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Alabama House OKs juvenile justice reform

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a massive reform package of the troubled Alabama juvenile justice system.

HB225 was sponsored by state Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville. Hill chairs the House Judiciary Committee and was the co-chair of the Juvenile Justice Task Force created by Gov. Kay Ivey. Hill is a retired judge in St. Clair County.

Hill said that 70 percent of the children we have in confinement with the Department of Youth Services are in there for minor offenses.

Hill said that the bill would expand early intervention issues and would require the development of a risk and needs determination for each child that enters the juvenile courts. The money saved by decreasing detentions would be reinvested in local community intervention programs.

State Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville, said, “Rep. Hill, I respect you, but I have some concerns about this bill. This is an 80 something page bill. I admit that there is a lot about this I do not understand. Before I want to vote on this bill I want to know what it does.”

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“I did not even know about this bill until 2 or 3 weeks ago and I was told that it was not going to pass,” Rich said.

Rich said he would vote aginst the bill’s BIR, and he encouraged others to do the same.

State Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, said, “I arise in opposition to this unless there is amendments made to this bill.”The task force has given us a bad piece of legislation,” Jackson said.”

“We send them off to some place for correction and they come back a thug,” Jackson said.

Hill replied, “Then you should support this bill.”

Jackson replied, “I am supportive of parts of the bill but It needs some amendments.”

State Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Killen, said, “My juvenile probation officer has just texted me and asked me to vote no on this. Are the association of Juvenile probation officers for this?”

Hill replied, “It is my understanding that the association is for this.” “There were probably 20 different agencies represented on this task force. There were votes taken and obviously not everybody got what they wanted.”

State Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo, said, “A number of other states have adopted these reforms including Georgia.” Fridy asked, “A local district judge has contacted me in opposition to this but are the judges association for this?”

Hill answered, “The association is for this. The current president and the past presidents were on the task force.” Supreme Court Chief Justice Lynn Stewart was on the task force.

Hill said, “The governor has put a $million into the general fund budget to get this started.”

The House adopted the committee substitute version of the 86-page bill and several amendments. The version of the bill that passed the House would be the fourth version of the legislation.

“The Pugh Foundation found that 60 percent of the kids that are in out of home placements are there for relatively minor offenses,” Hill said. “Not only is it more economical to treat them in their own home, their own environment, their own school it is also more effective.”

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, asked, “Is the intent of the bill to create a true diversion program in the juvenile justice system?”

“Yes, I will take that word,” Hill said. “The state will prepare a risk and needs assessment tool on every child. I envision this to be similar to the sentencing guidelines. A risk and needs assessment is going to be different to the sentencing guidelines but this is analogous. The risk and needs assessment will make a recommendation and the judge will have the option to accept it or not.”

“There are counties that have absolutely no services other than a probation officer and that is not enough,” Hill said. “If a child is two years behind in school that child needs educational services, if that child test positives for drugs that child needs drug treatment services. If that child has mental health issues that child needs mental health services. The needs are unique to each child.”

State Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill. I applaud what you are are trying to do. We need to do something; but I want to warn this body that this is going to cost money.”Hill said that this is not a savings, rather this is a diversion of resources from DYS incarceration to community based services.

Knight said, “There is not enough money in savings to fully implement this bill.

Hill responded, “Are you happy with locking up 60 percent more kids that are necessary?”

State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said, “I got a text from a probation officer named Beverly something and they are having a meeting to discuss problems with this bill. I have not had a chance to read the bill but I promised her that I will.”

Rogers asked Hill to delay the bill so further discussion could take place.

“This is the fourth version of this bill and there have been meetings on this bill for months,” Hill said in response. “No, I am not willing to carry it over another day for more meetings.”

Rogers said, “They said that upstairs (the State Senate) it is not getting out of committee but that is your problem.”

Hill said, “No that is Cam Ward’s problem (State Senator from Alabaster who co-chaired the task force with Hill). My job is to pass this out of this house.”

Rogers said, “I have not looked at the bill myself but I am concerned because they (the juvenile probations officers) are concerned.”

Hill responded, “When you talk to them ask them if they have read the latest version of the bill.”

Hill said, “I have gotten a message from Senator Ward and he said that if we pass this bill today it will be in committee in the Senate on Tuesday. Passing this will decrease juvenile detentions and save $35 million over the next five years to be reinvested in local communities for the purposes of providing services to these children locally.”

State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chataom, said, “My judges and JPOs (juvenile probation officers) have contacted me during lunch and they are opposed. They say that this version of the bill is not the one that they worked on.”

Knight said, “I am getting a lot of calls about this because somebody upstairs led them to believe that it was dead upstairs.”

Knight makes a motion to carry the bill over, which would effectively kill the legislation this late in the legislative session. That motion failed on a 36-50 vote.

Hill said that committee amendment number three would charge the state for each day that a detained juvenile is held by the county awaiting DYS (the Department of Youth Services) to pick up the child after seven days. The counties are currently paying this cost. Hill opposed the amendment, but it passed 76-12.

State Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, proposed an amendment with a number of changes in the bill which he said that the juvenile judges wanted to make.

Hill said, “I am not for this amendment,” and introduced a tabling motion to kill Lovvorn’s amendment. The tabling motion passed.

There were several friendly technical amendments that did pass. In total nine amendments were considered on the House floor.

Jackson invoked a house rule requiring that the bill be read at length. That added an additional hour and forty minutes for the robot to read the entire bill.

HB225, as substituted and amended, passed the House of Representatives on a 69-20 vote.

The bill now moves to the State Senate for their consideration.

It is the Alabama Political Reporter’s current understanding that the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the bill in a special called meeting on Tuesday.

If the bill can get out of committee on Tuesday or Wednesday, there will be time for the bill to pass in the Senate. Both budgets have passed both houses so the Legislature, once they concur on both budgets, will have met their constitutional duties.

According to our sources, the Legislature plans to leave and go home using only 25 of their constitutionally allowed legislative days. Thursday was day 20.

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Elections

Opinion | Kay Ivey’s official calendar is surprisingly empty

Josh Moon

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In late-August and early-September, there was one question dominating Alabama’s governor’s race.

Where is Kay Ivey?

The governor at that point had scarcely been seen in a few days. In one 10-day stretch, she held no public events and somehow managed to avoid even local ribbon cuttings and bridge openings. And her opponent’s campaign was raising questions about her lack of activity.

Walt Maddox, at that point, had already challenged Ivey to a series of debates. She declined, offering a number of excuses, including that she was “busy governing the state.” She had also told her Republican primary challengers that she was “too busy” to debate them.

So, I wanted to know: Who was telling the truth? Was it a big deal? Was Ivey too busy?

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There was only one way to find out: I filed an Alabama Open Records Act request for Ivey’s official calendar for a three-week span (Aug. 24 through Sept. 14).

That span, I figured, would provide a solid look into Ivey’s days and would cover all of the days that the Maddox campaign had questioned her whereabouts.

On Wednesday, after paying $17 and some change to a public entity to produce public records that the public had already paid to be produced once, APR was provided with copies of Ivey’s official calendar.

Counting every entry on the calendar for 21 days — including travel time to and from the governor’s mansion (which apparently takes 30 minutes) and air travel to a variety of meetings and ribbon cuttings — there are less than 60 hours accounted for.

That’s less than three hours per day.

But it’s actually worse than that, because most of that time is compacted into a handful of days, leaving large chunks of time — whole calendar pages — simply blank.

In total, seven days were blank. Three other days had just one entry.

In one calendar week — Sunday, Sept. 2, thru Saturday, Sept. 8 — Ivey’s calendar shows just three and a half hours of scheduled time.

That week, her days were completely blank on Sunday, Labor Day Monday and Tuesday. She had a single phone call on Wednesday and a single meeting on Thursday. She hosted the Alabama Association of Regional Councils on Friday morning and wrapped up the grueling week with a proclamation signing at 10:30 a.m. that Friday.

I’ll remind you that this is the governor — a governor in the midst of a campaign.

You would think her calendar would be crammed with events and meetings and staff scrums and trips all over the place.

But … there’s just nothing.

And that’s not normal. I know that for a fact.

I’ve been to the Alabama Archives and sorted through the official calendars for the last three governors of this state. None of their calendars look like Ivey’s. Not even close.

I shared photos on Facebook Wednesday night of entries from random days on Robert Bentley’s calendar. In some instances, his days spilled over onto a second page.

The same was true with Bob Riley. His days, like Bentley’s, seemed to be planned from morning until night. Every day. Even on the weekends.

What’s happening with Kay Ivey should raise eyebrows and a ton of questions. Mainly: Can she actually do this job?

I think that’s a fair question at this point, after the public freeze-ups, the long disappearances, the managed time by her staff, the refusal to debate, and now these nearly blank calendar days.

And then there are two other questions:

Who is running this state?

And who are you voting for?

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Elections

Anti-abortion group National Right to Life endorses Ivey

Brandon Moseley

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National Right to Life announced their endorsement of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) in the Nov. 6 general election.

Ivey said she proudly accepted the endorsement from National Right to Life, the third pro-life organization to endorse Ivey as Governor.

In a letter announcing their support for Kay Ivey, National Right to Life Executive Director David O’Steen and Political Director Karen Cross described Governor Ivey as a “strong advocate for life.”

National Right to Life applauded Governor Ivey’s support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act as well as her opposition to using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions and abortion providers.

“All Alabama voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to reelect you as governor so that you can continue to advance vital pro-life public policies,” said Cross and O’Steen.

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Governor Ivey’s opponent, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) has been running ads touting his pro-life and pro-gun credentials, which is odd for the modern Democratic Party; but Ivey is the one with the endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List, Alabama Citizens four Life, and the National Rifleman’s Association (NRA). The NRA magazines with their Kay Ivey endorsements arrived in NRA households across Alabama on Tuesday.

“This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life. We look forward to working with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children and medically dependent or disabled persons – whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia,” said Cross and O’Steen in their letter.

Kay Ivey has served two terms as Alabama’s state Treasurer and two terms as the Lieutenant Governor. She was elevated to Governor in April 2017 when then Governor Robert Bentley (R) resigned after the House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings. Ivey grew up on a cattle farm in Wilcox County, attended Auburn University, went to work as a school teacher, then went to work in state government.

Ivey’s campaign is emphasizing her administration’s strong job growth, robust economic growth, increasing pre-K access, and workforce development as reasons to elect her as governor. Mayor Maddox’s campaign is promising to extend Medicaid benefits to more people, raise fuel taxes, a state-sponsored lottery, taxing sports gambling, and a gambling agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians.

The general election will be on Tuesday, November 6. Also in this election, voters gets to vote on Amendment Two which states that nothing in the Alabama Constitution can be construed as allowing abortions to take place. The growing pro-life movement is hopeful that the U.S, Supreme Court will eventually overturn the highly controversial Roe versus Wade ruling that forced the states to allow abortion on demand.

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National

Brooks warns of potential debilitating national insolvency after deficit jumps 17 percent

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, issued a warning about the potential for a “Debilitating National Insolvency and bankruptcy that robs America of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed” following the release of the Treasury Department’s preliminary Fiscal Year 2018 deficit projection of $779 billion and the Comptroller General’s statement that America’s fiscal path is “unsustainable.”

“Yesterday’s Treasury Department report confirms that, when it comes to financial responsibility, Washington is a total and complete bipartisan failure,” Brooks said. “Thankfully, because of free-enterprise economic reforms, America’s economy is booming and federal revenues are up. Unfortunately, Washington spending has once again outstripped and left revenue growth in the dust.”

“At $779 billion for FY 2018, America’s deficit is 17 percent worse than last year’s $666 billion deficit. [3] Worse yet, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that next year’s deficit will near the $1-trillion mark,” Brooks wrote in a statement. “Even worse yet, the CBO estimates all subsequent deficits will blow past $1 trillion per year. [4] America’s total debt has exploded to $21.5 trillion. [5] U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro has once again evaluated America’s deficit and debt situation and warned Washington that our financial path is ‘unsustainable’ (accounting language for ‘an insolvency and bankruptcy is in America’s future if we do not change our financially irresponsible path’).”

“American taxpayers shelled out about $325 billion in debt service costs in Fiscal Year 2018,” Rep. Brooks continued. “To put $325 billion into perspective, it is more than 15 times what America spends annually on NASA and more than 6 times what the federal government spends annually on transportation. Absent constructive change, the CBO warns Washington that debt service costs will exceed $800 billion per year within a decade. [7] $800 billion is more than what America currently spends on national defense.”

“This financial data points to one dangerous outcome: a debilitating national insolvency and bankruptcy that robs Americans of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed,” Rep. Brooks warned. “I cannot overemphasize how the voting public throughout America must do a far better job of studying and understanding economic issues well enough to elect senators and congressmen who have both the intellect to understand the threat posed by America’s deficits and accumulated debt and the backbone to do what it takes to prevent the economic destruction of a nation it took our ancestors centuries to build.”

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The primary driver of the debt has been entitlements, Brooks said. So-called “mandatory spending” on expensive social programs including: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are increasing much faster than federal revenues or GDP. The Republican Congress has increased spending on Defense, cut taxes, but has not addressed exploding entitlement costs. The improving economy also means rising interest rates which dramatically increases the cost of servicing the national debt, which has ballooned to $21,634 billion.

Congressman Mo Brooks is seeking his fifth term in the United States Congress. He faces former Huntsville city attorney Peter Joffrion in the general election on November 6.

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News

Department of Labor to hold job fair for prospective coal miners

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Department of Labor announced that they are holding a job fair for prospective coal miners.

The Jasper Career Center is hosting a Job Fair for Jennmar Services on Thursday, October 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. It will be held at the Career Center located at 2604 Viking Drive in Jasper.

Jennmar Services is a full-service staffing company for coal and hard rock mining, oil, gas, and manufacturing industries. They will be recruiting for both Inexperienced underground coal miners (Redhats – Apprentice Miners) and experienced underground coal miners (Blackhats).

Inexperienced miners need to have passed the MSHA 40 Mining Course. It must be current. 5000-23 must be within the past three years.

Experienced underground coal miners need to have their Alabama Miner’s Certification and annual refresher course. Those credentials must be current.

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The event is free and open to the public and as always, veterans will receive priority service. Job seekers should bring their résumé, are encouraged to dress professionally, and should be prepared to interview.
If job seekers need a résumé, they can visit the career center ahead of time for assistance. Jobseekers must bring all certifications to the job fair.

For more information, contact the Jasper Career Center at 205-221-2576 or [email protected]

Free services available to job seekers at the local Career Center include resume assistance, interview preparation, job search assistance, and access to many educational and vocational training programs.

Employer services include free job postings, employee screenings, access to interview space, and valuable training programs and tax credits.

From 2009 to 2015, the coal industry declined, leaving workers and communities desperate. Over 36,000 jobs were lost. From 2009 to 2015, American coal production declined by over 177,000,000 tons, and over 600 coal mines closed.

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Alabama House OKs juvenile justice reform

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 7 min
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