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2018 Legislative Session: Prepare to pander

Josh Moon

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By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

Welcome to 2018, Alabama.

If any state should welcome the opportunity for a fresh start — a chance to sort of hit a reset button and regroup — it is this one.

Robert Bentley’s sext messages — the electronic equivalent of drinking a shot of hydrogen peroxide — are in the past. The worst campaign in U.S. political history — Roy Moore and his Political Panhandlers Bible Thumping Band — has mercifully been forced into temporary obscurity, with only the bilking of the gullible left.

Luther Strange. Mike Hubbard. Rebekah Mason. All of them left behind in 2017.

All is calm. All should be quiet.

But this is Alabama.

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And by this time next week, we’ll be a day into the 2018 Legislative Session.

And what a session it promises to be.

This is an election year in Alabama, which means two things: that less than usual will be accomplished (a monumental feat for the country’s most underproductive State Legislature) and the pander level will be turned up to 11.

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In fact, if you can organize a group of five or more people who agree on any topic — let’s say, that frog gigging should be the official Alabama water sport — you can most likely get an Alabama lawmaker to introduce the Frog Gigging Act of 2018 in an effort to prove that he/she is the representative you need in Montgomery.

And you can bet all of your money that God, guns, sex and takers will play prominent roles in the bills introduced this session, as the legislators scramble to get your attention and convince you that they’re walking the halls of the state house with a shotgun in one hand, a bible in the other, while talking to a Reagan-blessed economist.

This is not exactly a guess by me. I’ve taken a look at the prefiled bills.

Already on the docket: a re-up of a proposal to arm and train church security guards; a bill to repeal the code that allows public school teachers to remain on paid leave while they’re investigated for engaging in sexual acts with their students; and a bill that implements a work requirement on anyone who accepts “food stamps.”

Don’t those make you feel good?

Yeah, sure, a rational country might look at the continued instances of mentally unstable people with a documented history of violence stockpiling weapons and ammunition and then slaughtering innocent people and think, “You know, maybe we should strive towards implementing ironclad procedures to prevent those people from obtaining weapons.”

But that would be “anti-gun.” And, well, God forbid.

So, instead, we’re gonna arm and train Earl and Bubba and hope that they, while a verse into singing “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms,” can spot the bad guy with a gun and save the congregation.

And that stupid bill will probably pass this session, because Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, trotted it out last year and there’s been another deadly church shooting since, and, well, it feels good to say that we’re arming good guys to chase bad guys, no matter how dumb and childish it really is.

Speaking of which, it is at least equally as stupid to attempt to remove a provision of law that requires more than mere allegations before a public school teacher can be chased from his or her job and its accompanying paycheck.

This one is Tripp Pittman’s idea, because everyone hates to see teachers who had sex with a student drag out an investigation for years, as they’re being paid all along. It feels good to say that we’re just going to stop doing that.

Unless, of course, the teacher is completely innocent — an outcome that occurs all the time. In such a case, you’ve just destroyed the reputation and finances of an innocent American.

Pittman wants to remove the section of legal code that applies to this particular offense and leave it up to the process outlined in the Students First Act passed by the Legislature in 2011. That act allows county superintendents and boards to suspend a teacher without pay for mere allegations, and it forbids the teacher from being able to stall a suspension without pay until the end of the investigation.

Swell, huh?  

And here’s the height of hypocrisy: Pittman has long been one of the voices fighting the hardest against raising taxes, and he’s routinely voted to slash the budgets for education and the courts, both of which are the primary reasons it takes months and years to work these cases through our criminal justice system.

Again, reasonable people might think the solution is to properly fund the courts. But around here, it’s to just cut individual rights to due process and ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Speaking of ignoring things.

I sat in a committee hearing last year and listened as lawmakers calmly and clearly explained to Rep. Tommy Hanes why a work requirement for “food stamps” (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) was both counterproductive and unnecessary.

There are very few, if any, single, able-bodied people in Alabama receiving SNAP benefits. Those who are already meet a work/training requirement. Imposing additional requirements or limiting the waiver options only serves to hurt people for no good reason.

Hanes seemed to understand how he was misguided after that meeting.

But the urge to pander is strong. And it feels sooooo good to pretend that we’re going to make those welfare mooches get real jobs, even if what we’re doing actually accomplishes the opposite.

Doesn’t matter.

Welcome 2018, the year of Pander-Palooza.

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Opinion | For Coach Tub, no thinking required

Joey Kennedy

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Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville (TUBERVILLE CAMPAIGN)

Has Tommy Tuberville ever had an original thought? It doesn’t sound like it. Coach Tub basically spews Republican talking points and keeps his mouth firmly locked onto Donald Trump. He disrespects Alabama voters so much that he thinks that’s all he needs to do to win a place in the U.S. Senate.

Tuberville recently addressed the St. Clair County Republican Party at its September meeting. As reported by APR, Tuberville is quoted as saying the following, and I’ll offer a short rebuttal. I’m doing this because Tuberville is clearly afraid to death to debate his opponent, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.

So here goes:

Tuberville: America is about capitalism, not socialism. I think we are going to decide which direction we are going to go in the next few years.”

Me: We decided which way we were going to go years ago, when the federal government started subsidies for oil and gas companies, farmers and other big industry and business. That, coach, is your so-called “socialism.”

I’m not necessarily opposed to subsidies to boost business, depending on the cause, but I’m not going to let a dimwitted, know-nothing, mediocre, former football coach pretend we don’t already have “socialism” in this country.  

What Tuberville really means is that he’s against “socialism” like Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security or food assistance or health insurance. He’s a millionaire already, so there’s no need for him have empathy for or support a safety net for people who are less fortunate socially and economically. That’s Tuberville’s “socialism,” and the Republican Party’s “socialism,” and Trump’s “socialism.

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That’s a cruel, mean perspective that would cast aside the great majority of Americans for the rich (Tuberville, Trump) and connected and, where Trump is concerned, the fawning.

Tuberville: “I am not a Common Core guy. I believe in regular math. We need to get back to teaching history.”

Me: I would love to ask Coach Tubby, one-on-one, exactly what he thinks “Common Core” is. I’ll guarantee you he can’t explain more than he already has. “I believe in regular math?” There is no other math. It’s math. Does he think there’s a math where 1+1=3? There isn’t one. There are a variety of ways to teach math, but there’s only math, not a “fake” math or a “Republican” math or a “Democratic” math or, God forbid, a “Socialist” math.

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And when Coach Tommy said, “We need to get back to teaching history,” one wonders if he’s ever been into a classroom. We know more than a few of his former players weren’t in many classrooms, if reports are correct. But they always played the game under his uninspired coaching.

Of course schools teach history.

The history Coach T. is talking about is Donald Trump’s “white” history, the one we’ve been teaching in our schools forever. Not real history; you know, the one where the United States was founded as a slave-holding nation, where Native Americans were massacred and starved by the hundreds of thousands, where white supremacy was codified within our laws, where any color but white was subjugated. That history. The history that is finally fading away, so we can really see where we’ve been as a nation—so we know where, as a nation, we need to go.

Tuberville: Tuberville said he supports following the Constitution and appointing a replacement for Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday.

Me: Well, of course he does. Tuberville doesn’t have an independent thought in his body, and Donnie told him this is what he’s supposed to think. The big question: How much will a Senator Tuberville be able to function as a member of a minority party in the Senate — with no Papa Trump in the White House to tell him what to do?

Both scenarios are real possibilities, if not likelihoods.

There is no question that Doug Jones is far more qualified than Tuberville. Jones can work across the aisle, which will be vitally important if Democrats take control of the Senate. Jones has his own thoughts, which sometimes go against the Democratic Party’s wishes. Jones is independent, smart and represents Alabama well.

Tuberville is a failed football coach who lives in Florida. That’s about it.

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Opinion | All politics is local. All of Alabama’s mayors races this year

Steve Flowers

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(APR GRAPHIC)

With it being a presidential election year and an election for one of our United States Senate Seats and all of the interest that goes along with those high-profile contests, it has gone under the radar that most of our cities in the state had elections for mayor and city council last month.

Mayors serve four-year terms and to most Alabamians they are the most important vote they will cast this year.

The job of mayor of a city is a difficult and intricate fulltime, 24-hours-a-day dedication to public service.

They make more decisions that affect the lives of their friends and neighbors than anyone else. The old maxim, “All politics is local,” is epitomized in the role of mayor. Folks, being mayor of a city is where the rubber meets the road.

In looking all over the state, it appears that most Alabamians are content with the jobs their mayor is doing.  In almost every contest around the state, the incumbent mayor turned away the challenger usually by a wide margin.  Indeed, a good many of the incumbent mayors in the Heart of Dixie had no opposition.

Many of these incumbent mayors were reelected without opposition. Gordon Stone, the mayor of Alabama’s fastest growing community, Pike Road, will be entering his fifth term as mayor.  Pretty soon Pike Road will have to start calling themselves a city.

Vestavia’s Mayor, Ashley Curry, won a second term without opposition.  This former retired FBI agent has done a yeoman’s job managing this upscale, Jefferson County suburb.

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Jasper Mayor, David O’Mary, who escaped opposition, will begin a second term.  He has run Jasper like a well-tuned engine. Albertville mayor, Tracy Honea, garnered a third term without opposition. Luverne Mayor Ed Beasley was also unopposed.

In the contested races, most of the matchups were no contest. Two of Alabama’s largest and most prosperous cities, Huntsville and Hoover, had mayoral races. Tommy Battle coasted to an easy 78 to 22 reelection victory in Huntsville. If Kay Ivey opts to not run for reelection in 2022, Battle will be favored to win the governor’s race. However, being Governor of Alabama would be a demotion to being Mayor of Huntsville.

Hoover citizens must approve of Mayor Frank Brocato’s job performance. Brocato trounced Hoover City Council President Gene Smith by a 76 to 24 margin.

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Opelika’s popular and effective, longtime mayor, Gary Fuller, turned back his challenger 66 to 34 to win a fifth term.

In Cullman incumbent mayor, Woody Jacobs, won a second term overwhelmingly. Hamilton Mayor Bob Page won a second term. Troy’s 48-year-old mayor, Jason Reeves, won reelection to a third four-year term with 74 percent of the vote. Incumbent Eufaula Mayor Jack Tibbs won an impressive 68 percent victory for reelection over two opponents.

Prattville Mayor Bill Gillespie may have turned in the most impressive showing.  He shellacked former City Councilman Dean Argo 70 to 30.  His fellow citizens must approve of frugality with their city finances. Wetumpka’s popular and hardworking, longtime mayor, Jerry Willis, turned back his challenger by a 69 to 31 margin. In neighboring Millbrook incumbent mayor, Al Kelley, won reelection 67 to 33. Mayor Kelley has overseen the growth of his city from 6,000 in population to over 20,000. Tallassee reelected Mayor John Hammock to a second term.

Clanton lost their mayor of three decades, Billy Joe Driver, to COVID-19 this year. His successor will be Jeff Mims, who won the election in the Peach City. Mike Oakley won the mayor’s race in Centreville with a 60 percent margin.  It is proper and fitting that an Oakley will be Mayor of Centreville.

Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley won a landslide reelection garnering 68 percent of the vote. Incumbent Pell City Mayor Bill Pruitt won reelection by an impressive 73 to 27 margin.Longtime Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon won reelection in the Camellia City. Opp’s first female mayor, Becky Bracke, won a second term with 60 percent of the vote.

There were two mayoral upsets on August 25. Scottsboro’s incumbent mayor was defeated by challenger Jimmy McCamy.In the thriving, growing city of Fairhope challenger Sherry Sullivan trounced incumbent mayor Karin Wilson.

There are runoffs for mayor in several major cities, including Enterprise, Ozark, Selma, Tuskegee, Alexander City and Northport.  These cities will elect their mayors on October 6 in runoff elections.

Some of you may be wondering about two of the most populous cities. Tuscaloosa and Dothan have their mayoral races next year in August 2021. Tuscaloosa’s Walt Maddox and Dothan’s Mark Saliba will be tough to beat. All politics is local.

If you have not been counted in the census, you have not got many more shopping days to Christmas.

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Opinion | That climate change hoax is killing us

Joey Kennedy

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(APR GRAPHIC)

I grew up with hurricanes. For my first 11 years, my parents and I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast, near Beaumont. My father was transferred by the company he worked for, Texas Gulf Sulfur, to deep South Louisiana in 1967. We lived in Houma, in Terrebonne Parish, but Dad worked near Larose, in Lafourche Parish.

Hurricanes were regular events in Southeastern Texas and South Louisiana. Still are, but in much more frequent numbers. And Alabama gets clobbered every so often, most recently yesterday and today. Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, and you can be assured the damage will be extensive, especially from flooding.

Flooding was a big factor in Texas hurricanes too, when I lived there. Hurricane Carla, in 1961, devastated High Island, not far from our home. Flooding was widespread. Carla was a Category 4 storm. But notably, that September, Carla was only the third named storm of the hurricane season.

This year, we’re running out of names. Striking Alabama this week, only a few days after Carla struck Southeastern Texas in 1961, Sally is toward the end of the hurricane alphabet. The National Hurricane Center and World Meteorological Organization are literally running out of names for storms this year.

Earlier this week, and maybe still, there were five named storms in the Atlantic. This is only the second time on record that five named storms are in the Atlantic at the same time. And they’re using up the Alphabet. The first time this happened was 1971, at a time when humans were first becoming aware of climate warming.

Little do we know, that before Sally decided to squat on Alabama, Hurricane Paulette made landfall in Bermuda on early Monday morning. There are so many hurricanes around, we can’t even keep up with them.

They’re like Republican scandals.

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Probably more than any other indicator, hurricanes tell the story of climate change, the very real climate change that Donald Trump and many Republicans deny or call a hoax.

Like the COVID-19 Pandemic. Like so many events that Trump and Trump Republicans can’t (or won’t) believe. Like the corruption that permeates the Trump administration. Like the wildfires destroying the far West Coast states.

That’s not climate change, claims Trump. It’s because California won’t sweep the forests. I call BS. Even on California being responsible for sweeping. Most of the forestland in California is federal land. Most of the burning areas are on or near federal trees. Yet, the state of California spends more money on forest management than the federal government, which owns most of the land. That’s the truth. No hoax.

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Trump should order secret federal teams of ICE forest sweepers to do their jobs.

The hoax from Republicans and the Trump administration is that crazy antifa hit squads are invading the West Coast to reign terror on the populations there. National security experts continue to assert that white supremacists and nationalists are the most dangerous domestic terror threat. But Trump defends those radicals – “they are very fine people” — because they hold up some mysterious white heritage above all others. If Trump is anything, he’s the whitest Angry White Man ever.

Climate change is real. The coronavirus pandemic exists. White nationalists are the most serious domestic terror threat in this country.

Black lives do matter.

Yet, once again and often, Trump shows the orange-hued emperor has no clothes. As Stormy Daniels has previously said, that is not a good look.

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Opinion | The presidential race is underway

Steve Flowers

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020. (STAFF SGT. TONY HARP/AIR NATIONAL GUARD AND GAGE SKIDMORE/FLIKR)

Now that the national political party conventions are over and the nominees have been coronated, the battle royale for the White House is in full throttle. The nominees, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, will shatter the age barrier — whoever is elected will be the oldest person ever elected president.

If Trump is re-elected, he will be 75 years old when sworn in. If Biden wins, he will be close to 79 years old. When I was a young man, folks at that age were in the nursing home — if they were alive. By comparison, 60 years ago, when John F. Kennedy was elected, he was 42.

If, by chance, you are worried about their traversing all over the 50 states and keeling over in the process, calm your fears. Trump will campaign in only about 10 to 12 states, and Biden will campaign in probably only two. Why, you might ask? There are only 10 or 12 states that matter in a presidential contest.

Under our Electoral College system, the candidate that gets one more popular vote than the other gets all of that state’s electoral votes.

The country is divided like never before in our history. You either live in a red Republican state, like Alabama, or a blue Democratic state, like California. You might say the hay is in the barn in all but about 10 battleground, so-called “swing states.”

There are 40 states that it really does not matter who the Republican nominee is, one or the other of the two party’s candidates are going to win that state and get all of that state’s electoral votes.

Our national politics has become so partisan and divided with such a vociferous divide that old Biden will carry California by a 60-40 margin, and Trump will carry Alabama by a 60-40 margin. Unfortunately for Trump, Alabama only has nine electoral votes. California has 55.

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The election is won or lost in swing states like Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

It is in these six states that all the campaign money will be spent and where the two aged candidates might campaign. It will all boil down to certain zip codes in these six states. Current polling has Biden ahead of Trump in most of the battleground states.

Trump, for the first three years of his presidency, reigned over a tremendous economic boom. He had a fighting chance at re-election based on one factor: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

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All that changed in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit our nation and devastated our economy. All the growth of three years has been devastated. During the same month of March, the aging Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, captured the Democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist.

Under the Electoral College system, Trump has to carry most of the key battleground states in order to win. Current polling has Biden ahead of Trump in most, if not all the pivotal swing states because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the economy was busting through the roof, Trump could claim credit for the thriving economy.  Likewise, the economic recession caused by the coronavirus is not Trump’s fault. However, it happened under his watch. There is a tried and true political maxim: “If you claim credit for the rain, then you gonna get the blame for the drought.”

There is also a cardinal rule in politics: all politics is local. Folks, Biden was born and raised in Pennsylvania — in the blue-collar city of Scranton, to be exact. Even if Trump were to miraculously carry all five of the large, pivotal states, he will have a hard time carrying Pennsylvania.

I know most of you reading this do not like to hear this dour outlook for Trump. But there is hope. First, I am pretty good at predicting and analyzing Alabama political races — not so much when it comes to national politics. In fact, I am usually wrong.

Another golden, proven caveat in politics: they only count the votes of the people who show up to vote. Older voters tend to be Republican. And older voters are the ones that show up to vote.

We will see in six short weeks.

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