By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Republicans run for office promising limited government and lower taxes. Alabama is a State government run almost entirely by Republicans. The state has a Republican Governor, Lt. Governor, State Supreme Court, and overwhelming Republican Supermajority in both houses of the State legislature. But instead of downsizing Alabama government and lowering everyone’s taxes, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is actually demanding that Republican legislators raise taxes on the people of Alabama by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Governor Bentley said, “We have spent the last four years making government operate more efficiently and effectively, saving taxpayers over $1.2 billion annually. As we begin the 2015 Legislative Session, one of the most serious issues we face is the funding of our State’s General Fund. We have debts that must be repaid, and we must help our two largest agencies, Medicaid and Corrections, with funding increases. I am presenting a plan that will increase revenue for the General Fund and make taxes more fair and equitable for everyone.”
The Governor’s Revenue Plan includes eight tax increases totaling $541 million. The Governor is also proposing un-earmarking $187 million to help prop up the troubled General Fund. Many in the legislature have expressed skepticism over the Governor’s claims that the state can not be further downsized.
Gov. Bentley addressed 150 corporate leaders at the Harbert Center and said, “Without new revenue we will never be able to pay off our debts and get our State on solid financial ground…I know it’s difficult to talk about raising taxes. But the revenue solution I have proposed is about tax fairness…If the hardworking people of Alabama pay their share of taxes, so should large corporations….There is nothing more conservative than paying off your debts and getting your fiscal house in order…And I need you all to help convince the Legislature that we must have new revenue if we are ever going to get our state out of debt and get our financed in order.”
There is enormous opposition to Gov. Bentley’s proposals.
Deanna Frankowski, Coordinator of the Alabama Constitutional Conservatives stated, “That while there appears to be a shortfall in monies for fiscal year 2015, Conservatives do not support Governor Bentley’s $541 million proposed tax increases. First and foremost, measures should be taken to combine agencies, cut waste, un-earmark monies, etc. prior to any thought of a tax increase. Two agencies in particular, the Public Service Commission and Auditor have managed to cut spending and reduce costs while at the same time running their agencies without missing a step. Our group also does not espouse to the fact that Governor Bentley suddenly woke up after the November, 2014 elections and realized that we were in debt and that future revenues were not going to be enough to fund the various agencies and programs in the State of Alabama. The more we “kick the can down the road” the longer it hangs around and by that we mean that we continue to raise taxes prior to taking the necessary steps to make sure all agencies and funding is proper and necessary!”
In an Alabama Policy Institute (API) release, noted conservative economist Steve Moore questioned the thinking behind said, “The problem with the Alabama budget right now is that the state is not growing fast enough, not enough jobs are being created. If you raise taxes on the business creators and on the workers, and on the investors, you’re going to get less businesses and you’re going to get less workers, and less investors. Under that kind of circumstance, you’re actually going to have higher unemployment, so I don’t get the logic behind raising taxes to try to balance the budget.” Moore suggested that the state should be working toward abolishing it’s state income tax not raising the tax burden on the people of Alabama.
Public Service Commission (PSC) President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh has said that the state does not need more money. Cavanaugh said recently that he job as President of the PSC is to make things better for job growth in Alabama. “You don’t do that by having higher taxes,” Cavanaugh said.
A new group has arisen to support Governor Bentley’s policies: the Alabama Council for Excellent Government announced that it, “Promotes public policies that give Alabamians a more effective, efficient, accountable and excellent government. ACEGov supports Governor Bentley in his efforts to solve real problems and to make Alabama greater and stronger for all the hardworking men and women who call this Great State our home…Governor Robert Bentley has made the bold decision to identify, address and solve those problems rather than prolong them with temporary, quick-fixes. And he has presented Alabamians and Alabama Lawmakers with real solutions…The men and women we elect to represent us have a duty to lead our State to be even greater than it is today. We must expect our State leaders to face challenges head on, make tough decisions and do what’s necessary to create an environment where jobs can be created, where children have an opportunity to get a good, quality education beginning at an early age, and where government operates efficiently and effectively to serve the hardworking taxpayers.”
Addressing the Governor’s tax proposals will be one of the first priorities of the legislature when it returns from Spring Break. A public hearing is scheduled for April 1 on the controversial tax policies.
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 five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.
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 entrance 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.