By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House Republicans held a press conference to announce their agenda for the 2014 legislative session which begins on January 14.
The Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn, the House Majority Leader Micky Hammon (R) from Decatur, Agenda Platform Committee Chair Representative Randy Davis (R) from Daphne) and other members of the House Republican Caucus met with hand picked members of the Alabama press corps in a Thursday press conference to unveiled their Republican Caucus’ 2014 “Common Sense Conservative” legislative agenda.
The embattled Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard said, “Our agenda earned its label because each of these bills are commonsense measures that represent the conservative beliefs and principles that Republicans embrace. They continue the record of fundamental reforms, constitutional rights protections, and pro-business, job growth initiatives that Republicans have passed since taking control of the Legislature almost four years ago.”
Rep. Micky Hammon said that taxpayer relief would be at the forefront of the Alabama Republican election year agenda. Hammon said, “As opposed to the tax and spend Democrats in D.C., a review of our ‘Commonsense Conservative’ agenda shows that House Republicans want to make 2014 the ‘Year of Taxpayer Relief’ in Alabama. It also reflects our deep commitment to social issues like protecting unborn life and preserving personal religious and moral freedoms from federal mandates.”
The House Republican Caucus Platform Committee that drafted the agenda, Randy Davis, said, “When we brought the agenda before the full Caucus, it was approved unanimously because it truly reflects the bedrock conservative beliefs of most Republicans. I am confident that the bills in our ‘Commonsense Conservative’ agenda will secure quick approval when brought up for consideration on the House floor.”
Davis said that every member of the caucus was invited to submit their bills to the Platform Committee for consideration.
The Small Business Tax Relief Act and Business Tax Streamlining Act promises to give business owners some immediate tax relief and an easier filing process. The Tax Elimination Act promises to dissolve taxes that cost the state more money to collect than they take in.
The Alabama Taxpayer Audit Protection Act promises to prevent the state of Alabama from using the audit process to target Alabamians for their political beliefs like the federal government’s Internal Revenue Service has been used to allegedly target opponents of President Obama’s agenda at the national level.
The Wetumpka Tea Party is one of the groups that apparently received abuse from the IRS for their political speech.
The Taxpayer Bill of Rights promises to reform the tax appeals process more balanced and fair for both business and individuals.
The House Republicans endorsed Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh’s (R) from Anniston Revolving Door Act. Marsh’s legislation would prevent legislators lobbying either legislative body for at least two years after leaving office. This session has been marred by the spectacle of legislators quitting in the middle of the session to accept jobs with firms and organizations which lobby their committees. In just the last six months Republican Reps: Jay Love, Barry Mask, and Jim Barton left the state legislature to accept positions that includes possibly lobbying the legislature as part of their duties.
The Healthcare Right of Conscience Act would prevent healthcare professionals from being forced to provide services that violate their conscience and moral beliefs. Critics of the Obama administration have charged that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the over ten thousand pages of new regulations written by the Department of Health and Human Services have stripped pharmacists, nurses, doctors, and other health care workers from opting out of participating in controversial medical procedures that they object to on a moral basis. It is legally debatable as to whether or not the state of Alabama has any authority to protect anyone from something being ordered by any federal statute.
The Adoption Tax Credit will help provide more Alabama children with secure and loving homes.
The Statutory Immunity for Teachers and State Employees Act promises to give state employees, officials, and education workers clear cut and codified immunity from being sued while acting in their official capacity. Last year teachers were finally given liability insurance by the state. Limiting their liability may help the state get more favorable rates on that coverage.
The Republican leaders said that economic development and job creation remains a major focus and they are promising to release information about a major Workforce Development Initiative before the session begins.
Nursing Home Association announces plan for indoor visits
The Alabama Nursing Home Association today announced a plan to resume indoor visitation in nursing homes and continue outdoor visitation. The resumption of limited indoor visits is possible because of a change in guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and an amended state health order.
“It’s important for nursing home residents and their family members to be able to visit in person and this is another step toward returning life to normal in nursing homes,” said Brandon Farmer, President & CEO of the Alabama Nursing Home Association. “We are pleased CMS is moving in this direction and thankful Governor Kay Ivey and Dr. Scott Harris amended the state health order to accommodate this change. We are working closely with Governor Ivey’s administration and the Alabama Department of Public Health to help our members understand and implement these guidelines.”
According to the CMS guidance referenced in the amended state health order, visitors and nursing home staff must follow certain requirements for the limited indoor visits. The CMS guidance says, “we encourage facilities in medium and high-positivity counties to test visitors, if feasible. Facilities may also encourage visitors to be tested on their own prior to coming to the facility (e.g. within 2-3 days) with proof of negative test results and date of the test.” Visitors must also adhere to CMS’ core principles of COVID-19 infection prevention and pass a health screening. The requirements are designed to protect the health of nursing home residents and staff members. Visitors who do not comply with the infection prevention requirements will not be allowed to visit. According to CMS, nursing homes located in a county with a positivity rate of greater than 10% will not be allowed to offer indoor visitation.
“Resident safety is our top priority as we expand visitation and the CMS guidelines will be closely followed. The public must continue to do its part to lower the spread of COVID-19. Decreasing community spread and consistent testing are key to our ability to offer indoor visits,” Farmer said.
For indoor visitation, CMS says nursing homes must have no new onset of COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days and not be currently conducting outbreak testing, limit the number of visitors per resident, limit the number of visitors in the building at one time and limit visitors’ movement inside the building. Visitors must wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose and practice social distancing while visiting their loved one during their entire visit. Violation of these policies could result in denial of future indoor visits.
CMS said outdoor visitation is still preferable to indoor visits and outdoor visits should be held whenever practicable. All visitors of Alabama nursing homes will need to schedule an appointment to visit their loved one.
Below is a list of do’s and don’ts for nursing home visitors.
Nursing Home Visitor Do’s and Don’ts
- Do schedule an appointment to visit with your loved one
- Do use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before, during and after your visit
- Do wear a mask covering your mouth and nose during your entire visit in the facility
- Do maintain social distance of at least six feet from staff and residents
- Do keep out of areas that are not designated for visitation
- Don’t remove your mask while in the facility
- Don’t leave the designated visitation area
- Don’t come to the facility without an appointment
- Don’t come to the facility if you have any symptoms – coughing, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of sense of taste or smell – even if you attribute these symptoms to some other cause (allergies or cold).
Birmingham City Council approves 2021 budget
The Birmingham City Council late Tuesday night approved Mayor Randall Woodfin’s budget for the city, hard-hit by COVID-19.
Woodfin’s $412 million budget is almost 9 percent lower than the previous budget, and includes numerous cuts to staffing, including a hiring freeze, suspension of nine paid holidays, furloughs and salary cuts of between 3 percent and 10 percent for some workers. The city projects a $63 million shortfall due to the pandemic, which has already resulted in a loss of $17 million caused by reductions in sales tax, use tax, occupational tax, lodging tax and business licenses, according to a press release from the city Wednesday morning.
“This has been a budget of difficult choices. None of our decisions were taken lightly,” Woodfin said in a statement. “I want to thank the council for working with me to maintain critical, essential services for our residents with the revenue available to the city. The economic impact of COVID-19 has put every city in a similar position. Together, we will work through this crisis to revitalize our neighborhoods.”
Among city workers furloughed are 61 full-time and 23 part-time workers from culture and recreation facilities, and 91 full-time and 67 part-time library employees. Those library workers were furloughed Friday, and the move prompted protests from some of those library workers and their supporters outside City Hall before the Council meeting on Sept. 22.
Woodfin’s budget maintains the city’s FY2020 level of funding for street resurfacing, demolition, weed abatement and continues prioritizing increases to the city’s pension fund, according to the release.
In an effort to balance out losses due to the pandemic the city has also eliminated 444 vacant positions, suspended merit raises, cost of living adjustments and longevity pay. Woodfin himself also took a voluntary 10 percent pay cut.
Both the city’s capital and operating budgets can be reviewed here.
Shelby meets with Barrett, is “confident” she is the right choice to serve on Supreme Court
Wednesday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) met with Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Following the meeting, Shelby stated his strong support of Judge Barrett’s nomination. Shelby said that Barrett “Will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court.”
“After speaking with Judge Barrett, I am confident that she is the right choice to serve on the Supreme Court,” said Senator Shelby. “Judge Barrett is exceptionally qualified for this role and maintains strong conservative values and a deep commitment to our Constitution. I have no doubt that Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court.”
Shelby expressed his strong support for President Donald J. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
“I look forward to supporting Judge Barrett’s nomination to serve on our nation’s highest court, and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Shelby continued.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has announced that Barrett will get a vote on the Senate floor.
Senate Democrats have objected to the nomination being confirmed before the November 3 general election.
Pres. Trump defended his decision to nominate Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court during Tuesday’s presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
“Elections have consequences, we have the Senate and we have the White House,” Trump said. “She is outstanding.”…..“We won the election and we have the right to do it.”
Since her nomination by President Trump, Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been making routine visits to Capitol Hill to meet with Senators. Many Democratic Senators, following the lead of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), are refusing to meet with Judge Barrett.
Barrett fills the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett currently serves as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She clerked for legendary Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as well as Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Before and while serving on the federal bench, she was a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School. Barrett is a devout Catholic and mother of seven, including two adopted Haitian children.
Shelby said that Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s excellent academic achievements, legal expertise, and judicial record prove that she is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.
It is the constitutional responsibility of the U.S. Senate to provide “advice and consent” to the President on all executive nominations, including judges to federal courts, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court.
Richard Shelby has served in the United States Senate since 1987. All of the eight current Supreme Court Justices, even Ginsburg who just died, were appointed and confirmed during Shelby’s tenure.
Governor issues apology to surviving victim of 1963 Birmingham church bombing
Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday sent a written apology to the surviving victim of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and agreed to have the state’s attorneys meet with the survivor’s attorney to discuss their desire for compensation.
The surviving victim, Sarah Collins Rudolph, and those who died, including Rudolph’s sister, Addie Mae, and Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carole Denise McNair, suffered an egregious injustice that has yielded untold pain and suffering over the ensuing decades, Ivey wrote in her letter to Rudolph’s attorney, Ishan Bhaba.
“For that, they most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology – an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation,” Ivey wrote.
“It would seem to me that beginning these conversations — without prejudice for what any final outcome might produce but with a goal of finding mutual accord — would be a natural extension of my Administration’s ongoing efforts to foster fruitful conversations about the all-too-difficult — and sometimes painful — topic of race, a conversation occurring not only in Alabama but throughout America,” Ivey continued.
The explosion set off by Klansman on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963, that killed the four young Black girls left Rudolph blind in her right eye. Bhaba wrote to Ivey earlier this month and asked on behalf of Rudolph for an apology and compensation for her lifelong injury. Her injury ended her dream of becoming a nurse, and so she’s worked odd jobs throughout her life to survive, Rudolph has said in several news accounts.
Ivey in her response Wednesday wrote that many would question whether the state was legally responsible for the bombing, but that “the racist, segregationist rhetoric used by some of our leaders during that time was wrong and would be utterly unacceptable in today’s Alabama.”
The deaths of the young girls came at a time when Alabama politicians were fighting against desegregation of the state’s public schools. Then Alabama Gov. George Wallace in May, just more than a week before the bombings, told The New York Times that “what this country needs is a few first-class funerals.”
Twelve years after the bombing, one of the Klansmen responsible was convicted of killing one of the girls and sentenced to life in prison.
Then-U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, 24 years later, secured convictions of two other Klansmen involved in the bombing.
Jones, now a U.S. Senator for Alabama, met with Rudolph’s attorneys in December, according to The Montgomery Advertiser, which quoted Jones as saying in a statement at the time that he didn’t feel it was in his place to offer her legal advice.
“I did, however, confirm my belief based on my own research for the trials of two of the four Klansmen responsible for the bombing, that the State of Alabama, through George Wallace and others, and the city of Birmingham through Bull Connor and others, engaged in the kind of dog-whistle political rhetoric that promoted violence and led to the bombing,” Jones said in the statement, according to the newspaper.