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Division in the House: AL Democrats Hold Tense Reorganizational Meeting (W/Video)

Lee Hedgepeth

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By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY – The State Democratic Executive Committee, the governing body of the Alabama Democratic Party, met last Saturday at the Crump Center in Montgomery. With this being the party’s quadrennial reorganizational meeting, many thought change was sure to surface. Not much did, and a vocal minority of the committee’s members had no problem pointing that out.

Beginning at eleven and lasting several hours, the SDEC meeting had what previously-interim party chair Nancy Worley said was the longest agenda since her involvement in the party began. On it: the filling of 56 committee seats left vacant after the Democratic primary on June 3, the election of executive board members, including Chair of the Party, and resolving unfilled candidacies for public office.

Before those items were addressed, though, officer reports were made by executive board members.

ADP Treasurer Ed Gentle reported that since the beginning of 2014, the party has been able to raise $219,000, with expenses at only about $16,000 a month, a feat nearly miraculous given recent historical precedent. In addition, ADP has been able to pay off its debt to one of its more significant creditors.

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Dr. Joe Reed, Chair of the Minority Caucus, gave the longest report, speaking at times to different audiences about the direction, vision, and future of the Alabama Democratic Party, but doing so in no uncertain terms.

“We have some Democrats that are anxious and willing to work. and we’ve got to give them every chance to work, whether they are black or white, young or old – we’ve got to give them every chance to work,” Reed began.

“I don’t care whether you’re an over the mountain Democrat or a down in the valley Democrat. It’s irrelevant if you don’t have some vision, courage, and commitment to build this party. I’m going to pledge to you – all of you – that we’re going to work together to build this party.”

Dr. Reed continued, and his message became even more frank:

“You can have the numbers – and I’m talking to the blacks now – you can have the numbers, but if we don’t have the vision, the work, and the commitment, we have nothing. We have nothing. Like I said this morning [in the minority caucus session] when we elect folks to the executive board, we’ve got to be sure, we’ve got to be certain that whites have their fair share in this party and at the executive level. This is what we’ve got to be doing to build this party.” Video of Reed’s comments can be viewed here.

After this speech, Dr. Reed suggested that he would later move to – and ask for support in – filling only a few, pre-screened committee seats, and carrying over the election of the rest of the 56 vacancies, a move a minority in the room viewed as undemocratic and an effective power grab. This motion was later voted on and approved by a vast majority of the SDEC – a nearly five to one margin.

Much of the most tense moments of the meeting surrounded this vote to delay the nomination of any new committee members, something which typically happens without delay at every organizational meeting.

“I object vociferously, Madame Chair!” One SDEC member shouted at the suggestion of a delayed election.

After a voice vote and a call of “division in the house,” a standing vote was taken and the motion clearly gained passage, delaying committee member elections until at least the SDEC’s next meeting. When the ruling was made, one SDEC member stormed out of the room; another noted verbally, “This meeting continues under protest.” Watch the video of the vote, the walk out, and the call out here.

Some candidates for various public offices across the State addressed the meeting, as well. Democratic candidate for Alabama Attorney General Joe Hubbard, for example, told the crowd he would do more than just think of ways to sue President Obama every day, referring to comments made by current AG Luther Strange. He also told the story of a woman who approached him in the grocery store to tell him “Big” Luther’s leg’s are long so “he can get away from the law.” “No one is above the law,” Hubbard told his fellow Democrats.

Video of Hubbard’s speech can be seen here.

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Only 71 percent of Alabama high school seniors are college and career ready

Chip Brownlee

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A new report from Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama shows that there is still a sizable gap between Alabama’s graduation rate and the number of students who are considered college and career ready even though the gap has improved.

The report looks at state educational statistics for last year’s graduating class of 2017.

While both the graduation rate and the rate of students who are college and career ready improved, there is still a gap between the two.

For last year’s graduating seniors, at least 89 percent graduated with a high school diploma but only 71 percent of the same class earned a “college and career ready” designation according to PARCA’s report, which looked at statistics gathered by the state.

The statewide results for the ACT and WorkKeys assessments also both showed improvement for the Class of 2017, but only 18 percent of students were college ready in all four benchmark subjects — English, Math, Science and Reading — tested on the ACT.

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The ACT, which is given to all 11th graders in Alabama public schools, is used as an assessment test to measure college readiness. Another test, WorkKeys, which is also developed by the ACT organization, is designed to measure workforce readiness and is given to all 12th graders each year. It measures students’ skills on the math and reading benchmarks as they might be applied in the workplace.

Both tests are used by the state to determine college and career readiness. Seniors are considered “college and career ready” if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Score college ready in at least one subject on the ACT
  • Score at the silver level on ACT’s WorkKeys Assessment
  • Earn a passing score on an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate Exam (college-level courses delivered in high schools)
  • Successfully earn a career technical credential
  • Earn dual enrollment credit at a college or university
  • Successfully enlist in the military

The class of 2017’s numbers are an improvement over the class of 2016. In 2016, 87 percent of Alabama high school seniors graduated. And the gap between graduating seniors and college and career ready seniors has also improved. In 2016, only 66 percent of seniors were considered college and career ready. The gap fell from 21 percent to 18 percent.

You can view a fullscreen version of this chart, provided by PARCA, here.

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Alabama mourns the loss of Bridgette Marshall

Brandon Moseley

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Courtesy Facebook

Following the death of Bridgette Marshall, the wife of Attorney General Steve Marshall, a number of public officials, including Governor Kay Ivey (R) expressed their sadness at her sudden death.

“This morning, I was incredibly saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Bridgette Marshall. Bridgette was the loving wife of Attorney General Steve Marshall and the caring mother of their daughter Faith,” Gov. Ivey said. “A mother is the backbone to a family and especially important to her daughter. I pray that Steve and Faith are comforted in this extremely difficult time. It is never easy to lose a loved one and certainly not as suddenly as this. I have spoken with Attorney General Marshall and offered my support. I know the people of Alabama will show the Marshall family great love and sympathy during this time.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said on social media, “There are moments in life when politics needs to hit pause, hold others close, pray & support those in great pain & lift their names up to God’s ear. As the news breaks on the passing of AG Marshall’s wife, Bridgette, today is one of those days. Great is our faithfulness.”

The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said, “On behalf of the Alabama House of Representatives, our thoughts, prayers, and sympathies are with Attorney General Steve Marshall and his family as they come to terms with the tragic loss of their wife, mother, and loved one, Bridgette.”

“A tragic incident such as this offers all of us a reminder to hold our loved ones close today because they can be lost tomorrow,” Speaker McCutcheon continued.  “During the time I’ve worked with Attorney General Marshall, I’ve found him to be a principled man with great integrity and deep devotion to his Christian faith, and I know his love of the Lord will help him steer this difficult course.  Steve Marshall and his family carry heavy hearts at this time, and I ask that we all pray for God to provide them with peace and solace in the coming days.”

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) said, “Cindy and I wish to extend our deepest sympathies to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and his family this morning as we learned of the passing of his bride. These are the events that occur in our daily lives that put politics in perspective. Please join us in praying for him and his family.” ‬

Congressman Bradley Byrne R-Montrose said, “My heart breaks for Alabama’s Attorney General Steve Marshall and his daughter, Faith. May we all wrap their family in love and prayers during this incredibly challenging time.”

Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh (R) said on social media, “Jeff and I are heartbroken after hearing of Bridgette Marshall’s passing today. Please join us in praying for Attorney General Steve Marshall, their daughter Faith, and the entire Marshall family. May God hold Steve and Faith in His arms and bring them peace and comfort in the days ahead. John 14:1-4”

State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) said, “Please be in prayer for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and family. His wife Bridgette has died.”

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter R-Rainsville  said, “The members of the Alabama House Republican Caucus join me in extending our deepest condolences and comforting prayers to Attorney General Steve Marshall and his family.  The sudden and tragic loss of Bridgette Marshall will be difficult for her friends and family members to resolve, but with the intercessory prayers of thousands of their fellow Alabamians, we can help ease their burden.  House Republicans have come to know Attorney General Steve Marshall as a man of strength and resolve, and we are confident those traits will serve him well in the coming weeks and months ahead.”

The Democratic Attorney Generals Association (DAGA) said, ““We are heartbroken to hear the news today that Bridgette Marshall, wife of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, passed away this morning. We wish Attorney General Marshall and his family peace during this incredibly difficult time. Our love and prayers are with their family in Alabama today.”

State Representative Jack Williams, R-Vestavia, said, “Saddened to learn of the death of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife today. Attorney General Marshall and his family are in my prayers during this difficult time.”

The Republican Attorney Generals Association (RAGA) also expressed their condolences.

“The news of Bridgette’s passing is absolutely tragic. My heart breaks for Steve, his daughter and the entire Marshall family,” said RAGA Chair Leslie Rutledge. “On behalf of the RAGA family – from my fellow AGs and their spouses, to our supporters – I wish to extend our deepest sympathies for their loss. We will be praying for them during this difficult time; and, we all hope they are given the privacy they need to mourn.”

State Rep. Will Ainsworth, R – Guntersville, said, “My wife, Kendall, our children, and I send our prayers of comfort and solace to Attorney General Steve Marshall and his family.  As fellow residents of Marshall County, Steve and his family are our neighbors, our friends, and our partners in Christ, so we share their hurt.  I ask all Alabamians to join us in raising the Marshalls up in prayers of supplication as they seek the strength to one day move beyond this deeply personal tragedy.”

State Representative Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, said simply, “Praying for the Marshall family.”

Bridgette Marshall died from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Each year about 44,965 Americans take their own lives. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in this country.

The Marshalls have one daughter.

The Alabama Political Reporter will share the arrangements once the family has had time to prepare them.

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House passes bill to combat opioid epidemic

Brandon Moseley

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed H.R.6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which includes over 45 separate bills to combat the national opioid crisis. The bipartisan package passed by a vote of 396 to 14.

Congressman Bradley Byrne said: “The opioid crisis has infiltrated communities all across our country and torn families apart. No community is immune from the opioid crisis. Here in the People’s House, we are committed to tackling this issue head on and providing support to patients and communities.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s (D-Selma) bipartisan bill to address the opioid crisis is part of the larger legislative package, H.R. 6.

“The Preventing Addiction for Susceptible Seniors (PASS) Act helps prevent abuse among seniors without limiting access to needed medications,” Rep. Sewell said. “The opioid epidemic doesn’t discriminate by age, income, or gender – we have to give all Americans a path out of addiction.”

“Sadly, over 750 Alabamians die from an opioid overdose each year,” Rep. Byrne said. “I am confident this exhaustive package of bills will ensure quality care for those seeking help and provide our communities the resources to prevent the spread of this epidemic. It’s time we end the cycle.”

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act targets four main issue areas: treatment and recovery, prevention, protecting communities, and fighting fentanyl.

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This effort follows the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act last Congress, as well as the $4 billion in funding set aside to combat the opioid epidemic in the omnibus earlier this year.
The House passed H.R. 6082, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (OPPS Act), which will align 42 CFR Part 2 (Part 2) with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for the purposes of health care treatment, payment, and operations.

The Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness (ABHW) spearheaded the conversation around the outdated law, the barriers it creates to providing evidence-based coordinated care, and the need to modernize Part 2 to have parity in the treatment of substance use disorder, mental health, and medical records.

Pamela Greenberg, MPP, President and CEO, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness said: “We are pleased that members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in a bipartisan manner today to pass H.R. 6082, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act. We thank Congressmen Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) for their diligent efforts to move this legislation through Congress. It is encouraging that Members of Congress recognize the importance of aligning the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD) records with how all other medical and behavioral health records are managed. This bill will facilitate integrated care for individuals with an opioid or other substance use disorder while maintaining, and in fact enhancing, the protections that currently exist for SUD records.”

64,050 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, the sharpest increase occurred among deaths related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs.

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Division in the House: AL Democrats Hold Tense Reorganizational Meeting (W/Video)

by Lee Hedgepeth Read Time: 3 min
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