In Case You Missed It Ethics Commission withdraws McCalla opinion after charities line-up Published 2 years ago on December 8, 2016 By Bill Britt Share Tweet By Bill Britt Alabama Political Reporter In a unanimous vote on September 1, 2016, the Alabama Ethics Commission issued advisory opinion 2016-24, which it believed clarified the question regarding public officials soliciting lobbyists and principals for contributions to a charitable organization, operating as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The issue was raised by the nonprofit group, Friends of McCalla. After approving the opinion in a 5-0 vote, the Commission gave a 30-day window for public comment; however, it was extended past the 30 days to December 7. In the interim, several well-known charities became concerned about the definition of a principal in the Commission’s opinion, On Wednesday, a number of of 501(c)3 directors were on hand to add their comments to the public hearing. Also present were some of the State’s most successful trial lawyers. Of the many attorneys present, several participated directly in the case of former Speaker Mike Hubbard, who was convicted on 12 felony counts of public corruption, including receiving a thing of value from a principal.Advertisement Retired Judge and former Senator Jerry Fielding, as Chair of the Commission, presided over the hearing and fast-paced the comments given by various charities and attorneys. Even the State Bar Association weighed in on the issue through its in-coming president, August Dowd. Subscribe to our daily newsletter Since Hubbard’s conviction, there has been considerable concern over the definition of a principal. Many in the business community and recently among charitable organizations worry the meaning is too broad. In the Hubbard case, Judge Jacob Walker, III found as a matter of law that principals include directors and senior leadership of an organization. Each speaker, including former Supreme Court Justice, Sue Belle Cobb, expressed how confusion over the law has harmed charitable giving. From the Association of Nonprofits, which represent 500 charities, to the YWCA, there was a stream of testimony on how corporate donors are concerned about making a donation that runs afoul of the ethics laws. Yet no one seemed to articulate how the opinion was specifically perilous. In the McCalla opinion the commission found, “Public officials and employees and their families are permitted to solicit donations to Friends of McCalla from principals as long as the purpose for doing so is to benefit the public, and as long as funds raised will not provide any personal gain to the public official, public employee, their family or a business with which they are associated. If they are members of the Board, they may solicit on Friends of McCalla’s behalf unless they are paid for Board service or derive any other personal gain from service.” SEE MCCALLA OPINION Maynard Cooper Gale lawyer Ted Hosp, representing the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), said the current law is being used to punish something that looks bad but isn’t necessarily illegal. Hosp suggested that only if there were a quid pro quo should there be legal ramifications and concluded the statute never intended to bar giving or receiving things of value unless it was meant to influence a desired outcome. Attorney Max Pulliam with the Alabama Association of Nonprofits argued the statue the Commission’s definition in McCalla contradicted the narrow one passed by the State Legislature. The charities represented at the hearing spoke passionately about how charitable giving was suffering because lawmakers, corporate boards, and other high profile individuals were waiting for the Commission’s ruling on McCalla. After the last speaker for the Association had concluded, Judge Fielding asked attorney J. Mark White if he would like to comment. White, who seemed to have no official role in the proceedings, declined in a moment of levity. After the public comments had been heard, Commissioner Butch Ellis called to resend the McCalla opinion at which time Ethics Director Tom Albritton ask that it simply be suspended to allow for a framework for continued discussion. But his plea was ignored. Fielding called for a second which was given by retired Judge Charles Price. It was put to the vote and Fielding, Ellis and Price chose to withdraw the McCalla Opinion. Commissioner Jerry Wood reminded Fielding that he had not called for “nays” which led to Woods and Stewart Tankersley casting their vote against withdrawing McCalla. It was widely observed that Hubbard’s attorneys, White and Dowd, were at the hearing as well as Joe Espy, who represented Jimmy Rane and Will Brooke during the Hubbard trial. Also present was Max Pulliam who represented billionaire Bobby Abrams in the Hubbard case. Hubbard was convicted of receiving a thing of value from Brooke and Abrams. The Attorney General’s office is working to further clarify and strengthen the ethics laws passed by the Republican supermajority. Print this piece Related Topics:Advisory OpinionAlabama Political ReporterAssociation of NonprofitsAttorney General’s OfficeAttorney Max Pulliamattorneys presentAugust DowdBar AssociationBill Brittbillionaire Bobby AbramsBusiness Council of Alabama (BCA)Butch EllisChair of the CommissioncharitableCharles Pricecontributionsconvictedcorporate donorsethics commissionFriends of McCallaIIIissuedJ. Mark WhiteJerry WoodJimmy RaneJoe EspyJudge Jacob WalkerlegislatureMax PulliamMaynard Cooper & Galenonprofitoperatingorganizationpresidedprincipalspublic officialsquid pro quorepublican supermajoritySenator Jerry Fieldingsoliciting lobbyistsSpeaker Mike HubbardstateStewart TankersleySupreme Court Justice Sue Belle CobbTed HospTom Albrittontrial lawyersunanimous voteweighed-inWill BrookeYWCA Up Next Luther Strange elated that Pruitt has been nominated to head EPA Don't Miss Alabama Supreme Court demands JIC provide reason for keeping Moore case sealed Bill Britt Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter. Continue Reading In Case You Missed It House passes General Fund Budget Published 4 months ago on March 14, 2018 By 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.Advertisement The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections. Subscribe to our daily newsletter 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. Print this piece Continue Reading In Case You Missed It Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday Published 4 months ago on March 14, 2018 By 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.Advertisement 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. Subscribe to our daily newsletter 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. Print this piece Continue Reading In Case You Missed It Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor Published 4 months ago on March 14, 2018 By 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.Advertisement Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling. Subscribe to our daily newsletter 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. Print this piece Continue Reading Authors Bill Britt Brandon Moseley Chip Brownlee Joey Kennedy Josh Moon Sam Mattison Steve Flowers Susan Britt Advertisement Latest Popular Uncategorized13 hours ago House passes Byrne Amendment protecting GOMESA funding News1 day ago Roberson and Gilbert both found guilty of federal corruption charges Guest Columnists1 day ago Opinion | Pro-growth policies are working in AL-02 communities Elections2 days ago Secretary of State’s Office begins voter fraud investigation in Wilcox and Perry Counties Featured Columnists2 days ago Opinion | What in the world happened to Robert Bentley? Elections2 days ago Walt Maddox, statewide candidates host forum in Gardendale News2 days ago Shelby announces $25.5 million for statewide airport infrastructure News2 days ago Faith leaders screen documentary film on the cash bail system Bill Britt3 weeks ago Opinion | No, Mr. Marshall, it’s you News3 weeks ago Murfreesboro PD: Bridgette Marshall’s death still an active investigation News2 weeks ago Neighbors and officials warned to not talk Featured Columnists2 weeks ago Opinion | Birmingham superfund scam extends well beyond federal courtroom News6 days ago Deposition: Bentley was pressured by lawmakers, attorneys, major donors to upend Hubbard trial News1 week ago Alabama Finance Director Clinton Carter hired as chief financial officer of the UNC system Elections6 days ago Twinkle Cavanaugh criticizes Will Ainsworth’s “Truth Tellin’ Tour” News3 days ago Hubbard lawyer says Gov. Ivey has a job for him Facebook Advertisement Trending News3 days ago Hubbard lawyer says Gov. Ivey has a job for him Featured Columnists5 days ago Opinion | The anti-American American president Elections4 days ago Knight, Holmes are defeated in Montgomery Featured Columnists2 days ago Opinion | What in the world happened to Robert Bentley?