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Thursday, April 30, 2009

House will try to remove grocery tax again

House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said Thursday that the House plans to make one more run at trying to remove the sales tax from groceries. The bill will be brought up again on Tuesday after Democrats failed on three previous occasions to have enough votes to get the measure onto the floor for debate.
The bill would remove the state's 4 percent sales tax on food by replacing the revenue with a measure that would not allow wealthier Alabamians to deduct the federal income tax they pay from their state income tax.
Removing the sales tax from groceries is the top priority for House Democrats.
Hammett said it is unprecedented for a bill to be brought up four times and for the majority to fail to be able to get anybody in the minority to vote for it.
Not one Republican has voted for bringing the bill up for debate during the previous three attempts.
Hammett said the leadership has told him none of the Republicans plan to vote for the bill.
Alabama Arise is pointing to a recent poll by the Capital Survey Research Center, the polling arm of the Alabama Education Association, that shows about two-thirds of people in the state support the plan.
Republicans have said they are not opposed to removing the sales tax from groceries, but said the change would equate to a tax increase on their constituents.
Single filers with an income of $75,000 would see an increase and joint filers who earn more than $125,000 would see an increase in their taxes.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Longtime state comptroller retires

Longtime State Comptroller Bob Childree retired Thursday after working for the state for 35 years.
He was appointed comptroller in 1987 after working as a governmental accountant. Childree became the highest ranking governmental accountant in the state merit system.
"Bob’s retirement means Alabama is losing one of its most dedicated public servants," said State Finance Director Jim Main.
Childree is credited with transforming the office during his tenure.
The state has also earned the Government Finance Officers Association's Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the past nine fiscal years.
Childree was president of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers and president of the National Association of State Comptrollers.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Alvin Holmes on sorry commissioners, barbed wire enemas, Klansmen and low IQs

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, introduced a resolution on Thursday that would remove the name of former Gov. Bibb Graves from a building at Alabama State University.
Holmes said Graves was a leader in the Ku Klux Klan.
If Republicans do not want the name of Joe Reed, who he said is a civil rights leader, on a building then the name of a Klansman should not be on a building at the historically black university.
Holmes also said he would not answer questions from people with an IQ below 63.
Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, was the sponsor of the bill before the Legislature when Holmes was talking.
"Mr. Holmes, are you trying to preclude me from asking you a question," Black joked.
Black’s bill would deregulate phone service in the state, which Holmes and other opponents have said would lead to rate increases. The Legislature passed the bill.
Proponents have said the bill would allow AT&T to be more competitive with other companies and mediums, such as wireless and Voice over Internet Protocol, that are not regulated.
Currently, the Public Service Commission regulates AT&T.
Holmes railed on the PSC for allowing a rate increase for Alabama Power.
"These are some of the most sorriest members of the public service commission," he said of the three Democrats on the panel.
"… Like Gov. Wallace said, some of them over there need to be given a barbed wire enema."
Holmes said he would not help to elect black lawmakers who voted for the deregulation.
"The members of the Legislature need a hole in their head if they pass this," he said.
He later added, when talking about Democrats who support the deregulation bill, "you’re not doing nothing but letting the Republicans trick you."
Holmes said some of the Republicans in the House were nice guys, but they did not have a high IQ.
"What does IQ mean," Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, said from the back. "How do you spell IQ?"
Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, told Holmes that the rules did not allow House members to attack the character of other members.
Holmes asked those people he offended to raise their hands. Mask, Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and some others raised their hands.
Holmes apologized to them.
Holmes asked if corporate officials flew into Montgomery on a private jet for the vote on the deregulation bill. Black said he had not heard from them if they were in Montgomery and he believes they would have talked to him if they were.
"Oh, you that big?" Holmes asked.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Lawmakers laying groundwork for new statehouse

The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would give a legislative panel the authority to sell bonds to build a legislative wing onto the current Capitol in downtown Montgomery.

The House approved the bill 47-36 and the measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Lawmakers have said they do not plan to move forward with building now, but are setting the groundwork for when the economy improves.

"It’s not like we’re saying we’re going to build a new statehouse any time soon," said House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn. Hubbard, who is a cosponsor of the bill, is also chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.

Hubbard said he might not even be a member of the Legislature when a facility is built.

"We have to have a new building," he said.

The state spends heavily for maintenance, including hundreds of thousands for regular roof repairs, and there is mildew, Hubbard said.

"It has outlived its usefulness," he said. " … This is not workable."

Hubbard, Rep. Richard Laird, D-Roanoke, and some other lawmakers said people are often not able to get into committee meeting rooms when they come to Montgomery to participate in government. Laird, the chairman of the Legislative Building Authority, is the sponsor of the bill.

Most of the opposing votes were members of Hubbard’s party.

"I just thought the timing of this is very poor" with the recession and education spending prorated, said Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka. "It sends a bad signal out to the voters that we’re out of touch."

He said proponents are saying the bill only puts the mechanism in place to build a legislative wing, "but I don’t think we need to be talking about a building."

Laird said the bill gives the authority the ability to start planning. He said the authority evaluated whether it was more cost effective to renovate the current building or build a new one.

Renovating the current facility would cost $183 million while building onto the current Capitol would cost $167 million, Laird said referring to 2008 estimates.

The authority could sell bonds to fund building the facility or enter into an agreement with the Retirement Systems of Alabama, who would build it and lease the building to the Legislature.

Laird said he was a member of the Legislature in 1986 when the members moved from the historic Capitol to the current State House, which was built to house the highway department in 1963.

House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, said he is for the authority moving forward when the economy improves and is against spending more money on the current facility. He said there are problems with the heating and air conditioning, some of the elevators, flooding in the basement, the roof, and mold and mildew.

The bill gives the building authority the power to take control of and close Union Street between Washington and Monroe streets, which separates the State House and the Capitol, and to control surrounding streets and parking lots.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

More important things to deal with

During debate Thursday on whether to rename the Acadome at Alabama State University for Joe Reed, state Rep. Jay Love argued the Legislature should be addressing other issues.
"Personally, I believe we have far more important things to be dealing with," said Love, R-Montgomery.
Some people, including Rep. Patricia Todd, said the same thing about a resolution Love sponsored a week ago.
Love sponsored, and the House passed, a resolution supporting Miss California USA Carrie Prejean, who finished second in the Miss USA Pageant. She caused a stir earlier this month when, while answering a question from a gay blogger who was a judge, that she disagreed with gay marriage.
Todd, D-Birmingham, and some people on blogs and in letters to the editor have said Love's resolution is a waste and that lawmakers should focus on more important issues.
"We have critical issues facing Alabama we need to be discussing," Todd said a week ago. "This deters us from work we need to be doing."
Todd is the only openly gay member of the Legislature.
Love said the resolution was passed quickly and there was no cost so it was not a waste of time or money.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

House does not vote on Acadome resolution … yet

Leaders in the Alabama House of Representatives set aside a bill Thursday morning that would tell the trustees at Alabama State University to rename the Acadome for Joe Reed.
Enough members of the House wanted to speak against renaming the athletic arena that House Majority Leader Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, moved to carry the bill over, but it could come up again.
Republicans in the House, including Jay Love of Montgomery, said the Legislature should not override the wishes of the board of trustees at any university. They said the Legislature would be micromanaging the board.
"I maintain it is bad public policy for the Legislature to insert itself into renaming a building when the school’s board of trustees made it quite clear what their intentions are when it comes to that," Love said.
After Reed’s name had been on the Acadome since 1991, the board removed the name after a majority of the members had a public disagreement with Reed.
Some Democratic lawmakers have tried to rename the facility for Reed, a former trustee who attended the university. He is also a vice chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference and associate executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association.
Reed has been a longtime force in Alabama politics, but he is a polarizing figure.
With his contributions to helping to elect blacks to public office in the state and his contributions to Alabama State, several people have said Reed is deserving of having his name on the building.
Reed has said having a building named after a person is an honor and having it removed is a dishonor.
The Senate already approved the resolution, which Clerk of the House Greg Pappas said is not binding. Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, sponsored the bill.
Guin, Little and others have said it is not unprecedented for the Legislature to name buildings, roads and bridges.
"If the state appropriates money to an institution, we certainly have the right to name a building," Guin said.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A more thorough review

Some state lawmakers said Wednesday during a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee that they were concerned that some of their colleagues were trying to push through ethics legislation late in the session without due diligence.
State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said they all want ethics reform, but he had concerns about people pushing through bills they are calling the "governor's bill."
Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, is supporting an ethics bill sponsored by state Rep. Mac Gipson that would significantly alter the state's ethics laws. The governor's staff made a proposal on the bill Wednesday.
Lawmakers were given last-minute substitutes to one of the two ethics proposals before them.
England said lawmakers could miss something when they are looking at dozens of pages of bills.
House members did take less than two legislative days to pass a General Fund budget.
And the Alabama Senate passed the budget to fund education in a day with no dissenting votes.
Both of those documents have dozens of pages and collectively spend more than $7 billion in taxpayer money.
The chairman of the judiciary committee, Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, gave members an additional day to review the documents and scheduled a meeting to vote on the two ethics proposal for 9 a.m. Thursday.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Tossing a softball

The announcer at a Tuesday softball game between the Alabama House and Senate said he was curious if state officials might show up to participate.
He said to the crowd over the public address system "we were wondering of Gov. Riley would show up and play an inning for either side."
From the field at Auburn Montgomery, state Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Vinemont, quickly responded loud enough for those in the stands to hear: "He don't like any of us."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

House panel to vote on ethics

The administration of Gov. Bob Riley has criticized lawmakers for their lack of action on ethics reform, but a panel plans to vote today on two bills.

The House Judiciary Committee discussed two ethics overhauls at length on Wednesday and plans to vote today. The Legislature has only five meetings days left after today.

The two bills have various proposals that would limit gifts to lawmakers, require all spending by lobbyists on public officials to be reported, require those who lobby the administration for contracts and grants to register as lobbyists, place reporting requirements on county and state prosecutors who are referred ethics cases from the Alabama Ethics Commission, and require ethics training for public officials.

Jim Sumner, director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, said he supports both of the bills, but said one sponsored by Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, and supported by Riley is the "gold standard."

"It has everything we could possibly want," he said. " … We have two great bills here."

With the two bills before the committee simultaneously, some lawmakers were confused at which provisions were in which one.

The chairman, Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, decided to give members a day to look at the bills and scheduled a meeting to vote at 9 a.m. today.

Gipson’s bill has a provision that would require the attorney general or a district attorney to report the disposition of a case referred to them by the ethics commission within six months. Riley has said, and lawmakers echoed Wednesday, that too many cases are going to prosecutors and no one knows the status.

Some lawmakers expressed concern on Wednesday about a provision that would require the prosecutor to disclose if any action has been taken and why. If a prosecutor closes the case, he would have to state the reasons in writing. If he did decide to pursue the case, he would have to send a status report to the commission every 180 days and then send a final report.

Sumner said it is rare they hear any report on the finality of a case that commissioners reviewed.

"It is an embarrassment," he said. "We don’t know."

State Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said having some update on the resolution is good. He said some cases are referred "never to be heard from again," which he said is not fair to the person who filed the complaint or to the public official, who has a "black could over their head."

State Rep. Charles Newton, D-Greenville, said he did not know if it was a good idea to ask prosecutors to state why they did not prosecute a case.

Some in the meeting also criticized Riley and the media for reports that lobbyists could give public officials $91,000 in gifts in a year without reporting it. Riley recently had a press conference at a local retailer in which he had merchandise behind him. He said a lobbyist could buy luggage one day, expensive champagne the next, another item the third day and continue to buy gifts of up to $250 each day of the year without reporting it.

Some legislators asked Sumner if there was a situation in which a lobbyist giving that much was possible. He said the commission interprets current law to say that public officials can accept seasonal gifts of up to $100 per occasion for up to $250 a year from a single donor.

Sumner said the law allows for hospitality and entertainment, including food and drinks, for up to three consecutive days and does not allow the practice to be continuing.

"It is our view you could never spend $91,000," he said.

Sumner said a lobbyist could not buy an official an iPod one day and a margarita mixer the next.

Bryan Taylor, policy director for Riley, said the issue is not a concern as long as the current commission staff is in place. A Riley spokesman has previously said the law does not disallow officials from taking gifts if they are not for the intent of influencing their official action.

Gipson’s bill would reduce the amount for entertainment to $50 a day with a $250 annual cap. Currently, lobbyists can spend as much as they want on entertainment and hospitality, but must begin reporting at $250 a day.

In another provision, officials would have to disclose any contracts or employment they have with entities they know or should know receive public finds.

Some lawmakers also expressed concerns that their colleagues were trying to get some ethics legislation together at the end of the session. Gipson said he has brought a bill before the committee for three years and it did not receive any traction until Riley supported it.

The second bill that will be considered today is sponsored by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood.

DeMarco and Gipson said they have worked with Sumner to try to improve their bills and give the commission the tools it needs.

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said the bills were becoming more and more complicated with substitutes and amendments. He said people want to pass ethics reform, but the bills will become more difficult to pass this session with more changes to them.

The committee previously passed DeMarco’s bill, but he said he made changes to try to incorporate some aspects of Gipson’s proposal and brought it back for reconsideration. DeMarco said there are very few days left in the session and he hopes people will work together to pass needed ethics reform.

Sumner said subpoena power is the single greatest tool that the commission could use. The judiciary committee passed a bill early in the session that would give the commission that power, but the bill has never been brought before the full House.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Republicans applaud leadership in Alabama Senate

At least two Republicans in the Alabama Senate, including the minority leader and a 2010 candidate for lieutenant governor, have recently applauded the Democrats in the majority for their leadership.

"To me, we have had a very productive session," said Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, who has said he will run for lieutenant governor.

Erwin said he saluted the leadership for putting bills up for consideration that the Senate was able to pass and show productivity.

During "Capitol Journal" on Alabama Public Television, Senate Minority Leader Jabo Waggoner, Vestavia Hills, said on Friday that he has seen more cooperation this year. He said the leadership from the two parties meet each Tuesday and have a meal together each week.

Republicans have repeatedly attacked the Democratic leadership in the Senate.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Senators put aside "Free the Hops" bill

The Alabama Senate started smoothly on Tuesday, but Sen. Hank Erwin threatened to shut the chamber down the rest of the day over a "Free the Hops" bill that he said would allow a higher alcohol content in beer.

Erwin, R-Montevallo, is a fierce opponent of alcohol and gambling. He has announced he is running for lieutenant governor in 2010.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. He said Erwin has stood by as bills allowing Sunday sales passed.

"Let's free the hops," Singleton shouted.

He said the bill, which would allow a higher alcohol content for more expensive gourmet beer, is harmless.

The Senate reached an agreement to bring up the House version of the bill and add an amendment that would not allow the higher content beer to be sold in convenience stores. Senators then put the bill aside temporarily.

Erwin then continued to try to kill a bill sponsored by fellow Republican Steve French that would allow a higher alcohol content in table wine.

"We are going too far. We are going beyond common sense," he said.

Erwin said some people drink to get "smashed" and "blow your brains out with alcohol."

He made the comments the same day that at least one his Republican colleagues, Sen. Larry Dixon, talked about drinking at the microphone.

Erwin said he has never had a sip of alcohol.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Monday, April 27, 2009

NRA endorses Keahey

The National Rifle Association has endorsed state Rep. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, in his run for the state Senate. He is the Democratic nominee.
He is running in a special election against former state Rep. Greg Albritton, who won the Republican primary.
They are running for District 22, which covers all or part of eight counties in southwest Alabama. The seat was vacated earlier this year when state Sen. Pat Lindsey, D-Butler, died unexpectedly.
In a letter, the state liaison for the NRA wrote that Keahey was selected because of his "positive support of our right to keep and bear arms."
Keahey is a lifelong sportsman and hunter. He has sponsored several bills supported by the NRA, including one that would not allow authorities to seize firearms during a state of emergency.
Albritton is a certified real estate appraiser and an attorney.
The special election is June 2.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Congressman Rogers All A-'Twitter'

In an effort to reach all of his constituents, U.S. Rep.Mike Rogers recently joined the social media site Twitter. Rogers says he hopes 3rd District constituents will find tweating with him to be another helpful avenue to stay in touch with their congressman when he’s back in Washington, D.C. or traveling East Alabama. More and more politicians like Rogers are tweeting, including our own Gov. Bob Riley via a few of his tech savvy employees.

If you have an account with Twitter and want to follow Rogers, go to

“With more information available on the Internet these days, this is provides an additional way I can be available to folks back home and keep them up to date on who I am meeting with or what I am voting on,” Rogers said in a press release. “In a time when this new social media is all the rage, this gives me a forum to reach out to younger generations and tech-savvy folks alike."

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Friday, April 24, 2009

Strange to address young Democrats and Republicans

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange will address a group of young Republicans and Democrats on Monday. When he was a county commissioner, Strange ran as a Republican, but candidates for municipal office do not have to declare a party affiliation.
He will talk to the River Region Democrats and the Capital City Young Republicans from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 129 Coosa Street.
Organizers said he will welcome feedback.
Members can attend for free, but entry for non-members is $10.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Thursday, April 23, 2009

House passes bill supporting beauty queen who opposes gay marriage

The Alabama House of Representatives has voiced its support for a young beauty pageant contestant who said she opposed gay marriage. The sponsor, state Rep. Jay Love, said he plans to send the resolution to Miss California USA Carrie Prejean.

The body passed the resolution Thursday on a voice vote.

"I just wanted Carrie Prejean to know the people of Alabama support her," Love said.

Prejean finished second in the Miss USA 2009 Pageant, but made the headlines because of her answer to a question from judge Perez Hilton, who is openly gay and runs a celebrity gossip blog.

"We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage," she responded to his question. "And you know what in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman."

Hilton blasted her, even resorting to name-calling before later stating he appreciated her honesty. He said she alienated millions of gays and lesbians and their family and friends.

State Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, is the only openly gay member of the Legislature. She said she opposes the resolution and disagrees with Love, but she has worked to build bridges and respect among her colleagues while his action is divisive.

"We have critical issues facing Alabama we need to be discussing," Todd said. "This deters us from work we need to be doing."

She said people asked her how she would respond, but she said she did not have time to focus on the resolution. Todd said she did not see the point of getting into a contest with Love over the issue, especially since there is no legislation before them on the issue.

Love said the response to him introducing the resolution has been interesting. He said people locally have applauded his action, but he said he has received about 30 e-mails, many of them from outside of the state, that are split between criticizing him and thanking him for standing up for Prejean.

The lawmaker, who was the Republican nominee for the 2nd Congressional District in 2008, said he was tired of the liberal attacking her. Love said she should be able to share her opinion without being attacked.

Love said Prejean making those conservative comments in front of a Hollywood judging panel could have cost her the Miss USA title, but she kept her respect and integrity.

Every member of the House Republican Caucus and some Democrats signed on as co-sponsors.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Senate passes bill to try to rename Acadome for Reed

The Alabama Senate overwhelmingly passed a resolution on Thursday that would rename the arena at Alabama State University the Joe L. Reed Acadome.

Trustees at the university named for arena for Reed in 1991, but the current board reversed that decision, quickly having his name and likeness stripped from throughout the facility.

The Senate voted 16-3 on Thursday in favor of the resolution. Sen. Quinton Ross, a Montgomery Democrat who was once president of the student body at Alabama State, abstained from the vote.

Republican Sens. Larry Dixon of Montgomery, Scott Beason of Gardendale and Arthur Orr of Decatur voted against the resolution.

"I was surprised because I thought enough people understood you don't force universities to name buildings because someone is politically powerful," Dixon said.

Dixon acknowledged Reed’s accomplishments at the university.

The resolution now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Reed said he was happy with the swift, bipartisan vote in the Senate. He said he hopes people can move on to other issues.

"When you put a person's name on something, you are honoring that person," Reed said. "When you take it off, you are dishonoring them."

He said the issue, for him, was a matter of honor and restoring honor.

"I have done nothing wrong," Reed said.

Sen. Steve French, R-Birmingham, said he thought the Legislature micromanaging universities was "poor public policy," calling the vote a "dangerous move for us."

Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said he approached Reed after Senate President Pro Tem Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, withdrew a bill seeking the same outcome. Little said he was willing to help in any way.

"I think he deserves the honor and I think he has done a lot for Alabama State University," Little said.

Little and Reed said it is not unprecedented for the Legislature to name buildings on campuses.

"It's not that unusual," the majority leader said.

The senator also noted that the Legislature funds the public universities in the state.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Strange likely to run against King for AG

The man who defeated a top political name in the state in 2006, but could not overcome another has said he will likely run for attorney general against the incumbent, fellow Republican Troy King.
Luther Strange, who narrowly lost to Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. in 2006, said after a recent speech in Madison County that he would likely run for attorney general, according to news reports and an e-mail he sent out.
"It would be fair to say I get the most encouragement for running for attorney general," Strange said in an article in the Huntsville Times. "There's a huge need there.''
He said he would make a decision about his political future by June 1.
Strange, once a lobbyist, has worked on the election campaigns of two Republican attorneys general, Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor.
He told the Times that the relationship between the attorney general and district attorneys in the state was strained and he would work to better it.
King, who has battled the district attorneys in the state on at least one major issue and Gov. Bob Riley on gambling issues, has announced he is running for reelection.
If Strange runs for attorney general, the primary would likely be bitter and expensive.
Strange defeated George Wallace Jr. in a runoff in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor. He had been speculated as a candidate for governor or lieutenant governor in the 2010 election.

People can find more about Strange at

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

And the winner is ... Tim James

The Republican Club of Etowah County, coordinated by former state Sen. Roy Smith, recently conducted a straw poll of likely GOP candidates for the governor's race with Greenville businessman Tim James coming out well ahead of the competition.
James is the only Republican who has announced he is running. He finished with 29 votes, which was more than half.
Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore finished with six votes.
State two-year college system chancellor and former state Sen. Bradley Byrne received five votes. He is expected to announce his candidacy soon.
Birmingham attorney Luther Strange, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, also received five votes. He has said he is considering a run for attorney general against the incumbent and fellow Republican Troy King.
State Treasurer Kay Ivey received four votes.
No one voted for state Rep. Robert Bentley, R-Tuscaloosa.
The Republican Club has met once a month every month since January 2000. The straw poll was conducted during the April monthly meeting.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Republicans opt not to keep Senate in overnight

Republicans threatened to lock the Senate down until Wednesday morning, but agreed to adjourn on Tuesday evening just before 8:30 p.m. Leaving on Tuesday kept the Legislature from burning another legislative day.
Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, had threatened to keep the chamber in until Wednesday. Republicans started to filibuster after the Senate unanimously passed the House education budget. They voted for the bill, but said they should have had time to analyze the large expenditure.
Tuesday was the 22nd legislative day, which leaves eight more meeting days.
Some of the Republicans have blasted their Democratic colleagues for killing time in the session.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Lawmaker supports beauty queen who opposes gay marriage

State Rep. Jay Love has drafted a resolution supporting Miss California USA after she was criticized for her comments during the Miss USA 2009 Pageant saying she believed marriage was between a man and a woman.

Miss California Carrie Prejean was asked during the pageant on Sunday if she supported legalizing gay marriage. Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, who is gay and was a judge at the competition, asked the question.

"I think it's great Americans are able to choose one or the other," Prejean said. "We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman."

Some people have criticized her for the comments.

Love, R-Montgomery, said there are those "telling people what they can believe and what they can say," which he said is wrong. He said she is being punished for saying marriage is between a man and a woman.

"I don’t believe that’s right," Love said.

The former Republican nominee for the 2nd Congressional District said he supports Prejean for standing by her beliefs and not giving the politically correct answer.

Hilton originally made derogatory comments about Prejean, according to several news reports, but later apologized and said he applauded her for her honesty. He said her answer alienated millions of gays and lesbians and their friends and family.

Prejean was first runner-up. Prejean and Hilton have both told news outlets they thought the comments cost her the crown.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Committee does not meet to discuss no bid contracts

An Alabama Senate committee was scheduled to take up a bill on Tuesday morning that would severely limit the ability of state government to use no-bid contracts, but the panel did not meet because there were not enough lawmakers present for a quorum.

The chairman of the committee, Sen. Ted Little, said he would try to squeeze in another meeting of the Fiscal Responsibility & Accountability Committee on Thursday.

"If not, as far as I am concerned, these bills are dead," Little said.

The other bill before the panel dealt with salvage pools.

Little, D-Auburn, was joined in the committee by Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne; and Sen. Linda Coleman, D-Birmingham. Those committee members who did not attend include Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale; Sen. Kim Benefield, D-Woodland; Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile; Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman; Sen. Myron Penn, D-Union Springs; Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro; and Senate Minority Leader Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills.

Ted Little, Coleman and Penn are sponsors of the bill dealing with no bid contracts.

The bill states that currently there is no law that prohibits no-bid contracts.

"This bill would prohibit no-bid contracts, but provide an exception for personal service contracts less than $100,000, and provide an exception for emergency situations," according to the synopsis.

The bill would require the state to award a contract to the lowest bidder after it was "competitively bid and open to the general public after a reasonable and prudent period of advertising on a central electronic site maintained by the state."

If the executive branch entered into a contract without a competitive bidding process, that agreement would be "null and void," according to the legislation. The state would not be obligated to honor a no-bid contract that did not meet the specific exceptions for professional services or an emergency.

The bill would have also required the media and the public to be notified when an emergency is declared.

Lawmakers have criticized the administration of Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, for declaring emergencies instead of bringing some contracts before the legislative contract review committee.

No bid contracts have been an issue in the last two races for governor with Riley criticizing then-Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat, in 2002 for his administration's use of no bid contracts. Four years later, Riley's own words were used in commercials by Democrats calling him "Billion-dollar Bob."

Most people agree running government would be very difficult if all items, including pens and paper, had to be bid, but the state pays out tens of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts annually.

The proposal allows for an official to be removed from office for not complying with the law if he is convicted in a "court of competent jurisdiction."

Last week, ethics legislation remained in the Senate's Constitution, Campaign, Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee because of a lack of a quorum. Also, Senate President Pro Tem Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, did not assign a bill banning the transfer of funds between political action committees to a Senate committee for two months even though it passed the House unanimously and is a platform Democrats ran on in 2006. He assigned the bill on Thursday after the media questioned him about its fate.

Today is the 22nd of 30 meetings days in the legislative session.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Monday, April 20, 2009

Aderholt joins Tim James campaign

Few people mention Tim James when talking about the state's next governor, but he continues to rack up endorsements from notable Republicans.
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, accepted a request from James on Monday to join the executive committee of the Tim James for Governor Campaign.
Aderholt, in a statement, said James has strong conservative credentials and experience in business and finance, which makes him "the right person to lead the people of Alabama during these tough economic times.”
James, the only Republican so far to announce he is running for governor in 2010, praised Aderholt for opposing federal bailouts in the spite of support from the White House. Aderholt has served seven terms in the House.
James, a Greenville businessman and son of former two-term Gov. Fob James, was the first candidate to announce he was running for governor. He is often not mentioned in discussions about the governor's race, but he has hired veteran staff and has loaned his campaign $2 million. He is also assembling support in the state from notable Republicans including Aderholt, state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin of Indian Springs, former U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan of Mobile and John Giles, former head of the Alabama Christian Coalition.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Tim James supports Riley in gambling fight

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James is applauding Gov. Bob Riley for his fight against gambling.
Riley, a Republican, formed a Task Force on Illegal Gambling, which last month raided a gaming center in White Hall, seizing more than $560,000 and 101 machines. Attorneys for the center filed action seeking to have the items returned and to reopen without the threat of the facility being raided again.
Judge Mark Kennedy, the former state Supreme Court justice who was appointed to hear the case, ordered the machines and money to be returned. The Alabama Supreme Court overruled him 6-3 on Friday.
James, the only Republican who has announced he is running for governor in 2010, said casino gambling is illegal in the state and should stay illegal.
"Gov. Bob Riley took an important step recently when he moved to stop illegal gambling in Alabama," James said in a statement on Monday. "The Alabama Supreme Court's 6-3 decision to uphold the Governor’s seizure of illegal electronic gambling devices from a Lowndes County casino was the right decision for the people of Alabama."
James, a Greenville businessman, encouraged the people of Alabama and state lawmakers to support Riley, who wants to have a test case taken to the Alabama Supreme Court to determine whether the machines are legal.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Friday, April 17, 2009

Sessions criticizes extreme move to left, partisanship in Washington

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, told members of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce that the current political divide in Washington, D.C. is more than typical bickering between the two major parties, according to a report from Montgomery Advertiser reporter Cosby Woodruff.

The senator bemoaned Democratic ideas that he said are pushing the United States closer to a European-style economic and social system.

"I think the nation is in a time of uncertainty," he said. "I am worried about it."

After speaking to the gathering, Sessions said Wednesday’s protest on tax day were more than simple protests against taxes. They were demonstrations against the general direction of the government, which he said is headed to an extreme left positions.

He acknowledged that Democrats earned their gains in last year's elections, but he said the move to the left is more dramatic than voters intended.

"I think it was much more than a simple tax protest," he said. "It was a general feeling of unease."

Davis fires back at Sparks release

After a statement issued by the gubernatorial campaign of Ron Sparks earlier Friday, the camp of U.S. Rep. Artur Davis issued the following response:

"It's unfortunate that Commissioner Sparks, instead of getting his facts right, is repeating an inaccurate statement contained in several news reports regarding Congressman Davis' expenditures in the last quarter," campaign spokeswoman Anna Ruth Williams said. "Contrary to those reports, which wrongly assume that every expense by the Davis committee since January 1, 2009, is a governor’s race expense, Congressman Davis has just crossed the $25,000 threshold in expenses solely related to the governor's race -- in the past 48 hours, with our latest round of 2010 disbursements on April 15, 2009. Consistent with crossing that marker, the Davis campaign was already in the process of filing with the Alabama Secretary Of State's office."

"The Davis campaign is on record disclosing every dime we have spent and describing who those dollars come from. Davis has kept the promise he made on February 6—no money raised between February 6 and June 1 will be transferred to the governor's race and no in-state contributions between February 6 and June 1 will be accepted. This is more than Alabama or federal law require," Williams said.

Davis added to the statement, "This governor's race will not be about insider stories on campaign finance reports, or about the standard attacks from candidates trying to raise their profile. It will be about which candidate can reform Alabama politics, and propose the right plans for rebuilding our state's economy and refitting our schools for the 21st Century."

Davis and Sparks, the commissioner of agriculture and industries, have both announced they are running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Sparks Camp Calls Davis Out on Spending

State Ag and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks' campaign is calling U.S. Rep. Artur Davis out for how Davis has spent $120,000 in federal campaign funds.

Both men want to be the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010, and their campaigns have traded a few testy press releases in recent weeks.

"Our campaign will not engage in an argument with the Davis campaign over what appears to us to be a very clear matter of law," according to a press release sent Friday. "The law says when someone has spent more than $25,000 in an effort to become governor that they must file with the Alabama Secretary of State. The law also says that it is illegal to raise money for the 2010 governor's race before June of this year."

Davis' camp recently defended his campaign spending in an Associated Press article saying that he's not officially running for governor yet. Davis camp also fired back at the AP over the article, saying that the news service got it wrong.

“Unfortunately, the Associated Press circulated an entirely inaccurate story regarding Congressman Davis’ adherence to the letter and spirit of Alabama campaign finance law,” campaign spokeswoman Anna Ruth Williams said, in a press release Thursday. “The Associated Press mistakenly states that Congressman Davis vowed to cease spending money out of his campaign account. That claim is wrong, because Congressman Davis never made that promise."

The Sparks camp says it has spent less than $1,000 so far, and has returned checks to supporters who attempted to make a contribution because that's what they believe the law says they must do.

The Sparks camp went on to say in the release, "Congressman Davis has been in Washington too long -- a place where one must ask "what is your definition of 'is'? He seems comfortable saying on on hand 'I'm running for governor' and on the other hand 'No I'm not," depending on which law he is selecting to obey. This is both confusing and disappointing. while Congressman Davis is calling for ethics reform in government, his actions have to make us ask, 'What is his definition of ethics?'"

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Thursday, April 16, 2009

Alvin Holmes on beer

Some people love to listen to state Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery. Some detest him, but people at the State House this week are talking about two different videos using the same audio clip from a year ago with Holmes talking about legislation dealing with gourmet beer.
Those lining the State House halls find the clips entertaining.
You can watch one of them here:

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Smitherman waited two months to assign PAC ban bill

Alabama Senate leadership allowed a bill banning the transfer of money between political action committees to sit in a basket for two months and did not assign it to a committee until Thursday after media asked about its fate.
The House passed the bill unanimously on Feb. 12 and it came to the Senate on Feb. 15.
Senate President Pro Tem Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, is responsible for taking bills from the basket and assigning them to committee. Assigning bills also requires the concurrence of Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., but he does not decide when to take the bills from the basket.
Smitherman said he has not tried to delay the bill, but that there was a set of factors that led to the bill remaining in the basket.
He said the chairman of the committee, Sen. Pat Lindsey, died on Jan. 11 and they had to find a new chairman for the Constitution, Campaign, Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee. Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, is now the chairman.
A different committee took up the bill last year.
Smitherman said filibustering in the Senate has kept the chamber from being able to conduct routine business.
Other House bills have been assigned during that two-month period.
Smitherman assigned the bill to Ross' committee on Thursday afternoon. He said most other bills had been assigned previously, but some have not.
Smitherman said a bill that has already passed the House only needs two days to pass. The Legislature has nine meeting days remaining.
Moving money between political action committees makes it difficult for people to determine the original source of the funding. Advocates believe voters should be able to determine who is giving money to candidates.
The House has passed the bill unanimously for years, but there has been little action in the Senate. The Senate passed a version last year, but most people considered the version to be watered down and create other loopholes.
The sponsor is Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville.
Ross' Senate committee was scheduled to take up a different PAC ban bill on Thursday, but the committee did not meet because there were not enough members present for a quorum.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, sponsored that bill. He commended Ross for putting the bill on the agenda and said the committee rarely met under Lindsey’s leadership and his bills died in 2007 and 2008.
Ross said there was little chance of Senate bills passing at this point in the session, but it could happen.
Mary Lynn Bates, president of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, drove from Birmingham for the meeting and was disappointed the committee could not meet. She said she is a volunteer and it becomes difficult for people to come to Montgomery and participate in government if meetings fall through.
Bates said the league is a proponent of banning the transfer of money between PACs.
"It is more difficult for special interests to wield power behind the scenes," she said.
Orr said he supports McLaughlin’s bill, but said his own version "stops two holes" by not allowing campaign committees to transfer money between them.
Legislative leadership often receives large contributions from special interests and distributes the funds among members of their party.
"That concerns me greatly," Orr said of the McLaughlin bill not being assigned before Thursday.
Orr said most candidates campaigned on banning PAC to PAC transfers in 2006, but the Legislature is in its third year of the term and "nothing has been done."
"No bill is getting close to the point of passing," he said Thursday morning.
Orr said the situation is "reprehensible."
Smitherman said he has been a supporter of banning the transfer of money between political action committees since he was elected in 1994. He said he plans on voting for the bill if it comes up in the Senate.
Ross said the committee has been assigned a lot of bills, some of which need analysis. He said the committee has been meeting every two weeks, but might meet next week to try to take up legislation because time is dwindling in the session.
The members present in the committee on Thursday were Ross, Orr, Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, and Trip Pittman, R-Montrose.
Other members of the committee include Democrats Lowell Barron of Fyffe, Roger Bedford of Russellville, Zeb Little of Cullman, Myron Penn of Union Springs, Hank Sanders of Selma, and Smitherman; and Republican Ben Brooks of Mobile.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Feel Good Legislation Breaks Senate Logjam -- Briefly.

A bill that creates a statewide interagency council on autism halted a Senate logjam long enough to get passed.

Sponsored by state Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, the bill creates a council that will be responsible for developing a system of care for children in the state with autism.

Autism advocates rallied at the state house today in support of the bill, and another bill that would establish regional autism centers to provide support for children with autism and their parents.

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks

Smitherman will not run for Congress

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said he will not run for the congressional seat that will be open as U.S. Rep. Artur Davis runs for governor in 2010.
Smitherman made the announcement in a release on Thursday. In the statement, he said he wanted to make it evident his intentions were to help the state during the tough economic times and not to run for the 7th District congressional seat.
"The challenges facing our state are monumental," Smitherman said. "I accepted the position of president pro tem of the Senate with the pledge to help meet these challenges and solve our problems. With a faltering national economy, falling state revenues, and increasing needs among our people, I cannot divert my attention from the responsibilities I have assumed in the Alabama Senate."
Smitherman, who was elected to the Senate in 1994, was elected president pro tem by his colleagues in February. The senator is the second black lawmaker elected to the leadership position.
He said he was not ruling out a run for Congress or other leadership positions in the future. With one of his four children still in high school, Smitherman said family was also a consideration.
Other candidates who have announced include state Rep. Earl Hilliard Jr. of Birmingham and Birmingham attorney Terri Sewell, a Selma native. Other potential candidates, according to various state media outlets, include state Sen. Bobby Singleton of Greensboro and Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot.The district includes Birmingham, Selma, Tuscaloosa and much of the Black Belt.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lawmakers laying groundwork for new State House

Alabama lawmakers are considering a bill that would give the Legislative Building Authority the power to add to or connect to the current Capitol to create meeting space for themselves, and to sell bonds to do so.
The House Government Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the bill, which would also give other powers and property to the panel, on Wednesday. The authority includes three House and three Senate members who are responsible for the management and upkeep of State House property.
The chairman of the authority, Rep. Richard Laird, D-Roanoke, said they would obviously not move forward during these economic conditions, but would be "ready to pull the trigger in the future."
"We are getting the paving done so we can get down that road in the future," he said.
Laird and other legislators have said a new or renovated State House is needed because of the constant needs for repairs in the current facility and because the current building, which was opened in 1963 for the state highway department, is not situated for legislative business.
Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said the current State House does not have room for constituents who drive to Montgomery to get through the halls and to sit in on the committee meetings. Often, when controversial or popular issues are discussed, constituents and lobbyists spill out into the halls and cannot get into rooms to hear the debate.
Bedford, chairman of the General Fund budget committee in the Senate, said there has not been a final decision on a new State House. Laird has said he favors building close to the current facility for lawmakers and for people who visit.
Laird said the legislation would give the authority the ability to sell bonds to fund a building project.
"This bill would authorize the Legislative Building Authority to enter into contracts, transactions, statements of understanding, and other agreements with the state of Alabama or the Retirement Systems of Alabama, or both," the bill states.
The legislation has bipartisan support with sponsors including Laird, House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard of Auburn and state Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, who is chairman of the House General Fund budget committee.
Hubbard, who is also chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said the building has outlived its usefulness. He said there is mold and mildew and not space for the public.
"I don't think now is the time to do it, but there will be a time we have to do something," he said. "This economy will turn around. I don't think anybody thinks anybody is going to do anything anytime soon."
Hubbard said the bill would put the authority in a position to act when the economy turns around. He said he might not be in the Legislature when the authority acts.
He said he was in a committee meeting on Wednesday when people could not get in the room.
Lawmakers have discussed building a new State House behind the current Capitol or at the opposite end of Dexter Avenue. Local officials including former Mayor Bobby Bright were pushing for the Dexter Avenue location.
The bill would also allow the state to take control of parts of streets within the Capitol complex, according to the proposal. Those streets include Union Street between Washington and Monroe streets, which runs between the Capitol and the State House. Control of the city street would then be transferred to the state.
"This bill would provide for the vacation of certain portions of streets in the Capitol complex and the transfer of title and control to the state," the bill states.
The legislation would also transfer control of some parking lots in the Capitol complex to the authority including the one located south of the Capitol and between the State House and the Folsom Building.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Bright raises more than $320,000 for 2010

The campaign of freshman U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Montgomery, reported on Wednesday that he has raised more than $320,000 since the November election and is building his war chest for 2010.
Bright, in November, became the first Democrat in more than 40 years to win the District 2 seat in Congress.
Observers expect an expensive, hard-fought race in 2010 with Republicans seeking to regain the seat.
Bright, according to a release from his campaign, used some of the money to pay off campaign debt and is starting the cycle debt-free.
He said, in the statement, that he was concerned about representing District 2, but is pleased his campaign has raised money to prepare for a challenge.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

AARP, some legislators concerned bill would lead to higher phone rates

A committee in the Alabama Legislature moved a bill that would deregulate telephone service by AT&T one step away from passage on Wednesday.
The House Government Operations Committee, on a voice vote, approved the legislation with one dissenting vote. The Senate has passed the bill so the legislation will now be up for consideration by the full House.
State Rep. Jody Letson, D-Hillsboro, said he is concerned about removing phone service and land lines from under the control of the Public Service Commission. He said he feels more should be brought under regulation.
Letson said he has received a lot of e-mails and people are concerned that the companies will do away with land lines, especially in rural areas, or that the cost will become too expensive.
He is not alone. People representing the AARP oppose the bill, saying deregulation could lead to an increase in their costs.
Supporters of the bill said they believe competition will keep prices reasonable.
Hood Harris, spokesman for AT&T, said the bill is about fairness. He said other providers are not regulated by the PSC. He said the industry is losing land lines to mobile and Voice over Internet Protocol services that are unregulated. He said the measure, by allowing AT&T to compete, would help the company to keep more of its 7,500 employees in the state.
The company, he said, can then create a more modern and efficient network.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Knight rains on tea party

As he started a meeting to talk about the state's General Fund budget, the chairman of that committee railed on people he said were demagoguing against taxes during a rally at the Capitol.
Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, was talking about the tea party protesters who gathered in Montgomery and at hundreds of other locations throughout the nation.
"Without some help from somewhere, from above or Washington, this state would be in terrible shape," he said.
Knight, who said he walked through the audience and listened, said he understands people do not want to pay new taxes, but "it is unfortunate people demagogue on an issue like that in this state."
He said he was curious what those protesting would say if there were not state troopers on the road to protect people or if people could not get the proper medical care because their Medicaid was cut.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Attorneys criticize "Riley's Raiders," release video of raid

Attorneys for employees and clients of the gaming center in White Hall said Tuesday they believe the actions of a task force assembled by Gov. Bob Riley violated the civil and constitutional rights of their clients.
Attorney Jock Smith of The Cochran Firm, who was joined by about 30 clients, said the firm is investigating the March 19 raid to determine if there were violations, whether to pursue legal action and who they would pursue.
Smith talked about how law enforcement stormed into the building early that morning, pulled guns on people and confiscated their personal items. The attorneys also showed a video, which showed authorities pointing guns at some people and also showed officers forcibly leading around an employee of the White Hall Resort and Entertainment Center, which is about 20 miles west of Montgomery along U.S. 80.
None of the clients chose to talk to the media on Tuesday with one woman saying "it is too painful."
Smith said some of the people lost control of their bladder and one woman had her medication taken from her.
During the raid, the governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling confiscated 101 machines and more than $560,000 in cash. Riley and David Barber, commander of the task force, have said the goal is to take a test case before the Alabama Supreme Court to determine if the machines being played at White Hall are legal.
Riley and Barber believe the machines are illegal slot machines.
Smith said bingo is authorized in White Hall by an amendment to the Alabama constitution.
Barber said the raid was a successful tactical operation. He said nobody was injured.
"From what I know at this point, I wouldn't do anything different," Barber said.
He said experts acknowledged in court that the machines could be quickly modified with a change in the software in a backroom.
Smith questioned the need for the use of force.
Barber said three undercover officers were in the facility from about 3 a.m. until the raid started close to 6 a.m. Those officers identified three armed guards and those raiding the facility confiscated seven weapons, including an Intratec DC9 9 mm, known on the street as a Tec-9 that holds 35 to 40 rounds.
When raiding a location, Barber said they have to prepare for the worst and be prepared in case one of the armed guards "tried to play Rambo" and started firing.
Critics had also said the officers and agents came in with guns drawn. The video shows the men entering in large numbers, but without their guns drawn.
Barber said guns were pointed at people who were armed and refused to put their hands up. He also said those with guns and those behind counters where they could not be seen well were ordered to put their hands up.
Barber told stories of officers being fatally shot during incidents while he was district attorney in Jefferson County. Those officers did not have their guns drawn, he said. The prosecutor also referred to the recent shooting death of officers in Pittsburgh and Oakland.
"You have to err on the side of caution" to protect the officers and the public, Barber said.
The governor's office released a list of the weapons confiscated from security during the raid.
"Their first job was to make sure no one was hurt and they were not," Riley said at a morning press conference about another issue. He had not seen the video, but said he would not second-guess their actions with semi-automatic weapons on the premises.
The attorneys referred to the officers and agents as "Riley's Raiders."
Smith said the task force, if the intention was to get a ruling, could have sought a declaratory judgement from the court. He also said the task force could have contacted local authorities before the raid.
Barber said he wanted physical evidence including the machines and the server for his case. He said authorities do not call ahead in an investigation such as this one.
Nobody was arrested. Barber said people's information was recorded in the event it was needed.
Smith asked why no one was arrested if they are alleging illegal activity.
He said law enforcement did not identify themselves. Smith said there have been occasions of hold-ups with those robbing the place wearing uniforms.
Barber said he was not on the entry team, but said "they announced themselves verbally when they went in." Also, he said, uniformed state police and officers with the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board were posted at the doors.
Smith said White Hall was targeted when there were other operations in Alabama including Macon County and Greene County. He said the case appears to be selective prosecution and the raid occurred in the city that could least afford for the business to close and for 200 people to have their employment interrupted.
"You've got to start somewhere," Barber said.
Smith said his clients, who came to Montgomery on Tuesday by bus, were victims. He said having a gun pulled on a person could be traumatic. He also claimed there was assault and false imprisonment for detaining his clients against their will without cause.
"All of this could have been avoided had a different landscape been orchestrated by the task force," he said.
Smith said the raid was a "complete overreaching."
"I'm upset and disappointed these actions could take place in a civilized place," he said.
In talking about items being taken, Barber said the medication Smith alleged was taken could have been in a purse and it is standard operating procedure for officers to check bags and backpacks. He said he was certain the medication was returned.
A bill is currently pending before the Legislature that would authorize electronic bingo in several locations throughout the state including White Hall and Macon and Greene counties. The bill would also create a gaming commission to oversee the operations and tax them.
Smith said he was not concerned about the legality of the machines, but the treatment of the people there.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Segall to run for Congress again

Democrat Josh Segall of Montgomery has announced he will run for the 3rd Congressional District again in 2010, according to a release from the Alabama Democratic Party.
Segall lost to U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, in 2008. He raised almost $1 million and claimed over 46 percent of the vote with little help from national Democrats.
“It’s time for a new direction," Segall said in the statement. "I am a fiscal conservative who will work to create and attract 21st Century jobs to east Alabama so that hardworking people can get ahead.
“Alabama is suffering under irresponsible policies that bail out greedy executives who created this mess and leave hardworking Alabama families holding the bag. Rogers supported the Wall Street bailout, but did nothing for Main Street Alabama. He voted to send Alabama jobs overseas, when what we needed was a plan to create good jobs at home. It’s time to stand up to special interest politics and put Alabama families first once again."
District 3 includes portions of Montgomery and much of eastern Alabama.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Monday, April 13, 2009

Lawyer to talk about whether raid violated rights of patrons, employees

Attorney Jock Smith, who is with the Birmingham office of The Cochran Firm, has a press conference scheduled for Tuesday morning to talk about the recent raid on the gaming center in White Hall.
Smith will be joined by his clients, patrons and employees of the gaming facility, which was raided by the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling.
He will show a video of the raid and talk about "his efforts to explore whether the governor's task force violated the individual rights of employees and patrons of White Hall," according to a press release.
The task force, during the early-morning raid, confiscated more than 100 machines and more than $560,000 in cash, which a judge has since ordered returned.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Davis said Folsom on ticket gives him a boost

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, the Democrat who is running for governor in 2010, told the Montgomery Advertiser on Monday that Jim Folsom Jr. deciding to run for reelection as lieutenant governor helped the congressman's gubernatorial bid in several ways.
Davis, a Montgomery native, said Folsom has high name identification and good will toward him. He also said that if he had beat Folsom in a primary for governor, the popular lieutenant governor would be no where on the ticket.
He said he feels he would be in a stronger position with Folsom in the second slot on the Democratic side of the ticket.
"A ticket with Folsom in the second spot is helpful to me," Davis said.
The Birmingham congressman said he is not taking the Democratic vote, including the black vote, for granted.
Several political observers told the Montgomery Advertiser for a Sunday story that they see Davis as the Democratic frontrunner. Davis and some of those experts said they see two-year college system chancellor and former state Sen. Bradley Byrne as the Republican frontrunner. Byrne has not announced his candidacy, but many expect him to make that announcement in the coming weeks.
Davis said a year and a half of polling shows he can win. He said he has been ahead of, tied with or within the margin of error of other candidates in nine polls.
When asked about Democratic players looking for another candidate after Folsom said he was not running for governor, Davis said "they know we've done well in the polls." He said some of the people are concerned he would be a more independent governor who might not give the same preferential treatment to Democratic power players if he was elected.
Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks has announced he is running for governor. Greenville businessman Tim James is the only Republican who has formally announced he is running.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Friday, April 10, 2009

Congressman Bright in Town

Freshman Congressman Bobby Bright is making the rounds in District 2 during his spring recess from his duties in Washington, D.C. He's been one to watch among his class for his independent streak. He's shown that independence by voting against several key pieces of legislation this year that the majority of his party favored.
Don't know if he'll add anything to what his colleague across the aisle and next door in District 3 had to say about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi earlier this week, but if the South Union Street bloggers aren't there, and you are, let us know what he says.

Saturday, April 11
8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

Volunteering at the Evangel Temple Food Bank

3975 Vaughn Road


Monday, April 13

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Dothan Rotary Club

Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center

795 Ross Clark Circle


Tuesday, April 14

7:30 – 8:30 a.m.

Meet and Greet at Dusty’s Diner

75 Lightwood Road


11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

Wetumpka Civic Center

410 South Main Street


Wednesday, April 15

8:00 – 9:30 a.m.

Meet and Greet at Montgomery Farmers Market Café

315 N. McDonough Street


1:45 – 1:00 p.m.

Prattville Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

Catfish House

3011 Cobbs Ford Road


Friday, April 17

8:00 – 9:00 a.m.

Covington County Law Enforcement Pistol Competition

Opp Police Department Firing Range


Saturday, April 18

9:00 – 10:30 a.m.

Volunteering at the Spirit in Service Day at the Dothan Library

Houston Love Memorial Library

212 W Burdeshaw St


1:30 – 2:30 p.m.

Attend Castleberry Strawberry Festival

Downtown Castleberry

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks

Hubbard not running for governor, likely to run again for House seat

The chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, State Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn, said he has decided against running for governor in 2010 and has left his options open for lieutenant governor, but will likely run for reelection in his current House seat.
"I have pretty much decided now is not the time for me to run statewide," he said Friday. "I feel an obligation to folks I have talked to about Campaign 2010."
Hubbard has led the charge on Campaign 2010, a program that has raised millions aimed at taking control of the Legislature from Democrats in 2010.
Republican Gov. Bob Riley has said the Republicans will take control if they can raise $7 million.
Hubbard, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1998, said he considered a run for governor but "people do not understand what a financial sacrifice it is to be governor."
"I’m still keeping my options open. I am considering lieutenant governor, but I am leaning toward staying in the House and looking to take over the Legislature, the House and the Senate, in my role as minority leader and party chair," he said.
Hubbard said there are a number of factors, "not the least of which is family." He said his sons would be 15 and 10 at that time.
"There’s plenty of time. Timing is everything. Now may not be the time for me to run statewide," Hubbard said. " … I’m away a lot as it is. Running statewide is tough as it is, but trying to take over the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction is not going to be an easy task."
State Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, told the Montgomery Advertiser on Thursday that "we’re working in that direction" when asked about running for lieutenant governor. He would not be more specific, but he has an announcement about his future political plans on April 19 in Pelham.
Erwin, who is considered one of the more conservative members of the Alabama Senate, represents all or part of Shelby, Bibb, Jefferson and Chilton counties. He is in his second term in the Senate.
Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., a Democrat, has announced he will run for reelection.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Republicans say Davis a latecomer on his ethics plan

After gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, rolled out his ethics plan on Thursday, Republicans criticized him on Friday as a latecomer who is proposing ideas that have already been introduced by Republicans.
"Gov. (Bob) Riley and House/Senate Republicans have waged a war on corruption long before Congressman Davis decided to run for governor in 2010, but Democrats, like Davis, have not joined the effort," according to a statement released by Alabama Republican Party spokesman Philip Bryan.
If Davis was concerned about ethics reform, the statement said he should encourage his fellow Democrats to allow the Republican ethics bills to pass. Without that encouragement, the Republicans accused him of being more worried about getting elected than ending corruption.
“Thankfully, Gov. Bob Riley and Republicans in the Legislature have already proposed substantive anti-corruption legislation, and we encourage the congressman to insist that the Democrat majority do the right thing by allowing our bills to pass," said Mike Hubbard, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and a state representative from Auburn. "The war on corruption has many enemies, but Republicans are committed to the fight and we are determined to restore the public’s trust in government. Unfortunately, Democrats will not allow our anti-corruption bills to pass – therefore a Republican majority is the only way for true ethics reform to become a reality in Alabama.”Davis' campaign quickly responded with its own statement.
"The plan that Congressman Davis proposed yesterday is stronger and more comprehensive than any previous attempts at ethics reform in Alabama history," Davis spokeswoman Anna Ruth Williams said in the statement. "Furthermore, it is tougher than any measure proposed by either Republicans or Democrats. Davis recognizes that passing ethics reform should be a bi-partisan enterprise and looks forward to working with any legislators who want to clean up state government in Alabama."
Davis told the Montgomery Advertiser on Thursday that some portions of his proposal, such as banning the transfer of money between political action committees, had been proposed before, but his plan goes further and includes new initiatives, such as requiring a public official who is indicted on state ethics charges or federal corruption charges to vacate their office.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Thursday, April 9, 2009

State senator considering run for lieutenant governor

When asked about running for lieutenant governor on Thursday, State Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, said "we’re working in that direction." He said people would know about his plans for 2010 in about a week, but that he has no announcement planned.
The senator said he has been praying and thinking about the decision.
"That’s about all I can tell you right now," he said.
On his Facebook page, Erwin wrote that he is "alerting everyone that I will make a big political announcement on Sunday, April 19th. Pray."
Erwin, who is considered one of the more conservative members of the Alabama Senate, represents all or part of Shelby, Bibb, Jefferson and Chilton counties. He is in his second term in the Senate.
State Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said he is preparing for a Senate run if Erwin does run for lieutenant governor. He represents Bibb County and the same portion of Shelby County as Erwin.
"If he announces that he is running (for lieutenant governor), then yes I will be a candidate for his Senate seat," Ward said.
Ward said he has been talking to business and conservative groups to let them know of his intentions. He said he has talked to Erwin, "but he did not indicate what he will do."
"The only person who can make that decision is him," Ward said.
Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., a Democrat, has announced he will run for reelection.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen