Ivey calls on Alabamians to donate blood to aid Harvey recovery

September 1, 2017

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, August 31, 2017, Alabama Governor Ivey (R) called on Alabamians to donate blood to aid the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Governor Ivey said, “Blood collection centers in areas devastated by Harvey are unable to collect enough blood to match the demand and are calling upon donors nationwide. I’m urging Alabamians to continue helping Texans during this dire time of need, by donating blood.  I hope that blood centers across the state will join my efforts to support our friends in Texas and I’m proud the Alabama Hospital Association is helping by sponsoring a LifeSouth blood drive here in Montgomery. Right now, we must remember that despite our differences, Alabamians and all Americans unite with the common goal of helping the state of Texas recover from this devastating storm.”

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Harper Brother’s Controversy Continues to Grow

August 5, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—The controversy surrounding Rep. Alan Harper (R-Northport) continues to grow after the Alabama Political Reporter obtained a letter in which he was appointed to “assist in the day to day operations of the City of Northpoint.

SwannHarper letter

The letter, signed by interim City Administrator, Charles Swann, states that Harper is an unpaid volunteer. But, insiders at City Hall say this is a fallback position, after a failed attempt by three council members to install Harper as City Administrator, without the full council’s consent.
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RSA is in Center of a Political Storm

April 27, 2016

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The State of Alabama does not have enough money. There is never enough money to do all of the things that legislators want to do. Poverty, joblessness, declining wages, changing workforce needs, the macro economy are the major causes of Alabama’s failure to bring in enough dollars to meet the needs of Medicaid, the State prisons, and other State agencies. A more specific concern for many legislators is the high cost of maintaining Alabama’s commitment to it’s current and future State retirees.
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UNA Complains That RSA Hurts Their Faculty Recruiting Efforts

March 7, 2016

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, March 2, a public hearing was held by the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee on allowing the University of North Alabama to give new hires the option of opting out of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) pension plan, and instead putting their pension contributions and the University match into a 401k type investment product.

Senate Bill 247 is sponsored by State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence). Sen. Melson said that with SB247, “I am going against RSA on this one. I represent UNA on a bill today. RSA’s argument is going to be based on they need the money; but if this passes it would cost RSA just 75 cents for everybody in the program to pay. UNA is a great school. This bill allows UNA to go hire employees. This would only affect 20 to 25 employees a year. It takes ten years to vest in RSA. The problem is that UNA, while a great school, is not seen as a final career destination. Qualified faculty applicants don’t see themselves staying at UNA for ten years to get vested in the RSA system.”
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Bronner Offers Ideas on How to Move Alabama Forward

February 3, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Recently, the Alabama Political Reporter sat down with Dr. David Bronner, the long-serving head of RSA. “One of the stories I like to tell was an old Birmingham News story that asked, ‘What if we treated Alabama’s football team like we do everything else,’” recalled Bronner. “First of all, Coach Saban wouldn’t be there. Second of all, you would have no practice facility. Third of all, you’d have old equipment. Fourth of all, there’s no way with all that we’d be number one.”
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Greer: State Intends to Guarantee Retirees Will Get What Was Promised

November 20, 2015

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, November 19, State Representative Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) said that the Committee that is looking at reforming the retirement system intends to guarantee the benefits that state employees were promised.

Representative Greer said in a statement, “During our November meeting, the Pension Committee unanimously passed a resolution that was signed by Senator Orr and me stating that the intent of the committee was to guarantee every retiree on the state pension plan and everyone still paying into the plan today would receive what they have been promised. No one has ever mentioned taking money from the pension plan and funding the two state budgets. We have been doing just the opposite, taking money from the two budgets that could be used for other purposes, including pay raises, and trying to help the pension plan become more financially sound.”
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More of the Same Reform?

August 25, 2015

 

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY— During the 2015 Legislative Session, the State Legislature created the Joint Committee on Alabama Public Pensions with the expressed purpose of reforming the State Pension plan. 

Republicans have repeatedly expressed a desire to overhaul the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), in an effort to control cost.

Ideas like reform, transparency, efficiency, and ending corruption in Montgomery, have been among the most often intoned catch-phases of the Republican supermajority. 
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Why is Troy Professor Blasting RSA?

August 5, 2015

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Under the headline “RSA is a poor steward of our retirement resources,” Daniel J. Smith, an associate professor of economics at the Johnson Center at Troy University, recently took aim at the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA). Smith, a recent addition to the State, is making a name for himself by issuing dire warnings of the impending collapse of the retirement fund, warnings that RSA Chairman Dr. David Bronner has labeled “demonstrably false.” 
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Kay Ivey Said Challenges Remain While Legislature Studies Budget Issues

June 9, 2015

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter        

On Monday, June 8, Alabama Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey (R) commented on the recent legislative session in a statement on Facebook.  Lt. Gov. Ivey said that despite the many challenges progress was made, but that a special session will be need to deal with the State General Fund Budget (SGF).

Lt. Gov. Ivey said in a statement, “It was my honor to preside over my fifth Legislative Session which wrapped up last Thursday. Right out of the gate, Legislators were faced with many difficult challenges — the budgets, prisons, and Medicaid. Senator Cam Ward presented a comprehensive prison reform bill and Senator Greg Reed proposed another positive step forward to manage Medicaid in our State. Progress was made, but we still have challenges ahead. We are sure to return for a Special Session to deal with the General Fund Budget, but for now, the Alabama Senate is adjourned sine die.”

Figuring out how to deal with the budgets also concerned the Alabama House of Representatives.

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) has created a commission to study the problem.

Speaker Mike Hubbard said in a statement on May 26, “Proud to announce the formation of the Speaker’s Commission on Earmarking and Budget Reform. Since Republican passage of the Proration Prevention Act, our first budget reform effort in 2011, devastating mid-year cuts have been eliminated. I’m confident that this commission will recommend similar commonsense solutions to Alabama’s budget challenges. The members of the Commission include: Representative Will Ainsworth, Representative Elaine Beech, Representative Terri Collins, Representative Steve Clouse, Representative Allen Farley, Representative Bill Poole, and Representative Rod Scott.”

Representative Clouse (R-Ozark) is the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee General Fund; while Representative Bill Poole is the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee.

Another issue that is perplexing legislators is the growing costs of providing health care and pension benefits for state employees. To that end, the Alabama Legislature passed a joint resolution to establish a study committee on Alabama’s public pension system and public employee health insurance program (PEHIP).  This initiative was led by Senator Arthur Orr (R from Decatur) and Representative Jim Patterson (R-Meridianville).

The conservative Alabama Policy Institute (API) applauded the move in a statement:  “Underfunded pension systems are a major, yet hidden, driving force behind continued state budget shortfalls across the country. At a time when legislators are grappling with a $200 million budget shortfall, the State of Alabama is set to spend nearly $1 billion this year on public pensions. This is due, in part, to the high risks associated with a traditional defined benefit structure.”

API wrote that, “Structural pension reform is not a short-term budget fix, but for the long-term remains the single biggest reward for states attempting to solve the budget woes brought on by the recession and the extended economic recovery that followed…API applauds the leadership of Senator Orr and Representative Patterson and looks forward to working with the committee on this important issue.”

A growing number of legislators are calling for replacing the state’s pension fund (the Retirement Systems of Alabama, RSA) with a 401k system where the state does not guarantee returns or a specific benefit amount.  Sources tell the Alabama Political Reporter that without new hires coming in and paying the pension for those already drawing that the RSA will need significant monies to backstop the existing pension fund so that all of those current employees and retirees will get the benefits that they were promised.

Soaring healthcare costs due to Obamacare and an aging population of State retirees and workers has driven up the cost of providing healthcare benefits to both workers and retirees. Despite having the second largest ETF budget in state history, PEEHIP this year was only level funded leaving a gap of over $100 million. PEEHIP Board members narrowly voted to fill most of that shortfall by raiding the PEEHIP Trust Fund.

Kay Ivey is the first Republican woman to serve at Lt. Governor in Alabama. This is Lt. Gov. Ivey’s second term. There is some discussion that the very personable Lt. Governor might be a gubernatorial candidate in 2018.

 

Hubbard Lobbying Governor Tied to $78 Million Dollar RSA Loan

November 11, 2014

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—In Count 13 of the State’s felony criminal indictments against Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, he is accused of representing Robert Abrams d/b/a CV Holdings, LLC., before Gov. Bentley.

State Ethics Law, Section 36-25-1.5 prohibits a legislator from representing any person, firm, corporation or other business entity before any executive department or agency.

In a report from al.com’s Chuck Dean, “Bentley, under oath, testified as to what Hubbard was seeking on behalf of the company. The questioning by prosecutors took place in Bentley’s office. At no time was Bentley a target of the investigation, nor did he seek to avoid testifying.”

(See article here.)

What is known from the indictments is that Hubbard lobbied Gov. Bentley on behalf of Robert Abrams d/b/a CV Holdings, LLC. Bentley’s testimony conferred to the State’s prosecutors that Hubbard in fact lobbied and exactly what he wanted the governor to do for his client.

The law as passed by the Republican super majority under Hubbard’s leadership, makes it a felony offense for a legislator to lobby the governor on behalf of a business client. 

Count 11 reveals that Hubbard, through his company Auburn Network, LLC., received money from Robert Abrams d/b/a CV Holdings, LLC.

These actions fall under the prohibited category of using ones office for personal gain, which is an offense punishable with fines and imprisonment. 

It was not publicly known before Hubbard’s indictments that he was working as a consultant for Robert Abrams d/b/a CV Holdings, LLC., it was known that Abrams had contributed liberally to former Gov. Bob Riley 2014PAC and that he also had business before the State, as well as the Retirement Systems of Alabama, (RSA).

(See article here.)

Abrams is the CEO of CV Holdings, which was founded in Amsterdam, New York in 2002.

CV Holdings, LLC., owns several other companies including Capitol Cups, also located in Auburn. Capitol Cups’ website states that the company “is a leading supplier of insulated and non-insulated travel cups, tumblers, and children’s spill-proof cups for the food, retail, sports and fundraising industries.”

Around 2010, Abrams began to seek investments in SiO2 which develops and manufactures …silicon-oxide coated containers, utilizing… plasma glass coating technology,” for medical products.

CV Holdings, LLC., needed $90 million to build the SiO2 research and manufacturing facility in Auburn and in 2012, they received $78 Million in a loan from RSA to realize that plan.

In March 2012, Gov. Bentley, Speaker Mike Hubbard, Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, as well as RSA chief Dr. Bronner and others announced the development of the SiO2 facility and a reported 300 jobs that would be created as a result of the project.

(See article here.)

At the time, Bentley said about SiO2:  “An essential part of creating new jobs is encouraging our existing companies to further their investments in this state…SiO2 Medical Products is creating new opportunities in the form of additional well-paying jobs, and we appreciate their continued commitment to Alabama…and we look forward to even more announcements from SiO2 in the future.”

Speaker Hubbard spoke of the investment as well, saying, “If the recession has taught us anything, it is that we must keep innovating and keep finding ways to create jobs. I’m proud of the teamwork it took to make this project a reality and to bring so many high-tech, high-paying jobs to Lee County.”

Hubbard never revealed in his Statement of Economic Interest or in any other public way, that he represented CV Holdings, LLC., or any related business.

Hubbard and his allies have wanted the public to believe that he was just a business man trying to make a living, but at the press conference he was speaking as Speaker of the House and representative from his House District.

Even Dr. Bronner at the announcement of the companies expansion acknowledged Hubbard as being in his official capacity: “We are very excited about the opportunity to partner with SiO2 Medical Products’ Chairman Bobby Abrams, Auburn Mayor Bill Ham, Auburn Economic Development Director Phillip Dunlap, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, and Governor Robert Bentley to expand the plant in Auburn.”

Bronner said that the RSA was, “excited to partner with…Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard… to expand the plant in Auburn.”

When the Alabama Political Reporter spoke with Abrams in September, he expressed a close, working relationship with Auburn Mayor Bill Ham. But, when asked about his relationship with Hubbard, he did not reply directly, only saying he worked with all those in business development in Auburn.

When asked if he was aware of the Lee County Grand Jury investigation into Hubbard, he said he was unaware of the investigation. 

The conversation with Abrams occurred before Hubbard’s relationship between he and Abrams was made public by the indictments. 

Several past and present members of the RSA board said they were unaware of the $78 million loan that financed the expansion of SiO2. They expressed shock and concern over the enormity of the loan against the collateral. According to Dr. Bronner, the $78 million dollar loan was secured by “37 patents and other intellectual property, covering the company’s developments, a pledge of stock, and all other assets of the company. The interest rate is 8% and the company will pay the RSA a success fee upon maturity of the loan. The success fee will be 22% of the average daily outstanding balance of the loan for each year the loan is outstanding.”

Abrams also contributed $33,333.00 to former Gov. Bob Riley’s 2014PAC, and other $66,666.32 was funneled into the Riley PAC by others in $13,333.33 increments, except for one transaction of $13,334.00.

How much Hubbard was paid to lobby the governor is unknown at this time. 

Hubbard’s contract with Southeast Alabama Gas District was for $12,000 a month plus expenses, which included a trip to the Paris Air Show with his wife.

 

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