By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, November 24, US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) released 12 examples of individuals who were admitted to the United States as refugees who were publicly implicated in terrorism investigations in 2015.
According to information provided by Sen. Sessions’ office, on February 5, 2015, Abdinassir Mohamud Ibrahim a Somali who came to the United States as a refugee in 2007, and later adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status, was sentenced in West Texas to 15 years in federal prison for conspiring to provide material support to Al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organization, and for making a false statement in his immigration paperwork.
Ibrahim falsely claimed that he was of a member of the minority Awer clan in Somalia and subject to persecution by the majority Hawiye clan. In reality, Ibrahim was actually a member of the Hawiye clan and not subject to persecution. The Complaint charges that, “Ibrahim’s family was famous . . . [and] [t]hrough his clan lineage, Ibrahim was related to known Somali terrorists[.]” Ibrahim also admitted he had lied on his citizenship application by having previously lied on his refugee application by falsely claiming that he had not provided material support to a terrorist group, when he had in fact provided material support in the form of cash to an Al-Shabaab member.
On February 5, 2015, in East Missouri, Abdullah Ramo Pazara, a Bosnian who had come to the United States as a refugee, adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status, and subsequently applied for and received citizenship in 2013 was named in an indictment against six individuals listed below. Pazara was not charged because, purportedly, he is believed to be dead. According to the Indictment, the others listed provided material support to Pazara, who left the United States to go to Syria and fight with ISIS just eleven days after becoming a citizen. Pazara allegedly told an individual about a mission where they “captured a large area, killed even individuals, captured one, and added that they intended to slaughter the prisoner the follow[ing] day.” According to press accounts, at the time Pazara was purportedly killed in Syria, while working as a deputy to one of the top ISIS commanders.
On February 5, 2015, Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, a purported Bosnian war hero who came to the United States as a refugee, was charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, with providing material support to terrorists, and conspiring to kill and maim persons in a foreign country. Hodzic is alleged to have obtained money that he used to “purchase materials and supplies including: United States military uniforms, tactical combat boots, military surplus goods, tactical gear and clothing, firearms accessories, optical equipment and range finders, rifle scopes, equipment, and supplies . . . intending that the materials and supplies would thereafter be transferred to, and used to support” Abdullah Ramo Pazara and ISIS.
Unkic Hodzic – the wife of Ramiz Zijad Hodzic (another Bosnian “refugee”) was charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. According to the indictment, Sedina and her husband, collected money from third parties and wired it to terrorists abroad. Also according to the indictment, Sedina shipped six boxes of US military uniforms, combat boots, tactical clothing and gear, military surplus items, firearms accessories, rifle scopes, optical equipment, first aid supplies, and other equipment to terrorists abroad.
Armin Harcevic (a Bosnian refugee) was also charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and with providing material support to terrorists. According to the Indictment, Harcevic collected money from third parties and wired it and his own funds to terrorists abroad.
Nihad Rosic (again a Bosnian refugee turned Lawful Permanent Resident and later naturalized US citizen) was also charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, providing material support to terrorists, and conspiring to kill and maim persons in a foreign country.
According to the indictment, Rosic sent funds to terrorists abroad, and attempted to travel to Syria to join terrorists in Syria and Iraq. Rosic was a truck driver and former mixed martial arts fighter who had previously been charged with endangering the welfare of a child after punching a woman in the face while she held a child, and in a separate incident, was charged with assault after allegedly beating his girlfriend with a belt.
Mediha Medy Salkicevic is another native Bosnia “refugee”, adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status, and subsequently applied for and received citizenship. She was charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. Salkicevic was formerly an employee with a cargo company that deals with items coming in and out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Salkicevic allegedly collected money from third parties and wired it and her own funds to terrorists abroad.
Jasminka Ramic is native Bosnian refugee, adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status, and subsequently applied for and received citizenship. She also was charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. According to the indictment, Ramic collected money from third parties and wired it and her own funds to terrorists abroad.
Abdurahman Yasin Daud was born in a refugee camp in Kenya and came to the United States as a refugee while still a child. Daud was subsequently adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status. On April 20, 2015, Daud was charged in Minnesota (along with six others) with conspiracy and attempting to provide material support to ISIS. Daud and another individual drove from Minnesota to San Diego to attempt to get passports, cross the border into Mexico, and fly to Syria in an attempt to join ISIS.
Guled Ali Omar was also born in a Kenyan refugee camp, came to the United States as a refugee when still a child and later adjusted to Lawful Permanent Resident status. He subsequently applied for and received U.S. citizenship. Along with Daud he was charged with conspiracy and attempt to provide material support to ISIS. Omar is the younger brother of another indicted fugitive, Ahmed Ali Omar, who left the United States in 2007, to fight for Al-Shabaab. Another one of his brothers, Mohamed Ali Omar, was convicted in March of threatening federal agents when they came to the family’s residence to interview Guled Omar. During a press conference, US Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Andy Luger, said that Omar “never stopped plotting,” and had previously attempted to leave the United States.
On August 12, 2015, in Idaho, Fazliddin Kurbanov was found guilty on charges that he conspired and attempted to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and possessed an unregistered destructive device. Kurbanov came to the US from Uzbekistan in 2009. U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Carlin stated that he “conspired to provide material support to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and procured bomb-making materials in the interest of perpetrating a terrorist attack on American soil.”
Senators Sessions and Shelby (R-Alabama) have jointly called for canceling the open-ended ‘blank check’ in the year-end funding bill, warning that this is the only way to halt the President’s plans.
Sessions has also authored appropriations language that he would like to see included in the omnibus. It would prevent any of the President’s resettlement from being effectuated until Congress passes a separate resolution to authorize it.
Sen. Sessions said that more than 9 in 10 recent Middle Eastern refugees are receive some type of federal welfare. Sessions says that 12 could be supported in their home region for the cost of just one brought into the US.
US Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said, “In order to ensure the safety of the American people, Congress must use the power of the purse and halt all funding for the Syrian refugee resettlement program. The President cannot continue to undermine our national security and I’ll keep working to halt the movement of Syrian refugees into the United States.”
President Barack Obama recently compared the Syrian refugees to America’s 17th Century Pilgrims. Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has compared them to the Trojan Horse that the Mycenean Greeks used to get their warriors inside the walls of Troy in Homer’s, “Illiad.”
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.
House OKs bill to clarify consulting contracts by state legislators
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to try to clarify how legislators accept consulting contracts under Alabama’s 2010 ethics law. Some pundits have suggested that House Bill 387 is actually designed to weaken the existing ethics law.
Sponsor state Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, argues that the legislation is merely a clarification and is intended to prevent legislators from inadvertently crossing the line into illegality.
Wingo said that his bill would require legislators to notify the Alabama Ethics Commission that they have entered into a consulting agreement in an area outside of their normal scope of work.
State Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, said, “I have never understood why members of this body were allowed to take contracts as consultants or counselors.”
Wingo said, “Never do I use the word counselor in my bill; it is consulting.”
Beckman asked, “Are we going to be getting into an area where every time we turn around we create a bureaucratic nightmare where we have to go get an opinion. These opinions whether it is orally or written don’t hold up in a court of law.” Beckman said, “We are serving the people here but we get this admonition that we can still be a consultant if we get an opinion.”
Wingo said, “This does not apply to professions where a member is currently licensed.”
Beckman said, “I would like to see more opinions coming out of the Ethics Commission. Right now we have the Ethics Commission competing with the Attorney General’s office over who has more authority.”
State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said,”This happened to a friend of mine. He just got out of prison. He was a state senator and had a written letter from the Ethics Commission which his lawyer read at trial and the jury convicted him anyway.”
Rogers never named his friend, but reporters think he was talking about former state Sen. Edward Browning ‘E. B.’ McClain who spent over 22 years in the legislature until he was convicted on 47 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, bribery, and money laundry in 2009.
A federal jury found that McClain and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue were guilty in a scheme where McClain would secure public funds for Pettagrue’s community programs and then receive a kickback once the funds were in hand. McClain was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison. McClain was not prosecuted under the Alabama ethics law as the state has a much weaker ethics statute then. The current ethics law was passed in 2010.
Rogers said, “If they offer me a consulting contract for a field like aerospace engineering that I know nothing about they are trying to pay me off. If you can already be a consultant for something you know about why would you seek a consulting contract for something you don’t know about.
Rogers this is how they can pay you off for your vote.”
State Rep. Artis “A.J.” McCampbell said, “I don’t like making changes to things like this because we get into things called unintended consequences.”
McCampbell was reading from the bill and Wingo said, “You are reading from the original version it has completely changed.” “We worked tirelessly on this bill with the Ethics Commission this is not a fly by night bill.”
“If a member of the legislature enters into a contract to do a consulting contract outside of their normal field of work this bill requires that they consult with the Ethics Commission first,” Wingo said. “It is up to the member to notify the Ethics Commission not to the company or person offering them the money.”
State Representative Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said, “Everybody but legislators are allowed to do contract work up to $30,000.”
Rep. Wingo said, “This is not intended to be a roadblock.”
State Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said, “The whole purpose of this is not to prevent members from doing work in your field.” “What you are doing is offering to protect me.”
State Representative John Knight, D-Montgomery, asked Wingo what the Alabama Attorney General said about this legislation.
Wingo replied, “I have not contacted the Attorney General.”
Knight responded, “Something from the Ethics Commission does not carry a lot of protection from the Attorney General. We have seen that in the past. I think the Attorney General and the Ethics Commission should be in agreement in the working on this.”
Wingo answered, “Maybe this is a first step.”
Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, asked, “Do we have anybody doing work outside of their regular scope of work?”
Wingo answered, “Yes I think so.”
Wingo said, “If we had had this bill four or five years ago maybe we could have been spared the embarrassment that this body experienced with the former Speaker.”
Wingo was referring to former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard who was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations in June 2016. Ironically, Hubbard is largely responsible for creating the ethics law that he was found guilty of violating 11 times in his relentless pursuit of outside contracts and personal wealth.
Unlike McClain, however, Hubbard has not yet served any of this sentence.
House Bill 387 passed 67-0 with 26 legislators abstaining.
The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.
(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Lisa Osborn in 2009 was consulted in this report.)
Opinion | Historic opportunity – Alabama’s chance to change abortion history
Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels endorses Mike Bloomberg for president
Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Warren to travel to Selma
Doug Jones praises end of state Democratic Party lawsuit
ACLU of Alabama condemns bill banning transgender treatment for minors
11th-hour smear campaign against Byrne linked to opponent Tuberville, sources say
Ivey announces support for criminal justice legislation
Alabama House passes bail reform bill named for Aniah Blanchard
Marsh holds meeting with gaming interests day after Ivey calls for the Legislature to stand down on gaming
Private prison company eyes Elmore County land for one of state’s new prisons
Opinion | Deception, subtlety and the wholesale destruction of current ethics laws mark proposed rewrite
Developer Tim James proposes privately-funded toll road as “catalyst for economic growth”
How Alabama’s government stays broken
Lawmaker files bill to ban treatments for transgender kids
Alabama Democratic Conference endorses Michael Bloomberg for president
New marshal installed at Alabama Supreme Court
Education5 days ago
House passes Tier III retirement for education employees
Elections21 hours ago
11th-hour smear campaign against Byrne linked to opponent Tuberville, sources say
National4 days ago
Doug Jones: Anniston could still be called upon to treat coronavirus patients
Crime3 days ago
ADOC investigating possible suicide at Easterling Correctional Facility