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Governor Bentley attempts to gain support for executive amendments

Beth Clayton



By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY–Governor Bentley is working to get the Republican leadership to support his executive amendment to HB658, which would delay implementation of the Alabama Accountability Act until 2015.

Wednesday, the governor announced his plans, citing fiscal responsibility and the need to allow failing schools time to improve as reasons why implementation should be delayed.

On Thursday, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said that he would not bring the bill with the governor’s amendments to a vote in the senate, even if it passed the house.

Friday, several senate Democrats held a press conference to call for a repeal of HB84.

In the letter the governor sent to the members of the legislature with his executive amendments attached, he stated his reasons very clearly to the legislative body.

“The Education Trust Fund owes the Education Rainy Day Account $423 million by the end of fiscal year 2015. The state is constitutionally required to pay its debts,” Bentley wrote.


Bentley continued to say that his budget recommendation included $100 million to repay the Rainy Day Account, however the budget that passed only included $35 million. The governor said that a delay allows the budget the ability to repay the debt before implementing the tax credits for failing schools.

Additionally, the governor said in the letter that delaying implementation allows failing schools time to improve. “For years, schools have needed greater flexibility to better serve their students. We have provided that flexibility in the Alabama Accountability Act, and my executive amendment will not change that,” Bentley wrote.

“This amendment will give schools the appropriate amount of time to put that flexibility into practice. Local educators now have the opportunity to develop their own plans for improvement,” Bentley continued.


Friday, after the announcements by Mash and the senate Democrats, the governor wrote another letter to the legislature.

The governor assured the members of the legislature that “this decision was not made in haste, nor is it political for me.”

“I have wrestled with this issue and began conversations with the legislative leadership soon after HB84 was passed in February. My comments regarding an executive amendment at that time fell flat as leadership made it clear that sending an amendemnt back to the Legislature would kill the bill entirely,” the governor said.

Despite the governor’s claim that he has discussed this with the legislative leaders, Marsh says otherwise.

“We passed the school choice bill almost three months ago and he signed it and never did he raise any of these concerns,” Marsh said.

In his second letter to the legislators, the governor pointed out how the budget passed through the legislature makes this change necessary, since the governor’s budget recommendation to pay back the Rainy Day Account was ignored.

“We have made a promise to the people of Alabama, and are mandated by law, to repay the ETF Rainy Day Fund by Fiscal Year 2015,” the governor wrote.

The governor showed how, buy refusing to accept his budget recommendation, his executive amendment is the only fiscally responsible option.

“We owe $423 million over the next 2.5 years. Let’s assume, optimistically, that we can repay $200 million at the end of this fiscal year. That leaves $223 million left for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. My budget recommendation for fiscal year 2014 included $100 million to the Rainy Day Fund. The budget you sent me last week only includes $35 million for fiscal year 2014. That would leave nearly $190 million left to repay in fiscal year 2015, and that is why I am sending this executive amendment,” the governor wrote.

The governor continued to say that he does not want to see every dollar of Education Trust Fund growth committed to repaying debt in 2015.

“Instead, I would like to pay back a significant portion of our debt in fiscal year 2014 and spend some growth dollars in fiscal year 2015 on new priorities and efforts to improve education around the state,” Bentley wrote.

The governor concluded his second letter to the legislators by telling them that he has received support for his executive amendment from the people of Alabama, and encouraging the members of the Legislature to talk to their constituents about this issue.

“I ask that you think about the financial, educational and practical implications of your vote,” Bentley wrote to the legislators.

If Marsh continues with his plan to kill HB658 with the governor’s executive amendments attached, all the changes to HB84, the Alabama Accountability Act, will remain in place.

These questions may be revisited next session if action is not taken Monday, on the last legislative day of the 2013 regular session.



Paper lottery said to be close to having votes for House passage

Bill Britt



A yet to be submitted paper only lottery bill by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, the House budget chairman, reportedly has over 60 co-sponsors, according to those familiar with the legislation.

Any lottery measure requires a constitutional amendment that can only pass with a three-fifths vote of the membership in both chambers, which equates to 63 votes in the House and 21 in the Senate.

It now appears that Clouse either has the votes to pass the House or is within close striking distance.

Clouse’s bill would create a paper lottery with scratch-offs and PowerBall options but would exclude video lottery terminals. Clouse said he expects it to generate around $167 million annually.

Concerns expressed by those who understand gaming-finance is that Clouse’s paper lottery is a game of demising returns and will slow or completely end any attempt to enact a comprehensive gaming package which would generate substantially more income for the state at 4.5 times more than Clouse’s projection.

Last week, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, informed reporters that public opinion is driving the debate on lottery legislation.

“Legislators are hearing from constituents who are asking why all of our neighboring states have lotteries and other gaming and we don’t,” McCutcheon said.


McCutcheon says public opinion is driving gambling debate

For the past several years, polling has shown that a majority of Alabama voters want a lottery. A recent survey found that voters favor a lottery by over 60 percent.

That constituents are driving the debate may have more to do with the calendar than the actual voters’ wishes.


It is widely thought that any controversial legislation should be passed in the first two years of the quadrennium to allow any voter resentment to decrease before the next election. It is suggested that this is thinking that is motivating the move to pass a lottery this year.

During her 2020 State of the State address, Gov. Kay Ivey tried to seize the issue of a state lottery and gaming, asking the Legislature for “time to get the facts” on which gaming proposals are best for the state and then bring a plan to the voters.

Ivey seizes gaming issue

Ivey announced the members of a panel she’s ordered to study how much revenue the state could bring in from an expansion of gaming and a state lottery on Feb. 14.

McCutcheon recently told APR that he was standing by the governor’s request that the Legislature give her time to sort out the gaming issue. Still, last week’s statement seemed to open the door a crack toward allowing a lottery bill to go forward.

Before the 2020 session, McCutcheon said that he wanted a grand bargain between the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and pari-mutual track owners. He warned that if a deal between all the parties could not be reached, then there would likely not be any gambling bills brought forward in 2020.

That changed after Ivey’s announcement and his office said: “The Speaker will be working with the Governor in her efforts.”

Speaker McCutcheon standing with governor on gaming workgroup

McCutcheon’s position is seminal on any issue coming before the lower chamber with even the slightest ambiguity or hinds of change in his thinking, causing major upheavals within the State House.

State senators who asked for anonymity to speak their minds believe that a paper lottery is dead on arrival in the upper chamber, raising further questions.

Alabama is one of just five states in the country without a lottery, and it is now the only state in the South without one. Mississippi began its lottery this year.

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Doug Jones: Anniston could still be called upon to treat coronavirus patients

Brandon Moseley



U.S. Sen. Doug Jones issued a statement Monday about the possibility of coronavirus patients being transported to and housed at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama.

“Over the weekend, my staff and I participated in briefings regarding the announcement that Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive for the coronavirus might be transported to and housed at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama,” Jones said. “We were advised that the announcement on Saturday regarding the CDP was premature, and although the CDP is one of a number of contingency sites, at this time, the multi-agency plan anticipates using other sites first.”

“It is my understanding that this information is being provided to officials in Anniston, and the folks at the CDP have been told that if their facility is needed in the future, adequate notice and details will be provided,” Jones continued. “I urge the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Centers for Disease Control to do all they can to provide the best care possible for those who must endure quarantine and those who are suffering from this virus.”

“My first priority is to protect the people of Alabama, and I have the utmost confidence that, if called upon, the unmatched professionals at the CDP will rise to the occasion,” Jones stated. “I urge the Administration to continue to keep Congress and the American people informed about their response to this virus and their efforts to prevent any further infections in the United States. We will continue to monitor this evolving situation with hope and compassion for all affected.”

The Calhoun County Commission has announced plans to sue to prevent the City of Anniston from being used to house infected virus patients. They are arguing that while the CDP is used for training purposes, it is not equipped to deal with providing medical care for potentially dozens of people needing serious medical treatment in a quarantine situation.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Coronaviruses are a common family of viruses that is found throughout much of the animal kingdom. This strain of the virus appears to have originated among bats, which are eaten by the Chinese. The virus appears to have crossed species and was first identified in China’s Wuhan City in Hubei Province. Researchers are referring to the disease caused by this strain COVID-19.

As of Monday there have been 80,154 COVID-19 diagnosed cases. 27,591 of those have recovered and been released from medical care. 2,701 people have died from this. Most of the deaths have been in China; but the death toll now includes twelve in Iran, nine in South Korea, seven in Italy, two in Hong Kong, as well as one death each in the Philippines, France, Japan, and Taiwan. This leaves 49,762 active cases of the illness. Of these currently Infected patients, 40,547 (81%) have mild conditions. 9,215 (19%) are currently in serious or critical condition.


There are 691 cases of COVID-19 that have been diagnosed among the passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess. Four of these have already died. 35 of these are in serious or critical condition. Only ten are totally recovered from their illness. Only a portion of the passengers were Americans.

To this point, there are only 53 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, but that is up from 35 on Sunday. There have been no deaths yet, but six of these are in serious or critical condition. The stock market was down more than one thousand points on Monday due to fears that the coronavirus is going to negatively impact global trade, particularly the flow of manufactured goods coming out of China, the world’s second-largest economy. The outbreak in South Korea is particularly alarming for Alabamians given our close trade ties with the country, particularly with Hyundai having a manufacturing plant in Montgomery.

For more about the possible coronavirus pandemic, click here.


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Sheriffs want a database with all concealed carry permits

Brandon Moseley



Monday the Alabama Sheriff’s Association announced their support for a bill that would create a statewide repository of information about concealed carry permits and would allow officers to check the validity of a concealed carry permit.

House Bill 308 is sponsored by State Representative Shane Stringer (R-Mobile).

“In the past 13 months, Alabamians have encountered a terrible onslaught of violent conduct towards law enforcement officers,” the Sheriffs announced in a press release. “We have suffered a record seven deaths of law enforcement officers in Alabama alone as a result of handgun violence. Recognizing this disturbing trend, the Alabama Sheriffs Association is announcing the creation of a new information system designed for the protection and assistance of all law enforcement officers in the State of Alabama. The Alabama Responding Officer Warning System (AROWS) is designed to verify the validity of an Alabama issued Concealed Carry Permit and will be automatically accessed by law enforcement through the L.E.T.S./ACJIC criminal justice information system any time an officer performs a traffic stop or engages in other law enforcement investigations. Among other data, it will contain critical information such as recent arrests for violent offenses to give officers a clear picture of the persons they are dealing with.’

House Bill 308, introduced in the Alabama Legislature last Thursday, codifies the AROWS system. It is sponsored by Representatives Stringer, Reynolds, Farley, Isbell, Marques, Pettus, Simpson, Sorrells, Shaver, McCampbell, Hanes, Ledbetter and Rich.

In addition to the statewide concealed carry permit repository, HB308 also standardizes the appearance, size and information content of all concealed carry pistol permits across the state to better assist officers in recognizing fraudulent concealed carry permits.

Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham is the current president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association.

“We owe an absolute duty to every Alabama officer who puts his life on the line for us every day to see that he or she makes it home to their family safely,” Sheriff Cunningham said. “The AROWS system is a huge step towards arming him with as much information as possible to ensure that happens and we don’t suffer yet another officer shot or killed.”


The Sheriffs have consistently opposed “Constitutional carry” laws that would end the state requirement that Alabama citizens must purchase a concealed carry permit from their local sheriff’s department. They also oppose legislation giving the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency the authority over managing a state database.

“In recent legislative sessions there have been efforts to remove the local sheriff’s ability to oversee the issuance, monitoring and revocation of pistol permits and transfer this duty to an overworked and understaffed state agency in Montgomery,” the Sheriffs wrote in a statement. “Sheriffs are in our communities, at our schools, in our churches and on our streets every day protecting and serving our citizens. They come in contact with both good law-abiding citizens as well as the bad ones. They know their constituents better than anyone and it is critical that he or she remain in this role.”

“We applaud the Alabama Legislature for their assistance in this effort,” the Sheriffs continued. “Members of both the House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate have been extremely supportive and helpful in making sure our law enforcement officers are kept safe. This collaborative effort between the Alabama Legislature and the Alabama Sheriffs is a great example of governmental entities collaborating to keep all Alabama citizens safe and well protected.”


Alabama is already an “open-carry” state, where all citizens, who have not lost their gun rights, are entitled to wear their guns openly on their person. Covering the weapon with a jacket or blazer or putting it in a purse however requires having a concealed carry permit. Transporting a gun in a motor vehicle, including a motorcycle, unless it is unloaded and locked in a box out of reach also requires the purchase of a concealed carry permit. Alabama citizens who do not want to purchase a permit, but who still want to have a weapon with them in their vehicles can legally have a long gun (rifle or shotgun) with them.

Senate Bill 1 “Constitutional carry” is being sponsored by State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa). It has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Moore legal team files motion for Judge Rochester to recuse

Brandon Moseley



Attorney Melissa Isaak filed Thursday on behalf of her client, Judge Roy Moore, a motion to recuse Judge John Rochester from further consideration of the legal case between Moore and his accuser, Leigh Corfman.

The Moore team said that is the case due to the following reasons: “Judge Rochester’s continued decision to preside over this case despite the fact that his appointment was “temporary” and expired on January 14, 2019 over a year ago, Judge Rochester’s untimely delay of approximately five months in ruling on dispositive motions in this case brought only to accuse Judge Moore of defamation for merely denying false allegations against him, which is not even a valid cause of action, Judge Rochester’s open friendship, support, and financial contributions for Doug Jones in his 2017 Senate campaign against Judge Moore, according to his own personal Facebook account, Open and virulent criticism of Judge Moore by Linda Rochester, wife of Judge John Rochester during the 2017 Senate campaign on her own personal Facebook page, Judge Rochester’s criticism and mocking of Christianity on his Facebook page with full knowledge of Judge Moore’s strong belief in God, Judge Rochester’s political animus against the Republican Party and President Donald Trump who supported Judge Moore in the 2017 general election, Judge Rochester’s obvious political bias in his quick response to set a trial date in this case, within two weeks of the upcoming Republican primary which will determine the opponent in the general election against Doug Jones.”

Moore claims, “As stated in Attorney Isaak’s motion, any individual would have a solid basis for questioning Judge John Rochester’s impartiality, political motivation, and bias in presiding over this case.”
Moore is claiming that Judge John Rochester’s friendship, support, and financial contribution to Doug Jones in combination with his wife’s open criticism of Judge Moore during the 2017 special election for US Senate in which Judge Moore was a candidate, mandates immediate recusal of Judge John Rochester in this frivolous action.

Moore has also objected in the past to this case being in Montgomery County court, when Corfman’s allegations of improper sexual conduct between her and Moore in 1976 allegedly occurred in Etowah County.

Corfman claims that Moore and her engaged in inappropriate touching through their underwear in 1976 when Corfman was just 15 years old. Under Alabama law, then as now, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16, not 15. Corfman’s allegation, along with allegations by women dating from decades ago were released in an article by the Washington Post after Moore had won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2017. The shocking allegations were trumpeted by the national press as well as by Democrats. Moore narrowly lost the December 2017 special election to Clinton era U.S. Attorney Doug Jones (D), the only time a Democrat has won any statewide election in Alabama since 2008.

Moore has steadfastly denied the allegations. Corfman sued Moore in Montgomery Court after the election for defamation of character. Moore has since sued Corfman, the other accusers, and the architects of the Reed Hoffman financed, illicit Russian style tactics, which Moore claims were largely responsible with depressing Republican turnout and increasing the efforts by GOP moderates to defeat Moore by writing in the name of some candidate other than Moore.

While many Republicans accepted the accusations against Moore as “credible” they rejected similar accusations against Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh.


Moore was twice elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and is a current candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Jones.

The Republican primary is on March 3.

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