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How to protect students becomes issue in lieutenant governor’s race

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh proposed her own plan to arm school personnel that differs from a plan to arm teachers being promoted by her opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race, State Representative Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville.

“I find it shameful when people, on both sides of the aisle, play politics with tragedies,” Cavanaugh said.  “This is an exploitation tactic used almost exclusively by liberals, hotheads, and children. Yesterday there was a knee-jerk reaction to try to capture the headlines of every news story in Alabama for political gain. I believe we need strong, measured leadership that puts our children and teachers first- not political pandering.”

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In 2013, State Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, sponsored a bill for Franklin County that allows suitable teachers, school personnel, and locals to volunteer to be trained as Reserve Deputy Sheriffs and carry firearms on school grounds.

Cavanaugh said that Morrow’s bill gave the state a model to study for almost five years when it comes to the subject of school safety.

“Yesterday, I spoke with Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver, along with the bill’s sponsor, and the bill seems to be working in Franklin Count,” Cavanaugh said.  “I would ask that the legislature look at this bill and look how well it has worked for Franklin County. This bill could be expanded to a statewide level on a bipartisan basis, as the 2013 bill passed without a single ‘nay’ vote in both the House and the Senate.”

Cavanaugh said that this bill would allow local control of school safety, giving decision-making power to a county’s sheriff, principals, and school board. Many counties do not have the funding for resource officers, leaving law enforcement with a long response time to schools in an active shooter situation.

For example, in Franklin County, officials pushed for passage of HB 404 in 2013 after the tragedy at Sandy Hook because the Sheriff’s Office realized that their response time in a similar situation would be over thirty minutes to East Franklin.

Ainsworth on Thursday announced that he is introducing legislation allowing some Alabama public school teachers and administrators to undergo firearms training and arm themselves against attacks during school hours.

“Our children are sitting ducks in gun-free schools, and as the parent of three public school students, I believe we must act now in order to prevent another tragedy,” Ainsworth said. “With roughly two-thirds of the regular session remaining, there is ample time to research, introduce, pass, and enact this much-needed and potentially lifesaving legislation.”

Ainsworth said that shortly after news of the school shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was announced, educators in his area asked him to introduce legislation allowing them to protect themselves.

“More gun control will not stop someone who is intent upon inflicting harm in our schools, but someone who is properly trained and armed with the right equipment certainly can,” Ainsworth said. “It is my hope that passage of this legislation can be fast tracked once it has been introduced.”

Ainsworth is expected to announce the introduction of his legislation today in the media center of Guntersville Elementary School where his children attend.  Ainsworth will be joined by law enforcement officers, school superintendents, fellow legislators, and several educators to discuss his legislation.  His bill will allow teachers with Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training certification to carry firearms during school hours.

Among those expected to join Ainsworth at his news conference are:

  • House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville.
  • State Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Red Hill.
  • State Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville.
  • State Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Fairview.
  • Marshall County Sheriff Scott Walls.
  • Guntersville City Schools Superintendent Brett Stanton.
  • Marshall County School Superintendent Cindy Wigley.
  • DeKalb County School Superintendent Jason Barnett.
  • Guntersville Elementary School Principal John Doyle.
  • Guntersville High School Principal Roseanne Mabrey.
  • Cherokee Elementary Principal Julie Ann McCulley.

Both Ainsworth and Cavanaugh are embracing the concept that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Some Democrats have already spoken out against the plan.

“I think that’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said on Monday. “I think it’s crazy. You don’t need 40-50 guns in there and it’s a cost issue. You’re going to have to train those teachers. You don’t need to arm America in order to stop this, you just need to be smart about it.”

State Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, is also running for lieutenant governor in the GOP primary on June 5.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Pastor Dr. Will Boyd in the November general election.

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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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How to protect students becomes issue in lieutenant governor’s race

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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