The Montgomery Advertiser newspaper's blog on all things related to Alabama politics and state government, featuring the writings of Sebastian Kitchen and Markeshia Ricks
Friday, May 29, 2009
Davis, Riley Press Release Feud Continues
Gov. Bob Riley's Director of Communications Jeff Emerson sent SUS the following e-mail:
I got a copy of the response put out by Congressman Davis. Below are, once again, my comments on these statements.
Davis (via spokesman Alex Goepfert): "Unfortunately, the Riley administration has decided to turn a request for help into a partisan campaign offensive"
Emerson: A request for help? If you really want to request help, you call. You don’t send out a press release. This isn’t a request for help. It’s obviously a bad publicity stunt. And how do we know? We know because the first the Governor’s office heard about this so-called ‘request for help’ is when four different reporters called asking for a response.
Davis: "Once again, the congressman renews his invitation to ADECA and the Alabama Department of Transportation…”
Emerson: If he wants to invite folks to a meeting, why didn’t he send an invitation? He didn’t. He sent out a campaign press release.
Davis: " Regretfully, instead of accepting Congressman Davis' invitation…”
Emerson: Again, he has never issued such an invitation. A press release is not a real invitation. Just like a press release is also not a letter to the Governor.
Davis: "While it may be news to the governor's office, Congressman Davis and his staff regularly receive concerns from community leaders around the Black Belt about the flow of stimulus dollars. In addition, these leaders have complained that some of the poorest, most distressed counties in Alabama are lagging behind in receiving federal stimulus dollars.”
Emerson: Then again, the congressman needs to scoot on down to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. because the Obama Administration has paid out less than 6 percent of the stimulus money to states.
Davis: "Finally, Congressman Davis and Governor Riley have a strong disagreement on the governor's refusal to accept federal funds to extend unemployment benefits to part-time workers…”
Emerson: And once again, the congressman is not being truthful when he says this. It is not and never has been up to Governor Riley to “accept” or “reject” these funds. The law Congressman Davis voted for but never read makes Alabama ineligible for this money. In order for Alabama to receive it, the state Legislature has to change the law and so far, they have not. Until they do, Alabama can’t receive this part of the stimulus.
Alex Goepfert, a spokesman for U. S. Rep. Artur Davis' congressional office, issued the following statement this Friday afternoon in response to attacks launched by the governor’s office:
“Unfortunately, the Riley administration has decided to turn a request for help into a partisan campaign offensive and a personal attack. Regretfully, instead of accepting Congressman Davis’ invitation to meet with community leaders and elected officials in the 7th District to hear firsthand their concerns about the stimulus, the governor’s office has resorted to political attacks.
“While it may be news to the governor’s office, Congressman Davis and his staff regularly receive concerns from community leaders around the Black Belt about the flow of stimulus dollars. In addition, these leaders have complained that some of the poorest, most distressed counties in Alabama are lagging behind in receiving federal stimulus dollars. Various news organizations have recounted these concerns during the past several months.
“Once again, the congressman renews his invitation to ADECA and the Alabama Department of Transportation to come to Selma, Alabama on Monday, June 22nd to experience for themselves the frustrations that the congressman heard personally as recently as this morning in Wilcox County, where he met with county commissioners regarding their deep concerns about Alabama’s execution of the stimulus package.
“Finally, Congressman Davis and Governor Riley have a strong disagreement on the governor’s refusal to accept federal funds to extend unemployment benefits to part-time workers. Rather than revisit this philosophical difference between the congressman and the governor, we hope that the governor will recognize the seriousness of the concerns raised in Congressman Davis’ letter and will work with our office to produce a better, more effective process. "
Gov. Bob Riley’s office is firing back at U.S. Rep. Artur Davis over a letter that he sent today about the state's administration of stimulus funding.
In a press release from the office, Riley's office accused Davis, who is running for governor, of not knowing much about the federal stimulus bill Davis voted for, on not being aware that Alabama is ahead of federal requirements on transparency, on not being aware of transportation projects being funded in his district and for being too busy playing politics to call the governor to express concerns.
Riley’s Communications Director Jeff Emerson issued the following statement in response to a letter to the governor that Davis released to the media:
“This is obviously more about the congressman’s campaign for governor than anything else. His own poll numbers revealed that after running for governor for more than a year, he was barely ahead of a candidate who hadn’t even announced yet. Plus, the fact that he issued this “letter” as a press release before he actually sent Governor Riley a letter is further proof that this is just a campaign gimmick. There’s no basis for his complaints. None. Not only has Alabama reported every stimulus dollar it has received, we have done it before Congress requires us to. The stimulus law Congressman Davis voted for but did not read doesn’t require states to report spending on stimulus dollars until Oct. 10. Alabama is already complying with every reporting requirement and is already reporting how it is spending stimulus dollars. If the congressman believes stimulus money is not flowing to people quickly enough, he needs to scoot on down to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and complain about that. It’s been three months since the law was signed and the Obama Administration has paid out less than 6 percent of the money to the states. Officials from the Riley Administration have previously met with Congressman Davis’s staff to discuss stimulus dollars. They raised none of these concerns at the time. He’s apparently not paying attention to the transportation projects being funded in his district. Just today, the Alabama Department of Transportation is accepting bids for projects in Wilcox, Sumter, Marengo, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties totaling up to $11.6 million. In addition, the Alabama Department of Transportation has submitted and approved stimulus road projects in every single county in the congressman’s district. All this information is available online and has been for some time. The congressman states something else in his press release that he knows is absolutely not true. Governor Riley did not “reject” stimulus dollars. The law Congressman Davis voted for but did not read makes Alabama ineligible to receive these dollars under our current state law. Maybe he should’ve offered an amendment to make Alabama eligible, but he didn’t. Since the Legislature did not pass a bill to make Alabama eligible for this money, our state can’t receive it. It is not up to Governor Riley. Anytime the congressman wants to really discuss an issue – instead of pulling a campaign publicity stunt – he knows all he has to do is call Governor Riley.”
State Rep. Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, announced Monday the creation of the Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Task Force. The tas force was possible thanks to actions taken on the last day of the 2009 legislative session.
"The CKD Task Force will assess the current and future impact of CKD on Alabama residents by examining the depth and breadth of kidney disease to develop appropriate state-wide strategies for the effective treatment and prevention of CKD," Wren said in a press release.
"Alabama has almost 400,000 people with chronic kidney disease with 7,000 Alabamians requiring dialysis treatments," state Health Officer Donald Williamson said in the release. "This task force brings together individuals to address all phases of the problem from access to care to the need for transportation for dialysis patients. The Department of Public Health looks forward to being an active participant in the CKD Task Force."
The CKD Task Force will be consist of those who provide care and support for patients and their family members. Included on the Task Force will be nephrologists, Williamson, nephrology nurses and social workers, patient advocacy groups, legislators, the state departments of human resources and senior services, the National Kidney Foundation Serving Alabama, and the Alabama Kidney Foundation.
"I look forward to convening the initial meeting of the Chronic Kidney Disease Task Force by mid-summer. Building a comprehensive and coordinated chronic kidney disease strategy will provide opportunities for dialysis patient care, education of Alabama’s residents, and transportation services for our citizens battling kidney disease and dialysis," Wren said.
Davis Questions State's Administration of Federal Stimulus Money
Alabama congressman and gubernatorial hopeful U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, said his constituents are contacting his office with concerns about the state's administration of funds that it has received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Below is the full text of a letter that he has sent to the governor today.
May 29, 2009
Dear Governor Riley,
I write regarding concerns that my constituents have raised with the state’s administration of funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
As you know, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or “stimulus act,” is having a tangible impact on families all over the state of Alabama. These funds spared the jobs of over three thousand teachers, extended health insurance for thousands of newly unemployed workers, and provided tax cuts for over 97% of Alabamians (without raising taxes on anyone). The state’s general fund budget received over $1 billion from the recovery act, an event that singlehandedly spared Medicaid from intolerable reductions in services.
Despite these enormous benefits, my office has unfortunately received too many complaints regarding our state government’s administration of recovery funds that are targeted at infrastructure and community development. The consistent refrain from numerous business owners, local government leaders and community groups is that there is too little transparency in the process; they complain that not enough information has been provided regarding the process for competing for stimulus dollars or the method the state uses for evaluating projects for funding. There is another constant theme—that some of the most distressed counties in the state, including two counties with eighteen percent plus unemployment, Dallas and Wilcox, have received almost no stimulus infrastructure funds.
Congress made the decision to give state governments--and not members of the US House or Senate-- exclusive authority over how stimulus dollars would be processed. I suggest that it is time for a serious reevaluation of Alabama’s process for distributing these funds, with an eye toward clarifying the decision-making process and accelerating the speed at which stimulus dollars reach some of the most underserved areas in Alabama. I also propose that you send representatives of ADECA and the Department of Transportation to a meeting of community leaders from my district that I will convene to discuss the progress of the stimulus on June 22nd. While we have disagreed over some aspects of the stimulus plan, notably your decision to reject $99 million in federal relief for unemployed workers, the timely and transparent distribution of recovery act dollars is a goal that I believe we share. Our mutual constituents deserve to receive the benefit of a commitment that the President and Congress made to all Americans. Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss this issue further.
Bright, Strange campaign manager starts consulting group
The man who successfully managed the campaigns of Bobby Bright and Todd Strange has formed his own campaign consulting group. David Mowery of Montgomery announced the formation of the Mowery Consulting Group LLC on Thursday. He opened the full-service campaign consulting group with New Media Director Patrick Cagle. Mowery managed Bright's campaign as the former Montgomery mayor became the first Democrat elected to represent the 2nd Congressional District since the 1960s. Chris Cillizza, political writer for The Washington Post and author of the blog The Fix, named the Bright campaign one of the top House campaigns of the year. Mowery was then tapped to manage the mayoral campaign for Strange, who was then the chairman of the Montgomery County Commission. Strange is a Republican, although candidates for municipal office in Montgomery do not have to declare a party affiliation. He beat out a field of six candidates without a runoff. Mowery has also worked on campaigns for Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr., former Gov. Don Siegelman, and Mobile Mayor Sam Jones. In a release, Mowery said he would focus on "The 3 M's of Politics" -- money, message and media. "I saw a need in the consulting sphere for people who understand campaigns from all levels," Mowery said. "I have a proven ability to not only raise money, but to show candidates how to spend that money in the most effective manner, and to win races." As a fundraiser, Mowery has worked with his candidates to net more than $5 million since 2004. Cagle will run the new media and web development division. He held the same position with the Bright and Strange campaigns. The group will be headquartered in downtown Montgomery. The Web site is http://www.moweryconsulting.com/.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb said Thursday she has received encouragement from people who want her to remain head of the state's judicial system and those who want her to run for governor in 2010. She did say in a statement that she believes she has the "knowledge, the experience and the leadership abilities to do a good job as governor."
"At this point, I'm not ready to make a decision, and it is too important, not only for my family and me, but more significantly for the state I serve, to make it in haste," she said in the statement released Thursday morning.
Cobb, a Democrat, has been speculated as a candidate in recent weeks. Her name surfaced after Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. said he would run for reelection for his current position and not for governor.
The chief justice does oversee the state's judicial system and its 2,600 employees. She has worked her way up the judicial system for 30 years and said she has been able to work on issues like juvenile justice.
"As governor, however, I could do even more to help Alabama's children, by working to end child abuse and neglect and to change the priorities in Montgomery so that we focus on creating jobs and improving our schools," she said. "Right now, I am not certain that the needs of the next generation always come before concerns of the next election."
Cobb said she is interested in the answers to two vital questions: "what strengths do we have today?" and "what do we want Alabama to become tomorrow?"
"Unfortunately, I have yet to hear them even asked by any candidate," she said. " ... The next governor must seek those answers, while facing a tough economy, shrinking budgets and a political atmosphere in Montgomery that doesn't exactly breed compromise. It will require putting service to the people ahead of allegiance to one party or to the interest groups that fund political campaigns. Easier said than done, I know. But it is more critical right now than perhaps at any time in our state's history."
Cobb said she has the knowledge and experience, but she also knows the "application process can be very tough."
"Alabama politics is not for the faint of heart," she said. "Running a campaign, even a winning campaign, means losing cherished time with the people I love. So as I go forward with this decision, my eyes are open, even if my heart remains unsettled."
The chief justice said she would seek advice from her family and from people throughout the state.
State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said the Alabama Community College Chancellor Bradley Byrne should resign if he wants to run for the governor's seat.
"I want Chancellor Bradley Byrne to set an example," said Bedford, who was mulling over his own run at the governor's office, but decided against it. "I hope he will set a good example and resign immediately." Beford said being the chancellor of the two-year college system is a full time job that pays Byrne hundreds of thousands of dollars. He said if Byrne doesn't step down as chancellor immediately and runs for governor while he's chancellor he would be a "double dipper." The chancellor said in his resignation letter to the state Board of Education that he would stay on as chancellor until Aug. 31 at the most to give the board a chance to look for his replacement.
Byrne, a former state Board of Education member and former state senator, announced his intentions to run for governor in Montgomery, just a few hours ahead of the press conference where Bedford made these remarks Wednesday.
Bedford might get his wish. The state Board of Education will meet Thursday, and Byrne's resignation is on the preliminary agenda as an action item.
Leaders of the Senate Democratic Caucus called a press conference Wednesday to highlight what they say was a successful 2009 session for Senate Democrats.
Senate Pro Tem Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, and Senators Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, and Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said aside from a few bills that were killed by Republican opposition, they accomplished their 2009 agenda.
The senators enumerated initiatives promised and passed, which included:
Passing an education budget that prevented teacher layoffs
Expanding the state children's health insurance program (SCHIP) to cover 14,000 more children and 5,000 women with maternity care
Creating a mortgage guarantee fund to offset losses by investors who hold foreclosed Alabama mortgages to help first time buyers
Giving state chartered banks or banks with headquarters in Alabama a priority for state government deposits
Increasing the number of days from 90 to 180 days of protection from foreclosure for the families of military personnel killed on active duty
Mandating that all loan originators be licensed by the state, pass 20 hours of pre-licensing education, pass a test covering ethics and have no criminal record
Making mortgage fraud a Class C felony
Passing a resolution asking Congress to adopt credit card reforms
Prohibiting sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of an Alabama college or university
Making it a crime to use a computer or electronic means to solicit a child
Preventing serial killers, death row inmates and convicted felons from profiting from the writings and art work they create
Requiring sex offenders to provide an address of where they will live before they are released from prison
Providing increased protection to corrections officers who might be attacked while on duty.
The caucus leaders said the bills that didn't pass in 2009 -- removing the state sales tax on groceries, expanding unemployment benefits and investing $1 billion into highway construction -- will be back on the agenda for 2010. They said the political pressure of 2010 election cycle will be enough to get the votes they need to pass those bills. There will be three new senators in the chamber in 2010, and the caucus leaders are confident they will be Democrats.
"We lost each of those initiatives by one single vote," said Smitherman. "Next year is an election year, and it will be hard for any of the opposition to be against jobs, working families and tax cuts. I think we can get the votes we need."
The senators said ethics reform is not on their list of agenda items because that's not what the people have been clamouring for, but they do believe it's important.
Two-year college system Chancellor Bradley Byrne launched his campaign for governor on Wednesday with stops in Alabama's major cities including Montgomery. He vowed to boost ethics reform, education and economic development. "I will not back down," he said. The Republican lauded his experience as chancellor, as a state senator and as a member of the State Board of Education. Byrne was joined by his wife, his four children and about 50 supporters on the Capitol steps in Montgomery. He repeatedly applauded Gov. Bob Riley, but said he wanted to continue his work to reform Alabama. Byrne submitted his resignation to the State Board of Education, who selected him as chancellor two years ago, last week. He wrote in his resignation letter that he would resign no later than Aug. 31, but said he did not expect to still be chancellor on Monday. Byrne said after he was inaugurated in 2011 he would call lawmakers into a special session to address ethics reform, including banning the practice of transferring money between political action committees, not reporting gifts to lawmakers, capping gifts to public officials, and stopping doubling dipping, a practice that allows state legislators to hold another government job. As chancellor, Byrne tried to force legislators who also worked in two-year system to decide between the two entities.
State Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, said early in this four-year term that he would not run for reelection in 2010 and said he hoped saying so early would deter him from seeking another term. His effort did not work. "I am going to run again," he told the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday. Gipson, who was at two-year college system Chancellor Bradley Byrne's announcement he was running for governor, said he wanted to serve four years with a governor who knows the legislative system. Byrne is a former Republican state senator. The lawmaker also said he agrees with Byrne's focus on education, economic development and ethics reform. Gipson, who represents Autauga and Elmore counties, also said the next four-year term will be important because lawmakers will redraw the districts for offices including legislative seats. He said he was new during the last redistricting and he believes experience is needed during the process. Gipson said he hopes to help mend those counties to where they are not "quite as chopped up." He admitted saying he would not run again, but said he has been encouraged by friends and colleagues to run again in 2010. Gipson runs tire and auto repair stores in Prattville and Millbrook.
Gov. Bob Riley signed a bill on Tuesday that economic development officials believe will attract more industry to the state. The Legislature passed the bill during its most recent session. Riley and lawmakers have said they believe Alabama has done well in recruiting industrial jobs, but needed more incentives for research and development facilities, companies exploring "green jobs," company headquarters and other higher-paying white collar jobs. "It retools our economic development strategy and lays the foundation to move us forward and come out of this recession stronger than before," Riley said in a statement. Alabama is competing to bring about 7,000 jobs in those industries to the state, according to the governor's office. "Without this change in our incentives law we were fighting for these projects with one hand tied behind our back,” Riley said. "Now, with this change, we'll be competing with other states on a level playing field."
-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen photo provided by the office of Gov. Bob Riley
The gubernatorial campaign of Republican Tim James has named Steve Pelham of Montgomery as the campaign manager. Pelham is a veteran political operative in the state, according to the campaign, and was an appointee in the Bush administration, most recently as state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Office. "Steve Pelham has extensive campaign and management experience in Alabama, as well as a record of winning campaigns. He's a great addition to our team," James said in a statement. Pelham served eight years with the USDA, including a brief time as director of legislative and public affairs, and worked for seven years as state director for former U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth. He has 20 years of experience in state and federal politics including his work for John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008, George W. Bush in 2004 and on the advance team for former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Pelham also managed Everett's campaigns between 1992 and 2000. James, a Greenville businessman and son of former two-term Gov. Fob James, was the first candidate to enter the 2010 race for governor. He loaned his campaign $2 million and has hired staff to prepare for the 2010 cycle. Candidates can begin to raise money in June.
Cavanaugh resigns from administration due to family reasons
Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, a high-profile appointee of Gov. Bob Riley, resigned from her position in the Alabama Department of Finance due to family reasons. "She will be taking care of not only her own family, but also the children of her best friend who recently passed away," said Gina Smith, public affairs director for the finance department. She said Cavanaugh's last day was May 15. Cavanaugh was in her third political appointment with the Riley administration. Her most recent appointment drew some criticism because she started an $80,000 a year job the day Riley announced a statewide hiring freeze. Smith said at the time that her hiring had been in the works for weeks. In December, Cavanaugh was named special assistant to the finance director for corporate affairs and Smith said she would help attend the meetings of the approximately 40 boards and commissions that the finance director serves on by virtue of his position. Cavanaugh first served as deputy chief of staff for Riley before leaving to serve as chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party from 2005 to 2007. She returned as senior adviser to the governor before leaving in early 2008 to run for president of the Public Service Commission, losing a tight race in November to Democrat Lucy Baxley.
Gov. Bob Riley should be getting a bit of writer's cramp by today. He's been signing bills left and right this week and the Friday of the long Memorial Day Weekend was no exception. Here's a summary of where Riley's been putting his John Hancock:
Hops are free: Riley signed a bill that allows the sale of beers with higher alcohol content.
Plane Truth Act: requires all future governors to post records on state aircraft use.
Signed two laws that 1) ensures that adults can be prosecuted for using computers to solicit children for sex, even if the person they are communicating with is not a child, but a law enforcement officer posing as a child as part of a sting operation, and 2) requires local law enforcement agencies to verify the physical address where an adult criminal sex offender intends to reside upon release from prison. The new law also prohibits sex offenders who don’t provide a proper physical address from early release.
Ofc. Keith Houts Act: bill criminalizes eluding an officer.
Signed a bill that sets experience requirements for judges.
Signed a bill that restricts sex offenders from living within a certain distance of college and university campuses.
Signed a bill aimed at making it easier for children of military personnel to transfer to new schools when their parents get new assignments.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Montgomery, will be in District 2 this weekend to attend Memorial Day events and to meet with constituents. Bright will also be attending events this weekend to honor veterans and their service to their country.
The congressman’s public schedule is below:
Saturday, May 23 10:00 – 10:30 A.M. - Veterans Memorial Day Service 505 East Three Notch Street Andalusia, Alabama
10:45 – 11:45 A.M. - Town Hall Meeting on Social Security Andalusia Adult Senior Center 420 Church Street Andalusia, Alabama
Alabaster City Councilman Jim McClain has announced he will run for the seat in the Alabama House of Representatives that is currently held by Rep. Cam Ward, who has said he will run for the state Senate in 2010. "My experience as a council member has been one of offering solutions to problems and responding to the needs of my constituents," said McClain, the president of the council, in a statement. "I will have big shoes to fill in replacing Cam Ward who’s been a tireless advocate for District 49." District 49 includes part of Shelby and Bibb counties. "I'll spend a lot of time getting to know folks in Shelby County and Bibb County and listening to their concerns," McClain said. McClain is co-owner of SMMS, Inc. in Alabaster. He has been married to Bonnie McClain for 29 years and they have four sons, Robbie, Cory, Jamie and Colby. Ward, R-Alabaster, said he will run for the Senate seat that will be open with Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, running for lieutenant governor.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Montgomery, will host a health care summit on May 28th at Troy University’s Dothan Campus. The summit will feature leaders in the health care industry from across Alabama.
The summit will address health care proposals in Congress and their impact on Alabama and the nation. Members of the public and the media are invited to attend. For more information or to register, please contact Bess Ginty at (202) 225-2901 or Bess.Ginty@mail.house.gov.
WHAT: Health Care Summit Hosted by Congressman Bobby Bright
WHEN: Thursday, May 28 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (central time)
WHERE: Troy University- Dothan Campus Sony Hall 500 University Dr. Dothan, AL
TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF EVENTS AND SPEAKERS:
1:00 – 1:15 p.m. Introduction by Congressman Bobby Bright and Discussion of the Path for Health Care Reform in the 111th Congress
1:15 – 1:40 p.m. Overview of Health in Alabama by Dr. Donald E. Williamson, Director of the Alabama Department of Public Health
1:45 – 2:45 p.m. First Panel Discussion, How Health Care Reform Will Deliver Coverage to Those That Need It Joan Carter, Director, Alabama AARP Cathy Caldwell, Director, Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance Frances Kennamer, Director, Bureau of Professional & Support Services to represent Minority and Rural Health
3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Second Panel Discussion, How Health Care Reform Will Impact Health Service Providers Dr. Jorge Alsip, President, Medical Association of the State of Alabama Michael Horsley, President and CEO, Alabama Hospital Association Mary Hayes Finch, Executive Director, Alabama Primary Health Care Association (Community Health Centers)
4:00 – 4:45 p.m. Third Panel Discussion, the Importance of Health Care to Employment, and the Economic Future of Alabama Representative from Business Council of Alabama David Parsons, Senior Partner, Parsons Group, LLC Todd Skaggs, Vice President, Laws and Legislation, Alabama Association of
4:45 – 5:00 p.m. Closing Remarks by U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright
Clerk of the House Greg Pappas says the statehouse is still recovering from damage done by the Great Flood of 2009.
Pappas said ServPro is still working to get all of the water out of the building and will eventually hose the basement and the first floor, which sustained the most water damage, with chemicals to prevent the growth of mold.
"As far as refurbishing those floors, there is still no decision," Pappas said.
The majority of folks who worked in the basement of the building were moved to the second floor, which most statehouse visitors know as the main floor of the building, and the fourth floor.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, will be in Montgomery for an "Eggs and Issues" breakfast and a "Congress on Your Corner" event on May 26. The eggs and issues will be at 7:30 a.m. at the RSA Activity Center, 201 Dexter Ave. and the Congress on Your Corner event will be at 9:30 a.m. at NNT Wireless, 1621 Perry Hill Road.
Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby said she will be a candidate for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2010. The Republican said Wednesday that she has filed her paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to organize a campaign, which allows her to begin raising money. "Having talked to local, state and national people, we're strongly encouraged by the response we have received," she told the Montgomery Advertiser. Roby, who is in her second term on the council, could face the man who was the city's chief executive during most of her time as a city official, freshman U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright. Bright, the former Montgomery mayor, became the first Democrat elected to the 2nd District since the 1960s. "Congressman Bright is focused on continuing to be a strong independent voice in Congress and being open and accessible to his constituents in the 2nd District of Alabama," Bright's communications director, Lewis Lowe, wrote in an e-mail Wednesday evening. "There will be a time and a place for politics, and when that time comes Congressman Bright welcomes a debate on the issues." Bright defeated state Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, in November by less than 1,800 votes. Love beat a crowded field of five other Republicans to win the nomination. He said Wednesday he has not made a decision, but is leaning toward running for reelection to the Alabama House of Representatives. "I am going to wait until the fall until I make my final decision," Love said. "I'm leaning toward running for my House seat again, but I have not closed the door on anything." Roby, 32, said she has talked to friends, voters and others about the type of leadership they want in the district. She said she and her husband Riley are grateful for the encouragement they have received and she would be honored to represent the district, which runs from Autauga and Elmore counties down to the Florida line. When asked if she had concerns with the current leadership in the district, Roby said "there will be a time to talk about the issues, but right now we are focused on building a winning team and meeting as many voters as we possibly can." Roby, who was reelected to the council overwhelmingly in 2007, said she started talking about running for the congressional seat in late 2008 and "started seriously considering it back in February of this year." She expects to win and said fundraising will be one of the key issues in the race. Through his last report at the end of March, Bright had almost $172,000 on hand after paying off his campaign debt. The vast majority of money Bright has received in recent months has come from political action committees. Roby, a lawyer, said she would formally launch her campaign at a later date. "For the past six years on the Montgomery City Council, I've used common-sense leadership and conservative Alabama values to guide my decision making, and in Congress I will continue to apply those same principles when seeking solutions to get this country back on track," she said in a statement issued by her campaign on Wednesday. "This election is about the hardworking people that want to live, work and raise a family here in central and southeast Alabama. "I will continue to listen to these voters in the coming months as we work to build a grassroots campaign based on the leadership that Alabama families are calling for in Washington." The Montgomery native is married with two children, the youngest born in February.
Bright and Rogers Team Up to Ask Obama to Expedite Disaster Declaration
U.S Reps. Bobby Bright and Mike Rogers sent a joint letter to President Barack Obama requesting quick approval for a major disaster declaration for the State of Alabama. Gov. Bob Riley made the request on May 18.
The letter comes on the heels of severe storms which ravaged parts of Alabama May 6-8. Riley requested individual assistance for Autauga, Elmore and Montgomery counties and a major disaster declaration for public assistance for Autauga, Bullock, Elmore and Montgomery Counties.
"These storms took a devastating toll on the affected counties, including the tragic loss of life. The federal assistance requested would greatly aid the State as it recovers from this disaster," according to the letter.
“These floods devastated parts of Alabama, causing pain and loss for so many people,” Rogers said, in a statement. “I appreciate President Obama’s attention to this matter and hope he will approve this request quickly so that our first responders and local citizens will see some much-needed relief,”
“I would like to commend Governor Riley and his staff for their swift action in determining the need for a federal disaster declaration for Autauga, Bullock, Elmore, and Montgomery Counties,” Bright said, in a statement. “The River Region saw significant damage from the recent storms and federal assistance will go a long way in helping our citizens and communities recover. I urge the President to heed the Governor’s request and quickly declare these counties eligible for federal assistance.”
The letter was signed by both congressmen and sent on Wednesday.
Tim James Announces 8 Regional Directors for Gubernatorial Campaign
Tim James announced Wednesday that he is completing his campaign's grassroots leadership with eight regional directors who will be responsible for covering all of Alabama for his gubernatorial race.
"We have been fortunate to have outstanding community and political leaders from throughout Alabama," James said, in a press release. "They provide a depth of experience and support to our campaign that give us a strong head-start in this marathon race toward the June 2010 primary."
The eight regional directors are:
Bill Armistead, Metro Birmingham Region: Business executive, former State Senator from Shelby-Jefferson Counties, and Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2002.
Chuck Carver, Montgomery Region: Former CEO of two Montgomery-based manufacturers. Key adviser to Todd Strange for Mayor campaign. Worldwide business consultant on corporate turnarounds and logistics.
Alan Clark, Wiregrass Region: CEO of multi-national company based in Dothan and former chair of the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce.
Braxton Counts, Mobile Region: Mobile attorney and civic leader. Formerly on the Washington, D.C. staff of Congressman Sonny Callahan.
Cooper James, East Alabama Region: Opelika business executive and community leader, including former President of the Opelika Kiwanis Club.
Stan McDonald, Tennessee Valley Region: Huntsville area attorney and business owner. Former State Revenue Commissioner and Republican activist.
Lowell Moore, Northwest Alabama Region: Longtime ironworker and Franklin County Republican committee member since 1957, serving as county coordinator for Gov. Bob Riley's campaigns and former Gov. Fob James's 1998 campaign.
Bob Wills, Baldwin Region: Baldwin County attorney and civic leader, including serving as trustee of the Baldwin County Board of Education.
Upcoming Speaking Schedule Tim James is speaking to civic groups and Republican clubs across Alabama. Here's his schedule:
Wednesday - May 20 - Coffee County Republican Women's Club Thursday - May 21 - Tuscaloosa County Republican Women's Club, Blount County ALFA Tuesday - May 26 - Marshall County ALFA
Shelby Co-sponsors Amendment Against Closing Gitmo
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is co-sponsoring an amendment by Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye to the fiscal 2009 supplemental appropriation for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and pandemic flu. The amendment would strike $80 million provided in the legislation to fund the implementation of the Executive Orders related to the closure of the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
As Ranking Member of the CJS Subcommittee, Shelby's office said he originally intended to offer an amendment during the appropriations committee’s mark up of the legislation on May 14, 2009. His original amendment was to strike $30 million included in the Department of Justice (DoJ) portion of the legislation to implement Guantanamo Bay Detainee Review, Detention, and Interrogation Executive Orders, but deferred until the bill was brought to the floor at the request of Appropriations Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran.
Shelby’s intent to offer the amendment stemmed from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s failure to adequately answer questions from Shelby during a May 7, 2009 CJS hearing regarding Holder’s role in the approval of renditions in the course of his service as Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration.
Holder failed, in Shelby's opinion, to directly answer whether the government had the legal authority to admit into the U.S. someone who had received terrorist training. The DoJ Executive Orders, which could lead to investigations and prosecutions of U.S. officials involved in developing and carrying out the CIA’s interrogation program established after September 11, 2001, would be overseen by Holder but would not include a review of renditions carried out during his previous tenure at the Justice Department.
Inouye’s amendment follows a letter Shelby sent Holder on May 18, 2009 requesting information regarding Holder’s role in the approval of renditions during the Clinton administration, the potential criminal investigations of U.S. officials involved in developing and carrying out the CIA’s interrogation program during the Bush administration, and the disposition of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
“I believe that funding the Department of Justice’s mission in the President’s Executive Orders is just the beginning of efforts to investigate U.S. officials who interrogated terrorists that killed or attempted to kill American citizens,” said Shelby on the Senate floor.
“Renditions and interrogations were carried out under Attorney General Holder’s watch when he was Deputy Attorney General. I have serious concerns that the attorney general could eventually be leading investigations and prosecutions against U.S. officials who carried out the very same actions he approved during his time as Deputy Attorney General. Yet, the Executive Orders fail to include any investigation of his role in approving renditions of detainees and terrorists that occurred during his previous tenure at the Justice Department.”
Below is the full text of Shelby’s floor speech.
“Mr. President, I rise today to support and thank Chairman Inouye for his amendment to strike the Guantanamo Bay funding in this Supplemental.
“Last week I raised this issue in the appropriations committee mark-up with the intent to strike the funding for the Department of Justice. At the behest of Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran, I did not to offer the amendment which I intended to offer today.
“This Supplemental, as reported out of the appropriations committee, fulfilled the Department of Justice’s request for $30 million to fund the President’s reckless campaign promise to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and determine the fate of the 241 terrorists being held there.
“I also believe that the funding for the Department of Justice to carry out the President’s Executive Orders is just the beginning of efforts to begin the investigation of U.S. officials who interrogated terrorists that killed or attempted to kill American citizens.
“In a Department of Justice hearing before the appropriations committee on May 7th, I asked the attorney general if he knew about or sanctioned any of the renditions that occurred when he served as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration. He said he did, but could not provide specifics and would get back to the committee with a response.
“Yesterday I sent a letter to the attorney general following up on many of the unanswered questions left after the hearing. I ask unanimous consent that the letter be printed at this point in the Record.
“Renditions and interrogations were carried out under Attorney General Holder’s watch when he was deputy attorney general. I have serious concerns that the attorney general could eventually be leading investigations and prosecutions against U.S. officials who carried out the very same actions he approved during his time as deputy attorney general. Yet, the Executive Orders fail to include any investigation of his role in approving renditions of detainees and terrorists that occurred during his previous tenure at the Justice Department.
“Mr. President, the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center occurred on February 26, 1993. We later saw the bombings of the U.S.S. Cole, the U.S. embassies in Africa, and Khobar Towers take place before the second attack on the World Trade Center.
“Many of the terrorists who committed these acts were trained in the very same camps as the terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay. When I asked the attorney general if the government had the legal authority to admit someone who had received terrorist training into the United States, he would not answer the question directly. He indicated that he would not release anyone who he thought was a terrorist into the United States.
“All of the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay are terrorists -- does anyone but the Administration and Attorney General really believe they are not terrorists?
“Mr. President, it is misguided to close a facility housing terrorists when there is no plan. All of the prisoners housed at Guantanamo are terrorists. Terrorists attacked our nation and killed our citizens and pose a threat to our national security.
“We should not let this attorney general, or anyone else, brand these terrorists as victims worthy of living in the U.S. Nor should we follow the plans of the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, who suggested the terrorists be provided with taxpayer funded subsidies to establish a new life in America.
“Until we are clear about attorney general Holder’s role in renditions and interrogations prior to 9-11, and what this administration is proposing to do with these terrorists once Guantanamo is closed, it is premature to provide this funding.
The Alabama Republican Party is paying for the following advertisement attacking state Rep. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, who is running against former Republican state Rep. Greg Albritton for the District 22 state Senate seat that became vacant when longtime Sen. Pat Lindsey, D-Butler, died unexpectedly earlier this year.
U.S. Rep. Artur Davis released information on Tuesday showing him ahead of potential rivals in his run to become the state's next governor.
The polling shows Davis, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010, far ahead of Democrats, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, and with a five-point lead over Republican Bradley Byrne, the chancellor of the state's two-year college system who is expected to enter the race soon.
According to the poll, which was conducted by Democratic pollster Anzalone-Liszt Research of Montgomery, Davis leads Sparks 56-26 and Cobb 54-25.
"While Artur Davis may not be the preferred candidate with political insiders at the state Capitol, it is clear that his message of strengthening our economy and cleaning up state government is catching on with voters around the state," said Davis spokesperson Anna Ruth Williams. "At this stage, Congressman Davis is in a very strong position in the primary and general elections against his leading Democratic and Republican rivals."
Sparks, who cannot run for a third consecutive term as commissioner, has announced he is running. Cobb, who is in her first term as chief justice, has been speculated as a possible candidate.
In a sample of likely Democratic voters, blacks were 46 percent of the voters polled. About three-fourths of black voters said they supported Davis, who also finished close to Cobb and Sparks among white Democrats.
Davis also finished well in the state's major media markets including Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville and Mobile.
In a separate poll of 600 general election voters, the congressman was ahead of Byrne 43-38. Davis considers Byrne the likely frontrunner on the Republican side. The survey also shows that President Barack Obama has a high approval rating in the state of 58 percent, including support from 46 percent of white voters.
Powerful state Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said he is not running for governor in 2010. He said he considered running for the position for the last month, but "decided that I can best serve the people of Alabama as the Senate General Fund chairman and not as a candidate for governor." "That point became abundantly clear to me during the last two days of this legislative session. A governor's veto threatened funding for critical programs for our seniors, our children, homeland security and mental health," Bedford said in a statement released Monday. "Most importantly, that veto threatened my personal effort to expand our children's health insurance program to 14,000 more kids. As General Fund chairman, I got the Senate to override that veto and protect all my priorities in the budget, especially the All Kids health insurance program. This was a factor that convinced me that, at this time in my professional life and the life of my family, it is best that I remain in the Senate." He said he received calls, e-mails and letters from throughout the state. "That makes this decision even harder," Bedford said. "I will now focus my efforts on keeping a Democratic majority in the Senate and electing a fellow Democrat as the next governor of Alabama." Bedford, D-Russellville, said he considered entering the race after Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. said he was running for reelection and not for governor in 2010. He is chairman of the Senate General Fund budget committee. The General Fund contains money for prisons, Medicaid, children's health care, state troopers and other non-education functions in state government. Gov. Bob Riley bashed the "Bedford budget" for having too much pork, including festivals in the districts of lawmakers, and for taking money from the cash-strapped Alabama Department of Corrections.
Alabama Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little pleaded guilty on Monday to driving under the influence and having an open container of liquor in his vehicle during a traffic stop in early April, according to the Associated Press. The Cullman Democrat appeared in Jefferson County District court on Monday, when Judge Sheldon Watkins fined him $625 and gave him a 30-day suspended sentence. He also loses his license for 90 days, according to the report. Watkins dismissed charges of driving with an expired driver's license and failing to yield to an emergency vehicle. According to previous reports, a passer-by alerted a state trooper on a Friday afternoon of a crash involving two vehicles on Interstate 65 in Birmingham. The passer-by pointed out one of the vehicles after it apparently drove away. The passing vehicle was a 2008 GMC pickup truck with damage to the front side. Authorities identified Little as the driver. Little had alcohol on his breath and had an open container in the vehicle, the trooper who pulled him over reported. The senator refused to take a chemical sobriety test, according to the Associated Press report at the time. "DUI is a terrible offense and what I did was wrong, dangerous and irresponsible. I am prepared to accept the consequences of what I did," Little said in a statement following the April arrest. "But most of all, I apologize to my wife and children, who deserve so much better from me than this."
Former Republican state senator and current state two-year college system Chancellor Bradley Byrne has submitted a letter of resignation to the State Board of Education, according to the Associated Press. Byrne is expected to enter the race for governor soon. In his resignation letter, he wrote that he intends "to take the reform fight to another arena." Byrne and Gov. Bob Riley, who sought out the then state senator for the chancellorship, have advocated for sweeping changes to the system, which was plagued with corruption. The former chancellor, Roy Johnson, who was found guilty of corruption charges. They want to end the practice of double dipping, which allows state legislators to also work in the two-year system. Byrne, who represented Baldwin County in the Senate, informed presidents of the community colleges that his resignation will be effective Aug. 31 or sooner if a replacement is hired earlier. Byrne resigned from his Senate seat in 2007 to take over the two-year system.
It looks like former Alabama State University Board of Trustee Joe Reed's name is not going back on the the Acadome.
Riley vetoed a resolution that essentially demanded that the university's board of trustees restore Reed's name to the building. They took his name off the building last year.
“To me, this has nothing to do with Joe Reed" Riley said in a statement Friday. "I would veto this if they were naming it the Ronald Reagan Acadome. I vetoed this because I believe the Legislature should not micro-manage our universities. It’s bad policy for legislators to insert themselves in matters that boards of trustees are appointed to handle.
“When legislators decide to get involved in what universities name their buildings, you get the possibility of legislators making threats about funding if trustees don’t do what they want. Ken Guin insinuated that when he was quoted saying, ‘I wouldn’t want to ignore a resolution passed by those who fund me.’ That sounds like blackmail," Riley said.
Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia will not seek re-election at the end of this four year term.
Hammett made an announcement Friday before making a motion for the House adjourn sine die.
Hammett gave no specific reason for his resignation, but said the following:
"Members I want to tell you here this afternoon a decision I have made...I'm not going to be a candidate for re-election in 2010. I want you to hear this directly from me and hear it here in this chamber. I want you to know to know this decision was hard for me to make. I made it in consultation with my family and it is one I've given very careful thought for the last several months.
"The reason I would make this decision known at this time is because the election season is upon us. It begins June 1 and I think I need to make this decision known now. This is not the time to thank all the people I need to thank...I'm not going anywhere unless you all throw me out. I'll still be speaker for the next 20 months. So you've still got some more flow charts to put up with and some items of substance to deal with."
Hammett was elected to the House in 1978. He has served as presiding officer of the House since 1999. His current term ends January 2011. Hammett is one of only two speakers to serve three terms as presiding officer of the House.
The award for the deadest bill during the 2009 legislative session went to state Rep. John Knight for his bill to remove the state portion of the sales tax from groceries.
Knight's bill was voted on four times by the House and failed to pass on a procedural vote each time.
The legislator from Montgomery, who had just been honored for his meritorious military service moments before receiving the shroud award, had this to say:
"I don't know what I can call this day after having a joint resolution then receiving this. That's oxymoronic if I've ever seen anything else. I think receiving the combat infantry badge was easier than passing the grocery tax. I can't say I thank you for the award."
Knight vowed to return with the bill next year, and said he hoped that over the break that Republican and Democrats could work together to come with a bill everyone could live with.
Runners up for the 2009 Shroud Award:
State Rep. Ron Johnson -- bill on the resale of auto parts State Rep. Jack Williams -- bill regarding reporting animal abuse State Rep. Joseph Mitchell -- bill requiring audio recording proceedings State Rep. Tammy Irons -- tax preparer regulation bill State Rep. Craig Ford -- bill setting the start date of the school year Gov. Bob Riley's Ethics Package Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton -- resolution calling for constitutional convention State Rep. Marcel Black -- Sweet Home Alabama bingo bill State Rep. Jamie Ison -- bill requiring teachers to pay cost of health insurance State Rep. Cam Ward -- bill to criminalize cockfighting
Bedford bashes Riley as Senate overrides governor's changes to budget
Lawmakers in the House and Senate voted on Thursday to shoot down changes that Gov. Bob Riley made to the $2.5 billion General Fund budget.
State Sen. Roger Bedford, chairman of the Senate General Fund budget committee, bashed Riley for misplaced priorities in changing the budget passed by the Legislature.
The Senate then followed Bedford's lead and overrode Riley's changes to the budget with a 19-11 vote. The General Fund is the source of money for prisons, Medicaid, children's health insurance and other non-education functions.
The House had already voted 59-38 to override Riley.
Bedford, D-Russellville, said Riley cut funding for children's healthcare, for district attorneys, for Medicaid, for conservation, and for mental health.
Riley and other Republicans have bashed the General Fund budget for taking millions from the cash-strapped Alabama Department of Corrections, for increasing the level of funding to the State Children's Health Insurance Program and for giving money to pet projects in their districts including UFO days, mule days and watermelon festivals.
Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said Bedford did not want to talk about all of the pet projects that lawmakers funded.
He said the budget cut essential state services including corrections. Those lawmakers funded the pet projects and expanded insurance before funding those services, Marsh said.
Those lawmakers are expanding government, he said.
Marsh, a Riley ally, said keeping criminals locked up is an essential service of state government that helps keep citizens safe.
"Sure we hate to put money into prisoners but we have to do it," he said.
Riley and Marsh echoed the comments of Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen, who said the state would have to release more prisoners with the level of funding passed by the Legislature.
If Riley wants more money for prisons, Bedford said he could have used the money from his $12.1 million emergency fund, which the senator called a "slush fund." Riley currently has a $4.8 million emergency fund.
Bedford said Riley did not attempt to use those funds to help corrections and other areas.
Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, said the federal courts would take over the prisons at some point in time if the state cannot stop overcrowding. A lawsuit is pending against the state in federal court. The state's prison system is housing about twice as many inmates as the structures were built to handle.
Riley wanted to place an additional $4.2 million in corrections.
The Legislature did expand the number of people who are eligible for the children's health insurance program.
Marsh said the governor's proposed changes would have made those with a family income of up to $44,000 eligible for the program. The Legislature put the level at $66,000.
Marsh said taxpayers should not have to pay for health care for people who can afford it.
Bedford said there is a fundamental difference in Republicans and Democrats. He said Democrats believe $44,000 is not high enough to help working families.
"I say working families ought to have health insurance, too," Bedford said.
Funding for the children’s health insurance program, even with Riley's amendment, would have increased $10 million over last year, according to the governor's office.
Riley had also made half of the money for the local projects and events contingent on the revenue the state collects during the 2010 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.
"I'm disappointed the budget they passed makes funding for what many would call 'pork projects' a higher priority than funding for essential government responsibilities like keeping prisoners locked up," the governor said in a statement.
The Legislature, after several attempts, overrode the veto of Gov. Bob Riley on Thursday on a bill that deals with municipal option to allow liquor sales.
The bill now becomes law after both the House and Senate have voted to override the veto.
The Senate voted 18-11 to override the veto on Thursday.
The law will allow municipalities in dry counties to approve liquor sales through a referendum. Currently, municipalities must have a population of 7,000 to have municipal option, but the bill lowers that number to 1,000. The bill excludes three counties: Clay, Randolph and Blount.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Martin, D-Clanton.
In an 22 to 9 vote, the Senate voted to free the Hops and allow for the sale of higher alcohol content beer, but changes made in the upper chamber still have to be agreed upon by the House.
A strange twist of fate caused a senator who is vehemently opposed to the bill to vote in support of it. State Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, is one of the leading opponents of the bill because of his aversion to drinking, but the Senate's use of a common practice while he was out of the room recorded a "yea" vote for him.
The bill was passed using a previous roll under which Erwin had voted yes. He was apparently out of the room, when the call for objectors was made, and the bill was passed. Welcome to the Alabama Legislature ya'll.
The Senate amended the bill so that the "high octane" beers, as House sponsor state Rep. Thomas Jackson called them can't be sold in convienence stores. The House concurred with the amendment, but the governor could still veto it.
-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
UPDATE: Gov. Bob Riley signed a bill that would allow for the sale of higher content wine, accrding to al.com, the outlook might be good for the Hops to be free at last.
The House is debating whether to non-concur on the governor's executive amendments to the general fund.
State Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, made an impassioned speech about the state's need to not short change the Department of Corrections. He described the state prison system as a powder keg.
Mask said the state is headed into a situation where the federal government will dictate to the state what it must invest in prisons.
"Corrections is always in proration," he said. "It's been the stepchild of state government for years."
He said there are members in the House who have prisons in their district who talk the talk, but don't walk the walk when it comes to funding corrections. He said they especially didn't do that during this budgeting process where funds for district projects received funding after funds for corrections were cut.
"Everybody knows what's the dealio," he said.
He also accused legislators who want to accept a budget that cuts funding from corrections of just wanting the "gravy" in the budget.
The following is a response from Alabama Attorney General Troy King to the attack from Birmingham attorney Luther Strange. Both men have announced they are running for the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2010. Strange attacked King, saying "unfortunately, ethical lapses, impropriety and incompetence have plagued the office throughout the last five years."
"In 2006, I was challenged in the Republican primary," King said in a statement. "I ran my campaign based on my record of protecting Alabama families from child predators, violent crime, sex offenders, drug dealers, senior citizen scam artists, and consumer fraud. The voters responded by giving me a 50 percentage point margin of victory. Since then, I have built upon and expanded that record of service, and I look forward to proudly running on it again. Today’s distortions have sent this campaign into the gutters of Alabama politics before it even begins. Alabamians deserve better than that."
Bishop not running for Senate, could run for higher office
State Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, said Thursday he is not running for reelection to the Legislature and might consider a run for higher office such as governor.
"I am not a candidate," he said. "That is always an option."
Running for governor is an option, but he said he will "probably not" run.
Bishop, 71, said he believes he could help the state more through helping a candidate or by running himself.
"I am taking time to talk with friends and family about what this means, and what I can do to help the people of our state with the life experience that I have had," Bishop said in a statement.
Talking to the media at the State House on Thursday, Bishop said this is a difficult time for Alabama.
"The next governor will have very difficult challenges ahead," he said.
Bishop, who has also run unsuccessfully for governor, said he has higher name recognition than the people who are currently running for governor, although he acknowledged that could be for other reasons.
The controversial senator, who has served three terms in the Senate and one as agriculture commissioner, might be best known by many residents in the state for an infamous incident that happened on the last day of the 2007 legislative session. Bishop punched Democratic Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, in the face as they walked off of the Senate floor during a recess.
He has apologized for the incident, which received national attention because it was caught on camera by Alabama Public Television, occurring on the Senate floor.
Bishop has already thrown his support behind another candidate for state Senate, businessman Greg J. Reed of Jasper.
"I am going to vote for him if he's on the ballot," he said.
Reed, who has been involved with local and state Republican politics, announced on Thursday that he will be running for the District 5 Senate seat. He has been in business since 1987.
Bishop said he wanted Reed to run for the seat in 2006, but he could not because of his business and the age of his children.
The senator said he would "love to see a change in the Alabama Senate." He said he would like to see more conservative members in the Senate and would like to see a conservative lieutenant governor.
District 5 includes all or part of Walker, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa and Winston counties.
A bill that would regulate individual tax preparers has been carried over, and is likely dead for this session according to the House sponsor.
The House recessed for lunch after several members debated the bill for about an hour and 15 minutes.
State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, a fierce opponent of the bill probably has the most memorable comments about the bill, and particularly the man that helped get the ball rolling on a bill to regulate the industry, Stephen Black, founder of IMPACT Alabama.
"I have such heavy heart because you’re such a nice person," Rogers said. "But what bothers me to no end...Stephen Black said he is going to come to my district and campaign against me. I want him to come. I want him to come often and early. I love to see a Caucasian come into my district, he might come but he might not get out.
Rogers went on to say, "I’m going to give him bus fare so that he can come campaign against me. I’ll make a donation so he can qualify. I'll take him and beat him dead with that one bill. If I show the folks about that bill he’d run for cover."
Bill sponsor, state Rep. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, said the bill is likely dead for this session, but she said the bill would be back next year.
Photos of Robert Bentley's Montgomery announcement
State Rep. Robert Bentley, R-Tuscaloosa, announced on Wednesday he is running for governor in 2010. He addressed about 35 people, including the media and supporters, standing by his wife Dianne at the base of the state Capitol in Montgomery.
Republican state Rep. Robert Bentley is touring the state in a bus this week announcing he will be a candidate for governor in 2010.
The dermatologist started his tour in his district with an event in Tuscaloosa before continuing on to Birmingham, Huntsville and Montgomery. He will continue on today to Opelika, Dothan and Mobile today before returning to Tuscaloosa.
About 35 people attended Bentley's speech at the Capitol in Montgomery.
While there has been unprecedented growth in the state, Bentley said he sees room to create more jobs and foster more progress. He said the state offers incentives to try to lure business to the state, but he wants to offer rebates to companies who are already located in the state and to industry here that might be struggling.
Bentley said he would create an agency that dealt strictly with the development of small businesses.
The legislator called for ethics reform and efficient, transparent and open government. He said every penny the state spends should be reported for viewing online and that a lobbyist should have to report any money that is spent on a public official.
Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, and many members of the Legislature ran on ethics reform in 2006.
When asked how he could implement ethics reform even though attempts have been unsuccessful in recent years, Bentley said "the No. 1 thing we need to do is change the Legislature."
In continuing, he said, as a lawmaker he has worked with Republicans and Democrats, and there is a mutual respect.
"I think they like me and I like them," Bentley said of the Democrats. He said the personal relationship would be the difference.
He also wants to improve public transportation, promote Alabama products throughout the world, and improve healthcare. The doctor said he has ideas to assist with healthcare in the state that "nobody has even considered."
Bentley said the state needs more primary care physicians and he would work to mandate that the medical schools produce more of them. He said he would also encourage health savings accounts.
Bentley's platform states he has opposed gambling as a lawmaker, but supports allowing people to vote on whether they want gambling if the legislation establishes a gaming commission, if the gambling is strictly regulated, and if there is a tax of not less than 40 percent on the profits.
If the people do vote and reject the gambling proposal at the polls, he believes the state should not allow another vote for at least 10 years. Bentley said he personally opposes gambling and believes it is an unreliable source of money to fund state government.
Bentley said the governor's office needs someone with leadership potential and sensibility. People have lost confidence in state government, he said. They call state agencies and get a recorded message, the doctor said.
Bentley lost his first race for public office to state Sen. Phil Poole, D-Tuscaloosa. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2002 and was reelected in 2006.
According to media reports from a previous stop, Bentley said he is paying for the bus tour with his own money. He has also hired campaign staff to prepare for the 2010election.
Today and Friday are the final days of the legislative session.
Bentley said he planned the tour when lawmakers had planned to take this week off and meet on Monday for the final day of the session. He plans to be back at the State House for the final day of the session on Friday.
State Treasurer Kay Ivey said she's looking to the state Legislature to pass a bill or a strongly worded resolution to solidify its intent to support the state's prepaid affordable college tuition, or PACT, program.
She said at a press conference Wednesday morning that without such action the board that oversees the PACT has few options to address the 48,000 active contracts that it is obligated to pay.
Legislatively speaking there have been six bills floated during the 2009 session to fix the PACT program. The program lost half of its value because of the downturn in the economy though a recent uptick has grown the fund from about $435 million in December to $470 million to date.
The only piece of legislation still alive with two days left in the session (this Thursday and Friday) is a bill sponsored by state Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, that would take funds from Alabama Trust Fund to shore up the program. In its existing form, the bill would only save people who established their contracts before 1995. All contracts drafted after 1995, apparently had language inserted into them that said the money paid into the program would be invested in the stock market and subject to the risks of such investments. The Ford bill is ready for debate by the full Senate, according to Ivey.
Ivey said the PACT board could not pick and choose which group of people will be saved and which group won't. She also said it was inappropriate to use the Alabama Trust Fund as a funding mechanism.
"Well have to wait and see how the final version of that bill comes out," she said. "It needs to be amended and substituted."
Ivey said she has assurances from Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom and Senate Finance and Taxation Chairman Roger Bedford that something is in the works, but what she could not say.
She said if a bill is not passed, she is asking legislators to at least pass a strongly worded resolution of a commitment to keep the program running because it could be important in the three lawsuits that are pending against the PACT Board.
Republican state Rep. Robert Bentley is touring the state by bus Wednesday and Thursday to announce his candidacy for governor. Bentley started the tour in his district in Tuscaloosa. Other stops on Wednesday include Birmingham, Huntsville and Montgomery. Thursday stops include Opelika, Dothan and Mobile before returning to Tuscaloosa. Thursday and Friday are the final days of the legislative session. A dermatologist, Bentley was elected to the House of Representatives in 2002 and was reelected in 2006. He is a founding partner and president of Alabama Dermatology Associates, the largest dermatology practice in the Southeast. The Columbiana native is married and has four children. He is married to the former Dianne Jones of Montgomery.
Birmingham attorney and former lobbyist Luther Strange announced his candidacy for attorney general online Wednesday morning in a video that went after incumbent Troy King.
Both men have announced they are running as Republicans in 2010.
"My first priority would be to restore excellence, integrity and the highest ethical standards to the office," Strange said in the taped clip on his Web site. "Unfortunately, ethical lapses, impropriety and incompetence have plagued the office throughout the last five years."
He said Alabamians could only restore the confidence in the office with a change in leadership.
His second priority, he said, would be to "marshal the full power of the office to support the governor's fight to end illegal gambling operations in the state."
Strange's entrance into the race is also likely more evidence that some in the Republican party are not happy with King, who has had public disagreements with Republican Gov. Bob Riley on gambling and who had a public disagreement with most of the district attorneys in the state over a death penalty case.
In the clip, Strange mentions news articles that talk about King attending an event at the house of Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley just months after releasing an opinion that the sheriff in Houston County needed to grant a permit to Gilley's development, which will have a variety of entertainment including music and dinner theaters, but also has a planned pavilion with electronic bingo.
"This conflict of interest is unacceptable," Strange said. "Alabamians deserve an attorney general whose only allegiance is to the law."
The candidate also said he would pursue corruption "wherever it may be" before again taking a shot at King. He mentioned King's "unfortunate recusal" in the investigation into the state's two year college system after the attorney general asked former two-year system Chancellor Roy Johnson for help in finding an employee's mother a job.
"This is the most important public corruption investigation in decades and our current attorney general cannot participate," Strange said. "Alabama needs an attorney general whose willing and able to confront corruption head on."
Strange's announcement came the same day that a story appeared in the Birmingham News talking about ongoing subpoenas and investigations into King's office. Federal prosecutors subpoenaed travel, gift, cell phone and spending information.
Strange said his goal will be restoring integrity and professionalism to the office.
He spends much of his time in the three minute clip talking about King. He also said his more than 30 years as an accomplished lawyer have prepared him for the job.
Strange, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, is entering his second race for public office. He defeated three other Republicans in the 2006 primary before losing to Democrat Jim Folsom Jr.
Strange has worked on the campaigns of two men who have occupied the attorney general's office, Jeff Sessions and Bill Pryor. He said the office earned respect under the leadership of Sessions and Pryor, but there has been a sad decline in that respect.
Traditionally, statewide candidates in Alabama make their announcement in public settings, where they take questions from the media, but Strange's campaign sent out alerts informing the media he was making his announcement online.
South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.