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Committee Rejects Plan to Raid Rolling Reserve

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, May 13, the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee voted against a controversial plan to raid the rolling reserve fund to prop up the State’s troubled General Fund Budget.

Alabama inexplicably has two budgets with different revenues earmarked for each. The Education Trust Fund (ETF) supports Alabama’s Colleges, Universities, pre-K thru 12th grade education, and two year college system. The General Fund supports Alabama’s: courts, roads, prisons, Medicaid, Commerce, Law Enforcement etc. Because Education Revenues like the income tax go up and down with the economy a portion of education dollars goes to fund the rolling reserve which is a reserve fund the state maintains for economic downturns like the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009.

Senator Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) sponsored SB12.

Sen. Sanford told the Committee:
“What I wanted to try to do is to try to share the growth with the general fund. I realized there are some constraints with the State Constitution particularly with income taxes. 78 percent of State revenues goes to the ETF and 22 percent go to the General Fund. $6.2 billion and $1.5 billion a year respectively. I have been working on this for three years. The goal was not to reduce money in the education fund but rather to share the growth with the General Fund.”

SB12 diverts some money from the stabilization fund to the General Fund.

Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) said, “I understand what you are trying to do. We do not fund education where it needs to be…I am not for supporting a bill that will fund the general fund on the backs of the boys and the girls of this State.”

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Sen. Roger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said, “I fully concur with the gentleman (Dial).  We have been having a problem in the general fund and we all know that.  Once things start I am ready to dig in to this one principle I want every dime of general fund spending out of education. We ain’t where we are supposed to be in education. Books are supposed to be $60 million so every child can have books and bring them home.  We have to raise enough money for the General Fund to get all the education money out of there.”

Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) asked Sanford, “What were you thinking when you decided to introduce this bill?”

Sen. Sanford said, “There is a crisis in the State of money for the General Fund. We took money out of the Trust Fund to get us past this last election. I did not support that then. This year there will be excess of $200 to $225 million diverted into the stabilization fund. The Governor is not running around the State saying that we need more taxes.  I think it is time to stabilize some things. I am trying to get some of the growth revenue into the General Fund.  Allow that to fund the general fund until we can find another solution.  We are going to cut your mental health when there is $200 million sitting in a kitty fund?

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Sen. Figures said we would not be in this situation if the Governor had signed the paper to expand Medicaid.

Sen. Sanford said that other states who did expand Medicaid have had to spend $10, 20, 30, 40 million more than they anticipated.

Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) asked, “Do you agree that education is not fully funded?”

Sanford said, “I am not sure what you mean by that?”

Sen. Sanders said, “Books, transportation. Sometimes you have to rob Peter to pay Paul but you are robbing Peter’s children to pay Paul.”

Sen. Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) said, “I appreciate you bringing this piece of legislation but disagree. We should look at repealing the rolling reserve where we have this pool of money that we can’t get to but should use it to enhance education: not take from it.  We are in a pickle right now but I can’t support this.”

Sen. Sanford said, “I know the State is in financial distress right now but we aren’t broke when there is several hundred million sitting there in an account. Raising taxes is not the only way.  SB12 can’t solve all the problems in the General Fund but I got about $150 million. Mental health patients are not getting the care that they deserve and we have several hundred million in a pot you can’t touch.”

Chairman Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) said, “This is ESTIMATED money.  We have had no proration because of the discipline that the rolling reserve dictates.”

Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) said, “I would like to speak in favor of the bill: SB12. I collect quotes. British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing a joint session of Congress said on the war on terror, ‘Somewhere in Idaho there is a common man saying why us? Why now?  Because destiny has put you in this place.’  I am tired of playing whack a mole with the General Fund Budget.  I am tired of this every year. Put this before the body of the Senate.  I think the citizens of the state deserve to know that at the same time we are wrestling with gambling or raising taxes the state needs to know how we spend our money.”

Sen. Williams said, “I am a child of public education. My family is full of educators. My new daughter-in-law is an educator. Growth revenues are in the education fund. This does not break the rolling reserve.  Education would never be funded lower than at current levels. I think that this is a way to avoid a consolidated budget. The call will only get louder for a consolidated budget if we don’t share some of those revenues with the General Fund.”

Sen. Williams warned that voting no on SB12 could become a clarion call to combine the budgets: “That debate is already happening.  I don’t see SB12 as a raid on education.  SB12 does not do away with that budget. State troopers, roads and bridges are essential State services.  If the streets are not safe and essential programs and policies don’t continue to stay up then our education system will suffer by default.  We have fundamental opportunities to change how we do business.”

Susan Kennedy with the Alabama Education Association (AEA) told the committee, “I applaud Sen. Sanford for addressing a problem that we all know is there. People have long recognized that the General Fund has no growth taxes. People pay taxes to education in this state. The people voted to send their tax dollars to education. Banks, insurance companies and oil taxes go to the General Fund. There are some extremely large exemptions in the General Fund that the state should look at eliminating.  “When you combine the budgets you make us both broke.”

Kennedy was the only citizen who opted to speak at the public hearing.

Sen. Dial moved to indefinitely postpone any action on SB12.  It was seconded by Sen. Quinton Ross.

The motion to keep SB12 from coming to the Senate floor passed by an 8 to 5 vote.

An angry Sen. Sanford said, “I look forward to seeing 8 solutions being brought forward from this committee.”

Chairman Pittman said, “We are in a killing mood today.”

Sen. Sanders said, “We are in a protecting mood.”

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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Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tuberville

Brandon Moseley

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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville.

The Alabama Forestry Association announced Wednesday that the group is endorsing Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville in the upcoming general election.

“We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator. Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama.”

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association,” Tuberville said. “The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success.”

Tuberville recently won the Republican nomination after a primary season that was extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuberville is a native of Arkansas and a graduate of Southern Arkansas University. He held a number of assistant coaching positions, including defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and the University of Miami where he won a national championship.

Tuberville has been a head coach at Mississippi, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. In his nine years at Auburn University, the team appeared in eight consecutive bowl games. His 2004 team won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl.

Tuberville coached that team to a perfect 13 to 0 season.

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Tuberville has been married to his wife Suzanne since 1991. They have two sons and live in Auburn.

Tuberville is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Health

Corinth, Mississippi, is the scenario that school superintendents must be prepared for

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Many Alabama school systems will resume in-person classes later this month. Corinth, Mississippi, rushed ahead to open classes and already there are positive tests for the coronavirus, and more than 100 students are now in quarantine. This is the fear that every school superintendent in the country will have to face when making the decision on whether or not to resume in-person classes in their school systems.

Taylor Coombs, a spokesperson for the Corinth School District, told CNN that six students and one staff member have tested positive for the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Coombs said that an additional 116 students have been considered in “close contact” of a positive case and have been sent home to quarantine for 14 days. Corinth has 2,700 students.

The Corinth School District told parents in a letter posted on Facebook Wednesday that an individual from Corinth Middle School tested positive as well as an employee at Corinth Elementary School. The letter said the school has done contact tracing and is asking anyone who had contact with the individuals to quarantine for 14 days.

While in quarantine, children cannot attend school or any school activities, such as sports.

In-person classes resumed in the district on July 27, according to the school calendar. Corinth parents were given the option of returning to the school for normal classes or doing virtual learning.

Corinth has been screening students and staff on a daily upon entering the building with temperature checks, according to the district’s reopening plan. Staff are having to answer questions daily about if they have had symptoms in the past several days. Despite this, a number of students still were infected during the first week of school and over a hundred were exposed to the virus.

On Tuesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a mandatory mask mandate for the state which includes schools, beginning Wednesday.

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“I know that I want to see college football in the fall,” Reeves said. “The best way for that to occur is for us all to recognize that wearing a mask, as irritating as it can be — and I promise you, I hate it more than anybody watching today — it is critical.”

Mississippi has the fifth-highest recorded case count per 100,000 people. At least 2.13 percent of the population having been already diagnosed with the infection. Mississippi trails only Louisiana, Arizona, Florida and New York.

Alabama is seventh in the country at 1.93 percent of the population. Of Alabama’s 91,776 total cases, 21,363 — or 23 percent — were diagnosed in just the last two weeks. At least 1,639 Alabamians have died already from COVID-19, and 314 of those deaths — or 19.2 percent — were reported in just the last two weeks.

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Despite the setbacks, Mississippi is pushing ahead on reopening schools.

“I believe that there is enough motivation (now) to safely get our kids in school that we can really juice the participation of mask-wearing throughout our state for the next two weeks,” Reeves said on Tuesday when he issued the mask order and the new measures to combat the virus.

Reeves acknowledged that the earlier “piecemeal approach” had not been effective.

Alabama will follow Mississippi’s lead and begin reopening schools next week, with the understanding that outbreaks, like Corinth, are possible and perhaps even likely as we move forward with in-person classes and high school football to follow later this month.

School systems need to open with a plan for testing, quarantining and unfortunately even for the unfortunate deaths of a staff member or student.

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National

Public asked to help find missing mother of three en route to Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Marilane Carter is a 36-year-old white female. She was driving a 2011 dark grey GMC Acadia with a Kansas tag: 194LFY.

Marilane Carter, age 36, left Kansas City, Kansas, late Saturday night Aug. 1 heading to Birmingham seeking help for her mental health. She was seeking help possibly at Grandview or UAB.

Her last known phone contact was near Memphis, Tennessee, around Sunday, Aug. 2 at 8 p.m. near I-55.

According to the family, there has been no contact and no vehicle sighting since that time. Her phone is dead and there have been no credit card charges on her account.

“We are concerned for her safety,” the family said in a statement.

Marilane is married to Adam Carter, and together they have three young children.

The family is asking the public to keep an eye out for Marilane, and keep her and her family in your prayers.

Carter is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds. She has long brown hair, green eyes and was last seen wearing a green T-shirt and black yoga pants.

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“The biggest thing: pray that God orchestrates this in such a way that brings Marilane to safety — as well as glory to Him,” the family wrote. “We covet your prayers and help to find Marilane. #findmarilane.”

Marilane is a 36-year-old white female. She was driving a 2011 dark grey GMC Acadia with a Kansas tag: 194LFY. She has family in Kansas City, Birmingham and Fairhope. If found or you have any information, call 911 and ask for the police.

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Elections

Jones campaign says Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously

Brandon Moseley

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tubberville, right.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ re-election campaign released a statement critical of Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville, suggesting that he is not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously enough.

“The Washington Post reported today that the stock market plummeted after jobless claims climbed last week by 1.4 million and the economy shrank by 9.5 percent — the biggest decline in most of our lifetimes,” the Jones campaign wrote. “While economists are worried about the permanent damage COVID-19 will do to the economy, and public health experts are pleading for people to abide by state and local mask orders, Tommy Tuberville ‘snickers’ in response to questions about flouting public health orders while in DC to raise campaign cash. The people of Alabama need to know that Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously, raising serious questions about how he would handle this crisis if elected.”

The Washington Post reported that “Tuberville is fundraising and holding ­in-person meetings in Washington this week, defying orders from D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) that visitors from Alabama and other coronavirus hot spots quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.”

“Tuberville spent at least some of his time at the Trump International Hotel, according to a photo posted to Facebook by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) showing the two men in the hotel lobby on Tuesday night,” the media reports stated. “Neither man was masked.”

Tuberville told AL.com that he has been called “everything in the world” so the last week is nothing new.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday the former Auburn coach broke Washington D.C. policy requiring “non-essential” visitors from states with high coronavirus case counts to self-quarantine for 14 days when he attended fundraising meetings in the city this week. In addition, a photo of Tuberville with Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington showed neither man wearing a face covering.

Tuberville addressed the controversy in comments to the Alabama Republican Executive Committee on Saturday. Tuberville said that he followed all the rules and wore his mask everywhere he went. When he was at events he would take his mask off to dine and people would come over to his table to shake his hand and get their picture taken. The press has seized on those moments to attack him, he claimed.

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The COVID-19 global pandemic has killed 707,158 people worldwide including 160,833 Americans since it first was discovered in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019. Absent an effective treatment or a vaccine, social distancing and masks are the only tools that we have to slow the spread of the virus.

The Tuberville-Jones race for U.S. Senate is going to have an important role in whether or not Republicans are able to hold on to their narrow Senate majority.

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He is best known for his tenure as Auburn University’s head football coach, which includes an undefeated and untied team that won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl. He also coached at Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Mississippi.

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The general election is Nov. 3. Tuberville has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.

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