By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— Supporters of Amendment 4 that will appear on the November ballot, say the bill simply removes racist language from Alabama’s 1901 Constitution, others see a hidden agenda. Is there a clever plot, a diabolical calculation, a misunderstanding or a difference of opinion?
We recently asked Dr. Henry Mabry, Executive Secretary of the Alabama Education Association what he thought about Amendment 4.
“Amendment 4 replaces language that is for providing an education for our school children with language that says the state does not have an obligation to provide an education for our school children,” Mabry said.
Yet, the bill’s sponsor State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) has said it only to remove racist language, something everyone should be in favor of voting to approve.
Mabry says he has a question for the Senator and those who support the amendment, “If that is the case then why did they amend their bill to take out the original section 256 language from their bill which also has racist language in it? It says, ‘Separate schools shall be provide for white and colored children and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.’ I would consider that racist language. Why did the sponsor take a section of his bill that would have struck that language out of his bill than leave it. The reason why is because exactly what we are saying, that they are replacing the original Section 256 with Amendment 111 language, period.”
Opponents are saying that this maneuver was a bait-and-switch to open a back door to the amendment. But supporters have said this is the cleanest bill that was available.
Mabry disagrees with the bills supporters, “No, the original bill [before Orr amendment] was the cleanest. This bill is being supported by ALFA insurance all across the state and ALFA insurance isn’t going to be for something altruistic.”
According to Mabry, ALFA is running radio advertisements on black stations around the state encouraging African-Americans to vote yes on Amendment 4.
“For decades and decades and decades ALFA insurance has been opposed to anything progressive in Alabama. They have been against any kind of reform effort,” said Mabry. “They have been against any kind of tax reform, education reform or constitutional reform.” Mabry believes that ALFA’s support points to something more than language reform, “Something smells here.”
If Mabry is right, what is ALFA’s agenda? Is it to make sure that no more money is spent on education?
“That is exactly the case,” says Marby.
However, backers of the amendment turn it around and point a finger at the AEA, saying, the AEA is taking an offensive posture to seek more money for school and more money for teachers and the consequently more money for the AEA.
“We are in a defense posture,” said Mabry. “We don’t want to be in the position, where they make a case that education is not a responsibility of the government, that is what Amendment 111 does.”
While Amendment 111 doesn’t say anything about putting more money into school, Mabry says, “What is does say is that the state doesn’t have to provide money for schools which could certainly open the door for diversion efforts in the future.”
Some have suggested that the AEA is looking for a way to bring back the Equity Funding lawsuit, that was fought in the Alabama courts for 12 years.
However Mabry says, “Do we see this as a way to get back into the equity funding lawsuit, no but proponents would say that to try to scare people.”
Mabry says that the AEA discovered this slight of hand in Amendment 4 only in the last few weeks, the discovery led them to take a stand “in favor of pubic education.”
Recently, talk radio and detractors of the AEA have been painting the organization as being against removing racist language from the Alabama Constitution.
“That is nonsense, that is foolish nonsense and anyone who would say that needs to be examined by a psychiatric professional,” said Mabry.
Mabry says he believes Amendment 4 “opens the door to give public school money to private outfits. It is pretty clear.”
He then quotes the amendments, “The Original 256 says, ‘The legislature shall establish, organize, and maintain a liberal system of public schools throughout the state for the benefit of the children thereof between the ages of seven and twenty-one years.’ The bottom line comes down to that first sentence. What 111 does to amend what I just read?, again he quotes Amendment 111, ‘The legislature may by law provide for or authorize the establishment and operation of schools by such persons, agencies or municipalities, at such places, and upon such conditions as it may prescribe, and for the grant or loan of public funds and the lease, sale or donation of real or personal property to or for the benefit of citizens of the state for educational purposes under such circumstances and upon such conditions as it shall prescribe.’ So, in reality, they talk about vouchers, and charter school, this is one avenue to allow them to get to this goal.”
Amendment 4 is being promoted as a bill that is designed to remove racist language from the Alabama Constitution. Mabry says it is “wallpaper to cover over the real intentions of legislators.”
Many more reports may need to be written before a clear picture will fully emerge, but the voters need to know all the facts and not just the summary that appears on the November ballot.
Alabama DHR announces grants providing temporary assistance for stabilizing child care
The Alabama Department of Human Resources announced on Friday a new grant program to provide assistance to licensed child care providers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Temporary Assistance for Stabilizing Child Care, or TASCC, grant program’s purpose is to stabilize the number of child care providers that are open and providing services, as well as encourage providers to reopen.
DHR is now accepting applications for TASCC grants. The deadline to apply is August 7, 2020. The total grant amounts will be based on each provider’s daytime licensed capacity with a base rate of $300 per child.
To be eligible for a grant, licensed providers must be open or plan to reopen no later than August 17, 2020, and continue to remain open for a period of one year from the date of receiving the grant award. As of this week, 1,306 of Alabama’s 2,448 child care facilities were open in the state.
“We are proud to offer this program as a support and an incentive to an important sector of our economy. These grants will give the support many providers need to reopen and assist those already open,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “This program is going to be vital for our child care numbers to reach the level required to provide adequate services as parents return to work. We have already made significant strides in reopening facilities over the past several months; in April only 14 percent were open while now 53 percent are open.”
These grants will provide support for paying employees, purchasing classroom materials, providing meals, purchasing cleaning supplies, providing tuition relief for families, as well as other facility expenses.
DHR recommends child care providers read all guidance prior to submitting a TASCC application. Child care providers need to complete the application to determine the estimated grant amount. Grant applications will be processed as they are received and grants awarded once approved.
An online fillable application is available for the TASCC grant at www.dhr.alabama.gov/child-care/. The application must include an Alabama STAARS Vendor Code in order to be processed. For questions regarding the application, please email DHR at [email protected].
Gov. Ivey awards grant for new system to aid child abuse victims
Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded a $375,000 grant to establish a statewide network that will ensure that victims of child abuse receive immediate and professional medical care and other assistance.
The grant will enable the Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics to collaborate with the Alabama Network of Children Advocacy Centers in creating the Child Abuse Medical System.
“Child abuse is a horrendous crime that robs children of their youth and can negatively affect their future if victims do not receive the proper professional assistance,” Ivey said. “I am thankful for this network that will ensure children get the professional attention they need and deserve.”
The medical system will be a coordinated statewide resource that includes pediatric physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and other medical professionals along with specialized sexual assault nurse examiners.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant.
“ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey and those dedicated people who are part of the Child Abuse Medical System to support these children at a time they need it most,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.
Ivey notified Tom Shufflebarger, CEO of Children’s of Alabama, that the grant had been approved.
ADECA manages a range of programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town announces resignation
Jay Town, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, on Friday announced his resignation and plans to work at a Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company.
Town’s resignation will be effective Wednesday, July 15, according to a press release.
“After much thoughtful prayer and great personal consideration, I have made the decision to resign as the United States Attorney of the Northern District of Alabama. I have tendered my resignation to Attorney General William Barr. General Barr expressed his gratitude for my service to the Department of Justice and to the Northern District and, despite having hoped I would continue in my role, understood and respected my decision,” Town said in a statement.
“I am extremely grateful to President Trump, to whom I also tendered a letter, for his special trust and confidence in me to serve as the U.S. Attorney. It was an honor to be a part of this Administration with an unrivaled class of United States Attorneys from around the nation. I will forever remain thankful to those who supported my nomination and my tenure as the U.S. Attorney,” Town continued.
Town said his job with the unnamed Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company is to begin later this year, and the company is to announce his position “in a few weeks.”
“The Attorney General of the United States will announce my replacement in the coming days or weeks,” Town said in the release.
Town has served in his position since confirmation by the U.S. Senate in August 2017. Prior to that appointment, Town was a prosecutor in the Madison County District Attorney’s office from 2005 until 2017.
Attorney General William Barr in a statement Friday offered gratitude for Town’s three years of service.
“Jay’s leadership in his District has been immense. His contributions to the Department of Justice have been extensive, especially his work on the China Initiative and most recently as a Working Group Chair on the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. I appreciate his service to our nation and to the Justice Department, and I wish him the very best,” Barr said in a statement.
The U.S. Justice Department in April 2019 notified Gov. Kay Ivey that the department’s lengthy investigation into the state’s prisons for men found systemic problems of violence, sexual assaults, drugs and corruption which are likely violations of the inmates’ Constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment.
Town’s office leads the discussions between the U.S Department of Justice and the state on the prison conditions.
Problems with violence, deaths and drugs in Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons have not markedly improved in the year’s since the U.S. Department of Justice released its report.
Alabama’s daily COVID-19 deaths second highest since start of pandemic
In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
Alabama saw 35 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, the second highest daily number of deaths since the pandemic began.
The previous record daily high was May 12, when the state recorded 37 coronavirus deaths. Prior to that, the high was on April 22, when Alabama saw 35 deaths from the virus. In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
While cases have been surging since mid-June, deaths have largely remained stable. Deaths are considered a lagging indicator, meaning that it takes longer for deaths to begin rising after cases and hospitalizations begin rising.
“The fact that we’re seeing these sharp increases and hospitalization in cases over the past week or two is really concerning,” said UAB expert Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom earlier this week. “And we expect, given the lag that we know there is between cases and hospitalization — about a two-week lag, and a three-week lag between cases and deaths — that we’re on a part of the curve that we just don’t want to be on in our state.”
It’s unclear whether this new rise in deaths will become a trend, or whether it is a one-day anomaly, but the 14-day average of deaths per day is now nearly as high as the previous peak on May 14 — weeks after the state hit its first “peak” in cases per day in late April. The previous high of the 14-day average of deaths per day was 16 on May 14. The average is now at 14 deaths per day, on average.
The uptick in deaths comes after days of record-high new daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The state added 1,304 new COVID-19 cases Friday, down from Thursday’s record-high of 2,164, but the trend of rising daily cases has continued largely unabated since early June.
The 14-day average of daily tests was at an all-time high Friday, at 8,125, which was 308 more tests than the previous high, set Wednesday. The percent of tests that were positive also increased, however, so the new cases can’t be attributed solely to more testing.
The 14-day average of the percent positivity was 14.22 on Friday. Excluding Thursday’s figure, because the Alabama Department of Public Health didn’t publish total tests administered on Thursday, which threw off percent positive figures, Friday’s 14-day average was the highest it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were a few higher 14-day average percent positivity days in April, but those numbers were skewed as well, because ADPH wasn’t able to collect all testing data from commercial labs during that time period.
Along with surging new cases, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday was higher than it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic. On Thursday 1,125 coronavirus patients were being treated in state hospitals, which was the fifth straight day of record current hospitalizations.
UAB Hospital’s COVID-19 Intensive care units were nearing their existing capacity earlier this week. The hospital has both a COVID ICU and a COVID acute care unit designated to keep patients separated from those who don’t have the virus, but it has more space in other non-COVID units should it need to add additional bed space.
Hospitals in Madison County this week are also seeing a surge of COVID-19 patients. Paul Finley, the mayor of the city of Madison, told reporters Wednesday that local hospitals were reporting record numbers.