilliard was also running a congressional district that had changed since the prior election.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin or even Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, assuming he isn’t governor, could be such candidates that would be formidable opponents for Sewell in a Democratic primary.

While we still need to get through the 2018 election cycle, a lot of what happens nationally in the November elections will set the country up for 2020, and that could include Alabama’s seventh congressional district.

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

2 weeks ago

Five years since Shelby County v. Holder: Alabama’s elected officials reiterate arguments about voting rights

(Merrill, Sewell/Facebook)

During a Congressional Black Caucus-hosted ‘Panel on the State of Voting Rights’ last week, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) said that “we have gone backwards” when it comes to voter suppression.

Sewell made these remarks two days after the five-year anniversary of Shelby County v. Holder, a Supreme Court ruling which she and other Democrats say has gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, resulting in civil rights regress.

“I think we have seen a reversal of many [sic] of the progress that we’ve seen in voting rights,” she said, citing voter roll purgation, long polling lines, and photo ID laws.

Secretary of State John Merrill says that Sewell’s viewpoint is one that is more informed by politics than fact.


“We have not had a single incident occur, since the implementation of the voter ID law, where a person’s been denied access to the polls because they did not have the proper credentials when they went to vote,” Merrill told Yellowhammer News in an interview on Tuesday.

Merrill went on to discuss the more than 1 million new voter registrations since January of 2015.

“We’ve broken every record in the history of the state for voter participation under my watch,” Merrill said.

Despite those numbers, Rep. Sewell still recognizes numerous barriers.

In an op-ed published on last week, Sewell laid out how those factors mentioned above inhibit the rights of prospective voters.

The op-ed cites a study conducted by three researchers who found that “strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections.”

What divides Sewell and Merrill, and their respective parties, is a clear difference of opinion on the matter of what constitutes a substantive inhibition to voters.

Until the two reach some agreement on that question, the debate will continue.

2 months ago

Alabama Rep Terri Sewell to FEC: Allow candidates to use campaign funds on childcare

(Screenshot / Facebook)

In a letter sent to Federal Election Commission acting general counsel Lisa J. Stevenson on the FEC to allow candidates to use campaign funds on childcare.

She argued such a move would “break down barriers” that prevent women from running for office and work toward making Congress a body “that reflects the diversity of the American people.”

“If we want a Congress that reflects the diversity of the American people, then we have to break down barriers for women and working parents who want to run for elected office,” Sewell said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “Affording childcare is a major barrier keeping working parents from getting out on the campaign trail. Today’s letter urging the FEC to allow candidates to use their privately-raised campaign funds for campaign-related childcare is a sensible step forward.”


“In a world where candidates spend campaign funds on private jet travel and steak dinners for donors, there is no reason why a working mother should not be able to pay for a babysitter while they make their case to voters,” she continued. “As the FEC makes its decision on campaign childcare expenses this week, women candidates across the country and many of us here in Congress will be watching.”

Sewell also pointed that 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was in favor of this.

Twenty-three other members backed Sewell, including Democratic Reps. Lois Frankel, Brenda Lawrence, Carolyn Maloney, John Lewis, Barbara Lee, Jan Schakowsky, Bob Brady, Maxine Waters, Judy Chu, Debbie Dingell, Dina Titus, Ruben Gallego, Robin Kelly, Kathleen Rice, Yvette Clarke, Colleen Hanabusa, Sheila Jackson Lee, Don McEachin, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Frederica S. Wilson, Jamie Raskin, Gwen Moore, and Ted Deutch.

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

6 months ago

Alabama Rep. Sewell supported a short-term CHIP extension in December but just voted against a long-term extension. Here’s why:

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) voted against a resolution on Thursday that would have extended government funding through February 16 and, among other things, would also have extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years.

“The congresswoman voted against the [resolution] this past week because she would like to see Republicans work with Democrats to pass a long-term funding bill,” Sewell’s communications director, Christopher MacKenzie, told Yellowhammer.

Sewell’s no-vote is notable because back in December, she broke with her party and voted for a short-term funding bill, chiefly because of CHIP.

“The government funding/CHIP bill that passed in December wasn’t perfect, but Rep. Sewell voted for it because she was not willing to let CHIP expire,” MacKenzie told Yellowhammer earlier this month.

So what has changed? Why was the Congresswoman willing to vote for a short-term CHIP solution back in December, but wasn’t willing to support this recent bill which had a six-year CHIP extension?

“In December, CHIP was facing a slightly different timeline,” MacKenzie said. “The vote on the CR happened on Dec. 21 as members were leaving for the holiday and the CHIP freeze was starting Jan. 1 – there was zero room for any additional votes to ensure CHIP had funding.”

“Also, the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax bill means that new cost estimates have come out this month about the price tag on extending CHIP,” MacKenzie said. “According to the CBO, extending CHIP for ten years would actually provide savings because fewer families would enroll in the federally subsidized healthcare marketplaces. So why extend for just six years?”

6 months ago

Alabama’s congressional delegation reacts to the shutdown

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

Late Friday, lawmakers were unable to pass an eleventh-hour effort to thwart a government shutdown, and as the clock struck midnight, “nonessential” federal government activities ceased.

The Senate effort failed by a 50-49 roll call vote and required 60 votes to pass. The legislation would have funded the federal government through February 16.

Both of Alabama’s U.S. Senators, Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) and Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), voted for the bill. Jones was one of five Democrats voting in the affirmative, a position he made known earlier in the evening.

In a statement released early Saturday, Shelby railed against his Democratic colleagues and accused them of “putting partisan politics” ahead of funding the government.

“It is unacceptable that Democrats would vote against a measure to keep our government open to do the work of the American people,” Shelby said. “I do not believe that shutting down the government is a solution to the problems we face as a country. A shutdown is destructive to the American taxpayer, no matter the circumstances. Republicans are working hard to keep the government running, and we also want to approve a long-term reauthorization of CHIP, which provides millions of children with needed health insurance coverage. While a long-term funding measure is preferred, this CR would allow Congress the ability to continue ongoing and proactive negotiations in an effort to approve a bipartisan, bicameral funding bill.”

“Democrats have chosen partisan politics over funding our government, funding our troops, and providing health insurance to low-income children and pregnant women,” he added. “The American people deserve better.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who had been very active on Twitter in lead-up and the aftermath of the shutdown deadline, described the Democratic refusal to back the legislation “petty and ridiculous.”

“The so-called ‘resistance’ and Senate Democrats have shut down the entire federal government and put health care for over 85,000 Alabama children at risk over an unrelated illegal immigration issue,” he said. “This is petty and ridiculous, and I call on Senate Democrats to stop with the political games, come back to the negotiating table, and join us in passing a funding bill.”

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) of Alabama’s 2nd congressional district expressed similar disapproval of Senate Democrats.

“While I continue to have serious concerns with short-term funding measures, I still voted in favor of the Continuing Resolution this week in the House because I believe it is critical that we keep the government open and running, especially as it relates to our military and reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP),” Roby said. “I am deeply disappointed that Senate Democrats chose to let the government shut down over an unrelated immigration issue that does not have an immediate deadline.”

“My congressional offices will remain open to serve the needs of those I represent. I will continue working with my colleagues to work towards a solution to properly fund our government,” she added.

The congressman for Alabama’s 3rd congressional district, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks), also condemned Democrats for “playing politics.”

“One of the fundamental purposes of our government is to provide for the common defense to protect our liberties,” Rogers said in a statement released early Saturday. “Unfortunately, Democrats chose illegal immigrants over our brave men and women who serve in uniform and forced our government to shut down. Their actions also hurt children across East Alabama and the country that rely on CHIP.  Playing politics with those who defend our freedom and the health care of the kids who need it the most is unconscionable to me.”

The lone member of Alabama’s delegation to vote against the continuing resolution was Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham). Sewell had made it her intentions known she would oppose the GOP’s efforts on Thursday. In a tweet early Saturday, she deemed the shutdown the “Trump shutdown” and called on Republicans to do their job.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

6 months ago

Alabama Democrat Rep. Sewell ties MLK Day to tax policy in Democrats’ national weekly address

(Screenshot / YouTube)
(Screenshot / YouTube)

In this week’s national Democratic Party address, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) commemorated the upcoming Martin Luther King Day holiday and touted it as a time to emphasize income inequality given in her view King’s vision of equality included economics.

“Dr. King saw economic success for all Americans as a keystone of equality,” Sewell said. “He recognized that economic issues were civil rights issues. ‘The struggle for genuine equality means economic equality,’ Dr. King told a rally of sanitation workers in Memphis, barely two weeks before his death. He said, ‘For we know now that it’s not enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to integrate a lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?’”

Sewell railed against the tax legislation recently signed into law by President Donald Trump by maligning it for what she said favored the wealthy and not the middle class.

“An estimated 83 percent of the tax bill’s cuts go to the top 1 percent of America’s wealthiest households,” Sewell said. “Meanwhile, the tax bill’s temporary benefits for the middle-class workers evaporate after just a few years, resulting in a tax increase for 86 million middle-class families.”

According to an estimate from the Tax Policy Foundation, the bill will create 4,632 jobs in Alabama raise the middle-income family “by more than $519.”

Sewell remains convinced it is a net positive and vowed to fight for better legislation.

“Instead of simplifying the tax code or making it fairer, the GOP tax bill sticks working Americans with $1.5 trillion in debt in order to pay for corporate tax cuts,” she added. “While passage of the GOP tax bill will have tragic consequences for our working Americans, I can promise you this: I promise that our fight for middle-class Americans is far from over.”

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

6 months ago

The CHIP showdown: How will Congress fund health insurance for children?

(U.S. Army)
(U.S. Army)

2018 may shape up to be a more politically volatile year than last. Numerous issues, from Obamacare to immigration reform, will shape the political showdown of 2018. Among those will be the future of the recently — but briefly — reauthorized Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Congress passed a temporary spending bill on December 21 which extended CHIP’s authorization until March of this year, but it needs to find a long-term solution.

There is little, if any, debate about the essential function of the program. Both Democrats and Republicans support funding health insurance for children who, in the words of House Speaker Paul Ryan, “through no fault of their own” wouldn’t otherwise have it.

Debate arises when it comes to funding the program. Republicans want to offset the costs with cuts elsewhere, and Democrats don’t.

Last November, the House of Representatives passed the Championing Healthy Kids Act, which authorizes CHIP for five more years. Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill, which also got yeas from 15 Democrats.

“The Championing Healthy Kids Act is a conservative, fiscally responsible approach to a five-year extension of CHIP as well as a two-year extension of community health centers and other key public health programs” Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) told Yellowhammer. “Unfortunately, Democrats have been blocking our plan in the Senate for months.  While it has been frustrating for those who depend on this program, I’m hopeful that Congress can act early this year to bring forward responsible legislation that will give certainty to Alabama families.”

Mostly because of what the bill does to offset costs, 171 Democrats voted against it, including Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham).

“The bill… made significant cuts to other health programs, including the Public Health and Prevention Fund, and it cut the payment grace period for ACA marketplace premiums, a change that would hit low-income Americans the hardest,” Chris MacKenzie, Sewell’s press secretary, told Yellowhammer. “Rep. Sewell voted against the legislation because she doesn’t believe that cutting one important health program to pay for another is a winning strategy when it comes to strengthening our health care system.”

More than anything, the Championing Healthy Kids Act reinforces differences in the fiscal approaches of Democrats and Republicans. Congress will more than likely find a way to fund CHIP before March.

The question is, with what money?

Jeremy Beaman is a Yellowhammer News contributor in his final year at the University of Mobile. He also writes for The College Fix.

Follow him on Twitter @jeremywbeaman and email him at

10 months ago

Congress Responds to Alabama Day Care Death

The U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment this week that would block federal funding for day care centers with a history of injury or death due to safety violations. The amendment was proposed by Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell, in the wake of the death of 5-year-old Kamden Johnson – the Alabama boy who died in August after being left in a hot day care van. The amendment is attached to an appropriations bill that is set to be voted on later this week.

Sewell acknowledges the importance of the amendment in a press release:

“Kamden Johnson’s death this August was not the first child death at an unregulated day care center in Alabama, and it will not be the last so long as we continue to fund centers that violate health and safety standards.”

Alabama’s child care system has come under scrutiny over the past several years, as reports of death and injury among non-licensed day cares has risen. Alabama is one of the only states which allow day care centers to operate without regulation if they claim a religious exemption. Currently, there are 943 unlicensed centers statewide.

Kamden Johnson died in August after being left in a hot van at his preschool in Mobile. The preschool is operated by a church and was not licensed or inspected. The van driver, who has since been arrested, has a glaring criminal record.

If passed, Sewell’s amendment would block day cares with a history of death or injury from receiving funding through the Child Care Development Grant. The grant provides subsidies for low-income families to afford day care.

The grant does, however, already place restrictions on the day cares who receive funding. According to new federal rules for the grant, all day cares who take qualifying children must undergo basic safety inspections and criminal background checks. While these inspections are not as thorough as the ones that DHR-licensed facilities undergo, it does mean that many day care centers do indeed receive at least minimal regulation.

Sewell hopes that her amendment will provide day cares with an incentive to step up health and safety precautions. Her amendment received bipartisan support in Congress, including support from fellow Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne. Byrne, whose district includes Mobile, tweeted his support “especially in light of the recent tragic incident in Mobile.”

1 year ago

Alabama’s lone Democrat in Congress is skipping Trump’s inauguration

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alabama’s lone Congressional Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL7), will be skipping Donald J. Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States. Following Georgia Congressman’s John Lewis’ lead, Sewell cited Trump’s comments towards her colleague as the reason she refuses to attend.

“While I have a profound respect for the office of the President, and I accept the results of the election, I simply cannot accept the blatant disrespect shown by President-elect Trump towards American civil rights icon, my colleague, friend and mentor, the Honorable John Lewis,” Sewell said in a press release. “The ongoing attacks against Congressman John Lewis are a direct assault on the sacrifices of those brave men and women in my Alabama district who fought, bled and died for the civil rights and voting rights of all Americans. As always, I stand with my constituents.”

Recently, the President-Elect and Rep. Lewis have developed a political feud. Last week, Lewis announced he would skip the inauguration and questioned Trump’s legitimacy. Like many other Democrats, Lewis has placed the blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss on Russian interference instead of the campaign tactics used by the DNC.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Lewis stated that his would be “the first one [inauguration] that I miss since I’ve been in Congress.” However, this is patently false.

CNBC reported that John Lewis also boycotted George W. Bush’s 2001 Inauguration. While he has not yet released an official comment, his office said “His absence at that time was also a form of dissent. He did not believe the outcome of that election, including the controversies around the results in Florida and the unprecedented intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court, reflected a free, fair and open democratic process.”

Trump did not miss the opportunity to jump all over his latest rival in a series of pointed tweets.

With or without Lewis and Sewell, Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President on January 20.

2 years ago

The newly launched Congressional Football Caucus is led by an Alabamian, of course

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)

WASHINGTON — A group of United States congressmen has tossed aside partisan politics and announced the formation of the first ever Congressional Football Caucus. Fittingly, the group will be led by a representative from the state that has taken home five of the last seven college football national championships.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, will co-chair the caucus alongside Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas whose home state has a rich college football history as well.

According to The Hill, the caucus’s primary goal is to “protect the $5 billion scholarship market for college football players, many of whom do not go onto play professionally and rely on their education to build a successful career.” breaks down the $5 billion in football scholarships available at the NCAA Division I, IAA, and II levels:

“At the Division 1A level, 237 universities have football teams. There are 85 scholarships available per team to be divided among the players. A total of 20,145 scholarships are offered in Division 1A football.

“At the Division 1AA level, 120 universities have football teams. There are 63 scholarships available per team to be divided among the players. A total of 7,560 scholarships are offered in Division 1AA football.

“At the Division II level, 164 universities have football teams. There are 36 scholarships available per team to be divided among the players. A total of 5,904 scholarships are offered in Division 2 football.”

The football crazed state of Alabama is home to nine Division 1 football programs (counting UAB’s resurgent program) and eight Division II programs.

The Congressional Football Caucus held its first event in Washington, D.C., last week featuring appearances by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Hall of Fame Coach Barry Switzer.

(h/t The Hill)

2 years ago

Alabama GOP congressmen vote to keep terrorists in Gitmo, Sewell votes against

A photo of a GITMO detainee (Photo: Screenshot from Vice News YouTube clip)
A photo of a GITMO detainee (Photo: Screenshot from Vice News YouTube clip)
A photo of a GITMO detainee (Photo: Screenshot from Vice News YouTube clip)

WASHINGTON — The six Republican members of Alabama’s congressional delegation on Thursday voted to block the Obama administration’s attempts to transfer prisoners and close the prison at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The state’s lone Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell, voted against the measure.

For the last several years, Republicans have included language in the annual government funding package that prohibits bringing Gitmo prisoners to the United States, for which many Democrats have advocated. As a result, the Obama administration has instead shipped some of the prisoners to other countries, or released them all together.

The bill passed by the House Thursday would strictly prohibit both bringing the prisoners to the United States and transferring them to other counties, effectively making it impossible for President Obama to deliver on his campaign promise to shut down Gitmo.

The legislation, H.R. 5351, passed by a vote of 244 to 174.

“By attempting to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and release hardened terrorists, I fear this President is once again putting politics above national security,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “I fear he is more concerned about keeping a campaign promise than he is about keeping the American people – especially our service members fighting in the Middle East – safe.

“Today’s vote sends a clear message that there is bipartisan opposition to the President’s efforts to close the prison,” he continued. “Instead of letting terrorists free, the Obama Administration should be focused on ways to combat radical Islamic terrorism and defeat groups like ISIS.”

Reports indicate that some of the prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to terrorist activities. In fact, a recent report from Reuters indicates that two more former Guantanamo detainees have rejoined militant groups.

“Reports have indicated that it was a former Guantanamo detainee who helped organize and plan the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya,” said Rep. Byrne. “Four Americans lost their lives during that attack.”

There are currently 61 prisoners remaining at the Guantanamo Bay prison whom the government has deemed too dangerous to move.

Rep. Byrne spoke out on favor the Gitmo bill in a short speech on the House floor, which can be viewed below.

2 years ago

Alabama congresswoman pushes gun control with ‘sit-in’ on House floor

House Democrats stage a sit in for gun control. (Photo: Facebook)
House Democrats stage a sit in for gun control. (Photo: Facebook)
House Democrats stage a sit in for gun control. (Photo: Facebook)

WASHINGTON — Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7) joined her Democratic colleagues on the House floor tuesday for a sit-in designed to force Republicans to vote on more stringent gun control measures.

Several proposals that would have expanded background checks in various ways failed to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to push forward in the Senate, sending Democratic lawmakers into a public meltdown.

Several Democrats openly said that Republicans’ refusal to pass new gun control laws in the wake of the recent Orlando nightclub terrorist attack meant conservatives would rather sell guns to the so called Islamic State than buck the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA shot back with an email blast to its members saying, “They’re blaming you… for the terrorist attack in Orlando and taking advantage of this tragedy to push their gun control agenda while emotions run high.”

Democrats in the House then decided to stage a sit-in on the House floor, which they hoped would gain widespread coverage on television. However, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) put the House in recess, meaning the C-Span cameras that normally capture the action on the floor were turned off. Democrats then turned to social media apps like Periscope and Twitter to get their message out.

Sewell, a three-term House member from Birmingham, tweeted out an image of her sitting “in solidarity” with her Democratic colleagues.

Second Amendment issues often unite conservatives and liberals in Alabama, where gun rights are deeply engrained in the state’s culture. This time, however, Sewell — the state’s lone Democratic member of congress — has put herself out on an island.

2 years ago

House restricts Confederate flag cemetery displays over Alabama Republicans’ objections

Confederate flag beside the tombstone of a Civil War soldier (Photo: Fujoshi Bijou)
Confederate flag beside the tombstone of a Civil War soldier (Photo: Fujoshi Bijou)
Confederate flag beside the tombstone of a Civil War soldier (Photo: Fujoshi Bijou)

WASHINGTON — The GOP-controled United States House of Representatives has voted to restrict Confederate flag displays at national cemeteries over the objections of the vast majority of Republicans, including Alabama’s delegation.

Alabama’s lone Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL7) supported the measure, while the state’s six Republicans were opposed. The bill ultimately passed 265-159, with 84 Republicans joining all but one House Democrat in pushing the measure through.

The bill does not completely ban Confederate flags at national cemeteries, but limits the display of flags on individual graves to only two days each year — Confederate Memorial Day and Memorial Day — and bans the flags from being flown over large monuments or on flag polls.

“What we are seeing is a politically charged symbol being used to divide people along racial lines,” said Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL4). “But the truth of the matter is that the only people that are doing that today are the proponents of this amendment to remove flags from cemetery property.

“Every time the flag issue dies away from the news it is raised from the dead by people that seek to keep it alive for their own political purposes,” Aderholt continued. “It is time to let the dead remain dead. We should honor the dead in a peaceful way for their sacrifice instead of using them as a distraction from the important matters at hand.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan allowed the bill to come up for a vote in spite of it not having the support of the majority of Republicans. The relatively new speaker touted the move as an indication that the House has returned to “regular order” under his leadership and now allows open debate and votes on contentious issues.

“What changed is we have to get through these things, and if we’re going to have open rules and appropriations, which we have, which is regular order, people are going to have to take tough votes,” Ryan told reporters after the bill passed. “And I think people are acknowledging this — this is the kind of conversation we’ve had all along with our members, which is tough votes happen in open rules.

“People have to get used to that fact. That’s the way regular order works,” he added. “People realize the last thing we should do is derail our own appropriations process.”

A staffer for a Georgia Republican congressman compared the effort to ISIS’ terrorists destroying monuments in the Middle East.

“You know who else supports destroying history so that they can advance their own agenda?” Asked Pete Sanborn, legislative director for Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.). “ISIL. Don’t be like ISIL.”

2 years ago

Senator moves to block ‘revisionist movement’ from ‘whitewashing’ Alabama history

Confederate memorial in Linn Park
The monument in question in Linn Park
The monument in question in Linn Park

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama Senator Gerald Allen believes there is a “revisionist movement” seeking to “whitewash” Alabama history, and he plans to do something about it during the upcoming legislative session.

In a move first reported by the Montgomery Advertiser, Senator Allen has introduced a bill that would prohibit cities from removing “any object of remembrance” from public property without first receiving permission from the Legislative Council, a 20-member group of Senate and House members.

“This legislation is about protecting all of Alabama’s history for every Alabamian, which includes the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement,” Allen said Monday morning.

Senator Allen’s bill was first introduced this past summer, around the time Birmingham’s Parks and Recreation board voted to remove a Confederate monument in Linn Park, directly across the street from Birmingham’s city hall and the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Funded and erected by the Pelham chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy on April 26, 1905, the monument had remained in place through the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights movement, and for the 50 years since the Voting Rights Act.

But in the fallout of the Charleston Shootings, when a white supremacist shot and killed 9 African-Americans in a South Carolina church, vestiges of honor or remembrance of the Confederacy began being threatened with removal from public property.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley also removed the Confederate Battle Flag from the Alabama Capitol Grounds, although the Confederate Monument still remains.

“There is a revisionist movement afoot to cover over many parts of American history,” said Senator Allen. “Our national and state history should be remembered as it happened. This politically-correct movement to strike whole periods of the past from our collective memory is divisive and unnecessary.”

Additionally, if Allen’s bill gains approval, renaming a “school, street, bridge, building, park, preserve, or reserve” that bears the name of “an event, a person, a group, a movement, or military service” would also require the Council’s approval.

The Alabama Senate voted last year to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which was famously crossed by civil rights activists on “Bloody Sunday” in 1965, the “Journey to Freedom Bridge.” The bridge was named after Edmund Pettus, a Confederate general, Grand Dragon of the Alabama KKK, and Democratic Senator.

“There are many things in our society to change that are more significant than the name of a bridge,” wrote Senator Hank Sanders (D-Selma), the resolution’s sponsor, “but removing this vestige of the past will serve as a parallel to the ongoing journey towards equal rights, fair representation and open opportunity.”

The bill did not gain approval by the full legislature, and sparked a backlash from both Republicans and Democrats, including Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7).

“I am strongly opposed to changing the name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge,” she said at the time. “The historical irony is an integral part of the complicated history of Selma — a city known for its pivotal role in Civil War and the civil rights movement.

“The bridge is an iconic symbol of the struggle for voting rights in America, and its name is as significant as its imposing structure. Changing the name of the bridge would change the course of history and compromise the historical integrity of the voting rights movement. As inheritors of the legacy surrounding the historical events that took place in Selma, we must safeguard that history–good and bad and resist attempts to rewrite it.”

Senator Allen’s bill to preserve history is expected to get consideration when the Legislature convenes for the 2016 Regular Legislative Sessions on February 2.

3 years ago

Aderholt only Alabama Republican to support $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill

Robert Aderholt (R-AL4)
Robert Aderholt (R-AL4)
Robert Aderholt (R-AL4)

WASHINGTON — A $1.1 trillion bill to fund the government through next September flew through the House (316-113) and Senate (65-33) on Friday, but only garnered support from two individuals in Alabama’s nine-member federal delegation. Alabama’s lone Democratic representative Terri Sewell (D-AL7) was joined in supporting the bill by Republican Robert Aderholt (R-AL4), while the other seven Alabama Republicans voted no.

“This bill is more known for what it is not than for what it is,” Aderholt told Yellowhammer in a statement. “While I was able to get some important language included for the pro-life movement, the bill does not contain other riders I had hoped for such as tying the President’s hands in the Syrian refugees and peeling back the EPA water regulation. That is a big disappointment.”

The pro-life language Aderholt had inserted into the 2,009-page bill blocks the genetic manipulation of human embryos. Aderholt said he was opposed to other portions of the bill, which included funding for Planned Parenthood, and according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), President Obama’s “entire immigration agenda,” including the Syrian refugee resettlement program and expansion of foreign worker visas.

“There is a reason that GOP voters are in open rebellion,” Sessions said in a statement announcing his opposition to the bill. “They have come to believe that their party’s elites are not only uninterested in defending their interests but – as with this legislation, and fast-tracking the President’s international trade pact – openly hostile to them.”

Sessions was joined in the senate by his Alabama colleague Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who also voted against the measure while calling its final passage a “victory” for President Obama.

“Today I once again said ‘no’ to handing over a blank check to President Obama with this 2,000 page, trillion-dollar spending bill filled with liberal victories,” said Shelby. “Not only does this fiscally irresponsible bill allow the President to continue his dangerous Syrian refugee resettlement plan, it does nothing to stop funding for lawless sanctuary cities that protect criminal illegal immigrants. It also does nothing to end taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. Simply put, this bill represents a victory for President Obama and his liberal allies – not for the American people.”

In the House, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL7) said she voted for the bill “after a thoughtful and thorough review,” citing its funding for “Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and other minority serving institutions.”

“This is not a perfect bill,” she said, “but I am proud that both sides of the aisle were able to work out a compromise that benefits our nation, and helps us continue to grow.”

Conservative criticisms of the bill included familiar frustrations with the process used to craft it, in addition to the policy provisions. In spite of the bill being over 2,000 pages long, members were only given a couple of days to review it.

“The good news is that this bill is the last vestiges of Speaker Boehner’s style of leadership,” Aderholt said. “And in two weeks we will start putting together a bill with conservative principles that will pass with conservative votes.”

Aderholt is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and could play a significant role in crafting the next funding legislation.

3 years ago

Alabama’s lone Democrat joins Republicans, bucks Obama on Syrian refugee program

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)
Congressman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)
Congressman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)

Defying a veto threat by President Barack Obama, Alabama’s congressional delegation unanimously backed legislation to halt the influx of Syrian refugees and intensify the security screenings of refugees going forward. The bill was approved by a vote of 289 to 137, with 47 Democrats including Alabama Congressman Terri Sewell (D-AL7), joining Republicans in creating a veto-proof supermajority.

The American SAFE Act would not allow refugees from Iraq or Syria to enter the United States until multiple U.S. national security and intelligence officials verify they do not pose a terrorist threat. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tx.) said the bill creates “the most robust national security screening process in American history for any refugee population.” The measure now proceeds to the Senate.

The White House maintains that the bill would create “unnecessary and impractical requirements” on persecuted families seeking refuge in the U.S. while adding no additional security to Americans.

Yellowhammer sources in Washington say the White House made a direct appeal to Rep. Sewell, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, urging her to stand by the president. Sewell said she supports the refugee program as a whole, but could not vote against the security of the American people.

“I am convinced that we must be more vigilant in our refugee screening and vetting processes,” she said. “The bill seeks to strengthen the screening process by prohibiting refugees from Syria and Iraq from being admitted into the United States without a more comprehensive background check and by adding government certification to our already robust security screening protocol.”

The office of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), however, characterized the bill is not the central focus of their efforts, saying Congress should use the power of the purse to defund the Refugee Resettlement Program altogether.

The current funding proposal before Congress would not only authorize the President’s plan to bring in 85,000 refugees on top of the current, historical annual immigration flow, but would also allow for an unlimited amount of money to be spent on lifetime welfare and benefits for refugees.

100 refugees are currently slated to be housed in Alabama by Catholic Social Services. The date of their arrival is uncertain.

Senator Sessions and Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have taken the lead on the defund effort in the Senate.

The two conservative Alabama senators released the following joint statement Tuesday afternoon:

As Chairmen of Subcommittees on both the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees, we believe it is essential that any government funding bill cancel the President’s blank check for refugee resettlement. Long before the barbaric attacks in Paris, government officials and investigators have stated that we do not have the capacity to effectively screen Syrian refugees. The bloody assaults on the streets of France add new urgency to an already dangerous situation. Right now, our refugee program – like all of our visa programs – runs on autopilot. Each year, millions of visas go out the door without any input or action from Congress. We would not accept this policy for the federal budget, and we should not accept it for immigration. We therefore urge the inclusion of a provision in any omnibus spending bill that makes it absolutely clear that no refugee resettlement will take place without a separate, affirmative Congressional vote to authorize any resettlement and offset its huge costs.

1. White House refuses Bentley’s request for classified info on Syrian refugees coming to Alabama
2. Byrne introduces bill to ‘eliminate all funding’ for Syrian refugee resettlement
3. More than 100 Syrian refugees could soon be in Mobile, given Medicaid and food stamps
4. Bentley to Obama: Evil exists, Alabama cannot risk accepting Syrian refugees
5. Shelby, Sessions tag-team Obama’s Syrian refugee program, move to revoke its funding
6. Bentley: Use ‘all lawful means necessary’ to keep Syrian refugees out of Alabama
7. Legal experts disagree on whether Alabama has a right to refuse Syrian refugees
8. Map shows Alabama has already received hundreds of Middle East refugees in recent years
9. Sessions moves to revoke funding for Syrian refugee resettlement
10. Condoleezza Rice sums up why allowing Syrian refugees into Alabama is a bad idea

3 years ago

On Veterans Day Alabama Lawmakers express gratitude for those who have served in the military

U.S. Marine Corps Flickr account
U.S. Marine Corps Flickr account
U.S. Marine Corps Flickr account

WASHINGTON — As thousands of Alabamians gather today to commemorate and celebrate the military men and women who have served the United States with honor. It’s more than a day off from work, or a parade bedecked with red, white, and blue banners. Veterans Day is a time for all Americans to reflect on the ways we can serve those who served us.

In that spirit, many Alabama lawmakers have released statements expressing their gratitude for the nation’s veterans.

Senator Richard Shelby (R)Today I proudly join my colleagues and Americans across the country in paying tribute to our nation’s veterans and their families.  Without the selfless sacrifices of the courageous men and women in uniform, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans would not be possible.

On Veterans Day and every day, we must remember that freedom comes at a great price, and that we owe our active duty and retired servicemen and women a debt of gratitude.  Our veterans’ unwavering commitment to defending security and prosperity should never be forgotten.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1): “Today we celebrate Veterans Day, and we honor the men and women who have served in the United States military.

“These are the individuals who throughout our nation’s history have put country above themselves.

“As humans, it seems like we are programmed to avoid any situation that would put us in danger. That’s why there is something truly remarkable about the men and women in our military who choose to run toward danger. These American heroes aren’t afraid of a challenge; when faced with adversity, they simply push themselves harder and reach even higher.

“Despite their service and sacrifice, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving far too many veterans behind. The broken bureaucracy at the VA is failing our veterans, and reform is desperately needed.

(listen to the rest of Rep. Byrne’s remarks here.)

Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL2): Today we celebrate and honor the men and women who have courageously and selflessly served in the Armed Forces.

On this Veterans Day, I encourage you to take a moment to thank not only those who have worn the uniform, but their families as well. We can never thank our soldiers and their families enough for the great sacrifices they make daily on our behalf, but today is a special opportunity for our nation to pause and express our sincere gratitude.

I remain committed to fighting in Congress to ensure veterans receive the care that they need and deserve. In fact, my bill to overhaul the accountability process for VA medical centers is before the Veterans Affairs Committee next week, a hopeful step towards a final vote.

It’s truly an honor to represent so many who have served this country in uniform and to work on their behalf.

Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6): “I want to wholeheartedly express my appreciation to each and every one of our veterans, both in Alabama and throughout America,” Palmer said. “Our national anthem calls the America the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’ A popular rephrasing of that is that America is ‘Land of the free because of the brave.’ It remains free because brave citizens choose to join our armed forced and serve their country sacrificially.”

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7): “Today we salute the selfless sacrifices of our nation’s 21 million veterans. These patriots have kept our nation safe while defending our nation at home and abroad. They have served our country with distinction, and we should honor them for their bravery and courage with actions — not simply words.

“Congress must continue to support and provide critical resources to the Veterans Administration (VA) to ensure that our veterans have access to quality health care, good-paying jobs, affordable housing, and opportunities to continue their education. We should not deny the very liberties they fought to protect, nor deny them any benefits they so fittingly deserve.

“I am committed to ensuring that we honor the promises that were made to these American heroes. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to them and their families by vowing to make sure they succeed. They deserve nothing less.”

This story may be updated.

3 years ago

The net worth of Alabama’s congressional delegation ranges from -$80k up to $4.2m (details)


Inside-the-beltway publication Roll Call just released its yearly ranking of Congress’s wealthiest and poorest members. Using publicly available financial disclosures, Roll Call created its “Wealth of Congress Index,” revealing interesting nuggets of information about members’ finances while also exposing how the current system often creates “the illusion of transparency.”

For instance, congressmen and senators are required to list the amount owed on their mortgage(s), but not the equity in their home(s). This makes many of them appear “poorer” than they actually are. Additionally, members are only required to report the value of their assets in broad ranges, rather than in specifics.

A few interesting stats from Roll Call:

The median net worth among all 535 members is more than five times that for all U.S. households, $81,400 in 2013. Half the senators and 140 House members are paper millionaires, but just 5 percent of all adults are, in the estimate of Credit Suisse Research.

And the richest 50 lawmakers were worth at least $7.3 million at the start of the year. The current threshold for being a member of ‘the one percent’ is a net worth of about $7.9 million, according to the most recent Federal Reserve study of census data.

For the third consecutive year, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is the richest member of Congress with a net worth of $255 million.

Roll Call explains how he built his fortune:

The backstory behind Issa’s fortune has become the stuff of congressional legend. After being charged — but never convicted — as a young man in two car theft cases, he invested $7,000 and loans from his family in a struggling Cleveland consumer electronics business in the early 1980s. Within a few years, he’d transformed his holdings into DEI, moved to California to take advantage of a surge in auto thefts and unveiled the enormously popular and profitable Viper car alarm. (He used his own sonorous baritone to record the system’s signature warnings: “Protected by Viper. Stand back,” and, “Please step away from the car.”)

For the second straight year, Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) is the poorest member of Congress, with massive credit lines related to his dairy farm leaving him $8.75 million in the hole.

Alabama’s delegation finds themselves scattered in between those two with net worths ranging from $4.2 million (Sen. Richard Shelby) on the high end, down to -$80,000 (Rep. Terri Sewell).

Here’s how each of Alabama’s congressmen and senators ranks overall. Head over to Roll Call to see the full list.

Richard Shelby net worth

Jeff Sessions net worth

Robert Aderholt Net Worth

Bradley Byrne net worth

Mike Rogers net worth

Gary Palmer net worth

Martha Roby net worth

Mo Brooks net worth

Terri Sewell net worth

3 years ago

Palmer breaks with Alabama delegation, votes against Ex-Im Bank’s ‘corporate welfare’

Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6)
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6)
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6)

WASHINGTON — Six-to-one votes are not uncommon among Alabama’s congressional delegation. With six Republicans and only one Democrat, many votes fall along partisan lines. But a six-to-one vote this week was a bit more unusual. While Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL7) joined five Alabama Republicans in supporting the reauthorization of the controversial Export-Import Bank, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL6) broke with his GOP colleagues to vote against what many conservatives have called “corporate welfare.”

The Ex-Im Bank, as it is known, was originally chartered by progressive icon Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. It was a “federal government corporation” that provides taxpayer-backed loans to foreign entities who want to buy American-made goods, but cannot secure credit in the private sector because of the risks. The bank’s charter mandates at least 20 percent its outlays benefit small businesses, but that rule has been frequently violated over the years.

In 2013 76 percent of the bank’s spending went to its top ten beneficiaries. That year Boeing, the largest beneficiary of the bank for several years, received $8.3 billion in aid from the guaranteed loans taken out by the purchasers of their exports.

The Ex-Im Bank has received vocal support from many business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“The Ex-Im Bank plays a significant role in Alabama’s job creation efforts,” said William J. Canary, the CEO of the Business Council of Alabama. “More than 80 Alabama-based exporters in various industries including forest products, chemicals, transportation and fabricated metal products have used the agency when private-sector banks could not help.”

But in spite of an intense lobbying effort by business groups, President Barack Obama and Republican congressional Leadership, the bank’s charter expired after Congress did not renew it by the June 30, 2015 deadline.

Conservative organizations waged an intense campaign against reauthorizing the bank, but the most crushing blow may have been delivered by powerful Senate Banking Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

“After years of efforts to reform the Ex-Im Bank, it has become clear to me that its problems are beyond repair and that the Bank’s expiration is in the best interest of American taxpayers,” Sen. Shelby told Yellowhammer at the time. “Nearly 99% of all American exports are financed without the Ex-Im Bank, which demonstrates that subsidies are more about corporate welfare than advancing our economy.”

However, 127 Republicans and 186 Democrats voted this week to bring the bank back to life. This time only one House Democrat voted against it, but 117 Republicans, including newly-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), opposed it.

Congressman Palmer’s office said his vote against reauthorization speaks for itself and declined to comment further.

The bank’s future is now uncertain. Many congressmen and senators on both sides of the aisle are conflicted because, in spite of their philosophical opposition to “corporate welfare,” the bank has benefited exporters in their states.

Senate Democrats were blocked from reauthorizing it on Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not allow a standalone bill to come up for a vote. The next move may be to attach Ex-Im reauthorization to a larger funding bill.

3 years ago

Sewell helps secure for Birmingham $20 million federal transportation grant for rapid bus system

Terri Sewell advocates for City of Birmingham
Terri Sewell advocates for City of Birmingham
Terri Sewell advocates for City of Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL 7) announced Monday that a $20 million Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation has been awarded to Birmingham. Sewell advocated for the City of Birmingham’s application to use the money in order to construct a 15-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. The project plans to connect 25 West and East Birmingham neighborhoods that are on opposite sides of the city.

This TIGER Grant, or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) is a competitive grant program that issues projects for economic development in a given area. The program will work to connect urban and rural areas stimulating employment, education, and workforce development growth.

“I am proud to have helped secure this $20 million TIGER Grant for this critically important project. Birmingham is a City on the rise, and this project will support our efforts to improve our public transportation, and revitalize the Magic City,” said Rep. Sewell.

The proposed route will connect neighborhoods as far west as Legion field and as far east as the airport to downtown, which could relieve interstate and highway congestion as well as provide an affordable public transportation option for those further from the city center.

The city’s public transportation situation has long been viewed as one of the obstacles most hampering Birmingham’s recent revival; as businesses and jobs have begun returning to the Magic City, so has bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic.

The BRT will use the new intermodal transportation hub, which will also serve Amtrak, intercity bus providers such as Greyhound and Megabus, as well as the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority’s MAX city bus service.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell says that Sewell’s successful mission will have a lasting positive impact on Birmingham communities for years to come.

“The significance of this funding is that it allows us to connect the eastern and western parts of town with the city center providing access to jobs, education opportunities and healthcare in a transformative way. This was a collaborative effort and our thanks go out to the team of people that worked to secure this grant, especially Congresswoman Sewell who made it her mission to get it approved,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell.

“This is a wonderful day for the Birmingham-Jefferson County (BJCTA) area,” said Rev. Patrick Sellers, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority Board Chairman. “We can now move towards the next generation of public transit in the area with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This funding will help us continue toward our mission to provide world-class transit service that is convenient, reliable and safe.”

According to the Department of Transportation policy, applicants of the TIGER Grant must have detailed plans of their projects under five long-term goals: safety, economic competitiveness, state of good repair, quality of life, and environment sustainability.

Congress has enabled TIGER to receive more than $4.1 billion to fund projects since 2009. These projects are said to have had significant impact on the United States regional and metropolitan communities.


3 years ago

Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

HOOVER, Ala. — Speaking to the predominantly black Alabama Democratic Conference on Friday, 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 frontrunner insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its “Jim Crow past.”

“This is wrong,” Clinton said. “Fifty years after Rosa Parks sat and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched and John Lewis bled, it is hard to believe we are back having this same debate about whether or not every American gets a chance to vote and exercise his rights.

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she continued. “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.”

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley pushed back against Clinton’s claims, suggesting the former secretary of state is promoting a false racial narrative in an effort to advance her personal political agenda.

“It seems Mrs. Clinton isn’t as well versed in Alabama’s budgeting process as she is in exploiting a situation for her personal political gain,” Bentley said. “If she were, she would know the closure of 31 Alabama Driver’s License offices is based on a shortfall in funds appropriated by the state Legislature to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. To claim this decision is based on race is absolutely not true. Suggesting otherwise should be considered an effort to promote a political agenda, an area where Mrs. Clinton has often clearly demonstrated her expertise.”

Alabama’s photo voter ID law, which requires voters to present any one of fifteen forms of valid identification, went into effect in 2014.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has assured voters his office will work tirelessly to provide free voter IDs across the state, with a special focus on those counties now without a satellite license office.

“The closure of 31 DMV offices will not leave citizens without a place to receive the required I.D. card to vote,” said Secretary Merrill. “All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards. If for some reason those citizens are not able to make it to the Board of Registrars, we’ll bring our mobile I.D. van and crew to that county. By October 31 our office will have brought the mobile I.D. van to every county in Alabama at least once.”

The state government’s efforts have not, however, stopped Democrats both inside and outside of Alabama from seizing the opportunity to make a political statement.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama’s lone Democratic congressional representative, even called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Bentley administration’s decision to shutter rural DMVs.

“My office sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for a full, and thorough investigation into the decision to close 31 driver’s license offices across Alabama,” Sewell said last week. “This ill-conceived decision left 8 out of the 14 counties in my district – which is the only majority minority district in the state – without a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue an Alabama driver’s license. The real issue here is about access. Closing these license offices will severely limit access to the most popular form of photo identification used in voting – a state issued driver’s license.”

Jesse Jackson also flew into the state and called Alabama “disgraceful.”

Gov. Bentley dismissed the criticism and said Mrs. Clinton in particular should focus on issues she would actually have to deal with if she became President.

“Alabama will continue to work toward solutions to solve our budget shortfalls,” he said. “Meanwhile Mrs. Clinton can work to solve our country’s $18 Trillion deficit, in the unfortunate event she is elected President.”

3 years ago

The voter-ID fracas in Alabama is much ado about nothing (Opinion)

(Photo: Flickr)
(Photo: Flickr)

This op-ed was originally published by National Review Online.

By Hans A. von Spakovsky

Many on the left are in a ferment over Alabama’s closure of some part-time Department of Motor Vehicles offices. It’s being done for budgetary reasons, but liberals are claiming it’s being done to raise a “barrier for poor and minority voters” in getting an ID to vote, according to the Washington Post. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that “it’s a blast from the Jim Crow past” and Jesse Jackson claimed that “this new Jim Crow isn’t subtle.”

It’s really a sign of how desperate critics of voter-ID laws are that they would raise such inflammatory, ridiculous claims over a budget issue that has nothing to do with race, Jim Crow, or discrimination. After all, they’ve been steadily losing their fight against voter ID in the courts, with only a few exceptions, and in the realm of public opinion.

Alabama’s new voter-ID law for both in-person and absentee voting went into effect last year. Despite the outcries that it would “suppress” votes, there have been no problems or complaints that anyone has been unable to vote because of the new requirement. It’s been the same in all of the other states, such as Georgia and Indiana, that have implemented such ID laws. I’ve written numerous papers looking at turnout data in states after ID laws became effective — ID laws have no discernible effect on decreasing or preventing turnout.

Alabama has 44 driver’s-license offices throughout the state. It apparently also had 31 satellite offices that were open only part-time and that accounted for less than 5 percent of the driver’s licenses issued each year. Because of the budget passed by the state legislature, Alabama’s state government had to “allocate scarce limited resources in Fiscal Year 2016,” according to a letter sent by Governor Robert Bentley to Representative Terri Sewell (D., Ala). So the state government decided to close these satellite offices. Sewell is one of the critics whose “impulsive, ill-informed” comments about that decision were, Governor Bentley says, “based on irresponsible media reports.”

What all of the media and critics missed or deliberately ignored is that, in addition to being able to use a driver’s license to meet the voter-ID requirement, you can get a free voter ID in every single county in the state. In addition to DMV offices, the secretary of state offers free voter IDs in all 67 counties through the local election registrar.

Furthermore, as Governor Bentley points out, those satellite offices being closed are typically “located in the county buildings where the registrars and probate judges offices are located.” So individuals who would have used one of the part-time satellite DMV offices to get an ID will be able to simply walk to another office – in the same building — to get the ID they need for voting. And that is supposed to be the reimposition of Jim Crow?

Alabama even provides a free birth certificate or marriage license if you need it to get an ID. And if you can’t access a polling place because you are disabled or elderly, you don’t have to have an ID to vote by absentee ballot. Additionally, Alabama will continue to provide “mobile units to register and develop photo identification cards to those who need it throughout the state, and who may find themselves limited by lack of transportation,” according to Governor Bentley.

Finally, none of the critics mention that, in addition to driver’s licenses and the specially issued voter-ID cards, you can vote in Alabama also using an ID issued by any state or the federal government — a passport; a local, state, or federal-government ID; a student ID issued by any private or public Alabama college; and a military or tribal ID.

Jesse Jackson is headed to Alabama to protest what he calls an effort “to suppress the vote, skewed to discriminate against minorities.” And he is demanding a Justice Department investigation, although the only thing the Civil Rights Division lawyers would have to investigate is how many additional steps a voter will have to take to walk to the registrar’s office in the county government building to get an ID.

How many extra steps would it take to violate the Voting Rights Act in the view of the Obama Justice Department? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is an Alabama native and a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

3 years ago

Hillary Clinton, Democrats level racism charges against Alabama for closing Driver License offices

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Video screenshot)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Video screenshot)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Video screenshot)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) decision to handle budget cuts by closing 31 part-time satellite Driver License offices as “a blast from the Jim Crow past.”

The move by ALEA has invited national criticism, with Democrats and the media, in particular, calling it a large step backward in a state with a troublesome racial history such as Alabama’s.

The controversy is aggravated by Alabama’s Voter ID law, first implemented in 2014, which requires voters present one of fifteen forms of valid identification.

Though Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill assured voters his office would work relentlessly to provide free non-driver voter IDs across the state, with a special focus on those counties now without a satellite license office, Clinton and many others have seized the situation to make a political statement.

“I strongly oppose Alabama’s decision to close driver’s license offices across the state, especially in counties that have a significant majority of African-Americans,” said Clinton. “Just a few years ago, Alabama passed a law requiring citizens to have a photo ID to vote. Now they’re shutting down places where people get those photo IDs. This is only going to make it harder for people to vote. It’s a blast from the Jim Crow past.”

Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7), the only Democratic member of the state’s congressional delegation, who has endorsed Clinton, also blasted the move, calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the decision.

“My office sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for a full, and thorough investigation into the decision to close 31 driver’s license offices across Alabama,” said Sewell in a statement released Monday morning. “This ill-conceived decision left 8 out of the 14 counties in my district – which is the only majority minority district in the state – without a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue an Alabama driver’s license.

“The real issue here is about access. Closing these license offices will severely limit access to the most popular form of photo identification used in voting – a state issued driver’s license.”

ALEA Director Spencer Collier rejects the idea that the decision had any political or racial undertones, stating that it was simply the solution to the budget that impacted the fewest number of people.

The State Legislature’s black caucus has been “the strongest supporters of ALEA and what we’re trying to do,” said Collier. “I can assure you there’s nothing political in this. If that was the case, those are the places I would want to keep open.”

“In July, I announced several advancements that will help the Driver License issuance process, including online scheduling, online driver license renewals and duplicates, self-serve kiosks, digital licensing for smart phones, and statewide equipment upgrades. Since making that announcement, we have had over 40,000 transactions online,” Collier said in a statement last week. “The impact of the changes due to the budget cuts will be lessened because of the implementation of these technology-based services, including online renewals.”

The 31 offices closed, Collier added, processed only 5 percent of Alabama’s 1.2 million drivers licenses every year.

Regardless of the implications of Clinton’s weighing in on the subject and Sewell’s plea to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, there is some question whether the complete closure of the offices is legal, given the language of the budget law Governor Bentley signed in September, which explicitly prohibits the Alabama Law Enforcement Association from closing any drivers license offices that were open as of October 1st, 2014, and that any reductions in force focus on areas that don’t directly serve the public.

The Alabama Supreme Court declined Governor Bentley’s request for the judicial branch to weigh in on whether or not the law’s directive usurped the executive branch’s authority.

In addition to Drivers Licenses the following, unexpired, unrevoked forms of identification are acceptable as well:

Nondriver ID, Alabama Photo Voter ID card, State Issued ID, Federal Issued ID, US Passport, Employee ID from the Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board or other entity of Alabama, Student or employee ID from a public of private college or university in the State of Alabama, Military ID, or a Tribal ID.