By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Following the horrific slayings of twenty first graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut by an evil madman, the state of Alabama held a Joint Committee meeting on what Alabama can do to improve school security. The meeting was called by the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn and Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R) from Anniston. Following the Wednesday, January 9th hearing several legislators and state policy analysts took to Facebook to express their opinions.
State Rep. Kurt Wallace (R) from Maplesville said, “I attended the joint House/Senate education committee’s meeting today in Montgomery to discuss school safety. I thought the committee did a great job of bringing everyone to the table. We heard from representatives from our Sheriff’s, District Attourney’s, Dr. Tommy Bice (the Superintendent of Education, Spencer Collier with Homeland Security, someone from the mental health department, a teacher, and several others. There was a lot of discussion about how to “protect” our children.”
State Rep. Allen Farley (R) from McCalla said, “Today I sat in the House Chamber in Montgomery and listened to individuals go before a joint education committee to discuss school safety. We heard from Senators, House members, DA’s, a school teacher, the Alabama State Superintendant of Education, and the Alabama Director of Homeland Security. The comments and suggestions varied, but everyone was on the same team. I was encouraged.”
State School Board Member, Mary Scott Hunter (R) said in her newsletter, “I expect the Board and Legislature will take up the question of gun violence in schools. I plan to bring my Military lawyer background as an Air Force Judge Advocate to bear in this discussion. My training and experience tells me that in this we cannot but have the very best conceived plan. We should not be rash or hasty in our decisions, and we should consider all options that tend to deter would-be shooters and increase safety for students and staff. Arming staff, perhaps only the ones who have previous military or law enforcement experience in order that they could act as first line defenders, is an option. Other considerations also abound to include: deadbolts on every school room door; egress plans; door security; etc. In the meantime, all should view the great video released by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security on the basics of Run / Hide / Fight.”
Conservative policy analyst and political analyst Michael Ciamarra said, “Busy day in Montgomery today! School Safety Hearing was held at the Statehouse chaired by our good friends Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin and Sen. Dick Brewbaker. Was a fascinating hearing that included lawmakers, Dr. Bice, Dept. of Homeland Security Director Collier, Sheriff, Constable and other law enforcement groups, School Resource Officer Presidents (National and AL Chapter), District Attorney representatives, and concerned citizens. School security will be an issue with much focus and attention by lawmakers this coming session.”
Alabama Senator Bryan Taylor (R) from Prattville said on Twitter that he went to the joint hearing on school security and gathered good information for his upcoming security roundtable with the local school superintendents of his district next week.
Rep. Wallace said, “As you would expect opinions varied greatly. Some too aggressive (in my opinion), and some to passive (also my opinion). Fortunately, we took what I believe is the correct approach and decided to stop all the knee-jerk reactions and step back to evaluate the facts and then put together a plan that we can afford and will do the best for our children. We don’t need to drag our feet…nor do we need to turn our schools into military type fortresses either. I believe we will have a well thought out plan ready for the House and Senate to start debating as soon as, or very shortly after, we get into session on Feb. 5th. I will keep you all posted as we get further into this matter.”
Rep. Farley said, “Those of you who know me well know my position on school safety. I believe that teachers should be given every opportunity to teach in a safe environment. And, I believe our trained law enforcement community should be given every opportunity to provide a safe environment for teachers, students, and parents. I do not believe placing a firearm in a teacher’s hand at school is our best option. I do not think we have the luxury to continue to expend tight budgets to allow trained law enforcement officers to teach classes. Teachers need to teach. Safety professionals need to keep people safe.”
Alabama unemployment rate drops more than 2 points to 5.6 percent
The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 5.6 percent in August, down from 7.9 percent in July, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
The figure represents 127,186 unemployed people, compared to 176,556 in July. It compares to an August 2019 rate of 2.8 percent, or 62,149 unemployed people.
“August showed a larger drop in the unemployment rate than we’ve seen for a few months,” said Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We are continuing to see our initial claims drop, staying under 10,000 for the past several weeks. We regained another 22,200 jobs this month but are still down more than 86,000 from this time last year.”
Washington said that the number of people who are working or actively looking for work is at its highest level ever, which he described as a sign that people are confident that there are jobs to be found.
Gov. Kay Ivey said the numbers are good news for Alabama.
“We have worked extremely hard to open Alabama’s businesses safely, and to put our hard-working families back to work,” Ivey said in a statement. “We know that challenges remain, and we will endeavor to meet them so that we can get back to our previous, pre-pandemic record-setting employment numbers.”
All the state’s counties and metro areas experienced a decrease in unemployment rates from July to August. The most gains were seen in the government sector, the professional and business services sector and the trade, transportation and utilities sector.
Counties with the lowest unemployment rates were:
- Clay County – 3.4 percent
- Randolph, Franklin, Marshall, Cullman, Cleburne and Cherokee Counties – 3.6 percent
- Blount County – 3.7 percent
Counties with the highest unemployment rates were:
- Wilcox County – 14.8 percent
- Lowndes County – 13.8 percent
- Greene County – 10.9 percent
Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are:
- Vestavia Hills – 3 percent
- Homewood – 3.2 percent
- Madison – 3.3 percent
Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are:
- Prichard – 15.4 percent
- Selma – 12.9 percent
- Bessemer – 10.7 percent
Former State Sen. David Burkette pleads guilty, avoids jail
Former State Sen. David Burkette will avoid jail time and be sentenced to a 30-day suspended sentence as part of a plea deal reached on Monday.
Burkette, who pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act, will also have to pay a $3,000 fine and serve 12 months of probation as part of the deal. He was sentenced in Montgomery Circuit Court on Monday after being charged two weeks ago with failing to deposit more than $3,600 in contributions into campaign accounts — a misdemeanor.
He also resigned his seat in the Alabama Senate as part of the plea deal.
“I’m just happy to still be here,” Burkette told the court following his sentencing, according to multiple media reports.
The former senator suffered a stroke in 2018 and has been confined to a wheelchair since. His current health status played a role in his sentence considerations.
The charges against Burkette stem from a series of complaints filed against him with the Alabama Ethics Commission — all of them related to various issues during his time on the Montgomery City Council. The charge for which he pleaded guilty occurred in 2015.
The Ethics Commission referred numerous charges to the Alabama attorney general’s office, according to sources familiar with the investigation of Burkette, but the attorney general’s office elected to charge Burkette with only the misdemeanor as part of the deal that saw him resign.
“Candidates for public office at the state, county and municipal levels must comply with the State’s Fair Campaign Practices Act,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall. “Personally profiting from campaign funds erodes public confidence in the system and will not be tolerated.”
Governor surveys damage from Hurricane Sally
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held press conferences in Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island after touring the storm damaged Alabama Gulf Coast, which was battered by Hurricane Sally last week.
Three Alabama counties have been approved for individual and public assistance from FEMA. Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia counties were approved for both IA and PA.
“When I was on the coast Friday, it was clear that there has been significant damage, and people are in need of relief,” Ivey said in a statement. “My Office has been working on putting in the request for individual and public assistance to help bring the needed aid, and I appreciate FEMA for quickly delivering to the people of Alabama. Being approved for individual and public assistance is an important step in the recovery process. Coastal Alabama, we are with you the whole way!”
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne and Sen. Doug Jones also toured the damaged areas.
“I appreciate FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor for quickly getting down to Alabama to check out the damage from #Sally,” Byrne said. ”President Trump has already approved Alabama’s request for Public Assistance and Individual Assistance, so I encourage everyone to register for help from FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362. Residents of Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile counties are currently eligible.”
“President Trump and his team have been outstanding to work with in making sure Alabama gets the help we need and deserve,” Byrne continued.
Ivey toured the area by helicopter to survey the damage.
“I’m sure it could be worse, but from what I’ve seen this morning in the flyover it is really, really bad,” Ivey said.
Over 200,000 people lost electric power due to Hurricane Sally. Alabama Power said Sunday that more than 99 percent of those people have had their power restored.
“Our electric companies are making progress every hour to restore power,” Byrne said. “A lot more work remains, but know that crews are working hard to get all the power back online. Hurricane Sally caused major damage to our electric infrastructure, and I appreciate all those working to get our lights turned back on.”
Alabama Power said that it may take into early this week to restore power to some portions of downtown Mobile, Bayou La Batre and Dauphin Island.
“With the Major Disaster Declaration, individuals may apply for disaster aid from FEMA,” Byrne explained.
You can apply online at disasterassistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).
Even though electric power has been restored, many homes have been severely damaged. Some are a total loss. Most homeowners are still waiting on insurance adjusters to complete their work. There was a lot of roof damage, not just in Gulf Shores, Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan and Orange Beach, but also in Foley, Robertsdale, Loxley, Bayou La Batre, Bay Minette and beyond — both from the winds and from the trees that fell.
Some homes near the coast were impacted by the storm surge, but many more well into Baldwin County as well as in Pensacola, Florida, were impacted by flooding. Many people are still in need of supplies for the cleanup as well as daily essentials.
“There are a number of food, water and supply distribution sites across Baldwin County,” Byrne said. “According to Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, these locations have MREs, tarps, bottled water, ice, and other supplies.”
- Baldwin County Coliseum (Robertsdale)
19477 Fairground Road Robertsdale, AL
- Seminole Fire Department
32268 Highway 90 Seminole, AL
- Lillian Community Club
34148 Widell Avenue; Lillian, AL
- Lana Park (Fairhope)
523 Volanta Avenue; Fairhope, AL
- Foley Soccer Complex
18507 US Highway 98; Foley, AL
- Orange Beach Community Center
27235 Canal Road; Orange Beach, AL
- Gulf Shores SportsPlex
19025 Oak Road W; Gulf Shores, AL
On Saturday, literally hundreds of cars lined up to pick up supplies from the Robertstale Church of God in Robertsdale.
Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores before dawn on Wednesday as a category two storm. Forecasters on Saturday had expected the storm to impact Louisiana but the hurricane turned to the northeast and made landfall in Alabama instead, gaining strength before coming ashore.
“No one expected this storm to be that strong,” Ivey said.
Ivey said most of the piers have been destroyed. Alabama’s State Fishing Pier had just finished a $2.5 million renovation. Now a large portion of the pier is missing. Most of the Gulf State Park campground went underwater. A few campers actually weathered the hurricane in their campers.
Debris removal is ongoing.
The Mobile County Commission announced that it will manage Hurricane Sally debris removal from all areas of Mobile County, located outside the 10 municipalities, except for the Town of Dauphin Island. Dauphin Island will be the only municipality to receive hurricane debris removal managed by the county.
To ensure pick-up removal, residents are asked to adhere to the following guidelines: Only Hurricane Sally-related vegetative and construction and demolition (C&D) debris will be collected. That excludes removal of normal household trash, appliances, electronics and household hazardous waste. Debris must be placed curbside or in right-of-way areas that do not block roadways or storm drains. Do not place material in drainage ditches. Vegetative debris should be piled separately from C&D debris material. Vegetative debris includes tree branches, limbs and non-bagged leaves. C&D debris includes building materials, fencing and bagged materials.
Mike Hubbard’s attorney asks court to reconsider prison sentence
One week after he began serving his prison sentence, the attorney for former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has asked the court to reconsider his four-year sentence.
Hubbard, 57, began serving his sentence on Sept. 11 after being free on an appeals bond for four years. He was ultimately convicted on six felony charges of using his office for personal gain.
“Mike Hubbard is not a danger to society, nor a threat to the public and a revised sentence will better serve the State’s interest in rehabilitation and the ends of justice,” Hubbard’s Birmingham attorney, David McKnight, wrote to the Lee County Circuit Court on Friday.
Hubbard had originally been convicted by a Lee County jury on 12 ethics violations, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld 11 of those convictions, but the Alabama Supreme Court later reversed five of those convictions and upheld six.
McKnight, in his motion to the court, argues that due process compels the court to reconsider Hubbard’s sentence, and that his removal from office, loss of the right to vote and “divestment of business interests” have already punished the former House speaker.
The state’s attorney general at the time of his conviction determined that Hubbard had bilked Alabama out of more than $2 million.