By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, July 10, US Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) announced in a statement, that he was opposed to a controversial proposal to make states pay for abortions with their Medicaid dollars.
Congressman Rogers wrote, “This week, House Democrats introduced an extreme liberal proposal that would force taxpayers to pay for abortions under Medicaid. This dangerous proposal is not only reprehensible, but it is fundamentally wrong. Protecting the rights of unborn children is one of our most deeply held values. As your representative, I will do everything in my power to fight against this outrageous liberal plan.”
Alabama Citizens for Life Spokesperson Cheryl Ringuette Ciamarra told the Alabama Political Reporter, “House Democrats are renewing efforts to require Medicaid to pay for abortions in an attempt to direct attention away from the shocking undercover video where Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director for medical services for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), states that some Planned Parenthood affiliates will provide intact baby parts (such as livers, hearts, lungs, brains and legs) to order obtained from later abortions; and the admissions by Dr. Nucatola that abortion methods may be altered to obtain intact baby parts. These statements raise many ethical questions including whether pregnant mothers are being informed in advance about exactly what procedure is going to be done to them and their babies. In the video she stated that she has morning “huddles” to discuss what age babies and what orders for body parts they have to adjust the procedures to insure they can fill the orders without damaging the desired organs. Listening to this is like being on the inside of a Nazi medical experiment. That is not what the average taxpayer wishes to support with tax dollars regardless of their views on abortion, especially not in family oriented Alabama!”
Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said in a statement about the Dr. Nucatola allegations, “The undercover video of Planned Parenthood provided proof positive for the world to see the argument that so many have been making for so long about Planned Parenthood and its disregard for human life. Congressional hearings have already been called and Planned Parenthood will have to publicly answer for these actions. As people hear about just exactly what is going on, I think you will see the minds and attitudes changing across the nation as to what this group is doing.”
Ms. Ciamara said, “While taxpayer funding of abortions sounds good for liberals courting low income women’s votes for the upcoming Presidential election, Planned Parenthood is already receiving 1.4 million dollars a day in federal grants and funding. Not bad for a nonprofit whose media friendliness has insured 56% of the country doesn’t even know that Planned Parenthood affiliates perform abortions. Over the past three reported years (2011-2013), Planned Parenthood has performed nearly one million abortions (988,783). Taxpayer funding accounts for 41 percent of Planned Parenthood’s overall revenue. Why isn’t that enough ? Votes will tell if US Congressmen can tell the difference between representing people and funding ending the lives of their future constituents.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne said in a statement on the Dr. Nucatola tape, “Every time I watch the Planned Parenthood video my heart breaks. I strongly support criminal and Congressional investigations into Planned Parenthood. I also support legislation that would ensure Planned Parenthood does not receive any federal grants or funding. Groups that perform abortions shouldn’t receive a dime of taxpayer money.”
National Right to Life Committee President Carol Tobias said in a statement, “Abortion is big business and abortionists rake in hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The abortion industry receives hundreds of millions of dollars annually from federal, state, and local taxpayers. Corporations that are heavily involved in abortion should not be receiving tax dollars for any purpose – it merely allows them to further expand their killing empires.”
Ciamarra said, “It is a fact that Planned Parenthood’s political arm is a major backer of many Democratic members of Congress. Lawmakers who have enjoyed Planned Parenthood’s backing should now be asked whether they are motivated in any degree by a desire to preserve Planned Parenthood’s ability to deliver intact, well-developed baby body parts to order.”
Congresswoman Martha Roby is calling for a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood’s conduct. Rep. Roby said, “I think this warrants a criminal investigation – a serious one. I don’t care how much political weight Planned Parenthood throws around this town, no one is above the law.”
Ciamarra said that, “Alabama Citzens for Life is calling on Gov. Robert Bentley to pass a Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act (Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act) to help protect unborn children in Alabama from such barbarity.”
President Tobias said, “One of our top priorities should be enactment of legislation like the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which will at least begin to limit the ability of the abortion industry to deliver intact, well-developed baby body parts to order. Pro-life activists, public officials, and candidates alike also need to prioritize ending public funding of the abortion industry. It’s time to say ‘enough is enough’.”
House Democrats are renewing their attack on the Hyde Amendment, the controversial budget provision that bars federal funds from paying for abortions.
Reps. Barbara Lee (D-California), Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) introduced the bill Wednesday that would require Medicaid to cover abortion services which are currently banned under the Hyde Amendment.
The legislation, the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Woman Act, is backed by dozens of women’s health groups, who say it will help reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. About 65 lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors.
(Original reporting by the Hill’s Sarah Ferris contributed to this report)
Tuberville calls for term limits, balanced budget and lobbying reform
Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.
Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville’s campaign began emphasizing key structural reforms that the Republican nominee hopes to advance if elected to the U.S. Senate including congressional term limits, withholding lawmakers’ paychecks unless a balanced budget is passed and a ban on former officials becoming lobbyists.
“Only an outsider like me can help President Trump drain the Swamp, and any of the proposals outlined in this ad will begin the process of pulling the plug,” Tuberville said in a statement. “Doug Jones has had his chance, and he failed our state, so now it’s time to elect a senator who will work to fundamentally change the way that Washington operates.”
Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.
“You know Washington politicians could learn a lot from the folks in small town Alabama, but Doug Jones … he’s too liberal to teach them,” Tuberville added.
Polls consistently show that term limits are popular with people across both political parties, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that imposing term limits would be adding a qualification to be a member of Congress and that can only be done by constitutional amendment.
It is an unspoken truth that when Americans send someone to Congress they never come back. They either keep getting re-elected like Alabama’s own Sen. Richard Shelby, who is in his sixth term in the Senate after four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the other hand, they may become lobbyists getting paid to influence their colleagues on behalf of corporations, foreign governments or some well funded non-government organization.
Tuberville said he would ban that practice.
A balanced budget amendment almost passed in the 1980s and again in the 1990s.
Since that failure, Congress has increasingly passed bigger and bigger budget deficits. The U.S. government borrowed more money during the eight years of President George W. Bush’s presidency than the government had borrowed in the first 224 years of the country combined.
President Barack Obama followed and the TARP program propped up the post-Great Recession economy. Rather than cutting the deficit, President Donald Trump invested billions in the military and a tax cut without cutting domestic spending. The 2020 coronavirus crisis has further grown the budget.
The government has borrowed trillions to prop up the economy and provide stimulus while investing billions into medical research and treating the virus victims. Congress is currently debating a fifth stimulus package that would add more to the deficit.
Both a balanced budget amendment and a term limits amendment would have to be ratified by the states if passed by Congress. Tuberville is challenging incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.
House passes General Fund Budget
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.
The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.
Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”
Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.
The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.
Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.
Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.
The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.
Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.
The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.
Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.
The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.
In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.
SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.
Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”
State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”
The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.
The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.
The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.
The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.
Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.
SB185 passed 101-0.
Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.
Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1 for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.
SB215 passed the House 87-0.
The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.
State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.
SB231 passed 87-2.
The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.
The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.
The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.
Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.
Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.
Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.
Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.
Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.
Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.
The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.
Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.
Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.
Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.
Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.
Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.
Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.
The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.
Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.
It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.
Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor
By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.
The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.
Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.
Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.
Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.
- Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)
Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.
Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.
The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.
Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.