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Interior Department supports $1.6 billion in economic activity, 10,000 jobs in Alabama

Jessa Reid Bolling

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Activities in Alabama on Interior-managed lands supported $1.6 billion and over 10,000 jobs in Alabama in 2018, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Economic Report for Fiscal Year 2018 highlights Interior activities covering conventional and renewable energy, recreation, non-fuel minerals, irrigation and conservation that resulted in $315 billion in economic output and supported 1.8 million jobs during the year, an increase from $254 billion in economic output and 1.6 million jobs in the 2016 fiscal year.

“As the stewards of our public lands and waters, we are committed to being a good neighbor and serving alongside local communities,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a press release. “The Department of the Interior is entrusted with managing a wide variety of activities on public lands that support nearly two million jobs and generate $315 billion in economic impact, benefitting local and state economies. Today’s report highlights the significant contribution our public lands make in our economy, which continues to grow under President Trump’s leadership.”

In the 2018 fiscal year, activities in Alabama on Interior-managed lands supported 1,140 jobs and $55.4 million in value-added from recreational activities; 8,040 jobs and $644 million in value-added from energy and mineral development; and 1,030 jobs and $6.4 million in value-added from major grants and payments.

Interior-managed lands and waters produced 923 million barrels of crude oil, 4.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 322 million tons of coal in the 2018 fiscal year. Oil, gas and coal produced from Interior-managed lands and waters supported an estimated $151 billion in economic output and an estimated 643,000 jobs.

National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Monuments and other public lands managed by Interior hosted an estimated 486 million recreational visits in the 2018 fiscal year, up from 473 million in the 2016 fiscal year. These visits supported an estimated $58 billion in economic output and an estimated 452,000 jobs nationwide.

 

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Jessa Reid Bolling is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter and graduate of The University of Alabama with a B.A. in journalism and political science.

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Congress

Palmer supports legislation making unused PPP funds available to small businesses

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Friday, Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) added his signature to a discharge petition that would force a vote on H.R. 8265, which would allow unused Paycheck Protection Program funds to be made available for small businesses.

There is an estimated $137 billion remaining in the Payroll Protection Program that could be immediately available to small businesses. The Paycheck Protection Program has kept thousands of small businesses open since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are still in need as the economy continues to recover. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has repeatedly refused to hold a vote on further common-sense pandemic-related relief. The Democratic controlled House passed the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act, which Republicans opposed.

Palmer and House Republicans accuse Pelosi of holding American workers and businesses hostage until she gets trillions of dollars for far-left priorities.

“Speaker Pelosi has made her objectives abundantly clear,” Palmer said. “We could have negotiated and delivered immediate aid for small businesses and individuals weeks ago, but her leftist agenda always comes first. Many businesses are barely hanging, on anxiously awaiting the extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, but Pelosi is determined to hold them hostage to get her way. She would like to bail out states that were bankrupt before the pandemic and further a welfare agenda that is harmful to the economy. Today, I proudly signed a discharge petition to circumvent Pelosi’s control of the House floor and force a vote on a bill that would bring real relief to businesses struggling to survive the pandemic. It’s time for Members of Congress to stand up for small businesses and American workers since the Speaker clearly won’t. Small businesses across the country can’t wait.”

A discharge petition on H.R. 8265 was filed on Friday by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington) and 218 signatures are needed to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. H.R. 8265 was introduced on September 16 by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).

“This public health crisis has left our small businesses near permanent closure, and that will happen on a massive scale if Congress doesn’t act,” Rep. Herrera Beutker said. “Yet Congress isn’t acting, so I’ve filed the discharge petition in the House today so we can bypass the political posturing and bring relief to our nation’s small businesses and their employees. Other relief remains vital, but we either save jobs and businesses now or provide triage soon for the damage caused by empty buildings, lost livelihoods and health care plans, and fewer employment opportunities overall. Reviving the PPP has to be our priority.”

“The Paycheck Protection Program has served as a critical lifeline for America’s small businesses,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) explained. “Since its launch, the program is credited with saving 51 million jobs nationwide. But our work in helping small business owners stay open and keep employees on payroll is not done. A recent report indicates that as many as 36 percent small businesses say if no new funding comes from Congress soon, they will be forced to lay off workers or cut back hours. Democrats have consistently blocked or delayed relief, but Republicans are not giving up. That is why House Republicans, led by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler have filed a discharge petition to force a vote on a stand-alone extension of the Paycheck Protection Program through the end of the year. It only needs 218 signatures to force a vote, so I hope that our Democrat colleagues will join us in delivering relief. My Republican colleagues and I will continue to act on our Commitment to America; we will be relentless in our fight to protect jobs, small businesses, and the American dream.”

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“Since March, small businesses—corner stores, retail shops, and family restaurants—have been struggling to survive,” bill sponsor Steve Chabot said. “Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to pass the CARES Act, which delivered rapid assistance to small firms through programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. Unfortunately, in recent months, additional relief for small businesses has been caught up in the partisan logjam and the livelihoods of real people hang in the balance. Congress must work together to get help to small businesses in Washington, Ohio, and across our great nation. Rep. Herrera Beutler’s discharge petition to force a vote on my legislation is the way to do just that. I thank her for her leadership on behalf of America’s small businesses.”

Multiple news outlets, including Roll Call and The Hill, are reporting that several House Democrats are “strongly considering” bucking their party to sign Herrera Beutler’s discharge petition.

Congressman Gary Palmer represents Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District. Palmer does not have a Democratic opponent in the November 3 general election.

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Sewell: Confirming Barrett before the election would undermine Supreme Court’s legitimacy

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell (via Office of Rep. Terri Sewell)

Saturday, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Alabama) released a statement claiming that President Donald J. Trump’s (R) nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Associate Justice on the Supreme Court was tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans and that confirming Judge Barrett would undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court nomination by President Trump today, with the 2020 presidential election only 38 days away, denies the American people a voice in this very important decision,” Rep. Sewell said. “The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is clearly tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans to go back on their own promise not to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court so close to a presidential election. This standard articulated by Senate Republicans was applied against President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland eight months before the 2016 presidential election. This blatant power grab by Trump and Senate Republicans is especially disturbing given that the voting process has already begun with hundreds of thousands of voters having cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential election.”

“Fairness and comity demand that the Senate not confirm any vacancy on the Supreme Court until the American people have chosen the next president,” Sewell concluded. “To do otherwise, I believe would undermine the very legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”

Friday before Barrett was even nominated, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) announced that he will not support any Trump nominee for the Supreme Court for the vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. Jones stated, “I will not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee before the election.”

“Justice Ginsburg was a role model and an inspiration,” Sen. Jones said. She was a brilliant and tireless advocate, a champion for fairness and equality, and her efforts have brought our country closer to the ideals upon which it was founded.”

“It is a poor reflection of the state of our national politics that, just hours after Justice Ginsburg’s passing, we were thrust into a divisive partisan fight over her successor, denying the nation the time to mourn this extraordinary American’s death,” Jones continued. “Just weeks from a national election, we are confronting a blatant power grab by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the President that will undermine the court and subvert the will of the American people.”

“Just four years ago, Leader McConnell held open a Supreme Court seat for ten months before a presidential election because he said time and again that, in an election year, we must let the American people decide,” Jones said. “If confirming a Supreme Court justice ten months prior to a presidential election would have denied the American people a voice, then isn’t he now denying the American people a voice by rushing to confirm a justice just weeks before a presidential election?”

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“I believe the answer to this question is a resounding YES,” Jones continued. “This is especially true given the urgent legislative work we have yet to do. Leader McConnell should turn his focus instead to protecting the lives and livelihoods of the American people by bringing a new bipartisan COVID-19 relief package up for a vote. We also need to pass the National Defense Authorization Act to support our military. We need to pass our annual funding bills instead of kicking the can down the road with yet another costly continuing resolution. We need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has languished in this Senate, in order to protect the right of all Americans to vote and participate in our democracy.”

“Consequently, under these circumstances, I will not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee before the election,” Jones explained. We should not force the country into a brutal and divisive partisan confirmation fight while Americans are already voting to choose the next President. If President Trump is re-elected, I will evaluate any pending or future nominee on their merits and vote for or against the nominee based solely on their qualifications.”

Trump has already appointed Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Barack H. Obama (D) only got to select two of his nominees to the court. When conservative icon Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016 – the previous election year, Republicans led by McConnell and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) blocked Obama’s appointee, Merrick Garland.

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Jones also voted against previous Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. Sewell has no Republican general election opponent.

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Palmer bill would give states flexibility in spending remaining coronavirus relief funds

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Gary Palmer

Thursday, Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, introduced the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act HR8360, which would allow states to determine how to spend their remaining Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars, issued under the CARES Act.

“The initial legislation was perhaps too restrictive,” Rep. Palmer said. “What we hope to do with this legislation is not only create some flexibility to prevent waste but to incentivize states to use the funds towards much needed infrastructure. The one-size-fits-all nature of the underlying measure fails to consider how each state is responding to the pandemic differently, so this legislation would put the spending decisions in the hands of those on the ground in the states who have a better understanding of their specific needs. If we pass this bill, we will give states a much needed boost for infrastructure and an extended period to determine how to address continued COVID-19 related expenses, instead of rushing to spend the funds with a looming deadline.”

States and localities were provided with $150 billion through the CARES Act relief fund for mitigation and response to COVID-19. Alabama legislators originally thought they could do whatever they wanted with that money. State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, even went so far as to produce a wish list that included $hundreds of millions for broadband expansion and even a new Statehouse. Federal authorities however made it clear that there were restrictions on what that money could be used for. It can not be used to make up for lost revenues due to the lengthy economic shutdowns, the dramatic cutbacks in travel and hospitality, and the reductions in business capacity.

It is now estimated that approximately $80 billion remains unspent. HR8360 would allow state legislatures to determine how to utilize these remaining funds, with measures to encourage infrastructure development and future COVID-19 preparedness.

Palmer said that the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act would prohibit funds from being spent on government employee bonuses, lobbying expenses, or budget shortfalls predating the pandemic, while providing a 50 percent match for funds spent on infrastructure projects begun in the next year. It would also require states to hold 25 percent of their remaining relief funds in trust for future COVID-19 expenses.

The states are currently supposed to return any unspent CARES Act money in January.

Democrats have been pushing for a massive $1 trillion plus bailout of cash strapped state and local governments; but the White House and congressional Republicans have resisted this call, arguing that would be just rewarding state and local governments for poor fiscal planning. The White House and Senate Republicans are in negotiations with Democratic leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, on a possible compromise coronavirus relief bill prior to the November 3 general election.

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Gary Palmer represents Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District. Palmer has not Democratic opponent in the November 3 General Election.

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Courts

Roy Moore sues state challenging COVID orders

Brandon Moseley

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Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

Thursday, the Foundation for Moral Law and former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) filed a lawsuit against Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) and State Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris challenging the constitutionality of orders, intended to combat the spread of the coronavirus, over the last six months.

The Foundation’s law suit was filed in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Judge Moore is seeking damages, a temporary restraining order, and a permanent junction against the Governor and State Health Officer from issuing and more mandates.

Chief Justice Moore is arguing that Ivey and Harris have exceeded their authority.

“The Governor and State Health Officer of this State have clearly and repeatedly exceeded their authority under both the Constitution of the United States and the Alabama Constitution over the last six months,” Judge Moore said. “Unconstitutional restriction of church assembly and worship, discriminatory closing of businesses, stay at home orders, social distancing, wearing of masks, and restriction on travel are simply against our rights secured by the Constitution of the United States.”

“We live in a Constitutional Republic and in a State whose motto is ‘We dare defend our rights,’ yet nothing has been done to stop the tyrannical abuse of power,” Moore said. “Our economy has been decimated, jobs lost, schools closed, church doors shut, and we have been told we must stay home and wear mask in public places. People are tired of such abuse!”

“Our Country was formed in crisis and we have withstood disease, pestilence, natural disaster, and wars without being told we must remain in our home and wear mask in public,” Moore stated. “The Legislature of Alabama needs to stand up to and tell the Governor that she and the State Health Officer do not have the power to do things that even the Legislature can’t do. Nor can the Legislature give the Governor powers to take away our Constitutional rights when even the Legislature cannot.”

Some former legislators have privately told the Alabama Political Reporter that if Ivey wanted more power to extend the public health emergency past July that legally she should have called a special session and asked the legislature for that authority; however some have also suggested that the legislature really does not want to go on the record as either favoring or opposing measures such as the eight month long public health state of emergency, the mask mandate, the closing of businesses, and restrictions on capacity in businesses so are content to say or do nothing on the issue rather than alienating voters on either side of this issue.

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“For over 200 years, men and women of every race, creed, and color have fought and died to preserve our rights; we don’t need to give them up without a fight,” Judge Moore concluded.

The Montgomery based Foundation for Moral Law is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to a strict interpretation of the United States Constitution and preservation of our rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Foundation often is involved in freedom of religion issues. The Foundation was founded by Moore and he is presently the President Emeritus. Moore was twice elected as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Governor’s statewide mask order expires on Friday if the Governor does not extend it.

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208,843 Americans, including 2,501 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 since February. Over 32.8 million people globally have been diagnosed as infected with the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

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