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Roby says the House is considering opioid legislation

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) said that the House will likely consider three bills to address, “The horrific opioid epidemic that is gripped our state and the entire country.”

“There are countless important issues currently facing our state and nation,” Roby wrote in an email to constituents. “From our ongoing conversations with North Korea to the continuing need for enhanced security at the southern border, there’s no shortage of priorities that warrant discussion. Unfortunately, there is one very serious issue that continues to make headlines: the horrific opioid epidemic that is gripping our state and the entire country.”

“I’m pleased that last October, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency,” Congresswoman Roby continued. “This epidemic has been wreaking havoc on communities and families across our country for far too long. While the statistics are certainly shocking, this is about so much more than numbers. Hundreds of thousands of real American people with lives, careers, and families have lost the battle with opioid drug abuse. That’s why the House has made combating this crisis a top priority.”

“The House is continuing our work on the opioid crisis this week by considering more legislation including: H.R. 5797, the IMD CARE Act; H.R. 6082, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act; and H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act,” Roby said.

“I’m sure most of us know someone whose life has been affected by opioid abuse,” Roby wrote in her column. “Whether it’s prescription pain relievers or synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the crisis has only gotten worse. 64,070 people died from overdoses in our country in 2016, and 756 of those individuals were Alabamians. Now, in 2018, the problem has not improved. Did you know that 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioid drugs every single day? Just this year alone, it is estimated that more than 2 million Americans will suffer from opioid addiction.”

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“Defeating this epidemic will require the commitment of every state, local, and federal agency,” President Donald J. Trump (R) said in a speech. “Failure is not an option. Addiction is not our future. We will liberate our country from this crisis. Never been like this. Hundreds of years — never been like this. And we will raise a drug-free generation of American children. Last October, we declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Should have been done a long time before. Since then, we’ve worked with Congress to ensure at least 6 billion additional dollars, going through right now, in new funding in 2018 and 2019 to combat the opioid crisis. And we will be spending the most money ever on the opioid crisis.”

Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She is seeking her fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Roby is in the Republican primary runoff against former Congressman Bobby Bright. Roby narrowly defeated Bright in 2010 in the general election. Bright has switched to the Republican party to mount this primary challenge.

The eventual winner of the runoff on July 17 will face Tabitha Isner (D) in the general election on November 6.

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Shelby announces $4 Million in critical opioid treatment grants for Alabama community health centers

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) announced that 15 community health centers located in Alabama have received a total of $4,038,000 in federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support increased treatment and prevention for opioid and substance abuse.

“It is of the utmost importance that we work to fund the fight against the national opioid crisis,” said Senator Shelby. “Nearly every county in Alabama is affected by this growing problem. These HHS grants will allow community health centers across the state to provide treatment to patients with opioid and substance abuse and support addiction prevention programs, helping our communities tackle this widespread epidemic.”

The grants were awarded to community health centers in: Bayou La Batre, Birmingham, Centreville, Gadsden, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Parrish, Selma, Scottsboro, Troy, and Tuscaloosa.

64,000 Americans were killed from drug overdoses in 2016, more than were killed in a decade of fighting in the Vietnam War. More than 300,000 Americans have been killed by opioids since 2000. In 2016 more than 20.1 million Americans were addicted to prescription painkillers and/or illicit opioids.

Responding to the unprecedented drug crisis has been a priority of the administration of President Donald J. Trump (R).

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“We are already distributing nearly $1 billion in grants for addiction prevention and treatment, and more than $50 million to support law enforcement programs that assist those facing prison and facing addiction,” the President said. “We have also launched an $81 million partnership to research better pain management techniques for our incredible veterans.”

The President’s proposed Federal Budget requested $3 billion in new funding in 2018 and $10 billion in 2019 for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to combat the opioid epidemic by expanding access to prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. The funding would also go toward addressing mental health concerns.

On September 19, HHS awarded nearly $352 million to 1,232 community health centers across the nation, including the 15 in Alabama, through the Expanding Access to Quality Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services (SUD-MH) awards. The SUD-MH awards support health centers in implementing and advancing evidence-based strategies that best meet the substance use disorder and mental health needs of the populations they serve.

The following 15 community health centers in Alabama will receive the $4,038,000 in grant funding:

  • Bayou La Batre Area Health Development Board, Inc., Bayou La Batre – $285,000
  • Christ Health Center, Inc., Birmingham – $285,000
  • Alabama Regional Medical Services, Birmingham – $285,000
  • Aletheia House, Inc., Birmingham – $201,750
  • Cahaba Medical Care Foundation, Centreville – $296,000
  • Quality of Life Services, Inc., Gadsden – $293,000
  • Central North Alabama Health, Huntsville – $285,000
  • Health Services, Inc., Montgomery – $285,000
  • Franklin Primary Health Center, Inc., Mobile – $285,000
  • Mobile County Health Department, Mobile – $285,000
  • Capstone Rural Health Center, Parrish – $287,250
  • Rural Health Medical Program, Inc., Selma – $285,000
  • Northeast Alabama Health Services, Inc., Scottsboro – $110,000
  • S.E. Alabama Rural Health Associates, Troy – $285,000
  • Whatley Health Services, Inc., Tuscaloosa – $285,000

“Addressing the opioid crisis with all the resources possible and the best science we have is a top priority for President Trump and for everyone at HHS,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The more than $1 billion in additional funding that we provided this week will build on progress we have seen in tackling this epidemic through empowering communities and families on the frontlines.”

“This week, HHS updated its strategic framework for tackling the opioid crisis, which uses science as a foundation for our comprehensive strategy,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health and Senior Advisor for Opioid Policy. “With these new funds, states, tribes, and communities across America will be able to advance our strategy and continue making progress against this crisis.”

Earlier this week, Senator Shelby voted to pass “The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018,” which was a bipartisan effort of over 70 U.S. Senators and includes proposals from the Senate Committees on: Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Finance; Judiciary; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

The legislation would improve detection of illegal drugs at the border, improves the sharing of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs data between states, and aims to reduce the use and supply of dangerous drugs.

Senator Richard Shelby is the Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Will Christine Blasey Ford testify before Senate Judiciary Committee or not?

Brandon Moseley

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Christine Blasey Ford has alleged that she was groped by Brett Kavanaugh when they were both teenagers and that another student had to pull him off of her.

That student, Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate Mark Judge denies Ford’s account. Judge said Ford’s allegation never happened: “It’s just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way.”

Kavanaugh has denied that the incident has ever taken place.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is now begging Ford to agree to come to Washington to testify.

The committee will hold a special session on Monday and has invited both Kavanaugh and Ford to testify on the allegations. Only Kavanaugh has accepted. As of press time, Ford has agreed to testify but not on Monday and even though she is the accuser she is demanding that Kavanaugh testify first. Traditionally the accuser testifies first and the accused is allowed to testify second. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has not yet agreed to Ford’s highly unusual demands.
Some Republicans have argued that if she does not come Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee should just go ahead and vote and send the nomination to the full Senate.

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“The Democrats and special interest groups have only one goal – delay and stop the nomination of Bret Kavanaugh,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Of course, Christine Blasey Ford refuses to testify. She is being used as a political pawn to delay the hearing. Only after Senate Democrats were unable to delay or stop the confirmation process did they bring this 36-year-old allegation which they held for six weeks. The confirmation hearing needs to move forward, and this mockery of the system and disrespect to a good man must end.”

Some have compared Ford’s Washington Post story that he had sexually misused 15 year old Christine Blasey Ford to last year’s Washington Post story that then U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has sexually misused 15 year old Leigh Korfman.

“Brett Kavanaugh, like me, has withstood numerous investigations and vetting by the most rigorous legal and political authorities,” Judge Moore said in a statement. “The timing of these accusations in the midst of the U. S. Senate’s confirmation for a seat on the U. S. Supreme Court, like those allegations against me only 32 days before the final election for the United States Senate last year, is indeed suspect and show the depths to which liberals will stoop to stop opposition to their agenda.”
Senate Democrats used similar character assassination tacticsto fight the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Christine Blasey Ford is expected to make a decision today on whether or not she will testify.

Brett Kavanaugh is President Donald J. Trump’s second nomination to the Supreme Court.

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Ballotpedia reaches 1 billion pageviews

Brandon Moseley

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Ballotpedia.org tracked its 1 billionth pageview Thursday. Not so coincidentally, that Thursday was also the day of this year’s final statewide primary election in New York. The 2018 primary season saw exponential growth in readership of the political information website’s nearly 280,000 encyclopedic articles.

Ballotpedia Editor in Chief Geoff Pallay attributed the achievement to the organization’s emphasis on primary election coverage and exploring creative new ways to serve its readers.

“Ballotpedia has always made it a priority to provide voters with information they might struggle to find elsewhere,” Pallay said. “This year, we knew our readers needed more and better information about primaries, and their enthusiastic reception of our coverage has been extremely gratifying.”

Ballotpedia’s articles have been viewed 85 million times in 2018 alone.  That has already surpassed last year’s total pageviews by more than 60 percent.

In a non-presidential election year, Ballotpedia.org has seen 57 percent more traffic than the same time period in 2016.

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“Reaching 1 billion pageviews is the result of many hours of staff conversations, research, writing, and editing, but also of thousands of emails, phone calls, and social media exchanges with readers,” Pallay said. “This milestone is as much their accomplishment as it is ours. We are honored when readers choose Ballotpedia, and we are delighted to help make their political research efforts that much easier and more pleasant.”

Ballotpedia is the online encyclopedia of American politics and elections and if frequently referenced by Alabama Political Reporter and other political professionals as well as by ordinary citizens. Its stated goal is to preserve and expand knowledge about politics by providing exceptionally high-quality, accurate, and objective information about local, state, and federal politics and policies. Its content includes neutral, accurate, and verifiable information on government officials and the offices they hold, political issues and public policy, elections, candidates, and the influencers of politics.

Ballotpedia is headquartered in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Ballotpedia was founded in 2006 and has grown to include over 275,000 professionally authored encyclopedic articles that have garnered over one billion page views.

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ACLU sues John Merrill for blocking followers on Twitter

Chip Brownlee

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Secretary of State John Merrill is facing a lawsuit over his blocking of individuals on Twitter.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Merrill Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2018, on behalf of three Alabama citizens who say they were blocked on Merrill’s Twitter. They say an elected official shouldn’t be allowed to block constituents on Twitter because it’s a violation of their First Amendment rights under the Constitution.

“It is upsetting to me that the Secretary of State, who primarily uses his Twitter account to disseminate information on issues related to his office, has also weaponized that account by blocking those with whom he disagrees politically,” said Kimberly Fasking, a plaintiff in the case. “It is not the Secretary of State’s job to communicate only with those who agree with him, but with all of the people of the State of Alabama. I am disappointed that I no longer have ready access to information from the Secretary of State’s office in a way that allows me to engage meaningfully on topics that I find incredibly important.”

Fasking, along with the other plaintiffs in the case, are all residents and registered voters in Alabama, according to the initial court filing and the ACLU.

Fasking is a law student at the University of Alabama and says she was blocked after asking about crossover voting, while Heather Melvin Boothe, a second plaintiff, was blocked for stating “Good point! Ballot has major typo.”

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The third plaintiff, Herbert Hicks, a farmer and educator, was blocked after asking Merrill about a speaking engagement.

Merill quickly responded to the lawsuit Tuesday in a statement.

“The lawsuit filed today by the ACLU of Alabama is an attempted political hack job,” Merrill said. “Members of this liberal group are attempting to create an issue concerning lack of access to public officials that simply does not exist. As every member of the media and general public who interacts with this office knows, the most important thing for an elected official to do is to remain accessible to the people of this state. That is why I always make my cell number — 334.328.2787 — available to all Alabamians.”

Merrill does regularly release his phone number and responds inquiries.

The ACLU says Merrill’s Twitter account, @JohnHMerrill, is used “regularly to discuss Alabama election law, inform about his duties as Alabama Secretary of State, remind the public about upcoming elections, and generally engage with the citizens of Alabama.”

They argue that because of the way he uses this account, even if it’s personal, it has become an important source of news and information regarding Alabama elections and election law.

Merrill said in his statement that his account’s personal nature excludes him from a recent federal court ruling that held President Donald Trump’s blocking of followers on Twitter violated the First Amendment.

“Further, the account in question — @JohnHMerrill — is exclusively my account, while the account @alasecofstate is the state’s public account, and this account has never blocked anyone from viewing any of the posts on its page,” Merrill said. “The @JohnHMerrill account has remained a personal account since its creation, in October 2009.”

The lawsuit resulting in a federal ruling against Trump was filed by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute and seven of his former followers whom Trump blocked on Twitter.

After the federal court ruling regarding Trump’s account, Merrill told the Montgomery Advertiser that he would continue to block followers who were only interested in promoting their public agendas.

He reiterated that resolve in his statement Tuesday.

“When people use a platform for public debate as a way to promote their agenda, regardless of the presentation of any factual information, I believe it is my responsibility to designate attempts to misinform the public as false,” Merrill said. “And, when users continue to publish those instances, or when they make hurtful statements about me or my family, I try to reduce the exposure to avoid misinforming members of the public.”

The lawsuit seeks to bar Merrill from blocking plaintiffs and others based upon whether he agrees or disagrees with their viewpoints, the ACLU’s complaint states. The case was filed in the Middle District of Alabama U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

Merrill said the lawsuit and its assertions don’t change the fact that he is accessible to the public.

“I am recognized as one of the most accessible and personally available elected officials in the history of the state of Alabama, which is why I visit all 67 counties each year,” Merrill said. “It is my desire to continue to be recognized in that way as long as I have the privilege to continue to serve in public office.”

ACLU of Alabama attorney Brock Boone said Merrill as a government official does not get to pick and choose who receives information on Twitter just like he can’t kick out his constituents for their beliefs at a town hall.

“This is a violation of the First Amendment,” Boone said. “It is worrisome that the individual in charge of free and fair elections chooses to discriminate against individuals on social media. As the Secretary of State, Merrill should be using his platform to inform the public, not censure them.”

 

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Roby says the House is considering opioid legislation

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 3 min
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