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Kay Ivey becomes Alabama’s 54th governor, second female governor in State’s history

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

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By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY — Alabama, a state marred by political turmoil, has a new governor, marking the third major turnover of power in the State’s top three political offices over the course of one year.

Gov. Kay Ivey, who previously served as the State’s lieutenant governor, took the oath of in the Old Senate Chambers in front of a packed room of reporters, lawmakers and members of the public, becoming the 54th governor of the State of Alabama — only the second female governor in its history.

Acting Chief Justice Lynn Stewart — holding the Alabama State Bible, which has been used to swear in governors since 1853 — led Ivey in delivering the Oath of Office, officially marking the beginning of Ivey’s term as governor.

Ivey’s ascension follows a day of back-and-forth over the resignation of Gov. Robert Bentley, who has been the subject of a spiraling sex scandal that brought an end to his six-year term as governor and led to an all-out political war in Montgomery over the future of the Governor’s Office.

“Today is both a dark day for Alabama, yet also one of opportunity,” Ivey said after being sworn in. “I ask for your help and patience as we, together, steady the Ship of State and improve Alabama’s image. Those are my first priorities as your 54th Governor.”

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Ivey made few controversial remarks and spoke for less than five minutes, but promised no delay in transitioning into her new administration. She said she would meet with cabinet members and legislative leadership to ensure a smooth transition.

“Despite the challenges we face, today’s transition should be viewed as a positive opportunity. It is a demonstration of our successful practice of the rule of law and the principles of democracy,” she said. “I pledge to each of you that I will do my best. The Ivey Administration will be open, it will be transparent, and it will be honest.”

The day began with the start of what was expected to be a week full of impeachment hearings but ended with Bentley accepting a plea deal on two misdemeanor campaign finance charges. He later announced his resignation after a week of fallout over accusations that the 74-year-old misused State resources to facilitate an affair with his former top staff, Rebekah Mason.

Bentley’s resignation was effective at about 5 p.m.

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“The time has come for me to look at new ways to serve the good people of our great state,” Bentley said in a resignation announcement at the State Capitol. “I have decided it time for me to step down as Alabama’s governor. I leave this office that I have held, that I have respected, that I have loved for seven years to focus on other and possibly more effective areas of service.

“I love the people of this state. I love this office.”

Robert Bentley

Bentley agreed to a plea deal in the courtroom of District Court Judge Troy Massey at the Montgomery County Courthouse. He is unlikely to serve any jail time but was sentenced to 12 months unsupervised probation and fined more than $7,000. He will also never run for public office again and has forfeited any retirement benefits.

He has also promised to perform 100 hours of community service.

Bentley’s resignation Monday came after support from his Republican colleagues in the Alabama Legislature and the State Republican Party leadership collapsed last week.

The Speaker of the House, the Senate President Pro Tempore and the Alabama Republican Party Steering Committee, as of Sunday night, had all called on the beleaguered Bentley to resign. All of the parties, in combination with attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office, were pivotal in urging the Governor to resign and accept a plea deal.

“I’m grateful that Governor Bentley has seen the writing on the wall and made what must have been a difficult decision,” McCutcheon said. “When I met with him on Friday, I told him I would be praying for him. I will continue praying for him as he adjusts to the next chapter in his life and reflects upon the legacy he leaves behind.”

The salacious scandal was a slow-developing one and played out over the course of the last year, culminating last week with the State’s Ethics Commission recommending four criminal charges against Bentley and the House impeachment committee’s special counsel releasing a damning 130-page report detailing his relationship and alleged affair with Rebekah Mason, his longtime political adviser.

Bentley’s resignation means that Ivey, the 72-year-old Republican lieutenant governor, will now be the state’s second female governor. The only other female governor was former Gov. Lurleen Wallace, who served two years at the State Capitol before losing a battle with cancer.

Ivey has been the lieutenant governor since 2011 and previously served as the state treasurer from 2003-2011 — the first Republican treasurer in the State since Reconstruction. In 2002, she defeated Stephen Black, the son of former US Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, to become State Treasurer.

In 2010, Ivey initially announced her candidacy for governor, pitting her against Bentley, Bradley Byrne and Roy Moore, but later swapped her candidacy to run for lieutenant governor instead. She then defeated former incumbent Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. to become the State’s second female lieutenant governor.

Bentley, a longtime Tuscaloosa dermatologist and Baptist deacon turned governor, had been under fire from state lawmakers since March 2016 when his alleged affair became public thanks to the release of a lewd recording of Bentley making suggestive comments to Mason over a phone call.

In April 2016, several Alabama House members filed articles of impeachment against Bentley, launching a year-long process that was set to result in impeachment hearings this week. But it didn’t get that far. Bentley’s resignation put an end to the impeachment investigation but not before a salacious 130-page report was released detailing Bentley’s affair with Mason and her effects on the Governor’s Office.

With Bentley’s ouster as governor, that marks three top Alabama officials that have been removed from office in the past year.

Political turmoil and investigations have ended the careers of Alabama’s top three political officials: former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Chief Justice Roy Moore and, now, Bentley. Hubbard was convicted of 12 felony ethics violation and faces four years in prison. Moore was suspended from the Alabama Supreme Court last year and is appealing his suspension to a Special Supreme Court later this year.


Email Chip Brownlee at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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Tuberville calls for term limits, balanced budget and lobbying reform

Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.

Brandon Moseley

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Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville (TUBERVILLE CAMPAIGN)

Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville’s campaign began emphasizing key structural reforms that the Republican nominee hopes to advance if elected to the U.S. Senate including congressional term limits, withholding lawmakers’ paychecks unless a balanced budget is passed and a ban on former officials becoming lobbyists.

“Only an outsider like me can help President Trump drain the Swamp, and any of the proposals outlined in this ad will begin the process of pulling the plug,” Tuberville said in a statement. “Doug Jones has had his chance, and he failed our state, so now it’s time to elect a senator who will work to fundamentally change the way that Washington operates.”

Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.

“You know Washington politicians could learn a lot from the folks in small town Alabama, but Doug Jones … he’s too liberal to teach them,” Tuberville added.

Polls consistently show that term limits are popular with people across both political parties, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that imposing term limits would be adding a qualification to be a member of Congress and that can only be done by constitutional amendment.

It is an unspoken truth that when Americans send someone to Congress they never come back. They either keep getting re-elected like Alabama’s own Sen. Richard Shelby, who is in his sixth term in the Senate after four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the other hand, they may become lobbyists getting paid to influence their colleagues on behalf of corporations, foreign governments or some well funded non-government organization.

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Tuberville said he would ban that practice.

A balanced budget amendment almost passed in the 1980s and again in the 1990s.

Since that failure, Congress has increasingly passed bigger and bigger budget deficits. The U.S. government borrowed more money during the eight years of President George W. Bush’s presidency than the government had borrowed in the first 224 years of the country combined.

President Barack Obama followed and the TARP program propped up the post-Great Recession economy. Rather than cutting the deficit, President Donald Trump invested billions in the military and a tax cut without cutting domestic spending. The 2020 coronavirus crisis has further grown the budget.

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The government has borrowed trillions to prop up the economy and provide stimulus while investing billions into medical research and treating the virus victims. Congress is currently debating a fifth stimulus package that would add more to the deficit.

Both a balanced budget amendment and a term limits amendment would have to be ratified by the states if passed by Congress. Tuberville is challenging incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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