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Doug Jones introduces bill to protect pensions, Social Security and Medicare

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing a bill to restore funding for pensions, Social Security and Medicare. 

The Rescue United States’ Trusts Act introduced Tuesday would create individual congressional committees for each endangered trust fund, which would be tasked with drafting legislation to bring those funds back into solvency. Those trust funds include Highway, Medicare Hospital Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance. 

“This important legislation creates a bipartisan path forward that gives us the tools to we need to put our budget on the path to fiscal responsibility and upgrade our decaying infrastructure, protect pensions and Social Security benefits for retirees, and ensure that Medicare remains strong for seniors for generations to come,” Senator Jones said in a press release. 

The Social Security Administration in May released its annual report that found that the Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance trust fund would be depleted by 2034, which is the same estimate the agency came to in last year’s report. 

In 2020, the cost of Social Security retirement payments is expected to exceed all of its income, but that doesn’t mean retirees will stop getting payments, because for years the fund brought in more than it paid out. 

Much of that extra money is being held in bonds, Forbes reports, and the program will continue to collect social security taxes, which the administration estimates will pay for about 77 percent of Social Security retirement benefits for the next 75 years. 

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Any cuts to Social Security retirement benefits recipients could devastate recipients, however. A study by the Social Security Administration in April found that a recipient who earned an average annual income of $51,795 and who retired at age 76 in 2037 would currently be entitled to  $27,366 in annual benefits. Without a fix to the trust fund’s shortfalls that worker would receive just $21,669 annually. 

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive Washington D.C.-based think tank, found that although trustees for Medicare’s Hospital Insurance fund has reported that the fund will be depleted by 2026, the fund will still be able to pay for 89 percent of medicare hospital insurance payments through incoming payroll taxes and other revenues. Shortfalls will have to be closed by raising revenues or cutting expenditures, however. 

The 2026 insolvency problem does not include Medicare coverage for physician and outpatient costs or to the Medicare prescription drug benefit, which are both funded through a separate fund, which is in good fiscal standing, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

U.S. Senators Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who led the creation of the bill introduced Tuesday, told Roll Call that he has hope this attempt might succeed where others have failed.

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“It is my perspective that I’ve gained by talking with others that we have a better shot of taking on the solvency of these trust funds by looking at them one by one, rather than by trying to create one mega piece of legislation that’s going to be troublesome in some way for almost everybody,” Romney told Roll Call. 

Other sponsors of the legislation are Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Todd Young , R-Ind. and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.. A companion bill in the House is sponsored by U.S. Representatives Mike Gallagher, R-WI, Ed Case, D-HI, William Timmons, R-SC, and Ben McAdams, D-UT.  

How the TRUST Act works:

  • U.S. Treasury would have 30 days upon passage of the legislation to deliver to Congress a report of the government’s major, endangered federal trust funds.
  • Congressional leaders would appoint members to serve on “Rescue Committees”—one per trust fund—with the mandate to draft legislation that restores solvency and otherwise improves each trust fund program.
  • Rescue Committees would ensure bipartisan consensus by requiring at least two members of each party to report legislation.
  • If a Rescue Committee reports a qualifying bill for its trust fund program, it would receive expedited consideration in both chambers. While 60 votes would be required to invoke cloture for final passage in the Senate, only a simple majority would be needed for the motion to proceed, which would be privileged.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83

The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

Brandon Moseley

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Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton

Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”

Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.

Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.

The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.

While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.

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Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”

His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.

This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

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Roby warns Americans to be careful this Thanksgiving

Congresswoman Roby urged Alabamians to adjust Thanksgiving holiday activities to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama

Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama, warned Alabamians to adjust their Thanksgiving holiday activities to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

“Thanksgiving is a special holiday because it provides us an entire day each year to pause and give thanks for the many blessings we have received,” Roby said. “Particularly amid a global pandemic, the stress and craziness of life often make it easy to lose sight of just how much we have to be thankful for. Whether you are gathering with loved ones or remaining in the comfort of your own home, I hope we all take time to celebrate gratitude – something we may not do enough of these days.”

“As we’ve learned to adjust our daily routines and activities throughout the course of this pandemic, we know this Thanksgiving will not look like those of the past,” Roby said. “Please be mindful of any safety measures and precautions that have been put in place to help protect your family and those around you. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) released guidance that includes a list of low, moderate, and high-risk activities in order to help Alabamians have a safer holiday season. ADPH suggests a few lower risk activities such as having a small dinner with members of your household, preparing and safely delivering meals to family and neighbors who are at high-risk, or hosting a virtual dinner with friends.”

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, echoed Roby’s warning to be safe this Thanksgiving holiday.

Aderholt said: “I want to wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope Thursday is filled with a lot of laughter and gratitude, and that you can share it with friends and family. And while we continue to navigate this Coronavirus pandemic, please stay safe this holiday season.”

On Thursday, the CDC encouraged families to stay home as much as possible over the holiday weekend and avoid spreading the coronavirus.

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“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC said in a statement before the holiday. “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”

The CDC has updated its guidelines to encourage families to stay home during the holiday.

  • The CDC said that postponing Thanksgiving travel is the “best way to protect” against the virus.
  • If you are sick or anyone in your household is sick, whether you think it is COVID or not, do not travel.
  • If you are considering traveling for Thanksgiving, avoid traveling to locations where virus activity is high or increasing.
  • Avoid travel to areas where hospitals are already overwhelmed with patients who have COVID-19.
  • Try to avoid traveling by bus, train or airplane, where staying 6 feet apart is difficult.
  • Avoid traveling with people who don’t live with you.
  • You should consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying travel until the vaccine is available or the pandemic is more under control.
  • Discuss with your family and friends the risks of traveling for Thanksgiving.
  • Try to dissuade people from visiting this holiday.
  • If you do travel, check for travel restrictions before you go and get your flu shot before you travel.
  • Always wear a mask in public settings, when using public transportation, and when around people with whom you don’t live.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who does not live with you.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
  • When you wear the mask, make sure that it covers your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.

Remember that people without symptoms may still be infected, and if so, are still able to spread COVID-19. Remember to always social distance. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

Try to also avoid live sporting events, Thanksgiving Day parades and Black Friday shopping this year.

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Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District and will be retiring at the end of the year. Aderholt represents Alabama’s 4th Congressional District and was re-elected to the 117th Congress.

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Governor announces 3rd year of record Alabama foster care adoptions

In the 2020 fiscal year, there were 814 foster care adoptions, which is an all-time record for the state.

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced that for the third year in a row Alabama reported a record number of foster care adoptions. In the 2020 fiscal year, there were 814 foster care adoptions, which is an all-time record for the state. That is up from the previous year’s record of 731 adoptions.

“I am so proud that Alabama has set yet another record and placed so many children in permanent homes,” Ivey said. “I am so appreciative for the innovative work of our adoption professionals and the Department of Human Resources, during this unique time, to complete this record number of adoptions. Also, I sincerely thank our foster families, and most importantly, the forever families, for giving these children loving homes and for your sacrifice and love for our children.”

In the 2020 fiscal year, 70.5 percent of children who left foster care, went home to family members or their parent(s). While most children in the state’s foster care system do return to their families, there are still children that need adoptive families.

“This is a truly important milestone in a year that has seen many delays to finalizing adoptions, due to the pandemic. We are proud to have found permanency for these 814 children that deserve forever families,” said Alabama Department of Human Resources Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “We could not have accomplished this milestone without our vital partners in the permanency and adoption process, especially the judges and adoptive parents. However, we must be mindful that the work is not done. We have hundreds of additional children that continue to wait for his or her permanent family. Our staff and others are working hard every day to give these children that needed permanency. There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.”

Currently, there are 468 children in Alabama’s foster care system that need forever homes. Ivey also proclaimed November 2020 as National Adoption Month in the state of Alabama.

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Brooks cosponsors bill to bar senior Chinese officials from entering U.S.

“Communist China is America’s geopolitical foe,” Brooks said.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, this week announced he is cosponsoring the Stop China’s IP Theft Act. This legislation would effectively bar senior Chinese Communist Party officials from entering the United States.

“Communist China is America’s geopolitical foe,” Brooks said. “Communist China unleashed a deadly virus on the world then lied about it. Communist China tries to undermine America at every turn and has a long history of stealing America’s intellectual property. America should make it as difficult as possible for Communist China to work against us and steal from us.”

The bill would ban U.S. issuance of entry visas for Chinese government officials, active-duty members of the Chinese military, and senior members of the Chinese Community Party and their family members.

The Stop China’s IP Theft Act is sponsored by Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Arizona. The measure is also co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Jody Hice of Georgia, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Greg Steube of Florida, Denver Riggleman of Virginia and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey.

Lesko wrote on Twitter: “I am introducing the Stop China’s IP Theft Act to prevent key Chinese officials and their families from entering the U.S. until we can certify that the People’s Republic of China has stopped their efforts to steal U.S. intellectual property.”

In September, the Trump administration’s State Department announced that it revoked more than 1,000 visas of Chinese nationals over their military links. In May, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation to limit visa issuances over potential IP theft concerns.

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Chinese theft of American intellectual property, including tech with military applications, has been a problem for decades even as the two countries have grown in their trade relationships. The Stop China’s IP Theft Act is not likely to advance in the Democratic Party-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and time is running out on the 116th Congress.

Brooks was recently elected to his sixth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. Brooks had no Democratic opponent and he easily bested his Republican primary opponent.

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