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Two Alabama Republican “Races to Watch”

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Monday, September 8, the Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) Future Majority Project and “Right Women, Right Now” initiatives both announced their “14 in ’14 Races to Watch” during the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) Northeast Regional Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.

Although the meeting focused on Republican opportunities to gain ground in the Northeast U.S. in the upcoming midterm elections, two Alabama races were included as targets for the national GOP group. The group is urging that Republicans get behind Darius Foster in the Alabama House District 56 race.  The group also list 14 races for Republican women and included: Tijuanna Adetunji’s challenge of long time incumbent Alvin Holmes (D) in Alabama House District 78.

RSLC Board Member, Christine Toretti issued a written statement announcing the “Races to Watch.”  Toretti said, “It is critical we ensure our Party reflects the full diversity of America and the RSLC’s Future Majority Project and ‘Right Women, Right Now’ initiative has been instrumental in guaranteeing that female and diverse Republican candidates are a part of the political conversation, both nationwide and at the state level.  I applaud the candidates recognized today in these ‘Races to Watch’ and thank them for leading the way to help us grow the Republican Party in their respective states.”

Toretti announced that The Future Majority Project’s “14 in ’14 Races to Watch” are:  Darius Foster – Alabama House 56, Anand Dubey – Alaska House 21, Rene Plasencia – Florida House 49, Bob Cortes – Florida House 30, Krishna Bansal – Illinois House 84, Tony Barton – Kansas House 41, Shamed Dogan – Missouri House 98, Victoria Seaman – Nevada Assembly 34, Herman Joubert – North Carolina Senate 22, Ervin Yen – Oklahoma Senate 40, Bryan Terry – Tennessee House 48, Sabi Kumar – Tennessee House 66, Rick Galindo – Texas House 117, and Chris Carmona – Texas House 148.

Toretti announced that the Right Women, Right Now “14 in ’14 Races to Watch” included: Tijuanna Adetunji – Alabama House 78, Michele Reagan – Arizona Secretary of State, Shawnna Bolick – Arizona House 28, Irene Littleton – Arizona Senate 8, Candice Benge – Colorado House 3, Terri Bryant – Illinois House 115, Erin Davis – Kansas House 15, Karyn Polito – Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, Carol Ann Fausone – Michigan House 21, Jill Dickman – Nevada Assembly 31, Sharon Gamba – Rhode Island House 32, Patsy Hazlewood – Tennessee House 27, and Sophia DiCaro – Utah House 31, and Tracie Happel – Wisconsin Assembly 94.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said in a written statement following the announcement:  “We are so very proud of Darius and Tijuanna for this special recognition by the RSLC. We have known for some time that both Darius and Tijuanna were very special people and the honor that has been bestowed upon them is well deserved. The Alabama Republican Party is excited that Darius and Tijuanna have been chosen as one of the 14 candidates in each group that are being recognized by the RSLC. Their recognition by the RSLC confirms that they are extremely well qualified to represent their constituents in the Alabama House. We look forward to working alongside of each of them to ensure their victories in November.”

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Darius Foster is the Republican nominee for the District 56 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. Darius Foster is a native Alabamian who was raised on the west side of Birmingham. He has a degree from Miles College, is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, is a former member of the Alabama GOP steering committee, and is a former member of the leadership team with the Birmingham Urban League Young Professionals.

Foster, who is African-American, said that people often have trouble hiding their shock when they find out he is also a Republican. Foster said, “I am very excited about the opportunity to earn the vote of the citizens of District 56. I am even more excited about offering voters something different. A new face with new ideas. I believe that the choice will be clear for voters in November.”

Foster said on his website, “It’s simply time for a new direction. Business as usual is no longer acceptable.”

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Foster ran unopposed in the June Republican primary for the District 56 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. Foster said that after redistricting, HD56 is arguably one of the most racially, economically, and generationally diverse districts in the State.

The majority minority district is currently represented by Representative Lawrence McAdory (D), but he was narrowly unseated in the low turnout Alabama Democratic Primary by challenger Louise Alexander from Bessemer.

In Alabama House District 78, Tijuanna Adetunji (R) from Montgomery is challenging the longest serving current member of the Alabama legislature.  Clearly the incumbent, Alvin Holmes (D) from Montgomery, has the advantage in name recognition after his 40 years of service in the legislature, but during the last year Holmes has made a number of racially insensitive statements that have drawn widespread national criticism and condemnation.

Adetunji wrote, “As Alabamians we have come too far to turn back now to the years of racial divisiveness.  Coretta Scott King said, “Segregation was wrong when it was forced by white people,” and that it is “still wrong when it is requested by black people.” I am not surprised that such request are still being made from the Alabama House floor like the one recently by Representative Alvin Holmes (D-78), that the U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas is an ‘Uncle Tom.’”

Adetunji said, “I believe the true Uncle Toms of our day are those that work hard to silence the voices of blacks that refuse to deny their values in the voting booth. These Uncle Toms go to great lengths to make government more appealing than God.  They call evil good and good evil.  They have cheapened the struggle of “Civil Rights” to include a person’s sexual preference.  They have built strong alliances and strongholds as Democrats and any black person who wakes up from the nightmare of their tactics are attacked for doing so.  When did being black mean subscribing to their views only?”

Adetunji continued, “Since announcing my candidacy there have been many blacks that wholeheartedly agree with me and say with exasperation, ‘It is time for a change.’ But there are others that also agree but are afraid of the ‘establishment.’ As a Republican for the Alabama House of Representatives District 78, I ask Alabama to wake up, stand up and take courage for the values that once made this country great. These values can be found in the Declaration of Independence, ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…’ It is my duty to make sure that those rights are not forgotten or marred by fear tactics, name-calling and sabotage.”

Tijuanna Adetunji is a native Alabamian born in Birmingham and reared in Montgomery. Her husband Fred Adetunji, is the Director of Missions and Executive Pastor of Fresh Anointing House of Worship (FAHOW) in Montgomery. They have four children and one grandchild. Adetunji owns a business that provides insurance products. She is a proponent of entrepreneurial growth and development through the Small Business Resource Center, where she completed Entrepreneurial University.

Tijuanna is the volunteer Director of Life Outreach at FAHOW, is an inspirational speaker, passionate advocate for the unborn and the author of “Dear Daughter: How To Choose Your Way To A Better Life.” Adetunji is a founding member of the Montgomery County Minority GOP, a member of the Alabama Minority GOP and the Capital City Republican Women.  She has a Bachelors degree from Liberty University and is near completing her Masters in Public Policy from Liberty University. Adetunji is a U.S. Army Veteran who served during the first Gulf War where she served with the 1207th Medical Unit. Like Foster, Adetunji is running as an African-American Republican in a majority minority district.

The Alabama Republican Party leads the entire nation in minority candidate recruitment, but at this point it is uncertain if African-American voters will embrace African-American Republican candidates like Foster.

In recent years, ALGOP has had tremendous success at breaking into counties that were long dominated by Democratic Party machines. The party controls both Houses of the State legislature, six of Alabama’s Seven Congressional Districts, and every Statewide elected office despite routinely losing the Alabama African-American vote by 85 to 90+ percent.

If the Alabama Republican Party can make inroads among a new generation of African-American voters, the ALGOP will cement its place as the dominant political party in the State of Alabama.<

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Judge dismisses lawsuit, settling ownership of Alabama Democratic party

Eddie Burkhalter

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Montgomery County Circuit Judge Greg Griffin on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit over who was in control of the Alabama Democratic party, meaning the so-called reform group championed by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones has won out. 

Griffin in his order filed Thursday morning wrote that his court lacked jurisdiction “over what appears to be an intra-political-party dispute regarding the officer elections and governance of the Alabama Democratic party.” 

Griffin’s ruling means that state Rep. Chris England, who was picked to lead the state Democratic party by the reform group, is the party’s chair. 

The ruling puts an end to the lawsuit filed by former ADP chairwoman Nancy Worley, after the Democratic National Committee ruled that her re-election as chair was invalid. 

England was elected ADP chair after the DNC ordered new elections and the adoption of new bylaws.

 

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Bill would make owning pre-1960 slot machines legal for personal use

Eddie Burkhalter

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Vintage slot machines are highly sought-after by collectors, but owning one for personal use is a crime in Alabama. That could change this year. 

Rep. Chip Brown, R-Mobile, told APR by phone on Wednesday that he was approached by a group of antiques collectors who asked that he write a bill that would allow a person to own the vintage slot machines for personal use. 

Mention of legislation around gaming machines of any kind raises caution in Montgomery, where legislators and special interests have for decades fought over gambling and whether to establish a state lottery. Brown said he was well aware of the sensitivity of the subject matter when crafting the bill, which makes clear it won’t allow any of the old machines to be used for commercial purposes. 

“All this does is it just allows individuals to collect pre-1960 slot machines for their own home collection,” Brown said.  “I was very careful when we drafted the bill to make sure that it wouldn’t open the door to any bigger issues.” 

House Bill 260 reads that “The crime of possession of a gambling device does not apply to a slot machine manufactured before 1960, with the intention that the slot machine be used only for the personal and private use of the owner or for public display as a historical artifact in a manner that the slot machine is not accessible to the public.”

Alabama is one of eight states that do not allow ownership of slot machines made in any year. Other state laws vary, allowing residents to own machines made before certain years. 

Pre-electric slot machines are highly sought-after, and can fetch many thousands of dollars. Brown said those who want to own one for personal use ought to be be able to do so. 

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“I’m hoping I can get it in debate in committee next week,” Brown said of his bill.

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Bill strengthening foster parents’ rights in child custody cases clears senate committee

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, a bill that would require a juvenile court to consider a child’s relationship with his or her current foster parents and the child’s best interests when making a determination of whether to terminate parental rights received a favorable report in the Senate Committee on Children and Senior Advocacy.

House Bill 157 is sponsored by State Representative Paul Lee, R-Dothan.

Lee said that when we talk about our education system, nothing is more destructive than a lack of home life. A lot of these children are in foster care for two or three years. Then when parental rights are about to be terminated relatives show up at court even though they have been AWOL in the life of the child. Presently the judge can not take into account the role that the foster parents have played. This bill allows him to use the three years weight in making his decision.

HB157 passed the full House on Tuesday where it passed 94 to 1.

24 hours later the Senate Committee on Children and Senior Advocacy, chaired by State Senator Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield, gave the bill a favorable report. There was no opposition to the bill thus there was no public hearing.

The bill was cosponsored by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur.

Collins said, “Some of these children, these babies, have been in foster care for years. This gives foster care families some say in permanent decisions with the child.”

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Collins said that she met with a group of foster parents from her district and this bill was a priority for them.

According to the synopsis: “Existing law provides factors for a juvenile court to consider in making a determination of whether to terminate parental rights. This bill would require a juvenile court to consider a child’s relationship with his or her current foster parents and the child’s best interests when making a determination of whether to terminate parental rights. This bill would provide that a juvenile court is not required to consider a relative for candidacy to be a child’s legal guardian if the relative has not met certain requirements. This bill would also provide that service on an individual whose parental rights have been terminated are not entitled to receive notice of pendency regarding an adoption proceeding involving a child for whom the individual’s parental rights have been terminated.”

The bill states that: “If the juvenile court finds from clear and convincing evidence, competent, material, and relevant in nature, that the parents of a child are unable or unwilling to discharge their responsibilities to and for the child, or that the conduct or condition of the parents renders them unable to properly care for the child and that the conduct or condition is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, it may terminate the parental rights of the parents. In a hearing on a petition for termination of parental rights, the court shall consider the best interests of the child.”

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According to the bill the judge should award custody to the foster parents over a relative, “In a proceeding for termination of parental rights if both of the following circumstances exist: “(1) The relative did not attempt to care for the child or obtain custody of the child within four months of the child being removed from the custody of the parents or placed in foster care, if the removal was known to the relative. “(2) The goal of the current permanency plan formulated by the Department of Human Resources is adoption by the current foster parents.”

The bill now goes to the full Senate for their consideration.

 

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State leaders unveil a major mental health legislative initiative

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R – Rainsville, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R), Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R – Monrovia, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R – Anniston, Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear, State Education Superintendent Eric Mackey, House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, as well as the legislators carrying the bills held a press conference to announce a major mental health legislative initiative at a State House news conference.

“47,000 Americans lost their lives to suicide last year,” Rep. Ledbetter said. “It is the second leading cause of deaths for teenagers.”

“We are failing with mental health,” Ledbetter said. “I told the Governor that we are failing mental health. She asked us to lead an initiative to address mental health.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) tasked Ledbetter with leading an effort to improve and expand the mental health services that state government offers the citizens of Alabama. Ivey discussed the importance of the issue during her 2020 State of the State Address.

“The Speaker and the Pro Tem, either them or their staff, have been at every meeting we had,” Ledbetter added. “A member of the Governor’s staff also attended

Ledbetter proposed five pieces of legislation:

A School Service Coordinator Bill sponsored by Ledbetter and Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D – Birmingham, requires each school system within the state to employ a mental health service coordinator subject to legislative appropriation.

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A 72-Hour Hold Bill sponsored by Rep. Wes Allen, R – Troy, and Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R – Geneva, authorizes law enforcement officers to place individuals who are believed to have mental illness and pose a threat to themselves or others under 72-hour protective custody, which includes transportation to a hospital for evaluation and treatment.

A CIT Training Bill sponsored by Rep. Rex Reynolds, R – Huntsville, and Sen. Andrew Jones, R – Centre, requires the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission to provide mandatory crisis intervention training and continuing education to law enforcement officers.

A Crisis Care Center joint resolution by Rep. Randall Shedd, R – Fairview, and Sen. Garlan Gudger, R – Cullman, calls for the immediate creation and funding of three 24-hour crisis care centers, which serve as an alternative to costly hospital and emergency room visits by providing suicide prevention and other mental health services on an immediate, walk-in basis.

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A Stepping Up joint resolution by Rep. Anthony Daniels, D – Huntsville, and Sen. Steve Livingston, R – Scottsboro, encourages Alabama’s 67 counties to implement and embrace the Stepping Up initiative, which seeks to reduce the number of individuals in jail with mental illness.

Ledbetter said that several of these items come with a price tag. The three crisis centers will costs $18 million. This is, “One of the major priorities of our 2020 legislative session.”

“Thank you for you and your committee’s work,” You have put a lot of time and effort in it.” Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said. “Alabama, we hear you. We can do a better job. We will do a better job in addressing mental health.”

“This has been an ongoing experience for our legislature to stop and take a look at what we do with mental health in our state,” Speaker McCutcheon said. It is time that we step up. The last time Alabama stepped up on mental health without a court order was in the 1960s with Lurleen Wallace’s $47 million bond issue.”

“It is time to quit kicking the can down the road,” McCutcheon said. “The House will commit a full day to these bills’ passage.”

“What I have found in my time in Montgomery is if somebody does not take a lead on a particular topic nothing gets done we just keep talking about it,” Marsh said thanking Ledbetter and the task force.

“You either have a family member, a friend, or a community member who is affected by mental illness,” Marsh said. “Mental health is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It’s a simple issue of providing needed services that will help reduce recidivism in our prisons, improve performance in our schools, and enhance the quality of life for all Alabamians.”

Sept. Mackey said that, “This is an ongoing effort. Everybody has been wanting to work together to address mental health in this state.”

Mackey said that they “Are hearing from teachers that there are students coming into their classrooms with mental health issues as early as kindergarten and even as early as Pre-K.”

“We want to see that families have the mental health support that they need so that those kids come to school capable of learning,” Mackey said.

Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear expressed thanks that the legislative and executive branches of government are uniting their powers to address a growing problem.

“The fact that the governor and the Legislature are working so closely and cooperatively on this issues demonstrates its importance to Alabama and its citizens,” Beshear said. “The Alabama Department of Mental Health works hard to provide the best services possible with the dollars we are given, but this legislative initiative and intense emphasis will help us to literally save lives and provide hope where it does not currently exist.”

“The stepping up initiative is the foundational piece,” Beshear said. “This is an initiative that began in 2015 in the White House.” “The goal is to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness in jail.”

“The Montgoemry area was one of the first fifty to sign on to this,” Beshear explained. “They sent teams to receive training. At this time we have 21 county commissions that have signed the stepping up resolution.”

“When a person is discharged from the hospital, the hospital sends them home with a care plan,” Beshear added. “When a person is discharged from jail they need a care plan. If we can reach people early or at a crisis point in their disease process we can prevent it from progressing further.”

Commissioner Beshear said that, “Law enforcement, healthcare, government and the business community come together to create a plan at the regional level.”

The mental health reform bills could be in House and Senate bills as early as next week.

 

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