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Bentley Calls His Plan Our Moonshot

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, February 2, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) delivered his sixth State of the State Speech to a joint House of the Alabama Legislature in the historic Alabama Capital Building.

Gov. Bentley said that on the State’s 150th anniversary, a state man also first landed on the moon. That year was 1969, before many current Alabamians were even born. Bentley said, “With that first giant leap for mankind, America achieved the unthinkable, the incredible, the unbelievable. And it was Alabama that made the impossible, possible. The powerful Saturn V rocket that took man to space, to new heights, was imagined, engineered and built by a brilliant team of scientists right here in Alabama. It was Alabamians who dared to believe they could do the improbable.”

Bentley unveiled an ambitious agenda that included expanding the State’s pre-kindergarten program; expanding services for prisoners, massive new prisons, improving access to an education and job training, college scholarships, and plans to lure doctors to rural areas of the state.

Gov. Bentley said that, “When jobs are needed, we will bring industries along with brighter opportunities to our communities and families. Last year alone, Alabama added over 52-thousand jobs. So convinced are top industries that our state is the place to grow, they invested over 2-billion dollars to create good, high-skill, well-paying jobs for our people.”


Bentley listed the luring of Polaris, expansion at Mercedes, the Airbus plant, the GE Aviation jet engine factories, the Alabama-made Honda Ridgeline truck, and the Google call center as part of, “Alabama’s impressive string of coveted economic development projects.”

The Governor touted Alabama’s high school graduation rate which has, “Jumped an impressive 17-percent in the last four years. Today, Alabama’s high school seniors are graduating at a rate of 89-percent, up from 72-percent just four years ago.”

Bentley is proposing a, “Pay-raise for teachers AND school support personnel, as well as all State employees – with no strings attached.”

Bentley also touted an Alabama Small Business Commission and the Alabama Veterans Network initiative which places stickers on Veteran-owned businesses.

Gov. Bentley blasted the Obama Administration specifically over the Refugee Resettlement Act which the Governor said, “Has failed America and its citizens. The outdated program – which pre-dates any recent acts of radical terrorism – allows refugees from the most radical nations to enter countries including the US with little known about them. Among those refugees are those who would commit the most violent, deadly and extreme acts of terrorism.”

Bentley said, “I have made my deep concerns well known to the Obama Administration. And those concerns have fallen on deaf ears. In an effort to reform the Refugee Resettlement Act, my administration filed suit last month against the federal government demanding the involvement of the states in this critical program. By filing suit, my goal is to completely reform the Refugee Resettlement Program.”

The Governor asked the legislature to pass a joint resolution calling on Congress to reform the Refugee Resettlement Act. He thanked State Representative Connie Rowe and State Senator Clyde Chambliss for introducing that resolution.

The Governor praised the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) as, “One of the most efficient and effective agencies in the state” and urged the legislature to, “Adequately fund ALEA to protect our State, and our people from harm.”

Gov. Bentley went on, “Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the country. While we rank number one in football teams and economic development accolades, our state consistently falls dead last in virtually every quality of life ranking from infant mortality to obesity.”

Gov. Bentley said, “I wanted to be the Governor of this state because I wanted to help people and to make their lives better. I also want Alabama to be known as the best state in the nation. Together we have a chance, an opportunity to fundamentally change those things that hold our state back, that stand in the way of greatness. It’s time we do the impossible. The improbable. The unbelievable. It’s time we Shoot for the Moon.”

To do this, Bentley unveiled something he called the, “Great State 2019 Plan” which would correspond with the State of Alabama’s 200th Birthday, the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing and the end of the Bentley Administration.

Bentley said, “I want to leave this office, able to say with confidence that Alabama is truly a great State.” Bentley’s plan focuses on Alabama’s approximately 55 rural counties.

Bentley is asking the legislature to double the funding for Alabama’s controversial Pre-K program.

Bentley also said, “Industries have told us they need more highly trained, educated workers than we have. Yet, the number of Alabama students who are choosing to go to college is declining. Our goal by the year 2019 is to significantly increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.”

Bentley proposed a new Alabama’s own FUTURE Scholarship Plan. The Bentley plan would identify 7th graders beginning in the state’s poorest counties and then provide those students with tutoring, summer-help programs, visits to college campuses and financial planning to make sure they not only want to go to college, but that they can and will succeed. “Offered as a “last dollars” incentive, the FUTURE Scholarship Plan will not only educate and train our students, it will produce a pipeline of well-trained, well-educated talent for industries so those businesses can expand and grow.”

The Governor claimed that we, “Will be able to fund these scholarships and this plan through money we save by the streamlining measures we have already put in place in the community college system.”

Bentley said, “The results will be a well-trained, well-educated new generation of Alabamians.” “For the first time in Alabama, we will allow business and industry to drive our workforce development system.” “The new Alabama Workforce System will be driven by business and industry demand, and what skills and talents those industries need.”

Bentley also promised to embark, “On an ambitious plan to provide rural and under-served communities access to broadband – high speed, high capacity – technology.” “Promoting a robust broadband network will lead to a stronger education system, increased capabilities for healthcare, a more efficient connected law enforcement and enhanced economic development opportunities.”

Bentley proposed radically changing how the State houses its prisoners. “We will permanently close the doors to decades old facilities where maintenance costs have skyrocketed and increased staff are needed. These aging prisons will be consolidated and replaced by four, newly constructed state of the art facilities. And by constructing a brand new female prison facility, the State of Alabama will permanently slam the door shut on Tutwiler Prison for Women. Funded by an adequate bond issue, we will begin this process within the year.”

Alabama already spends less money per prisoner per day than any other state in the country; but Governor Bentley claims that, “The money we save with the more efficient prisons will in turn be used to pay off the debt of the construction.” “Alabama’s prison system will go from being an outdated, inefficient overcrowded system to being the best. And Alabama will become the model for the rest of the nation.”

Gov. Bentley proposed increasing funding, “For medical scholarships and loan forgiveness for medical students who commit to serving a period of time in one of our underserved communities. This applies to physicians, physician assistants, advance-practice nurses and dentists.” Bentley proposed a state tax-credit of up to $5000 and asking Congress to provide a 450,000 federal tax credit for those classified as rural healthcare providers.” Bentley also proposed funding 12 new residency programs across the State.

Bentley’s rambling nearly five thousand word speech closed with, “Once again we accept an impossible challenge, and like our scientists in 1969, once again WE WILL SUCCEED. This is our Moonshot. This is our Great State. God Bless you all. And may God continue to Bless the Great State of Alabama.”

House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) responded, “I was very encouraged to hear Gov. Bentley essentially endorse the House Democratic Caucus’ education agenda tonight, especially with his call for more support for pre-K. I couldn’t have agreed more!” Ford said however that Bentley should have called for a lottery to fund the scholarships he wants.”

House Rural Caucus Chairman David Standridge (R-Hayden) said, “Tonight, my friend, Governor Robert Bentley, charted a new course for Alabama. This course, not only recognizes the needs of the largest population centers in our state, but also recognizes the needs of our most rural citizens. I look forward to receiving more specifics on the governor’s plans and I hope we can come to a consensus on legislation in the upcoming session that will move rural Alabama forward.”

Ford called parts of the governor’s speech, “Bizarre. He almost sounded bipolar at times. He started off talking about the constitution and the government overstepping its authority, then he sounded like Bernie Sanders when talked about his broadband initiative, free tuition and his plan for super prisons, which I can think of much better uses for that $700 million than building new prisons.”

Ford agreed with the governor on prioritizing health care in rural Alabama, but preferred expanding Medicaid to Bentley’s tax credits and scholarships for rural doctors.

In 2015 the Governor presented a plan to dramatically increase general fund spending by $700 million a year. That plan along with subsequent Bentley administration $550 million and $300 million plans all died in the State legislature…..some of it from lack of even a sponsor.


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In Case You Missed It

House passes General Fund Budget

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.

The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.

Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”

Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.


The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.

Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.

Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.

The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.

Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.

The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.

Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.

The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.

In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.

SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.

Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”

State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”

The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.

The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.

The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.

The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.

Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.

SB185 passed 101-0.

Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.

Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1  for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.

SB215 passed the House 87-0.

The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.

State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.

SB231 passed 87-2.

The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.

The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.

The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.

Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.

Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.

Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.


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Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday

Sam Mattison



By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.

Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.

Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.

The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.


Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.

Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.

Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.

Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.

Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.

Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.

The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.

Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.

It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.

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In Case You Missed It

Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

Sam Mattison



By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.

The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.

Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.

Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.


Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.

Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.

The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.

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House OKs bill to clarify consulting contracts by state legislators

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to try to clarify how legislators accept consulting contracts under Alabama’s 2010 ethics law. Some pundits have suggested that House Bill 387 is actually designed to weaken the existing ethics law.

Sponsor state Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, argues that the legislation is merely a clarification and is intended to prevent legislators from inadvertently crossing the line into illegality.

Wingo said that his bill would require legislators to notify the Alabama Ethics Commission that they have entered into a consulting agreement in an area outside of their normal scope of work.

State Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, said, “I have never understood why members of this body were allowed to take contracts as consultants or counselors.”


Wingo said, “Never do I use the word counselor in my bill; it is consulting.”

Beckman asked, “Are we going to be getting into an area where  every time we turn around we create a bureaucratic nightmare where we have to go get an opinion. These opinions whether it is orally or written don’t hold up in a court of law.” Beckman said, “We are serving the people here but we get this admonition that we can still be a consultant if we get an opinion.”

Wingo said, “This does not apply to professions where a member is currently licensed.”

Beckman said, “I would like to see more opinions coming out of the Ethics Commission. Right now we have the Ethics Commission competing with the Attorney General’s office over who has more authority.”

State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said,”This happened to a friend of mine. He just got out of prison. He was a state senator and had a written letter from the Ethics Commission which his lawyer read at trial and the jury convicted him anyway.”

Rogers never named his friend, but reporters think he was talking about former state Sen. Edward Browning ‘E. B.’ McClain who spent over 22 years in the legislature until he was convicted on 47 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, bribery, and money laundry in 2009.

A federal jury found that McClain and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue were guilty in a scheme where McClain would secure public funds for Pettagrue’s community programs and then receive a kickback once the funds were in hand. McClain was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison. McClain was not prosecuted under the Alabama ethics law as the state has a much weaker ethics statute then. The current ethics law was passed in 2010.

Rogers said, “If they offer me a consulting contract for a field like aerospace engineering that I know nothing about they are trying to pay me off. If you can already be a consultant for something you know about why would you seek a consulting contract for something you don’t know about.

Rogers this is how they can pay you off for your vote.”

State Rep. Artis “A.J.” McCampbell said, “I don’t like making changes to things like this because we get into things called unintended consequences.”

McCampbell was reading from the bill and Wingo said, “You are reading from the original version it has completely changed.” “We worked tirelessly on this bill with the Ethics Commission this is not a fly by night bill.”

“If a member of the legislature enters into a contract to do a consulting contract outside of their normal field of work this bill requires that they consult with the Ethics Commission first,” Wingo said. “It is up to the member to notify the Ethics Commission not to the company or person offering them the money.”

State Representative Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said, “Everybody but legislators are allowed to do contract work up to $30,000.”

Rep. Wingo said, “This is not intended to be a roadblock.”

State Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said, “The whole purpose of this is not to prevent members from doing work in your field.” “What you are doing is offering to protect me.”

State Representative John Knight, D-Montgomery, asked Wingo what the Alabama Attorney General said about this legislation.

Wingo replied, “I have not contacted the Attorney General.”

Knight responded, “Something from the Ethics Commission does not carry a lot of protection from the Attorney General. We have seen that in the past. I think the Attorney General and the Ethics Commission should be in agreement in the working on this.”

Wingo answered, “Maybe this is a first step.”

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, asked, “Do we have anybody doing work outside of their regular scope of work?”

Wingo answered, “Yes I think so.”

Wingo said, “If we had had this bill four or five years ago maybe we could have been spared the embarrassment that this body experienced with the former Speaker.”

Wingo was referring to former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard who was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations in June 2016. Ironically, Hubbard is largely responsible for creating the ethics law that he was found guilty of violating 11 times in his relentless pursuit of outside contracts and personal wealth.

Unlike McClain, however, Hubbard has not yet served any of this sentence.

House Bill 387 passed 67-0 with 26 legislators abstaining.

The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Lisa Osborn in 2009 was consulted in this report.)

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Bentley Calls His Plan Our Moonshot

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 8 min