The Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Associated Technologies will hold its inaugural meeting today at 10:00 a.m. at the State Capitol in the Old Archives Room.
The commission was created during the 2019 regular session by the Alabama Legislature. Senator Jabo Waggoner’s (R-Vestavia Hills) introduced Senate Joint Resolution seven which passed unanimously. SJR7 established the Commission to advise Governor Kay Ivey (R) and the Legislature on the growth of AI technologies in Alabama, and to make recommendations on policy and advancing the growth of the state’s technology sector.
“In a few short years, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies will transform business, create new jobs and grow our economy,” Sen. Waggoner said in a statement. “Realizing the full potential and opportunities of AI and related technologies for Alabama requires the combined efforts of our state and local governments, industry, and institutions of higher education.”
The Commission is composed of 18 members. Ten members are appointed by Gov. Ivey. The Secretary of Commerce (or designee) and the Secretary of Information Technology (or designee) both serve on the Commission. Two members are appointed by Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R). Two members of the House of Representatives are appointed by Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) and two members of the Alabama Senate are appointed by Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston). The appointees must have professional qualifications in AI, workforce development, technology, or computer science.
The Alabama Commission on AI will advise the Governor and Legislature on all aspects of the growth of artificial intelligence and associated technology and its impact on various sectors in Alabama such as health care, manufacturing, and workforce development.
The Commission is also tasked with preparing a report on its findings and recommendations by May 2020.
At today’s meeting the Commission will elect a chair and vice chair.
Artificial intelligence is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.
Artificial intelligence will spur a revolution in information technology and allow for far faster analysis of large databases.
The Bloomberg 2019 U.S. Innovation Index ranks Alabama at 46th of 50 states. The Bloomberg Index is based on several key metrics, including the number of technology companies in a state.
A recent Cyberstates study noted that Alabama increased the number of job postings related to AI and other technologies by 57 percent in 2018.
Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan
A survey of likely Republican primary voters obtained by APR shows that a majority do not support giving the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the state despite the tribe’s promise of a billion dollars.
Over the last several months, PCI has orchestrated a massive media blitz to convince Alabamians that they have a winning plan for the state’s future in exchange for a Tribal-State compact and exclusive rights to Vegas-style casino gaming.
The survey commissioned by the Republican House and Senate caucuses and conducted by CYGNAL, a highly respected Republican polling firm, found that only 34.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters are buying what the tribe is selling. On the contrary, nearly 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan, with almost 40 percent voicing strong opposition.
Of those surveyed, females are against the plan by nearly 50 percent, with men weighing-in at almost 60 percent unfavorable to PCI’s proposal.
Perhaps most significant is that PCI’s monopoly plan was widely rejected in areas where the tribe already operates casinos. In the Mobile area, nearest Windcreek Atmore, over half of Republicans see a monopoly unfavorably. The same is true in the Montgomery area, where PCI has two gaming facilities.
Not a single big city surveyed in the state held a favorable view of PCI’s plan with Birmingham and Huntsville rejecting the tribal monopoly by almost 50 percent.
Very conservative, somewhat conservative and moderate voters didn’t view the plan as positive.
Ninety-one percent of respondents said they defiantly would be voting in the upcoming Republican primary on March 3.
PCI has lavished money on media outlets throughout the state, garnering favorable coverage, especially on talk radio and internet outlets. The tribe has also spent freely on Republican lawmakers.
Perhaps some good news for PCI is that Republican primary voters believe that state legislators are more likely to represent special interests above the interests of their constituents.
PCI lobbyists continue to push the tribe’s agenda at the State House in defiance of Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for no action on gaming until her study group returns its findings.
The survey found that Ivey enjoys a 76.3 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters.
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.
Ophthalmologists concerned over questionable Senate Health Committee vote
A controversial call in a state Senate Health Committee vote has some who are opposed to a bill that would expand the scope of practice for optometrists seeing red.
APR obtained a video of a portion of the Feb. 5 Senate Health Committee meeting, during which state Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, who sponsored Senate Bill 66, made a motion to give a favorable report for Senate Bill 66.
Committee chairman Sen. Jim McClendon, R- Springville, called for a second to Whatley’s motion, to which no one could be heard on the video to have spoken up but McClendon said “I have a second” and asked that “all in favor say aye” without calling for “nays” and then declared the motion approved and closing the meeting.
In a video several senators can be heard expressing concern over McClendon’s move, and asking that their “no” votes be counted. Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, can be heard off camera saying “Record my no vote please.”
Sen. Coleman-Madison’s is the only “nay” vote noted on the Health Committee Vote Roll Call Sheet, which McClendon signed as having passed in a 5/4 vote.
If it becomes law, the bill would allow optometrists to expand their scope of practice to include numerous procedures that state law now only allows done by ophthalmologists, who are graduates of medical schools and who undergo lengthier training including residencies. A similar bill failed approval by the legislature last year.
APR’s Brandon Moseley reported Friday on the differences of opinion between the optometrists and the ophthalmologists about the bill.
Asked why he didn’t call for “nays” before closing the vote, McClendon, a retired optometrist and a co-sponsor of the bill, told APR by phone on Friday that “that’s the chairman’s prerogative.”
McClendon said that the only written information about the transactions within a committee is the vote, and that the committee clerk, not him, notated on the vote total that Sen. Coleman-Madison was a “nay.”
Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, told APR that every committee chairperson has the authority under Senate rules to conduct a vote as McClendon did.
“Typically, you get a one-time pass on that,” Ward said. “In other words, you can pull that one time during the session. You can’t do it repeatedly…It’s kind of an unspoken rule.”
“It’s not that the chairman gets a pass,” McClendon said when told of Ward’s statement. “It’s that that chairman is in charge of the meeting.”
Asked if it was fair to move the bill through the committee without taking a full vote on it, McClendon said “it’s the procedure. Life is not fair. Let’s face it.”
“As someone who’s not familiar with the political process and how these things are done, it was surprising to me how the meeting transpired,” Dr. Brendan Wyatt, an ophthalmologist who spoke out against SB66 at the Feb. 5 meeting, told APR by phone Friday.
Wyatt said before the meeting those who opposed the bill had commitments from eight senators who said they’d vote against moving it out of committee.
“Having the mindset that we’re in a representative government I was surprised and taken back on how that whole thing took place,” Wyatt said of the vote.
Senate Bill 66 now rests with the Senate Rules Committee, which will determine whether the bill will move on to the special calendar for a full Senate vote.
APR’s attempts to reach Senate Rules Committee chairman Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, and several other Health Committee members last week were unsuccessful.
Asked if he believes the bill has a chance of passing this year, McClendon said “I’d say it’s better than last year.”
“It’s out of the committee,” McClendon said.
Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan
Opinion | It’s time for Alabama Democrats to learn from Alabama Republicans
McCutcheon not optimistic about passage of “constitutional carry” legislation
Maggie’s List endorses Jessica Taylor in 2nd Congressional District
Star-studded gala in Birmingham Friday to help wounded vets, former players
Sessions responds to negative attacks from Tuberville, Byrne
Conservative Leadership Conference panel discusses prison reform
Realtors endorse Pringle and Coleman
Ivey urges legislators to address prison system problems
Ivey seizes gaming issue
Gov. Kay Ivey’s 2020 State of the State Address
Marsh holds meeting with gaming interests day after Ivey calls for the Legislature to stand down on gaming
Private prison company eyes Elmore County land for one of state’s new prisons
Opinion | Deception, subtlety and the wholesale destruction of current ethics laws mark proposed rewrite
Developer Tim James proposes privately-funded toll road as “catalyst for economic growth”
Alabama Democratic Conference endorses Michael Bloomberg for president
National4 days ago
Mexico isn’t paying for Trump’s border wall. Alabama is.
Courts4 days ago
New marshal installed at Alabama Supreme Court
Elections4 days ago
Buttigieg’s campaign announces Dixon, Rice will lead on the ground efforts in Alabama
Guest Columnists1 day ago
Opinion | “Just Mercy” and Justice do not exist in Alabama