Senate passes $2 billion General Fund but skips over employee pay raises for now

February 21, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

Senators approved a $2 billion General Fund Budget, the largest in about a decade, but delayed voting Tuesday on the 3 percent pay raise for state employees Gov. Kay Ivey proposed earlier this year.

The Senate voted 26 to 2 to pass the budget that will fund all of Alabama’s non-education agencies, fulfilling one of the chamber’s only constitutional requirements weeks before the scheduled end of the session.

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Committee OKs bill to block state funds from being used in sexual harassment, assault cases

February 21, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

A bill passed unanimously out of an Alabama Senate committee Tuesday would block state funding from being used to pay for sexual harassment or assault claims against state employees and public officials.

If the bill passes, those officials would have to pay out of their own wallets to settle any sexual harassment, misconduct or assault claims.

The Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs approved Sen. Bill Hightower’s bill Tuesday 8 to 0. Hightower’s bill would prohibit the Alabama Board of Adjustment from using state funds to cover such settlements or payments involving any state official — from agency and department employees to legislators and on up to the governor.

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Openly gay Marine Corps veteran hopes to fill Patricia Todd’s Alabama House seat

February 21, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

Neil Rafferty spent years in the U.S. Marine Corps supporting the Global War on Terrorism. He describes himself as dedicated to public service and community health. And the Birmingham native — who also happens to be openly gay — is hoping to bring that dedication to Montgomery next year.

Rafferty, a research and development director at Birmingham AIDs Outreach, is mounting a campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for Alabama’s 54th Legislative District.

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Democratic candidate for governor Walt Maddox announces statewide lottery plan

February 20, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

The calls for a vote on a statewide education lottery are growing as another candidate for governor is promising to push for a vote if elected to the state’s highest office.

Gubernatorial candidate and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said Monday he would push for a referendum on a lottery — a proposal he says could generate up to $300 million for public education in Alabama.

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Sen. Doug Jones to embark on first statewide tour this week

February 19, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama’s first Democratic senator in a quarter-century, is set to embark on his first statewide tour this week, planning to hit locations in Mobile, Montgomery, Mobile, Birmingham and Selma.

Jones will visit military bases and installations, rural hospitals and clinics, infrastructure and military and military contractors.

“It’s been a privilege to represent Alabama in Washington, but there’s nothing like getting home and hearing from folks first-hand,” Jones said of the trip. “I’m eager to hit the road and visit with as many Alabamians across the state as I can next week. We’re going to focus on the issues that are most important to our communities, from healthcare to jobs to education.”

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Senate bill would require more Ethics Commission oversight of lawmaker consulting contracts

February 16, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

An Alabama State Senate committee approved a bill Thursday that would require more Ethics Commission oversight of lawmakers’ consulting contracts if those contracts are outside the normal scope of the member’s profession or business.

The bill as it passed out of committee would require a company or person seeking to hire a member of the Legislature for consulting work to notify the Alabama Ethics Commission before paying the member if the consulting work is outside the member’s “regular profession or line of business.”

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After Parkland shooting, Alabama lawmaker wants to arm teachers in the classroom

February 16, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

An Alabama lawmaker wants to arm teachers in classrooms across the state.

Guntersville Republican Rep. Will Ainsworth plans to drop a bill that would allow teachers to carry concealed guns at schools if they are trained to a state standard.

The introduction of the bill would come after a mass shooting at a school in Florida Wednesday claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers. Sixteen others were injured.

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Bill to scrap special elections for US Senate makes it out of committee

February 16, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

A bill that would do away with distinct special elections for U.S. Senate vacancies gained the approval of an Alabama State Senate committee Thursday.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark would direct the governor to set the election to fill a vacated U.S. Senate seat to coincide with the next statewide general election.

The bill passed the House last month 65-29.

Clouse’s bill would give the governor the authority to appoint a replacement who would stand for election not in a special election a few months later — but at the next regularly scheduled statewide election.

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Senate to consider bill allowing voters to register up to election day

February 16, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

A Senate bill passed out of committee Thursday would let voters register up to and including election day.

Voters must register two weeks in advance of an election under current state law. Selma Democrat Sen. Hank Sanders’ bill would change Alabama law to allow voters to register within that two week period on any day county boards of registrars maintain office hours.

Republican senators said they had concerns boards of registrars wouldn’t have time to update their voter lists before voting time.

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Brooks takes another jab at “smoke and mirrors” budget deal

February 15, 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, is making it well known that he is not happy with the recent bipartisan budget deal — a wide-ranging agreement that upped federal spending levels to the disdain of fiscal conservatives in the House.

Congress passed the two-year spending bill last week, ending months of budgeting quarrels and a brief government shutdown while providing money to disaster relief and lifting sequestration spending caps for the military. The GOP-controlled House voted to pass the bill 240-186 Friday with the support 73 Democratic members.

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