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Christopher Countryman Running for Governor

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, May 26, the Alabama Political Reporter (APR) interviewed Christopher A. Countryman, the first to declare his candidacy for Governor of Alabama. Mr. Countryman answered a series of APR’s questions in writing, about the issues facing Alabama as we head toward the 2018 elections.

APR: Should we borrow $800 million to build four new prisons?

Countryman: No we should not. The fact is that close to 2,000 inmates have been incarcerated for non-violent crimes. We should be looking into more cost effective solutions that we can use in the area of corrections, rather than keeping those who are incarcerated for non-violent crimes locked up. The money saved could then be used to renovate our current prisons, as well as going to other long term projects within the state.

APR: Would you expand Medicaid? And if so how would you pay for it?

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Countryman: Yes, I would definitely expand Medicaid. We have to many citizens in the state who depend on Medicaid for vital healthcare and to improve their quality of life. The first step towards paying for Medicaid expansion would be to accept the Federal funds designated to be used for Medicaid. The second step would involve a detailed audit of the state’s expenses and eliminate all wasteful and excessive spending.

APR: State Representative Terri Collins (R) has proposed grading the Alabama publics schools from A to F. Do you favor this approach of public shaming the poor performers, or does this do more harm than good?

Countryman: I am mostly against this idea. The reason is because I do not believe that publicly shaming one of our educational institutions will encourage our teachers and administrators to succeed. If anything it would cause them a great deal of stress, humiliation, and ultimately a lot of finger pointing. If anything we should implement a program that rewards those schools, administrators, and teachers that are operating in the top 5 percent.

APR: Do you favor allowing the voters of Alabama to vote on a lottery? If so where would that money go: Medicaid? Prisons? General Fund? Education? Or a new scholarship benefit?

Countryman: I remember when Governor Bentley campaigned on the promise of letting citizens vote on a state lottery. Because of this I am sure that many voters are discouraged about the matter because he didn’t exactly follow through with this promise. However, I do believe that citizens should have the right to vote on a state lottery because when it comes to our budget and revenue they should have a say so in how our state generates some types of revenue as well as how that revenue is spent. That additional revenue, from a state lottery, would go towards Medicaid, education and schools, our prisons, and then our general fund. This could be negotiated as long as our Medicaid and education budgets got first priority.

APR: Should the State of Alabama expand gaming in the State? If so should the State open it up to competition or do you favor giving exclusive gaming licenses to only a handful of operators already with bingos or dog tracks in Alabama?

Countryman: If by definition you are referring to card gambling and slot machines, then this is a lot different than electronic bingo, or even a state lottery. I am not opposed to the current electronic bingo machines that are currently in operation at several facilities across the state. And like Governor Bentley I think each county should be able to decide for themselves if they want to operate electronic bingo facilities in their area. When it comes to other forms of gaming, such as traditional slot machines and card gambling, then the citizens of Alabama should be able to vote on the matter. Ultimately this would be a situation that would rely heavily on the state and citizens working together to figure out what would be best for the state and the citizens in it.

APR: Do you believe the State of Alabama was founded on Judeo-Christian values and should State government actively promote those values?

Countryman: I believe that there are many moral principles that our state, as well as other states, were founded on that are found within the Christian Bible. But these moral principles can also be found in many other religious texts as well. The United States was founded on the principals of equality granting each person the right to worship and believe the way that they choose without influence or interference. I myself come from a very Christian family, and I attend church when work permits, but I cannot force my beliefs on others from an executive or legislative level. By doing so I would be violating the 1st amendment of the Constitution of the United States. I will protect each citizen’s religious freedom, without favoring one religion over another, as long as one person’s religious views, or lack thereof, doesn’t cause any physical or emotional harm to another citizen.

APR: Is the Court of the Judiciary the proper venue to discipline an elected statewide official or should matters like Roy Moore’s fate be referred to the Alabama Legislature as requested recently by the Alabama Republican Executive Committee?

Countryman: I believe that our Chief Justice should be held accountable by the higher courts, just as any elected official is. We need to reform the ethic’s laws within the state to hold our Chief Justice more accountable on a state. Ultimately I do not believe that the Alabama Legislature should be responsible for the discipline of a member of the court system.

APR: Are you running as a Republican or a Democrat?

Countryman: I am proud to be running as a Democrat. In fact, Alabama has had a long history of bringing forth many great Governors who were Democrat and I will be proud to bring back that legacy.

APR: Alabama has the lowest property taxes in the country. Do you favor raising property taxes?

Countryman: I believe that we have taxed the lower and middle classes to death. We do have though about 3 percent of our population who are millionaires, if not multi-millionaires. Some of these who have not been paying their fair share because of crooked politics and tax loopholes. This needs to be fixed. In order to fix these problems, as well as to help generate needed revenue in the state, I would favor closing these loopholes so that all individuals within the state that make up that 3 percent are paying their fair share, and then increasing the property taxes for that 3 percent fairly if needed.

APR: Does the State receive enough tax dollars or do taxes need to increase?

Countryman: Our population is increasing. The truth is that as that population increases so does the amount of revenue that will be needed to sustain the programs in our state that are there for our citizens. While one of my goals is to eventually get our food tax down to 3 percent or less, as well as reducing taxes in other areas, we certainly do need to consider this question on a bipartisan basis. It is not enough just to generate revenue through tax increases. We also have to be responsible for what we do with that revenue.

APR: Some have suggested that the State is losing its sovereignty to what they call “judicial tyranny” where the will of the people and our representatives is being thwarted by unelected federal courts. Do you agree or disagree?

Countryman: I strongly disagree. This is because the concept of state sovereignty refers to the legal interactions from state to state. What this means is that we cannot force other states to comply with our laws any more than they can force us to comply with theirs. A good example is our law on the legal age to purchase tobacco products. In Alabama it is 19 while in Florida it is 18. We cannot force Florida to comply with our law any more than they can force us to comply with theirs. A state’s sovereignty does not apply to whether or not we obey federal law because we are part of that government system, the United States. By being a part of the union known as the United States each state agrees to abide by those federal laws first, in return states receive certain benefits, rights, and protections they may not otherwise have.

APR: Should the BP oil settlement be used, to pay down debts, for roads, or to avoid Medicaid cuts?

Countryman: The BP oil settlement should first be used to continue funding programs that are involved in the cleanup and continued maintenance of our marine and coastal regions. Part of moving towards our goals of creating clean and renewable energy sources, that get us away from our dependence on fossil fuels, includes maintaining a clean and healthy marine environment. Aside from using the settlement funds for this, those funds should also go to continued research and development of clean and renewable energy sources that would help create a cleaner and more sustainable ecosystem. Whatever funds were left over after ensuring that these programs were fairly and adequately funded should be used to upgrade our infrastructure and further fund Medicaid. However, I am not opposed to allowing the citizens to provide their input on this either. As a matter of fact, I am in favor of having a very active administration when it comes to allowing more input from our citizens in how we spend their tax dollars and settlements such as the one that BP is having to pay.

Countryman said that he has, “…an extensive amount of leadership and public service experience which he has gained over the years.” Some of this experiences include: time he spent serving on a community action coalition, as an equal rights activist, as one of the founders of Equality Wiregrass, as a juvenile corrections officer, as an associate pastor, and as a youth pastor.

Countryman also cited his business experience in the consumer marketplace. He wrote that he “…has committed himself to continued education and personal study in order to grow as a leader within his community.” Countryman attended Bible College and is currently an Ordained Minister. He is currently completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Government and Law at Grand Canyon University. If elected, he would be the first openly gay Governor of Alabama. He is married to Bruce Countryman. Countryman is originally from Los Angeles. He lives in Dothan.

 

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Elections

Opinion | Kay Ivey’s official calendar is surprisingly empty

Josh Moon

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In late-August and early-September, there was one question dominating Alabama’s governor’s race.

Where is Kay Ivey?

The governor at that point had scarcely been seen in a few days. In one 10-day stretch, she held no public events and somehow managed to avoid even local ribbon cuttings and bridge openings. And her opponent’s campaign was raising questions about her lack of activity.

Walt Maddox, at that point, had already challenged Ivey to a series of debates. She declined, offering a number of excuses, including that she was “busy governing the state.” She had also told her Republican primary challengers that she was “too busy” to debate them.

So, I wanted to know: Who was telling the truth? Was it a big deal? Was Ivey too busy?

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There was only one way to find out: I filed an Alabama Open Records Act request for Ivey’s official calendar for a three-week span (Aug. 24 through Sept. 14).

That span, I figured, would provide a solid look into Ivey’s days and would cover all of the days that the Maddox campaign had questioned her whereabouts.

On Wednesday, after paying $17 and some change to a public entity to produce public records that the public had already paid to be produced once, APR was provided with copies of Ivey’s official calendar.

Counting every entry on the calendar for 21 days — including travel time to and from the governor’s mansion (which apparently takes 30 minutes) and air travel to a variety of meetings and ribbon cuttings — there are less than 60 hours accounted for.

That’s less than three hours per day.

But it’s actually worse than that, because most of that time is compacted into a handful of days, leaving large chunks of time — whole calendar pages — simply blank.

In total, seven days were blank. Three other days had just one entry.

In one calendar week — Sunday, Sept. 2, thru Saturday, Sept. 8 — Ivey’s calendar shows just three and a half hours of scheduled time.

That week, her days were completely blank on Sunday, Labor Day Monday and Tuesday. She had a single phone call on Wednesday and a single meeting on Thursday. She hosted the Alabama Association of Regional Councils on Friday morning and wrapped up the grueling week with a proclamation signing at 10:30 a.m. that Friday.

I’ll remind you that this is the governor — a governor in the midst of a campaign.

You would think her calendar would be crammed with events and meetings and staff scrums and trips all over the place.

But … there’s just nothing.

And that’s not normal. I know that for a fact.

I’ve been to the Alabama Archives and sorted through the official calendars for the last three governors of this state. None of their calendars look like Ivey’s. Not even close.

I shared photos on Facebook Wednesday night of entries from random days on Robert Bentley’s calendar. In some instances, his days spilled over onto a second page.

The same was true with Bob Riley. His days, like Bentley’s, seemed to be planned from morning until night. Every day. Even on the weekends.

What’s happening with Kay Ivey should raise eyebrows and a ton of questions. Mainly: Can she actually do this job?

I think that’s a fair question at this point, after the public freeze-ups, the long disappearances, the managed time by her staff, the refusal to debate, and now these nearly blank calendar days.

And then there are two other questions:

Who is running this state?

And who are you voting for?

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Elections

Anti-abortion group National Right to Life endorses Ivey

Brandon Moseley

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National Right to Life announced their endorsement of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) in the Nov. 6 general election.

Ivey said she proudly accepted the endorsement from National Right to Life, the third pro-life organization to endorse Ivey as Governor.

In a letter announcing their support for Kay Ivey, National Right to Life Executive Director David O’Steen and Political Director Karen Cross described Governor Ivey as a “strong advocate for life.”

National Right to Life applauded Governor Ivey’s support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act as well as her opposition to using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions and abortion providers.

“All Alabama voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to reelect you as governor so that you can continue to advance vital pro-life public policies,” said Cross and O’Steen.

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Governor Ivey’s opponent, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) has been running ads touting his pro-life and pro-gun credentials, which is odd for the modern Democratic Party; but Ivey is the one with the endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List, Alabama Citizens four Life, and the National Rifleman’s Association (NRA). The NRA magazines with their Kay Ivey endorsements arrived in NRA households across Alabama on Tuesday.

“This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life. We look forward to working with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children and medically dependent or disabled persons – whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia,” said Cross and O’Steen in their letter.

Kay Ivey has served two terms as Alabama’s state Treasurer and two terms as the Lieutenant Governor. She was elevated to Governor in April 2017 when then Governor Robert Bentley (R) resigned after the House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings. Ivey grew up on a cattle farm in Wilcox County, attended Auburn University, went to work as a school teacher, then went to work in state government.

Ivey’s campaign is emphasizing her administration’s strong job growth, robust economic growth, increasing pre-K access, and workforce development as reasons to elect her as governor. Mayor Maddox’s campaign is promising to extend Medicaid benefits to more people, raise fuel taxes, a state-sponsored lottery, taxing sports gambling, and a gambling agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians.

The general election will be on Tuesday, November 6. Also in this election, voters gets to vote on Amendment Two which states that nothing in the Alabama Constitution can be construed as allowing abortions to take place. The growing pro-life movement is hopeful that the U.S, Supreme Court will eventually overturn the highly controversial Roe versus Wade ruling that forced the states to allow abortion on demand.

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National

Brooks warns of potential debilitating national insolvency after deficit jumps 17 percent

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, issued a warning about the potential for a “Debilitating National Insolvency and bankruptcy that robs America of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed” following the release of the Treasury Department’s preliminary Fiscal Year 2018 deficit projection of $779 billion and the Comptroller General’s statement that America’s fiscal path is “unsustainable.”

“Yesterday’s Treasury Department report confirms that, when it comes to financial responsibility, Washington is a total and complete bipartisan failure,” Brooks said. “Thankfully, because of free-enterprise economic reforms, America’s economy is booming and federal revenues are up. Unfortunately, Washington spending has once again outstripped and left revenue growth in the dust.”

“At $779 billion for FY 2018, America’s deficit is 17 percent worse than last year’s $666 billion deficit. [3] Worse yet, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that next year’s deficit will near the $1-trillion mark,” Brooks wrote in a statement. “Even worse yet, the CBO estimates all subsequent deficits will blow past $1 trillion per year. [4] America’s total debt has exploded to $21.5 trillion. [5] U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro has once again evaluated America’s deficit and debt situation and warned Washington that our financial path is ‘unsustainable’ (accounting language for ‘an insolvency and bankruptcy is in America’s future if we do not change our financially irresponsible path’).”

“American taxpayers shelled out about $325 billion in debt service costs in Fiscal Year 2018,” Rep. Brooks continued. “To put $325 billion into perspective, it is more than 15 times what America spends annually on NASA and more than 6 times what the federal government spends annually on transportation. Absent constructive change, the CBO warns Washington that debt service costs will exceed $800 billion per year within a decade. [7] $800 billion is more than what America currently spends on national defense.”

“This financial data points to one dangerous outcome: a debilitating national insolvency and bankruptcy that robs Americans of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed,” Rep. Brooks warned. “I cannot overemphasize how the voting public throughout America must do a far better job of studying and understanding economic issues well enough to elect senators and congressmen who have both the intellect to understand the threat posed by America’s deficits and accumulated debt and the backbone to do what it takes to prevent the economic destruction of a nation it took our ancestors centuries to build.”

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The primary driver of the debt has been entitlements, Brooks said. So-called “mandatory spending” on expensive social programs including: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are increasing much faster than federal revenues or GDP. The Republican Congress has increased spending on Defense, cut taxes, but has not addressed exploding entitlement costs. The improving economy also means rising interest rates which dramatically increases the cost of servicing the national debt, which has ballooned to $21,634 billion.

Congressman Mo Brooks is seeking his fifth term in the United States Congress. He faces former Huntsville city attorney Peter Joffrion in the general election on November 6.

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News

Department of Labor to hold job fair for prospective coal miners

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Department of Labor announced that they are holding a job fair for prospective coal miners.

The Jasper Career Center is hosting a Job Fair for Jennmar Services on Thursday, October 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. It will be held at the Career Center located at 2604 Viking Drive in Jasper.

Jennmar Services is a full-service staffing company for coal and hard rock mining, oil, gas, and manufacturing industries. They will be recruiting for both Inexperienced underground coal miners (Redhats – Apprentice Miners) and experienced underground coal miners (Blackhats).

Inexperienced miners need to have passed the MSHA 40 Mining Course. It must be current. 5000-23 must be within the past three years.

Experienced underground coal miners need to have their Alabama Miner’s Certification and annual refresher course. Those credentials must be current.

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The event is free and open to the public and as always, veterans will receive priority service. Job seekers should bring their résumé, are encouraged to dress professionally, and should be prepared to interview.
If job seekers need a résumé, they can visit the career center ahead of time for assistance. Jobseekers must bring all certifications to the job fair.

For more information, contact the Jasper Career Center at 205-221-2576 or [email protected]

Free services available to job seekers at the local Career Center include resume assistance, interview preparation, job search assistance, and access to many educational and vocational training programs.

Employer services include free job postings, employee screenings, access to interview space, and valuable training programs and tax credits.

From 2009 to 2015, the coal industry declined, leaving workers and communities desperate. Over 36,000 jobs were lost. From 2009 to 2015, American coal production declined by over 177,000,000 tons, and over 600 coal mines closed.

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Christopher Countryman Running for Governor

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 9 min
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