By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, August 4, 2017, the Republican Senate Candidate’s Forum was held in Pelham. The event was sponsored by the Shelby County Republican Party and was moderated by Birmingham area radio host Michael Hart (101.1 FM WYDE). Shelby County GOP Chair Joan Reynolds thanked all the candidates for attending.
Dr. James Beretta is a doctor, is married, has four children and lives in Indian Springs: “I have a healthcare plan that will work and can be implemented after the Healthcare law (Obamacare) is repealed. The repeal of McCarren Ferguson will allow interstate commerce in the healthcare insurance market. I have served as a physician for the veterans and active military since 1986 working with the VA here (Beretta attended law school). “I am a great team player…I went to Catholic College.”
Dr. Beretta said that for three months he has advocated for raising the pay of enlisted man in the Armed Forces. They received a raise today, the first in several years.
Beretta said that the nation has gotten off track. Democrats are on one track and Republicans are on another which is why we can never get anything done. “I can align the tracks and get things done. We have an educational problem here in Alabama. People need to get better educated so they can move up and get better jobs.”
Beretta warned, “We need to fix the healthcare law and fix trade or we will have a real bad time coming.”
US Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said that he and his wife, Martha, have been married for 41 years and have four children. He also recognized his campaign chairman State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs): “Thank you for the effort.”
Rep. Brooks was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, which is an invitation only caucus. Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) is the only other member from Alabama. Brooks asked everyone to remember Gary and his family as his mom had just passed away.
Brooks said that he has been part of the point of the tip of the spear as Republicans have taken over control of the State of Alabama. “When I was first elected to the State Legislature as a Republican we were outnumbered four to 136 in Montgomery. I have been re-elected nine different times (as a State Legislator, a County Commissioner, and as a Congressman) no opponent has ever gotten within 30 points.”
Brooks said, “Ethics is a huge issue in this election.” This Special Election is costing $15 million and was necessary because there was, “an ethical cloud over the appointment process…In my 30 plus year I have had zero ethics complaints against me.”
Brooks said that he was ranked as the #6 Congressman out of 435 by Heritage action and has similar high rating from Club for Growth, and Numbers US and has the endorsements of conservative thought leaders including: Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter and Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Saks). “I have got the record, the experience, and the ethics for this job.”
Dr. Randy Brinson thanked his wife, Pamela, and campaign manager Johnathan Barbee. Brinson served in the US Air Force at Maxwell Air Force base. He is a doctor and was appointed as President of the Christian Coalition of Alabama.
Brinson said that he has developed a plan to replace Obamacare that the current bipartisan working group on healthcare says would work with some provisions.
Brinson said his opponents have no plan and have not presented any vision or leadership. We have had ethic violations ignored.
Brinson touted his very conservative vision and the competency to get things done.
Mary Maxwell began her introduction singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Maxwell asked, “What will I do if I get there (the Senate)? I will make trouble.”
Maxwell expressed her support for Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). Maxwell denounced the human trafficking that is occurring on interstate 20 between Birmingham and Atlanta and denounced a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act, that Sen. Paul opposed, authorizing the Pentagon to kill Americans (operating in the field as terrorists).
Former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore praised his campaign Chairman Bill Armistead. “I don’t know of a more respected, well dressed, gentleman.” He also thanked his wife, Kayla, to whom he has been married for 32 years. They have four children. He also recognized Russell Pageant who was in Moore’s unit in Vietnam
Moore said that in November America voted for change. That has not happened because of the entrenched establishments in both parties blocking the President’s agenda. We need to have a strong military, not a military of inclusiveness transgenderism. We need to revitalize our economy by removing great obstacle and that is the federal government and all the regulations that keep businesses from operating. “We need to restore the United States Constitution.”
Moore said that Obergefell versus Hodges (the ruling legalizing gay marriage by judicial fiat) was unconstitutional and accused the court of “stealing of liberty from the citizens of the United States. The United States Supreme Court just wiped out the Constitution. Moore recommended that everyone read his book about what to do with judges who don’t uphold the Constitution.
Moore said that we can be great again if we become good again and recognize God again. “He is the source of our morality.”
Moore said, “In this campaign, both myself and Congressman Brooks have been attacked by scurrilous, false, and deceiving and misleading ads out of Washington, DC, by a Super PAC designed to keep people there they want to keep there, run by Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). He is waging war because he is afraid that he is going to get somebody in the Senate he can not control.”
Bryan Peeples said, “This campaign is not about me it is about you….I am an averge citizen…I see the attack ads against Congressman Brooks and against Roy Moore. They are a distraction, That is not what matters. It is the issues that matter. Our elected officials are not worrying about the future. For 17 years we have been involved in war. Your rights are under attack. They passed a defense budget with $75 million set aside for gender surgery. That is elective surgery. Why are we paying for elective surgery? I agreed with sanction on Russia because of what is going on in Ukraine; but the bill that Congress passed was unconstitutional. Pres. Trump said it was un-constitutional he did not want to sign it; because it limited the power of the Executive Branch to negotiate.”
State Senator Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) said that the people of Alabama should pick the leader that they want to have.
Pittman said, “I was born in Birmingham and spent eleven years there then my family move to Mobile and I have lived there for 45 years. I went to the University of Alabama. I was in the the ROTC and served in the Alabama National Guard for five years. I started a business in 1998. Alabama has not sent a businessman to the Senate in over 100 years.”
Pittman said that we need to make sure we declare war before we get involved in these long wars. “We are at crossroads in the future of the country. We need to elect someone who understands the American dream. We need a revival of responsibility. It was an amazing election last year. The people understood that the trajectory we were on was wrong. We need to balance our budget, but that begins by growing our economy.”
US Senator Luther Strange said, “I was an Eagle Scout. I grew up in the Jefferson County area. I have been married to my wife Melissa for 35 years. I was honored to be taking the place of Jeff Sessions. “He is going to be the greatest attorney general we have ever had.”
Strange described himself as a common sense conservative that gets things done. As Alabama Attorney General, I set up the best public corrupton team in the country and told them to follw the truth wherever it led. Strange said that he ran for AG against a Republican incumbent “who had lost his way.” I am not afraid to run against Republicans when they do the wrong thing. As AG I had conservative results. I tood it (the BP oil spill case) away from the private law firm that the previous AG had hired and handled it myself. We got over a $billion to shore up our general fund and saved $180 million because we did not have to pay 18 percent to the law firm. As AG, I sued Prsident Obama dozens of time. He was shredding the Constitution.
On the failure to repeal Obamacare Strange said, I am shocked at the Republicans who voted against repeal. “I was almost physically ill.” People talk about not having the 60 votes, we don’t have 50 conservative votes in the Senate.
Judge Roy Moore said, “I would definitely repeal Obamacare as quicly as possible. We should also repeal McCarren Ferguson. I do not think we need to replace it (Obamacare). The Federal government does not have a role in healthcare. If Republicans try to fix it, Republicans are going to get blamed for it.”
Trip Pittman said that healthcare is 17 percent of GDP. As a State, we did not expand Medicaid. That would have added 300,000 people to the rolls and cost us $tens of millions. Obamacare is destroying the individual market. Insurance is not a right. We have got a serious issue with living up to the promises that the Federal government has made to some of our citizens.
Peeples said that he favored a free market solution and his own five point plan on his website.
Mo brooks said, “Obamacare is a fraud. It was a fraud at its inception. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan was a fraud. If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor another fraud. In the private sector that is fraud and the victims are allowed to sue. We had a house bill drafted by insurance companies. We fought it in the Freedom Caucus and got a better bill. Mike Pence thanked me for my work and then handed the phone to the President of the United States who also thanked me. I am soarly disappointed that the Senate quit on us and is not still in Washington, DC working on this.”
Beretta said that even if Obamacare is repealed, the Federal government will continue to provide healthcare. They started that in the 1950s and will continue to provide Medicare and Medicaid. Obamacare was an intrusion in to the private system. We have to have a replacement plan and we need to repeal McCarren Ferguson. “The problem is getting the big lobbyists out of the game. They control the decisions.”
Luther Strange said, “I would vote to repeal Obamacare immediately. I have already done that. I was shocked that we did not have 50 Republicans in the Senate to vote against Obamacare. When I got to the Senate is asked where is your plan?” It is particularly frustrating to me. As your Attorney General, I took it all the way to the Federal court.”
Brinson said that the Blue Croos monopoly is part of the problem. Certificate of needs need to be gotten rid of.
Mary Maxwell said, “I would repeal anything that is not allowed by the Constitution.”Monopolies are illegal under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and should be gtten rid of. One of the reason that government does it (healthcare) is to diminish charity.”
Maxwell said that she has talked wth mothers who said that their child got the measles shot and then the child got autistic. The link between vaccines and autism absolutely it should be investigated.
Judge Moore said that the Obama administration probably violated the Constitution more than any administration that ever existed. Establishment Republicans are holding the Trump Agenda up because they don’t want any new agenda.
On marijuana legalization, Mo Brooks said, “My position is that I belive in the Tenth Amendment. The State of Alabama should have the right to choose how it wants to regulate the relationsip between the patient and the doctor. I have the same view for K-12 education. The Federal government should not interject itself.”
Luther Strange defended his decision to oppose ending the 60 vote filibuster rule. “The Rules of the Senate have protected us over the history of the country. When the Democrats had control the rules prevented open borders, abortion, and other things we don’t like.”
Beretta said, “I know I have the ability to accomplish those tasks. I understand fiscal responsibility. I was able to stay in business after the Affordable Care Act passed, when most other people went out of business. I know I can lead in Washington. I would not be sitting around worrying about my reelection potential and not covering my President’s back.”
Brinson said we need to grow jobs in the State and I am the only one with experiencei in growing jobs.
Peeples said, 11 percent think Congress is doing a good job. That says a lot. It has been 164 years since the Congress has received such a low opinon in polls. “Vote for somebody who wants to look out for your needs.”
Moore said, “If you don’t stand up for something you are never going to be attacked.” “I do not condemn my opponents,” no matter what is said. “I love that women out there (Kayla) and it hurt,” when she was attacked. Moore denied accusations that he profited off the Foundation for Moral Law. “I got $57,000 a year they paid me over 8 years.”
Mary Maxwell said that Hillary Clinton and her husband were involved in the Haiti scandal and John Podesta is involved in Pizzagate. I offered the pubisher $100,000 to publish my book on it and the publisher said tht he had been offered a $million not to publish it, by the mafia.
Mo Brooks said that the last time the Republicans have had 60 percent of the Senate was 1922. They (the Democrats) had it the 1930s and late 1940s, the 1960s and 2009. We can never reverse the damage that the Democrats do to our society unless we go away from a 60 percent rule. How can you have your president’s back when you back a 60 vote rule that kills his entire agenda?
Brooks said that the President talks about draining the swamp. “Well who is the swamp? It’s K Street, it’s lobbyists, it’s the people who are funding one candidate’s campaign to the exclusion of all others. You can determine who the swamp’s candidate is.”
Luther Strange said, “ I don’t regret my vote for President Trump. I had his back every step of the way.” The National Rifleman’s Association supports me. The National Right to Life Association supports me. I have introduced the strongest Pro-Life legislation in Senate history. “I am proud of my record at actually getting things done.”
Trip Pittman said, “We are in the middle of a political revolution.” Pittman charged that Luther Strange, “Experienced several decades in Washington before that (as a Washington lobbyist). As a businessman, you have to get things done; that is business experience.”
Pittman said sid, “I don’t have to be a United States Senator, but I do have to be honorable.”
The Republican and Democratic Special Primary Elections for Senate are on August 15, 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.