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Byrne supports Senate Republicans police reform bill

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, on Wednesday announced that he was supporting of Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, and Senate Republicans’ plan to reform policing in this country, the JUSTICE Act.

“I applaud Senator Tim Scott for his leadership on the #JUSTICEAct, and I hope Congress will come together in a bipartisan manner to pass this bill and send it to President Trump for his signature,” Rep. Byrne said on social media. “Instead of ridiculous partisan ideas like ‘defunding the police,’ Senator Scott has put together a commonsense proposal to address concerns about policing policies across the country in a way that actually promotes more transparency and better community policing.”

Congressman Byrne has written against the “Defund the Police” movement that has gripped a number of major cities.

“The ‘defund the police’ movement is not the answer,” Byrne wrote recently. “My colleagues Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, all members of the Congressional Black Caucus, spoke out against it last week. Ms. Norton said that the poorest of the people she represents live in the parts of town that experience the most homicides and crime. ‘I’m not sure I would hear them saying we ought to reduce the number of police, I may hear them saying just the opposite,’ she said.”

“Neither does it make sense to paint all of law enforcement with a broad and negative brush,” Byrne continued. “We all need law enforcement and we are blessed that the vast majority of our officers are good professionals, often doing their jobs under dangerous circumstances. Last year 89 officers died in the line of duty in the U.S. Many more were injured. Most of us don’t work in a job where it is unclear whether we will return home at the end of the day safe and sound. But they do.”

Sponsors say that the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act provides long-term solutions focused on police reform, accountability and transparency, while also promoting efforts to find solutions to systemic issues affecting people of color such as education and health disparities.

“Now is the time for reform,” Scott said. “The murder of George Floyd and its aftermath made clear from sea to shining sea that action must be taken to rebuild lost trust between communities of color and law enforcement. The JUSTICE Act takes smart, commonsense steps to address these issues, from ending the use of chokeholds and increasing the use of body worn cameras, to providing more resources for police departments to better train officers and make stronger hiring decisions. I want to thank Leader McConnell and the entire task force not just for their hard work on putting this bill together, but for their commitment to finding real solutions.”

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“I really appreciate Senator Scott’s leadership putting together a police reform proposal that will make a difference,” stated Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. “This proposal reinforces the need for better community policing, best practices and creating more transparency when it comes to reporting encounters with law enforcement throughout the country. I hope our Democratic colleagues will take this proposal seriously, and that all of us work together to find common ground to bring reform to policing in America.”

“When I spoke with George Floyd’s family last week, they asked me for one thing: justice. That is what we set out to do with this legislation,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “The JUSTICE Act is a package of significant reforms that already have bipartisan support, so there’s no excuse for Democrats to reject them out of hand. Although many of the changes to reform policing in our communities will happen at the local level, we can help stem racial inequality and ensure America’s police are more responsibly serving our communities.”

The JUSTICE Act strengthens the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding deescalation of force and the duty to intervene, providing law enforcement with new funding to do so, and will also end the practice of utilizing chokeholds.

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The bill will reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve. It also ensures that when a candidate is interviewed, the department looking to hire will have access to their prior disciplinary records

The JUSTICE Act will put more body cameras on the streets and ensure that departments are both using the cameras and storing their data properly. The bill requires a report establishing best practices for the hiring, firing, suspension, and discipline of law enforcement officers. Currently, only about 40 percent of police officers from jurisdictions nationwide report to the FBI after an incident where an officer has discharged his or her weapon or used force.

The bill will require full reporting in these two areas The JUSTICE Act will also make lynching a federal crime. It creates two commissions to study and offer solutions to a broader range of challenges facing black men and boys, and the criminal justice system as a whole.

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District. He is not seeking re-election.

 

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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Jones: Trump executive orders are “more for show than actual help for the Americans people”

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones during a livestreamed press briefing. (OFFICE OF SEN. DOUG JONES/FACEBOOK)

Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones had harsh words for recent executive orders that President Donald Trump signed in lieu of continuing to pursue a bipartisan legislative COVID relief package. Jones said that Trump’s executive orders extending coronavirus relief are “more for show than actual help for the American people.”

“While the President is attempting to give the appearance that he is leading the cavalry coming to the rescue of the American people, these executive orders are anything but that,” Jones said. “The executive order to extend the now-lapsed emergency unemployment assistance will cut benefits by $200 a week or more for Alabamians and asks states, whose budgets have already been burdened by the pandemic, to foot part of the bill. The payroll tax collection moratorium is a way for President Trump to follow through with his promise to defund Medicare and privatize social security by putting the solvency of these programs at risk while still leaving open the possibility that those taxes may need to be paid in a lump sum next year.”

“By signing these executive orders that are more for show than actual help for the American people, President Trump has confirmed that his administration has not acted in good faith and had no intention of reaching bipartisan agreement on legislation that would benefit all Americans,” Jones said. “The Senate, which absolutely should not have recessed without passing a relief package, needs to immediately return to Washington to pass legislation that provides adequate support for the Americans who are suffering as a result of this virus as well as our economy. We need to come to a bipartisan compromise that deals with the full slate of urgent issues facing our country: we need a national strategy for COVID testing and contact tracing, to extend federal eviction moratoriums, to provide much-needed funding for state and local governments, and to ensure schools have the resources they need to reopen safely — among so many other needs.”

Both parties wanted a fifth coronavirus aid package passed before Congress broke for August recess, but negotiations broke down between Democrats and the White House over the size of the aid package.

“It’s completely inexcusable that Mitch McConnell waited over two months after the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act to begin negotiations on this relief package, knowing full well that many of the programs that Americans have relied on during this crisis would expire at the end of July,” Jones continued. “The failure to negotiate an adequate bipartisan deal speaks to a broader breakdown in leadership in Washington, and I strongly urge my colleagues to put partisanship aside to come together to pass a relief bill as soon as possible. Lives and livelihoods are at stake, and each day we spend arguing over politics is another day that our institution fails the American people.”

Some Democrats have threatened to challenge the president’s executive actions in court. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Democrats would have a lot of explaining to do if they challenged the White House’s efforts to get enhanced unemployment benefits to Americans.

“We’ve cleared with the Office of Legal Counsel all these actions,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If the Democrats want to challenge us in court and hold up unemployment benefits to those hardworking Americans that are out of a job because of COVID, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.”

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The president’s executive actions would provide $400 in increased federal unemployment benefits, which is down $200 from the $600 enhancement that they were getting.

“We thought $400 was a fair compromise. We offered to continue to pay $600 while we negotiate, and the Democrats turned that down,” Mnuchin said.

The Democratic proposal that passed the House, the HEROES Act, would have added $3.4 trillion to the national debt.

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Jones is trailing Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville in the race for U.S. Senate according to a poll released last week.

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Brooks: Democratic relief proposals would make Americans more dependent on government

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, on Thursday said on social media that Democrats believe that redistributing wealth and expanding government handouts will help them in the 2020 elections.

“Socialist Democrats want as many Americans as possible dependent on the government,” Brooks said. “They perceive that redistributing wealth and expanding government handouts will help Democrats tremendously in the 2020 elections. The more Americans voting for a living rather than working for a living, the better the Socialist Democrats’ election chances.”

Fox Business Channel commentator Stuart Varney shared similar views to Brooks.

“The left doesn’t want you to work for your money, they want you to be dependent on a government handout which they control,” Varney said. “This is economic fantasy land, wealth confiscation, trashes the constitution. Money printing on a massive scale invites inflation. Socialism really is dangerous to your financial health.”

“You can see where the left is headed: tax the rich, print money, make us all dependent on the government,” said Varney. “They want to salvage political power from a government-ordered shutdown.”

In 1980, the entire national debt was just $903 billion. Since then, federal spending, much of it mandatory spending, has ballooned the size of government and the national debt. The debt has now grown to $26.6 trillion.

This year’s budget deficit is nearly triple what the whole debt was back then and Congress is debating another coronavirus aid package that would be paid by deficit spending.

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One issue that Congress has been grappling with is how much money should the government give to people impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

Conservatives are concerned that borrowing more money for more and more aid will grow the debt while discouraging people from working.

“A possible consequence of a poorly targeted, expansive government stimulus package?” said Heritage Foundation Research Fellow in Economics, Budget and Entitlements Rachel Greszler. “If you continue excessively high payments, then you end up just trading a global health pandemic for a fiscal crisis.”

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“It’s neither fair nor helpful to tantalize unemployed workers with unemployment benefits equal to 150% or 200% of their usual earnings, because long-term unemployment leads to lower incomes and opportunities, as well as a decline in physical and mental health,” Greszler explained. “Policymakers should be focused on helping Americans get safely back to work, including granting new flexibilities to allow workplaces to adjust to the conditions of COVID-19.”

“Humans are hard-wired to be productive,” Greszler concluded. “They will be far better off if policymakers focus on enabling work opportunities—such as removing barriers to working, trading, innovating, and investing—than on incentivizing unemployment.”

Brooks is in his fifth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. He has no Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election. Brooks previously served in the Alabama House of Representatives, the Madison County Commission and as a prosecutor.

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Aderholt pushes for CARES fund flexibility to improve rural broadband

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Robert Aderholt (CSPAN)

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, on Friday released a statement after leading a bipartisan Congressional letter with Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, to House and Senate leadership urging them to take immediate and necessary actions regarding rural broadband funding from the CARES Act.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on the unacceptable reality of rural broadband in America,” Aderholt said. “I have been fighting to solve this problem for years, and while we have made lots of progress, there is still a long way to go. To be clear, this issue is far from new, but we are in a time now when access to high speed, reliable broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. For America to thrive we must not leave rural communities behind in a digital divide.”

Aderholt said it is “high time we get rural broadband done.”

“That’s why I am leading a letter to House and Senate leadership urging that CARES Act funds be eligible for permanent rural broadband infrastructure and that Congress provides additional time for the buildout of new infrastructure,” Aderholt said. “Currently, state and local governments can only spend CARES funds on temporary broadband solutions. I believe it’s necessary to invest in permanent broadband solutions so we can meet immediate needs caused by the continued COVID disruption. To me, this is a no brainer, and the bipartisan support for this issue is evident from my colleagues across the aisle who joined me in sending this letter. We all know that rural America deserves solid broadband, and I will continue to fight for this issue until it is done.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey joined Aderholt in calling on Congressional leadership to take action.

“Improving access to broadband across Alabama has long been a priority of my Administration, and with the support of the Legislature, we have taken steps forward,” Ivey said. “However, when this pandemic hit and as many Alabamians worked remotely from their homes for both work and school, the need for greater connectivity in Alabama was highlighted even more. I urge Congress to provide flexibility in funding for states to be able to implement a permanent solution for our broadband infrastructure. I thank Congressman Aderholt and the other members of our House delegation for continuing to fight on this important issue.”

Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, had advocated for using a large part of the $1.9 billion the state received in CARES Act funding for the expansion of rural broadband, but limitations on how that money can be spent have thwarted much of those efforts.

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“I would like to thank Representative Aderholt and the other members of the Alabama delegation for their diligent work on this effort in the House of Representatives,” Marsh said. “Alabama is fortunate to have a representation in Congress that understands that Broadband connectivity in today’s world is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity. I look forward to continuing to work with our delegation as we push for greater broadband accessibility for families across the state.”

Alabama’s schoolchildren return to classes this week, but half the systems are opening with online classes only. Most of the rest are offering an online e-learning option in lieu of attending risky in-person classes and possibly being exposed to the coronavirus.

Many students lack the necessary broadband connection speed in their communities to fully benefit from the online classes. Similarly millions of people are getting their medical help via online doctor’s visits.

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President Donald Trump recently passed executive orders greatly expanding telehealth services paid for by Medicare and the VA. Many Alabamians, particularly in rural areas, however, still lack broadband connections to benefit from telehealth services.

Aderholt represents the people of Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He is seeking his 13th term in the U.S. House of Representatives in November. Aderholt has been a very vocal advocate for federal funds to advance rural broadband.

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne announces new chief of staff

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Friday announced that Seth Morrow will serve as his chief of staff.

“As we enter the last half of 2020, my office remains busy assisting constituents and advancing our legislative priorities. I know Seth shares my focus on finishing out my term in Congress strong, and he is well prepared to move into the Chief of Staff role,” Byrne said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue working hard every day to fight for the people of Southwest Alabama and advance our conservative agenda.”

Morrow is a native of Guntersville and has worked for Byrne since June 2014, serving as deputy chief of staff and communications director. 

“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring our office maintains our first class service to the people of Southwest Alabama. Congressman Byrne has always had the hardest working team on Capitol Hill, and I know we will keep that tradition going,” Morrow said in a statement.

Morrow replaces Chad Carlough, who has held the position of Byrne’s chief of staff since March 2017. 

“Chad has very ably led our Congressional team over the last few years, and I join the people of Southwest Alabama in thanking him for his dedicated service to our state and our country,” Byrne said. 

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