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Doug Jones files bill to require reporting on Medicaid expansion

Sam Mattison

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Alabama Sen. Doug Jones filed a bill on Wednesday that will require a federal agency to report on the amount Medicaid money taken or declined by states.

In a statement from his office, Jones said Alabama declined an estimated $14 billion in federal funding. He said the result has “left more than 200,000 Alabamians without health coverage.”

“This legislation will shed light on the extent to which failing to expand Medicaid is costing taxpayers and expediting the closure of our rural hospitals,” Jones said. “Every year, Alabamians send hard-earned tax dollars to Washington – let’s bring billions of those dollars back to our state and put them to good use for a healthier workforce and a stronger economy.”

Alabama, as of June 2018, has not expanded Medicaid in the state as a part of the Affordable Care Act. In 2015, Gov. Robert Bentley said he was looking into expanding Medicaid to help rural communities, but he never took any action in office.

Another bill sponsored by Jones is the SAME Act, which would allow states to expand Medicaid at pre-2014 rates in federal funding. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care publication, rates for Medicaid expansion gradually decrease over a number of years.

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“The federal match rate falls to 95 percent in 2017, 94 percent in 2018, 93 percent in 2019, and then 90 percent in 2020 and beyond,” the publication wrote.

The SAME Act is co-sponsored by Jones and nine other senators.

“We need to bring every possible tax dollar back home to Alabama that we can and at the same time make sure that our most vulnerable Alabamians get access to health care,” Jones said of the act. “This legislation eliminates the last argument against Medicaid expansion and ensures that every state gets the same deal from the federal government.”

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Brooks lauds November jobs report

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, made a point to laud the good Bureau of Labor Statistics November jobs report Friday.

“The November Jobs Report is very good in the context of two troubling events: the threatened return of socialist, anti-growth policies of Democrats who have captured the House of Representatives and rising interest rates (caused by Federal Reserve hikes coupled with America’s dangerous deficits straining credit markets),” Brooks said. “These combined threats undermine the economic confidence of job creators which, in turn, risk causing adverse impacts on America’s economy.”

“Despite threatened socialist policies and rising interest rates, in November, America’s economy added 155,000 new jobs, average hourly income continued to grow at a 3.1% annualized rate, and unemployment remained steady at the 50-year low rate of 3.7%— all welcome news for American workers,” Brooks said. “I am very pleased that Americans are personally benefitting from the tax cuts and deregulation policies that spurred 2018 to be America’s strongest growth rate in over a decade!”

Brooks said that the key takeaways from the Bureau of Labor Statistics October jobs report are: America’s economy added 155,000 new, nonfarm payroll jobs in November 2018; America’s November unemployment rate was 3.7 percent, a year-to-year improvement of 0.4 percentage points over the 4.1 percent unemployment rate of November 2017; and over the past year, the average weekly earnings for all non-farm American workers increased by 0.2%, or six cents (to $27.35/hour). That is an 81 cent improvement in hourly wages over the past year.

Brooks said that African-American unemployment fell by 0.3 percentage points, to 5.9 percent, which is the all-time record low unemployment rate for African-Americans. Asian-American unemployment fell from 3.2 percent to 2.7 percent. The Caucasian-American unemployment rate actually rose from 3.3 percent to 3.4 percent. The Hispanic-American unemployment rate rose from 4.4 percent to 4.5 percent. The labor participation rate remained unchanged at 62.9 percent. The long-term unemployed (those unemployed for 27 weeks or more), declined by 120,000 to just 1.3 million.

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This is the lowest the unemployment rate since December 1969, and this is the fifth consecutive month that the unemployment rate has been below 4 percent. There have only been 12 months since 1970 that the unemployment rate has fallen below 4 percent. Seven of those months occurred this year.

More than 73 percent of adults entering employment are coming out of the labor force rather than from unemployment.

The gains were apparent in most industries. The biggest gains this month were in transportation and warehousing (25,000) and in manufacturing (27,000). Overall manufacturing has added 468,000 jobs since the election.

Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.

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Jones calls on Birmingham-based for-profit college CEO to assist student after sudden closure

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, sent a letter in response to news that Education Corporation of America (ECA) would be abruptly closing its campuses in Alabama and across the country to CEO Stu Reed today calling for ECA to help students navigate their options and understand the resources available to them.

ECA represents Brightwood Career Institute, Brightwood College, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America, and Virginia College throughout the country. ECA is based in Birmingham and operates for-profit Virginia College campuses in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery. 3,800 Alabama students are affected by the closures. Of those students, 670 are using their GI Bill benefits.

“I am writing on behalf of the students in Alabama and across the country who are enrolled in one of Education Corporation of America’s colleges, including Brightwood Career Institute, Brightwood College, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America, and Virginia College,” Jones said. “When the news broke yesterday regarding your decision to abruptly close these colleges, I was immediately concerned about the futures of 20,000 students enrolled nationwide in 20 states, including 4,000 veterans and military service members using the G.I. Bill.”

“In Alabama, Education Corporation of America’s Virginia College campuses will close in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery, leaving a combined total of more than 3,800 students in my state, including 670 student veterans who have been using the G.I. Bill benefits they have earned, left scrambling to figure out their educational future,” Jones continued. “According to your company’s website, there will be information for students regarding transcript retrieval, transfer, and contact information that you “expect to start loading” on or around December 17, 2018.”

“After abruptly closing the doors, your decision to make students and families wait nearly two weeks to receive any information about their next steps is simply unacceptable,” Jones concluded. “You have a responsibility to these students, including our veterans and service members, to ensure they have all of the tools and information they need to move forward, including the choice between receiving a discharge of their federal student loans or transferring to a similar program if they can find an institution willing to accept their credits. Veteran students also need to understand the impact of the closure on their G.I. Bill benefit eligibility. I am deeply troubled by reports that many Education Corporation of America colleges have not been informing students of their right to seek a “closed school discharge” of their federal loan as is required by federal law under the 2016 “borrower defense” rule. Additionally, students who are encouraged to transfer should understand the limitations of fully transferring credits, and the impact on their eligibility for a loan discharge. I urge you to do all you can to inform these students of their options. They have invested thousands of dollars into your institution and could potentially lose everything.”

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The closures were announced on Wednesday and are effective this Friday.

Stu Reed was previously the Chief Executive Officer at Motorola but was forced out in 2008 due to that company falling on down times. He became CEO of Education Corporation of America less than four years ago.

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Alabama joins other states in effort to stop pesky robocalls

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama is joining a multistate coalition to stop or reduce annoying robocalls.

Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Thursday that Alabama will participate in a bipartisan group of 39 attorneys general who are working to find a solution to stop malicious robocalls by focusing on the technology that major telecom companies are pursuing to stop the illegal calls.

“Robocalls are not simply annoying but have become a persistent harassment that is disrupting the lives of our citizens and can be a means for scammers to steal their hard-earned money and savings,” Marshall said. “We are committed to working together to find a constructive way to combat this growing problem. Robocalls, as well as spoofing which is often done to make it appear the calls are coming from someone known and reputable, will require technological solutions. We support the efforts of telecom companies to address this and urge them to reach and implement solutions as soon as possible.”

The multistate group has had in-depth meetings with several major telecom companies.

Marshall and the other state attorneys general say they are working to develop a “detailed understanding” of what technology could feasibly minimize the number of unwanted robocalls and illegal telemarketing. They’re also planning to press major companies to expedite the process to protect consumers and determine whether states could make further recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission.

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Other states in the group include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

 

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President George H. W. Bush laid to rest in Texas

Brandon Moseley

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On Thursday, President George Herbert Walker Bush (R) was laid to rest in Texas next to his wife, Barbara, who had died earlier this year. He was 94. On Wednesday a state funeral was held for the 41st President at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Presidents Jimmy Carter (D), William J. “Bill” Clinton (D), Barack H. Obama (D), Donald J. Trump (R), and George W. Bush (R) all attended, as did members of the Alabama Congressional delegation.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said, “Today Annette and I joined Americans across the nation to pay respects to our friend and former President, George H.W. Bush. It was a beautiful service honoring the life of a distinguished, admirable, and impactful leader. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the entire Bush family.‬”

Congressman ‬Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said, “It was truly an honor to be on hand today at the state funeral of President George H.W. Bush.” “It is a privilege to be in attendance this morning at the National Cathedral here in Washington today as we honor the legacy of a great American.”

Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) said, “I am humbled to be present at the National Cathedral this morning as we honor the remarkable life and legacy of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States.”

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) said, “President George H.W. Bush acted with civility and grace. His legacy will not soon be forgotten.”

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“Even with all he accomplished in service to our Nation, President Bush remained humble,” President Trump said. “He never believed that government — even when under his own leadership — could be the source of our Nation’s strength or its greatness. America, he rightly told us, is illuminated by “a thousand points of light,” “ethnic, religious, social, business, labor union, neighborhood, regional and other organizations, all of them varied, voluntary and unique” in which Americans serve Americans to build and maintain the greatest Nation on the face of the Earth. President Bush recognized that these communities of people are the true source of America’s strength and vitality.”

After the state funeral in Washington, Bush’s body was flown to Houston, Texas where a memorial service was held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. His body was then transported to College Station on a locomotive, adorned with the colors of Air Force One and named 4141 in honor of him 13 years ago. Pres. Bush, who grew up riding trains, requested that his last ride be on that train. The locomotive was made by Electro-Motive Diesel, a subsidiary of Albertville based Progress Rail.

Congressman Byrne said, “What a cool story! Progress Rail, an Alabama-based company, created a special locomotive just for the 41st President. It will now be used to carry President George H.W. Bush to his final resting place. Glad to see Alabama playing a special role in recognizing this great American.”

The CEO of Progress Rail is Billy Ainsworth, the father of Alabama Lieutenant Governor-elect Will Ainsworth (R).

“Proud of Dad and the entire Progress Rail team,” Lt. Gov. elect Ainsworth said. “What a great story.”

Pres. Bush was buried next to his wife and daughter at his Presidential Library on the campus of Texas A&M University.

(Original reporting by Fox News and the Yellowhammer News contributed to this report.)

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Doug Jones files bill to require reporting on Medicaid expansion

by Sam Mattison Read Time: 1 min
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