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BCA Announces First Round of Endorsements

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, March 19, the powerful Business Council of Alabama (BCA) announced that their political action committee (ProgressPAC) was endorsing an incumbent laden first round slate of candidates containing few surprises.  The powerful business group endorsed four more years for Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R).  Similarly ProgressPAC also endorsed Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey (R), Attorney General Luther Strange (R), Agricultural Commissioner John McMillan (R), and state Treasurer Young Boozer (R).

In the crowded race for the open state auditor position, ProgressPAC has endorsed Adam Thompson (R).

Adam Thompson said, “I am honored to receive the endorsement one of the largest and most active business organizations in our state.  BCA represents thousands of Alabama businesses and supports pro-business candidates for public office. I am committed to implementing good, common sense business principles in state government and the State Auditor’s Office.”

Thompson is currently the Chief of Staff for Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett (R).  Thompson previously served in the Auditor’s office under Beth Chapman (R).

ProgressPAC also endorsed state Representative John Merrill (R) from Tuscaloosa in the very competitive Secretary of State’s race.

The Alabama affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seems satisfied with the Republican Super Majorities in both Houses of the state legislature as is.  The BCA endorsed both Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston.

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BCA endorsed several Senate incumbents in what appears at this point to be competitive races.  These include: Sen. Gerald Dial (R) from Lineville, Sen. Phil Williams (R) from Rainbow City, Sen. Tom Whatley (R) from Auburn, and Sen. Jimmy Holley (R) from Elba.

Senator Phil Williams (R) from Rainbow City said on Facebook, “Campaign update: I’m humbled and very proud that I have been endorsed for re-election to the Alabama State Senate by the Business Council of Alabama! The BCA is one the most conservative pro-growth organizations in the state and I’m proud that the accomplishments that I’ve been a part of as a Republican legislator have resulted in their support.”

In the open Senate District 8, the BCA has endorsed Steve Livingston (R).  In Senate District 29 ProgressPAC endorsed Melinda McClendon (R) over incumbent Senator Harri Anne Smith (I).  In the open Senate District 30 the business group endorsed Clyde Chambliss (R).  No Senate Democrats were endorsed by BCA at this point.

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In the House, most of the endorsements went to incumbents, Democrats as well as Republicans.

Rep. Mack Butler (R) from Rainbow City said, “I’m very proud to Announce that I have been Endorsed by the Business Council of Alabama in my quest for re-election to State House District 30! I’m very proud to stand with them as a pro business member of the House of Representatives.”

In House District 16 BCA endorsed Kyle South (R) over both former Jefferson County Commissioner Bobby Humphryes (R) and incumbent Daniel Boman (D).  In the open district 44 BCA endorsed Danny Garrett over Joe Freeman and John Amari in the Republican Primary.  In the open House District 73, BCA endorsed Matt Fridy (R).

In the open House District 38 race BCA endorsed Randy Price (R). In the open House District 62 Rich Wingo (R) received BCA’s endorsement.  In House District 24 BCA endorsed Nathaniel Ledbetter (R).  In House District 27 the group endorsed Will Ainsworth (R).

For State Board of Education BCA has endorsed Barry Sadler (R) for District 2 over incumbent Betty Peters (R).  BCA has endorsed Cynthia McCarty (R) for District 6 and incumbent Mary Scott Hunter in District 8.  BCA has been very vocal during this session about defending the controversial common core standards and that charge has been led by State School Board member Mary Scott Hunter (R).  State School Board member Betty Peters meanwhile has been an outspoken opponent of the Common Core standards.

Mary Scott Hunter wrote, “I was honored to receive the endorsement of the Business Council of Alabama this week.  I am grateful for the support and encouragement of our business leaders who are unrelenting in their efforts to improve Alabama’s business climate and create job opportunity for Alabamians.”

For Congress, ProgressPAC is supporting Senator Jeff Sessions (who has no Republican or Democrat opponent) and all six of the House incumbents.  They have not yet made an endorsement in the open Sixth Congressional District.
The first round of endorsements for the 2014 campaign cycle were made during a board of directors meeting in Montgomery.

ProgressPAC Chairman Marty Abroms said, “We have a tremendous first round of pro-business candidates we will be supporting as we move into the 2014 election cycle.  We look forward to working with these and other candidates as we consider additional endorsements in the weeks to come.”  Marty Abroms is a Florence accountant with the firm of Abroms and Associates.

BCA is Alabama’s exclusive affiliate to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

A full list of the first round of 2014 ProgressPAC-Endorsed Candidates follows:

Constitutional Officers
Governor – Robert Bentley
Lt. Gov. – Kay Ivey
Attorney General – Luther Strange
Ag. Commissioner – John McMillan
Treasurer – Young Boozer
Auditor – Adam Thompson
Secretary of State – John Merrill

Senate Candidates
Senate District 2         Bill Holtzclaw
Senate District 3         Arthur Orr
Senate District 4         Paul Bussman
Senate District 5         Greg Reed
Senate District 8         Steve Livingston
Senate District 9         Clay Scofield
Senate District 10       Phil Williams
Senate District 12       Del Marsh
Senate District 13       Gerald Dial
Senate District 14       Cam Ward
Senate District 15       Slade Blackwell
Senate District 16       Jabo Waggoner
Senate District 21       Gerald Allen
Senate District 25       Dick Brewbaker
Senate District 27       Tom Whatley
Senate District 29       Melinda McClendon
Senate District 30       Clyde Chambliss
Senate District 31       Jimmy Holley
Senate District 32       Trip Pittman
Senate District 34       Rusty Glover
Senate District 35       Bill Hightower

State Board of Education
District 2 – Barry Sadler
District 6 – Cynthia McCarty
District 8 – Mary Scott Hunter

House Candidates
House District 2         Lynn Greer
House District 4         Micky Hammon
House District 5         Dan Williams
House District 6         Phil Williams
House District 7         Ken Johnson
House District 8         Terri Collins
House District 9         Ed Henry
House District 10       Mike Ball
House District 11       Randall Shedd
House District 12       Mac Buttram
House District 13       Bill Roberts
House District 14       Richard Baughn
House District 15       Allen Farley
House District 16       Kyle South
House District 17       Mike Millican
House District 20       Howard Sanderford
House District 21       Jim Patterson
House District 22       Wayne Johnson
House District 24       Nathaniel Ledbetter
House District 25       Mac McCutcheon
House District 26       Kerry Rich
House District 27       Will Ainsworth
House District 30       Mack Butler
House District 31       Mike Holmes
House District 34       David Standridge
House District 35       Steve Dean
House District 36       Randy Wood
House District 38       Randy Price
House District 40       K.L. Brown
House District 41       Mike Hill
House District 42       Kurt Wallace
House District 44       Danny Garrett
House District 45       Dickie Drake
House District 47       Jack Williams
House District 48       Jim Carns
House District 49       April Weaver
House District 51       Allen Treadaway
House District 55       Rod Scott
House District 58       Oliver Robinson
House District 61       Alan Harper
House District 62       Rich Wingo
House District 63       Bill Poole
House District 64       Harry Shiver
House District 65       Elaine Beech
House District 66       Alan Baker
House District 71       AJ McCampbell
House District 73       Matt Fridy
House District 74       Dimitri Polizos
House District 75       Reed Ingram
House District 79       Mike Hubbard
House District 80       Lesley Vance
House District 81       Mark Tuggle
House District 82       Pebblin Warren
House District 86       Paul Lee
House District 87       Donnie Chesteen
House District 88       Paul Beckman
House District 89       Alan Boothe
House District 90       Charles Newton
House District 91       Barry Moore
House District 92       Mike Jones
House District 93       Steve Clouse
House District 94       Joe Faust
House District 95       Steve McMillan
House District 96       Randy Davis
House District 97       Adline Clarke
House District 99       James Buskey
House District 100     Victor Gaston
House District 101     Chris Pringle
House District 102     Jack Williams
House District 104     Margie Wilcox
House District 105     David Sessions

*Congressional Candidates
U.S. Senate – Jeff Sessions
First District – Bradley Byrne
Second District – Martha Roby
Third District – Mike Rogers
Fourth District – Robert Aderholt
Fifth District – Mo Brooks
Seventh District – Terri Sewell

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Legislature

Medical marijuana bill “is not about getting high” — it’s “about getting well.”

Bill Britt

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More than half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some form. Last week, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB165 on an 8 to 1 vote. If the measure becomes law, it will allow Alabama residents to obtain medical marijuana under rigorously imposed conditions.

Known as the Compassion Act, SB165 would authorize certain individuals to access medical marijuana only after a comprehensive evaluation process performed by a medical doctor who has received specific training.

“I care for people who are ill, and I try to reduce their suffering to the best of my ability, using the tools at my disposal that are the safest and most effective,” said Dr. Alan Shackleford, a Colorado physician who spoke before the Judiciary Committee. “Cannabis is one of those tools.”

Shackleford, a Harvard trained physician, has treated more than 25,000 patients at his medical practice over the last ten years, he says a large number of his patients have benefited from medical cannabis.

While there are detractors, the Compassion Act is not a hastily composed bill but is, in fact, the result of a year-long study by the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission that voted to approve the legislation by an overwhelming majority.

“It’s a strong showing that two-thirds [of the commission] thought the legislation was reasonable and well-thought-out,” said Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, after the commission vote.

Melson, who chaired the commission, is a medical researcher and is the lead sponsor of SB165.

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Two-thirds of Americans say that the use of marijuana should be legal, according to a Pew Research Center survey. “The share of U.S. adults who oppose legalization has fallen from 52 percent in 2010 to 32 percent today” according to Pew. The study also shows that an overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (91 percent) say marijuana should be legal either for medical and recreational use (59 percent) or that it should be licensed just for medical use (32 percent).

These numbers are also reflected in surveys conducted by Fox News, Gallup, Investor’s Business Daily and others.

“This bill is not about getting high. This bill is about getting well,” says Shackleford.

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Cristi Cain, the mother of a young boy with epilepsy that suffers hundreds of seizures a day, pleaded with lawmakers to make medical cannabis legal.

“This body has said so many times that your zip code should not affect your education,” Cain told the committee. “Well, I don’t believe that your area code should affect your doctor’s ability to prescribe you medication. If we were in another state, my son could be seizure-free.”

SB165 will strictly regulate a network of state-licensed marijuana growers, dispensaries, transporters, and processors.

There will be no smokable products permitted under the legislation and consumer possession of marijuana in its raw form would remain illegal.

“The people of Alabama deserve the same access to treatment as people in 33 other states,” said Shackelford.

 

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Education

Opinion | Instead of fixing a school for military kids, how about just fixing the schools for all kids?

Josh Moon

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The education of police officers’ kids isn’t worth any extra effort. 

Same for the kids of nurses and firefighters. Ditto for the kids of preachers and social workers. 

No, in the eyes of the Republican-led Alabama Legislature, the children of this state get what they get and lawmakers aren’t going to go out of their way to make sure any of them get a particularly good public education. 

Except, that is, for the kids of active duty military members stationed at bases in this state. 

They matter more. 

So much so that the Alabama Senate last week passed a bill that would create a special school to serve those kids — and only those kids. To provide those kids — and only those kids — with a quality education. 

An education better than the one available right now to the thousands of children who attend troubled school systems, such as the one in Montgomery. 

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The charter school bill pushed by Sen. Will Barfoot at the request of Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth carves out a narrow exception in the Alabama Charter School law, and it gives the right to start a charter school located at or near a military base — a school that will be populated almost exclusively (and in some cases, absolutely exclusively) by the kids of military members. 

The explanation for this bill from Barfoot was surprisingly straightforward. On Tuesday, Ainsworth’s office sent information packets around to House members to explain the necessity of the bill. 

In each case, the explanation was essentially this: the Maxwell Air Force Base folks don’t like the schools in Montgomery and it’s costing the state additional federal dollars because top-level personnel and programs don’t want to be in Montgomery. 

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And in what has to be the most Alabama response to a public education problem, the solution our lawmakers came up with was to suck millions of dollars out of the budget of the State Education Department budget and hundreds of thousands out of the budget of a struggling district and use it to build a special school that will provide a better level of education to a small group of kids simply because it might generate more federal tax dollars. 

And because having your name attached to a bill that supposedly aids the military looks good, so long as no one thinks about it too hard. 

But in the meantime, as this special school is being built, the hardworking, good people of Montgomery — some of them veterans and Reservists themselves — are left with a school district that is so recognizably bad that the Legislature is about to build a special school to accommodate these kids. 

Seriously, wrap your head around that. 

Look, this will come as a shock to many people, but I like Will Ainsworth. While we disagree on many, many things, I think he’s a genuine person who believes he’s helping people. 

The problem is that he is too often surrounded by conservatives who think every issue can be solved with a bumper sticker slogan and screaming “free market!” And who too often worry too much about the political optics and too little about the real life effects. 

And Montgomery Public Schools is as real life as it gets.

Right now, there are nearly 30,000 kids in that system. And they need some real, actual help — not the window dressing, money pit BS they’ve been handed so far through LEAD Academy and the other destined-for-doom charters. And they sure as hell don’t need a special charter for military kids to remind them that the school system they attend isn’t good enough for the out-of-towners. 

Stop with the facade and fix the school system. 

You people literally have the power and the money to do this. Given the rollbacks of tenure laws and the passage of charter school laws and the Accountability Act, there is nothing that can’t be done. 

Listen to your colleagues on the other side, who took tours recently of charter schools in other states — charters that work with underprivileged students and that have remarkable success rates. Hell, visit those charters yourself. Or, even better, visit some states that have high performing public schools in high poverty areas, and steal their ideas. 

But the one thing you cannot do is leave children behind. Whatever your solution, it cannot exclude some segment of the population. It cannot sacrifice this many to save that many. 

That sort of illogical thinking is what landed Montgomery — and many other areas of the state — in their current predicaments. Carving out narrow pathways for a handful of students has never, ever worked. 

Let’s stop trying it.

 

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Crime

ADOC investigating possible suicide at Easterling Correctional Facility

Eddie Burkhalter

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The death of a man serving in the Easterling Correctional Facility in Barbour County on Sunday is being investigated as a possible suicide. 

Marquell Underwood

Marquell Underwood, 22, was found in his cell unresponsive at approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday, according to a statement by the Alabama Department of Corrections. 

Underwood was being held in solitary confinement, known as “segregation” cells in Alabama prisons. Suicides in such isolated cells is central to an ongoing lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections. 

“He was not on suicide watch. All attempts at life saving measures were unsuccessful,” The statement reads. “ADOC cannot release additional details of the incident at this time, pending an ongoing investigation and an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.” 

Underwood pleaded guilty of murder in the 2015 shooting death of Gregorie Somerville in Tuscaloosa and was sentenced to life in prison. 

Underwood’s death is at least the second preventable death inside state prisons this year. 

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Antonio Bell’s death on Jan. 9 at Holman prison is being investigated as a possible drug overdose. 

Last year at least 6 people serving in Alabama prisons died as a result of suicide, according to news accounts. During 2019 there were 13 homicides in state prisons, and as many as 7 overdose deaths, according to news accounts and ADOC statements. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2014 lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections over access to mental health care for incarcerated people is ongoing. 

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“The risk of suicide is so severe and imminent that the court must redress it immediately,” U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson wrote in a May 4, 2019, ruling. 

Judge Thompson in a 2017 ordered required ADOC to check on incarcerated people being held in segregation cells every 30 minutes, to increase mental health staffing and numerous other remedies to reduce the number of preventable deaths. 

“The skyrocketing number of suicides within ADOC, the majority of which occurred in segregation, reflects the combined effect of the lack of screening, monitoring, and treatment in segregation units and the dangerous conditions in segregation cells,” Thompson wrote in his order. “Because prisoners often remain in segregation for weeks, months, or even years at a time, their decompensation may not become evident until it is too late—after an actual or attempted suicide.” 

The SPLC in a Jan. 2019 filing wrote to the court that “the situation has become worse, not better, since the Liability Opinion. There have been twelve completed suicides since December 30, 2017…Defendants fail to provide the most basic monitoring of people in segregation. Defendants fail to do anything to learn from past suicides to prevent additional suicides.”

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Crime

Early morning contraband raid at Easterling Correctional Facility

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Department of Corrections on Tuesday raided the Easterling Correctional Facility in Barbour County to collect contraband. 

More than 200 officials from ADOC, state Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, Department of Natural Resources, Game Warden Division, and Russel and Coffee County Sheriff’s departments conducted the early morning search, according to an ADOC press release. 

“Operation Restore Order is a critical initiative designed to create safer living and working conditions across Alabama’s correctional system,” ADOC commissioner Jeff Dunn said in a statement. “The presence of Illegal contraband including drugs, which undoubtedly is perpetuated by the presence of illegal cell phones, is a very real threat we must continue to address.” 

“Additionally, our aging and severely dilapidated facilities are constructed of increasingly breakable materials that ill-intentioned inmates can obtain and fashion into dangerous weapons. The presence of illegal contraband puts everyone at risk, and action – including Operation Restore Order raids – must regularly be taken to eliminate it,” Dunn’s statement reads. “We remain committed to doing everything in our power to root out the sources of contraband entry into our facilities, and will punish those who promote its presence to the full extent of the law.”

ADOC is developing plans to conduct more of these larger raids, in addition to smaller, unannounced searches, which prison officials hope will help the department “develop intelligence-based programs to identify contraband trends and provide necessary intelligence to identify corruption indicators.” 

“The public should contact ADOC’s Law Enforcement Service Division at 1-866-293-7799 with information that may lead to the arrest of anyone attempting to introduce illegal contraband into state prisons. The public may also report suspicious activity by going to the ADOC Website at http://www.doc.alabama.gov/investigationrequest.”

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