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Hansen says he’s an “unapologetic progressive”

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, August 1: Democratic Candidate for US Senate Michael Hansen told The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) that he is the candidate in the Democratic Primary with real energy and shared polling data with APR showing the Democratic race to be very competitive.

Hansen said, “Democrats in Alabama have a clear choice this election. They can select a centrist that’s indistinguishable from the pack, or rally behind a candidate with real energy. As an unapologetic progressive, I’m talking about pocketbook issues that cross party lines. Healthcare, wages, and the environment resonate with real voters and that’s how I’m winning.”

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A recent poll by Strategies Research of Mobile commissioned by Raycom had Robert Kennedy Jr. with 49 percent of the likely Democratic Primary votes and Doug Jones second with 26 percent.

Hansen said, “Regarding the poll: We conducted our own polling — which was done much more professionally than that questionable Raycom poll. (attached) We believe we are in the mix for a runoff with either Kennedy or Jones. My message is resonating with Alabama voters who are fed up with the status quo.”

Hansen added, “Recent polling reveals a likely runoff for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Newcomer Robert Kennedy, Jr. leads among Democrats, environmentalist Michael Hansen is running in second while Doug Jones, Jason Fisher, and Will Boyd compete for third. The margin of error is ± 4.78 percent. Lacking a clear majority vote August 15, the top two candidates will advance to the Democratic runoff September 26.”

Hansen said, “Some candidates have outspent our campaign five-fold yet lag in polls. What this shows is that money can’t buy an election. We’re positioned as the credible contender for the Democratic nomination.  Each week I’m leveraging new media to have one-on-one discussions with voters across this state. It’s working, polling shows we’re strong statewide and in every district. My shoestring budget proves that issues matter more than money. This election is about Medicare for All, a $15 living wage, and clean energy by 2030. When you have issues that resonate, people listen.”

Hansen shared raw polling data prepared by GLEAN.  Voters were asked If the election for United States Senate were today and these 5 names were on the ballot, would you vote for? Then they were given the choices of: Boyd, Fisher, Hansen, Jones, Kennedy, and none of the above.  None of the above got 62.1 percent of the vote as most of those people are voting in the Republican Primary.  Robert Kennedy Jr. got 19.1 percent, Michael Hansen 7.1, Doug Jones 5.1, Jason Fisher 3.2, and Will Boyd 3.1.  If you then divide that by the cumulated percentage for the five Democrats and assume that that is the total Democratic voters participating in the primary (a dangerous assumption as two candidates are left out of the field in this survey,); then Kennedy is leading the field with 50 percent of the vote, Hansen has 19 percent, Jones 16 percent, Fisher 8 percent and Boyd 8 percent.  According to the polling Kennedy is much more favored by Black voters and Doug Jones’ support is concentrated in the fifth and seventh congressional districts.  Hansen is more of a statewide candidate.

Hansen is in a strong second, but if Kennedy can take over 50 percent there might not be a Democratic Primary runoff.

On the Republican side, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was leading with 37 percent of the Republican vote.  Congressman Mo Brooks had 26 percent, Senator Luther Strange had 25 percent, State Senator Trip Pittman has 7 percent, and Dr. Randy Brinson had 6 percent.   Though again only 5 of the 9 GOP candidates are covered in this poll and this polling data is almost three weeks old.

Over the weekend, Joe Reed and the powerful Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) endorsed Birmingham Attorney Doug Jones in the Primary.  APR asked Hansen about this development.  Hansen said, “Regarding the ADC endorsement: I did not seek nor did I receive the endorsement of the ADC. I wish Doug well.”

If elected to the US Senate, Michael Hansen would be the first openly gay person ever elected to any statewide office in Alabama.

There are seven candidates running in the Alabama Democratic Party special primary election for US Senate. Qualified candidates are Will Boyd, Vann Caldwell, Jason Fisher, Michael Hansen, Doug Jones, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and Charles Nana.

Brian McGee has dropped out of the race and endorsed Doug Jones.

The candidates are running for the Senate vacancy created when Senator Jeff Sessions (R) was confirmed by the Senate as US Attorney General.  Former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley selected then Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) to fill the post until the people can select their own replacement.

The winner of the Democratic Party Primary will face the winner of the Republican Party Primary in the Special General Election on December 12.  If necessary there will be a Special Primary runoff election on September 26.

 

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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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Hansen says he’s an “unapologetic progressive”

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