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Analysis | GOP Debate: Overtly friendly but not toward Kay Ivey

Sam Mattison

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While the three GOP gubernatorial candidates were in Birmingham debating, their minds drifted towards the empty podium in the room meant for Gov. Kay Ivey.

Former state Sen. Bill Hightower, Evangelist Scott Dawson, and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle gathered for a televised debate last Thursday. Minutes before the debate, WVTM, who hosted the debate, announced they had prepared for Ivey’s arrival despite her rejection of the offer earlier this month.

Ivey’s decision to not participate has drawn ire across the state and the three other GOP candidates made it the focus of key parts of Thursday’s debate.

During the pivotal question toward other candidates portion of the debate, which the Democratic candidates used to contrast ideas, the GOP candidates present used it to bash Ivey for a variety of topics.

To each other, the candidates were noticeably less competitive than their Democratic counterparts. In a Democratic debate that same week, former Chief Justice Sue Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox endured a brief spat over a minimum wage proposal that Maddox struck down while he was mayor of Tuscaloosa.

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No such spat occurred on Thursday, and the candidates seemed to bond over their similar views and disdain for Ivey’s absence. They may share similar sentiments later this month when they gather for another debate hosted by Reckon that Ivey has also announced she will not attend.

Besides the negative feelings towards Ivey, the debate yielded some other interesting points.

Medical Marijuana

An interesting point of the debate was that all of the gubernatorial candidates supported medical marijuana in some shape or form.

“I’m not against that particular,” Dawson said of medical marijuana. “I think it has to be highly regulated under doctor’s care and there has to be no other medicine available that could treat that condition.

They all drew the line at recreational marijuana, which only Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox has championed openly in last week’s debate.

“Recreationally–no way,”  Dawson said.

“I don’t like the negative effects of that,” Hightower said. “We’re facing an opioid epidemic and marijuana is a gateway drug.”

Support for Roy Moore

Even now 4 months after the December Special Election, Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore was still present in Thursday’s debate. Hightower and Battle took a page out of the Republican playbook immediately after Moore was accused of sexual misconduct by a woman. That play, mainly used by Washington Republicans, was to ask Moore to resign only if the allegations were true.

“I have supported Republicans nominees throughout my history,” Hightower said. “My position on it was that if the atrocious claims were true, the Senate could have dealt with the candidate. But I could not stomach Doug Jones.”

Hightower went on to say that Democrat Jones, who won the Senate election, had filled his “worst nightmare” in supporting abortions up to 20 weeks, which was a controversial view even among Democrats.

“When the allegations came out against Roy Moore, I said if those are true, he does not need to serve in the U.S. Senate,” Battle said in response to the allegations of Moore. “After that, I said I was running for governor. I’m running for governor. I’m not running for U.S. Senate That’s where I stand on it.”

Dawson took a different approach and said he openly voted for Moore, which Battle and Hightower declined to say whether they did.

“They need to be dealt with,” Dawson said of the allegations against Moore. “But they are not supposed to be considered absolute truth either. There is a balance. When I was looking at this, the worst possible statement is to say that I believe the young ladies, and I am still voting for the candidate. You have to look at these and the tenant of society is innocent until proven guilty–here you have to give the benefit of the doubt.”

Medicaid Work Requirement

Another question dealt with a work requirement for Medicaid that is being pursued by Alabama’s state government. The proposal, which has been referred to the Federal Government for approval, would push hundreds of people out of Alabama’s program.

Democrats have suggested that the state expand Medicaid, a plan that was shut down by Gov. Robert Bentley when the Obama administration offered it to the state.

“What government was designed to do is now being perverted,” Dawson said. “It was never intended to meet every need. When you try to do that, it starts to implode.”

In place of Medicaid expansion, Dawson floated that those left behind on the work requirement could be picked up by charities, communities, churches, and private corporations.

“It seems like it’s always the first resort and the only option,” Dawson said. “I think Alabama should have been on that list of the right to work, and I will push it forward.”

Hightower broke away from Dawson’s view and came out rather harshly against the motion.

“It is brutal and not treating people like they need to be treated, I’m against it,” Hightower said.

The state senator was quick to say that he is not entirely okay with people not working and receiving medical insurance from the government.

“Work is a gift,” Hightower said. “It’s not a curse. It gives us purpose. It gives us meaning. I would want that opportunity to be given to these people as well, but their medical care is very important.”

Battle fell somewhere in the middle of the two views.

“There is a small group in the middle and there needs to be an opt-out for parents with small children who need day care,” Battle said. “The biggest thing is, it is not wrong to ask someone to work. If they can work, I think it’s the greatest thing they can do. You help them become someone who is productive in society.”

A State Lottery?

Perhaps the biggest topic discussed during the Democratic debate last week was the state lottery, which Democrats have been pushing for years. Lately, however, certain Republicans are rallying for the state lottery with the highest support coming from Gov. Robert Bentley in the waning days of his candidacy.

“I am for the vote on the lottery,” Battle said. “I would allow that vote. I don’t think it is a cure-all that everyone talks about, it’s just a financial tool more than anything else. Last time, I voted.”

Dawson and Hightower were firmly in the no camp.

“I’m against the lottery,” Dawson said. “Not necessarily because of my spiritual formation, but also because it is a poor economic decision for the future of Alabama.”

“It’s no answer,” Hightower said of the lottery. “What I really dislike about this is they market to minorities for this. That’s what I don’t like we are also seeing a change in culture in gaming. It’s going online. We are in a changing environment, and I don’t want to have the Jersey boys coming down, walking the state house throwing their money around to more of the politicians like we had a few years ago. I think it’s a bad introduction into government and creates a dependency issue.”

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Bill Britt

Opinion | Can Alabama’s one-party system deliver for all the people?

Bill Britt

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Alabama is a one-party state.

For 136 years, the Democratic Party was the sole governing body which ruled the state under a one-party system. Voters switched sides in 2010, and now there is one-party control by Republicans.

Of the many problems created by a one-party system are the elimination of checks and balances, disregard for the minority population, a tendency for tolerating corruption within the controlling ranks and ignoring best practices because they may be ideas that come from the opposition.

Alabama is in dire need of men and women in positions of political power and influence who can see beyond the second ripple in the pond and who will do what is right, not based on party, but a deep abiding loyalty to our state.

Far too often policy items are ill-conceived, half-baked-by-products of some other state’s solutions or a national narrative that isn’t in the best interest of the people of our state.

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Best policy is written using fact-based information tailored to the needs of the state.

As lawmakers gear up for the 2019 Legislative Session, it might be fair to ask, “What do in-coming Republican lawmakers stand for today?”

One freshman legislator recently said that he is coming to Montgomery to help President Trump build the wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Far be it from me to question the gentleman’s motivation or IQ, but if I’m correct, the state Legislature does not have any say over a border wall, unless he thinks we need one in Mobile.

We have some excellent women and men at the State House, but there are a few who have no business deciding what’s for lunch, much less what is best for the people.

The state has many challenges which include weak income growth which is only improving because the national economy is rolling along, prisons that are a disgrace and under federal lawsuits, an infrastructure which is crumbling and self-dealing that is on the rise.

Republicans, like the Democrats before them, have not adequately addressed these systemic problems because with one-party rule, no one is pushing them to do better.

Perhaps the lack of real change is understandable given that for six of the last eight years, the Republican-led government was controlled by a delusional governor and a crooked Speaker of the House.

Former Speaker Mike Hubbard is going to prison, Gov. Robert Bentley is out of office and still out of his mind, so going forward, the state will know if Republicans can actually lead.

Republicans have a chance to lead; will they?

Without a strong opposition party, Republicans, like Democrats of the past, have no reason to compromise or build a coalition between the two parties. Therefore, in many instances, what is best for the state is hampered by groupthink or a slavish devotion to a national party orthodoxy that offers scant solutions to Alabama’s most pressing problems.

The state’s voting population is arguably at 60/40, with Republicans holding a commanding majority over Democrats as evident by the state’s last general election.

In his essay “Party dominance ‘theory’: Of what value?” Raymond Suttner notes, “The notion of a dominant party, usually described by those who deploy the concept, as a theory or a system, refers to a category of parties/political organizations that have successively won election victories and whose future defeat cannot be envisaged or is unlikely for the foreseeable future.”

Republicans occupy all 29 statewide offices and control more than two-thirds of both the House and the Senate; Alabama is a one-party state.

If the state succeeds, Republicans can take credit. If it continues near the bottom in every meaningful measure of success, then they should be held accountable.

One-party government is fraught with problems, not the less of which is a failure to deliver good government for all the people because they don’t have to worry about reelection.

Alabama should expect more, but do we?

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Crime

ACLU, NAACP make demands of authorities following Hoover police shooting

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the ACLU of Alabama and Alabama NAACP filed public records requests today to police departments in Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, Hoover, Huntsville, and Saraland for their use-of-force policies, body camera policies, and racial bias training materials, following the Thanksgiving shooting of Emantic “E.J.” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. and other incidents where excessive use of force has been accused in Alabama.

The civil rights groups said that they are calling for “transparency and accountability.”

“Far too often, the concept of ‘reasonable force’ has been distorted to justify police officers killing or seriously injuring people of color for indefensible reasons,” stated ACLU Alabama policy analyst Dillon Nettles. “The death of EJ Bradford by the Hoover Police Department is a reminder of the tragic loss a family and community faces when law enforcement utilizes lethal force.”

“Law enforcement must implement transformative reforms that build public trust and lead to humane, equitable, and constitutional policing in all communities,” Nettles said. “We plan to fight for that transparency by collecting policies, practices, and data for departments across the state in the hope that it leads to greater accountability for violations of law, policy, and community trust.”

“Too many of our young black males, in particular, are being shot and killed like animals and no one is held accountable,” said Alabama NAACP President Bernard Simelton. “These tragic scenes must stop. The people in our communities deserve to know the policies and procedures that Law Enforcement Agencies use when engaging individuals with weapons. The NAACP has advocated for use of body cameras by police officers so that the community could see really what happened, but when Law Enforcement refuses to release the video to the public, it does not help the situation. It is as if the video was never taken.”

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In addition to E. J. Bradford, they cited: Chikesia Clemons, a Black woman wrestled to the ground and exposed for making a complaint at a Waffle House in Saraland; Ulysses Wilkerson, a Black teenager, beaten and hospitalized in Troy; Sureshbhai Patel, an elderly Indian man, slammed to the ground in Madison; and Greg Gunn, a Black man shot and killed walking home in Montgomery.

Simelton and Nettles claim that incidents of excessive and oftentimes lethal force, particularly towards people of color, is an epidemic. The Washington Post reported that 987 people were shot and killed by police in 2017.

They did admit that police officers do not see a systemic issue. A Pew Research Center poll released in 2017 found that two-thirds of the nation’s police officers believe the deaths of Black Americans during encounters with police are isolated incidents and not an indication of broader problems between law enforcement and the Black community.

They claim in a statement that this, “Disconnect between law enforcement and Black people shows that culture shifts and internal reform of police policies are needed to prompt agents of the law to foster a positive, trusting relationship with the communities they serve. Given this recent tragedy, Alabama law enforcement must be held to the same principles of transparency and open decision-making that other government officials accept as a condition of operating in a democratic society.”

The public records request is available at:

https://www.aclualabama.org/sites/default/files/prrletter20181212-useofforce.pdf

On Wednesday night, protestors crowded the Target store in Hoover. Several groups are protesting Hoover because of their view that the slaying of E.J. Bradford by a uniformed off-duty Hoover police officer at Hoover’s Riverchase Galleria in the moments following a shoot over some shoes was unjustifiable. The Bradford shooting is still under investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

Some individuals have called for a boycott of the city of Hoover.

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Governor

Alabama’s marks 199 years as a state on Friday

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will join the Alabama Bicentennial Commission on Friday to kick off Alabama’s bicentennial year countdown.

Alabama officially became the nation’s 22nd state on December 14, 1819. In one year, on December 14, 2019, Alabama will celebrate its 200th anniversary as a state.

Gov. Ivey will mark the occasion with an Alabama Bicentennial Year Announcement at 10:00 a.m. at the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol.

Economic developer and Alabama historian Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “What does it mean to have an unwavering commitment to our state? It is recognizing that every county in Alabama is a priceless treasure, encompassed with an abundance of history and heart.”

“The Alabama 200 initiative provides an opportunity to recognize the people, past and present, who have shaped our state,” Nicole Jones continued. “Talented folks across generations and from various walks of life have utilized their gifts to make Alabama a special place, the best state, to live. Each of our 67 counties has experienced significant events as they pertain to societal, cultural, economic, and technological history. The three—year Bicentennial celebration serves as an educational opportunity as well as a way to engage residents to participate in civic and community events and record historic accounts for future generations. It is almost as if we are creating a three-year time capsule that encompasses the past 200 years.”

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“Any person or company can participate in the bicentennial in a myriad of ways. Alabama Public Television, for example, has contributed by producing Alabama Legacy Moments – 30-90 second video segments that showcase Alabama people and places, which entice viewers to further explore our state,” Nicole Jones added. “APT made the video clips, which feature original music by Bobby Horton and content from the Encyclopedia of Alabama, available free of charge for all commercial radio and television stations. Alabama’s Federal Road, the US Space and Rocket Center, Bear Bryant, Freedom Rides, DeSoto Caverns, the Longleaf Pine, and Luther Leonidas Hill’s contributions to medicine are just a few topics highlighted.”

“Another special exhibit currently making its way through Alabama’s 67 counties is Making Alabama, A Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit presented by the Alabama Humanities Foundation with support from Alabama Bicentennial Commission and Alabama Department of Archives and History,” Nicole Jones continued. “The exhibit uses a combination of artifacts, storyboards, storytellers, festivals, photographs, and kiosks to highlight Alabama from 1819 through today.”

Nicole Jones concluded, “The study of history provides us an opportunity to bridge the past with the present, learn what works and learn from mistakes, formulate hypotheses, and make informed decisions that hopefully will allow us to gain confidence in the future. We all are part of Alabama. Let us each take a moment to participate in our own unique ways and share our history, our story, with others.”
Alabama became a Territory on March 3, 1817 following the defeat of hostile Creeks in the Creek Indian War.

The stated mission of ALABAMA 200: “Is to support, create, and execute events and activities that commemorate the stories of our people, place, and path to statehood. Between 2017 and 2019, ALABAMA 200 will engage residents and visitors in educational programs, community activities, and statewide initiatives that teach, inspire, and entertain.”

To learn more, click here.

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Legislature

Sen. Bobby Singleton to replace Sen. Billy Beasley as Alabama Senate minority leader

Chip Brownlee

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Sen. Bobby Singleton speaks on the floor of the Alabama Senate. (Chip Brownlee/APR)

The small cohort of Democrats left in the Alabama Senate has elected a new minority leader.

The eight members of the Democratic caucus elected Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, to serve as the Senate minority leader. Singleton, who was elected to the Senate in 2005, will replace outgoing minority leader, Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton.

Beasley will stay in leadership as the deputy Senate minority leader. Beasley was elected to the Senate in 2010.

The Democrats’ new leadership will serve through 2022.

“I just want to thank my colleagues for having the confidence in me to be able to lead them for the next four years,” Singleton said in a statement. “As the minority leader we will be looking at a robust agenda; not just for the Democrats, but for the State of Alabama. Hopefully, we can work across the aisle with the majority. I look forward to working with Senate Majority Leader Sen. Greg Reed and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.”

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Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, will serve as minority caucus chair, and first-term lawmaker Sen. Malika Sanders Fortier, D-Selma, will serve as vice chair.

“I look forward to working with fellow senators and my Democratic colleagues as we establish goals and set priorities to represent our constituency and the state,” Coleman-Madison said. “As chair, one of my goals, in collaboration with Democratic Senators, is to start legislative outreach to not only hear from citizens, but to educate and inform them on issues facing the state. We have a strong caucus; each member brings unique talents to the legislative body, and I am honored to serve.”

As Democrats head into the next four years, they’ll face an empowered Republican majority with a slightly expanded majority. Republicans gained one seat and now control 27 of the 35 seats in the upper chamber. Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, is expected to remain in his post, and Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, will remain as majority leader.

Marsh presided over the Senate last year in the absence of a lieutenant governor, but Lt. Gov.-elect Will Ainsworth will now take on that role.

The Senate pro tem congratulated Singleton on his election, saying the two have a good working relationship.

“There are many tough issues facing the Alabama Senate in the year to come and I look forward to working with Senator Singleton as we develop legislation that improves the lives of all Alabamians,” Marsh said in a statement.

Downstairs in the lower chamber, Republicans control 77 of 105 House seats, gaining 5 seats in the November general election. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, is all but assured to retain his job after Republicans unanimously nominated him for another term.

The Legislative Black Caucus elected Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, as their chair. The caucus includes both House members and senators, and Figures will serve in that position until 2020, when a House member will take over the alternating role.

“I am very humbled and honored to have been elected to serve as Chair of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus by my colleagues,” Figures said. “I am very excited to work with all members to develop an agenda with goals and objectives to move Alabama forward. Together, we will explore all opportunities as we strive to raise all boats so that we can be the best that we can be.”

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Analysis | GOP Debate: Overtly friendly but not toward Kay Ivey

by Sam Mattison Read Time: 6 min
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