By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday night, President Barack H. Obama will deliver his sixth State of the Union address to a joint session of both houses of Congress. U.S. Congresswoman Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery said that she hopes that President Obama will focus on “commonsense” ideas to promote job growth, rather than a partisan, political agenda.
Representative Roby has prepared her own video statement in anticipation of the state of the union. The conservative Alabama Congresswoman said in her statement, “Tuesday night President Obama will deliver the State of the Union Address before Congress. President Obama will reportedly use the speech to announce a “Year of Action.” There’s no question action is needed in this country, but it matters what kind of action, and in what direction it takes us.”
Rep. Roby specifically outlining several bi-partisan House-passed jobs bills that are still stuck in the Senate. Rep. Roby said, “More than 30 House-passed jobs bills currently languish in the Senate – bills that would surely pass if the President would remove his objection. These include: The REINS Act, which would stop runaway regulation by requiring Congressional approval of those that could drastically affect jobs; The Northern Route Approval Act, which would allow for the construction of the Keystone Pipeline; The SKILLS Act, which would provide much needed job training to the long term unemployed; and Numerous House bills which reduce the tax burden and healthcare costs for small businesses.”
Rep. Roby said in her written statement that recent news reports indicate President Obama intends to use the State of the Union to promote unilateral executive actions he plans to take, without the approval of Congress. Rep. Roby has continually warned about what she calls, “the egregious executive overreaches of the Obama administration and the threat they pose to the Constitutional separation of powers.”
Rep. Roby said in her statement, “He is promising more, not less, unilateral executive actions that go outside the constitutional authority of the presidency. This should concern all Americans, Republican or Democrat. Our Constitutional constraints on government may not be convenient for President Obama’s political agenda, but they are necessary for preserving our basic system of checks and balances. And the last time I checked, the government still derives its authority from the people, not the other way around.”
Rep. Roby said, “I will be listening carefully for the President to mention issues like this where we can find common ground and work together to help Americans find jobs. Unfortunately, all indications point to more of the same from President Obama. More “pie in the sky” rhetoric based in ideology rather than reality. More about politics, less about the people.” “Right now is a time for cooperation on commonsense ideas to improve the economy, not a partisan agenda driven by the President’s radical ideology. We all know President Obama is good at making promises, but not so good at following through. This time I hope he rises above that and communicates reasonable, achievable objectives, particularly when it comes to job growth.”
Congresswoman Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. The former Montgomery City Councilwoman is seeking a third term representing the Second District.
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Alabama top in nation for percentage of unemployment claims paid in July
The state issued unemployment compensation payments in 21 days or less for more than 92 percent of claims that month.
The Alabama Department of Labor is touting its status as having the nation’s highest percentage of first payments to people who claimed unemployment in July.
The state issued unemployment compensation payments in 21 days or less for more than 92 percent of claims that month.
First payments means those made to claimants who were determined eligible for benefits and received a payment. It doesn’t include claimants who have issues that need to be adjudicated.
“Since the pandemic began, the staff at ADOL have been working extremely diligently to process claims and get payments to those who need them the most,” said Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “While this process hasn’t always been smooth, the fact that our agency was able to quickly disperse so many payments is something I’m proud of.”
Schools won’t be required to report COVID-19 data for state’s K-12 dashboard
Information presented on the dashboard won’t be broken down by individual schools but will instead be displayed for whole systems. And districts won’t be required to report.
Some time later this month state officials hope to roll out a statewide COVID-19 dashboard for K-12 public schools, but some parents worry that because school districts won’t be required to submit positive test results, the dashboard might not be that useful.
The Alabama Department of Education is working with the Alabama Department of Public Health in a joint effort to build the dashboard.
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Tuesday told APR the state hoped to have the dashboard online this week but technical difficulties pushed the expected roll out to later this month.
Harris said the two departments agreed not to make the positive test results that will be shown on the dashboard confirmed or verified by ADPH because doing so would slow down the process of updating the dashboard and wouldn’t give parents a glimpse at what’s happening at their schools at that moment.
“There’s a certain amount of time it takes to investigate a case and confirm it before we get it to our own dashboard,” Harris said.
Harris said the information presented on the dashboard won’t be broken down by individual schools but will instead be displayed for whole school systems, and districts won’t be required to report.
“We’re going to ask schools to self-report it,” Harris said. “They can choose not to, but I think most of them will do that.”
Jacob Kohute and his wife have two children in Decatur City Schools. Kohute told APR on Tuesday that they are both fortunate to work from home, and decided to keep their children home for virtual learning, as his wife has an underlying medical condition that could cause complications if she were to contract the coronavirus.
“So we’ve been lucky that we’re able to do that,” Kohute said.
School systems statewide have varied approaches to sharing information about COVID-19 among students and staff.
The Decatur city school system has been sending parents a weekly report that shows the number of cases among students and faculty, and how many students are under quarantine, Kohute said.
“We’ve gone upwards of 300,” Kohute said of the number of quarantined students. “It’s been fluctuating a lot.”
Kohute said in the last update from the schools there were seven new cases among students and a few among staff, which resulted in about 150 people being quarantined, showing that it takes very few cases to have a big impact on those who have come in contact with the infected person.
While Decatur City Schools regularly reports data to parents, many districts statewide do not, and instead only report a confirmed case to parents of children deemed to have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Kohute expressed concern that districts won’t be required to report to the state’s dashboard.
“It’s almost useless then, depending upon the leanings of the administration,” Kohute said of the state’s K-12 dashboard.
Alabama Democrats demand Florence mayoral candidates denounce the KKK
The Alabama Democratic Party is demanding that the mayoral candidates in Florence Alabama — Andrew Betterton and incumbent Stephen Holt — denounce white supremacists before their Oct. 6 runoff.
The Alabama Democratic Party is demanding that the mayoral candidates in Florence Alabama — Andrew Betterton and incumbent Stephen Holt — denounce white supremacists before their Oct. 6 runoff after months of tumult and protest in the city over what to do with a Confederate monument.
“Mayor Steve Holt has stated that he supports ‘differing viewpoints’ among the protests surrounding the Confederate monument in downtown Florence,” the party said. “One of those ‘differing viewpoints’ is literally the Ku Klux Klan. Amid violent threats to peaceful protestors, Mayor Holt still refused to denounce these ‘differing viewpoints’ from the KKK.”
The Democratic Party’s comments come after Holt, in July, said he would not condone “unlawful actions” and would support the Florence Police Department should they disperse demonstrations that “turn unlawful.” In the same message, Holt said, “First Amendment Rights apply to everyone. … We support the freedom of speech and the expression of differing viewpoints.”
The Alabama Democrats, in a press release Wednesday, also demanded that Holt agree to remove the confederate monument at the front of the Lauderdale County courthouse.
“If the mayor refuses to condemn the KKK and white supremacy, the statue on Court Street isn’t the only monument to white supremacy that needs to be removed, the Confederate relic serving as Florence’s mayor needs to be removed as well,” the party said.
This comes nearly four months after Holt recommend the statue be moved to Soldier’s Rest at the Florence City Cemetery.
On July 7, the Florence City Council unanimously agreed to move the statue, but deadlocked on whether it was the responsibility of the county (the statue is on county property) or the city (to whom the statue was originally donated).
Eventually the Florence City Council asked the county commission for a resolution to allow them to move it off county property. The county commission then cited the 2017 Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, which requires state permission before removing historic monuments, many of them Confederate monuments.
Earlier this month, a group of Florence residents filed a lawsuit against the mayor, the Florence City Council and the Alabama division president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Suzanna E. Rawlins.
The three residents asked the court to “to protect and preserve” the confederate statue at the county courthouse. The Lauderdale County Republican Executive Committee came out in support of that lawsuit.
Vestavia doctor sentenced to 30 years for producing child porn
A federal judge sentenced Ronald Tai Young Moon Jr. of Vestavia Hills, 56, to 30 years in prison.
A federal judge sentenced a former Vestavia Hills doctor to 30 years in prison for producing and possessing child pornography, U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. announced Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Annemarie Axon sentenced Ronald Tai Young Moon Jr. of Vestavia Hills, 56, to 30 years in federal prison.
“Unfortunately, this sentence will not undo the harm suffered by Moon’s victims,” Escalona said. “However, understanding that the consequences of this conduct is severe might discourage other sexual predators from victimizing innocent children in this district.”
Moon worked as a doctor at the Industrial Athlete clinic in Birmingham until his license was revoked earlier this year. Moon went to trial in February. After four days of testimony, a jury convicted Moon of possessing, producing and attempting to produce child pornography.
“I am proud of the effort put forth by my agents in order to ensure this defendant was brought to justice and will no longer be able to harm children,” Sharp said. “Moon serving the next 30 years in federal prison ensures there is one less predator victimizing the most innocent and vulnerable members of our community.”
Federal prosecutors presented evidence at trial proving that between the mid-1990s and 2012, Moon secretly recorded neighbors and guests in his own home including girls as young as 12 years old.
Some of those individuals were filmed naked, dressing and undressing. The footage was located on VHS videotapes found in the defendant’s locked private office with other pornographic VHS tapes, steps away from a TV and VCR set that was working and plugged in.
Evidence of multiple hidden-camera devices was also found in the defendant’s office.
Moon will also serve five years of supervised release after he gets out and, by law, will also be required to register as a sex offender.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ward and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Lloyd Peeples III prosecuted the case.
The United States attorney’s office also thanked members of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General for assisting in the investigation.