By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), along with 28 other senators, has formally asked U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to withdraw new Department of Labor rules which they say threaten America’s ability to train the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
The new rules “Child Labor Regulations, Orders and Statements of Interpretation: Violations—Civil Money Penalties” makes illegal many of the labor practices of family farmers. The new rules proposed by the President Barack Obama Administration would limit the ability of farmers and rancher to hire youth to work in agriculture. The senators argue that these new regulations would threaten the education and training of future farmers. The senators say that the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standard Act fail to consider the history and practices of American farms and ranches.
“After having additional time to review the proposed rule and compare the proposed changes to existing statutory law, regulations, and the department’s existing interpretive documents, we believe initial concerns were well-founded. As a result of these concerns, we request the Department withdraw the proposed rule in its entirety,” the senators state in a letter to Secretary Solis. “It is puzzling why the Department would suddenly propose changes to existing regulations, particularly considering the advancements in farm equipment and adoption of technologies that have improved operator safety in the last 35 years.”
For generations, American farmers had the freedom to direct what responsibilities and duties that children and teens had on the farm. New rules written by President Obama’s Labor Department would limit the parental freedom strictly to farms owned solely by a parent. Children will not be allowed to do certain labor for neighboring farmers, farms where there parent is in a partnership even with other family members such as aunts, uncles, or grandparents. Parental permission cannot exempt a farmer or rancher from civil monetary penalties. This law also applies to vocational agricultural instructors, Cooperative Extension agents, and 4H advisors.
“Our biggest concern is that Washington bureaucrats are either unaware or are simply ignoring generations of tradition,” said Steve Baccus, a grain farmer from Ottawa County, Kansas, who serves as president of Kansas Farm Bureau. “Our farms are not sweatshops where young people are taken advantage of. Our farms are where we teach them about a work ethic and responsibility.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman was quoted saying, “In towns from coast to coast, consumers enjoy a safe and affordable food supply due to the efficiency and performance of America’s family farmers, but the Department of Labor’s proposed regulations threaten the future of our industry. In addition to being the economic backbone of so many of America’s towns, the traditions and the work ethic associated with growing up on a family farm are worth preserving.”
The Senators say that the Labor Department should identify reliable evidence and data that shows a need for these changes. According to the National Farm Medicine Center, youth-related injuries from farm accidents have declined by nearly 60 percent from 1998 to 2009.
Jeff Fowle from California wrote of the proposal in his blog, “That means my son can’t help his grandparents move cattle from field to field on horseback. It is illegal for my son to help his grandparents change water. It is illegal for my son to drive the feed truck for his grandfather in the winter.” Jeff adds, “It is obvious that the “brilliant” folks we have in DC have absolutely no idea what impact this will have on multi-generational and extended family farms and ranches.”
The new 51-page rules would prohibit anyone under sixteen from doing anything with intact bulls, boars, or stallions older than six months of age. The rule would also prohibit youth from operating most farm machinery, do anything with livestock that might cause the animal pain, and would prohibit youth from “cowboy activities” like herding cattle from pasture to pasture on horseback or herding animals while on horseback. Anything that might cause the animal pain would include medicating sick animals, processing piglets, vaccinations, castration and dehorning. Even assisting an adult in these activities would be illegal.
Critics say that the proposed regulations from the Department of Labor that would make it illegal for youth 16 years and under to do much of anything on a farm or ranch. The fifty-plus page rule change would prevent family and multi-generational farmers, from teaching their kids valuable skills, and from supplying much needed labor on farms and ranches across the U.S.
Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) says that this could change the definition of a family farm to suit the faceless bureaucrats inside the Washington beltway. He adds that this proposal would essentially mean that young people could no longer work with livestock on a farm or ranch
In addition to Sen. Sessions the letter is signed by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan), Ben Nelson (D-Neb), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), David Vitter (R-La.), James Risch (R-ID), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)
Sen. Sessions and 33 of his Senate colleagues, previously requested a 60-day extension of the comment period on the proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standard. In response, the Department extended the comment period by 30 days. Senator Sessions and the other Senators are asking Secretary Solis and the Obama Administration to withdraw the new rules. The Senate will not get to vote on these new rules because the Department of Labor is proposing these new regulations and are using new interpretations of past legislation to increase their power and authority over American farm and ranch families without asking for new legislation from Congress and a congressional act, if it could pass both Houses of Congress, would still be subject to President Obama’s veto.
Coalition of attorneys general file opposition to Alabama attempt to ban curbside voting
The AGs argue that Alabama’s suggestion to the courts that curbside voting invites fraud is “unfounded.”
A coalition of 17 state attorneys general have filed an opposition to Alabama’s attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to ban curbside voting.
In a friend-of-the-court brief, led by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, the attorneys general argue to that curbside voting is safer for those at greatest risk from COVID-19, and that a ban on the practice would disproportionately impact the elderly, the disabled and Black Alabamians.
They also argue that Alabama’s suggestion to the courts that curbside voting invites fraud is “unfounded.”
“The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, established by President Trump following the 2016 election, ‘uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud,’” the brief states, adding that there is no evidence that curbside voting in the many states that allow it invites fraud.
“The practice is longstanding and widespread—as noted, more than half of states have historically offered curbside voting in some form,” the brief continues.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Oct. 13 said the state will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal appeals court ruling allowing curbside voting in the Nov. 3 election.
A panel of federal appeals court judges on Oct. 13 reversed parts of U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s Sept. 30 ordered ruling regarding absentee voting in the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, but the judges let the previous ruling allowing curbside voting to stand.
The lawsuit, filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, was brought on behalf of several Alabamians with underlying medical conditions.
“Curbside voting is a longstanding, secure voting option that local jurisdictions have made available to protect the health of vulnerable voters, including elderly, disabled, and voters with underlying health issues,” Racine said in a statement. “Curbside voting minimizes the risk to persons who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, and local jurisdictions should be able to offer this common-sense accommodation to voters. State Attorneys General will keep fighting to ensure that voters can safely make their voices heard at the ballot box this November.”
The brief filed by the coalition of state attorneys general comes as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations across Alabama has been ticking upward.
Racine is joined in the brief by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
Alabama revenues grew despite COVID pandemic, analysis shows
Tax revenue into the state’s General Fund was 7 percent higher this year the Education Trust Fund brought in an additional $209 million in 2020 compared to 2019.
Alabama’s strong economy going into the COVID-19 pandemic, and billions in federal aid to address the health and economic crisis, has helped the state’s two largest budget funds to grow this year, according to a study released Thursday.
According to an analysis by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, tax revenue into the state’s General Fund was 7 percent higher this year than it was in 2019, and Alabama’s Education Trust Fund brought in an additional $209 million in 2020 compared to 2019.
“According to Finance Department officials, Alabama ended 2020 with $330 million balance in the ETF and a $315 million balance in the General Fund,” wrote PARCA’s Tom Spencer in the report. “That was result both of revenues that exceeded the budgeted amounts and expenditures that were lower than what was appropriated.”
The growth came despite the spike in unemployment that began in March and hasn’t yet abated, and despite mandatory business closures in March and April and the restrictions still in place to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The author of the report said the growth is due in part to the state’s strong economy before the pandemic hit. Unemployment was at a historic low between October and March, and prior to the pandemic, income tax receipts were up approximately 7 percent over the same period in 2019.
Additionally, $4.1 billion in federal COVID-19 aid has been committed to individuals and municipalities in Alabama, and consumer spending shifted but didn’t stop, the author notes.
The federal Paycheck Protection Program preserved payrolls, and unemployed workers received $600 per week in a supplement to unemployment insurance, which both helped prevent the state’s tax revenue from taking a bigger hit.
“Sales taxes dropped, then recovered and have been up and down in the months since. At the same time though, tax on internet purchases surged, offsetting the erosion in sales tax. Unlike some other states, Alabama’s sales taxes apply to groceries and medicine and thus it tends to be more stable,” Spencer wrote in the report.
Several sectors of Alabama’s economy have done well during the pandemic, including the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board, which contributed an additional $17 million to the General Fund, an increase of 14 percent.
But still other sectors suffered, including lodging tax. The tax on hotels and vacation rentals was down 15 percent for the year, and collected almost $9 million less for the General Fund.
“For the current fiscal year, FY 2021, Finance officials are relatively confident that revenues will more than cover the budgets. Lawmaker scaled back spending plans in light of the pandemic,” Spencer wrote in the report. “As long as there aren’t additional unforeseen shocks to the economic system, the Alabama economy should generate the revenue needed to make the budgets as adopted this spring.”
If the state’s economy were to take a larger hit, Spencer noted, the state still has rainy day funds for both funds.
RESERVE FUND BALANCES
- ETF Budget Stabilization Fund – $373,269,077
- ETF Rainy Day Account – $465,421,670
- GF Budget Stabilization Fund – $27,297,483
- GF Budget Rainy Day Account – $232,939,781
Opinion | Electing Tuberville could cost Alabama billions
If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.
Money matters in Alabama. Oh, I know that we’re not supposed to say that out loud. That we’re supposed to promote our image of southern grace and hospitality, of churchiness and care, of rich people never getting into heaven.
But the truth is greed is our biggest character flaw in this state.
Every problem we have can be traced back to our unending thirst for dollars. Our ancestors didn’t keep slaves because they hated black people. They did it because they loved money and the difference in skin color gave them an excuse — a really, really stupid excuse — to mistreat other humans to take advantage of the free labor.
Our rivers and lakes and dirt aren’t filled with poisons from factories because we’re too dumb to understand how this works. They’re that way because our politicians are paid off to turn a blind eye to the dumping of toxic waste.
Our schools aren’t terrible because we have dumb kids or bad teachers. It’s because we’re too cheap to pay for them.
You see what I mean? It’s our lust for the almighty dollar. Every time.
We love money.
Which makes me seriously wonder why so many people in this state are going to vote for a man who will cost us all — and especially our biggest businesses — so much of it.
Tommy Tuberville will be like a money vacuum for Alabama. Billions of dollars will vanish for this welfare state that relies so much on federal contracts, federal programs and federal dollars.
If you doubt this, don’t simply take my word for it. Just Google up the press releases from Sen. Richard Shelby’s office from the last, say, six years — the most recent span in which Republicans have controlled the Senate.
Almost every single release is about Shelby securing millions or billions of dollars in federal funding for this project or that project, getting the state’s share of dollars from a variety of different programs and initiatives implemented by Congress.
Shelby and I obviously have different political viewpoints, but it’s hard to argue that the man has been successful in securing money for Alabama. Lots and lots of money.
Money for airports and roads. Money for defense contractors in Huntsville. Money for the port in Mobile. Money for car manufacturers. Money for farmers.
Money. Money. Money.
Shelby can do that because of three things: He’s on the right committees, he’s a member of the party in power and he’s liked by the right people.
Tuberville will be none of those things.
Most pundits are predicting that Democrats will take over the Senate, tipping the balance of power and giving the party control of both houses and the White House.
That automatically means that a first-time senator in the opposition party will have little to no say in any decisions.
But what’s worse for Tuberville, and for Alabama, is that other Republicans don’t like him either.
Establishment Republicans essentially openly campaigned against Tuberville in the primary, tossing tens of millions of dollars behind his opponent, Jeff Sessions. They even favored third-place finisher Bradley Byrne over Tuberville.
It’s not hard to understand why — he’s clueless.
I know that’s a Doug Jones talking point, but this one happens to be true. Let me give you an example: On Thursday, Tuberville tweeted out what was meant to be a shot at Jones, claiming that Alabama’s current senator wouldn’t meet with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee because Jones knows “he won’t have much time in the Senate to work with her.”
If you’re unaware, the Senate doesn’t “work with” the Supreme Court. They’re separate entities.
Combine that with his other nonsensical answers on COVID relief, school reopenings, the Voting Rights Act, senate committee assignments, education, foreign affairs — really, the list is almost endless — and it shows how little work he’s put in over the last two years to understand this job he’s applying for.
Now, that might be just fine with Alabama voters who care more about the party affiliation and owning the libs, but it’s not OK with grownups who take the job of running the country seriously.
And those people — both Rs and Ds — don’t like Tuberville or his here-for-an-easy-check-like-always approach to one of the most serious jobs in the world.
He will be frozen out of the most sought after committee assignments. His voice will carry zero weight. His presence will be all but forgotten.
And in the process, so will Alabama. Especially in two years, when Shelby retires and his senior status is lost.
In the meantime, Jones is highly respected by senators on both sides of the aisle. He already has a presence on top committees, and is so well liked within the Democratic Party that he’s on the short list to be Joe Biden’s AG, should he not be re-elected.
The choice seems pretty simple. On the one hand is a competent, prepared and serious statesman who knows how to maneuver his colleagues to get the most for the state. On the other hand is an unprepared, uncaring, lazy carpetbagger who doesn’t understand any process.
If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.
At least 248 COVID deaths reported in Alabama in October
The cumulative death toll in Alabama has risen by 248 to 2,788 in October and by 124 in the last week alone.
We’re a little more than halfway through the month of October and the Alabama Department of Public Health has already reported at least 248 deaths from COVID-19.
The cumulative death toll in Alabama has risen by 248 to 2,788 in October and by 124 in the last week alone.
At least 378 deaths were reported in the month of September, a rate of 12.6 deaths per day over the month. In the first 17 days of October, the rate has been 14.6 deaths per day, a 15.9 percent increase from September.
Deaths were higher in July and August. The cumulative death toll increased by 582 in August and 630 in July, the worst month of the pandemic for the state.
On Saturday, ADPH reported that 1,288 more people in the state were confirmed positive with the coronavirus, and on Sunday the count increased by 964. The number of confirmed cases in Alabama has risen to 172,626.
There have been 17,925 new cases Alabama in October alone. The state is averaging almost 996 cases per day in October, which is up from September.
The state had 28,643 new coronavirus cases in September, 38,335 cases new cases in August, and 49,678 cases in July. Public health officials credit Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s statewide mask order on July 15 with slowing the spread of the virus in the state, but the virus has not gone away.
ADPH reported 823 hospitalizations for COVID-19 on October 17, the most recent day for which we have data. While hospitalizations for COVID-19 are down from the peaks in early August in Alabama have risen from Oct. 1 when 748 Alabamians were hospitalized, a 10 percent increase from the first of the month.
The state of Alabama is continuing to struggle to protect its most vulnerable citizens. At least 6,497 residents of long term care facilities in Alabama have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, 247 of them in October.
There have also been 3,362 cases among long term care workers in Alabama, including 197 in the month of October. Some 9,819 Alabama health care workers have also contracted the coronavirus.
Most people who test positive for the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, are asymptomatic or have only minor symptoms, but in about one out of five cases it can become much more severe.
For older people or people with underlying medical conditions like obesity, heart disease, asthma, cancer, diabetes or HIV, COVID-19 can turn deadly. COVID-19 is the abbreviated name for the medical condition caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Some 1,115,600 people worldwide have died from COVID-19 worldwide, including 224,284 Americans. There are 8,972,704 known active cases in the world today.
Public health officials warn citizens that coronavirus remains a present danger in our community. Social distancing is the best way to avoid spreading the virus. Avoid venues with large groups. Don’t shake hands or hug persons not living in your household.
Avoid leaving your home as much as possible and wear a mask or cloth face covering when you do go out. Avoid touching your face and wash your hands with soap frequently. Hand sanitizer is recommended.
A coronavirus vaccine may be available in the coming months, but we don’t yet know when or how effective it will be.