By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, September 30, Alabama House candidate Walton Hickman (D) announced that he favored a lottery to pay for Alabama kids to go to college upon graduation from high school.
Hickman said in a statement, “The single most important factor that has the greatest impact on a person’s future is education. Education translates into higher income, a better quality of life, and a more secure retirement. But, in the face of that fact, Alabama continues to lag behind the rest of the country in education funding. The most effective way to ensure progressive change in Alabama is to guarantee an education for the young people of Alabama through improved access to educational opportunities.”
Hickman said, “Tuition for Alabama colleges/universities has increased by nearly 35%, which is more than twice the rate of the growth of the average family income. In many cases, the ever-growing costs of educational opportunities are simply out of reach for many deserving young people. While schools are overcrowded and poorly funded, underpaid teachers continue to teach increasingly at-risk students whose eagerness to attend public higher education diminishes because the cost has made paying for college an impossibility.”
Hickman said that if he is elected to the House of Representatives, “I will support legislation to create and education lottery in Alabama so that all of our children can once again dream of bright futures secured with a quality education.”
Hickman said that a, “A student who maintains a solid academic record should be guaranteed a scholarship to a public Alabama university, two-year college, or technical program of their choice. All students who graduate from high school should be guaranteed a technical or trade education. Our lottery should also provide funding for apprenticeship programs in both union and non-union craft training facilities.”
Governor Bentley has said that if there is a lottery, at least part of the money should go towards the State’s struggling General Fund. The prison system is woefully underfunded and potentially facing a takeover by the Federal courts and the State’s Medicaid System is growing much faster than State revenues are……..even though Alabama offers the smallest Medicaid benefits package of any state in the country and can not afford that. Hickman’s lottery proposal would add yet another government benefit.
Critics of the lottery worry that if revenues from the lottery are not sufficient to pay for the promised scholarships and free technical education that the state is promising, parents who relied on the State to fund their children’s education instead of saving money for it themselves will then come to the state in mass and demand that the state pay for the promised scholarship even though there are not enough Alabama lottery players. Obviously Georgia and Florida, being much bigger states, are going to have the much bigger jackpots and thus continue to draw money from Alabama lottery players.
Many people also are critical of the State preying on people’s stupidity to pay for State services. Popular money advice writer and radio host Dave Ramsey says of lotteries. “You’re more likely to be hit by lightning five times and survive than you are to win the lottery. Five times! How many people do you know who have been hit once by lightning and survived, much less five times?…You’re not going to win, Dawn. Think I’m just being negative? No, I’m not. I’m being positive. I’m positive you’re not going to win! Stop placing your hope in the wrong things. Honestly, as a Christian, ask yourself if you believe God thinks this is a good use of your money. The lottery is a tax on poor people and people who can’t do math.”
Hickman’s Republican opponent in Alabama House District 90 candidate Chris Sells from Greenville announced on Friday that he was also supportive of a statewide votes on: the lottery as well as on school prayer, and other issues.
Sells said in a written statement, that he issued the statement to make clear his position on the right of the people to vote on important issues. Sells said, “I believe it is the people’s right to vote on issues such as the lottery. I also believe it is the people’s right to vote on issues such as prayer in schools. We had that right taken away from us. I believe the people should be controlling the government and not the government controlling the people.”
Sells did not offer specifics on what sort of lottery plan he supports.
House District 90 represents Butler County, Crenshaw County, and parts of Coffee, Conecuh and Montgomery counties. Sells said he is the only candidate in the race to present an education plan.
Sells narrowly won the Republican Party Primary over incumbent Charles Newton. Newton who has been a member of the Alabama legislature since 1989 had been elected as a Democrat, but changed parties only days before the qualifying deadline. Republican Primary voters selected Sells: 51.1 percent (1,767 votes) to 48.9% for Newton (1,691 votes).
The General Election will be November 4.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on one counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another five counts.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his sentence should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.
Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83
The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”
Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.
Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.
The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.
While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.
Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”
His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.
This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.