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Legislature Ends In Deadlock over How to Spend BP Money

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, May 3, the Senate failed to pass the House version of the BP oil settlement raid. The issue could possibly be settled in a Summer Special Session or left unresolved going into the 2017 Regular Legislative Session.

State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley) wrote that the announcement was made on the House Floor after Senate leaders failed to reach any kind of an agreement. Wadsworth said, “The BP bill that passed the House that paid off $454 Million debt that is owed by State and allocated $55 million to Medicaid and the balance of funds used to build roads in area affected by Katrina is DEAD in Senate. House original general fund budget added $15 million plus addition earmarks and BP bill added $55 million to Medicaid over the previous year. However, since Bill is dead in House we may be heading for a Special Session.”

State Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) wrote, “I received several emails and phone calls in the last few days asking me to support the House version of the BP Oil Spill Payment; most notably so that it would fund Medicaid. The bill was lost in a committee vote this afternoon. There will be reports of what occurred but following is my take from a front row seat.”

Sen. Holtzclaw said, “As background, the state will receive $1B over several years as a settlement with BP. As you might imagine, the sides quickly formed before this session began to determine how the funds should be distributed. Several plans advanced that would essentially sell the $1B in a bond issue in return for a cash settlement.”

Holtzclaw said that he could not support the bill as written by the House. “I had several objections to the bill but following are the top three: 1) for reasons lost on me the bill actually extended the payback period by 7 years of the current Peoples Trust Act (paying back $161M borrowed from Rainy Day Fund in 2011 through a defined payment schedule)…strike one. 2) The $70M in funding pledged for Medicaid was not specifically earmarked for Medicaid; it was simply categorized as “legislative intent”…strike two. 3) The bond issue is fuzzy at best (technical term) but the numbers we were provided showed that the state would receive about $65 per one-hundred dollars on the bond issue. In other words, we would loose $35 per one-hundred in order to float the risk of a cash settlement over the terms of the settlement…strike three.”

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Sen. Holtzclaw said, “I could not support the bill however a substitute bill was introduced in committee today that I could support. It was still a bond issue but it paid off all of the money borrowed in the past, freeing up future funding obligated to those payments. It also specifically funded Medicaid at $70M. A motion was made to table that bill in committee but that motion failed. The next move should’ve been to take a final vote on the bill but politics got in the way and the meeting was adjourned, effectively killing the BP Settlement bill for this session.”

State Senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) objected to the substitute bill because it did not give more money to the coastal counties that were most effected by the oil spill. Senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) said, “Today was the day that it needed to pass out of committee and unfortunately, it failed. A colleague in the north submitted another bill which took all the coastal money out and that just wasn’t acceptable. I want to thank my colleagues on the coast that stood with me and supported me along the way. We had agreement in the House that money was going to go to the coast. We had broad agreement in the Senate, but It was just a few Senators who decided it wasn’t going to move forward. This is unfortunate for the coast but the delegation is going to continue to fight to bring the appropriate amount of dollars to coastal Alabama. Afteral this is where the BP oil spill occurred. We are going to continue to fight for those dollars and serve you well in Montgomery.”

Wadsworth explained what would happen to the money if the legislature does not act. “Since the Senate did not pass the BP bill the below is what occurs. The State will receive $100 million from BP funds this summer. Of that amount the first $50 million goes to Gulf State Park. The next $15 million goes to make a partial payment on Rainy Day Fund Debt. The remaining $35 million goes to a discretionary fund controlled by Governor who can either pay debt or allocate it to Medicaid.”

The $50 million that goes to Gulf State Park will be used to construct a $110 million beach front convention center and hotel that Governor Bentley has been relentlessly pursuing for two years.

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Sen. Holtzclaw said, “The Silver Lining? The next installment of the BP Settlement will still come into the State General Fund and automatically be distributed throughout the budget. All this on the next to last day of the 2016 session. I’m sure we’ll see this again next year.”

The failure of the effort to use the BP oil money for road projects around the state combined with the failure to pass a gas tax increase means that there will be no extra money in the 2017 budget to address transportation issues.

 

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Alabama Democrats launch “biggest” turnout campaign in their history

“Our organizers and volunteers have been working relentlessly to turn out the vote,” the Alabama Democratic Party said.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Democratic Party said Friday that they have launched the biggest get-out-the-vote campaign in their history in a bid to re-elect U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.

“We’ve made over 3.5 million voter contacts this election cycle,” the ADP wrote in an email to supporters. “Today, we’ve started the biggest GOTV campaign in our history. We will be contacting voters around the clock from now until Election Day. As it stands, we have enough money to reach about 91 percent of the voters in our GOTV universe.”

“Our organizers and volunteers have been working relentlessly to turn out the vote,” the ADP said. “They are contacting voters in all 67 Alabama counties, making sure every Democrat has a plan to vote on Nov. 3.”

On Saturday, Jones will make several campaign stops throughout the Birmingham area to encourage voters to turn out on Election Day. He will make stops in his hometown of Fairfield as well as in Bessemer, Pratt City and East Lake.

Jefferson County is the Alabama Democratic Party’s main stronghold in the conservative state of Alabama. Mobilizing Democratic voters to come out, especially in Jefferson County, is essential if they are to have any hope of re-electing Jones, who has been trailing in public polling.

Jones’s shocking upset of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in the 2017 special election is the only statewide race that the Alabama Democratic Party has won since 2008.

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Jones had a decided advantage in money in that contest to saturate the airwaves and fund a GOTV effort to reach Democratic voters in the special election.

The Jones campaign is trying to build upon that success, but it is an uphill battle and he’s widely viewed as the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for re-election in 2020.

This time, Jones’s Republican opponent is not hamstrung by allegations of sexual misconduct and Trump is at the top of this ticket. The president remains popular in Alabama even if his support has waned in some other states.

Jones needs both an unusually strong Democratic turnout and for a large number of Trump voters to split their ticket and vote for Jones instead of his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville.

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Roughly half of Alabamians are straight-ticket voters.

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Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh won’t seek re-election in 2022

Marsh said it would be up to the Republican caucus to decide whether he’ll remain pro tem for the last two years of his term.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the top Republican member of Alabama’s upper chamber, will not seek re-election in 2022. 

Marsh told The Anniston Star, which first reported the story, that he will also not run for governor or the U.S. Senate in 2022 or in the future.

Marsh’s decision to not run again will bring an end to a 24-year career in state politics. Marsh, 64, made school choice a focus of his legislative work over the years, championing charter schools and wrote the Senate’s version of the 2014 Alabama Accountability Act, which allows for tax credits for those who make donations to scholarships for students at private schools. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Marsh found himself on the other side of public health experts’ understanding of the disease, suggesting to a reporter that he’d actually like to see more people become infected to build the state’s overall immunity to the virus, a theory that public health experts say would lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and many more illnesses. 

Marsh also battled Gov. Kay Ivey over the expenditure of $1.8 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid over the summer, suggesting early on that the state should spend $200 million of that money on a new Statehouse, which drew widespread public condemnation.

The Alabama Legislature later approved Ivey’s plan to spend the federal aid, which does not include a new Statehouse. 

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Marsh explained to AL.com on Friday that during his tenure, the Republican-controlled Legislature has put Alabama’s fiscal well-being on solid ground. 

“Fiscally, I think we’re as strong as a state as we’ve ever been. I think this COVID has shown how financially secure the state is through our policies. I feel very good about our accomplishments,” he told the outlet. “But there comes a time for everything and I just want to make it clear that I do not intend to seek election in 2022.”

Marsh said it would be up to the Republican caucus to decide whether he’ll remain pro tem for the last two years of his term.

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Alabama Power reports progress on restoring power following Hurricane Zeta

Alabama Power said 131,000 outages remain and that the utility provider expects to have service restored to 95 percent of affected customers by Tuesday.

Brandon Moseley

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Crews work to restore power after Hurricane Zeta. (VIA ALABAMA POWER COMPANY)

Alabama Power said Saturday that its crews have restored power to 373,000 customers following Hurricane Zeta, which caused more than 504,000 outages at peak.

As of Saturday at 2:12 p.m., Alabama Power said 131,000 outages remain and that the utility provider expects to have service restored to 95 percent of affected customers by Tuesday.

 

 

Hurricane Zeta hit Louisiana as a category two hurricane on Wednesday before ripping through Mississippi and Alabama. There is an enormous amount of damage across the footprint of the Southern Company, the parent of Alabama Power.

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Alabama Power has said the impact of the storm is similar to what the company experienced during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.

Because Zeta was so fast-moving, it did not lose much of its strength as it moved inland. Much of the state experienced tropical-storm-force winds. There is significant, widespread damage throughout the state.

Alabama Power is having to deal with downed poles and trees that knocked out wires. The company’s crews are working with more than 1,700 lineworkers and support personnel from 19 states and Canada.

Alabama Power said that its crews are working quickly and safely to restore power and will continue to work on restoring power over the weekend.

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Alabama Power storm team evaluators, line crews and support personnel worked throughout the day Thursday and Friday assessing damage and repairing poles and wires damaged in the storm.

Crews are working diligently and as quickly and safely as possible to restore service, the company said.

Remember that there are line crews working along roadways all across the state. Cities, counties and homeowners are still working on debris removal so drive slowly and give yourself more time to get where you are going while out.

Alabama Power warns everyone to stay away from downed power lines, as well as fallen trees and tree limbs that could be hiding downed lines. Always assume a downed line is still energized and poses a potentially deadly hazard.

If you spot a downed line, call Alabama Power at 1-800-888-2726 or local law enforcement and wait for trained crews to perform the potentially dangerous work of removing the line or any surrounding debris.

Hurricane season lasts until the end of November.

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Governor meets with VIP fourth grader

The discussion was described as “wide-ranging and productive.” The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey and fourth grade student Cate McGriff. (GOVERNOR'S OFFICE PHOTO)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey invited a special guest to meet with her in the governor’s office on Friday: fourth grade student Cate McGriff, known for her impeccable impersonation of the governor.

The discussion was described as “wide-ranging and productive.” The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.

Ivey asked McGriff what her favorite subject in school is, the governor’s office said. McGriff replied that it was math. She also told the governor that she wanted to attend Auburn University just like Ivey did.

Ivey asked Cate what she wanted to be when she grows up after she attends Auburn. McGriff said that she wants to be an engineer.

Ivey advised her to keep working hard on her math.

Gov. Kay Ivey and fourth grade student Cate McGriff. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE PHOTO)

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Ivey shared that when she was a young intern for Gov. Lurleen Wallace, the only other woman to serve as governor in Alabama history, she had the opportunity to sit behind the governor’s desk. Ivey then asked Cate if she wanted to sit behind the desk, and they recreated the governor’s own photo behind Gov. Lurleen Wallace’s desk.

Cate and Ivey both were wearing their red “power suits” and Auburn face masks.

McGriff was joined by her parents and two siblings, Claire and Sam.

The McGriff family frequently tune in to the governor’s regular COVID press conferences. Cate also was given the chance to stand behind the lectern in the Old House Chamber.

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Governors frequently meet with very important people including presidents, CEOs, congressmen, senators, scientists, university presidents, state legislators, county commissioners, economic developers and fourth graders.

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