- Created on 29 July 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, 28, 2014 Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) President Twinkle A. Cavanaugh, PSC Commissioner Jeremy Oden, the Republican nominee for PSC Place 2, Chris ‘Chip’ Beeker, and Republican National Committeeman Paul Reynolds held a joint news conference at the Alabama Coal Association headquarters in Mountain Brook. ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ was present to report on the live event.
The foursome along with Attorney General Luther Strange (R) and representatives from the Jobkeeper Alliance will be participating in hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies on new Carbon Dioxide emissions rules which threaten to close most of the remaining coal powered electricity plants in the nation. Where earlier rules applied to new power plants, the Draconian new standards would apply retroactively to all of our earlier plants. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s hearings will be at Atlanta’s prestigious Omni Hotel.
President Twinkle Cavanaugh (R) said that she, “Will be testifying in Atlanta on behalf of all Alabamians to protect our way of life.” You elected me to be your voice. I will not back down. “We will not stand for what they are doing to our way of life in Alabama.” Twinkle promised, “I will fight for affordable electricity.” The impassioned PSC President warned that persons in Washington want to take our way of life and said that she believed that Washington should not put more burdens on families.
Cavanaugh said that Alabama Power has already spent $2.7 billion for mandates from Washington and now they are demanding that Alabama Power spend another $billion which will cost the average family in Alabama another $144 per year in electricity costs because of burdensome regulations put on us by people in Washington for benefits that of very debatable worth.
Cavanaugh said that the Obama administration said that our electricity rates will rise and jobs will be lost, but we already have an anemic economy. President Cavanaugh asked that the Obama administration quit picking winners and losers in the economy. Our future depends on affordable energy and if that best option is coal, then let it be coal. Cavanaugh warned that the proposed new EPA rule will drive up costs of electricity in Alabama and will drive away jobs.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) said on Facebook, “Looking forward to testifying tomorrow in Atlanta against the Obama Administration's proposed new carbon rules which will raise electrical rates and kill Alabama energy jobs.”
The Place One member of the PSC, Commissioner Jeremy Oden (R) said that he wanted to speak face to face with EPA regulators because he believed that they have understated the cost of this ruling. “We are concerned with their figures.” Oden said that he believes that there true costs of compliance will cost four times what the EPA has predicted and they have underestimated the job losses.
Oden said that the EPA has rushed this rule. Where normally something like this takes years this was put together in less than a year. We don’t understand what exactly 11b will mean. We have a lot of unclarity coming down. Our biggest concern is EPA overreach. Jeremy said that this is a states rights issue. What kind of energy we use in Alabama and what our energy mix is should not be dictated by one or two people in Washington. “To me this is a state issue and should be left at the state level.”
Oden warned, “If this regulation goes through, your electricity rates will go up and it will effect families’ pocket books.” Oden vowed that he will go to Atlanta and fight for you as citizens and he is proud that we can work together as a team.
Chris “Chip” Beeker (R) is not a member of the PSC yet. He challenged and defeated incumbent PSC Place 2 Commissioner Terry Dunn (R) in the Republican Primary Runoff on July 15, but since no Democrat qualified to run for PSC in the increasingly Republican leaning state of Alabama, barring tragedy, the Greene County catfish farmer and rancher appears to be the next PSC Commissioner for Place 2.
Beeker, the former Greene County Commission Chairman said, “It is my pleasure to serve with two like minded people.,” on the PSC. Beeker said that when he ran he had three things he wanted to do: To protect the people and to protect our economy if it needed protecting; to create jobs and to create an improving economy; and to fight the overreach of the federal government. Chip Beeker said, “We all believe that this is an overreach.” The EPA is way out of line. It is not fair.
Beeker said that the administration was using war as a codeword to vilify coal. “Our natural resources are very special to me. They are god given. Who has the right to tell a state that they can not use what God has given?”
Beeker said that he believe that his large margin of victory over Dunn was a mandate from the people of Alabama. “I believe in the capitalistic system,” if natural gas is cheaper for electricity use gas, if coal is cheaper then use coal.
Alabama’s Republican National Committee man (each state GOP executive committee elects one man and one woman to represent them on the RNC) Paul Reynolds spoke next. Reynolds said that in his profession of radio I swim daily in a sea that is filled with bureaucrats. We have seen what is happening. This is not new to me. We have seen many burdensome regulations lately.
Part of the Republican platform is to take a stand against any part of the Obama administration’s executive overreach and its stranglehold on the economy. Reynolds said that it is the goal of the ordinary working man to go to work so he can come home to an air conditioned house, have a nice TV to watch, and have a comfortable life. Reynolds warned that the proposed EPA regulations will make the costs of those things all go up. “I am talking about your standard of living if that goes into effect.” Reynolds called the regulation, “Absolutely crazy.” “Coal produces clean cost effective energy.” “What we are talking about is government run amuck.
Reynolds said there are16,000 coal related jobs in Alabama that are at stake here. Reynolds said that it in the Saul Alinsky Rules for Radicals, the first thing you do is to vilify your opponent. “I am in radio we have been vilified. Television has been vilified now they are turning their guns on to the coal industry.” With the events in the Ukraine and the Middle East the Obama administration should be concerned about the potential of a World War instead of something dumb like a war on coal.
President Cavanaugh said, “A war on coal makes no sense.” It drives up the cost of energy fFor a family and it keeps us from having good paying jobs in the state of Alabama. The first thing than an employer moving to Alabama asks is what are their fixed costs going to be and the biggest part of that is the electricity costs.
As she prepares to face the EPA and ask them to stop all of their, “Absurd mandates,” Cavanaugh said that is her, “Hope that all citizens of Alabama will be in prayer.”
One member of the media asked is there would be a lawsuit if the EPA moves forward with this new ruling.
President Cavanaugh said, “Our goal today is to make sure that this rule does not go into effect.
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ asked President Cavanaugh if they were not overstating the Alabama coal jobs lost because almost all of the coal mined in Alabama is of metallurgical quality and thus is used in the steel mills and iron plants not for burning in power plants?
Twinkle acknowledged that much of the coal mined in Alabama is metallurgical, but it will have it will have an impact. 25 percent of the coal is burned for electricity. “I don’t believe even one job should be lost because of what is a useless rule.” “Why are we are war against our most bountiful natural resource. We need to be proud of coal. We don’t need a war on our most abundant God given natural resource.”
A spokesmen for the Alabama Coal Association told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that the EPA is coming for the coal fired power plants first, then will write new rules which will be targeted at the steel mills and industrial plants. The coal producers are making their fight now, rather than waiting for that next fight.
- Created on 29 July 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, July 24, Congress members Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery, Mo Brooks (R) from Huntsville, and Mike Rogers (R) from Saks said that under no circumstances should children detained at the Mexican border be sent to Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. The Congress members became aware of ongoing talks between the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense about Maxwell-Gunter's ability to house recently-detained illegal immigrants.
Congressman Mike Rogers said in a written statement, “This is the second time HHS has attempted to bring young, illegal immigrants over 900 miles from the border to Alabama. This plan, the second time around, is just as severely flawed. I am strongly opposed to this proposal and believe these detainees would put an unnecessarily massive burden on the local community’s resources. I will continue to push for these children to be returned to their home countries as quickly as possible. We must send a strong message that amnesty is not on the table and illegally crossing our Southwest border will not be tolerated.”
Congresswoman Martha Roby said that the juveniles should be sent back to where they came from. Rep. Roby said, “The situation at the border will get worse the longer immigration detainees remain in the United States...Under no circumstances should these children be sent to Maxwell-Gunter or any other military installation for that matter. The children must be sent back to their countries. We will do it with the utmost compassion and care, but it has to be done. Allowing them to stay is the least compassionate option because it invites even more children to endure the brutality of this organized trafficking scheme.”
Congressman Mo Brooks (R) from Huntsville said on Facebook, “We've become aware of talks to potentially house illegal immigrants at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. I agree with my colleagues that these children must be sent back to their countries. America needs to send a strong message that amnesty is not on the table.”
Rep. Roby concluded, “The only way this influx of children at the border ends is when American planes start landing in their countries of origin bringing the children back. We must send a message that this scheme parents and children have been tricked into will not work.”
Representative Rogers and Roby sent a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, expressing their strong opposition to the proposed arrangement.
In their letter the two member of Congress, who both represent portions of the greater Montgomery area, wrote that as a nation at war, the service members at Maxwell-Gunter play a critical role in our nation's defense, and expressed concerns the troops would be distracted by turning the base into a camp for hundreds of children.
Roby and Rogers wrote, “The housing, feeding and caring of immigration detainees would severely compromise the critical mission at Maxwell-Gunter. Additionally, HHS’ failure to clearly communicate with Congress and local leaders underscores the Administration’s lack of concern for the impact its policies have on local communities and their limited resources.”
Representatives Roby and Rogers said they are working to prohibit illegal immigrants from being house at military bases by including specific language in the special appropriations bill currently being drawn up in Congress.
The news of the plan was broken by Governor Robert Bentley’s (R) Communications Director Jennifer Ardis. Ardis told the Associated Press that the Federal government had notified the Governor’s Chief of Staff late Wednesday, that immigrant children would be placed at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. At last report, there were no border crossing juveniles being housed at Maxwell and reports are that no final decision on Maxwell has been made. Ardis said that she did not know how many children would be placed at the base or how soon they will arrive.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. Mike Rogers represents Alabama’s Third Congressional District. Congressman Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.
- Created on 28 July 2014
By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MADISON COUNTY – A harsh primary season this year in Alabama Senate District 2 has culminated in a post-election legal complaint by a losing candidate in the GOP race alleging improper spending by an outside group during the campaign against him.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General Luther Strange and forwarded to the Governor, the Secretary of State, and ALGOP Chairman Bill Armistead, former Senate candidate and current State GOP Executive Committee member George Berry claims that a group called Republican Refresh spent large amounts of money against him in the race but failed to report them as legally required, having neither filed as a political action committee or filed any contribution or expenditure reports.
“Without question, they broach the $1 thousand limit above which certain reports are required by the Fair Campaign Practices Act,” the letter reads,
saying the group “indulged in a wide scattering of yard signs.. and funded prolific advertising in the media.”
The letter also takes direct aim at who Barry says is “the leader of Republican Refresh,” Brent Beal, saying that as “a lawyer, and one presumably knowledgeable of the laws of Alabama, a plea of ignorance is certainly not an acceptable excuse here.”
Barry, who lost his seat on the Madison County Republican Executive Committee on primary day, was indeed the subject of a video on Republican Refresh's website.
In the video, Barry and two former State Republican Executive Committee members Dean Johnson and Hugh McInnish speak about their efforts to seek ALGOP's participation in a lawsuit that would have forced the Alabama Secretary of State to request a birth certificate from President Obama.
Johnson and McInnish also attended the press conference Barry had to announce his complaints against his the GOP group. “Can they get away with attacking candidates with money no one knows were it came from?” Johnson asked during the conference.
The content of the video on Refresh's website, says Beal, who has responded to Barry's complaint, is certainly one factor authorities should consider, saying that the group did no attack ads, but focused on changing leadership.
The main reason Beal says he isn't worried, however, is because he tried to file campaign finance paperwork – and found out he didn't have to, according to the Secretary of State. “The part [Barry] has wrong is there is no filing mechanism for Republican Executive Committee races,” he said, “You can't even file [a report] if you want to.”
Indeed, the Secretary of State's office has confirmed that filings are not required for these races, thought the Attorney General has yet to comment on the matter.
Barry concluded his letter by asking that Strange “investigate and effect whatever prosecutorial measures are appropriate,” adding that he “would be pleased to cooperate... in any way” he might be helpful.
Barry lost his Senate bid to GOP incumbent Senator Bill Holtzclaw.
- Created on 28 July 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Last week, State media created a firestorm after publishing statements attributed to Gov. Robert Bentley. It appeared as if the Governor planned to call a special session of the Legislature to raid the Education Trust Fund (ETF) in order to pay for economic incentives to lure out-of-state businesses.
Later in the week, the Alabama Political Reporter spoke with Gov. Bentley in an effort to verify the facts behind the reports.
During a question and answer session at the workforce development summit in Chatom, Gov. Bentley was asked about the budget and incentives programs to bring more jobs to the State. Bentley says that what was reported from the event was far from the whole answer he gave during the audience give and take.
“One of the things that really kind of bothers me, and I know it is just part of the process, but when they leave off things that are said. The other day I was talking about us looking at a new way to fund incentives which, in the long run, will bring tremendously more money back into education...but what was not quoted in the press was when at the end I said, 'I will do nothing to ever take money out of the Education Trust Fund,' that part was not mentioned,” Bentley said.
Bentley further explained that with greater job creation more money would flow into the ETF.
He said his goal is to bring more high-paying jobs to the State while growing the ETF, not raiding it as was reported.
Bentley said that last year a proposal was made to take money from the ETF to fund job incentives but that he opposed the idea. “We are not going to take any money out of the Education Trust Fund. So, we put that off and did not look at that any more last year because I told them I wasn’t going to do that. And I’m not,” Bentley said.
Any reporter who has covered the Governor understands that Bentley gives straight forward, unscripted comments when asked a question. His unscripted answers give his handlers frequent heartburn, but it is also part of why people like him so much.
These incomplete reports caused a great deal of chatter on Facebook and Twitter, with educators and public school employees worrying if the Governor was actually raiding the ETF to incentivize business development.
“I am always going to be a friend to the teachers and the support personnel. I have always been that way and I am going to continue to do that,” said Bentley.
While acknowledging that teachers and the support personnel were miffed with him over changes to their retirement plans, he hopes to reward them for their sacrifice in the near future.
“We really had to do that to balance the budget early on but now it is time that we begin to reward them,” Bentley said.
Last legislative session, the Governor fought to bring about a pay increase for all education workers, only to see his efforts thwarted by Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.
Bentley acknowledges that those who work in public education have suffered from the choices made in Montgomery, but says he will work to ensure that teachers and support personnel know they are appreciated and rewarded accordingly.
“I am going to look at the numbers. We want to reasonably compensate our teachers and support personnel. In this next legislative session, we are going to look at that when we do our next budget,” said Bentley. “I just want the teachers to realize that they don’t have a stronger friend in Montgomery than me. I stood up and fought for them in this last session, against my own party, against the leadership. It was me that stood up and had I not done it they would be paying $882 more out of their pocket” for insurance under the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Plan.
Over the last four years, the Republican Supermajority has balanced the State’s budget on the backs of public education workers and State employees. The Governor says he wants to keep that from happening in the future. However, Hubbard and Marsh have worked to undermine public education with the Alabama Accountability Act and other actions aimed at dismantling the powerful Alabama Education Association (AEA).
Fighting back, the AEA has assisted and supported pro-education republicans who have won the last three House special elections and seven House Districts in the recent republican primary.
Governor Bentley says he admired out-spoken president Harry Truman, who was often unapologetically blunt. And it would appear that same quality is part of Bentley's personality as well. “It hurts me sometimes to be totally truthful about things when I get up and speak, but that is why I got elected, because I am not programmed. I am not a politician that gets up and just says anything. If somebody asks me a question, I am going to give them an honest answer,” Bentley said.
Bentley says that the ETF is safe under his watch and that he will continue the stand with those who work in public education.
- Created on 28 July 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, July 24, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) said in a written statement that he will oppose the relocation of juveniles intercepted at the Southern border to Montgomery.
Attorney General Strange said, “News reports have indicated the Obama administration is considering relocating some unaccompanied illegal immigrant children to Maxwell AFB in Montgomery. I will work with all our elected officials to oppose such a move should it occur. There can be no mistake that the Obama administration is responsible for this humanitarian crisis through its failure to uphold the rule of law and enforce our National borders.”
Strange is not alone in this view. State Senator Paul Bussman (R) from Cullman said in a statement on Facebook, “Just saw that Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery is a possible sight for the housing of illegal unaccompanied minors now crossing the border. I have advised the Governor that I am totally and strongly opposed to this possibility. Our schools cannot handle it. Our State employees cannot handle that work load. Our health system cannot handle it and our budgets certainly cannot afford additional unexpected expenditures. The State of Alabama should not suffer because the Federal government will not stop this crisis by sealing the border. Ridiculous!!”
State Representative Mack Butler said on Facebook, “The Obama administration is looking to possibly house illegal minors at Maxwell Air force base. If this happens it will be a huge burden on our State's finances as they enter our public schools and consume other State funded services. Wouldn't it be great if we secured our borders? Living life upside down!”
This is the second time this month that the Obama administration has attempted to create what essentially is a concentration camp for young illegal aliens in Alabama. Previously the site under consideration was Anniston where FEMA runs a camp on part of the old Fort McClellan.
At that time, Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said in a statement, “President Obama is absolutely incompetent. He failed to secure the border, and is now trying to send illegal immigrants to Alabama rather than their home country. This cannot stand and I will do everything in my power to work with Congressman Mike D. Rogers to stop it.”
But, not everyone is opposed to the new immigrants.
In response to the news that children detained at the border may be temporarily sheltered in Alabama, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) issued a written statement. The ACIJ wrote, “In times of hardship, we Alabamians often turn to faith and family for a solution. Today, we learned that several hundred refugee children may be temporarily relocated to Maxwell Air force Base while their individual cases are reviewed. Now, more than ever, these children need love, support, and stability while they await reunification with their relatives. We are confident that the people of Alabama would welcome them with open arms, and treat these children as we would our own. Our coalition is calling for assurance that these children would be housed appropriately in a comfortable, child-friendly, and caring atmosphere at the base while the administration acts as quickly as possible to reunite them with any U.S. based-relatives.”
Breaking with her Republican colleagues, Representative Terri A. Sewell (D) supports the Obama Administration plan to use Maxwell to house the juveniles who were intercepted at the border. Rep. Sewell said in a written statement, ““It is my understanding that Maxwell Air Force Base is being considered as a possible site for an emergency detention center to house unaccompanied immigrant children while they await their due process hearings,” said Rep. Sewell. “I am supportive of the Obama Administration’s efforts to place these children on military bases where they will be accounted for and their basic needs met as they await their due process hearings as required under our current law. This is a humanitarian crisis and I believe we have a moral obligation to protect and treat unaccompanied children with care and compassion. Should Maxwell Air Force Base be selected as a site, we as Alabamians, as we have always done, must rise to the call of duty and follow the law. This humanitarian crisis at the border highlights the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform and Congress needs to act now.”
The ACIJ wrote, “This issue is an extremely complicated one, and while Washington debates specific policy solutions, Alabamians can draw upon our faith to set an example of kindness and love for our neighbors.”