29 Jul 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, these new, Draconian 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 according to the Obama administration, Alabama's 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 amok."
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 for 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 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.
29 Jul 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, July 25, the Alabama Political Reporter had a long conversation with Independent candidate for Alabama State Senate District 32 Kimberely McCuister, about her views on many of the issues affecting both the State of Alabama and Senate District 32 in Baldwin County.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked Mrs. McCuister about her views on Medicaid Expansion. McCuister said that she believes we are going to have to act on that. There are 350,000 people in Alabama who can’t get insurance. Kentucky accepted the expansion and people benefited. “We definitely have to do something. Republicans had the same reservations in 1965 about the Medicare Program. Now try to take away someone’s Medicare.” The opponents of the Affordable Care Act basically have the same argument with it then that they have now. “Frankly I think the public option should never have been taken off the table.”
On the Alabama Accountability Act McCuister said, “I totally oppose that. There has been $25 million collected and only $24,000 given out. Where is that money now?” There are ways to fix the schools. The Chicago Public Schools were a mess until Arne Duncan and a team of people came in there and turned it around, but we need to have the right people in place.
APR asked McCuister if she supported teacher tenure. The former teacher said no she does not. "I have always felt that teachers should be like every other professional and should be judged on their present performance." McCuiston also opposes school vouchers.
McCuister said that Alabama should fix their public schools so that when you move here the local schools here are at the same level as in other states having taught the same material.
On Common Core, McCuister said, “I think we need something a little different.” She said that she favors uniform standards across school district and state lines because we are a part of the United States, but is not for a lot of standardized testing. She said, “We are going to have to do something,” and suggested taking the best elements from Common Core and the best from other sources, including the old standards.
APR asked McCuister if she favored raising taxes on Alabama families? McCuiston said, “No we can not raise the taxes on individuals.” The state already collects $3 billion from the personal income tax, but collects only about $800 million from corporations that do business here. “That is a big discrepancy.”
McCuister said that the first thing we need to do is to clean up all the corruption in Montgomery. There are too many people in Montgomery who are trying to make money off of the state. All that needs to stop.
McCuister said that the state needs leadership that that builds a consensus among the people. The people also need to engage state government more.
McCuister said the state’s prison crisis is, “Really a mess.” We need to look at our laws and change things like mandatory minimums that are responsible for prison overcrowding. “As far as building more prisons that is not the answer.” McCuiston also said that we do not want to privatize prisons because that makes a commodity of people.
McCuister also said, “We definitely don’t want to abolish the Auditor’s office.” On giving industries incentives to come to Alabama from the education fund, McCuister said, “No you leave the education fund alone.”
McCuister favors the State allowing medical marijuana. She said that she knows of several elderly folks who would prefer marijuana over the pain medications that they are getting currently from their doctors.
Kimberly said that her district is a 3.5 billion service and tourism industry. She is concerned about how that could be threatened by the proliferation of oil and gas pipelines. “Oil and tourism don’t mix.”
APR asked McCuister if she favored Gary Palmer’s plan to radically increase domestic oil and gas exploration. She said, “Absolutely not. Nobody wants to come to Orange Beach or Gulf Shores to stare at oil wells. Nobody wants that.”
She said that corporations had too much influence on campaigns in the state and that many of Alabama’s elected officials, “Are doing the bidding of those corporations.” Her campaign has not taken any PAC (Political Action Campaign) money. The Alabama Political Reporter asked if she has taken any AEA money. McCuister said, “No.” and that she probably would not take any AEA money if it were offered. She complained that the Alabama Ethics Commission does not do enough to fight corruption and is too weak.
McCuister said that she has asked her opponent Sen. Trip Pittman if he is still under a gag order to discuss the oil boom scandal and the FBI investigation and he won’t answer. If he is McCuister speculated that he can’t talk about the allegations, because it is an ongoing investigation. “Pittman says he had no ethics training, it does not take training to know the difference between right and wrong.”
On using toll roads to fund new highways, McCuister said she has experience with that due to the Foley Express. “They extended the beach express, but nobody uses it to avoid paying the $3.50 toll. If you toll that bridge (the I-10 bridge that is to be built) people are going to find a way not to pay the tolls.”
On the home owner’s insurance problem for Baldwin and Mobile Counties, she said that if you look at where the claims are coming from, there are more claims from Central Alabama. “Insurance companies will gouge you wherever they can.” McCuister said that homeowners south of I-10 would benefit from more competition in the insurance market.
Mrs. McCuister said that she was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania and moved to Alabama at age 14. She lived for years in Pelham and then moved to Chicago, Illinois where she worked as a nurse and then as a teacher in Hanover Park, IL. She has lived in the District since 2008.
On the Red Snapper controversy, McCuister said, “I am worried for our charter boat captains.” She said that Gov. Bentley’s answer to the shortened federal season of allowing private boats to fish for snapper on the July weekends in state waters hurt the over 400 charter boat captains because they weren’t able to go out during those days, making a bad situation for the boat captains even worse. Kimberely supports efforts to extend Alabama’s state waters further out.
When asked why she chose to run as an Independent rather than as a Republican or a Democrat, McCuister said, “I don’t think inside a box. Being an Independent is a mindset.” “I want the people to tell me what they want. I listen. I want to represent them not some corporation.”
On why she is running for our Alabama Senate seat District 32, she said in a prepared statement, “The reasons are many, but the most important reasons are these. Democracy is not one person existing on a Ballot. That’s a 'no brainer' and unfortunately for Alabamians across this State November elections will be a lot of no choice. I feel our Constitutional rights as human beings are currently sacrificed for profit and power by the status quo in Montgomery. I also see too much of that profit going into the hands of elected officials, and lobbyists, and not to benefit the good citizens of Baldwin County. We have gotten to a place where the average person has no real voice in local or state Government, and they only pay attention to the highest bidder, while the rest of us are sold out for a few pieces of silver.”
McCuister said, “I want common sense and ethical values to be the standard and returned to our State Capital, and the Constitution of Alabama and the United States upheld for everyone. Our rights are at stake no matter who you are, and what party you vote for. The loss of those rights will be disastrous for future generations. I began a journey 4 years that has ultimately lead to my candidacy, The BP Oil Disaster. I learned as a resident of lower Baldwin County very quickly what I felt, or produced as fact held no weight with local or state officials from the top down. I had no choices and no value. I was speaking out at more Public forums, meetings, and workshops than anyone could fathom. I got no results, no answers, and felt totally placated by the people elected into office some I voted for. I decided to get bolder and louder and organized protests and rally’s thinking well maybe if we yell loud enough, they will pay attention. I define 'They' as The Good Ole Boys. It’s a club and the rest of us are not in it. They pander only to those from who they can personally benefit from. The moral and ethical values of these guy’s is only apparent at campaign and election time eloquently telling people what they want to hear. They have no intention of paying attention to you.”
McCuister continued, “I realized if I want to help my fellow citizens, do something to end the reign of those ethically and morally challenged I would have to go to Montgomery inside the belly of the beast. I am a strong citizen advocate for all. I hold no allegiance to either political party. We need to do what is practical and logical for the people and their business in District 32, and stop worrying about labels they are not important. There is way too much money and greed currently deciding the fate of thousand here to be fair. This is what happens when you have only 1 political party dominating everything. It breeds corruption.”
The General Election is on November 4.
28 Jul 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.
28 Jul 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.
28 Jul 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.”