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Public Hearing on SB 289 on Monday, April 6

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Senate Bill 289 would repeal a 1998 law requiring that insurance companies pay for a 48 hour hospital stay following natural child births and longer for caesarian section.  Passage would allow insurance companies to send women and infants home sooner following deliveries and save money.  Critics warn that potential complications could result in potentially some loss of life.

The earlier legislation was sponsored by Sen. Roger Bedford (D from Russellville).  His wife Maudie was a vocal proponent for the 48 hour rule.

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State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow (D from Red Bay) announced that there will be a public hearing to allow supporters and opponents of SB 289 to express their views to legislators.  Rep. Morrow wrote, “Today Maudie Bedford expressed to me concerns about SB 289 sponsored by Sen. Larry Stutts. Maudie further requested that I schedule a Public Meeting to allow for public input on SB 289. I have scheduled this meeting for Monday, April 6th at 6:00 PM.” “As requested, the Public Meeting for SB 289 will be next Monday night, April 6th. 6:00 PM at the Muscle Shoals Career Academy,” Multipurpose Room; 321 Broad St., Muscle Shoals.  It is the corner of Brown and Broad behind the MS City Hall.

I especially want to invite Sen. Stutts (Sponsor) & Sen. Melson (Co-Sponsor) to explain the need for this legislation.      

SB 289 is sponsored by State Senator Dr. Larry Stutts (R).  Dr. Stutts wrote on Facebook, “As I campaigned to be your State Senator, I pledged to limit the size and scope of government – by removing barriers and fostering a stronger patient-doctor relationship. More than 25 years of experience as a doctor have made me uniquely positioned to advocate for a more individualized approach to care that ensures medical decisions are strictly between you and your doctor. Just a few months on the job, I am proud to say that I am hard at work removing one-size-fits-all Obamacare-style laws from the books in Alabama. However, some in the media and elsewhere are attempting to deceive citizens by using tired liberal arguments and falsehoods. Let me be clear: my goal is to make sure our Legislature stays in Montgomery where it belongs and out of the exam room. Neither I nor my six other conservative colleagues who have joined me as co-sponsors want to deny anyone the care they need.”

Senator Stutts wrote, “As a doctor, I have always been cautious with my patients, making sure they are fully informed, and providing them with the first-class healthcare they deserve. As a legislator, it is my responsibility to make sure that doctors and patients across the state are empowered to make the best decisions for patients. I will continue promoting individualized healthcare solutions and rejecting top-down government overreach into healthcare. As a doctor, I’ve seen firsthand the inefficiencies and financial burdens that unnecessary mandates place on patients and providers. Over the next four years, I plan a thorough review of the healthcare laws of our state to make sure we are fostering an environment that is constantly improving the care patients receive, allowing providers to spend more time with patients and making care more affordable.”

Rep. Morrow wrote, “This bill has a lot of people concerned and they want an opportunity to express publicly how they feel about Sen. Stutts’ legislation.”  “I especially want to invite Sen. Stutts (Sponsor) & Sen. Melson (Co-Sponsor) to explain the need for this legislation.”

State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R from Winston County) wrote on Facebook, “Women’s rights need to be protected. I am OPPOSED to this bill. Senate Bill 289 has been introduced and needs to be defeated. First, currently a woman has the right to have a 48 hour stay in the hospital during delivery of her child and longer if delivered by caesarean delivery. This bill removes the minimum stay provisions. Second, currently doctors are required to notify a woman in writing if they have a dense mass in their breast. This bill would remove those requirements. Insurance companies want this bill passed. It is against a woman’s right. Talk to your legislator let him know you are OPPOSED to this bill. YOUR RIGHTS COUNT.”

Sen. Paul Bussman (R from Cullman) announced on Facebook, “There has been a great deal of information released concerning SB289 dealing with protocol following mammograms and protocol for the release of patients from the hospital. It was my understanding that this legislation would simply remove government from the practice of medicine in an effort to improve individual patient choice. Now that I know the full scope of the legislation, I cannot support SB289 and will not vote for it in committee or on the floor of the Senate.”

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Elections

Ethics Commission clears Luther Strange

Josh Moon

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Luther Strange is off the hook.

The executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission told APR on Wednesday that the commission determined a few sessions ago that allegations that Strange violated campaign finance laws were unfounded.

The two allegations, which were filed by Secretary of State John Merrill’s office during Strange’s special election campaign for U.S. Senate last year, were considered potential felonies and centered around Strange’s federal Senate campaign transferring funds to his state-level attorney general’s campaign account.

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Ethics Commission executive director Tom Albritton said several factors went into determining that Strange had not violated the law. Most importantly: “The statute controlling the transfer from a federal campaign account to a state campaign account requires the candidate to be a state or local candidate. Luther Strange was not,” Albritton said.

Merrill disagreed with the commission’s decision, saying his staff’s understanding of the applicable laws forbids Strange from making the campaign account transfers in question.

“We understand that the Ethics Commission can do whatever they want with the things we send them,” Merrill said. “We do not agree with their finding, but it’s not our job to rule. It’s our job to pass along the violations. We did our job.”

While the laws governing the issue are complicated, the transfers at the center of the debate are fairly easy to understand. In December of 2016, Strange’s federal campaign account, in a series of transfers, sent a little over $1,400 to his state-level campaign account. The money was being used to pay for an already-purchased website domain.

The problem was the $1,400 exceeded the $1,000 threshold allowable for the transfers and also fell outside of the 120-day window. Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was forced to resign after accepting a donation outside of the 120-day window.

But according to Albritton, that’s where the mixing of federal and state laws make things murky. Because in addition to Strange, who was running for U.S. Senate, not being a state-level candidate, the law also requires the transfer to be a campaign contribution before it can be considered illegal.

“The transfer was made in order to reimburse the state campaign for an unintentional payment by the state campaign for the domain maintenance fee for the domain that the federal campaign had already purchased,” Albritton said. “It was not intended to influence the election of a state or local candidate.

“Federal law preempts state law in this circumstance. Federal campaign finance laws required the reimbursement for the state campaign. If they had not repaid it, it would have been a violation of federal campaign laws.”

Albritton said that Merrill and his office can forward their findings directly to the Alabama AG’s office if they feel a mistake has been made.

The Ethics Commission decision on the matter will likely add fuel to what is becoming a fiery feud between it and Merrill’s office. Just last week, Merrill was particularly critical of the Commission’s decision to pass on issuing fines to candidates, businesses and PACs that failed to file campaign finance reports on time.

During an interview with APR last week, Merrill was asked whether his allegations against Strange had been resolved by the Ethics Commission. At that time, he said he wasn’t sure, prompting APR to raise the question with Albritton. It doesn’t appear as if the decision on the Strange allegations has been previously reported in the media.

 

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Elections

A quick snapshot of campaign cash after primaries

Bill Britt

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Since the June 5 primary, candidates have only been required to file major contribution reports of $25,000 and over, so understanding the financial health of any campaign is difficult to ascertain.

In the Lt. Governor’s race, Rep. Will Ainsworth has loaned his campaign $500,000, while his opponent, PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh, hasn’t reported any new contributions. In their last reports, Cavanaugh had $165,439.56 on hand, and Ainsworth had $670,233.34, which includes the $500,000 loan.

The last filings in the Attorney General’s contest show Steve Marshall with $48,794.15 to Troy King’s $36,127.04. The two will face each other in the July 17 Republican Party runoff.

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Democrat attorney general contender Joe Siegelman last reported having $113,450.44 in his account. He will compete with either King or Marshall in the November general election.

The Republican runoff for Agriculture Commissioner finds BCA backed candidate Lowdnesboro Mayor Rick Pate with $4,107.44 in cash, with his challenger, State Senator Gerald Dial, reporting $107,634.45.

Gov. Kay Ivey received one major contribution of $25,000 from Cullman resident Roy Drinkard, while her Democrat rival Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox hasn’t reported any similar fundraising efforts.

These cash totals are a snapshot of fundraising, with approximately two weeks before the next FCPA reports are required.

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PowerSouth CEO explains why companies are leaving BCA

Bill Britt

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PowerSouth President and CEO Gary L. Smith may have made the most transparent case for why the state’s marquee corporations are in a steady exodus from the Business Council of Alabama.

“Our problem with BCA is simply Billy Canary and his leadership,” wrote Smith in the company’s withdrawal letter to BCA Chairman Perry Hand. “Billy has been effective in the past, but in our opinion, Billy is now a severe liability and must be replaced for BCA to again be effective.”

In April, Alabama Political Reporter broke the news that seven of the state’s leading companies were parting ways with BCA if Canary was not replaced by June.

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Billy Canary out at BCA, sort of 

After APR‘s story broke that the BCA Executive Committee had agreed to replace Canary, it was Hand who took to an internet newsletter to claim our story was false. However, Smith’s letter obtained by APR proves Hand lied. “You indicated the BCA Executive Committee agrees a leadership change is needed, but we have serious disagreements about the timing of the replacement,” wrote Smith.

In fact, the Executive Committee agreed it was time for Canary to go, but Hand and a few Canary loyalists invented a reason to keep Canary around until 2019. As Smith points out, not only is Canary staying in place, he is also included in selecting his replacement.

Smith states, “Billy’s continuing involvement in the search for his replacement,” as well as, “his involvement in the leadership transition,” is a severe problem.

Smith further writes, “We have no interest in participating in or supporting an organization that Billy heads, influence through his choice of successor, or can manipulate through a transitional plan. It is simply time to completely sever the relationship before further damage is done to the organization.”

To date, Alabama Power Company, PowerSouth, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield and BCA legal counsel Boots Gale have fled BCA due to Canary’s failed leadership and Hand’s obstinate refusal to see the wisdom of his immediate replacement.

 

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Public Hearing on SB 289 on Monday, April 6

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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