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Hubbard Announces House GOP Leadership

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, January 14, the newly re-elected Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) announced the individual Representatives chosen for leadership positions during the 2015 thru 2018 quadrennium.

(See Leadership Assignments Here.)

Speaker Mike Hubbard said that he was very pleased with the organizational session.  Some changes in the rules were made on the floor that actually made our rules better.  This morning the House adopted the joint rules that came down from the Senate.

Representative Hubbard said in a written statement, “We’ve made tremendous strides over the past four years towards improving education, growing the economy, and protecting the rights and values that Alabamians hold dear.  I am confident that group of legislators will continue to lead our fight and move Alabama forward.  The backgrounds, talents, and proven leadership of each of these individuals makes them uniquely qualified to fill these posts, and I look forward to working with them over the next four years.”

Speaker Hubbard said that four years ago the GOP took control of the House for the first time, intent on moving Alabama forward and reforming state government.  “Four years later we are still the reformers.  We are still ready to move Alabama forward even more.”

Rep. Hubbard said that it was difficult to select Chairmen because there are many talented Republicans.  The Caucus full of driven conservatives and they have put a great deal of thought into selecting their leadership team.  “We make recommendations to the caucus and then bring it to the full caucus.”

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Speaker Hubbard then introduced his House GOP leadership team one by one.

For Speaker Pro Tem Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile) was unanimously elected.

Hubbard said in a written statement on Facebook, “It was a great honor to swear in Dr. Victor Gaston as the Speaker Pro Tem. He is an invaluable member of our team and a great driver in implementing the conservative reforms that have Alabama heading in the right direction.”

Speaker Pro Tem Gaston said on Facebook, “I was happy that Jean and Hank as well as James and Charlie (Gaston’s family) were with me when the Alabama House of Representatives elected me to be the Speaker Pro Tempore. I’m thankful that many friends in District 100 make it possible for me to hold this position.”

The Speaker then introduced Rep. Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) who returns as House Majority Leader.  Hubbard said that he credits Hammon’s work with why the caucus has been so unified and gotten so much done.

Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw) was introduced as the Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. Hubbard said that McCutcheon is respected by both the Republican and Democratic Caucus’s.  “He has done an outstanding job.”

Rep. McCutcheon said in a written statement on Facebook, “Today, I was appointed to serve a second quadrennium as the Rules Committee Chairman in the Alabama House of Representatives. I’m proud to continue to serve the people of my district and the state of Alabama in this capacity. We have tremendous challenges ahead, but I’m confident that our House Leadership Team will continue the bold, conservative reforms that will move our state forward.”

Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) was introduced as the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  Hubbard said, “He is very dedicated and has continued to work throughout the year.”

Hubbard introduced Rep. Steve Clouse as Chairman of the Ways and Mean General Fund Committee.  Hubbard said that Steve Clouse has a very difficult job.  In particularly the first year of the quadrennium.

To head the Agriculture and Forestry Committee Hubbard introduced Rep. David Sessions (R-Grand Bay). Hubbard said that Sessions owns and operates a huge farm in Grand Bay.  His leadership will be a huge boost for our State.

Next was Rep. Howard Sanderford (R-Huntsville) who returns as Chair of the Boards, Agencies, and Commissions Committee.  Hubbard said that Sanderford has done an outstanding job with that Committee.

Hubbard introduced Rep. K. L. Brown (R-Jacksonville) as Chair of the new Children and Senior Advocacy Committee.  Hubbard said he is an, “…outstanding member of the Caucus.  I look forward to working with him.”

Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestavia) was introduced as the Chair of the Commerce and Small Business Committee. Hubbard said, “As you know we have made it our number one goal that Alabama is the most business friendly state in America.”

Rep. Randy Davis (R-Daphne) was introduced as Chair of the Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections Committee. Hubbard said that Davis has handled these issues with real expertise and is uniquely qualified to do this job.

Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Bay Minette) was introduced as Chair of the County and Municipal Government Committee.  Hubbard told McMillan, “I look forward to serving with you again.”

Rep. Alan Harper (R-Northport) was introduced as Chair of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee. Hubbard said that we will see some very important bills go through this committee.

To head the Education Policy Committee Hubbard introduced Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur).  Hubbard said that we needed someone tough to head this committee.  “She is absolutely committed to shaking things up in education.” Rep. Hubbard said there are going to be some controversial issues in this quadrennium.

Hubbard then introduced Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison) to head the Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee. Hubbard said that Ball has been a hostage negotiator for the state police and in addition to his role Chairing the Committee he plays an important role in our caucus.

Speaker Hubbard said that Rep. Lesley Vance (R-Phoenix City) will head the Financial Services Committee.  She was not present due to health issues.

The New Chair of the Health Committee will be Rep. April Weaver (R-Brierfield).  Hubbard said, “If it is healthcare she is our go to person.  I can’t think of anyone more qualified to head this committee.”  Weaver is a trained nurse.

Hubbard next introduced Rep. Mike Hill (R-Columbiana) to lead the Insurance Committee.  Hubbard said that Hill has been here a while.  It is important to us that the state hold insurance companies accountable to make sure that we are being fair to constituents.  “Mike provides our leadership team with advice and counsel.”

Rep. Allen Boothe (R-Troy) returns as Chair of the Internal Affairs Committee.  Hubbard said that Boothe, “Has done an outstanding job.”  Boothe is a former police chief.

Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) an attorney will be the Chair of the Judiciary Committee.  Hubbard said that Jones has, “Shown an ability to bring people together.”  The Speaker said, “We have got a problem with prisons.  That will be going through his committee.”  Hubbard said that Rep. Jim Hill (R-Odenville) will be the Vice Chair of the Committee. Hubbard said that Hill through his 20 years of service as a judge knows more about prisons and the justice system than anyone else.

Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton) will Chair the Local Legislation Committee.  Hubbard said that Baker will fully vet the local bills so there are no surprises on the floor.

Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) was introduced as the Chair of the New Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Speaker Hubbard said, “I don’t think there is any state that is more patriotic than Alabama.  Hubbard said that Moore is universally respected in the legislature.  “He is the most ethical and honest person that I know.”

Hubbard announced that Rep. Randy Wood (R-Anniston) has moved to Chair the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.  Hubbard said, “Randy is a valued leader.  I appreciate him serving in this new role.”

Rep. Mark Tuggle (R-Alexander City) will Chair the State Government Committee.  Hubbard said, “Anything you can justify sending to State government because everything we do is State government….Mark is very tenacious and that is what we needed.”

The Technology and Research Committee will be Chaired by Rep. Phil Williams (R-Monrovia).  Hubbard said that Williams holds 40 patents.  “Carly’s Law went through that committee.”  “He will be playing a very big role.”

Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) was introduced as Chair of the Transportation, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee. Hubbard said of Greer, “When he gets up to say something people stop what they are doing and they listen to him.”

Speaker Hubbard said in a written statement on Facebook, “Honored to stand with the new House Leadership team for the 2014-2018 quadrennium. Together, we are confident in our ability to keep Alabama heading in the right direction by implementing conservative reforms that empower local businesses, ensure children receive a world-class education, and protect our rights from an overreaching federal government.”

In response to media questions, Hubbard said that I don’t think there is any secret that dealing with the prison crisis will be a priority.  “There will not be any easy solutions.”  Hubbard said that he has asked the Governor to present a plan.  It is his job is to send us over his proposal.

Hubbard said however, “I doubt very seriously that the proposal he sends over will be the exact one that comes out (of the legislature).”  Chairman Clouse and his team will have a very difficult job.”

ABC 33/40 News Reporter Lauren Walsh asked Speaker Hubbard is his upcoming trial would interfere with the coming 2015 legislative session.

Speaker Hubbard said, “I have no concern.” 

The embattled Speaker said, ‘You saw in my election that the people in my district have confidence in me.  You saw yesterday that my colleagues in the House have shown their confidence.  99 members of the House voted for me for Speaker, except Rep. Alvin Holmes who voted for himself.’

“I am concentrating on being the Speaker of the House.  In time the truth will come out.”

Speaker Hubbard faces a trial on 23 indictments of ethics law violations in his roles as Speaker of the House and as the former Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.

 

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.

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Courts

Supreme Court sides with Alabama in COVID-19 voting case

Brandon Moseley

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The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision Thursday blocked a federal district judge’s order that would have made it easier for many Alabamians to vote during the pandemic, issuing an emergency stay of the lower court’s injunction in People First of Alabama v. Merrill.

The court’s more liberal justices dissented, while the five conservative justices voted to strike down the lower court ruling, which had blocked absentee ballot witness requirements in a few Alabama counties and a statewide ban on curbside voting programs.

The decision to grant the stay means that Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s ban on curbside voting remains in place, and he may intervene into any county in Alabama to prevent curbside voting.

Voters in every county in the state must still follow all the required witness, notary and photo ID requirements for absentee ballots.

Federal District Judge Abdul Kallon had found in favor of the plaintiffs and issued an order allowing local officials to implement curbside voting. Merrill and the secretary of state’s office appealed the lower court ruling to the Supreme Court, who issued the emergency stay.

The court could still hear Alabama’s appeal, but the ruling was a blow for the groups representing the plaintiffs in the case. Caren Short is the senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“While we are deeply disappointed with today’s ruling, we look forward to presenting our clients’ case at trial later this summer,” said Short. “Our goal is simple though unfortunately at odds with Alabama officials. We want to ensure that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama voters will not be forced to choose between exercising their fundamental right to vote and protecting their health or the health of a loved one.”

Deuel Ross is the senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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“We are deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court‘s stay,” said Ross. “Unfortunately, this means that Alabama voters who are at greater risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 will be required to risk their health and violate CDC recommendations in order to vote on July 14. This is occurring at a time when COVID-19 infections are soaring in Alabama and nationwide. Nonetheless, the litigation will continue and we intend to seek relief for our clients and other voters in time for November.”

Plaintiffs argued that making voters go to the polls and wait in line to show a photo-ID would be a bar to voting given the fear of the coronavirus in Alabama. Voters will have to decide whether voting in the July 14 party runoff elections is really worth the risk of possibly contracting the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and possibly dying.

At least 14 Alabamians died from COVID-19 on Thursday, taking the state death toll to 961. Additionally, 1,162 Alabamians tested positive for the coronavirus.

The state argues that voter ID and other security measures are necessary to protect the integrity of the vote and prevent voting fraud. Since his election as Alabama secretary of state, Merrill has said that it is his goal to “make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

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Elections

Gary Bauer endorses Hightower for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Bill Hightower’s campaign announced Wednesday that he has received the endorsement of national social conservative leader Gary Bauer.

“I am proud to endorse Bill Hightower for Congress,” Bauer said. “Bill is a man of God who is an unapologetic voice for faith, family and freedom. He has worked to defend the unborn both in public and private life for 40 years and there has been no stronger advocate for protecting our religious liberties.”

“Bill Hightower has a proven pro-family, pro-life record that the voters of south Alabama can count on,” Bauer said. “As their congressman, I know Bill Hightower will stand with President Trump to defend our values, protect our constitutional rights, secure the border and put hard-workings America first.”

“Susan and I have followed Gary Bauer since his service to President Reagan, and his later work on the Family Research Council,” Hightower said. “Because of our personal support of James Dobson’s, Focus on the Family, with whom Gary worked, we have for at least 30 years leaned heavily upon his conservative, family-oriented commentary on culture. It is an honor to be endorsed by Gary, because like him, I am a staunch supporter of Israel and deem our religious freedoms as core to who we are as Americans.”

Bauer currently serves as president of American Values, a public policy think tank, and was Washington director of Christians United for Israel Action Fund. Bauer has held several positions in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan including deputy under-secretary of education from 1982 to 1985 and under-secretary of education from 1985 to 1987.

Bauer was then appointed assistant to the president for policy development, a position he held until January 1989. He later served as a senior vice president of Focus on the Family and as president of the Family Research Council.

In 2000, Bauer sought the Republican nomination for president of the United States. Then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush won the nomination and went on to win the 2000 election.

Hightower is running in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District in the July 14 Republican Primary runoff against former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise.

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Incumbent Congressman Bradley Byrne is not running for re-election.

Hightower has a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University. Hightower has worked for several Fortune 500 companies around the world before moving back to South Alabama in 2002. He has started and run several small businesses in the Mobile area. Hightower is a husband, father and grandfather.

The winner of the Republican nomination will face the winner of the Democratic primary runoff in the Nov. 3 general election. On the Democratic side, James Averhart is running against Kiani Gardner.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | Has Alabama lost its independent streak?

Josh Moon

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What if I told you that Sen. Richard Shelby, outraged by the stories of laid off Alabama workers forced to camp out overnight to get unemployment compensation, was pushing his fellow senators to pump more money into states to rectify the situation? 

What if I told you that Shelby had fought to get more funding for Alabama to expand Medicaid and provide 300,000-plus Alabamians with medical coverage during the ongoing pandemic? 

What if I told you that Shelby recently condemned the Tennessee Valley Authority for shipping jobs overseas, as Americans, including many Alabamians, suffer through a recession? 

What if I told you that Shelby pushed a bipartisan bill through the Senate that would strengthen and enhance telemedicine programs? 

What if I told you that at least once a week, Shelby hosts a livestreamed press conference, in which he and guests — usually medical professionals or local leaders — discuss the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and provide the public with critical updates and behind-the-scenes details on upcoming plans to address the most pressing matters?

What if I told you that Shelby had been honored in the Senate as one of the most bipartisan lawmakers, co-sponsoring dozens of bills with senators across the aisle? 

Would all of that impress you? Make you think more highly of Sen. Shelby? 

Well, what if I told you that I was actually talking about Doug Jones? 

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Because it’s Jones who did all the above over the last month. 

That’s right — month!

But it doesn’t matter to a good number of people in this state. Jones’ record while in the Senate, and his work ethic and his good bills that have done good things for the working people of this state, just don’t matter at all unless there’s an “R” beside his name. 

It’s a real shame that a man who has done all that in a month is running neck-and-neck, according to polling, with both of his potential opponents — Tommy Tuberville and Jeff Sessions. 

Quick: Name one bill Sessions passed in 20 years in the Senate. 

Take your time. 

Yeah, that’s what I thought. His biggest accomplishments were fighting against the Violence Against Women Act and not saying anything racist out loud. 

Tuberville, in the meantime, is quite possibly the most policy-ignorant candidate in recent history. The man knows nothing about anything, and he hasn’t even pretended to have a plan for anything. He just keeps showing up at barbecue joints, muttering stuff about football and Trump, and pretending that not knowing anything is the same as being “an outsider.” 

That — along with the little R — is apparently enough for half the state. 

And it’s a shame. 

Because if Alabamians were even a sliver as independent or stubborn as they like to pretend, this thing wouldn’t even be a contest. 

On one side, there’s a guy who’s actually working, who cares about good public policy, bipartisanship and right and wrong — a guy who locked up the clowns who killed four little black girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. 

On the other side, two guys hoping to skate by on party affiliation. 

But Jones doesn’t whine about it, even when I gave him an opportunity to do so on Thursday. He refused to take shots at anyone, and instead said it was time to get to work. His only pointed frustration was directed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly blocked efforts by Democrats to get more relief funds out to the American people. 

McConnell has sat on a bill sent over by the Democratic-led House, and now, Jones said, McConnell plans to draft his own relief bill. 

“That’s crazy to me,” Jones said. “We’ve had that bill for weeks now. It’s not a perfect bill by any means, but it sets up the framework. We could have worked within that and got something out to the people who need it most before the Fourth of July holiday. Now, it’s going to be after this two-week break. That’s too long.”

Jones said a big concern for him was getting money to state and local governments, which employ about 20 percent of the American workforce and have been devastated by the coronavirus shutdowns. Those issues often manifest in terrible ways, such as forcing people to sit in a parking lot to receive basic help because your state department of labor is overworked and understaffed. 

“It’s not a matter of someone being lazy or not doing their job,” Jones said, speaking specifically of the situation that has left thousands of Alabamians waiting in long lines to get routine unemployment questions answered. “It’s a matter of giving these folks the resources they need to get the job done. That’s what we’re hoping to do.”

Jones is trying. And really, I’m not sure what else you can ask for at this point.

Well, except for one petty, and utterly meaningless, thing: An R beside his name.

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Congress

Jones calls for more federal funding, support for state departments of labor

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) today is urging Senate leadership for additional federal funding and support for state departments of labor, which have been overwhelmed by the wave of unemployment insurance claims. This also comes as disturbing reports emerge out of Montgomery, where Alabamians have been camping out overnight outside of an unemployment claims center in search of help with their claims.

“As the nation continues to struggle with the health and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, Congress must do more to help those who are suffering from unemployment as a result. Alabama’s unemployment rate in May was 9.9%, and my home state is facing a 70% increase in the evictions of renters,” Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, wrote. “This hardship is sadly not unique to Alabama, and Americans across the country are struggling to pay their bills, to keep the lights on, and to put food on their tables.

A recent article in the Montgomery Advertiser detailed a line of unemployed Alabamians that has formed for weeks in a parking lot outside an Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) claim processing center, with many sleeping outside overnight in the rain or participating in a “black market” system of selling spots in the line.

“While the ADOL has noted that an in-person presence is not required to file or resolve unemployment claims, technical glitches and difficulties reaching ADOL staff have so frustrated claimants that for many, traveling to Montgomery seems to be the only remaining option. These claimants seek such urgent relief that they have been camping out overnight in the hopes that their claims will be resolved.  To make matters worse, Alabama’s unemployment fund is on track to become insolvent within the next month or two,” Senator Jones continued.

“As we continue to observe the grave status of unemployment and its repercussions on our nation, I urge the leadership of the Senate to consider including language that addresses unemployment issues in the next pandemic relief legislation in July. I respectfully urge the inclusion of language providing greater availability of federal funds for state Departments of Labor, to ensure that hardworking Americans can rely on temporary monetary aid to help feed their families and keep a roof over their heads during these trying times,” the letter concluded.

Senator Jones has been a strong advocate for support for working Alabamians throughout the COVID-19 crisis. He has introduced legislation to cover the wages and benefits of employees of affected businesses and non-profits until the economic and public health crisis is resolved, and during the negotiations for the CARES Act, he proposed the Small Business Lifeline fund to direct financial assistance to workers through payroll processing companies. Senator Jones has also called for the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration to allow payroll processing companies to disburse the CARES Act small business loans to reduce complications and expedite salaries to workers who have been impacted by the coronavirus.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

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As the nation continues to struggle with the health and economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, Congress must do more to help those who are suffering from unemployment as a result. Alabama’s unemployment rate in May was 9.9%, and my home state is facing a 70% increase in the evictions of renters.  This hardship is sadly not unique to Alabama, and Americans across the country are struggling to pay their bills, to keep the lights on, and to put food on their tables.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs during this pandemic, and have turned to the unemployment benefits provided by programs in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These newly created programs have created a much-needed lifeline for folks across the country. Most notably, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program were created to ensure states would be able to expand coverage of unemployment benefits given the outsized nature of the pandemic on employment.

However, the majority of State Departments of Labor have been experiencing great difficulties in updating their technical systems to withstand the sudden influx of numerous claims, disbursing benefit payments efficiently to claimants, and effectively communicating with claimants who may be frustrated with the speed at which their claims are processed.

The Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) has disbursed nearly $2 billion in COVID-19 related unemployment compensation benefits under the PUA, FPUC, and PEUC programs. While ADOL has been working incredibly hard for Alabamians, phone call lines remain jammed, and benefits take significant time to process. ADOL has received 576,314 unemployment claims to date, and the Department is staffed enough to field less than 4% of the calls it receives per day. Since the crisis began, ADOL typically receives 210,000 calls per day; yet only 6,000 to 7,000 of those calls can be processed each day.

Put simply, ADOL is overwhelmed by the massive influx of claims. An article in the Montgomery Advertiser, enclosed with this letter, details the difficulties that Alabamians are experiencing.  In an effort to address claims more efficiently, ADOL opened an in-person claims center in Montgomery, Alabama, but it too was inundated by the unmanageable number of claimants.  While the ADOL has noted that an in-person presence is not required to file or resolve unemployment claims, technical glitches and difficulties reaching ADOL staff have so frustrated claimants that for many, traveling to Montgomery seems to be the only remaining option. These claimants seek such urgent relief that they have been camping out overnight in the hopes that their claims will be resolved.  To make matters worse, Alabama’s unemployment fund is on track to become insolvent within the next month or two.

This is not the first time in recent times that state unemployment funds were in need of aid from the federal government. During the Great Recession, states that exhausted unemployment benefit funds were able to borrow from the Treasury Department to strengthen their funds. Given these dire economic times for state and local governments, the ability to access federal funds should be available once again to cover the costs associated with unemployment benefits.

As we continue to observe the grave status of unemployment and its repercussions on our nation, I urge the leadership of the Senate to consider including language that addresses unemployment issues in the next pandemic relief legislation in July. I respectfully urge the inclusion of language providing greater availability of federal funds for state Departments of Labor, to ensure that hardworking Americans can rely on temporary monetary aid to help feed their families and keep a roof over their heads during these trying times.

Sincerely,

Senator Doug Jones

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