Connect with us

In Case You Missed It

Gubernatorial candidates attend Vestavia Hills forum

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Saturday, February 10, 2018, the Mid Alabama Republican Club held the first Republican primary gubernatorial forum at their regular meeting in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

“This is what Alabama is about,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “We believe in starting meeting with prayer, with the pledge.  We have the fifth largest National Guard in the country.”

Battle said that he moved to Huntsville in 1980, and then started his first restaurant.

“I learned that small business has to work hand in hand with government and government has to work with them to succeed,” Battle said.


Battle then got into local politic by election to the city council.

“I have been Mayor of Huntsville for ten years,” Battle said.  “I started working on education and on infrastructure.”

Over that 10-year period we have made tremendous progress and have recruited new jobs and new companies to Huntsville.

“We have got to have good ethics,” Battle said. “We have to to be transparent.  We must have an open government

“Jobs are the most important thing we can do,” Battle said, “If we had 24,000 jobs in each congressional district we would have 168,000 new jobs state wide.”

Battle said that he wanted to bring change.

“If you want the same thing that is always happening in Montgomery I am not your candidate,” Battle said. “We can’t have Montgomery holding us back.”

Evangelist Scott Dawson said, “This is the first day that we are locked and loaded for the Republican nomination.”  “I am a son, I am a husband – married for 26 years.  I am a dad I am a nonprofit leader I have been in ministry for the last 30 years.”

“Ethics does matter,” Dawson said.  “Two of the last three governors have been arrested.”

Of ethics, Dawson said that he follows a policy of, “Don’t allow there to be a question about you.”

On education, Dawson said, “It is time to get rid of Common Core and bring back common sense.”

“Pre-K should be optional but should never be mandatory,” Dawson said. “We have got to have mentorship.  In middle school we have got to start teaching about attitude, leadership and economics.”

Dawson said students should be taught that we can use money not let money use us.  He advocated for, “Mandatory drug testing starting at the 9th grade for every student in extracurricular activities.”

Dawson advocated for expanding drug rehab including opening up the door to faith-based rehab programs.

“We better be recruiting industry in our state,” Dawson said.  “But my son tried to start a new business her in Alabama but the regulation were too cumbersome.  He eventually threw up his hands and gave up.  He and his fellow businessmen would joke that they should move to Georgia and then get incentives to move from Georgia.

“Cut the regulation and set business free.”

State Sen. Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, said, “I am on the Republican executive committee for Mobile and am on the state Republican executive committee.”

Hightower said that he grew up in South Alabama and then went to work for large international companies, some with budgets as large as the state of Alabama’s with as many employees.  He lived in a number of places including overseas.  There he learned about businesses around the world.  When the 9-11 terror attacks happened he and his wife were living just fifty miles away from the World Trade Center.

“We asked ourselves what are we doing and then moved back to Mobile,” Hightower said of the experience.

He and his wife have had several businesses there.  Then he ran for the state Senate.

“Montgomery spend a $million to defeat me and I won anyway,” Hightower said. “I  have remained outside of the Montgomery bubble. Mike Hubbard’s right hand guy.  That is who I ran against.”

“I want Alabama to have a Rick Perry, a Nikki Haley, a Scott Walker,” Hightower said.  “I am a conservative.  I passed the law that made it illegal to sell baby body parts.”  I have worked to bring Amazon into Mobile, worked on Airbus, and I have worked to bring industries to other parts of Alabama including on Remington and Toyota.”

Hightower said he believes their to be  a “vacuum of leadership” in Alabama.

“I worked on tax reform, the flat tax,” Hightower said.  “Thirty states have reformed their taxes to make them more competitive.  We haven’t done anything ninety percent of our budget is earmarked.  Nick Saban would not play the whole game substituting just two people.”

“Alabama has an image problem nationally,” Hightower said.  “I want to be your governor.  Elect me and I promise I will honor you.”

“This is the first time I have had the honor of standing before you as the governor of Alabama,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “It is my honor to serve you and all the people of Alabama as your governor.  Most governors have three months to prepare their transition I had three hours.”

Ivey said that while she has been governor the unemployment rate has dropped from 5.4 percent to 3.5 percent in November, a record in state history.

In December, Alabama’s total number of people employed reach 2.1 million, the highest number in state history.

“What we are doing is working,” Ivey said.  “Our economy is doing quite well.  We are moving forward.”

“Alabama received a C on our education report card,” Ivey said.  “We can do better we must do better. Since coming to office I have focused on education and have recently released my strong start strong finish initiative that includes $23 million more for early childhood education.  We are also focused on pre high school and post high school.  In K through grade three the goal is to have all of our children reading at grade level by the end of the third grade.  Students who read at grade level by the end of third grade have a much better chance of finishing high school.  We need to put coding and computing in the middle school.  Thousands of jobs go unfilled because there are not enough computer science students.

“The jobs of tomorrow are going to take a post high school certificate or a degree,” Ivey said.

Ivey said that she wants to combat the “summer slide” where teachers report that after summer vacation teachers have to re-teach students things they have forgotten over the summer months to combat that, Ivey wants to fund a six-week education program during the summers.

“I am taking seriously my job as head of the state school board,” Ivey said.  “I am also proud that we submitted the largest education budget in a decade.”

That includes $23 million more for Pre-K and $50 million for higher education.

Ivey compared being governor to being Alabama’s head football coach.

“I am the only person who has actually coached at this level,” Ivey said. “Alabama has won every game with me as head coach  Alabama is undefeated, we are on the path to prosperity. Why would you consider a coach who has never coached a single game at this level?”

MARC President and former State Rep. Paul DeMarco thanked the candidates for being there and said next month the lieutenant governor candidates will be there.

State Sen. J.T. “Jabo” Wagoner, R-Vestavia, told the group that State Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia, could not be there because he has been very ill and has been in and out of  Brookwood Hospital with recurring flu and pneumonia.

They Drained a liter of fluid of fluid from around his lungs and heart last week.  He has missed the last two weeks of the legislature and will miss this next week as well.

DeMarco warned, “There is a record number of Democrats running.  They have been emboldened by what happened in December.”

Steve Schaub, an attorney who specializes on ethics, spoke to candidates.  He told them to go to their post office boxes every day and make copies of those campaign contribution checks.

“Sometimes people inadvertently send you checks that they should not,” Schaub said. “Keep up with your checking account and if you have an event where cash contributions are coming in at the door be sure to have two people at the door whenever money is coming in.”

MARC meets on the second Saturday of each month at 8:30 a.m. at the Vestavia Public Library.


In Case You Missed It

House passes General Fund Budget

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.


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.


Continue Reading

In Case You Missed It

Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday

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.


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.

Continue Reading

In Case You Missed It

Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

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.


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.

Continue Reading

In Case You Missed It

House OKs bill to clarify consulting contracts by state legislators

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to try to clarify how legislators accept consulting contracts under Alabama’s 2010 ethics law. Some pundits have suggested that House Bill 387 is actually designed to weaken the existing ethics law.

Sponsor state Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, argues that the legislation is merely a clarification and is intended to prevent legislators from inadvertently crossing the line into illegality.

Wingo said that his bill would require legislators to notify the Alabama Ethics Commission that they have entered into a consulting agreement in an area outside of their normal scope of work.

State Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, said, “I have never understood why members of this body were allowed to take contracts as consultants or counselors.”


Wingo said, “Never do I use the word counselor in my bill; it is consulting.”

Beckman asked, “Are we going to be getting into an area where  every time we turn around we create a bureaucratic nightmare where we have to go get an opinion. These opinions whether it is orally or written don’t hold up in a court of law.” Beckman said, “We are serving the people here but we get this admonition that we can still be a consultant if we get an opinion.”

Wingo said, “This does not apply to professions where a member is currently licensed.”

Beckman said, “I would like to see more opinions coming out of the Ethics Commission. Right now we have the Ethics Commission competing with the Attorney General’s office over who has more authority.”

State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said,”This happened to a friend of mine. He just got out of prison. He was a state senator and had a written letter from the Ethics Commission which his lawyer read at trial and the jury convicted him anyway.”

Rogers never named his friend, but reporters think he was talking about former state Sen. Edward Browning ‘E. B.’ McClain who spent over 22 years in the legislature until he was convicted on 47 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, bribery, and money laundry in 2009.

A federal jury found that McClain and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue were guilty in a scheme where McClain would secure public funds for Pettagrue’s community programs and then receive a kickback once the funds were in hand. McClain was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison. McClain was not prosecuted under the Alabama ethics law as the state has a much weaker ethics statute then. The current ethics law was passed in 2010.

Rogers said, “If they offer me a consulting contract for a field like aerospace engineering that I know nothing about they are trying to pay me off. If you can already be a consultant for something you know about why would you seek a consulting contract for something you don’t know about.

Rogers this is how they can pay you off for your vote.”

State Rep. Artis “A.J.” McCampbell said, “I don’t like making changes to things like this because we get into things called unintended consequences.”

McCampbell was reading from the bill and Wingo said, “You are reading from the original version it has completely changed.” “We worked tirelessly on this bill with the Ethics Commission this is not a fly by night bill.”

“If a member of the legislature enters into a contract to do a consulting contract outside of their normal field of work this bill requires that they consult with the Ethics Commission first,” Wingo said. “It is up to the member to notify the Ethics Commission not to the company or person offering them the money.”

State Representative Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said, “Everybody but legislators are allowed to do contract work up to $30,000.”

Rep. Wingo said, “This is not intended to be a roadblock.”

State Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said, “The whole purpose of this is not to prevent members from doing work in your field.” “What you are doing is offering to protect me.”

State Representative John Knight, D-Montgomery, asked Wingo what the Alabama Attorney General said about this legislation.

Wingo replied, “I have not contacted the Attorney General.”

Knight responded, “Something from the Ethics Commission does not carry a lot of protection from the Attorney General. We have seen that in the past. I think the Attorney General and the Ethics Commission should be in agreement in the working on this.”

Wingo answered, “Maybe this is a first step.”

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, asked, “Do we have anybody doing work outside of their regular scope of work?”

Wingo answered, “Yes I think so.”

Wingo said, “If we had had this bill four or five years ago maybe we could have been spared the embarrassment that this body experienced with the former Speaker.”

Wingo was referring to former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard who was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations in June 2016. Ironically, Hubbard is largely responsible for creating the ethics law that he was found guilty of violating 11 times in his relentless pursuit of outside contracts and personal wealth.

Unlike McClain, however, Hubbard has not yet served any of this sentence.

House Bill 387 passed 67-0 with 26 legislators abstaining.

The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Lisa Osborn in 2009 was consulted in this report.)

Continue Reading






Gubernatorial candidates attend Vestavia Hills forum

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 7 min