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Conservative Activist Take to Capitol to Protest September 18 Amendment

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—An eleventh hour stand against the September 18 constitutional amendment is being held today on the steps of the Alabama Capital.

“We are oppose to this amendment because it does not address the waste and inefficiency of state government,” says Marcia Chambliss, Alabama Coordinator for Smart Girl Politics. “It gets the legislature through the next three budgets without addressing why we have this budget shortfall.”

Chambliss is joined by leaders who represent various conservative groups from across the state of Alabama. They include Becky Gerritson, President of the Wetumpka TEA Party; Eloise Zeanah, President of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women; and former Alabama State Senator John Rice, from the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government. All of these organizations are coming together under the motto of “Don’t BUST the TRUST.”

Former State Senator John Rice is perhaps the most well-known and has been a constant voices of opposition to the September 18 constitutional amendment. Rice has even filed a lawsuit against the governor sighting the 2013 General Fund Budget as unconstitutional.

“The Alabama voters should be incensed at what has happen,” says Rice. “They passed a budget which is out of balance which no one really knows what is in it but the very few people who crafted it.”

Rice, a conservative republican, lays the blame for the “unconstitutional and illegal budget” at the feet of republican leadership.

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Rice says that the budget process should not be left to the last hours of the legislative session and then hurried through the process.

“They need to move the budget process to the start of the legislative session. They need to work on that one thing, until it passes,” says Rice. “The process needs to be transparent.” Rice says he believe that GOP leadership passed a budget that “holds a political gun to the heads of the Alabama voters.”

Rice and Chambliss both take exception with the ATF being called a savings account. “The Alabama Trust Fund was set up as a trust, not as a savings account.” They both point out that it has already been borrowed from once “to the tune of $599 million dollars and that money has not been paid back.”

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Rice goes so far as to say, “This is a government that I don’t even recognize,” saying that the people must vote no on the amendment to stop “corrupt republicans.”

Chambliss does not go that far but says she is “disappointed because these are many republicans I worked so hard to elect.”

Chambliss said, “I think what disturbs many conservatives is that these are the same scare tactics we have heard from the left.”

Rice goes further indicating that the PAC, Alabama 2014, is at the root of the problem. “The 2014 fund was established by a group of political insiders to influence the outcome of elections in 2014,” Rice said. “If you look at who has almost been forced to contributing to the 2014 fund through coercion and collusion it becomes clear that the are the same people playing in the budget.”

Rice says that political reporters need to be asking more questions about the Alabama 2014 PAC, “That is what it is all about. It is about people being threatened with the 2014 fund.”

Alabama 2014 is a PAC that is run by former Governor Bob Riley. Recently Riley told news reporters that The PAC had $670,724 on hand as of July 31.

Rice said that he saw what he considered questionable activities during the 2012 legislative session leading up to the budget vote.

“During the time of the budget process they have these caucus meetings. I call them the corral, they [GOP members] members are fed lunch by some group that wants favors and then they are told what’s going on by the leadership,” said Rice. “Now, these leaders were elected by the members. These are now the folks that hold the gavel over them. Well, you like to think you can trust your leaders.”

Both Chambliss and Rice say that conservative watchdog groups are going to start watching the budgets more closely to make sure that the state’s fund are administered properly.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Education

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program gets more national attention

The article analyzed a recent study that found that students who attended the program were “statistically significantly more likely” to be proficient in both math and reading than those who did not.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The state’s First Class Pre-K program gives children advantages in math and reading that last into middle school, far longer than the gains studied in other high-quality pre-K programs, according to an article published in the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy.

The article analyzed a recent study that found that students who attended the program were “statistically significantly more likely” to be proficient in both math and reading than those who did not.

While programs like Head Start and Tennessee’s pre-K program have been shown to lead to significant educational improvements when children enter kindergarten, those benefits appear to experience a “fadeout” within a year. 

The new research followed students through the 7th grade. Further research should examine the persistence of benefits through high school, according to the article, which was published by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, ThinkData and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

The research “is reassuring and supports accountability for continued investments and expansion,” the article concluded.

The journal that featured the article is a publication of the National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

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Congress

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne announces new chief of staff

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Friday announced that Seth Morrow will serve as his chief of staff.

“As we enter the last half of 2020, my office remains busy assisting constituents and advancing our legislative priorities. I know Seth shares my focus on finishing out my term in Congress strong, and he is well prepared to move into the Chief of Staff role,” Byrne said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue working hard every day to fight for the people of Southwest Alabama and advance our conservative agenda.”

Morrow is a native of Guntersville and has worked for Byrne since June 2014, serving as deputy chief of staff and communications director. 

“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring our office maintains our first class service to the people of Southwest Alabama. Congressman Byrne has always had the hardest working team on Capitol Hill, and I know we will keep that tradition going,” Morrow said in a statement.

Morrow replaces Chad Carlough, who has held the position of Byrne’s chief of staff since March 2017. 

“Chad has very ably led our Congressional team over the last few years, and I join the people of Southwest Alabama in thanking him for his dedicated service to our state and our country,” Byrne said. 

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Crime

Alabama Department of Corrections investigating inmate death

Robert Earl Adams, 40, died on Aug. 5 and although no foul play is suspected, a department spokeswoman in a message to APR said the exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Department of Corrections is investigating the death of an inmate at the Donaldson Correctional Facility.

Robert Earl Adams, 40, died on Aug. 5 and although no foul play is suspected, a department spokeswoman in a message to APR said the exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.

“While Adams’ exact cause of death is pending the results of a full autopsy, at the time of his passing inmate Adams was not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, was not under quarantine following direct exposure to an inmate or staff member who previously had tested positive, and was not in medical isolation as a result of a positive COVID-19 test,” said ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in the message.

Because Adams was not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, he had not been tested, Rose said.

An ADOC worker who contacted APR Friday morning about the death, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions from ADOC administrators, said it’s suspected that Adams may have overdosed after being given a cigarette laced with a drug.

Adams is at least the sixteenth state inmate to die this year from either homicide, suspected drug overdose or suicide. Additionally, fifteen inmates and two prison workers have died after testing positive for COVID-19.

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Alabama GOP chair: “We expect our elected officials to follow the law” after Dismukes arrest

“Will Dismukes matter: We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” Alabama GOP chair Terry Lathan said on Twitter.

Brandon Moseley

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State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, has been arrested on the charge of felony theft.

Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said Thursday that Alabamians expect their leaders to follow the law. Her comments came in response to news that an arrest warrant had been issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, on the charge of felony theft.

“Will Dismukes matter: We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” Lathan said on Twitter. “No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations. This is now a legal matter and it must run its course.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said Friday in a statement that Dismukes will get his day in court.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I have faith in the criminal justice process and trust that he will receive a full and fair hearing,” McCutcheon said. “Both Democrats and Republicans have been accused of similar crimes in the past, and we cannot tolerate such behavior whether the lawmaker involved has a D or an R beside their name.”

Dismukes has been charged by his former employer, a custom flooring company, of felony theft charges. Dismukes left that employer and started his own custom flooring company.

Dismukes, who is serving in his first term and is one of the youngest members of the Alabama Legislature, has been heavily criticized for his participation in a birthday party for Confederate Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Selma. Forrest was also the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

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The party in Selma occurred the same week that Congressman John Lewis’s funeral events were happening in Selma. Dismukes resigned his position at Valley Baptist Church when the Southern Baptists threatened to disassociate the Prattville Church if they retained Dismukes. He has defiantly refused to step down from the Legislature, but if convicted of a felony, he would be automatically removed from office.

Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Dismukes to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives over his being the chaplain of the Prattville Sons of Confederate Veterans and his Facebook post lauding Forrest. The investigation into the theft predates the controversies surrounding Dismukes’s glorification of the Confederacy and Forrest.

Republican State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, who also represents Prattville, has called on Dismukes to resign.

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“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative. He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people of District 88,” Chambliss said. “The post is bad enough, the timing is even worse, but the real problem is that an elected official in 2020 would attend a celebration of the life of someone that led a group that terrorized and killed other human beings. He has had 24 hours to understand why people are so upset, but his interview on WSFA a few moments ago confirms that he is lacking in understanding and judgment — he should resign immediately.”

Alabama Democratic Party Chairman State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, has repeatedly called for Dismukes to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives.

The Alabama Democratic Party recently said in a statement, “Will Dismukes is morally unfit for office. Republicans and Democrats statewide seem to agree. Unfortunately, despite the mounting calls for his immediate resignation, Will intends to stay in office and seek re-election without penalty from the Republican Party.”

“While Alabama Republicans hope this will be a distant memory when Dismukes runs for re-election in 2022, we are not going to let him off the hook,” the ADP wrote. “The Alabama Democratic Party is going to leverage every tool we have to send Will packing when he comes up for re-election in two years.”

“In our darkest hours in life there is still light in Christ!” Dismukes wrote on social media Wednesday. “As the storm continues to blow with heavy force, there is yet a peace that this too shall pass. I guess sometimes we find out if we have built our house on sand or the solid rock of Christ. Psalm 23.”

When Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, was indicted on 21 charges of felony ethics violations, he did not resign and actually remained speaker until a jury of his peers in Lee County convicted him on 12 counts.

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