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Constitutional Conservatives Welcome Back Legislature

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, March 3, The Alabama Constitutional Conservatives held an informational meeting in the “Star Wars” room on the 8th floor of the Alabama Capital Building.

Leeds political organizer Deanna Frankowski said, “Government and politicians have gotten away from the Constitution as it is written.” Frankowski said that they are a new group that is trying to engage other people in the Constitution, especially young people. = It is hard to talk to people that don’t understand and certain words turn off young people.  The term “tea party” has negative connotations to many, which is why we don’t use that language.

Frankowski said that a term limit bill has been filed that would limit members of the legislature to just three terms.  Frankowski said, “It is a start.”

Former State Senator Scott Beason (R from Gardendale) addressed the group. Beason is now the senior policy analyst for the Free Market Alliance.

Sen. Beason said that when he travels to speak to different conservative center right groups that numbers are down. “People are losing hope.”  Apathy is at an all-time high. We campaign for people we elect people, and then we are disappointed.  We are in that situation now with the Governor (Bentley) on taxes, on homosexual marriage. Being less active is a mistake.  “The progressive and liberal side never stop.  They work day and night.  A great example is homosexual marriage.”

They are constantly in the courts, they are constantly writing letters and op-eds.

Beason said that we have a Republic not a Democracy, but warned that we are moving toward a oligarchy where a few make all the decisions. Benjamin Franklin said that the founders gave us a Republic if you can keep it. Most people think it is a Democracy. The word democracy does not appear in the Constitution. It has become increasingly difficult for a practicing Christian to hold a job in government and cited the example of the recent firing of the fire chief in Atlanta.  We are going to live under somebody’s set of rules. Even the most corrupt society that has ever been had rules. Personally I think we should live under the rules passed down to us from our forefather based on the principles in the Bible.

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We are seeing the federal court system decide they are an oligarchy. What our libertarian friends call liberty is actually licentious. Where does liberty end and licentious start? Homosexual marriage is on the licentious side. It contradicts natural law and especially divine law, but libertarians don’t want to even hear about that.

Sen. Beason said, “Who are Supreme Court Justices?  Before they become judges they were well connected political lawyers. Somewhere along the way they have decided they are demigods…What they say constitutional means is not what you or I think it is.  Lawyers today think that constitutional is what the last judge ruled – precedent. We need to get back to what this (the Constitution) says.”

Beason said that Justice Ginsburg says the country is now ready for gay marriage. I don’t believe that is how you run the rule book.  Do the people of the states have the right to say no?

Beason said, “I would like to see some sort of an American spring…We (the people of Alabama) have a right to chart our own path…We have been moving in this direction for over 200 years. The Federalists started us down this path. Alexander Hamilton wanted a king appointed for life but knew he could not get it.”

Nebraska got slammed down yesterday. Even California voted to ban gay marriage and their own judges ruled it down.

“We have to decide as a people what is worth taking a stand and what is not?”  Are we going to be a people that do exactly what we are told or are we going to stand on the 9th and 10th amendments and say no?

Sen. Beason said that “Eventually there comes a time where the state has to say you are wrong.” Texas was building a coal fired power plant that would have created 3,000 to 6,000 jobs and the EPA said no you can not. 

I am not for following Barack Obama’s fundamental transformation of this country. Two of those Supreme Court justices presided over gay marriages and they will not recuse themselves.  Beason predicted that the Supremes will rule against traditional marriage.

Stephen Siao spoke about the Heritage Foundation’s Sentinel program.

Mr. Siao said, “How many of you think that Washington is broken. I am here to convince you that it is not.”  Washington works as a finely tuned machine for those who have money.  It is working fine for lobbyists.  For them the bigger the government the more complicated it is the more big corporations have to hire them to navigate DC.

Siao said that Heritage action alerts is how conservatives can influence policy in Washington. We don’t give money, we don’t do campaigns we don’t give money. They don’t fear us, it is their constituents they fear.  We really need y’all to join us. We are empowering activists with the right information and the right tactics.

Siao said that Heritage is pursuing a full repeal of Obamacare in the House and the Senate.  The Tea Party is not dead. GOP Candidates who won in 2014 ran on a strong pro-life platform. Congress members would rather have their picture taken with Rand Paul or Ted Cruz than campaign on how much pork they brought back to the district. They are saying the right things now we need to hold their feet to the fire.

Go to Heritageactionscorecard.com to see how your Congress members are doing. In Alabama, Mo Brooks and Jeff Sessions are doing great.  The rest of them need some encouragement.

Terry Richmond is one of the legislative captains for the Convention Of States Project in Alabama.

Richmond said that the American Revolution was fought by about 20 percent of the population. Richmond said, we have two Constitutions one we know and one interpreted by the Supreme Court.

Many conservatives believe that the federal government is too large, is out of control, and has exceeded the mandate that it received from the authors of the U.S. Constitution.  Conservatives are however divided on exactly how to do that.

The Convention of States Project looks to the US Constitution and are proposing that states call an Article V convention to rein in the excesses of the federal government.

Delegates to the convention would be tasked with limiting the power, jurisdiction, and scope of the federal government; consider term limits; and to impose fiscal accountability on the federal government.

The COS effort is supported by former Alaska Governor Sara Palin, conservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Mark Levin, as well as many other conservative leaders.

Critics believe that there is a danger of a runaway convention doing major damage to the Constitution.

Proponents say the first level of protection is the commissions of the delegates. If they go outside their commissions the state legislatures could recall or replace their delegates.  The second protection is the convention itself. While some delegates might propose a new constitution it would have to actually pass the convention.  The states’ delegations would necessarily limit any radical departure from the commissions of the delegates.  Finally whatever amendments are proposed at the convention would still have to be ratified by the states.

It takes 34 states to call a national conventions (2/3); but it takes 38 to actually ratify any amendments (3/4). All it takes to block ratification would be one house in 13 states. Each state can send as many delegates as they want; but each delegation gets just one vote at the convention.

Alaska, Georgia, and Florida have already passed COS resolutions and expressed confidence that they would be able to get 34 by the end of 2015. 

Alabama almost became the first state to pass COS in the 2014 legislative session. It passed the Alabama House of Representatives and was on the calendar to come up in the Alabama Senate but timed out on the last day of the session.

Terry Richmond is working full time during the legislative session to lobby for COS in Alabama.

Frankowski said that the next event for the group will be the Birmingham Brew Party at the Avondale Brewing Company on April 15 at 5:30 pm. “Come out and have fun.”

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Health

ADPH investigating cases in Chambers as county emerges as state’s worst hotspot

Chip Brownlee

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The Alabama Department of Public Health is investigating and performing contact-tracing in Chambers County as the number of COVID-19 cases in the county made another jump Thursday.

The number of positive confirmed cases in the county has nearly doubled in the past two days, rising from 36 on March 31 to 66 on April 2. The county has the highest number of cases per capita of any county in the state.

As of Thursday afternoon, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Chambers County per 100,000 people rose to 198 — more than three times the number in Jefferson County, the area of the state with the most total cases at 318.

The number of cases per 100,000 people in Jefferson County — the most populous of the state’s 67 counties — sits at 48.

Dr. Karen Landers, the assistant state health officer at the Alabama Department of Public Health, said Thursday that the department is still investigating what might have contributed to such a high number of infections.

“We’re looking at that data,” Landers said. “At the moment, we do not have an indication specifically that we can discuss in terms of absolute linkage, but we are looking very closely at that data. And certainly, contact tracing is part of our review to see how those cases might be related.”

The high number of cases in East Alabama could be attributable to a higher rate of testing. East Alabama Medical Center has submitted about 1,325 tests to the state’s lab as of Wednesday, a hospital spokesperson said. It’s unclear how many tests have been performed in the state because not all commercial labs are reporting their negative tests.

“We followed up with our Health Alert Network asking that all information be input to this,” Landers said. “We know that some commercial labs report to us and some don’t.

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Asked whether the state should require commercial labs to report their negative results, Landers said, “This would be a decision for our state health officer to consider.”

Neighboring Lee County has the second-highest number of cases per 100,000 people at 55. There are 91 total cases in Lee County.

Epidemiologists at ADPH are contact-tracing all positive cases in the state. But Chambers County appears to be a particular area of concern.

The rising number of cases in East Alabama is putting increasing strain on East Alabama Medical Center, where 30 patients were hospitalized as of Wednesday and an additional dozen are hospitalized with a suspected case of the virus.

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Health

Alabama hospitals facing “dire” equipment shortages

Chip Brownlee

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Every morning the team at UAB Hospital gets a report on the number of patients who come into the hospital infected with COVID-19 and their status. Then the doctors and other health care professions on the team receive an update on the number of days they have left before their supply of personal protective equipment runs out.

“The situation is dire,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, the director of the division of infectious diseases at UAB, during a virtual town hall with Sen. Doug Jones Thursday. “It is not just masks. It’s gloves. It’s hand sanitizer. It’s gowns.”

In some of the PPE categories, the number of days left before supplies run out is in the single digits. The hospitals may get new shipments of supplies, but if the situation deteriorates, the shortages might worsen.

“I don’t want to underplay the real threat that we — just like New York City and other hospitals — could be running dangerously short on those things soon. I think it is of the utmost importance that people understand how important that situation is,” Marrazzo said.

Marrazzo also serves on Gov. Kay Ivey’s COVID-19 task force. She said businesses across the state are enlisting to take up the challenge, but the threat that Alabama’s hospitals could run out before supplies can be refilled is real.

“This is not a hypothetical scenario,” Marrazzo said. “This is real. And these are the people who are working to take care of you and your family in our communities every single day, who are being asked to be concerned, and sometimes even make decisions about who gets to use the various degrees of PPE.”

Hospitals across the state — including East Alabama Medical Center in hard-hit Lee County — have been asking for donations of masks, gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and other necessities as a nationwide shortage of these essential medical supplies continues.

The Alabama Department of Health is not currently releasing the number of patients hospitalized in the state, but an analysis by APR yesterday showed that more than 120 COVID-19 positive patients are hospitalized in ten of the state’s largest hospitals.

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The number statewide is surely higher.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo

At UAB alone, there are 58 patients hospitalized — about a third of them on ventilators or ICU care, Marrazzo said. At EAMC, as of Wednesday, there were 30 positive COVID-19 patients and a dozen more suspected of having the virus. Hospitals as small as the Lake Martin Community Hospital in Dadeville are treating COVID-positive patients.

“What we’re seeing is very similar to what other hospital systems are seeing,” Marrazzo said. “We are in good shape right now, and people are working tirelessly … to make sure we have the surge capacity to figure out if we do exceed the number of beds, how we deal with that.”

The number of inpatients in the state’s hospitals is currently manageable, officials have said, after elective procedures and other non-essential medical procedures were canceled to free up beds, but hospitals are still facing a national supply shortage, and the number of patients could begin spiking soon.

Estimates from the University of Washington project that Alabama has little more than two weeks to prepare for the peak of hospitalizations.

“Alabama is critically unprepared and under-resourced to weather the storm that we’re in the midst of, and it could get worse,” said Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama. “States are competing against one another and against FEMA for life-saving equipment. That doesn’t need to be this way. We should have done better. We can do better.”

Alabama is still waiting on 20,000 units of testing supplies and kits, Jones said. Alabama has also asked for one million N95 protective masks and 2 million surgical masks, but FEMA has said that Alabama will only receive 152,000 of the N95 masks and 362,000 of the surgical masks it has requested.

The national stockpile is “woefully inadequate,” Jones said, adding that it was disturbing that more than 5,500 masks already received from the national stockpile were rotted and expired in 2010, according to a report from the Montgomery Advertiser.

The state has requested 200 ventilators, though estimates suggest the state may need more than a thousand ventilators if the outbreak worsens. Jones said the state is going to make additional requests, but there are only 10,000 ventilators in the national stockpile and in the U.S. Department of Defense surplus. Every other state in the country is also requesting these supplies.

“I hope that they will put Alabama at the top of the list so that we can get ahead of what we know we’re going to need,” Jones said. “We need to have more.”

A lack of testing supplies in Alabama has made grasping the scale of the outbreak difficult. In Mobile, officials have had difficulty getting needed supplies to test in the region nearest to a deadly and growing outbreak in Louisiana. In Huntsville, officials had to close a drive up testing site because they were not able to get supplies.

The CEO of Huntsville Hospital called the nationwide lack of testing materials a “travesty” earlier this week.

Thousands of units of testing materials and kits are coming, Jones said, “but we need millions,” he said. “There’s an alarming lack of tests in underserved and African-American communities. There’s not enough information about when and how these communities are going to get tested.”

Jones did not place blame on the Alabama Department of Public Health but said the problem is national — and international — in scope.

“It is not because the state is not working hard. They’re working 24 hours a day and they’re trying,” Jones said. “It’s just that the tests have not been available.”

The senator also called on President Donald Trump to issue further orders under the Defense Production Act to compel companies to produce needed medical supplies.

“It is unfortunate when you’re pitting one state against the other, one hospital within a state against the other, and one country against the other,” Jones said. “So, we haven’t had that coordination out of the administration. I’m hoping that’s going to change as the Defense Production Act comes up with ventilators. I’m hoping that we will see that more with production of masks [and other PPE].”

But Jones did call on Gov. Kay Ivey to implement a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. He said the state should take aggressive measures to limit the spread of the virus before the situation worsens. Marrazzo echoed that call.

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Governor

Gov. Ivey OKs release of some parole violators in jails

Chip Brownlee

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Gov. Kay Ivey is allowing the release of some alleged probation and parole violators in the custody of jails across the state. She’s also issued a number of new directives to free up health care resources.

The measures are intended to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and prepare for a rise in hospitalizations.

In a new executive order, Ivey is allowing sheriffs and local officials across the state to release some inmates being held in jails on alleged probation or parole violations if those inmates have been in jail custody for more than 20 days without a parole or probation hearing.

Violators who are being held on new criminal charges or other criminal charges aren’t eligible for release, according to the order, which mainly applies to those in custody on technical violations.

If a hearing is not held within 20 days, the sheriff shall release the violator unless they are being held on other criminal charges.

“Because the conditions of jails inherently heighten the possibility of COVID-19 transmission, I find that it would promote the safety and protection of the civilian population to allow local officials to reduce the number of local inmates being held in county jails in a way that does not jeopardize public safety,” Ivey wrote in her order.

The order does not apply to inmates in state prisons.

You can read Ivey’s full order here.

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In the same modified executive order, Ivey ordered state agencies to allow for an expanded scope of practice for health care workers like nurses, nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists. Experts fear there may not be enough health care practitioners to care for the number of patients that may require hospitalization and inpatient care.

This part of the order, intended to reduce strain on medical workers caring for COVID-19 patients, will relax but not completely eliminate the degree of supervision required for these non-M.D. health care professionals to care for patients.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in the state rises and hospitals begin to feel the strain of the outbreak, Ivey also directed state agencies to provide temporary waivers so hospitals and nursing homes can free up bed space and open new facilities if needed.

Additional new directives in Ivey’s supplemental order:

  • Allows expedited process for out-of-state pharmacists, nurses, and doctors to obtain temporary licenses to practice in Alabama
  • Expedited reinstatement of medical licenses, allowing retired doctors, and others who left the profession in good standing to return to practice
  • Pharmacy Board can expedite procedures to establish temporary pharmacies.
  • Notary publics can notarize documents remotely.
  • Government agencies can postpone unnecessary meetings or meet remotely.
  • Corporate shareholder meetings can be conducted remotely.
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Alabama Dept. of Corrections has tested 17 inmates for COVID-19

Chip Brownlee

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The Alabama Department of Corrections has tested 17 inmates in nine of the state’s prisons for the novel coronavirus. All tests so far have been negative.

Five more inmates have been tested, but their results are pending.

ADOC began publishing test data on its website Thursday. It says it will update the information twice a week.

“The Alabama Department of Corrections remains committed to maintaining transparency – without compromising security –throughout the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, and has been working to aggregate relevant data to keep the public informed about the health and well-being of those who live and work in our facilities,” the department says.

The first batch of testing data released from the department comes as a number of advocacy groups, families, former law enforcement officials and activists have called on the state to take extraordinary steps to protect vulnerable inmates in the state’s prisons.

They say that overcrowding in the prisons makes them particularly susceptible to an outbreak of the virus.

 

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