By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, June 29, 2017, The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) had a lengthy interview with Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington (R) who is running for the Republican nomination for Governor of Alabama in next June’s major party primaries.
APR: A recent CNBC ranking of the states rated Alabama as the number 46 economy. What could you do as Governor to improve that?
Carrington: “One of the issues that needs even more focus going forward is workforce development; it could become our state’s competitive advantage. For example, Alabama has more than a half million working age adults who don’t have a high school degree. Manufacturing employers have told me that they want workers who: one, have a high school degree; two, show up for work on time; and three, can pass a drug test. Not a very high bar, but half a million working age Alabamians without a high school degree don’t qualify for these higher paying jobs. As a result, the state has too many working age adults in minimum wage jobs, preventing many of our young people from getting needed work experiences. This and other structural deficiencies, like economic development in rural areas, are solvable problems that don’t require any new taxes. My goal is to embark on a path to move Alabama’s median family income from the bottom 10% to the top 50% in the next ten years.”
APR: US Judge Myron Thompson recently ruled against the State’s troubled Department of Corrections. Should we raise taxes to build new prisons, hire more prison guards, and offer better mental health care for the prisoners or should we just live within our means and release a third of the prison population over the next four years?
Carrington: “Neither. While it is apparent that something needs to be done, I would prefer a phased-in approach, particularly in light of the fact that Commissioner Dunn said the debt would be paid with cost savings. We’ve heard that song once before with ALEA and the savings haven’t materialized. Let’s build one prison and see if the cost savings materialize before borrowing money to build the others.”
APR: President Trump is trying to pass a $trillion in new infrastructure money. At present the Alabama Department of Transportation does not have the funds available to it for the State to come up with matching funds. Should the Legislature raise gas taxes or should we sit out this next round of infrastructure spending?
Carrington: “Jefferson County did not raise taxes and is now delivering quality services with 1,500 fewer employees. Until a strategic plan is developed by every state department, I won’t entertain any new taxes with the possible exception of a gasoline tax specifically earmarked for road and bridge improvements. Instead of borrowing a one-time large sum of money though, I would prefer a pay-go plan, where monies are only spent after they are received.”
APR: Should the State legalize medical marijuana?
Carrington: “I supported Carly’s law, so youngsters could start receiving marijuana-derived CBD oil to treat seizures. But, before supporting any additional legislation, I would need to be convinced the marijuana use was specifically for medical purposes only and could not be abused. It needs to be recognized that marijuana use prevents applicants from being employed at many manufacturing plants, which is counterproductive to having a healthier economy and raising the median family income.”
APR: It seems like every day there is a new report of an indictment, an arrest, an ethics charge, or a conviction against an Alabama public official. What can we do to change Montgomery’s culture of corruption?
Carrington: “Within my first few weeks as a Jefferson County Commissioner, I had someone approach me with a Christmas gift that I felt was questionable. I politely refused it. From that day forward, the word got out and I was never approached again. It is well known that several of my predecessors as president of the county commission went to prison. The answer is for Alabamians to elect officials who have both character and competence. As for the office of Governor, I strongly believe that character without both meaningful business and government competence will lead to ineffectiveness or even worse, mischief.”
APR: Now that Bentley is gone, should the State put the Confederate flags back over the Confederate Veterans memorial?
Carrington: “It’s probably a moot point with the legislation that passed in the last session – the new commission would probably need to make that decision. With that said though, I wish we would spend more time on issues that would actually make a difference in our citizens’ quality of life, like education and jobs. Improve them and it would solve the Medicaid problem, the prison problem, the revenue problem, etc.”
APR: Should the state seek to gain control of the fishing off of our coasts?
Carrington: “My grandfather ran for Governor of Texas in the 1940s. One of his campaign issues was that the state should extend its boundaries into the gulf. So, yes, we ought to control the fishing waters off of our coast. With that said though, no government – federal, state or local – should think it needs to be involved in every facet of our lives. The Jefferson County Commission actually got out of the indigent hospital, the nursing home, animal control, the print shop and the laundry – and the citizens are better off because of it.
APR: What can Alabama do to improve mental health care across the State?
Carrington: “We need to realize that in many instances mental health is a health issue and not a criminal issue. That’s one reason our prisons are over-crowded. In Jefferson County, we joint ventured with UAB to treat some identified patients who have mental health and/or drug issues. This program, called TASC, has a success rate more than 80 percent.”
APR: Would you consider expanding Medicaid?
Carrington: “The solution to the Medicaid problem is workforce development – more people working in higher paying jobs. Governments continue to focus on entitlements instead of work. I am all for a safety net, but some people have grown accustomed to the government providing a safety hammock. “Down on your luck” is one thing; employable citizens continuing to “live off the government” is quite another. For every one who receives a dollar from the government, somebody else has to pay an additional dollar in taxes and fees.”
APR: Should the State combine the two budgets (General Fund and Education Fund) into one and decrease all of the earmarking?
Carrington: “I must admit that I once thought we needed to do that, but instead of combining the budgets, I think we should combine the revenues with a fixed percentage allocation to each budget. This would give the general fund growth revenues and would prevent any temptation to take funds from education for general fund purposes.”
On earmarking, Carrington said, “Earmarks need to be dramatically reduced. I have been told that 92 percent of the state’s dollars are earmarked. This severely restricts the allocation of funds as priorities change. With that said, I do support direct earmarks for associated services, like gas taxes for roads and bridges.”
APR: Do we need a new State Constitution?
Harrington: “Absolutely. The question is, how to do it. At one time the legislature embarked on rewriting the state constitution one article at a time. It still hasn’t been accomplished. I think now is the time to reconsider a citizen-lead constitutional convention.”
APR: Given that our schools “suck” according to the last Governor and we are only dropping in the rankings, should the State repeal the controversial college and career ready standards?
Carrington: “Within my first 30 days in office, I will appoint a committee of educators, parents and business leaders to develop a new set of educational standards to replace common core. In addition to reflecting Alabama values, the new standards will be designed to effectively prepare our students for post high school opportunities. My goal is to embark on a path to improve our K-12 education system from the bottom 10% to the top 25% in 10 years.”
APR: Do you support allowing the Poarch Creek Indians to expand their casinos to class one gaming in exchange for being able to tax the games?
The Major Party Primaries for Governor and other offices will be June 5, 2018.
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.
House OKs bill to clarify consulting contracts by state legislators
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to try to clarify how legislators accept consulting contracts under Alabama’s 2010 ethics law. Some pundits have suggested that House Bill 387 is actually designed to weaken the existing ethics law.
Sponsor state Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, argues that the legislation is merely a clarification and is intended to prevent legislators from inadvertently crossing the line into illegality.
Wingo said that his bill would require legislators to notify the Alabama Ethics Commission that they have entered into a consulting agreement in an area outside of their normal scope of work.
State Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, said, “I have never understood why members of this body were allowed to take contracts as consultants or counselors.”
Wingo said, “Never do I use the word counselor in my bill; it is consulting.”
Beckman asked, “Are we going to be getting into an area where every time we turn around we create a bureaucratic nightmare where we have to go get an opinion. These opinions whether it is orally or written don’t hold up in a court of law.” Beckman said, “We are serving the people here but we get this admonition that we can still be a consultant if we get an opinion.”
Wingo said, “This does not apply to professions where a member is currently licensed.”
Beckman said, “I would like to see more opinions coming out of the Ethics Commission. Right now we have the Ethics Commission competing with the Attorney General’s office over who has more authority.”
State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said,”This happened to a friend of mine. He just got out of prison. He was a state senator and had a written letter from the Ethics Commission which his lawyer read at trial and the jury convicted him anyway.”
Rogers never named his friend, but reporters think he was talking about former state Sen. Edward Browning ‘E. B.’ McClain who spent over 22 years in the legislature until he was convicted on 47 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, bribery, and money laundry in 2009.
A federal jury found that McClain and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue were guilty in a scheme where McClain would secure public funds for Pettagrue’s community programs and then receive a kickback once the funds were in hand. McClain was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison. McClain was not prosecuted under the Alabama ethics law as the state has a much weaker ethics statute then. The current ethics law was passed in 2010.
Rogers said, “If they offer me a consulting contract for a field like aerospace engineering that I know nothing about they are trying to pay me off. If you can already be a consultant for something you know about why would you seek a consulting contract for something you don’t know about.
Rogers this is how they can pay you off for your vote.”
State Rep. Artis “A.J.” McCampbell said, “I don’t like making changes to things like this because we get into things called unintended consequences.”
McCampbell was reading from the bill and Wingo said, “You are reading from the original version it has completely changed.” “We worked tirelessly on this bill with the Ethics Commission this is not a fly by night bill.”
“If a member of the legislature enters into a contract to do a consulting contract outside of their normal field of work this bill requires that they consult with the Ethics Commission first,” Wingo said. “It is up to the member to notify the Ethics Commission not to the company or person offering them the money.”
State Representative Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said, “Everybody but legislators are allowed to do contract work up to $30,000.”
Rep. Wingo said, “This is not intended to be a roadblock.”
State Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said, “The whole purpose of this is not to prevent members from doing work in your field.” “What you are doing is offering to protect me.”
State Representative John Knight, D-Montgomery, asked Wingo what the Alabama Attorney General said about this legislation.
Wingo replied, “I have not contacted the Attorney General.”
Knight responded, “Something from the Ethics Commission does not carry a lot of protection from the Attorney General. We have seen that in the past. I think the Attorney General and the Ethics Commission should be in agreement in the working on this.”
Wingo answered, “Maybe this is a first step.”
Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, asked, “Do we have anybody doing work outside of their regular scope of work?”
Wingo answered, “Yes I think so.”
Wingo said, “If we had had this bill four or five years ago maybe we could have been spared the embarrassment that this body experienced with the former Speaker.”
Wingo was referring to former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard who was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations in June 2016. Ironically, Hubbard is largely responsible for creating the ethics law that he was found guilty of violating 11 times in his relentless pursuit of outside contracts and personal wealth.
Unlike McClain, however, Hubbard has not yet served any of this sentence.
House Bill 387 passed 67-0 with 26 legislators abstaining.
The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.
(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Lisa Osborn in 2009 was consulted in this report.)
Amid the pandemic, a campaign adapts
Alabama nonprofit hopes federal food aid for children continues through summer
Alabama Democratic Party announces qualifying dates for State House District 49 special election
ALGOP announces qualifying dates for State House District 49 special election
Sen. Doug Jones: COVID-19 relief should not be a partisan issue
Opinion | Gov. Kay Ivey moved the football again
Alabama AG warns against nursing homes taking stimulus checks
Jefferson County extends closure of night clubs, theaters and other entertainment venues
Alabama health officer: Numbers “are not headed in the right direction”
Alabama reports largest single-day increase in new COVID-19 cases
“Why are we retreating when our caseload is increasing?”: UAB infectious diseases expert
Montgomery hospitals are out of ICU beds, mayor says
Alabama COVID-19 cases rising at pace not seen since early April
Prison staff delayed aid to dying inmate, witness says
Alabama doctors report suspected cases of COVID-19 related illness in children
Opinion | Ivey brings the heat
Governor4 days ago
Montgomery hospitals are out of ICU beds, mayor says
Josh Moon2 days ago
Opinion | Gov. Kay Ivey moved the football again
Crime2 days ago
Alabama prisons releasing some inmates early amid COVID-19 outbreak
Governor3 days ago
Alabama reopens entertainment venues; sporting events can soon resume