By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, March 5, the Alabama Senate Taxation and Finance Education Committee heard a public hearing on a bill abolishing the Last In First out (LIFO) concept many school systems in the State use during a Reduction In Force (RIF). The bill, SB 353, is sponsored by Senator Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston.
Montgomery area middle school Principal, Ibrahim Lee, testified in favor of the bill. Lee said that LIFO hurts young teachers. Lee said that principals should have the flexibility during an RIF to keep the best teachers and to let go of those teachers who are the least effective, regardless of seniority.
Senator Rodger Smitherman (D) from Birmingham said that teachers who are strong disciplinarians would suffer under the proposed change, because they wouldn’t win any popularity contests. Smitherman asserted that popularity could play a role in the State’s future teacher evaluation system to go into effect in 2016.
Lee said that when you have a positive attitude and hands-on activities, you don’t have disciplinary issues.
Sen. Gerald Dial (R) from Lineville told Lee, “I have been to your school. We need more leaders like you.”
Sen. Hank Sanders (D) said, “I have been a school board attorney and I have seen the pay schedule…teachers get paid more based on the numbers of years you have been in the system…School systems are already tight for money.” Sanders said that school boards are going to get the cheapest person for the money they can. “I have seen it over and over again.”
Sen. Sanders suggested that without LIFO, school boards would release the more experienced teachers with the higher salaries and hire instead the younger teachers with the lower salaries. “When you create a culture that is destabilized, you got a lot of turnover that becomes a problem for all the teachers and students in the systems.”
Fred Fohrell, who introduced himself as an attorney in Huntsville who does a lot of work with the Alabama Education Association (AEA) spoke against the bill. Fohrell said, “There are people of good faith on both sides of this bill.” Fohrell told the committee, “This bill will create a legal quagmire out there. The problem is you are asking these teachers to accept a piece of legislation that is based on a set of standards that have not even been developed yet.”
Fohrell warned that professional teachers who have devoted the lives to children will be let go by this bill and warned that measuring teacher performance based on test scores was misleading. “You are going to get rid of the teachers who are willing to go to a title one school.”
Fohrell said, “We don’t even have a test yet. “Tell the state department, ‘Come back with a test.’” Fohrell also said that this bill, “Creates a problem with who is in charge. Every local school board is different they have their own personalities but they are locally elected.” Fohrell said that this bill would take power away from local elected officials. Fohrell said that under the current system, “You can let somebody go who is incompetent or is not getting the job done now.”
Senator Rodger Smitherman said, “When the day comes that we can provide the same service to every student in the state then we can address the subject of testing.” Smitherman said that this was, “a discriminatory bill based on economics.”
Sen. Roger Bedford (D) from Russellville said that this bill will lead to school boards, “Really trying to lay off the older teachers that cost more.”
Dr. Joe Morton representing the Business and Education Alliance spoke for the bill. Morton said the state needs to develop a plan to retain the best teachers. “This plan supports Dr. Bice’s plan 2020.” Morton said that it is a major shift in that the seniority of a person can not be a major factor in why they are retained during a Reduction In Force.
Sen. Roger Bedford (D) proposed an amendment to the bill that testing can not be the most significant factor.
Sen. Del Marsh (who sponsored HB 433) said, “I wish we lived in a perfect world and everybody wanted what was best for the children.” Marsh said that his bill, “Is very simple. It says that seniority can not be the most significant factor,” [in a reduction in force]. “We have asked these systems to do better.”
Marsh said that we have got to create a system with flexibility. Often it is failing systems where seniority is the most important factor. Marsh said this bill does not create anything as the most significant factor and called the current policy discriminatory toward those younger teachers.
Sen. Marsh said, “I will take the amendment. We want what is best for the students at the end of the day. No one thing should be the most significant factor,” in decisions on layoffs during a RIF.
Sen. Smitherman said, “There needs to be some additional work on the bill.” Smitherman said that his main concern is that the support personnel and cafeteria personnel could be subject to the same evaluations system as the teachers. “No way that we can use these standards.” I want to make sure that we don’t put support personnel under this bill.
Sen. Marsh said, “That makes sense and I will be glad to sit down with you,” to make changes before it comes to the floor of the full Senate.
The Committee gave the bill a favorable report.
Slow absentee voting in Tuscaloosa sparks outrage, possible legal action
Among the issues were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Long lines and slow absentee ballot processing in Tuscaloosa County have left voters outraged and incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’s campaign threatening legal action.
On Wednesday, Jones’s campaign attorney, Adam Plant, sent a letter to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Clerk Magaria Bobo, outlining a number of issues with ongoing absentee voting and promising to take legal action if Bobo doesn’t improve the process on the final day, Friday. Among the issues documented by Plant were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Additionally, Plant noted that Bobo has hired her family members to help process absentee ballots and at least one family member had made disparaging remarks on social media about voters.
“You and those acting on your behalf are suppressing the vote of qualified Alabama voters,” Plant wrote in the letter. “If you are unable or unwilling to execute your duties competently, and allow Tuscaloosa voters to exercise their voting rights without undue burdens, we will take further action.”
In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday, Bobo noted that her office had received more than 13,000 requests for absentee ballots — a remarkable uptick from the 3,000 or so her office usually receives — and there had been problems in managing that number of ballots while also adhering to social distancing guidelines within the office.
However, as Plant’s letter notes, the massive increase in absentee ballots for this election shouldn’t have been a surprise. Also, Secretary of State John Merrill had made additional funds available to absentee managers to facilitate hiring extra staff, purchasing additional computers and staying open for longer hours to accommodate the anticipated increase.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Alabama Democratic Party criticized Bobo and her family members, and the release included screenshots of Facebook posts from Bobo’s daughter lashing out at voters who complained about the long wait times.
“No voter should have to wait in line for hours to exercise their rights,” said ADP executive director Wade Perry. “We should leverage every tool we have to make voting easier, not harder. Also, it should go without saying that election workers should not insult the very people they are employed to serve. If Ms. Bobo is incapable of processing voters quickly, someone else needs to do the job.”
Jones campaign calls Tuberville a “coward” after no-show at Auburn forum
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” Jones’s campaign said.
There are only four days left before election day, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign is slamming Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville, accusing him of “hiding” and calling him a “coward.”
On Wednesday, Jones addressed an Auburn University forum. Tuberville did not attend.
“Tonight, the College Democrats and College Republicans at Auburn University co-hosted a debate between Doug Jones and Tommy Tuberville, offering students a chance to ask the candidates about the issues that matter most to Alabama,” the Jones campaign said in an email to supporters. “But Tuberville never showed up – he’s too scared to face Doug… even on his own home turf. Tuberville has repeatedly refused to debate Doug Jones. He’s consistently refused to be interviewed by the press. He’s refused to tell Alabama the truth about who and what they’re voting for – and it’s clear why.”
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” the campaign continued. “If he won’t tell the truth, we will. Tuberville expects to win this race off of his blind allegiance to the President and his party affiliation. But Alabamians know better.”
“People deserve to know who they’re really voting for if they vote for Tuberville: someone who … won’t protect our health care, doesn’t believe in science, has no idea what the Voting Rights Act is, and doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of Alabamians,” the Jones campaign concluded. “Alabama will never elect a coward. Pitch in now and help us spread the truth about the man hiding behind the ballot.”
“I am disappointed that Tommy Tuberville is not here,” Jones said. “I think it is important that people see two candidates side by side answering the same questions.”
Tuberville meanwhile is canvassing the state, speaking to rallies and Republican groups to turn out the Republican vote for himself and President Donald Trump. Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest in Madison County on Thursday and at the Trump Truck Parade rally in Phenix City.
“It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who represents our conservative beliefs and traditional values,” Tuberville said in Phenix City. “It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who supports the Second Amendment, the right to life, and putting God back in the classroom.”
Polling consistently shows Tuberville with a commanding lead over Jones. Real Clear Politics lists the race on their current board as a likely Republican win. FiveThirtyEight’s election model gives Tuberville has a 79 percent chance of defeating Jones.
Tuberville says election is about “the American dream”
“It is not about me. It is not about Biden or Jones. It is about the American dream. They are trying to take it away from us,” Tuberville claimed.
Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest asking Madison County voters to support him and re-elect Donald Trump on Election Day next Tuesday.
The former Auburn University head football coach told the estimated crowd of 350 that, “It is great to be here. This has been a lot of fun for me. Two years ago, my wife and I started to pray on whether or not to run. When we decided to run, she said don’t come back until you win.”
“This is a very serious election,” Tuberville said. “This is not about Donald Trump. It is not about me. It is not about Biden or Jones. It is about the American dream. They are trying to take it away from us.”
“I always told my players this: this country gives you the opportunity to fail and if you fail you get back up and try again,” Tuberville said. “When I was growing up in Arkansas I wanted to be a college football coach. People in high school laughed at me for it and people in college. It takes perseverance.”
Tuberville said that this country gives you the opportunity to succeed, more so than any other country in the world. He claimed that most of the rest of the world is “socialist.”
Tuberville also claimed that the other side, the Democratic candidates, are trying to turn America into a socialist country, which is not accurate.
“We are not going to let them ruin this country,” Tuberville said.
The 2020 Madison County GOP Freedom Fest was held at the brand new Toyota Field, the new home of the Huntsville Trash Pandas minor league baseball team.
Tuberville praised Trump whom he said he has “gotten to know through all of this, and we have become friends. He never slows down, and he is sharp as a tack.”
Tuberville said that the president once called him at 2:30 in the morning, “He said sleep is overrated.”
Tuberville said that he has spoken with “a lot of people who are as nervous as I am about Tuesday.” Tuberville, who is being outspent, urged the crowd to ignore all the television ads by his opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.
Tuberville vowed to defend the Second Amendment if elected, “They ain’t getting my guns….or your guns.”
“We need to get God back in our schools and teach values again,” Tuberville stated. “The other side does not talk about values and morals.”
We are not going to allow them to tear down our country,” Tuberville said. “God will not allow them.”
“We are going to get God back in our country like it is supposed to be,” Tuberville said.
Tuberville was introduced to the crowd by State Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville. Scofield said that he “is ready to send Doug Jones back to California.”
“Yes I know he is actually from here, but he sure votes like California,” he said. “He certainly doesn’t vote like the vast majority of the people of Alabama want him to vote.”
Scofield called Tuberville is “a fighter” who will stand up for the values of the people of Alabama.
Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, said, “This is the most important election of my lifetime.”
“Do we believe in freedom and liberty or do we believe in socialism?” Brooks said. “We need to beat them like a drum.”
The general election is on Tuesday. You must bring a valid photo ID with you to your assigned polling place in order to participate.
Secretary of State John Merrill has predicted that the state would have record participation on Tuesday.
State is cleaning up after Hurricane Zeta
Almost 500,000 Alabama Power customers were without power immediately following the storm, including 163,000 in Mobile County alone.
The state of Alabama began working on recovering from Hurricane Zeta on Thursday after the storm slammed the state this week.
“Zeta gave us a real pounding, and many areas are just beginning the clean up process,” said Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama. “The storm had an especially serious impact in north Mobile County, Washington County, and Clarke County. My staff and I stand ready to assist our city, county, and state partners to ensure folks get the help they need to clean up and rebuild.”
Almost 500,000 Alabama Power customers were without power immediately following the storm, including 163,000 in Mobile County alone.
“Our storm team is working into the evening replacing downed lines and poles to restore service for our customers,” Alabama Power announced on Twitter. “At 9:30 p.m., 258,000 customers remain without service across the state. … As of 6 a.m. there are 243,000 outages across the state.”
There was damage across much of the state. As Hurricane Zeta moved through Alabama, it left behind many problems. Thousands of trees are down. There are trees down on homes, businesses, cars, power lines, fences, barns and blocking roadways.
Some school systems are closed or are conducting classes remotely on Friday due to ongoing cleanup efforts and the widespread power outages. The schools plan to reopen Monday.
Flooding from the higher than expected storm surge hit downtown Mobile according to the National Hurricane Center. The National Weather Service said that water in parts of Mobile Bay rose to “major flooding” levels overnight on Oct. 28 to 29.
Byrne warned constituents to be careful using chainsaws in the cleanup and using generators to power their homes and businesses.
The Alabama Department of Public Health warned that, “It might take longer than normal to get power and water back up after #HurricaneZeta. Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if you’re using a generator.”
Portable generators should be kept OUTSIDE the home. Carbon monoxide can build up rapidly if you are using a generator inside a building. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and it kills hundreds of Americans each year.
Because the storm was moving so rapidly, it was not just the coastal counties that were hit hard by Hurricane Zeta. Elmore, Butler, Shelby and Calhoun Counties are among the many counties with extensive damage.
The state was already recovering from Hurricane Sally in September.