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More than 5,000 federal employees in Alabama affected as government shutdown drags on

Chip Brownlee



As the partial federal government shutdown drags on into its 14th day Friday, more than 5,000 federal employees in Alabama remain furloughed or are working without pay as negotiations in Washington resumed this week but appear to still be at an impasse.

At two weeks, the partial shutdown ranks as the second-longest shutdown in more than 20 years, affecting about a quarter of the federal government including the Departments of the Interior, Justice, Agriculture, State, Homeland Security and four others.

Many operations have ceased, including trash pick up at national parks across the country, and most of NASA and all 19 Smithsonian museums have closed. Essential operations — including much of the Coast Guard, ICE, the TSA and Border Patrol — are continuing, but employees aren’t being paid.

The IRS has also closed, and the agency doesn’t generally answer tax questions or pay returns during a shutdown.

In total, nationally about 800,000 government employees are affected. About half have been sent home on unpaid leave and the other half are working without pay, according to the New York Times.

A report estimated that Alabama is 9th most-affected by the government shutdown.

Alabama has the 11th-highest share of federal jobs, the 7th-highest federal contract dollars per capita and the 27th-highest access to national parks. Eleven percent of families in Alabama receive SNAP benefits, better known as food stamps, and though the program will continue paying benefits into the near future, if the shutdown were to continue, fundings for the program could run out.

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Democrats took back power in the House of Representatives Thursday, and they are expected to pass a collection of bills to reopen most of the shuttered departments through the end of the year.

The bills, which would also provide short-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8, are aligned with bills negotiated and passed by the Republican-led Senate and Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, last month.

But President Donald Trump will likely remain unwilling to sign the bill, which doesn’t include his desired funding for a border wall or barrier.


Negotiations Wednesday weren’t able to break the impasse as Democrats remain opposed to Trump’s desired funding. Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security, including advanced surveillance and fortified fencing, but Trump has asked for $5.6 billion devoted to a border wall.

Sen. Doug Jones voiced his concerns about the shutdown’s effects Thursday.

“This is the third federal government shutdown I have witnessed in my first year as a U.S. senator,” Jones said. “Our duty in Congress is to serve the American people. By shutting down the government yet again – and retreating to our respective political corners – we are not doing our job and tens of thousands of our constituents are paying the price.

Jones pointed to the 5,000 federal employees in Alabama affected by the shutdown as a major reason for his frustrations.

“Vital Coast Guard employees, who are not paid under the Defense Department’s budget, don’t know if their next paycheck will come,” Jones said. “Garbage and waste are piling up at our treasured national parks. It’s time to come together to agree on a solution and do the job we were sent here to do.”

Jones was the only Democrat in the Senate to vote on Dec. 21 to proceed to debate on a bill passed by the House in December that included funding for a border wall. While he signaled he wouldn’t support the bill as it was written, the procedural vote would have allowed negotiations with the House and White House to continue.

Shelby — who leads the Senate committee charged with drafting the federal budgets — told reporters Thursday that the partial shutdown could last for “months and months.”

“I’m thinking we might be in for a long haul here. … A long haul, in other words, I don’t see any quick resolution to this,” Shelby told reporters, according to The Hill.

While Shelby, one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate, has been the main driver and supporter the bills to re-open the government, it has been Republicans in the House and the President who stymied his efforts to avoid the shutdown.

Though the bills overwhelmingly passed the Senate on their first time through, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has said he won’t put bills on the floor of the Senate — like the ones that will likely pass the House — that the president won’t sign.

“Let me say this again, the Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature,” McConnell said on Thursday.

Jones urged the House to send the bills back to the Senate anyway.

“While some will characterize it as a partisan proposal by the new Democratic House leadership, these bills have long been in the works in the Senate and would end the costly government shutdown while allowing negotiations to continue on the funding levels for border security,” Jones said. “I urge my colleagues in the House on both sides of the aisle to support this bipartisan path forward and send it back to the Senate. This proposal is the common ground we need to get back to the business of governing.”



Cannabis advocates troubled by veteran’s 5-year sentence for medical marijuana

Brandon Moseley




The Alabama Cannabis Industry Association on Monday released a statement critical of the decision by an Alabama court to imprison an Arizona man for five years after his probation for a 2016 marijuana arrest was revoked in April.

Sean Worsley was an Iraq War vet who legally uses marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder, and for back and shoulder pain stemming from being wounded in an IED attack in Iraq.

He and his wife were arrested in Gordo, in Pickens County, in August 2016 after a police officer found the marijuana while questioning the Worsleys about the volume of their music when they stopped to get gas.

That Worsley had a valid medical cannabis card in Arizona — one of 33 states where that is legal — was no defense for the authorities in Pickens County. Worsley missed a court date in Pickens County after the VA rejected his application for a substance abuse program, so Pickens County issued a fugitive arrest warrant.

When Arizona arrested Worsley for letting his medical cannabis card expire, he was extradited back to Alabama. He is currently detained in Pickens County awaiting a spot to become available in an Alabama Department of Corrections facility.

Worsley could spend the next 60 months as a guest of Alabama taxpayers.

“The Alabama Cannabis Industry Association (AlCIA) has seen the need to bring clarity to the laws related to the medical marijuana issue facing our citizens,” said Michael Fritz, the general counsel for the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association.

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Fritz said that legislators created the new Class D category of offenses so that habitual offenders don’t serve long prison systems, but they left police and district attorneys with broad discretion to determine whether a person possessing cannabis is using that solely for “personal use.”

That discretion is the difference between having misdemeanor charge and becoming a  felon, Fritz said.

“States all across this country have acknowledged the medical benefits that cannabis brings to those suffering” from conditions like PTSD, Fritz said. “The ALCIA is fighting to allow those already suffering to have access to proper medication without the fear of becoming a felon.”


“Sean Worsley is a prime example of why we are fighting,” Fritz told APR. “Medical Marijuana can help our veterans that suffer from PTSD, anxiety as well as pain from physically disabilities. It’s time to permit medical cannabis in our state, as our sister states have done and avoid needlessly jamming our already over crowed prisons with marijuana arrest.”

A counselor who treats veterans with PTSD told APR that it is common for veterans with PTSD to use medical marijuana to self-medicate with cannabis and that veterans like Worsley should not be mistreated by our criminal justice system.

Chey Garrigan, the executive director of the ACIA, said that Alabama Appleseed and the Southern Poverty Law Center partnered with Western Carolina University economists Angela K. Dills and Audrey Redford to calculate that enforcing Alabama’s possession of marijuana laws costs the state an estimated $22 million a year.

Fritz told APR that if you are caught with 2.2 pounds of marijuana, the Alabama Courts charge you with trafficking, but that there are no guidelines under Alabama law in how to determine whether an amount smaller than that is for personal use — a minor offense — or not for personal use, which is a Class C felony in the state of Alabama.

Worsley was charged with the Class C offense.

Worsley’s mother has hired an attorney to appeal the conviction. Meanwhile, the Worsleys are hoping that he can receive clemency from the Alabama court system. Sean has already served approximately six months in jail in Arizona and Pickens County for this.

A bill to legalize medical marijuana has passed the Alabama Senate in each of the last two years, but the bills have failed to come to a vote in the Alabama House of Representatives.

“It’s time to permit medical cannabis in our state, as our sister states have done and avoid needlessly jamming our already over crowed prisons with marijuana arrests,” Garrigan said.

Sean’s plight was first made public by original reporting by Alabama Appleseed’s Leah Nelson.

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Campaign for Common Sense endorses Sessions, Carl and Smith

Brandon Moseley




The Campaign for Common Sense on Monday announced that it has endorsed Jeff Sessions for Senate, Jerry Carl for Congress in the 1st Congressional District and Will Smith for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2 in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff elections.

“While every election is important, this year we have a Marxist inspired Democrat Party trying to undo the Constitution, rewrite American History, promote leaders who say they want to ‘burn the system down’ as well as some such as Ilhan Omar who says that we must ‘dismantle the whole system of oppression’ — really?” Lou Campomenosi wrote.

“This type of rhetoric suggests that we are in a much different political place than any of us have seen since perhaps the anti-war movement during Vietnam — but even then, we did not see the anarchy linked to liberal elected officials closing their eyes and not stopping rioting and looting,” Campomenosi wrote. “The breakdown of Law and Order has never manifested itself as we have seen since Memorial Day when it all began, which means this is a critical election and all of us must vote!”

In the U.S. Senate race, the CSC has endorsed Sessions over former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.

“For 20 years Senator Sessions served us honorably and as a strong Christian Conservative — he is squeaky clean and can withstand anything the democrats concoct to try to politically hurt him,” the CSC claimed. “His past record includes supporting Obama’s tariffs on Chinese tires in 2011 as part of his long opposition to the Globalists’ agenda. Senator Sessions led the fight against illegal immigration and open borders. He has warned about China’s aggression and worked for fully funding the needs of our military. With regards to all nations, Senator Sessions has long supported fair trade, protection of jobs for America’s workers along with American intellectual property. Senator Sessions is a Constitutional Originalist who has always defended the First and Second Amendments guaranteeing protection for our free speech and right to bear arms. Senator Sessions has not forgotten us in Mobile and Baldwin Counties with his work to bring the companies of Austal and Airbus here.”

In the 1st Congressional District, the CSC endorsed Carl, a Mobile County commissioner, over former Sen. Bill Hightower.

“Jerry Carl was first endorsed by the Board for the March 3rd primary and was recently re-endorsed because in the time since the March 3rd primary and now, CSC has seen Jerry validate its trust in him time and again on the issues that are critical to our region,” the Tea Party group explained. “Whether it was working to improve the Port of Mobile that is critical to Alabama’s commerce or by taking a leading role on the Mobile Planning Commission by saying NO to an absurd $6 toll being proposed by Governor Kay Ivey for a new bridge over the Mobile River, Jerry has shown a willingness to fight for what was right for this region. For CSC, that means that Jerry Carl understands how the other counties in this District work and he has working relations with his fellow County Commissioners in the District and he has been ‘in the trenches’ at the local level gaining experience not only in development, infrastructure and budget issues, but he has also been heavily involved with Mobile’s Public Health Director in fighting the Wuhan Virus pandemic.”

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For the Court of Criminal Appeals, the CSC endorsed Smith, who is challenging incumbent Beth Kellum.

“I first met Will Smith when we were living in Florence at the time of the beginning of the Tea Party,” Campomenosi wrote. “We worked together on a great TP meeting on July 4th 2009 that brought out over 1000 patriots to hear among others, Mo Brooks. Will’s background is well suited to this position because in addition to his 25 years of practicing law, he served as a County Commissioner in Lauderdale County where he fought against tax increases and as an NRA member supported the Second Amendment. As a lawyer, who is a member of the Federalist Society, Will brings a wide range of experiences as a criminal defense lawyer and a special prosecutor in thousands of cases spanning his 25 year career. As a member of the Alabama, Georgia, and U.S. Supreme Court Bars, he has handled appeals at the state and Federal levels, which means Will is well prepared for accepting the responsibilities of a Judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals. Attesting to that, Will has received the endorsement of the Alabama Republican Assembly and various conservative groups in the state including the Common Sense Campaign. I think it is also important to keep in mind that Will has been a servant leader in his community, where he has been a Sunday school teacher, has devoted his time to his Church’s Special Needs Ministry, and has been a basketball coach in a program called Upward Basketball. In addition to all of his local community work, Will has also found time to join an International Missions program as a worker. I think you can see from this brief review that Will Smith is ready for this job based on his quarter of a century in law practice, his life experiences as a husband and father in a faith-based community, and importantly, his Christian conservative foundation that is necessary in applying the law to so many different circumstances.”

Polls open at 7 a.m and close at 7 p.m.


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Andrew Sorrell elected chairman of Alabama Trump delegation

Brandon Moseley



State Rep. Andrew Sorrell

The Alabama Colbert County Republican Executive Committee announced State Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, has been elected as the chair of the Alabama Trump delegation going to the 2020 Republican National Convention in August.

“To be elected as the 2020 Alabama Trump Delegation Chairman is a great honor,” Sorrell said. “I have big shoes to fill, as Senator Jeff Sessions served as Chairman in 2016 and (then) Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey served in 2012. It’s a huge responsibility, but 2020 is a pivotal year for our country, so I couldn’t be more thrilled to be involved. I look forward to working alongside the Trump campaign to ensure his re- election this November.”

Sorrell was elected June 27 as the chair of the Alabama Trump Delegation at a meeting in Montgomery. The 50 delegates gathered at the Renaissance Hotel to elect members of four different committees and the chairman. Several of the committees this year will be honorary only and will not meet due to coronavirus restrictions.

Sorrell defeated Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker for the position of delegation chairman. The chair’s duties include fundraising for the delegation activities, lining up guest speakers for events and coordinating with the Alabama Republican Party to plan events for the delegation while in Jacksonville. The delegation chairman is typically the one to announce the delegates’ presidential preference on national television, so we could see Andrew Sorrell on T.V. announcing that Alabama chooses Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president of the United States during the convention.

The Colbert County Republican Party will have three delegates to the Republican National Convention this August. Former committee chairman Fred Joly was elected as an alternate delegate for District 4, place 3, while both Rep. Andrew Sorrell and his wife Hannah Sorrell were elected as Trump delegates. Andrew Sorrell was elected as one of three delegates for Congressional District 4. Hannah Sorrell was elected statewide as an at-large delegate.

Phill Green has served as the chairman of the Colbert County Republican Party since 2018.

“We are proud that 3 members of our local committee are playing such an important role in the 2020 RNC convention,” Green said. “Just ten years ago Republicans in Colbert County had very little influence in local elections and Republicans held no elected offices; now, we are not only participating but one of our committee members is leading the delegation. It illustrates very well the hard work that this committee has done over the last 10 years to turn Colbert County red.”

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Alabama will have a total of 50 delegates and 47 alternate positions. Due to the COVID-19 crisis in which anyone can get sick at any time or be exposed and have to be quarantined, alternate delegate are going to have to be ready to step up.

This year’s RNC convention was originally planned for Charlotte, North Carolina, but because of strict North Carolina regulations on reopening the economy, the convention now has been split into two parts. The official business of the convention will take place in Charlotte with just six representatives from each state’s delegation in attendance. Those six will cast proxy votes for the other 44 delegates from Alabama.

As delegation chair, Sorrell will be among the six attending the Charlotte activities. That business will take place on Monday, Aug. 24, after which those delegates will be flown to Jacksonville, Florida, to meet up with the rest of the delegation for the remainder of the convention. The speeches and events will all take place in Jacksonville and will culminate with the president’s speech Thursday night.


Florida was quicker to reopen its economy than almost any other state and appeared to have come out of the coronavirus crisis quickly.  Those early rosy assessments now appear to be gravely wrong.

At least 12,624 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Monday alone — more than in any other state. Texas, which also reopened early after a very mild bout with the coronavirus was second with 9,156. At least 4,277 Floridians have died of COVID-19. North Carolina had 1,999 new cases on Monday, just edging out Alabama with 1,958 for sixth in new coronavirus cases.  At least 1,551 people have died of COVID-19 in North Carolina.

Nationwide, 138,248 Americans have already perished in the global pandemic. The Trump campaign has rejected calls to have a virtual convention where all the delegates participate online from the safety of their homes.

Trump trails apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 10 percentage points in most early polls.

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Sessions says Alabama doesn’t take orders from Washington after Trump inserts himself in race again

Brandon Moseley



GOP Senate candidate and former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, released a statement pushing back against President Donald Trump’s endorsement of his opponent, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, in which he said “Alabama does not take orders from Washington.”

The blunt comments were in response to a Twitter post from Trump once again inserting himself in the Alabama Senate race.

“I’ve taken the road less travelled,” Sessions said. “Not sought fame or fortune. My honor and integrity are far more important than these juvenile insults. Your scandal ridden candidate is too cowardly to debate. As you know, Alabama does not take orders from Washington.”

This was after Trump tweeted, “Big Senate Race in Alabama on Tuesday. Vote for @TTuberville, he is a winner who will never let you down. Jeff Sessions is a disaster who has let us all down. We don’t want him back in Washington!”

Trump has called his decision to appoint Sessions as U.S. attorney general his “biggest mistake” as president.

The rift between the two former friends began in 2017 when Sessions, newly appointed as attorney general, recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation. Sessions has steadfastly defended the decision and continues to maintain that he was forbidden by U.S. Department of Justice policy forbidding anyone who was part of a campaign from investigating that campaign.

Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump in the 2016 presidential election and worked tirelessly throughout 2016 as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

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Sessions maintains that had he not recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation things would have gone worse for Trump. As it was, his duties in the matter fell on fellow Trump appointee Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel.

The special counsel investigation successfully prosecuted a number of close Trump associates for various failings in their personal and professional lives, but ultimately never was able to indict the president or a member of the Trump family, and it never was able to produce tangible evidence that the 2016 Trump campaign was involved in collusion with Russian intelligence agencies to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Sessions is running for the Senate seat he gave up to be attorney general.


Tuberville has been avoiding the media since a New York Times report detailed how Tuberville’s business partner David Stroud cheated investors out of their savings and was sentenced to ten years in prison. The two had formed a hedge fund, managed by Stroud, a former Lehman Brothers broker. Tuberville maintains that he was Stroud’s biggest victim, but the investors sued Tuberville, who settled out of court.

Sessions’ campaign maintains that incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’ campaign will capitalize on the scandal during the general election similarly to how they capitalized on allegations against former Chief Justice Roy Moore to win the 2017 special election to win the Senate seat vacated by Sessions to be attorney general.

Sessions was a late entrant into the Senate campaign. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, has endorsed Sessions.

“Jeff Sessions is a good friend and a respected former colleague,” Shelby wrote. “I believe he is well-suited to return to his role as United States Senator for the state of Alabama, where I served with him for more than 20 years. He has my full support and endorsement.”

Sessions was Senator from 1997 to 2017. He was U.S. Attorney General from 2017 to Nov. 2018. Prior to his Senate service, he served the state as Alabama Attorney General, Republican Party Chairman, and U.S. Attorney under Presidents Ronald W. Reagan (R) and George H. Bush (R). Sessions was also a former assistant U.S. Attorney and a U.S. Army reserve officer. He is a native of Alabama who grew up outside of Camden in rural Wilcox County.

The Republican primary runoff is on Tuesday. In order to vote in any Alabama election you must: be registered to vote, vote at your assigned polling place, and have a valid photo ID. It is too late to register to vote in this election or obtain an absentee ballot; but if you have an absentee ballot today is the last day to return it either through mail or by hand delivering it to your courthouse absentee ballot manager’s office.

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