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Secretary of State Announces Change in Qualifying Date

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Secretary of State Jim Bennett announced today that the close of qualifying for major party candidates in the 2014 election cycle will be February 7th, 2014 at 5:00 PM.

This is much earlier than usual as the Secretary of State’s office is working to comply with federal laws concerning military and overseas voters.  This change is part of ongoing litigation with the Department of Justice over military and overseas voting deadlines.

The original date for the end of qualifying for major party candidates would have been April 4, 2014.  This change will not affect the June 3, 2014 qualifying deadlines for independent candidates and candidates of parties that did not receive more than 20 percent of the entire vote cast in the last general election.

“Though we do not have yet an order from the court, we have agreed with the Department of Justice to move our deadlines up considerably to get ballots to the Absentee Election Managers in each county,” said Bennett. “This will allow ballots enough time to be sent to military and overseas voters well before the federal deadline, which is 45 days before the date of the election.”

The Secretary of State’s office has been in constant contact with both chairs of the Alabama Democratic and Republican parties to let them know that this change would occur.  Secretary Bennett said he has urged the parties to open qualifying for candidates early in order to account for this change.

“We are doing everything in our power to make sure that our soldiers have their ballots in hand and can mail them back in time for their vote to be counted,” said Bennett

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The Secretary of State’s office tried to pass a bill last year in the legislature that would alter the elections deadline schedule to reflect this end date for qualifying.  That bill passed unanimously in the House, but failed to pass the Senate due to time constraints.

“We are bringing the bill again this year.  I know that the legislative leadership has every confidence that this will be passed for future elections and that we will all do our part to ensure that every vote counts, including military and overseas voters,” said Bennett.

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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Commissioner Pate and Superintendent Mackey celebrate Apple Crunch Day

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Wednesday, Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate and State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey will hold a virtual farm tour.

Commissioner Pate and Superintendent Mackey will host a Facebook Live Event celebrating the 4th annual “Apple Crunch Day” at Airport Road Intermediate School (384 Blackmon Farm Lane, Coosada, AL 36020). At 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

Schools across the state will show their support for fresh, local produce by crunching into an apple on Apple Crunch Day along with Commissioner Pate and Supt. Mackey.

This year the department is also offering a virtual farm tour of Scott’s Orchard which will be available for all students at: alabamafarmtoschool.org.

Students will be able to “ride along” with Commissioner Pate and Superintendent Mackey for an informative and educational look into how their farm works. Students will learn about the different varieties of apples, how they grow, and much more.

October is National Apple Month.

The 2020 apple harvest is still being picked; but the 2019 apple crop was the sixth largest crop in history.

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Apple exports rebounded 15 percent last year, after a downturn in 2018 due to international trade disputes. The value of the export crop was up 7 percent.

The U.S. harvested 262 million bushels of apples in 2019 (over 11 billion pounds) in 2019. The 2019 apple crop was up 8 percent in volume from 2018, but lower prices caused the overall wholesale value to decrease from $2.95 billion for the 2018 crop to $2.75 billion (a decrease of 7 percent in value for the larger 2019 crop).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate of the 2020 apple crop is 253.6 million bushels (down 3 percent from the 2019 crop). It would be the ninth largest crop since the government department began reporting apple production in the 1940s.

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The United States exported 44.9 million bushels, valued at $913 million in 2019.

“Growers export about $1 billion worth of apples annually, making trade a critical part of the industry,” said USApple President and CEO Jim Bair. “While we are comforted to see export numbers rising after a nail-biting year of lost market share and plummeting grower revenues, we still have our work cut out for us to get back on steady ground.”

The industry is continuing to adapt to consumer preferences by increasing production of the new more popular Honeycrisp variety of apple, which is expected to rise by 12 percent, moving it ahead of Granny Smith and Fuji into third place in national production.

“With the 2018 crop, Red Delicious lost the position it had held for decades as the largest volume variety to Gala,” said USApple Director of Regulatory and Industry Affairs Mark Seetin. “Projections for the current crop are that Gala will continue to expand its edge over Red Delicious and will remain the largest volume variety produced.”

The 2020 top five produced apple varieties are: 1) Gala 2) Red Delicious 3) Honeycrisp 4) Granny Smith and 5) Fuji. The top five apple varieties comprise 67 percent of all the apples grown in the U.S.

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Elections

Coalition of attorneys general file opposition to Alabama attempt to ban curbside voting

The AGs argue that Alabama’s suggestion to the courts that curbside voting invites fraud is “unfounded.” 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A coalition of 17 state attorneys general have filed an opposition to Alabama’s attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to ban curbside voting. 

In a friend-of-the-court brief, led by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, the attorneys general argue to that curbside voting is safer for those at greatest risk from COVID-19, and that a ban on the practice would disproportionately impact the elderly, the disabled and Black Alabamians.

They also argue that Alabama’s suggestion to the courts that curbside voting invites fraud is “unfounded.” 

“The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, established by President Trump following the 2016 election, ‘uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud,’” the brief states, adding that there is no evidence that curbside voting in the many states that allow it invites fraud. 

“The practice is longstanding and widespread—as noted, more than half of states have historically offered curbside voting in some form,” the brief continues. 

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Oct. 13 said the state will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal appeals court ruling allowing curbside voting in the Nov. 3 election. 

A panel of federal appeals court judges on Oct. 13 reversed parts of U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s Sept. 30 ordered ruling regarding absentee voting in the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, but the judges let the previous ruling allowing curbside voting to stand. 

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The lawsuit, filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, was brought on behalf of several Alabamians with underlying medical conditions. 

“Curbside voting is a longstanding, secure voting option that local jurisdictions have made available to protect the health of vulnerable voters, including elderly, disabled, and voters with underlying health issues,” Racine said in a statement. “Curbside voting minimizes the risk to persons who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, and local jurisdictions should be able to offer this common-sense accommodation to voters. State Attorneys General will keep fighting to ensure that voters can safely make their voices heard at the ballot box this November.”

The brief filed by the coalition of state attorneys general comes as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations across Alabama has been ticking upward.

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Racine is joined in the brief by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

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Alabama revenues grew despite COVID pandemic, analysis shows

Tax revenue into the state’s General Fund was 7 percent higher this year the Education Trust Fund brought in an additional $209 million in 2020 compared to 2019. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama’s strong economy going into the COVID-19 pandemic, and billions in federal aid to address the health and economic crisis, has helped the state’s two largest budget funds to grow this year, according to a study released Thursday. 

According to an analysis by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, tax revenue into the state’s General Fund was 7 percent higher this year than it was in 2019, and Alabama’s Education Trust Fund brought in an additional $209 million in 2020 compared to 2019. 

“According to Finance Department officials, Alabama ended 2020 with $330 million balance in the ETF and a $315 million balance in the General Fund,” wrote PARCA’s Tom Spencer in the report. “That was result both of revenues that exceeded the budgeted amounts and expenditures that were lower than what was appropriated.”

The growth came despite the spike in unemployment that began in March and hasn’t yet abated, and despite mandatory business closures in March and April and the restrictions still in place to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. 

The author of the report said the growth is due in part to the state’s strong economy before the pandemic hit. Unemployment was at a historic low between October and March, and prior to the pandemic, income tax receipts were up approximately 7 percent over the same period in 2019. 

Additionally, $4.1 billion in federal COVID-19 aid has been committed to individuals and municipalities in Alabama, and consumer spending shifted but didn’t stop, the author notes. 

The federal Paycheck Protection Program preserved payrolls, and unemployed workers received $600 per week in a supplement to unemployment insurance, which both helped prevent the state’s tax revenue from taking a bigger hit. 

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“Sales taxes dropped, then recovered and have been up and down in the months since. At the same time though, tax on internet purchases surged, offsetting the erosion in sales tax. Unlike some other states, Alabama’s sales taxes apply to groceries and medicine and thus it tends to be more stable,” Spencer wrote in the report. 

Several sectors of Alabama’s economy have done well during the pandemic, including the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board, which contributed an additional $17 million to the General Fund, an increase of 14 percent. 

But still other sectors suffered, including lodging tax. The tax on hotels and vacation rentals was down 15 percent for the year, and collected almost $9 million less for the General Fund.

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“For the current fiscal year, FY 2021, Finance officials are relatively confident that revenues will more than cover the budgets. Lawmaker scaled back spending plans in light of the pandemic,” Spencer wrote in the report. “As long as there aren’t additional unforeseen shocks to the economic system, the Alabama economy should generate the revenue needed to make the budgets as adopted this spring.”

If the state’s economy were to take a larger hit, Spencer noted, the state still has rainy day funds for both funds. 

RESERVE FUND BALANCES

  • ETF Budget Stabilization Fund – $373,269,077
  • ETF Rainy Day Account – $465,421,670
  • GF Budget Stabilization Fund – $27,297,483
  • GF Budget Rainy Day Account – $232,939,781

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Featured Columnists

Opinion | Electing Tuberville could cost Alabama billions

If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.

Josh Moon

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

Money matters in Alabama. Oh, I know that we’re not supposed to say that out loud. That we’re supposed to promote our image of southern grace and hospitality, of churchiness and care, of rich people never getting into heaven. 

But the truth is greed is our biggest character flaw in this state. 

Every problem we have can be traced back to our unending thirst for dollars. Our ancestors didn’t keep slaves because they hated black people. They did it because they loved money and the difference in skin color gave them an excuse — a really, really stupid excuse — to mistreat other humans to take advantage of the free labor. 

Our rivers and lakes and dirt aren’t filled with poisons from factories because we’re too dumb to understand how this works. They’re that way because our politicians are paid off to turn a blind eye to the dumping of toxic waste. 

Our schools aren’t terrible because we have dumb kids or bad teachers. It’s because we’re too cheap to pay for them. 

You see what I mean? It’s our lust for the almighty dollar. Every time. 

We love money. 

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Which makes me seriously wonder why so many people in this state are going to vote for a man who will cost us all — and especially our biggest businesses — so much of it. 

Tommy Tuberville will be like a money vacuum for Alabama. Billions of dollars will vanish for this welfare state that relies so much on federal contracts, federal programs and federal dollars. 

If you doubt this, don’t simply take my word for it. Just Google up the press releases from Sen. Richard Shelby’s office from the last, say, six years — the most recent span in which Republicans have controlled the Senate. 

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Almost every single release is about Shelby securing millions or billions of dollars in federal funding for this project or that project, getting the state’s share of dollars from a variety of different programs and initiatives implemented by Congress. 

Shelby and I obviously have different political viewpoints, but it’s hard to argue that the man has been successful in securing money for Alabama. Lots and lots of money. 

Money for airports and roads. Money for defense contractors in Huntsville. Money for the port in Mobile. Money for car manufacturers. Money for farmers. 

Money. Money. Money. 

Shelby can do that because of three things: He’s on the right committees, he’s a member of the party in power and he’s liked by the right people.

Tuberville will be none of those things. 

Most pundits are predicting that Democrats will take over the Senate, tipping the balance of power and giving the party control of both houses and the White House. 

That automatically means that a first-time senator in the opposition party will have little to no say in any decisions. 

But what’s worse for Tuberville, and for Alabama, is that other Republicans don’t like him either. 

Establishment Republicans essentially openly campaigned against Tuberville in the primary, tossing tens of millions of dollars behind his opponent, Jeff Sessions. They even favored third-place finisher Bradley Byrne over Tuberville. 

It’s not hard to understand why — he’s clueless. 

I know that’s a Doug Jones talking point, but this one happens to be true. Let me give you an example: On Thursday, Tuberville tweeted out what was meant to be a shot at Jones, claiming that Alabama’s current senator wouldn’t meet with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee because Jones knows “he won’t have much time in the Senate to work with her.”

If you’re unaware, the Senate doesn’t “work with” the Supreme Court. They’re separate entities. 

Combine that with his other nonsensical answers on COVID relief, school reopenings, the Voting Rights Act, senate committee assignments, education, foreign affairs — really, the list is almost endless — and it shows how little work he’s put in over the last two years to understand this job he’s applying for. 

Now, that might be just fine with Alabama voters who care more about the party affiliation and owning the libs, but it’s not OK with grownups who take the job of running the country seriously. 

And those people — both Rs and Ds — don’t like Tuberville or his here-for-an-easy-check-like-always approach to one of the most serious jobs in the world. 

He will be frozen out of the most sought after committee assignments. His voice will carry zero weight. His presence will be all but forgotten. 

And in the process, so will Alabama. Especially in two years, when Shelby retires and his senior status is lost. 

In the meantime, Jones is highly respected by senators on both sides of the aisle. He already has a presence on top committees, and is so well liked within the Democratic Party that he’s on the short list to be Joe Biden’s AG, should he not be re-elected. 

The choice seems pretty simple. On the one hand is a competent, prepared and serious statesman who knows how to maneuver his colleagues to get the most for the state. On the other hand is an unprepared, uncaring, lazy carpetbagger who doesn’t understand any process. 

If your conscience or decency isn’t enough, vote your wallets.

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