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Georgia celebrates lottery’s 25th anniversary, Gov. Ivey supports letting people vote

Bill Britt

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Last week, Georgia celebrated the 25th anniversary of its state education lottery, which has helped send more than 3 million Georgia kids to college and pre-K programs.

At the recent recognition ceremony, Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal remembered the personal dilemma he faced when the state assembly needed a two-thirds majority to pass legislation to let the public vote on a constitutional amendment that would allow for a state lottery.

“I wrestled with the issue, as did many people in the General Assembly,” Deal said, according to AJC. “And I finally decided I shouldn’t let my personal conviction take away the opportunity for the general public on the issue.”

In Alabama — where residents have spent millions over the last 25 years snapping up lottery tickets and scratch-off cards, helping send Georgia’s young people to college and fund its pre-K programs — Republican Gov. Kay Ivey has wrestled with the same question as Deal.

On Monday, the Alabama Political Reporter asked Gov. Kay Ivey’s office if she believes it’s time for Alabama to look at implementing a lottery.

“Governor Ivey fully supports the people’s right to vote on a constitutional amendment to allow a lottery,” said Ivey spokesperson, Daniel Sparkman.

It was the first public pronouncement by Ivey that she would back a lottery vote.

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Gov. Ivey’s Democratic rival, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, has made passing a statewide lottery part of his campaign promises if elected governor in November.

“We can do this type of investment, $300 million-plus, without raising a single dime of taxes,” said Maddox. “All we have to do is have the courage of convictions to let the people of Alabama vote on this very important measure to Alabama’s future.”

Deal said 25 years later, he’s glad he chose to trust the people to decide on a state lottery.

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Gov. Ivey seems poised to follow her Republican friend’s example and let the people decide on a lottery.

There is some speculation that Gov. Ivey may call a special session that would allow for a constitutional amendment to be on the ballot for November’s general election. With Alabama facing massive budget shortfalls in the next fiscal year, and with no hope of raising taxes to fill the void, the prospect of lottery funds is tantalizing. Because the millions are certainly there for the taking, judging by the figures from our neighbors.

In Fiscal Year 2017, the Georgia Lottery remitted $27.1 million to the Georgia Department of Revenue in tax withholdings from lottery prizes, according to Georgia Lottery Corporation.

In the last school year alone, 176,000 students attended colleges in Georgia on the HOPE Scholarship Program, receiving $422.9 million in lottery proceeds. The lottery employs approximately 360 individuals in eight offices across the state. Additionally, retail lottery partners use over 50,000 clerks. Georgia’s Pre-K program received $365 million in lottery proceeds last year with more than 84,000 four-year-olds currently receiving a jump start to their education.

Alabama remains one of just a handful of states that doesn’t offer a lottery, while its citizens rush to neighboring states, like Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, to purchase lottery tickets providing thousands of those state’s young people with a better opportunity to receive a quality education.

Tennessee recently used its lottery proceeds to make community colleges in the state free to Tennessee residents. It also has dumped millions into pre-K and advanced preschool programs. Florida, in the meantime, has sent more than 775,000 young people to college on its Bright Futures scholarship program. And shortly after implementing the lottery, Florida also removed its state taxes on gas and food.

 

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Elections

Jones introduces bill to encourage investments in minority-serving banks

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones

U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Tuesday introduced legislation that would encourage investments in banks that serve minority communities. 

“One of the biggest hurdles for minority entrepreneurs is access to capital,” Jones said in a statement. “That’s why this bill is so important. Increasing access to capital at the banks that serve minority communities will help expand financial opportunities for individuals and business owners in those communities.” 

Jones, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, in April urged the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury to support Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and minority-owned banks disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and he threw his support behind more federal funding for small community banks, minority-owned banks and CDFIs during the recent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) replenishment. 

According to a press release from Jones’s office, the bill would attract investments to those financial institutions by changing rules to allow “minority-owned banks, community banks with under $10 billion in deposits” and CDFIs to accept brokered deposits, or investments with high interest rates, thereby bolstering those institutions and encourage them to invest and lend in their communities. It would also allow low-income and minority credit unions to access the National Credit Union Administration’s Community Development Revolving Loan Fund.

“Commonwealth National Bank would like to thank Senator Jones for his leadership in introducing the Minority Depository Institution and Community Bank Deposit Access Act. As a small Alabama home grown institution, this proposal will allow us to accept needed deposits without the current limitations that hinder our ability to better serve the historically underserved communities that our institutions were created to serve. We support your efforts and encourage you to keep fighting the good fight for all of America,” said Sidney King, president and CEO of Commonwealth National Bank, in a statement. 

 “The Minority Depository Institution and Community Bank Deposit Access Act is a welcomed first step in helping Minority Depository Institutions like our National Bankers Association member banks develop the kinds of national deposit networks that allow our institutions to compete for deposits with larger banks and to better meet the credit needs of the communities we serve. The National Bankers Association commends Senator Jones’ leadership on this issue, and we look forward to continuing to engage with him on the ultimate passage of this proposal,” said Kenneth Kelly, chairman of the National Bankers Association, in a statement.

A recent report by the Brookings Institute highlighted problems minority-owned businesses had accessing federal COVID-19 relief aid from PPP loans. Researchers found that it took seven days longer for small businesses with paid employees in majority Black zip codes to receive PPP loans, compared to majority-white communities. That gap grew to three weeks for non-employer minority-owned small businesses, the report notes.

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The report also states that while minority-owned small businesses, many of which which are unbanked or underbanked, get approximately 80 percent of their loans from financial technology companies (fintechs) and online lending companies,  fintechs weren’t allowed under federal law to issue PPP loans until April 14.

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Crime

SPLC report: Despite COVID-19 deaths, Alabama isn’t releasing older, at-risk inmates

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center published Tuesday found that almost 200 older state inmates, at greater risk from COVID-19, were eligible for parole, but either had no hearing or were denied parole over the summer. 

Alabama’s three-member Board of Pardons and Paroles denied parole for 44 people who were 65 and older over the summer, SPLC’s report states, and a dozen of the more than 1,100 older inmates identified in a previous SPLC report have since died, either from COVID-19 or other illnesses. 

“Despite confirming the deaths, it remains unclear whether the cause could have been COVID-19 as ADOC would not provide information about those individuals in response to a public records request, citing ongoing internal investigations,” the report reads. 

The SPLC and several other criminal justice reform groups urged the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) and the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to take steps to release at-risk inmates as the coronavirus pandemic began, through medical parole, medical furloughs, and judicial sentence reviews, but to date, no such larger push to release inmates has taken place. 

According to ADOC, 22 inmates have died after testing positive for COVID-19. SPLC’s report notes that many of the inmates who died had underlying health conditions, which were well known to prison officials. 

The Parole Board denied parole to more than three dozen inmates 65 or older since restarting parole hearings in May, according to the report. 

“The BPP stopped paroles starting in March, against the demands of activists and legislators who pointed out that hearings could be done virtually. Hundreds of scheduled parole hearings were cancelled. After its hiatus, the BPP scheduled relatively few hearings throughout the summer compared to years past,” authors of the report wrote.

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Elections

Tuberville campaign: Democrats’ criticism on Hurricane Sally was false

Brandon Moseley

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Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville (TUBERVILLE CAMPAIGN)

Alabama Democratic Party executive Director Wade Perry last week released a statement criticizing GOP Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville for being silent on Hurricane Sally. In response, Tuberville’s campaign manager, Paul Shashy slammed the ADP saying that their statement was untrue.

Shashy shared with the Alabama Political Reporter a recording from a radio interview with Jack Campbell on 93.1 FM in Montgomery that Tuberville made the morning after Hurricane Sally.

“Before we go any farther I want to say this, our prayers go out to the people down south, because I am telling you, we don’t really understand what they are going through,” Tuberville said. “I went through a hurricane when I was down in Miami coaching. We went through Hurricane Andrew and it was devastating for months.”

“I have talked with some mayors there. I have called them. I actually just texted them,” Tuberville said. “They are real busy. I want to let them know that we are here for them. I would go down there and work if I could; but I probably would just be in the way.”

“People are now going in from the power companies, the National Guard these people going in checking houses that are flooded,” Tuberville continued. “I have got people down there whose homes are gone. They literally washed them out.”

“It was kind of like Michael a couple of years ago, the one that hit Panama City,” Tuberville said. “Right before it gets to the land it pick picked up speed. It went from a one to a two. The wind is a problem; but it is really the rain that gets you in a hurricane. They got a double punch from that.”

“People don’t realize this; but it really is the county commissioners who are really in charge, and they get it all going along with the mayors and they also have an emergency person in charge who works along with the Commission,” Tuberville explained. “This is not their first rodeo down there. They know what is coming. You can’t prevent it. You just hope people get out of harm’s way.”

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“There are actually more people killed after it,” Tuberville warned. “They get out too early. They try to do too much. They get on a roof and fall off. You have got to be careful.”

Hurricane Sally came ashore before dawn on Wednesday on September 16 as a category 2 hurricane near Gulf Shores. FEMA and President Donald Trump have declared Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile Counties a disaster area.

Tommy Tuberville is a former college football coach, best known for his tenure as the Auburn University head Coach. Tuberville also had stops as the head coach of: Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati as well as stops as defensive coordinator at Miami and Texas A&M.

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Coach Tuberville is challenging incumbent Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, in the November 3 General Election. Republicans are hopeful that Tuberville can unseat Jones, the only Democrat currently holding a statewide office in the state of Alabama.

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National

Sewell’s Caribbean trade bill passes House with unanimous support

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Tuesday, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma) applauded the passage of H.R. 991, a bipartisan bill, she introduced to reauthorize the U.S. Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA). The legislation passed the House by unanimous voice vote.

H.R. 991 extends the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act through 2030.

The CBTPA is a preferential trade agreement that provides for duty and quota-free access for apparel products manufactured in designated beneficiary Caribbean Basin region countries. CBTPA also requires that Caribbean Basin countries use U.S. formed yarns, fabrics, and thread. The CBTPA was first enacted in 2000 and is currently authorized through September 30, 2020. Eligible CBTPA countries include Barbados, Belize, Curacao, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“As the lead sponsor of the legislation to reauthorize the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, I am thrilled that Congress is taking action on this issue before the program expires at the end of the month,” said Rep. Sewell. “CBTPA is such an important economic tool for the United States and each of our partner countries, and it is critical to our continued diplomatic relationships in the Caribbean Basin. The bipartisan effort to reauthorize this program will allow us to export more American-made goods and strengthen Western supply chains, while contributing to economic development and job creation in Haiti and other countries throughout the Caribbean Basin region. I am grateful for its passage by unanimous voice vote in the House, and I urge the Senate to take up this bill before the September 30th deadline. ”

“I am incredibly grateful for Congresswoman Sewell’s commitment to economic prosperity in the Republic of Haiti and the Caribbean region,” said Ambassador Herve Denis. “The Extension of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), H.R. 991, which has received bipartisan and bicameral support, is a testament to Congress’ unwavering support for working families in Haiti and CARICOM countries. This legislation has created countless jobs and generated billions of dollars in revenue over the past decade.”

“Furthermore, CBTPA would play a crucial role in strengthening the supply chains for PPEs and textiles in response to COVID-19, making America less dependent on nations outside the Western Hemisphere,” Herve said. “With the issues regarding China, Haiti hopes and expects to benefit from the “Near-Shoring” concept introduced by Congress. Together, we can continue to strengthen bilateral trade relations between two of the oldest republics in the Americas.”

“I’m proud to support our nation’s trade preference programs, which bolster further economic expansion in developing nations and support jobs here in America – a true win-win scenario,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), the Republican lead co-sponsor. “In particular, our bipartisan bill to extend the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act accomplishes that goal in the Caribbean, providing trade benefits to eight Caribbean nations, most notably Haiti. I want to thank Congresswoman Terri Sewell for partnering with me on this important legislation and urge the Senate to consider it without delay.”

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The Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) and the CBTPA are collectively known as the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). The two acts work together to facilitate the development of 17 independent countries of the Caribbean Basin region.

Eligible CBERA countries include: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

On September 4, the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) and National Cotton Council (NCC) sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of two key congressional committees voicing their support for passing the reauthorization of the CBTPA.

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Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. She has no Republican opponent in the November 3 general election.

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