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Lots of Hot Button Issues in Committees Today

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

A lot of red meat political issues are appearing in committees in the State legislature on Wednesday, April 8. The legislature is going to be considering a number of issues including: loaded guns in automobiles without concealed carry permits, the repeal of common core, offering off campus religion classes to public school students, ABC stores, virtual schools, changes to the Alabama Accountability Act, the rolling reserve, zoning, the education budget, the legislative council, and other issues.

The day starts off at 8:30 AM with a public hearing on SB101 repealing the controversial Common Core standards in Room 304.

The Repeal Common Core group wrote on Facebook, “The techniques for teaching and testing the Common Core Standards are not age appropriate and the stress levels are too great. This has been noted by many professionals in the field of education and psychology. Here are two. If you do email, send these links to them with your nicely worded DEMAND that they REPEAL Common Core in Alabama.”

SB101 is sponsored by Rusty Glover (R-Semmes).

Alabama Eagle Forum wrote: “SB101 will re-establish local and state control of education; terminate implementation of the Common Core standards; direct the State Board to replace these standards with the Math and English courses in use immediately prior to Common Core; convene Course of Study committees to update these standards and improve upon them using the pre-common core standards from states whose national scores ranked no less than the top 10%; implement these proven, improved standards and aligned assessments; prohibit imposition on Alabama of other such national standards or assessments that cede control away from Alabamians.”

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The bill to repeal the unpopular College and Career Ready Standards is opposed by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and the Alabama Association of School Boards.

The Senate Education Policy Committee chaired by Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery) will also consider SB317 which would prevent charter schools from being virtual schools.

At 9:00am the House Ways & Means Education committee will hold a public hearing on SB71 which expands the Alabama Accountability Act and which will place new rules on the Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs) which award the Accountability Act scholarships to children who are trapped in Alabama’s worst schools. Teachers Professional Associations and the school boards oppose diverting additional dollars from the Education Trust Funds to the (SGOs).  Some critics claim that the proposed rule changes would primarily benefit the SGO managed by former Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R).

SB71 is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston). SB71 would:  increase the percentage of public K-12 schools defined as failing from the bottom six percent in reading and math to the bottom ten percent.  It also increases the frequency of failing scores needed for a school to qualify as failing.

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This could increase the number of schools added to the failing schools list, which could increase the number of parents eligible for parent tax credits and the number of students eligible for educational scholarships from SGOs. An increase in the number of parents eligible for parent tax credits could reduce the amount of sales tax collections deposited into the Education Trust Fund.  

The bill increases the cap on the cumulative amount of tax credits from $25 million annually to $35 million annually.

This will reduce income tax receipts to the Education Trust Fund, by as much as $10 million annually, assuming that taxpayers choose to divert their payments to the SGOs and that the SGOs can find enough students who want to participate.

The committee will meet in room 617.

At 9:30 the Senate Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee will hold a public hearing on SB115 sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) in room 727. Since Prohibition ended Alabama hard alcohol drinkers have bought their liquor from the state of Alabama.  SB115 would sell off the state’s ABC liquor stores. Supporters claim that removing all of those store employees from state benefits will generate an estimated $16 million a year in savings. Critics argue that the ABC stores are a profitable business that contribute to the General Fund.

>At 10:30 there will be a public hearing on the Education Trust Fund Budget in the Senate Finance & Taxation Education committee in room 727.

Senate Bill 179 is sponsored by Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose).  SB179 appropriates the sum of $5,985,157,973 from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) to various state agencies, entities, institutions, and public schools for the support, maintenance, and development of public education in Alabama for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016. The above sum includes a transfer from Gross Sales Tax in the amount of $33,952,000 to the State Treasurer for the PACT Program.

This draft of the Education budget appropriates: $175,532,864 for public schools; $10,000,000 for the Two-Year College System Dual Enrollment Program; $6,718,324 to the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission; $4,960,792 from the Driver Education and Training Fund to the Department of Education; $5,000,000 from the Special Education Catastrophic Fund to the Department of Education; $8,058,135 to the Alabama Supercomputer Authority; $6,506,272 to the Alabama Board of Nursing; $500,000 to the Department of Children’s Affairs.  This act appropriates the sum of $8,484,439,360 from federal and other funds.

The committee will also hold a public hearing on SB182 sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman.  Senate Bill 182 is a supplemental appropriation from the Education Trust Fund, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015.  The additional funds being appropriated in the current fiscal year are: $1,410,551 for the Legislature itself; $2,663,775 to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to be expended for the Student Financial Aid Program; and $3,000,000 to the Department of Human Resources to be expended for the program created by the Fostering Hope Act of 2015.

Guns are the next hot button issue on the Wednesday docket.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 1:00 pm in room 325.  Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) is sponsoring SB14 which will expand and clarify gun rights issues in Alabama. 

SB14 would: provide that lawfully carrying a firearm under certain conditions does not, in and of itself, constitute the crime of disorderly conduct. This bill would authorize a person to carry a pistol without a license on property under his or her control, in his or her vehicle, in his or her place of abode, in his or her fixed place of business, and on the property of another or a vehicle owned by another, with consent.

The bill would prohibit a person under 19 years of age from possessing a pistol on his or her person or in any vehicle, except on land under his or her control, in his or her abode, or in his or her place of business.

Bob Blain with the pro-Second Amendment Group, Bamacarry said on Facebook, “This Wed. our supported bill by Senator Gerald Allen will be before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Montgomery at 11:00 am. My request is for anyone available who can be there to support Billy Denton, please show the politicos that we are solidified in our efforts and will stand proud without compromise in supporting this bill. There will be those there who disagree with our stand, which is their right to do so, however it is now time to either fish or cut bait & we have too great an organization to fail.”

At 1:30 pm the House Education Policy Committee will meet in Room 418.

They will hold a public hearing on HB236 the “Tim Tebow Act” sponsored by State Representative Mike Ball (R-Madison).  HB236 would allow children who are in Church school or home school to participate in public school extracurricular activities like: football, band, cheerleading, etc. in the community in which they live.

HB236 would allow students instructed at home by either a private tutor or under the church school law to participate in athletic activities and on athletic teams provided that the students comply with the participation conditions imposed by the bill, including the payment of any required student activity fees or increased school insurance premiums and compliance by the student with the school’s residency, conduct, behavior, and academic eligibility policies.

The committee will also hold a public hearing on HB255 sponsored by Rep. Kerry Rich (R-Guntersville) which authorizes school boards to let students in public high schools take religion as an elective off-campus.

Also at 1:30 there will be a public hearing in the House Committee on County and Municipal Government on HB370 giving municipalities enormous new powers to zone property outside of their city limits.

People who choose not to enter the city limits of a neighboring town or city would still have their use of their real property restricted and controlled by that city’s zoning regulations if they live within that town’s claimed police jurisdiction under HB370.

HB370 is sponsored by Rep. Reed Ingram (R-Montgomery).

By our count there are 11 public hearings scheduled on Wednesday in House Committees and 11 public hearings scheduled in Senate Committees.  

A public hearing may be cancelled at any moment including right before the meeting…..as happened last week to the parents rights bill. 44 bills are being considered on Wednesday by Senate Committees and 70 are in House Committees.

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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National

Today is Thanksgiving

Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Four hundred years ago, on Nov. 11, 1620, after 66 days at sea, a group of English settlers landed near what is today Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Onboard the Mayflower were 102 men, women, and children, including one baby born during the Atlantic crossing, who made up the Pilgrims.

The Mayflower, captained by Christopher Jones, had been bound for the mouth of the Hudson River. The ship took a northerly course to avoid pirates, but the decision to avoid the then widely traveled sea lanes to the New World took the ship into bad weather, which had blown the Mayflower miles off course and left the ship damaged. Off Cape Cod, the adult males in the group made the fateful decision to build an entire colony where none had existed prior. They wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.

“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.”

After a few weeks off Cape Cod, they sailed up the coast until they reached Plymouth. There they found a Wampanoag Indian village that had been abandoned due to some sort of plague. During the Winter of 1620-1621 they lived aboard the Mayflower and would row to shore each day to build houses. Finally, they had built enough houses to actually move to the colony, but the cold, damp conditions aboard the ship had been costly.

Some 28 men, 13 women (one of them in child birth), and 8 children died in that winter. Governor John Carver would die in April. His widow, Kathrine White Carver, would follow a few weeks later. There is some recent archaeological evidence suggesting that some of the dead were butchered and eaten by the survivors.

The Mayflower and her crew left for England on April 5, 1621, never to return.

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About 40 of the Pilgrims were religious Separatists, members of a Puritan sect that had split from the Church of England, in defiance of English law. In 1609, they immigrated to Holland to practice their religion but ran into problems there too. Others in the group had remained part of the Church of England but were sympathetic to their Separatist friends. They did not call themselves Pilgrims, that term was adopted at the bicentennial for the Mayflower voyage. The members of core Separatist sect referred to themselves as “Saints” and people not in their sect as “Strangers.”

In March 1621, an English speaking Native American, named Samoset, visited the Plymouth colony and asked for beer. He spent the night talking with the settlers and later introduced them to Squanto, who spoke even better English. Squanto introduced them to the chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit.

Squanto moved in with the Pilgrims, serving as their advisor and translator. The friendly Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and grow crops. The two groups began trading furs with each other.

William Bradford, a Separatist who helped draft the Mayflower Compact, became the longtime Plymouth Governor. He was also the writer of the first history of the Plymouth Colony and the Mayflower. Bradford’s more notable descendants include author, dictionary writer and scholar Noah Webster; TV chef Julia Child; and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

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In the fall of 1621, 399 years ago, the Pilgrims invited their Wampanoag Indian friends to a feast celebrating their first harvest and a year in the New World with a three-day festival. This has become known as the first Thanksgiving.

Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.

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Health

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. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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UAB Chief of Hospital Medicine Dr. Kierstin Kennedy.

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.” 

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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.

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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.

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Corruption

Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence

The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard was booked into jail to begin serving his four-year sentence for ethics violations in September. (VIA LEE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER)

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. 

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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.”

Hubbard was booked into the Lee County Jail on Sept. 11, more than four years after his conviction. On Nov. 5 he was taken into custody by the Department of Corrections.

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News

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.

Eddie Burkhalter

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University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.

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.

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