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Americans for Tax Reform: Tax reform produced good news for Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Americans for Tax Reform are promoting the benefits that Americans received from passage of the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which passed the Congress and signed by President Donald J. Trump (R) last year. Ninety percent of wage earners have higher take-home pay today due to the landmark legislation.

Senator Richard Shelby (R) voted yes on the tax cuts.

The tax cuts benefitted many workers in Alabama. Americans for Tax Reform has prepared a partial list that includes:

Overseas Hardwoods Company in Stockton, Alabama) paid $1,000 tax reform bonuses to employees. Sabel Steel in Montgomery is expanding facilities, hiring new employees, and providing pay increases for most of its 230 employees.

“When you’re a business, there are a lot of things to consider,” said Sabel Steel President and CEO Keith Sabel. “Taxes are a large part of it.”
Because the tax rate for companies like Sabel Steel, a family-owned steel distributor, has been lowered under tax reform, Sabel is able to maximize the benefits for his company.

“We gave a raise to everyone across the board,” said Sabel. “We improved everyone’s pay. We have incentives for as many workers as possible. If they meet or beat expectations, we’re making sure they’re rewarded. We have quality perks. Good insurance. Good benefits. We’re constantly trying to improve, and now we’re able to. Morale is very good. We’re a family business, and we run it like a family business—where we take the time to get to know people, their families. I try to look out for my employees all the time.”

Sabel Steel plans to reinvest its tax reform savings in its business by expanding and upgrading facilities in Newnan, Georgia, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and adding new equipment that will make its facilities more productive and innovative, including purchasing a new plasma machine for its plant in Theodore, Alabama, a machine that offers smoother and more efficient steel-cutting techniques. It also plans to make further upgrades to its equipment as needed and plans to hire more workers.

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Cogent Building Group in Point Clear paid $2,000 bonuses for all four employees.

American Proteins Inc. based in Cumming, Georgia has 700 employees at its operations in Georgia and Alabama. It announced it would give employees $1,000 bonuses “in response to the tax reform package signed into law earlier this year.”

“President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress have reduced taxes for businesses and individuals and I’m excited what this means for our company and its employees,” said American Proteins Inc. Chairman Tommy Bagwell.

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Otelco in Oneonta realized a benefit of over $0.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017. The reduced maximum tax rate also lowered the Company’s deferred tax liabilities and raised net income for the quarter and year.

“We recently announced to our employees that everyone would be receiving a special bonus of $500,” said Otelco President and CEO Rob Souza. “Coupled with the lower tax withholding rate that most employees should experience, everyone should start 2018 with more take home pay.

Alabama Power Company announced that its customers will see a reduction in their bills because of the federal income tax cut. The Alabama Public Service Commission announced that the reduction in 2018 will be for $257 million, about a 9 percent cut. The reduction took effect in July and continued through December.

“This is a great day for Alabama consumers and taxpayers,” PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said.

Protective Life Corporation in Birmingham raised their base wage to $15 per hour and paid $1,000 bonuses to 75 percent of its employees.
Russell Lands in Alexander City, Alabama paid $500 bonuses to about 400 full-time non-management staff.

“We are thrilled that our company is strong, the economy is good, and that our national leaders recently approved a tax plan that should be very positive for all of us,” said Chairman Ben Russell. “This is a token of the company’s, and my personal, genuine appreciation for what our folks have done to make Russell Lands such a great company. It’s because of our employees’ efforts that we have been able to accomplish so much.”

Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc. in Abbeville began an active and ongoing process to increase employee benefits by reinvesting its tax savings in its people, the company has announced. The company expects full implementation to take place in 2018. This includes lowering healthcare costs for eligible employees, allowing employees to accrue more paid time off based on length of service, developing scholarships for dependents of employees and enhancing other benefits.

“I’m very pleased that every employee across the company will see the results of the change in tax laws,” said Greater Southern Wood founder, President and CEO Jimmy Rane. “The success we’ve enjoyed as a company comes from every one of us working hard and doing our part, and I can’t think of a better way to apply our tax savings than by further investing in benefits programs for our employees. We strive to be an employer that draws the best and brightest to our company, and we believe that providing stronger benefits is essential to this continuing effort.”

Great Southern has almost 1,200 employees at locations in Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida.

Regions Financial Corporation in Birmingham raised their base wage to $15 per hour; made $40 million in charitable donations; and spent $100 million on capital expenditures.

“Regions is making these investments in anticipation of the savings it will recognize as a result of federal tax reform intended to support economic growth,” Regions said in a press release.

DTI Partners Inc. in Mobile paid $1,000 bonuses to its full-time employees and $300 bonuses to its part-time employees.

“The tax bill was the primary reason we were able to do this as a company,” said DTI CEO Tom Busby. “The bonuses were a great morale booster. We are a very small company but we believe this will help us grow in the long run.”

Xante Corporation in Mobile handed out $1,200 bonus checks to most of its employees. CEO Robert Ross thanked the Republican tax reform bill and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose).

Xante provides high-end printers and related software for use by professional graphics and printing operations and employs a little over 100 people in Mobile and about 15 more in Europe. Ross said that anyone who’d been with the company for a year or more was getting a $1,200 bonus, while those employed less than a year were getting a different amount. The company has additional plans for money saved as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

T.J. Maxx, which has 25 stores in Alabama paid its worldwide eligible associates a one-time, discretionary bonus, an incremental contribution to the Company’s defined contribution retirement plan, provided parental leave, and enhanced vacation benefits for certain U.S. Associates. The company also made meaningful contributions to TJX’s charitable foundations around the world.

AT&T has 5,071 Alabama-based employees. The company paid them $1,000 bonuses and announced a $1 billion increase in nationwide capital expenditures.

Walmart has 144 retail locations in Alabama and over 22,000 Alabama-based Walmart and Sam’s Club employees. They are receiving wage increases as well as tax reform bonuses ranging from $200 to $1,000 for a statewide total of $37,111,483. The starting wage rate was raised for all hourly employees to $11 an hour. The company also announced expanded maternity and parental leave as well as $5,000 for adoption expenses.

Apple, which has store locations in Birmingham and Huntsville, paid its Alabama-based employees $2,500 bonuses in the form of restricted stock units. Nationally, Apple announced that it plans $30 billion in additional capital expenditures and 20,000 new hires as well as increased support for coding education and science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Apple also promised increased U.S. manufacturing.

BancorpSouth Bank has 30 branch locations in Alabama, announced pay increases and /or one-time bonuses to nearly all non-commissioned employees. The investment of over $10 million in 2018 will benefit 96 percent of the Company’s non-commissioned workforce.

“We are proud to reward our team with this opportunity since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act should benefit everyone” said BancorpSouth Chairman and CEO Dan Rollins. “BancorpSouth’s continued and future success is based on the economic vitality of the communities we serve and taking care of our teammates allows us to provide the very best service to our customers, communities and shareholders.”

70 percent of BancorpSouth employees received higher compensation and 20 percent received $1000 bonuses. BancorpSouth employs 4,000 people in more than 230 locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas, plus an insurance location in Illinois.

Home Depot, which has 28 locations in Alabama, paid bonuses to all hourly employees of up to $1,000.

“This incremental investment in our associates was made possible by the new tax reform bill,” the company announced.

Cintas Corporation, with multiple locations in Alabama, paid $1,000 bonuses for employees of at least a year and $500 bonuses for employees of less than a year.

Comcast, with multiple locations in Alabama, paid $1,000 bonuses to all its employees and announced at least $50 billion infrastructure investment over the next five years.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, with multiple locations in Alabama, paid bonuses ranging from $250 to $1,000; increased employee benefits; and announced $50 million investment in its existing restaurants.

Ryder, with seventeen locations in Alabama, announced tax reform bonuses for its employees.

Starbucks Coffee Company, with Multiple locations in Alabama, announced $500 stock grants for all retail employees, $2,000 stock grants for store managers, and varying plan and support center employee stock grants. The company announced 8,000 new retail jobs and an additional wage increase this year, totaling approximately $120 million in wage increases, increased sick time benefits and parental leave.

U-Haul, which has multiple locations in Alabama, paid $1,200 bonuses to full-time employees and $500 for part-time employees.

Wells Fargo, which has 125 bank locations in Alabama, raised their base wage from $13.50 to $15.00 per hour; announced $400 million nationally in charitable donations; and $100 million in increased capital investment over the next three years.

Republicans passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Democrats have vowed to repeal the bill.

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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Economy

Governor announces auto supplier IAC plans Alabama expansion

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that International Automotive Components Group North America Inc. plans to invest over $55.9 million in expansion projects that will create 182 jobs at two Alabama facilities.

“International Automotive Components is a leading global auto supplier, and I am pleased that this world-class company is growing significantly in Alabama and creating good jobs in Cottondale and Anniston,” Ivey said. “IAC’s growth plans show that Alabama’s dynamic auto industry continues to expand despite today’s challenging environment.”

Nick Skwiat is the executive vice president and president of IAC North America.

“Alabama was the logical choice due to its skilled workforce and proximity to the customer,” Skwiat said. “We are excited to see the continued growth of the automotive industry in Alabama and we plan to grow right along with it. We thank the Governor and Secretary Canfield for their leadership in this sector.”

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County. This facility will produce door panels and overhead systems for original equipment manufacturers. That project will create 119 jobs at the production site in Cottondale.

IAC also plans to invest $21.6 million at its manufacturing facility located in the former Fort McClellan in Anniston. That East Alabama project will create another 63 jobs.

This project builds on a milestone 2014 expansion that doubled the size of the Calhoun County facility. There IAC manufactures automotive interior components and systems. Key components produced at the Anniston plant include door panels, trim systems and instrument panels for original equipment manufacturers.

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IAC Group is a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable instrument panels, consoles, door panels, overhead systems, bumper fascias and exterior ornamentation for original equipment manufacturers.

IAC is headquartered in Luxembourg and has more than 18,000 employees at 67 locations in 17 countries. The company operates manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states.

“With operations around the globe, IAC is the kind of high-performance company that we want in Alabama’s auto supply chain to help fuel sustainable growth,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We look forward to working with IAC and facilitating its future growth in this strategic industrial sector.”

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Danielle Winningham is the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.

“International Automotive Components is a valued part of Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector,” Winningham said. “We are grateful for IAC’s investment in our community and the career opportunities available to our area workforce as a result of their investment.”

“The City of Anniston is excited that IAC has made the decision to expand here. I have enjoyed working with the leadership at IAC, the Calhoun County EDC, and the state of Alabama to get this project finalized,” said Anniston Mayor Jack Draper. “This is even further evidence that Anniston is indeed open for business.”

Only Michigan has more automobile manufacturing jobs than the state of Alabama. Honda, Mercedes, Hyundai, Polaris, Toyota and soon Mazda all have major automobile assembly plants in the state of Alabama.

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National

AUM poll suggests Alabamians divided on prison reform proposals

90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on what efforts should be pursued.

Brandon Moseley

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Last week, a poll by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration found that approximately 90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on which reform efforts should be pursued.

  • 36.6 percent: “Reduce or eliminate criminal sentences for non-violent crimes.”
  • 30.3 percent: “Parole inmates convicted of non-violent crimes.”
  • 25.9 percent: “Increase funding to improve existing prison facilities.”
  • 21.4 percent: “Construct new prisons to be operated by the state.”
  • 14.5 percent: “Contract with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease to operate.”
  • 27.5 percent: “Increase funding for prison staff such as correctional officers, healthcare providers, educators, etc.”
  • 15.2 percent: “Increase funding for probation officers.”
  • 9.9 percent: “I support none of these options.”

The totals do not add up to 100 because it was a “select all that apply” poll.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan of signing a decades-long lease with private prison contractors was the least popular idea. Repairing the existing prisons 25.9 percent support while constructing new prisons had just 21.4 percent support.

The most popular prison reform measures, according to AUM poll director David Hughes, address prison overcrowding through criminal sentencing reforms.

“Approximately 37 percent of respondents support policies to reduce or eliminate sentences for non-violent offenders, and another 30 percent support paroling inmates convicted of non-violent crimes,” Hughes said.

The governor has included justice reform proposals in her all-encompassing plan. Those proposals were going to be considered by the Legislature in the 2020 legislative session but because of the coronavirus, the 2020 legislative session was cut short and the Legislature went home without addressing that or many other issues.

Much less popular is Ivey’s plan to build three new mega-prisons in Escambia, Elmore and Bibb counties.

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“Only 21 percent of respondents supported a proposal to build new prisons the state would then directly operate,” Hughes said. “The least popular proposal we polled involved the state contracting with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease. Only 14 percent of respondents approved of this reform measure.”

The state has grossly underfunded its prison system for decades and the Alabama Department of Corrections is still dangerously overcrowded and understaffed, despite recent efforts by the Legislature to deal with its chronic underfunding of the system.

A U.S. Justice Department investigation begun by the Obama administration and concluded by the Trump administration declared that the state has the most dangerous prison system in the country. The prisons are plagued by rampant drug use, extreme violence, and the prisons have not done a good job at preparing prisoners to return to society.

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The poor track record of rehabilitating prisoners means that inmates are released without job skills, education and still battling mental health issues and drug dependency. Too many inevitably reoffend and get sent back to prison exacerbating the overcrowding situation.

The U.S. Department of Justice warned the state in July that it was violating prisoners’ constitutional rights and that the attorney general may file or join lawsuits to intervene. A federal court has already found that the prisons were understaffed by a thousand guards and that inmates were not receiving necessary mental health care.

The AUM Poll was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3. It solicited online participation from 1,072 registered voters in Alabama. Respondents were weighted according demographic factors such as age, gender, race, education and income to produce a more representative sample of Alabama’s voting age population.

The survey has a 4-point margin of error.

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Courts

Aderholt fully supports Barrett’s confirmation process

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Robert Aderholt

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, updated his constituents on the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Aderholt said, “I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms.”

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

“Senate Democrats are not seriously questioning Judge Barrett on her credentials, instead they have decided to attack her character and her beliefs,” Aderholt said. “I am disappointed to see this unfold on the national stage, but I think Judge Barrett stood strong and did well during this first week of hearings.”

“While I do not have a vote in her confirmation process, I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms when she is officially sworn in as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court,” Aderholt said.

Barrett is a Notre Dame graduate, has served on the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals and is a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate,” Barrett said. “His judicial philosophy is mine, too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

Barrett vowed to keep an open mind on any matter that comes before the court, though Democrats fear she is prepared to overturn Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

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That the Republican controlled committee will recommend that Barrett be confirmed appears certain. A vote to confirm Barrett to the nation’s highest court by the full Senate could occur just days ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

President Donald Trump has been the president of the United States for less than four years but if Barrett is confirmed, then he will have selected one third of the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett fills a place created by the death of the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.

Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Elections

Coalition of attorneys general file opposition to Alabama attempt to ban curbside voting

The AGs argue that Alabama’s suggestion to the courts that curbside voting invites fraud is “unfounded.” 

Eddie Burkhalter

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A coalition of 17 state attorneys general have filed an opposition to Alabama’s attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to ban curbside voting. 

In a friend-of-the-court brief, led by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, the attorneys general argue to that curbside voting is safer for those at greatest risk from COVID-19, and that a ban on the practice would disproportionately impact the elderly, the disabled and Black Alabamians.

They also argue that Alabama’s suggestion to the courts that curbside voting invites fraud is “unfounded.” 

“The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, established by President Trump following the 2016 election, ‘uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud,’” the brief states, adding that there is no evidence that curbside voting in the many states that allow it invites fraud. 

“The practice is longstanding and widespread—as noted, more than half of states have historically offered curbside voting in some form,” the brief continues. 

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Oct. 13 said the state will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal appeals court ruling allowing curbside voting in the Nov. 3 election. 

A panel of federal appeals court judges on Oct. 13 reversed parts of U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s Sept. 30 ordered ruling regarding absentee voting in the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, but the judges let the previous ruling allowing curbside voting to stand. 

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The lawsuit, filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, was brought on behalf of several Alabamians with underlying medical conditions. 

“Curbside voting is a longstanding, secure voting option that local jurisdictions have made available to protect the health of vulnerable voters, including elderly, disabled, and voters with underlying health issues,” Racine said in a statement. “Curbside voting minimizes the risk to persons who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, and local jurisdictions should be able to offer this common-sense accommodation to voters. State Attorneys General will keep fighting to ensure that voters can safely make their voices heard at the ballot box this November.”

The brief filed by the coalition of state attorneys general comes as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations across Alabama has been ticking upward.

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Racine is joined in the brief by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

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