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Republican Senate candidates campaign in Montgomery

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Saturday, July 8, 2017, the Montgomery Republican Party hosted a Senate candidates forum in Montgomery’s historic State Farmers Market Café.

Dr. Randy Brinson said that he came to Montgomery 30 years ago as an Air Force physician and then decided to stay. After his Air Force service, he went into private practice. He has been very involved in the community. He and his wife formed Redeem the Vote. 12 years ago he became President of the Alabama Christian Coalition. Brinson said that he was tired of having our elections being bought by liberal elites and was tired of professional politicians saying they are conservative and then voting like liberals. Brinson said that he is the only person here who has a plan to help President Trump replace Obamacare. “We need to get rid of Common Core. We need to put prayer back in public schools. Alabama does not need a rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell. Send someone from Alabama to Washington don’t not send Washington to Alabama.”

US Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said that he has served here for many years in the 1980s and is happy to be back. Mo introduced his wife Martha and said they have five children and 8 grandchildren. He also introduced Judy Sanders, who is a key volunteer for his campaign in Montgomery and State Representative Mile Holmes whom he thanked for his endorsement and support he is giving. Brooks said that he offers two attributes: “The first is ethics. Candidates with poor ethics…you can’t trust them to do what they say they are going to do. Second I have a record of proved conservative leadership.” Brooks said that he has a high score from: Club For Growth, the American taxpayers Union, Heritage Action, and that Numbers USA ranked him #1 for borders for the last six years.

Businessman Dominic “Dom” Gentile said, “We are all Republicans. We are all Christians. We are all equal Christians.” Gentile criticized candidates who take money from Blue Cross Blue Shield (which he said is a 93 percent monopoly) and Drummond. Gentile said that Alabamians need the same healthcare choices that Congress has where they can select from four companies and 112 plans. “This election is not about me and it is not about these guys. It is about your children, you grandchildren and it is about you.” Gentile promised to deregulate medical cannabis which he would reschedule from a class one drug.

State Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) said that he is a businessman with a successful tractor company in Baldwin County. Alabama has not elected a businessmen to the US Senate in 110 years. Pittman said he met his wife, Lynn from Mobile, at the University of Alabama and they have three children. He was in the ROTC at University of Alabama and he spent five years in the Alabama National Guard. He has served ten years in the Alabama Legislature, the last seven as budget chairman. “We passed the JOBs and the strongest anti-illegal immigration law in the country. That experience helps because I understand that there is a process in politics.”

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US Senator Luther Strange thanked Perry Hooper Jr. for his support and his work in electing Donald Trump last year, “Thank you Perry, for being here. It is a new day in America thanks to you. As Attorney General, I put together the best public integrity team in the United States and I told them to follow the truth wherever it goes. That led to two dozen career politicians being convicted.” Strange touted his record fighting the Waters Of The United States Rule, defending EWTN, and in the Hobby Lobby case…President Trump is the greatest thing to happen to this country.” Strange said that he held Mary Sessions hand while Jeff Sessions was being attacked. “The first thing I did (in the Senate) was vote for Tom Price for Health and Human Service Secretary. When Chuck Schumer vowed to defeat the nomination for Neil Gorsuch, we invoked the nuclear option (the most drastic or extreme response possible to a particular situation).”

Dr. James Beretta said, “I am not a career politician.” Beretta touted his experience working with State and National Medical Societies. He has business experience with his family’s construction companies in the Northeast. Dr. Beretta said that he has been a practicing physician in Alabama for 25 years. He has also been to law school. “I am a small businessman.” Beretta said that he also has been an educator teaching UAB medical students in their residency. “I have been very involved in the community…I have been a Boy Scout leader. I have given $125,000 a year in free health care on average since I have been here.” Beretta said that he is going to focus on healthcare, taxes, and improving the quality of State education, “especially bringing your children forward with improving education in Alabama.”

Bryan Peeples said. “It all boils down to leadership. We are all seeking a position of leadership. All of us have experience in one area or another. I am the youngest candidate in the field at 37. My generation has been through three economic downturns. We are still recovering from or we are attempting to recover from the last economic downturn. It is time for my generation to take the reins of leadership and start moving forward. I will represent you. I am an optimistic, passionate Republican leader.”

After introductions, the candidates answered questions.

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Dr. Randy Brinson said that in the short term we need to grow the economy so we actually have a tax base. Brinson criticized the road construction efforts. “People don’t have confidence in the roads. You repair a road and it needs to be resurface again in five years. I saw one road in South Africa that has been there for 50 years. Grow the economy.”

Rep. Mo Brooks said that his office is good at constituent services. “We have 40-50,000 communications to our office every year. Everyone gets a letter in return that has been personally reviewed by me. I meet regularly with constituents both in Washington DC or in the district.”

Dom Gentile said that the biggest threat that we face today is Obamacare. If North Korea puts a warhead on an ICBM near a launch pad “it is game over. We take them out before they can ever launch. Any ISIS cells we can identify in our State needs to go.”

Bryan Peeples said, “We have talked about immigration reform for 50 years; since President Reagan. We need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to work across the aisle to get this done. I support the idea of a wall but I do not like the physical wall idea. That is a waste of funds. We need to utilize technology.”

Sen. Luther Strange said “Obamacare is a disaster. Alabama was hit worst of any State. Premiums have gone up 300 percent on the individual market. I got to Washington and I hoped Republicans that have been talking about if for seven years had a plan to replace it. They didn’t. The best thing to do is to, Repeal the law right now. We can worry about replacing it in a year or two.”

Brooks said that the biggest issues are: the repeal of Obamacare, infrastructure, and border security; but the only way we are going to accomplish anything is to change the rules of the United States Senate. Right now we have to grovel at the feet of Chuck Schumer and his 48 to get anything done.

Dom Gentile said, “The biggest issue is healthcare. Another thing is taxes. I have called for a flat tax of 20 percent. You can fill out you taxes on a postcard. That will eliminate the IRS.”

Peeples said that we need to change the 60 votes filibuster rule. “We can’t go down that road anymore.”

Sen. Pittman said, “We need to have expectation for people that are able bodied to work and take care of themselves.”

Strange said that he would work to get the government out of our lives.

Gentile said, “The reason that Republicans can’t do what we want to do is that we don’t have control of the special interests. I have not taken PAC money, will not take PAC money, I will never take PAC money. Your congressmen and Senators are bought and paid for by special interests. One of us up here has 231 pages of special interests” (referring to Strange).

Brinson said that it is the special interest that own Congress. This election will determine whether it will be the people or the special interests who run this country. Brinson said that in addition to being a doctor he is a businessman who working with Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan have brought projects worth $16 billion to the Alabama economy. “I am the only one who has negotiated a trade deal. I have dealt with world leaders across the globe. I have dealt with eight world leaders and I still have them on my cell phone.

Strange said “it is an honor to be in Washington supporting President Trump.” Please vote. Whether you vote for me or not, vote. “A lot of men and women have sacrificed at lot for you to be able to do that.”

Brooks said that he has been endorsed by: Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levine, and Congressman Mike Rogers.

The Special Major Party Primaries are on August 15, 2017. If necessary the Special Primary Runoff will be on September 28.

The Special General Election is on December 12.

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.

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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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