The Wire

  • Three takeaways from Alabama’s Runoff Election

    Excerpt:

    With Alabama’s primary election runoffs now in the books, here are three takeaways from the results.

    North Alabama has spoken.
    When this election cycle began, it became evident that north Alabama saw a window of opportunity to increase its influence.  The results from the Republican primary runoff have shown the electorate in that area of the state was eager to flex its muscle.

    Will Ainsworth pulled out an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Lt. Governor’s race. Steve Marshall enjoyed a resounding win in his bid to retain the Attorney General’s office.

  • On Roby’s win: One false media narrative dies, a new one is born

    Excerpt:

    Like Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts comic strip fame repeatedly pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he lines up to kick it, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) once again has shown you can’t beat her in a Republican primary.

    Similar to when she defeated “Gather Your Armies” Rick Barber in the 2010 GOP primary and “Born Free American Woman” Becky Gerritson in the 2016 GOP primary, Roby defeated former Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright for a second time on Tuesday night, this time by a whopping 36 points.

    Heading into yesterday, many national media reporters were sent into Alabama’s second congressional district looking at the possibility that Roby might have to answer to a revolt for not sticking with then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the infamous Billy Bush weekend during the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • 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.”

4 months ago

Alabama lawmakers end session with tensions, eye on elections

(Wikicommons)

Alabama lawmakers had vowed to steer clear of controversy in an election year session. They found it anyway.

In a scandal-battered state, lawmakers said they were looking toward a low-key session that focused on budgets. It remained that way largely until near the end when they adjourned Thursday amid last-minute disputes over ethics legislation, the demise of a racial profiling bill and some sniping between the House of Representatives and Senate over the pace of votes.

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The House spent part of Thursday debating a bill to exempt economic developers from the state ethics law. Supporters said it was needed to clarify recent questions about whether the developers should register as lobbyists, something they said would hurt the state’s job recruitment efforts by exposing potential deals in the works. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey praised the bill’s approval, saying the state is committed to “attracting world-class jobs for all Alabamians.”

Opposing lawmakers cautioned that approving an ethics exemption was “bad optics” as lawmakers head into election season. Republicans won a legislative majority in 2010 by campaigning against Montgomery corruption.

“The horse you rode in on could be the horse you ride out on,” said Rep. Chris England, a Democrat from Tuscaloosa.

After past high-profile battles over abortion and other social issues, lawmakers seemed to put more emphasis on economic issues this session.

Amid rosier budget projections, they approved pay raises for public school and state employees and bonuses for retirees. Lawmakers approved a Republican bill cutting income taxes for low-income households. The amount was worth an average of about $22 for low-income families.

Lawmakers also voted to boost prison funding in the face of a federal court order to improve mental health care.

“The budgets were good budgets. The challenge is next year,” said Republican Sen Trip Pittman, who chairs the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee.

Pittman said he was proud the state was able to give raises and bonuses to public employees.

Alabama’s general fund budget was bolstered since lawmakers purposely decided last year to leave $93 million in reserve. That money won’t be available next year.

Some big issues were left unresolved.

Efforts to overhaul the state ethics law and the juvenile justice system fell apart, or were abandoned, before the session’s conclusion. Lawmakers said both will be revisited next year.

Several gun and school security proposals were introduced in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Florida high school that claimed 17 lives. Most were shelved as lawmakers deferred to the work of a task force. Democrats got no traction on gun control efforts in the Republican-controlled legislature. An effort to arm teachers divided Republicans and did not get a vote. Lawmakers did approve a measure to allow schools to use a state technology fund to pay for school resource officers or other security measures.

The session was conducted against the backdrop of an election year as lawmakers go straight from Montgomery to the campaign trail. Legislators face primaries in June and the General Election in November.

Lawmakers noted that they used only 26 of the allowed 30 meeting days of the session.

“We did the business of the people of the state of Alabama. We finished four days early and saved a couple hundred thousand dollars for the taxpayers. To me that’s a win all the way around,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 months ago

Alabama 3rd state to allow execution by nitrogen gas

(Wikicommons)

Alabama will become the third state to authorize the untested use of nitrogen gas to execute prisoners, under legislation signed into law Thursday by Gov. Kay Ivey.

As lethal injection drugs become difficult to obtain, states have begun looking at alternative ideas for carrying out death sentences. While lethal injection would remain the state’s primary execution method, the new law would allow the state to asphyxiate condemned inmates with nitrogen gas if lethal injection drugs are unavailable or lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional.

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Lawmakers who supported the change suggested that it would be more humane.

“It provides another option. I believe it is more humane option,” said Sen. Trip Pittman, a south Alabama Republican who sponsored the bill. Pittman likened the procedure to the way aircraft passengers pass out when a plane depressurizes.

The state would have to develop procedures for the new execution method. Pittman said that it might involve “some type of mask” over the inmate’s face that gradually replaces oxygen with nitrogen.

“The process is completely experimental,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center — a group that compiles death penalty statistics.

The center says no state has carried out an execution by nitrogen gas. Two other states — Oklahoma and Mississippi — have voted to authorize execution by nitrogen gas as a backup method of execution, according to the center.

Oklahoma announced last week that it will begin using nitrogen for executions, when the state resumes death sentences, because of difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs.

However, neither Oklahoma nor Alabama will likely carry out executions with nitrogen in the immediate future, Dunham said. Before implementation, the states will have to develop protocols and get them approved by the courts amid almost certain legal challenges.

States face an increasing dilemma if they want to carry put executions, Dunham said. With pharmaceutical companies becoming hesitant to sell drugs for use in executions, states must look for alternate channels to obtain them or alternate methods of execution.

Utah authorized execution by firing squad. Tennessee has said the electric chair will be used when lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

Alabama previously carried out death sentences with an electric chair nicknamed “Yellow Mama” because it was painted with yellow highway striping paint. While inmates can still choose the electric chair, Alabama made lethal injection the primary method amid concerns that electrocution might one day be ruled unconstitutional and beliefs that lethal injection would be more humane.

Opponents of the Alabama legislation questioned how lawmakers could assert nitrogen would be painless since the method hasn’t been tried.

“We had Yellow Mama. Now, we are going to bring back the gas chamber,” Rep. Thomas Jackson, a Democrat from Thomasville, said during debate Tuesday.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 months ago

Alabama House approves school security money

(YHN/Pixabay)

Schools could soon be able to tap a state technology fund for security measures such as paying for school resource officers or surveillance cameras.

The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday voted 96-4 for the bill. The Alabama Senate will now consider whether to go along with House changes to the proposal.

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The legislation by Republican Sen. Trip Pittman of Montrose is one of the few school security proposals nearing final passage in the Alabama Legislature.

According the Legislative Services Agency, schools received a total of $21.4 million from the fund in 2016, but no money in 2017. A separate bill would steer an additional $58.8 million to the fund.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has announced support for the legislation.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

7 months ago

With 2018 election looming, Alabama lawmakers anticipate low-key legislative session

 

Don’t expect the Legislature to tackle big, long-simmering problems in the legislative session that begins this month.

As is typical during years when members of the state House of Representative and Senate are up for re-election, each lawmaker will have an eye on the looming fall campaign. That means the session that begins Tuesday likely will be a keeping-the-lights-on exercise.

“Of course, this is an election year,” House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) said in an interview with Yellowhammer News. “And because of it being an election year, we want to try to get in, take care of our constitutional requirements — which the budget is priority for that — and let’s address our budgets and let’s try to make it as quick a session as possible and get out and let members go back and start campaigning for the new quadrennium.”

By law, legislators must pass a budget to fund education on the one hand and a spending plan for the rest of state government on the other.

Making the numbers balance in the general fund budget has become an annual headache for lawmakers, but the task will be easier this year because the state managed to carry over $93 million from the previous fiscal year.

McCutcheon said that “speaks volumes for the fiscal responsibility for the legislative body.”

One major factor of uncertainty, however, is the fact that Congress has yet to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to children in lower-income families. Before leaving for the Christmas break, Congress extended the program only through March.

The House passed a long-term funding plan, over the objections of Democrats, who disagreed with how Republicans chose to fund the program; the Senate has not acted.

Without last month’s temporary stop-gap, Alabama would have run out of federal funds for its CHIP program by March, which would have forced the state to spend up to $50 million. That would have eaten into the general fund cushion built up last year.

Many experts believe congressional Republicans and Democrats ultimately will strike a deal, since no lawmaker has suggested killing the popular health care program. But McCutcheon is taking nothing for granted as state lawmakers head to Montgomery.

“I’m not confident in anything the federal government’s doing right now,” he said. “I’m just in a wait-and-see mode.”

Sen. Trip Pittman, a Montrose Republican who chairs the general fund budget committee in the upper chamber, said a $90 million surplus can vanish quickly.

“So, one of the things that’s important is to have fiscal discipline,” he said.

Pittman said there will be continued pressure on the Legislature to raise taxes and expand the Medicaid program, a step Alabama repeatedly has rejected since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act and dangled additional federal funds to cover more people.

“We have to balance our appropriations and revenue. … We’ll have to make choices and hard votes,” Pittman said.

McCutcheon talked about a number of other issues, most of which likely will not be resolved this year:

Education — pay raises and pre-K

McCutcheon said he would like to expand the state’s highly regarded pre-kindergarten program.

“And then, also, as we look at the general fund budget and the education budget, we’re hoping that we may have an opportunity to have a discussion for some pay increases for state employees, to include education and state employees,” he said.

Pay for teachers and other state workers mostly has been stagnant for a decade, although lawmakers did approve a 4 percent hike in 2016. Lawmakers several years ago rebuffed then-Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposed pay hike, opting instead to hold the line on health insurance premiums.

McCutcheon said the Legislature may explore allowing state employees to choose between pay raises or avoiding increases in employee costs for benefits. A fatter paycheck likely would be preferable to employees who could get health coverage through a spouse.

“Indirectly, it’s been talked about, about ways to try to give more flexibility to the employee as to the benefit packages,” he said. “But at this point, it’s nothing that’s been put into legislation.”

The speaker also said lawmakers will discuss ways to unify the education from kindergarten through college.

“We’d like to have the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing and everybody working for the same common goal,” he said.

Prisons — litigation hovers

McCutcheon said legislators also will try to pass legislation to address issues sparked by a lawsuit alleging that the state prison system offers constitutionally inadequate mental health services to inmates.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in June ripped Alabama’s “horrendously inadequate” staffing. The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which brought the suit, has asked for a tripling of mental health workers in the Department of Corrections.

McCutcheon did not commit to any specific measure but added that legislators would take up the issue.

“I feel like that’s going to be part of the discussion outside of the budgets, and of course, that may have some dollars attached to that,” he said. “There’s going to be some talk of additional staffing for the Department of Corrections, and that could be very costly.”

McCutcheon said he hopes to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs in the prison suit.

“All of these things are part of the discussion,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a one size fits all in this mandate that will come from the court … I think that we can come up with some good things — which will be many things — but we can come up with some good things that will help our corrections system. We’re ready to address it.”

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

Alabama has come under scrutiny by interest groups that fault the state for rules that give law enforcement authorities broad power to seize money and property from suspected law-breakers, even when prosecutors do not win criminal convictions.

McCutcheon was noncommittal when asked about the issue.

“The jury’s still out, if you will, on that,” he said. “Let’s see what comes up and see what the discussions are.”

Gas tax hike? Unlikely

The Business Council of Alabama has pushed for a gas tax increase in recent years to fund transportation improvements, but McCutcheon said a change in the levy is unlikely in 2018.

The only way that would change, McCutcheon said, is if Congress were to pass a large-scale infrastructure bill that made billions of dollars available to the states.

If that happened, McCutcheon said, Alabama might need a gas tax increase or some other mechanism for attracting increased federal matching dollars for roads, bridges and other needs.

“That would cause some urgency that we would have to address,” he said.

“Last session was a difficult session. We had a lot of issues to deal with. It was a tough session.”

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

 

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10 months ago

Duck Dynasty Patriarch To Join Steve Bannon at Rally for Moore Tonight

Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson will join Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon at a rally for Roy Moore tonight in Fair Hope, Alabama.

According to Breitbart, “Bannon is expected to focus on how to fight for the president’s agenda in Washington against the GOP establishment and its leader, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).”

Related: BREAKING: Bannon To Hold Alabama Rally For Roy Moore

Politico reports that Fox News host Sean Hannity will also be in the state tonight interviewing Bannon live outside the rally. Hannity was also interviewed on Fox & Friends this morning plugging Moore.

State Senator Trip Pittman, who ran against Moore and Strange in the primary, has endorsed Moore and is also on the ticket at the rally, as is a former University of Alabama football player, Siran Stacy, according to AL.com.

The event is slated for 7 p.m. tonight at the Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope.

Tickets for the free event can be secured at this link at Eventbrite.

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10 months ago

Trump Reaffirms His Support of Luther Strange

Donald J. Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Republican presidential contender Donald J. Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

As reported by the Washington Post, the White House has reaffirmed its support for Senator Luther Strange as time winds down in the intense primary runoff against former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

As we reported in early August, President Trump endorsed Strange in the Republican primary for Senate. To boost votes for the Senator, the President recorded a phone call that went to the homes of Alabama voters and he Tweeted his support.

In recent weeks, however, rumors suggested that Trump may have been reconsidering his endorsement, but those rumors now appear to be untrue.

In a comment to reporters this morning, White House Legislative Director Marc Short said the President “has endorsed Luther Strange, and he continues to stand by that endorsement.”

Strange released a new ad yesterday highlighting Trump’s support, as well as the endorsement of the NRA and the National Right to Life, stating that he’s “fighting to pass the President’s agenda.”

With today’s statement, it appears clear now that Strange will continue to enjoy the President’s support in a state that overwhelmingly voted to send Donald Trump to the White House.

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11 months ago

Who will win tomorrow’s Senate election?

Please take two minutes to participate in our poll in advance of tomorrow’s Senate election.

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1 year ago

Gloves Come Off in Alabama Congressional Races Over Who Was With Trump in 2016

President Elect, Donald Trump, LAGOP Rally, December 9, 2016, Dow Hangar, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tammy Anthony Baker, Photographer
President Elect, Donald Trump, LAGOP Rally, December 9, 2016, Dow Hangar, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tammy Anthony Baker, Photographer

As the 2018 Congressional elections unfold, it seems increasingly evident that battle lines are being drawn around who supported President Trump in his 2016 bid for the presidency and who didn’t. While some camps say these campaign allegiances mean little, and others say they mean everything, there’s no denying they’ve become relevant to Alabama’s U.S. House and Senate races.

One case in point is a Politico story this week that made much of Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby’s opposition to Trump in the 2016 election, despite the fact that her district went strongly for the President. As the article stated, Roby seems to have worked hard to rebuild bridges since the election, starting with a  3:00 am Tweet congratulating Trump the night he won stating, “I’m eager to get to work.”

Those close to Roby’s campaign indicated that her relationship with the President is a good one and that the White House issued an endorsement of her “Working Families Flexibility Act.” As Politico quoted Roby spokeswoman Emily Taylor,

The White House has made it clear from Day One that it is committed to working with Congress to deliver results, and Rep. Roby has a proven track record of consistently supporting President Trump’s agenda. From being invited to NASA and VA bill-signing ceremonies, to sitting in the Oval Office to help the president build support for the Republican health care bill, Rep. Roby has enjoyed a positive working relationship with the Trump administration.

Perhaps Roby best summarized her campaign position in her quote to the Dothan Eagle last January: “Emotions run high during elections. I truly believed we were headed for defeat. That obviously turned out to be wrong, and he won. Look, I’m glad he did. The whole point was to defeat Hillary Clinton. I always call it like I see it. I did then, and I will now. I will tell you that the first week of this administration — what I have seen and heard — has been very, very good.”

Roby’s opponent in the Republican primary for Congress—State Representative Barry Moore—makes it clear that he did not get it wrong in the presidential election. As the Politico piece said, Moore, is a “Trump stalwart who has turned her [Roby’s] past opposition to the president into the focal point of his campaign.” When Yellowhammer asked Moore about his position in the presidential race, he stated:

I was a strong supporter of Trump early on and was the first state elected official to endorse him. I was with him in Mobile and Birmingham, and I spoke on the bus tour here in the Wiregrass when he came through Coffee County. And right before the inauguration, I spoke to the crowd in Mobile because I felt like we needed to thank him for giving a voice to so many Americans.

When asked why this important to the Congressional race, he continued:

I believe the President values trust and loyalty. Because I was there when times were tough, my loyalty is something he’ll never question. So I think it bodes well to have a conservative in Congress that he can rely on in the heat of battle…someone that embraced his agenda from day one and someone he knows without a doubt will help him accomplish what the American people sent him to the White House to do. That will make a tremendous difference for the citizens of Alabama. I was a foxhole friend instead of a cut and run Congressman and as I’ve said before, the President can throw the pass, but he can’t catch it too. He needs trustworthy lawmakers he can depend on when times are tough to catch those passes.

The question of Trump support in 2016 has also become a major flashpoint in the special election for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat. In that race, appointed Senator Luther Strange is facing special election primary challengers that include Congressman Mo Brooks, Judge Roy Moore, and State Senator Trip Pittman, to name a few.

On a recent visit to Montgomery, The Hill quoted Strange as saying, “President Trump is the greatest thing that’s happened to this country. I consider it a biblical miracle that he’s there.”

Strange’s campaign and related PACs have released content saying Rep. Brooks opposed Trump in the primary and failed to verify his support for the President in the general election. In response, Brooks notes that he was Ted Cruz’s state chair in the primary and was just doing his job in opposing Trump until Cruz bowed out in May. From that day forward, Brooks said he helped Trump. He sent Yellowhammer a copy of a  $2,500 check he wrote through a PAC, which he said funded Alabama volunteers getting the vote for Trump in Florida. Brooks said Strange had produced no evidence that he supported Trump and until he does so, it’s Strange that was the Never-Trumper in the election. Like Rep. Roby, Rep. Brooks also points to his voting record supporting the president as a Member of Congress.

A bigger issue is who’s supported Donald Trump in Congress. We’ve cast over 300 votes in the House since the election and I don’t know of a single vote I’ve cast that is contrary to the public request of the White House. In the healthcare debate, for example, the President called and personally thanked me for my work on the heath care bill that passed in the House. That was a tremendous event in my life. I’ve also given speeches supporting the President on the floor of the House. The question is simple: why is Luther Strange lying about my record and being hypocritical when the evidence proves I helped Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the general election and my votes, speeches ,and public remarks prove I have been one of the strongest supporters of President Trump’s agenda in Congress? The answer is clear. Alabama voters are rejecting Luther Strange’s false advertising, hypocrisy, unethical conduct, and wallowing in the swamp of special interest groups. Luther Strange has decided his only path to victory is to deceive voters by tearing down the good reputations other candidates have earned. Fortunately for America, Alabama voters are seeing through Luther Strange’s s desperate and deceptive negative attacks.

As one might imagine, Senator Strange had a different take, stating:

Career politician Congressman Brooks continues to show that he’ll say anything to win. He has yet to apologize for the deeply personal attacks he made against President Trump, calling him evil and refusing to endorse him just a few days before the November election. It’s time for Congressman Brooks to apologize to President Trump, his family and to the Alabama voters he insulted, but even that would ring hollow in the light of his willingness to speak out of both sides of his mouth.”

When Yellowhammer asked Strange to verify that he was also a Trump supporter in the campaign as Brooks has said he was, they replied, “Don’t take our word for it, ask a third party who helped Trump win Alabama to verify our role.” That third party is Perry Hooper, one of the co-chairmen of Trump’s campaign in Alabama, who released a statement today saying:

Congressman Brooks’ claim that he supported Donald Trump in the general election is a flat out lie. Not only did Congressman Brooks go on a radio show in October refusing to endorse Donald Trump, he actually refused to answer the question of who he planned on voting for in the election. Furthermore, in November he told a newspaper in the swing state of North Carolina that Donald Trump was not well suited for office and said the vote between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was a decision between the lesser of two evils. Additionally, I am proud to confirm that Luther Strange was all in for Donald Trump in my successful efforts to help Mr. Trump win in Pennsylvania and Ohio.”

Meanwhile, Alabama State Senator Trip Pittman said he met Murray Carson, the son of Dr. Ben Carson, at a campaign forum in Mobile. “I was so impressed with Murray that it swayed me to endorse Dr. Ben Carson in the primary,” Senator Pittman said. He continued,

I was moved by Dr. Carson’s strong and humble faith and his view of what it will take to restore America’s greatness—a revival of faith, family, and personal responsibility, as well as a strong economy. Obviously, President Trump was impressed with Dr. Carson too because he made him part of his cabinet soon after taking office. Anyway, as soon as Dr. Carson dropped out, he was the first presidential candidate to endorse President Trump and I followed his lead. I put my money where my mouth was with two personal campaign donations to Trump. For a businessman like me, it was very refreshing to see the party nominate a businessman like Donald Trump. Our country is in the midst of a real political revolution, and President Trump’s election confirms that. He was written off by elites on both sides of the aisle, but at the end of the day, he persevered and was successful. Unlike some of the candidates in this U.S. Senate race, I don’t just pay lip service to support his candidacy. I have the records to prove it. But at the end of the day, all that truly matters is that we now have an opportunity to change the course of people’s lives for the better. The first order of business is to start freeing them from big government.

Candidate Roy Moore also weighed in on his position:

Obviously, politicians running for office will say or do anything to get elected. I’m not going to say who I voted for in the primary, but I supported Donald Trump in the general election, and I accepted an invitation to speak at his inaugural prayer breakfast at Trump Towers on January 20, 2017. At that event, I said believed Donald Trump was elected president by providential design. Having said that, this Senatorial campaign is about one’s stance on the issues, and my positions line up with the President’s across the board from health care reform to immigration reform.

Whatever one makes of who was with the President in his 2016 bid for the White House and who wasn’t, it’s pretty clear that everyone wants to be associated with him now. What’s also clear is that most Republicans now realize—however late or early they came to do so—that Donald Trump gave a sense of empowerment to millions of frustrated Americans who felt they’d been overlooked and forgotten. That includes some 1.3 million Alabamians (63% of those in the state that voted in the presidential campaign), and those are 1.3 million registered voters these candidates are hoping to swing their way as the summer campaigns grow hotter.

 

 

About the Author: Larry Huff is Yellowhammer’s executive editor and you can follow him on Twitter @LHYellowhammer

 

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1 year ago

Alabama Senate considers death by nitrogen capital punishment bill

(Wikicommons)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — After committee approval, the Alabama State Senate will consider a new bill that would give death-sentenced convicts the option to chose nitrogen gas as an execution method. The bill was approved 6-3 by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, and it is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose).

Current Alabama law allows for those on death row to choose between the electric chair and lethal injection. However, Pittman told the Alabama News Network that nitrogen would be a more humane option than either one on the books.

Oklahoma, the only state that allows execution by nitrogen gas, passed its law in 2015 following the botched lethal injection of Clayton Lockett. In crafting the law, Oklahoma politicians consulted with medial professionals to find a more humane and cost-effective way to administer the death penalty.

The idea of idea of using nitrogen was suggested by Michael Copeland, a criminal justice professor at East Central University. He produced a report with research from doctors that showed that lowering oxygen levels with corresponding levels of nitrogen would lead someone to die within two or three minutes.

“Execution via nitrogen hypoxia is a painless form of capital punishment that is simple to administer, doesn’t depend upon the aid of the medical community, and is not subject to the supply constraints we are faced with when using the current three-drug cocktail protocol,” State Rep. Mike Christian told Time magazine in 2015.

RELATED: New bill would prohibit Alabama judges from imposing death penalty when jury recommends prison

Alabama’s death row population is the fourth largest in the U.S. Several bills in the 2017 legislative sessions seek to address the issue, including one prohibiting judicial override in favor of the death penalty that just passed in the state House of Representatives yesterday.

Capital punishment has existed in the United States since the nation’s founding, and 31 states plus the Federal Government utilize the death penalty as of November of 2016. The death penalty was temporarily suspended nationwide from 1972 to 1976 as a result of the case of Furman v. Georgia, which found that racial bias existed in its application.

The Supreme Court has never ruled the death penalty itself unconstitutional, although the court has decided that it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to apply it to those who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed.

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2 years ago

Alabama lawmaker: It’s time to bring back the firing squad for death row inmates

Alabama Senator Trip Pittman is advocating for the state to bring back firing squads as a method of execution.
Alabama Senator Trip Pittman is advocating for the state to bring back firing squads as a method of execution.
Alabama Senator Trip Pittman is advocating for the state to bring back firing squads as a method of execution.

MONTROSE, Ala. — With Alabama’s protocol for executing death row inmates mired in controversy and legal challenges, one state senator is proposing bringing back the firing squad and adding the ability for condemned criminals to choose to be gassed to death with nitrogen. Firing squads have not been used as a method of execution in Alabama since at least the 1920s.

State Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) has introduced Senate Bill 12, which “would allow a capital defendant to elect to be executed by firing squad.” He says he plans to add the gassing option to the bill as well before it comes before the legislature early next year.

For three-quarters of a century (1927-2002), executions in Alabama were carried out using an electric chair dubbed “Yellow Mama,” a nickname it was given after being covered in the same paint used to stripe Alabama’s highways. “Mama” has been in storage since 2002 when legislation was passed giving prisoners the ability to opt for lethal injection. Some lawmakers have pushed to take Yellow Mama out of storage, particularly after various legal challenges to the state’s lethal injection protocol caused a backlog of death row inmates, costing the state additional housing expenses.

Thomas Arthur, a 74-year-old death row inmate who was convicted for a murder-for-hire in the 1980s, recently received a stay of execution after he spoke out against the lethal injection process, arguing that the three-drug cocktail does not sufficiently dull the pain prior to death. Mr. Arthur has argued that death by firing squad would be more humane.

“I knew we needed to provide some other options, and since he suggested the firing squad, that was on my mind,” Sen. Pittman recently told the Anniston Star. “The main thing is that we come up with some alternatives to get out of the bind we’re in.”

The legislature will reconvene for the 2017 Regular Legislative Session in February.

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2 years ago

Three Alabama lawmakers to participate in simulated Convention of States

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

MONTGOMERY, Al. — Three Alabama state legislators will form the Yellowhammer State’s delegation to a simulated Convention of States designed to highlight needed amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

State Sens. Clay Scofield (R – Guntersville) and Greg Albritton (R – Bay Minette) and State Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestavia) will join lawmakers from around the country in performing a test run of an actual Article V convention called to consider amendments to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and set term limits for its officials and for Members of Congress.”

Proposed constitutional amendments affecting issues like federal term limits, a balanced budget requirement, and limits on executive orders and rule making are among those that delegates will debate, discuss, and consider.

“The only way to rein in the ever-encroaching federal government is by adding constitutional amendments that limit its power and set strict boundary lines that officials cannot cross,” said Rep. Williams. “The most used and best known manner to amend the U.S. Constitution is for the Congress to initiate the process, but its members have proven unwilling or unable to take the necessary first steps.

“But Article V outlines that our Constitution may also be amended by having representatives from the individual states gather in convention and propose the needed changes. Our Alabama delegation will participate in a simulated convention designed to demonstrate exactly how that process would work.”

The event is being sponsored by Citizens for Self-Governance.

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 in 2015 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.”

A resolution proposed by State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) earlier this year was 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 last 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 called 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.

1
2 years ago

South Alabama lawmakers fight rest of state over remaining BP Oil Spill money

A worker cleans up an Alabama beach in the wake of the BP Deewater Horizon Oil Spill.
A worker cleans up an Alabama beach in the wake of the BP Deewater Horizon Oil Spill.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Partisanship has taken a backseat to regional politics in the Alabama State House, with south Alabama lawmakers banding together to fight the rest of the state over the remaining BP Oil Spill money.

With Medicaid facing a perpetual funding shortfall, the House almost two weeks ago passed a bill that would use BP money to pay back $448.5 million in state debt, immediately free up about $35 million for Medicaid, and send the rest of the money — about $191 million — to the coast for road projects.

The bill sat on the legislative back-burner as the House and Senate wrestled with numerous lottery proposals, but re-emerged Tuesday as lawmakers faced the possibility of adjourning the Special Session without addressing the Medicaid issue.

The Senate passed a bill that would send $300 million of the BP money to Medicaid over the next three years — presumably buying the legislature time to work out a longer-term plan — then send the rest of the funds toward paying down debt, completely stripping out all funding for south Alabama road projects.

The House unanimously voted against the Senate plan, prompting legislative leaders to create a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two chambers. The conference committee will consist of three House members and three Senate members, who will seek to come to an agreement that can pass both chambers.

It will be a tall order.

Sens. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) will be joined on the conference committee by Reps. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and John Knight (D-Montgomery).

One lobbyist Yellowhammer spoke with Tuesday evening put the odds of a stalemate at about 50 percent, with the House dug in on earmarking money for coastal infrastructure projects and the Senate opposed.

Senator Slade Blackwell (R-Mountain Brook) seemed to sum up the perspective of many non-South Alabama legislators when he told ABC 33/40 he believes it’s “more important to help disable children verse sending more money to Mobile and Baldwin county after they have already received over $2.1 billion is BP settlement money.”

“The citizens of Mobile and Baldwin County suffered from that oil spill,” Sen. Vivian Davis Figure (D-Mobile) said on the other side. “They did the suffering.”

The conference committee will meet Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., with both chambers reconvening an hour later.

1
2 years ago

Alabama Legislature to State Agencies: Start at zero and prove you need all of this money

Alabama Capitol (Photo: Flickr, sunsurfr)
Alabama Capitol (Photo: Flickr, sunsurfr)
Alabama Capitol (Photo: Flickr, sunsurfr)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Senator Larry Stutts (R-Sheffield) says Alabama’s new “zero-based budgeting” method is forcing state agencies to “provide proof, line-by-line, supporting their budget requests.”

To this point, the State of Alabama, similar to the federal government, has used a form of “baseline budgeting.” This means that an agency’s budget appropriation for this year serves as the “baseline” — or starting point — for its appropriation next year, and it goes up from there. Zero-based budgeting, a frequent rallying cry for conservatives on both the state and federal levels, means agencies will start their budgets at $0, thereby forcing them to justify each dollar of their funding requests year after year.

“For decades, agencies have come before the legislature and used the previous year’s budget as a starting point,” Senator Stutts explained. “’Last year, our budget was $5 million, but this year we need $5.3 million because of X, Y, and Z,’ an agency head might say. But obviously, if the previous year’s budget is the baseline, agencies will always request additional tax dollars and voila! The growth of government is never halted or reversed.”

According to Senator Stutts, agency heads are now required to provide as justification for their requests:

1. A detailed description of the agency which includes number of employees and contractors, and its funding sources (state, local, federal, etc… as well as earmarked funds);
2. A breakdown of each program or service provided by the agency, including its source(s) of funding and a summary of citizens served;
3. A line-item breakdown of operational costs to run each office or location; salaries, benefits, contracts, and travel;
4. A list of the agency’s financial assets (including real estate) as well as their debts/liabilities; and
5. Both a funding reduction plan and a cost-savings/efficiency plan.

The new budgeting method was imposed by House and Senate General Fund Budget Chairmen Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) and Trip Pittman (R-Montrose).

“We have directed the Legislative Fiscal Office to request and obtain detailed budget-related information from certain agencies that is in addition to the data typically required each year,” they explained prior to pre-session budget hearings. “The information requested will be based on data that the agency should already have on hand or have access to, and will be used by our committee members and other legislative members during the preliminary budget hearings and during the legislative session in the development of the state budgets.”

In a followup email to House and Senate members, chairmen Clouse and Pittman further explained their intensions.

“This budget cycle will look and feel different from previous years, given the detailed information we will require and the zero-based budgeting method we will utilize,” they wrote. “In the past, agencies have simply requested the same amount of money they received the prior year, plus any additional funding they thought they might need. From this point forward, agencies will start from zero and provide a line-item, department-by-department breakdown of their budget in order to justify their total request.”

Senator Stutts added on Tuesday that moving to zero-based budgeting is an important step toward eliminating waste in state government.

“Zero-based budgeting isn’t meant to produce ‘gotcha’ moments of political theater,” he said. “But the tendency of government agencies is to seek growth and self-preservation. The Legislature has a responsibility to the people of Alabama to root out waste and push state agencies to operate more efficiently. Moving to a zero-based budgeting system is an important step toward that goal.”

2016 is shaping up to be another tumultuous year in Montgomery, coming off the divisive 2015 legislative sessions that fractured Republican lawmakers over tax increases, reforms and cuts.

The 2016 Regular Legislative Sessions is set to begin February 2.

1
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


1
3 years ago

Alabama moving toward zero-based budgeting, requiring agencies to justify spending

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

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama House and Senate budget chairmen signaled Monday they are preparing to move the state toward zero-based budgeting, which would ratchet up scrutiny on state agencies and require them justify their budget requests each year.

To this point, the State of Alabama, similar to the federal government, has used a form of “baseline budgeting.” This means that an agency’s budget appropriation for this year serves as the “baseline” — or starting point — for its appropriation next year, and it goes up from there. Zero-based budgeting, a frequent rallying cry for conservatives on both the state and federal levels, means agencies will start their budgets at $0, thereby forcing them to justify each dollar of their funding requests year after year.

House General Fund Budget Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) and incoming Senate General Fund Budget Chairman Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) wrote a letter to state General Fund agencies, commissions and departments alerting them that pre-legislative session budget hearings will begin on Jan. 12th, roughly a month before the 2016 Regular Legislative Session.

In the letter, chairmen Clouse and Pittman also notified agency and department heads that the legislature will be asking them for more detailed information than they have in years past.

“We have directed the Legislative Fiscal Office to request and obtain detailed budget-related information from certain agencies that is in addition to the data typically required each year,” they explained. “The information requested will be based on data that the agency should already have on hand or have access to, and will be used by our committee members and other legislative members during the preliminary budget hearings and during the legislative session in the development of the state budgets.”

In a followup email to House and Senate members, chairmen Clouse and Pittman further explained their intensions.

“This budget cycle will look and feel different from previous years, given the detailed information we will require and the zero-based budgeting method we will utilize,” they wrote. “In the past, agencies have simply requested the same amount of money they received the prior year, plus any additional funding they thought they might need. From this point forward, agencies will start from zero and provide a line-item, department-by-department breakdown of their budget in order to justify their total request.”

The requests being made of various state agencies include:

• A detailed description of the agency which includes number of employees and contractors, and its funding sources (state, local, federal, etc… as well as earmarked funds);
• A detailed breakdown of each program or service provided by the agency, including its source(s) of funding and a summary of clients served;
• A line-item breakdown of all FY15 expenditures and FY16 budgeted expenses including operational costs to run each office or location; salaries, benefits, contracts, and travel;
• A list of the agency’s financial assets (including real estate) as well as their debts/liabilities;
• A line-item breakdown of the anticipated FY17 budget requests, starting from zero and culminating in the total anticipated request, providing justification for each item;
• Both a funding reduction plan and a cost-savings/efficiency plan.

2016 is shaping up to be another tumultuous year in Montgomery, coming off the divisive 2015 legislative sessions that fractured Republican lawmakers over tax increases, reforms and cuts.

Governor Robert Bentley has indicated he may pursue more tax increase proposals, as well as a controversial Medicaid expansion plan. But the latest moves from the top budget makers could indicate a renewed commitment to belt-tightening in the legislature.


1
3 years ago

Task force signals Bentley moving toward major expansion of govt. healthcare in Alabama

Rep. Bill Poole, Sen. Arthur Orr, Sen. Pro Tem Del Marsh, Gov. Bentley, Speaker Mike Hubbard, Sen. Jabo Waggoner
Rep. Bill Poole, Sen. Arthur Orr, Sen. Pro Tem Del Marsh, Gov. Bentley, Speaker Mike Hubbard, Sen. Jabo Waggoner
Rep. Bill Poole, Sen. Arthur Orr, Sen. Pro Tem Del Marsh, Gov. Bentley, Speaker Mike Hubbard, Sen. Jabo Waggoner

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Governor Robert Bentley’s Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force on Wednesday recommended expanding Medicaid, the government healthcare program designed to provide coverage for low-income and disabled individuals. The task force said the most significant barrier to improving healthcare outcomes in Alabama is eliminating the “coverage gap” — people who do not have private insurance, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Their recommended solution is to offer Medicaid to individuals who make more money than the current program will allow.

Medicaid is jointly funded by the federal government and the state, but administered exclusively at the state level. The program is currently the largest line item in Alabama’s budget, comprising 37 percent of the General Fund. According to the Alabama Policy Institute, the state’s Medicaid expenditures increased by 53% between 2001 and 2013, and as the state’s senior population increases, costs are expected to grow even further.

The governor, whose position on Medicaid expansion has shifted significantly since winning re-election last year, concedes that expanding the program would be a costly proposition.

“(Y)ou have to realize it is going to cost the state of Alabama over the next six years $710 million in the General Fund,” Bentley said last week. “Now folks, I can’t even get (the Legislature) to raise a hundred million dollars. So we’ve got to look at a funding stream if we’re going to do it.”

The governor’s office has not yet taken an official position on expanding Medicaid, but has made it clear in recent weeks that Bentley is strongly leaning in that direction.

Task force packed with Democrats, Medicaid expansion advocates

The governor appointed the state’s Health Officer to chair the task force, which was given the responsibility of finding ways to improve the accessibility, affordability, and quality of healthcare for Alabamians. The governor appointed 37 other people to the task force, including legislators, healthcare professionals, and insurance company representatives.

Among those appointed are several members who have been longtime Medicaid expansion advocates, including three Democratic members of the state legislature, the policy director of the liberal advocacy group Alabama Arise, and an employee of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama.

Several representatives from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) were also appointed to the task force. In 2014 UAB released a study saying Medicaid expansion would create thousands of jobs and bring increased tax revenue to the state. Governor Bentley called the study “bogus” at the time, and another study from Troy University later refuted the majority of its claims.

The only two Republican legislators on the task force were the chairmen of the Alabama House and Senate Health committees.

Understanding the likely structure of expansion

Similar to Pennsylvania and Arkansas, which are also led by Republican governors, Gov. Bentley has suggested he would like to be able to funnel federal tax dollars through the state government and into private insurers. The private insurers would then use those taxpayer dollars to cover uninsured individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, the same ultimate outcome as Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare. The political benefit is that by receiving a “waiver” from the Obama administration, Republican governors have been able to expand the program while selling it as something completely different. In Pennsylvania they call it the “Healthy PA” plan. In Arkansas it’s commonly referred to as the “private option.”

Conservative policy and advocacy groups have taken to calling such plans “Medicaid expansion by another name.”

Gov. Bentley has insisted he would only pursue such a plan as a “block grant” from the federal government. Block grants are federal funds granted to states that include more flexibility in how they are spent than traditional “categorical grants.”

“It would have to be in the private sector and there would have to be some requirements on it,” Bentley told reporters in December. One specific requirement he mentioned was that he’d like to see the system tied to employment. “(Recipients) need to be working on getting a job, or having a job.”

Other states that have tried to tie work requirements to Medicaid benefits have been denied. In rejecting such a proposal from Utah earlier this year, U.S. Health and Human Services Department spokesman Ben Wakana said, “encouraging work is a legitimate state objective. However, work initiatives are not the purpose of the Medicaid program and cannot be a condition of Medicaid eligibility.”

The bottom line is, the Obama administration will have to sign off on any plan Alabama pursues.

Bentley’s evolution on Medicaid expansion

Gov. Robert Bentley delivers the 2015 State of the State Address, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. (Photo: Governor's Office, Jamie Martin)
Gov. Robert Bentley delivers the 2015 State of the State Address, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. (Photo: Governor’s Office, Jamie Martin)

Governor Bentley’s 2014 State of the State address was a passionate defense of the free market and refutation of government dependency.

In one particularly notable portion of the speech, the governor attempted to put Medicaid expansion rumors to rest once and for all. At the time, his Democratic opponent was accusing him of not being entirely forthcoming about his intensions.

The Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare and Medicaid expansion is taking our nation deeper into the abyss of debt, and threatens to dismantle what I believe is one of the most trusted relationships, that of doctors and their patient.

Essential to Obamacare is Medicaid expansion – a federal government dependency program for the uninsured, which is administered by states. Since 1980, Medicaid spending has increased nationally by over 1,500-percent.

Here in Alabama, Medicaid takes up 35% of our General Fund.

Under Obamacare, Medicaid would grow even larger… Here in Alabama alone, an estimated 300,000 more people would be added to the Medicaid role, to a system that by our own admission is absolutely broken and flawed.

The federal government has said they will give us money to expand. But how can we believe the federal government will keep its word? The anything but Affordable Care Act has done nothing to gain our trust.

First, they told us we could keep our doctor – that turned out not to be true. Next, they told us we could keep our policy – that’s not true. Then they told us our premiums would not go up – nothing could be further from the truth. Now they are telling us we’ll get free money to expand Medicaid.

Ladies and Gentlemen, nothing is free. The money the federal government is spending with wild abandon is not federal dollars – those are your dollars, your hard-earned tax dollars. There is no difference between federal money and your money.

Our great nation is 17.2 trillion dollars in debt and it increases by 2-billion dollars every single day.

That is why I cannot expand Medicaid in Alabama. We will not bring hundreds of thousands into a system that is broken and buckling.

But after securing re-election in November of last year, Gov. Bentley’s 2015 State of the State address took a sharply different tone.

A year removed from declaring he would “not bring hundreds of thousands into a (Medicaid) system that is broken and buckling,” Bentley insisted he would not allow the “flaws” of ObamaCare to keep the state from expanding taxpayer-funded healthcare for the “poorest and most vulnerable.” He also said some hospitals are “dependent on Medicaid to survive,” further signaling that an expansion of the program may be imminent.

Republicans in the Alabama Senate responded by passing a resolution urging the governor to not give in to expansion.

“The state should pursue reforms based on reducing Medicaid dependence, rather than increasing dependence,” the resolution stated. “Expansion of Medicaid would further strain the state General Fund, where Medicaid is already the largest line-item… We express our intention that the State of Alabama not expand Medicaid above its current eligibility levels.”

The resolution, which was sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) and co-sponsored by 20 other Republican senators, was passed on a vote of 22-8 along party lines.

“This resolution expresses my resolve to be fiscally responsible and protect taxpayer funds,” Sen. Pittman, who now chairs the General Fund Budget Committee, told Yellowhammer at the time. “Medicaid reform legislation has already been put in place, and we need to measure the outcome of those reforms before rashly expanding Medicaid. Right now, we simply can’t afford to expand Medicaid.”

1
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.


1
3 years ago

The 50 most powerful & influential people in Alabama

Yellowhammer's Power & Influence 50

[tps_header][/tps_header]

Yellowhammer's Power & Influence 50
Yellowhammer’s Power & Influence 50

Marty Abroms
Marty Abroms, President and Managing Shareholder, Abroms & Associates, P.C.

[tps_title]Marty Abroms, President and Managing Shareholder, Abroms & Associates, P.C.[/tps_title]

Abroms is the cornerstone of the northwest Alabama business community. He may not be the most well known name on the Power & Influence 50, but you can bet he’s known by any candidate with statewide aspirations.

His powerhouse accounting firm has clients with operations throughout the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, Mexico, Hong Kong, China, Macao, and Puerto Rico.

He’s currently the Chairman of the Business Council of Alabama, a powerful voice representing the statewide business community’s interests before state government. He’s also President Pro Tem of the University of North Alabama Board of Trustees, further cementing his place as one of the Shoals’ most influential residents, both inside and outside of politics.

Landon Ash
Landon Ash, Chief Executive Officer, Xtreme Concepts

[tps_title]Landon Ash, Chief Executive Officer, Xtreme Concepts[/tps_title]

Still in his mid-30s, Ash has quickly become one of the most active Republican political donors in Alabama at both the state and federal levels. His total donations over the last two election cycles rival anybody in the state, bar none.

His company, which almost exclusively employees former top tier operatives from the U.S. special forces, provides security services and training for both private clients and the U.S. government, as well as venture capital to early stage defense companies. That background garnered him an appointment by Gov. Robert Bentley to the Alabama Homeland Security Task Force.

Ash could see his influence increase in future years as he develops a state-level policy agenda and develops deeper relationships with other members of the business community.

Ginger Avery
Ginger Avery, Executive Director, Alabama Association for Justice

[tps_title]Ginger Avery-Buckner, Executive Director, Alabama Association for Justice[/tps_title]

Avery-Buckner has masterfully guided the trial lawyers’ advocacy group through the rise of the Republican Party in Alabama, including a total brand overhaul as the Trial Lawyers Association became the Association for Justice.

The group gave 95 percent of its campaign contributions to Democrats through 2010, but sensing a change in the political winds, gave over 80 percent of its legislative contributions to Republicans in 2013 and 2014.

Other groups traditionally allied with Democrats have struggled to adjust to Republican control and, as a result, have seen their influence diminished. Avery-Buckner moved her group to the right, and their success is a testament to her foresight and pragmatism. They don’t always get what they want, but they always get their voice heard. The association’s members have benefited from that.

Gov. Robert Bentley
Robert Bentley, Governor of Alabama

[tps_title]Robert BentleyGovernor of Alabama[/tps_title]

Gov. Robert Bentley cruised to re-election in 2014 with 63.56 percent of the vote, a full 3 percentage points higher than Romney garnered in the 2012 presidential election. His approval rating frequently rose into the 70s in his first term, allowing him to accumulate a lot of political capital. He kicked off his second term by spending it on his plan to solve the state’s perpetual budget crisis.

Early in his second term, the governor has shown an increased willingness to use his executive powers to impose his will on legislators who openly oppose his initiatives. He’s occasionally done this in very public ways, like when $100 million in infrastructure funding was pulled from the District of a senator seeking to block his tax proposals, but he’s also done it in more subtle ways, like when he made sure he maintained control of an appointment on the newly formed charter schools commission.

In his fifth year at the helm of Alabama’s state government, Bentley is clearly thinking about what will be his legacy, and he’s repeatedly made it known that he has no plans to be remembered as a “caretaker” governor.

David Bronner
David Bronner, CEO, Retirement Systems of Alabama

[tps_title]David BronnerCEO, Retirement Systems of Alabama[/tps_title]

As RSA CEO, Bronner essentially controls the fate of the pensions of every state employee, including judges and teachers.

He made his name by heavily investing the RSA’s money into projects inside the State of Alabama. That has allowed him to become a major economic development player. He’s also used that as leverage to insulate himself from reformers in the Legislature who are frustrated taxpayer contributions are needed to shore up the RSA’s bottom line.

Bronner has also maintained the support of teachers across the state, both active and retired, allowing him to win several internal battles with a teachers’ union head who tried to muscle his way into Bronner’s domain.

Although Republican control has diminished his influence in some ways, he’s still an institution in Alabama politics and oversees a taxpayer-funded investment portfolio that is staggering in its size and scope.

Will Brooke
Will Brooke, Senior Partner, Harbert Management Corporation

[tps_title]Will BrookeSenior Partner, Harbert Management Corporation[/tps_title]

Brooke has helped to launch two major Birmingham firms. He was the founder and managing partner of the influential law firm of Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt (originally, Wallace, Brooke & Byers) and a founding shareholder of Harbert Management Corporation, where he’s served on the Board since 1994.

From his perch at the highest levels of the Alabama business community, he’s been an influential mover and shaker in state politics for over a decade, including a stint as chairman of the Business Council of Alabama.

He came up just short in his first bid for public office when he ran for Congress in 2014. However, whether he comes back to run for statewide office or continues being a major player behind-the-scenes, his influence on Alabama politics will continue to be significant.

Phillip Bryan
Philip Bryan, Chief of Staff, Office of the President Pro Tem of the Alabama Senate

[tps_title]Philip BryanChief of Staff, Office of the President Pro Tem of the Alabama Senate[/tps_title]

While there has been significant turnover in legislative staff since Republicans first came into power in 2010, Bryan has remained a constant force on the 7th floor (Senate) of the Alabama Statehouse. That experience and expertise has earned him the respect of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

He’s often the only non-senator in the room when Senate Leadership sets the calendar for the week. “Have you talked to Philip?” has become shorthand for “Have you gotten Leadership to sign off?”

Bryan is an intense political tactician whose skills were honed as the top communications staffer at the ALGOP prior to Republicans taking over the Legislature. He has been instrumental in the execution of Republicans’ legislative agenda, including major school choice reforms.

Paul Bryant, Jr.
Paul Bryant, Jr., Chairman, Bryant Bank

[tps_title]Paul Bryant, Jr., Chairman, Bryant Bank[/tps_title]

From 100 miles northwest of the State Capitol, Bryant maintains unrivaled influence as an informal advisor to Gov. Bentley. He has been with the dermatologist-turned-lawmaker from the time he was the ultimate long-shot gubernatorial candidate, to the day he was sworn in, all the way to the present.

In addition to his political horsepower, he’s also one of the most successful businessmen in the state as the chairman of Bryant Bank and President of Greene Group, Inc., a private holding company.

His name has been in the news a lot lately because of his longtime role on the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. Whether he exercises outsized influence over the Board or not, it is a true sign of his power that the rumor mill automatically assumes he’s bending the world to his will.

He’s proven himself to be an able protector of his father’s legacy.

Rick Burgess
Rick Burgess, Host, Rick & Bubba Show

[tps_title]Rick Burgess, Host, Rick & Bubba Show[/tps_title]

Christian conservative talk radio host Rick Burgess really flexed his political muscles for the first time during the 2014 election cycle. The small handful of Burgess-endorsed candidates were undefeated last year, including Gary Palmer, who was propelled to congress with a giant wave of ads voiced by Burgess.

Rick and his co-host Bubba are very choosy about which candidates they get behind, making their support even more coveted.

With hundreds of thousands of listeners every weekday morning, Burgess will be as influential as he wants to be in future election years, and even has some questioning whether he may at some point put his own name on a ballot. For now, he’s the most influential media figure in the state.

Greg Butrus
Greg Butrus, Partner, Balch & Bingham LLP

[tps_title]Greg Butrus, Partner, Balch & Bingham LLP[/tps_title]

Butrus heads up the Energy section of one of Birmingham’s most prestigious law firms, but prefers to fly so far below the radar that he doesn’t even put up a picture alongside his bio on the firm’s website. And although his genuine humility would keep most people from realizing it, he is Alabama’s foremost authority on state and federal energy policy matters.

Prior to joining Balch & Bingham, Butrus served on the staff of U.S. Senator Howell Heflin in Washington. He’s also a past member of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees.

Some casual political watchers may be surprised to see his name on the Power & Influence 50, but those who need to know, know.

Billy Canary
Billy Canary, President and CEO, Business Council of Alabama

[tps_title]Billy Canary, President and CEO, Business Council of Alabama[/tps_title]

Canary is one of only two individuals on the Power & Influence 50 who has worked in the White House. He served as special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration and later went on to be chief of staff at the Republican National Committee. That level of national political experience is unrivaled in Alabama politics, and Canary has used it to guide the Business Council of Alabama to new heights since taking over the reins in 2003.

The BCA is now the official Alabama partner of both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. That makes them the voice of Alabama’s business community.

Canary’s friendship with House Speaker Mike Hubbard goes back decades. The Canary-led BCA jumped on board early on with Hubbard’s plan to “Storm the State House,” while other associations hedged their bets. During the 2014 cycle, BCA continued doling out millions in campaign contributions, and Canary was the one directing the checks.

Rep. Steve Clouse
Rep. Steve Clouse, House General Fund Budget Chairman

[tps_title]Rep. Steve Clouse, House General Fund Budget Chairman[/tps_title]

The budget shortfall is the single biggest issue facing the state right now and Clouse is right in the middle of the action as the top Republican on the influential House General Fund budget committee.

While most lawmakers shy away from attaching their name to specific budget proposals, Clouse has shown a willingness to step out in front — even with politically unpopular solutions — and endure the inevitable wave of arrows.

He is also the wiregrass area’s only legislator who has risen into legislative leadership. That gives him additional clout in that area of the state.

Caleb Crosby
Caleb Crosby, President, Alabama Policy Institute

[tps_title]Caleb Crosby, President, Alabama Policy Institute[/tps_title]

After serving at the Alabama Policy Institute (API) for several years as Director of Development, then Vice President, Crosby rose to be President of the influential conservative think tank when its longtime leader Gary Palmer was elected to Congress in 2014.

Most rank and file Alabama legislators do not employ policy staffers. That has made API an indispensable resource for conservative lawmakers trying to get a handle on complex issues.

A former George W. Bush staffer and a pitcher for the University of South Alabama who was drafted by the Texas Rangers, the 6’5 Crosby cut his teeth providing strategic financial management, compliance and operations guidance to campaigns, political committees, non-profit and for-profit organizations across the country.

He began his career with the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign. He then served in the George W. Bush administration, first at the EPA and then at the White House traveling with President Bush as a financial advisor. Following his time with President Bush, he served at the Department of Treasury under Secretary Hank Paulson. In 2008, Crosby was named CFO at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) before joining API in 2010.

Mark Crosswhite
Mark Crosswhite, CEO, Alabama Power Company

[tps_title]Mark Crosswhite, CEO, Alabama Power Company[/tps_title]

Crosswhite is the most powerful CEO in Alabama, and it’s not even close. The Power Company is involved in almost everything of significance that happens in the state. When the Department of Commerce is recruiting a major economic development project, they’re involved in crafting the deal. If there’s a bill making its way through the legislative process, they’re weighing in. If the Governor needs help planning inaugural festivities, the APCo team steps up to the plate.

Alabama Power has unrivaled resources and the state’s largest and most active governmental affairs operation, and Mark Crosswhite is quarterbacking the whole thing.

Crosswhite served as Alabama Power’s Executive Vice President of External Affairs for almost three years. Then became CEO and President of Gulf Power, another Southern Company subsidiary. He was then Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Southern Company from mid-2012 until last March when he became CEO of Alabama Power at the age of 50.

He is just over a year into the job, but it’s been abundantly clear from day one that he was ready to assume the role of being Alabama’s most high-profile executive.

Garry Neil Drummond
Garry Neil Drummond, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Drummond Company

[tps_title]Garry Neil DrummondChairman and Chief Executive Officer, Drummond Company[/tps_title]

Drummond is a genuine Alabama icon and likely the wealthiest individual in the state.

There is probably no industry in the country that has been the subject of more political and economic maneuvering over the last four years than coal. Drummond and his business interests have taken fire from the Obama administration’s EPA in DC, as well as from allied liberal interest groups at home. Even the Birmingham Water Works Board has placed him in its crosshairs, but Drummond continues to excel in spite of it all.

While other executives answer to boards of directors and shareholders, Drummond owns 100 percent of his company and answers to no one. He has a strong lobbying presence in Montgomery and maintains a core group of legislators who are willing to stick their necks out to protect his interests.

Most local residents may not even realize there is a giant multinational conglomerate operating out of an unassuming Birmingham suburb, but that’s just another day in Drummond World.

Joe Fine
Joe Fine, Lobbyist, Fine Geddie & Associates

[tps_title]Joe Fine, Lobbyist, Fine Geddie & Associates[/tps_title]

No individual on the Power & Influence 50 has been such a consistent power player for as long as Joe Fine. Pick a year in the last four decades and Fine would almost certainly be among the most influential people in state politics.

He was first elected to the Alabama Senate in 1970, then served a second term as Senate President Pro Tem. He went on to found the first lobbying firm of major significance in the state, and almost a half century later continues to impact the governing process every day the legislature is in session.

But even with his unparalleled success, Fine maintains a reputation for being among the nicest individuals in Alabama politics, whether he’s talking to a powerful senator, a client or a Statehouse staffer.

Bob Geddie
Bob Geddie, Lobbyist, Fine Geddie and Associates

[tps_title]Bob Geddie, Lobbyist, Fine Geddie and Associates[/tps_title]

As the second half of the Fine Geddie juggernaut, Geddie’s domain is the 5th floor (House) of the Statehouse. No one has managed it better over the years.

He has unrivaled relationships in the House on both sides of the aisle and is extremely close to the Speaker.

Prior to teaming up with Joe Fine in 1984, Geddie was Director of State Governmental Affairs for Alabama Power. He also served as Legislative Liaison and as Executive Assistant to Governor Fob James, and was a staffer for the late U.S. Senator John Sparkman.

Several of the most prominent businessmen on the Power & Influence 50 have Geddie on speed dial and rely on him to represent their interests before the legislature. They trust him so much, in fact, that rather than donating directly to candidates, many business heavyweights contribute to Fine Geddie’s political action committees and allow them to allocate the resources however they see fit.

Grayson Hall
Grayson Hall, Chairman, President and CEO, Regions Financial Corporation

[tps_title]Grayson Hall, Chairman, President and CEO, Regions Financial Corporation[/tps_title]

Hall is the CEO of the largest publicly traded company in Alabama. Regions is seemingly everywhere all at once. They are the last remaining Birmingham vestige of a time when the Magic City was the center of banking in the southeast United States. While other financial institutions crumbled, Regions survived and prospered, and it is at least in part due to Hall’s steady leadership.

Anything that has to do with banking in state government, Regions is driving the conversation as the face of the industry in Alabama politics.

Seth Hammett
Seth Hammett
Chief of Staff, Governor Robert Bentley

[tps_title]Seth Hammett, Chief of Staff, Governor Robert Bentley[/tps_title]

After spending more than a decade as Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives as a Democrat, Hammett saw the incoming Republican wave and retired from public service.

Briefly.

As Hammett was exiting the scene, Robert Bentley, a little-known Republican House member from Tuscaloosa, was capping off his meteoric rise out of obscurity and into the Governor’s Mansion.

Hammett now serves as the governor’s chief of staff. Hammett’s rise, like a phoenix out of the ashes of the Alabama Democratic Party, is undoubtedly one of the most impressive and unlikely feats of sheer political survival in recent memory.

He is now among the most influential voices in the governor’s inner circle.

Raymond Harbert
Raymond Harbert, Chairman and CEO, Harbert Management Corporation

[tps_title]Raymond Harbert, Chairman and CEO, Harbert Management Corporation[/tps_title]

Harbert enjoys one of the most iconic last names in Alabama business. He is carrying the family torch by growing one of the largest private investment behemoths in the state, with investment holdings on at least three continents.

He is one of the few individuals on the Power & Influence 50 who fields personal phone calls from presidential candidates. When then-Sen. Marco Rubio came to Birmingham to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Harbert was his first phone call and coordinated the event.

Sen. Jimmy Holley
Sen. Jimmy Holley

[tps_title]Sen. Jimmy Holley[/tps_title]

Holley is currently serving his fifth term in the Alabama Senate, after serving five terms in the Alabama House. He is an institution in southeast Alabama.

Outside of the Pro Tem and a couple of particularly influential committee chairmen, senators theoretically hold the same amount of power and influence. Holley has just been willing to use his more often and in ways that other senators don’t. That separates him from the parity. You’ll often hear, “If Holley’s not for your bill, it’s not going to pass.”

Holley has allied with Gov. Bentley during the 2015 session, allowing him to create opportunities for his district that are unavailable to most other legislators. When he puts his foot down on an issue, the tremor can be felt throughout the 7th floor.

Mike Hubbard
Mike Hubbard, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives

[tps_title]Mike Hubbard, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives[/tps_title]

Hubbard’s tenacity on the political battlefield is the stuff of legend. Inspired by the political tactics laid out in “The Thumping,” a book by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Hubbard masterfully orchestrated the Republican takeover of the legislature in 2010.

His House colleagues rewarded him with the most powerful post in state government: Speaker of the House.

The way Alabama’s government is structured places significant power in the legislative branch. The rules of the legislature make the Speaker of the House its strongest position. Put a political animal like Hubbard in that seat and you have all the makings of one of the most powerful players the state has ever seen.

He engenders a great deal of loyalty from his caucus, as evidenced by the fact that his members rallied around him as he confronted a tough legal situation. This year’s influx of new members has complicated his job a bit and made the already large Republican majority a bit more unwieldy, but Hubbard’s influence over the legislative process remains unmatched.

John Hudson
John Hudson, III, VP of Public Relations, Alabama Power Company

[tps_title]John Hudson, III, VP of Public Relations, Alabama Power Company[/tps_title]

Alabama Power’s public relations operation is vast, engaging customers on every medium imaginable, from social media to venue sponsorships and just about everything in between.

The scope of the Power Company’s external communications efforts alone would make Hudson a major mover and shaker in the business community, but his reach is exponentially increased due to his role as President of the Alabama Power Foundation. The foundation’s assets are more than $140 million, making it hands down the largest non-profit entity in the state. It has invested more than $150 million in grants and scholarships to benefit local communities throughout the state.

Hudson also serves on the Alabama A&M Board of Trustees.

His wife, Nyya Parson-Hudson, is a municipal court judge in Birmingham, further securing their place as Birmingham royalty.

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey

[tps_title]Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey[/tps_title]

Ivey’s old school southern charm has made her a hit on the conservative speaking circuit in Alabama for years, and propelled her to the second highest post in state government. If you’ve never seen her lead the pledge of allegiance at an event, you’re missing out. Over the last twelve years, she’s built an extensive grassroots network around the state and is particularly strong in rural areas.

She’s also the highest ranking female elected official in the state. She presides over the Senate and determines to which committee each bill is assigned, but in reality her role in the Senate is minimal. That’s not Ivey’s fault, though. Democrats gutted much of the Lt. Governor’s authority in 1999 after Republican Steve Windom was elected and threatened to hold up Democratic Gov. Donald Siegelman’s first-year legislative agenda.

The bottom line is that Ivey remains one heartbeat away from the Governor’s office.

Johnny Johns
Johnny Johns, Chairman, President and CEO, Protective Life Corporation

[tps_title]Johnny Johns, Chairman, President and CEO, Protective Life Corporation[/tps_title]

There has been a lot of turnover at the top tier of the Birmingham business community over the last decade, but Johns has been a constant presence since taking over the CEO post at Protective Life in 2002.

Most recently he deftly guided the company through its acquisition by Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company, Japan’s second largest private insurer, resulting in a huge financial win for Protective shareholders. Each share of Protective common stock was converted into the right to receive $70.00 cash, representing a total transaction value of approximately $5.7 billion.

He serves on numerous prominent Boards, including Regions Financial and Southern Company, and perhaps most notably, the University of Alabama. He’s often the public voice of the UA Board in interviews with both local and national publications.

Johns is a past chairman of the Business Council of Alabama and the Birmingham Business Alliance, making him a major player in the state’s economic development efforts. And along with several other members of Yellowhammer’s Power & Influence 50, he was instrumental in flipping Alabama’s courts away from their reputation as “tort hell.”

He engages in the political process in Alabama both directly and through a powerhouse team of lobbyists. Every ambitious politician aspires to enter his orbit. And if they manage to catch his attention, they’ll find him to be one of the most humble individuals to rise to the highest levels of the business world.

Sen. Del Marsh
Sen. Del Marsh, President Pro Tem, Alabama Senate

[tps_title]Sen. Del Marsh, President Pro Tem, Alabama Senate[/tps_title]

In the Alabama Senate, where even Kanye West’s ego probably wouldn’t stand out among the body’s oversized personalities, Marsh’s leadership has been unquestioned on either side of the aisle for the past five years.

His influence on the legislative process is felt in every nook and cranny of the State House, but often in more subtle, behind-the-scenes ways. He’s not as flashy as other power players of similar stature. He doesn’t have a security detail or driver. The Senate President Pro Tem’s office, which once employed over 40 staffers, is now run by a small team of four Marsh loyalists. But when he does make a move publicly, it’s significant.

The entire school choice movement in Alabama owes its success in large part to Marsh’s unflinching political will to see tax credit scholarships and charter schools become a reality. The social and economic impact of the education reforms implemented on his watch will ripple throughout generations of Alabama families, and that is not hyperbole.

Rebekah Mason
Rebekah Mason, Advisor, Gov. Robert Bentley

[tps_title]Rebekah Mason, Advisor, Gov. Robert Bentley[/tps_title]

There has been a lot of turnover in Bentley World since he was first elected in 2010 — from staffers to consultants — but Mason’s presence has been the one constant. She believed in him when he was a little-known state legislator. It paid off, big time.

She was the administration’s first communications director and now wields significant influence as an outside consultant, part of the very small circle of the governor’s closest advisors.

From crafting State of the State Addresses to coordinating external efforts to advance the governor’s agenda, Mason is involved in all of it. No one has the governor’s ear more than she does. No one.

Rep. Mac McCutcheon
Rep. Mac McCutcheon, House Rules Chairman

[tps_title]Rep. Mac McCutcheon, House Rules Chairman[/tps_title]

McCutcheon is similar to Nick Saban in the sense that he is fiercely devoted to the process. For Saban, that means having a daily commitment to the smallest details on the practice field. For McCutcheon, that means having a daily commitment to making sure the legislative process works as smoothly as possible for members of both sides of the aisle. That’s an important trait in his role of House Rules Chairman, where he has enormous influence over what pieces of legislation actually make it to the floor for a vote.

McCutcheon is Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s single most important ally. Republican legislators — both veterans and rookies alike — look to McCutcheon for guidance. As long as he has Hubbard’s back, any attempted coup inside the GOP caucus is dead on arrival.

Robert McGhee
Robert McGhee, Head of Governmental Affairs, Poarch Band of Creek Indians

[tps_title]Robert McGhee, Head of Governmental Affairs, Poarch Band of Creek Indians[/tps_title]

McGhee is currently serving in his third term on the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Tribal Council and runs the Tribe’s governmental affairs operation.

The Poarch Creeks are able to devote an almost unfathomable amount of resources to state politics and have been at the center of political and legal debates in Alabama for the last decade.

McGhee is a savvy political operator who cut his teeth in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Department of Interior-Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Troutman Sanders LLP-Indian Law Practice Group.

The Poarch Creek’s jaw-dropping offer to cover Alabama’s entire $250 million General Fund Budget shortfall has once again placed McGhee in the center of the action in Montgomery. Expect that to continue in the years to come.

John McMahon
John McMahon, Chairman, Ligon Industries

[tps_title]John McMahon, Chairman, Ligon Industries[/tps_title]

No state supreme court in the country changed more than Alabama’s between 1994 and 2004. In the mid-90s, all nine justices on the court were Democrats. A decade later they were all Republicans. A Texas-based political consultant named Karl Rove has gotten a lot of credit over the years for making that happen, but it was John McMahon and a small group of influential businessmen who were the real driving force. The resulting effect on Alabama’s business climate has been profound.

In addition to his undeniable impact on Alabama’s business and political landscape, McMahon serves on numerous influential boards of directors, including Protective Life Insurance, ProAssurance, National Bank of Commerce, Cooper/T. Smith, and UAB Health Systems. He is also a trustee for the University of Alabama and Birmingham-Southern College.

McMahon is the epitome of a behind-the-scenes power broker.

Chief Justice Roy Moore
Chief Justice Roy Moore

[tps_title]Chief Justice Roy Moore[/tps_title]

Moore’s profile has skyrocketed in 2015 as the same-sex marriage debate came to Alabama in a big way for the first time. No other Alabama elected official has his ability to be instantly ubiquitous in the national media.

Because of his nationwide following, Moore’s influence in Alabama is unique in that it has less to do with the office he holds and more to do with his unrivaled populist appeal among evangelical conservatives. He is one of the few individuals on the Power & Influence 50 who can take his message directly to the people and move the needle.

Bill O’Connor
Bill O’Connor, President, Results LLC

[tps_title]Bill O’Connor, President, Results LLC[/tps_title]

O’Connor is an old school Alabama political veteran with the battle scars to prove it. He cut his teeth four decades ago as the Director of Field Services for the University of Alabama’s College of Communications. After working in state government in the late 70s and running the Alabama Press Association in the early 80s, he returned to UA as Director of Legislative Relations. In 1997 he rose to become Vice Chancellor of External Affairs, overseeing the UA System’s entire governmental affairs operation.

He really hit his stride in the late 90s when he was recruited by industry leaders to run the Business Council of Alabama. Over the next decade he was one of the most influential players in a state government entirely run by Democrats. He was particularly close to then-House Speaker Seth Hammett.

O’Connor’s influence waned for a period of time before he saw potential in a little-known gubernatorial candidate from Tuscaloosa named Robert Bentley. He’s ridden the wave right back to the top, earning himself a second act near the top of the Alabama political pecking order.

Sen. Arthur Orr
Sen. Arthur Orr, Chairman, Senate General Fund Budget Committee

[tps_title]Sen. Arthur Orr, Chairman, Senate General Fund Budget Committee[/tps_title]

As the General Fund Budget Chairman in the Senate, Orr is the epicenter of the biggest battle in state government.

He has earned a reputation among his colleagues, lobbyists and executive branch agency heads for being a serious customer. No one looks forward to sitting down in Orr’s office to convince him their department or interest is worthy of General Fund dollars. He challenges everyone who walks in.

Orr is an underrated operator behind-the-scenes and often stirs the pot in both chambers in ways that most people don’t even realize. Being Senate Budget Chairman is a big deal, but it likely won’t end up being the highest title Orr attains in state government.

Jimmy Parnell
Jimmy Parnell

[tps_title]Jimmy Parnell[/tps_title]

Agriculture-related industries account for 580,295 Alabama jobs and generate $70.4 billion for the state’s economy. So needless to say, as the head of the largest farmers organization in the state, Parnell has some serious horsepower.  Throw in ALFA’s massive insurance operation and you’ve got a business and political behemoth that is rivaled by only a couple of entities in the state.

Parnell has a history of doing things fast. He was driving a tractor by age five and managing his family farm’s payroll by age 12. He graduated from high school in three years and from Auburn by age 20. And when he took over the reins at ALFA in December of 2012, he quickly established himself as a major player in state politics. Parnell’s down-to-Earth leadership style has drawn rave reviews from lawmakers. His stature combined with his lobbying team — among the most active in the Statehouse — has made the Parnell-led Farmers’ Federation one of the elite governmental affairs operations in the state.

Parnell oversaw a wildly successful 2014 election cycle, during which Federation-backed candidates won almost all of the organization’s targeted races. That is thanks in part to ALFA’s unrivaled network of grassroots activists, another Federation asset with which few other outfits can compete. Every candidate covets their endorsement.

With Parnell now in his third year at the helm, he’s hitting his stride and appears poised to take ALFA to new heights.

Sen. Trip Pittman
Sen. Trip Pittman, Chairman, Senate Education Budget Committee

[tps_title]Sen. Trip Pittman, Chairman, Senate Education Budget Committee[/tps_title]

Pittman is a larger-than-life physical, ideological and political presence on the 7th floor of the Statehouse. He loves to mix it up as much as anyone in the Senate. He’s got a libertarian streak (He served as a delegate for the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign) and is not afraid to buck the status quo.

Pittman has actively pushed for a Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution to term limit elected officials and force the federal government to balance its budget. On the state level, he’s ardently opposed expanding Medicaid and pushed for further conservative reforms to the state’s retirement systems.

There are plenty of staunch conservatives in the Alabama legislature, but few of them rise to the level Pittman has. He oversees the biggest pot of money in state government as the Senate Education Budget chairman.

Rep. Bill Poole
Rep. Bill Poole, Chairman, Education Budget Committee

[tps_title]Rep. Bill PooleChairman, Education Budget Committee[/tps_title]

Very few freshmen legislators land a committee chairmanship, much less the Education Budget. It is a testament to Poole’s talent that he almost immediately shot into the ranks of legislative leadership.

He is highly competent and made a commitment from his first day in the Statehouse to understand even the most minute details of the Education Budget. Now in his second term, it has clearly paid off.

Sen. Richard Shelby and Gov. Robert Bentley have made Tuscaloosa the seat of power in Alabama, but Poole — who succeeded Bentley in the House — should also be a part of that conversation. As the architect of the House Education budget, he is overseeing the lifeblood of the city’s most important institution: The University.

It is unclear whether Poole has aspirations to rise higher in the Legislature, or may at some point run statewide. Either way, “Mr. Chairman” probably won’t be his last title in state government.

Jimmy Rane
Jimmy Rane

[tps_title]Jimmy RanePresident and CEO, Great Southern Wood Preserving[/tps_title]

The Yella Fella is running a genuine international business powerhouse out of Abbeville, Alabama. Great Southern Wood is the nation’s largest producer and distributor of pressure-treated lumber products. If Rane had been born in an earlier generation, he would have fit in right alongside the titans of industry who quite literally built America — men like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan.

When it comes to politics, Rane was supporting Alabama Republicans long before they were in power, and was a major backer of the 2010 GOP plan to take control of state government for the first time in 136 years. He remains one of the closest allies of House Speaker Mike Hubbard and is among the first people with whom any ambitious politician tries to build a relationship.

He is currently serving in his second term as President Pro Tem of the Auburn Board of Trustees. Additionally, his annual Jimmy Rane Foundation charity event attracts a who’s who of business heavyweights and pro sports icons. That makes him one of the few individuals whose influence touches Alabama’s “big three” — politics, business and sports.

Rane is Alabama’s entrepreneur — a success story like no other.

Sen. Greg Reed
Sen. Greg Reed, Senate Majority Leader

[tps_title]Sen. Greg Reed, Senate Majority Leader[/tps_title]

In just the first year of his second term in the Senate, Reed has assumed the role of Senate Majority Leader. That post is chosen by the Senate caucus, showing how well liked and respected he is among his colleagues. He is the first senator from the class of 2010 to rise into Senate Leadership, and is one one of a very small handful of senators who have a legitimate shot at becoming Pro Tem.

Reed is also president of Preferred Medical Systems, a company that sells medical equipment in multiple states. That background has allowed him to quickly become a significant player in reforming the state’s healthcare system.

There’s a general sense around the Statehouse that Reed is going places. He will definitely be one to watch over the next decade.

Quentin Riggins
Quentin Riggins, Vice President of Governmental Relations, Alabama Power Company

[tps_title]Quentin Riggins, Vice President of Governmental Relations, Alabama Power Company[/tps_title]

Riggins leads the top corporate governmental affairs shop in the state. The Power Company’s business is so vast there is hardly an issue before the Legislature that does not impact them in some way. It’s a big job, but Riggins has virtually unlimited resources and personnel at his disposal.

He has worked for governors on both sides of the aisle, including some time as a cabinet member in the Riley administration. He also worked for Democratic Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, then ran the governmental affairs operation at the Business Council of Alabama before briefly launching his own firm.

Prior to that he had an impressive college football career as a big-hitting linebacker for Coach Pat Dye at Auburn. He helped lead the Tigers to SEC titles in 1987, ’88 and ’89 and was a member of the 2009 class of SEC Football Legends. He still roams the sidelines of Jordan-Hare Stadium moonlighting as a reporter for the Auburn IMG Sports Network.

From sports to politics to business, Riggins is another power player with an extensive reach.

John Ross
John Ross, Lobbyist, Swatek Azbell Howe & Ross

[tps_title]John Ross, Lobbyist, Swatek Azbell Howe & Ross[/tps_title]

There may not be anybody in the Statehouse who House members trust more than John Ross. In his prior role as executive director of the Alabama Republican Party, he was with many of the current legislators before they even announced their candidacy for the first time. Other lobbyists couldn’t even hope to cultivate that level of trust with lawmakers.

In addition to his relationships with rank and file members, Ross is also extremely close to both House and Senate GOP Leadership. He was House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s right-hand-man when Hubbard was ALGOP chairman, and when Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh was re-elected, there were only two people on the front page of his hometown paper — Marsh high-fiving Ross.

But even with those relationships, he doesn’t take anything for granted. He has earned a reputation for being a serious workhorse. Still just in his mid-30s, Ross will likely be making his mark on the Alabama Statehouse for decades to come.

Nick Sellers
Nick Sellers, Vice President of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Alabama Power Company

[tps_title]Nick Sellers, Vice President of Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Alabama Power Company[/tps_title]

Sellers is another former college football star who has risen through the Alabama Power ranks to become a vice president. The regulatory affairs operation, which Sellers oversees, is probably the most vital part of the Power Company’s governmental affairs shop. With the Obama administration’s open hostility toward energy producers across the nation, Sellers is the one tasked with maintaining a fair regulatory environment in the state, in contrast to what’s happening on the federal level. Needless to say, that’s no easy task.

Sellers’ political experience is extremely diverse. He was policy director for a Democratic governor, held a position at the Alabama Republican Party, worked at the state’s top Democratic consulting firm, then became the power company’s federal legislative director before rising to become a VP. On top of that, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone with a more in-depth understanding of the Power Company’s business.

Britt Sexton
Britt Sexton, CEO, Sextons Inc.

[tps_title]Britt Sexton, CEO, Sextons Inc.[/tps_title]

When it comes to politics, Sexton is probably the most significant private businessman in north Alabama. Before names ever even appear on a ballot in that part of the state, you can bet Sexton has scouted out the best up and coming talent and recruited them to run. His office overlooking the Tennessee River is on the list of stops that any statewide candidate absolutely has to make.

His company’s interests include financial services, private equity, software and real estate, and his success has allowed him to become one of the most generous philanthropists in the state. He also serves on the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, where he has been a part of leadership team that brought Nick Saban to UA and implemented an ambitious growth strategy.

He’s already peers with power players a full generation ahead of him, and his influence will only increase in the years to come.

Zeke Smith
Zeke Smith, Executive Vice President of External Affairs, Alabama Power Company

[tps_title]Zeke Smith, Executive Vice President of External Affairs, Alabama Power Company[/tps_title]

Smith is running the largest external affairs operation of any company in Alabama, and it’s not even close. He’s a homegrown talent out of Trussville, having worked his way up the Power Company ladder over the last thirty years. He is now one of the most respected executives in the state, as evidenced by Gov. Robert Bentley tapping him to lead the Alabama Workforce Council. The future success of Alabama’s $184 billion economy will be determined in part by the work the Smith-led Council does to redesign the state’s workforce development engine.

Smith oversees Alabama Power’s public relations division, as well as the governmental and environmental affairs departments. Each of those departments has a significant impact on the company’s bottom line. On the political side, elected officials in both D.C. and Montgomery go out of their way to maintain a strong relationship with him.

Prior to rising to his current post, Smith served as Vice President of Regulatory Services and Financial Planning. His predecessor is now the CEO. Enough said.

Smith is the quintessential Power Company man.

Attorney General Luther Strange
Attorney General Luther Strange

[tps_title]Attorney General Luther Strange[/tps_title]

If you’re an ambitious Republican politician, being Alabama Attorney General is a pretty good gig. Just sue the Obama administration every chance you get. It’s proven to be a sound political strategy and has allowed Strange to raise his profile and remain relevant in the minds of voters.

Prior to running for elected office, Strange was an elite D.C. lobbyist who founded the federal governmental affairs practice at one of Birmingham’s most prestigious law firms. He has made no secret of the fact that he has his eye on higher office, whether U.S. Senate or governor. When that time comes, those inside-the-Beltway connections will serve him well as he cranks up his impressive fundraising operation.

Until then, conservatives look to Strange and other state attorneys general to battle it out with the Obama administration in court.

Dax Swatek, Lobbyist
Dax Swatek, Lobbyist, Swatek Azbell Howe & Ross

[tps_title]Dax Swatek, Lobbyist, Swatek Azbell Howe & Ross[/tps_title]

Swatek is the top lobbyist at a firm with an ever-growing client list. He’s established himself as the Birmingham business community’s go-to governmental affairs pro. Clients hire him not only for his influence in the Statehouse, but also for strategic guidance on a wide range of issues.

Swatek is one of the few successful lobbyists in the state who cut his teeth running political campaigns first, including gubernatorial, legislative, congressional and even presidential races within the state. He led the small circle of strategists who crafted the GOP’s successful plan to seize control of the Legislature in 2010. He then immediately moved to capitalize on that success by launching a full-service governmental affairs shop with three of the state’s other top Republican consultants.

Because he was so instrumental in the current House and Senate Leadership’s rise to power, they often view him as not just a lobbyist, but as part of their team. That’s the kind of access you only garner by being around from day one.

Mike Thompson
Mike Thompson, Chairman & CEO, Thompson Tractor

[tps_title]Mike Thompson, Chairman & CEO, Thompson Tractor[/tps_title]

Thompson has been the CEO of his family’s company for the last quarter century and has grown it into a global industrial behemoth. If there is a major development project going on in Alabama, there’s a good chance his machines are doing the work.

The Business Council of Alabama named one of their highest honors the “Thompsonian Leadership Award” in honor of Thompson, who Chaired the BCA in 2003 and initiated the formal partnership between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Council.

He was a member of the Governor’s Circle, a $40,000 commitment to the successful push to elect a Republican majority in the Alabama legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. But he is also one of the few members of this year’s Power & Influence 50 whose political reach extends to the highest levels of national politics as well. He was a George W. Bush “Pioneer,” one of the few hundred individuals who raised a minimum of $100,000 for the Bush 2004 re-election effort. When presidential candidates come to the state, you can bet Thompson gets a personal phone call. In short, he puts his money where his mouth is.

If you’re considering a run for statewide office in Alabama, Mike Thompson is one of the first people you go see.

Sen. Jabo Waggoner
Sen. Jabo Waggoner, Chairman, Senate Rules Committee

[tps_title]Sen. Jabo Waggoner, Chairman, Senate Rules Committee[/tps_title]

Legend.

Waggoner is the longest serving Republican in the Alabama Senate and has been a player in state politics since the mid-60s. But don’t think for a second that he’s lost a step. During the 2015 legislative session — his 33rd in the Senate — he muscled through major reforms to the embattled Birmingham Water Works Board and proved why his constituents will continue sending him back to Montgomery for as long as he wants to go.

His position as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee gives him a lot of discretion over what bills actually make it to the floor for a vote. While most of what happens at the mic in the Legislature is inconsequential, when Waggoner says, “Madam president, I have a report from the Committee on Rules,” everyone stops to listen.

His legacy in the pantheon of Alabama political titans is secure, but he still goes to work every day with an attitude of genuine humility.

Sen. Cam Ward
Sen. Cam Ward, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

[tps_title]Sen. Cam WardChairman, Senate Judiciary Committee[/tps_title]

Ward’s fingerprints are on more bills than anyone in the Statehouse. Outside of the Senate Rules committee, through which every bill that reaches the floor must go, Ward’s Judiciary crew hears more legislation than any other committee. In the Senate where there is relative parity among members who aren’t in official Leadership roles, the sheer volume of bills he touches slightly separates him from the pack.

He has been instrumental in creating a balance between trial lawyers and business interests. It’s been a savvy political strategy as he appears to have his ambitions set on the AG’s office during the next election cycle.

He decided against a congressional run last year, it’s hard to imagine him passing on another chance to work his way up the political ladder.

Steve Windom
Steve Windom, Lobbyist, Windom Galliher & Associates

[tps_title]Steve Windom, Lobbyist, Windom Galliher & Associates[/tps_title]

Windom, a former Alabama Lt. Governor, is a case study in political survival. He was a gubernatorial opponent of Bob Riley’s, then became one of his closest allies. He then became one of the few Riley confidants who managed to secure a place in Bentley’s orbit. While most former elected officials-turned lobbyists get by on their name alone, Windom grinds it out in the halls of the Statehouse day after day.

By bringing on former Alabama House Rules Chairman Blaine Galliher, Windom’s team took another big step forward in 2015. His singular goal is to win on behalf of his clients, whatever coalition of unlikely bedfellows he has to assemble to make it happen. More often than not he pulls it off.

Dr. Robert Witt
Dr. Robert Witt, Chancellor, University of Alabama System

[tps_title]Dr. Robert Witt, Chancellor, University of Alabama System[/tps_title]

Witt is the chief executive of Alabama’s largest higher education enterprise. With a budget exceeding $5 billion and an annual economic impact of more than $8 billion, the UA System is comprised of doctoral research universities in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville as well as the acclaimed UAB Health System.

Prior to his election as Chancellor, Witt served as President of The University of Alabama from 2003-2012. During his nine-year tenure at the Capstone, he positioned UA as one of America’s fastest growing public universities.

He’s cultivated strong relationships with a who’s who of major business and political players in the state, from the governor to the heavyweights on the UA Board. The System’s presence in Montgomery is strong, with Witt retaining the top external lobbyists in the state, in addition to having former Congressman Jo Bonner handling his governmental relations in-house.

Witt has taken the UA System to new heights academically, economically and politically, and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

[tps_footer]The Yellowhammer Power & Influence 50 is an annual list of the most powerful and influential players in Alabama politics and business — the men and women who shape the state. Names are listed in alphabetical order.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s inaugural Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who leverage their stature to make a positive impact on the state.

The event will take place Friday evening, May 29 at the Renaissance Ross Bridge in Birmingham. James Spann is emceeing the event. Confirmed attendees include Gov. Bentley, Congressmen Aderholt, Palmer and Roby, Lt. Gov Ivey, House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and many, many more of the state’s top politicians and CEOs. Click here for more details and to purchase tickets. [/tps_footer]

1
3 years ago

Alabama Senate to Bentley: Do not expand Medicaid under any scenario

Medicaid

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed a resolution expressing its intention to not expand Medicaid, and urged Gov. Robert Bentley to refrain from pushing for such an expansion.

“The state should pursue reforms based on reducing Medicaid dependence, rather than increasing dependence,” the resolution states. “Expansion of Medicaid would further strain the state General Fund, where Medicaid is already the largest line-item… We express our intention that the State of Alabama not expand Medicaid above its current eligibility levels.”

The resolution, which was sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) and co-sponsored by 20 other Republican senators, was passed on a vote of 22-8 along party lines.

“This resolution expresses my resolve to be fiscally responsible and protect taxpayer funds,” Sen. Pittman told Yellowhammer. “Medicaid reform legislation has already been put in place, and we need to measure the outcome of those reforms before rashly expanding Medicaid. Right now, we simply can’t afford to expand Medicaid.”

The full text of the resolution expresses concerns that an expansion of the program, whether under ObamaCare or via “waivers,” would dramatically increase the number of Alabamians dependent upon public assistance and would not offer the state any meaningful control over eligibility requirements.

“I have worked tirelessly on Medicaid reform, and there are more reform proposals coming this session,” said Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed. “We are only 18 months into our major shift away from a fee-for-service model. I support Senator Pittman’s resolution because now is not the time to look at a full expansion of Medicaid, because it could be detrimental to our current reforms.”

Similar to Pennsylvania and Arkansas, which are also led by Republican governors, Gov. Bentley has suggested he would like to be able to funnel federal tax dollars through the state government and into private insurers. The private insurers would then use those taxpayer dollars to cover uninsured individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, the same ultimate outcome as Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare. The political benefit is that by receiving a “waiver” from the Obama administration, Republican governors have been able to expand the program while selling it as something completely different. In Pennsylvania they call it the “Healthy PA” plan. In Arkansas it’s commonly referred to as the “private option.”

Gov. Bentley has insisted that he would only pursue such a plan as a “block grant” from the federal government. Block grants are federal funds granted to states that include more flexibility in how they are spent than traditional “categorical grants.”

“It would have to be in the private sector and there would have to be some requirements on it,” Bentley told reporters in December. One specific requirement he mentioned was that he’d like to see the system tied to employment. “(Recipients) need to be working on getting a job, or having a job.”

Other states that have tried to tie work requirements to Medicaid benefits have been denied. In rejecting such a proposal from Utah earlier this year, U.S. Health and Human Services Department spokesman Ben Wakana said, “encouraging work is a legitimate state objective. However, work initiatives are not the purpose of the Medicaid program and cannot be a condition of Medicaid eligibility.”

Conservative groups in Alabama, including the Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Free Market Alliance, Alabama Forestry Association and the Foundation for Government have urged the governor to refrain from expanding Medicaid under any circumstances. Republicans in the Alabama Senate added their voices to that chorus today.

The Joint Resolution will now be sent to the Alabama House of Representatives.


1
3 years ago

Alabama Senate unanimously passes Education Budget with slight increase in spending

yh_41515
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed and Education Budget, which will spend $5.9 billion to fund Alabama’s public k-12 schools, pre-schools, and universities, and other educational programs.

Lawmakers are giving partial credit for the budget’s ease of passage and slight bump in spending to the Rolling Reserve Budget Act, passed in 2011, which requires the state to grow the education budget sustainably, and save any excess between receipts and appropriations for leaner years.

“This proposal protects funding for K-12 education and provides full or increased funding for many of the state’s proven education reform programs like the Alabama Reading Initiative and the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative,” said Senate Education budget committee chairman Trip Pittman (R-Montrose). “Thanks largely to conservative and responsible budgeting practices, we have been able to produce a responsible budget which includes increases in the amount of money for a number of student programs such as Pre-K, Advanced Placement classes, higher education, textbooks and transportation.”

The spending bill marks an approximate 1 percent increase from the previous fiscal year.

The budget increases textbook spending by $13 million, transportation by $5 million, Pre-K by $13.5 million to add 145 more classrooms to the state’s nationally acclaimed program, Distance Learning by $2 million, and the state’s Dual Enrollment by $5 million, as well as upping higher education spending by 0.25 percent.

Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh praised the bill’s fiscal responsibility and commitment to education reform.

“Balancing the education budget while being able to make significant increases to essential programs such as Pre-K shows we are committed to providing the best possible education for Alabama students. I appreciate Senator Pittman and members of the education budget committee for their commitment to crafting a sensible, fiscally responsible spending plan,” Marsh said. “We owe it to our children to provide them with the best education possible while not saddling them with long term financial instability, and I believe this budget does just that.

“This year we’ve made significant strides toward reforming education in Alabama, and this fiscally-responsible budget proposal is another step in the right direction.”

“This is a fiscally responsible education budget that will avoid proration, pay back the final debt to the Rainy Day fund, and give us more middle school teachers,” added Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed. “I commend Chairman Pittman and my colleagues for working together to increase funding for textbooks, voluntary Pre- K, and dual enrollment.”

In stark contrast with years past, the bill was approved unanimously 33-0 with very little debate.

While the languishing General Fund budget is facing a $260 million shortfall, the education budget has seen its revenue streams strengthen as the economy has improved.

The Senate bill does not follow the Governor’s plan to transfer some revenues now feeding the education budget over to the general fund, which could cause general fund budget cuts to be even deeper.

The bill will now go to the House for further debate before final passage. If the House changes anything the Senate will either vote to concur or move to hold a joint Senate and House committee to rectify the differences.


1
3 years ago

Refusal to privatize liquor sales shows there’s no intention to shrink AL’s govt. (opinion)

YH Alabama liquor ABC

An effort to privatize Alabama’s retail liquor establishments met its demise Wednesday in the Alabama’s Senate’s General Fund Budget Committee. The bill, SB115, sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), lost on a recorded vote of 6-7.

There is no way to sugar coat this: The vote clearly established that certain members of the Alabama Senate have no intention of reducing the size of state government, because if there ever there was a “slam dunk” opportunity, this was it.

The six Republican senators who supported the bill (Holtzclaw, Melson, Orr, Pittman, Sanford and Stutts) should be commended for their courage to go against the frantic opposition of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board, the state employees’ union and, most surprisingly, ALCAP.

ALCAP?

According to their website, ALCAP is an interdenominational ministry that claims to serve as “Alabama’s moral compass,” promoting an ethical, moral and responsible lifestyle based on biblical standards, for the benefit of the state. Their executive director testified at Wednesday’s hearing opposing the legislation, stating that the bill would increase the consumption of alcohol.

Huh?

Privatizing state-controlled retail liquor stores is going to increase alcohol consumption? Is there anyone in the state that can’t get liquor now? This is an extremely naïve position.

In reality, the funding challenge for General Fund agencies is going to continue to fester to the point that the Legislature will be left with three choices.

1. Increase taxes. Good luck with that.

2. Fund the General Fund with existing available revenues, which will result in a 15 percent reduction from current year expenditures, at least.

3. Adopt “other” funding sources, which could include entering into a “compact” with the Poarch Creek Indians and legalizing gaming.

The irony here is that AlCap — a staunchly anti-gambling organization — is now allied with the state employees’ union, and its actions will make gambling a more likely prospect.

None of this is good news for Alabamians who support limited, more efficient government.


Tom Saunders is General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs for the Alabama Forestry Association

1
3 years ago

(Poll) Should Alabama legislators be term-limited?

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

Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), introduced a bill last week that would limit members of the Alabama State Legislature to a maximum of three four-year terms.

The bill would have to be voted on by Alabamians in the next statewide election to be established as a state constitutional amendment.

Here are a few of the pros and cons of term limits, according to BalancedPolitics.org:

PROS:

1. (Term limits allow new legislators to bring) new ideas, procedures, and influence.
2. Political machines of incumbents make it very difficult to remove them from office.
3. Politicians are less likely to be focused on special interests and pork-barrel spending if they cannot stay in office indefinitely.
4. Lack of term limits leads to a system of seniority, meaning those who have spent the most time in office gain more power (in committees, procedures, etc.); consequently, politicians focus on staying in office… and fresh new elected officials have limited ability to make changes.
5. Term limits lead to a “citizen” (Legislature), rather than one filled with lawyers and career politicians.
6. There is less chance for corruption of government officials if time in office is limited; new politicians are less likely to have the knowledge to exploit the system for personal gain and are more skeptical of lobbyists & special interests.
7. Politicians in their last term of office are more likely to ignore politics and media criticism to target what’s best for the (state), and they can work to establish tangible accomplishments that will build on their legacy.

CONS

1. Term limits kick out the good leaders who may deserve to stay in office for excellent work.
2. Every job has a learning curve, and (the Legislature) is no exception. Any new politicians would have to go through that when they come into office.
3. Politicians that leave office take with them a lot of experience and contacts that are essential to get things done. New leaders would have to develop these from scratch.
4. Politicians who are in the last term of office are more likely to ignore the will of the people since they don’t face the wrath of the electorate in the future.

Do you think Alabama’s state legislators should be term limited? Take a minute to participate in our (unscientific) poll.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.


1
3 years ago

Senator pushes bill to term-limit Alabama legislators

Senate Education Budget Chairman Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, speaking at the Business Council of Alabama April 9, 2013
Senate Education Budget Chairman Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, speaking at the Business Council of Alabama April 9, 2013

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A bill introduced in the Alabama Senate last week would impose term limits on Alabama lawmakers.

Senate Bill 57 sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) would limit legislators to three four-year terms.

Pittman told the Decatur Daily he believes the bill would compel lawmakers to get things done, since they would no longer be able to keep coming back for decades. He also believes it would limit the influence of lobbyists, who would not have as much time to cozy up to legislators.

If the bill is passed by the legislature and approved by the voters in the form of a Constitutional Amendment, the new law wold affect lawmakers moving forward, but would not apply retroactively. But Pittman, who is now serving in his third term, says he would apply it to himself immediately and not seek another term.

“If the bill passes, I will retroactively apply it to myself,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass, I am not going to apply a bill to me that doesn’t apply to any other members.”

Opponents of term-limiting lawmakers say it could increase the power of lobbyist and unelected bureaucrats because they maintain their posts even as legislators come and go. They also contend that elected officials ignore the will of the people when they no longer face the threat of electoral wrath, the most recent example being Gov. Robert Bentley, who ran on a promise of “No New Taxes,” then went back on his word after winning re-election to a second term.

But proponents say the pros far outweigh the cons, and polls routinely show widespread public support for term limits. A Gallup survey from 2013 said 75 percent of American want term limits on members of congress, including 82 percent of Republicans.

Pittman’s bill cleared its first hurdle last week when it was given a favorable report by the Senate Committee on Constitution, Ethics and Elections. It still must pass the full senate, then make its way through the House and onto the governor’s desk. At that point a Constitutional Amendment would be placed on the ballot later this year for a vote of the people.


1
3 years ago

Top 20 potential 2018 Alabama gubernatorial candidates

Potential 2018 Alabama gubernatorial candidates
Potential 2018 Alabama gubernatorial candidates
Potential 2018 Alabama gubernatorial candidates

The 2016 presidential race will be the next big battle on the national political scene, but Alabama’s 2018 gubernatorial contest looms just over the horizon.

Here is Yellowhammer’s way-too-early list of potential 2018 contenders, presented in alphabetical order.

Tommy Battle

The Huntsville mayor has made it abundantly clear that he’s interested in the big job. Battle openly said in 2013 he was considering challenging Bentley. He ultimately decided to pass, but not before testing the fundraising waters by forming a political action committee called “Moving Alabama Forward.”

Strength: People in North Alabama know who he is.
Weakness: No one outside of North Alabama has a clue who he is, and he’s a Democrat, whether he runs as one or not.

Scott Beason

The tea party firebrand most well known for sponsoring Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation immigration law decided last year to leave the legislature after two terms in the house and two more in the senate, but he’s indicated he plans to stay engaged in the political debate.

“There are three primary issues I’m going to be focusing on: gun rights, school choice and energy,” Beason told Yellowhammer in a recent interview announcing he’s hitting the statewide speaking circuit.

After coming up short twice attempting to run for Congress, the question is whether Beason’s brand of conservatism can translate outside of his Gardendale legislative district.

Strength: Unquestioned conservative street cred.
Weakness: Has not shown an ability to raise the money needed to be a viable statewide candidate.

Slade Blackwell

The Mountain Brook state senator stayed mostly below the radar during his first term in the legislature, but recently made waves by being one of the first lawmakers to openly criticize Gov. Bentley for floating the idea of raising taxes.

Strength: Successful businessman from a wealthy family with a proven ability to raise big bucks. Money won’t be a problem.
Weakness: Low name recognition and uncertainty about how his Over the Mountain appeal will translate in rural areas.

Jo Bonner

The former south Alabama congressman is now running the University of Alabama System’s governmental affairs operation, but those close to him say he may not be done scratching his political itch. He decided not to run for governor in 2010, and after watching Bentley come out of nowhere, he may now regret it. Bonner has become a regular on the rotary and chamber of commerce speaking circuit.

Strength: His skills as a retail politician are borderline legendary, even Clinton-esque.
Weakness: By 2018, he will have been out of office and out of the minds of voters for over five years.

Young Boozer

The low-key, but well-liked state treasurer has the best accidental rapper’s name in Alabama political history. He raised some eyebrows at this year’s inauguration festivities by rattling off the names of all 67 Alabama counties in alphabetical order — by memory.

Strength: His name is unforgettable and he could self-finance his campaign.
Weakness: May have trouble connecting to average voters.

Will Brooke

The wildly successful Harbert executive ran a spirited but ultimately ill-fated campaign for Congress last year, and those close to him say the loss was particularly difficult because Brooke isn’t accustomed to losing at, well, anything. Don’t be surprised if the former Business Council of Alabama chairman returns for a statewide run in 2018.

Strength: Money, money, money.
Weakness: Congressional campaign was dogged by personal donations he made to Democrats in the past. That will be an issue in any GOP primary.

Rick Burgess

Burgess of Rick & Bubba fame has built an unparalleled level of trust with his army of loyal listeners over the years. He got more politically active in 2014 and was undefeated in the handful of races in which he made an endorsement. Most notably, Burgess is widely credited with playing a major role in Gary Palmer’s unexpected congressional victory. He hasn’t publicly indicated an interest in running for office, but has been a vocal advocate for Christians stepping up and getting more involved.

Strength: Huge trust among evangelicals, which make up a major chunk of Alabama voters.
Weakness: Completely unknown quantity as a candidate.

Bradley Byrne

The south Alabama congressman made a name for himself on the state level as the teachers’ union’s public enemy number one. It might have cost him the governorship, considering the AEA spent big in 2010 to take him out and usher Bentley in. He’s quickly proven himself to be an able lawmaker in D.C., and with recent revelations that Bentley plans to propose tax hikes, Byrne’s probably sitting down in south Alabama thinking, “I told you so.”

Strength: Been there, done that.
Weakness: There may be some lingering effects after he was massacred by negative ads in 2010.

David Carrington

The Jefferson County Commissioner and former Commission chairman would likely make the case to voters that he led Alabama’s most populous county out of bankruptcy and onto more stable financial footing.

Strength: Likable guy with a compelling personal, business and political story.
Weakness: It’s a long, long way from the Jefferson County Courthouse to the governor’s mansion.

Mike Hubbard

The State House Speaker has arguably been the most powerful politician in the state over the past four years, but recent legal troubles have at least temporarily sidetracked what was an almost certain 2018 gubernatorial run. If he beats the charges, he’ll be stronger than ever in Montgomery. If not, ballgame.

Strength: Unmatched ability to raise money.
Weakness: Even if he beats the charges against him, it’s too early to tell how the flow of negative press will effect him in in 2018.

Walt Maddox

Democrats’ bench is so shallow that Maddox, the mayor of Tuscaloosa, is about the only potential statewide candidate that regularly comes up in conversations about 2018.

Strength: By 2018 he’ll be a four-term mayor of Alabama’s fifth largest city.
Weakness: He’d have a “D” beside his name.

Del Marsh

The unquestioned leader of the Alabama Senate made the most daring state house maneuver in recent memory by pushing through Alabama’s first school choice bill in 2013. Since then he’s grown the Republican majority in the senate to an unprecedented level. He’s now arguably the state’s most powerful lawmaker. Those close to him say this is almost certainly his last term in the senate. The question is, does he want to exit the political scene, or just move on to a new challenge in the executive branch?

Strength: Staunchly anti-tax and can raise big bucks out of the business community.
Weakness: Lack of name recognition in the southern part of the state.

Roy Moore

Moore’s back on the national scene, getting name-dropped by the president, attacked by liberals and cheered on by social conservatives. He surprised a lot of political prognosticators by winning his current job without a runoff, but previous runs for governor suggest he may be bumping up against his ceiling in his role as Chief Justice.

Strength: Name recognition and intense support among the state’s most ardent social conservatives.
Weakness: Extremely polarizing, even among Republicans.

John Merrill

No one who’s spent more than five minutes with Alabama’s new secretary of state would deny that he is probably the most ambitious politician in the state. He recently tried to get out ahead of a quasi-sex scandal that has been rumored for months. The story hasn’t gained much traction outside of Montgomery, but would get a lot more scrutiny if he tries to climb up the next rung of the political ladder.

Strength: Relentless campaigner. He put hundreds of thousands of miles on his car in 2014.
Weakness: Personal integrity questions will be tough to shake with Alabama’s wide swath of values voters.

Arthur Orr

It looks like the Alabama Senate General Fund Budget Chairman is more likely to move up to Senate President Pro Tem than run statewide, but if he did take a crack at governor, he’d be able to raise a lot of money out of north Alabama.

Strength: Savvy political operator with serious governing experience.
Weakness: Totally unknown by most people outside of his Decatur-area state senate district.

Trip Pittman

The Senate Education Budget Chairman is a larger-than-life presence, both physically and as a political operator in the senate. He considered not running for re-election in 2014 so he could spend more time running his business, so it’s a reasonable bet that by 2018 he’ll be ready to move up or get out.

Strength: Libertarian streak (he was a Ron Paul delegate) would make him somewhat unique in the potential field.
Weakness: His refusal to take PAC money would make it more difficult to round up the cash needed for a statewide run.

Rob Riley

The Birmingham trial lawyer has taken a pass on every potential run for office since his dad left the governor’s mansion in 2011, but that doesn’t mean he’s not interested. He remains a player behind the scenes, and would immediately have the name recognition and network to be a contender.

Strength: Network of donors remains intact thanks to the Rileys’ continued involvement in legislative races even after the governor left office.
Weakness: Having a former governor for a dad comes with both advantages and baggage.

Martha Roby

In a crowded 2018 primary full of men, simply being a credible female candidate would instantly give Roby a big leg up, maybe even securing her place in an almost guaranteed runoff. It is unclear at this point if she’d be willing to give up her safe seat in congress to take a shot at governor, but she hasn’t actively shot down rumors that she’s considered it.

Strength: The only credible female candidate whose name frequently comes up in conversations about 2018.
Weakness: Lacks name recognition and fundraising ability outside of the 2nd Congressional District.

Sandy Stimpson

Mobile’s popular mayor ran an impressive campaign in 2013, culminating with an improbable victory over a two-term incumbent. Stimpson’s been a staple in the Alabama political scene for years, sitting on a number of influential boards. He’s frequently said he is focused on Mobile and has no desire to run for higher office, but if he changed his mind, he’d have the money to be a contender.

Strength: Serious personal wealth, unrivaled network in the business community.
Weakness: Totally unknown to voters outside of Mobile.

Luther Strange

It has long been assumed that Strange would run for U.S. Senate someday, but with Sessions in office until at least 2020 and Shelby running for another six-year term in 2016, he will have to either head to the sidelines for a couple of years or take a shot at governor.

Strength: The most statewide name recognition right out of the gate.
Weakness: The way his office has handled recent investigations has significantly damaged him with key members of the business community and major donors, and there has been some grumbling in the grassroots that he hasn’t been active enough in the gay marriage fight. It’s too early to tell if those issues will linger until 2018.


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