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Figures first female legislative leader makes history

Susan Britt

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By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY-At the Tuesday opening of the 2013 Legislative Session, Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) was welcomed by President Pro Temp Del Marsh (R-Anniston) as the new Minority Leader of the Senate. Figures takes this position as the first female to serve as a majority or minority leader in either the Senate or the House of Representatives in the state of Alabama.

“I am definitely very humbled and honored to serve in this position and I look forward to working with all the senators as we deliberate all the bills to come before us and can find common ground as we all work together towards solutions,” said Figures.

Marsh said, “Although I truly enjoyed working with Senator Bedford, I look forward to the future and working with Senator Figures. I am excited, Senator, I really think this is going to be a session with a lot of bipartisan support.”

On the desk of each senator and on the desk of Lt. Governor Kay Ivey were place paper sacks with goodies inside. There were red ones on the desks of Republicans and blue ones on the desks of Democrats. Figures identified these as “Lt. Governor’s survival kit and a Senator’s survival kits.” According to legislators the bag contained BandAids, and eraser and a nail file.

Figures opened saying, “First of all let me say that I give God on the honor and the glory, and I pray we will have a wonderful session, and look forward to that. I thank my democratic colleagues and thank them for their confidence in me as minority leader.”

There was a poem attached to the outside of all of the bags. Figures read the poem out loud stating that this is what she hoped would be the tone of this session among the senators both Republican and Democrat.

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“Author is unknown and there is no title:

Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, may be seem so very impossible to do.

But if you will try to trust and believe there are many great joys that you will receive.

The Lord makes us patient, understanding and kind, and we change with our hearts and not with our minds.

For as soon as love enters the open door, the faults we once saw are not there anymore.

And the times that were wrong begin too look right reviewed in the softness of love’s gentle light.

For loves gentle ways are wondrous and strange and there is nothing in light that love cannot change.”

She said that she hoped that the Alabama Senate could begin the session with love “because we are all God’s children and He wants us to love one another.”

The Senate will be in committee meetings on Wednesday and will re-convene Wednesday at 11:00 a.m.

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Elections

ACLU joins lawsuit over Alabama voting amid COVID-19 pandemic

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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The American Civil Liberties Union and its Alabama chapter have joined in a lawsuit attempting to make it easier for some voters to cast their ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Alabama joined in the lawsuit filed in May by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program against Gov. Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill. 

The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision last week blocked U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s order that would have allowed curbside voting statewide and waived certain absentee ballot requirements for voters in at least Jefferson, Mobile and Lee Counties.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19. 

The lawsuit was also brought on behalf of People First of Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute.

With the Supreme Court’s decision, voters in the upcoming July 14 Republican runoff election will have to submit a copy of their photo ID and have either two adult witnesses sign their absentee ballot requests or have it notarized. 

“Alabama is in the middle of a deadly and ongoing pandemic but is refusing to take common-sense steps to protect the public’s health and their right to vote for all elections in 2020. That’s why we are taking legal action,” said Alora Thomas-Lundborg, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project in a statement. 

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“In the midst of an out-of-control pandemic, Alabama officials should be doing everything they can to ensure that all voters have a safe, fair, and equal opportunity to cast a ballot. Instead, officials have chosen politics over public health and safety. They are fighting to make it harder to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted. This litigation is crucial to ensure safe, fair, and equal opportunity to vote,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, in a statement.

“As we head into preparations for the November general election with COVID-19 cases rising in Alabama, it is critical that our election officials take seriously the protection of voters, poll workers, and our democracy,” said Caren Short, senior staff attorney for SPLC in a statement. “In this critical election season, we are grateful to have Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Alabama join this effort to ensure that every voter is heard. No voter should have to choose between exercising their fundamental right to vote and their health or the health of a loved one.”

Deuel Ross, NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund senior counsel, said in a statement that over the July 4th weekend, Alabama reported nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases.

“Yet, state leaders insist on enforcing draconian restrictions on in-person and absentee voting that no other state finds necessary to combat the almost nonexistent issue of voter fraud,” Ross said. “These restrictions are needless in normal circumstances. They are deadly in a pandemic. At trial in September, we will work to make sure that state leaders comply with their constitutional duty to protect the rights and safety of all voters.”

In a Tweet on July 2, Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill expressed gratitude for the Supreme Court’s decision. 

“With the news that we have received a Stay in this process, I am excited that the United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of those who believe in strict interpretation of the Constitution and has decided to grant the Stay and not endorse legislating from the bench,” Merrill said in the tweet.

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Health

Fauci calls on governors in states with surging cases to issue mask orders

As COVID-19 deaths in Alabama passed 1,000 on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci called on governors to issue face mask orders to slow the spread of the virus.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a video press conference with Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.

As COVID-19 deaths in Alabama passed 1,000 on Tuesday, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force called on governors to issue face mask orders to slow the spread of the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, when asked by APR whether he’d like to see governors in states with surging cases institute statewide orders to wear masks, said yes.

“I do believe a statewide mask order is important because there is a variability in people taking seriously or even understanding the benefit of masks,” Fauci said during a press conference, hosted by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama on Tuesday. “Masks make a difference. It is one of the primary fundamental tools we have.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on June 30 extended her “safer-at-home” order until July 31, but declined to institute any further mandates despite surging new cases and hospitalizations.

Fauci also said that social distancing and the closure of bars are important to communities looking to slow the spread.

“Fundamental things like masking, distancing, washing hands, closing bars — if you do that, I think it will be a giant step toward interfering with the spread in your community,” Fauci said.

At least 1,007 people have died statewide from COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

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New daily COVID-19 cases in Alabama dipped below 900 for the first time in six days, but just barely, with 888 new cases on Tuesday. Thirty-one percent of the state’s total confirmed cases have come within the last two weeks.

Alabama’s hospitals on Monday were caring for more COVID-19 patients than at any time since the pandemic began.

UAB Hospital had 86 coronavirus patients on Monday, the highest the hospital had seen. Huntsville Hospital had 72 COVID-19 patients on Monday, and the surge in cases prompted the hospital to cancel elective surgeries and convert three surgical floors to COVID-19 care, according to AL.com.

At East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika there were 41 COVID-19 patients on Monday, which was the highest the hospital has seen in weeks and not far from the hospital’s peak of 54 patients on April 11.

The average age of those becoming infected with coronavirus has dropped by 15 years since the beginning of the pandemic, Fauci said, which has lowered the overall death rate due to the virus, as younger people usually fair better, but not if that young person has an underlying medical condition.

“We are now getting multiple examples of young people who are getting sick, getting hospitalized and some of them even requiring intensive care,” Fauci said, adding that even those young people who have coronavirus but are asymptomatic can spread the virus to others, who may be more compromised.

Fauci warned against pointing to the overall declining death rate and becoming lax about coronavirus, and said that “it’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death.”

“There’s so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus. Don’t get yourself into false complacency,” Fauci said.

Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told APR on Monday that it may take several weeks to learn whether the increasing number of those hospitalized in Alabama will worsen and require ICUs and ventilators, and possibly lead to a rise in deaths.

“We just don’t know yet. We don’t know which way we’re going to go,” Williamson said Monday. “We just know we got a whole lot more cases than we had a month ago, and we’ve got a lot more hospitalizations than we had a month ago.”

Asked about his thoughts on the state of the virus in Alabama, Fauci said that what’s alarming is the slope of the curve of new daily cases.

“When you see a slope that goes up like that you’ve got to be careful that you don’t get into what’s called an exponential phase, where every day it can even double, or more,” Fauci said. “You’re not there yet, so you have an opportunity, a window to get your arms around this, and to prevent it from getting worse.”

Speaking on what’s become the politicization of the wearing of face masks, Fauci said that politicization of any public health matter has negative consequences. President Donald Trump does not wear face masks in public, prompting concern from many that by doing so he’s suggesting to the public that masks aren’t needed. The issue is divided rather sharply along partisan lines.

In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, two-thirds of voters, 67 percent, said Trump should wear a face mask when he is out in public, but while 90 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents say the president should wear a mask in public, just 38 percent of Republicans said the same.

“I mean, obviously today, it’s no secret to anybody who lives in the United States that we have a great deal of polarization in our country, unfortunately,” Fauci said. “We hope that changes, but there’s no place for that when you’re making public health recommendations, analysis of data, or any policies that are made. That will always be a detriment to do that.”

 

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Health

Governor awards $18 million for COVID-19 testing in nursing homes

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday awarded $18.27 million of federal COVID-19 relief money to the Alabama Nursing Home Association Education Foundation for coronavirus testing and surveillance in the state’s nursing homes.  The Coronavirus Relief Fund money is to be used to test and monitor both nursing home staff and residents, according to a press release from Ivey’s office Tuesday.

“During the pandemic, it is critical we take care of our seniors and most vulnerable residents,” Ivey said in a statement. “Some of our largest outbreaks of COVID-19 were within nursing homes, and we must do everything possible to contain the spread within their walls. Protecting these vital members of the community, as well as the dedicated staff who take care of them, is precisely the intent of the Coronavirus Relief Fund.”

The $18.27 million for testing in nursing homes comes from Alabama’s approximately $1.9 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds.

“I am extremely grateful to Governor Kay Ivey and her administration for supporting the ongoing testing of residents and staff in our facilities,” said Brandon Farmer, president and CEO of the Alabama Nursing Home Association, in a statement. “This virus is not like anything we’ve ever seen and has hit our nursing homes and staff exceptionally hard. I am relieved to know we will have assistance to contain the spread of this virus and hopefully be able to eliminate it from our nursing homes.”

John Matson, communications director for the Alabama Nursing Home Association, told APR by phone Tuesday that testing for COVID-19 has been a financial burden on nursing homes “and this will go a long way in helping cover that and relieve that strain that our members are experiencing.”

There’s already been a great deal of testing among staff and residents across Alabama’s nursing homes, and the federal aid will only increase that testing and ensure that the cost of future tests will be reimbursed, Matson said. The organization continues to work out details of a plan to implement the testing and surveillance, and once those plans are ready the association will reach out to all nursing homes statewide to communicate that information, he said.

The nonprofit Alabama Nursing Home Association Education Foundation, is to provide a testing strategy and screening protocols and administer the federal aid, according to the release.

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There had been 1,794 confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents in Alabama nursing homes as of June 21, the latest data made available by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Of those cases, 336 residents have died, according to the federal agency.

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Elections

GOP candidate Tommy Tuberville leads Trump “boat parade” in Orange Beach

Brandon Moseley

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Tommy Tuberville participates in a Trump "boat parade." (Contributed)

Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville rode in the lead boat in a “boat parade” on Sunday in Orange Beach, celebrating Independence Day and the launch of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

Hundreds of boats participated in the Trump parade in the Perdido Pass area. WKRG TV estimates that more than 8,000 people joined. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores boats joined boats from Pensacola and Dauphin Island.

Trump supporter and Alabama Republican Executive Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. was also present.

“It was Awesome having Coach Tommy Tuberville on The TRUMP Boat at Orange Beach Alabama,” Hooper said. “Tommy was a Great Coach and he will be a Great US Senator. It’s Great To Be A TRUMP/ TUBERVILLE AMERICAN. Everybody was so Happy cheering for The President and Tommy on! Fun Day!”

Hooper is a former state representative from Montgomery.

Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. The Arkansas native lives in Auburn.

President Donald Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday.

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“Today we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt,” Trump said. “I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defamed, their legacy will never ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”

Trump accused opponents of trying to dismantle America.

“Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” Trump alleged. “In so doing they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.”

“President Trump has given several good Speeches,” Hooper said. “This Speech was by far his best! It was straight up AWESOME! His speech was all about the Greatness of America! President Trump loves our Country and its great History. President Reagan has given some of the best speeches ever. This speech topped Reagan’s best. As for Perry O. Hooper Jr., I would get in a foxhole and fight for him to the end. God Bless President Donald J. Trump and GOD BLESS THE USA!”

Trump faces a stiff challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading in the polling.

Tuberville has been endorsed by Trump in the July 14 Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate. Tuberville faces former Sen. Jeff Sessions.

 

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