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2020 Legislative Session Week 1 report

Beth Lyons

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The Alabama Legislature began its annual Regular Session on Tuesday, February 4. As the annual Session is limited by law to 30 session days within a 105 calendar day period, the Session must conclude by May 18, 2020. Generally, the Legislature meets in Session on Tuesday and Thursday of each week with Wednesday as the major day for committee meetings.

Prior to the Session convening at noon, the Fiscal Office Director of the Legislative Services Agency presented budget projections to Legislators. He indicated that there will be approximately $400 million more than last year in the General Fund for the 2021 Budget for a total of approximately $2.6 billion. The Education Fund has seen an increase as well and should be at approximately $7.5 billion. The budgets to be considered by the Legislature during this annual session are for fiscal year 2021 which runs from October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021.

Governor Kay Ivey addressed the Legislators Tuesday evening in her 3rd annual State of the State address. Her agenda for this session includes a $1 billion bond issue for K-12, community college and university construction projects, and a proposal for a 3% raise for K-12 and community college teachers and a 2% pay raise for state employees.

Recognizing that it has been almost 14 years since Alabama made an investment in schools, she indicated the school bond money would be used for much needed capital improvements for new construction, safety improvements, and technology upgrades but will not include any legislative earmarks for pet projects.

The Governor then referenced her proposal to construct three new prisons for men to allow for the transition from warehousing facilities to facilities focused on rehabilitation. The US Justice Department has threatened for a number of years to take over management of the state prison system.

She also stressed a proposal to address mental health issues which would involve three new crisis centers and is proposing money in the budget for those to be built. She projected that those centers would become a safe haven for people facing mental health challenges without being sent to jail or a hospital.

The Governor urged Legislators to slow down on any new proposals for gambling indicating that she would create a working group by executive order to study the potential impacts of a lottery and casino gaming which would include the estimated income and any financial and social costs for those endeavors.

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She indicated her executive order would be issued in the next few days and would provide that the committee would report by the end of this year. She also referenced that she had not discussed the Poarch Band of Creek Indians proposal with any of their representatives and would not do so until the study commission had completed its report.

358 bills were introduced in the first two Session days.

The Legislature will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, February 11 for Day 3 of the Session with both Houses convening at 2:00 p.m.

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SIGNIFICANT INTRODUCTIONS:

HOUSE:

To repeal various state taxes and levy instead a single rate comprehensive consumption tax (House Fiscal Responsibility Committee) [HB4 by Representative Mike Holmes].

To transfer the Marine Police Division from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee) [HB9 by Representative Chris Sells].

To require a motor vehicle dealer to disclose to the consumer any portion of the finance charge received by the dealer in connection with providing financing for the purchase (House Financial Services Committee) [HB10 by Representative Becky Nordgren].

To reduce the term of office for county board of education members from 6 to 4 years (House Education Policy Committee) [HB15 by Representative Andy Whitt].

To require a child care facility to call a child’s parent or guardian if the child does not arrive at the center by 9:30 a.m. and hasn’t been reported absent (House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee) [HB16 by Representative Randy Wood].

To create the State Transportation Commission to coordinate and develop the activities of the Department of Transportation (House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee) [HB19 by Representative Chris Pringle].

To designate the third Saturday in June of each year as Juneteenth National Freedom day to commemorate the abolition of slavery throughout the US in 1865 (House State Government Committee) [HB26 by Representative Thomas Jackson].

To require each county to provide at least one early voting center to be open for a period of 14 days during the week immediately preceding election day (House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee) [HB30 by Representative Thomas Jackson].

To prohibit public K-12 schools from participating in, sponsoring, or provide coaching staff for interscholastic athletic events at which athletes are allowed to participate in competition against athletes who are of a different biological gender (House State Government Committee) [HB35 by Representative Chris Pringle].

To standardize a process by which concealed carry permits may be issued statewide and would create a state concealed carry permit information system (House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee) [HB39 by Representative Proncey Robertson].

To authorize the Baldwin County Commission to levy a tax not greater than 10% on the sale of hemp products, alternative nicotine products, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (Baldwin County Legislation Committee) [HB43 by Representative Matt Simpson].

To include mental disease or disorder that arises out of and in the course of employment in the term occupational disease for purposes of workers’ compensation (House Ways and Means General Fund Committee) [HB44 by Representative Matt Simpson].
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To clarify that no separate retail license is needed for sales at a winery or tasting room (House Economic Development and Tourism Committee) [HB52 by Representative Laura Hall].

To update sections of the code related to statutorily exempt entities to include only those that have obtained and are retaining a current certificate of exemption as required by law (House State Government Committee) [HB64 by Representative Chris Pringle].

To authorize a municipality or county to establish a local redevelopment authority for property that is contiguous to an active US Air Force military installation. (House Ways and Means General Fund) [HB66 by Representative Thad McClammy].

To increase the fees for issuing permits in the regulation of of the manufacturing, sale, display of fireworks, and for the use of pyrotechnics before an audience with 5 percent of the total fee going to the Alabama Firefighters Annuity and Benefit Fund (House Insurance Committee) [HB69 by Representative Kerry Rich].

To prohibit the operator of a motor vehicle from using a wireless communication device in any manner that would require the operator to physically hold the device (House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee) [HB74 by Representative Koven Brown].

To require an employer, including state agencies, to use specified guidelines to determine whether a worker is engaged in employment for purposes of employment benefits and tax liabilities (House Commerce and Small Business Committee) [HB77 by Representative Wes Kitchens].

To authorize a judge of probate, district judge, or circuit judge to carry a pistol openly or concealed in a courtroom, courthouse, courthouse property, and within his or her office (House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee) [HB79 by Representative Tim Wadsworth].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment to provide that a person charged with a Class A felony, when the proof is evident or the presumption is great, and if no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm, be denied bail before conviction (House Judiciary Committee) [HB81 by Representative Chip Brown].

To prohibit any institution, group, association, conference or organization with authority over intercollegiate athletics from preventing any student from earning compensation for the use of the student’s name, image or likeness, or from obtaining professional representation (House State Government Committee) [HB82 by Representative Kirk Hatcher].

To establish the Alabama Research and Development Act that would provide for a research and development tax credit to certain Alabama companies (Ways and Means Education Fund Committee) [HB109 by Representative Danny Garrett].
To designate the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Alabama Aquarium as the official Aquarium of Alabama (House State Government Committee) [HB110 by Representative Chip Brown].

To redesignate common fireworks as consumer fireworks and provide for the regulation of consumer fireworks (House Economic Development and Tourism Committee) [HB112 by Representative Chip Brown].

To provide for additional offenses that would require mandatory denial of bail (House Judiciary Committee) [HB113 by Representative Chip Brown].
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To raise the minimum age for the purchase, possession, or transport of tobacco products, or of electronic nicotine delivery systems or alternative nicotine products, from 19 to 21 (House State Government Committee) [HB119 by Representative Barbara Drummond].

To repeal the certificate of need program and abolish the state agencies, councils, and boards that exist to operate the certificate of need program (House State Government Committee) [HB126 by Representative Andrew Sorrell].

To provide for electronic publication of public notices on a public notice website operated by the Secretary of State, and allow counties and municipalities to opt out under certain conditions (House State Government Committee) [HB128 by Representative Andrew Sorrell].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment to provide for electronic publication of local legislation (House State Government Committee) [HB129 by Representative Andrew Sorrell].

To provide for the voluntary transfer of a case from a municipal court to the county district or circuit court when the defendant qualifies for a pretrial diversion program, mental health court, drug court, veterans’ court, or similar program (House Judiciary Committee) [HB163 by Representative Jim Hill].

To prohibit the Attorney General or a district attorney from presenting a suspected ethics violation by an individual subject to the code of ethics, other than a member or employee of the commission, to a grand jury without a referral by the commission (House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee [HB179 by Representative Mike Ball].

To increase the salaries of public education employees by 3% (House Ways and Means Education Committee) [HB188 by Representative Bill Poole].

SENATE:

To repeal certain restrictions on the carrying and possession of a firearm on certain property on in a motor vehicle by persons with or without a concealed pistol permit (Senate Judiciary Committee) [SB1 by Senator Gerald Allen].

To provide for the expenditure of funds received by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, pursuant to the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006, for coastal conservation, restoration, and protection (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee) [SB3 by Senator Chris Elliott].

To establish an income tax credit for eligible taxpayers who pay toll fees to certain toll roads, bridges, or tunnels that are constructed with public funds (Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee) [SB4 by Senator Chris Elliott].

To reduce the term of office for county board of education members from 6 to 4 years (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee) [SB9 by Senator Sam Givhan].

To expand the expungement of criminal records to include convictions of certain misdemeanor offenses, traffic violations, municipal ordinances, and felony offenses (Senate Judiciary) [SB14 by Senator Cam Ward].

To standardize a process by which concealed carry permits may be issued statewide and create a state concealed carry permit information system (Senate Judiciary Committee) [SB 47 by Senator Randy Price].
To authorize the governing body of a Class 8 municipality with an incorporated arts council, main street program, or downtown development entity that is located primarily on an island to establish three entertainment districts within its corporate limits (Senate Governmental Affair Committee) [SB48 by Senator Chris Elliott].

To require governmental bodies to adopt rules allowing each citizen to inspect and take a copy of any public record upon request made in accordance with this act (Senate Government Affairs Committee) [SB57 by Senator Cam Ward].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment to provide that all individuals are entitled to reasonable bail prior to conviction, except for offenses enumerated by the Legislature by general law (Senate Judiciary Committee) [SB59 by Senator Cam Ward].

To provide for additional offenses that would require mandatory denial of bail (Senate Judiciary) [SB60 by Senator Cam Ward].
To require electronic monitoring for release on bail for certain offenses (Senate Judiciary Committee) [SB76 by Senator Cam Ward].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment to abolish the Office of State Auditor and transfer duties and responsibilities to the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee) [SB83 by Senator Andrew Jones].

To provide that if an AdvantageSite economic development site is annexed by a municipality or is located in the police jurisdiction of a municipality, an employee employed on the site would not be subject to any occupational license tax (Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development) [SB85 by Senator Andrew Jones].

To authorize a winery or an organization comprised of grape growers and wineries to obtain a license from the ABC Board to hold a wine festival where wineries may provide tastings and sell wine (Senate Tourism) [SB87 by Senator Andrew Jones].

To provide that tickets to entertainment events may be originally sold with resale and transfer restrictions only if the ticket seller also offers the option of purchasing the same tickets without resale and transfer restrictions (Senate Tourism Committee) [SB91 by Senator Bobby Singleton].

To eliminate the requirement that a licensed physical therapist may only perform physical therapy, except in limited circumstances, based on a referral from a licensed health care practitioner (Senate Healthcare Committee) [SB104 by Senator Jim McClendon].

To require all business license and permit applicants who employ one or more persons to prove enrollment in E-Verify prior to the issuance of the license or permit (Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee) [SB107 by Senator Arthur Orr].

To prohibit a public official, agency of the state, municipality, or county from intentionally adopting a policy or practice that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws (Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee) [SB108 by Senator Arthur Orr].

A proposed Constitutional Amendment to provide that a person charged with a Class A felony, when the proof is evident or the presumption is great, and if no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm, be denied bail before conviction (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee) [SB 119 by Senator David Sessions].

To prohibit candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor and either House of the Legislature from soliciting or accepting contributions from any person he or she knows or should have known is an owner or operator of any gaming or pari-mutual wagering operations in the state (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee) [SB122 by Senator Jim McClendon].

To provide that any Class 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 municipality that does not create and adopt a municipal plan or is not executing its plan in good faith is ineligible to receive grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee) [SB124 by Senator Del Marsh].

To expand the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 and the jurisdiction of the Committee on Alabama Monument Protection created by the act to include architecturally significant buildings, memorial buildings, memorial streets, or monuments that have been so situated for 40 or more years, and to revise penalties for violations (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee) [SB127 by Senator Gerald Allen].

To create and fund the General Fund Budget Reserve Fund and provide for the withdrawal and use of the fund (Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund) [SB129 by Senator Clyde Chambliss].

To provide for the voluntary transfer of a case from a municipal court to the county district or circuit court when the defendant qualifies for a pretrial diversion program, mental health court, drug court, veterans’ court, or similar program (Senate Judiciary Committee) [SB136 by Senator Cam Ward].

To create the State Transportation Commission to coordinate and develop the activities of the Department of Transportation (House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee) [SB141 by Senator Chris Elliott].

To eliminate municipal authority beyond the corporate limits of each municipality and provide for a referendum to decide whether to reinstate police jurisdictions (Senate Governmental Affairs Committee) [SB142 by Senator Chris Elliott].

To redesignate common fireworks as consumer fireworks and provide for the regulation of consumer fireworks (Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee) [SB147 by Senator Tim Melson].

To require the Department of Transportation to complete and publically post an economic impact study related to the toll project prior to construction and prior to the public hearing (Senate Transportation and Energy Committee) [SB151 by Senator Chris Elliott].
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A proposed Constitutional Amendment to require a referendum before a proposed toll may be fixed, charged, or collected, for the construction, renovation, or use of a public road, bridge or tunnel project on an existing interstate highway or a section thereof (Senate Transportation and Energy Committee) [SB152 by Senator Chris Elliott].

To provide a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for state employees (Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee) [SB159 by Senator Greg Albritton].

 

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Alabama Legislative Black Caucus holds meetings on racism in wake of George Floyd death

Eddie Burkhalter

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State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, is the chair of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus.

Members of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus in recent months have been meeting with Gov. Kay Ivey, state law enforcement officials and others to voice their concern over systemic racism in Alabama, the group said in a statement Friday. 

Alabama Legislative Black Caucus members in June met with Ivey, and in follow-up meetings with other state officials and leaders of higher education, members discussed what they believe needs changing to battle racism in Alabama, according to the press release. 

“We are very appreciative of Governor Ivey and all of the officials with whom we have met thus far,” said State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, chairwoman of the ALBC, in a statement. “Our dialogues have been very substantive and productive as the Caucus presented our concerns and recommendations. Our goal is to get to the root of and eradicate racism and anything that communicates hatred, bigotry or divisiveness within the State of Alabama. The tragic and senseless death of George Floyd caused us all to take a closer look at the systemic racism at work here in Alabama.”

ALBC members met with officials from Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Sheriffs Association, the Alabama Association of Police Chiefs and Katie Britt, president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama along with BCA’s Executive Leadership Committee.

Members also met with The University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John, and Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University. 

In the statement, ALBC members applauded the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees for voting unanimously to rename Nott Hall — named for Josiah Nott, a doctor who believed in white superiority — Honors Hall. 

“The University of Alabama had already started this endeavor before our meeting with them this past Tuesday,” said State Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Gallion, vice chairman of ALBC, in a statement. “That was a great first step and strong leadership was shown. We are looking forward to the other institutions of higher learning in Alabama to do the same as well. The Caucus also hopes that all members of the Alabama Legislature have been inspired to adopt and make meaningful changes in legislation that governs our state.”

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Figures said the group of elected senators and representatives are holding these talks, with plans for others, “so that people will stop focusing on Alabama’s sordid past, and instead see a beautiful Alabama present, and the makings of a bright future for all Alabamians.” 

“During each of these meetings, our members have had the opportunity to voice what we feel the necessary changes should be. I just hope this openness to positive change continues throughout the upcoming 2021 Alabama Legislative Session,” said State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, in a statement. 

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State senator calls for Rep. Dismukes to resign over celebration of former Klan leader

“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative,” Chambliss wrote in a tweet. “He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people in District 88.” 

Eddie Burkhalter

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State Sen Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, on Monday called for the resignation of Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville.

State Sen Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, on Monday called for the resignation of Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, after posting to social media about attending a birthday celebration for Nathanial Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Dismukes posted a photo of himself on Sunday speaking at Fort Dixie outside of Selma on Saturday, the same day that late Congressman and Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, was honored in Selma. 

“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative,” Chambliss wrote in a tweet. “He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people in District 88.” 

“The post is bad enough, the timing is even worse, but the real problem is that an elected official in 2020 would attend a celebration of the life of someone that led a group that terrorized and killed other human beings,” Chambliss continued in the tweet. “He has had 24 hours to understand why people are so upset, but his interview on WSFA a few moments ago confirms that he is lacking in understanding and judgment — he should resign immediately.” 

Dismukes in the WSFA interview told a reporter that he hadn’t thought about the memorial for Rep. Lewis and connected it to his attendance at the celebration for the Klan leader. 

Dismukes told WSFA that he won’t apologize for his family’s service in the “war between the states” that he said wasn’t primarily fought over slavery, that he’s not a racist but that he doesn’t see the need for the current racial reconciliation. 

“We no longer drink from separate water fountains, and we no longer have segregated schools,” Dismukes told WSFA. “You know there’s abundant work opportunities for all colors, there’s abundant scholarship opportunities for all colors. So what are you asking that needs to be racially reconciled?”

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Chambliss may be the first Republican lawmaker in Alabama to call for Dismukes’ resignation, but others have expressed concern over his social media post and attendance at the event. 

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan issued a statement addressing the post, and said he believes voters should decide whether Dismukes keeps his office. 

“While Rep. Dismukes has released a statement attempting to clarify his actions as a private citizen attending a celebration of the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Alabamians hold their elected officials to a high standard of actions. So does the Republican Party,” Lathan said in the statement. 

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“Rep. Dismukes offered no explanation for why he participated in a birthday celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Additionally, I find his statement to be shallow in understanding why his activities are deeply offensive to so many Alabamians. His constituents will be the final decision-makers of his political future.”

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Republicans are concerned by Rep. Dismukes’ Confederate social media posts

Brandon Moseley

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Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, is facing criticism for attending a birthday celebration for the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, on Monday released a statement in response to a recent social media post by State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, who was in Selma Saturday celebrating Confederate General and Ku Klux Klan leader Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest’s birthday over the weekend. This was while much of the rest of the state was celebrating the life of Alabama native and Civil Rights Movement legend Congressman John Lewis.

“The Alabama Republican Caucus is comprised of 75 men and women, each of whom have their own beliefs and principles that guide their lives,” Ledbetter said. “The personal beliefs expressed by any one member do not reflect the beliefs of the others, and their activities outside the Legislature should be considered their own, as well.”

“Several of our Republican Caucus members have reached out to me with concerns about the content and timing of a recent social media post by State Rep. Will Dismukes, and I, as a House member, share those concerns,” Ledbetter continued. “We live in a nation that guarantees each citizen the right to express the ideas they wish to share, and in the case of a public official, voters will ultimately decide if they agree with those ideas.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, also released a statement regarding the controversial social media post.

“The Alabama House cannot police the beliefs, statements, and activities of its members outside the Legislature as that is a job best assigned to voters in each House district across the state,” McCutcheon said. “It is important to note, however, that I and many other members of the House devoted our weekend toward honoring an Alabama native and civil rights icon who dedicated his life to securing freedom, liberty, and equality for all Americans.”

“While Rep. Dismukes has released a statement attempting to clarify his actions as a private citizen attending a celebration of the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Alabamians hold their elected officials to a high standard of actions. So does the Republican Party,” said Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan. “Rep. Dismukes offered no explanation for why he participated in a birthday celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Additionally, I find his statement to be shallow in understanding why his activities are deeply offensive to so many Alabamians. His constituents will be the final decision-makers of his political future.”

“The Alabama of today was on full, honorable display as we paid humble tribute this weekend to the life of Congressman John Lewis,” Lathan continued. “That is the Alabama that we are proud of — showing the nation and world that we are one in the common goals of equality for all of our citizens.”

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“It is one thing to honor one’s Southern heritage, however, it is completely another issue to specifically commemorate the leader of an organization with an indisputable history of unconscionable actions and atrocities toward African-Americans,” Lathan concluded. “I strongly urge his constituents to contact Rep. Dismukes to articulate and share with him their thoughts on his personal actions.”

On Sunday, Dismukes shared several pictures from the celebration of Gen. Forest’s birthday, with the caption: “Had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration. Always a great time and some sure enough good eating!!”

After the comments became a social media firestorm that has garnered press attention, Dismukes attempted to explain his position.

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“First and foremost, my post yesterday was in no way related to disrespecting the passing of Rep. John Lewis,” Dismukes said. “That wasn’t even a thought in my mind. That is not who I am as a person. I am a transparent person. To the point that as a public official I lay it all there for the people to see for better or for worse at times. My post yesterday was as usual me sharing a previous days events. The post was in no way intended to seem as if I was glorifying the Klan or any party thereof. The very atrocities and actions they committed are a disgrace to our country.”

“Also, we are all individual members that make up our legislature. I made a post independent of my colleagues,” Dismukes continued. “I made a post independent of my colleagues. My regret is that I have allowed them to be put in a negative light. If you disagree with me and my beliefs do not hold them under the same umbrella. I can live with a dislike for me, but not fellow members, or members of my own personal family. Our body as a whole is made up of some of the finest people I have ever had the honor of knowing and working with, both Democrat and Republican. I close by reiterating that my post was in no way glorifying the Klan or disrespecting the late Rep. John Lewis.”

The Alabama Democratic Party had already come out and demanded that Dismukes resign months ago when it became known that he, a minister, was chaplain for a Sons of the Confederacy chapter in central Alabama.

Dismukes is serving in his first term in the Alabama House. He briefly was a congressional candidate in Alabama’s 2nd District but dropped out of the race before the Republican Primary.

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Alabama lawmaker faces sharp criticism over celebration of former KKK leader

Micah Danney

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State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, shared a post on Facebook after a birthday celebration for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, is again facing calls to resign over a social media post he made about his participation in an event honoring Confederate heritage.

Dismukes posted a photo of himself on Sunday speaking at Fort Dixie the day before, where a yearly event was held celebrating the birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

“Had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration. Always a great time and some sure enough good eating!!” Dismukes wrote above a photo of himself speaking on a porch adorned with a portrait of Forrest and several Confederate flags. The post is no longer visible.

Criticism was swift on social media as word spread that Dismukes attended the celebration on the same weekend that the late Congressman and Civil Rights hero, Rep. John Lewis, was honored in Selma, where Lewis was nearly beaten to death in 1965, during the march for voting rights that crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Alabama Democratic Party Executive Director Wade Perry called for Dismukes to resign.

“Will Dismukes has demonstrated yet again why he is unfit to hold public office,” Perry said in a statement. “Americans don’t celebrate racists or traitors. Nathan Bedford Forrest was both. And a founder of the Klan. The Alabama Democratic Party renews our call for Dismukes to resign. It’s 2020 and it’s time for racial extremists like Will Dismukes to go away.”

Dismukes posted a statement on Monday addressing the criticism: “First and foremost, my post yesterday was in no way related to disrespecting the passing of Rep. John Lewis. That wasn’t even a thought in my mind. That is not who I am as a person.

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“I am a transparent person. To the point that as a public official I lay it all there for the people to see for better or for worse at times. My post yesterday was as usual me sharing a previous days events. The post was in no way intended to seem as if I was glorifying the Klan or any party thereof. The very atrocities and actions they committed are a disgrace to our country.

“Also, we are all individual members that make up our legislature. I made a post independent of my colleagues. My regret is that I have allowed them to be put in a negative light. If you disagree with me and my beliefs do not hold them under the same umbrella. I can live with a dislike for me, but not fellow members, or members of my own personal family. Our body as a whole is made up of some of the finest people I have ever had the honor of knowing and working with, both Democrat and Republican.

“I close by reiterating that my post was in no way glorifying the Klan or disrespecting the late Rep. John Lewis.”

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Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan issued a statement addressing the post:

“While Rep. Dismukes has released a statement attempting to clarify his actions as a private citizen attending a celebration of the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Alabamians hold their elected officials to a high standard of actions. So does the Republican Party.

“Rep. Dismukes offered no explanation for why he participated in a birthday celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Additionally, I find his statement to be shallow in understanding why his activities are deeply offensive to so many Alabamians. His constituents will be the final decision-makers of his political future.

“The Alabama of today was on full, honorable display as we paid humble tribute this weekend to the life of Congressman John Lewis. That is the Alabama that we are proud of – showing the nation and world that we are one in the common goals of equality for all of our citizens.

“It is one thing to honor one’s Southern heritage, however, it is completely another issue to specifically commemorate the leader of an organization with an indisputable history of unconscionable actions and atrocities toward African-Americans. I strongly urge his constituents to contact Rep. Dismukes to articulate and share with him their thoughts on his personal actions.”

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, issued a statement saying that the beliefs of one member don’t reflect the beliefs of all, and that several Republican Caucus members expressed concern to him about the content and timing of Dismukes’ post.

We live in a nation that guarantees each citizen the right to express the ideas they wish to share, and in the case of a public official, voters will ultimately decide if they agree with those ideas.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, on Monday issued his own statement:

“The Alabama House cannot police the beliefs, statements, and activities of its members outside the Legislature as that is a job best assigned to voters in each House district across the state.  

“It is important to note, however, that I and many other members of the House devoted our weekend toward honoring an Alabama native and civil rights icon who dedicated his life to securing freedom, liberty, and equality for all Americans.”

Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, tweeted a stern rebuke on Sunday: “I cannot fathom why anyone in 2020 celebrates the birthday of the 1st KKK Grand Wizard. And while the body of a civil rights icon beaten by the Klan lies at state Capitol being honored by GOP/Dem leaders from all over the state. This mentality does not rep my party or my faith.”

Another GOP colleague, Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, responded to a constituent about the matter in a tweet

“Scott, As a Christian, Conservative, member of the Republican Party, I was proud of the comments of my colleague Rep. Danny Garrett. Rep Will Dismukes’ actions were also unfathomable to me. I believe it will take the voters in House Dist. 88 to remove Rep. Dismukes from office,” Farley said.

While fellow Republican officials said that Dismukes’ constituents should decide if he remains in office, the College Republican Federation of Alabama issued a statement on Monday calling for him to resign.

“Representative Dismukes’s Facebook post of him at an event that celebrated former KKK Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest is unacceptable and has no place in the State Legislature or the Republican Party,” the statement said.

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