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House Passes Key Economic Development Bill

Mike Hubbard

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From the Office of Speaker Mike Hubbard

Despite scare tactics, lawmakers approve bi-partisan plan to recruit new jobs, retain existing industry

MONTGOMERY – Alabama is one step closer to having a major weapon in its economic development arsenal, as the House of Representatives passed a key job-growth bill on Thursday.

House members passed a constitutional amendment that allows voters to give the Governor and the Alabama Development Office the authority to offer incentives like those used on the Mercedes project to recruit new industry to Alabama and prevent existing industry from leaving the state.

Rep. Barry Mask, who works as a local economic developer and who sponsored House Bill 159, said this bill was a major component of a job-growth package designed to give the state more tools for helping existing industry expand and recruiting new companies to the state.

“We’re trying to give our state and local economic developers more tools to help grow existing businesses and land new industry, both of which result in more jobs for Alabamians,” Rep. Mask said. “I was pleased to work with colleagues from both parties to make this bill better so that voters can be confident in the plan we put before them.”

Despite scare tactics employed to defeat the bill by the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama Democratic Party, this constitutional amendment and its corresponding enabling bill both passed with strong bi-partisan support. Even the House Minority Leader voted in favor of both bills.

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“It’s hard to believe anyone would be against bi-partisan efforts to boost job growth,” Speaker Hubbard said. “When the economy grows, our education budget grows, and we have more funds to put toward schools. More jobs and more money for education means everybody wins. Most importantly, the people win over the special interests.”

The constitutional amendment and enabling legislation now move to the Senate, where State Senator Phil Williams (R-Gadsden) is carrying both.

“I want to congratulate the House Members, especially  Rep. Barry Mask, for doing an outstanding job, and Governor Bentley for his continued support,” Senator Williams said. “We are going to take this thing into the second half now and run it all the way to the goal line.”

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More information on the Alabama Job Creation and Retention Act:

This constitutional amendment (HB 159 passed today by a vote of 66 yays and 22 nays) would allow voters to give the Governor and the Alabama Development Office more flexibility in offering tax incentives to land major economic development projects and retain companies that might otherwise relocate outside Alabama without having to call a special session of the Legislature.

The corresponding enabling bill (HB160, passed on Tuesday by a vote of 69 yays and 19 nays) sets strict parameters for how incentives can be used to ensure return on investment. Bi-partisan amendments to the bill strengthened investment and job creation requirements, as well as accountability and transparency safeguards.

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Shelby, Rogers say Trump calls off plan to move Coronavirus patients to Anniston

Eddie Burkhalter

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Editor’s note: This story will be updated. 

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers both said Sunday afternoon that President Donald Trump told both lawmakers that a plan to relocate people who tested positive for the coronavirus to Anniston was off.

“I just got off the phone with the President. He told me that his administration will not be sending any victims of the Coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston, Alabama. Thank you, @POTUS, for working with us to ensure the safety of all Alabamians.” tweeted Shelby at 2:05 p.m. Sunday. 

“I just got off the phone with the President. He told me that his administration will not be sending any victims of the Coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston, Alabama. Thank you, @POTUS, for working with us to ensure the safety of all Alabamians.” tweeted Rogers at 2:18 p.m. Sunday. 

Alabama Gov. Kay earlier on Sunday announced that plans to relocate cruise ship passengers who tested positive for the Coronavirus to Anniston was only a “back-up” plan. 

Ivey’s announcement ran counter to statements by officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Saturday that the agency planned to begin moving an unknown number of people to the FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston next week. The news caught state and local leaders off guard Saturday, many of whom said the federal government hadn’t discussed the plan with them, according to Al.com. 

Ivey in a press release said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told her about the plan late Friday, which calls for those passengers to be taken to the CDP in Anniston. 

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“Sensing the urgency, I quickly informed the offices of Senators Richard Shelby and Doug Jones and Congressman Mike Rogers, as well as Dr. Scott Harris with the Alabama Department of Public Health,” Ivey’s statement reads. 

“On Saturday, it appears that a press release from HHS was inadvertently, and perhaps prematurely, sent notifying the State of Alabama that these individuals were scheduled to begin transporting to Alabama as early as Wednesday. 

Ivey said that there were a number of conversations between HHS, the White House, herself and her staff and two conference calls with senior Congressional staff “to try to clarify HHS’ intent and reasoning for selecting Alabama.” 

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“On one of the calls, they informed us that the CDP in Anniston is only being considered as a “back-up” plan, in case they run out of alternative locations. They assured us on both calls that no decision had been made to send anyone to Anniston,” Ivey said. “I made it abundantly clear that while the State of Alabama wants to work closely with the Trump Administration to assist fellow Americans who may have tested positive for the Coronavirus, there were some grave concerns about why the site in Anniston was chosen and how, logistically, this would play out in the event this back-up site were to be eventually activated.” 

Ivey said that her priority is to protect the people of Alabama, and that while locating them in Alabama is a backup plan “this is a serious issue and we need to be fully aware of the facts regarding the potential of housing them in Anniston.” 

“I am grateful to Senator Shelby and his team for coordinating today’s effort to send officials from HHS to Alabama to provide further clarity to this situation,” Ivey said. “I also appreciate Congressman Rogers for speaking with the President and informing him of the concern of the people of Alabama. Through these coordinated efforts, we will begin a process that will be transparent, and hopefully find a solution of which we are united and comfortable with.” 

According to the New York Times on Saturday there were 34 infected people in the U.S., 18 of whom came off of the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Anniston City Council members in a special called meeting Sunday discussed the possibility of suing the federal government to block the transfer of those patients to Anniston. 

Council members approved in a 3-1 vote a resolution that Anniston Mayor Jack Draper said was to authorize the city attorney and city manager to “to seek legal counsel with respect to all options we may have at this point, but not to specifically authorize any immediate filing.”

Draper said if after subsequent meetings planned for Sunday it was determined that the city needed to take action, council members would meet again to authorize legal action.

Draper said during the meeting that staff from Sen. Shelby’s office and HHS officials would meet in Anniston at around noon today. 

“I do think that it is important that we have all options available to us. We clearly have to be concerned about the health of our community,” Draper said. “At the same time I think we have to recognize that the eyes of the nation and possibly the eyes of the world are upon us now as well, and these are fellow Americans who have contracted this horrible disease, and we are in partnership with all our fellow Americans.”

During a Calhoun County Commission meeting on Sunday commissioners told attendees of the news that the plan was off.

Commissioner Tim Hodges said “I think that’s a good thing for the city and the county.”

Draper said during the commission meeting, which he also attended, that the City Council would meet again at 9a.m. on Monday to decide whether to take legal action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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National

Lawmaker files bill to ban treatments for transgender kids

Jessa Reid Bolling

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Republican Wes Allen, R-Troy, filed a bill to prevent doctors from providing hormone replacement therapy or puberty suppressing drugs to people younger than 19 who identify as transgender.

HB303, the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act,  would make it a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for doctors to prescribe puberty-blocking medications or opposite gender hormones to minors. Allen’s legislation would also ban hysterectomy, mastectomy or castration surgeries from being performed on minors.

“I was shocked when I found out doctors in Alabama were prescribing these types of drugs to children,” Allen said in a news release. “This is something you hear about happening in California or New York but it is happening right here in Alabama and it’s time we put a stop to that practice.”

Allen said that children experiencing gender dysphoria are struggling with a psychological disorder and that they need therapeutic treatment from mental health professionals instead of medical intervention that would leave their bodies “permanently mutilated.” 

“These children are suffering from a psychological disorder, just as someone who is suffering with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia but we treat those patients and try to help them. We should treat these psychological disorders as well.”

In 2018, a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said that:

  • “Transgender identities and diverse gender expressions do not constitute a mental disorder; 
  • Variations in gender identity and expression are normal aspects of human diversity, and binary definitions of gender do not always reflect emerging gender identities; 
  • Gender identity evolves as an interplay of biology, development, socialization, and culture; and
  • If a mental health issue exists, it most often stems from stigma and negative experiences rather than being intrinsic to the child”

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in 2018 that it was removing “gender identity disorder” from its global manual of diagnoses and reclassify “gender identity disorder” as “gender incongruence,” which is now listed under the sexual health chapter rather than the mental disorders chapter. 

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In a 2018 interview, Dr. Lale Say, a reproductive health expert at the WHO, said that gender incongruence was removed from the list of mental health disorders because “we had a better understanding that this was not actually a mental health condition and leaving it there was causing stigma. So in order to reduce the stigma, while also ensuring access to necessary health interventions, this was placed in a different chapter.”

In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association revised the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to remove the term “gender identity disorder” from the manual and add the term “gender dysphoria.”

Allen’s bill will be considered by the Alabama House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

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Elections

Doug Jones raises $2.4 million in first fundraising period of 2020

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, raised $2.4 million in the first fundraising period of 2020, according to his reelection campaign, which was $500,000 more than he raised during the fourth quarter of 2019. 

Jones has $7.4 million cash at hand, according to his campaign, which released the totals on Thursday. Jones’s latest campaign finance reports weren’t yet posted to the Federal Election Commission website on Thursday. 

“Alabamians across the state are showing their commitment to Doug’s message of One Alabama and his proven track record of standing up for all Alabamians,” said Doug Turner, Senior Advisor for Jones’s campaign, in a statement Thursday. Doug’s work to support working families, fund our HBCUs, modernize our military and expand and protect our health care is resonating with folks throughout Alabama. We are well-positioned to continue to grow our grassroots support and win in November.” 

Jones ended 2019 leading all of his Republican contenders in fundraising, ending the year with $5 million in cash.

 

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Courts

Alabama Democratic Party lawsuit was back in court on Thursday

Josh Moon

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The dispute goes on forever and the lawsuit never ends. 

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge on Thursday delayed a decision on whether he has the standing to settle an internal dispute within the Alabama Democratic Party but indicated that he’s leaning towards ruling that he does. 

Judge Greg Griffin said he would rule soon on the matter, but made no promise that the decision would come before Alabama’s primary elections on March 3. 

Thursday’s hearing was the latest in the seemingly endless fight over control of the ADP and was the next step in a lawsuit brought by former ADP chairwoman Nancy Worley. Worley and her supporters, which have proven to be a decided minority of the State Democratic Executive Committee, filed the lawsuit late last year after the Democratic National Committee invalidated her re-election as chair and forced the party to change its bylaws and hold new elections. 

Those new elections resulted in Rep. Chris England being elected as party chairman and former Rep. Patricia Todd being elected vice-chair. The new party leadership has the backing of the national party, which pulled funding from ADP because Worley and others refused to rewrite the state party’s bylaws to be more inclusive. 

Worley filed her initial lawsuit prior to the elections in which she was booted out of her position, and Griffin, who was widely criticized for his handling of the case, granted a temporary restraining order that prevented the Reform Caucus of the ADP from meeting. That decision by Griffin was immediately overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court, in a rare, late-Friday evening emergency ruling. 

However, the ALSC did not rule on whether Griffin had standing to settle a dispute within the state party. The court left that question up to Griffin, which was why Thursday’s hearing was held. 

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The entire thing seems to be an exercise in futility at this point. 

The ADP has moved on, with England certifying candidates and DNC officials clearly recognizing him as the rightful party chair. The DNC has no desire to work with Worley, who was stripped of her credentials for failing to follow directives and bylaws of the party. 

Even if Griffin creates a reason to invalidate England’s election, it doesn’t seem to matter much. The DNC has validated it, and it accepted the ADP’s new bylaws and changes to leadership structure. 

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If Worley were to prevail in court, it’s unclear exactly what she would win.

 

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