By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Monday, May 11, the Founder of the Alabama Free Market Alliance Paul Reynolds released a statement opposing the tax package being promoted by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Alabama) and his House GOP leadership team.
Reynolds wrote that, “Smaller government should be aspirational, not a fear tactic.”
Reynolds called the assertion that the state needs to raise taxes to match the growth in government spending, “An astounding – and baffling – assertion.”
Reynolds wrote, “Since when is there a requirement in this state that government must grow? Our conservative leaders have done admirable work since 2011 of cutting waste and creating efficiency. However, now is not the time to stop. Obviously, there is more work to be done. The people of Alabama have allocated to our state government an amount certain in each of the previous years. It is incumbent upon those in public office to operate our government within the means of that amount.”
Reynolds said, “Those of us who view smaller government as a virtue look forward to a less burdensome regulatory environment and greater individual freedom. One day soon, we might even be able to enjoy a return of our own hard- earned money in the form of a tax cut.”
Reynolds wrote, “There are ways the state can save money, but it’s going to be tougher than waving the tax wand whereby other people’s money magically shows up in the state’s wallet.”
Reynolds wrote that there are ideas to cut state spending, “Sen. Arthur Orr has a package of bills to reduce the taxpayers’ obligations under the state retirement system. Sen. Shay Shelnutt has legislation to require that individual counties take responsibility for the retirement costs of county officials (why in the world would the State pay for that, anyway?). Rep. Will Ainsworth has legislation to prohibit earmarking of revenue and allow more room for flexibility and better stewardship of tax dollars.” Reynolds also favors that the state operate a single, unified budget.
Reynolds wrote, “We have a representative democracy. Voters elect someone to go to Montgomery because they are too busy minding their stores, plowing their fields, or taking care of their children. However, here’s the deal that’s struck: the elected official must carry the collective ideals of the voters with them. In the present issue, that means a commitment to not raising the tax burden on Alabama families and businesses.” Reynolds wrote that if, “The absence of some government program becomes too much to endure, then the electorate will let their representatives know and permit an allocation of revenue to pay for it. Unless and until that unlikely scenario happens, conservative principles should prevail. Having spoken to groups across the state this year, I can say definitively that voters have zero appetite for any tax hikes.”
Similarly, former State Senator John Rice (R) with the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government held a press conference in Montgomery on Monday in which he said that the Representatives in Alabama need to hear from all of us on this matter. “All we ask, is if you feel the state should not raise taxes and grant a gambling monopoly, then call your representative and ask him/her to VOTE NO. Please let them here from you. They really deserve to hear from you.”
Meanwhile Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) continues traveling the state campaigning for more revenues. The Governor said, “We are facing a tremendous crisis in our General Fund Budget that will impact every Alabama County if not addressed by the Legislature.”
Gov. Bentley said in a statement on Monday, “I am committed to finding new revenue so our State agencies can continue to provide essential services to Alabamians. For decades, we have failed to address the way our non-education state agencies are funded. With no one-time money available to support the General Fund and debts that are owed, we have a real crisis on our hands. I encourage Alabamians to let their elected representatives know that these cuts are unacceptable.”
The Governor’s $541 million plan to increase taxes on cigarettes, tobacco, banks, insurance, rental/leased cars, car sales, public utilities, etc. appears to have stalled. Meanwhile Speaker Hubbard is expected to attempt to force his more modest $100 to $150 million tax plan through the House on Tuesday and Thursday in what could be marathon sessions. Hubbard’s plan supplements the tax package by accepting an offer from the Poarch band of Creek Indians (PCI) of $250 million for an exclusive gambling monopoly in Alabama.
Former State Senator Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) told the Alabama Political Reporter that the State is doing their budgeting all wrong. They are asking the department heads how much money do you need to keep doing what they are doing and then coming up with an amount or revenue needed to achieve that number.
Sen. Beason said that the State should instead come up with the expected revenue available and then prepare a budget in order of priorities. Beason said that some in Montgomery are using the Obama playbook and are identifying the programs that people actually like and are threatening those programs in order to try to get people in line behind the tax increases. Sen. Beason is the senior policy analyst for the Alabama Free Market Alliance.
The House is expected to address the Speaker’s plan on Tuesday and Thursday but it faces an unlikely fate in the more conservative Alabama Senate.
Paul Reynolds is Alabama’s National Committeeman on the Republican National Committee.
Alabama unemployment rate drops more than 2 points to 5.6 percent
The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 5.6 percent in August, down from 7.9 percent in July, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
The figure represents 127,186 unemployed people, compared to 176,556 in July. It compares to an August 2019 rate of 2.8 percent, or 62,149 unemployed people.
“August showed a larger drop in the unemployment rate than we’ve seen for a few months,” said Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We are continuing to see our initial claims drop, staying under 10,000 for the past several weeks. We regained another 22,200 jobs this month but are still down more than 86,000 from this time last year.”
Washington said that the number of people who are working or actively looking for work is at its highest level ever, which he described as a sign that people are confident that there are jobs to be found.
Gov. Kay Ivey said the numbers are good news for Alabama.
“We have worked extremely hard to open Alabama’s businesses safely, and to put our hard-working families back to work,” Ivey said in a statement. “We know that challenges remain, and we will endeavor to meet them so that we can get back to our previous, pre-pandemic record-setting employment numbers.”
All the state’s counties and metro areas experienced a decrease in unemployment rates from July to August. The most gains were seen in the government sector, the professional and business services sector and the trade, transportation and utilities sector.
Counties with the lowest unemployment rates were:
- Clay County – 3.4 percent
- Randolph, Franklin, Marshall, Cullman, Cleburne and Cherokee Counties – 3.6 percent
- Blount County – 3.7 percent
Counties with the highest unemployment rates were:
- Wilcox County – 14.8 percent
- Lowndes County – 13.8 percent
- Greene County – 10.9 percent
Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are:
- Vestavia Hills – 3 percent
- Homewood – 3.2 percent
- Madison – 3.3 percent
Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are:
- Prichard – 15.4 percent
- Selma – 12.9 percent
- Bessemer – 10.7 percent
Former State Sen. David Burkette pleads guilty, avoids jail
Former State Sen. David Burkette will avoid jail time and be sentenced to a 30-day suspended sentence as part of a plea deal reached on Monday.
Burkette, who pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act, will also have to pay a $3,000 fine and serve 12 months of probation as part of the deal. He was sentenced in Montgomery Circuit Court on Monday after being charged two weeks ago with failing to deposit more than $3,600 in contributions into campaign accounts — a misdemeanor.
He also resigned his seat in the Alabama Senate as part of the plea deal.
“I’m just happy to still be here,” Burkette told the court following his sentencing, according to multiple media reports.
The former senator suffered a stroke in 2018 and has been confined to a wheelchair since. His current health status played a role in his sentence considerations.
The charges against Burkette stem from a series of complaints filed against him with the Alabama Ethics Commission — all of them related to various issues during his time on the Montgomery City Council. The charge for which he pleaded guilty occurred in 2015.
The Ethics Commission referred numerous charges to the Alabama attorney general’s office, according to sources familiar with the investigation of Burkette, but the attorney general’s office elected to charge Burkette with only the misdemeanor as part of the deal that saw him resign.
“Candidates for public office at the state, county and municipal levels must comply with the State’s Fair Campaign Practices Act,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall. “Personally profiting from campaign funds erodes public confidence in the system and will not be tolerated.”
Governor surveys damage from Hurricane Sally
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held press conferences in Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island after touring the storm damaged Alabama Gulf Coast, which was battered by Hurricane Sally last week.
Three Alabama counties have been approved for individual and public assistance from FEMA. Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia counties were approved for both IA and PA.
“When I was on the coast Friday, it was clear that there has been significant damage, and people are in need of relief,” Ivey said in a statement. “My Office has been working on putting in the request for individual and public assistance to help bring the needed aid, and I appreciate FEMA for quickly delivering to the people of Alabama. Being approved for individual and public assistance is an important step in the recovery process. Coastal Alabama, we are with you the whole way!”
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne and Sen. Doug Jones also toured the damaged areas.
“I appreciate FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor for quickly getting down to Alabama to check out the damage from #Sally,” Byrne said. ”President Trump has already approved Alabama’s request for Public Assistance and Individual Assistance, so I encourage everyone to register for help from FEMA online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362. Residents of Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile counties are currently eligible.”
“President Trump and his team have been outstanding to work with in making sure Alabama gets the help we need and deserve,” Byrne continued.
Ivey toured the area by helicopter to survey the damage.
“I’m sure it could be worse, but from what I’ve seen this morning in the flyover it is really, really bad,” Ivey said.
Over 200,000 people lost electric power due to Hurricane Sally. Alabama Power said Sunday that more than 99 percent of those people have had their power restored.
“Our electric companies are making progress every hour to restore power,” Byrne said. “A lot more work remains, but know that crews are working hard to get all the power back online. Hurricane Sally caused major damage to our electric infrastructure, and I appreciate all those working to get our lights turned back on.”
Alabama Power said that it may take into early this week to restore power to some portions of downtown Mobile, Bayou La Batre and Dauphin Island.
“With the Major Disaster Declaration, individuals may apply for disaster aid from FEMA,” Byrne explained.
You can apply online at disasterassistance.gov or by calling the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).
Even though electric power has been restored, many homes have been severely damaged. Some are a total loss. Most homeowners are still waiting on insurance adjusters to complete their work. There was a lot of roof damage, not just in Gulf Shores, Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan and Orange Beach, but also in Foley, Robertsdale, Loxley, Bayou La Batre, Bay Minette and beyond — both from the winds and from the trees that fell.
Some homes near the coast were impacted by the storm surge, but many more well into Baldwin County as well as in Pensacola, Florida, were impacted by flooding. Many people are still in need of supplies for the cleanup as well as daily essentials.
“There are a number of food, water and supply distribution sites across Baldwin County,” Byrne said. “According to Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, these locations have MREs, tarps, bottled water, ice, and other supplies.”
- Baldwin County Coliseum (Robertsdale)
19477 Fairground Road Robertsdale, AL
- Seminole Fire Department
32268 Highway 90 Seminole, AL
- Lillian Community Club
34148 Widell Avenue; Lillian, AL
- Lana Park (Fairhope)
523 Volanta Avenue; Fairhope, AL
- Foley Soccer Complex
18507 US Highway 98; Foley, AL
- Orange Beach Community Center
27235 Canal Road; Orange Beach, AL
- Gulf Shores SportsPlex
19025 Oak Road W; Gulf Shores, AL
On Saturday, literally hundreds of cars lined up to pick up supplies from the Robertstale Church of God in Robertsdale.
Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores before dawn on Wednesday as a category two storm. Forecasters on Saturday had expected the storm to impact Louisiana but the hurricane turned to the northeast and made landfall in Alabama instead, gaining strength before coming ashore.
“No one expected this storm to be that strong,” Ivey said.
Ivey said most of the piers have been destroyed. Alabama’s State Fishing Pier had just finished a $2.5 million renovation. Now a large portion of the pier is missing. Most of the Gulf State Park campground went underwater. A few campers actually weathered the hurricane in their campers.
Debris removal is ongoing.
The Mobile County Commission announced that it will manage Hurricane Sally debris removal from all areas of Mobile County, located outside the 10 municipalities, except for the Town of Dauphin Island. Dauphin Island will be the only municipality to receive hurricane debris removal managed by the county.
To ensure pick-up removal, residents are asked to adhere to the following guidelines: Only Hurricane Sally-related vegetative and construction and demolition (C&D) debris will be collected. That excludes removal of normal household trash, appliances, electronics and household hazardous waste. Debris must be placed curbside or in right-of-way areas that do not block roadways or storm drains. Do not place material in drainage ditches. Vegetative debris should be piled separately from C&D debris material. Vegetative debris includes tree branches, limbs and non-bagged leaves. C&D debris includes building materials, fencing and bagged materials.
Mike Hubbard’s attorney asks court to reconsider prison sentence
One week after he began serving his prison sentence, the attorney for former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has asked the court to reconsider his four-year sentence.
Hubbard, 57, began serving his sentence on Sept. 11 after being free on an appeals bond for four years. He was ultimately convicted on six felony charges of using his office for personal gain.
“Mike Hubbard is not a danger to society, nor a threat to the public and a revised sentence will better serve the State’s interest in rehabilitation and the ends of justice,” Hubbard’s Birmingham attorney, David McKnight, wrote to the Lee County Circuit Court on Friday.
Hubbard had originally been convicted by a Lee County jury on 12 ethics violations, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld 11 of those convictions, but the Alabama Supreme Court later reversed five of those convictions and upheld six.
McKnight, in his motion to the court, argues that due process compels the court to reconsider Hubbard’s sentence, and that his removal from office, loss of the right to vote and “divestment of business interests” have already punished the former House speaker.
The state’s attorney general at the time of his conviction determined that Hubbard had bilked Alabama out of more than $2 million.