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House votes to strike-down Obama-era rule preventing states from defunding Planned Parenthood

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, February 16, 2017, the US House of Representative passed a House Joint Resolution striking dowm a last-minute Obama Administration rule that attempted to force states to direct their Title X public health dollars to abortion providers.

Speaking on the House floor, US Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) voiced her support for House Joint Resolution, which would nullify a December 2016 Department of Health and Human Services rule mandating that no state stop Title X public health dollars from flowing to abortion providers.

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Congresswoman Roby said, “I rise in support of House Joint Resolution 43. Congress must use its authority to strike this rule and stop the Federal government from forcing states to funnel taxpayer money to abortion providers.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) also supported H.J.R. Representative Byrne said, “If a state wants to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, then they should have the ability to do so. Today, I voted in favor of a bill to block an Obama Administration rule designed to protect Planned Parenthood. Some have called the last second rule “Obama’s parting gift to Planned Parenthood.”

Rep. Roby said, “This rule is wrong on process and wrong on policy. First of all, states have every right to put in place reasonable guidelines for how their federal dollars are spent. For Washington to attempt to coerce states in this way would be bad enough, but for unelected bureaucrats in the Department of Health and Human Services to go around Congress at the 11th hour of the Obama Administration was just outrageous.”

US Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said, “I was pleased to support continued work in the House today to dismantle Obama-era regulations by voting for legislation to nullify a rule which forces states to provide Title X federal grants to abortion providers. The regulation was a parting gift from the Obama Administration to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Further, the rule undermines the 10th Amendment by eliminating the ability of states to prioritize Title X funds in the way that best serves their communities.”

Rep. Roby continued, “Madame Speaker, I think we all agree that low-income women should have access to essential health services, but why is it necessary for those services to be funded at the nation’s largest provider of abortion? It isn’t, of course, but the abortion industry and its supporters want us to think it is. When it comes to funding, they like to pretend abortion doesn’t exist and that Planned Parenthood is the only place where women can get health care. That’s not true. The truth is there are more than 13,000 Federally Qualified and Rural Health Centers that offer low-cost health care to women. These centers outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics 20-1. They just don’t perform abortions.”

Congresswoman Roby said, “Understanding this, some states have rightly enacted laws and policies redirecting Title Ten dollars away from abortion providers and toward these non-controversial clinics. If the true goal here was to ensure women’s health care, nobody should have a problem with that, but that wasn’t the goal, and everybody knows it. There’s a reason people called this rule “President Obama’s parting gift to Planned Parenthood.” It was a blatant, transparent attempt to preserve the pipeline of funding to the nation’s largest abortion business. It was wrong, and I urge my colleagues to vote to nullify it today.”

Rep. Byrne said, “Some have called the last second rule “Obama’s parting gift to Planned Parenthood.” I’m pleased to report the bill passed by a vote of 230 to 188.”

H.J. Res. 43, if passed by the Senate and signed by President Trump, would mean that states can choose to redirect Title X funds away from the largest abortion provider in the United States.

The Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver said in his own statement, “Today’s decision by the House toward defunding Planned Parenthood is another significant step in the battle to make the womb a safe place again,.”

Chairman Staver said, ‘Taxpayers should not be forced to fund human genocide and foot the bill for an organization, like Planned Parenthood, that profits from the sale of baby body parts. We have to diligently work to reverse the horrific damage from the Obama administration that has already ended so many innocent children’s lives. I encourage the Senate to pass H.J. Res. 43 quickly so that President Trump can put his signature on it.”

New York Bishop Edward Scharfenberger said on social media, “Planned Parenthood provides some morally unobjectionable health services to women. However, this statement is not unlike saying that a man who beats his wife sometimes gives her flowers.”

Planned Parenthood performed 323,999 abortion procedures during 2014-2015 alone. In recent years, several states receiving Title X family planning grants have opted to direct those funds to county health departments, community health centers, or other types of providers, instead of organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a statement, “Extremists in Congress are trying to make it easier for state politicians to take away people’s health care – specifically, the 4 million people who rely on Title X for birth control and other care. This is wrong, and it’s not what the American people want. When Congress goes home next week, they can count on hearing from people at their offices, the corner store, and every town hall.”

H. J. Res. 43 was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 230 to188.

(Original reporting by Church Militant’s Max Douglas contributed to this report)

 

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House passes General Fund Budget

Brandon Moseley

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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.

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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

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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.

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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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Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

Sam Mattison

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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.

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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 votes to strike-down Obama-era rule preventing states from defunding Planned Parenthood

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
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