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Lottery, sentencing reform, and medical marijuana all dead for this year

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the Alabama Legislature made the decision to kill all statewide legislation in a move to end the 2020 regular legislative session as quickly as possible. The decision was made to deal only with budgets and members prized local bills. The decision kills all of the prison and sentencing reform bills, the medical marijuana bill, Rep. Steve Clause’s (R-Ozark)’s simple lottery, permit-less carry of handguns, Medicaid expansion, the Poarch Creek Indian’s plan to pay the state a $billion for a de facto gaming monopoly, and effectively everything else that had not already been signed by the governor in the first 14 days of the 2020 legislative session.

On March 12, the Alabama legislature adjourned for a scheduled two week spring break with 16 of a possible thirty legislative days left. Then the world changed.

When the legislature left for their scheduled break there were only 1,301 known cases of COVID-19 in the entire United States, none in the state of Alabama, and only 38 Americans had died, most of them from one nursing home in faraway Washington State. Since then death has spread across the land. The Wuhan coronavirus plague has infected 865,709 Americans that we have been able to test and killing 50,243 of those. The virus has found its way to every county in Alabama and has already killed 197 of our neighbors.

A fearful group of legislators returned briefly on March 31, set April 28 for their new return date in hope that Spring would improve the situation, and changed the legislature’s rules so if they did not return then the session did not automatically end.

They won’t be returning on April 28. Instead the House and Senate budget committees will meet next week in room 200 of the Statehouse to pass budgets without the public or even lobbyists present.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) told reporters that room 200 is the only committee room that they have large enough to accommodate the members while strictly enforcing the new social distancing rooms. None of the other committees will meet; thus no other state legislation, even if it has already passed one House will be considered.

Both House of the legislature will return on May 1. They will pass budgets that level fund the state at 2020 budget levels. All of the budget increases, expanded mental health services, and pay raises for teachers and state employees are gone.

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The state has lost an estimated $billion in revenue due to COVID-19 and the forced economic shutdown to attempt to minimize the carnage from the global pandemic.

“Many of the things were not decided until today,” McCutcheon told reporters.

McCutcheon said that when the session began in February, the state had record low unemployment, the economy was booming, pay raises were foregone conclusions and now just two months removed all of that has changed. The state finance director informed us that $one billion in state revenues were lost in the shutdown and there are record high applications for unemployment benefits.

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McCutcheon said that because of the limited time remaining, “Our constitutional obligations (passing the general fund and education budgets) will be our priority.”

The Alabama Political Reporter asked if there were any state agencies or commissions in danger of sunsetting.

“We have take care of the sunset bills before we left,” McCutcheon said.

The Speaker said that there was discussion of having a special session to address the budgets in August; but we don’t know that conditions with the virus will be any better then.

McCutcheon said that to the best of his knowledge known of the members of the legislature have tested positive for COVID-19 and he was committed to protecting the health of the members.

“The health and welfare of the members is of the utmost importance,” McCutcheon said. All members will wear masks when in session, temperatures will be checked when they enter the building, and the legislators will practice social distancing.

McCutcheon said that because of the work that we have done with the rolling reserve and the strength of the economy prior to the pandemic means that the state is not in as bad a shape as they had feared earlier. There is also talk of federal relief bills that could be coming.

“We may not have the full pictures of this,” McCutcheon said/

Legislation to address the issues with the troubled Alabama Department of Corrections also will not be dealt with.

“I have not talked with the Department of Justice,” McCutcheon said. If there is a need to address that Gov. Ivey can call a special session.

“We are trying to reopen the economy,” McCutcheon said. “There is not a magic time to do it. I think it needs to be a phase approach.”

“We are in a real struggle for our small businesses,” the Speaker said. “It is important that we phase in the program.”

APR asked if the state was planning for the possibility of a second shutdown, of at least the schools, if the virus makes a stronger return this winter working with the flu to do even more mayhem as predicted two days ago by the head of the CDC.

McCutcheon said that is why it is important to pass the budgets, “The budgets themselves keep the state operating.”

Reporters asked if each member of the legislature would be tested for the virus before resuming on May 4.

“We have no plans in place to test a member,” McCutcheon answered.

The 2020 legislative session will end by May 18 under the state Constitution automatically whether the legislature does it or not.

The current plan is to meet May 4 through 8 and end the 2020 legislative session.

Hash Tags: ETF, education trust fund, state budgets, SGR, state general fund, Statehouse, Mac McCutcheon, death, COVID-19, legislature, coronavirus, prison reform, pay raise, economy, Speaker of the House, global pandemic, Medicaid expansion, lottery, Poarch Creek Indians, gambling, permit-less carry, medical marijuana

Thursday, the Alabama Legislature made the decision to kill all statewide legislation in a move to end the 2020 regular legislative session as quickly as possible. The decision was made to deal only with budgets and members prized local bills. The decision kills all of the prison and sentencing reform bills, the medical marijuana bill, Rep. Steve Clause’s (R-Ozark)’s simple lottery, permit-less carry of handguns, Medicaid expansion, the Poarch Creek Indian’s plan to pay the state a $billion for a de facto gaming monopoly, and effectively everything else that had not already been signed by the governor in the first 14 days of the session.

On March 12, the Alabama legislature adjourned for a scheduled two week spring break with 16 of a possible thirty legislative days left. Then the world changed.

When the legislature left for their scheduled break there were only 1,301 known cases of COVID-19 in the entire United States, none in the state of Alabama, and only 38 Americans had died, most of them from one nursing home in faraway Washington State. Since then death has spread across the land. The Wuhan coronavirus plague has infected 865,709 Americans that we have been able to test and killing 50,243 of those. The virus has found its way to every county in Alabama and has already killed 197 of our neighbors.

A fearful group of legislators returned briefly on March 31, set April 28 for their new return date in hope that Spring would improve the situation, and changed the legislature’s rules so if they did not return then the session did not automatically end.

They won’t be returning on April 28. Instead the House and Senate budget committees will meet next week in room 200 of the Statehouse to pass budgets without the public or even lobbyists present.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) told reporters that room 200 is the only committee room that they have large enough to accommodate the members while strictly enforcing the new social distancing rooms. None of the other committees will meet; thus no other state legislation, even if it has already passed one House will be considered.

Both House of the legislature will return on May 1. They will pass budgets that level fund the state at 2020 budget levels. All of the budget increases, expanded mental health services, and pay raises for teachers and state employees are gone.

The state has lost an estimated $billion in revenue due to COVID-19 and the forced economic shutdown to attempt to minimize the carnage from the global pandemic.

“Many of the things were not decided until today,” McCutcheon told reporters.

McCutcheon said that when the session began in February, the state had record low unemployment, the economy was booming, pay raises were foregone conclusions and now just two months removed all of that has changed. The state finance director informed us that $one billion in state revenues were lost in the shutdown and there are record high applications for unemployment benefits.

McCutcheon said that because of the limited time remaining, “Our constitutional obligations (passing the general fund and education budgets) will be our priority.”

The Alabama Political Reporter asked if there were any state agencies or commissions in danger of sunsetting.

“We have take care of the sunset bills before we left,” McCutcheon said.

The Speaker said that there was discussion of having a special session to address the budgets in August; but we don’t know that conditions with the virus will be any better then.

McCutcheon said that to the best of his knowledge known of the members of the legislature have tested positive for COVID-19 and he was committed to protecting the health of the members.

“The health and welfare of the members is of the utmost importance,” McCutcheon said. All members will wear masks when in session, temperatures will be checked when they enter the building, and the legislators will practice social distancing.

McCutcheon said that because of the work that we have done with the rolling reserve and the strength of the economy prior to the pandemic means that the state is not in as bad a shape as they had feared earlier. There is also talk of federal relief bills that could be coming.

“We may not have the full pictures of this,” McCutcheon said/

Legislation to address the issues with the troubled Alabama Department of Corrections also will not be dealt with.

“I have not talked with the Department of Justice,” McCutcheon said. If there is a need to address that Gov. Ivey can call a special session.

“We are trying to reopen the economy,” McCutcheon said. “There is not a magic time to do it. I think it needs to be a phase approach.”

“We are in a real struggle for our small businesses,” the Speaker said. “It is important that we phase in the program.”

APR asked if the state was planning for the possibility of a second shutdown, of at least the schools, if the virus makes a stronger return this winter working with the flu to do even more mayhem as predicted two days ago by the head of the CDC.

McCutcheon said that is why it is important to pass the budgets, “The budgets themselves keep the state operating.”

Reporters asked if each member of the legislature would be tested for the virus before resuming on May 4.

“We have no plans in place to test a member,” McCutcheon answered.

The 2020 legislative session will end by May 18 under the state Constitution automatically whether the legislature does it or not.

The current plan is to meet May 4 through 8 and end the 2020 legislative session.

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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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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