From the Department of Senior Services
MONTGOMERY – Both Judiciary Committees, in the House and the Senate, gave SB 29 and HB 45 favorable reports during the first week of the 2013 Legislative Session. The bills will now move for discussion and final passage on the House and Senate Floor. If passed, the bills will become the Protecting Alabama’s Elders Act. The companion bills are proposing to create new articles in the Criminal Code to combat elder abuse and financial exploitation.
“As public officials it is our moral obligation to protect senior citizens from both physical and financial predators. The well being of defenseless seniors from these criminals will be a top priority during this legislative session,” stated Senator Cam Ward, Sponsor of the Senate bill, SB 29.
This legislation will strengthen Alabama’s laws to protect our seniors and provide our law enforcement agencies with the tools needed to punish those who hurt them. If passed, the legislation would create additional section(s) in the criminal code for elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. These new sections will provide law enforcement and prosecutors with additional avenues to prosecute elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.
Currently, the penalties are found in the Adult Protective Services Act and apply only to victims who could be categorized as a “protected person” but anyone can be scammed or abused. The proposed legislation does not change the current APS penalties, but adds new sections to the Alabama criminal code. The new criminal code sections would apply to victims who are 60 years of age or older, regardless of mental competency, so all that law enforcement officials will have to prove is the victim’s age.
Elder abuse and neglect can be prosecuted as first degree, second degree, or third degree abuse or neglect depending on the type and severity of harm to the victim. The penalties range from a class A misdemeanor for elder abuse and neglect in the third degree to a class A felony for intentional abuse or neglect which causes serious physical injury. A class A felony carries a sentence of ten (10) years to life in Alabama.
The financial exploitation penalties apply to elderly victims (60 and older) who have been exploited by deception, intimidation, undue influence, force, or threat of force. Additionally, agents under a power of attorney, guardians, and conservators who exploit the person they have a responsibility to may be subject to the criminal penalties. The financial exploitation penalties range from a class A misdemeanor for exploitation of money or property totaling $500 or less to a class B felony for exploitation of money or property exceeding $2,500. A class B felony carries a sentence of two (2) to twenty (20) years in Alabama.
“This legislation is important to give the tools to law enforcement that they need to prosecute those who attempt to take advantage of Alabama’s seniors,” explained Representative Paul DeMarco, House Sponsor of bill HB 45. “I am pleased that the legislature recognizes the importance of this bill and has acted swiftly to put it in place.”
The legislation was drafted by the Alabama Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse which was created during the 2012 Legislation Session. The Council has approximately 30 agencies and organizations who participate.
“This legislation is a collaborative effort between 30 agencies and organizations who participate in the Council and shows how dedicated this administration is to protecting Alabama’s seniors,” explained Neal Morrison, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Senior Services which is the Lead Agency designated for the Council.
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.