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Byrne, Roby and Aderholt comment on release of tax reform bill

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
AlabamaPolitical Reporter

Thursday, the U.S. House Republican caucus unveiled The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which they claim will fundamentally reform the tax code for the first time since 1986.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, issued a statement in response to the introduction.

“Tax reform has the potential to make America boom again, and it starts with putting more money in the pockets of hardworking Americans,” Byrne said. “The current tax code is too complicated and confusing, benefiting the elite while making things harder for American families. It is time for a fairer and simpler tax code that supports new jobs right here in the United States. This is going to be a process, and the bill released today is just a starting point. I encourage everyone to visit FairAndSimple.gop to read the plan and then welcome your feedback and ideas.”

“We need to get this right, and I look forward to working with President Trump to do just that,” Byrne said. “We cannot pass up this historic opportunity to reform our outdated tax code and unlock our full economic potential.”

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, expressed optimism upon the release of a unified Republican tax reform plan. H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would be the first major overhaul of the federal tax code in more than 30 years.

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“This is a unique and exciting opportunity to deliver on our promise and give the American people the results they deserve,” Roby said. “Our tax reform plan will grow the economy, create jobs here in the United States, and allow hardworking taxpayers to keep more of their money in their pocket. An average family with about 60,000 dollars in household income would see their federal tax bill drop by about $1,200. For the people I represent, this can make a big difference. For that mom working a retail job or the dad driving the truck or that single parent working two or three jobs just to make ends meet, having an extra $1,000 in your pocket is a big deal.”

“I promise you hardworking taxpayers know how to spend their money better than the government does,” Roby concluded.

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said, “The tax bill released today is a good start, as it refocuses our tax code on today’s economy. Our current system was put in place when most Americans had never heard of the internet, the only phone they had was attached to the wall at home and Bill Curry and Pat Dye were coaching at Alabama and Auburn.  It’s time for a tax code that puts working Americans first. More than 80% of the people in the 4th District will see their tax burden drop, and to me, that is a good thing.”

Thursday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and other members of House leadership and the Ways and Means Committee introduced the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which they promised to be, “Bold legislation to overhaul America’s tax code for the first time in 31 years. With this bill, a typical middle-income family of four, earning $59,000 (the median household income), will receive a $1,182 tax cut.”

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Upon introducing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Speaker Ryan issued the following statement:

“This is an historic day. For too long, hardworking Americans have suffered under a tax code that is too unfair, too complicated, and too expensive. That ends this year. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will simplify the code so you can file your taxes on a form the size of a postcard. And under our plan, typical middle-class families will see bigger paychecks and receive a $1,182 tax cut. That means more take-home pay and more money in your pocket. Working with the Senate and President Trump, we are going to make good on our promise to deliver relief to the American people. It’s time to get this done.”

For individuals and families, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

Lowers individual tax rates for low- and middle-income Americans to zero, 12 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent. Significantly increases the standard deduction to protect roughly double the amount of what you earn each year from taxes – from $6,350 to $12,000 for individuals and $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples. Eliminates special-interest deductions that increase rates and complicate Americans’ taxes – so an individual or family can file their taxes on a form as simple as a postcard. Establishes a new Family Credit – which includes expanding the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $1,600 to help parents with the cost of raising children, and providing a credit of $300 for each parent and non-child dependent to help all families with their everyday expenses.  Preserves the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to help families care for their children and older dependents such as a disabled grandparent who may need additional support.

Preserves the Earned Income Tax Credit to provide important tax relief for low-income Americans working to build better lives for themselves. Streamlines higher education benefits to help families save for and better afford college tuition and other education expenses.

Continues the deduction for charitable contributions so people can continue to donate to their local church, charity or community organization. Preserves the home mortgage interest deduction for existing mortgages and maintains the home mortgage interest deduction for newly purchased homes up to $500,000. Continues to allow people to write off the cost of state and local property taxes up to $10,000. Retains popular retirement savings options such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts so Americans can continue to save for their future.

Repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax. Provides immediate relief from the Death Tax by doubling the exemption and repealing the Death Tax after six years. Family-owned farms and businesses will no longer have to worry about double or triple taxation from Washington when they pass down their life’s work to the next generation.

For job creators of all sizes, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

Lowers the corporate tax rate to 20 percent – down from 35 percent. Reduces the tax rate on the hard-earned business income of Main Street job creators to no more than 25 percent – the lowest tax rate on small business income since World War II. Establishes strong safeguards to distinguish between individual wage income and “pass-through” business income. Allows businesses to immediately write off the full cost of new equipment to improve operations and enhance the skills of their workers. Protects the ability of small businesses to write off the interest on loans. Retains the low-income housing tax credit that encourages businesses to invest in affordable housing. Preserves the Research & Development Tax Credit. Strengthens accountability rules for tax-exempt organizations to ensure the churches, charities, foundations and other organizations receiving tax-exempt status are focused on helping people and communities in need. Modernizes international tax system so America’s global businesses will no longer be held back by an outdated “worldwide” tax system. Makes it easier and far less costly for American businesses to bring home foreign earnings to invest in America. Prevents American jobs, headquarters and research from moving overseas by eliminating incentives that now reward companies for shifting jobs, profits and manufacturing plants abroad.

The House Ways and Means Committee will mark up the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Nov. 6, 2017.

Individuals can visit FairAndSimple.gop or text “tax reform” to 50589 to read the plan and learn more.

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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