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Hillary Clinton at Miles College

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Saturday, February 26, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in the greater Birmingham area at a, “get out the vote” rally at Miles College, ahead of the Democratic Party Primary on Tuesday, March 1.

The former Secretary of State, former US Senator from New York, former First Lady of the United States, former First Lady of Arkansas, and Watergate Senate Democratic Counsel hopes that a strong showing in southern states will allow her to move ahead of her rival for the Democratic nomination, US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).

Secretary Clinton addressed a full gymnasium with hundreds of cheering supporters.

Secretary Clinton said, “It is so great to be here at Miles.  I would like to thank the students and faculty and particularly President Branch for hosting us today.  I have been looking forward to coming here to talk with you today.  Work with me to continue the progress we have made and keep moving forward.”

Sec. Clinton said, “I want to help you elect more Democrats in this state.  I want you to imagine what we can do together.  Imagine what we can do in the country that we love and in this state.  Imagine that we have more jobs.”

Clinton said, “I want to commend William Bell for trying to raise the minimum wage.  There are a lot of people in this State and across this country, 35 million of them, two thirds of them women who are working hard and are still in poverty at the end of the year because they don’t make enough money.  I think the Governor and legislators should try to live on the minimum wage….I will fight to raise the federal minimum wage and to create more good paying jobs, a job that will give the people a living wage.”

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Mrs. Clinton said, “I thought my husband did a pretty good job….He will be in Montgomery later day.  The average and median income went up during his presidency.  The median income for African-American income went up 33 percent.”

Sec, Clinton said that she favored changing that tax code to creative incentives for people to bring manufacturing and jobs back to the country.  “Republicans say they don’t believe in climate change. If you don’t understand science then go talk to a scientist. They do what the Koch brothers tell them to do.  Some country is going to be the clean energy super power.  It’s going to be Germany, China, or us I intend for it to be us.  I would like to see another half a billion more solar panels installed before the end of my presidency.  “I also want to do more to help small business.  Two thirds of all the jobs in America come from small business.”

Clinton said that she is happy to be in Alabama, “I want to shake some hands, eat some fried chicken, get some coffee to get my caffeine fix.”

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Sec. Clinton said, “It is time that women get equal pay for work. We need more transparency so people know if they are being treated fairly.  We need to incentivize profit sharing so that it just doesn’t go to the people at the top.  Hillary said that Republicans want to go back to trickle-down economics.  It hasn’t worked before it goes to the people at the top.”

Sec. Clinton said, “I don’t know who they will nominate, but I am hopeful that I am the nominee to take on whoever they nominate.”

Clinton defended President Obama’s record on the economy: “They are all saying the same thing.  They want us to forget what President Obama inherited:  9 million jobs lost, 5 million homes foreclosed, $13 billion in family net worth lost.”

Clinton said that before there was Obamacare there was Hillary-care. “The insurance companies and drug companies just beat us. I was thrilled when Congress passed and President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act.  Republicans have voted 63 times to repeal it.  They never tell us what they are going to replace it with because they know we won’t like it.”

Sec. Clinton said that there are two education systems in this country: one for the rich and upper middle class, and the other for poor and working people.  “It is not fair.”

The former First Lady of Arkansas said that when Bill was Governor she went to schools where she would have been happy to send Chelsea and saw others where she wouldn’t.  “Now I have the Charlotte test.”  Clinton promised to spend more on early childhood education and to make college affordable.  The cost of college tuition has gone up 42 percent in the last ten years.  Nothing has gone up that much.

Clinton said that under her plan students would work ten hours a week. “My opponent has what he calls, ‘free college.’ I am not going to ask taxpayers to pay to educate Donald Trump’s youngest child.  She also said that states need to put more money into higher education.  “We have enough prisons. We need to be investing in higher education.”

Sec. Clinton said, “We are going to let you refinance your student debt. I met a student with a 13 percent interest rate.  We haven’t even had interest since before the Great Recession.  We shouldn’t be charging young people 10, 11, 12, 13, and 15 percent.”  Clinton promised, “loans that are paid off as a percentage of your income and we are going to stop after 20 years.  We are going to stop the federal government from making a profit off of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) like Miles here.  We will have a fund that will go to public and private HBCUs.”

Clinton said that when you go to vote on Tuesday you are voting for both your President and the Commander in Chief.  Clinton said that she advised President Obama on whether or not to go after Osama Bin Laden; but at the end of that day the decision lies with the President.

Hillary said that fighting ISIS requires international partnerships.  When a leading Republican candidate for President is insulting Muslims, that is hard to do.  The President is also the leader of free peoples and free market around the world so you do have to be careful what you say.

On guns, Hillary Clinton said to think about all the other mass shootings.  “We need comprehensive background checks.  We need to end the unlimited liability of gun manufacturers.  We have got to stand up for common sense reforms.  We have got to do a better job of taking guns away from people with a mental illness or who want it to take revenge against a spouse or against former employers like what happened in Kansas.  30,000 Americans a year are killed in gun violence, in suicides, and in senseless accidents.  We have got to stop this.”

Before Secretary Clinton spoke several speakers addressed the crowd which filled the gym at Miles College.
State Representative Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) said, “I am honored to share this stage with the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton.”  “We are going to make history again and prove to the rest of the world that a woman is up to the task.”

Todd told the crowd, “We have a task to do the next couple of days.  We can make a difference by talking to our friends and family.”  I know that there are still some people on the fence.  Most importantly, we have got to go vote on Tuesday.  “She has stood with us for decades, it is time for us to stand with her.”

The National Chairman of High School Democrat of America Jordan Cozby (from Madison, AL) said I was motivated to get involved in politics when I was 14 years old and volunteered to work for President Obama.  “Today I turn 18. I can not be more ecstatic to cast my first ballot for Secretary Hillary Clinton.”

State Representative Merika Coleman-Evans (D-Midfield) said, “Hillary Rodham Clinton is the type of woman who works for a cause.  She works for voting rights, equal pay for equal work.  She wants you college students to leave college with no debt.”

Birmingham Mayor William Bell said, “It is time we allow her (Hillary Clinton) to raise this country to a level we have never seen before.”

Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-Selma) said, “Isn’t this a great day to be from Alabama? It is critically important that we go to the polls on Tuesday and show our support for Hillary Clinton.”

 

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House passes General Fund Budget

Brandon Moseley

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday

Sam Mattison

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

Sam Mattison

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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.

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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.

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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.

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House OKs bill to clarify consulting contracts by state legislators

Brandon Moseley

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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.”

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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.”

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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.)

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