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Legislative Advisory Committee on School Safety and Security holds first meeting

Brandon Moseley

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A new Legislative Advisory Committee on School Safety and Security that was created by Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R – Monrovia, and has been tasked with reviewing and vetting legislation involving school security issues. The task force held its organizational meeting at the Alabama State House on Tuesday.

The panel is comprised of legislators, law enforcement officials, educators, and mental health professionals.

Speaker McCutcheon addressed the meeting. The Speaker told the group that he hopes it will serve as a valuable resource for lawmakers by providing advice, input, and counsel on school security measures that are introduced in upcoming sessions of the Alabama Legislature.
State Rep. Terri Collins (R – Decatur) serves as chair of the advisory committee and led a similar Emergency Task Force on School Safety and Security that was formed in 2016. The earlier task force recommended several school security statutes that have since been passed into law and enacted.

“Because of the work of the previous task force and now this committee, Alabama is ahead of the curve nationally, and we are leading many other states in the area of school safety and security,” Collins said. “As a result of the partnerships we’ve formed among the groups represented on this committee, we are all working to ensure our schools, our children, our teachers, and our administrators are safe, secure, and prepared to react if the unthinkable ever happens.”

State Rep. Alan Baker (R – Brewton), who is a retired public school teacher, also serves on the advisory committee and has previously sponsored and passed important school security measures into law.

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“This committee will serve as a great resource to any lawmaker who is considering legislation related to school safety and wants their ideas vetted before being introduced,” Baker said. “Everyone involved in school safety from law enforcement to school administrators to mental health to the Legislature is represented on this committee, and I am proud to be a part of its efforts.”

The committee will hold its next meeting prior to the start of the 2019 regular legislative session in March in order to review state budget recommendations and pre-filed legislation related to school safety and security.

The member of the committee include: Collins, Baker, Rep. Rex Reynolds (R – Huntsville), Rep. Rod Scott (D – Fairfield), Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones, Alabama Department of Mental Health Legislative Affairs Director Holley Caraway, School Superintendents Association of Alabama Executive Director Ryan Hollingsworth, Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools Executive Director Vic Wilson, Alabama Homeland Security Director Shirrell Roberts, Alabama Department of Education Administrator Greg DeJarnett, Lee County Deputy Sheriff Pamela Revells, Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear, and Elmore County Public Schools Counseling Coordinator Emilie Johnson.

Governor Kay Ivey (R) has already created a school safety task force that presumably will have legislation recommendations for the legislature to consider.

The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Figuring out how to get more good guys with guns into the schools, whether that is through more school resource officers or arming trained security teams of administrators and/or teachers, will likely be considered by the legislature.

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Jones calls for Trump to approve individual assistance for Alabamians affected by Hurricane Michael

Chip Brownlee

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones urged President Donald Trump last week to push for approval of individual assistance grants for Alabamians impacted by Hurricane Michael.

While a Major Disaster Declaration was approved last week, it only provides public assistance grants. Public assistance grants help local governments and community organizations, but can’t be disbursed to individuals recovering from a disaster.

“The people of Alabama are grateful for the Public Assistance grants approved in the Major Disaster Declaration dated November 5, 2018, but more relief is clearly needed,” Jones wrote in a letter to Trump. “I am aware that a determination as to the availability of Individual Assistance (IA) grants is still under review, and I urge you to approve IA grants as soon as possible. The effects of Hurricane Michael have been devastating to our state, and without individual federal assistance, many areas may never fully recover.”

IA grants are vital in order for impacted Alabamians to fully recover, Jones’ office said. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency has requested IA grants. AEMA also provided additional evidence to demonstrate that certain Alabama counties qualify for assistance.

Neighboring counties in Florida and Georgia have already received IA grants.

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“The people and the State of Alabama are resilient, but as in Georgia and Florida, the recovery efforts in this case require resources beyond their reserves,” Jones wrote.

Jones’ office said the senator continues to engage with federal, state and local leaders and residents to ensure that Alabama gets the resources it needs to fully recover from Hurricane Michael, which was one of the most powerful hurricanes to make landfall in the continental United States.

Jones visited the Wiregrass region earlier this month to listen to local farmers to better understand the extent of the damage their crops sustained as well as their unique recovery needs, Jones’ office said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not yet approved the State of Alabama’s application for an agricultural disaster declaration, which Jones supported in a recent letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue.

 

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Bill Britt

Opinion | Will Republicans bring change or status quo?

Bill Britt

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For eight years, Republicans have dominated state government in Alabama, but those years are not a fair representation of Republican leadership because, for most of that time, corrupt, crazy or compromised men were at the helms in the State House, the governor’s office and throughout the political infrastructure.

Already, Republicans are laying the groundwork for the next four years by determining who will staff the governor’s office and cabinet, the committee chairs in the House and Senate and key leadership roles within the caucus. Those choices will show whether there will be a change in character, conduct, and competence or status quo.

Beginning in 2008, then-Gov. Bob Riley, ALGOP Chair and minority leader Mike Hubbard, along with BCA’s Billy Canary, began to methodically execute a plan to take control of Alabama’s political structure. While they personally failed due to greed and incompetence, their plan succeeded and even today, after Hubbard’s felony conviction and Canary’s ouster at BCA, many of their handpicked legislators, cronies and co-conspirators still enjoy dominant positions in government and the accompanying political apparatus.

Reportedly, Riley is laying low but will seek a comeback in the run-up to the 2020 U.S. Senate election, positioning either himself or his son Rob to take on Democrat U.S. Senator Doug Jones.

A scan of Hubbard’s book, “Storming the State House,” offers a look at those candidates who Hubbard, Riley and Canary selected and groomed to do their bidding. Some of their staunchest allies have either quit government or have been indicted or convicted, but still many remain.

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Some have changed horses, but not everyone is happy that their former masters do not still hold the reins.

Some miss Hubbard’s whip hand, Riley’s conniving and Canary’s money and outsized influence.

The Republican House caucus will meet Tuesday to determine key leadership roles.

Current Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon will not face a challenge even though there are some among his ranks who would like to return to a Hubbard-style leadership.

Rep. David Standridge has put his name forward for House Pro Tem, a position presently held by Rep. Victor Gaston. Standridge, it is believed, wants to bring new life into the position, however, Gaston is a well-known fixture. What is unclear is why U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers is lobbying for Gaston’s return as Pro Tem?

It is not sure if House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter will face opposition or if he should.

Where the rubber wheel hits the road is with committee leadership assignments that will come later. Several committees are still chaired by Hubbard loyalists who, again, long for his dictatorial command. Even the House Ethics Committee is currently headed by a man who believes Hubbard’s conviction was a grave conspiracy involving prosecutorial misconduct.

Over at the Capitol, Gov. Ivey’s staff and cabinet have well placed Hubbard and Rileyites, but there are no signs that Gov. Ivey will replace them.

Most troublesome are rumors that Ivey’s Chief of Staff Steve Pelham is leaving to take a post at Auburn University. No one can blame Pelham given the enormous burden of guiding the office for nearly two years, but replacing him will be a difficult task.

As for the Senate, President Pro Tem Del Marsh will continue his business management approach with few surprises in store. There are rumors of some significant changes, especially among budget chair assignments, but even that is mere speculation at this point.

Republicans have an opportunity to show their governing abilities beginning with its choice of leadership. This is extremely important because Republicans overwhelmingly control every office in state government. Moral, effective leaders are always essential but never more so than when there is no opposition.

If Republicans do not put forward honest leaders, they will be forced at some point in time to look around and say, “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.”

As President Harry Truman noted, “Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

The people of Alabama have selected a Republican super-majority to lead the state. Let’s pray they are ready to prove the people were right.

 

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Brooks supports Trump’s changes to American amnesty laws

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) announced his support for President Donald J. Trump’s (R) Presidential Proclamation addressing mass migration through the southern border of the United States and the Department of Homeland Security’s newly released asylum rule.

“Each year, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens furtively thumb their noses at America’s sovereignty by clandestinely violating our borders and laws,” Congressman Brooks said. “Now, Central American caravans openly and brazenly seek to do the same. This outrageous conduct cannot be, and should not be, tolerated by America. As a sovereign nation, the American people have every right to expect their government to secure our borders.”

“Illegal immigration hurts American workers and taxpayers,” Brooks continued. “According to the Center for Immigration Studies, illegal aliens are a net $116 billion annual cost to American taxpayers. That’s $300 in additional taxes each man, woman and child in America is forced to pay for people whose first act on American soil is to violate American law.”

“Fraud and abuse plague America’s asylum system. Let me make this clear: no one has a right to demand asylum from any nation,” Brooks concluded. “Asylum and sanctuary is a discretionary benefit given by nations to those with clear justification. Too often, illegal aliens are coached by attorneys to say ‘magic words’ that help them take advantage of America’s generosity. Their exploitation of America’s already generous immigration laws must stop! As such, I support President Trump’s steps to close asylum loopholes and stop the damage to America caused by illegal aliens’ wrongful conduct.”

Mo Brooks office shared some information about the border:
So far in FY18, 500,000 people apprehended attempting to cross the border, about 100,000 at checkpoints and 400,000 in the interior. According to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, “[i]n recent weeks, United States officials have each day encountered an average of approximately 2,000 inadmissible aliens at the southern border.”

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According to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, “[o]ver the past decade, the overall percentage of aliens subject to expedited removal and referred, as part of the initial screening process, for a credible-fear interview jumped from approximately 5% to above 40%, and the total number of credible-fear referrals for interviews increased from about 5,000 a year in Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2008 to about 97,000 in FY 2018.”

Last year, nearly half of the completed cases that involved aliens who claimed credible fear resulted in the alien failing to show up at a hearing or even to file an application for asylum.

“Illegal aliens will no longer get a free pass into our country by lodging meritless claims in seeking asylum,” President Trump said. “Instead, migrants seeking asylum will have to present themselves lawfully at a port of entry.”

President Trump’s proclamation declared that migrants seeking asylum along the southern border must present themselves lawfully at a port of entry. Those who arrive at a port of entry will remain eligible for asylum. The President also deployed additional resources to support our ports of entry.

Last week, the Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives. This likely effectively kills any serious efforts to construct the President’s border wall and makes it even less likely that a comprehensive immigration reform bill is going to be passed that upgrades border security.

Congressman Brooks has been a strong proponent of limiting immigration and getting cracking down on illegal immigration.

Brooks was re-elected to his fifth term representing the Fifth Congressional District on Tuesday.

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The Lodge at Gulf State Park opens on schedule

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, November 2 the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was on hand for the event.

“I’m thrilled to be here to have this grand opening that we’ve been waiting a long time to have,” said Governor Ivey. “There’s just no more beautiful place than Alabama’s Gulf Coast with the white sand and sparkling waters. That’s why I made it my mission to protect this part of the state and grow it. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan came through and damaged parts of our great state. It also destroyed a very special spot on the Gulf Coast – the lodge. However, in the resilient spirit of Alabama, we find a way to make good out of a bad situation.

“I am proud to be with you for the ribbon-cutting for The Lodge at Gulf State Park,” Gov. Ivey said. “This will be a centerpiece for this area but also for the great state of Alabama. We’re located on the doorstep of the Gulf, and this will be a way to show a piece of Alabama to the world. Creating a new conference center has long been a part of discussions throughout numerous administrations. As Lieutenant Governor, I was a member of the Gulf State Park Committee. Today, I’m proud to take us across the finish line.”

“Gulf State Park will be a world-class place to visit, and it will be the crown jewel of tourism,” said Gov. Ivey. “People from around the world will want to come experience what we have in Alabama. I look forward to continued growth in the tourism industry. Thank you for allowing me to join you for this great event. May God continue to bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.”

Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said the decision was made to forego the typical soft opening that new facilities hold before a general opening.

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“Many of us were not sure if this day would ever come,” Blankenship said. “It has been a long journey, and I’m so glad to share this with you as we celebrate the work of so many who made the opening of this lodge a reality. This is truly a spectacular place. With the project’s high visibility and excitement in this community for the return of The Lodge, we wanted to open it as soon as possible to give the communities an opportunity to participate in the rebirth of this place. So, we opened the doors at the first possible moment.”

“When the resort was here, and the lodge was up and running it was an economic engine to help all our state parks,” said Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia). “So, when we lost this facility, it had a huge impact on our parks. When we came for a tour of the construction site, we walked out on the dunes, and I remember my children being there on the edge of the water when they were very, very little. Deb and I made a trip down here, and we stayed at the lodge that was here at the time. That was the first time my children got to feel the sand between their toes and feel the waves wash up on them. We built sandcastles. That was the first time for children who were raised in red land cotton fields to see what it was like to stand on the side of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a great memory. Our best days are ahead of us in Alabama, and this great facility is symbolic of that.”

Economic Developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Aimed to appeal to both business and leisure travelers, The Lodge at Gulf State Park features 350 rooms, over 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, a ballroom that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests, on-site restaurants, a gulf-front infinity pool, a 900-acre freshwater fishing lake, and direct access to over 6,150 acres of trails and activities within Gulf State Park. The partnership with Hilton Hotels and Valor Hospitality will establish a world-class environment that guests can count on, which should generate repeat visits to a beautiful area of our state and a tremendous economic boost for the local economy and Alabama.”

For many years the Lodge at Gulf State Park was the most profitable lodge in the entire Alabama State Park System. That was until Hurricane Ivan destroyed it. Then Governor Bob Riley (R) wanted to build something much more elaborate than the old Lodge. Efforts to fund the new conference center and lodge ultimately were undone by the Great Recession. Eventually Governor Robert Bentley (R), after fighting a lengthy law suit opposing the project, funded the new Lodge with the help of BP oil spill money and a bond issue. Gov. Ivey built the new lodge after being elevated to governor in April of 2017

Nicole Jones shared, “On a more sentimental note, Gulf State Park is part of a tradition many of us grew up with. Now that The Lodge is up and running again, new generations will be able to create memories similar to the ones we all hold dear. Thank you to all who collaborated to bring this project to fruition.”

(Original reporting by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’s David Rainer contributed to this report.)

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Legislative Advisory Committee on School Safety and Security holds first meeting

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 3 min
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