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 years ago

Alabama pays down $70 million in debt

Alabama State Capitol
Alabama State Capitol

From the office of Gov. Robert Bentley:

MONTGOMERY – Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday announced the state’s ability to repay $70 million to the Education Trust Fund’s Rainy Day Account before the close of Fiscal Year 2014, which ended September 30.

By law, Alabama was required to pay a minimum of $35 million to the debt in Fiscal Year 2014, but Governor Bentley released a conditional appropriation for an additional $35 million, bringing the total amount to $70 million paid back to the Rainy Day Fund this fiscal year.

“I have prioritized Alabama’s commitment to restore the Rainy Day Fund,” Governor Bentley said. “Together with a conservative, Republican majority in the Legislature, and working closely with House and Senate Budget Chairmen, we have made substantial progress in the state’s commitment to repaying the fund, thanks to an improving economy and stronger revenues. This year’s reimbursement is one of three payments we have made since Fiscal Year 2012 and totals more than $344 million.”

“Thanks to fiscally-responsible budgeting practices and the hard work of the men and women across this state, we are paying down hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of debt, living within our means and living up to the commitments made by the state,” Senate Finance and Taxation – Education Budget Chairman Trip Pittman (R-Daphne) said. “I share Governor Bentley’s commitment to keeping our state on sound financial footing for years to come.”

“I am extremely pleased that the State of Alabama has completed another fiscal year in which all education appropriations were fully funded,” House Ways and Means Education Chairman Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) said. “Thanks to Republican’s pro-growth, conservative budgeting principles we have not had a single education budget suffer from debilitating proration, while at the same time repaying the debt owed to the Rainy Day Account.”

The state transferred $437.4 million from the Rainy Day Account to support the Education Trust Fund in the 2009 fiscal year. Last year, $260.3 million was repaid.

The Rainy Day Account is part of the Alabama Trust Fund. Full repayment is required by September 30, 2015.

1
4 years ago

Republicans blast group of school supers for joining lawsuit against Ala. school choice law

Alabama Supreme Court building, Montgomery, Ala.
Alabama Supreme Court building, Montgomery, Ala.

30 local school superintendents from around Alabama have joined a lawsuit claiming the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA), a school choice bill passed by the Alabama Legislature in 2013, is unconstitutional, according to a report by al.com.

The group of superintendents, who represent about 22 percent of Alabama’s 136 school districts, filed a brief asking the Alabama Supreme Court to uphold a Montgomery Circuit Court ruling that the law violates Alabama’s constitution.

Judges on the Montgomery Circuit Court, which is typically friendly territory for the Alabama Education Association (AEA), previously sought to block the law in two separate cases arguing that the Legislature violated open meetings laws in the way the bill was passed. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed both of those cases after the rulings were appealed.

The court’s third attempt to block the law, which the superintendents are asking the Supreme Court to uphold, took a different legal approach, arguing that the AAA violated Alabama’s Constitution by, among other things, including more than one subject in the bill. The original bill allowed local school districts to apply to receive flexibility from certain state regulations, but was ultimately expanded to include the school choice provisions as well. The suit was filed by the AEA, Democratic state senator Quinton Ross, and the Lowndes County School Superintendent.


RELATED: Liberal judge strikes down Alabama’s school choice law, ruling unlikely to withstand appeal


Here’s an excerpt from Yellowhammer’s analysis of the Montgomery Circuit Court’s ruling the day it was released:

Only in extremely rare occasions are laws struck down for violating the single-subject rule. Responsible courts show a great deal of deference to the Legislature as long as different parts of a bill are conceivably connected. Several legal experts Yellowhammer spoke with today said it is extremely unlikely that today’s ruling will withstand appeal.

In spite of that, the superintendents filed a 20-page brief on Aug. 20 urging the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court’s ruling this time.

“It is without dispute that the vast and overwhelming majority of students and parents in Alabama will suffer adverse consequences if this unconstitutional legislation is allowed to stand,” the superintendents wrote in their brief.

But Republican lawmakers who pushed the school choice bill through the Legislature do, indeed, dispute that claim.

“It’s unfortunate that these superintendents do not believe that parents who have children trapped in a failing school should have the choice to move them to a non-failing school,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said in a statement to Yellowhammer.

And Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), who chairs the Senate’s education budget committee, had an even stronger response.

“What they need to focus on is making their schools non-failing instead of filing lawsuits,” Pittman said of the school superintendents who filed the brief.

The Montgomery Circuit court’s ruling blocked implementation of the law prospectively, meaning it has had no impact on the school choice tax credits awarded to families during the 2013-2014 school year.

Almost 800 students took advantage of the Accountability Act in its first semester by transferring out of their chronically failing school and into a better situation. And in spite of the claims that it would decimate public education, only 52 students transferred to a private school.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Meet the Alabama senator whose dire economic predications appear to be coming true

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

By: Tom Saunders, General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs, Alabama Forestry Association

June 2015 is one year away and the clock is ticking.

Why is this date important? It’s the date that the Education Rainy Day Fund must, by constitutional mandate, be repaid.

Six years ago, Gov. Bob Riley drained this account to the tune of $437.4 million in order to lessen the impact of proration on the education budget.

Why did he have to do that? Frankly, because of poor fiscal management by the Alabama legislature, which was controlled by Democrats at the time. They knew when they passed that year’s education appropriations bill that there was not going to be sufficient revenue to pay for it. But they went ahead and did it anyway out of political expediency.

They had gotten so used to the Federal Government bailing them out with “stimulus” money that they couldn’t help themselves.

So fast forward to today, and get ready for some numbers.

We have repaid $274.8 million to the Rainy Day Fund, but we still owe a balance of $162.6 million, which again, must be repaid by June 2015 — one short year away.

For the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the education appropriations bill includes an “absolute appropriation” of $35 million to repay the fund, and a “conditional appropriation” of $65 million.

Conditional appropriations are essentially line items in the State’s budget that will be paid on the condition that there are funds still available after all the “absolute” appropriations have been covered.

If Alabama’s revenues exceed the amount of money needed for “absolute appropriations,” and the State is below the spending “cap” created by the Rolling Reserve Act (which we are for FY14), then the difference is spent on the conditional appropriations set forth in the bill.

So how much is going to be leftover at the end of FY14? Good question. It depends on how well the economy performs.

The Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO) estimated during the debate over the education appropriations bill that Alabama’s economy would experience 3.5% growth this year. That would give us a budget surplus of around $100 million, plenty of funds to pay both the $35 million absolute appropriation and the $65 million conditional appropriation, and thus leave the need for a $62 million absolute appropriation in the FY15 bill.

The governor’s office predicted that the economy would grow even faster than LFO was estimating, which would lead to an even greater surplus and only require a $35 million absolute appropriation in the FY15 appropriations bill to make the Rainy Day Fund whole.

This week, unfortunately, the Federal Reserve sharply reduced its forecast for U.S. economic growth down to a paltry 2%, a far cry from the numbers mentioned above.

Among Alabama’s 140 legislators, there was one principal voice of reason that opposed the overly-optimistic scenarios.

Sen. Tripp Pittman (R-Montrose), Chairman of the Senate’s Education Trust Fund Committee, adamantly opposed anything short of a $62 million absolute appropriation. He fought for it on the Senate floor, even as legislator after legislator made the argument that massive economic growth was just right around the corner.

The House passed its bill with only $27.5 million appropriated to pay back the Rainy Day Fund. The Senate, thanks in large part to Sen. Pittman’s prevailing leadership, passed its bill with the full $62 million.

Unfortunately, when the conference committee of House and Senate members met to reconcile the differences between their bills, Sen. Pittman was only one of six conferees on the committee. As a result, the final bill only had a $35 million absolute repayment for FY15.

So now, without the previously anticipated economic growth, the State of Alabama is projected to come up at least $27 million short on its constitutionally-mandated commitment to repay the Rainy Day Fund, and that’s assuming that the conditional appropriation of $65 million is fully funded. Remember, LFO was anticipating a 3.5% growth rate for that to occur, but the Fed is now projecting a 2% growth rate for the rest of the year.

June 2015.

It’s coming fast.

Where will the money come from?

The legislature will most likely have to pass a “supplemental appropriations bill” during the next legislative session to repay the money. In order to do that, they will have to violate the Rolling Reserve Act, which was originally passed to require the legislature to exercise fiscal restraint.

Is this a fiscal crisis? No. The problem will ultimately be solved. But it will be a messy solution that looks like it will require the legislature to blast through spending caps.

All the more reason to pass a bill to make the Rolling Reserve Act a constitutional provision.

(A version of this article originally appeared on the Forestry Association’s governmental affairs blog)


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

1
4 years ago

Ala. senators continue push for Constitutional Convention to rein in Federal government

State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly in Dec. 2013.
State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly in Dec. 2013.

Alabama Senators Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) have for the past several months been engaged in a coordinated process with legislators from around the U.S. to move the country toward at state-led Constitutional Convention for the first time in history.

In short, a convention of the states is widely viewed as a last-ditch effort to push back against an overreaching federal government. Potential amendments being kicked around include term limits on federal lawmakers and caps on taxation and spending.

Roughly 100 state legislators from 32 states assembled at Mt. Vernon, Virginia last December to begin laying out ground rules that would be followed should such a convention ever be convened.

That process continued late last week when the Assembly of State Legislatures met again at the Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis.

The Assembly divided themselves into three committees: Judicial, Rules and Procedures, and Communications and Planning.

Sen. Orr was selected to serve on the Judicial Committee, which discussed how many states are currently calling for a convention, what type of notification is required for a call to be received by Congress, and other matters relating to the legal process of calling for a convention.

Sen. Pittman was selected to the Committee on Rules and Procedures. Among other things, Pittman’s committee affirmed the Assembly’s commitment to one state, one vote, meaning voting at any potential future conventions would not be based on each state’s population. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the Constitution.

No issues were formally discussed during the meeting. The group worked instead on the process, procedures and planning.

The Assembly’s focus on a “strict framework” stems from the fact that Article V of the U.S. Constitution leaves some ambiguity in the process of calling for a convention of the states. That has led to some concerns that a convention would be an unruly affair.

Sen. Pittman sought to ease those concerns after last December’s meeting, noting that several checks were being put in place to make a “runaway” convention impossible.

“We’re just meeting to put some rules and procedures in place, but this would be very structured,” he said. “The only way I’d support it is if it was a specific issue convention.”

Pittman reaffirmed his commitment to that process after last week’s meeting.

“Limiting the Federal Government is not going to happen inside the political culture and process of Washington, D.C.,” he told Yellowhammer. “It will require the States utilizing the Article V amendment process to reign in the excesses of the Federal authority. The first step is to draft and approve rules under which an Amendment Convention could safely take place. During this past week’s meeting in Indianapolis, I served on the Rules and Procedures Committee. We adopted the historical and fundamental rule of each state delegation having one vote. Now we can move forward with the additional rules and procedures necessary for a limited Article V Amendment Convention.”

Sen. Orr said he believes it is a positive step that legislators from all over the country have come together to start discussing an Article V convention.

“The meeting was but one more small step in what will be a very, very long process,” he said. “But one of the reasons, I believe, states have never come close to an Article V convening is that the state legislators from among the states rarely talk to one another and never have the ability to establish relationships of mutual trust. This process is changing the status quo.”

What do you think about the the potential for a Convention of the States? Do you think it’s a good idea? Let us know in the comment section below, or by tweeting @YHPolitics.


Check out more of Yellowhammer coverage of the Assembly of State Legislatures:
1. Alabama senators discuss potential constitutional convention at Mt. Vernon Assembly
2. Ala. Senators propose bills laying out guidelines for Convention of States
3. Alabama House passes resolution calling for Convention of the States


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Bentley signs budget without 2% teacher raise, Legislature calls it fiscally responsible

Gov. Bentley signing bills in his office (Photo: Office of the Governor)
Gov. Bentley signing bills in his office (Photo: Office of the Governor)

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Robert Bentley on Friday announced he had signed the Education Trust Fund Budget as passed by the Legislature without a 2 percent pay raise for teachers, which has been the most contentious intra-party squabble of the 2014 legislative session.

The budget was passed on the final day of the session, effectively preventing the governor from being able to attach any Executive Amendments to the bill. He had announced in early March his intention to attach an Executive Amendment to the budget that would provide a 2 percent pay raise for teachers and support personnel. Legislative leaders maintained throughout the debate that there was not enough money available to fund the pay raise.

Gov. Bentley’s office then sent out a press release later in the month announcing an agreement with legislative leaders to sign the budget without the pay raise, but with teacher health insurance funded at a level of $780 per individual per month. That would ensure that teachers’ take-home pay would not go down as a result of rising healthcare costs brought on by the implementation of ObamaCare.

“Our teachers, support personnel and retirees work hard and do a great job to prepare our students for success,” Bentley said at the time. “Their take-home pay should not be reduced by inadequate funding for the health insurance program. I appreciate the House and Senate Leadership, especially Budget Chairmen Bill Poole and Trip Pittman, for working with me to reach a solution that will not require our active and retired education employees to pay more out-of-pocket for their health insurance.”

But a few days later as the sessions was nearing its conclusion, the governor appeared to reverse course, reiterating his intention to amend any budget that did not include the 2 percent raise.

Republican legislative leaders vocally criticized the governor for the move, which they considered to be reneging on their deal. Bentley contended that he was only sticking to his original position.

This morning, the uncertainty came to an end as Gov. Bentley announced he would sign the budget without the raise. He began his press conference by praising some of the work the Legislature had done this session.

But he was pointedly critical of the Legislature’s decision to adjourn early to keep him from amending the budget, and said their “attitude” would not make the pay raise possible.

“I am disappointed that the Legislature decided not to provide a pay raise for our hard working teachers and support personnel,” Bentley said. “It is clear to me that the Legislature has no intention of passing a pay raise for teachers and support personnel at this time. Therefore, I will not call a Special Session right now. However, I will keep a close watch on incoming revenues over the next few months, and will consider asking the Legislature to support a mid-year pay raise for teachers and support personnel if the revenues are there to support it.”

Legislative leaders applauded the governor’s decision to sign the budget. They had contended from the beginning that it would be fiscally irresponsible to tack on a pay raise for teachers at this time.

Here are the statements that went out from legislative leaders in the wake of Gov. Bentley’s announcement:

House Education Budget Chairman Bill Poole:

I’m very comfortable with the budget we passed. It’s fiscally responsible. It’s sustainable. And it doesn’t put us in jeopardy of going back into proration. It also funds PEEHIP for active and retired employees. I look forward to making sure we’re investing in our classrooms in future years.

Senate Education Budget Chairman Trip Pittman:

I am glad the governor signed the Education Budget. By doing so he lived up to the agreement that was made to full fund PEEHIP and support the ETF Conference Committee Report. He is a man of his word.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh:

I applaud Governor Bentley for signing a fiscally-responsible education budget that protects against out-of-pocket health insurance premium increases for educators, which was largely caused by Obamacare.

It’s also equally important that we honor our commitment to repay the state’s debt. We have made significant progress in paying down the debt since taking office in 2010, and the appropriation in this year’s budget will ensure that more than 70 percent of that debt is repaid by the end of the next fiscal year. When voters allow government to borrow money in Alabama, they expect it to be paid back. We are continuing to fulfill our promise to do that with this budget.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard:

Unlike Washington, Republicans in the Alabama Legislature passed a balanced budget that provides needed funding for health insurance for education employees and retirees and prioritizes dollars that go directly into classrooms. I applaud Governor Bentley for signing this conservative and fiscally responsible budget.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Alabama Legislature completes massive welfare reform push

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur

Over the loud objections of Democrats in the Alabama House, Republicans pushed through a package of bills that will drastically reform Alabama’s taxpayer-funded public assistance programs.

The four-bill package includes measures to increase penalties for fraud; require welfare applicants to submit job applications before receiving benefits; prohibit spending of welfare benefits on liquor, tobacco, casinos and strip clubs; and allow for drug testing of welfare applicants who’ve had a drug conviction within the past five years.

The bills were sponsored by the two Alabama Senate Budget Chairmen, Sens. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Trip Pittman, R-Montrose.

Pittman’s bill, SB63, allows for drug testing of welfare applicants who have a prior drug conviction.

“Drug addiction is a serious, often life-threatening problem,” Pittman said. “By putting this check in the welfare application process, it will serve as an incentive for those who have a drug problem and are also in need of assistance to get help, and it protects hard-earned taxpayer dollars from enabling a dangerous habit.”

Alabama Senator Trip Pittman Yellow Hammer Politics
Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose

Sen. Orr sponsored the other three bills in the reform package.

SB114 makes it a crime to defraud many state and federal government-funded assistance programs like Medicaid, Social Security, food assistance and public housing.

SB115 requires welfare applicants to apply for at least three jobs before receiving benefits, a measure Orr said is intended to encourage applicants to utilize the benefits only as a last resort.

“Everyone wins when a welfare applicant is able to find a job instead of having to rely on public assistance,” Orr said. He added that the state of Pennsylvania denied as many as eight out of every ten welfare applicants after enacting a similar rule known as the pre-approval work search.

The final bill in the package, SB116, prohibits welfare recipients from spending public assistance benefits on alcohol and tobacco, and at strip clubs and gambling facilities. According to reports from other states, millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded public assistance funds have been spent on alcohol, tobacco and at casinos and strip clubs.

“It is a serious exploitation of a well-intended program, and quite frankly a slap in the face to taxpayers, for these public dollars to be used in such a way that is 180 degrees opposite of the program’s intent,” Orr said. “This kind of abuse shows a complete disregard for those who are genuinely in need.”

Democrats lashed out at Republicans for passing the reform measures, accusing them of targeting minorities and the poor. In spite of their protestations, the bills now go to Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Medicaid is devouring Alabama’s budget, but Democrats still want more

YH Medicaid Expansion

Alabama’s state budgets are making their way through the house and senate this week as legislators scramble to appropriate the state’s limited resources.

Much of the public debate has centered around the roughly $6 billion education budget, by far the largest pot of money in state government. The Alabama Education Association (AEA) called for an implausible 6 percent pay raise for teachers. Republican legislators found that a 1 percent bonus was likely the only economically feasible option this year.

The AEA will undoubtedly blame Republicans, per the usual. But they’d be more accurate if they pointed the finger at their Democratic allies in Washington, D.C.

PEEHIP, which provides health insurance benefits for Alabama’s active and retired education employees, is facing a $220 million shortfall in the coming year. That’s largely due to the enormous financial burden of ObamaCare, which was passed with exactly zero Republican votes.


Related: ObamaCare could keep Alabama teachers from getting a raise

“The budget before us has been a tremendous challenge, the biggest challenge I’ve faced as ETF chairman,” said Sen. Trip Pittman, the Senate Education Budget Committee chairman. “The reason for that is the economy has remained stagnant and has not rebounded.”

But while the education budget has sucked up most of the headlines, the state’s $1.8 billion General Fund budget is in far worse shape. It lacks the revenue streams of the education budget, which is the unfortunate result of decades of control by the state’s teachers’ union bosses and a complicit Democrat-controlled legislature.

Alabama’s cash-strapped General Fund is under tremendous pressure to increase funding to the Department of Corrections. Highly publicized revelations that prisoners have been abused for years at Tutwiler Women’s Prison were gut-wrenching and exacerbated the PR nightmare. But the the most pressing longterm issue is that the federal government could intervene if Alabama doesn’t do something about its prisons, which are currently filled to double their capacity.

The legislature increased the Dept. of Corrections’ appropriation last year by $14 million, but were unable to find the money to do more this year.


RELATED: Legislators must reform Alabama’s prisons or risk a federal judge doing it for us

As dire as the prisons situation sounds, it pales in comparison to the budgeting nightmare that Medicaid has become.

In 2003, Medicaid consumed 18 percent Alabama’s General Fund budget. In 2014, that number skyrocketed to an incredible 35 percent. The legislature appropriated an additional $70 million to the program this year to help fund it, but that hasn’t stopped the Obama Administration and their allies in the state from ramping up the calls for “more, more, more!”

Bogus stats touting the benefits of expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare have been propagated by special interest groups who stand to gain financially from the expansion and by the state’s liberal media.

Obama’s HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has publicly blamed Republican governors, specifically in the south, for the ObamaCare disaster because they refuse to expand the broken system. Never mind the fact that several Democrat governors have refused expansion to this point as well.

Alabama Senate Democrats have made Medicaid expansion their top priority this session. Senate Minority Leader Vivian Figures penned an open letter to Gov. Bentley touting the benefits of making the ever-growing program even larger.

“I plead with you to reconsider your stance on Medicaid expansion,” she wrote.

But the Democrats’ cries have fallen of deaf ears to this point, in the executive branch as well as the legislature.

“The Democrats’ only approach to Medicaid is to throw millions upon millions of dollars at the broken, flawed, inefficient and overly expensive liberal social program,” said House Speaker Mike Hubbard. “Republicans are focused on saving taxpayer dollars by reforming Medicaid and helping individuals move off of the government dole through growing the economy and creating more jobs.”

Yellowhammer will have more on Alabama’s budgets as they are finalized in the coming days.

In the mean time, here’s a chart that shows how Alabama currently spends all its money from both the Education Budget and the General Fund.

Alabama Appropriations Chart


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Ala. Senate: no more alcohol, tobacco, strippers or gambling with welfare checks

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur

The Alabama Senate passed a package of welfare reform legislation on Wednesday, including a bill prohibiting welfare recipients from spending public assistance benefits in certain ways.

Senate Bill 116, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would prohibit welfare recipients from spending public assistance benefits on alcohol and tobacco, and at strip clubs and gambling facilities. According to reports from other states, millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded public assistance funds have been spent on alcohol, tobacco and at casinos and strip clubs.

“It is a serious exploitation of a well-intended program, and quite frankly a slap in the face to taxpayers, for these public dollars to be used in such a way that is 180 degrees opposite of the program’s intent,” Orr said. “This kind of abuse shows a complete disregard for those who are genuinely in need.”

Several other welfare reform bills passed by the Senate on Wednesday including:

• SB63, sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, which allows for drug testing in instances where welfare applicants have a prior drug conviction.

SB87, sponsored by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, which requires able-bodied adult food stamp recipients without dependents to participate in at least 20 hours of work, job training or community service a week within three months of obtaining benefits.

• SB114, sponsored by Sen. Orr, which makes it a crime to defraud many state and federal government-funded assistance programs like Medicaid, Social Security, food assistance and public housing.

SB115, sponsored by Sen. Orr, which would require welfare applicants to apply for at least three jobs before receiving benefits


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Alabama Senate to welfare applicants: Work for it

Senators debate bills on the floor of the Alabama Senate
Senators debate bills on the floor of the Alabama Senate

The Alabama Senate passed a package of welfare reform legislation on Wednesday, including two bills that would require applicants to put in some work before receiving their taxpayer-funded check.

Senate Bill 87, sponsored by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, requires able-bodied adult food stamp recipients without dependents to participate in at least 20 hours of work, job training or community service a week within three months of obtaining benefits. Similar requirements were included in the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act passed in 1996, but states have been allowed to apply for waivers under the Obama Administration.

“On the federal level, these requirements were passed in 1996 with the bipartisan support of President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich,” said Taylor. “While they have been suspended at the federal level, it’s time to reinstate this common-sense provision to ensure we are helping move people from dependency on government to self sufficiency.”

Senate Bill 115, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would require welfare applicants to apply for at least three jobs before receiving benefits, a measure Orr said is intended to encourage applicants to utilize the benefits only as a last resort.

“Everyone wins when a welfare applicant is able to find a job instead of having to rely on public assistance,” Orr said. He added that the state of Pennsylvania denied as many as eight out of every ten welfare applicants after enacting a similar rule known as the pre-approval work search.

Two other welfare reform bills passed by the Senate on Wednesday including:

SB63, sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, which allows for drug testing in instances where welfare applicants have a prior drug conviction.

• SB116, sponsored by Sen. Orr, which would prohibit welfare recipients from spending public assistance benefits on alcohol and tobacco, and at strip clubs and gambling facilities.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Ala. Senate passes bill allowing drug testing of some welfare applicants

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

The Alabama Senate passed a package of welfare reform legislation on Wednesday, including a bill requiring drug testing of welfare applicants who have a drug possession or distribution conviction in the past five years. If the bill ultimately becomes law, individuals would be cut off from receiving benefits after three failed drug tests, but others in the household could continue receiving them.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, said the bill ensures that taxpayer-funded benefits are not enabling a reckless lifestyle.

“Drug addiction is a serious, often life-threatening problem,” Pittman said. “By implementing this check in the welfare application process, it will serve as an incentive for those who have a drug problem and are also in need of assistance to get help, and it protects hard-earned taxpayer dollars from enabling a dangerous habit.”

Democrats vocally opposed the bill, especially Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who summed up his colleagues’ opposition by saying, “All of these are about hitting poor people on public assistance.”

The Senate also passed four other welfare reform bills on Wednesday, including:

• SB87, sponsored by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, which requires able-bodied adult food stamp recipients without dependents to participate in at least 20 hours of work, job training or community service a week within three months of obtaining benefits.

• SB114, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, which makes it a crime to defraud many state and federal government-funded assistance programs like Medicaid, Social Security, food assistance and public housing.

• SB115, sponsored by Sen. Orr, which would require welfare applicants to apply for at least three jobs before receiving benefits

• SB116, sponsored by Sen. Orr, which would prohibit welfare recipients from spending public assistance benefits on alcohol and tobacco, and at strip clubs and gambling facilities.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Alabama House passes resolution calling for Convention of the States

Alabama House of Representatives
Alabama House of Representatives

The Alabama House of Representatives today passed House Joint Resolution 49, an application to Congress calling for a Constitutional Convention under Article V of the United States Constitution.

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. It takes an affirmative vote from three-fourths (38) of the states to actually amend the constitution. Each state would only get one vote on proposed amendments.

The resolution passed today by the Alabama House strictly limits the purpose of the 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.

Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, told Yellowhammer that he introduced the resolution because he believes a convention is the last available option to force the federal government to live within its means.

“We’re calling for restraints on the federal government,” Johnson said. “That means an amendment that forces them to balance the budget and stops these overreaching federal mandates. We’re also calling for term limits on federal elected offices.”

Johnson said it is important that the states are able to limit the scope of the convention ahead of time, which his resolution does, to mitigate the risk of a “runaway convention.”

“Because we’ve never done it, the idea that there could be a ‘runaway convention’ is always brought up as a concern,” Johnson said. “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?”

This resolution, unless rescinded by a succeeding Legislature, constitutes a continuing application until at least two-thirds of all State Legislatures have made application for a convention to provide for these purposes.

It now goes up to the Senate, where several legislators have already been actively involved in the process leading up to a potential Constitutional Convention.

In December of last year, Alabama state senators Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, joined roughly 100 state legislators from 32 states at Mt. Vernon, Virginia to discuss the ground rules of a potential Convention of the States.

State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly
State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly

The full resolution passed by the Alabama House today can be read below.

WHEREAS, the Founders of our Constitution empowered state legislators to be guardians of liberty against future abuses of power by the federal government; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has created a crushing national debt through improper and imprudent
spending; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative process of federal mandates, most of which are unfunded to a great extent; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has ceased to live under a proper interpretation of the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, it is the solemn duty of the states to protect the liberty of our people, particularly for the generations to come, to propose amendments to the Constitution of the United States through a Convention of the States under Article V to place clear restraints on these and related abuses of power; now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOSUES THEREOF CONCURRING, That the Legislature of the States of Alabama hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention of the states limited to proposing amendments that impose fiscal restrains on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State is hereby directed to transmit copies of this application to the President and Secretary of the United States Senate and to the Speaker and Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, and to the members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States Congress from this state; and to also transmit copies hereof to the presiding officers of each of the legislative houses in the several states, requesting their cooperation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this application constitutes a continuing application in accordance with Article V of the Constitution of the United States until the Legislatures of at least two-thirds of the several states have made applications on the same subject.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Sweeping welfare reform package advances in Ala. Senate

Senators debate bills on the floor of the Alabama Senate
Senators debate bills on the floor of the Alabama Senate

Quick Hits:
• Four bills reforming Alabama’s public assistance programs passed out of committee this week
• Senate Bill 63 allows drug testing of welfare recipients with a prior drug conviction
• Senate Bill 114 makes it a crime to defraud public assistance programs
• Senate Bill 115 requires welfare applicants to prove they’re trying to get a job
• Senate Bill 116 prohibits welfare recipients from spending benefits on alcohol, tobacco, strippers and gambling


A package of bills that will reform many of the state’s public assistance programs were passed out of committee Wednesday with bipartisan support.

The four-bill package includes measures to increase penalties for fraud in taxpayer-funded public assistance programs, prohibit spending of welfare benefits on liquor, tobacco, casinos and strip clubs, require welfare applicants to submit job applications before receiving benefits, and allow for drug testing of welfare applicants with a drug conviction with the past five years.

The bills are being sponsored by the two Alabama Senate Budget Chairmen, Sens. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Trip Pittman, R-Montrose.

“With out-of-control spending on the federal level, we have an obligation to taxpayers to ensure the state is taking the necessary steps to protect these programs designed to help those genuinely in need,” Pittman said.

Pittman’s bill allows for drug testing of welfare applicants who have a prior drug conviction.

“Drug addiction is a serious, often life-threatening problem,” Pittman said. “By putting this check in the welfare application process, it will serve as an incentive for those who have a drug problem and are also in need of assistance to get help, and it protects hard-earned taxpayer dollars from enabling a dangerous habit.”

Sen. Orr is sponsoring the other three bills in the reform package.

Senator Arthur Orr Alabama Yellow Hammer Politics
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur

One of them makes it a crime to defraud many state and federal government-funded assistance programs like Medicaid, Social Security, food assistance and public housing. Studies indicate that Alabama is losing millions of dollars each year to health care fraud and abuse alone.

Another one of Orr’s bills would require welfare applicants to apply for at least three jobs before receiving benefits, a measure he said is intended to encourage applicants to utilize the benefits only as a last resort.

The final bill in the package would prohibit welfare recipients from spending public assistance benefits on alcohol and tobacco, and at strip clubs and gambling facilities. According to reports from other states, millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded public assistance funds have been spent on alcohol, tobacco and at casinos and strip clubs.

“It is a serious exploitation of a well-intended program, and quite frankly a slap in the face to taxpayers, for these public dollars to be used in such a way that is 180 degrees opposite of the program’s intent,” Orr said. “This kind of abuse shows a complete disregard for those who are genuinely in need.”


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
4 years ago

Two top Ala. Senators propose bills laying out guidelines for Convention of States

From Left: Sen. Trip Pittman, Sen. Arthur Orr, Rep. Ken Johnson, Rep. Barry Moore
From Left: Sen. Trip Pittman, Sen. Arthur Orr, Rep. Ken Johnson, Rep. Barry Moore

Two top-ranking Alabama State Senators today held a press conference to stress the importance of establishing guidelines for amending the U.S. Constitution through a Convention of the States, as outlined in Article V of the Constitution.

Working with lawmakers from 31 other states through the Mt. Vernon Assembly, Senators Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, are sponsoring two bills that would set parameters on delegates to an amendment convention in the event one is called to amend the U.S. Constitution.

Under Article V of the nation’s governing document, an amendment convention can be convened if two-thirds of state legislatures, or 34 states, approve an application for the convention to occur. Proposed amendments would then have to be ratified by three-fourths, or 38 states.

The proposed bills in the Alabama legislature designate a process by which delegates are selected to represent Alabama at the convention and establish guidelines for delegates to follow.

Senate Bill 199, sponsored by Pittman, is designed to hold potential delegates accountable by requiring the Legislature to adopt instructions for delegates, in addition to providing that a vote by a delegate outside the scope of the Legislature’s instructions is void.

“From out-of-control spending to seemingly endless gridlock, it’s easy to see why so many Americans think Washington is broken,” Pittman said. “Fortunately our nation’s Founding Fathers had the foresight to provide states with a mechanism to hold the federal government accountable. Article V of the U.S. Constitution is an important protection tool for states to use against a runaway federal government. It’s equally important, however, that the states have checks in place to ensure delegates honestly represent the views and beliefs of Alabamians, not special interests. These two bills will ensure that Alabama’s delegates are accountable to the people if and when a convention of states is convened.”

[RELATED: Alabama legislator introduces resolution calling for Convention of the States]

Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Orr, establishes qualifications for delegates and gives the Legislature the authority to appoint and recall delegates.

“Nearly three out of four Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction,” Orr explained. “The national debt is skyrocketing, only to be compounded by trillions of dollars in unfunded entitlement programs. By many accounts, the federal government has far overstepped its bounds with unprecedented regulations into numerous areas of our economy and everyday lives. Given the dire outlook, many are realizing that a state-led amendment convention is our best hope for a positive change of direction. If nothing else, this movement of states is a sharp reminder to Congress that we mean business.”

Orr and Pittman also pointed out that while all amendments to the U.S. Constitution to date have been proposed by Congress, 20 states, including Alabama, have petitioned Congress to call a state-led convention on a balanced budget amendment to control unchecked federal spending. This coalition, they said, shows a positive trend of states that are ready and willing to take on a crucial problem Congress has long ignored.

In 2011, the Alabama House and Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 100, sponsored by Orr, formally petitioning Congress to call a convention under Article V for the specific purpose of passing a federal balanced budget amendment, requiring that, in the absence of a national emergency, federal spending for any fiscal year not exceed total federal revenue.

Both SB199 and SB200 have received their first reading and are pending action by the Senate Committee on Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
5 years ago

Alabama legislator introduces resolution calling for Convention of the States

Alabama House of Representatives
Alabama House of Representatives

Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, this week introduced a resolution in the Alabama House of Representatives calling for a Convention of the States in an effort to check federal government spending and mandates and calling for term limits on certain federal elected officials.

In December of last year, Alabama state senators Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, joined roughly 100 state legislators from 32 states at Mt. Vernon, Virginia to discuss the ground rules of a potential Convention of the States.

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.

Rep. Ken Johnson (Left) with Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (Right)
Rep. Ken Johnson (Left) with Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (Right)

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.

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

Rep. Johnson told Yellowhammer this morning that he introduced the resolution because he believes a convention is the last available option to force the federal government to live within its means.

“We’re calling for restraints on the federal government,” Johnson said. “That means an amendment that forces them to balance the budget and stops these overreaching federal mandates. We’re also calling for term limits on federal elected offices.”

Johnson said the states are able to limit the scope of the convention ahead of time, to mitigate the risk of a “runaway convention.”

“Because we’ve never done it, the idea that there could be a ‘runaway convention’ is always brought up as a concern,” Johnson said. “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?”

Johnson’s full resolution can be read below. 37 members of the Alabama House signed on as co-sponsors.

WHEREAS, the Founders of our Constitution empowered state legislators to be guardians of liberty against future abuses of power by the federal government; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has created a crushing national debt through improper and imprudent
spending; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative process of federal mandates, most of which are unfunded to a great extent; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has ceased to live under a proper interpretation of the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, it is the solemn duty of the states to protect the liberty of our people, particularly for the generations to come, to propose amendments to the Constitution of the United States through a Convention of the States under Article V to place clear restraints on these and related abuses of power; now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOSUES THEREOF CONCURRING, That the Legislature of the States of Alabama hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention of the states limited to proposing amendments that impose fiscal restrains on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State is hereby directed to transmit copies of this application to the President and Secretary of the United States Senate and to the Speaker and Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, and to the members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States Congress from this state; and to also transmit copies hereof to the presiding officers of each of the legislative houses in the several states, requesting their cooperation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this application constitutes a continuing application in accordance with Article V of the Constitution of the United States until the Legislatures of at least two-thirds of the several states have made applications on the same subject.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
5 years ago

Two Alabama senators discuss potential constitutional convention at Mt. Vernon Assembly

State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly
State Sens. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, at the Mount Vernon Assembly

Two Alabama state senators joined roughly 100 state legislators from 32 states at Mt. Vernon, Virginia this past weekend to discuss the ground rules of a potential convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution.

The idea has gained steam in the nationwide conservative grassroots community this year 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. Potential amendments being kicked around include term limits on federal lawmakers and caps on taxation and spending.

Recent polling shows 74 percent of Americans support a balanced budget amendment and 75 percent support term-limiting members of congress.

But the main work at the Mount Vernon Assembly this past weekend focused not on actual amendments, but on what rules would be followed should such a convention ever be convened.

A Resolution of the Mount Vernon Assembly to prepare to write the rules for an Amendment Convention of the States was passed by voice vote subject to additional language.

“We discussed the reality that the biggest threat to America is an irresponsible Federal Government,” Alabama State Senator Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, told Yellowhammer. “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.”

The Assembly’s focus on a “strict framework” stems from the fact that Article V leaves some ambiguity in the process, leading to some concerns that a convention of the states would be an unruly affair. Because of the unknowns, there is a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to convening 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 on the Heritage Foundation. “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.”

Sen. Pittman said that several checks would have to be put in place to ease concerns over a “runaway” convention.

“We’re just meeting to put some rules and procedures in place, but this would be very structured,” he said. “The only way I’d support it is if it was a specific issue convention.”

Several resolutions would also have to be passed by the Alabama legislature dealing with the Alabama delegation to a convention, including a provision that voids any vote cast by an Alabama delegate that is outside the instructions of the Alabama legislature that sent them.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, also attended the Mt. Vernon Assembly, but was not immediately available for comment.

Yellowhammer will have more on the Mt. Vernon Assembly and related efforts soon.

But what do you think? Is a convention of the states a good idea? Is it needed? What amendments would you like to see?


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
5 years ago

Top 7 most conservative Alabama legislators

Alabama State House
Alabama State House

1. Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise

Rep. Barry Moore
Rep. Barry Moore

Freshman representative Barry Moore is an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. He’s a founder or investor in multiple successful businesses, most notably Barry Moore Industries, a commercial waste management company based in Enterprise. Every vote he casts in the legislature is informed by his extensive private sector experience.

If it’s about smaller government, lower taxes, less spending or decreased government regulation, Moore’s going to be with you 100 percent of the time.

With Ft. Rucker located in his district, Moore has also been a leading advocate for military families. He shepherded a bill that made it easier for active duty military personnel to get in-state tuition, and a similar bill making it easier for military spouses to get business licenses. He also sponsored a bill that would’ve reduced unemployment benefits for certain persons receiving pension payments.

The vote that most illustrates Moore’s rock-ribbed conservatism occurred during the 2011 session. A bill to extend unemployment benefits was passed overwhelmingly in the House by a vote of 94-1. The one “no” vote? Barry Moore.

In a state house packed full of Republicans, Moore is the most dependable conservative vote in the Alabama legislature.

2. Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle

Rep. Ed Henry
Rep. Ed Henry

Known among his colleagues for his sense of humor and willingness to say — and tweet — exactly what’s on his mind, Rep. Henry really hit his stride as a legislator during the 2013 session.

He was the lead House sponsor on the Omnibus Gun Bill, giving Alabama what proponents of the bill called “the strongest Second Amendment protections in the country.” The gun bill was one of the most contentious pieces of legislation during the 2013 session. When negotiations got heated between staunch Second Amendment advocates, business interests, law enforcement personnel and other stakeholders, Henry was a steady, constitutional-conservative champion, balancing Second Amendment and Fifth Amendment concerns in an effort to build consensus.

Over the last few sessions, Henry sponsored the “Tim Tebow Act,” a bill that would allow homeschooled students equal access to sports and extracurricular activities; a “loser pays” bill to discourage frivolous lawsuits; and numerous pro-life bills.

If you’re a conservative, you want Henry in the room working for you.

3. Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne

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

Pittman’s libertarian streak is a little unnerving to his senate colleagues sometimes, but if the preservation of the free market is a big deal for you, Pittman’s your guy. He was even a member of Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign team in Alabama.

His top duty in the senate is overseeing the biggest pot of money in state government — the education budget.

The budget has not experienced proration since Pittman took over at the helm.

When he’s not mixing it up on the seventh floor of the state house, Pittman runs Pittman Tractor Company, an Authorized Hyundai Dealer selling and repairing heavy equipments all over south Alabama.

A small business owner who fiercely defends the free market. That’s music to conservatives’ ears.

4. Sen. Phil Williams, R-Gadsden

Alabama State Senator Phil Williams Yellow Hammer Politics
Sen. Phil Williams

Williams is a hard-charging conservative bulldog, a trait that likely comes from his quarter century of military service that included multiple tours overseas — one each in Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier this month, LTC Williams took over command of the 4th Alabama Army National Guard.

In the legislature, Williams has pushed bills on a wide range of conservative issues.

He led the floor debate and ultimately helped win the repeal of the legislative pay raise Democrats gave themselves in 2007. He’s sponsored and supported numerous pro-life bills, including twice carrying the Personhood bill, which declares that life begins at conception. In recent sessions he’s been the lead sponsor on numerous proposals aimed at streamlining and downsizing state government.

Prior to his current private sector gig as an attorney with his own firm, Williams & Associates, LLC, Williams was in full-time ministry for seven years with the international youth outreach organization YoungLife.

5. Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale
Sen. Scott Beason

Never one to shy away from a fight, Tea Party favorite Scott Beason has been in the middle of just about every controversial bill the Alabama legislature has taken up in recent years.

Want to pass the country’s toughest immigration law? Beason will be the lead sponsor. Want to expand and protect gun rights? Beason’s your guy. Want to repeal Common Core? Beason’s leading the charge.

There are a lot of legislators who could be on this list based on their conservative voting record. Beason’s on here because he’s not just going to vote for it, he’s going to sponsor it, stump for it, yell at the press about it and push his colleagues to support it until it’s finally done.

6. Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Arab

Sen. Clay Scofield
Sen. Clay Scofield

Scofield is the senate’s tort reform champion. He’s led the charge against frivolous lawsuits as part of the GOP’s efforts to make Alabama the most business-friendly state in the country. He’s a guaranteed “yes” vote on any piece of conservative legislation, and a “no” vote on anything that strays from his conservative, down-home roots.

Scofield is also one of Alabama’s most socially conservative legislators. He has sponsored and supported numerous pieces of pro-life legislation since he was elected just three short years ago.

7. Rep. Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville

Rep. Kurt Wallace
Rep. Kurt Wallace

Wallace describes himself in his bio as a “Conservative Christian who will fearlessly defend my God, country, and family against all who would do them harm.”

He’s is a staunch defender of Alabama’s right-to-work status. His very first bill in the legislature paved the way to make it more difficult for employee unions to organize using intimidation. It was past as part of Republicans’ “Handshake with Alabama,” a series of bills delivering on GOP campaign promises after the 2010 elections.

He’s earned a reputation around the state house as a calm operator who stands on principle, even when it’s not politically correct or socially convenient.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

1
5 years ago

Alabama budget chairmen: ‘no proration or mid-year cuts’

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 — On Tuesday, the first day of the 2014 fiscal year, the Education Budget chairmen of the Alabama House and Senate announced that the state’s education budget will avoid proration and mid-year cuts, a positive development they say reflects Republicans’ responsible budgeting practices.

“Unlike the budget situation unfolding in Washington, Alabama Republicans have put the state on firm financial footing by enacting fiscally responsible reforms to ensure we are not spending more than we are taking in,” Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, said. “We have avoided proration and we are paying down our debts because of the discipline and leadership shown by state lawmakers. These budgeting practices should be an example for Congress to follow.”

Both Pittman and his fellow budget chairman, Rep. Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, said that Alabama’s economic growth has also allowed the state to pay down a large chunk of the $437 million that was borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund’s rainy day account.

“This Republican majority has crafted sound, conservative, responsible education budgets over recent years that have weathered the economic downturn, avoided devastating proration and substantially paid down our debt to the Rainy Day Fund while at the same time reforming and improving education in our state without raising taxes,” Poole declared. “Unlike the prior Democratic majority, Republicans have made the tough, common-sense decisions necessary to ensure we’re living within our means, continuing to fund essential and innovative programs, and keeping on the path to improve Alabama’s public education system.”

Pittman and Poole said they have spoken with Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice and will sit in on the next Board of Education meeting when the School Board will discuss the education budget.

Alabama’s Education budget has not experienced proration since Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010.


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamYHN

1
5 years ago

Sources: Fincher is running for Congress

Rep. Chad Fincher
According to sources familiar with his thinking, State Representative Chad Fincher (R – Semmes) is running for Congress in Alabama’s First Congressional District, and may make his announcement as soon as early next week.

Fincher made a name for himself in Republican circles during the 2013 legislative session by sponsoring the Alabama Accountability Act, the GOP’s landmark school choice bill that was the most-discussed issue of the session.

Fincher will join State Rep. Randy Davis, Journalist Quin Hillyer, businessman Dean Young, former Marine James Halland, realtor Jessica James, and former state senator Bradley Byrne is the official entrants into the race. State Senators Trip Pittman and Bill Hightower, and Baldwin County Commissioner Tucker Dorsey, among others, remain on the fence.

“Fincher’s a sleeper in this race,” a Republican political consultant told Yellowhammer Thursday morning. “He may not have the name ID that a Byrne or a Pittman have, but if he can raise the money, he’ll be a strong candidate with a real shot at making it a race.”


Related:
Hillyer fires first shots of the AL-01 race, releases TV/web ad

What else is going on?
1. Hillyer fires first shots of the AL-01 race, releases TV/web ad
2. Roby touts amendment to prohibit bonuses for VA executives
3. Alabama Democrats & Farrakhan get the old band back together
4. Sessions, Cruz, Lee & Grassley team up to fight gang of eight immigration bill
5. Wetumpka Tea Party president gives emotional congressional testimony

1
5 years ago

Six Questions for the 2014 Election Cycle

Here are six story lines we will be watching closely as campaign season gets underway:

1. Will Bentley expand Medicaid?

The June fundraising window is fast approaching but a credible primary challenger to Governor Robert Bentley has still not emerged. The Governor’s approval numbers remain strong. Barring something unforeseen, he is positioned to win reelection with relative ease.

But there is at least one major policy decision out there that could be a political pitfall.

Bentley has consistently said that he would not opt-in to expanding a “broken” Medicaid program under ObamaCare. Medicaid reform was a major part of the 2013 legislative session. Does the governor think that the reforms “fixed” the program enough to reconsider expanding it?

The leftwing Alabama press has started dripping out stories advocating for the expansion. But nothing would attract a challenger from the right quicker than expanding the state’s largest entitlement program.

2. Will Senate Republicans maintain a super majority?

Senate Republicans had a tough time keeping things moving this session, even with a filibuster-proof super majority. If Democrats can peel off a seat or two in 2014, or if the AEA can successfully plant some of their guys in Republican primaries — as they did with David Standridge and Randall Shedd recently in the House — it will be extremely challenging to continue pushing conservative reforms through the upper chamber.

A few of the districts the AEA will likely target include 8 (McGill), 9 (Scofield), 10 (Williams), 12 (Marsh), and 30 (Taylor).

3. Who’s not going to run for re-election?

Rumors have bounced around for months that Senators Del Marsh and Trip Pittman may not run for reelection in 2014.

Pittman has indicated to Yellowhammer that he has not made up his mind yet about 2014, but also said he is weighing a run for Congress in the First Congressional District.

Marsh in 2011 sold his company, Aerospace Coatings International, for somewhere between a trillion and a zillion dollars. Leading the Senate is without question one of the most exasperating jobs in Alabama politics. Marsh has done the job well, but with his personal wealth secure and few political challenges left to tackle, is he ready to move on to the next phase of his life?

If Pittman and Marsh — and others — start raising money in June, we’ll know they are coming back. If not, jockeying for senate leadership positions will be a major story line of the 2014 legislative session.

Smart money says they’ll both seek reelection, but rumors continue to swirl.

4. How will ALFA’s political operation adapt to their first Republican-centered election cycle?

ALFA has been a well known grassroots force in Alabama politics for decades. They’ve been a bit slow to adapt to the new Republican-controlled landscape, but ALFA President Jimmy Parnell has indicated to Yellowhammer that he’s serious about changing the culture inside their political operation.

The recent departure of long time ALFA political chief John Pudner suggests changes may be on the way. Insiders will be watching closely to see who they plug in to head up their political shop during the upcoming cycle.

5. What role will incumbent protection PACs play in 2014?

Incumbent protection PACs on the right will be working overtime in 2014 to counter the AEA’s decision to spend an extra $4 million in 2014 and hire Obama’s grassroots organization.

The most active incumbent protection PACs to watch out for include NETPAC, STORM PAC and 2014 PAC, which are controlled by Mike Hubbard, Del Marsh and their allies, and The Business Council of Alabama’s Progress PAC.

6. Will Terry Dunn back off his enviro push in an attempt to salvage his reelection chances?

Dunn’s decision to align himself with leftwing environmentalists has made him the top target for a Republican primary challenge in 2014. Conservative candidates have been coming out of the woodwork.

He’s had ample opportunity to make a course correction, but at this point it is probably two late for Dunn to shake the environmentalist stigma attached to his name.


What else is going on?
1. Fox News president pushes back against press intimidation
2. Alabama politicos react to Bonner resignation
3. Handicapping the Upcoming Congressional Race in AL01
4. Jo Bonner to leave Congress, take job at Univ. of Alabama System
5. Hobby Lobby Continues Fight for Religious Liberty

1
5 years ago

Handicapping the Upcoming Congressional Race in AL01

BY CLIFF SIMS & JEFF POOR

Less than five minutes after Yellowhammer broke the news that Congressman Jo Bonner would be resigning from congress, speculation was already running rampant about who might run for his seat. After reaching out to political insiders and potential candidates, here’s an early attempt at handicapping the field in AL-01.

Candidates are listed from most likely to be elected, on down. In an effort to pair down the list, any candidate who has already indicated they won’t be running has been left off.

Bradley Byrne

Early money is on Byrne. Although the first congressional seat has never been held by a candidate from Baldwin Co., Byrne has ties to Mobile. He can split the geographical spread.

He is probably the first name that popped into many Alabama politicos’ minds when they heard Bonner was planning to resign. The former state senator and head of Alabama’s two-year college system came very close to landing in the governor’s office in 2010. He placed first in the Republican primary, but fell short of reaching the 50 percent threshold needed to win.

Byrne has remained somewhat active in the political discourse since 2010 through his non-profit group, Reform Alabama.

Funniest line we got about Byrne while calling around to get feedback: “AEA doesn’t play in congressional races, then again they’d probably spend $2 million to keep Byrne from becoming dog catcher.”

Trip Pittman

Alabama Senator Trip Pittman Yellow Hammer Politics
Sen. Trip Pittman

As a powerful budget chairman in the state senate, Pittman has been a major player since Republicans took over the majority in 2010. The prospect of going from being one of the most powerful senators in a body of 35, to being a freshman congressman in a body of 435 will no doubt play a role in his decision making process.

Pittman has the ability to raise a lot of money from individual donors, as he has shown in his Senate races. He would be an appealing candidate to both business and grassroots conservatives.

“I’ll think about it and pray about it,” Pittman told Yellowhammer this afternoon. “I’ll consider it.”

Sam Cochran

Since winning the sheriff’s race handily back in 2006, Cochran has been the most solid Republican in Mobile County. Insiders in the first congressional district say it’s hard for them to imagine Cochran losing a race to a Baldwin County candidate with the strength candidates out of Mobile Co. have displayed over the last 48 years, with just three people filling the void.

Almost all of the folks on the ground in the District say this race will likely come down to Byrne and Cochran. If it does, it will be tough to bet against Mobile County (Cochran).

However, his position on gun rights could make him vulnerable.

Sandy Stimpson Yellowhammer Politics
Sandy Stimpson

Sandy Stimpson

The only reason Stimpson is not much higher on this list is because it is highly unlikely he will forego his campaign for mayor of Mobile and transition to a run for Congress. But he would immediately become the favorite if he did.

His campaign infrastructure is already in place, his name ID is high (and rising) and the financial resources he could tap into would outclass the competition.

[Update: Stimpson says he will not be running for Congress]

Chad Fincher

Fincher’s made a name for himself in Republican circles as the sponsor of the Accountability Act. Some say it might be a little early for Fincher to make a move for U.S. Congress, but he could be a sleeper.

Rep. Randy Davis

After receiving a lot of encouragement to run for mayor of Daphne last cycle, Davis ultimately decided to stay in the legislature. But sources close to Davis say he is very likely to announce he will be running for Congress this time around. If he and Sen. Pittman both run, they could potentially eat into each other’s base of support.

Bill Hightower

Hightower has been in the state senate for less than two months, but he’s already proven his talent as a campaigner against a heavily funded opponent. Sources close to Hightower indicated to Yellowhammer that he will consider a run for Congress. However, at this point it is probably unlikely he will run so soon after being elected to the senate.

Quin Hillyer

Hillyer announced his intention to run just hours after Bonner’s resignation. But the long-time semi-Washington, D.C. quasi-pundit and former staffer for Rep. Bob Livingston doesn’t seem to have earned a household moniker in the first district.

However, Hillyer has the ability to activate the University of Mobile base, much like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee before, which is at least worth watching in a low-turnout election.

Connie Hudson

Well, what can you say? Mobile County Commissioner Hudson has clawed her way up from city councilwoman to county commissioner. She’s had her stumbles along the way, with a failed bid for state senate.

Field

In a tumultuous time of politics, someone could rise from the ashes and win the Republican nomination, or as the Democratic nominee/token opposition could pull off the upset.

If PPP decides to poll, then this becomes a likely position.

Tony Kennon

The Orange Beach mayor is a “fan favorite.” Just know the whole Steve Russo thing is what people think of when they put Orange Beach and politics together.

Tucker Dorsey

A Baldwin County commissioner who is an up-and-comer with little to lose – why not make a name for yourself? He’s indicated that he’s considering a run.

Uncle Henry

He’s been a fixture of Mobile for 30 years or so, and is included on this list because he’s had the best quote of the “campaign” so far:

Likely outcome: A crowded primary will ultimately result in a run-off. While a Baldwin County candidate is tops in this contest early on, in the end a run-off between a Baldwin County candidate and a Mobile County candidate historically results in the Mobile County candidate as the victor.


What else is going on?
1. Jo Bonner to leave Congress, take job at Univ. of Alabama System
2. Hobby Lobby Continues Fight for Religious Liberty
3. AEA Plans to Hire Obama Political Operation for 2014
4. Bentley Signs Gun Bill into Law
5. Cap-and-Trade by Other Means

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5 years ago

Alabama Should Push Forward with School Choice

Governor Robert Bentley on Wednesday signed an executive amendment that would delay portions of the Accountability Act, the session’s biggest victory for Republicans, from taking effect.

The Governor’s executive amendment would immediately put into effect the portion of the Accountability Act that gives schools the flexibility to opt out of certain rules and regulations, but would delay for two years the ability of parents with children in failing schools to get a tax credit to help send their children to a non-failing public or private school. It would also delay for two years a scholarship program set up for children from low income families to do the same.

The amendment sent shockwaves through GOP circles and set the Governor’s team in motion working to frame the debate as an issue of fiscal responsibility.

The Governor’s argument is that the Accountability Act jeopardizes the state’s ability to pay back $423 million to the state’s rainy day fund by September of 2015, as is constitutionally mandated after the passage of Amendment 1 last year. “To be fiscally conservative Republicans,” the governor said, “We’ve got to pay our debts.”

It’s a compelling, easy-to-explain argument. While the overwhelming majority of Alabamians support school choice, it takes longer to explain the importance of what the Accountability Act will do than it does to simply say “we need to be fiscally responsible.”

That, in short, is what has put the Governor in such a strong position as he communicates his message on this issue around the state.

But it’s not that simple.

The Governor’s position is based entirely on the premise that the Accountability Act will jeopardize the state’s ability to pay back the rainy day fund. That premise is rejected by both the House and Senate budget chairmen, as well as one of the Senate’s chief budget hawks, Senator Scott Beason.

After spending most of Thursday digging into the nuances of the education budget with members of the Governor’s staff and the House and Senate budget chairmen, I’ve come to the conclusion that fiscal responsibility and the Accountability Act are simply not mutually exclusive.

Will there be a greater chance we will pay off the rainy day fund on time if the Accountability Act is delayed? Absolutely. Any time you take a line item out of the budget it makes it easier to pay the bills. However, I have not seen definitive evidence that the state’s ability to pay back the trust fund on time is in jeopardy should the Accountability Act be fully implemented.

But the question I have not been able to answer is, when did the Governor have the revelation that the Accountability Act is fiscally irresponsible? Was it fiscally irresponsible when he signed it in March? If so, why did he sign it? If not, what has changed?

Governor Bentley also believes that allowing the flexibility portion of the bill to go into effect immediately would give failing schools a window of opportunity to improve. But what truly makes this bill work — the very reason it got its name — is the accountability that comes with failing schools realizing if they don’t shape up, their students will leave. People respond to incentives. That’s the free market at work!

Without that accountability, we’re leaving this all in the hands of the same education establishment that has fiercely defended the status quo for decades — the same people who made the phrase “thank God for Mississippi” commonplace among Alabamians who were thankful that, hey, at least our state’s education system isn’t ranked 50th.

Why would we wait two years and lose another wave of students who aren’t ready for college or to enter the job market? What do we say to that tenth grader who would lose her last opportunity to get the education she deserves before graduating? Sorry?

“We only have one constituency when it comes to education in Alabama and that’s the children,” Sen. Del Marsh said in a statement. “For too long, students in failing schools have been stuck with the status quo and denied the opportunities they deserve.”

Every parent deserves a choice, and every child deserves a chance.

I have a great deal of respect for Governor Bentley and admire that he always does what he believes in his heart is right, on this issue and many others. And we could go in circles all day, as I have over the last 24 hours, debating who’s right or wrong about the budget projections.

The truth is, both sides in this debate are genuinely working hard toward the same goal — they just differ slightly on the path to get there.

But we can’t waste any more time. There are children in failing schools today, and we need to go get them.

Right.

Now.

[Yellowhammer will break down the political angles to all of this in an article to come.]


What else is going on?
1. Scandals Engulf D.C.
2. Rumors & Rumblings
3. Luther Strange weighs actions over IRS-tea party scandal
4. Campaign finance reform to get a shot on the last day of sessions
5. Media bias laid bare

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5 years ago

So what should we expect this week in the legislature?

Gun Bill in Senate

There’s some hand wringing going on in the Senate over whether or not to concur with the House-passed version of the Omnibus Gun Bill. “In spite of the NRA throwing their full support behind the House bill, we’re already being attacked by some members of the Tea Party because we didin’t just run over the sheriffs and district attorneys,” one Republican Senator emailed Yellowhammer Sunday afternoon.

I reached out to a member of a Birmingham-area Tea Party group who expressed frustration at the prospect of allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. “I think this compromise bill could go down the tube if we’re not careful,” he told me via email. The Rainy Day Patriots Tea Party group has sent out multiple emails advocating for the bill’s passage.

The Business Council of Alabama also remains unsupportive of the bill.

“As we consistently have stated, three conditions were presented in order for the BCA to support this bipartisan legislation: absolute immunity from civil liability for businesses; equal application to everyone in Alabama; and an opt-out provision. Two of these three have been accomplished,” said BCA President & CEO Billy Canary.

Intra-party squabbling among Republicans is the only thing that could derail the bill at this point. It will all likely play out on Tuesday.

Medicaid Overhaul Coming Up in House

Senator Greg Reed‘s Medicaid overhaul bill, SB340, will be first up on the House Special Order calendar on Tuesday. If passed, it would provide for the delivery of medical services to Medicaid beneficiaries on a managed care basis through regional care organizations or alternate care providers.

Reed’s bill is the result of intense negotiations with stakeholders in the medical industry. State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson says he believes the reforms will save the state between $50 and $70 million over a five-year period.

To better understand the Medicaid debate, check out Yellowhammer’s in-depth (but hopefully easy-to-understand) look at the issue by clicking HERE.

On a related note, the Healthcare Compact, sponsored by Rep. Mike Ball and Sen. Greg Reed, may also be coming up this week. According to the House GOP’s “We Dare Defend Our Rights” legislative agenda, the Health Care Compact, with Congressional consent, “would place the authority and responsibility for healthcare regulation to the member states, and would provide the funds to the states to fulfill that responsibility. By becoming the fifth state to join this interstate compact, Alabama would send a strong message to Washington that demonstrates states can do a better job of efficiently running their Medicaid programs if the federal government would stay out of the way.”

Tweaks to the Accountability Act

The House last week passed a bill by Rep. Jim Carnes (HB658) that clarified language in the Accountability Act by explicitly stating that no school is required to enroll any student attempting to transfer from a failing school. Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh has a related bill up in the Senate this week that gets into more detail.

In addition to the above clarification from Carnes’ bill, Marsh’s bill (SB360) would also do the following:

  • defines a failing school as one that has rated in the bottom 10 percent on the state standardized assessment in reading and math for three or more times in the last six years
  • states that a student seeking to transfer from a failing school must first attempt to enroll in a non-failing public school within the same system
  • states that organizations seeking to provide scholarships as laid out in the Accountability Act may only award them to students in failing schools whose family income is no more than three times the federal poverty level
  • allows scholarship donors to receive a tax credit equal to 100 percent of their donation (it was originally 50 percent)

Budgets

The House of Representatives passed a $5.7 billion Education Trust Fund budget a few weeks ago. That’s roughly three percent higher than this year’s budget. Included in the House-passed budget are several provisions that the Senate has been mulling over including a two percent pay raise for teachers and a $12.5 million increase in pre-k funding.

Senate ETF Chairman Trip Pittman has been pushing hard to reduce the teacher pay raise to one percent, with a possible one percent bonus. When the ETF budget hits the Senate floor for debate on Tuesday, that will likely be one of the main topics of discussion.

Meanwhile, the General Fund Budget is heading to conference committee where three representatives and three senators will try to reconcile to differences between their two budget proposals. Relatively minor differences between the two budgets include funding levels for prisons, the judicial system, and the Department of Environmental Management.


What else is going on?
1. NRA urges Alabama Senate to concur with House-passed gun
2. Birmingham Attorney Elected NRA President
3. Alabama Enviro Groups Gear Up for Fight
4. FDA makes morning-after pill available over the counter to 15-year-olds
5. Sessions Signs Letter Seeking to Defund Common Core

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6 years ago

Rumors & Rumblings

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a weekly feature that runs each Wednesday. It includes short nuggets of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week. Have a tip? Send it here. All sources remain confidential.


1. House Republican Freshmen are huddling this week in Andalusia at Rep. Mike Jones’s farm for their yearly Freshmen retreat. The Governor and the Speaker were on the agenda this morning and one Freshman Representative told Yellowhammer that they are working on ideas to downsize the government bureaucracy. “We are discussing several bills to pull useless outdated code off the books,” the Representative said. The Freshmen have built a strong presence in the House based on their numbers and their fierce loyalty to Speaker Hubbard who recruited many of them to run for office in 2010.

2. Republican Senators Dick Brewbaker and Trip Pittman and Republican Representative Jay Love are rumored to have filed a Freedom of Information Act requests to Alabama State University for all their records.

It has been a bizarre few months for Alabama State. A new president, Joseph Silver, came on the job in September and quickly expressed concerns with some of the University’s long-standing contracts. Silver was then suspended by the Board and some of his newly hired administrators were fired. William Harris, a former president, was brought in as interim president and accounting firm Warren Averett Wilson Price was hired to conduct an independent audit of the institution. As a public institution, taxpayer interests are involved and it appears these members of the legislature are preparing to step in.

3. Republican Mack Butler defeated Democrat Beth McGlaughn yesterday by a margin of 53% — 47% in the House District 30 special election. Butler carried both Etowah and St. Clair counties. Butler fills the seat that came open when Rep. Blaine Galliher took a job in Gov. Bentley’s cabinet as his legislative director.

4. David Standridge defeated fellow Republican Chris Latta yesterday by a margin of 55% — 45% in the House District 34 special election. The House District 34 seat opened up after Gov. Bentley appointed Rep. Elwyn Thomas to be the Executive Director of the Alabama Manufactured Housing Commission.

5. Senator Jeff Sessions is out in the Wall St. Journal today with a scathing critique of the Senate’s “secret negotiations” over the debt ceiling and so-called fiscal cliff. “Washington has become possessed by the idea that a small group of negotiators, meeting in secret, can solve the deep, painful and systemic problems plaguing this country,” Sessions writes. “We have seen an endless series of secret conclaves: gangs of six, committees of 12, meetings at the White House, at Blair House, in the Capitol’s labyrinth of hallways and hideaways. Meetings everywhere but in the committee room and the open air of the Senate floor.”

Sessions also points out the Democratic leaders are not the only ones to blame. In Sessions’ view, Republican leaders have not fought back against the Democrats’ strategy of avoiding the public workings of the legislative process. “Under Sen. Reid’s leadership — without sufficient resistance from the GOP — the Senate has suppressed the needed debate and dodged the accountability that comes from casting and defending votes.”

“Senator Sessions is clearly laying the groundwork for a ‘no’ vote on any compromise similar to what’s been tossed around to this point,” a prominent Hill staffer told Yellowhammer. “You’d be hard pressed to find a Senator who better represents his constituents. Alabamians don’t want these back room deals and he’s doing the right thing by calling it like he sees it.”

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6 years ago

Thursday Must-Reads

Daily Presidential Update


via Real Clear Politics:

Swing State Polls from Last 2 Days:

Thursday, Oct. 25:
Virginia (Rasmussen) – Romney 50, Obama 48
Florida (Gravis) – Romney 50, Obama 49

Wednesday Oct. 24:
Michigan (Baydoun/Foster) – Romney 47, Obama 47
Ohio (Time) – Obama 49, Romney 44
Ohio (Rasmussen) – Romney 48, Obama 48
Ohio ( SurveyUSA) – Obama 47, Romney 44
New Hampshire (Rasmussen) – Romney 50, Obama 48
Nevada (PPP) – Obama 51, Romney 47


Alabama Politics


MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER: Education Trust Fund budget avoids cuts

For Meredith Bishop, principal of Wilson Elementary School off Ray Thorington Road, budget cuts mean less money for supplies and less opportunity for professional development.

“We have some phenomenal teachers in our school system,” Bishop said Wednesday morning. “Everyone needs to be molded so they can certainly grow.”

Bishop’s school hosted the chairmen of the Legislature’s budget committees, who said at a news conference in the school’s library that the state’s 2012 Education Trust Fund showed a $14.4 million surplus at the end of September, the first time in four years the budget did not face proration.

Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, and Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, the chairmen of the House and Senate education budget committees, said Wednesday the surplus showed the Republican majority had made good choices over the past two years.

“We’ve made a lot of good investments, and I think we’re going to see the fruits of that as the economy picks up,” Pittman said.

But the improving economy gave the budget its biggest push.

The Education Trust Fund gets about 85 percent of its revenues from sales and income taxes, both of which respond strongly to economic conditions. In good economic times, receipts to the Education Trust Fund skyrocket; in bad ones, they crash to Earth without a parachute.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, gross income tax and sales tax receipts grew 4.7 percent for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

Read More…


AL.COM: AEA working across state over next several days to get Amendment 4 defeated

The Alabama Education Association is making the rounds across the state this week and next in hopes of talking members into voting against Amendment 4, which looks to remove racist language from the Alabama Constitution.

But Henry Mabry, AEA’s executive secretary, said today that a deeper look into the amendment shows that other segregation-era language that says there is no constitutional right to an education in Alabama would still exist.

“Proponents say we need to get rid of the racist language, and absolutely we need to. But in the process, we’re making it even more racist,” Mabry in an interview with The Birmingham News this afternoon, before a closed-door meeting with Birmingham-area AEA members.

Specifically, the proposed language maintains wording added to the state constitution in the 1950s that says “nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense.”

Mabry said he is concerned the amendment would hurt funding for public schools by setting up a system in which money from the Education Trust Fund could be diverted to private schools.

“The reason we have two funds (the general fund and the ETF) is because when all the money was lumped together, anytime there was an economic downturn, schools were the red-headed step child and got the brunt of the cuts,” he said. “With this constitutional amendment, they could argue the ETF does not have protection.”

What would be removed from the Alabama constitution, among other things, is wording that dictates that “separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.”

The words were invalidated by the courts long ago, but they remain in the 111-year-old Alabama Constitution, a written reminder of the state’s segregationist past.

Supporters of the amendment say a “no” vote sends the message that Alabama is still living in its segregated past.

Read More…


AL.COM: Hubbard to UN poll watchers: We don’t need you in Alabama; Texas AG: Same here

Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is calling for legislation that would require people who are monitoring polls for any election held in Alabama to be citizens of the United States, according to the blog Yellow Hammer Politics and the Daily Caller.

Hubbard’s purposed legislation is in response to the news that United Nations poll watchers would fan out across the United States looking for any signs of voter suppression during the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Hubbard has some company when it comes to a dislike for the idea of poll watchers in the United States. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot told UN officials in a letter that they have no jurisdiction in Texas, and will be arrested if they interfere at polling places there, according to the Daily Caller.

“Groups and individuals from outside the United States are not allowed to influence or interfere with the election process in Texas,” Abbot wrote. “This State has robust election laws that were carefully crafted to protect the integrity of our election system. The Texas Election Code governs anyone who participates in Texas elections—including representatives of the OSCE.”


National & International Politics


BUSINESS INSIDER: Obama Calls Romney ‘A Bullshitter’

President Barack Obama had some startling words for his opponent in an interview with Rolling Stone, according to an advance report on the article from Mike Allen at Politico.
Allen says Obama told Rolling Stone’s editor that kids look at Mitt Romney and say, “Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.”

Here’s the excerpt from the upcoming cover story, via Playbook’s Mike Allen:

“We arrived at the Oval Office for our 45-minute interview … on the morning of October 11th. … As we left the Oval Office, executive editor Eric Bates told Obama that he had asked his six-year-old if there was anything she wanted him to say to the president. … [S]he said, ‘Tell him: You can do it.’ Obama grinned. … ‘You know, kids have good instincts,’ Obama offered. ‘They look at the other guy and say, “Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.”‘”

This is the first time we can ever recall a President using that sort of language in an interview. We look forward to hearing the White House’s response.


POLITICO: How Mitt Romney would govern

Mitt Romney’s transition team — dubbed the “Readiness Project” — has stepped up its activities as the nominee has surged in the polls, planning a series of modest but quick accomplishments should he win and bracing for the likelihood Romney would butt heads with House Republicans as he seeks a fiscal “grand bargain.”

The team is plotting out a delicate exercise of power for a possible President Romney — wanting to show speedy action to improve the economy while taking pains to avoid over-promising, given the narrow margins Republicans will enjoy in Congress, even if they take back the Senate.

The difference would be felt most immediately and acutely on health reform. Romney’s repeated promise to “repeal Obamacare” is sure to be curtailed, even with a Republican Senate, his advisers admit. One official said that under a Democratic Senate, “we would just have to try to grind out changes by starving Obamacare through regulations.”

“In the campaign, there’s a lot of bravado about jamming things down people’s throats,” a Romney official said. “But that’s not really Romney. That’s not his style. He’s a pragmatist.”

Working with government-issued emails and office space on C Street Southwest, Romney’s team is calling its opening legislative agenda a “200-day plan,” rather than the storied 100-day lingo of President John F. Kennedy, because the current toxic climate makes it too tough to promise much in only three months, aides say.

Read More…


THE BLAZE: The 15 Wealthiest Members of the 112th Congress

Excerpts –

13: REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.)
Minimum net worth: $26.43 million

The House minority leader’s reported minimum net worth dropped by almost $9 million last year but had little effect on where she landed among Congress’ wealthiest.

Pelosi’s husband, Paul, invested more heavily in the United Football League last year, reporting 27 separate purchases. His stake in the league is now valued at $1 million to $5 million, and he has a separate interest in the Sacramento Mountain Lions worth $5 million to $25 million.

Much of the couple’s wealth comes from real estate. A vineyard in St. Helena, Calif., had a reported worth of $5 million to $25 million and generated at least $50,000 in grape sales. A San Francisco commercial property was also worth at least $5 million, as was a commercial rental property Paul Pelosi owns in San Anselmo, Calif.

The Pelosis reported about $12.85 million in liabilities, including newly disclosed mortgages on their residences and a brokerage collateral loan with City National Bank that was taken out in 2011 for $1 million to $5 million.

10: REP. JIM RENACCI (R-OHIO)
Minimum net worth: $36.67 million

Renacci’s minimum net worth remains relatively unchanged from the year before, rising just slightly to $36.67 million.

The first-term Ohioan’s portfolio is one of the most diverse in Congress. Renacci reports having significant investments in fast-food chains, consumer electronics companies, drugmakers and oil giants.
Renacci has a stake in the Lancaster, Calif.-based minor league baseball team, the JetHawks, worth $100,000 to $250,000 and loaned the Westerville, Ohio, Gordy’s Bar and Grill at least $250,000 in 2010. An investment in a Harley-Davidson dealership dropped in value from at least $500,000 in 2010 to about $4,400 in 2011.

Renacci is one of a handful of members of Congress who opted to disclose the exact value of many assets instead of reporting them within broad ranges. He listed $26,000 in Lululemon Athletica, $89,000 in McDonald’s and $281,000 in Chevron stocks, among hundreds of financial holdings.

Renacci has a line of credit of $1 million to $5 million with his primary investment manager, Raymond James and Associates.

6: SEN. DICK BLUMENTHAL (D-CONN.)
Minimum net worth: $79.11 million

Like many on Roll Call’s list, much of Blumenthal’s minimum net worth of $79.11 million comes from the family of his spouse. His wife, Cynthia Blumenthal, is the daughter of New York real estate magnate Peter Malkin.

Many of Cynthia Blumenthal’s assets listed in the Peter L. Malkin Family 9 LLC are worth more than $1 million, including a real estate company in Sao Paulo, Brazil, multiple properties in midtown Manhattan and entities that leased and operated the Empire State Building.

When a senator’s spouse’s assets are worth more than $1 million, they fall into a broad category of “over $1 million” that requires no further delineation, meaning the Blumenthals’ actual wealth could be far greater.

The value of assets in family trusts that will eventually go to the Blumenthal’s dependent children were also reported in this year’s filing and included in the overall calculation of the senator’s minimum net worth.

The senator reported a single mortgage of $500,000 to $1 million as a liability.

Read More…


NATIONAL REVIEW: Why Romney doesn’t need a poll lead in Ohio
Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan
The race for Ohio is slowly tightening, but Mitt Romney does not hold a lead in a single poll in the current Real Clear Politics average (he is tied in two). Two polls from Time and CBS/Quinnipiac have grabbed headlines by showing Obama a five-point lead in each. Romney is chipping away at Obama’s poll lead, but the Democratic advantage in party-ID has increased across these polls. When looking at the polls in Ohio, it is becoming entirely possible that Mitt Romney should be able to win Ohio without ever showing a consistent lead in the polls, or any lead at all.

In the past week Romney has trimmed four-tenths of a point off of his deficit in the RCP average, going from 2.5 to 2.1, but at the same time, the average party-ID advantage for Democrats in these polls has risen from 5.5 to 6.5. A big reason for the increase in Democrats’ share in the polls is due to early voting. If a pollster calls someone who says they voted already, they are automatically passed through the likely-voter screen since they have, after all, voted. The problem with this can be best summed up by Gregory House: “Everybody lies.”

Read More…


DAILY CALLER: After reader backlash, CNN axes article about how hormones affect women’s votes

Following a firestorm of negative feedback, CNN hastily deleted from its website late Wednesday virtually all mention of a study about the effect hormones have on women’s political preferences.

“A post previously published in this space regarding a study about how hormones may influence voting choices has been removed,” a message posted on the website at 8:15 p.m. read. “After further review it was determined that some elements of the story did not meet the editorial standards of CNN. We thank you for your comments and feedback.”

The study, authored by researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio, used an “Internet survey of 275 women who were not taking hormonal contraception and had regular menstrual cycles” to mine its data.

Read More…

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