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Shelby, Jones vote for passage of the Farm Bill

Brandon Moseley

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The U.S. Senate voted in favor of passage of the conference committee version of H.R. 2, the 2018 Farm Bill. Both Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and Doug Jones (D-Alabama) voted in favor of passage of the bipartisan legislation.

“This bipartisan legislation provides much-needed predictability that will significantly benefit our state’s farmers and the entire agriculture industry,” said Senator Shelby. “I look forward to the lasting positive impact this bill with have on rural areas throughout Alabama and the nation.”

“This is a Farm Bill for rural Alabama and rural America,” said Senator Jones. “I’m proud that the final legislation ensures that our farmers have the support and resources they need to continue to do their important work. It also addresses several urgent issues for our state, particularly the need for expanded rural health care and broadband access. Since I arrived in the Senate in January, I’ve worked closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as well as farmers from across Alabama, to advocate for a strong Farm Bill for all of our rural communities. This bill reflects the priorities we share for a brighter and more secure future for Alabama.”

Shelby’s office said that the 2018 Farm Bill improves the crop insurance program, helps expand rural broadband initiatives, and includes many of the cotton industry’s priorities such as the continuation of the Seed Cotton program.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones today supported passage of a final Farm Bill that includes several key priorities for Alabama that he championed. The bill is the result of months of bipartisan negotiations in the Senate and House.

The Congress passes a Farm Bill and is only once every five years.

Jones’ office says that it strengthens important commodity safety net programs and other protections for farmers who take on this risky and costly venture. It also provides increased funding for communities across the country and addresses issues from rural development to conservation to food assistance and more.

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The Farm Bill includes several specific provisions that were championed by Senator Jones for Alabama’s rural communities.

These include: The Rural Health Liaison Act (S. 2894) which establishes a rural health liaison at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to better coordinate federal resources and expand health care access to Americans who have for too long struggled to receive quality, affordable care in their own communities.

The Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act (S.2772) expands the USDA’s Household Water Well System Grant Program to provide grants of up to $15,000 to low- and moderate-income households in rural areas for installing or maintaining individually-owned decentralized wastewater systems.

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The Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act (S. 1676) which increases the authorization from $25 million to $350 million annually for the USDA to provide loans and loan guarantees for broadband services in rural communities.

The Community Connect Grant Program Act (S. 2654) which authorizes $50 million annually for the USDA Community Connect Program, which provides broadband grants targeted to the most rural, unserved, and high-poverty communities in the country. The program expands high-speed internet by providing new grants that will connect unserved households and businesses with modern internet access and streamlines broadband application process.

The Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers Act (S. 3117) requires the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to provide farm numbers to farmers with certain documentation, including in concert with Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Laws in some states. The bill also authorizes FSA to make loans to qualified intermediaries to re-lend to families seeking to resolve heirs’ property issues.

The Assist Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Act (S.2839) and the Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S. 2762). These two bills were combined to create permanent, mandatory baseline funding to educate the next generation of farmers and reach more minority farmers.

Agriculture is Alabama’s top revenue-producing industry, generating an annual impact of over $70 billion. With over nine million acres of farmland and more than 48,500 farms, the state is a national leader in food production and a global competitor in the poultry, catfish, timber, cotton, and livestock industries.

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Alabama, Oregon groups move to join legal fight over Equal Rights Amendment

Eddie Burkhalter

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Organizations in Alabama and Oregon have asked a federal judge to let them join in the legal fight over the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 

Mia Raven, policy director for the grassroots Alabama reproductive rights group the Yellowhammer Fund, and founder of the People Organizing for Women’s Empowerment & Rights (P.O.W.E.R.) House in Montgomery, is joined by the Oregon-based nonprofit VoteERA.org and its president and founder, Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, in the filing of a motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit. 

Alabama’s attorney general Steve Marshall in December 2019 joined attorneys general for Louisiana and South Dakota as plaintiffs in a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama that argues that the deadline to ratify the amendment has expired. 

The Equal Rights Amendment, if ratified by a 38th state, would ban discrimination based on sex. Proponents of the amendment hope that Virginia’s new Democratic majority means a second chance for the protections for women. 

Congress passed the amendment in 1972 and five years later it was ratified by 35 states, but the deadline to gain the needed 38 states passed in 1979, so Congress extended the deadline to 1982. 

Nevada in 2017 became the 36th state to ratify it, and was followed by Illinois in 2018.

“We have worked for decades seeking to ensure the ratification of the federal ERA.  Our decision to seek to intervene in the states’ pending lawsuit is a reflection of our persistent devotion to guaranteeing equal rights under the law for all people.” said DiLorenzo and Raven in a joint statement. 

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Attempts to reach Raven for comment were unsuccessful. 

Since the lawsuit was filed, attorneys general in Tennessee and Nebraska have joined Alabama as plaintiffs fighting ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 

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Shelby: Administration is “lowballing” the cost of the coronavirus

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, the Trump Administration asked the Congress for an additional $2.5 billion for planning for a possible coronavirus outbreak in the United States. U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) accused the administration of “lowballing” the actual cost.

Shelby is the Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

“It seems to me at the outset that this request for the money, the supplemental, is lowballing it, possibly, and you can’t afford to do that,” Shelby told HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday during a hearing on the agency’s budget request. “If you lowball something like this, you’ll pay for it later.”

Shelby told reporters afterward he doesn’t have a new number in mind but that it will be “higher” than the $2.5 billion requested by HHS.

Azar said the administration would work with Congress if lawmakers think more money is needed.

“We’ll be of the mindset to fund this crisis, not to underfund it in any way, and I hope this administration would look at this as something they cannot afford to let get out of hand,” Azar said.

The Trump administration’s request includes $1.25 billion in new funding. The rest to be taken from existing health programs, including $535 million from fighting Ebola. Coronaviruses are a normal occurrence throughout the animal kingdom. This virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in December. It is believed that the disease originally existed in bats, which are a food source in China. Since then over 80,000 people have contracted the illness in 37 countries and over 2,700 have died. Researchers are referring to this strain of the coronavirus as COVID-19.

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that at that point it appears that it is inevitable that the virus will come to America.

“Disruption to everyday life might be severe,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The U.S. currently has 57 cases of COVID-19. 40 of those are Americans who were former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. On Friday, the administration suggested that some of those infected Americans could be treated at a federal facility in Anniston. A plan that local officials and the Alabama Congressional delegation both urged the administration to reject.

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On Sunday, Shelby said, “I just got off the phone with the President. He told me that his administration will not be sending any victims of the Coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston, Alabama. Thank you,
@POTUS, for working with us to ensure the safety of all Alabamians.”

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” Messonnier said. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”

Channel 42 TV is reporting that the UAB Health System is making preparations for the coronavirus by purchasing additional equipment and training staff in how to deal with the infectious disease which devastated medical professionals in Hubei Province.

(Original reporting by the Hill, Web MD, and Channel 42 News contributed to this report.)

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Alabama Republicans attack Jones for voting against Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) and 43 other U.S. Senators voted against The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, at which point scientific research unequivocally shows that unborn babies experience pain. Republicans were quick to attack Jones for the pro-abortion vote.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said in a statement, “Senator Doug Jones’s NO vote on the Pain Capable Act shows that once again he is completely out of touch with the majority of Alabamians.”

“In 2018, 59% of Alabamians voted in favor of Amendment 2, which recognized the rights of the unborn and withholds state funding for abortions,” Lathan explained. “Yet Senator Jones continues with his arrogant ways, voting against the will of his constituents. Just last week, when he was asked about this important legislation, Senator Jones laughed.”

“Alabamians will remember this vote – along with so many others – when they cast their ballots on November 3rd,” Lathan said. “Senator Jones will be replaced with someone who respects the majority’s wishes and supports Alabama values. We thank Senator Richard Shelby for once again honoring the wishes of our pro-life state as he voted to support ending abortions after 20 weeks and continues to be a consistent pro-life warrior.”

Former U.S. Senator and 2020 GOP Senate candidate Jeff Sessions (R) said that this is shameful and should not be tolerated.

“It is not surprising that Doug Jones joined 43 other senators today to vote against legislation prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, causing the bill to fail,” Sessions said. “Just last week, Jones laughed off today’s vote regarding late-term abortions when asked by a constituent about his position and called the question ‘stupid.’ This is shameful and must not be tolerated.”

2020 GOP Senate candidate Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said that Doug Jones has failed the people of Alabama again with this vote.

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“Doug Jones has failed the people of Alabama once again by voting no on the 20-week abortion ban,” Byrne said. “The U.S. is just one of a handful of countries, including China and North Korea, that allow these horrible late term abortions. I believe life begins at conception and that every life is worth protecting. This vote is just another reason to #FireDougJones!”

“While serving in the Senate and as the Attorney General, I have a 100% pro-life record,” Sessions continued. “I was, myself, a co-sponsor of the legislation brought forward today, The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which continues to be blocked by pro-abortion advocates like Doug Jones each year.”

“I’m very thankful we now have a strong defender of the unborn in President Donald Trump,” Sessions added. “In our President’s own words just two months ago, ‘Together, we are the voice for the voiceless.’ This is the kind of leadership pro-life advocates have needed and will continue to support in this battle. Thank you also to Senator Richard Shelby for representing true Alabama values today and protecting the least of these.”

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The National Republican Senate Committee is working to defeat Doug Jones and replace him with a Republican.

“Anti-Trump Democrat Doug Jones has given up on Alabama,” said NRSC spokesperson Nathan Brand. “Whether it’s his work to remove President Trump from office or votes today to side with the pro-abortion lobby, Jones doesn’t stand for the values Alabamians hold dear.”

The Republican primary is on March 3.

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Doug Jones: Anniston could still be called upon to treat coronavirus patients

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones issued a statement Monday about the possibility of coronavirus patients being transported to and housed at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama.

“Over the weekend, my staff and I participated in briefings regarding the announcement that Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive for the coronavirus might be transported to and housed at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama,” Jones said. “We were advised that the announcement on Saturday regarding the CDP was premature, and although the CDP is one of a number of contingency sites, at this time, the multi-agency plan anticipates using other sites first.”

“It is my understanding that this information is being provided to officials in Anniston, and the folks at the CDP have been told that if their facility is needed in the future, adequate notice and details will be provided,” Jones continued. “I urge the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Centers for Disease Control to do all they can to provide the best care possible for those who must endure quarantine and those who are suffering from this virus.”

“My first priority is to protect the people of Alabama, and I have the utmost confidence that, if called upon, the unmatched professionals at the CDP will rise to the occasion,” Jones stated. “I urge the Administration to continue to keep Congress and the American people informed about their response to this virus and their efforts to prevent any further infections in the United States. We will continue to monitor this evolving situation with hope and compassion for all affected.”

The Calhoun County Commission has announced plans to sue to prevent the City of Anniston from being used to house infected virus patients. They are arguing that while the CDP is used for training purposes, it is not equipped to deal with providing medical care for potentially dozens of people needing serious medical treatment in a quarantine situation.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Coronaviruses are a common family of viruses that is found throughout much of the animal kingdom. This strain of the virus appears to have originated among bats, which are eaten by the Chinese. The virus appears to have crossed species and was first identified in China’s Wuhan City in Hubei Province. Researchers are referring to the disease caused by this strain COVID-19.

As of Monday there have been 80,154 COVID-19 diagnosed cases. 27,591 of those have recovered and been released from medical care. 2,701 people have died from this. Most of the deaths have been in China; but the death toll now includes twelve in Iran, nine in South Korea, seven in Italy, two in Hong Kong, as well as one death each in the Philippines, France, Japan, and Taiwan. This leaves 49,762 active cases of the illness. Of these currently Infected patients, 40,547 (81%) have mild conditions. 9,215 (19%) are currently in serious or critical condition.

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There are 691 cases of COVID-19 that have been diagnosed among the passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess. Four of these have already died. 35 of these are in serious or critical condition. Only ten are totally recovered from their illness. Only a portion of the passengers were Americans.

To this point, there are only 53 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, but that is up from 35 on Sunday. There have been no deaths yet, but six of these are in serious or critical condition. The stock market was down more than one thousand points on Monday due to fears that the coronavirus is going to negatively impact global trade, particularly the flow of manufactured goods coming out of China, the world’s second-largest economy. The outbreak in South Korea is particularly alarming for Alabamians given our close trade ties with the country, particularly with Hyundai having a manufacturing plant in Montgomery.

For more about the possible coronavirus pandemic, click here.

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