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Education Budget Comes Out of Committee in House

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, May 19, the House Ways & Means Education Committee easily passed a substitute Education fund budget, HB179.

The Committee is chaired by state Representative Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa).

Chairman Poole spoke with reporters on Thursday, May 14.

Poole said that there are not very significant differences in the House substitute and the ETF budget that passed the Senate.

Chairman Poole said we made a concerted effort to get money into call rooms for books and classroom supplies.

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Poole said that the House ETF budget does not include the 70 new seventh and eighth grade teachers in the Senate plan. “We concluded we could make better use of those dollars.” Instead the House budget spends more money for textbooks, technology and supplies.

Poole said that Peehip is level funded in this budget. Reporters asked Poole if this would mean higher copayments, premiums, and deductibles for Alabama teachers.

Chairman Poole said, “That is up to the Peehip board.”  They administer the program they have a very significant reserve.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Poole: In the last, roughly seven years, teachers have received only one cost of living pay increase. Wages adjusted for inflation have been in decline for years now and there is no cost of living adjustment in this budget. For kids in high school or college can you really recommend that they go into education given the fact that wages have stagnated?

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Poole said that. “Teaching is a fantastic profession. We have had difficulty raising salaries for teachers, but they do receive step raises, they have fully funded retirements, and get Peehip.” Poole said, “I have supported educators in every way possible.”

On Tuesday, May 19, a handful of amendments were added to the ETF budget. The first amendment adds $1.2 million for career coaches. More money was added for the Department of Archives and History and for the Virtual Library project.

To offset the increased costs the amount of money that school systems receive for transportation was decreased.

Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) proposed an amendment adding $120,000 for the Alabama High School Athletics Association to train football trainers.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) said, “I applaud the representative for adding this. This was something that was left out in the Senate.”

Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Bay Minette) said in past years we have made conditional appropriations for things we funded if enough money comes in.

Chairman Poole said we are not in that budget condition this year. Any surplus money goes to the rolling reserve.

Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) offered an amendment earmarking some funding at Alabama State for a program.

Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) said “I am worried about us taking money from the University and earmarking it. We don’t have word from Alabama State I am not comfortable with that.

Chairman Poole said, “We need to talk with administration before we do this.”

Rep. Rogers withdrew his amendment.

Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) proposed an amendment removing an earmark for the Alabama Center for the Arts in the Alabama Council for the Arts budget. If the Alabama Center for the Arts is deserving they can apply to the Alabama Council of the Arts for the funding.

Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) said the Center is in my district. It is very important for the area. It is a joint effort between Calhoun County Community College and Athens State.

The amendment was defeated.

The General Fund budget was then voted a favorable report from the committee.

The Committee also passed Independent budget bills for Talladega College, Tuskegee University, and Lyman Ward Military Academy.

Chairman Poole thanked everyone and said that he hoped to see the budget on the House floor on Thursday.

The Senate has already passed their version of the Education budget. Also on Tuesday the House passed the General Fund budget.

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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Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus

Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine. 

Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said. 

“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response. 

The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval. 

“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations,  we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said. 

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines. 

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In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain. 

“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily

While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill. 

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.

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“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.

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Tuberville looks forward to public service “probably for the rest of my life”

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

Brandon Moseley

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Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville during an interview with Sean Spicer on Newsmax.

U.S. Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, told Newsmax’s Sean Spicer that he looks forward to the opportunity to give back to this country.

“After winning this and after being up here a couple of weeks and seeing how much of a difference we have made just to this point in the Senate has been gratifying,” Tuberville said. “I look forward to doing public service probably for the rest of my life.”

Tuberville said that he was 18 years old when the Vietnam War was coming to a close and then got into coaching so never served in the military and looks forward to the opportunity to give back to the country.

“As I went around the state of Alabama for those two years though I learned the respect of the people and how much that they want this country to remain the United States of America that we know and grew up in to go by the Constitution and those things. As I went through the campaign I got more and more fond of that I want to give back,” Tuberville said.

“I never served, I never gave back, but God was so good to me and my wife my family,” Tuberville said. “Giving back means so much to me after I was given so much for many, many years.”

Tuberville said that education will be a priority for him, getting education back to fundamentals like reading, writing, history and math. Tuberville said that unless the country gets back to fundamentals in education, “This country is not going to make it. We have got to get back to fundamentals and we are getting farther and farther every day.”

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Tuberville was the only Republican on Nov. 3 to defeat an incumbent Senate Democrat when he unseated Sen. Doug Jones.

“I want to be the voice for the people of Alabama,” Tuberville explained. “The previous Senator was a voice for his party, the Democratic party.”

Tuberville, a career college football coach, reiterated his position that we should play sports and send kids back to school despite the coronavirus global pandemic.

“I think we are doing a lot better in sports than we are doing in a lot of other areas,” Tuberville said. “I was keeping my fingers crossed back in August that we would let our young kids go play high school sports, number one, and then we get into college sports. There are so many people throwing negatives on why we should not do that. But I can tell you, you can see many more positives if we go back to school and we play sports. It’s important that we attack this virus as it has been attacking us. If it gives us an inch, we gotta take it.”

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Tuberville reiterated his opposition to shutting down restaurants, schools and businesses to fight the virus.

“We have to get back to everyday life,” Tuberville said. “You can’t keep shutting people down. Freedom is a power that we have. A power that we have earned because of our forefathers. We can’t give that up.”

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He was the head football coach at Auburn University where he won an SEC championship, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati. Prior to that, he was a national championship defensive coordinator at the University of Miami. He was also the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M.

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

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UAB cancels third game

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The UAB Department of Athletics on Thursday announced that it is canceling its final home game of the season. UAB was scheduled to play Southern Mississippi on Friday at Legion Field, but the game was canceled due to continuing problems with COVID-19.

UAB has said that it will “continue to work with Conference USA on the remaining regular-season schedule.”

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

UAB currently has a record of just four wins and three losses.

A win at Rice would guarantee the Blazers a winning season, but in this COVID altered season, a four and three or four and four record is probably good enough to be bowl eligible.

Southern Miss has had a dreadful season. They are two and seven and have two remaining games, against UTEP and Florida Atlantic. Both of those games were postponed from earlier in the season.

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Unless the season is extended a week to the 19th, there is no way for UAB and Southern Miss to make up the canceled game.

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Official state Christmas tree was delivered

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

Brandon Moseley

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The 2016 state Christmas tree in front of the state Capitol.

Alabama’s official Christmas Tree was delivered to the state Capitol this week.

This year’s tree was donated by Robbins Taylor Sr. It is an Eastern Red Cedar that was grown in Letohatchee, Alabama.

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

The tree will be adorned with lights and decorations ahead of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 4. Gov. Ivey’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Capitol in Montgomery.

Alabama became the first state in the nation to make Christmas an official government holiday in 1836. Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.

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