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House Republican Caucus unanimously approves resolution urging AHSAA to reinstate Maori Davenport

Brandon Moseley

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via USA Basketball

The 77-member Alabama House Republican Caucus this week unanimously approved a resolution urging the Alabama High School Athletic Association to immediately reinstate the eligibility of Charles Henderson High School standout basketball player Maori Davenport of Troy.

The AHSAA rescinded Davenport’s eligibility due to a clerical error involving her play with the Team USA basketball program. USA Basketball compensated the Davenport family $875 for incidental expenses associated with Davenport representing the United States at a basketball tournament in Mexico. Davenport led the under-18 year old women’s team to the gold medal. The payment does not violate NCAA rules; but does violate the standards of the AHSAA, which do not align with NCAA standards. AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese revoked the girl’s amateur status so that she can not play basketball during her senior season.

According to the AHSAA any player who receives more than $250 is a professional player and loses their amateur status. The Davenport family returned the money and the head of USA Basketball took full blame for the clerical error and personally travelled to Alabama to beg the AHSAA to reinstate Davenport at the appeals hearing. Savarese and the AHSAA were unmoved and denied the appeal.

The controversial decision prompted several influential sportswriters, television personalities, and professional athletes to speak out on the high school student’s behalf.

“What the Alabama High School Athletic Association has done to Maori Davenport is wrong on so many levels that I don’t know where to start. I know what this feels like because I was treated like shit by them too. Being a kid from Alabama, I’m with Maori Davenport. Fix this now!” wrote NBA star Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins.

“Maori hadn’t done a doggone thing except receive the check from USA Basketball,” Rutgers Women’s Head Basketball Coach Vivian Stringer told New Jersey Advance Media. “It was grown-ups’ fault. And grown-ups did not lay claim to that. Maori sent the money back the next day. She’s a great kid, great student. She tried to do the right thing. And then the Alabama association … are you kidding me? This girl was up for player of the year, All-American. How can you do that?”

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Maori has signed a scholarship offer to play at Rutgers. Her college eligibility is unaffected by this as the payment by USA Basketball is not an NCAA violation,

USA Basketball and South Carolina Gamecocks Women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley said, “As I prepare & the excitement builds for our conference game today I can only imagine the emptiness Maori Davenport feels every time her team suits up to play. AL state officials if you all have heart in your chest or a daughter, sister or niece…do right by them if not Maori!”

On Tuesday, Maori and her parents addressed the Alabama Republican House Caucus and asked for their help.

“After Maori Davenport appeared before our Caucus and very eloquently explained her situation, the 77 Republican members of the Alabama House stand ready to help her regain her eligibility in any way that we can,” House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R – Rainsville, said. “Without exception, our legislators urge the AHSAA to immediately reinstate this impressive young woman who simply wanted to represent our country on an international level.”

The resolution was sponsored by State Rep. Wes Allen, R – Troy, who has championed Davenport’s cause since the AHSAA decision and arranged for her appearance at the Alabama State House during the Legislature’s organizational session.

“I am proud to stand alongside Maori Davenport as we work to rectify a situation that should have never occurred,” Allen said. “Rather than being treated with the callous disregard shown by the AHSAA, young athletes like Maori should be encouraged, supported, and praised.”

State Representative Kyle South, R-Fayette, announced on Tuesday that he is introducing legislation to reform the AHSAA after the state has become embroiled in this national controversy.

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McCutcheon hopes road bill will be issue No. 1 in session

Brandon Moseley

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 Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, told reporters that he is working on an infrastructure bill.

“The work that is being done is between myself, the pro-tem (Del Marsh) and the governor (Kay Ivey).

Gov. Kay Ivey promised roads that would be “the envy of the nation” in her inauguration speech.

The regular session begins in March. McCutcheon said that there is not a deal yet, but is hopeful that all of the parties will come to an agreement soon so that a bill can be passed early in the legislative session so that they can move on to other priorities.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked: According to the U.S. Census Bureau between 2010 and 2017 this state only grew by 90,000 people (from 4.785 million to 4.875 million just .26 percent annual growth). 55 of the 67 counties are in decline or have zero growth and the population of Alabama is getting older. There is a real need for roads in Madison, Baldwin, Limestone, Lee, and Shelby Counties but most counties aren’t really experiencing any growth at all. Why is this suddenly such a priority?

“It is a priority on many fronts,” McCutcheon answered. The roads are all connected. People in Madison County where the growth is want to go to the beach and have to go through the other counties to get there, they spend money there, and that produces revenues for our state. “We have a lot of people traveling through our state to our beaches.” There are people who go through our state to go to Florida. “Our roads are being congested to the point that people can’t move.” I get phone calls all the time from constituents who are stuck in traffic for one or two hours on 1-65 in Shelby County. Roads are a problem everywhere whether it is the Wiregrass or the Black Belt.

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McCutcheon said that they would like to recruit jobs to poor counties like the Black Belt where unemployment is high; “but the problem is that it is hard to recruit companies to where you don’t have good roads; because they need roads to get a product in and out.”

Sources have told the Alabama Political Reporter that a fuel tax increase of 26 cents a gallon (or perhaps more) as well as a tax on electric cars is going to be introduced early in the regular legislative session.

McCutcheon said that, “Electric vehicles are contributing to the wear and tear put on our highways.”

“I will be contacting every legislator about the needs in their districts,” McCutcheon said. “I brought this up for four years. It has been an education process. It came up on the campaign trail. Many things need to be in the plan including oversight.”

A reporter asked McCutcheon if he had met with the Governor yet on the budget.

“All the meetings we have had have been on the infrastructure plan.” McCutcheon said that last year he worked closely with the Governor on the budgets. “It was very productive to sit around the table with the governor and her staff so that when we got around to the budget there will be no surprises.”

“We are working with the Ethics Commission on reforms,” McCutcheon said. “We are not trying to reform the ethics law. We have a good law and it is working. What we are doing is bringing some common sense.”

“I hope that transportation would be item number one, then ethics, and then corrections.” McCutcheon predicted that there would be an increase for the Alabama Department of Corrections, “But how much more?”

“There will be some discussion about rural hospitals,” McCutcheon acknowledged. “We have got to continue to look at that, Medicaid expansion. We need to “make technology available to the rural areas of our state to bring better healthcare.”

“We will see a lottery bill,” McCutcheon stated. “The leadership is not promoting a lottery bill. There is an interest in both houses in a lottery bill.”

“Public safety for our schools is going to be an issue,” McCutcheon added. “Pre-K has proven itself and is working.”

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels criticized new House rules that limited filibustering the special order calendar to just one hour.

“Anthony is a good man. He is doing a good job in his leadership role,” McCutcheon said. “As Speaker, I enjoy a healthy debate on an issue; but I am not much for filibustering. When every special order that is brought up is debated for two hours, I am thinking that we are wasting time that could be spent on legislation. Because of that I was trying to find a compromise so that we can get some things done. I have been clotured before. I am not a big fan of cloture. If we can find ways to keep the process moving, that is what I am for.”

Reporters asked McCutcheon how he thought the organizational session went.

“I think it went well,” the Speaker answered. “We had a little issue with the rules; but that is normal. The rules ended up being adopted and everybody ended up being upbeat.”

“I love the legislative process,” the Speaker said. “When you look at the people who you are representing, and you think that you are helping those representatives it is emotional for me. At the end of the day it is all about serving and I am very honored to be serving the members as Speaker. I am a little more excited about serving this session than when I first took over.”

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McCutcheon announces standing committee assignments for 2019–2022 legislative term

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama House of Representatives released committee assignments to the public this week.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R – Monrovia, made a statement regarding the member assignments for the 25 House standing committees.

“Most of the hard, complex, and important work of vetting and amending the measures that come before the House is completed in the trenches of the body’s standing committees,” McCutcheon said. “Each of our House members, Republican and Democrat alike, have unique insights, experience, and areas of expertise, and we worked hard to assign members to the committees that can best utilize their talents. I am confident that the members of our committees and the legislators who chair them will be prepared to go to work and carry out their duties when the Legislature convenes for the 2019 regular session on March 5.”

There are 34 House Committees. They include: Agriculture and Forestry, Baldwin County Legislation, Boards Agencies and Commissions, Children and Senior Advocacy, Commerce and Small Business, Constitution Campaigns and Elections, County and Municipal Government, Economic Development and Tourism, Education Policy, Ethics and Campaign Finance, Financial Services, Fiscal Responsibility, Health, Insurance, Internal Affairs, Jefferson County Legislation, Judiciary, Lee County Legislation, Limestone, County Legislation, Local Legislation, Madison County Legislation, Military and Veterans Affairs, Mobile County Legislation, Montgomery County Legislation, Public Safety and Homeland Security, Rules, Shelby County Legislation, State Government, Technology and Research, Transportation Utilities and Infrastructure, Tuscaloosa County Legislation, Urban and Rural Development, Ways and Means Education, and Ways and Means General Fund.

Most committees meet on Wednesdays during the legislative session.  When a bill is introduced it is assigned to one of the committees.  The committee chairman decides whether or not it is placed on the committee calendar.  Committees often drastically change legislation and generally is a committee is opposed to a bill it won’t come out of that committee to ever reach the House floor.

Voters gave Republicans a commanding 77 to 28 supermajority in the House and that is also reflected in the committees where the Republicans have the numerical strength to move legislation without much, if any, bipartisan support.

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To view the composition of each committee is available here.

The 2019 regular session begins in March.

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House Democrats say new rules will subvert democracy, transparency

Chip Brownlee

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House Democrats say new rules passed during an organization session earlier this week will subvert Democracy and limit the small Democratic minority’s ability to have any say or influence on legislation.

“The New Procedural Rule Changes by House Republicans will silence the voices of citizens and minimize legislators ability to fully vet key legislation,” Minority Leader Anthony Daniels said. “This is a democracy, built upon openness and transparency. These rule changes not only hamper that, but also create discord and division among House leaders.”

Democrats say the new rules passed by the Republican majority in the House, which limit debate to one hour instead of two, will limit transparency and hamper their ability to debate legislation. That, they say, will have a long-term, negative impact on the legislative process in the House.

“As legislators, we have one job,” said Rep. Merika Coleman, the House assistant minority leader. “We were elected to discuss and weigh legislation and decide whether it is in the best interest of our constituents and the state. The rules passed will drastically curtail our ability to do that. I hope the majority reconsiders this effort.”

The House spent much of the day on Tuesday in an intense debate over changes to the House rules, which would have limited Democrats’ ability to extend debate on legislation as a method of delaying votes on bills.

The proposed bills would have allowed Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, the ability to determine the length of debate on the special order calendar. That’s the agenda set on a daily basis during session to determine what bills will be debated on the floor.

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Old rules allowed representatives to speak for up to two hours on each bill.

On top of that, the speaker would have been able to limit the time for readings of bills at length, and he could have had wide discretion to remove members for the chambers for a “breach of peace,” a term that has not been specifically defined.

“You already have a supermajority,” said State Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville. “Now you are making it harder for the minority to represent our districts.”

House Rules Committee Chairman Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said the new rules were needed so the House could spend more time debating actual issues instead of getting stuck on just a few controversial pieces of legislation.

Democrats pushed back against the changes. A compromise was reached that would allow one hour of debate on a bill. It passed by a 92–5 vote.

But Democrats still seem to be upset about the outcome of the negotiations. They say the two-hour rule, which was put in place in 2003, gives the minority an ability to provide input and voice their opinions with a degree of leverage.

Prior to 2003, debate was unlimited.

During the last few sessions, Democrats have been able to negotiate on big pieces of legislation — such as redistricting and ethics bills — largely because of the rule. Conservative Republicans have also employed the rules to delay votes on other pieces of legislation where more moderate Republicans had reached compromise with Democrats.

“Our citizens expect and deserve better,” said Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Barbara Drummond. “We will continue to fight for transparency and accountability in state government.”

In the Senate, where Republicans have been more likely to extend debate to delay legislation, old rules will remain in place.

Legislators are expected to spend a lot of time during the upcoming session, which is set to begin in March, on issues like infrastructure, a gas tax, ethics legislation and education.

Democrats’ will start the session with a small minority — 28 seats in a chamber of 105. Republicans hold 77 seats. In the Senate, Republicans hold 27 out of 35 seats.

 

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House passes controversial new rules

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama House of Representatives voted for a series of rule changes in the inner workings of the house. Passing the rules for the next four years is one of the duties of the legislature during the organizational session; but since Republicans have an overwhelming 77 to 28 supermajority the Republicans essentially got to write the rules, while Democrats complained.

House Rules Committee Chairman Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) sponsored the new rules, H.R. 7.

After Republican gains in the 2018 election, Democrats only 28 seats in the House of Representatives. 27 of the 28 House Democrats are Black.

State Representative Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) said, “You already have a supermajority. Now you are making it harder for the minority to represent our districts.”

One of the proposed rule changes decreased the amount of time that can be spent debating on adoption of the special order calendar from two hours to just forty minutes.

“We don’t have nothing, but a voice,” Rep. Jackson said. “27 minority members of the House and you want to take that way. All I can do is talk and you want to limit the time. Are we moving away from Democracy and moving to authoritative dictatorship?”

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House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Montgomery) said that the rule change was, “Taking away a tool by the minority party.”

Chairman Jones said that the rule which they were referring to is rule number eleven. This was passed in 2003 under Seth Hammett (D) when Democrats were in the majority. Prior to that the debate on the special order calendar had been unlimited. It was felt then that there needed to be some reasonable point of cutoff. Right now it is two hours. We would like to spend more time debating those actual issues. Right now we are burning two hours without much being accomplished in the process.

Daniels said that relations between the two parties, “Has gotten better under our current Speaker. This is not necessary.”

Jackson said, “I was in the body when that passed in 2003 and I didn’t like it then. Some of us Democrats felt that we should have unlimited debate. We were in the minority even then.”

State Representative Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) said, “These rules are sickening.” Givan objected to rules making it easier to remove a legislator from the room.

Rep. Jones said that that the reason for stating that rules was to make it clear and very specific. A legislator can be removed for just one day on order of the presiding officer for a decorum violation. The Speaker of the House is the presiding officer of the House chamber; but even the speaker is subject to overrule by the entire body.
State Representative Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) said, “We are setting up an authoritarian rule in the House. I think there is an effort from the Governor’s mansion to the White House to destroy the democratic way of life.”

State Representative Merika Coleman Madison (D-Pleasant Grove) said, “This is a rule that members of your own caucus has used to get bills on the calendar particularly in the end of the session.”

Jackson objected to Rule 66 that says that only the chairman of the Rules committee can ask to take leave of the House while the House is in session. “Every chairman should object to that.”

Rep. Coleman Madison said, “If you shut us up, you shut up the 26 percent of Alabamians who are African Americans. I could see a federal lawsuit.”

“The Republicans already have the Democrats hanging on the cross. Are you the one to drive the nails in even further?” Rep. Artis J. McCampbell (D-Livingston) said.
State Representative John Rogers (D-Birmingham) said, “These rules changes are for the birds. These rules are terrible.”

“I have been here 32 years,” Rogers said. “Don’t cut me to ribbons and call me your friend. I stand on my own. No Caucus represents me. I might as well be a third world country. I don’t give a damn what you call it, it is a cloture.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) interrupted and said, “Watch your language.”

“Can I say darned,” Rogers asked.

“That would be preferable,” McCutcheon said.

“When I was in Vietnam, I was outnumbered but I had to use guerilla warfare,” Rogers said. “I am feeling an ill will in this House and the trickery is so broad that I can’t feel good about this House.”

Several legislators objected to the new rule limiting pages to no younger than ten and no older than eighteen,

Jones said that that was the change that the most legislators had questions about and that the House has an intern program for college age students.

Rep. J. Givan presented a compromise proposal on Rule 11 that set the limit on special order calendar debate at one hour rather than forty minutes.

Chairman Jones accepted Givan’s amendment, “in the spirit of compromise.”
The new rules were passed along partisan lines 74 to 27.

The House also passed SJR7 changing the organization of the legislature. SJR7 consolidated a number of legislative agencies under the Legislative Services Agency (LSA) which is headed by Jimmy Entrekin. The Alabama Law Institute (ALI), Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO), and Examiner of Public Accounts are now all under the Legislative Services Agency (LSA). SJR7 passed 85 to 0 and had already passed the Senate.

On Wednesday, the House and Senate met in a joint session and canvassed the election results. The organizational session has ended. The 2019 regular session will begin in March.

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House Republican Caucus unanimously approves resolution urging AHSAA to reinstate Maori Davenport

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 3 min
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