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US Senate confirms three Alabamians this week

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Yesterday, the US Senate confirmed Jay E. Town as US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.  The Senate also confirmed, another Alabamian, Stephen Boyd as Assistant Attorney General.  On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Birmingham Attorney Kevin Newsom for the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

US Senator Luther Strange (R-Alabama) said on social media, “Today, the Senate confirmed 60 of President Donald J. Trump’s s nominees, including two fine Alabamians. That’s more than the rest of the year combined.”

Sen. Strange said, “Today, the Senate confirmed two outstanding Alabamians to serve in the Department of Justice.  I was immensely proud to support the confirmation of Stephen Boyd as Assistant Attorney General and Jay Town as US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and I look forward to their hard work alongside US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to uphold and protect the Constitution and the rule of law.”

Town was in the first wave of US Attorneys nominated by President Donald J. Trump and is one of the first three to be confirmed by the Senate. He will take office next week.

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Town, 43, is a former judge advocate in the US Marine Corps, and has been a prosecutor in the Madison County District Attorney’s Office since arriving in Huntsville in 2005.

US Attorney Town said, “I am humbled and honored to continue to serve the great people of Alabama as United States Attorney for the Northern District.  I am grateful for the special trust and confidence shown me by President Trump, Attorney General Sessions, Senator Shelby, Senator Strange, and all of those who supported me throughout this process. I inherit a very capable office and look forward to joining them in continuing to do great things.”

Town served in the Marine Corps for 12 years and was honorably discharged in 2008, attaining the rank of major.

Stephen Boyd previously served as Congresswoman Martha Roby’s (R-Montgomery) Chief of Staff.

Representative Roby said, “It is with great pride and admiration that I congratulate Stephen Boyd upon his confirmation as Assistant Attorney General of the United States”

Roby said. “Stephen is exactly the kind of person our country needs to serve in such a position of great influence. In Stephen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has an experienced, rock-solid adviser and Congress has a principled, trustworthy conduit to the Department of Justice.  I join Stephen’s wife, Brecke and his parents, Ron and Floranne in celebrating this special day.”

Boyd served as Roby’s top adviser for more than six years before joining Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice earlier this year.  Boyd was officially nominated by President Donald Trump in April, Boyd has been working as Chief of Staff for the Department of Justice Office of Legal Policy while awaiting his Senate confirmation.  Prior to going to work for Congresswoman Roby, Boyd served on the staff of then US Senator Jeff Sessions (R).

Birmingham’s Kevin C. Newsom was confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit with a vote of 66 – 31.

US Senator Richard Shelby spoke on the Senate floor urging his colleagues to confirm Newsom, “I rise today in support of Kevin Newsom, formerly Alabama’s Solicitor General and currently the President’s nominee for the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. … I believe Kevin to be an exceptional choice, Mr. President, for this high honor. I have the upmost regard for his intellect and his integrity.”

Shelby continued, “I am confident that Kevin Newsom would serve honorably and apply the law with impartiality and fairness, which I believe is required of all judges. … I believe President Trump has made the right decision in selecting Kevin to sit on the Eleventh Circuit.  I am hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will vote to confirm Kevin Newsom without any reservation.”

Newsom will serve in the seat vacated by The Honorable Joel F. Dubina, who retired on October 24, 2013. Newsom is a partner at Birmingham law firm Bradley, Arant, Boult, Cummings LLP where he chaired the firm’s appellate group.  He has argued four cases in the US Supreme Court and more than 35 cases in the US Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Tenth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuit.

Prior to joining the firm, Newsom served as Alabama’s solicitor general. Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Newsom to the Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules in 2011, and again in 2014.

There were lots of Trump appointees confirmed this week, including Trump’s choice to lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chris Wray;

On Wednesday, August 2, AG Jeff Sessions swore in the new FBI Director Chris Wray.  AG Sessions said, “Moments ago I had the honor of swearing in Chris Wray as our new Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Chris has the experience and the strength of character that the American people want in an FBI Director and I congratulate him for being overwhelmingly confirmed to that post and look forward to working with him every day to keep America safe.

Sessions said, “As a former federal prosecutor and head of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Chris Wray has successfully prosecuted terrorists, drug kingpins, and white-collar criminals. He has earned the respect of his colleagues at DOJ, receiving our highest honor, the Edmund Randolph award, and bipartisan support in the Senate.  I am confident that the FBI, the premier investigative agency in the world, is in great hands with Director Chris Wray at the helm.”

 

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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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US Senate confirms three Alabamians this week

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
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