By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
On Sunday, March 27, Foundress of EWTN, Mother Angelica, who was 92, died on Easter Sunday. She founded the Irondale based Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) which broadcasts via cable TV, satellite, and radio across much of the US and in many nations across the globe to 144 countries. EWTN reaches over 244 million homes.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said in a statement, “On this Easter Sunday, it is only fitting that the Lord chose today to call home one of his humble servants, Mother Angelica. She devoted her life to ministry, converting untold numbers of people to the church. She left an indelible mark on Alabama, the Catholic Church and the world as a whole. She will always be remembered for her personal sermons and she will live on forever in the hearts of all those that her sermons have touched through her gift to the world, the Eternal Word Television Network.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops praised Mother Mary Angelica in a statement, “Mother Angelica reflected the Gospel commission to go forth and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19), and like the best evangelists, she used the communications tools of her time to make this happen. She displayed a unique capacity for mission and showed the world once again the vital contribution of women religious.”
Archbishop Kurtz continued, “In addition to founding the Eternal World Television Network, Mother Angelica was the foundress of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and the Knights of the Holy Eucharist. Her work, begun in the cloister, reached across the globe. She was a convincing sign as to how even the humblest of beginnings can yield abundant fruit. I join those who lived and worked with her, as well as her many viewers, in thanking God for this extraordinary woman, devout believer and media pioneer.”
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in a statement, “Yesterday, Mother Angelica was called home to the Lord. She was one of the great American Catholics of the past half-century, a woman of extraordinary faith, intelligence, energy and determination.” “In founding and growing EWTN into a major media resource for the global Church, she achieved things almost everyone thought impossible. I had the privilege of knowing her and serving on the EWTN board for many years, and therefore saw firsthand the tremendously positive impact her work for Jesus Christ had on many millions of people.”
The Archbishop continued, “She will be sorely missed, but she has left us an on-going gift in the men and women who continue the great service of the EWTN apostolate.”
State Representative Jack Williams (R-Vestavia) said in a statement, “She was an amazing woman. A woman of God and a woman of faith. Her legacy is beyond what the human mind could comprehend. She was an example of faith in action. She just didn’t know any better than to trust God and leave worry to him.”
Rep. Williams continued, “From starting a monastery in the buckle of the Bible belt to starting a television network with absolutely no knowledge of how, or how one worked. She just stepped out and did what God called her to do. Her health had been in decline for several years. But she spent a life faithfully looking through a glass that was darkened. Today she sees face to face the man she trusted with all of her life. Enjoy Heaven Mother and thanks for the millions of others you pointed that way.”
EWTN Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Warsaw told the National Catholic Register, “Mother has always and will always personify EWTN, the network that God asked her to found. Her accomplishments and legacies in evangelization throughout the world are nothing short of miraculous and can only be attributed to divine Providence and her unwavering faithfulness to Our Lord.”
Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville said, “Mother Angelica was a true media giant. She proved that the Church belonged in the popular media alongside the news, sports, and talk shows, and she welcomed Franciscan University Presents, the roundtable theology discussion produced by the University for EWTN since 1993.”
Father Sheridan continued, “She heeded the call of the Second Vatican Council to bring the Gospel message into contemporary society. With humor and the occasional stern word, but always moved by a deep love of people, Mother Angelica faithfully conveyed the knowledge and love of God to Catholics, Christians, and non-believers alike. What started in a garage with a few used cameras has today become a global television, radio, print, Internet, and social media apostolate.”
Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson said to the National Catholic Register, “In passing to eternal life, Mother Angelica leaves behind a legacy of holiness and commitment to the New Evangelization that should inspire us all. I was honored to know and be able to assist Mother Angelica during the early days of EWTN. Over the years, that relationship grew, and today the Knights of Columbus and EWTN partner regularly on important projects.”
Anderson continued, “Mother Angelica was fearless because she had God on her side,” Anderson added. “She saw what he needed her to do, and she did it! She transformed the world of Catholic broadcasting and brought the Gospel to far corners of our world. That witness of faith was unmistakable to anyone who met and worked with her, and generations of Catholics have and will continue to be formed by her vision and her ‘Yes’ to God’s will.”
Bishop Robert Barron wrote, “Mother Angelica, one of the most significant figures in the post-conciliar Catholic Church in America, has died after a fourteen-year struggle with the after effects of a stroke. I can attest that, in “fashionable” Catholic circles during the eighties and nineties of the last century, it was almost de rigueur to make fun of Mother Angelica. She was a crude popularizer, an opponent of Vatican II, an arch-conservative, a culture-warrior, etc., etc. And yet while her critics have largely faded away, her impact and influence are uncontestable. Against all odds and expectations, she created an evangelical vehicle without equal in the history of the Catholic Church. Starting from, quite literally, a garage in Alabama, EWTN now reaches 230 million homes in over 140 countries around the world. With the possible exception of John Paul II himself, she was the most watched and most effective Catholic evangelizer of the last fifty years.”
Mother Angelica retired from her leadership of EWTN in 2000. She suffered a stroke the following Christmas Eve. As a consequence, she spent the last years of her life mostly without the capacity for speech.
According to the Catholic News Agency (CNA) the arrangements are as follows:
Tuesday, March 29 at 3:00 p.m. – Rite of Reception of Mother Angelica’s Body. Mother Angelica’s body will be received in a ceremony and escorted through the Piazza of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Upon conclusion of the Procession, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy will be prayed in the Shrine’s Upper Church and the body will be transferred to the Monastery Cloister for private visitation with the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration.
On Wednesday, March 30 at 10:00 a.m. – Rosary in Memoriam and Public Visitation. A public rosary will be led by Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA in the Upper Church of the Shrine. Upon conclusion of the Rosary, a public visitation will begin.
At 7:00 p.m. – Rosary in Memoriam and Conclusion of Public Visitation. Fr. Joseph Mary Wolfe, MFVA will lead a Rosary in the Upper Church of the Shrine to conclude Public Visitation for the day.
On Thursday, March 31 10:00 a.m. – Rosary in Memoriam and Public Visitation. A public rosary will be led by Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA in the Upper Church of the Shrine. Upon conclusion of the Rosary, a public visitation will begin.
At 5:00 p.m. – Solemn Vespers. Evening Prayer will be chanted by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, the Community of Religious Men founded by Mother Angelica.
At 7:00 p.m. – Vigil Service and Rosary at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament will be led by Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham. Music will be performed by a Schola composed of the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius in Chicago. The Homilist will be Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA.
On Friday, April 1 at 11:00 a.m. – Mass of Christian Burial and Rite of Committal. The funeral Mass will be celebrated in the Shrine’s Upper Church by bishops and clergy from around the world. The homilist will be Fr. Joseph Mary Wolfe, MFVA. The Mass will conclude with a Procession carrying Mother Angelica’s body through the Shrine’s Piazza and into the Crypt. The procession will be followed by the Rite of Committal and interment in the Crypt Chapel.
Original reporting by the National Catholic Register and the Catholic News Agency contributed to this report.
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.)