By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, June 29, 2017, Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington (R) was at the Golden Corral in Center Point addressing the East Jefferson Country Republican Club about his campaign for Governor of Alabama.
Commissioner Carrington said, “Everyone talks about draining the swamp; but I am the only one who has actually done it, in Jefferson County.”
“When we were elected Jefferson County had $3.2 billion in sewer debts and we were in default on $100 million in general obligation bonds. The sewer receiver wanted to double sewer rates that first year, double them the second year, and he wouldn’t tell us what he wanted to do in the third year. We owned a hospital, Cooper Green, which was losing money and a County nursing home. The prior county commission had lost the trust of the public. Today the county government is operationally and fiscally sound.”
Carrington urged the other Republicans to support Commissioner Joe Knight next year. “He deserves our support.”
Commissioner Carrington said that his hardest decision was to close Cooper Green Hospital. We were losing $10-15 million a year and we were only investing $one million a year in capital improvements. They were still using analog x-rays instead of digital. I would not send my wife or daughter there. By getting out of the hospital we were able to expand primary care and specialty care. We still pay for indigent care but that money goes to UAB and St. Vincent’s instead of the county running the hospital itself.”
Carrington said, “Now Instead of running a $10 to 15 million deficit every year we are running a surplus every year. Democrats think government is the solution to everything.”
“We were running a nursing home we weren’t full but we had more employees than we needed. It has become a government jobs program. The previous commission had voted to sell the nursing home; but we had to open the bids. The highest big was $2.8 million and the property appraised at $8 million; but we were losing $3 million a year. We decided we would not accept the bid. The Republicans made the decision to instead break up the assets in pieces. They brought $11 million. Now we have two nursing homes run by for profits that are full and serve more patients and employ more people. This is applying Republican principles to government.”
Carrington said that when they took over, “The county was spending $400,000 a year on animal control. The Jefferson County animal control would catch animals and put them down seven days later. 90 percent of the animals were euthanized. The animals and the workers were being trained on because the roof was in disrepair. The Humane Society came to us and offered to take over animal control. We agreed to give them $400,000 and formed a joint venture with the Humane Society. We went from 90 percent of the animals euthanized to 90 percent adopted. They are now going to build a $10 million new facility that includes a dog park and a dormitory for visiting Auburn University Vet School students. Auburn vet students were doing only four small animals surgeries before graduation. The Auburn vet students now come to the humane society and are getting to do 20 to 30 surgeries in a three-week period.”
Carrington said, “These are examples of getting government get out of the way and letting the private sector take over. There are others. The county had a print shop. We sold that. The county had a laundry. Sold that too. We applied Republican to government and in two yearsJefferson county will be the model for the country. When we took over the commissioners had legislative and executive branch responsibilities. We recruited a professional county manager to separate the executive and the legislative branches. Former Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos was hired to be the county manager. We still have problems. We are solving them. We are not just kicking down the cobwebs, we are killing spiders.”
Carrington said, “Jefferson County is the second largest government in the state.” “If it can work for Jefferson County it will work for the state.” “I don’t need to b governor egotistically. I don’t need to be governor financially. What have you go to lose?”
Carrington said that as Governor, he would sell the ABC stores: “ We are going to get a lot of money for them. The employees will be in private enterprise.”
“One of the problems in Jefferson County was the people did not trust us. The State has the same problem. Being trustworthy is not enough. You also need to be competent and some of the people we have elected have not been competent to do the job.
“One of the biggest problems in Alabama is that a half a million working age adults do not have a high school diploma. They are stuck in a minimum wage job. They don’t make enough money and by them being in that minimum wage job, they are preventing young people from getting that entry level position. The state needs to get a program to get those adults a high school equivalency and some job training so that they can advance to jobs paying more. That would then open up more opportunities for young people to get an entry level opportunity.
“The state needs to improve K-12 education. The problem starts in the early grades. If we can get a child passionate about learning and teach them how to read they will advance. We developed the Alabama Reading Initiative and now we don’t fund it. In Jefferson County we started the TASC program where high school kids were taught job skills. They graduate from that to jobs making $12 to $15 an hour. We started with 100 students and are now doubling that to 200 students. And that is not just poor kids. We have kids from Vestavia taking those classes. Only 32 percent of the jobs require a college degree.”
“Who is smarter: a kid that goes to school to become a lawyer and after seven years of colleges and law school makes $68,000 a year and owes $150,000, or a kid who becomes a plumber’s apprentice who makes $80,000 a year and owns a bass boat and a home? Who is the better capitalist?”
Carrington said that 86 percent of the jobs are in metropolitan areas. “I can’t change that. You can’t cite a 1500 job employer in a 1500-person town; but I can aggressively recruit 15 to 20 job employers for rural Alabama. Birmingham gets a bad rap because it is Birmingham. You have to promote the metropolitan area.”
“I am a believer in term limits.” He said that they fixed Jefferson County in two terms. “I would not serve a third term even if I were not running for Governor.”
On the worsening prison crisis Carrington said that the prisons are so overcrowded that it is not conducive to rehabilitation. He did say however, “I am concerned with borrowing $800 million and pay for it with cost savings (referring to Gov. Bentley’s Great State 2020 prison construction plan). You have to prove that your model works before borrowing $800 million. I would prefer us focusing on Tutwiler. If you want to build a new women’s prison I am all for it. We need to look at our sentencing guidelines.”
Carrington and his wife, Sonia, have been married for 47 years. They have two children and seven grandchildren.
The major party primaries will be on June 5, 2018.
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.