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Unintended Consequences Plague Ward’s Well-Intentioned Legislation

Rob Johnson



By Rob Johnson

As Thomas Edison said, “a good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.” This week, Sen. Cam Ward is planning to propose legislation that would eliminate his constituents’ ability to access a lifeline when they’ve been injured in an accident —removing consumer choice and curtailing the free market. The industry-destroying price controls he’s proposing would force legal funding providers out of Alabama. As a former state lawmaker, I understand how hard it can be to strike a balance between protecting consumers and fostering sensible regulations that support free market principles. But, as Sen. Ward stated in his op-ed last week, it can be done—we did it in Oklahoma.

Sen. Ward (Time to Lend the Poor a Hand by Shining a Light on Lawsuit Lending) said “…Oklahoma…passed common-sense regulations [of the legal funding industry] over the past few years.” We agree. A few years ago, as a legislator in the Oklahoma State Senate, I helped pass legislation that brought strong regulations to an industry that had operated without regulation for years.

We did it by making sure that consumers were protected, that they were empowered to make informed financial decisions, and that bad actors couldn’t operate. As a result, people have had access to a highly competitive marketplace so that people can find affordable legal funding if they need it. You should not eliminate choice for people that need more options.


Consumer legal funding serves citizens who are suddenly unable to work, usually due to an accident. It gives them access to money for basic living expenses to pay the mortgage, put food on the table, pay utilities, and put gas in the tank. There is no risk to the consumer as there is nothing to pay back if they lose their case. For some people, that can be a huge relief.

People like Wendy and her family from Gadsden, Alabama who desperately needed a help after her car accident. “It helped me pay some bills I needed to pay and had no other way of doing so. Thank you.” Or for Kim, a Prattfiville resident, who had a bad wreck and was in a financial bind when her insurance company delayed payment on her claim.

The legislation proposed by Sen. Ward is well intentioned, but differs greatly from the common-sense regulation implemented in Oklahoma that brings consumer protections, preserves individual choice for hardworking people, and encourages free-market principles.

At the Alliance for Responsible Consumer Legal Funding (ARC), we support legislation that preserves consumer choice and establishes consumer protections at the state and federal levels. Our coalition is urging lawmakers to stand up for consumers and implement bills that will preserve individual choice while imposing proper regulation of the consumer funding industry. We look forward to working with Sen. Ward and all Alabama legislators in the coming weeks.

Rob Johnson is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Responsible Consumer Legal Funding (ARC). He is a former Republican member of the Oklahoma State Legislature who served in the Oklahoma State Senate representing District 22 and the Oklahoma House of Representatives representing District 59.


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Alabama “incredibly well-positioned” to enhance status as space leader

Chip Brownlee



Huntsville is home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. (File Photo)

As space technology advances and more private industry solidifies its footing, leaders in the space sector say Alabama is in a prime position when it comes to space exploration and technology.

“Alabama is uniquely and incredibly well-positioned right now to become even more of a leader in space,” said Deborah Barnhart, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. “Because of the expertise of our governor, because of her position of NASA’s User Advisory Group, we have a unique opportunity to make our voice stronger in the whole space world.”

The Alabama Space Authority, a group created last year by the Legislature to encourage the development of space technology and attract a federally licensed spaceport to Alabama, met last week for the second time to begin exploring the licensing process and other ways Alabama could expand its role in the space sector.

“We have a unique opportunity to make our voice stronger in the whole space world.”

Alabama is already home to the NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Redstone Arsenal and a plethora of private companies — from Teledyne Brown to Aerojet Rocketdyne and Blue Origin, just to name a few. Barnhart and others on the Space Authority say Alabama could forge out a solid position as the leader in the U.S. space industry.

“It’s very important that we keep that leadership voice strong,” Barnhart said. “A big role for the committee here is to keep our governor and the voices well-advised.”

Vice President Mike Pence appointed Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group in February after her nomination by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama. The group advises and informs the National Space Council on a broad range of aerospace topics.

In addition to Ivey’s position on that national group, Alabama’s newly elected Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, could have an important role in confirming NASA’s top leadership positions. NASA has been without a confirmed administrator for more than a year, an unprecedented drought in leadership. And the acting director recently announced he was retiring.

NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot to retire

The nominee has been confirmed by a congressional committee several times but the nomination hasn’t been brought to the floor for a vote. Jones’ support could be important in getting the nominee confirmed, which could put Alabama on the new administrator’s map for future projects and licenses.

“At a time when Alabama could play a very critical, pivotal role, Sen. Jones alone could help move things in the right direction and resolve this issue not only for the state but for the nation,” said Michael Gold, vice president of Washington operations and business development for the private-sector space firm SSL, who spoke at the Space Authority meeting Friday.

“We don’t go to space as Republicans and Democrats; we got to space as people, as Americans and as humans. Sen. Jones could help us get back to that place.”

The NASA administrator confirmation has never been a high priority for the Senate, but this leadership drought is the longest in recent memory. President Barack Obama’s nominee was confirmed within months. Gold said have never been part of NASA before and Jones could help restore the bipartisan nature of space.

“We don’t go to space as Republicans and Democrats; we got to space as people, as Americans and as humans. Sen. Jones could help us get back to that place,” Gold said. “It would be a magnanimous gesture, and it would be critical for the state and the nation.”

The federal government, through the FAA, is expected to approve several licensed commercial spaceports across the United States in coming years. The minds behind the Space Authority, including State Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, hope the group can attract one of the spaceports to Alabama as commercial space travel becomes a reality in the near future.

“Somebody is going to get this spaceport in the Southeast, and we think we can be that place,” Dial said in an interview with APR. “This is going be for space travel, wherever it is located, what Atlanta is to the world today. They have millions of people flying through there today. It’s been a hub for Atlanta, and that’s why you have so many corporate headquarters there.”

While some have painted Dial’s proposals as wishful thinking, the 80-year-old state senator has said Alabama needs to think ahead. He believes the state shouldn’t wait for space travel and commercial space flight to become a bonafide reality before trying to throw its hat into the ring.

Panel working to attract spaceport to Alabama will hold first meeting Tuesday

Hawaii, New Mexico, Oklahoma already have licensed private spaceports, and Camden County, Georgia, is trying to develop a spaceport on the Atlantic coast near Savannah. California and Virginia regularly launch payloads at government facilities, while Texas is another hub for private firms like Blue Origin and SpaceX to test their rocket engines.

Barnhart said the spaceport is only one part of the equation, though. The other roles of the Space Authority are perhaps more important, she said.

“We’re already lightyears ahead of any other state that has a spaceport in many other areas such as servicing, payload integration, payload servicing,” Barnhart said. “We’re uniquely qualified, as the Space Station commercializes in the future and as there are more and more orbits and launches to space with commercial payloads in them, to take advantage of that part of the business.”

Alabama’s fast-growing space industry and its many research institutions — from UAB to Auburn and the University of Alabama — could attract more space firms to the state and a spaceport could add to that equate.

“Another advantage of this will be the immediacy of access to payload processing. For example, UAB, HudsonAlpha, Auburn research, they can launch their experiments and have them come straight back to a near proximity so they can be processed quickly,” Barnhart said. “That would stimulate innovation and invention in our state, which of course then attracts high-paying jobs and talent into the state.”

Gold, whose firm designs and builds satellites and space systems for both government contracts and private customers, said there has never been a more exciting time in the space field.

“Much like Lewis and Clark, the government blazed the trail, but the real opportunities come with the private sector coming in,” Gold said. “That’s what we’re seeing happen.”

Private space companies are already investing in Alabama with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin announcing a new state-of-the-art rocket manufacturing facility last year. The company will build its new BE-4 rocket engine near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where the Saturn V rocket was first developed. Another private firm, Aerojet Rocketdyne, also broke ground on a 136,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Huntsville in October 2017.

Where the spaceport would be, if it’s ever constructed, was a point of contention among lawmakers in years past, but the authority is not focusing so much right now on where, but rather, how.

Regardless, the leaders agree Alabama is in a great position to succeed.

“Alabama is perfectly suited to be taking advantage of this, given the quality of life, the low cost of living, the educated workforce, the Marshall Space Flight Center and your educational institutions, not to mention the congressional delegation,” Gold said. “The stars are aligned for Alabama, and it’s just important that you pay attention to that and move in this direction.”

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Scandal, blue dogs and the fickle public could change the 2018 election, maybe

Bill Britt



Stock Photo

Campaign season is about to enter a critical phase with Republican and Democrat primaries less than 75 days away.

In this off-year election, only the governor’s race and the battle for attorney general are drawing any particular attention. Neither seat is held by an individual elected to the office by a vote of the people. Gov. Kay Ivey ascended to her position after the fall of Gov. Robert Bentley, and Attorney General Steve Marshall owes his job to the same deviant governor who was forced from office due to moral and legal failings.

As the 2018 Legislative Session hurries to a close, politicos are focusing their attention on primary election day, June 5, when many races are decided because of carefully drawn districts that favor either a Republican or Democrat candidate.

All political contests are consequential, but few have the potential to be transformative. If the status quo holds, little will change in the Heart of Dixie, but as with all things politics, the mercurial temperament of the electorate can change in interesting ways.


Take for instance Judge Roy Moore’s recent defeat in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election where scandal coupled with weak resolve among state Republican leadership gave a motivated youth and minority voter movement an opportunity to capture a seat held by Republicans for more than a generation.

There is little reason to believe that Gov. Ivey will not win the Republican primary. Most recent polls show her with high favorables among Republican voters. But that doesn’t mean her path to victory is assured, as she faces three primary challengers and an enlivened Democratic base.

Having raised nearly three million dollars, Ivey is besting her closest competitor by over one million.

Secretary of State records show Ivey raising $2,833,064.91, Mayor Tommy Battle $1,692,632.00 (loan $4,000), State Sen. Bill Hightower $806,528.66 (loan $30,100) and Scott Dawson $638,967.00.

Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls former State Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox are, for now, only a distraction in terms of fundraising — but so was Doug Jones before he upset the state’s political equilibrium with his U.S. Senate win just a few months ago.

As for the attorney general’s race in the Republican primary, Marshall faces a field that includes former U.S. Attorney and recent AG chief deputy Alice Martin, former Attorney General Troy King and President Donald Trump’s Alabama finance director Chess Bedsole.

“That an attorney general is accepting donations from those who aided Hubbard is seen as troubling.”

Marshall is handily outpacing his rivals in fundraising having received $961,505.28 total with $18,021.40 in loans. Marshall contributions from in-state PACs has dropped precipitously since revelation surfaced about his actions to protect a molester on his staff.

But that hasn’t deterred out-of-state donors, many of whom seem to have no affiliation with Alabama. Marshall’s campaign is heavily funded by groups and individuals who are tied to the felony acts of former Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. That an attorney general is accepting donations from those who aided Hubbard is seen a troubling.

Among Republican voters, the most recent survey shows Marshall running behind King and slightly ahead of Martin.

Many high-profile politicos speaking on background believe if Marshall wins, he will move to fire public corruption fighter Matt Hart and his team. They also express concern that he will join forces with those who will weaken and dismantle state ethics laws.

Given Republican gerrymandering and the state’s right-leaning political bent, little is expected to change.

However, as blue dog Democrats are gaining ground across the nation, it is not inconceivable that Ivey could face a challenge from the left and given that Marshall was an Obama Democrat until 2012, it seems likely that he will be sent home by one of his three Republican challengers.

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ALGOP congratulates Alabama Senate’s passage of the $6.6 billion education budget

Brandon Moseley



Friday, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan praised the state Legislature for passage of the $6.6 billion Education Trust Fund and Teacher Pay Raise Legislation.

Lathan said, “Once again, Republicans are leading the way for a better Alabama. As a former public school teacher, I am proud of our GOP Senate and House Caucus for putting our children and educators first in passing the largest Alabama education budget since 2008. Years of fiscally conservative Republican governance are resulting in a strong economy and positive changes for Alabamians. There has been no education proration since the Alabama Republicans became the majority party in 2010.”

“In addition to teacher pay raises, this education budget is a sure sign that our polices work to improve lives,” Lathan said. “We prioritize our students and take action to make sure their needs are met. In turn, this results in an education that will positively carry them throughout life as they become productive members of society. These ideas are the foundation of what makes our nation prosper and thrive as we put our children first.”

The Alabama Senate approved a $6.6 billion Education Trust Fund for Fiscal Year 2019, which starts October 1, including a 2.5 percent pay raise for Alabama’s teachers and education support personnel on Thursday. It is the largest education budget for Alabama’s schools since the Great Recession and the second largest in the history of the state.


“Nothing is more important than ensuring a quality education for every student in Alabama, and this education budget is a statement of strong support for our teachers and schools,” Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said, “This is also a sustainable budget that protects taxpayers. From 2001 to 2011, proration – the midyear slashing of local school budgets because of irresponsible fiscal plans from the Legislature – occurred six times. Proration hasn’t happened once since 2011.”

Orr is Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee.

The fiscal year 2019 education budget includes a $18.5 million increase for more pre-K classrooms.

A University of Alabama at Birmingham study (UAB), released in February by the Department of Early Childhood Education, claims that students who participated in First Class outperformed their peers in reading and math assessments. First Class, currently available in 941 classrooms, has been named the nation’s best pre-kindergarten program in the nation for eleven years in a row by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The $18.5 million increase will help fund approximately 120 new Pre-K classrooms.

“I want to commend Senator Orr and the Finance and Taxation Education committee for their hard work in passing the Education Trust Fund,” Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said, “This fiscally-responsible budget is another step in the right direction as we were able to include a pay raise for teachers, increased funds for school security, and additional money for classroom supplies.”

The Senate’s education budget includes a 2.5 percent pay raise for K-12 and two-year college education employees which will cost Alabama taxpayers $102 million a year. The budget includes a $1.1 million increase for K-12 career tech and a $6 million increase for K-12 transportation.

“This budget is an investment in the future of Alabama. Conservatives in the Legislature are strongly committed to fighting for Alabama’s students and teachers, and improving our schools to ensure that every student in every county in Alabama has access to a quality education,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said, “We have set aside additional money for school security, given a much-deserved raise to teachers, and invested more money in our vital career tech programs.”

The $6.6 billion education budget includes funding a new robotics program for middle and high school students, and a $500,000 allocation for K-12 mental health counselors. The budget increases spending on textbooks by $11 million and a $4 million increase for new technologies in classrooms.

The Senate also approved a proposal that will allow local school boards to use money from the Advancement and Technology Fund to improve school security by hiring new security officers and installing metal detectors at school entrances.

The House has already passed the 2019 education budget, but the Senate made several changes to the House budget. The House of Representatives still has to decide on whether to concur with the Senate version, or a conference committee between the two houses will have to resolve the differences before it goes to the governor’s desk.

Both Houses have also passed the state General Fund Budget. Once both of the houses concur on both budgets, which could happen as early as Tuesday, the legislature will have met all of its constitutional obligations and could go home. They have used only 20 of their 30 regular session days but sources tell the Alabama Political Reporter that they expect to only meet five more days in this session.


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Unintended Consequences Plague Ward’s Well-Intentioned Legislation

by Rob Johnson Read Time: 3 min