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North Alabama Legislative leaders hold public legislative forum in Huntsville

Brandon Moseley

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Several state legislators representing Madison County held a town hall listening event Monday at the Huntsville City Hall.

Sen. Arthur Orr said that the purpose of the forum is for the legislature to hear from the public and the legislators, including Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, listened as Madison County resident after Madison County resident spoke for three minutes on the topic that most interested them. Speakers were asked not to repeat points made by someone else and not to talk about local or federal issues unless the state legislature can do something about that issue.

Veterans advocate Will Webb said that sixteen years of a brutal terror war has resulted in 52,000 veterans being critically injured and hundreds of thousands suffering from stress and post-traumatic issues. What they do is critical, and he asked for their continued support.

Lori McCauley with the National Coalition of Black Women said that early puberty awareness is causing them to develop breasts early which is causing them to develop cancer earlier in life and urged that awareness be raised. McCauley also asked for legislation outlawing the selling of drug paraphernalia near a school or a church.

Rene Breland with the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments said that as our population greatly increases in Madison County our elderly population also increases increasing the need for services. Breland said that the TARCG managed Medicaid waiver program served 300 residents of Madison County in their homes at a cost of 24,0000 versus $21 million if they had been taken to a nursing home.

Breland said that their food for seniors meals program serves over 1400 seniors and they also provides counseling services through the SHIP program.

Mr. Johnson spoke against raising the gas tax. I am pleading to you to govern wisely.” “Empower the state auditor to audit not just the property but also the books. Empower him to correct wrongs that he caught in the state budgeting process. Put back the $63 million diverted from roads and bridges and end all the earmarks.

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“Wisely use the tax money. Every penny tat you take away is a creeping socialism.”
Johnson said, “The Alabama Republican Executive Committee voted against a gas tax almost two to one.”

Charles Orr said, “Do the right thing, not the easy thing; don’t raise the gas tax.”
George Berry said, “The reality is that when you leave this room and go to Montgomery you will see more lobbyists that people, but know that the people of Madison County are watching.”

“We are not in favor of raising taxes; but if you do we want to see taxes cut on something else,” Berry said. “Remove the tax on food.”

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Mike Parsons said that in 2012 Alabama was 25th in education, but after Common Core was implemented and the state removed the Alabama Graduation Exam performance plummeted. Parsons urged that the legislature repeal Common Core. “Go back to standards with rigor.”

Michael Polomini urged that the legislature ban any candidate, with the exception of the President, from receiving any campaign contributions from people or organizations from out of state. He also urged the legislature pass a road usage tax for electric vehicles and bicycles.

Michael Jennings said, “This 12 cent gas tax is a tax hike. It is a tax on the people of Alabama. It is a regressive tax.

Jennings also spoke in favor of prison reform. “We need to stop incarcerating non-violent offenders. We don’t need more prisons we need more programs for low level non-violent offenders.”

Alicia Clarke spoke on behalf of the Alabama Non-violent Offenders organization. She said that the pardons process is too long. “We are asking that you advance social justice by passing a non-violent offender criminal expungement bill.”

Mary Moore is the Vice President of the Alabama A&M Alumni Association she said that the University needs, “Funds, funds, funds. Please consider providing funds for Alabama A&M University.

Mitchell Hampton is the Principal of Crossroads School. He asked for the legislature to fund math coaches. “Math is the language in STEM.” To thrive in our local workforce in the future mastering math is a necessity; but Alabama still lags behind often 50th in Math. “Recently we were only above Puerto Rico. What do we need to improve teacher advocacy? Math coaches. UAH has already written the curriculum and is ready to train teachers to be math coaches. We can start now and then spread it across the state.”

Sheila Holt is the director of UAH’s AMSTI program.

“We know that the research says that we need job embedded quality professional support,” Holt said. “We have a waiting list of hundreds of teachers asking for our support. We know that math coaches will partner with the science and math teachers.” “We have written and piloted training for math coaches and training for administrators.”

Jerry Burnett is the President of the Huntsville – Madison County NAACP.

“We need to increase voter turnout,” President Burnett said. “Allow released felons to be automatically registered to vote, so they don’t have to apply for that certificate.”

Hannah Joy Ellis warned that each year 1000 local women are given cesareans. It seems suspicious. One local hospital has a 40 percent cesarean rate. Ellis said that she wants the cesarean rates of doctors and hospitals made public and wants a change in the midwives bill to allow women who have had cesareans to use home birth midwives.

Ellis said that Black babies in Alabama have twice the mortality rate as White babies and Black women are given cesareans at a much higher rate than White women.

Caroline Jones is the State leader of Moms Demand Action to Stop Gun Violence.

Jones said that Moms Demand Action’s mission is to reduce the number of people harmed by guns and transform our culture from one of gun violence to one of gun safety. “Alabama is number three in firearms death and Moms demand Action are working to change that.”

“We ask you to vote no on Senate bill four,” Caroline Jones said. “Permit-less carry is dangerous and will only exacerbate an already huge problem.

Gail Williams is with Alabama Arise she urged the legislature to end the sales tax on food and to expand Medicaid, warning that most rural hospitals are operating in the red and predicted that more of them would close without Medicaid expansion.

Jaquelyn Clark spoke out against the requirement that mothers, like her, who have had cesareans in the past can’t use nurse midwives.

David Harrah is with the Professional Firefighters Association he spoke out in favor of firefighters being able to get cancer coverage on Comp for firefighters.
“One associations claims that could potentially bankrupt our cities,” Harrah said. In no way is claims bankrupting any cities.

Harrah said that 87 firefighters died in the line of duty or driving to the scene of an emergency last year; however 103 took their own lives; because, “They could not get the mental health that they need. It is time that we start to get the people that take care of us the help they need.”

Jackie Reed said, “I am a government watchdog. I have been for over 30 years.”
“Use common sense,” Reed said. “You can have all kinds of degrees on that wall; but if you have no common sense…..then God help you.” “I am concerned about the schools and the teachers carrying guns.”

Ms. Thomas with the National Coalition of 100 Black women warned about a growing bullying problem in the schools that is not being addressed.

Conservative TV and radio host Dale Jackson said that if the legislature raises fuel taxes, and it might be necessary; then show some good faith and repeal the sales tax on food.

Jackson complained that Al.com and other newspapers make hundred of thousands on required legal notices which he says is out of date in 2019.

“This is 2019 fix this law,” Jackson said, “Let Huntsville, let Madison County use this money to fix roads or something else that they need.”

Jennifer Nelson said, “Our infrastructure is falling apart. We have got limited transportation choices. Because our gas taxes are so low, we have a major revenue problem.”

Nelson asked the legislature to raise fuel taxes to repair roads and bridges, fund more park and ride, ride sharing, and mass transit She also suggested passing a vehicle miles traveled fee and asked the legislators to consider eliminating sales taxes on food and on thrift stores.

A small boy asked the legislature for $500,000 to build a special playground for handicapped kids so that his disabled sister and other children with disabilities can play outside safely like other children,

Mr. Barnes. an Alabama A&M political science student, suggested passing a lottery to provide tuition for college students and expanding work study programs to pay for college tuition.

Huntsville and Madison County is one of the fastest growing areas in the state. Huntsville is predicted to become the large city in the state within four years.

The 2019 regular legislative session begins on Tuesday, March 5 in Montgomery.

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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Alabama Legislative Black Caucus holds meetings on racism in wake of George Floyd death

Eddie Burkhalter

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State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, is the chair of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus.

Members of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus in recent months have been meeting with Gov. Kay Ivey, state law enforcement officials and others to voice their concern over systemic racism in Alabama, the group said in a statement Friday. 

Alabama Legislative Black Caucus members in June met with Ivey, and in follow-up meetings with other state officials and leaders of higher education, members discussed what they believe needs changing to battle racism in Alabama, according to the press release. 

“We are very appreciative of Governor Ivey and all of the officials with whom we have met thus far,” said State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, chairwoman of the ALBC, in a statement. “Our dialogues have been very substantive and productive as the Caucus presented our concerns and recommendations. Our goal is to get to the root of and eradicate racism and anything that communicates hatred, bigotry or divisiveness within the State of Alabama. The tragic and senseless death of George Floyd caused us all to take a closer look at the systemic racism at work here in Alabama.”

ALBC members met with officials from Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Sheriffs Association, the Alabama Association of Police Chiefs and Katie Britt, president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama along with BCA’s Executive Leadership Committee.

Members also met with The University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John, and Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University. 

In the statement, ALBC members applauded the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees for voting unanimously to rename Nott Hall — named for Josiah Nott, a doctor who believed in white superiority — Honors Hall. 

“The University of Alabama had already started this endeavor before our meeting with them this past Tuesday,” said State Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Gallion, vice chairman of ALBC, in a statement. “That was a great first step and strong leadership was shown. We are looking forward to the other institutions of higher learning in Alabama to do the same as well. The Caucus also hopes that all members of the Alabama Legislature have been inspired to adopt and make meaningful changes in legislation that governs our state.”

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Figures said the group of elected senators and representatives are holding these talks, with plans for others, “so that people will stop focusing on Alabama’s sordid past, and instead see a beautiful Alabama present, and the makings of a bright future for all Alabamians.” 

“During each of these meetings, our members have had the opportunity to voice what we feel the necessary changes should be. I just hope this openness to positive change continues throughout the upcoming 2021 Alabama Legislative Session,” said State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, in a statement. 

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State senator calls for Rep. Dismukes to resign over celebration of former Klan leader

“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative,” Chambliss wrote in a tweet. “He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people in District 88.” 

Eddie Burkhalter

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State Sen Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, on Monday called for the resignation of Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville.

State Sen Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, on Monday called for the resignation of Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, after posting to social media about attending a birthday celebration for Nathanial Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Dismukes posted a photo of himself on Sunday speaking at Fort Dixie outside of Selma on Saturday, the same day that late Congressman and Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, was honored in Selma. 

“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative,” Chambliss wrote in a tweet. “He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people in District 88.” 

“The post is bad enough, the timing is even worse, but the real problem is that an elected official in 2020 would attend a celebration of the life of someone that led a group that terrorized and killed other human beings,” Chambliss continued in the tweet. “He has had 24 hours to understand why people are so upset, but his interview on WSFA a few moments ago confirms that he is lacking in understanding and judgment — he should resign immediately.” 

Dismukes in the WSFA interview told a reporter that he hadn’t thought about the memorial for Rep. Lewis and connected it to his attendance at the celebration for the Klan leader. 

Dismukes told WSFA that he won’t apologize for his family’s service in the “war between the states” that he said wasn’t primarily fought over slavery, that he’s not a racist but that he doesn’t see the need for the current racial reconciliation. 

“We no longer drink from separate water fountains, and we no longer have segregated schools,” Dismukes told WSFA. “You know there’s abundant work opportunities for all colors, there’s abundant scholarship opportunities for all colors. So what are you asking that needs to be racially reconciled?”

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Chambliss may be the first Republican lawmaker in Alabama to call for Dismukes’ resignation, but others have expressed concern over his social media post and attendance at the event. 

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan issued a statement addressing the post, and said he believes voters should decide whether Dismukes keeps his office. 

“While Rep. Dismukes has released a statement attempting to clarify his actions as a private citizen attending a celebration of the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Alabamians hold their elected officials to a high standard of actions. So does the Republican Party,” Lathan said in the statement. 

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“Rep. Dismukes offered no explanation for why he participated in a birthday celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Additionally, I find his statement to be shallow in understanding why his activities are deeply offensive to so many Alabamians. His constituents will be the final decision-makers of his political future.”

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Republicans are concerned by Rep. Dismukes’ Confederate social media posts

Brandon Moseley

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Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, is facing criticism for attending a birthday celebration for the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, on Monday released a statement in response to a recent social media post by State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, who was in Selma Saturday celebrating Confederate General and Ku Klux Klan leader Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest’s birthday over the weekend. This was while much of the rest of the state was celebrating the life of Alabama native and Civil Rights Movement legend Congressman John Lewis.

“The Alabama Republican Caucus is comprised of 75 men and women, each of whom have their own beliefs and principles that guide their lives,” Ledbetter said. “The personal beliefs expressed by any one member do not reflect the beliefs of the others, and their activities outside the Legislature should be considered their own, as well.”

“Several of our Republican Caucus members have reached out to me with concerns about the content and timing of a recent social media post by State Rep. Will Dismukes, and I, as a House member, share those concerns,” Ledbetter continued. “We live in a nation that guarantees each citizen the right to express the ideas they wish to share, and in the case of a public official, voters will ultimately decide if they agree with those ideas.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, also released a statement regarding the controversial social media post.

“The Alabama House cannot police the beliefs, statements, and activities of its members outside the Legislature as that is a job best assigned to voters in each House district across the state,” McCutcheon said. “It is important to note, however, that I and many other members of the House devoted our weekend toward honoring an Alabama native and civil rights icon who dedicated his life to securing freedom, liberty, and equality for all Americans.”

“While Rep. Dismukes has released a statement attempting to clarify his actions as a private citizen attending a celebration of the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Alabamians hold their elected officials to a high standard of actions. So does the Republican Party,” said Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan. “Rep. Dismukes offered no explanation for why he participated in a birthday celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Additionally, I find his statement to be shallow in understanding why his activities are deeply offensive to so many Alabamians. His constituents will be the final decision-makers of his political future.”

“The Alabama of today was on full, honorable display as we paid humble tribute this weekend to the life of Congressman John Lewis,” Lathan continued. “That is the Alabama that we are proud of — showing the nation and world that we are one in the common goals of equality for all of our citizens.”

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“It is one thing to honor one’s Southern heritage, however, it is completely another issue to specifically commemorate the leader of an organization with an indisputable history of unconscionable actions and atrocities toward African-Americans,” Lathan concluded. “I strongly urge his constituents to contact Rep. Dismukes to articulate and share with him their thoughts on his personal actions.”

On Sunday, Dismukes shared several pictures from the celebration of Gen. Forest’s birthday, with the caption: “Had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration. Always a great time and some sure enough good eating!!”

After the comments became a social media firestorm that has garnered press attention, Dismukes attempted to explain his position.

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“First and foremost, my post yesterday was in no way related to disrespecting the passing of Rep. John Lewis,” Dismukes said. “That wasn’t even a thought in my mind. That is not who I am as a person. I am a transparent person. To the point that as a public official I lay it all there for the people to see for better or for worse at times. My post yesterday was as usual me sharing a previous days events. The post was in no way intended to seem as if I was glorifying the Klan or any party thereof. The very atrocities and actions they committed are a disgrace to our country.”

“Also, we are all individual members that make up our legislature. I made a post independent of my colleagues,” Dismukes continued. “I made a post independent of my colleagues. My regret is that I have allowed them to be put in a negative light. If you disagree with me and my beliefs do not hold them under the same umbrella. I can live with a dislike for me, but not fellow members, or members of my own personal family. Our body as a whole is made up of some of the finest people I have ever had the honor of knowing and working with, both Democrat and Republican. I close by reiterating that my post was in no way glorifying the Klan or disrespecting the late Rep. John Lewis.”

The Alabama Democratic Party had already come out and demanded that Dismukes resign months ago when it became known that he, a minister, was chaplain for a Sons of the Confederacy chapter in central Alabama.

Dismukes is serving in his first term in the Alabama House. He briefly was a congressional candidate in Alabama’s 2nd District but dropped out of the race before the Republican Primary.

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Alabama lawmaker faces sharp criticism over celebration of former KKK leader

Micah Danney

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State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, shared a post on Facebook after a birthday celebration for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, is again facing calls to resign over a social media post he made about his participation in an event honoring Confederate heritage.

Dismukes posted a photo of himself on Sunday speaking at Fort Dixie the day before, where a yearly event was held celebrating the birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

“Had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration. Always a great time and some sure enough good eating!!” Dismukes wrote above a photo of himself speaking on a porch adorned with a portrait of Forrest and several Confederate flags. The post is no longer visible.

Criticism was swift on social media as word spread that Dismukes attended the celebration on the same weekend that the late Congressman and Civil Rights hero, Rep. John Lewis, was honored in Selma, where Lewis was nearly beaten to death in 1965, during the march for voting rights that crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Wade Perry called for Dismukes to resign.

“Will Dismukes has demonstrated yet again why he is unfit to hold public office,” Perry said in a statement. “Americans don’t celebrate racists or traitors. Nathan Bedford Forrest was both. And a founder of the Klan. The Alabama Democratic Party renews our call for Dismukes to resign. It’s 2020 and it’s time for racial extremists like Will Dismukes to go away.”

Dismukes posted a statement on Monday addressing the criticism: “First and foremost, my post yesterday was in no way related to disrespecting the passing of Rep. John Lewis. That wasn’t even a thought in my mind. That is not who I am as a person.

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“I am a transparent person. To the point that as a public official I lay it all there for the people to see for better or for worse at times. My post yesterday was as usual me sharing a previous days events. The post was in no way intended to seem as if I was glorifying the Klan or any party thereof. The very atrocities and actions they committed are a disgrace to our country.

“Also, we are all individual members that make up our legislature. I made a post independent of my colleagues. My regret is that I have allowed them to be put in a negative light. If you disagree with me and my beliefs do not hold them under the same umbrella. I can live with a dislike for me, but not fellow members, or members of my own personal family. Our body as a whole is made up of some of the finest people I have ever had the honor of knowing and working with, both Democrat and Republican.

“I close by reiterating that my post was in no way glorifying the Klan or disrespecting the late Rep. John Lewis.”

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Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan issued a statement addressing the post:

“While Rep. Dismukes has released a statement attempting to clarify his actions as a private citizen attending a celebration of the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Alabamians hold their elected officials to a high standard of actions. So does the Republican Party.

“Rep. Dismukes offered no explanation for why he participated in a birthday celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Additionally, I find his statement to be shallow in understanding why his activities are deeply offensive to so many Alabamians. His constituents will be the final decision-makers of his political future.

“The Alabama of today was on full, honorable display as we paid humble tribute this weekend to the life of Congressman John Lewis. That is the Alabama that we are proud of – showing the nation and world that we are one in the common goals of equality for all of our citizens.

“It is one thing to honor one’s Southern heritage, however, it is completely another issue to specifically commemorate the leader of an organization with an indisputable history of unconscionable actions and atrocities toward African-Americans. I strongly urge his constituents to contact Rep. Dismukes to articulate and share with him their thoughts on his personal actions.”

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, issued a statement saying that the beliefs of one member don’t reflect the beliefs of all, and that several Republican Caucus members expressed concern to him about the content and timing of Dismukes’ post.

We live in a nation that guarantees each citizen the right to express the ideas they wish to share, and in the case of a public official, voters will ultimately decide if they agree with those ideas.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, on Monday issued his own statement:

“The Alabama House cannot police the beliefs, statements, and activities of its members outside the Legislature as that is a job best assigned to voters in each House district across the state.  

“It is important to note, however, that I and many other members of the House devoted our weekend toward honoring an Alabama native and civil rights icon who dedicated his life to securing freedom, liberty, and equality for all Americans.”

Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, tweeted a stern rebuke on Sunday: “I cannot fathom why anyone in 2020 celebrates the birthday of the 1st KKK Grand Wizard. And while the body of a civil rights icon beaten by the Klan lies at state Capitol being honored by GOP/Dem leaders from all over the state. This mentality does not rep my party or my faith.”

Another GOP colleague, Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, responded to a constituent about the matter in a tweet

“Scott, As a Christian, Conservative, member of the Republican Party, I was proud of the comments of my colleague Rep. Danny Garrett. Rep Will Dismukes’ actions were also unfathomable to me. I believe it will take the voters in House Dist. 88 to remove Rep. Dismukes from office,” Farley said.

While fellow Republican officials said that Dismukes’ constituents should decide if he remains in office, the College Republican Federation of Alabama issued a statement on Monday calling for him to resign.

“Representative Dismukes’s Facebook post of him at an event that celebrated former KKK Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest is unacceptable and has no place in the State Legislature or the Republican Party,” the statement said.

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