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Jones will vote to confirm Trump attorney general nominee

Brandon Moseley

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Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, announced Wednesday that he planned to vote to confirm Trump appointee for attorney general, Bill Barr. Jones is the first Democratic Senator to announce that he is supporting Barr.

“As a former U.S. Attorney, I believe the most important responsibility of an Attorney General is to uphold the rule of law and to do so with a commitment to transparency,” Jones said in a statement. “I have spent nearly two months examining Mr. Barr’s record. I watched his hearings last month, during which he answered difficult but important questions from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I have listened to and considered the concerns of my constituents and leaders in the justice community. I have also spoken personally with Mr. Barr and asked him some tough questions of my own, informed by my own experience as a U.S. attorney. After thorough consideration, I have concluded that Mr. Barr is qualified for the position of attorney general, and his record strongly suggests he will exercise independent judgment and uphold the best interests of the Department of Justice. Should the Judiciary Committee move forward with his nomination, I will vote to confirm Mr. Barr as attorney general of the United States.”

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, is also supporting the confirmation of Barr.

“Today I met with the attorney general nominee William Barr, who previously served as AG under Bush 41,”. Shelby said on social media. “Barr has the right experience for the job and is a wise choice by President (Donald) Trump. I look forward to supporting his confirmation.”

“While we often talk about the rights and freedoms guaranteed to us under the United States Constitution, the rule of law is what ensures those rights and freedoms are protected,” Jones added. “We live in deeply divided times, but it is in precisely this kind of environment that this principle is so important. In addition, I believe that Mr. Barr shares my commitment to the institutional independence of the Department of Justice and that he will bring stabilizing leadership that is badly needed.”

The Hill is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is planning to bring up Barr’s nomination next week.

“Before us is a nominee who remains imminently well qualified to discharge these duties,” McConnell said. “The Senate needs to act quickly to put Bill Barr back to work at the Justice Department. I hope and expect he’ll be confirmed next week.”

Barr served as the 77th attorney general of the United States from 1991 to 1993 when George H. W. Bush was president. Barr is 68.

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Jones’ defection makes it very difficult for Democrats to block the confirmation. The Hill is reporting that if Jones votes to confirm, then Democrats would need five Republicans to vote to block and other moderate Democrats, including Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, have not said what they will do yet.

The position of attorney general became vacant when the president forced Jeff Sessions to resign. The president was critical of Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into allegations that the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russian intelligence. Jones was elected to fill the remainder of Sessions term in the Senate. Jones faces the voters in 2020.

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National

Aderholt: Alabama has shown how to reopen for business

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said “Alabama has shown the country and the world how to properly reopen for business.” Aderholt made the remarks in an email to constituents.

“As we make our way into the first full week of June, I think it is important to remember the great strides we have made as a country and as a state since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic,” Rep. Aderholt wrote. “It was just over two months ago when the world stood still and almost everything closed down. Stay at Home orders were implemented and businesses shut their doors.”

“Thankfully, things are better now as we have begun the process of returning to normal,” Aderholt continued. “The expanded Safer at Home order here in Alabama has been encouraging, and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States has decreased significantly. All of this is good news, and I am hopeful that the positive news will continue throughout the month of June.”

“Alabama has shown the country and the world how to properly reopen for business,” Aderholt exclaimed. “Our state started loosening restrictions several weeks ago, and with each new set of expansions to the Safer at Home order, we have not seen a significant spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19. Just last week Governor Ivey instituted an update to her statewide order that allowed certain entertainment venues, athletic activities, child-care facilities, educational institutions, and even Summer camps to reopen as long as they adhere to social-distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines. This is great news, and I am incredibly pleased that Alabama is one of the most open states in the country.”

Aderholt said that Marshall County was the hot spot of the Fourth Congressional District.

“As you may have heard, Marshall County has not only been the hotspot in the 4th District, but it has the most confirmed cases in North Alabama,” Aderholt said. “Yet, the good news is that these cases are not translating into hospitalizations. At the end of last week, there were only two COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Marshall County. Then on Wednesday of this week it was announced that there was not a single COVID-19 patient in any Marshall County hospital. Let’s hope this trend continues.”

There has been 693 diagnosed cases in Marshall County and nine deaths from COVID-19.

Rep. Aderholt warned that the coronavirus remains a threat.

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“What remains important, even with newly expanded openings, is the health and safety of you and your loved ones,” Aderholt said. “Ensuring we maintain social distancing and proper sanitation is vitally important, and keeping businesses afloat during this pandemic will remain a high priority. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office, we are happy to help in any way we can. Additionally, my website has an entire section dedicated to COVID-19 Information.”

Twelve more Alabamians lost their fight with COVID-19 on Sunday taking our death toll to 630. 593 were diagnosed with the illness on Sunday taking the state’s total cases to 17.952. The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that 9,355 of them are presumed recovered. 106,198 Americans have died in the global pandemic,

Congressman Robert Aderholt represents Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District. He is Alabama’s longest-serving member of the House of Representatives.

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Aerospace and Defense

Brooks is excited by America’s return to space

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) praised the launch of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil—the first such launch in a decade. The USA finally has put astronauts in space. SpaceX accomplished the feat on Saturday.

Congressman Brooks said that the Tennessee Valley is excited by the launch.

“The Tennessee Valley is the birthplace of America’s space program and Huntsville is proudly nicknamed the ‘Rocket City,’” Rep. Brooks said. “I well remember the earth-shaking, dish-rattling Apollo rocket engine tests on Redstone Arsenal just a few miles from our home. I also proudly remember 1969, when our community’s rocket engine work came to fruition with landing and walking on the Moon.”

“I again feel great pride in America’s space accomplishments,” Brooks said in a statement. “There hasn’t been an all-American launch in a decade.”

Brooks said that the successful launch “signals a resurgence of America’s human space flight preeminence.”

“NASA and SpaceX have teamed to launch American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, the same rocket that successfully flew uncrewed in March 2019,” Brooks explained. “Bob and Doug will embark on a 19-hour journey to the International Space Station where they will spend between one and four months onboard.”

“The Tennessee Valley stands ready to again do our part in making this launch and future launches successful,” Brooks concluded.

This is the first time in history, that NASA astronauts have launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station.

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“Today a new era in human spaceflight begins as we once again launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil on their way to the International Space Station, our national lab orbiting Earth,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I thank and congratulate Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and the SpaceX and NASA teams for this significant achievement for the United States. The launch of this commercial space system designed for humans is a phenomenal demonstration of American excellence and is an important step on our path to expand human exploration to the Moon and Mars.”

Known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, the mission is an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations. This is SpaceX’s second spaceflight test of its Crew Dragon and its first test with astronauts aboard, which will pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“This is a dream come true for me and everyone at SpaceX,” said Elon Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX. “It is the culmination of an incredible amount of work by the SpaceX team, by NASA and by a number of other partners in the process of making this happen. You can look at this as the results of a hundred thousand people roughly when you add up all the suppliers and everyone working incredibly hard to make this day happen.”

President Donald J. Trump (R) and Vice President Mike Pence (R) were both on hand to watch the launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on Saturday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“It’s incredible — the technology, the power. I’m so proud of the people at NASA — all the people that worked together, public and private,” Pres. Trump said. “When you see a sight like that, it’s incredible. The power of that machine and the danger — no matter how you figure. When you — when you hear that sound, and you hear all of that — the roar — you can imagine how dangerous it is. When you feel the shake — and we’re very far away, but you feel the shake over here — it’s pretty — pretty amazing. A beautiful sight. A beautiful ship, too. That’s really a beauty. Considered a beauty. I would say it’s a beauty.”

“I speak to him all the time. Great guy,” Trump said of Musk. “He’s one of our great brains. We like great brains. And Elon has done a fantastic job. But that was a beautiful sight to see, and I hope you all enjoyed it. And we’re going to be saying a few words inside, so I’ll see you inside, okay? Thank you very much. A very great honor to have you here.”

“You know, four years ago, this place as essentially shut down,” Trump said. “The space program was over. The shuttle program was dead. One of the Secret Service men said they were here with the past administration — I won’t tell you who — and they were here to shut down the facility. And now we’re the leader in the world again. And this is just the beginning. They’re going to Mars. They’re going to the Moon, but they’re going to the Moon in order to go to Mars. It’s a platform.”

“It’s difficult to put into words how proud I am of the people who got us here today,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “When I think about all of the challenges overcome – from design and testing, to paper reviews, to working from home during a pandemic and balancing family demands with this critical mission – I am simply amazed at what the NASA and SpaceX teams have accomplished together. This is just the beginning; I will be watching with great anticipation as Bob and Doug get ready to dock to the space station tomorrow, and through every phase of this historic mission.”

SpaceX controlled the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Control Center Firing Room 4. SpaceX has leased the former space shuttle control room as its primary launch control center.\

NASA teams are monitoring space station operations throughout the flight from Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

The United Launch Alliance is also working on a platform to launch men into space with the Dreamliner and NASA itself is doing testing on the Space Launch System which will launch astronauts into space in the Orion module that is also undergoing final testing.

Congressman Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.

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Courts

Alabama Parole and Probation Officers supervising nearly 9,000 violent criminals

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles released a report Thursday that was shared with state legislators and the media this week that shows Alabama’s 300 parole and probation officers are tasked with supervising 8,993 people convicted of violent crimes.

The officers are tasked with supervising more than 27,000 Alabama offenders as well as more than 3,600 offenders from other states who chose to move to Alabama following their incarceration in other states. Those are just the active cases.

There are an additional 22,947 inactive offenders for a total caseload of 50,055.

“The supervision of all these offenders that our officers provide daily is crucial to the safety of Alabamians and we are thankful for the selfless and dedicated work of these law enforcement officers,” said Bureau Director Charlie Graddick in a statement.

Graddick said that the Bureau put nine new officers into the field last week to begin supervising parolees and probationers and hopes to hire up to 138 more officers over the next three years — if the budget allows.

In the session that recently ended, the Legislature cut the bureau’s budget nearly in half.

“We are in need of more officers as we work to reduce caseloads,” Graddick said.

The report shows that 79 percent of the Alabama clients the bureau supervises were granted probation by judges throughout the state.

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Sixteen percent of the Alabama offenders are parolees who were granted release from prison by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Of the 6,078 Alabama parolees being supervised, 58 percent are violent offenders, some requiring much more intensive supervision.

Alabama has historically underfunded and understaffed the aging prison facilities managed by the Alabama Department of Corrections.

The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles is tasked with attempting to safely reintegrate parolees into society as well as to rehabilitate offenders sentenced to probation so that they do not re-offend and have to join the state’s prison population again.

A recent Department of Justice report claimed that Alabama’s prisons are among the most dangerous in the country.

The state has a critical need to increase prison capacity to reduce prison overcrowding and protect the public from crime and violence.

 

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Economy

Sewell, Rogers vote for bipartisan bills to improve Paycheck Protection Program

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell, D-Selma, and Mike Rogers, R-Saks, voted in favor of a bipartisan bill aimed at improving the Paycheck Protection Program, dubbed the Payroll Protection Program Flexibility Act.

“The Paycheck Protection Program has been a lifeline for tens of thousands of Alabama businesses, but there are still too many small businesses that have been unable to access necessary resources because of the program’s strict stipulations,” Sewell said.

Sewell said many small businesses have not applied despite their urgent need because they do not believe they can meet current standards, and many are afraid to use the money because of the program’s strict requirements.

“The bills the House passed today would both make the PPP program more flexible so it can reach more small businesses in need, and also increase the program’s transparency to ensure funding is going to main street businesses that need support the most,” Sewell said.

Rogers said he was pleased the act passed the House.

“The bill will add more flexibility to these loans to help small businesses even more,” he said. “It will extend the loan forgiveness period, allow businesses that receive forgiveness to also receive payroll tax deferment and will allow businesses to spend different amounts on payroll costs and mortgage, rent, and other expenses. I hope these modifications will further help our small businesses that are the heartbeat of our local economies.”

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than 60,000 Paycheck Protection Program loans have been issued to small businesses in Alabama with each recipient receiving an average PPP loan of about $100,000.

According to Sewell’s office, the new bill would provide needed flexibility to the Paycheck Protection Program — originally created by Congress in the CARES Act in April — in order to make this key program functional for the small businesses that need it the most.

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Sewell’s office provided a lengthy explanation of what the legislation does:

Under the current Paycheck Protection Program, the PPP loan converts to a grant as long as the small business uses the loan within eight weeks of the CARES Act enactment – that is, by June 30 – and uses at least 75 percent of the loan proceeds on payroll and the rest for such necessary expenses as rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. Many small businesses, particularly very small businesses, have reported that, with these restrictions, the loans do not meet their needs.

The bill makes the PPP program more flexible in the following key ways, in order to make it more accessible and usable for the vulnerable small businesses that need it the most:

Allowing loan forgiveness for expenses beyond the 8-week covered period to 24 weeks and extending the rehiring deadline. Back in March, the PPP program was established as an eight-week program, ending on June 30. However, it is clear that the economic effects of the pandemic will impact small businesses long past June 30. The current eight-week timeline does not work for local businesses that could only very recently have customers and those that are only allowed to open with very heavy restrictions. Small businesses need the flexibility to spread the loan proceeds over the full course of the crisis, until demand returns.

Increasing the current limitation on the use of loan proceeds for nonpayroll expenses from 25 percent to 40 percent. Currently, under regulations issued by the Trump Administration, the PPP loans require that no more than 25 percent of loan proceeds can be spent on non-payroll expenses such as rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. This limitation has prevented many small businesses, such as independent restaurants, from applying to the program because their rent is significantly more than 25 percent of their monthly expenses. The 40 percent limitation in this bill is much more realistic.

Extending the program from June 30 to December 31. By ensuring the PPP program will operate for 24 weeks, rather than only eight, this bill will ensure that many more truly small businesses will be able to take advantage of the program.

Extending loan terms from two years to five years. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, full recovery for that industry following both the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2008 recession took more than two full years. This was also true for many other industries. If the past is any indication of the future, it will take many businesses more than two years to achieve sufficient revenues to pay back the loan.

Ensuring full access to payroll tax deferment for businesses that take PPP loans. The purpose of PPP and the payroll tax deferment was to provide businesses with liquidity to weather the crisis. Receiving both should not be considered double-dipping. Businesses need access to both sources of cash flow to survive.

The Payroll Protection Program Flexibility Act passed on a 417 to 1 vote. Alabama Congressmembers Bradley Byrne, Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt, Martha Roby, and Gary Palmer also voted for the legislation. It now heads to the Senate for their consideration.

Rogers represents Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District. Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.

 

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