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An Interview with Chris Countryman on his campaign for Governor

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama Gubernatorial candidate Chris Countryman (D) recently took time to answer a series of written questions from The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) about his policy positions on a number of State issues.

APR: The State is considering borrowing $800 million to build new prisons. What is your stance on that?

Countryman: “I believe, at least at this point in time, that we need to avoid borrowing money at all costs. Then we need to focus on eliminating the excessive and wasteful spending in our government and apply those funds to specific projects. Once we have generated enough revenue we should look into renovation of our prisons, along with justice reform, and then go from there.”

APR: A plan to raise gas taxes to pay for new roadwork failed. Do you favor that and if not do you think more money should be spent on road infrastructure? If so from where?

Countryman: “Right now citizens in the lower and middle class find it difficult to get by with our current taxes and low minimum wage standard. So raising the gas tax would place more of a burden on low income families. Since we definitely need to improve our infrastructure we would use funding from the various departments and programs that were eliminated due to them being excessive, unnecessary or wasteful. Funding would also be available due to the revenue that is generated as a result of reforming our tax laws and closing the loopholes that benefit the super wealthy. Of course this is only the first step.”

APR: Governor Robert Bentley did not expand Medicaid. What is your position on whether we should expand Medicaid?

Countryman: “I believe that we most definitely need to expand Medicaid. Healthcare should be a right as a citizen, not a luxury only available to the wealthy or those who can afford it. Statistics show that those who have health insurance have a much lower loss to cost ratio. This results in less financial strain on our government, insurance companies and the health-care industry because the person is healthier which reduces the amount of money that has to be spent in order to care for disease and illness that could have been prevented had adequate health-care been available.”

APR: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama has over 90 percent of the health insurance market in this State. What, if anything, would you do to increase competition?

Countryman: “Simple legislation that regulates the activity of insurance companies is really all that’s needed to prevent a potential monopoly on the health insurance market; however I do not know if that is completely necessary at this time.”


APR: Efforts to bring more technology such as tablets to schools has repeatedly failed at the State level. What would you do (if anything) to help poorer school systems get access to more technology?

Countryman: “Apart from any of the methods for generating revenue that I’ve mentioned already, we could use revenue generated from lottery gaming in the State. We could also offset the high costs of obtaining needed technology resources by purchasing technology applications that cost less but have comparable features, and by using more open source software programs and applications.”

APR: Our economic recovery has lagged behind that of most of America. What would you do as Governor, if anything, to try to get a more robust Alabama economy?

Countryman: “Well every question that has been asked plays a role in helping shape the economy. So apart from that which we’ve already discussed I would include a minimum wage increase. As people start making more the start spending more. Thus the economy begins to get better due to increased spending by consumers, improved profits for business and business owners causing them to spend more as well, and the cycle goes on and on causing the economy begins to get better.”

APR: Should we expand school choice in Alabama, and if so how?

Countryman: “This would be a yes and no question. In some situations, yes, but in others no. I think this should be a decision left up to school districts and local municipalities rather than one the State handles. If it seems that the State needs to get involved because of abuse of privileges then we would step in.”

APR: Many Alabamians believe that America was founded on Christian principles and that we should do what is necessary to advance the Kingdom of God in this world. How can you reconcile that with the fact that you would be the first openly homosexual Governor in State history?

Countryman: “First I consider myself a citizen of Alabama. Just like many other citizens I work here and pay taxes here. I have faced the same struggles as many other citizens have as our economy struggled. While I am not ashamed of who I fell in love with, or who I am, the person I am married to has little to do with my ability to govern. That’s because when you look at the big picture, my love life is a very insignificant issue when you look at the many other similarities I have in common with my fellow citizens.

And while I come from a Christian family, and am in favor of protecting our citizens’ rights to religious expression, I also understand that our country was founded by men who desired freedom of religion to be without restrictions, so that everyone could worship the way they believed. The First Amendment has a clause that clearly says that the State shall not declare a statewide religion and that they will not pass Legislation that is a respecter of a specific religious belief over another. So I can assure all my fellow citizens, who choose to practice their religious beliefs, that when I am Governor they will be able to safely, openly and freely practice their religious beliefs without prejudice or infringement from the State; so long as their religious practices do not cause physical harm to other citizens or infringe on their rights either.”

APR: Running as a Democrat, do you believe that you can effectively govern if the GOP retains a supermajority in both Houses and most of the other elected State officers?

Countryman: “I believe wholeheartedly that my life experiences, having come from a military family and having served as a minister for several years, exposed me to a diverse social network. Because of this, and other contributing factors, I have little doubt that I will be able to diplomatically address the issues that our State faces with my fellow legislators, and to be able to reach a common consensus that is beneficial to the people of Alabama.”

APR: Is the American dream dying in Alabama, and if so how we do we change that?

Countryman: “I do not believe that it is dying, per say. It is said that the American dream is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Most people, at least the majority, understand that our freedoms and liberties are still ours to enjoy. Everyone may not be happy due to challenges in our economy that causes burdens for them and their families; but they still have the right to pursue that happiness. One way to pursue that happiness is to practice their right to vote; and elect leaders that are going to put the people’s interests first; and ones that will bring the people one step closer to being able to achieve every aspect of the American dream.”

APR: Should the State repeal the Alabama College and Career Ready standards?

Countryman: “I do believe that their needs to be a statewide standard for educational development, and that the standard should also have a means by which a student’s success, as well as their ability to progress in the educational system, can be measured. The current standards, in my opinion, should be repealed and rewritten where they are clear on what all the standards are, how to implement the standards, and an action plan in case these standards are not met. That way we are giving our students and administrators every opportunity to be successful in their educational paths.”

The major party primaries are on June 5, 2018.

The State General Election will be November 6, 2018.


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.


In Case You Missed It

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



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.

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.


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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In Case You Missed It

House passes General Fund Budget

Brandon Moseley



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.


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In Case You Missed It

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

Sam Mattison



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.

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In Case You Missed It

Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

Sam Mattison



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.

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