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Does Volkert chairman have millions of reasons to support Canary at BCA?

Bill Britt

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Perry Hand, the chairman of Mobile-based Volkert Inc., is standing behind the Business Council of Alabama’s besieged CEO Billy Canary, while his company has seen a dramatic rise in state business that roughly coincides with his tenure on the association’s board.

Could it be that Hand’s dogged support of Canary is tied to the engineering firm’s growing success in attracting tens of millions in taxpayer-funded building projects — with totals approaching $100 million since the Republican takeover in 2010?

A close look at Volkert’s state contracts finds, in just the last few years, payments have exponentially grown from $5 million in annual contracts to nearly $20 million in fiscal year 2017, with the lion’s share coming since Hand took control of BCA’s political arm, Progress PAC, which doles out campaign contributions.

Volkert is on track to break over $22 million for fiscal year 2018, a quick climb since a Volkert campaign contribution in 2013 made its way into Storming the State House PAC, controlled by then-Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, who was later convicted on felony ethics violations.

Hand almost single-handedly is working to save Canary after seven of the state’s most prestigious corporations called for his ouster on April 10 of this year. Not only is Hand defying some of BCA’s largest contributors, he is thumbing his nose at Alabama’s senior U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, who serves as the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Billy Canary out at BCA, sort of 

Last week, Alabama Political Reporter published the inner workings of a BCA executive board meeting at which seven of the state’s largest business entities insisted that Canary be removed as head of the business group. After that meeting, the executive board voted to call for Canary to step down.

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However, Hand is pushing to keep Canary on until the fall.

Opinion | The black hand behind Perry Hand

Hand refused to answer APR‘s comment about the meeting before we published. Instead, he sought out Todd Stacy, who runs the one-man operation aldailynews.com to call our report suspect.  Stacy, former communications director for Hubbard, is considered a friendly outlet for BCA-related news.

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In 2016, Hand served as second vice chairman on BCA’s board. In 2017, he was elected first vice chair and head of BCA’s campaign funding group, Progress PAC, rising to chairman in 2018.

Upon accepting the position as BCA’s chair, Hand said, “We’ll have an aggressive agenda for 2018, which will include promoting infrastructure development, BCA membership, candidate selection and business support for education excellence to create an outstanding workforce for Alabama business.”

During his presentation, Hand didn’t reveal that “an aggressive agenda … promoting infrastructure development” could benefit Volkert and him personally as its state contracts are coming from transportation and the Port Authority.

With over $96 million since the Republican takeover in 2010, Hand’s ties to major Republicans, like former Gov. Bob Riley, have feathered Volkert’s nest. Not only does it seem Volkert’s fortunes are perhaps linked to BCA, the company is also passing out campaign contribution to key politicos.

In just the 2018 election cycle, Volkert has given $50,000.00 to Gov. Kay Ivey’s election, with tens of thousand spread out to others who can give them a leg up or a pass, including Attorney General Steve Marshall, an appointee of disgraced Gov. Robert Bentley.

Republican lawmakers have sought help, convincing Hand to abandon his support of Canary, and the seven corporations that have called for Canary are poised to take action should Hand persist.

These companies, which include AT&T, Alabama Power and Blue Cross Blue Shield to name a few, are growing tired of waiting according to inside sources. And within BCA, not only the rank-in-file but past leaders are ready to see Hand driven out, as well. One former BCA board member said, “I don’t know if Hand is a stubborn #@* or just stupid. Either way, he’s betting on the wrong horse.”

Several lawmakers, who asked not to be identified, said if Hand continues his quixotic mission, Volkert might face a less than hospitable Legislature.

 

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Economy

Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan

Bill Britt

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A survey of likely Republican primary voters obtained by APR shows that a majority do not support giving the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the state despite the tribe’s promise of a billion dollars.

Over the last several months, PCI has orchestrated a massive media blitz to convince Alabamians that they have a winning plan for the state’s future in exchange for a Tribal-State compact and exclusive rights to Vegas-style casino gaming.

The survey commissioned by the Republican House and Senate caucuses and conducted by CYGNAL, a highly respected Republican polling firm, found that only 34.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters are buying what the tribe is selling. On the contrary, nearly 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan, with almost 40 percent voicing strong opposition.

Of those surveyed, females are against the plan by nearly 50 percent, with men weighing-in at almost 60 percent unfavorable to PCI’s proposal.

Perhaps most significant is that PCI’s monopoly plan was widely rejected in areas where the tribe already operates casinos. In the Mobile area, nearest Windcreek Atmore, over half of Republicans see a monopoly unfavorably. The same is true in the Montgomery area, where PCI has two gaming facilities.

Not a single big city surveyed in the state held a favorable view of PCI’s plan with Birmingham and Huntsville rejecting the tribal monopoly by almost 50 percent.

Very conservative, somewhat conservative and moderate voters didn’t view the plan as positive.

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Ninety-one percent of respondents said they defiantly would be voting in the upcoming Republican primary on March 3.

PCI has lavished money on media outlets throughout the state, garnering favorable coverage, especially on talk radio and internet outlets. The tribe has also spent freely on Republican lawmakers.

Perhaps some good news for PCI is that Republican primary voters believe that state legislators are more likely to represent special interests above the interests of their constituents.

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PCI lobbyists continue to push the tribe’s agenda at the State House in defiance of Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for no action on gaming until her study group returns its findings.

The survey found that Ivey enjoys a 76.3 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters.

 

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Elections

Opinion | It’s time for Alabama Democrats to learn from Alabama Republicans

Josh Moon

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Democrats never seem to learn from Republicans. 

All around the country, and all around the state of Alabama, Democrats are still playing by the rules. Still listening to the cries and outrage from the other side. Still entertaining the idea that compromise and diplomacy are important to Republicans on some level. 

Still watching Lucy jerk that football away at the last moment. 

It’s time that stopped. 

It is time — actually, well past time — for Democrats to adopt the attitudes of their GOP colleagues, and just do whatever the hell you want to do. 

Whatever goal you set, go achieve it. Whatever policy is important, implement it. Whatever action you believe is right, take it. 

This is how Republicans have governed now for years. It is how they have wrestled control of the U.S. Supreme Court — just don’t hold a hearing for a duly appointed candidate — and how they have stolen elections — keep blocking attempts to secure elections. It is how they control half of Congress — thanks, gerrymandering! — despite representing nearly 20 million fewer people and how they have managed to offset a growing minority vote — put up every roadblock short of a poll tax. 

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In Alabama, it has how they adopted the AAA act to funnel tax money to private schools — just completely rewrite the bill in the dead of night — and how they passed the most restrictive abortion ban — just ignore promises and public opinion. It is how they have stopped attempts to pass gambling legislation — by straight up lying about the law — and how they have steadily cut into ethics laws — pretend that no one can understand the laws they wrote themselves — and how a House Speaker convicted on 12 felonies still isn’t in prison three years later — just don’t send him. 

They don’t care. 

About rules. About the law. About public perception. About basic decency. 

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And it’s time for Democrats, especially in Alabama, to adopt the same attitudes. 

Because if Republicans can behave this way to implement racist bills and roll back ethics laws and protect the income of the elites, then Democrats shouldn’t think twice about doing it to protect rural hospitals or new mothers’ health or workers’ rights or decent public schools. 

Now, this will be a big change for Democrats, so let me explain how this would look in practice, using the ongoing saga of Confederate monuments. 

Republicans shoved through an absurd bill last year that protects the state’s monuments to those who fought to enslave other human beings, and they’re shocked — shocked and outraged — that African Americans in Alabama might find it offensive to honor the men who enslaved their ancestors. 

The bill they passed last year was a dumb bill, right down to the portion which levied a fine on cities if those cities removed or damaged a monument. The bill completely screwed up the fines portion, failing to penalize cities for moving or damaging monuments over 40 years old and failing to place a per-day fine on those cities. Instead, the Alabama Supreme Court said the cities would be subject to one $25,000 fine. 

Birmingham has a monument that it desperately wants to move. It has already boarded up the monument in Linn Park, and the ALSC, in the same ruling, ordered the boards to come down. 

And this is the first opportunity for Mayor Randall Woodfin to approach this with a new attitude. 

Tear it down. 

Write out one of those big “Price is Right” checks for $25,000, hold a press conference and award that money to Steve Marshall like he just won at Plinko. 

At the same time, workers should be taking that monument apart piece by piece and moving it to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where it can be viewed for its historical significance instead of serving to honor traitors and racists. 

No apologies. No shame. Don’t even entertain their complaints. 

A similar approach should be taken by the city of Montgomery in regards to its occupational tax, which Republicans are attempting to stop through legislative action. 

Montgomery is going broke, and it can’t put enough cops on the streets. Part of that is because every day about 70,000 people flood into the city to go to work, and then they leave each afternoon and spend their money in — and give their tax dollars to — surrounding cities and counties. 

Montgomery has to do something to offset the costs, so an occupational tax has been proposed. But just as quickly as it was, the ALGOP — the kings of handouts to people who don’t need them — passed a bill to block it. 

So, some creativity is required.

Instead of an occupational tax, pass a public safety tax. 

If you work within the city limits of Montgomery, but live outside of those city limits, your paycheck will now be taxed an extra 1 percent to offset the cost of the police and fire services that you might use while in the city every day. 

No apologies. No shame. Don’t listen to GOP complaints. 

It’s a shame that things have to be like this, but they do. Democrats have tried for decades to force rational debate and to promote the value of compromise. Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears, which have been attached to toddler-like brains that have justified atrociously selfish behaviors and awful governance. 

At this point, it has gone on so long and been so successful for Republicans, the only thing that might break through is a taste of their own medicine. 

Give it to them.

 

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House

McCutcheon not optimistic about passage of “constitutional carry” legislation

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, discussed gun legislation that could appear before the House of Representatives this year.

In past sessions, constitutional carry legislation has made it out of the Alabama Senate, but stalls in the House. This year, Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, is carrying the bill in the House. APR asked McCutcheon whether he anticipates it passing this time.

“The mood would tend to be the same that it was in the past,” McCutcheon said. “There is a bill out there now for a lifetime carry permit and a procedural check for a permit.”

McCutcheon said that under that bill a state database would be used for granting concealed carry permits instead of a local database. Each sheriff of each county would be doing things the same way by ALEA (the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency) being involved in this.

McCutcheon said that the House is “taking a very serious look at that bill.”

State Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika, and State Representative Proncey Robertson, R-Mt. Hope, pre-filed the lifetime permit bill that would establish a cohesive and statewide management level process for administering and managing concealed weapons permits in the state of Alabama. The National Rifle Association has endorsed this legislation.

Robertson’s House version is HB39. It has been assigned to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee where it is awaiting action. Price’s Senate version is SB47. It has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it is also awaiting action in committee.

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Currently, the application process and managing of applicants is different county by county. Some rural county sheriffs have issued concealed carry permits, sometimes called pistol permits, without doing background checks. This resulted last year in federal authorities revoking Alabama concealed carry permit holders from being able to buy firearms without having to go through the background check system.

The sponsors promise that this legislation would create a streamlined process of standards for Sheriff Departments to implement and will be monitored by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). This bill creates a cohesive standard for background checks and will bring 21st century technology to Sheriff’s departments and all other law enforcement agencies across the state. Sheriff departments will now have access to electronic information of which all levels of law enforcement will have access to. It will also require municipalities to start reporting those that are convicted of domestic violence as well as Probate Judges to begin reporting individuals that have been involuntarily committed. Applicants will also now have the option to apply for a concealed weapons permit for one year, five years or a lifetime permit.

Sorrell told APR on Saturday that he opposes HB39/SB47 because it creates a statewide database with all of Alabama’s concealed carry holders.

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In the State of Alabama, it is a Class A Misdemeanor to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Sorrell’s legislation, Constitutional Carry, would eliminate that crime altogether and give every Alabamian the constitutional right to carry a firearm concealed if they so choose.

State Senator Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, has introduced Constitutional Carry legislation in the State Senate; SB1. That bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it awaits committee action.

SB1 would allow all Alabama citizens who have not had their gun rights revoked to carry firearms concealed without having to have a concealed carry permit. That legislation could not get out of committee in the Senate last year.

Sorrell told APR that there is momentum in the Alabama House of Representatives for Constitutional Carry and that he hoped to have as many as twenty cosponsors when he introduces his bill.

It is currently legal in Alabama to openly carry firearms without a permit, if your gun rights have not been taken away. A citizen can lose their gun rights due to a felony conviction, being declared mentally unfit by a probate judge, or a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. While every citizen, who still has gun rights, may openly carry without a concealed carry permit; it is against the law to have a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a concealed carry permit.

Handguns must be unloaded and locked in a box or trunk out of reach. Similarly, if a person is openly carrying a handgun on their side, were to put a jacket on so that the gun was no longer visible that would also be a misdemeanor as they are now carrying concealed, unless they have a valid concealed carry permit allowing them to conceal their handgun. Persons with a concealed carry permit are allowed to have their gun on their person while riding in a motor vehicle or within reach like in the glove box, loaded or not. This does not apply to long guns (rifles and shotguns). All Alabama citizens, who still have their gun rights, may carry their shotgun or rifle with them in their vehicle, without having to obtain a concealed carry permit to exercise that right.

To get your concealed carry permit you must go to the sheriff’s department in your home county. The fee varies from county to county.

Twenty percent of adult Alabamians have a concealed carry permit, the highest rate in the country. The Alabama Sheriff’s Association have steadfastly opposed Constitutional Carry legislation. According to the National Association for Gun Rights, fifteen states, including Mississippi, have Constitutional Carry already.

 

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Elections

Maggie’s List endorses Jessica Taylor in 2nd Congressional District

Brandon Moseley

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Maggie’s List, a national political action committee dedicated to electing conservative women to federal office, endorsed Jessica Taylor in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.

Sandra B. Mortham is the Chairman of Maggie’s List and the former Florida secretary of state.

“Jessica Taylor is a proven leader who brings dedication and heart to Alabama,” Mortham said. “We know Jessica is the right person to represent Alabama’s Second congressional district in Washington because she respects the need for increased personal responsibility, fiscal conservatism, and will help move Alabama forward.”

“As the Alabama Chairwoman of Maggie List, I am proud that the organization has officially endorsed Jessica Taylor for Congressional District 2 here in Alabama,” said Alabama Chairwoman Claire H. Austin. “Jessica holds the conservative policy values as a fiscal conservative, less government spending, and more personal responsibility, and a strong national defense. Jessica will stand strong in Washington for our conservative Alabama values.”

Jessica Taylor thanked Maggie’s List for the endorsement.

“I am humbled to be chosen as one of the 12 conservatives women endorsed by Maggie’s List,” Taylor said. “I entered this race because I am sick and tired of far-left radicals like AOC, Ilhan Omar, and the rest of “The Squad”, thinking that Democrats can have a monopoly of the women’s vote. I put together the Conservative Squad to challenge that narrative and fight back. It’s an honor to have the support of Maggie’s List. I look forward to working with them and conservative women around the country to take back the house in 2020!”

The criteria for an endorsement from Maggie’s List includes electoral viability as well as a commitment to promoting fiscal conservatism, less government, more personal responsibility, and strong national security.

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To date, Jessica Taylor has been endorsed by Maggie’s List, Empower America Project, Susan B. Anthony List, former Arkansas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Winning for Women, VIEW PAC, Empower America Project, and former Second Congressional candidate Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville).

Jessica Taylor is married to former State Senator Bryan Taylor. The Taylors live in Prattville with their four children. She has her own business which helps small businesses and nonprofits apply for government grants.

Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby is not seeking another term representing the Second Congressional District.

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