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Sen. Gerald Dial named Legislator of the Year by Alabama State Employees Association

Chip Brownlee

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Sen. Gerald Dial speaks at a committee meeting about a bill that would appropriate money for rural doctors, an issue that he has championed for years. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

State Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, who sponsored bills in the Senate that will give a one-time bonus to retired state employees and teachers this year, has been named the 2018 Legislator of the Year by the Alabama State Employees Association, the group announced Tuesday.

Dial, one of the senior most lawmakers in Montgomery who has served in the Alabama Senate since 1983, is leaving his post in the Legislature’s upper chamber to run for agriculture commissioner.

Alabama State Employees Association Director Mac McArthur said Tuesday that Dial has a history of fighting for state employees in the Senate.

“For over three decades, Gerald Dial has been at the forefront of fighting to protect state employees pay and benefits,” McArthur said. “His unwavering leadership on our ‘bread and butter’ issues cannot be overstated. It is an honor to name Senator Dial as ASEA’s 2018 Legislator of the Year.”

During Dial’s last legislative session this year, he supported Gov. Kay Ivey’s initiative to give state employees and teachers a 3 percent cost-of-living raise, which was ultimately approved.

Dial also sponsored the one-time bonus for retired state employees and legislators. He initially pushed for a $400 bonus, but later negotiated a $1-per-month-of-service bonus when the first draft of the legislation looked as if it would stall.

Dial said the negotiation would reward long-serving state employees while still giving retirees with less time a bonus of their own.

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“The most important asset any entity has is its employees, and that’s true for businesses, non-profits, and government agencies,” Dial said. “State government serves the public best when agencies are able to hire and retain quality people to work as teachers, state troopers, and corrections officers.”

As Dial moves on to a new period of public service, he implored lawmakers to continue the fight for state employees.

“It is an honor to be named Legislator of the Year. We should demand and expect the best of public employees, and reward and appreciate those who are working hard to serve Alabama,” Dial said.

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Gov. Ivey names members of study group on gaming, lottery

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday announced the members of a panel she’s ordered to study how much revenue the state could bring in from an expansion of gaming and a state lottery.  

Ivey said in her State of the State address that before she’ll consider the Poarch Band of Creek Indian’s proposal to expand gaming she wants to know how much the state stands to make in tax revenue from the deal. She’s also asked that lawmakers estimate how much a state lottery would generate. 

“I am committed to, once and for all, getting the facts so that the people of Alabama can make an informed decision on what has been a hotly debated topic for many years,” Ivey said in a statement Friday. “Without a doubt, there will be ramifications if we eventually expand gaming options in our state just as there are costs associated with doing nothing.

 “Every so often, this issue resurfaces through a new form of legislation. By my estimation, we’ve had more than 180 bills regarding a lottery or expanded gaming since the late 1990s.

 “I’m extremely grateful that some of our most distinguished citizens – from a diverse background including all regions of our state – have agreed to help gather this information. The specific data they gather will hopefully lead us all to making a better, more informed decision.

 “Ultimately, I believe the final say belongs to the people of Alabama. As their governor, I want them to be fully informed of all the facts so that, together, we can make the best decision possible.”

According to Ivey’s executive order the study group is to submit a final report no later than December 31. 

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The membership of the Study Group on Gambling Policy includes:

  • Todd Strange (Chair) of Montgomery is the former mayor of Montgomery. Prior to his tenure as mayor, he served as chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, former president, CEO and co-owner of Blount Strange Automotive group, and former director of the Alabama Development Office (the Alabama Department of Commerce).
  • A.R. “Rey” Almodóvar of Huntsville is the co-founder and Chief Executive officer of INTUITIVE®. Mr. Almodóvar is a licensed professional engineer (P.E.) and holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, M.S. in Engineering from the University of Arkansas, and M.S. in Business Administration from Texas A&M University. He is a graduate of Leadership Alabama Class XXVI.
  • Dr. Deborah Barnhart of Huntsville is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Emerita of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Previously serving as the Center’s CEO and Executive Director, her career spans four decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy Captain, she was one of the first ten women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26-year career. She has received an undergraduate degree from University of Alabama at Huntsville and Master of Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Sloan School of Management and the University of Maryland College Park as well as a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
  • Walter Bell of Mobile is the past Chairman of Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers. Prior to his time in the private sector, he served as the Alabama Commissioner of Insurance. He launched the Mobile County Urban League in 1978 and is a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor for his achievement in civil rights, civic leadership and business.
  • Dr. Regina Benjamin of Mobile is a physician who served as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. Prior to her service to our country, she was the former president of the Alabama Medical Association and provided health care to a medically underserved community by founding the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic. She received a B.S. from Xavier University of Louisiana and a M.D. from the University of Alabama.  
  • Young Boozer of Montgomery currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Banking at the Alabama State Banking Department.  He is the former Treasurer for the state of Alabama and has extensive experience with numerous banking institutions such as Citibank, Crocker National Bank, and Colonial Bank. Boozer received his B.S. in Economics from Stanford University and a M.S. in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Sam Cochran of Mobile has been the Sheriff of Mobile County since 2006. He began his law enforcement career with the Mobile Police Department where he spent 31 years working his way through the ranks – serving his last 10 years as Chief of Police. Sheriff Cochran serves the community on numerous agency boards, including the Penelope House, Drug Education Council, Boy Scouts of America, and the Child Advocacy Center.
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley of Birmingham is a litigation attorney at Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC. After rising from an unimaginable childhood, she has become a nationally recognized child advocate and serves on numerous boards including the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, the Children’s Village Board of Directors, and the Auburn University Board of Trustees. 
  • Carl Jamison of Tuscaloosa is a third-generation Shareholder in JamisonMoneyFarmerPC, one of the largest and oldest public accounting firms in the state of Alabama. He primarily works in the areas of tax planning and audit services to clients in the manufacturing, medical, retail, construction, and professional services industries. He received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Alabama and is a Certified Public Accountant.
  • Justice James “Jim” Main of Montgomery is a former Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama as well as previously served as a Judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Along with his 30+ year in private legal practice, he served as Finance Director and policy advisor to Governor Bob Riley as well as Legal Advisor to Governor Fob James.
  • Phillip “Phil” Rawls of Pike Road currently serves as a Lecturer of Journalism for Auburn University. His spent over 35 years working for The Associated Press. His respected career in journalism spanned every Alabama governor from George Wallace to Robert Bentley where he extensively covered government and politics.

    Bishop B. Mike Watson
    of Birmingham is the Bishop in residence at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham and is currently serving as the Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops. He has served as a minister in Dothan and Mobile. In addition to his work in the ministry, he is a past president of the Mobile County School Board, which is the largest school system in Alabama. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and real estate from The University of Alabama, a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Vanderbilt University. 

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon’s office told APR this week that McCutcheon will be working with Ivey in her efforts, but other legislators have signaled a desire to continue to work on lottery and gaming legislation despite Ivey’s call to slow down. 

APR reported that a day after Ivey’s speech Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh met with representatives of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians and two of the state’s dog tracks and discussed a proposed lottery and gaming bill.

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The Poarch Creeks continue to push a plan they say would generate $1 billion for the state in the first year, and $350 million every year if the state were to codify under the law its gaming monopoly and allow for an expansion of its casinos to include Birmingham and another location in North Alabama.

 

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Inmate at Ventress prison tests positive for Tuberculosis

Eddie Burkhalter

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An inmate at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton has tested positive for Tuberculosis, prompting the Alabama Department of Corrections to stop transfers of inmates into and out of the prison and test the remaining prison population and staff. 

APR confirmed on Friday that ADOC was responding to the positive test for TB at the Ventress prison. 

In a message to APR on Friday the ADOC said that an inmate showed symptoms of TB on Jan. 17 and was taken to an isolation cell and later conformed to have the contagious respiratory disease. The Alabama Department of Public Health is assisting the ADOC in the agency’s response. 

“As a precautionary measure, ADPH recommended to test the entire inmate population at Ventress and offered on-site testing for all employees as well,” The ADOC’s statement reads. 

On February 4 medical staff conducted 1,182 screenings at Ventress, according to the ADOC. Another 31 screenings were done on February 12. 

 “To ensure all inmates and staff are tested and appropriate follow-ups are completed, the ADOC has restricted inmate movement in and out of Ventress. However, inmates remain free to move about the facility yard as we conduct normal operations, e.g., attending classes and programming. Restrictions only apply to inmate movement from facility to facility or into the community, except in the case of an emergency,” The statement reads.

 

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Mexico isn’t paying for Trump’s border wall. Alabama is.

Josh Moon

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Looks like Mexico isn’t paying for that “big, beautiful wall” at the southern border. 

Alabama is. 

The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would be diverting more than $260 million of funds originally slated for a Navy ship building operation located in the Port of Mobile and will instead use those funds to construct a portion of Trump’s border wall. 

“I am very concerned about the impact a decision like this could have on communities like Mobile, whose ship-building workforce is second to none,” Alabama Sen. Doug Jones said. “I understand and agree we need to protect our borders, but I can’t understand for the life of me why folks in Mobile would be paying for this wall.”

The money was originally earmarked for Austal Inc., which had been selected by the Navy to build 11 Expeditionary Fast Transport ships. Those EFT ships are designed to provide the Navy with quick, shallow-water transport of both troops and equipment. 

“First and foremost, I support the President’s efforts to build the wall,” Sen. Richard Shelby said. “My strong preference is to do so through a direct appropriation, but Democrats have refused. While I am disappointed that the Department of Defense intends to target important priorities such as the Expeditionary Fast Transport, the Democrats left the President little choice in finding the funds necessary to build the wall. Ultimately, building the wall and providing for our national defense should be our highest priorities.

This is not exactly true. The 2020 Federal Budget included $1.37 billion in funding for the wall — a total agreed upon by Congress last year after tense budget negotiations. 

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To date, Trump’s wall has cost American taxpayers — who are footing the entire bill for this project, despite Trump’s promises — more than $400 million and is projected to exceed more than $11 billion at its current rate. 

Thus far, only about 110 miles of border wall has been built, and nearly all of that is replacement of the border structures that were in place. 

The goal was to erect a border wall covering the majority of an 864-mile zone that the administration deemed a priority. So far, zero miles of that zone have been completed, and the entire project has faced a number of setbacks. Most troubling is the fact that nearly half of that zone consists of privately owned lands in Texas, and the landowners have refused to sell. 

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However, the Trump administration is moving forward, continuing to push money into the project. And the search for additional funding has been almost as controversial as the project itself, with the Trump administration taking heat for pulling money from a variety of projects, including the improvement of base housing around the country. 

And now, Alabama stands to lose hundreds of millions. 

“The (transport ship) is responsible for hundreds of good-paying jobs in South Alabama, but I am even more concerned about the impact this decision has on our men and women in uniform and our national security,” Jones said. “This decision puts Alabama jobs on the line and it is going to make us less safe by denying our troops the resources they need to stay safe and fulfill their missions.”

Immigration experts also question the effectiveness of the wall on illegal immigration, and most national security experts agree that it will have little effect on the nation’s overall. 

The overwhelming majority of undocumented workers in the U.S. don’t enter through the southern border. Additionally, despite constant rhetoric from Republicans and from Trump that terrorists are crossing the Mexican border, a CATO Institute study in 2018 found that of the seven terrorism suspects apprehended in the U.S. after entering the country illegally, none crossed the southern border. Instead, they entered through Canada.

 

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Crime

House passes bill to make it a hate crime to attack law enforcement

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday that would add law enforcement officers to Alabama’s hate crimes statute. It now moves to the Senate.

The House passed HB59 by a margin of 92 to 0.

Under current law a crime become a hate crime if a person is victimized because of their race, creed, or disability. Murder to make money, in a crime of passion, or in the commission of a crime is murder. If a racist targets a person because of their race, then it become a hate crime and additional sentencing enhancements kick in under Alabama sentencing guidelines. House Bill 59 would make targeting a member of law enforcement because they are a member of law enforcement also a hate crime.

House Bill 59 is sponsored by State Representative Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville).

Reynolds said that Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall supports the legislation.

“An attack on law enforcement in Alabama is an attack on all of her citizens—an attack on all Alabamians.…” Marshall said on social media. “If you take the life the life of a law enforcement officer, you will likely have forfeited your life as well.”

Marshall stated, “To the brave men and women who wear that badge, my heroes: Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Keep fighting the good fight, because your cause is righteous. Know that you have our support and our eternal gratitude.”

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Reynolds said that attacks on law enforcement, whether it is throwing water on them, assaults, or assassinations are up across the country. “We are not going to stand for it anymore.”

State Representative Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) said, “I support the bill, but there are too many guns on the street.”

Moore proposed banning high powered rifles and AR-15s. “We need to level the playing field for them.” :We stand ready to come up with a bipartisan bill to curb the number of guns on the street. We need men and women who are not afraid of the National Rifle Association.”

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“We have got to change how police officers are treated,” said Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-Morris). “I have been to too many police funerals.”

Treadaway is a police captain with Birmingham Police Department.

“The disrespect for police officers is unprecedented,” Treadaway said. “I have been a law enforcement officer for 30 years and I have not seen anything like it. We can’t hire police. We can’t retain police.”

Rep. Artis “A. J.” McCampbell (D-Livingston) said, “We have had eight police officers killed in the last 13 months.”

“How do we enhance the crimes when we already have a capital case for the murder of a police officer?” McCampbell asked.

Reynolds said that the sentence enhancements would apply when the police were targeted; but it is not a capital crime. 6,500 police officers were assaulted last year.

Reynolds said that harming an officer while attempting to escape or resisting arrest would not qualify as a hate crime. Attacking police because the motive is hate of the police would be a hate crime and then sentencing enhancements would apply.

Reynolds said that under current law if they are convicted of a capital crime of killing the police they get the death penalty.

Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) said, “Is there a way to just give them the death penalty without going through all the appeals?”

Reynolds said, “I sure wish we could.”

Rogers said, “The death penalty should be automatic.”

Rogers daughter Mary Smith mas murdered.

“It has to be adjudicated in the court system before these enhancements would not come into play,” Reynolds said. “I hope there will come a day when a bill like this is not needed because people respect law enforcement.”

Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) said that the police, sheriffs, and other law enforcement and first responders at the thin blue line protecting us and our families.

Mooney is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

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