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Senate committee gives favorable report to economic developer bill HB317

Brandon Moseley

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The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee gave a favorable report to a much-amended version of House Bill 317 after a lengthy discussion.

House Bill 317 is sponsored by state Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, and is being carried by Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, in the Senate.

The Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee is chaired by state Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City.

Williams said that Wednesday’s meeting was supposed to have been a public hearing on the bill but since no one had signed up to speak for or against the bill there would be no hearing.

“This bill is of utmost importance and I ask that you will bring it out of committee today,” Marsh said.

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Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, announced, “I have an amendment about transparency.”

Williams said, “I also have an amendment.”

Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said that he also had some issues with how this bill is written and had some questions about the part time economic developers in the bill.

Johnson said that there are two different definitions of lobbying used in the 2010 ethic legislation that was passed in the 2010 special session on ethics. Johnson said that legislation was written in concert with the then existing Ethics Commission and Director who helped craft that bill.

Other attorneys have different interpretation.

By one opinion going to the Commerce Department and asking for things like economic incentives for things like job training is lobbying.

Johnson said that under this bill those who are full time economic developers would not be lobbyists. They would have an exception to the 2010 Ethics bill. When people lobby the legislature they have to disclose who they are working for. There is a clause in the bill for a less than full time economic developer.

“A small city may hire an attorney to do economic development part time. He may still do some divorces and other cases but it the Ethics Commission pre-qualifies him [as an economic developer],” Johnson said.

Smitherman said that he agreed with the mindset that a small city might hire an attorney to do economic development. “Why would that be lobbying? Why does that person have to jump through some more hoops? This bill ought to allow this.”

Johnson said that the original version of this bill did not make an exception for the part time economic developer. The Attorney General’s Office was concerned about the possibility of possible abuse so we want to clarify through pre-certification.

Smitherman said, “To me this has got to be consistent for the big cities and the little cities. I don’t see anything right about making them jump through all of those hoops. Why should they go through those an extra certification?”

Johnson that this bill has been an ongoing process.

Williams said, “I share quite a few of the same concerns on the bill; though I have warmed up to it.”

Williams said that one of the things that concerned him is that since we are looking at a comprehensive ethics reform bill next year why are we changing this year.

Williams said that his amendment will sunset the ethics portion of the bill on page 5 so that it will sunset those provisions in the next quadrinnium. The legislature will have to pass comprehensive ethics reform or this will sunset if they don’t act.

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, questioned why they were sunsetting just two paragraphs on page five of the bill – the definitions of lobbyist and economic developer.

Alabama Law Institute Director Othni Lathram said that was the cleanest way to sunset the bill.

Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville, asked, “The economic development person for a small town is usually the mayor is he covered by this?”

Johnson said, “No he is dong it in the scope of his office when someone is doing it for pay then he becomes an economic development professional.”

Lathram said that elected officials are allowed to ask for incentives as part of their office. A city councilman or a legislator is a parti-time office holder and has another job that he does. That other job can’t be economic developer.

“The bill says that you can’t wear both of these two hats,” Lathram said. “There is not restriction in your ability to work on behald of your districts.”

“The bill clearly protects the people who are full time (economic developers),” Lathram said. “Seeking these incentives is not lobbying it is economic development.”

The original bill was based on conduct but law enforcement did not like that. Full time employees of a local chamber of commerce would be covered as economic developers.

McClendon said, “The full time part is easy to get; but the less than full time part of the bill is one of the most confusing things I have ever read.”

“Senator it is complicated,” Lathram said. “The bill hits the right balance. You can’t be a lobbyist with your daytime job, you can’t be an elected official with your full time job, you can’t be a public employee with your full time job,” and then be a part time economic developer.

Smitherman said, “To me that is not necessary to take care of the concern because it is already laid out there. My concern is that that part time person should be treated the same as that full time person.”

Lathram answered, “Bills like these are highly negotiated.”

Smitherman responded, “Let me stop you right there that is because they don’t bring all of us to the table. This is my first time to get a good look at this.”

Lathram said, “Senator based on your comments you would have liked the first version of the bill. The prosecutors fear is that when they are after bad actors people are charged with lobbying they will say I was not a lobbyist I am an economic developer.”

Williams sunset amendment passed 11-0-1 with Senator Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, abstaining.

Pittman said that his amendment addresses an issue of transparency. This provides that the incentives that are taken advantage of by a company be reported. When the company claims these credits they will report it to the commerce department so we will have a record of what they actually cost.

Williams said, “As I read it these incentives would be after they were offered.”

Pittman’s amendment was adopted on an 11-0-1 vote.

Johnson said that he was willing to work with Smitherman, but that Senate sponsor (Marsh) would also be involved,

The Committee gave a favorable report to HB317 on a 10-2-1 vote.

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Courts

Attorney general’s office will prosecute Hoover mall shooting cases

Brandon Moseley

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Attorney General Steve Marshall said his office will take over prosecuting the Nov. 22, 2018, shootings of E.J. Bradford, Brian Wilson and Molly Davis at Hoover’s Riverchase Galleria Mall.

Marshall notified Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr (D) that he is assuming prosecution of the cases after the admission by District Attorney Carr in a letter to Attorney General Marshall of the presence of potential conflicts between himself and key parties in the cases. Attorney General Marshall noted that the conflicts warrant recusal under the National District Attorneys Association’s National Prosecution Standards.

“I have reviewed your December 11th letter regarding your prosecutorial role in the shooting death of Emantic ‘E.J.’ Bradford, Jr.,” Attorney General Marshall wrote District Attorney Carr. “Based on the information you provided in that letter and our multiple conversations on the subject—particularly your acknowledgement that ‘a fair-minded, objective observer could conclude that a conflict exists’—I have determined that the National Prosecution Standards dictate your recusal from the investigation of each of the shootings that occurred in the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night, not just E.J. Bradford’s.”

“While I have no reason to believe that you are actually biased or compromised, I agree that other fair-minded persons might question your neutrality based on the information that you provided in the letter and during our private conversations,” Marshall said. “For example, you state that the officer who shot Mr. Bradford is either the charging officer or a witness in approximately 20 cases pending in your office. A fair-minded Defendant (or family member) in those cases could question whether you and/or your prosecutors are biased in favor of protecting the officer from prosecution because the officer’s testimony may be important in his or her case. On the flip side, you acknowledge personal relationships with some of the protestors who are calling for the officer who shot Mr. Bradford to be criminally prosecuted, which could lead a fair-minded person to question your bias in favor of indictment. I have weighed these factors and others mentioned during our conversations and agree that, when taken as a whole, these factors warrant recusal under Rule 1-3.3(d).”

National Prosecution Standards rule 1-3.3(d) dictates that:

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The prosecutor should excuse himself or herself from any investigation, prosecution, or other matter where personal interests of the prosecutor would cause a fair-minded, objective observer to conclude that the prosecutor’s neutrality, judgment, or ability to administer the law in an objective manner may be compromised.
Attorney General Marshall also notified Carr that his office would also prosecute the shootings of Brian Wilson and Molly Davis.

“Your letter requests guidance on the ‘officer-involved’ shooting of E.J. Bradford; it does not mention the shootings of Brian Wilson and Molly Davis,” Marshall concluded. “However, it is my understanding that all three shootings were part of a single chain of events. Thus, the investigation of Mr. Bradford’s shooting is inextricably intertwined with the investigation into the shootings of Mr. Wilson and Ms. Davis and must be conducted by the same entity. Accordingly, to guard against inconsistent prosecutorial decisions, you must also excuse yourself from those investigations.”

According to police accounts, a 21-year-old Hueytown man, Emantic “E.J.” Bradford Jr., and his friend Brian Wilson, age 18, were at the Hoover Riverchase Mall on Thanksgiving night. A scuffle broke out with some other individuals over some sale priced shoes. A gun was drawn and a shooter shot Brian Wilson. A bullet also struck 12-year-old Molly Davis, who was there shopping with her grandmother, in the back. At some point in all of this, Bradford also pulled a weapon. An off-duty uniformed Hoover Police Officer who was working security for the Galleria rushed to the scene. He saw Bradford with a gun and shot him. Bradford died from his wounds. Twenty-year-old Erron Marquez Dequann Brown has since been arrested for shooting Wilson.

Attorney, Ben Crump has been retained by the Bradford family. Crump says that an independent review of the autopsy results indicate that the officer shot Bradford in the back three times. According to Crump, there are witnesses that claim that the officer never identified himself before opening fire on Bradford.

Hoover police wrongly identified Bradford as the mall shooter in the hours after the incident. Investigators realized that was not the case after it was determined that the bullets that were cut out of Wilson could not have come from Bradford’s gun. The Hoover police officers has not yet been formally identified by authorities.

A number of protestors are blaming Hoover for all of this and has been attempting to interfere with businesses and shoppers in the weeks since the shooting. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is investigating the case.

Steve Marshall is a former district attorney in Marshall County. He was recently elected to his own term as attorney general.

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Featured Columnists

Opinion | Trump’s con game is almost over

Josh Moon

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It’s all true.

All of the rumors. All of the speculation. All of the oh-my-God-have-you-heard-about whispers.

All of it is true.

All of the things that Donald Trump and his administration and family have been accused of doing … they actually did them. All of them.

Even the really dumb ones.

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Even the really awful ones.

They did it all.

Oh, listen, I know that the typical Alabama conservative voter has zero idea what I’m talking about right now, because they have so fully wrapped themselves in the protective bubble of conservative opinion sources that they’re still talking about the Clinton Foundation. But I don’t care.

Because this isn’t speculation. Or partisan hopefulness. Or ignorant accusations.

This is under oath.

And right now, after the last two weeks, here’s what people under oath, facing the penalty of perjury and providing supporting evidence and documentation, have said about the conman you people elected president: He has lied repeatedly. He has directed illegal payments. He has sought to cover up affairs. He has bought off a tabloid. At least 14 members of senior campaign staff were in contact with Russians. And Trump — or “Individual 1,” as he’s known in court filings these days — was involved in it all.

Trump’s personal attorney has now been convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for a crime personally directed by the president.

That makes five — FIVE! — of Trump’s top aides or attorneys who have struck deals with Robert Mueller and are now working with the broad investigation into possible (certain) Russian interference and collusion.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Trump’s personal businesses are also under federal investigation. His campaign staff’s use of funds is now under federal investigation. And most of his immediate family is under investigation.

And absolutely none of this should be a surprise to anyone.

Because all of you should have known well before this clown was elected president that he is nothing more than a two-bit conman with an ego large enough to fill a stadium and less shame than a 90-year-old stripper.

You should know because we told you. We, the media. The actual media.

We wrote story after story on this crook and his shady business dealings — how he rarely paid his bills, how he left working men holding the bill, how he created a scam college to bilk poor people out of money, how he skirted laws and tax codes constantly and how he gamed the system over and over again to stay wealthy using taxpayer money.

All of it was right there for anyone to read.

But a good portion of this country didn’t care. They were too caught up in this buffoon making jokes and calling people names and kicking people out of rallies and saying offensive things. He catered to white men and claimed he could fix any problem just by saying he could fix any problem.

And they bought it. Just like the conman planned. You didn’t even make this dude show you his tax returns!

And the white, working-class folks are still buying it. Which would make sense if he had done even one thing to help them.

But he hasn’t.

His economic policies have been a disaster, especially for the people of Alabama. And his tough talk has produced zilch in the way of foreign respect, better trade deals, lower prices for consumers or more American jobs. In fact, we’ve lost respect, have worse deals and higher prices and companies are still moving American jobs to other countries.

And yet, the supporters remain.

I don’t understand it. But you know what? I don’t have to understand it for much longer.

The walls are quickly closing around the conman president. Soon, the rest of Mueller’s investigation will drop, and the indictments will roll out. The full breadth of the Trump administration’s illegal acts will be laid out for Congress to see. Given what we already know from the few filings that have been made public, this will not go well for Trump and his closest associates.

I do not expect the Trump supporters to ever admit they were wrong.

But if there is justice in this world, and if the indictments break just right, those supporters will have to deal — at least for a brief period — with the two words that could make this whole thing almost worth it.

President Pelosi.

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Aerospace and Defense

Jones appointed to powerful Senate Armed Services Committee

Chip Brownlee

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After a brief stint with no representation on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, Alabama is back in the mix.

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones has been appointed to the influential committee tasked with overseeing the nation’s armed forces, national security and military research and development. Jones will assume his position on the committee when the 116th Congress convenes in January.

Alabama is home to five military bases, which employ 8,500 active-duty service members and more than 23,000 civilians. With Jones’ appointment, Alabama will regain some representation for the aerospace industry in Huntsville and the shipbuilding industry in Mobile, both of which have deep ties to the military.

In 2017, the Department of Defense spent $7.7 billion on contracts in Alabama. Alabama hasn’t had any representation on the committee since Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions left the Senate to become attorney general and his temporary replacement, Luther Strange, lost the Republican primary to Roy Moore.

More than 375,000 veterans, including 65,000 retirees, live in Alabama.

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“Alabama and its citizens have long played a significant role in our national defense, from building or maintaining ships and other vehicles to leading cutting-edge research and development to volunteering to serve in our armed forces,” Jones said. “It is vital that we have a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, a role that I am honored to be able to fill in the next Congress.”

Jones said he is committed to serving as Alabama’s advocate for a strong national defense, which also means a strong and prosperous economy in our state.

“I look forward to working with Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed to advocate for our service members and their families, and for a robust national defense posture that protects our interests at home and abroad,” Jones said.

Democrats had to fill three seats on the committee after losing three of the senior Democrats who were serving there. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri; and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, all lost their re-election to the Senate, leaving a gaping hole for the Democrats. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, is the highest-ranking Democrat on the committee.

“Senator Jones is a tremendous advocate for Alabama and a true champion for our service members and their families,” Reed said. “I am pleased to welcome him to the committee and know he’ll continue working on a bipartisan basis to help keep America strong militarily and economically.”

Jones will remain on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where his office says he will continue to advocate for improved access to health care and quality educational opportunities for Alabamians.

Jones will also continue to serve on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the Senate Special Committee on Aging. He will no longer serve on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

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Crime

Farm Bill legalizes hemp-derived Cannabidiol

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall joined with the leadership of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Office of Prosecution Services and the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences to draft and distribute public guidance on the current state of Alabama law on the possession, use, sale or distribution of Cannabidiol, or CBD.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives gave final passage to the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill), HR2, which is expected to be signed into law by President Donald J. Trump (R).

This bill contains a provision legalizing industrial hemp, beyond the existing pilot programs passed by Congress in 2014. As a result of this Congressional action, CBD derived from industrial hemp, with a THC concentration of not more than .3 percent, can be legally produced, sold, and possessed in the State of Alabama. However, as stated in the bill, the new federal law will not prevent states from adopting laws to restrict or regulate the production of industrial hemp.

Furthermore, prescription drugs and other consumables containing CBD will continue to be regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The guidance below still applies to CBD derived from marijuana or CBD derived from hemp with above a .3 percent (three one-thousandths) THC concentration.

Marijuana possession remains illegal in Alabama and is punishable by a Class A misdemeanor when possessed for personal use or by a Class C felony when possessed for reasons other than personal use. The Alabama Criminal Code makes it illegal to sell, furnish, give away, deliver, or distribute a controlled substance, including marijuana. The Alabama Criminal Code makes it illegal to “traffic”—sell, manufacture, deliver, or bring into the state—any part of a cannabis (marijuana) plant in an amount greater than 2.2 pounds. This crime carries mandatory prison time that increases with the weight of the marijuana in question.

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On October 28, 2018, the Alabama Department of Public Health adopted a rule allowing for the medical use of FDA-approved drugs that contain CBD (i.e., Epidiolex). In other words, Epidiolex is now legal for a doctor to prescribe for the treatment of two forms of epilepsy—Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. While Carly’s Law and Leni’s Law provide only an affirmative defense to the otherwise illegal possession of CBD, Epidiolex will be regulated in the same way as any other prescription drug.

The Farm Bill will legalize hemp nationwide. The 10,000-year-old plant is one of the fastest growing plants and has a variety of commercial items including paper, textiles, clothing, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, skincare etc.

Dr. Bomi Joseph, Founder of Peak Health Center, ImmunAG, LLC and creator of Phyto Farmacy discussed the importance of this bill as it will define hemp as a regular agricultural crop, clarifying the legal status of extracts and allowing hemp.

Dr. Bomi said that there is a stigma surrounding hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), as many people that could benefit from CBD won’t touch it due to its association with the infamous marijuana leaf. Because of this, Dr. Joseph believes cannabidiol should be called phytobidiol as it is a plant source that can be extracted completely separate from the cannabis plant itself.

Dr. Joseph is the creator of ImmunAG, a high potency CBD derived from the humulus kriya plant created due to the current regulations around hemp and cannabis derived CBD. The passage of the farm bill will remove hemp, and any legal ambiguity surrounding hemp derived CBD from the Controlled Substances Act.

All of the Alabama Congressional Delegation voted in favor of the Farm Bill.

The Attorney General updated his memorandum on marijuana and CBD. The updated memo can be read from the Attorney General’s website.

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Senate committee gives favorable report to economic developer bill HB317

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
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