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Today is Robert E. Lee’s birthday

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, January 21, 2019, is a state holiday and is celebrated across the state of Alabama as General Robert E. Lee’s birthday.

The Virginian commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the War Between the States.

Lee was born on January 19, 1807 the son of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee III and Ann Hill Carter. Lee’s ancestor, Richard Lee, immigrated to Virginia from Shropshire, England in 1640 with the First Royal Governor Sir Richard Wyatt when the population of Virginia was approximately 8,000. Wyatt appointed Richard Lee as a court clerk. From there he rose to Attorney General, a member of the House of Burgesses, high sheriff, Virginia Militia Colonel, and a member of the Council of State. Subsequent generations of Lees excelled in political and military affairs in Virginia. Two of Robert E. Lee’s cousins were signers of the Declaration of Independence and one was President of Congress under the Articles of Confederation. There were Lee family members as leaders in both the Federalist and Anti-Federalist camps on ratifying the Constitution.

Robert E. Lee was born in the luxurious historic Stratford Hall Plantation, which his father General Henry “Light horse Harry” Lee III had inherited from his first wife and cousin, Matilda Lee. The senior Lee had served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the American Revolution where he mastered both cavalry and guerilla tactics, before guerilla tactics were even known as such. After the British surrender at Yorktown he resigned his commission and served in the Continental Congress; three terms in the Virginia House of Delegates; three one year terms as Governor of Virginia; in the U.S. House of Representatives; and was summoned by President George Washington to serve as a general in the Whiskey Rebellion, recommissioned a Major General in the U.S. Army by President John Adams (F) when war with France appeared imminent, and by President Thomas Jefferson (D) when war with Great Britain appeared likely. Congress asked him to deliver the official eulogy for President George Washington. By the time of Robert E. Lee’s birth however the boldness that had served Light Horse so well in the Revolution as a cavalry officer and later as a politician failed him in real estate speculation. In 1809 the senior General Lee was imprisoned in a 9’ x 12’ cell in debtor’s prison where he wrote his memoirs on the southern campaign of the Revolution. After getting out of prison in 1811, he moved the family from Stratford to Alexandria. In 1812 he was savagely beaten by a mob in Baltimore defending a friend and freedom of the press. He never fully recovered from those injuries and died in Georgia at the home of his friend and wartime commanding officer General Nathaniel Greene in 1818 when Robert E. Lee was just 11. Henry had nine children; but the eighth, whom he only mentioned once in his letters, would become the greater legend.

Robert E. Lee’s older half brother Henry Lee IV lost Stratford after being sued by creditors, most notably a judgement for mishandling his teen sister-in-law Betsey McCarty’s inheritance and having an affair with the girl. Nicknamed “Black Horse Harry” after the affair, the scandal was a costly embarrassment to the family and Henry IV died in exile in Paris in 1837.

By the time Robert E. Lee was ready to attend college in 1825, securing an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was the only option as the family had no money left. Robert E. Lee finished second in his class and did not receive one demerit in his four years there. He then embarked on a lifetime of military service.

Robert married childhood friend Mary Ann Randolph Custis in 1831. Her father was Martha Washington’s grandson and George Washington’s adopted grandson. Arlington was her family estate. They had four children. Lee, an engineer, spent much of his early military career designing, building, and improving military fortifications. From 1834 to 1837 he served as an assistant to the Chief Engineer of the Army. He was promoted to captain in 1838. In 1846 he was ordered to Mexico in the Mexican-American War. There his abilities were recognized by General Winfield Scott and he became a member of the General’s staff in the War. Lee reluctantly accepted the assignment as the Superintendent of West Point from 1852 to 1855. The cadets he trained there would become key officers on both sides of the Civil War. In April 1855 Lieutenant Colonel Lee left the Engineers Corps when he was given a promotion to second in command of the U.S. Second Cavalry where he fought Indians in Texas from 1855 to 1859. In October 1859, while Lee was back home at Arlington, the radical abolitionist, John Brown led a force of 21 abolitionists who seized the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in order to launch a slave revolt. President James Buchanan (D) gave Lee command of a hastily assembled force of soldiers, militia, and Marines to respond to the crisis. Lee quickly defeated Brown and rescued the hostages in just three minutes of fighting. John Brown’s raid failed to incite a slave insurrection; but it greatly heightened the tension between North and South. In February 1860 the Army gave Lieutenant Colonel Lee command of U.S. forces in Texas, where he negotiated an agreement with the Mexican government that they would restrain Mexican rancher Juan Cortina from leading paramilitary raids into Texas, ending the First Cortina War. When Texas seceded from the Union in February 1861, Lee’s commanding officer General E. Twiggs surrendered Lee and all 4,000 U.S. troops there to the Confederacy. Lee then returned home.

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The Commander of the U.S. Army General Scott told President Abraham Lincoln (R) that he needed Lee. Lee ignored an offer of a command from the new Confederate State of America. On March 28, 1861 Lee accepted a promotion to Colonel and was given command of the U.S. First Cavalry by Pres. Lincoln (R). On April 12, 1861 Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. On April 17, a Second Virginia convention on secession voted in favor of secession. On April 18th, with Civil War now a reality, on April 18 a presidential advisor offered Lee a “major command in defense of the U.S. Capitol.” Lee said that he could not raise his sword against his native Virginia. On April 20 Lee resigned his position in the U.S. Army. His mentor, General Scott, told him that he had made the greatest mistake of his life. Lee accepted an invitation to speak to the Virginia convention on secession. Before he got there, they voted to give him command of all Virginia forces. When he arrived at the convention they presented him with George Washington’s sword and the command on April 23, 1861.

Lee began assembling and training Virginia’s army, while advising President Jefferson Davis C.S.A. Lee correctly predicted a long, bloody, disastrous war……a minority and unpopular opinion among the Confederate leadership at the time. When the CSA Army was organized, Lee was one of five full generals along with: Samuel Cooper, Albert Sidney Johnston, Joseph E. Johnston, and Pierre G.T. Beauregard, with Lee being third in seniority.

In his first action of the war, in September 1861 Lee tried to dislodge a Union force from their position on Cheat Mountain in what is today West Virginia and failed in the effort. Lee was heavily criticized for his conduct of the campaign and was reassigned to improving the coast defenses of South Carolina and Georgia. There Lee lost Fort Pulaski to Union forces, but prevented a larger Union force from taking Savannah. Lee was widely criticized for the mixed results and was then appointed as military advisor to President Davis.

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In the Spring of 1862 the powerful Union Army of the Potomac under General George McClellan began making a methodical and concerted drive toward the Confederate Capitol of Richmond. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston. General Johnston however was wounded in the Battle of Seven Pines on June 1, 1862. With the South teetering on the brink of losing the War between the States, Davis gave Lee the command. The move was widely condemned by Southern editorial writers who felt Lee was not dynamic enough. After digging in around Richmond for three weeks for what everyone was expected to be a long siege, Lee unexpectedly launched a series of savage counter attacks against the superior Union force. Confederate casualties were enormous; but McClellan, misjudging the size of the opposing Confederate force, gave up his effort to take Richmond and ordered a hasty retreat 25 miles away to the James River. The Peninsula Campaign was a Confederate victory that arguably should never have happened.

On August 28-30 Lee defeated a much larger second Union force under General John Pope at the Second Battle of Bull Run. In just nine weeks time, the front had moved from just six miles from Richmond to 20 miles from Washington D.C.

Lee then invaded Maryland. McClellan captured the Confederate plans so his 87,138 troops met the Confederate invasion force of 38,000 near Sharpsburg, just 70 miles North of Washington. Along Antietam Creek, 23,000 Americans died on both sides on the day of April 17, 1862. Because the South withdrew back to Virginia and Washington was saved, the battle was a tactical Union victory; but Lincoln’s dream of winning a quick decisive victory were dashed by the events of those 90 days.

Because Lee had escaped, Lincoln replaced McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac with General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside attacked Fredericksburg, Virginia; however after he crossed the Rappahannock River he was unable to dislodge Lee from his prepared positions. 122,009 troops with the Army of the Potomac were repulsed by 78,513 Confederates under Lee. Burnside withdrew after taking over 12,000 casualties on December 15, 1862.

In May 1863, the Army of the Potomac under General Joseph Hooker forced battle with Lee at Chancellorsville. They were thoroughly routed even though Hooker had 133,868 men to Lee’s 60,298. It was Lee’s finest victory. Afterwards, the New York Tribune’s Horace Greeley wrote, “My God! It is horrible—horrible; and to think of it, 130,000 magnificent soldiers so cut to pieces by less than 60,000 half-starved ragamuffins!” Lt. General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, who commanded Second Corps (and was arguably Lee’s most capable commander) died from his wounds at Chancellorsville.

In June 1863, Lee invaded the north again. Hooker moved to ignore Lee and move on Richmond; but Lincoln overruled that decision. General George Meade met Lee at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in July. After three days of intense fighting that produced over 48,000 combined casualties, Lee was forced to withdraw although he withdrew in good order with only limited efforts at pursuit by Meade. Worse the decision to gamble everything on the invasion meant that the Confederacy failed to devote enough resources to break through to relieve Vicksburg, Mississippi which fell to General Ulysses S. Grant while Lee was battling Meade at Gettysburg. The west was now cut off from the rest of the South. Realizing the extent of the debacle, Lee offered his resignation to Davis; but Davis refused it.

In October 1863 Lee and Meade clashed again in the Bristow Campaign; but there was no decisive outcome. On November 27 Meade attempted to cut off Ewell’s Second Corps; but the planned forced march was too slow so Lee was able to react and fend off the effort in the five day battle.

On May 5-7, 1864 Lee fought Grant’s much larger force in the Battle of the Wilderness. On May 8-21 Lee engaged Grant and Meade again in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The Union force was much bigger; but Lee simply could not be outflanked even with superior force. The Confederate Cavalry commander, Major General James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart was killed on May 11 at the Battle of Yellow Tavern. As the furious fighting deeper into Confederate territory continued, the Union force in the field grew smaller and the Confederate force grew larger with reinforcements. By the Battle of North Anna River on May 23-26 Grant had 68,000 (down from 130,000 three weeks earlier) to Lee’s 53,000. More battles followed through June 24 as Grant sought to outflank Lee in the campaign culminating in a Confederate Victory at the Battle of Cold Harbor from May 31 to June 12 with the heaviest fighting on June 3 and Grant’s decision to order a frontal assault of his II Corps that was comparably as futile and bloody as Pickett’s Charge for the Confederates at Gettysburg. After two months of intense fighting in the Wilderness/Overland campaign Grant had lost 7 ,621 troops, 38,339 were wounded, and 8,966 were captured or missing. Lee had lost 4,352, 19,130 were wounded, and 10,164 were captured or missing; but the South could not replace those losses.

In June the siege of Petersburgh, Virginia began. The two armies would fight trench warfare, presaging World War I through April 1865.

As part of the Siege of Petersburgh, on July 30, 1864 General Burnside’s IX Corps mined under the Confederate defenses and exploded the mine. In the Battle of the Crater Burnside’s force tried to rush through the breach; but were ultimately repulsed by Lee.

On August 4, 1864 Lee repulsed an effort by Major General Winfield Scott Hancock to break through Confederate lines to Richmond.

On February 9, 1865 Lee was made Commander-in-Chief of all Confederate forces.

On April 2, 1865 the decimated Confederate force retreated from their lines around Petersburg. On April 3 Richmond fell. Lee was seeking to march his army south to join General Johnston’s when his battered army was finally surrounded on April 9, 1865, by General Grant’s Army of the Potomac. General Lee chose to surrender at Appomattox Courthouse rather than fighting to the death.

Lee broke the news to his troops with this address:

“I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.”

“By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from a consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a Merciful God will extend to you His blessings and protection.”

“With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.”

Lee returned home from the war on parole. He was indicted for insurrection, but never brought to trial. His beloved Arlington estate was seized by federal authorities and turned into America’s premiere military cemetery during the war. The family would not be compensated until years after Lee’s death. Lee applied for a pardon, but that was “lost” until 1975. In August 1865 Lee was elected the president of Washington College in Virginia – now known as Washington and Lee University. He accepted an invitation to visit President Grant (R) in the White House. He died on October 12, 1870 in Lexington, Virginia.

Lee’s birthday is a state holiday. It and Martin Luther King Day are celebrated on the same day.

Some in the civil rights community object to the state honoring Lee with a state holiday.

Wikipedia and the Stratford Hall website were consulted for this article.

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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Josh Moon

Opinion | Who is K.B. Forbes? The answer isn’t hard to find or all that unexpected

Forbes appears to be that guy who hangs around the periphery of politics and business. That guy who makes his money in mysterious ways. Who is aligned with this person or group one day, their sworn enemy the next. 

Josh Moon

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K.B. Forbes appears on the show "BorderLine" in 1996. (YOUTUBE)

You probably don’t know K.B. Forbes, but you know who he is. Unless you’re a journalist in the state of Alabama — or maybe Florida or California or Colorado — you’ve likely never dealt with Forbes, who serves as the executive director of Consejo de Latinos Unidos and as the publisher of the “BanBalch” blog. 

If you do happen to be a journalist — or just someone with a camera and a website that attracts a few eyeballs — you probably do know Forbes, or at least have read through one of his many emails, maybe even ventured over to the blog to read through the various allegations of corruption and horrors against the Balch & Bingham law firm. 

I like that blog. Mainly because I’ve never been a big Balch & Bingham fan, and generally believe that firm is a blight upon the state. So, that blog, on which Forbes writes and writes about the nefarious practices of Balch attorneys in a supposed effort to defend his attorney friend, is a fun read for me. 

But the other day, following a lengthy story written by my boss and APR publisher Bill Britt that questioned the funding behind Forbes and his website, I started to wonder: Just who is this guy? Well, that wasn’t hard to figure out. There’s plenty of information on him out there, readily available through a simple Google search of his name. 

And as it turns out, I knew exactly who Forbes was. And you do too. 

Forbes appears to be that guy who hangs around the periphery of politics and business. That guy who makes his money in mysterious ways. Who is aligned with this person or group one day, their sworn enemy the next. 

A piece of political putty, apparently completely devoid of deeply held beliefs, and willing to be molded into whatever form best fits his next clients.

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He’s a guy who one year is working on the anti-immigration campaign of rightwinger Pat Buchanan and a few years later is running a nonprofit allegedly devoted to protecting the rights of Latino immigrants. 

He’s the guy fighting for minorities and tackling racial injustices in Alabama, while at the same time publishing arguably racist, doctored images of a black lawmaker and his wife. 

He’s the guy who is allegedly running a nonprofit that goes after hospitals for overcharging uninsured immigrants, but who, numerous publications and critics have alleged publicly, is possibly using that nonprofit to aid himself and the insurance company owner he used to work for. 

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Forbes, of course, likely denies this. I don’t know that for certain. I sent him a lengthy email explaining exactly what I found through the Internet searches and quite bluntly telling him what those findings led me to believe — that his “BanBalch” website looked like a shakedown attempt. He didn’t respond. 

But being accused of shakedowns isn’t new for Forbes — primarily for the benefit of his former boss, J. Patrick Rooney, an insurance company owner. 

According to numerous stories over the years in a variety of publications, it is generally believed that Forbes started CDLU as a front operation. With Rooney’s initial financial backing — which Forbes has admitted in the past — CDLU started in 2001 targeting hospitals for their overcharging of uninsured patients and demanding that patients be charged equally. 

Noble work, right? Well, certainly, except that work also just happened to benefit the insurance company operated by Rooney, driving down costs and raking in millions for the multi-millionaire.

For example, Rooney’s relatively small insurance company allegedly owed Tenet Health millions of dollars in unpaid bills for clients. According to Business Week, CDLU went after Tenet in 2003 over the hospital’s collections practices, filing 10 lawsuits. However, according to the Business Week story, when Tenet agreed to forgive Rooney’s debt, CDLU dropped every lawsuit. 

Forbes, of course, has denied the connection between CDLU and Rooney, saying that Rooney provided him the startup money for CDLU — some $100,000 — and nothing more. But an investigation by Roll Call in 2005 found that Rooney had registered the domains for numerous websites that CDLU set up to attack hospitals, including two that were attempting to obtain back payments from Rooney’s insurance company. 

Forbes said that was all just a simple mistake. A “programmer” entered the wrong registrant when creating the websites, he told Roll Call. 

But there’s more. 

In 2005, when a U.S. House committee began looking into the practice of hospitals overcharging the uninsured, a list of questions was sent by the committee chair to the CEO of Tenet. Among the questions, the committee wanted to know about Tenet’s specific settlement with CDLU and Forbes. In a response, Tenet CEO Trevor Fetter acknowledged that it essentially paid Forbes, setting up a system in which it paid him for speaking engagements and funded his travel. 

That setup is suspiciously similar to what Forbes seems to be doing now with his Ban Balch website, as he pushes embarrassing stories and attacks the law firm’s clients. He has bragged about driving business away and has openly asked if it wouldn’t be better for Balch to pay him to go away. 

In a response to several questions I sent him, Forbes denied that he could be paid to shut down his website and said he refused alleged attempts by Balch attorneys to include CDLU and the website in negotiations with attorney Burt Newsome.  

Newsome’s grievance with Balch, which appears to be a legit complaint that highlights Balch’s notoriously awful tactics, is Forbes’ stated reason for starting his blog and going so heavily after Balch. He claims he met Newsome when their wives started participating in the same online moms’ group and became friends. He heard Newsome’s tale of how he was wronged by Balch and decided to devote CDLU’s resources to exposing the law firm. 

Which sounds nice, except, CDLU’s stated purpose is to advocate for the uninsured and Latinos facing wrongs. All of its previous work has been in those areas. 

The sudden shift to taking on a law firm over one man’s grievance seems … a convenient pivot that has allowed Forbes to use the media connections and resources of CDLU to apply pressure on Balch and its clients. 

And in the process, Forbes has seemingly abandoned the organization’s goal of protecting minorities. In a series of posts about an alleged “star chamber” hearing set up for Balch by Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Carole Smitherman, Forbes attacked Smitherman, wife of state Sen. Rodger Smitherman, calling her “corrupt,” “worthless” and “stupid.” 

Accompanying one post on the blog was a doctored photo of Carole and Rodger Smitherman that can only be described as racist. It depicts the Smithermans wearing striped jail uniforms.

A screenshot from Forbes’s “BanBalch” blog.

But then, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Forbes would have such a blindspot, given his work prior to starting CDLU. 

Serving as a spokesman for the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes (no relation), one of Forbes’ pet projects and his area of emphasis in dozens of interviews was on the dangers of illegal immigration and the threats that immigrants pose. 

Less than five years before starting an organization allegedly focused on ensuring the health care of immigrants, Forbes was actively fighting against those same immigrants receiving benefits. A clip of Forbes’ appearance on a TV show shows him criticizing then-presidential candidate Bob Dole for not hitting illegal immigration harder or making it a bigger issue in the campaign. 

Prior to that, Forbes’ rhetoric on immigration was even stronger. As a young advocate in the late 1980s in his hometown of San Marino, California, Forbes attempted to get the city council to pass an ordinance making English the city’s official language — an ordinance he openly acknowledged was aimed at the city’s growing Asian immigrant population. 

At the meeting, according to a Los Angeles Times story, Forbes exclaimed that the city was being “overrun by foreigners.” He was shouted down by attendees. 

But Forbes would be back. And later, he would be pushing anti-immigrant rhetoric focused on Hispanics, because that’s what he was paid to do. And then pushing for immigrant welfare, because that’s what he was paid to do. And then pushing for hospital pricing reform that just so happened to benefit his former boss, because that’s what he was paid to do. 

And really, after all the questions about Forbes, there’s probably only one that matters. Because, as I said at the start, we all have a pretty good idea who Forbes is. 

The only question is who’s paying him.

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Health

Alabama coalition pushes for Medicaid expansion amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit research organization Families USA released a report Monday that shows that in Alabama, job losses during the coronavirus pandemic resulted in 69,000 Alabamians losing health insurance between February and May.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A coalition of Alabama organizations pushing for an expansion of Medicaid in the state says that the expansion should have happened before the COVID-19 pandemic, but is all the more needed now, as thousands of Alabamians have lost health insurance during the crisis. 

Jane Adams, Alabama Arise campaign director, said in a statement Wednesday that even before COVID-19 , the state’s failure to expand Medicaid left more than 220,000 adults uninsured. Adams directs Cover Alabama, which is a coalition of more than 90 groups pushing for Medicaid expansion in the state. Arise is a founding member of the coalition.

“Further coverage losses during the recession will bring health and financial suffering for even more families across our state,” Adams said. “More people will go without needed health care. More hospital bills will go unpaid. And all Alabamians will bear the additional strain on our health care system. This report’s findings should be a blaring emergency siren for our state leaders.”

The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit research organization Families USA released a report Monday that shows that in Alabama, job losses during the coronavirus pandemic resulted in 69,000 Alabamians losing health insurance between February and May. Those uninsured adults raised Alabama’s uninsured rate to 19 percent, which is the ninth highest rate in the country, and 3 percentage points higher than in 2018, according to the report. 

“As workers and their families lose comprehensive health insurance, their risk of delayed care and complications from the virus increases. So does their risk of financial devastation,” Alabama Arise’s press release states. 

Across the country 5.4 million more Americans lost health insurance between February and May, the report notes, which was a 39 percent higher increase in uninsured than any annual increase on record. States with high numbers of uninsured are also seeing more increases in COVID-19 cases, according to the report, which ranks Alabama as having the seven highest rate of new COVID-19 cases among the 15 states with large numbers of uninsured. 

“COVID-19 is putting lives, livelihoods and economic security at risk for thousands of Alabama workers. And many communities face long-term challenges for health care capacity and economic recovery,” Adams said. “Alabama Arise and Cover Alabama urge Gov. Kay Ivey to save lives and stabilize our local hospitals by expanding Medicaid. We ask the Legislature to provide the needed state share of this pro-family, pro-health, pro-community investment in our future. And we ask Congress to strengthen Medicaid funding and help Alabama shore up our health care infrastructure.”

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Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told reporters during a press conference Tuesday that expanding Medicaid “is critically important.”

“We see clear data now that infant mortality rates are lowered in states that have expanded Medicaid, because women have better access to prenatal care,” Williamson said. “We see breast cancer diagnosed earlier, hence reducing the death rate due to breast cancer. We see diabetes being diagnosed earlier. We just see a general improvement in life expectancy and health outcomes associated with people having access to health care.”

In states that have expanded Medicaid there’s evidence that peoples’ credit scores improve, bankruptcies decline and jobs are created, Williamson said.

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“It seems to us like the right thing to do for our citizens, and it seems the right thing to do for the state, and that was all before COVID,” Williamson said. “And COVID has simply highlighted that there are thousands of people now who end up coming to hospitals and not having insurance.”

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, who hosted Williamson in the Tuesday press conference, has been a longtime proponent of expanding Medicaid in Alabama, and said he continues to work to try and get incentives approved to help reduce the cost to Alabama and other states for an expansion of the program.

“Going into this pandemic we had over 300,000 Alabamians it would have benefited,” Jones said of a Medicaid expansion. “Today, it’s probably closer to 500,000.”

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Governor

State Rep. Will Dismukes says mask order is “a ridiculous crock”

Brandon Moseley

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State Rep. Will Dismukes.

Several Republican lawmakers have not taken kindly to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s decision to issue a statewide mask order. This is being done to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which is ravaging the state, but State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, dismissed the idea as “the dumbest thing that could be done.”

“The statewide mask implementation is the dumbest thing that could be done besides shutting the state down,” Dismukes claimed. “Here is just a couple reasons why,” Dismukes wrote on social media. “As I have been watching people wear their mask, a vast majority do not wear them correctly. So that makes it pointless.”

“One of the main things we are told is, wash your hands and don’t touch your face,” Dismukes continued. “The majority of people who wear a mask are touching their face far more than if they didn’t wear one at all.”

Dismukes said the mask requirement is a “ridiculous crock.”

Former State Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, also questioned whether the governor has the legal authority to even issue the order.

“While it may be a smart move, in my opinion anything not passed by the legislature is only a suggestion and does not have the weight of law,” Butler said. “You can not force healthy people to wear a mask, and in my opinion if this were passed by the legislature, they can really only control state property and not private property.”

“Also the government cannot decide what goods, services, venues etc. are essential,” Butler added. “Only we the people can do such and we have had that right since 1776.”

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“I’m always against overreach of any kind even when it’s a good idea,” Butler said. “Government is supposed to protect your rights. Private property owners (businesses) are well within their rights to require you to wear a mask while on their property. I would have no issue had she stood up there and strongly requested everyone to wear a mask but to invent a law is never right. I predict a judge would quickly drop any charges. We have 3 branches of government for a reason.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth similarly expressed reservations with the statewide mask order.

“Issuing a statewide face mask mandate, however, is an overstep that infringes upon the property rights of business owners and the ability of individuals to make their own health decisions,” Ainsworth said. “In addition, it imposes a one-size-fits-all, big government requirement on counties that currently have low to moderate infection rates and little need for such a mandate.”

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“Masks should be worn to combat further outbreaks, and while I admire Gov. Ivey’s leadership and her on-going efforts, I also believe a statewide order is the wrong way to go about encouraging their use,” Ainsworth said.

In March, the Governor shut down the Alabama economy to slow the spread of the coronavirus. By April 30, a growing number of people were panicked about the economic impact of the shutdowns, so the governor ordered the gradual reopening of the economy.

Since Memorial Day weekend, the number of coronavirus cases has grown tremendously. From March 20 to May 10, the state of Alabama had diagnosed a total of 9,889 COVID-19 cases (52 days). The next ten thousand cases were diagnosed between May 9 and June 7 (28 days).

The state broke 30,000 cases on June 22 (15 days), 40,000 cases on July 1 (9 days) and 50,000 cases on July 11 (10 days). On Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced that the state had reached 58,225 cases. 32,073 of those cases are still active.

ADPH reports that 1,183 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 already and the department is investigating another 28 probable COVID-19 deaths. More than half of Alabama’s COVID-19 deaths have come since that Memorial Day weekend and the reopening of the Alabama economy.

Despite the risk, the state plans on reopening schools next month.

The state remains under a statewide “safer-at-home” order. Citizens are advised to please stay home whenever possible, wash hands frequently, wear a mask or a cloth face covering when out in public, avoid situations where you might be in crowds or within six feet of other people not in your immediate household, and to be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19.

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Courts

Police may serve search warrants out of their jurisdiction, Alabama AG says

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Tuesday that recent actions by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court have clarified that Alabama law allows law enforcement officers in the state to serve search warrants outside their territorial jurisdiction as long as a judge within the jurisdiction of service approves the warrant.

“The influence of the internet in the spread of criminal activity across jurisdictions has highlighted the need for timely collection of evidence critical to stopping crimes and securing convictions,” Marshall said. “These court actions remove any doubt that law enforcement has the authority to gather vital evidence across jurisdictions. I’m pleased the Attorney General’s Office played a role in this effort.”

In May 2018, Jeffrey Dale Hunt was indicted for over 6,500 counts for possession and production of child pornography. In that case, law enforcement officers in Lauderdale County seized evidence in nearby Colbert County. Hunt’s legal defense sought to suppress the evidence gathered by a Florence police detective at Hunt’s workplace in Colbert County. The Florence police detective had secured the warrant from a Colbert County judge prior to serving it.

In June 2019, a Lauderdale County circuit court judge granted Hunt’s motion to suppress the evidence. Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly appealed that decision to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Marshall supported Connolly’s appeal.

In handling the appeal, the attorney general argued that the circuit court had erred in granting the motion to suppress evidence collected from Hunt’s electronic devices at his workplace. The AG’s office argued that the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure allow Alabama law enforcement officers to serve locally-approved warrants outside their territorial jurisdictions.

In its March 13, 2020, opinion, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals agreed. Hunt then appealed the court’s ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court. On July 10, 2020, the court denied Hunt’s petition for certiorari review.

Marshall wrote that the combined court actions not only allow the suppressed evidence in Hunt’s case to be readmitted, but they also serve to clarify for the first time in Alabama criminal case law that search warrants can be served by law enforcement officers outside their territorial jurisdictions provided a local judge within the jurisdiction of service approves the warrant.

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The victory before the Supreme Court will allow the Lauderdale County District Attorney’s prosecution of the Hunt case now to proceed.

Marshall thanked Assistant Attorney General Kristi Wilkerson, Solicitor General Edmund LaCour and Deputy Solicitor General Barrett Bowdre for their efforts in working this important pre-trial appeal case. The attorney general also expressed appreciation to the Lauderdale County District Attorney’s Office for its close cooperation in the successful appeal.

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