Alabama Political Reporter http://www.alreporter.com Sat, 25 Apr 2015 19:12:09 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb The Reason I Go To Work (Opinion) http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7629-the-reason-i-go-to-work-opinion.html http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7629-the-reason-i-go-to-work-opinion.html

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

The Prophet Elijah said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 9:14, KJV

Not that I would dare compare myself with the Prophet Elijah, or any of the great men and women which God has ordained to do his will. But, I am reminded of their stand for the Lord in the midst of violent men and terrible troubles.

I have always believed that when standing on the foundation of Holy principles, the issue is not about being against something, but being "for God."

Over the past two and one half years, we here at the Alabama Political Reporter have documented, in great detail, many of the allegations against Mike Hubbard that have led to his felony indictments.

I have heard varying reasons why Hubbard and others have thought we investigated him with such tenacity. It has been said that it was because we worked for the AEA. We're Democrats. We're crazy. Other than perhaps a little crazy, I can categorically deny that any of those things are true.

We vote Republican. We were never asked by our advertiser, the AEA, to write any articles on Hubbard.

When we first began to write about what we felt were questionable dealings on Hubbard’s part, someone on the website "Left in Alabama" questioned why we would be investigating a Republican.

Someone posted on LIA (something to the effect) that they believed it was because I had an overly-exaggerated sense of right and wrong. That I took as a compliment and hoped they were right. 

Even with all the evil and malicious cynicism in this present world, I still believe there is such a thing as doing what is right and that personal sacrifice in a cause greater than ourselves is deeply imbedded in the human spirit.

Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36, KJV 

Perhaps I am foolish to believe that we all can make a difference if we stand together to make our small part of the world better. I believe that we are meant for service on this earth and not to simply serve our own appetites and lusts. Life lived properly must involve service to others and sacrifice of self.

Men like Hubbard like to call themselves public servants, but from the little we already know about the evidence against him, Hubbard wanted to be served, to be rewarded by the rich and powerful for his “Storming the State House.”

Over the last two years, Hubbard and his cronies have tried to destroy us personally and professionally. He has used his henchmen to go after our advertisers, our reputations and our ability to make a living. Even now he is working to cause us to lose the very last of our financial support.

But, we know something that Hubbard doesn’t understand: God is faithful, and He will not forsake His own and will not see them go hungry. 

I am not a Bible beater or someone who wears his religion on his sleeve. My religion is sewn in my soul and His words are etched in the fleshy tables of my heart.

There are those who think I hate Hubbard. I don't. I hate no one. I have no time for, or inclination toward emotions like hate. The rewards of hate, envy and revenge are the things that motivate small men like Hubbard.

In my mind’s eye, I see a world not of hate or envy but a creation made by God where men, women, and children can live in love. 

What I see in the very real world of Hubbard-style politics is the same thing Elijah witnessed. Far too many at the State House have forsaken good government and far too many serve in fear. They have thrown down sound principles to enrich themselves and their cronies. They have chased good men and women from public office and made it a den for crooks and fools. They have cowered in the corner rather than stand like real men and women.

Like the ALFA lobbyist said over two years ago, the Britts are on the Speaker's hit list.

But, it is not what men want of me, or what any man can do to me, or what men think of me that matters. It is what the Lord says to me when I stand before His final judgment that matters.

There are good men in the Alabama House and Senate, we certainly have an honorable man as Governor. But Hubbard taints them all because they allow him to remain in the Speaker’s chair despite his alleged crimes and his propensity for destruction. 

So, Hubbard and his kind will continue to deceive the people, play by their own rules and deny the common law that has been handed down from on high. His kind will try to destroy us and any who stand for what is right.

I often think and reread Hebrews 12, which says in part, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”

The scriptures teach us that Elijah didn’t find God in the earthquake or the fire, but in a still, small voice.

Some of us are listening and will obey. 

This is why I go to work everyday.

 

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) State Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:32:46 -0500
The Obama Administration's latest overreach: The Clean Power Plan http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7628-the-obama-administration-s-latest-overreach-the-clean-power-plan.html http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7628-the-obama-administration-s-latest-overreach-the-clean-power-plan.html

By Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and Katherine G. Robertson

In the torrent of overreaching directives coming from Washington to the states, Alabamians may not be aware of the ongoing effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to sidestep Congress and stage a takeover of American energy. Not only are these regulations likely unconstitutional, but they would have a particularly negative impact on Alabama's economy and our most vulnerable citizens.

Late last year, the Obama Administration announced a sweeping new regulatory scheme, the Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing carbon emissions. The Plan would force electric suppliers to: 1) spend money on so-called efficiency projects that produce less energy at higher costs, 2) invest in unproven renewable energy projects that  produce less energy than less-expensive, conventional methods, 3) artificially limit the amount of electricity customers can use, 4) operate gas-fired power plants even if other, less expensive energy sources are available, and 5) unjustifiably deny consumers access to existing, lower cost coal-fired plants that were paid for through current low rates. If a state does not comply, a "federal plan" will be imposed.

As Attorney General Strange recently testified before the U.S. Senate, the Plan ignores well-established limits of its executive authority under the Clean Air Act and aims to fundamentally alter the way America produces and uses energy. This latest executive overreach will lead to enormous uncertainty about the way many states, including Alabama, produce and use energy and will give rise to harmful economic effects.

Not only will the cost of energy go up, unduly harming those on fixed incomes, but it will directly increase the cost of many goods and services. There are even concerns of threats to energy grids during peak months. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration has largely ignored these likely consequences and has gone to great lengths to disguise the negative economic, social, and reliability impacts that its new regulations will have. 

For Alabama, the EPA ruling requires the state's power plants to cut carbon emissions by 27 percent by 2030. To put that in perspective, consider this: over half of all the electricity Alabama Power generates in the state comes from coal-fired plants and more than 16,000 Alabama jobs are dependent upon the coal industry, which has an estimated $1.3 billion positive economic impact on the state.

The story gets even worse for the individual family.  A November 2014 study by Energy Venture Analysis indicates the EPA's proposed rule would increase the average annual Alabama household energy bills by more than $800 (or 36%) in 2020.  In Alabama, EPA's plan would grow the total annual cost of energy to almost $15 billion in 2020.  That is a $5.2 billion annual cost increase for energy in Alabama.

These costs will deal an especially heavy blow to households earning less than $10,000 per year.  Nationally, those families already spend an astounding 60-80 percent of their income on energy.  Even households earning between $10,000 and $30,000 per year still spend more than 20 percent of their income on energy.

In short, the EPA is attempting to make fundamental and irreversible changes to American energy production that will jeopardize Alabama families' economic well-being by making states do what the EPA cannot. While environmental stewardship is vital, ceding more power to the federal government rarely produces the desired results. Economic growth, environmental stability, and energy reform are best achieved through open markets and innovation.

Attorney General Strange joined 11 other attorneys general last August in suing the EPA to block implementation of its costly and controversial carbon emission rule which will force Alabamians to live in the dark in order to satisfy the Obama Administration's political agenda.

As was noted in the Wall Street Journal just this week, "the more states that refuse to give in to the EPA's demands, the more likely it is that the agency will be forced to hold back the most burdensome elements of its Clean Power Plan." The Alabama Attorney General's Office and the Alabama Policy Institute are united in the fight against this most recent, brazen attempt by the federal government to coerce state action while dismissing the very real threats that these regulations pose to our economy and citizens.

 

Luther Strange is Attorney General for the State of Alabama. Katherine Robertson serves as Vice President for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families.

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) State Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:27:03 -0500
Legislature Passes Virtual School Bill http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7627-legislature-passes-virtual-school-bill.html http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7627-legislature-passes-virtual-school-bill.html

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, April 23, the Alabama House of Representatives passed SB72 sponsored by State Senator Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery).  The bill was carried in the House by State Representative Ed Henry (R-Hartselle).

Technology is changing our workplaces, our homes, and increasingly our schools. Students will be able to take classes online from their public school system.  SB72 will require every school system in the state to prepare a plan for virtual learning.

Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) speaking on the House floor said right now there are public schools that have developed an online program. Students can take one course two courses or a whole curriculum.  If they engage in that program they would be a member of that school.

Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) objected to public school students taking their classes at home: "I trust the public schools to manage those children that shows up for class.”  The only exception is those kids that are sick and then teachers come out to their home to teach them.

Rep. Moore was concerned that home school parents would take advantage of this resource.

Rep. Henry said, “I believe the majority of students who take advantage of this opportunity will not be home school kids.”

Henry acknowledged that this may open the door for some home school student to enter back into the public school system through online learning.  Henry however said that most home school parents that he new do it for religious not academic reasons.

Rep. Henry said that the purpose of this is to try to get a higher level of education in front of every child in Alabama.  “This is where education is going in our lifetime.”

Henry said that the legislature is not high on trying to dictate what every school district needs.  “I don’t believe the bureaucrats in Montgomery know what your guys need.  This bill give the local school board the ability to make the decision on what their plan is going to be. I am not mandating anything other than they establish a policy.”

Rep. Henry said, “There is no mechanism under current law for a school district to do this.  Some of them are doing this already. Every child in Alabama will have access at some point to a quality online education.”

Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) said, “Education is dynamic.  It is always changing.  I think this a great idea.”

Henry said that we are mandating that they offer this for grades 9 to 12.  Florence already is rolling out a junior high program and this may come to elementary school.

Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) said I had a grandson that was very challenged.  He just barely got out of high school.  This might have helped him.

Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) said, “I actually support the bill.”               

Rep. Ed Henry said that this bill changes the law so that the 180 days of instruction rule would not apply to these students. There is a misconception is that this is some grand scheme to bring home school kids back to the public schools. “I don’t think there is anything magic about 180 days.”

Rep. Henry said, “Nobody from the state Department of Education has contacted me or Senator Brewbaker with concerns about this bill...No one from that organization gave any indication that there is something they would like with in this that is not in this.”  Dr. Bice was consulted on all of this.

The bill exempts students participating in the program from having to be in the brick and mortar school building 180 days a year and prevents the Alabama High School Athletics Associaition (AHSA) from penalizing students who participate in the virtual school program with loss of their athletic eligibility.

The bill won final passage in the House 82 to 20.  It now goes to the Governor’s desk.

Henry told the Alabama Political Reporter and other media members that fast learners hit a wall very soon in the classroom environment.  They have to wait for the rest of the class to catch up them.  The same is true on the bottom end where slow learners have the class move on before they learn the skill being taught. Virtual learning delivers tailored education at the rate that is best suited for the individual child.

 

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) State Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:25:17 -0500
Palmer Supports Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7626-palmer-supports-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking.html http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7626-palmer-supports-hydraulic-fracturing-fracking.html

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, April 23 U.S. Representative Gary Palmer (R from Hoover) as a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, participated in a hearing entitled “Hydraulic Fracturing: Banning Proven Technologies on Possibilities Instead of Probabilities.”  Following the hearing Rep. Palmer said that there are no confirmed instances of fracking polluting ground water and not demonstrated link between fracking and earthquakes.

Congressman Palmer said in a statement, “One of my first priorities in Congress is getting our fiscal house in order.  Between 2007-2013, the economy has seen increased gains of $74 billion per year as a result of fracking.  During this same period, consumer gas bills dropped by $13 billion in a result of increased fracking.  This is just the beginning. Advances in fracking technology have made America an energy superpower.  Accessing our energy reserves must be a major part of our economic recovery plan.”

Rep. Palmer continued, “As the evidence at the hearing demonstrated, there are no confirmed instances of fracking polluting ground water and no demonstrated link between earthquakes and fracking, and advances in fracking technology has resulted in a 73% reduction in methane emissions since 2011.  I encourage Congress to work toward making safe utilization of our natural resources a priority by lifting artificial barriers that prevent development.”

The pro fossil fuels group Energy Citizen said in a statement on Facebook, “Fracking has put America on the path to energy independence! We can’t risk this progress with bad energy policy.”

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) wrote: “…a new study has found that hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling applied to shale oil formations saved consumers between $63 and $248 billion in 2013 (and a cumulative savings between $165 and $624 billion.) Without these technologies, international crude oil prices would have averaged $122 to $150 per barrel– $12 to $40 a barrel more or between $0.29 and $0.94 per gallon more on gasoline and other refined products.   President Obama’s insistence that “we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices” has been proven dead wrong.”

The IER continued, “The U.S. energy renaissance has been driven by innovations in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. About 48 percent of U.S. oil, condensate and natural gas liquids production in 2013 came from shale formations produced using these technologies—up from 11 percent of U.S. production in 2008. Total production of these fuels from shale oil formations in 2013 was 4.78 million barrels per day. Nearly every barrel of new U.S. oil production is attributable to the use of horizontal drilling and +hydraulic fracturing technologies.”

Energy Citizens wrote that they, “Have been steadfast supporters of fracking, even in the face of intense pressure to shut it down. We need to keep up the good work to ensure that fracking remains a viable way to access our nation’s abundant energy resources. If we do, consumers will be seeing the benefits for decades to come.”

Congressman Gary Palmer represents Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District.

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) State Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:23:55 -0500
Sewell Congratulates Loretta Lynch on Her Confirmation http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7625-sewell-congratulates-loretta-lynch-on-her-confirmation-shelby-and-sessions-voted-against.html http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7625-sewell-congratulates-loretta-lynch-on-her-confirmation-shelby-and-sessions-voted-against.html

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, April 23, the United States Senate voted to confirm Loretta Lynch as America’s next U.S. Attorney General.  U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Selma) issued a statement congratulating Lynch on her confirmation by the US Senate.

Congresswoman Sewell said on Facebook that she, “Witnessed the historic confirmation vote of Loretta Lynch on the Senate floor with some of the women of the CBC.”

Rep. Sewell said, “Ms. Lynch will undoubtedly lead the US Justice Department with the same conviction for justice that she has shown as the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York...Loretta Lynch has waited longer for a vote than our last 7 Attorney Generals combined. I was proud to stand with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in support of Loretta Lynch.”

Both of Alabama’s U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby opposed the confirmation of Lynch.

Senator Sessions said in a speech on the floor of the Senate, “Under our Constitution, Congress was given certain powers as a coequal branch of government not only to protect the Congress as an institution, but to restrain the other branches from overreaching. One of those powers is the Senate’s power to confirm or not confirm nominees to high office...Congress must not confirm anyone to lead the United States Department of Justice who will advance the President’s unconstitutional actions. Congress has a limited number of powers to defend the Rule of Law and itself as an institution and to stop the Executive Branch from overreaching. It is unthinkable that we would ignore one of those powers in the face of such a direct threat to our constitutional order—and it is part of an escalating pattern of overreach. Every day that we allow the President to erode the powers of Congress, we are allowing the President to erode the sacred Constitutional rights of the citizens we serve. We have a duty to this institution, to the Constitution, and to the American people not to confirm someone who is not committed to those principles but rather who will continue in violation of them. For those reasons, I will oppose this nomination and I urge my colleagues, regardless of party, to do the same.”

Sen. Shelby wrote in a statement, “The Attorney General has a vast amount of power to interpret and execute the laws that govern our nation as well as a great responsibility to uphold the rule of law. I strongly opposed Ms. Lynch’s nomination today because I have serious questions regarding her ability to objectively defend the Constitution.”

Sen. Shelby continued, “I have personally expressed to Ms. Lynch that I feared she would interpret her position as the attorney for President Obama, not the United States of America.  One of my greatest concerns with Ms. Lynch is her stance on the President’s action to unilaterally grant executive amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. The American people deserve better than an Attorney General who would allow the President to both ignore and unilaterally change our nation’s immigration laws.”

Lynch replaces Eric Holder. She is the first Black woman to hold the position of Attorney General in American history.  Representative Sewell is the first Black woman to represent Alabama in the United States Congress.

 

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) State Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:22:41 -0500
Agencies Describe Dire Consequences of Budget Cuts http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7624-agencies-describe-dire-consequences-of-budget-cuts.html http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7624-agencies-describe-dire-consequences-of-budget-cuts.html

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter 

MONTGOMERY—Taking a page from the Gipper’s playbook on Tuesday evening, Gov. Robert Bentley released a memo that outlined the impact of the Orr/Clouse General Fund Budget.

(See memo here.)

Ronald Reagan once said, “When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”

For months Bentley has rung the alarm bell, alerting lawmakers and citizens that the house is on fire. The State’s General Fund Budget does not generate enough revenue to provide essential services that the government provides. Therefore, cuts will be made to balance the budget in accordance to State statute.

The current General Fund Budget proposed by Sen. Arthur Orr and Rep. Steve Clouse is described as an austere measure that would require further cuts and no new taxes.

The spin by talking-heads and the astroturf media is blaming Bentley for a budget the legislature is wanting to pass. Bentley gave them a budget that would give the State a surplus, but politics, not policy, is driving the decisions being made at the State House.

In response to the supermajority’s budget, Bentley asked State agencies to provide “ an accurate and unvarnished emergency operations plan in response to the proposed Clouse/Orr General Fund cuts.” 

Some have cynically suggested that the Governor is fear mongering, however, the agency numbers speak for themselves.

In summary, the memo states that the State Department of Environmental Management would close, leaving its administration to the Federal EPA, which the department says will, “...cost businesses money, take longer to receive permits and ultimately cost jobs.”

Funding for the National Guard and services for veterans would be cut, with the closure of as many as 25 Army National Guard armories and diminished operational capabilities of our 2 Air National Guard Wings. This would result in the loss of 1,625 Army National Guard soldiers and 170 Air National Guard airmen. Also 3 county veteran service offices close in addition to 17 that closed in 2012.

Major public safety functions would be cut resulting in 132 law enforcement officers laid off, and closure of 13 Trooper Posts.

ALEA will be forced to shut down 33 of 78 stand-alone State Driver License Offices. It would also cause the closure of the Huntsville Regional Laboratory and Morgue, requiring 22 of the most northern counties in Alabama to transport bodies to the Montgomery lab.

Corrections says they will close 2 facilities and shift 2,000 prisoners back into the overcrowded system. The DOC has calculated the General Fund cuts will work against the progress of the Prison Reform Task Force.

One of the groups hit hardest will be children and people in need, where over 30,000 children will lose Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, over 25,000 people will lose mental health services and 17,000 children will lose day care. 

The memo shows that the Alabama court system will be unable to meet its constitutional requirements. The State Supreme Court and its appellate courts, along with 67 county courthouses, will be required to cut staff causing massive delays in services and trials.

Lastly, the memo concludes that 15 of the 22 State parks will close with an increase of fees to sustain the remaining seven parks. 

Even with all the evidence presented, several lawmakers speaking on background said they would not support any tax increases.

The systemic problems facing the State are being ignored because legislators are in fear of the next election.

Lawmakers for decades have turned a blind eye to the budget crisis because they would rather win elections than make hard choices. Bentley is holding a mirror to their action, but the ugliness has not yet registered. 

In his vanity publication, Storming the State House, Speaker Mike Hubbard recounts the budget crisis in 2003:

“The state’s Medicaid Agency, which was already providing only the most basic, bare bones services demanded by federal law, was facing a $110 million shortfall. Our prison system, already operating at more than 200 percent capacity, needed at least $ 50 million to meet federal court mandates to reduce overcrowding and provide the necessary security. Unsustainable increases in the costs of health insurance benefits to teachers and state employees also had a crippling financial effect. In short, the state needed almost $ 700 million in additional revenue just to maintain the status quo.”

The only thing that has changed is the Republicans are in charge and they don’t want to make the hard choice either.

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) State Thu, 23 Apr 2015 10:21:02 -0500
Meeting with Criminal Defense Brings Day to Abrupt End http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7623-meeting-with-criminal-defense-brings-day-to-abrupt-end.html http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7623-meeting-with-criminal-defense-brings-day-to-abrupt-end.html

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—An abrupt adjournment of the House last Thursday caused many to question, "why?"

The House ended its session on April 16, with a long, Special Order Calendar yet to be addressed. The spin: a Democrat filibuster. However, Republican legislators speaking on background said, the session was gaveled to a finish because Speaker Mike Hubbard had a meeting with his criminal defense attorneys.

The legislative day began with HB48 that would create an Ombudsman for Child Welfare. The Democrat minority opposed the measure, which triggered a filibuster.  As the debate reached mid-day, Hubbard ended the session with 15 items still on the calendar.

Hubbard spent the previous day in the Lee County Courthouse, where a motions hearing was underway in his felony corruption case. While Hubbard was fighting a battle to keep from facing a jury trial, the House was holding a full day of committee meetings.

Several Republican lawmakers have complained privately that Hubbard’s legal problems are affecting his ability to effectively handle his job. However, no one has dared challenge him publicly for fear of retribution.

Hubbard still remains constitutionally and politically the most powerful politico in the State.

Even with 23 felonies hanging over his head, and his ability to effectually perform his duties as Speaker now coming into question, Hubbard still refuses to step down as Speaker.

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) State Thu, 23 Apr 2015 10:12:38 -0500
Senate Bill Takes Aim at Tax Exempt Groups http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7622-senate-bill-takes-aim-at-tax-exempt-groups.html http://www.alreporter.com/archives/archive-2014/march-2014/146-state/7622-senate-bill-takes-aim-at-tax-exempt-groups.html

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter

Wednesday, April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee gave favorable report to a bill, SB256, which would require tax exempt groups to file a return on sales taxes they do not currently pay.  SB256 is sponsored by Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison). This version is a substitute for the original bill.

Sen. Holtzclaw said that the bill would require tax exempt groups to file annual reports. If they fail to file the report they would owe all of the sales taxes they did not pay plus a $2000 fine.

Chairman Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) said, “We are in a budget crisis.”  We do not know the magnitude of tax credits given by past legislatures. Some of these are 40 years old. I do not doubt that these entities are doing great work. Nobody however has gone back to check on these groups to see if they are still doing great work.

Chairman Pitman said that the want the Department of revenue to allow the groups to file their returns electronically.

Sen. Slade Blackwell (R-Mountain Brook) said, “I like the concept I like the idea.”

Sen. Holtzclaw said that this bill covers lodging taxes as well. Some groups have been giving exemptions on paying the state lodging tax.

Sen. Jimmy Holley (R) said, “Give me 5 examples of entities that would need an exemption.

Sen. Holtzclaw replied Alabama Diabetes Foundation, Chilton County Rescue Squad, State Fair Authority, etc. 

Holtzclaw said that this is part of the process of learning more about the situation. Some may be doing a $100 a year some may be doing thousands of dollars a year. This just formalizes the process regarding the certificate.

Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) asked if this bill was a merging with SB245 (sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur).

SB245 was before the committee the previous week and would have revoked everyone’s tax exempt status and they would have to file a return to get that money back at the end of the year.

Chairman Pittman said “This is a lot lighter version than Sen. Orr’s bill.  All the old tax exemption certificates would be voided. A lot of house cleaning needs to go on in this bill. Not all entities that have been given tax exempt status are 501c(3).

Sen. Dial said, “Now my county hospital is going to have to file all this paperwork. They are going to apply more paperwork to my county hospital that is already struggling to survive.  This is a massive amount of paperwork.”

Sen. Pittman said that the 990 form applies only to income taxes and would not apply to sales taxes, which is why there is a need for a new form.

Sen. Dial asked if the income tax rules are going to come back to the Legislative Council for Review?

Sen. Holtzclaw replied, “It can.”

Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) said that non profits are exempt from income taxes have to come back to the state to get exemption on sales taxes. Figures said that she wants to make this exemption apply to the state only and not also to county and municipal sales taxes.

Sen. Holtzclaw said, “Every time we do that (give a sales tax exemption) we create a burden on county and local government...We struggle to pass tax increases.  We should also struggle to give away tax exemptions...We have a responsibility to the people we may raise taxes on.”

Sen. Holley asked, “Does this apply to Mercedes?”  There are deep ramifications to what you are proposing.  There are a lot of implications.

Sen. Holtzclaw said, “I do not know.”

Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) said that a tax exemption is like a grant. If we granted the money we would say you have to make a report on how you use that money. Many of these entities may have gone out of business. I recognize that something has to be done. Thank you for beginning the process in this.

Sen. Dial said I would like to have the legislative council have the authority to look at any rules and regulations. A lot of these groups are run by volunteers. We are putting another burden on those people.

Sen. Pitman said that the legislature has been giving away tax exemption certificates to non-profit groups and that is what this applies to. Pittman said that businesses do not pay sales taxes on items that we buy for resale. Everybody who has not filed reports for years would get these new certificates. A sales tax emption is a different entities than a sales tax number. There are a lot of those little laminated cards still out there.

Sen. Dial said I want to carry this over. I am not ready to vote this out. This committee is not doing due diligence.

Sen. Pittman said, “I am not going to raise any taxes in this state until we get a handle on these exemptions.”  Pittman made a motion to table Dial’s carry over motion.

Sen. Holtzclaw said that he would work with other Senators on this bill before it gets to the floor of the Senate but is asking that you let it out of committee today.

An angry Sen. Dial said, “Maybe we should just do away with the committee system!”

The Dial motion was tabled on a 9 to 4 vote.

The bill, SB256, received a favorable report from the committee on a 9 to 4 vote.

 

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) State Thu, 23 Apr 2015 10:10:16 -0500
Are They All The Same? http://www.alreporter.com/editorials-2/169-bill-britt/7105-are-they-all-the-same.html http://www.alreporter.com/editorials-2/169-bill-britt/7105-are-they-all-the-same.html

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Opinion

We hear it all the time: “They're all the same.” That is what people say about Democratic and Republican politicians. Here in Alabama, most people have recently begun to vote Republican to a large degree, because they don’t like the President; but they still believe that all politicians are alike.

So, when Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is charged by the State with 23 Felony counts of public corruption, people just shake their heads thinking, “They’re all the same.”

Now, if Republican lawmakers had called for Hubbard to step down from his leadership position, and even more so, if he had been forced to leave the House altogether, then people might have said, “Hmm, I guess those Republicans are different.” But, no one did and so the collective wisdom of the people is proven right:

“They're all the same.”

When Hubbard and the Republicans of Alabama released their “Handshake with Alabama” in August 2010, they promised, among other things, to, “End[ing] Corruption in Montgomery.” Instead of ending it as promised since April 2014, four legislators have been arrested and one has had to resign in disgrace.

In the “Handshake” promise, they reminded voters that, “Democrats have held the majority in Montgomery for 136 years, and during that time, they created an atmosphere that breeds corruption and encourages graft. The recent criminal convictions of numerous Democratic legislators and other Democratic officials provides ample evidence of that fact.”

What does Hubbard’s arrest and indictment provide ample evidence of?

They're all the same.

In the "Handshake" memo that originated from Hubbard’s office, the Republicans say that they would no longer tolerate, “legislators and other public officials…holding questionable contracts with government agencies and those wishing to do business with the State.”

Most of the Felony counts against Hubbard are related to holding questionable contracts and representing those wishing to do business with the State. Yet, when Hubbard is charged with these offenses, not a word is heard from Republican lawmakers. This again leads people to believe, “They're all the same.”

The editorial board of the Dothan Eagle said it succinctly:

"Hubbard is considered innocent until proved guilty in court. However, we cannot forget that Hubbard crafted an attack on what he called 'a culture of corruption in Montgomery' to lead a sweeping GOP takeover of the legislature four years ago, wrestling control from Democrats who had held the majority for more than a century. Considering that he now stands accused of the same sort of corruption he used as a springboard to power, it’s reasonable to conclude that his ability to effectively lead our State’s governing body would be undermined by both his circumstances and the distraction of his defense preparations.”

(See article here.)

The Eagle also says that for Republican legislator to allow him to remain in his position, “suggests that the perception of corruption is immaterial, which erodes public confidence in the prospect of a productive upcoming session.”

Sadly, the Dothan Eagle is the only publication, other than the Alabama Political Reporter, to call on the State’s lawmakers, to do what is right and remove Hubbard. Where is the Anniston Star, the Decatur Daily, the Gadsden Times, Montgomery Advertiser or AL.Com?

If Republican lawmakers will not stand up to corruption within their ranks, should not at the very least, the fourth estate call them to answer? Since when are editorial boards silent in the face of such blatant disregard for the people's House? The State House does not belong to Hubbard or the Republican Party, it belongs to the citizens of Alabama.

More than once, Republican lawmakers have said they are biding their time to allow the courts to deal with the Hubbard situation. That is a coward’s stance, proving they're all the same.

In the "Handshake with Alabama," Hubbard said, “When you look someone in the eye, give them your word and shake their hand, you make a bond. This Handshake Agenda is our bond with the voters of Alabama, and if Republicans are successful in taking over the Legislature, these are the items we will immediately work to pass.”

The voters gave Hubbard the chance and he failed them. Completely.

But, not all Republicans are the same, but you can't tell that from their actions. The State heard the Republican “Handshake promise” and they believed it. But, as any honest person knows, deeds, not words, are the proof of promise.

So, by leaving Hubbard to run the State, the Republicans have left the people with an example of how they are all the same.

There is time to change that perception, but the clock is ticking.

 

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) Bill Britt Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:16:20 -0600
Hubbard Business Interests Real Winners in Fundraising Efforts? http://www.alreporter.com/editorials-2/169-bill-britt/6817-hubbard-business-interests-real-winners-in-fundraising-efforts.html http://www.alreporter.com/editorials-2/169-bill-britt/6817-hubbard-business-interests-real-winners-in-fundraising-efforts.html

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, has been busy raising campaign cash. The latest FCPA reports show that his personal campaign account raised $89,000.00 in September, while his political action committee, Storming the State House PAC, brought in $22,400.00. Storm PAC has shown an anemic ability to raise funds over the last year, due in part to the growing public corruption probe that has cast a shadow over Hubbard’s future.

(See disclosure)

On September 4, Hubbard held a pricy fundraiser to replenish the empty coffers of Storm PAC. Much of the new money raised came from that event.

(See article)

One of the major contributors to Hubbard’s PAC was Software Technology, Inc. (STI) who, in August, announced a partnership with the Alabama Department of Education to provide technology to “enhance school culture by noting and rewarding positive behavior of students…through a program called “Learning Earnings.”

(See article)

Also Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton,  personal injury attorneys, gave Storm PAC a substantial contribution.  A list of usual contributors also includes the Realtors Association, ALFA and Clark Richardson.

The PAC listed $33,941.28 in expenses with most of the money going to the campaigns of Representative Lesley Vance, Tommy Hanes, Nathaniel Ledbetter, and Bob Fincher.

Hubbard’s personal campaign account faired much better than Storm PAC by raising almost $90,000 in cash. Hubbard’s contributors are a whose who of special interests with business before the State Legislature. BCA’s Progress PAC,  Forest PAC and the Builders PAC being the heaviest hitters.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Hubbard's business interests were at the top of expenditures for his campaign fund, with Auburn Network and Craftmaster Printers, Inc., taking $30,741.26 of the 56,996.18 in expenditures.

(See disclosure)

Hubbard faces little opposition in his quest for reelection, however, the ever present specter of the Lee County Grand Jury hangs menacingly over his head.

 

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) Bill Britt Thu, 02 Oct 2014 10:45:02 -0500
Hubbard “Obsessed” with $200K Renovation of Committee Room http://www.alreporter.com/editorials-2/169-bill-britt/6747-hubbard-obsessed-with-200k-renovation-of-committee-room.html http://www.alreporter.com/editorials-2/169-bill-britt/6747-hubbard-obsessed-with-200k-renovation-of-committee-room.html

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—A cavernous room just off the Washington St. entrance to the State House is receiving a six figure facelift on orders from Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

“He is obsessed with renovating that room,” said a State House insider who asked to not be publicly identified in this report. The over $200,000 that is being spent to renovate room 200 comes from a 2006 Bond Issue according to the State’s Finance Department.

Under the Republican lead legislature, to date, over $2 million has been spent to refurbish the State House. The building is now replete with granite-topped tables, expensive leather chairs and faux marble flooring.

The stated purpose for the expensive renovation of room 200, is to offer the legislature a new joint conference committee meeting room. The Legislative Building Authority, which is overseeing the project, has justified the expenditure by saying that many conference committee meetings spill out into the halls due to the number of people wanting to witness the proceedings. Most of those attending conference committees are in fact lobbyists and not concerned Alabama citizens.  In a time of financial crisis, this is just the latest in lavish spending for the comfort of lawmakers and lobbyists.

Beyond the new carpet, faux marble and expensive chairs for the State House,  the Senate chamber is receiving a $200,000 facelift with new hickory desks custom built by State inmates at J.F. Ingram State Technical College in Deatsville.

The renovation of room 200 and the Senate facelift combined will cost State taxpayer around $500,000, at a time when budget shortfalls are estimated at well over $100 million for the coming fiscal year.

This is just the latest spending spree by the Republican Supermajority. (See Article: Hubbard Furnishes Luxury Cloakroom for Legislators at Taxpayer Expense)

During the 2013 legislative session, Hubbard authorized tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to paint and furnish a "cloakroom" for legislators to "relax in" on the fourth floor of the State House.

Information gathered from the Legislative Building Authority shows that Hubbard spent over $30,000.00 on furniture, paint and carpeting for room 402. This does not include built-in-bookshelves, a full kitchen or other amenities and construction costs.

This room, which has never been used, was adorned with expensive furnishings, all with an air of absolute refinement; the likes of which was never seen under the GOP's Democratic predecessors.

There was even a grand, eleven-foot conference table that cost the taxpayers $4,464.00. The hardwood table was surrounded by 20 San Simeon Fabric high-back chair with a price tag of $6,380.00.

Beyond the huge conference table, the opulent space was also decorated with 4 couches costing $6,166.00, chairs and a love seat priced at $6,537.00 and tables, et cetera at $3,051.00.

All this occurring while the State was forced to borrow $437 million from the gas and oil trust fund.

After this publication made its report on Hubbard’s cloakroom, the project was abandoned and some of the furniture was sold.

Speaker Hubbard has wildly expanded State spending on the trappings of power adorning his own office with new carpet, new paint and $2000 in silk plants at taxpayer expense. The Speaker’s suite is also outfitted with multiple flat-screen televisions, one completely dedicated to a continuous rotation of pictures featuring Hubbard with political dignitaries. The Speaker routinely travels with an entourage and personal body guard, many times in two black SUV’s with tinted windows. It is the Speaker's privilege to be provided a State employee for protection; however, few have ever accepted such a high level of security. (See Hubbard Wildly Increases Spending in Speaker's Office)

Republican Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh does not use a security person or State vehicle, which would be his privilege as well.

Once again, Hubbard is using his power as Speaker to spend more taxpayer money on luxurious vanity projects.

 

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alreporterweb@gmail.com (Super User) Bill Britt Mon, 15 Sep 2014 10:52:31 -0500