U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, briefed constituents on her efforts to fund improvements to Montgomery County’s Dannelly Field so that the Alabama Air National Guard can receive the Air Force’s newest fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
“Last Wednesday, I spoke on the House floor during consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill to raise awareness for the facility updates needed at Dannelly Field to support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter mission,” Congresswoman Roby said.
“The 187th Fighter Wing at Dannelly Field in Montgomery was selected as a preferred location for the bed down of the F-35,” Rep. Roby said. “The first aircraft is scheduled to arrive in the next few years, and Dannelly Field needs a correctly sized and properly configured maintenance facility to support and repair the cutting-edge aircraft. The existing facilities that currently service the F-16 Red Tail’s squadron are inadequate, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on this issue as we continue through the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process.”
“The military installations in our district and across our great state perform vital work for the security of this nation, and I will always advocate for their proper support through my role in Congress,” Roby wrote. “It is a true honor to have this platform to fight for the men and women who serve us all.”
Roby said that the existing facilities that currently service the F-16 Red Tail’s squadron are inadequate. Aircraft maintenance is housed in three temporary trailer facilities, maintenance shops are 43 percent of the size needed for the F-35s so much so that presently the required tool storage is kept in aircraft parking spaces inside the hangar.
The Lockheed Martin F-35A is a fifth-generation fighter jet that combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. Three variants of the F-35 will replace legacy fighters for the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and 10 other countries around the world. According to the Air Force, the F-35A will replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II’s.
The Pentagon estimates that the F-35 will remain in the U.S. inventory through 2077. It is the costliest weapon system in the history of the world, with an estimated total program cost of $1.196 billion over the expected six decades long life of the program. The Pentagon intends to eventually purchase 2,456 of the aircraft; but has cut the number of planes purchased by 17 to just 81 in fiscal year 2021. That move could delay the F-35’s arrival with the 187th.
The difficulty of maintaining and servicing the aircraft has been a criticism of the F-35.
President Donald J. Trump (R) has diverted some money that was intended by Congress for military construction projects to improvements in security on the southern border with Mexico.
The Alabama Air National Guard currently flies the venerable, though still effective, F-16.
To see video of Congresswoman Roby speaking on the House floor, click here.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.
(Original reporting by Time magazine contributed to this report.)
McCutcheon not optimistic about passage of “constitutional carry” legislation
Alabama House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, discussed gun legislation that could appear before the House of Representatives this year.
In past sessions, constitutional carry legislation has made it out of the Alabama Senate, but stalls in the House. This year, Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, is carrying the bill in the House. APR asked McCutcheon whether he anticipates it passing this time.
“The mood would tend to be the same that it was in the past,” McCutcheon said. “There is a bill out there now for a lifetime carry permit and a procedural check for a permit.”
McCutcheon said that under that bill a state database would be used for granting concealed carry permits instead of a local database. Each sheriff of each county would be doing things the same way by ALEA (the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency) being involved in this.
McCutcheon said that the House is “taking a very serious look at that bill.”
State Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika, and State Representative Proncey Robertson, R-Mt. Hope, pre-filed the lifetime permit bill that would establish a cohesive and statewide management level process for administering and managing concealed weapons permits in the state of Alabama. The National Rifle Association has endorsed this legislation.
Robertson’s House version is HB39. It has been assigned to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee where it is awaiting action. Price’s Senate version is SB47. It has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it is also awaiting action in committee.
Currently, the application process and managing of applicants is different county by county. Some rural county sheriffs have issued concealed carry permits, sometimes called pistol permits, without doing background checks. This resulted last year in federal authorities revoking Alabama concealed carry permit holders from being able to buy firearms without having to go through the background check system.
The sponsors promise that this legislation would create a streamlined process of standards for Sheriff Departments to implement and will be monitored by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). This bill creates a cohesive standard for background checks and will bring 21st century technology to Sheriff’s departments and all other law enforcement agencies across the state. Sheriff departments will now have access to electronic information of which all levels of law enforcement will have access to. It will also require municipalities to start reporting those that are convicted of domestic violence as well as Probate Judges to begin reporting individuals that have been involuntarily committed. Applicants will also now have the option to apply for a concealed weapons permit for one year, five years or a lifetime permit.
Sorrell told APR on Saturday that he opposes HB39/SB47 because it creates a statewide database with all of Alabama’s concealed carry holders.
In the State of Alabama, it is a Class A Misdemeanor to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
Sorrell’s legislation, Constitutional Carry, would eliminate that crime altogether and give every Alabamian the constitutional right to carry a firearm concealed if they so choose.
State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) has introduced Constitutional Carry legislation in the State Senate; SB1. That bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it awaits committee action.
SB1 would allow all Alabama citizens who have not had their gun rights revoked to carry firearms concealed without having to have a concealed carry permit. That legislation could not get out of committee in the Senate last year.
Sorrell told APR that there is momentum in the Alabama House of Representatives for Constitutional Carry and that he hoped to have as many as twenty cosponsors when he introduces his bill.
It is currently legal in Alabama to openly carry firearms without a permit, if your gun rights have not been taken away. A citizen can lose their gun rights due to a felony conviction, being declared mentally unfit by a probate judge, or a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. While every citizen, who still has gun rights, may openly carry without a concealed carry permit; it is against the law to have a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a concealed carry permit.
Handguns must be unloaded and locked in a box or trunk out of reach. Similarly, if a person is openly carrying a handgun on their side, were to put a jacket on so that the gun was no longer visible that would also be a misdemeanor as they are now carrying concealed, unless they have a valid concealed carry permit allowing them to conceal their handgun. Persons with a concealed carry permit are allowed to have their gun on their person while riding in a motor vehicle or within reach like in the glove box, loaded or not. This does not apply to long guns (rifles and shotguns). All Alabama citizens, who still have their gun rights, may carry their shotgun or rifle with them in their vehicle, without having to obtain a concealed carry permit to exercise that right.
To get your concealed carry permit you must go to the sheriff’s department in your home county. The fee varies from county to county.
Twenty percent of adult Alabamians have a concealed carry permit, the highest rate in the country. The Alabama Sheriff’s Association have steadfastly opposed Constitutional Carry legislation. According to the National Association for Gun Rights, fifteen states, including Mississippi, have Constitutional Carry already.
McCutcheon is in “wait and see mode” on medical marijuana bill
Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) last Thursday was asked by reporters where he stood on pending medical marijuana legislation.
“I am in a wait and see mode,” McCutcheon told reporters. “The sponsor of the bill has done a lot of work.”
On Tuesday, State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence) introduced a bill to legalize tightly controlled medical cannabis. The Medical cannabis bill introduced on Tuesday is Senate Bill 165.
“We have a letter from the Attorney General,” recommending that the legislature reject the bill.
Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) is arguing that while marijuana remains a federally controlled substance the legislature should not pass a state law that would be noncompliant with federal law. Marshall believes that if medical marijuana has any medical benefit then the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be the appropriate authority to approve such legislation and the state should wait for FDA to act.
33 states already have legalized medical marijuana.
“It brings up a legal question when you get a legal opinion from the attorney general office,” McCutcheon explained. “It answers some of my questions and also on the pro and the con there were some questions raised in the legal community.”
McCutcheon said, “That is why we are in the mode that we are in.”
Melson introduced a medical marijuana bill last year during the 2019 regular session. That bill passed the Senate; but had difficulty getting out of committee in the Alabama House of Representatives. Instead of passing medical marijuana legislation the legislature passed a bill extending Leni’s Law and Carly’s law and establishing the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission tasked with making a recommendation to the legislature.
The Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission was chaired by Sen. Melson and met monthly from August to November. In December, the commission voted in favor of a draft proposal recommending that the state allow licensed medical providers to prescribe marijuana based medications to patients with a demonstrated need. The state would create the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to regulate medical cannabis in the state. Farmers, processors, transporters, and dispensaries would have to get a license from the Commission and product would be strictly regulated.
Despite the Commission’s recommendation, SB165 remains highly controversial in the legislature and there is expected to be considerable opposition to the bill. SB165 is 82 pages long.
SB165 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Judiciary Committee Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) told the Alabama Political Reporter that there will be a public hearing on SB165 on Wednesday, at 8:30 a.m. in the Alabama Statehouse room 825. Opponents and proponents will both be given the opportunity to voice their opinions.
Thursday was the fourth day of the 2020 legislative session.
House passes bill to simplify annexations
Thursday the Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation making it simpler to annex property in overlapping police jurisdictions if both of the municipalities agree and all of the landowners agree with the annexation.
House Bill 12 is sponsored by State Representative Terri Collins, R-Decatur. The bill however was carried on the floor of the House on Thursday by Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, who was away with her family due to the sudden death of her husband, Tom Collins, from a sudden heart attack on Sunday, February 9.
Rowe said that under current law, if both of the municipalities in overlapping police jurisdictions agree, and all of the property owners are also in agreement then half of the land could be annexed this year. Half of the remaining half could enter the city limits next year, then half of the remaining one quarter could be annexed the year after that. The process could take years.
HB12 simplifies it so that all of the land in overlapping police jurisdiction, where the landowners are in agreement, could come in to the city limits of their choice as long as both of the cities or town are in agreement.
Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, said that he was voting against the bill and wanted it amended to exempt Talladega County out of it. He said that many country people were fearful of being annexed into a city and having local governments telling them that they can not build a chicken house or expand their barn. Hurst said that there was a Mayor in his county that was seeking more power and more annexations. He did not name that mayor.
Rowe assured Hurst that the property owners could not be annexed against their will under the terms of this legislation.
HB12 was passed by the Alabama House of Representatives on a vote of 83 to 4.
The legislation now goes to the Alabama Senate for their consideration.
The Alabama House of Representatives will meet again on Tuesday, February 18. It will be the fifth day of the 2020 Legislative Session. Under the Alabama Constitution of 1901, the regular legislative session is limited to no more than thirty days.
House passes bill to make it a hate crime to attack law enforcement
The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday that would add law enforcement officers to Alabama’s hate crimes statute. It now moves to the Senate.
The House passed HB59 by a margin of 92 to 0.
Under current law a crime become a hate crime if a person is victimized because of their race, creed, or disability. Murder to make money, in a crime of passion, or in the commission of a crime is murder. If a racist targets a person because of their race, then it become a hate crime and additional sentencing enhancements kick in under Alabama sentencing guidelines. House Bill 59 would make targeting a member of law enforcement because they are a member of law enforcement also a hate crime.
House Bill 59 is sponsored by State Representative Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville).
Reynolds said that Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall supports the legislation.
“An attack on law enforcement in Alabama is an attack on all of her citizens—an attack on all Alabamians.…” Marshall said on social media. “If you take the life the life of a law enforcement officer, you will likely have forfeited your life as well.”
Marshall stated, “To the brave men and women who wear that badge, my heroes: Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Keep fighting the good fight, because your cause is righteous. Know that you have our support and our eternal gratitude.”
Reynolds said that attacks on law enforcement, whether it is throwing water on them, assaults, or assassinations are up across the country. “We are not going to stand for it anymore.”
State Representative Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) said, “I support the bill, but there are too many guns on the street.”
Moore proposed banning high powered rifles and AR-15s. “We need to level the playing field for them.” :We stand ready to come up with a bipartisan bill to curb the number of guns on the street. We need men and women who are not afraid of the National Rifle Association.”
“We have got to change how police officers are treated,” said Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-Morris). “I have been to too many police funerals.”
Treadaway is a police captain with Birmingham Police Department.
“The disrespect for police officers is unprecedented,” Treadaway said. “I have been a law enforcement officer for 30 years and I have not seen anything like it. We can’t hire police. We can’t retain police.”
Rep. Artis “A. J.” McCampbell (D-Livingston) said, “We have had eight police officers killed in the last 13 months.”
“How do we enhance the crimes when we already have a capital case for the murder of a police officer?” McCampbell asked.
Reynolds said that the sentence enhancements would apply when the police were targeted; but it is not a capital crime. 6,500 police officers were assaulted last year.
Reynolds said that harming an officer while attempting to escape or resisting arrest would not qualify as a hate crime. Attacking police because the motive is hate of the police would be a hate crime and then sentencing enhancements would apply.
Reynolds said that under current law if they are convicted of a capital crime of killing the police they get the death penalty.
Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) said, “Is there a way to just give them the death penalty without going through all the appeals?”
Reynolds said, “I sure wish we could.”
Rogers said, “The death penalty should be automatic.”
Rogers daughter Mary Smith mas murdered.
“It has to be adjudicated in the court system before these enhancements would not come into play,” Reynolds said. “I hope there will come a day when a bill like this is not needed because people respect law enforcement.”
Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) said that the police, sheriffs, and other law enforcement and first responders at the thin blue line protecting us and our families.
Mooney is a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
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