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Rogers promotes benefits of the GOP tax cuts

Brandon Moseley

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Monday Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Saks, praised the benefits that Alabamians are seeing from the Republican tax cuts.

“Last year, Congress took up the daunting task of overhauling our tax system and introduced H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” Rep. Rogers said. “This landmark piece of legislation was signed into law by President Trump at the end of 2017 and is the first law of its kind since the 1980s. Only a month after enactment, Americans are already seeing the benefits.”

“Throughout this year, the average family of four will see nearly a $2,000 reduction in taxes and single filers could see up to $1,000 back in their paychecks,” Rep. Rogers said. “Companies are taking full advantage of recent tax cuts as well by hiring more employees and offering raises to their employees.  Alabamians are seeing those benefits directly through companies like Southwire who have invested $9 million in their full-time and part-time employees through bonuses, expanded parental leave and strengthening STEM programs in the workplace. I support our local businesses giving back to the employees that drive our economy.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan recently addressed Southwest Airlines about the reasons for the tax cuts. Speaker Ryan talked about why it was so important to tackle tax reform at this moment:

“What we saw was a U.S. economy that was really lagging our peers and other countries. What we saw are U.S. companies, just to stay competitive, moving overseas and becoming foreign companies because of our tax laws. What we also saw are U.S. companies put at a huge competitive disadvantage with other businesses, sectors and other countries. We wanted to fix that to put a strong foundation on the U.S. economy. A strong foundation means more jobs, higher wages, more competitive, resilient businesses that don’t go through boom-and-bust cycles.”

Critics have suggested that cutting taxes without cutting government spending will only lead to larger deficits and most debt. Republicans are hoping that the growing economy will lead to more economic growth, more profits, and higher tax collections eventually – supply-side economics.

Rogers represents Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District.

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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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Health

Alabama reports record rise in COVID-19 deaths

At least 129 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.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama’s death toll from COVID-19 rose by 40 on Tuesday, the largest single-day increase in reported deaths since the onset of the pandemic, coming weeks after the state began to see a rise in cases that every day reaches new highs.

As of Tuesday, at least 1,136 people in Alabama have died from COVID-19. While deaths had largely plateaued since early May, death from COVID-19 typically occurs weeks after onset of symptoms, and public health experts worry that deaths will eventually rise as cases rose several weeks. It may take even longer for deaths to be reported in statewide data.

At least 129 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 210 have come in the last two weeks — the most of any 14-day period.

Because deaths most often come weeks after infection — and because death data is even more delayed — the true toll from the state’s current surge in cases may not be seen for several more weeks.

Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association and a former state health officer, told reporters during a press conference hosted by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Monday that about 13 percent of the state’s intensive care beds were available, or 211 beds.

“We can stretch that. We can take care of patients in other critical care areas, but as a measure of the impact of COVID, as that ICU bed availability goes down, it just tells us that our system is becoming increasingly stressed,” Williamson said.

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Williamson said he’s concerned about continued surges in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, especially as schools soon begin to reopen and the regular flu season approaches, when hospitals regularly fill with flu patients even during a normal year.

“That’s the scenario where I become extremely concerned about system wide capacity,” Williamson said, noting that hospitals could be doubly strained by both COVID-19 and the flu.

Alabama on Tuesday added 1,673 new COVID-19 cases, and 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.

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The seven-day average statewide positivity rate Tuesday was 16.58 percent, the highest since the start of the pandemic, taking into account incomplete testing data in April that threw off figures.

“Every single life, it does matter. Every single life is important, and is an absolute tragedy. Just to hear these statistics is alarming,” Jones said during the Monday press conference.

“What I’m extremely concerned about is if we find ourselves with 1,500 to 2,000 people hospitalized with COVID by the middle to end of this month, and we’re having 1,500 to 2,000 new cases diagnosed a day, as we approach the gathering of children together in August, in K 12, and in our colleges, I think we set ourselves up for what could be a potential disaster, in terms of new infections and new demand on hospitals,” Williamson said.

Asked by APR if he believes a statewide face mask order would help stem the continued surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Williamson said yes, especially if a statewide order is coupled with local mask orders.

“I do think that now a statewide ordinance, and the association thinks that a statewide ordinance, added to the existing local ordinances will give us our best chance,” Williamson said. “Because in communities that may not be under a local ordinance, that doesn’t mean we don’t have virus being transmitted.”

Williamson said a statewide mask ordinance would also give business owners some cover, and the ability to tell customers that the order to wear a mask is statewide.

Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson speaks during a press conference Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

Despite surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Alabama and in many other states, an extra $600-per-week in unemployment compensation through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program is expected to expire July 26.

Asked by APR whether the extra aid could be extended, Jones said it’s possible, but encouraged the public to get back to work safely, because unemployment benefits will eventually end.

“We may see some type of extension, but we’re seeing pushback from Senator McConnell and the administration on extending unemployment benefits,” Jones said. “I’ll have to see how that goes. I do think, in my view, we need to kind of stair step this down a little bit.”

APR also asked both Jones and Williamson to speak on concerns about the reopening of schools while the state continues to see surging new cases and hospitalizations.

“Everyone is concerned about that,” Jones said, adding that a bill is pending that would provide more money for local school systems to prepare and help keep students, teachers and families safe.

“We’ve got to get more resources for schools to open safely too — whether it is masks for kids, whether it is more testing, whether it is reconfiguring school space,” Jones said.

What troubles Jones, he said, is that the reopening of schools is beginning to become a political issue, just as the wearing of masks has become a political issue.

The White House and President Donald Trump have publicly called for all schools to reopen, and Education Secretary Betsy Devos on Monday threatened to withhold federal funding to schools that decided not to reopen.

“One thing that is troubling me so much right now is that it seems that opening schools back up has become a political issue, and not an education or health issue. … We can’t let that happen folks,” Jones said. “This is about our children. It’s about our families. It’s about our teachers who are going to be there every day,  and we’ve got to try to find that balance.”

Williamson said he is concerned about the possibility of spiking cases once schools reopen, and that comparison some have made recently of the safe reopening of schools in some European countries isn’t applicable to the U.S., where cases continue to surge.

“My concern is if we find ourselves in a situation where we still have significant ongoing viral transmission, and we aren’t able to maintain six feet of social distance in the classroom, are we going to have those same sorts of results,” Williamson said of the reopenings in Europe. “And I don’t know the answer to that. I worry about it.”

Jones discussed legislation he and a bipartisan group of other Senators filed, called the Reopen Schools Safely Act, which would cover the costs of protecting students and educators from COVID-19. He hopes it will be included in the next packages of COVID-19 legislation.

“Anything we could do to get schools open safely and that local school systems feel appropriate,” Jones said.

Williamson encouraged the public to wear masks in public, and to practice social distancing to help ease the surge in cases, and try and stave off what he fears could become dangerously stressed hospital systems. “I think we have a very, very short window to get this under control,” he said.

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National

Cannabis advocates troubled by veteran’s 5-year sentence for medical marijuana

Brandon Moseley

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Sean Worsley (VIA ALABAMA APPLESEED)

The Alabama Cannabis Industry Association on Monday released a statement critical of the decision by an Alabama court to imprison an Arizona man for five years after his probation for a 2016 marijuana arrest was revoked in April.

Sean Worsley was an Iraq War vet who legally uses marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder, and for back and shoulder pain stemming from being wounded in an IED attack in Iraq.

He and his wife were arrested in Gordo, in Pickens County, in August 2016 after a police officer found the marijuana while questioning the Worsleys about the volume of their music when they stopped to get gas.

That Worsley had a valid medical cannabis card in Arizona — one of 33 states where that is legal — was no defense for the authorities in Pickens County. Worsley missed a court date in Pickens County after the VA rejected his application for a substance abuse program, so Pickens County issued a fugitive arrest warrant.

When Arizona arrested Worsley for letting his medical cannabis card expire, he was extradited back to Alabama. He is currently detained in Pickens County awaiting a spot to become available in an Alabama Department of Corrections facility.

Worsley could spend the next 60 months as a guest of Alabama taxpayers.

“The Alabama Cannabis Industry Association (AlCIA) has seen the need to bring clarity to the laws related to the medical marijuana issue facing our citizens,” said Michael Fritz, the general counsel for the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association.

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Fritz said that legislators created the new Class D category of offenses so that habitual offenders don’t serve long prison systems, but they left police and district attorneys with broad discretion to determine whether a person possessing cannabis is using that solely for “personal use.”

That discretion is the difference between having misdemeanor charge and becoming a  felon, Fritz said.

“States all across this country have acknowledged the medical benefits that cannabis brings to those suffering” from conditions like PTSD, Fritz said. “The ALCIA is fighting to allow those already suffering to have access to proper medication without the fear of becoming a felon.”

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“Sean Worsley is a prime example of why we are fighting,” Fritz told APR. “Medical Marijuana can help our veterans that suffer from PTSD, anxiety as well as pain from physically disabilities. It’s time to permit medical cannabis in our state, as our sister states have done and avoid needlessly jamming our already over crowed prisons with marijuana arrest.”

A counselor who treats veterans with PTSD told APR that it is common for veterans with PTSD to use medical marijuana to self-medicate with cannabis and that veterans like Worsley should not be mistreated by our criminal justice system.

Chey Garrigan, the executive director of the ACIA, said that Alabama Appleseed and the Southern Poverty Law Center partnered with Western Carolina University economists Angela K. Dills and Audrey Redford to calculate that enforcing Alabama’s possession of marijuana laws costs the state an estimated $22 million a year.

Fritz told APR that if you are caught with 2.2 pounds of marijuana, the Alabama Courts charge you with trafficking, but that there are no guidelines under Alabama law in how to determine whether an amount smaller than that is for personal use — a minor offense — or not for personal use, which is a Class C felony in the state of Alabama.

Worsley was charged with the Class C offense.

Worsley’s mother has hired an attorney to appeal the conviction. Meanwhile, the Worsleys are hoping that he can receive clemency from the Alabama court system. Sean has already served approximately six months in jail in Arizona and Pickens County for this.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana has passed the Alabama Senate in each of the last two years, but the bills have failed to come to a vote in the Alabama House of Representatives.

“It’s time to permit medical cannabis in our state, as our sister states have done and avoid needlessly jamming our already over crowed prisons with marijuana arrests,” Garrigan said.

Sean’s plight was first made public by original reporting by Alabama Appleseed’s Leah Nelson.

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Elections

Campaign for Common Sense endorses Sessions, Carl and Smith

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Campaign for Common Sense on Monday announced that it has endorsed Jeff Sessions for Senate, Jerry Carl for Congress in the 1st Congressional District and Will Smith for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2 in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff elections.

“While every election is important, this year we have a Marxist inspired Democrat Party trying to undo the Constitution, rewrite American History, promote leaders who say they want to ‘burn the system down’ as well as some such as Ilhan Omar who says that we must ‘dismantle the whole system of oppression’ — really?” Lou Campomenosi wrote.

“This type of rhetoric suggests that we are in a much different political place than any of us have seen since perhaps the anti-war movement during Vietnam — but even then, we did not see the anarchy linked to liberal elected officials closing their eyes and not stopping rioting and looting,” Campomenosi wrote. “The breakdown of Law and Order has never manifested itself as we have seen since Memorial Day when it all began, which means this is a critical election and all of us must vote!”

In the U.S. Senate race, the CSC has endorsed Sessions over former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.

“For 20 years Senator Sessions served us honorably and as a strong Christian Conservative — he is squeaky clean and can withstand anything the democrats concoct to try to politically hurt him,” the CSC claimed. “His past record includes supporting Obama’s tariffs on Chinese tires in 2011 as part of his long opposition to the Globalists’ agenda. Senator Sessions led the fight against illegal immigration and open borders. He has warned about China’s aggression and worked for fully funding the needs of our military. With regards to all nations, Senator Sessions has long supported fair trade, protection of jobs for America’s workers along with American intellectual property. Senator Sessions is a Constitutional Originalist who has always defended the First and Second Amendments guaranteeing protection for our free speech and right to bear arms. Senator Sessions has not forgotten us in Mobile and Baldwin Counties with his work to bring the companies of Austal and Airbus here.”

In the 1st Congressional District, the CSC endorsed Carl, a Mobile County commissioner, over former Sen. Bill Hightower.

“Jerry Carl was first endorsed by the Board for the March 3rd primary and was recently re-endorsed because in the time since the March 3rd primary and now, CSC has seen Jerry validate its trust in him time and again on the issues that are critical to our region,” the Tea Party group explained. “Whether it was working to improve the Port of Mobile that is critical to Alabama’s commerce or by taking a leading role on the Mobile Planning Commission by saying NO to an absurd $6 toll being proposed by Governor Kay Ivey for a new bridge over the Mobile River, Jerry has shown a willingness to fight for what was right for this region. For CSC, that means that Jerry Carl understands how the other counties in this District work and he has working relations with his fellow County Commissioners in the District and he has been ‘in the trenches’ at the local level gaining experience not only in development, infrastructure and budget issues, but he has also been heavily involved with Mobile’s Public Health Director in fighting the Wuhan Virus pandemic.”

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For the Court of Criminal Appeals, the CSC endorsed Smith, who is challenging incumbent Beth Kellum.

“I first met Will Smith when we were living in Florence at the time of the beginning of the Tea Party,” Campomenosi wrote. “We worked together on a great TP meeting on July 4th 2009 that brought out over 1000 patriots to hear among others, Mo Brooks. Will’s background is well suited to this position because in addition to his 25 years of practicing law, he served as a County Commissioner in Lauderdale County where he fought against tax increases and as an NRA member supported the Second Amendment. As a lawyer, who is a member of the Federalist Society, Will brings a wide range of experiences as a criminal defense lawyer and a special prosecutor in thousands of cases spanning his 25 year career. As a member of the Alabama, Georgia, and U.S. Supreme Court Bars, he has handled appeals at the state and Federal levels, which means Will is well prepared for accepting the responsibilities of a Judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals. Attesting to that, Will has received the endorsement of the Alabama Republican Assembly and various conservative groups in the state including the Common Sense Campaign. I think it is also important to keep in mind that Will has been a servant leader in his community, where he has been a Sunday school teacher, has devoted his time to his Church’s Special Needs Ministry, and has been a basketball coach in a program called Upward Basketball. In addition to all of his local community work, Will has also found time to join an International Missions program as a worker. I think you can see from this brief review that Will Smith is ready for this job based on his quarter of a century in law practice, his life experiences as a husband and father in a faith-based community, and importantly, his Christian conservative foundation that is necessary in applying the law to so many different circumstances.”

Polls open at 7 a.m and close at 7 p.m.

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Elections

Andrew Sorrell elected chairman of Alabama Trump delegation

Brandon Moseley

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State Rep. Andrew Sorrell

The Alabama Colbert County Republican Executive Committee announced State Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, has been elected as the chair of the Alabama Trump delegation going to the 2020 Republican National Convention in August.

“To be elected as the 2020 Alabama Trump Delegation Chairman is a great honor,” Sorrell said. “I have big shoes to fill, as Senator Jeff Sessions served as Chairman in 2016 and (then) Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey served in 2012. It’s a huge responsibility, but 2020 is a pivotal year for our country, so I couldn’t be more thrilled to be involved. I look forward to working alongside the Trump campaign to ensure his re- election this November.”

Sorrell was elected June 27 as the chair of the Alabama Trump Delegation at a meeting in Montgomery. The 50 delegates gathered at the Renaissance Hotel to elect members of four different committees and the chairman. Several of the committees this year will be honorary only and will not meet due to coronavirus restrictions.

Sorrell defeated Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker for the position of delegation chairman. The chair’s duties include fundraising for the delegation activities, lining up guest speakers for events and coordinating with the Alabama Republican Party to plan events for the delegation while in Jacksonville. The delegation chairman is typically the one to announce the delegates’ presidential preference on national television, so we could see Andrew Sorrell on T.V. announcing that Alabama chooses Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president of the United States during the convention.

The Colbert County Republican Party will have three delegates to the Republican National Convention this August. Former committee chairman Fred Joly was elected as an alternate delegate for District 4, place 3, while both Rep. Andrew Sorrell and his wife Hannah Sorrell were elected as Trump delegates. Andrew Sorrell was elected as one of three delegates for Congressional District 4. Hannah Sorrell was elected statewide as an at-large delegate.

Phill Green has served as the chairman of the Colbert County Republican Party since 2018.

“We are proud that 3 members of our local committee are playing such an important role in the 2020 RNC convention,” Green said. “Just ten years ago Republicans in Colbert County had very little influence in local elections and Republicans held no elected offices; now, we are not only participating but one of our committee members is leading the delegation. It illustrates very well the hard work that this committee has done over the last 10 years to turn Colbert County red.”

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Alabama will have a total of 50 delegates and 47 alternate positions. Due to the COVID-19 crisis in which anyone can get sick at any time or be exposed and have to be quarantined, alternate delegate are going to have to be ready to step up.

This year’s RNC convention was originally planned for Charlotte, North Carolina, but because of strict North Carolina regulations on reopening the economy, the convention now has been split into two parts. The official business of the convention will take place in Charlotte with just six representatives from each state’s delegation in attendance. Those six will cast proxy votes for the other 44 delegates from Alabama.

As delegation chair, Sorrell will be among the six attending the Charlotte activities. That business will take place on Monday, Aug. 24, after which those delegates will be flown to Jacksonville, Florida, to meet up with the rest of the delegation for the remainder of the convention. The speeches and events will all take place in Jacksonville and will culminate with the president’s speech Thursday night.

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Florida was quicker to reopen its economy than almost any other state and appeared to have come out of the coronavirus crisis quickly.  Those early rosy assessments now appear to be gravely wrong.

At least 12,624 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Monday alone — more than in any other state. Texas, which also reopened early after a very mild bout with the coronavirus was second with 9,156. At least 4,277 Floridians have died of COVID-19. North Carolina had 1,999 new cases on Monday, just edging out Alabama with 1,958 for sixth in new coronavirus cases.  At least 1,551 people have died of COVID-19 in North Carolina.

Nationwide, 138,248 Americans have already perished in the global pandemic. The Trump campaign has rejected calls to have a virtual convention where all the delegates participate online from the safety of their homes.

Trump trails apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 10 percentage points in most early polls.

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