Senator Paul Bussman Announces Press Conference on Midwife Bill

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter 

Senator Paul Bussman (R) from Cullman County will be holding a press conference Wednesday to discuss Senate Bill 314 after the adjournment of the Senate Health Committee meeting at ~12:30.

SB314 would establish a State Board of Midwifery, allow licensed midwives to legally practice in the state of Alabama.

According to the Alabama Midwives Alliance, midwives were outlawed in Alabama in 1976.  SB314 would allow women to legally have at home births under the care of a licensed midwife, instead of in a hospital under the care of an obstetrician.

The Alabama Midwives Alliance say that SB314 is necessary because “the rate of out-of-hospital birth is on the rise in Alabama, up 18% according to the most recent CDC data.” The Alabama Midwives Alliance said, “Women will continue to choose to give birth in out-of-hospital settings for cultural, religious and personal reasons.”

The Midwives say “Mothers who choose to birth out-of-hospital in Alabama have three options. They must drive out of state, birth in state with an unregulated midwife who risk prosecution, or birth with no qualified caregiver in attendance at all. All of these options potentially and unnecessarily increase risks of out-of-hospital birth.” “With out-of-hospital birth rates rising, maternity care is such an important public health issue that the state has an obligation to require qualified caregivers in order to promote the safest conditions possible for out-of-hospital births.”

The Alabama Midwives Alliance says that nursing and midwifery are separate professions so support certification of both nurse midwives (CNMs) and non-nurse midwives (CMs).  The Alabama Midwives Alliance says that, “It is imperative that Alabama maintain a group of caregivers who possess out-of-hospital birth skills in the event of a disaster or pandemic which could make hospitals inaccessible or unsafe for mothers and babies.”  Furthermore they argue that, “Research has not shown that the additional requirement of an advanced degree improves outcomes of out-of-hospital birth, but they do increase the costs of midwifery training, and limit access to midwives.”

The Alabama Midwives Alliance says that S314 requires midwives to possess a current CPM credential.  Future applicants will have to obtain their education from a MEAC accredited school or an equivalent educational program.

The Alabama Midwives Alliance say that according to their data from Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, and Texas planned out-of-hospital births with licensed midwives “report significantly lower perinatal, neonatal or infant mortality rates than the overall state rate.”  Midwifery is legal in 27 states.  The midwives say that SB314 will save the state Medicaid money versus expensive hospital births.  “It is likely that any costs incurred by the state for administration of the provisions of SB314 will be offset by considerable health care savings, resulting in a net gain to the state.”

SB314 does not require malpractice insurance coverage.  Washington and Florida offer liability insurance  for midwives “through costly joint underwriting programs.”

The Alabama Midwives Alliance say that SB314: “By creating access to CPMs and increasing maternity care options, SB314 enables parents to make the best birth decisions for their family. This actually eliminates current state interference which restricts parents’ maternity care decisions.”

All media are invited to attend Senator Bussman’s Press Conference.  Senator Paul D. Bussman represents Alabama’s Senate District 4 which consists of Cullman and most of Walker and Winston Counties.

For more information about the Alabama Midwives Alliance

http://www.alabamamidwivesalliance.org/

Sessions Says that Defense is not Driving Federal Spending

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter 

Senator Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama addressed Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Dempsey on the ‘Myths of Defense Spending’ at a Senate Committee Meeting on the growing federal budget crisis and the President’s 2013 budget request.  Sen. Sessions told the Secretary and the assembled Senators, officials, officers, and media that there are four common myths about defense spending and its effects on the federal budget.

Sen. Sessions said, “MYTH ONE: Defense spending is near an all-time high. The truth: During the War on Terror, it’s averaged about 4 percent of GDP, around half of the post-WWII average. Fifty years ago, national defense made up 48 percent of the budget, while entitlement spending accounted for 26 percent. Next year, entitlements will account for 60 percent and defense will amount to 19 percent of the overall budget.”

 Sen. Sessions said that the second myth is: “We can balance our budget with steep cuts at the Pentagon. The truth: Over time, entitlement obligations will consume an ever-larger share of federal spending. In 2030, entitlement obligations will be as much as six times greater than defense spending, rising from there. Even eliminating defense in its entirety would not come close to balancing the budget.”

The third myth Sen. Sessions said is: “Defense spending has seen the fastest growth in our budget. The truth: While the Pentagon’s base budget has increased 10 percent since 2008 (3 years), non-defense discretionary spending increased 24 percent—not counting the stimulus—during just the first 2 years of the Obama presidency. Over the last three years, Medicaid has increased 37 percent. Spending at the Department of Education grew 70 percent over 2009–2011 compared to the previous three years. Food stamps have seen a 300 percent increase since 2001.”

The fourth myth: “The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been leading contributors to our deficit. The truth: While the War on Terror has imposed substantial costs, this year’s deficit alone—$1.3 trillion—equals the entire cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. War spending represents only 4 percent of total government outlays over the last ten years.”

“Every department, every agency, every part of government will have to experience reductions—including defense. But these decisions should be guided by an honest assessment of the facts. And the fact is that the only thing the president seems willing to significantly cut is defense. The rest of the budget will continue to surge wildly out of control. By the year 2030, nearly every penny of revenue the government receives will go to entitlement spending and interest payments,” Senator Sessions warned.

Sen. Sessions said that: “The Senate Democrat leadership is refusing, for the third straight year, to bring a budget plan to floor. Has the Senate Democrat majority forgotten the warning of Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who told us the debt is the greatest threat to our national security? … But the president has submitted a budget plan that will continue the unsustainable course and increase our gross federal debt by another 75 percent over the next ten years—from about $15 trillion today to $26 trillion in 2022.”

Sen. Sessions said, “Defense is a core function of government and the continued dominance of our military deters threats and encourages peace.” “How will we be able to defend this country when we’re broke?”

The federal debt is $15.4 trillion and the 2012 budget deficit is $1.3 trillion.

Senator Jeff Sessions is the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.  The Democratic Party has control of the United States Senate, thus Sen. Sessions is the ranking member of the minority party and not the Chairman of the Committee.

To read Senator Sessions comments in their entirety:

http://sessions.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressShop.NewsReleases&ContentRecord_id=c49f8bc9-b222-30d7-07b9-b053cb04d72b&Region_id=&Issue_id=

Mo Brooks Discusses NSF Budget

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter 

Congressman Mo Brooks (R) from Huntsville is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. The Subcommittee met Tuesday to examine the Obama Administration’s proposed fiscal year 2013 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF).

During the subcommittee hearing Chairman Brooks said, “It (President Obama’s overall budget proposal) is not sustainable.  It is not responsible.  It is more of the same.  It places America’s future at grave risk.”

Chairman Brooks had less complaint with the NSF budget. Rep. Brooks’ press release said, ”With a current annual budget of $7 billion, NSF is the funding source for over 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities, as well as the primary source of federal funding for non-medical basic research.  NSF also serves as a catalyst for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education improvement at all levels of education, funding fields like mathematics, computer science, and the social sciences.  The FY13 budget request for NSF is $7.4 billion, an increase of $340 million over the FY12 estimated level.”

Subcommittee Chairman Mo Brooks said, “Basic research is an investment in America’s future.”  “The fruits of that research create jobs and opportunities that often-times change our lives, but even this important endeavor must be undertaken in a fiscally responsible way in our current economic environment.”  ““NSF has a long and proven track record, one in which we are all proud, and I have every reason to believe NSF will continue this good work with whatever budgets are forthcoming from Congress.”

Chairman Brooks said, “While a nearly five percent increase for NSF in FY13 shows stronger fiscal constraint than the FY 2012 request at 13 percent, I remain concerned that our federal agencies still are not doing enough to encourage austerity and properly prioritize scarcer federal funds.”

Rep. Brooks told NSF Director, Dr. Subra Suresh, ‘to be vigilant in making fiscally responsible changes to agency operations by seeking out programs that are “ripe for elimination, consolidation, or reduction.”’

Rep. Brooks’ press release said that the Republicans questioned Dr. Suresh about the Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) portfolio and whether this type of research was duplicated by other federal agencies.  They also asked about Innovation Corps (I-Corps) and if this new initiative fit the basic research mission of the NSF.

The National Science Foundation was created by Congress in 1950.  NSF provides 20% of the federal funding for basic research at America’s colleges and universities.  In mathematics, social sciences, and computer source the NSF is the largest source of federal funds.  .  The NSF has a director who oversees the daily management and staff and a 24 member National Science Board that meets six times yearly to set NSF policies.  The director, the board, and the deputy director are all appointed by the President of the United States to six year terms.  The NSF headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia and has 2,100 employees.

Congressman Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s fifth Congressional District.  Brooks is in his first term in the United States Congress.  He is opposed in the March 13th Alabama Republican primary by former Congressman Parker Griffith, whom Brooks defeated in the Republican Primary two years ago.  The winner of the Republican Primary will face an Alabama Democratic Party opponent in the November 6th General election. 

To read the Press Release in its entirety:

http://brooks.house.gov/press-releases/subcommittee-examines-fy13-national-science-foundation-budget-proposal/

Ward Pushes Alabama Digital Crime Act

From the Office of State Senator Cam Ward

MONTGOMERY, AL, (February 29, 2012)- State Senator Cam Ward and Representative Paul DeMarco announced that they will introduce legislation today to overhaul the criminal code in Alabama as it pertains to criminal activity committed online and through the internet.  The bill, known as the Alabama Digital Crime Act, was the result of work carried out by the Alabama District Attorneys Association and other law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
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Why Democrats Think the GOP Race Might Last Until June

Staff Report
Alabama Political Reporter

Game it out for a second. Look at the calendar.

This GOP race could go on for a long time, and Democrats profess to be thrilled about that prospect, about Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich continuing to bloody each other up, aided by Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

Why would this go on for awhile? Because a combination of an elongated schedule, new Republican National Committee rules, and some quirks of fate have diminished the importance of individual contests and reduced the ability for knock-out punches.
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Vernon Burns: The Not So Sunny RSA report

“The future will be sound and brighter,” according to Retirement Systems of Alabama Chief David Bronner. This future prediction is the heading of a report, on the RSA website, outlining the information given to the state legislature’s joint budget hearing Feb. 8, 2012. This online report is impressive and colorful, with many charts and graphic illustrations.

After we have been sufficiently impressed by the reports depth and skillful presentation the major facts begin to jump out at us. The facts of the most consequence to the tax papers and the whole economy of Alabama concern the retirement systems unfunded liability. According to this latest report that unfunded taxpayer liability grew by $2.37 billion or 30 percent from 2008 through 2010. This tax payer obligation has been growing before 2008, growing in the years before the great recession, and continued to swell in 2011. 

The most startling and alarming facts are shown on a pie chart titled “Sources of Pension Payments to Retirees.” As indicated by this chart we have a state retirement system whose investment returns are only 50 percent of what is required to meet current pension payments. The funding for the other half of these state promised entitlements is shown to come from two sources. About 40 percent of the total monies come from what the chart calls employer contributions. The remaining 10 percent is from employee contributions. 

Let us discuss these sources of funding in order. First investment returns. Information from the Feb. 8th budget hearing shows a total return on investment over 10 years of near 4.11 percent for the system as a whole. The RSA returns are shown in comparison to the performance of various unmanaged indexes over the same time period. While it is true the many indexes, and they are numerous, are a bench mark that can be sighted you can almost always find an index that you can beat and one that will beat you. 

While an index is an unmanaged unit, the retirement systems of Alabama is not unmanaged. A more reasonable, apples to apples, comparison which  the RSA would come from the large, well known and highly rated, conservative asset allocation and high quality bond funds found in Morning Star Inc. fund investor publication. These are all publicly traded investments available to everyone including individuals and institutions alike. 

 

Here are some examples for your comparison:

Retirement Systems of Alabama as of Dec. 31, 2011

10 year average total return 4.11 percent per year

Total assets 25 Billion, 23 Million dollars

 

American Funds Inc. Income Fund of America “A” as of Dec. 31, 2011

10 year average total return 6.2 percent per year 

Total assets $66,643,000,000

 

American Funds Inc. Capitol Income Builder “A” as of Dec. 31, 2011

10 year average total return 6.7 percent per year

Total assets $73,651,000,000

 

Vanguard Inc. Vanguard Wellesley Income Inv. as of Dec. 31, 2011

10 year average total return 6.7 percent per year

Total assets $25,898,000,000

 

Franklin Templeton Investment Inc. Franklin Income “A” as of Dec. 31, 2011

10 year average total return 7.3 percent per year

Total assets $57,971,000,000

 

Pimco Inc. (High Quality Bond) Pimco Total Return “D” as of Dec. 31, 2011

10 year average total return 6.5 percent per year

Total assets $244,055,000,000

 

Vanguard Inc. Vanguard Total Bond Market Index ADM. as of Dec. 31, 2011

10 year average total return 5.6 percent per year

Total assets $92,249,000,000

Here we have just six of the many such large stable investments that may be a more fair comparison when looking at our retirement system. These six funds combined have total assets of $560,467,000,000 and a 10 year average total return of 6.5 percent per year. This 6.5 percent return is 2.39 percent greater than the RSA return of 4.11 percent for the same period. What does 2.39 percent mean on a $25 billion investment over 10 years? How about $5,975,000,000 if this additional income was taken out and spent each year for 10 years. But if the additional income was not spent but reinvested each year this figure increases to $6,660,330,000. I know the very size of these numbers will make your head spin, but the calculations are just sixth grade arithmetic. 

Moving on, the RSA pie chart tells us that about 40 percent of the current monies being paid to retired employees come from employer contributions. Dr. Bronner, we need to word this more clearly. The employer you speak of is the taxpayer and the tax money going to fund the retirement system is the fruit of his/her labor. Please remember that. 

The 10 percent of current payout that is shown as being funded from employee contributions is beyond understanding. Using the retirement contributions of working employees to pay for the entitlements of retired employees may not be unlawful if you are the state or federal government. But if you are a private business owner trying this may land you in jail. The use of incoming monies, that employs think are being invested for their benefit, to pay the promised income of a retired person is a classic example of a pyramid scheme. Dr. Bronner do you know who Bernie Madoff is and why he is behind bars? This type of scheme may be legal for governments, but that does not make it right. 

Looking at the subpar returns of the RSA we need to remember that about 12 percent of the funds are invested in real estate and other alternative investments. The problems concerning real estate and alternative investments are almost incomprehensible. They require more research and much more time and space than we have today. But we will get there. 

If asked, average people in Walmart, in Birmingham, Mobile, Florence, or Dothan, what they think of the retirement systems of Alabama, even if they don’t work for some form of government, they will probably say, this is Alabama, it must be fine.  If pressed most will also think it is self financing. Unfortunately, they would be totally wrong. 

Holtzclaw Calls for Senators to Decline Pay Increase

 

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, on the Alabama Senate Floor, Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) strongly urged Alabama senators not to accept the automatic pay raise this year.

In 2007, the Democratic led legislature voted to give lawmakers an automatic cost of living pay raise each year that did not require an annual vote.

Holtzclaw said, “I encourage these and other media across our great state to tell the rest of the story. Your readers, our constituents, need to know which legislators are going to accept the cost of living increase.
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AG Announces House Passage of Bill for Overtime in Law Enforcement Pensions

Staff Report

From the Office of Attorney General Luther Strange

(MONTGOMERY)—Attorney General Luther Strange announced that the House of Representatives Tuesday approved a bill in his legislative package that would allow the calculation of overtime pay toward retirement benefits for state employees. Attorney General Strange advocated this legislation to provide this benefit for law enforcement and correctional officers, who often are required to work large amounts of overtime.

House Bill 255 is sponsored by Rep. Jay Love, and was approved Tuesday afternoon by a vote of 100 to one.  Its companion bill, Senate Bill 285, sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner, is scheduled for hearing in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
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Sewell Praises Obama’s Proposed Business Tax Proposals

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter 

Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D) from Selma issued a press release with her supportive comments of President Obama’s framework for business tax reform.

Representative Sewell said in her press release, “I applaud the President for outlining a bold framework for reforming the U.S. business tax system. This proposal is an important first step towards developing a comprehensive tax code that echoes the long held belief that we all must pay our fair share and enhance American competitiveness.”

Rep. Sewell continued, “This framework proposes fair tax policies for businesses that would encourage job creation and strengthen American manufacturing. It puts an end to tax loopholes and subsidies that have hurt business productivity and growth.  In addition, it provides incentives to strengthen our small businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.  The framework will help us pave the way to rebuilding the middle-class and make our businesses – both large and small competitive again.”

“I look forward to continuing to work with the President and my colleagues in Congress on a comprehensive tax reform plan that will grow our economy, reduce our deficit and build a stronger economic foundation for America’s families,” finished Rep. Sewell.

President Obama’s plan calls for lowering the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 28% and would lower the tax rate on corporate manufacturing profits to just 25%.  The President’s plan would make up for that lost revenue by eliminating many common tax deductions.  Included in this is the elimination of the popular accelerated depreciation schedule that encourages new equipment purchases including corporate jets. Pres. Obama’s plan also eliminates the corporate deduction for interest and sets a minimum tax rate for foreign income.  President Obama’s plan would also eliminate what he calls tax “subsidies” for the oil and gas industries.  Not included in the President’s plan is the elimination of tax code subsidies for the “clean energy” programs which the Obama Administration has championed.

The President’s plan is unlikely to be seriously addressed by the Congress during an election year.  Although tax rates change frequently the last major tax reform proposal that passed was in 1986.

Congresswoman Sewell represents Alabama’s seventh Congressional district.  She is unopposed in the March 13th Democratic Party Primary, however two Republicans will be competing in the March 13th Republican Primary to run against Rep. Sewell in the November 6th General Election.

To read Congresswoman Sewell’s statement in its entirety:

http://sewell.house.gov/press-release/statement-congresswoman-terri-sewell-president-obama%E2%80%99s-framework-business-tax-reform

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Sessions Says that Obama Could Do More to Lower Gas Prices

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter 

Senator Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama sent a letter to President Obama calling his energy policy “defeatist” and listing several policy chains that he says could increase domestic energy production and lead to a lowering of gasoline prices.

In his letter to the President, Sen. Sessions said, “I am writing today to urge your Administration to take overdue but necessary action to confront soaring gasoline prices. In the last three years, gas prices have doubled, draining the disposable income of millions of hardworking Americans. In 2011, the typical U.S. household already spent $4,155 on gasoline, almost 10 percent of their income. Yet some analysts now predict prices may rise this year to more than $5.00 per gallon.”

Sen. Sessions told the President, “we should explore a variety of energy resources—most especially those which do not put taxpayer dollars at risk—I respectfully disagree that we cannot utilize our remarkably vast untapped energy reserves to provide Americans with much-needed relief.

I reject the defeatist view that says the nation that won two world wars, pioneered space travel, and overcame the Soviet Empire is now helpless in the face of high prices at the pump. We are not at the mercy of dictators, cartels, and events beyond our control.”

Senator Sessions told the President that he should restore the 2010 oil and gas lease plan.  Where the Bush Administration had planned on 31 energy lease sales between 2010 and 2015 the Obama administration has just had two lease sales.  Sen. Sessions also said that the administration should tap the nation’s shale oil reserves, approve construction of the Keystone pipeline to Canada, “end the de facto moratorium on permitting for offshore oil and gas production,” maximize energy production from federal lands, “grant all necessary waivers and approvals to oil and gas refineries” to maximize production, and abandon the President’s plan to raise $40 billion in new taxes on the oil and gas industries.

Sen. Sessions concluded, “America has the potential to fundamentally shift the balance of power in global energy production—to produce more energy, more efficiently and more cheaply, than your Administration has recognized. Such bold steps will broadcast an unmistakable signal to the world that not only places downward pressure on prices in the near-term but helps deliver a future of abundant, affordable energy. Moreover, unlike costly short-term stimulus, achieving energy independence would provide long-term relief to both struggling families and our indebted treasury.”

In a speech on Thursday President Obama said, “There are no quick fixes to this problem. You know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.”

Senator Jeff Sessions is the senior member of the Senate Budget Committee and a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

To read Senator’s Sessions Press Release

http://sessions.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressShop.NewsReleases&ContentRecord_id=c10c0f38-9f5b-094c-3831-af1955f16eee&Region_id=&Issue_id

 

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