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Dawson critical of Ivey’s “Smart on Safety Initiative”

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held a press conference to unveil her “Smart on Safety Initiative.”

Ivey said that she is committed to keeping Alabama’s schoolchildren safe, and this plan will aid in enhancing school safety and security in the state.

“In announcing a four-pronged approach to school safety, we will build on the foundation already in place and allow all available state resources to be focused on efforts to keep our children safe,” Ivey said. “Ensuring safety in our schools is a bipartisan issue, and we must do all we can to prevent violence and be sure we are ready to respond in the event such violence does occur.”

Ivey said that the state will support local school officials as they meet their own safety needs. Governor Ivey supports permitting the Education Advancement and Technology Fund to be used for school security.

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Ivey also said that she supports schools intervening in the lives of students who are at risk of harming themselves or others, before they act violently. Schools will be encouraged to identify at-risk students through student engagement and other factors.

Ivey also proposed creating Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs). The administration said that when a school emergency occurs, school personnel must be able to act immediately before first responders arrive. Schools must work with law enforcement and first responders to provide a coordinated response to emergencies. Each school will continuously update its EOP, and students and school personnel will receive regular training on the EOP.

At the press conference Ivey signed an executive order creating the Governor’s Securing Alabama Facilities of Education (SAFE) Council. The Council will be composed of the Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Secretary of the Office of Information Technology, the Alabama State Superintendent of Education and the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health. The SAFE Council will report to the governor by April 30, 2018.

GOP Primary opponent Scott Dawson responded, “Establishing another task force is no substitute for action and when it comes to the safety of Alabama children, decisive leadership from the state’s highest office is absolutely necessary. I won’t kick the can to another task force . Task force is government code for doing nothing. With the Alabama Legislature’s last day in session being April 23rd, the council’s report deadline will be too late for action. Today’s announcement has every appearance of campaign theater, not sound public policy and leadership.”

“When Kay Ivey assumed office after the resignation of Governor Robert Bentley, she disbanded 18 task forces which she claimed had been ineffective and promised to ‘make decisions ‘ not ‘ kick the can,” Dawson continued. “As a parent with two kids who attended public school in Alabama I don’t want Alabama to be the last to implement a safe method for arming school personnel for the protection of teachers and students.  We need action today. Nineteen other states have passed legislation allowing for some form of a security program for school personnel to coordinate with law enforcement and qualify to carry a firearm incognito. Our l egislature enacted a local law for Franklin County , Alabama in 2013 which allows armed teachers in schools and has operated under this law without problems.”

“I envision Alabama schools allowing teachers who volunteer, and are properly trained, qualified , and deputized to provide armed protection for our schools in coordination with local law enforcement,” Dawson continued. “Their names would be kept confidential—reported only to the superintendent and local law enforcement—and they would receive bonuses for their participation. Kay Ivey’s indecision on a significant issue like this is a clear example to the people of Alabama that she will be more of the same in Montgomery and in this instance our children’s lives are being placed in jeopardy while the Governor restores the Bentley tradition of do – nothing task forces.”

State Rep. Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville, has already introduced legislation similar to the plan that Dawson describes.

The major party primaries will be on June 5.

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Elections

Trump endorses Martha Roby

Brandon Moseley

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Friday President Donald J. Trump (R) endorsed Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) in her bid to win a fifth term representing Alabama’s Second Congressional District. Roby thanked the President for the endorsement and said that she has had a positive working relationship with the President and his administration.

“I spoke to President Trump this morning and thanked him for his endorsement in my primary runoff on July 17.” U.S. Representative Roby said. “As I’ve said many times, my voting record on behalf of the people of Alabama’s Second District reflects my commitment to a shared conservative agenda with this administration. I’ve enjoyed a positive working relationship with the White House and Republicans in Congress as we fight together to get our conservative priorities over the finish line for the American people.”

“Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda,” Pres. Trump said on Twitter. “She is in a Republican Primary run-off against a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat. I fully endorse Martha for Alabama 2nd Congressional District!”

Martha Roby is an attorney and a former Montgomery city councilwoman. In 2010 she unseated incumbent Congressman Bobby Bright (D-Montgomery) in the general election. Bright has switched parties and is challenging Roby in the GOP primary. Three ultra-conservative candidates did not make the runoff. The conservative voters who supported Barry Moore, Rich Hobson, or Tommy Amason in the GOP primary will likely decide the Republican Runoff on July 17. Roby had been highly critical of Trump during the 2016 election and even withdrew her support for the candidate less than a month before the general election. The move angered many Trump supporters in the district.  Turnout is expected to be light.

Following the presidential endorsement of Roby, Bright released a statement.

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“I understand politics and how Washington works,” former Congressman Bright said. “It appears the D.C. powerbrokers have gotten to the President on this issue. It’s truly a swamp of insiders controlled by big money special interests, the same crowd who’s bankrolling Martha Roby’s campaign to the tune of over $1 million just this year. It’s a place where loyalty doesn’t exist. When you take that much money from D.C., New York and California, you lose sight of Alabama.”

“I support President Trump and his “America First” agenda,” Bright stated. “I always will. He can count on me to be his partner to build the Wall, promote peace through strength, and work for prosperity for all. The Bright Campaign is strong. We will continue listening to the people and promoting our conservative message. This election is about the people, not the powerful.”

“I know the people of the Second District,” Bright said. “They are conservative, independent, and patriotic. On June 5th, 61% of the voters rejected Martha Roby: Some because she is beholden to the Establishment in D.C., some because she isn’t visible in the District, and some because she gave up critical seats on the House Armed Services and House Agriculture Committees. Many others rejected her because she denounced President Trump just before his election in 2016.”

Bright is a former Mayor of Montgomery. He was elected to Congress in 2008.

The eventual winner of the July 17 runoff will face Tabitha Isner (D) on November 6.

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Elections

King pauses campaign after opponent’s wife’s death

Bill Britt

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After learning about the death of Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife, his opponent, former Attorney General Troy King, announces a pause in his campaign out of respect for the Marshall family’s loss.

“Paige and I just learned of the tragic death of Brigette Marshall,” said, King. “Today is a sad and difficult day. Today we are not in different political campaigns or camps. We are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. We cannot imagine the deep sense of loss and grief the Marshall family must face.”

King further offered condolences saying, “We offer our deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers for Attorney General Steve Marshall and his family and pray that God’s grace and peace and hope will enfold and sustain them.”

King’s campaign also said, “Out of respect for the Marshall family, I have paused my campaign during this time of mourning. I have directed that all of our advertising be stopped. May God hold them in the palm of His hand.”

King and Marshall will face each other in the July 17 Republican runoff for state’s Attorney General.

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Alabama Supreme Court Candidate Donna Wesson Smalley talks Justice with APR

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the Alabama Political Reporter went to Jasper for an extended interview with Democratic candidate for Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Place 4.

Donna Wesson Smalley grew up on a cattle farm in Etowah County near Attalla. She is an attorney with four decades of experience with the law. She earned her law degree from the University of Alabama Law School. Smalley is 62 years old.

APR asked: Why are you running for Alabama Supreme Court?

“The real truth is that I feel a real calling for it,” Smalley said. “I have dedicated my whole life to the law, and this is a natural next step.”

APR asked: What are your qualifications to serve on the state Supreme Court?

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“I offer a lot with the breath of my experience. I have 40 years as a practicing attorney. I am a former adjust instructor at the University of Alabama School of Law. I am a former adjunct professor in writing in the English Department. I relocated to Walker County in 2005 after being in Tuscaloosa for 23 years. I have done a lot of different things in the practice of law, which I think is important.”

“That I am a woman brings another experience to the court and Alabama needs more women in leadership positions,” Smalley said.

APR asked if the Judicial Inquiry Commission  and the Court of the Judiciary should be tasked with disciplining judges, or should judges be treated like every other constitutional office and the legislature be the body tasked with impeaching judges (like in the federal system)?

“I think the JIC is much better equipped to handle disciplining judges with an eye of protecting the sanctity of judges and the courts than the legislators. They are not as well equipped by education and experience. There is a balance between popular opinion and a more studied reasoning. That is one of the aspects of our code that has been used as a model used around the world.”

Smalley credited Howell Heflin with modernizing that section and felt that it, “Should be kept.”

APR asked: Does the state of Alabama have an ethics problem?

“Yes, obviously we have an ethics problem when three of our top elected officials have had to be replaced,” Smalley replied. “One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

“We have pretty good ethics laws, but we need better enforcement of them,” Smalley said. “For the few public officials that do break the public trust – they need to be punished.”

APR asked: The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) has been very active in endorsing and contributing towards judicial races. Is there a conflict of interest there in judicial candidates accepting contributions and donations from business interests that routinely have business before the court system?

“It is hard to avoid the appearance of impropriety when any one group contributes large amounts of money to the judges that settle disputes that often involves companies that are members of that group,” Smalley said. “This is a big problem and we need to figure out how to solve it.”

“We really need for the legislature to come up with a plan to deal with campaign finance laws in a fair and effective matter,” Smalley added.

APR asked: Should judicial races in Alabama be partisan political races?

“Not in my opinion,” Smalley said. “Politics really shouldn’t have any place in the review of elected races at all. I have practiced with judges who have been both Democrats and Republicans in different points in their careers; but they ruled the same way.”

Smalley said that running judicial races without the party affiliations would be very difficult; but there needs to be some campaign finance reform by the legislature. Our current system has no limits on dark money and allows unlimited donations from businesses and individuals. The appearance of impropriety should be avoided in judicial races.”

APR asked: There is a wide range in caseloads from circuit to circuit across the state. Should the legislature reallocate the judges from areas that have experienced population declines to areas that have experienced growth?

Smalley said no, that we should be adding judges to those areas of the state that are growing faster than other areas not taking judges away. “Getting more judges across the state would streamline how fast cases could come to trial. Justice delayed is justice denies.”

APR asked: Do the poor get treated fairly in our court system, or is there two sets of laws? One for people with money to have the best representation and another system for those who can’t afford the same defense.

“No, the poor are not treated fairly in our court system,” Smalley said. “I don’t know of anyone who can seriously argue otherwise. That is a problem we continue to struggle with, and that is not just a criminal court matter but also in the civil courts.”

APR asked: Do poor people get trapped in the court system being assigned penalties and court costs they can not afford and then additional fines and fees for not paying the previous fines?

“Absolutely, yes, people do get trapped in that system and in my opinion it is indefensible,” Smalley said. “Some agencies like the courts are not supposed to be self supporting. They are supposed to be supported by all of us so that everyone regardless of their station in life can seek justice for wrongs created by others. Justice for all is a basic tenant of our society. It is depressing how the poor are treated in our state and our country.”

APR asked: Republicans have dominated Alabama judicial races for well over a decade because there is a perception that Democrats are soft on crime. Are you strong enough to punish criminals and get justice for victims of crime?

“I don’t think that is why Republicans have dominated judicial races,” Smalley said. “That is a false premise. Republicans have dominated judicial races because they have spent more money to influence the voters. Democrats are like Republicans: they don’t want crime in their families or neighborhoods,” Smalley continued. “We need to do some of the things that we know will reduce crime. We need to be spending more money on early childhood education, job training, and mental health. They all dramatically reduce crime. That is where we need to be focusing instead of creating a cottage industry of private prisons. My hope is that everyone including Republicans will join in solving the problems. Republicans have had the House the Senate the executive branch, the courts, and their approach has not worked. People are still concerned about crime.”

APR asked: Alabama recently executed a man in his eighties. Is there something administratively the courts can do to expedite the appeals process so that death penalties can be performed in less than 20 years of sentencing?

“If there were enough judges and a better system for providing competent defense attorneys, that would streamline it some,” Smalley said. “I don’t think we should change the defendants’ protections.”

“Sometimes justice delayed is justice denied,” Smalley said. “We know it is less costly to have life without parole than the death penalty.”

APR asked: Does the state legislature need to find more funding for the Alabama Court System, particularly the circuit clerks offices?

“It is ridiculous,” Smalley said. “They lost manpower consistently. There is a third of the manpower that they had when I started practicing. ”

APR asked: There has been a popular perception, that in the past, some of the Justices on the Alabama Supreme Court have been a little lazy. If you are elected to the state’s highest court, can the public trust you to put in a full week’s work and not get behind on your work?

“Yes, and I pledge to write opinions,” Smalley said. “One of the things that I have heard across the state, particularly from lawyers, is that they don’t receive a reason written response on their filings. They deserve that much from the appellate courts.”

APR asked: There is a perception that whoever wins the GOP nomination for a statewide judicial race will win the office. Is that making it hard for you to fund raise in this race?

“I just don’t believe that paradigm is true anymore,” Smalley said. “The pendulum has begun to swing, and I don’t really need for somebody to give me hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy my vote. I intend to work my campaign at the grass roots level. That will win voters over.”

Smalley said, “I am confident that I am the most qualified candidate in this particular race. I am 62 years old, and I have been practicing law for 40 years. I have a breadth of experience that my opponent lacks. Most of his work has been with lobbying and governmental affairs. Most of my work has been with real people with real problems.”

“I don’t think either party should have every appellate judgeship, and that is what we have now.”

Donna Wesson Smalley (D) is running against James “Jay” Mitchell (R) for state Supreme Court Justice Place 4.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. (D) is running for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court against Associate Justice Tom Parker (R).

Smalley and Vance are the only Democrats running for any of the statewide judicial offices.

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Dawson critical of Ivey’s “Smart on Safety Initiative”

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 3 min
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