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Legislature

Marshall opposes medical marijuana bill

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) on Monday sent letters to state legislators urging them to oppose legislation that would allow approved medical providers to prescribe cannabis for patients they believe would benefit from it.

Marshall expressed concerns about addiction to marijuana and worried that legalization of medical marijuana in the state would be similar to the problems that the state is facing dealing with treating opioid addiction.

Marshall said that the benefits of marijuana have been overstated and that we do not know the risks from long term marijuana use. Marshall warned of the risks from marijuana use.

“As your partner in public service, I would view it as an abdication of my duty to you, and to the public, to stay silent on this matter,” Marshall said. “While I do not question the motives or intentions of any member of the Legislature who does support legalization, the many unanswered questions and potential ramifications are undeniable. My fear is that while we fight in court for funding to remediate the opioid crisis, we will exacerbate that problem while creating a new one. We will work to provide access to recovery programs for those with opioid addiction, while the number of those who need help grows and even expands to those who develop a marijuana addiction.”

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission voted in December to recommend that the Legislature pass legislation allowing approved medical providers to be able to prescribe medical marijuana. The draft legislation does not allow a smokable product or an edible product, like cannabis gummies, candies, or baked goods. Only approved Alabama farmers could legally grow marijuana and possession of raw marijuana plant material would be limited to state licensed growers, transporters, and processors. The proposed legislation would not allow doctors to advertise that they prescribe medical cannabis. Growing marijuana by a non-licensed producer, even for personal use, would remain illegal. Possessing marijuana in a smokable form like cigarettes, pipes, “joints”, or “bongs” would remain illegal as would possession by anybody without a valid prescription. The state will not honor medical marijuana cards from other states.

Most states have already legalized medical marijuana; and some states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Critics point out that marijuana remains scheduled federally as a controlled substance making all of these state laws legally dubious under the established legal concept that federal law can not be overruled by state law under the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution.

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State Senator Tim Melson, R-Florence, chaired the Medical Cannabis Study Commission and is expected to still introduce his legislation even though Marshall, the Alabama Policy Institute, and the Alabama Citizens Action Patrol (ALCAP) have all already come out against this legislation.

API Director of Policy Strategy former State Senator Phil Williams has criticized the bill as a Trojan horse that creates a new bureaucracy, the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, and is paid for with a new tax.

“The Republican majority may well be asked very soon to throw out every conservative principle that each of them ran on in order to “get the bill passed”,” Williams wrote. “I could write for days on the draft Cannabis Commission Bill and not even talk about marijuana. It is that bad.”

Melson told reporters with ABC 33/40 TV that he is not going to slow down or stop.

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“My plans are to proceed with bill, no disrespect to him,” Melson said. “I just want to do what’s best for Alabama and our citizens and if that conflicts with federal law, I still think we ought to do it. We’re not reinventing the wheel here.”

The Alabama Cannabis Industry Association supports medical marijuana legislation.

“We are gearing up to support Sen. Melson’s legislation,” ACIA Director Chey Garrigan told the Alabama Political Reporter. “We respect the attorney general, but his frivolous claim that marijuana and opioids are comparable is meritless.”

“There is wide grass roots support across Alabama for providing marijuana to people with a medical need,” Garrigan said.

Melson has yet to formally introduce his bill.

State Representative Mike Ball, R-Madison, is expected to carry the bill in the house.

“It’s time that we do this,” Ball said in November.

The 2020 Legislative Session begins on February 4.

Original reporting by ABC 33/40 TV contributed to this report.

 

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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Legislature

Caravan to honor the life of longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes

The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There is a car ride caravan honoring the life and service of Rep. Alvin Holmes in Montgomery at 2 p.m. Monday. The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.

On Saturday, Holmes passed away at age 81. He was born in 1939 into a very segregated Montgomery and spent his life battling in favor of civil rights causes. He was one of the first Black state representatives to serve in the Alabama Legislature after implementation of the Voting Rights Act.

There had been Black legislators during Reconstruction in the 1870s, but Jim Crow segregation during much of the 20th Century had effectively disenfranchised millions of Black Alabamians for generations.

Holmes served in the Alabama House of Representatives, representing House District 78 from 1974 to 2018. Holmes participated in the civil rights movement. He was a professor and a real estate broker.

The chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, released a statement mourning Holmes’s passing.

“Representative Alvin Holmes was a great Democrat and a fighter,” England said. “He stood on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights and was willing to sacrifice everything in his fight for justice for all. He not only had a long and distinguished career as a civil rights leader, but also as a member of the Legislature, serving his constituents faithfully and dutifully for 44 years. Alabama has lost a giant, whose wit, intelligence, fearlessness, selfless determination, and leadership will be sorely missed. My prayers are with his friends, family, and colleagues.”

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State Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, fondly remembered Holmes, whom he defeated in the 2018 Democratic primary.

“Today we lost a dedicated warrior for social justice. Representative Alvin Holmes was a true public servant,” Hatcher said. “What an amazing legacy he has left us! He could always be seen waging the good fight for equality in all aspects of state government and beyond. His public service is legendary and without peer.”

“In recent years, I am profoundly grateful for the grace he showed me in his willingness to share with me his blueprint for effectively serving our people—and by extension the larger community,” Hatcher said. “Today, my fervent prayers are with his beloved daughter Veronica, her precious mom (and his best friend), as well as other cherished members of his family and friends as they mourn his passing. I humbly join the many voices who offer a sincere ‘Thank You’ to Mr. Alvin Holmes for his dedicated service to our Montgomery community and our state. ‘May angels sing thee to thy rest.’”

State Rep. Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery, also fondly remembered Holmes.

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“Sending Prayers to The Holmes family,” Morris said. “Alvin Holmes was the epitome of greatness working for his people!! May you Rest Well !!!”

Republican insider and former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr. also served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives and the Montgomery legislative delegation.

“I served with Alvin for 20 years in the Alabama Legislature,” Hooper said. “We often disagreed on the issues, but even after a heated floor debate, we could shake hands at the end of the day. I always considered him a friend. He loved Montgomery and he was a great representative of his district and its issues. He was always willing to go the extra mile for one of his constituents. When I served as Chairman of the Contract Review Committee, he was one of the committee’s most conscientious members. He was always questioning contracts so he could be assured that the contract represented a good use of taxpayer’s dollars which as Chairman I greatly appreciated. He was one of a kind pioneer in the Alabama Legislature and will be sorely missed.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives prior to his election as secretary of state.

“I just learned that former State Rep. Alvin Holmes passed away today,” Merrill said on social media. “I enjoyed the privilege of serving with him from 2010-14. There was never a dull moment whenever he was in the Chamber. I appreciated him for his candor & for his desire to work on behalf of his constituents!”

Holmes was a member of the Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Montgomery Improvement Association, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Alabama Southern Christian Leadership Conference Board, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He has one daughter, Veronica.

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House

Longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes has died

Montgomery Fire and Rescue responded to a call at Holmes’ residence on Saturday afternoon, and they found the 81-year-old unresponsive. 

Josh Moon

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State Rep. Alvin Holmes

Alvin Holmes, a 44-year veteran of the Alabama Legislature and one of the state’s most outspoken proponents for racial inclusion, has died. Montgomery Fire and Rescue responded to a call at Holmes’ residence on Saturday afternoon, and they found the 81-year-old unresponsive. 

Over a four-decade-plus career in the Alabama House of Representatives, Holmes was a lightning rod for criticism from his fellow white lawmakers and the white voters who elected them, as he repeatedly challenged the status quo and went headlong at biases and racism that prevented more Black Alabamians from serving in positions of power in the state. 

Holmes was a foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery and led the charge on getting the Confederate battle flag removed from Alabama’s Capitol building. Holmes fought many of his battles, especially the early ones, by himself, and while to his friends he would admit that standing alone wasn’t always pleasant, he never showed such hesitation outwardly, seeming to revel in the hateful words and personal attacks from other lawmakers and the public. 

Many of the fights Holmes began were later finished in federal courtrooms, and they most often led to further advancements for Black Alabamians.

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Elections

Insiders say former Rep. April Weaver is “frontrunner” for Senate District 14

Multiple GOP insiders say former Alabama State Rep. April Weaver is a frontrunner to replace State Sen. Cam Ward.

Bill Britt

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Former State Rep. April Weaver is now serving in the Trump administration.

The surprise announcement on Tuesday that State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, had been tapped by Gov. Kay Ivey to serve as director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles sent the political chattering class into overdrive with speculation of who would replace him in the state Senate.

“April Weaver is a clear frontrunner if she jumps in the race,” said a prominent Republican.

Multiple insiders echoed the same sentiment while asking not to be identified in this report to avoid the appearance of trying to influence party politics.

“I think she’s the top contender should she decide to run,” said another.

Replacing Ward, a third-term Alabama senator representing Senate District 14, requires that Ivey announce a special election to fill the vacant seat.

Weaver was a member of the Alabama House representing the 49th district from 2010 to 2020 when she resigned in May to take a position as regional director for Region IV of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration.

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If elected to the upper chamber, she would be the only Republican woman currently serving in the Senate. There are four women serving in the Senate’s Democratic caucus, all of them Black, while the Republican caucus is dominated by white men.

A career nurse, Weaver, in 2015, became the first woman in state history appointed chair of the House Health Committee. In addition to serving as chair of that committee for five legislative sessions, she also chaired the Shelby County House Delegation and as a member of the Rules, Internal Affairs, and State Government committees.

As a federal employee, Weaver cannot engage in political affairs and had no comment on the rumors.

Upon her appointment by President Donald Trump, she said: “Serving in the Alabama House of Representatives has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to represent the people of House District 49 for the past ten years.”

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She continued, “I am forever grateful for the trust and confidence they have placed in me as their Representative, and I am deeply honored to have been chosen to join the Trump Administration. I am excited to be able to use my skills and experience at a national level during this unprecedented time, and I look forward to supporting President Trump’s initiatives and serving the people of our nation.”

Weaver lives in Senate District 14.

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Economy

Report: Alabama has second lowest per capita state, local tax collections

The state’s local and state tax revenue per resident is now the second-lowest in the country.

John H. Glenn

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(STOCK PHOTO)

For the first time since the 1990s, the revenue Alabama collects from state and local taxes is no longer the lowest per capita in the country. The state’s local and state tax revenue per resident is now the second-lowest in the country. That’s according to a new report from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

The report, based on tax collections in 2018 recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that Tennesseans pay slightly less in overall state and local taxes due to a reduced tax rate on groceries there and the process of phasing out what remains of its small income tax.

According to the report, Alabamians pay $3,527 per capita — up $157 from $3,370 reported previously in 2017. The current figures listed in the report do not include the tax increase from the 2019 gas tax.

This increase is linked to stout revenue growth and increased income tax collection by the state, which coupled with Tennessee’s tax policy changes, places Alabama second on the list for lowest total state and local taxes collected per capita.

Alabama still ranks significantly lower than other states in the Southeast, who collectively are the lowest in state and local taxes in the U.S. PARCA suggests that these lower taxes partially explain Alabama’s struggle to provide public services on the same level as other states.

PARCA’s report compares Alabama per resident tax collections with other southern states like Louisiana, South Carolina and Mississippi.

“Mississippi, a state with less wealth and economic activity, nevertheless collects $240 more per capita than Alabama,” states the report. “If Alabama collected taxes at Mississippi’s rate, state and local governments would have an additional $1.2 billion to fund education, health care, highways, public safety, and the broad spectrum of state and local services provided.”

Alabama still maintains one of the highest tax rates in the nation for alcohol, public utilities and sales taxes.

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