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House adjourns Tuesday without addressing school security

Brandon Moseley

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A number of bills have been introduced into the Alabama Legislature to address the need for school security following the Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

One legislator introduced bills to ban the sale of semiautomatic firearms. Another introduced a bill to ban 18 to 20 year olds from having assault weapons. There was talk of funding school resource officers in every school. There was a bill to create a highly trained school security force embedded in the schools. The bill that appeared to have the most support would have armed teachers that were required to get APOST training.

House Bill 435 was sponsored by state Rep. Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville. Ainsworth’s bill armed teachers and administrators to protect the children in their care in order to be able to deal with the school shooting phenomenon that draws headlines across the country every time some mean nasty malcontent guns down his peers, often at school buildings where shooters are facing an unarmed captive population of victims.

House bill 435 passed out of committee last week and was on one of the special order calendars that the rules committee adopted for Tuesday’s session; but it was not the one of the calendars that the leadership brought to the floor. Instead of doing anything to address school security, the leadership prioritized a plan to fund an open air football stadium at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center. That passed; but only after three and a half hours of contentious debate in a legislative day where the House did not even begin work until after 2:00 p.m.

There were many questions about whether or not HB435 even had the votes to pass had it been brought to the floor. Democrats were planning to filibuster the legislation, which did have 32 co-sponsors. Republican Harry Shivers had made national headlines last week for opposing the bill because he did not trust women to handle firearms and most school teachers are women.

The Legislature is preparing to go home so the Alabama Political Reporter is being told that there are not enough legislative days left in this session for the Senate to meet to take up any House bills that were not transmitted to them by the end of the day on Tuesday.

Ironically, the legislature has plenty of time to pass legislation addressing school security.

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Alabama has a part-time legislature that can meet up to 30 days in the annual regular session. The two houses have only used 21 of their 30 legislative days, but the legislators want to go home early to go on vacation and to spend more time in their districts campaigning so APR is being told that they plan to shut this session down having used only 25 of their 30 days.

If that information is correct, they are going to use just four days of their remaining nine so controversial bills like ordering school systems to spend money to have viable school security systems in place or allowing the school teachers to arm themselves to defend the children in an attack may not come on the floor.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has created another school security task force. The legislature had their own task force that delivered a report in December 2016.

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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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Elections

Mark Gidley announces run for Rep. Becky Nordgren’s House seat

Brandon Moseley

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Republican voters in Etowah County went to the polls and elected State Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, as their nominee for revenue commissioner, defeating Jeff Overstreet in the Republican primary runoff.

No Democrat qualified for the seat, so Nordgren will likely be the commissioner once the current commissioner’s term runs out. At that time, the governor will call a special election to fill Nordgren’s soon-to-be vacant House seat.

Mark Gidley has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for State House District 29.

“I have a strong desire to continue to promote pro-life, pro-family, and strong conservative values in Montgomery as the Representative for the people of District 29,” Gidley said. “I have been a member of the pro-life community for many years, serving as a board member for the Etowah County Pregnancy Center, and I will fight in Montgomery to continue to make Alabama a Pro-Life State. I believe in family values, and the traditional family created in the image of God. I will fight for these values as a Representative in the Alabama House”.

Mark Gidley is a lifelong resident of Etowah County and is heavily involved in his community. Gidley is the pastor of the Faith Worship Center Church of God in Glencoe.

Gidley says that it is his desire to serve this community and the area of District 29 with bold and conservative leadership.

Mark is married to the former Kathy Chapman of Hokes Bluff. They have two daughters and four grandchildren. Mark is a member of the Executive Committee of the Etowah County Republican Party.

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Courts

Kellum holds onto Court of Criminal Court of Appeals seat

While there is still a general election on Nov. 3, Tuesday’s victory effectively re-elected Kellum to her third term as no Democrat or independent qualified to run for the race.

Brandon Moseley

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Judge Beth Kellum

Incumbent Alabama’s Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Beth Kellum won the Republican primary for her seat on the court, likely assuring that she will return to the general election.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results, Beth Kellum had 56 percent while challenger Will Smith received 44 percent.

“Thank you to everyone who made the effort to vote in today’s “pandemic election,“ Kellum said in a statement. “It has been one of the great honors of my life to represent you on the Court of Criminal Appeals for the past 12 years. It was a hard fought race, and I am thankful for the people of Alabama and for the trust you put in me to serve the great State of Alabama. I look forward to serving you for another six years!”

Smith conceded the race in a statement.

“This Sunday, one of the hymns we sang in church was Have Faith In God. The chorus of the song has played in my mind ever since. So first and foremost, I want to thank God for giving me faith and provision along the way of this campaign journey,” Smith said. “I want to thank the Republican voters who braved the unusual circumstances of this time to vote for me today. These conservative grassroots supporters have supported my campaign, defended my character and championed our sacred beliefs of faith and family and our American ideals of liberty, freedom and constitutional government.”

“I am forever grateful to my wife, Laura,” Smith continued. “She has been my rock and encourager. She has always been so supportive and understanding throughout the demands of this campaign journey. I love her and I am blessed to have her as my wife.”

“I enjoyed traveling to the four corners of our great state and meeting so many of her wonderful people,” Smith added. “This race was one of grassroots conservatives against the big money interests of Montgomery which contributed over $80,000 to the incumbent. The results of the March 3rd Republican Primary showed me trailing the two-term incumbent by a margin of 43% to 37%. It was amazing we were within 6 percentage points of the two-term incumbent despite being outspent over 15 to 1 during the primary. Today, the voters spoke and re-elected the incumbent to her third term. I congratulate Judge Kellum on her victory tonight.”

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Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan issued a statement following Kellum’s win for the GOP nomination for the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals.

“While we had two exceptional candidates for the Criminal Court of Appeals, Alabama Republican voters have selected a highly qualified legal mind to be their nominee for the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals,” Lathan said. “Beth Kellum has proven herself to a be a strong judge during her previous two terms on the bench. Combined with her extensive legal career, we are confident Judge Kellum will win re-election and return to this seat on November 3rd. We look forward to her continued service with the upmost integrity and seriousness she has shown Alabama as a judge.”

“We extend our gratitude to Will Smith for his willingness to serve — not just in this position but in his previous post as a Lauderdale County Commissioner,” Lathan added. “He is a great example of a true statesman.”

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Kellum is an Alabama native who grew up in Vance in Tuscaloosa County. She graduated from Brookwood High School in 1977. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and a law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law.

Kellum was hired in 1985 by Attorney General Charles Graddick as an assistant attorney general. She worked in the criminal appeals division where she primarily prosecuted appeals before the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court.

She later worked as a staff attorney for the Court of Criminal Appeals from 1987 until 1990. Kellum went into private practice with the Montgomery law firm of Robison & Belser, P.A., working on a wide variety of civil and criminal cases in state and federal courts.

In 1997, she went back to the Court of Criminal Appeals to work as a senior staff attorney for the newly-elected Judge Jean Brown. She worked as a senior staff attorney for the Alabama Supreme Court from 1999 until 2001, before returning to the Court of Criminal Appeals as the senior staff attorney for then newly-elected Judge Kelli Wise.

Kellum was elected to the Court of Criminal Appeals in November 2008 and was re-elected in 2014. While there is still a general election on Nov. 3, Tuesday’s victory effectively re-elected Kellum to her third term as no Democrat or independent qualified to run for the race.

Alabama is one of the few states to elect its judges in partisan elections.

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Health

Alabama governor issues statewide face mask order amid COVID-19 surge

Gov. Kay Ivey’s decision came the same day the state saw its highest single-day increase in reported COVID-19 deaths and the day after the previous record.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(VIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday issued a statewide face mask order to begin Thursday at 5 p.m. and to remain in effect for the rest of the month. 

Face masks are to be worn while in public when within six feet of another person outside of one’s own household, while outside around groups of ten or more, and inside in a public spaces and on public transposition, with exceptions, according to the order.

Ivey said there were 2,141 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, and said with continued increases in cases, deaths and hospitalizations she made the decision to require masks to be worn statewide. 

There have been 1,183 deaths from COVID-19 statewide, Ivey said, and nine of the first 13 days in July saw daily case increases of more than 1,000. 

Ivey said despite the best efforts, we’re seeing increased cases every day “and we are almost to the point where hospital ICUs are overwhelmed.” 

Ivey has been reluctant to issue a statewide mask order in previous weeks, and has said such an order would be difficult to enforce. 

“I still believe this is going to be a difficult order to enforce, and I always prefer personal responsibility over a government mandate,” Ivey said Wednesday. “And, yet, I also know with all my heart that the numbers and the data over the past few weeks is definitely trending in the wrong direction.” 

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Ivey said there are more drastic options to slow the spread, including a return to shutdowns, but said, “I don’t want to go there unless there are absolutely no other options available.”

Ivey’s decision came the same day the state saw its highest single-day increase in reported COVID-19 deaths and the day after the previous record. Forty deaths were reported Tuesday as having been caused by the virus, and 47 deaths were reported Wednesday.

At least 151 deaths have been reported in the last week, the most in any seven-day period since the state’s first confirmed death in late March. At least 236 have been reported in the last fourteen days, the most of any two-week period.

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On Tuesday, the total number of current hospitalizations of coronavirus patients again reached another all-time high. COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased more than 61 percent since July 1. ADPH hadn’t updated COVID-19 numbers as of Wednesday morning. 

The seven-day average statewide positivity rate Wednesday was roughly 16 percent, the highest since the start of the pandemic, taking into account incomplete testing data in April that threw off figures. That’s according to APR’s tracking of state data.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said during the press conference that a full third of the state’s cases have been added within the last two weeks. 

“That’s not a reflection of testing, because our percentage of tests that are positive continues to go up. The most recent completed data, leading up to the Fourth of July showed about 14 percent of all tests are positive,” Harris said. 

More than 2,000 people across the state were hospitalized for confirmed or suspected coronavirus on Wednesday, Harris said, and about 30 hospitals statewide have very limited intensive care beds availability. At least 1,477 are hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 while 541 are under investigation.

“We really don’t have a  lot of other options at this time,” Harris said. “We’re frequently asked, does the economy need to be shut down, and the answer is no. Not if people will cooperate with the orders that we have in place.” 

Failing to wear a mask as per the order could result in a $500 fine and arrest, Ivey said. There are some exceptions to the mask order, including children aged six or younger, those with certain medical conditions, while eating or drinking, exercising so long as a person maintains six feet from others, while competing in athletic events and while swimming. 

Prior to Ivey’s statewide order, numerous local municipalities and county governments were issuing local mask orders. Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said Tuesday that he’d prefer a statewide order coupled with local orders as a more effective way to convince the public to wear masks. 

Beginning Monday, July 20, Walmart and Sam’s Club will require masks to be worn at stores nationwide. 

“While we’re certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities. According to the CDC, face coverings help decrease the spread of COVID-19, and because the virus can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms and don’t know they are infected, it’s critically important for everyone to wear a face covering in public and social distance,” said Dacona Smith, chief operating officer for Walmart U.S., and Lance de la Rosa, chief operating officer at Sam’s Club, in a blog post. 

Graphics for businesses to download, print and display for customers on the mask order can be found here.

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Elections

Alabama GOP chair Terry Lathan congratulates Tuberville

Brandon Moseley

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GOP Senate candidates Jeff Sessions (left) and Tommy Tuberville (right).

Former Auburn football head coach Tommy Tuberville soundly defeated former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, on Tuesday in the Republican primary runoff. Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan issued a statement congratulating Tuberville on the victory.

“It’s great to be an Alabama Republican! Our voters have spoken and they have chosen an outstanding U.S. Senate nominee for the November 3rd General Election, Coach Tommy Tuberville,” Lathan said. “Even under difficult circumstances with the COVID-19 situation, Alabamians were deeply engaged and determined to participate in our voting process.”

With 100 percent of the boxes reporting, Tuberville won 60.74 percent compared to Sessions with 39.26 percent. Tuberville won 64 of Alabama’s 67 counties.

“Tommy Tuberville is a true Washington outsider and has gained the trust of Alabama Republican Party voters to represent them and help President Trump ‘Drain the Swamp’” Lathan continued. “He will fight for the will of the majority who have been ignored since 2017. His conservative positions on the issues and support of our president will be welcomed when he defeats Doug Jones in November. Alabama is the highest approval rated state for President Trump. The combination of Coach Tuberville and President Trump’s popularity in our state puts us in a very strong position to flip this seat back to the GOP.”

Tuberville’s win effectively ended the 27-year political career of former Attorney General Sessions. Sessions left this Senate seat in 2017 to become U.S. attorney general. Sessions was fired from that post by the man who appointed him to it, President Donald Trump, over strong disagreement with Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russian collusion scandal investigation in the 2016 election.

A still angry Trump denounced Sessions as “the biggest mistake” of his presidency and endorsed Tuberville. Sessions could never overcome the president’s disapproval with Alabama Republican voters. As recently as Saturday, Trump said of Sessions: “Washington doesn’t want him back.”

Sessions is also a former Alabama attorney general and chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.

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“We are greatly appreciative of Jeff Sessions and his lifetime of commitment to conservative policy and service – not just to Alabamians but to all Americans,” Lathan said. “He is a true patriot in every sense of the word and our nation is stronger because of his willingness to take a stand on the issues and fight for the will of Alabamians. Senator Sessions has earned his place in history as a true conservative warrior.”

“We would also like to thank Secretary of State John Merrill and the election teams around the state who worked so diligently in providing heath care protection to the voters in today’s elections,” Lathan added. “Together, we are unstoppable on November 3rd. Alabamians have that date circled in red and plan to end the tenure of liberal Doug Jones. While we know a battle is ahead, his voting record will be in the spotlight – voting to impeach our president and not to seat Justice Kavanaugh, voting against building our nation’s security walls and tax cuts just to name a few. We look forward to doing to Doug Jones what he and his left wing buddies failed to do to President Trump – end his time in office.”

Tuberville in his speech came out swinging against incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, blasting him for voting to impeach Trump and for voting against Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.

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“Democrat Doug Jones is running for reelection with the slogan of One Alabama,” Tuberville said. “Well, you can make no mistake about it: what Doug really means is, One Liberal Alabama.”

Tuberville accused Jones of taking “marching orders from Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and bartender AOC.”

Tuberville thanked Trump for his support and called him: “The greatest President of my life.”

Tuberville said he will vote to defend Alabama’s Second Amendment rights: “By God, they’re not taking our guns.”

Tuberville faces stiff competition from Jones, who has raised close to $10 million to spend by Nov. 3 and was not bloodied in a primary contest.

Tuberville is an Arkansas native and a career football coach; best remembered for his tenure at Auburn University. He was also the head coach at the University of Mississippi, Cincinnati, and Texas Tech. He won a national championship as a defensive coordinator at the University of Miami.

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