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Equal Access to Athletics Bill Passes out of Committee

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The House Education Policy Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday, February 5 on the Equal Access To Athletics Bill sponsored by State Representative Mary Sue McClurkin (R) from Indian Springs.  Rep. McClurkin said that the bill would allow Alabama students who study at home through parental home school, private tutor, or church school to participate in athletics or other extracurricular activities with the school where they would be zoned if they were actually enrolled in a public school.

The act is popularly referred to as the ‘Tim Tebow bill’.  The State of Florida has had this legislation for over a dozen years, with the popular Heisman trophy winning college quarterback being the most famous athlete to participate in the popular program.

Over 80 people packed into a room with seating for ~34 for the public hearing.  The crowd for the public hearing stretched far out into the hall.

Rep. McClurkin said that participants in the program will be held to the same standards as other athletes and participants.  They would still have to make it through tryouts like the public school students.  The current school board insurance would cover both groups of students and they would have to pay the same athletic fees.

Karen Millican told the Committee I am a home school mom of three this is not about me, but is rather about opportunities for children.  Millican said that her son has played athletics with their local park league team for years. When he reached the seventh grade however he was not allowed to play only because existing rules do not allow him to play.  This is a reasonable request.  31 states currently provide this for home school students.  Millican said that she gave up a career as an architect to home school her children and that in Alabama the home school movement is predominately a faith based movement and they are an asset to the entire state

Jay Shriver said that being a home school dad presents some challenges.  “Education is changing because innovations provide the best education.”  “I believe in the high school athletic experience.”  “Our local team is a community team not a school team,” and all children in the community should be given the opportunity to participate.  “I have been doing this (promoting this legislation) for ten years and I am asking for your consideration.

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Chris Millican said that is children are on the outside looking in and asked the Committee to allow them to participate.

Cary Woolern said that she is a certified teacher and a home school mom of three.  Woolem said that we are fortunate that we can tryout and participate in athletics at a near by Christian school but that the AISA is changing regulations that may prevent her children from participating next year.  “We are asking for equal access.”

Angel Hall said, “I have 3 children” and this is an individual rights issue.  “Our forefathers were homeschooled.”  Hall said she can not understand why her children are not allowed to participate.  Hall said that her child is ahead of his peers academically in the public schools system and that home school children typically excel compared to public school educated children and will meet any challenge academically that the state asks for to prove their competence to compete.  Hall said that the opposition is all about the money.  Homeschoolers and the state would both benefit from passing this legislation.


Kelly Smith said that she is a dance school owner.  “My son is way ahead (of his public school peers) and is doing college age work.”  Smith said that her son owns land, a trailer and his own business.  Smith said that her son has been an entrepreneur since he was eight and he loves sports and wants to compete.  She also complained of restrictive new AISA rules.

Jim Chestnut said that he still opposes this legislation.  Chestnut said that extracurricular activities grew out of being in school all day and that there are safety issues associated with having home school children arriving and leaving the campus during the school day.

Valley Howell said that she was there representing the Alabama School Boards Association and they were opposing this legislation over a philosophical belief.  Howell told the room that was packed with home school parents, “If you want to participate then enroll in public schools.”

Steve Savarese said that he was there representing the Alabama High School Athletics Association (AHSAA).  Savarese said that for 93 years the AHSAA has set policy for high school athletics without interference from the state legislature.  Savarese said that his group is a private association and they have a legislative process for rule changes.  “Participation in athletics is not a right. It is a privilege.”  Savarese compared his group to the NCAA which regulates college athletics.

Lamar Brooke, the Associate Superintendent of the Dale County schools, also spoke against the legislation.

Rep. Ed Henry (R) from Decatur said, “The face of education is changing.”  Florence already has a virtual online education school where students can take classes online.  “Florence is ahead of the rest of the state and Baldwin County is considering doing the same thing.

Rep. Henry said, “We are definitely moving away from the brick and mortar school.”  The future of education is going to be at home.

Rep. Elaine Beech (D) worried how the school can discipline the home school kids and predicted that this will encourage recruitment in high school athletics.

Rep. Henry said that there are stopgaps in place to prevent recruiting from being a problem.  “The System does not like that there are people who can educate their children better than they can.”  Henry said that this, “Is one piece of the pie that they are going to protect.

Savarese said that there are possible unintended consequences from passing this legislation.

Rep. Terri Collins (R) from Decatur said, “At this point we are worried about protecting bureaucracies rather than the best interests of the children.”  Collins asked that the Committee give this bill a favorable report. The motion carried and the Equal Access too Athletic Bill received a favorable report.

The bill next will appear before the full Alabama House of Representatives for their consideration.


Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.



Alabama Medicaid expansion advocates applaud Missouri voters

In Missouri on Tuesday, 53 percent of voters approved a plan to expand Medicaid to cover more than 23,000 low-income residents, according to the St. Louis-Post Dispatch.

Eddie Burkhalter




A coalition of groups in Alabama urging the state to expand Medicaid applauded voters in Missouri for doing just that in their state on Tuesday. 

“Last night, Missouri voters approved a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. We’ve trounced Missouri on the football field, but they’ve beaten us at getting Medicaid expansion across the goal line,” said Jane Adams, campaign director of the Cover Alabama Coalition, a group of 90 separate entities calling for an expansion of the federal program in Alabama. “Alabama is now one of just 12 states that do not provide health care coverage for working-age adults with low incomes. We call on the Alabama Legislature and Governor Ivey to follow Missouri’s lead and expand Medicaid.”

In Missouri on Tuesday, 53 percent of voters approved a plan to expand Medicaid to cover more than 23,000 low-income residents, according to the St. Louis-Post Dispatch. The GOP-controlled state Legislature there had fought an expansion of the program, made possible by the Affordable Care ACt.

Approximately 64 percent of Alabamians polled said they support expanding Medicaid in Alabama, including 52 percent of Republicans asked, according to a recent Auburn University at Montgomery poll

“But Alabama’s elected leaders are still leaving more than 300,000 Alabamians uninsured by refusing to expand health coverage,” Cover Alabama Coalition said in a press release. “Medicaid expansion would benefit working families, primarily adults between the ages of 19 and 64 whose income is at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. In 2020, that amounts to $17,608 for an individual and $36,156 for a household of four.” 

“The COVID-19 crisis has created financial uncertainty for our economy, employers and workers,” said Jim Carnes, Alabama Arise policy director and a Cover Alabama steering committee member, in a statement.  “Alabama needs economic stimulus, and Medicaid expansion would generate nearly $3 billion a year in new economic activity throughout the state.”

“Medicaid expansion would reduce health disparities and work toward racial equity in health outcomes for all Alabamians,” said Jada Shaffer, Alabama government relations director of the American Heart Association and a Cover Alabama steering committee member. “Communities of color experience higher infant mortality rates, lower life expectancy and higher rates of preventable and chronic conditions like heart disease. We urge lawmakers and Governor Ivey to include Medicaid expansion in their policy solutions to address racial and economic inequality.”

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Missouri became the second state this month to decide to expand Medicaid. Voters in Oklahoma chose to do so on July 1, passing the measure by just more than 6,000 votes, according to NPR, which will provide coverage for approximately 200,000 more.

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Alabama children’s advocates: Early end to Census count will hurt state’s most vulnerable

Eddie Burkhalter




Stephen Woerner and the staff at his Montgomery nonprofit have spent more than two years preparing to ensure that marginalized people, especially children, get counted in the 2020 census, and all the planning and work blew up when the U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday that all counting efforts would end a month early. 

Woerner, executive director of Voices for Alabama’s Children, an Alabama child-advocacy group, told APR on Wednesday that in the 2010 census, the largest undercounted population was birth to five-year-olds, and the second largest was six to 10-year-olds. The nonprofit received its first funding in July 2018, to work on ensuring a good count in this year’s census. The nonprofit puts out a detailed report on children in the state annually, called the Alabama Kids Count Data Book. 

The COVID-19 pandemic had already interrupted the nonprofit’s plans, Woerner said, but added that the “real challenge of this announcement from D.C. is that they keep moving the finish line.” 

The U.S. Census Bureau’s announcement Monday of a plan to stop counting a month earlier could cost Alabama one Congressional seat, and threatens to undercount population numbers which are used to determine the apportionment of federal funding. Minorities and immigrants are also among the most likely to be undercounted in any census. Advocates say the early end to the 2020 census will only further marginalize those communities. 

Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham in a statement late Monday said that the bureau was to hire more staff and offer monetary incentives “to accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of December 31, 2020, as required by law and directed by the Secretary of Commerce.” 

The 2020 census was delayed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restarted in June and workers are set to stop all attempts to count on Sept. 30, a month ahead of the previous end date.

President Donald Trump in July issued an executive order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census count, a move that is likely unconstitutional and unable to be carried out, opponents of the order have said. The decision this week to end the count early would likely lead to more of an undercount of minorities, which would favor Republicans in future elections and impact those communities’ access to critical federal funding, Democrats have said. 

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Woerner said he and staff recalculated after the coronavirus crisis hit, and began planning to shift their outreach efforts online, and then the announcement came Monday that they’d have a month less time to do so. 

“I just got funding from Facebook doing another $20,000 worth of ad buys from August, September and October,” Woerner said. “And so now I’m having to cut a month out of that. It is incredibly problematic for everybody in Alabama, because it keeps moving the finish line.” 

Woerner said the ambiguity and the fog makes trying to reach those historically-undercounted communities “so incredibly difficult. These are already communities that are really hard to get to.” 


Woerner said whether it’s Hispanic or Black communities that may not trust the federal government, or parents of young children who don’t think their voice matters, those are communities that are hard to reach in a normal year. 

The Montgomery nonprofit has worked closely with the Census Bureau for the last two years, and the news Monday was also a blow to the Bureau workers and their ability to accomplish their own goals, Woerner said. 

“It just means that with the ambiguity and the fog, we’re gonna have a worst count. We’re gonna have a less accurate count,” Woerner said. “That’s going to impact Alabama because we’re going to lose a Congressional seat. We’re also gonna lose out in the dollars that we’re dependent on for so many issues.” 

Gov. Kay Ivey in a statement to APR on Wednesday again urged everyone in Alabama to fill out the census form.

“Alabama, if you still need to fill out your 2020 Census, do not put it off any longer. The absolute last day to be counted has been moved up to the end of September, but despite what our national deadline is, today is the day to complete your 2020 Census in Alabama,” Ivey said in the statement. “I filled out my own census on and would encourage you to do the same. You can also easily do it by phone by dialing 844-330-2020. Let’s not wait any longer Alabama. The stakes are high for us, and we have much more work to be done.”

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Attorneys ask court to intervene over numerous Alabama inmate suicides

Eddie Burkhalter




Charles Braggs died by suicide in an Alabama prison after being kept in solitary confinement for more than two years. His suicide and a rash of others in Alabama prisons prompted attorneys for the plaintiffs in a case against the Alabama Department of Corrections to ask the court Wednesday to intervene. 

Braggs, 28, died at St. Clair Correctional Facility on July 17 after having been housed in segregation for 796 days, according to the court filing by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and attorneys with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.

“Mr. Braggs was the seventh person — and the sixth Black person — to die by suicide in ADOC custody since this Court issued its Remedial Opinion and Judgment on Immediate Relief for Suicide Prevention (the ‘Suicide Prevention Opinion’) in May 2019, in which the Court found ‘substantial and pervasive deficiencies’ in ADOC’s suicide prevention program,” attorneys wrote to the court. 

Bragg’s suicide was the fifth in Alabama prisons in the last four months, the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in the fling, in which they call for “swift implementation and robust monitoring of the Parties’ various remedial agreements” and for the state to address the use of segregation and “segregation-like” cells, which disproportionately hold Black people.

Alabama prisons kept 1,001 people locked alone in segregation on July 28, according to the court filing. 

“Of those 1,001, ADOC’s public database lists 705 people as Black and 273 white—that is, approximately 70 percent of the people in segregation are Black,” the filing states, going on to note that Black people make up approximately 52 percent of Alabama’s inmate population and about 27 percent of the population of the state. 

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in his May 4, 2019 opinion wrote that ADOC argues the department cannot prevent all suicides in prisons.

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“It is true that, as in the free world, not all suicides can be prevented. But this reality in no way excuses ADOC’s substantial and pervasive suicide-prevention inadequacies. Unless and until ADOC lives up to its Eighth Amendment obligations, avoidable tragedies will continue,” the judge wrote.

That 2019 opinion came after the plaintiffs’ attorneys asked the court for immediate suicide-prevention relief following 15 inmate suicides over 15 months. Thompson agreed in his opinion to make permanent most of the provisions of a previous agreement between the plaintiffs and ADOC.

Thompson’s separate judgment, filed the same day as his opinion, establishes minimum guidelines for how the state assesses and treats incarcerated people who may be at risk of suicide.


Among the prison suicides noted in the court filing was Marco Tolbert, 32, who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication, but on June 20, 2019, three months before his death, his mental health code — used by ADOC to determine care — was reduced, some of his medication was discontinued and he was moved out of Donaldson prison’s residential treatment unit and into the general population and “was not provided any follow-up mental health care,” according to the filing.

He died by suicide on Sept. 26, 2019, according to court records. 

Marquell Underwood, 22, was placed into segregation at Easterling Correctional Facility on Feb. 23 and died by suicide that same day, according to court records. 

“Mr. Underwood previously reported a history of Bipolar Disorder, was referred to mental health nine times in relation to segregation placements, self-referred once to mental health, and was placed on acute suicide watch twice during the six months before his death,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote to the court. “Despite all of this, he was never placed on the mental health caseload, never received a psychiatric evaluation, and never received any mental health treatment.”

Laramie Avery, 32, died by suicide in his segregation cell at Bullock prison on April 14 and was placed in segregation for “disciplinary” reasons after being stabbed at least eight times in the head and chest, according to the filing. 

“Mr. Avery was referred for a mental health evaluation three days before his suicide, but there is no evidence that the evaluation ever occurred. He was not on the mental health caseload,” the court filing states. 

The plaintiffs’ attorneys also note the death of Darnell McMillian on June 22 at Donaldson prison. McMillian died while on suicide watch and after having been placed into a cell with another inmate also on suicide watch. 

“After an altercation between Mr. McMillian and his cellmate, correctional officers allegedly deployed pepper spray, which caused Mr. McMillian to become unconscious and may have led to his death. It is unclear what policies ADOC has instituted, if any, to ensure the safety of those on suicide watch who are double-celled,” attorneys wrote to the court. 

An ADOC worker told APR in July that correctional officers used an excessive amount of pepper spray in the cell where McMillian and another inmate were housed. The cause of his death is pending an autopsy.

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Jones campaign director blasts Tuberville for saying $600 “too much” for out-of-work Alabamians

Eddie Burkhalter



Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tubberville, right.

The communications director for U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign on Wednesday called out Tommy Tuberville for saying that $600 in emergency unemployment aid was too much for Alabamians. 

“Tommy Tuberville once again proves he’s out of touch with Alabama. When he ‘resigned’ from his job as a football coach he took a $5.1 million payout for himself. To this day, he receives $800 a week in State Retirement funds for a coaching job he ‘quit’ in 2008,” said Owen Kilmer, communications Director for Jones’s Senate campaign, in a statement Wednesday. 

“But he says $600 in emergency benefits is ‘way too much’ for people in Alabama who lost their jobs in this crisis through no fault of their own. Tuberville says $600 is ‘way too much’ to help people put food on the table and pay utilities,” Kilmer continued. “No wonder, when asked about how to handle this crisis, he said ‘I wouldn’t have a clue.’ It’s true. He doesn’t.”

Tuberville, the Republican Senate nominee, is trying to unseat Jones in the November general election. Jones has called the former Auburn football coach and first-time political candidate an unprepared hyper-partisan.

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