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“Zombie Bill:” Thought dead, juvenile justice reform bill resurfaces in Alabama Senate

Chip Brownlee

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The Senate Judiciary Committee meets on Thursday, March 22, 2018. (Chandler Walker/APR)

Previously thought to be dead for this legislative session, a massive rewrite of Alabama’s juvenile justice statutes surfaced in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, again raising the possibility that the legislation may make it into the law books this year.

The House passed the legislation last week.

“For a while there this bill has been alive and dead, then brought back to life and dead again. It’s come back and forth, and it has been called the Zombie Bill,” Ward said. “Just two days ago we were told the bill was dead for the session. Forty-eight hours later, we’re told it’s still in play.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville, was the result of a Juvenile Justice Task Force created by Sen. Cam Ward under Senate Joint Resolution 78. Hill, a retired judge in St. Clair County, and other members of the task force, worked for months to create a package to reform provisions in Alabama’s law that proponents of the bill say unfairly treats minors.

HB225 would expand early intervention programs and would cut back on the number of minors sent to youth detention facilities. Every minor that would enter the juvenile courts would need a risk and needs determination under the bill.

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“This is something that is a year-long work in progress,” Hill said. “The juvenile justice acts in this state have not been looked at in 10 years.”

Hill said 60 percent of children who are sent to the Department of Youth Services detention facilities are low-level offenders convicted of Class C or D misdemeanors.

“The kids we send to DYS, oftentimes, we would not send to prison if they were 25 years old,” Hill said.

Proponents say that the bill would allow for funds saved by reduced incarceration of children to be used for local community intervention programs.

“We can either stick with the status quo, which some will do, or we can try to make some positive changes going forward,” Ward said.

The bill is more than 80 pages long, and some have accused Ward, Hill and Democratic Sen. Vivian Figures of trying to shove through a bill without proper vetting.

“This is a big bill, that’s why it took 15 months to work on with more than 16 different stakeholders across the state,” Ward said. “Do we have more work to do? I think we do, but we’ve got to put our nose to the ground and start to do it.”

Four amendments were added to the bill Thursday. All of them were largely technical amendments. The biggest amendment added Thursday was a compromise between DYS and county commissions on how to pay for the cost of transferring youth offenders.

Ward said the bill is still a work in progress, but would go a long way in reducing the number of incarcerated youth offenders.

“The big part of it is, the cost of those who you won’t be locking up — it costs us about $160,000 to lock up a non-violent juvenile — that money can be reinvested back into diversion and treatment programs for non-violent youthful offenders,” Ward said.

Ward said it would save money in the long term as well. Studies show that youthful offenders sent to detention services have a higher rate of recidivism than those who aren’t.

“That saves us so much money in the long term as well by not having them continue out of juvenile into the adult corrections system,” Ward said.

Money saved would be distributed on an as-needed basis depending on the need of local community intervention programs. Ward said the change would be better than a distribution formula because that would split the money between some counties that already have enough funds and others that are broke.

“You’re not going to be guaranteed locked into anything, and I think that’s wise, because if you’re locking in numbers, you’ll spread it so thin across the state that it won’t make any difference anywhere,” Ward said.

Ward said the money could also be invested into new programs to tackle crime among youthful offenders.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated.

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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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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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“Zombie Bill:” Thought dead, juvenile justice reform bill resurfaces in Alabama Senate

by Chip Brownlee Read Time: 3 min
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