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Marsh Meets the Press

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, May 5, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) unveiled the latest version of his gambling expansion plan at a press conference in the State House.

Reporters asked Senator Marsh what he thought of Governor Robert Bentley (R) calling his gambling bill an ugly bill.  Marsh retorted, “I think his tax plan is a pretty ugly tax package.” Marsh said his plan is a C.A. (constitutional amendment) and does not go to the Governor for his signature.

Sen. Marsh said that his plan will create 11,000 new jobs.  Marsh said that the Poarch Creek Indians’ (PCI) Plan, which is being supported by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) and the Governor’s plan both create no jobs.  Marsh said that his plan has a $1.28 billion economic impact versus none for the Creek Plan and the Governor’s Plan.

Sen. Marsh says that his plan would generate $400 million in new revenues annually versus a $250 million one time payment for the Creek plan and $541 million in new taxes with the Governor’s plan.

The Anniston State Senator said that his policy is fair to all.  The Creek plan creates a monopoly while the Governor’s plan raises taxes.  Marsh said that he is for letting the people vote. The Creek plan has no vote of the people and the Governor’s plan has no vote of the people.  Marsh vowed to draft the best piece of legislation for gaming possible.

Marsh said over the last four years we have cut 5,500 state jobs.  It is time to let people make the decision.  I just left a briefing of the Personnel, Department of Mental Health, and Medicaid agencies on the dire situation those departments are facing.  It is right to let the people make those decision.  Do we raise taxes or do we find new revenues?

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Millions of dollars in revenue leave this state to support gaming in other states. It is common sense to prevent Alabama money from leaving Alabama.

Marsh said that his plan consists of three parts: a State lottery, class 3 gaming in existing facilities, and encourage the governor to have a compact with the Creek Indians.

Marsh appeared on stage with Birmingham Mayor William Bell.

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Bell said, “I want to commend Senator Marsh for taking a leadership role.”

Mayor Bell said that the Marsh plan improves the economic vitality of the state and creates 11,000 jobs.  Bell said that Birmingham benefits from the Marsh plan which is a controlled process that has a gaming commission.

Bell said that gaming will help Birmingham to attract conferences and conventions to Alabama. Right now we can not offer them (conventions) the same entertainment that Mississippi can.

Bell said that people make a decision to purchase lottery tickets; while a tax is not by choice.

Marsh called on the business community to step up and get behind his plan.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Marsh why if we are going to open Alabama up to gambling, why we don’t we go to Las Vegas and sit down with all the players in that business and invite them to all bring their proposals to Alabama.  You say that Mike Hubbard’s plan would create a monopoly; but your plan creates a cartel of Milton McGregor, Greentrack, the Poarch Creek Indians, and the ownership of the Mobile Dog Track, why not let the gaming commission decide who gets these licenses?

Marsh replied I have no problem with that.  If somebody wants to bring that amendment on the floor I am willing to change it.  Marsh said that his plan gives 20 year deals for those already in the state but if the gaming commission wants to bid it out in ten years he is open to that.  “I want the best possible bill.”  I am open to any ideas.

Bryan Lyman with the Montgomery Advertiser said that the cost of Medicaid is increasing by up to 10 percent a year and experts in gaming say that 3 to 4 percent growth is the best that can be expected.

Sen. Marsh answered, “We are trying to get a grip on Medicaid.”

Marsh said that a compact is up to the governor.

Marsh said that we have spent tens of millions to try to rid the state of those machines, fighting something we have no success with. We are limited in options.  Do we cut another 5500 state jobs? Your option are significant cuts.  Marsh said that the people of this state should decide.

Marsh acknowledged that his legislation does not deal with the immediate problem of the 2016 fiscal year.  Marsh said that while some legislators have suggested a bond issue or borrowing against the trust fund he favors tightening the belt for a year while waiting for the new revenues to come in in the future however, “I will go with the wishes of the body.”

The Associated Press’s Kim Chandler said that she has talked with every member of the caucus and they prefer a lottery over casinos.

Marsh said that you lose the economic impact with a lottery alone.

The Senate President Pro Tem said that at this point, “I am not hearing a lot of excitement about tax increases.  Would they rather have a lottery than casinos I would say ‘yes.'”

Marsh said that the body wants to solve this issue on a long term basis.  Marsh said that the bill reads one facility per area.

Marsh said that Speaker Hubbard is committed to the Creek plan.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked: the legal analysts we have talked to say that the Governor can negotiate with the Indians but it is their opinion that he does not have the authority to expand the gaming without having the people vote on the issue.

Sen. Marsh said I agree.  Expanding Class III gaming would have to be ratified by the people.

Marsh said, “I want to be able to add amendments in committee next week.”

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Courts

Doug Jones praises end of state Democratic Party lawsuit

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Thursday applauded the end of a lawsuit over control of the state Democratic party. 

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Greg Griffin on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by former Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Worley, which means that state Rep. Chris England, who was picked to lead the state Democratic party by a reform group championed by Jones, is the party’s chair. 

“This is a great day for Alabama and her Democratic Party. Throughout much of last year, countless Democrats in our state worked to create a more open and diverse state party, while recognizing and being true to the crucial and historic role held by African-American voters,” Jones said in a statement Thursday.

“The by-laws of the Alabama Democratic Party now reflect the growing diversity in our state — including representation for Hispanic voters, Native American voters, Asian voters, voters with disabilities and voters from the LGBTQ community. And most importantly, the Alabama Democratic Party has dramatically increased leadership opportunities for young voters. Around 70 new caucus members were added to the state party Executive Committee last year—many of them young people from diverse backgrounds throughout the state. I’m proud to continue to work alongside a more unified, diverse and inclusive state party. 

“With the dismissal of this lawsuit, it is time that all who have been involved in this challenge, resolution, and expansion of the Democratic Party come together for a common good. Our state benefits from the ideas and engagement of a competitive two-party system. We have now demonstrated that we have the ability to be inclusive within our own party while working to expand the number and experiences of people who play a role in moving it forward.  

“Chairman Chris England and First Vice Chair Patricia Todd have my complete support and I call on Democrats throughout the state to unite behind them as we move forward in modernizing, re-invigorating, and expanding the Alabama Democratic Party.,” Jones said.

 

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House

ACLU of Alabama condemns bill banning transgender treatment for minors

Jessa Reid Bolling

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama has condemned a recently approved bill to prevent doctors from providing hormone replacement therapy or puberty suppressing drugs to people younger than 19 who identify as transgender.

House Bill 303, the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, would make it a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for doctors to prescribe puberty-blocking medications or opposite gender hormones to minors. The legislation would also ban hysterectomy, mastectomy or castration surgeries from being performed on minors.

The Alabama House Health Committee and the Senate Health Committee approved the bill on Wednesday in separate hearings, both drawing overflow crowds. The committee approval moves the bill in line for consideration by the full House. 

The ACLU of Alabama said in a statement that the bill targets transgender youth and puts their academic success and health in danger. 

“Transgender girls are girls, and transgender boys are boys,” said Dillon Nettles, policy analyst at the ACLU of Alabama. “Alabama lawmakers are considering legislation that runs counter to medical science, prevailing standards for the treatment of transgender youth and basic human dignity.

“The government shouldn’t threaten medical providers with jail for treating transgender kids and schools shouldn’t discriminate against them when it comes to participation in school sports. HB303 and HB35 are dangerous, discriminatory and put kids at risk.”

Multiple women’s sports advocacy organizations, including The National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation and Women Leaders in College Sports, support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports.

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A June 2019 report from the Trevor Project on mental health issues among LGBTQ youth across the United States found that 78 percent of transgender and non-binary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity in the past year. The report also found that 39 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered. 

The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ youth. 

This is the second bill in the State House this year dealing with transgender youth. 

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Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, is sponsoring House Bill 35, titled the Gender Is Real Legislative Act, or GIRL Act. It would require student athletes in K-12 schools to participate as the gender listed on their birth certificate, preventing transgender athletes from competing as the gender they identify as.

 

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Elections

11th-hour smear campaign against Byrne linked to opponent Tuberville, sources say

Bill Britt

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A story published February 24, on Gateway Pundit alleges, “Bradley Byrne kicked his brother’s widow off her land,” but the land was never owned by Byrne’s sister-in-law.

Whether the reporter at Gateway Pundit didn’t read all the court records or there were other motives, the erroneous accusations on the popular right-wing blog are now being used to smear Byrne in the final hours of a heated U.S. Senate race.

See complete records. 

Political consultants not tied to Byrne’s campaign say that operatives working for his rival, Tommy Tuberville, are promoting the story to damage Byrne. Random text messages are being sent to distribute the story as well as numerous calls to Alabama media outlets to report on the false claims. State political reporters have rejected the story due to its inaccuracies.

Several calls and voice messages to Tuberville’s campaign have gone unanswered.

The land in question was part of the estate of Byrne family matriarch, Elizabeth Patricia Langsdale Byrne.

In her original will signed July 23, 1996, Mrs. Byrne left her property in Baldwin County to her three children, Dale, Bradley and Patricia.

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However, on Feb. 25, 1999, she amended her will, removing her eldest son leaving the property to only Bradley and Patricia.

On Dec. 6, 2000, Mrs. Byrne again amended her will, leaving one-third to Bradley, one-third to Patricia and one-third as a “life estate” to Dale. According to the will, the life estate left to Dale would go back to Bradley and Patrica upon Dale’s death because a life estate means ownership of land is only for the duration of a person’s life.

Mrs. Byrne died in 2008; she was followed in death by her son Dale in 2014,  at which time the life estate bequeathed to him expired.

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Bradley, who his mother selected as executor of her estate, then filed the necessary paperwork with the Baldwin County probate office to address Dale’s death as stipulated in Mrs. Byrne’s will.

The Gateway Pundit story leaves out crucial details and in its interview with Dale’s fourth wife, Gloria, repeats claims she made that are not grounded in facts.

There is also a false claim that Byrne refused to leave the campaign trial when his brother died, but he did in fact cancel a scheduled event in the family’s time of morning.

The same reporter at Gateway Pundit wrote several stories praising Tuberville and trashing his other primary opponent, Jeff Sessions, calling him a skunk and a snake.

Court records clearly show Byrne acted in accordance with his mother’s wishes as they were detailed in her last will and testament.

 

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Crime

Ivey announces support for criminal justice legislation

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced her support for six bills that address the state’s criminal justice system, legislation that’s a product of Ivey’s study group on criminal justice policy. 

“I tasked the Criminal Justice Study Group with the mission of finding data-driven solutions to our longstanding challenges in our prison system,” Ivey said in a statement. “I’m not only proud of their efforts, but I’m pleased there were solid recommendations, which came as a result of their hard work. Through these legislative items, we can build upon steps my administration has already begun taking to improve our criminal justice system.” 

Those bills are: 

  • SB 226, by Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), will establish a Deputy Commissioner of Rehabilitation within the Department of Corrections (DOC), as well as within the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. This bill will refocus these agencies toward reducing recidivism among those in the state’s custody while promoting public safety.
  • SB 244, by Sen. Cam Ward (R- Alabaster), will ensure that all inmates coming to the end of their sentences undergo mandatory, pre-release supervision. A 2015 law accomplished this result for offenders sentenced after its enactment; this bill will make that statute retroactive. While reducing burdens on DOC, this bill will also improve public safety by helping inmates successfully re-enter society.
  • HB 323, by Rep. Chris England (D- Tuscaloosa), will require the Department of Corrections to report more information to the Legislative Prison Oversight Committee. This bill will provide lawmakers with information to make knowledgeable decisions during the appropriation process. It will also update the Oath of Office that is taken by Correctional Officers to reflect the Department’s renewed focus on the rehabilitation of inmates.
  • HB 329, by Rep. Jim Hill (R- Moody), will make retroactive the state’s existing “presumptive sentencing guidelines.” Prior to October 1, 2013, offenders were sentenced to lengthy sentences, even life imprisonment, for nonviolent crimes. This bill will allow nonviolent offenders who are currently incarcerated under the previous guidelines to be eligible for resentencing under current, presumptive sentencing guidelines if they have demonstrated acceptable conduct while in prison.
  • HB 342, by Rep. Connie Rowe (R- Jasper), will provide former inmates the ability to receive a non-driver photo identification card. One of the greatest barriers of joining the workforce for those coming out of incarceration is a viable form of government identification. This bill will require the DOC and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) to work together to assist an inmate in obtaining a Social Security Card, Birth Certificate and Non-Driving Photo ID prior to release from a state facility.
  • SJR 25, by Sen. Bobby Singleton (D – Greensboro), will establish a study group to address uniformity and increasing access to pre-trial and diversionary programs while also looking at best practices. The study group will be made up of legislators, members of the Alabama Sentencing Commission, counties, district attorneys, judges and legal researchers.

Ivey did not express support for other policy recommendations made by her study group, however, which study group members and advocates for criminal justice reform say would free incarcerated people who, if convicted of the same crime today, would not have been sentenced so harshly.

Study group chair Champ Lyons wrote in the group’s proposals that lawmakers should consider reinstating a 2001 law that would allow some people serving life without the possibility of parole under the state’s Habitual offender Act to ask the courts for relief. Prior to the law’s repeal, so-called “Kirby motions” would let some inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes to appeal their sentences. That  recommendation was not among Ivey’s.

Ivey is also working with the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to increase access to probation officers for parolees, according to her office’s statement Thursday, and has recommended several budget increases. 

 Ivey suggests an increase of $4.2 million to expand prison education programs, $1.8 million to expand the Stepping Up program, a nationwide initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail, and an increase to hire correctional officers to meet a court order to do so. She also recommends hiring 104 additional mental health professionals for state prisons. 

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The U.S. Department of Justice in April 2019 released a report that found that conditions in Alabama’s overcrowded and understaffed men’s prisons is likely violating the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. State officials remain under pressure to fix Alabama’s ailing prison system or face a federal takeover.

At least the twenty-eight people serving in state prisons died in 2019 as a result from either homicide, drug overdose or suicide. The 14 prison homicides in 2019 was more than twice as many as were killed during the entire ten-year period between 1999 and 2009. 

Ivey’s announcement Thursday supporting criminal justice legislation comes as ADOC staff continue to push her plan to construct three new prisons at an estimated cost of $900 million, a plan Ivey and ADOC commissioner Jeff Dunn say would increase safety for the incarcerated and prison staff and replace numerous dilapidated facilities.

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