By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, June 10, 2017, the Calhoun County Republican Party hosted a forum for Republican Senate candidates.
The county party only invited five of the ten candidates running. Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, former Christian Coalition President Dr. Randy Brinson, and State Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) all attended. US Senator Luther Strange (R) had a scheduling conflict thus could not attend. Luther also was unable to attend the Huntsville Republican Women forum on Monday.
Senate candidate Bryan Peeples was in Oxford at the forum but was not allowed to participate on stage. Moderator Jay Holland praised Peeples for participating.
Holland said that the Calhoun County Republican Party had been “slandered” by some people for barring candidates and that there were just five spots and the committee studied the polls to determine which five would get the invitation. Holland did not name businessman and Senate candidate Dom Gentile, but Gentile has been very outspoken about his being barred from the forum.
The panel included: former Congressman Dr. Glen Browder (D) Professor Emiratis Jacksonville State University; Lt Colonel Brian Reed, US Army Retired, former faculty member West Point, Dr. William Lester, Professor Political Science, Jacksonville State University, Fulbright Scholar and published author, and the Executive Editor of Yellowhammer News, Larry Huff.
Dr. Randy Brinson said, “This is a very serious election, electing a United States Senator. Brinson said that last year the Chief justice, the Speaker of the House and the Governor removed in the last year. “Washington wants to pick your next United States Senator. I think you should have a vote.” Brinson said, we need a business man like Donald Trump and not a politician.
Rep. Mo Brooks said, this is the 12th most important position in the United States, behind just President, Vice President, and the nine members of the US Supreme Court. It is not a city council position or a county commission position. I have a proven record of conservative leadership. I was elected to Congress representing the Tennessee Valley four times. I was elected four times to the Alabama legislature starting in 1982 when Republicans were not elected. When I was elected to Congress I was outspent $2.4 million to $165,000 and beat them without a runoff. I have talked the conservative talk but I have also walked the walk. Mo Brooks said that he is the person that stands out in this for his conservative record.
Judge Roy Moore said that he is honored to be a candidate for the United States Senate. Moore said, “In 1776 Thomas Payne wrote, “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” “The times that try men’s souls.” I think this is one of those times.” Moore said that the election of Donald trump was a good sign.
Moore told the crowd, “I will not only say what is right but I will act accordingly.” Moore said that the Senate filibuster rule needs to be changed.” Moore said that Senate Republicans are empowering Senate Democrats to halt the Trump agenda and the will of the people by having this rule in place. Moore said that we talk about draining the swamp, but Washington is more like quick sand. Elected officials get there and takes the money to just stay there.
Moore said that the Senators originally just represented the state; but after the 17th amendment they also serve the people of Alabama. I swore to obey the Constitution on the banks of the Hudson in 1965 and I went to Vietnam as part of that oath, the only one on this stage to serve in combat.
Sen. Trip Pittman said I am a self made businessman from Baldwin County. I served in the Alabama National Guard in Sylacauga. I served in the State Senate and for seven years I served as budget chairman. I passed the toughest immigration law in the United states. “You have got to be strong philosophically.” I lead by example. I support term limits in the legislature and I am leading by examples.
Pittman said he is committed to free enterprise. “It is the tide that rises all boats.” We also need personal responsibility. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Dr. Brinson said, “As a former military officer myself and an Air Force physician I do think we need to have a strong military,” but we also need to expand American business interests around the world to places like South America and Africa. When we withdraw, China tales advantage. Brinson said that there are eight world leaders that I consult on a daily basis. Brinson said that Donald Trump was able to pressure Qater to stop sending money to fund terrorists in Palestine.
Rep. Brooks said that he understands the stress that our military has been under. I voted against the budget reduction act of 2011 because two thirds of the cuts were from our military even though they are only 11 percent of the budget. “That was wrong.” Our allies need to share more of the load in NATO and in the Pacific.
Moore said that as a former graduate of the United States Military Academy I would support greater spending on the military. My son is in the military. I am against homosexuals in the military. The military should not be committed to these conflicts without a declaration of war.
Brinson said that the US military should be some used for social experiments.
Brooks said that climate change has been going on since the world began.
Moore said that the Ice Age happened and we were not around then.
Brinson said that renewables have a place but it is in places like Malawi, Namibia, and Zambia where they don’t have an electric grid.
Larry Huff asked the group about a Yellow Hammer News report that 1200 Huntsville jobs on the ground based missile defense system were going to be moved to government researchers in other states on the recommendation of Vice Admiral James Syring, the head of the US Missile Defense agency. Pittman, Moore, and Brinson all vowed to fight the plan in the Senate. An angry Mo Brooks challenged the report saying that he was on the armed forces committee, knows Admiral Syring, and no one, even the contractors who reportedly were losing that contract, has come to him with any of this. Brooks questioned the accuracy of Huff’s sources.
All four Senate candidates condemned the controversial Common Core educational standards. Pittman said that he blocked controversial Common Core standards for social studies and science. Moore emphasized that under the Constitution the Federal government has no role in education. Brooks advocated abolishing the Department of Education.
All the candidates opposed illegal immigration and supported building some sort of a border wall. Judge Moore favored using the national guard to defend the borders and empowering the states to fight illegal immigration. Brooks said that the nation can not afford to continue this. Brooks said that 60 percent have families with an illegal alien member has a member receiving welfare benefits.
The Special Primary Election will be on August 15. The Special General Election will be December 12, 2017.
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.
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.
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.