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Commission continues work on rewriting 1901 Constitution

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—The commission to rewrite Alabama’s 1901 Constitution is at steady work toward an uncertain end because voters will have the ultimate say.

On Monday, December 3, 2012, the commission will reconvene to continue its work on constitutional reform. In the next legislative session, the commission led by former Governor Albert Brewer will offer revisions of Articles III (Distribution of Powers), IV (Legislative Department) and IX (Representation).

“Addressing the constitution as it applies to the legislative branch is the focus of this year’s attempt to rewrite Alabama’s 1901 Constitution,” said Senator Cam Ward, (R-Alabaster), a member of the Constitutional Revision Commission.

Recently, the commission had cause to celebrate as the approval of two amendments written by the commission passed with overwhelming voter support. The revised Corporations Article and the Banking Article moved smoothly from the committee to the legislature and then passed during the general election in November. However, an amendment purportedly to remove racist language from the constitution was soundly defeated. The defeat can be credited to the work of the Alabama Education Association who saw the Amendment as a backdoor removing a child’s guaranteed right to an education in the state.

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The commission according to Ward has a good bi-partisan mix including a Tea Party Activist and a democratic pollster.

“It is a healthy debate we are trying to have” said Ward, who is known for his ability to build consensus as a legislator.

Alabama’s constitution has been criticized as a relic of the post-reconstruction era–document designed to keep agriculture and big business prosperous at the expense of the common citizen. One of the concerns that has arisen about the rewrites has been the influence of special interests.

“You are always going to have special interest try to determine the outcome,” Ward said. “But I think the only way we have real reform is by the article-by-article approach.” Ward says, his primary goal is to “make the constitution more functional.”

The Alabama 1901 is considered the world longest constitution it has been a desire of many to see it streamlined into a more coherent document.

“Much of the constitution was written in such away to ensure that it never changes,” said Ward. “This has also led to a constitution that is overly bloated.” Ward thinks that many of the items contained in the constitution should be “under statutes and not a part of the constitution, so that 20 years from now, if they become out dated they can be changed.”

One important area that Ward and the commission needs to be addressed, is when legislators actually take office. Under existing law a legislator takes office at midnight and the votes are not certified until a month later “this can cause all kinds of problems,” Ward says.

Some have said that the 2010 Special Session at which lame duck Governor Bob Riley proceeded over the newly-elected GOP supermajority was such an occasion for problems. In what was suppose to be a epic occasion for ethics reform, the legislature passed campaign finance reform that was not even a part of “the call” only to later find that the so-called reforms were, in fact, a hindrance to prosecution.

At the time then-Governor Bob Riley described the session by saying, “Alabama’s political system underwent more historic change and more reform during the seven-day special session that just concluded than we’ve ever seen before. Because of these landmark reforms, state and local governments in Alabama will operate more honestly, more openly and with more accountability.”

Yet, just a few months after the Riley’s proclamation of sweeping changes in ethics laws, Riley and Mike Hubbard, as well as Democrats would be caught up in a grand jury investigation that would test the new laws. The eight month grand jury investigation that followed did not return a single bill of indictment. However, a summary of the grand jury report delivered to Attorney General Luther Strange found that there was no means by which to prosecute anyone under the newly-enacted Republican-sponsored laws.

Ellen Brooks, Montgomery County District Attorney is the court officer that wrote the grand jury report and her findings saying in part, “there is very little accountability in the law. There is not even a clear definition of who can be prosecuted under the law.”
According to Brooks under current law concerning PACs, there are no clear definitions of who can be prosecuted if a crime is suspected, “We don’t know who that is, the chairman, the secretary, the person who signs the form, we don’t know, the law is unclear.”

With no one to hold accountable it is impossible to take action against law breakers. This is especially true concerning out of state PACs, which seem to have unlimited powers under the new laws. It is this kind of mischief that has the commission working to make sure that the governor and legislator are sworn in within a similar timeframe. Ward, who did not make any comparison with the 2010 special session sited, “mischief that occurred during the transition of lieutenant governors from Don Siegelman to Steve Windom. According to a New York Times report in 1999, “Democrats backed by Governor Siegelman voted to strip the Lieutenant Governor of the power to make committee assignments and direct the flow of legislation.”
Windom, elected as the first Republican in that office in this century, then threatened to hold up some of Siegelman’s legislative agenda.

According to the account at the time, the move was intended to leave the Lt. Governor powerless as long as it was a republican. According to the Times “Siegelman called a special session of the Legislature to solve the dispute, but tension ran so high that Mr. Windom refused to leave the chamber even for a bathroom break during the round-the-clock session, lest Democrats find a way to replace him.” In the end, Windom and the Lieutenant Governor’s office was left as mainly ceremonial.
“It is this type of mischief we want to avoid in the future,” said Ward.

Ward says that personally he hope to make “ the constitution more workable.”
He says as for political ideology, “The people of Alabama are for limited government, we have always been that way, there are ways to make government more libertarian minded in a manner that limits government but it still has to function and operate properly. There are areas in our constitution that do not allow for that.”

Ward says he is confident in the leadership of Governor Brewer and the Commission’s co-chair, Representative Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood), to continue toward a successful article-by-article rewrite of the state’s constitution.

Commission members are as follows:  Governor Albert Brewer, Chair; Represenative Paul DeMarco, Vice-Chair; Governor Robert Bentley; Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh; Speaker Mike Hubbard; John Anzalone; Greg Butrus; Vicki Drummond; Becky Gerritson; Matt Lembke; Carolyn McKinstry; Jim Pratt; and Representative Patricia Todd.

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Elections

Kay Ivey attends HudsonAlpha’s grand opening of Paul Propst Center

Brandon Moseley

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via Kay Ivey for Governor campaign

Wednesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was in Huntsville for the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology’s ribbon cutting ceremony for their newest expansion.

The Paul Propst Center is a 105,000 square foot building and is named to honor the memory of the father of Huntsville businessman and philanthropist William “Bill” Self Propst. Propst’s father, Paul, was a North Alabama minister.

“Technology is rapidly advancing in today’s world, and this facility will give scientists, educators, and entrepreneurs an opportunity to not only keep up but lead the way in biotechnology.” Governor Ivey said, “Following the ribbon cutting, I had a chance to tour HudsonAlpha’s new center and see firsthand the great work going on here. I fully anticipate and look forward to what revolutionary breakthroughs are next.”

“The research, education and economic development efforts happening at HudsonAlpha are revolutionizing the way that Alabamians live and the way the world lives, which is why I am so proud to join them in expanding those efforts through the addition of the Paul Propst Center,” Gov. Ivey said. “Thanks to HudsonAlpha, Alabama will be the state to make good on the promise of having 21st-century healthcare and agriculture.”

In addition to Gov. Ivey the event was attended by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), Alabama State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), and Huntsville area economic developer Nicole Jones.

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“HudsonAlpha is a leader in biotechnology and genomic research. Once again, they are on the cutting edge with the opening of the Paul Propst Center,” Rep. Brooks said. “The Paul Propst center is truly a state of the art building and will strengthen a workforce that continues the advancement of the biosciences economy in North Alabama. I was proud to participate in their ribbon cutting today.”

“This campus is a shining star for the state of Alabama, for this community, and the world stage,” Speaker McCutcheon told WHNT Channel 19.

“Bioscience, one of the State of Alabama’s targeted industries, brings in an estimated annual economic impact of $7.3 billion,” Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter. “The vision of HudsonAlpha Founders Jim Hudson and Lonnie McMillan contributes significantly to that number, and more importantly, enhances the quality of life of mankind.”

“At HudsonAlpha, members of the public and private sector partner to make innovations in biotechnology happen.” Nicole Jones added, “HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, literally and metaphorically, is built upon principles of collaboration. It has been an incredible opportunity to witness the institute’s growth over the past decade. Huntsville, Alabama is changing the world with the brilliant minds at HudsonAlpha.”

The Paul Propst Center is made possible by the state of Alabama and community support, including the generosity of Mr. Propst.

“Throughout my career, I have been focused on improving people’s health. My family and I continue to work towards these goals,” said Propst. “I see those working at HudsonAlpha with the same commitment to making life better. We are honored to be able to support HudsonAlpha as they continue to grow and make advancements.”

“HudsonAlpha is really helping us develop an industry that will drive not only the future of Huntsville but the future of healthcare as we know it. Cures for diseases will come out of HudsonAlpha that will impact the lives of our children and children’s children for decades to come,” said Mayor Tommy Battle.

“HudsonAlpha has accomplished so much in the only ten years, all of which would not have been possible without the support our community,” said HudsonAlpha co-founder Jim Hudson. “Cutting the ribbon today on the Paul Propst Center was a special moment not only for me, but all of us at HudsonAlpha and in Huntsville.”

The Propst Center has a similar look and feel to the flagship building at 601 Genome Way, the Propst Center will house components of HudsonAlpha’s education and research programs, and growing biotech companies. The details in design, glass walls, common sidewalks, a grand staircase, are intended to create a “team science” environment and contribute to the culture of collaboration.

“The vision of the institute’s founders is to see discoveries and advancements quickly occur with research and business working together,” said HudsonAlpha Vice President for Economic Development Carter Wells. “Today, we celebrate not just the continuation but a strengthening of the culture of collaboration and innovation created 10 years ago.”

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Elections

Jay Mitchell campaigns in St. Clair County

Brandon Moseley

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Republican nominee for the Alabama Supreme Court Jay Mitchell addressed the influential St. Clair County Republican Party at City Market Grill in Pell City Thursday.

Mitchell said that he wants to go to Montgomery and be part of, “Restoring confidence in what we do in Montgomery.”

Jay Mitchell said that he was born in Mobile and grew up in the Wiregrass. When he was ten, his family moved to Homewood. Mitchell went to Birmingham Southern where he played basketball and was part of a Division 3 basketball national championship team. Mitchell went to the University of Virginia School of Law, where he met his wife.

Mitchell and his wife, Elizabeth live in Homewood, with their four children. Jay is a partner with Maynard, Cooper & Gale in Birmingham. He has handled numerous cases at both the trial and appellate levels. He is recognized as one of the top attorneys in the United States

Mitchell said that if he is elected to the Alabama Supreme Court he is going to focus on what does the law say. “I believe that we have a responsibility as the Judiciary to stay on the right side of our boundary line and not become some sort of a super legislative group.”

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“I am not running for a paycheck, I am not running for a safe seat,” Mitchell said. I am going to Montgomery to work.

Mitchell said that he is glad that if he goes to Montgomery that St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor (R) will be working in the Judicial Building with him. Minor is the Republican nominee for the Court of Criminal Appeals. Minor has no Republican opponent.

Mitchell said that retired St. Clair County Judge Jim Hill does a great job representing St. Clair County in the Alabama legislature.

Mitchell said that “there is a great forgetting going on” right now. We are forgetting how the country was founded, the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, and how men have sacrificed to protect our liberties. Mitchell promised that if he is elected to the Alabama Supreme Court that he will take time to talk to school groups. I am committed to do my part to help educate the next generation about this country.

Mitchell’s race is one of just two state appellate court races where the Democrats fielded a candidate. Mitchell faces Jasper attorney Donna Wesson Smalley (D) in the November general election.

Associate Justice Tom Parker (R) is running against Jefferson County Judge Robert Vance (D) for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Former St. Clair Republican Party Chairman Paul Thibado said that we need to put a lot of effort into recruiting new people particularly young people to the county party. St. Clair County should be an industrial mecca.

St. Clair County Republican Party Chairman Lance Bell said that the newly elected St. Clair County Republican Party representative on the State Republican Executive Committee Emory Cox has had to resign his post because he has taken a job in the White House.

The St. Clair County Party Executive Committee members there elected St. Clair County School Board Attorney John Rhea to fill the vacancy. There was no opposition.

Bell said that Richard Minor was also stepping down from the State Republican Executive Committee and that the county party executive committee will vote on his replacement next month. The October meeting is tentatively set to be held in Moody.

St. Clair County Circuit Clerk Annette Manning Hall reminded the Republicans present that absentee ballots become available at her office on Monday, September 24.

Bell said that Kay Ivey’s St. Clair County Chairman Bill Morris was going to need help manning stations at the polls on election day.

Gov. Kay Ivey (R) faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D).

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Shelby announces $4 Million in critical opioid treatment grants for Alabama community health centers

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) announced that 15 community health centers located in Alabama have received a total of $4,038,000 in federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support increased treatment and prevention for opioid and substance abuse.

“It is of the utmost importance that we work to fund the fight against the national opioid crisis,” said Senator Shelby. “Nearly every county in Alabama is affected by this growing problem. These HHS grants will allow community health centers across the state to provide treatment to patients with opioid and substance abuse and support addiction prevention programs, helping our communities tackle this widespread epidemic.”

The grants were awarded to community health centers in: Bayou La Batre, Birmingham, Centreville, Gadsden, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Parrish, Selma, Scottsboro, Troy, and Tuscaloosa.

64,000 Americans were killed from drug overdoses in 2016, more than were killed in a decade of fighting in the Vietnam War. More than 300,000 Americans have been killed by opioids since 2000. In 2016 more than 20.1 million Americans were addicted to prescription painkillers and/or illicit opioids.

Responding to the unprecedented drug crisis has been a priority of the administration of President Donald J. Trump (R).

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“We are already distributing nearly $1 billion in grants for addiction prevention and treatment, and more than $50 million to support law enforcement programs that assist those facing prison and facing addiction,” the President said. “We have also launched an $81 million partnership to research better pain management techniques for our incredible veterans.”

The President’s proposed Federal Budget requested $3 billion in new funding in 2018 and $10 billion in 2019 for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to combat the opioid epidemic by expanding access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. The funding would also go toward addressing mental health concerns.

On September 19, HHS awarded nearly $352 million to 1,232 community health centers across the nation, including the 15 in Alabama, through the Expanding Access to Quality Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services (SUD-MH) awards. The SUD-MH awards support health centers in implementing and advancing evidence-based strategies that best meet the substance use disorder and mental health needs of the populations they serve.

The following 15 community health centers in Alabama will receive the $4,038,000 in grant funding:

  • Bayou La Batre Area Health Development Board, Inc., Bayou La Batre – $285,000
  • Christ Health Center, Inc., Birmingham – $285,000
  • Alabama Regional Medical Services, Birmingham – $285,000
  • Aletheia House, Inc., Birmingham – $201,750
  • Cahaba Medical Care Foundation, Centreville – $296,000
  • Quality of Life Services, Inc., Gadsden – $293,000
  • Central North Alabama Health, Huntsville – $285,000
  • Health Services, Inc., Montgomery – $285,000
  • Franklin Primary Health Center, Inc., Mobile – $285,000
  • Mobile County Health Department, Mobile – $285,000
  • Capstone Rural Health Center, Parrish – $287,250
  • Rural Health Medical Program, Inc., Selma – $285,000
  • Northeast Alabama Health Services, Inc., Scottsboro – $110,000
  • S.E. Alabama Rural Health Associates, Troy – $285,000
  • Whatley Health Services, Inc., Tuscaloosa – $285,000

“Addressing the opioid crisis with all the resources possible and the best science we have is a top priority for President Trump and for everyone at HHS,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The more than $1 billion in additional funding that we provided this week will build on progress we have seen in tackling this epidemic through empowering communities and families on the frontlines.”

“This week, HHS updated its strategic framework for tackling the opioid crisis, which uses science as a foundation for our comprehensive strategy,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health and Senior Advisor for Opioid Policy. “With these new funds, states, tribes, and communities across America will be able to advance our strategy and continue making progress against this crisis.”

Earlier this week, Senator Shelby voted to pass “The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018,” which was a bipartisan effort of over 70 U.S. Senators and includes proposals from the Senate Committees on: Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Finance; Judiciary; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

The legislation would improve detection of illegal drugs at the border, improves the sharing of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs data between states, and aims to reduce the use and supply of dangerous drugs.

Senator Richard Shelby is the Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Will Christine Blasey Ford testify before Senate Judiciary Committee or not?

Brandon Moseley

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Christine Blasey Ford has alleged that she was groped by Brett Kavanaugh when they were both teenagers and that another student had to pull him off of her.

That student, Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate Mark Judge denies Ford’s account. Judge said Ford’s allegation never happened: “It’s just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way.”

Kavanaugh has denied that the incident has ever taken place.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is now begging Ford to agree to come to Washington to testify.

The committee will hold a special session on Monday and has invited both Kavanaugh and Ford to testify on the allegations. Only Kavanaugh has accepted. As of press time, Ford has agreed to testify but not on Monday and even though she is the accuser she is demanding that Kavanaugh testify first. Traditionally the accuser testifies first and the accused is allowed to testify second. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has not yet agreed to Ford’s highly unusual demands.
Some Republicans have argued that if she does not come Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee should just go ahead and vote and send the nomination to the full Senate.

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“The Democrats and special interest groups have only one goal – delay and stop the nomination of Bret Kavanaugh,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Of course, Christine Blasey Ford refuses to testify. She is being used as a political pawn to delay the hearing. Only after Senate Democrats were unable to delay or stop the confirmation process did they bring this 36-year-old allegation which they held for six weeks. The confirmation hearing needs to move forward, and this mockery of the system and disrespect to a good man must end.”

Some have compared Ford’s Washington Post story that he had sexually misused 15 year old Christine Blasey Ford to last year’s Washington Post story that then U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has sexually misused 15 year old Leigh Korfman.

“Brett Kavanaugh, like me, has withstood numerous investigations and vetting by the most rigorous legal and political authorities,” Judge Moore said in a statement. “The timing of these accusations in the midst of the U. S. Senate’s confirmation for a seat on the U. S. Supreme Court, like those allegations against me only 32 days before the final election for the United States Senate last year, is indeed suspect and show the depths to which liberals will stoop to stop opposition to their agenda.”
Senate Democrats used similar character assassination tacticsto fight the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Christine Blasey Ford is expected to make a decision today on whether or not she will testify.

Brett Kavanaugh is President Donald J. Trump’s second nomination to the Supreme Court.

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Commission continues work on rewriting 1901 Constitution

by Bill Britt Read Time: 6 min
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