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Lawmaker to consider prescription only pseudoephedrine

Grant Hallmark

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By Grant Hallmark
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY, Ala.–Alabama may be the next state to make pseudoephedrine prescription only. Mississippi and Oregon have passed similar laws, making the methamphetamine ingredient much more difficult to purchase for would be drug designers.

Currently, the drug is considered a schedule V controlled substance. This means it is in the same class of drugs as Robitussin, which is hardly regulated. However, over the past several years, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have been checking and recording a customer’s identification when purchasing the drug. While this prevented people from buying large quantities of the drug in a short period of time, it has not gone far enough. According to the Tulsa World, an Oregon state senator along with three other officials visited several pharmacies and purchased the legal limit of cough medicine containing pseudoephedrine. After an hour of the driving and buying, Sen. Ginny Burdick’s undercover group had enough to make 200 hits of methamphetamine.

In 2005, Sen. Burdick created a law that made the sale of pseudoephedrine prescription-only. The result was almost immediate: “meth lab incidents” (police raids or dumped labs) plummeted. According to the DEA, the number of meth incidents has gone from 467 in 2004 to 9 in 2010. That is a 98% drop over the past 5 years.

Mississippi passed a similar law in 2010and has had an even more profound effect. In the first year of the law’s existence, the number of meth incidents in the state dropped 70%. In Alabama, there is a prescription-only bill that will be introduced to the legislature in February of 2012. While most might think the passage of such a bill would be unimpeded, there are actually entities that would rather see these bills defeated.

In Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia, similar bills were not allowed out of their respective statehouses. After heavy lobbying by pharmaceutical interest groups, these state legislatures turned  down a law that has all but eliminated meth creation within Mississippi and Oregon. Interest groups such as the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) oppose the laws and have successfully prevented similar bills from getting to several gubernatorial desks. Linda A. Suydam, the president of CHPA, had this to say after Mississippi passed their prescription only law, “We are disappointed that the Mississippi Senate chose to overlook consumer sentiment and passed a bill today that will significantly impact how cold and allergy sufferers access some of their medicines.”

Sen. Paul DeMarco, the head of the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he hasn’t read the bill yet and, “obviously there will be discussions of the pros and cons of the bill during the session.”

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According to an El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) study, Alabama has experienced a 290% increase in meth lab incidents from 2007-2009. Within an epidemic of this proportion, the legislature has an opportunity to implement a cure. It’s yet to be seen whether Montgomery will side with the pharm lobby or the people of Alabama.

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Economy

Gov. Kay Ivey announces creation of “Innovate Alabama”

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced the creation of a first-of-its kind statewide commission on entrepreneurship and innovation, meant to promote innovation across the state and cut red tape for those seeking to start new businesses.

The 15-member Alabama Innovation Commission, to be known as Innovate Alabama, will allow innovators to “engage policymakers, exchange ideas and identify policies that promote innovation in the state,” according to a press release from Ivey’s office Thursday.

Ivey’s executive order also creates a six-member advisory council made up of innovators with Alabama ties.

“Through the establishment of the Alabama Innovation Commission, I look forward to collaborating with our state’s leading innovators to develop a long-term strategy to create a more resilient, inclusive and robust economy,” Ivey said in a statement. “Alabama has always had a rich tradition of developing technologies to move our state forward. Now more than ever, we must capitalize on future opportunities by engaging our state’s trailblazers to discuss new ideas and policies that support entrepreneurship, economic development and jobs.”

Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, will serve as chair of the commission and Senator Greg Reed, R-Jasper, will serve as vice-chair.

“I’m inspired by the potential for future growth in our state’s innovation community and look forward to continued momentum and growth in this sector. The Alabama Incentives Modernization Act set into motion a new set of incentives that will help grow, attract and retain startups and technology companies in the state,” Poole said in a statement. “Forming the Alabama Innovation Commission is a critical step to further create policies that will ensure Alabama’s competitiveness in the technology and startup sector.”

“Through this commission, we hope to tap into the potential for the state to become a hub for startups and technology-based companies,” Reed said in the release. “I look forward to working with the Alabama Innovation Commission to encourage collaboration, public-private partnerships and smart policies that promote access to opportunity and create a pipeline for success in all corners of the state.”

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According to Ivey’s office, the commission will look at policies to increase entrepreneurship, spur innovation and address the challenges and red tape startups often face. Commissioner members are also tasked with crafting and presenting a “comprehensive innovation policy agenda” for Ivey’s office and the state Legislature.

Alabama Power Executive Vice President  Zeke Smith will serve as president of the advisory council, and former U.S. Secretary of State and incoming director of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, will also serve on the advisory council.

“Alabama is home to me, and I am honored to serve on the advisory council for the Alabama Innovation Commission,” Dr. Rice said in a statement. “While our country currently faces many challenges, this is an opportunity to create forward-thinking ideas and policies that will inspire the next generation of innovators. By focusing on knowledge-based skills and education, technology growth and entrepreneurship, we unlock the potential for future success across the state.”

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“The Alabama Innovation Commission will provide a tremendous opportunity to partner with leaders from the public and private sectors to grow our great state,” said Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, in a statement. “The focus on innovation to deliver sustainable growth will benefit our entire state through new solutions and more job opportunities. I am excited to play an important role in building Alabama’s future.”

The commission will virtually convene for the first time on August 13.

Commission Members:

  • Rep. Bill Poole – State Representative (Chair) Representative Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, serves in the Alabama House of Representatives. A native of Marengo County, Poole was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 and serves as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Budget Committee and the Tuscaloosa County Legislation Committee. Poole was the sponsor of the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act, a critical law focused upon making the state more attractive to tech-based companies and entrepreneurs.
  • Sen. Greg Reed – State Senator (Vice Chair) Senator Greg Reed, R-Jasper, was first elected to the Alabama State Senate in 2010 and serves as the Senate Majority Leader. Reed is a native of Jasper and is a member of the Rules, Jefferson County Legislation, Confirmations, Transportation and Energy, Healthcare and Local Legislation committees. Reed served as the senate sponsor of the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act.
  • Scott Adams – Executive Vice President and Chief Digital & Innovation Officer, Protective Life Corporation Scott Adams leads Protective’s community engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility activities as well as oversees several corporate functions, including the Protective Life Foundation, brand and social engagement and corporate communications. In addition, he works with executive leadership on the development of strategy and innovation in support of our growth initiatives.
  • Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier – Senator Sanders-Fortier is a Selma, Ala. native and has served in the Alabama State Senate since 2018. She is a member of the Finance and Taxation Education, Judiciary, Governmental Affairs, Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development, Children Youth and Human Services and Veterans and Military Affairs committees.
  • Rep. Jeremy Gray — State Representative Jeremy Gray has served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 2018 representing District 83. A native of Opelika, Ala., Gray serves on the Commerce and Small Business, Health, Lee County, and Public Safety and Homeland Security committees.
  • Greg Barker – President, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. In his role at EDPA, Barker supports business recruitment and expansion efforts in Alabama and promotes innovative and emerging startup companies through its Alabama Launchpad program. A veteran in economic development, he has more than 35 years of experience leading recruitment, expansion and innovation efforts in the Southeast. Prior to joining EDPA, served in various leadership roles at Alabama Power in economic development, most recently serving as executive vice president of customer services. Barker serves on the board of directors for numerous business and economic development organizations, including the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Opportunity Alabama and Innovation Depot.
  • Lindsay Rane Carter – Associate General Counsel, Great Southern Wood Preserving Lindsay Rane Carter is an associate general counsel at Great Southern Wood Preserving, makers of YellaWood®. An alumna of Auburn University and Jones School of Law, Carter now represents one of the most profitable businesses to come out of Alabama.
  • Rick Clementz – General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Mercedes-Benz US International, Inc. Trained as an engineer, Clementz manages employment, liability defense, patent defense, all contracts and international law for Mercedes-Benz International in Vance, Alabama. MBUSI exports more than $1 billion in finished product. Located in Tuscaloosa County, MBUSI employees 3,800 Alabamians and is the sole distribution site for the GLE, GLS, GLE Coupe models, sold in 135 countries.
  • Miller Girvin – CEO, Alabama Capital Network Miller Girvin is the CEO of the Alabama Capital Network (ACN), a community economic development organization whose mission is to facilitate the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Alabama. Girvin connects Alabama-based companies with valuable resources and connections and facilitates relationships with venture capital to continue upward trajectory.
  • Abe Harper – CEO, Harper Technologies Abe Harper is the president and CEO of Harper Technologies, a comprehensive IT support and consulting firm based in Mobile. Harper has been working in the IT industry since he was a teenager and has expanded his business from serving residential clients to now serving small-to medium-sized businesses, nonprofits and local government entities throughout Mobile and Baldwin counties, as well as surrounding counties in neighboring states.
  • Shegun Otulana – Founder, TheraNest Shegun Otulana is the Founder of TheraNest and its parent company Therapy Brands, the leading provider of software technology solutions for mental, behavioral, and rehab health providers and organizations. In 2020, he stepped down as CEO and currently serves as Vice Chairman of the board. Prior to Therapy Brands, Shegun founded Zertis Technologies, a computer software consultancy company. He currently serves as Founder/CEO of HVL, an idea and growth studio that owns and operates a family of technology companies.
  • Peggy Sammon – CEO, GeneCapture, Inc. Peggy Sammon is an experienced entrepreneur with a background in multiple high-tech start-ups in environmental monitoring, wireless, and biotech. Sammon serves as CEO of GeneCapture, a start-up medical device company at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.
  • Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier –Senator Sanders-Fortier is a Selma, Ala. native and has served in the Alabama State Senate since 2018. She is a member of the Finance and Taxation Education, Judiciary, Governmental Affairs, Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development, Children Youth and Human Services and Veterans and Military Affairs committees.
  • Arndt Siepmann – Deputy Director of Economic Development, City of Auburn Arndt Siepmann is the Deputy Director of Economic Development at the City of Auburn. In his career, has worked in various economic development corporations, including on a regional and state level. He started the Entrepreneurship and Technology Program for the City of Auburn and leads the Auburn Regional Launchpad competition. Siepmmann also works with the Auburn University Harbert College of Business to support student entrepreneurship efforts.
  • Charisse Stokes – Executive Director, TechMGM Charisse Stokes serves as Executive Director of TechMGM, the collaboration of local, industry, educational and governmental entities working to leverage Montgomery’s technology assets to focus on economic, workforce and community development. Over the past 20 years, Stokes has held numerous IT and programming positions across the Department of Defense, industry and nonprofit organizations.
  • Neill Wright – President, Bronze Valley Neill Wright is a co-founder and executive director of Bronze Valley, a non-profit, early stage venture investment platform that supports high growth, innovation and technology-enabled companies created by diverse, underrepresented and underestimated founders. He has more than 25 years of experience as an investor, entrepreneur and operating executive.

Advisory Council Members:

  • Zeke Smith – Executive Vice President, Alabama Power (President) With more than 35 years of service with the utility, Zeke Smith is responsible for the company’s Environmental Affairs, Charitable Giving, Corporate Affairs, Governmental Relations, Public Relations and Regulatory Affairs functions. Smith also serves as chairman of the Alabama Power Foundation’s Board of Directors, in addition to serving on the boards of numerous external organizations.
  • Greg Canfield – Secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce As Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, Greg Canfield works closely with the governor’s office to organize economic development efforts that shape sustainable growth strategies and drive dynamic job creation across the state. His primary responsibilities include increasing business recruitment and expansion activity, expanding export opportunities for Alabama companies, improving workforce development initiatives, enhancing small business growth, and providing avenues for job creation in the film and entertainment industry.
  • Chris Moody – Partner, Foundry Group  Chris Moody is a partner at the venture capital firm, Foundry Group, focusing on investments in technology companies. He has worked closely with some of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing technology companies to help them formulate and execute their platform strategies. Prior to joining Foundry Group, Moody was GM & VP of Twitter’s Data & Enterprise Solutions business.
  • Dr. Condoleezza Rice – Incoming Director of the Hoover Institution Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has vast experience in the technology sector and is the incoming Tad and Dianne Taube Director of the Hoover Institution. The Hoover Institution at Stanford University is the nation’s preeminent research center dedicated to generating policy ideas that promote economic prosperity, national security and democratic governance. Dr. Rice is also a founding partner at Rice|Hadley|Gates, LLC, an international strategic consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.
  • Bill Smith – Founder, Smith Ventures Bill Smith is CEO of Smith Ventures and the founder and former CEO of Shipt, a membership-based marketplace, enabling same-day delivery of fresh foods and household essentials across the US. Shipt was acquired by Target in December 2017 for $550 million and operates as an independent subsidiary serving multiple retailers. He recently launched Landing, a startup offering flexible leasing memberships for long-term living
  • Jared Weinstein – General Partner, Thrive Capital Jared Weinstein is a native of Birmingham and is currently a partner at Thrive Capital, a New Yorkbased venture capital firm. In 2013, he founded the Overton Project, a social investment platform that has focused on scaling national best-in-class impact organizations to Birmingham – specifically Breakthrough Collaborative, Venture for America, and Microsoft’s TEALS computer science program. Prior to Thrive, Weinstein spent seven years at the White House in various roles.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Who is K.B. Forbes? The answer isn’t hard to find or all that unexpected

Forbes appears to be that guy who hangs around the periphery of politics and business. That guy who makes his money in mysterious ways. Who is aligned with this person or group one day, their sworn enemy the next. 

Josh Moon

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K.B. Forbes appears on the show "BorderLine" in 1996. (YOUTUBE)

You probably don’t know K.B. Forbes, but you know who he is. Unless you’re a journalist in the state of Alabama — or maybe Florida or California or Colorado — you’ve likely never dealt with Forbes, who serves as the executive director of Consejo de Latinos Unidos and as the publisher of the “BanBalch” blog. 

If you do happen to be a journalist — or just someone with a camera and a website that attracts a few eyeballs — you probably do know Forbes, or at least have read through one of his many emails, maybe even ventured over to the blog to read through the various allegations of corruption and horrors against the Balch & Bingham law firm. 

I like that blog. Mainly because I’ve never been a big Balch & Bingham fan, and generally believe that firm is a blight upon the state. So, that blog, on which Forbes writes and writes about the nefarious practices of Balch attorneys in a supposed effort to defend his attorney friend, is a fun read for me. 

But the other day, following a lengthy story written by my boss and APR publisher Bill Britt that questioned the funding behind Forbes and his website, I started to wonder: Just who is this guy? Well, that wasn’t hard to figure out. There’s plenty of information on him out there, readily available through a simple Google search of his name. 

And as it turns out, I knew exactly who Forbes was. And you do too. 

Forbes appears to be that guy who hangs around the periphery of politics and business. That guy who makes his money in mysterious ways. Who is aligned with this person or group one day, their sworn enemy the next. 

A piece of political putty, apparently completely devoid of deeply held beliefs, and willing to be molded into whatever form best fits his next clients.

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He’s a guy who one year is working on the anti-immigration campaign of rightwinger Pat Buchanan and a few years later is running a nonprofit allegedly devoted to protecting the rights of Latino immigrants. 

He’s the guy fighting for minorities and tackling racial injustices in Alabama, while at the same time publishing arguably racist, doctored images of a black lawmaker and his wife. 

He’s the guy who is allegedly running a nonprofit that goes after hospitals for overcharging uninsured immigrants, but who, numerous publications and critics have alleged publicly, is possibly using that nonprofit to aid himself and the insurance company owner he used to work for. 

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Forbes, of course, likely denies this. I don’t know that for certain. I sent him a lengthy email explaining exactly what I found through the Internet searches and quite bluntly telling him what those findings led me to believe — that his “BanBalch” website looked like a shakedown attempt. He didn’t respond. 

But being accused of shakedowns isn’t new for Forbes — primarily for the benefit of his former boss, J. Patrick Rooney, an insurance company owner. 

According to numerous stories over the years in a variety of publications, it is generally believed that Forbes started CDLU as a front operation. With Rooney’s initial financial backing — which Forbes has admitted in the past — CDLU started in 2001 targeting hospitals for their overcharging of uninsured patients and demanding that patients be charged equally. 

Noble work, right? Well, certainly, except that work also just happened to benefit the insurance company operated by Rooney, driving down costs and raking in millions for the multi-millionaire.

For example, Rooney’s relatively small insurance company allegedly owed Tenet Health millions of dollars in unpaid bills for clients. According to Business Week, CDLU went after Tenet in 2003 over the hospital’s collections practices, filing 10 lawsuits. However, according to the Business Week story, when Tenet agreed to forgive Rooney’s debt, CDLU dropped every lawsuit. 

Forbes, of course, has denied the connection between CDLU and Rooney, saying that Rooney provided him the startup money for CDLU — some $100,000 — and nothing more. But an investigation by Roll Call in 2005 found that Rooney had registered the domains for numerous websites that CDLU set up to attack hospitals, including two that were attempting to obtain back payments from Rooney’s insurance company. 

Forbes said that was all just a simple mistake. A “programmer” entered the wrong registrant when creating the websites, he told Roll Call. 

But there’s more. 

In 2005, when a U.S. House committee began looking into the practice of hospitals overcharging the uninsured, a list of questions was sent by the committee chair to the CEO of Tenet. Among the questions, the committee wanted to know about Tenet’s specific settlement with CDLU and Forbes. In a response, Tenet CEO Trevor Fetter acknowledged that it essentially paid Forbes, setting up a system in which it paid him for speaking engagements and funded his travel. 

That setup is suspiciously similar to what Forbes seems to be doing now with his Ban Balch website, as he pushes embarrassing stories and attacks the law firm’s clients. He has bragged about driving business away and has openly asked if it wouldn’t be better for Balch to pay him to go away. 

In a response to several questions I sent him, Forbes denied that he could be paid to shut down his website and said he refused alleged attempts by Balch attorneys to include CDLU and the website in negotiations with attorney Burt Newsome.  

Newsome’s grievance with Balch, which appears to be a legit complaint that highlights Balch’s notoriously awful tactics, is Forbes’ stated reason for starting his blog and going so heavily after Balch. He claims he met Newsome when their wives started participating in the same online moms’ group and became friends. He heard Newsome’s tale of how he was wronged by Balch and decided to devote CDLU’s resources to exposing the law firm. 

Which sounds nice, except, CDLU’s stated purpose is to advocate for the uninsured and Latinos facing wrongs. All of its previous work has been in those areas. 

The sudden shift to taking on a law firm over one man’s grievance seems … a convenient pivot that has allowed Forbes to use the media connections and resources of CDLU to apply pressure on Balch and its clients. 

And in the process, Forbes has seemingly abandoned the organization’s goal of protecting minorities. In a series of posts about an alleged “star chamber” hearing set up for Balch by Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Carole Smitherman, Forbes attacked Smitherman, wife of state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, calling her “corrupt,” “worthless” and “stupid.” 

Accompanying one post on the blog was a doctored photo of Carole and Rodger Smitherman that can only be described as racist. It depicts the Smithermans wearing striped jail uniforms.

A screenshot from Forbes’s “BanBalch” blog.

But then, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Forbes would have such a blindspot, given his work prior to starting CDLU. 

Serving as a spokesman for the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes (no relation), one of Forbes’ pet projects and his area of emphasis in dozens of interviews was on the dangers of illegal immigration and the threats that immigrants pose. 

Less than five years before starting an organization allegedly focused on ensuring the health care of immigrants, Forbes was actively fighting against those same immigrants receiving benefits. A clip of Forbes’ appearance on a TV show shows him criticizing then-presidential candidate Bob Dole for not hitting illegal immigration harder or making it a bigger issue in the campaign. 

Prior to that, Forbes’ rhetoric on immigration was even stronger. As a young advocate in the late 1980s in his hometown of San Marino, California, Forbes attempted to get the city council to pass an ordinance making English the city’s official language — an ordinance he openly acknowledged was aimed at the city’s growing Asian immigrant population. 

At the meeting, according to a Los Angeles Times story, Forbes exclaimed that the city was being “overrun by foreigners.” He was shouted down by attendees. 

But Forbes would be back. And later, he would be pushing anti-immigrant rhetoric focused on Hispanics, because that’s what he was paid to do. And then pushing for immigrant welfare, because that’s what he was paid to do. And then pushing for hospital pricing reform that just so happened to benefit his former boss, because that’s what he was paid to do. 

And really, after all the questions about Forbes, there’s probably only one that matters. Because, as I said at the start, we all have a pretty good idea who Forbes is. 

The only question is who’s paying him.

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Health

Alabama coalition pushes for Medicaid expansion amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit research organization Families USA released a report Monday that shows that in Alabama, job losses during the coronavirus pandemic resulted in 69,000 Alabamians losing health insurance between February and May.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A coalition of Alabama organizations pushing for an expansion of Medicaid in the state says that the expansion should have happened before the COVID-19 pandemic, but is all the more needed now, as thousands of Alabamians have lost health insurance during the crisis. 

Jane Adams, Alabama Arise campaign director, said in a statement Wednesday that even before COVID-19 , the state’s failure to expand Medicaid left more than 220,000 adults uninsured. Adams directs Cover Alabama, which is a coalition of more than 90 groups pushing for Medicaid expansion in the state. Arise is a founding member of the coalition.

“Further coverage losses during the recession will bring health and financial suffering for even more families across our state,” Adams said. “More people will go without needed health care. More hospital bills will go unpaid. And all Alabamians will bear the additional strain on our health care system. This report’s findings should be a blaring emergency siren for our state leaders.”

The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit research organization Families USA released a report Monday that shows that in Alabama, job losses during the coronavirus pandemic resulted in 69,000 Alabamians losing health insurance between February and May. Those uninsured adults raised Alabama’s uninsured rate to 19 percent, which is the ninth highest rate in the country, and 3 percentage points higher than in 2018, according to the report. 

“As workers and their families lose comprehensive health insurance, their risk of delayed care and complications from the virus increases. So does their risk of financial devastation,” Alabama Arise’s press release states. 

Across the country 5.4 million more Americans lost health insurance between February and May, the report notes, which was a 39 percent higher increase in uninsured than any annual increase on record. States with high numbers of uninsured are also seeing more increases in COVID-19 cases, according to the report, which ranks Alabama as having the seven highest rate of new COVID-19 cases among the 15 states with large numbers of uninsured. 

“COVID-19 is putting lives, livelihoods and economic security at risk for thousands of Alabama workers. And many communities face long-term challenges for health care capacity and economic recovery,” Adams said. “Alabama Arise and Cover Alabama urge Gov. Kay Ivey to save lives and stabilize our local hospitals by expanding Medicaid. We ask the Legislature to provide the needed state share of this pro-family, pro-health, pro-community investment in our future. And we ask Congress to strengthen Medicaid funding and help Alabama shore up our health care infrastructure.”

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Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told reporters during a press conference Tuesday that expanding Medicaid “is critically important.”

“We see clear data now that infant mortality rates are lowered in states that have expanded Medicaid, because women have better access to prenatal care,” Williamson said. “We see breast cancer diagnosed earlier, hence reducing the death rate due to breast cancer. We see diabetes being diagnosed earlier. We just see a general improvement in life expectancy and health outcomes associated with people having access to health care.”

In states that have expanded Medicaid there’s evidence that peoples’ credit scores improve, bankruptcies decline and jobs are created, Williamson said.

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“It seems to us like the right thing to do for our citizens, and it seems the right thing to do for the state, and that was all before COVID,” Williamson said. “And COVID has simply highlighted that there are thousands of people now who end up coming to hospitals and not having insurance.”

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, who hosted Williamson in the Tuesday press conference, has been a longtime proponent of expanding Medicaid in Alabama, and said he continues to work to try and get incentives approved to help reduce the cost to Alabama and other states for an expansion of the program.

“Going into this pandemic we had over 300,000 Alabamians it would have benefited,” Jones said of a Medicaid expansion. “Today, it’s probably closer to 500,000.”

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Governor

State Rep. Will Dismukes says mask order is “a ridiculous crock”

Brandon Moseley

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State Rep. Will Dismukes.

Several Republican lawmakers have not taken kindly to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s decision to issue a statewide mask order. This is being done to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which is ravaging the state, but State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, dismissed the idea as “the dumbest thing that could be done.”

“The statewide mask implementation is the dumbest thing that could be done besides shutting the state down,” Dismukes claimed. “Here is just a couple reasons why,” Dismukes wrote on social media. “As I have been watching people wear their mask, a vast majority do not wear them correctly. So that makes it pointless.”

“One of the main things we are told is, wash your hands and don’t touch your face,” Dismukes continued. “The majority of people who wear a mask are touching their face far more than if they didn’t wear one at all.”

Dismukes said the mask requirement is a “ridiculous crock.”

Former State Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, also questioned whether the governor has the legal authority to even issue the order.

“While it may be a smart move, in my opinion anything not passed by the legislature is only a suggestion and does not have the weight of law,” Butler said. “You can not force healthy people to wear a mask, and in my opinion if this were passed by the legislature, they can really only control state property and not private property.”

“Also the government cannot decide what goods, services, venues etc. are essential,” Butler added. “Only we the people can do such and we have had that right since 1776.”

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“I’m always against overreach of any kind even when it’s a good idea,” Butler said. “Government is supposed to protect your rights. Private property owners (businesses) are well within their rights to require you to wear a mask while on their property. I would have no issue had she stood up there and strongly requested everyone to wear a mask but to invent a law is never right. I predict a judge would quickly drop any charges. We have 3 branches of government for a reason.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth similarly expressed reservations with the statewide mask order.

“Issuing a statewide face mask mandate, however, is an overstep that infringes upon the property rights of business owners and the ability of individuals to make their own health decisions,” Ainsworth said. “In addition, it imposes a one-size-fits-all, big government requirement on counties that currently have low to moderate infection rates and little need for such a mandate.”

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“Masks should be worn to combat further outbreaks, and while I admire Gov. Ivey’s leadership and her on-going efforts, I also believe a statewide order is the wrong way to go about encouraging their use,” Ainsworth said.

In March, the Governor shut down the Alabama economy to slow the spread of the coronavirus. By April 30, a growing number of people were panicked about the economic impact of the shutdowns, so the governor ordered the gradual reopening of the economy.

Since Memorial Day weekend, the number of coronavirus cases has grown tremendously. From March 20 to May 10, the state of Alabama had diagnosed a total of 9,889 COVID-19 cases (52 days). The next ten thousand cases were diagnosed between May 9 and June 7 (28 days).

The state broke 30,000 cases on June 22 (15 days), 40,000 cases on July 1 (9 days) and 50,000 cases on July 11 (10 days). On Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced that the state had reached 58,225 cases. 32,073 of those cases are still active.

ADPH reports that 1,183 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 already and the department is investigating another 28 probable COVID-19 deaths. More than half of Alabama’s COVID-19 deaths have come since that Memorial Day weekend and the reopening of the Alabama economy.

Despite the risk, the state plans on reopening schools next month.

The state remains under a statewide “safer-at-home” order. Citizens are advised to please stay home whenever possible, wash hands frequently, wear a mask or a cloth face covering when out in public, avoid situations where you might be in crowds or within six feet of other people not in your immediate household, and to be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19.

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