Marsh substitute a bow to Payday lenders

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporters

MONTGOMERY—Senate Bill 449 was a bill introduced by President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) was promoted as reforming payday lending in Alabama.

However, it is believed that Marsh is set to introduce a substitute to SB449 that favors the payday lenders and guts Marsh’s promised reforms.

Marsh, had said that SB449, would prohibit borrowers from taking out more than six loans per year. The substitute to be introduced will increase this to 12 times within a year. This is even beyond what the Payday lenders had requested in committee.
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Education Legislation Coming Up This Week

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Time is running out on the 2013 legislative session and several bills affecting education employees are on the calendar for the closing days of this session. The Alabama Education Association (AEA) addressed some of these issues in the Monday’s ‘Alabama School Journal.’
The biggest of these is of course the education budget. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) proposed an education budget that gave education employees a two and a half percent pay raise across the board. The Alabama House rejected that budget and instead passed a budget with just a two percent pay raise. The Alabama Senate cut that raise to just a one percent pay raise though included language giving up to a one percent one time bonus “IF” the state meets all of its revenue projections. The legislature has to resolve the differences between their competing education trust fund budgets.
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New political director at ALGOP

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

BIRMINGHAM—The Republican Party of Alabama has a new political director, a young man with talent and ability to help Chairman Bill Armistead move forward with the ALGOP agenda. Shreveport, Louisiana native John Kay has taken on the position after the successful tenure of TJ Malone. Building on the momentum of the past several years, Kay looks to be a part of the ALGOP’s ever-expanding horizons.
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HB 56 Critic: Vargas Goes to Work for White House

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama drew national attention following the passage of House Bill 56, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. One of the many pro-immigrant groups which focused on the Alabama Law has been the National Immigration Forum. Their Director of Communications, Katherine Vargas sent numerous statements to ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ and other members of the press during the legislative battles and subsequent court battles in opposition to HB 56. On Friday, Ms. Vargas was tapped by the Obama White House to be the new White House’s new Director of Hispanic Media.
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Aviation Opens New Facility in Auburn

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Monday GE Aviation opened its new Auburn facility creating 100s of new jobs for people in East Alabama.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said on Facebook, “It was exciting to be in Auburn today for the ribbon cutting and grand opening of the GE Aviation Factory. We worked with GE Aviation on the state and local levels, and the end result is that more people will be able to find good, well-pay…ing jobs. In Alabama, we work hard to make a good product and we take pride in what we do. We must never lose sight of the fact that our goal is to help everyone out there who’s looking for a good job to support their family. It’s always a privilege to celebrate more new jobs.”
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Attempts to “Fix” Accountability Act Only Make Bad Law Worse

By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford 

This week, the Alabama House of Representatives once again has to vote on legislation that is meant to “fix” a bill that was rushed through the process and not thought-out before it became law.

If there has been a theme for the past three years since the Republican Supermajority took control of the state legislature, it has been unintended consequences.

Unintended consequences that have lead to long lines at the DMV and the possibility of innocent good Samaritans and churches facing criminal charges for giving a ride to an illegal immigrant.
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The Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Protection of Spring Pygmy Sunfish


By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)has extended the public comment period on their plan to preserve the Spring Pygmy Sunfish.

According to a written statement by the USFWS, the Spring Pygmy Sunfish is threatened with extinction in the foreseeable future. The fish currently exists only in Beaverdam Spring/Creek in Limestone County. The fish used to live in two other creeks, but according to biologists are no longer found in those areas.
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Alabama’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program Leads Nation in Quality Once Again

Staff Report

From the office of Governor Robert Bentley
Governor Bentley Working to Expand Access to Voluntary Program

MONTGOMERY – A new study released Monday shows Alabama’s First Class Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program continues to lead the nation in quality.  Alabama is one of only four states in the country to meet all 10 quality benchmarks established by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

The quality benchmarks include teacher training, staff-child ratios, support services and more.  Alabama’s voluntary pre-k program has now met all of NIEER’s quality benchmarks for seven years in a row.
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Are Barron-Johnson Indictments a Foreshadow of Things to Come?

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Last week’s surprise gave way to worry and confusion as the details of Lowell Barron’s indictment were revealed. The grounds on which Barron and Johnson were charged could potentially cast a wide net over many in state politics.

Former State Senator Barron and his longtime assistant Jill Johnson were charged with six total counts of Ethics law violations and violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. It appears that the crux of the matter hangs on the fact that Barron and Johnson, “Convert[ed] contributions to personal use and the improper use of excess campaign contributions.”

The indictment reads, they, “intentionally use campaign contributions, and/or any proceeds from investing the contributions that are in excess of any amount necessary to defray expenditures of the candidate, public official, or principal campaign committee, for a purposes other than necessary and ordinary expenditures of the campaign.”

Expenditures that are reasonably related to performing the duties of the office held, donations to the State General Fund, the Education Trust Fund, or equivalent county or municipal funds, or an organization to which a federal income tax deduction is permitted under subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) of subsection (b) of Section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or any other charitable, educational, or eleemosynary cause of Section 501 of Title 26 of the U. S. Code, transfers to another political committee, or inaugural or transitional expenses” are permitted. This is all referenced in the Alabama Code Section 17-5-7 of the fair Campaign Act.

While the indictment does not specify what section of the Ethic’s Act has been violated, it would appear that §36-25-5(a) might be applicable. It reads as follows:

“No public official or public employee shall use or cause to be used his or her official position or office to obtain personal gain for himself or herself, or family member of the public employee or family member of the public official, or any business with which the person is associated unless the use and gain are otherwise specifically authorized by law. Personal gain is achieved when the public official, public employee, or a family member thereof receives, obtains, exerts control over, or otherwise converts to personal use the object constituting such personal gain.”

All the facts of the Barron-Johnson case are yet unknown. However, what has been made public has caused great concern among campaign staffers and lawmakers alike.

In Barron’s campaign filing, he lists the money given to Johnson as being for “administrative” purposes.
If converting contributions to personal use and the improper use of excess campaign contributions is construed to be as simple as giving money to a staffer after the campaign, “then no one is safe,” said a longtime political consultant who wished to remain anonymous.

According to several individuals who have run campaigns, it is almost routine for candidate to give “win” bonuses to key campaign staff.

In 2010, Mike Hubbard, then Chairman of the ALGOP offered and approved bonuses for John Ross, the party’s executive director and the chair of the 136 Years PAC; Philip Bryan, party communications director; Kate Anderson, Sidney Rue, finance co-directors for the party; and Michael Joffrion, the party’s political director. Each received a check from the 136 Years PAC for $38,000 dollars according to the Annual Report of 1/31/11. Also receiving money  were Kasi Nimm, $8,000,  Blakely Logan $1,500 and Sidney Rue, $162.63 as part of the termination report.

What was described as bonuses by Hubbard is actually listed as “Administrative,” on the 136 Year PAC filings. That is the same category that Barron listed the funds he gave to Johnson. How is it that an administrative payments to Jill Johnson, differs from the ones paid to Hubbard’s staff?

While promoting his vanity book, Storming the Statehouse, Hubbard bragged to the Daily Caller how he had, “as chairman of the Republican Party in Alabama in 2010 — offered thousands of dollars in incentives to party staffers if they flipped seats from Democratic to Republican control.” Hubbard further explained that, “For any legislative seat that switched, he promised staffers a $1,200 bonus. They were also promised $6,000 if they won both chambers of the legislature. The staffers ended up making $38,000.” Hubbard said this was part of an incentive plan. He told the Daily Caller, “I’ve always believed in incentives.” Yet, in the filing they are not categorized as “incentives” but as “administrative.”

Was not the money paid to Hubbard’s staff an intentional use of campaign contributions, “and/or any proceeds from investing the contributions that are in excess of any amount necessary to defray expenditures of the candidate, public official, or principal campaign committee, for a purposes other than necessary and ordinary expenditures” of the campaign?

Was not the money received by John Ross, Philip Bryan, Kate Anderson, Sidney Rue, Michael Joffrion, Kasi Nimm, and Blakely Logan for personal use?

Republican Mike Hubbard seemed to gloat over the fact that he was able to provide such extravagant incentives to his staffers. Yet, it appears that his Democratic rival Barron could face prison time for doing much the same. If convicted, Barron and Johnson could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and fines of up to $30,000 for each of the six counts in the indictment.

What would Hubbard, John Ross and the others face? Hubbard, 50, could spend the rest of his life behind bars if he, like Barron, was found guilty of such crimes. As for the younger members of Hubbard’s youth group they would surely see their lives destroyed if faced with the same charges as Jill Johnson.

Special Prosecutions Division Chief Matt Hart has lead the investigation into Barron and Johnson. Hart is also believed to be currently investigating Hubbard as well as Del Marsh. Perhaps the Barron-Johnson indictments are just a foreshadow of things to come.

Medicaid Reform Bill Passes Senate

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday the Alabama Senate passed Senate Bill 340, which is a comprehensive reform of the Alabama Medicaid program, by a margin of 27 to 3.

Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R) from Capshaw said on Facebook, “A major victory in the Senate was the passage of Sen. Greg Reed’s Medicaid overhaul bill. He offered a substitute (SB 340) Thursday and it passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support. This is certainly a credit to Sen. Reed’s leadership and diligence. The bill modifies the delivery model of healthcare to the more than 900,000 Alabamians who participate in the Medicaid program by dividing the state into regions and allowing doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers to set up Regional Care Organizations (RCO). It also provides incentives for the RCOs to improve patient care to reduce costs. Medicaid is a valuable service to many Alabamians, but has grown at an unsustainable rate.”
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