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In post-Moore Alabama, Young Alabama hopes to be a springboard for young leaders

Chip Brownlee

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By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

A month after embattled Republican Roy Moore lost a safe Republican Senate to Democrat Doug Jones, a group of young conservatives hopes to provide a platform for young leaders, perhaps disenchanted with politics on both sides of the aisle, to speak up and get involved in the future of the state.

The founders of Young Alabama, a growing group that currently hosts a podcast and blog, also called “Young Alabama,” want to provide a seat for young people at the table in political conversations guiding the state’s path. Between hosting prominent young conservatives to media personalities, Young Alabama intends to provide an outlet for young leaders and “young-minded” leaders to bring new and bright ideas to the forefront of political discussion and debate.

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“We want to invite young people to that seat,” said David Wisdom, president of Young Alabama. “We want to be a resource for legislators to assess what young people are thinking about and be a resource for young people to communicate to higher-ups and those involved in the political process.”

Wisdom, 26, who is finishing his final semester at Cumberland School of Law, and Collier Tynes, 27, vice president of Young Alabama, who served as chief of staff to former First Lady, Dianne Bentley, both of whom have held leadership positions in the Young Republican Federation of Alabama or the Greater Birmingham Young Republicans, identify as Christian conservatives and have been consistent Republican voters. But the ALGOP’s continued support of Moore, despite several accusations of sexual assault, served as a catalyst for Wisdom and Tynes to start the new group.

“This election is a wake-up call for ALGOP,” Wisdom said. “This election and the things that have happened in the last few months can make ALGOP the best it’s ever been. But if they decide to go after each other, they’re not going to be successful in 2018. We take this as a learning opportunity.”

The Greater Birmingham Young Republicans became the first Republican organization in the state to pull its endorsement of Moore in November, just weeks after the allegations surfaced. The next day, the Young Republican Federation of Alabama did the same, censuring Moore and pulling their support. While the two largest young Republican groups in the state pulled their support, no prominent Republican leaders spoke out against Moore and the state party, led by the ALGOP Steering Committee, stood by Moore until the end.

Tynes said the election accentuated a generational void between a large group of younger Republican voters whom she says prefer quiet, more moderate pragmatism and often older Republicans who prefer Moore’s brand of outspoken, firebrand social conservatism.

“That entire situation really highlighted the void,” Tynes said. “It’s always been there but it just kind of came to a head. We realized there needs to be an organized group and consistent voice for the young and young at heart.”

That void was nowhere more clear than in Madison, Lee and Tuscaloosa counties, which boast large young and college-educated populations and the state’s largest universities. Jones was able to flip all three counties from red to blue, decimating President Donald Trump’s 2016 leads, which ranged from 16 percentage points in Madison County to nearly 22 percentage points in Lee County. Jones won all three counties by about 16 percentage points.

In the first few months of the U.S. Senate election, before any allegations surfaced against Moore, Wisdom and 23-year-old Michael Bullington, executive director and a co-host of the “Young Alabama” podcast who considers himself a staunch conservative and pro-life Republican, directed their frustration with the race into the new podcast — the start of what would turn “hot take from young guys about #ALPolitics” into a fledgling political organization.

“This election was kind of a rallying point and a wake-up call for a lot of people who were just sitting by and accepting that somehow the best outcome would happen,” Bullington said. “That doesn’t always happen, and that’s where maybe if people had spoken up more, at several steps along the way, then this election wouldn’t have happened or it might have played out differently.”

Bullington, Wisdom and Tynes are all graduates of Auburn University with deep ties, particularly for their age, to the Alabama Republican Party. None of the three have backed away from the party. They say they just want change, and change for the better.

“We need to look at what these younger Republicans are saying and what these more moderate Republicans are a saying and move on from there and really up the conversation within the party,” Wisdom said. “How can we take into account this rising generation who are going to be a bigger voting bloc than Baby Boomers ever thought about being?”

The scene for political activism among Millinneal-age voters in Alabama is already lively, and there are other active organizations vying for young politicos’ attention, from Young Republicans and Democrats, College Democrats and Republicans, to the left-leaning Indivisible, libertarian Young Americans For Liberty and the non-partisan No Labels.

Bullington says Young Alabama can not only be an Alabama-centered group but one that’s open to both parties and all ages, encompassing not only those who are young in age but also “young at heart” and “young in thought.”

“This isn’t aiming to take away from Young Republicans or College Republicans. I was involved in both,” Bullington said. “This is non-partisan with a focus on better leadership overall, better people and not limited to a certain age group. When we say young, it’s a state of mind and a policy perspective.”

While the three say it would be dishonest to say the group’s membership isn’t mostly Republican, Wisdom said he wants his organization to “work with everyone” and “come up with solutions that help the entire state.” Bullington said they aren’t afraid to work and alongside Democrats.

“We need a better Democratic Party to have a better Republican Party and a better state overall because competition builds better results,” Bullington said. “Just because a Democrat has an idea, that doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

The group, between their blog and their podcast, will highlight the ideas they deem brightest, strongest and most innovative, Tynes said. That may include endorsements or interviews that could provide the group a leadership opportunity not available to the Young Democrats and Young Republicans, which aren’t allowed to endorse primary candidates.

“We don’t have to worry about towing the party line if we face another circumstance where the party is not being intellectually consistent with its values,” Tynes said. “We hope Young Alabama can provide a consistent voice of pragmatic, innovative leaders and leadership that I believe are in touch with the majority of Alabama voters.”

 

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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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In post-Moore Alabama, Young Alabama hopes to be a springboard for young leaders

by Chip Brownlee Read Time: 6 min
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