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Friday, January 29, 2010

Riley, King spar over attempted raids

Two of the state's top elected officials sparred Friday over attempted raids on two casinos by a task force assembled by the governor.
Attorney General Troy King, in a letter hand delivered to the governor's office on Friday morning, wrote that he thought the actions of Gov. Bob Riley's Task Force on Illegal Gambling exposed the state to liability and that the situation could be resolved through the judicial system. The state's top law enforcement official also expressed concerns about the task force disregarding private property rights and due process.
Riley, in his response, wrote that he was "deeply disappointed that you continue to show more concern for the casino bosses in Alabama than for the enforcement of the law by dedicated law enforcement officials."
The governor accused King of "parroting the talking points of the gambling bosses."
King, soon after news of the attempted raids on VictoryLand in Macon County and Country Crossing near Dothan, advised the governor to use "caution in your approach." He said it is his constitutional duty to offer legal advice to the state and its officers.
"Regrettably, today's actions continue to escalate matters after weeks of news stories reporting on the public feud between you and the operators who were targeted this morning, about the discrediting and resigning of your first task force commander, and about the revelations of the large gambling contributions your new task force commander has taken from the competitors of those you raided," King wrote.
"Now, apparently, you have sent hundreds of Alabama state troopers, without a search warrant, onto private property at multiple locations. As I presume you know, (since your past actions have been taken under the cover and protection offered by a search warrant), the lack of a search warrant will shift the burden of proving probable cause to you."
Riley said the caution King urged would allow gambling interests to continue to flout the rule of law. He said the attorney general had no appreciation for the many hours of investigation undertaken before Friday's actions.
King also wrote that, along with the disregard for private property rights and due process, he is concerned that the actions are exposing the state's taxpayers, the commander, the directors of public safety and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and Riley himself to liability.
"While your personal exposure is not my professional responsibility, you do remain my friend," King wrote. "However, the protection of the state treasury is my responsibility."
Riley and King have a longstanding disagreement over whether electronic bingo is legal in Alabama. Riley formed the task force in late 2008 to combat illegal gambling in the state and appointed former Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber as the commander.
Barber resigned Jan. 13 after winning $2,300 at a legal Indian casino in Mississippi. Riley appointed Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, a Democrat, as commander on Monday.
Riley and King are both Republicans and the governor appointed King to his current position in 2004.
The attorney general wrote that he has advised Riley before and again even more strongly advised him now "to take the most civil and orderly way to proceed while respecting the legal process. I again urge you to file and litigate a declaratory judgment action which will develop the facts which can then be placed before the Alabama Supreme Court."
He wrote that the "current course could disadvantage the state if it places these matters in front of judges whose criminal court rulings are unappealable by the state."
King, in his closing, wrote that he thought the best course was for people to vote to resolve the issue over the legality of gambling.
Riley wrote that the people of Alabama have already expressed their will.
"Rather than concern yourself with efforts to change the law, I suggest that your time would be better spent enforcing the law as written," the governor wrote. "That is what the people elected you to do."
Chris Bence, chief of staff for King, said the letter was not sent out in mass to the media, but only to the outlets that requested it.
Riley, on the other hand, responded with a letter sent to state media.
He said he was puzzled why King was not more concerned about the "lawless action of the circuit judge in Macon County who enjoined an ongoing criminal operation notwithstanding that the Alabama Supreme Court ruled just two weeks ago that circuit judges have no jurisdiction to do that."
Riley said opinions by the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday and in November reiterate that bingo must be played by people, not machines, and that people must physically mark their cards. "Without any shadow of a doubt, every machine at Country Crossing, and every machine at VictoryLand, makes those determinations for the player," Riley wrote. "Therefore, those machines are simply not legal under any bingo amendment."
Mentioning an opinion by King, Riley said the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled two times in three months "that you were wrong."
"While you might prefer declaratory judgment actions that will take months to resolve while the gambling bosses continue to rake in illegal profits, there is no stronger declaration than the one made by our supreme court," Riley wrote.
Bence also emphasized that the task force was operating without any communication with King, the top law enforcement officer in the state.
"We are not a part of the task force and we were not invited to be in it," Bence said. "He purposely excluded us. We have no connection with the task force and do not know what its activities are. However, as attorney general, Troy King does have the obligation of informing the governor, which we are doing by letter, of our concerns about the process."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Say What?!

In a press conference regarding early morning attempts to raid bingo halls in Shorter and Dothan, the new commander of the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling said that he invited the people of Alabama to change the laws regarding gambling if they wanted to do so.

Newly appointed Commander John Tyson made the comments, which are contradictory to Gov. Bob Riley's position on gambling, during a press conference Friday. The governor has maintained that there is no need to have a state wide vote about gambling.

He has said repeatedly that the people decided when they outlawed gambling in the state's Constitution and when they voted down a constitutional amendment that would have permitted a state lottery.

Tyson said that under current law electronic bingo is illegal in Alabama and that he intended to do what the governor has asked him to do and enforce it. But he "welcomed" the people of Alabama to change the law if that was their desire. Does anybody see those comments coming to a "Sweet Home Alabama" commercial near you very soon?

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Thursday, January 28, 2010

AlaDems help gather supplies for Haiti

Area residents and businessmen are gathering medical supplies and nonperishable food to fly to Haiti on Saturday morning.
The Alabama Democratic Party, local businessman Frank Evans and Anne and Stephanie Reynolds of HIPHaiti are helping following the disastrous earthquake on Jan. 12.
The Reynolds, who live in Montgomery, organized a private flight that left early Thursday carrying 2,000 pounds of medical supplies and food to Haiti.
They have scheduled a second flight to Haiti for Saturday morning.
The Reynolds were in Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake.
Anne Reynolds has been doing relief work in Haiti since 2001 and founded the non-profit Humanitarians Initiating Progress in Haiti or HIPHaiti in 2008 with Stephanie, her daughter.
The Reynolds worked with the Democratic Party to gather thousands of pounds of the supplies that they said are desperately needed.
Joe Turnham, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, was on the Thursday flight with Evans, the plane's owner and a Montgomery businessman, and the pilot to assist unloading supplies.
HIPHaiti and the Alabama Democratic Party are still accepting donations of medical supplies and nonperishable food items including rice, beans and MRE's.
The party has a list of specific medical supplies that are needed including IV solutions, IV catheters, analgesics, antibiotics, anesthetic products, sutures, gloves and some other specific items.
People can contact the party for more information at (334) 262-2221.
Also, the Reynolds will attend the Give a Hand to Haiti event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Alley Bar, 166 Commerce St. in downtown.
Proceeds from the event will go to HIPHaiti and Partners in Health, a non-profit medical organization founded in Haiti. People can find more information about Give a Hand to Haiti at
People can also find more information about HIPHaiti at, and about Partners in Health at

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Former reporter joins Sparks' team

Former Huntsville Times and Birmingham Post-Herald reporter Taylor Bright has joined the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Ron Sparks as communications director. He also worked at The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina.
"Sparks is a dedicated public official, and he is an outstanding candidate for governor," Bright said in a statement. "In my previous jobs as a reporter, I worked firsthand with Commissioner Sparks when I covered state government, and I know that he will bring the hard work and proven record he achieved at the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to the governor's office."
Sparks said, "Taylor is a tremendous addition to my team. He has great contacts with the Alabama media, and he has the talent and experience to carry my message of job creation to every part of Alabama."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Sanders to run for eighth term

After originally saying he was not running for an eighth term, powerful state Sen. Hank Sanders changed course on Wednesday and said he is going to let the voters decide if he should serve another term.
"Since I don't know what to do, I'll let the people decide," he said.
People cheered as he made his decision in a Senate chamber filled with legislators, lobbyists, staffers, supporters, and state officials including state schools Superintendent Joe Morton.
"In truth, I still don't want to run. I knew this needed to be brought to a conclusion," said Sanders. People had already announced they were running for the Senate seat they thought would be open.
Sanders, chairman of the Senate education budget committee, said he "struggled mightily" with the decision. He said he did not know whether he was running again when he walked into the chamber and that his wife did not know his decision.
The Selma Democrat said he planned to walk into the chamber with two press releases, one saying he would not run again and another that said he would. He said he did not have time to write the releases.
He sent an e-mail to friends, colleagues and supporters last year informing them he would not run again, but he said the reaction to that statement was extraordinary.
"In truth, I never anticipated the strength of this reaction," he said.
His wife, Rose, said the respectful and loving response was uplifting.
Morton and Paul Hubbert, head of the Alabama Education Association, said they were glad to see the senator run again.
They talked about Sanders' calm and fair demeanor in talking through tough situations.
Morton said he had talked about the decision with Sanders.
"Deep down I was hoping the outcome would be like this," he said.
The superintendent said "all of Alabama should be too." He said Sanders has left an imprint on the state and used his influence to increase funding for vital programs that improved reading, math, science, and technology.
Morton said he worked intimately with Sanders in his role as chairman of the education budget and said the senator was always professional and courteous, even during contentious discussions including 2008 when fighting lead to the legislative session ending without lawmakers passing an education budget.
Hubbert said people have been curious about Sanders' decision. He said Sanders has been a "great chairman" and credited his success to his demeanor, the way the senator approaches people and issues, and the way he is able to build a consensus. He said Sanders often had lined up support for the education budget before it was brought to the Senate floor for a vote, which he said is "remarkable."
Sanders, who came from poverty to graduate from Harvard Law School, was the first African-American to represent the Black Belt in the Alabama Senate. He said he never wanted to run for public office, but eventually did at the encouragement of his law partner, J.L. Chestnut.
Sanders, 67, said his mind and spirit did not want him to run three decades ago and they did not want him to run again.
"I don't want to do it, but I'm going to do it because duty calls," Sanders said.
He added "These are difficult times. I don't think I've ever been one to abandon the ship in difficult times."
On Wednesday, he sounded like he was sticking with his original decision when he began talking. He had told the Montgomery Advertiser this month that he was leaning toward not running again.
"This is a watershed moment for me and I have struggled mightily with it," Sanders said. "I struggled because logic and reason say I should run again, but I could not align my spirit with it."
After saying he was running again, Sanders said "nobody has ever outworked me in an election."
He said his goals this session were to pass a budget that would not go into proration, to work with others to try to create jobs, to work to pass accountability measures including those to place more restrictions on no-bid contracts, and has again proposed a bill that would place a moratorium on the death penalty, which he said he really wants to push.
"We can't afford a budget that leads to proration," he said.
In the Senate, Sanders said he has most enjoyed being able to help people. He said he could make a call and help someone in two minutes with something that might make two years if he was not in his current position.
He said he disliked the Legislature becoming more and more partisan.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ivey to tweet during State of the Union address

State Treasurer Kay Ivey, a Republican candidate for governor, plans to comment through her Twitter account during President Obama's State of the Union speech on Wednesday starting at 8 p.m.

She will share her observations on Obama's agenda.

People can sign up at

"What happens in Washington has a profound impact here in Alabama on the state level," Ivey said. "What is announced on Wednesday night will affect all of us, and I'm eager to share my thoughts with all Alabamians."

Ivey has participated in a candidate interview via Twitter. She has also conducted a telephone town hall about her solutions to problems with the state's prepaid college tuition program.

"New technology is giving people unprecedented opportunities to connect with one another," Ivey said. "This is a fantastic way to share my message directly with folks, and lets them communicate with me directly in return. It's especially helpful to people who live in small towns and rural areas, who don't always get direct access to candidates."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen


Sanders to announce whether he is running (again)

State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, will announce during a 9:30 a.m. news conference on Wednesday whether or not he is running for reelection this year. He will announce in the Senate chamber.

In an e-mail to friends, colleagues and supporters in 2009, he said he was retiring.

He has been encouraged to run again and has reconsidered his decision.

In a recent discussion with the Montgomery Advertiser, he said he was leaning toward not running for another term.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen


Dems consider shutting off debate on roads bill

A powerful state senator said he and his Democratic colleagues will consider shutting off debate on Thursday on a bill that would use $1 billion over 10 years to improve roads and bridges.
Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said they might stop debate and try to move forward with a vote if they do not believe the Republicans are serious about moving forward on Thursday.
The Senate has debated the bill for three business days, much of it slowdown tactics by Republicans, and is expected to continue debate on Thursday.
If the Legislature passes the bill, people would vote on whether they wanted the program in November and the work could begin in 2011.
Republicans have concerns about taking $100 million a year for 10 years from the Alabama Trust Fund, royalties the state receives from oil and gas. Some of the money is used for the General Fund budget.
"I just don't think now is the time to jeopardize the trust fund or the savings account of the state of Alabama," said Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said it makes sense to leave the money and live off of the interest. If money is pulled out, he said there are millions and millions of dollars in interest the state will never see.
Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla, plans to introduce an amendment that would place a floor at $2 billion, which would automatically halt the program if it reached that level and keep it parked until the principal climbed back above $2 billion again.
Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, believes the floor should be at least $2.5 billion and took up much of Tuesday afternoon discussing his proposal.
Barron, chairman of the committee that decides which bills come to the Senate floor for debate, thought they might vote on Tuesday. He said he had concerns about voting cloture, or shutting down debate, because it often creates hard feelings, which he did not want so early in the session. Barron, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said they have the 21 votes necessary to pass the bill in the Senate and he expects at least 25 votes. The House sponsor of the bill is Rep. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton.
Barron, Beasley, and about a dozen other senators joined road builders for a Tuesday press conference between the State House and large equipment the builders parked along South Union Street.
They called on Republicans to stop delaying.
Beasley said the work would make Alabama roads and bridges safer.
Barron said the bill is more important now with unemployment at 11 percent. He said about as many people are underemployed.
Lee Gross of Ozark Striping Company, which he said has 125 employees, said the unemployment rate in the construction industry is 18 percent.
State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said people could already be working if Republicans did not kill the bill a year ago.
Beasley and Barron said the bill would create 30,000 jobs, a number Republicans have disputed.
Supporters of the bill said the job creation information is from the Federal Highway Administration.
Marsh said that would equate to workers making less than $2 an hour.
State Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, said the trust fund should be "sacrosanct" and the principal of the money should not be touched because revenues are is used for corrections, public health, and public safety.
"When you're having trouble funding government, you deplete one of the major sources by depleting the trust fund," he said.
Dixon is concerned that the money will be discretionary and handed out to friends of Democrats. The senator said the bill is the "biggest pork project ever."
He said there is language to diminish some of that discretion, but that projects will be line-itemed in the General Fund.
The appropriation, according to the bill, "may be made in either the general appropriation act or a separate appropriations act." Dixon believes that puts the discretion in the hands of the General Fund budget committee.
"No committee in the Legislature ought to have that discretionary money," he said.
While the money will be directed to projects in cities, counties and congressional districts, Dixon said no language in the legislation states that the money will be turned over to local governments.
Barron said there is not language that would make the money discretionary. He said most of it would go to the Alabama Department of Transportation or to local governments that would spend it.
"They make decisions on how that is spent," Barron said.
Seventy-five percent of the money would go to the Alabama Department of Transportation and 25 percent would go to cities and counties.
Barron and Bedford criticized proposals by some Republicans, one by Marsh and one by gubernatorial candidate Tim James, that would allow counties to increase their gas tax and that would use bonds to fund construction, respectively.
They called those terrible ideas that either increases taxes or increased the state's debt.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Holmes wants to keep prisoners in Geronimo

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, said during debate Tuesday on a firearms bill that he disagreed with President Barack Obama on removing prisoners from "Geronimo."
Holmes was obviously referring to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where the U.S. government detains prisoners including suspected terrorists and enemy combatants.
The Obama Administration has been trying to close the prison and move the detainees elsewhere.
Holmes said the detainees are fine at the facility.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen


Bentley hires Huckabee media consultant

State Rep. Robert Bentley, a Republican candidate for governor, has hired a media consultant who worked for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign.
Bentley hired Republican media strategist Bob Wickers of Dresner, Wickers & Associates.
Wickers has also worked for former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning.
Huckabee won the Iowa caucus and the Alabama primary in his 2008 run for president.
"Bob has a breadth and depth of experience working for Governor Huckabee's presidential campaign, and advising other successful candidates in come-from-behind-campaigns," Bentley said. "I am pleased to have him on our team and expect that we will benefit tremendously from his expertise."
The Wall Street Journal, in a feature article, called Wickers the "Spirit Behind Huckabee's Advertising Approach."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Report moves District 2 toward GOP

After the loss of a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts and polls that show Democrats are in trouble, The Rothenberg Political Report has moved 28 U.S. House seats including Alabama's District 2 in favor of Republicans as the 2010 election nears.
All of the movement in the most recent report favors Republicans and Rothenberg expects the GOP to pick up 24 to 28 seats in the House.
While momentum could change before the election to benefit Democrats, Rothenberg also commented "we can no longer dismiss the possibility of a Republican wave so large that Democrats could lose their House majority." The report does expect Democrats to maintain a majority of seats.
Rothenberg moved the 2nd District, which is currently represented by freshman Democrat Bobby Bright of Montgomery, to "toss up/tilt Republican."
Republicans Martha Roby, a Montgomery city councilwoman, and Rick Barber, a Montgomery businessman and Marine Corps veteran, have announced they are running for the seat.
Barber was featured this week on ABC's "Good Morning America."
People can read the Rothenberg article at:

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Riley appoints Tyson to head gambling task force

Republican Gov. Bob Riley has appointed a sitting Democratic district attorney to head his highly-publicized Task Force on Illegal Gambling.
Riley appointed Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr., to succeed David Barber, who resigned the position after winning $2,300 at a legal Indian casino in Mississippi.
Tyson said he planned to get to work immediately.
"The Task Force on Illegal Gambling is about the rule of law," Tyson said. " ... The law could not be clearer. Slot machines are illegal and calling it electronic bingo does not change that."
The law, he said, allows traditional bingo in those counties with constitutional amendments.
In 2006, Tyson tried to unseat Attorney General Troy King, who Riley appointed to that position.
When asked about King, Tyson said they work together and said as Riley nodded that "Frankly his loose interpretation of the law is what got this whole thing started."
In an e-mail to the Montgomery Advertiser, King responded "It is not surprising, but it is disappointing, to see rhetoric, politics, and agendas, yet again get in the way of the law.
"If Mr. Tyson, as he claims, is having a hard time understanding my interpretation of the law, before he saddles up with heavily armed state troopers, putting them and the public at risk, he should spend some time reading the 17 different constitutional amendments that legalize bingo in 16 counties in Alabama. That is the law as approved by the voters of this state, and that is not difficult to understand."
Riley said he believes Tyson is ideally suited for the job and has a history of prosecuting people regardless of income, influence or political connections.
He said Tyson has integrity, tenacity and courage, and is committed to enforcing the law.
"I know John Tyson. ... If it's illegal, it's illegal for everyone," Riley said.
The governor said some people described Tyson as a bulldog.
"That's what we need," he said.
When asked if he was concerned about VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor saying he had a private investigator follow Barber, Tyson said McGregor needs to be concerned about whether he is intimidating law enforcement from doing their job.
Tyson said it appears to "border on obstruction and we're going to look into it immediately."
McGregor said that he does not intimidate anybody.
"I don't know about Tyson. ... I know I don’t operate that way," he said. "I can have people monitored and I will have people monitored if I see fit to do so.
"I hope Tyson does a good job. As far as I know, John Tyson is an honorable man and a good DA."
McGregor said the man he had monitored, Barber, "turned out he really needed to be monitored." He said Barber was telling people he opposed gambling while he was gambling in Philadelphia, Miss.
Tyson said he and his wife accumulated about $20 and gambled it away in about 15 minutes in Mississippi about 20 years ago. He said that is their only gambling experience.
Riley said state and federal courts have ruled that the gaming machines are illegal in Alabama, which is why he said some lawmakers are trying to "redefine the law."
"The only way they can make what they're doing legal is by changing the law," he said.
Some lawmakers and casino operators disagree with Riley's interpretation of the law. The Alabama Supreme Court better defined bingo in a recent ruling that Riley considered a major victory.
McGregor said the constitutional amendment passed in Macon County allows electronic bingo.
"You can't get any more legal than that," he said.
McGregor is among those who have alleged ties between Riley and those who operate the Choctaw casinos in Mississippi. Those critics point to information in a report of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. They accuse Riley of trying to reduce competition in Alabama, a claim Riley and his supporters vehemently deny.
McGregor said that if Tyson has an interest in gambling in Alabama, he should ask some hard questions of Riley and Barber.
Tyson, who is running for reelection as district attorney, said he will serve in both roles and is not receiving any more compensation. He has served as district attorney for 16 years. Tyson, 57, said the task force helped him with a raid in Mobile County.
Tyson said he has had people approach him on a handful of different occasions about opening operations in Mobile County where developers would spend as much as $350 million, but he informed them the activity is illegal. He said it is unfair to tell people they can’t start an establishment in Mobile County while they are opening up elsewhere.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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James proposes six-point plan to save state money

Greenville businessman Tim James, a Republican candidate for governor, unveiled a six-point plan on Monday that he says could help the state address its budget shortfall immediately.
He suggests implementing unpaid furlough days for employees at all state government operations. James said furloughing all state employees for one day would save $6 million.
The State Personnel Board passed a measure to allow furloughs, which members believed would give state agencies another option in addressing budget shortfalls besides layoffs. The Legislature blocked that policy.
"We've got to put it back on the table," James said.
He said part of campaigning is bringing awareness to issues. Furloughs would avoid layoffs and job cuts, James said.
He also suggested an indefinite state hiring freeze, which was implemented by Gov. Bob Riley in late 2008.
Riley and James have said the hiring freeze saves millions as workers leave through attrition. They also agree there should be some exceptions including corrections officers.
James supports passage of legislation that would create an Office of Inspector General, who would be appointed by the governor and given authority to conduct independent audits and inspections of all state operations.
The goal, he said, is to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and to "eliminate waste, fraud and abuse."
James also supports random audits of state departments and agencies. The results would be published on the state's Web site.
He also wants to reduce all non-essential travel and entertainment, except for economic development, law enforcement, and that related to emergencies.
The other facet of his plan is independent reviews of existing and pending state contracts to determine whether they comply with state guidelines and whether there is an opportunity for additional savings through bringing those legal, accounting, engineering, architecture and computer technology services in-house.
James said he did not have a total of how much his proposals would save, but that it would not be enough to fill the several hundred million-dollar-hole in the state's budgets.
He said the plan helps address the decreased revenue coming into the state without a tax increase.
James, who was talking on the State House steps in front of about two dozen supporters, repeatedly emphasized that the state should not rely on money from Washington to balance the budget.
"You can’t budget money you don't have," he said.
Riley has said the state has to anticipate money from the federal government every year in crafting a budget. The state receives hundreds of millions of dollars to use for Medicaid, transportation, and other programs.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, a Democrat running for governor, said in a statement that several months ago the congressman released "a detailed plan to audit state government, eliminate waste and fraud and save Alabama taxpayers $664 million."
"We welcome Tim James to the cause of taxpayer protection, but find it disappointing that he has introduced a plan that generates no specific savings while wrongly placing a tremendous financial burden on the backs of state employees," said spokesman Alex Goepfert.
The candidates, who are among nine who have announced they are running for governor, have more information about their plans on their Web sites.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Davis releases new poll

The campaign of U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, sent out new polling information to his supporters on Friday. Davis uses the well-respected Democratic polling firm of Anzalone-Liszt Research.
In the e-mail to supporters, Davis' director of strategy Jon Paul Lupo wrote that Davis had a commanding lead over Democratic opponent Ron Sparks and was in a "dead heat" in hypothetical match-ups with Republicans Bradley Byrne, Tim James and Roy Moore.
Lupo stressed that even as Democrats struggle nationally, as evidenced by the loss of a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, Davis' favorability rating has gone up statewide since May.

"Artur Davis' record shows that he is exactly the kind of Democrat who can win in this type of political environment, and our latest internal polling, from just a few days ago, backs that up." Lupo wrote.

More than 66 percent of voters who know Davis rated him favorably, according to the campaign.
The campaign did not release specific numbers on the head-to-head contests.

Voters surveyed also supported constitutional reform, which Davis is advocating, by a 13 percent margin.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Moore camp claims lead in GOP primary

In what the campaign called a major announcement, campaign officials speaking for former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore said he was leading all of the other Republican candidates for governor and called on those with polls supporting that to release them.
Moore was not at the Friday press conference on the Capitol steps.
His campaign manager, James Henderson, and spokeswoman, Suzelle Josey, said he was leading in polls conducted by the Christian Coalition of Alabama, the Alabama Education Association, Alfa, and World Net Daily.
Henderson said the campaign had not conducted a poll. He said there were great organizations conducting polling.
The campaign manager said they had not seen the polling they discussed, but had seen statements from other candidates, officials and credible sources talking about the polls.
"These polls confirm Judge Moore has a commanding lead in the race for governor," Henderson said.
He said the candidate has a lead because he is a true leader and people know he will follow through on his commitments. Henderson said Moore is the man to lead the push for economic development and ethics reform, and to defend people’s constitutional rights.
Henderson also said Moore was the only Republican who could win in November.
Josey said the politicians and special interests are "running scared." When asked, she said Moore was at a prior engagement.
Moore, after running statewide as a candidate for governor and chief justice and after the fight over the 10 Commandments monument at the State Judicial Building, does have high name recognition in Alabama.
Randy Brinson, chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, said the poll was not scientific, but that those who responded would be highly motivated. He said people on the organization's mailing list received an e-mail that allowed them to go to a site and vote. About 1,600 people responded.
In the CCA polling, Moore has remained the leader with somewhere between 25 and 35 percent of the votes. Greenville businessman Tim James has remained consistent at about 18 percent and former two two-year college system Chancellor Bradley Byrne dropped from second to fifth with about 11 percent of the vote.
State Rep. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa surged from single digits to second place with almost 22 percent of the vote.
Brinson said there has been a trend in the last eight months with more people moving away from the undecided category and selecting their candidate.
He said the participation is obviously from religious conservatives. More than 84 percent of the people who responded said they were Republican. Less than 8 percent identified themselves as Democrats.
Those Democrats who did respond favored Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks over U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham 57 percent to 43 percent.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Holmes Ethics Bill Headed to the Senate

In a bipartisan effort, the House passed a bill that would give subpoena power to the Alabama Ethics Commission.

State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, sponsored the bill which Republicans have been pushing for the last three years. State Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, had sponsored the bill again this year, but he said that he was willing to withdraw his bill if the House passed Holmes' bill.

Ward said the reality is that by passing Holmes' bill it improves the likelihood that the bill could pass the Senate because Holmes is a Democrat.

"Alvin will have a better chance of getting this bill is passed if he carries it," he said.

Holmes said he has fought corruption under Republican and Democratic governor's and he doesn't believe the Senate is going to tell the Dean of the House no on this issue.

"We have had so much corruption in this state that we need every tool that we can get to fight it," he said.

Ward's version of the bill has passed the House before, but has never made it out of the Senate. The bill never came up for a vote last year. He said that he thinks there would be low tolerance this election cycle for the kind of procedural stalling and blocking tactics that have happened in the state Legislature in previous years.

"That anger is not just aimed at Democrats, it's aimed at the people in power," he said. "And when it comes to this kind of legislation on ethics, I wouldn't want to be in the position of trying to block it."

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jeremy Walker Announces for House District 73

Montgomery attorney Jeremy Walker announced Wednesday that he will face two-term state Rep. David Grimes in the Republican primary in June.

Walker made his announcement on the State House steps in front of a crowd of supporters vowing to focus on economic development, ethics and restoring integrity to government.

"With unemployment at 10 percent, creating and protecting jobs is more important than ever," he said. "

Walker said if he is elected the first bill he introduces would be one that repeals the 62 percent pay raise that legislators voted for themselves in 2007. He said that money is a state employee or a teacher's salary that could have been paid to help the citizens of the state.

"I'm a fighter and I've been a leader," he said. "And I will bring that fight and leadership to the state house."

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Acadome Resolution Headed to Riley's Desk

A non-binding resolution that strongly urges the Alabama State University Board of Trustees to put former trustee Joe L. Reed's name back on the university's sports arena is once again headed to the governor's desk.

In a 30 to 22 vote, the House passed a resolution that the Senate passed on a voice voted during the first legislative day. The trustees recently voted to rename the Acadome after the university coaches with the most wins: Charles "C.J." Dunn and James V. Oliver.

Reed is a top official with the Alabama Democratic Party and the Alabama Education Association. He and the university have been at odds over the Acadome's name since May 2008, when trustees voted to remove Reed's name from the arena. A similar resolution was passed last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Bob Riley.

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks

Tea Party Rally Brings out Candidates

A tea party rally that drew hundreds to the steps of the state house also drew a handful of Republicans running for governor. The rally was organized by local chapters of the tea party movement under the umbrella of the newly formed Alabama Patriot Coalition.

Candidates Kay Ivey, Tim James, Bill Johnson and state Rep. Robert Bentley (who had to be in session in the House by 1 p.m.) were all in attendance at Tuesday's rally. There were also several Republican legislators who turned up at the rally including river region representatives Greg Wren, Mac Gipson and David Grimes.

But the rally wasn't a feel good event for the Republicans with many of the speakers on the raised platforms taking them to task for not standing up for conservative values.

As the Alabama Patriot Coalition, members of the tea party movement hope to put pressure on state legislators to pass bills and resolutions that support state sovereignty and gun rights.

Both the Senate and the House passed a joint resolution claiming sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. The resolution is now headed to the governor's desk.

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Monday, January 18, 2010

Senate to take up roads bill

Senate Democrats, led by powerful Sen. Lowell Barron, will try again Tuesday to pass a bill that would, if approved by voters, use $1 billion over 10 years to improve roads and bridges in the state.

Barron, D-Fyffe, believes the bill would put people to work and improve safety on Alabama roads.
The money would be taken from the Alabama Trust Fund.
Republicans have concerns about raiding the trust fund. During a vote along almost straight party lines, Republicans were able to stop the bill in 2009.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Byrne begins TV ads

Republican Bradley Byrne is the first candidate to hit the TV airwaves with ads during the 2010 race for governor. He has ads focused on his faith and on his fight against "Paul Hubbert and the AEA" when he was chancellor of the state's two-year college system. People can view the ads at:

The ads began airing this week and are available on his Web site,

The faith ad comes on the heels of comments by Byrne in the Press-Register about the Bible, which has caused some concerns about his candidacy among members of the religious community in the state.
"I believe there are parts of the Bible that are meant to be literally true and parts that are not," he was quoted saying in November.
Byrne has said he was misquoted and repeatedly emphasized his faith. The editor of the Press-Register has disputed that Byrne was misquoted.
Television advertising is expensive so some observers were surprised to see a candidate on the air so soon.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

More than two dozen Republicans endorse McMillan

Several local and state officials including two dozen state legislators have endorsed Republican John McMillan for agriculture commissioner.
Those officials include Sens. Larry Dixon of Montgomery, Scott Beason of Gardendale, Ben Brooks of Mobile, Del Marsh of Anniston, Rusty Glover of Semmes, and Trip Pittman of Montrose.
Among the 20 members of the Alabama House of Representatives who endorsed the candidate are Mac Gipson of Prattville, Greg Wren and Jay Love of Montgomery, and Rep. Barry Mask of Wetumpka.
Local officials in the tri-county who endorsed McMillan include Montgomery County Commissioners Reed Ingram and Dimitri Polizos, Elmore County Commissioners Joe Faulk and David Bowen, and Autauga County Commissioner Jay Thompson.
Other state lawmakers who endorsed McMillan include: Steve McMillan, Chad Fincher, Mike Hill, Spencer Collier, Micky Hammon, Warren Beck, Randy Wood, Greg Canfield, Mike Ball, Joe Faust, Jamie Ison, Randy Davis, Duwayne Bridges, Harry Shiver, Owen Drake, and Jim McClendon.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Friday, January 15, 2010

Country Crossing developer responds to Barber resignation

Ronnie Gilley, developer of Country Crossing, said he was appalled that the commander of the governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling was trying to shut down casinos in Alabama while gambling in Mississippi. He said the revelation "proves the hypocrisy associated with the top office in the state of Alabama."
Thousands of Alabamians including David Barber, the commander of the task force who resigned this week, cross the border every day and spend $35,000 an hour gambling in Mississippi, Gilley said.
The developer said he believes the situation strongly insinuates that there are ulterior motives for Gov. Bob Riley's crackdown on gambling. He said he believes Riley is seeking to eliminate competition for the Mississippi Indians, give a monopoly to Indian casinos here and destroy his development.
Gilley asked if Barber might have had any other business to conduct while at the casino.
If the governor was to close down Country Crossing, GreeneTrack and VictoryLand, Gilley said there would still be gambling in Alabama at Indian facilities that are not taxable.
Friday was also the grand opening at Country Crossing, a country-music-themed entertainment complex with dinner theaters and restaurants operated by music stars.
Gilley said Friday night that more than 12,000 people were there and he expected about 30,000 Saturday.
He said a search warrant and raid were not necessary because the facility is open and representatives of the governor have been invited to the site more than 20 times. The governor did not respond, he said, and did not have people attend county commission meetings, hearings and other events where the development was discussed.
Gilley said a world-renowned company certified every machine in the facility to be legal by Alabama law and said that the task force was invited. He said they decided instead to spend taxpayer money to raid the facility with machine guns and body armor.
The developer said Friday was a sad day because they were denied due process and no hearing by the Alabama Supreme Court, which essentially allowed a raid on Country Crossing to move forward by dismissing a lawsuit. He said the task force could cost 1,500 people their jobs.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Lawmakers, Sparks, Milton McGregor respond to gambling czar resignation

The following are comments responding to the resignation of David Barber, the commander of Gov. Bob Riley's Task Force on Illegal Gambling, after he won $2,300 gambling in a casino in Mississippi.

State Rep. Mike Hubbard, House minority leader and chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said that he believes that Barber "used poor judgment" and was right to resign.
"But the task force is bigger than one man," he said. "I feel certain that their work will continue."
Hubbard said Barber's resignation and the reason for it have nothing to do with the fact that a legal question remains about electronic bingo in Alabama.
"That's going to be a question for the courts to decide," he said. "Just because somebody goes out of state to do something doesn't mean it's something that we should be rushing to do in our state. It certainly hasn't solved Mississippi's problems, or Macon County's problems or Greene County's problems."
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ron Sparks, who supports taxing and regulating gambling, said Barber takes his money from Alabama and gambles in Mississippi with the revenues educating children and creating jobs there.
"This just proves the hypocrisy of those who want to kill Alabama jobs and rob our children and seniors of important revenue," said Sparks, the state's agriculture commissioner. "We have a governor who takes Mississippi gambling money while his anti-gambling czar gambles in Mississippi."
Riley has adamantly denied allegations from a former Cabinet member and a U.S. Senate committee report that he took money from Mississippi Indians in 2002 when he was running for governor.
Sparks said the task force, not Country Crossing, is hurting jobs in Alabama.
State Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, said he didn't think Barber should resign just because he was gambling in a state that allows people to do so legally. Holmes said he should resign for not being truthful with the people of the state about his position on gambling.
The longtime lawmaker said the fact that the head of the governor's own task force on illegal gambling is resigning because of gambling weakens Riley's position on the issue.
"It strengthens the argument that the citizens of Alabama should be given an opportunity to vote on legalized gambling in the state," he said.
Holmes said it also throws doubt on Riley's assertions that he did not take Mississippi Indian casino money during his 2002 campaign for governor. He said Riley should shut down the task force, of which he questions the legality, and stop fighting the people who have spent millions to bring projects such as Country Crossing.
"Gov. Riley needs to leave this whole issue of gambling alone," he said. "That genie is out of the bottle."
VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor said another resignation was in order.
"Now that this whole so-called task force with David Barber has been exposed as being the sham that it has been since day one, Barber is not the only one who should resign," said the owner of the dog track/electronic bingo/entertainment facility located off the Shorter exit along Interstate 85. "I think Riley should resign with him.
"What Riley has done is a shame and a disgrace. Think about the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer's dollars that he has wasted paying attorneys' fees on this so-called task force, which is nothing but a protection mechanism for the Indian casino owners."
He said he believes that the incident will "destroy" the governor's task force and that it certainly destroys any credibility the task force claimed it had.
"It clearly shows what we have been saying since day one — how hypocritical and dishonest David Barber and Bob Riley have been, and still are, on the bingo issue," McGregor said.
"I don't think anything could say this louder or clearer than what happened today, and that the people of Alabama will clearly demonstrate to Riley and Barber how they resent such hypocrisy and dishonesty. The bottom line is that now the truth is out -- about David Barber, Bob Riley and their so-called task force. This task force is nothing but a scheme that Bob Riley concocted to protect the Indian Mississippi casino owners from any competition whatsoever from Alabama."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

DA wants Riley's task force out of Houston County

The district attorney in Houston County asked Gov. Bob Riley to suspend the activities of his Task Force on Illegal Gambling in Houston County after the commander resigned following winning $2,300 while gambling in Mississippi.
District Attorney Douglas Valeska of Houston County, where the Country Crossing development is located, responded quickly to David Barber's resignation with a letter to Riley.
Valeska wrote that Barber recently won the money at a Mississippi Choctaw Indian casino. While Barber's actions in Mississippi were legal, the prosecutor wrote that "they cast a pall over our work here in Houston County."
Valeska wrote that Riley has said the task force's involvement there was based on his invitation and request for assistance.
"In light of these developments, I am asking that you deem my invitation suspended until such time as we can consider the impact of these admissions on our work," he wrote, adding that he looked forward to discussing the issue with Riley soon. " ... In the meantime, I trust you will suspend any further involvement in Houston County."
In his statement responding to an Alabama Supreme Court ruling allowing the task force to move forward with a raid on Country Crossing's bingo pavilion, Riley was confident about moving forward with future law enforcement operations.
"The operators of all illegal casinos in this state should not sleep well tonight, tomorrow night, or any night in the future," he said. "The anti-gambling laws of Alabama are going to be enforced."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Riley's gambling czar resigns after gambling in Mississippi

The commander of Gov. Bob Riley's much-publicized Task Force on Illegal Gambling resigned this week because he thought him winning $2,300 gambling in Mississippi would be a distraction.
In a Wednesday resignation letter to Riley, David Barber said he concluded that his work on the task force would become a political distraction. He said he won the prize playing a legal game in a legal casino in Mississippi.
"While my actions were in full compliance with the law, I am convinced that the forces that operate illegal casinos in Alabama will focus on my actions as part of their continuing effort to smear you and your task force," Barber wrote. "The work of the task force is too important to allow it to be impeded by such distractions."
Casino operators and Democratic lawmakers were quick to criticize the task force on Friday.
The resignation became public on Friday, the same day the task force won a victory before the Alabama Supreme Court. The task force, which has already raided a casino in White Hall, was seeking to raid the bingo pavilion at Country Crossing near Dothan.
The state's high court dismissed a case filed by the Houston County Commission to prevent the task force from raiding Country Crossing and seizing electronic bingo machines.
Riley and Barber consider the electronic bingo machines to be slot machines that are illegal in Alabama.
The ruling essentially allowed the task force to move forward with the raid and seize the machines.
Riley wrote in a Thursday letter that he accepted Barber's resignation with regret. He commended Barber for his dedication and courage as task force leader and as district attorney in Jefferson County. The resignation will be effective upon the appointment of a successor.
"Despite a steady stream of personal attacks from the forces that want to perpetuate and expand illegal gambling in Alabama you have never wavered from your determination to see that the laws of Alabama are enforced uniformly across the state of Alabama," Riley wrote.
The task force shut down illegal activity in several Alabama counties as a result of Barber's leadership, the governor wrote.
Riley's office announced the resignation and released the letters at 5 p.m. Friday. The governor is on a trade mission in Costa Rica with other state officials.
His press secretary, Todd Stacy, did not return a message to his cell phone seeking further comment.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Anderson to run for AG

Montgomery attorney James Anderson wants to be head of the largest law firm in the state. He said he will file his papers Saturday to qualify to run for Alabama attorney general.
Anderson, former chairman of the Alabama Ethics Commission, joins an increasingly crowded field of candidates vying for the position held by Attorney General Troy King, a Republican who plans to run for his second full term.
Anderson has represented groups well connected to Democratic politics in the state including the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama Democratic Party, which he said he has represented for eight years without charge.
Anderson, 55, said he has handled mostly civil cases, including representing people and companies that have been sued, but also has handled criminal cases including capital murder.
"You have got to have somebody in that office that actually knows what they're doing, that has practiced law, that has not been a lobbyist or a political hack their whole life," he said.
The attorney general is the state's lawyer and is involved in lobbying for issues, negotiating on behalf of the state, representing the state in civil and criminal cases, and prosecuting cases, Anderson said.
Other Democratic candidates include former federal prosecutor Michel Nicrosi, a Montgomery native who lives in Daphne, and Giles Perkins, a Birmingham attorney and former executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party.
The Republican candidates include King and Birmingham lawyer and former lobbyist Luther Strange. Strange beat a field of Republicans in the 2006 Republican primary for lieutenant governor, but lost to Jim Folsom Jr. in the general election.
"Either one of those guys is going to be well-funded and they're also going to be well beat up," Anderson said of the GOP primary.
Anderson, who ran for the Alabama Supreme Court eight years ago, criticized King and Strange's lack of law experience.
Running the attorney general's office with limited legal experience is "like coaching a team in a sport you have never played," Anderson said.
He said he will lay out the need for a new direction in the attorney general's office.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Court rules in favor of Riley's gambling task force

The Alabama Supreme Court has dismissed the case filed by the Houston County Commission that prevented Gov. Bob Riley's Task Force on Illegal Gambling from raiding Country Crossing in Cottonwood and seizing electronic bingo machines. Riley considers them to be slot machines that are illegal in Alabama.
A Dale County judge issued a restraining order earlier this month stopping the raid. Riley's office contends the order was issued in the middle of the night without a lawyer present to represent the task force.
The Supreme Court's order states that the "trial court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to interfere with a criminal proceeding by civil action," according to a release from Riley's office.
Riley said the order would allow the task force to move forward with seizing the machines and sends a strong message to other casinos that try to stop the seizures.
"This decision is a major victory for the rule of law in Alabama. The Supreme Court's order makes clear that gambling bosses around the state will not be able to prevent the state's anti-gambling laws from being enforced," the governor said. "We were confident that the Supreme Court would not allow this unprecedented order disrupting law enforcement activities to stand. It shows that the law will prevail over money and political influence."
Riley would not comment on the timing of future law enforcement operations.
"The operators of all illegal casinos in this state should not sleep well tonight, tomorrow night, or any night in the future," he said. "The anti-gambling laws of Alabama are going to be enforced."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Benefield Won't Seek Re-election

The following is a statement from state Senator Kim Benefield Friday:

“Over the past several months I have been struggling with a decision about whether to run for re-election to the Alabama Senate or retire from public office. For 35 years the people of Randolph County and most recently Senate District 13 have honored me with the opportunity to make public service my career and passion. My priority over these years has been to be accessible to the people, accountable for taxpayer dollars and supportive of efforts to improve our county, region and state.

Even though I have only served four years in the Alabama Senate, I was given the great opportunity to chair the important Senate Agriculture Committee, the newly-created Joint Task Force on Water, and serve as a member of the Energy Council. In all of these roles, I have worked hard to study the issues, listen to the voters as well as industry experts, and support policies that will move our state forward well into the 21st century.

At the same time I have not been able to have the time necessary to serve and fully enjoy the many blessings of being a proud grandmother. Because my daughter and her family live in Georgia it is my decision to be able to spend more time with them during these important years of their lives. Therefore I am announcing that I will not be a candidate for re-election to Senate District 13 and will retire from public office.

I will continue to be active in our area and the state, and it is my hope that the next Senator for our district will continue my commitment to staying in touch with the voters and being accessible to assist with their needs. I want to thank my fellow Alabamians for their support and vote over the years. This has been a difficult decision for me in many ways, but one that has been easy when I look into the beautiful faces of my grandchildren.”

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sanders considering retirement ... again

Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said Thursday he is in the process of finalizing whether to run again and said he is "leaning toward not running."

Sanders, chairman of the Senate education budget committee, previously announced he was not running for an eighth term, but has received encouragement to run again for the district that includes all or part of Autauga, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Lowndes, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, and Wilcox counties.

He said he will probably decide in the next two weeks.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Democrats continue to slam Riley's budget

Democratic criticism of Gov. Bob Riley's proposed budget continues with them asking him to tell the truth and saying his proposal is "smoke and mirrors."
Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, a Democrat who is running for governor, said the governor told people on statewide TV that the state's budgets are not in a crisis, but that Riley's proposal cut his department by almost $2 million to $14 million.
Sen. Hank Sanders, chairman of the Senate education budget committee, called Riley's proposal "smoke and mirrors" and said it will make crafting the budget more difficult for lawmakers because some people have unrealistic expectations after hearing from the governor.
"I think those budgets are driven more by bingo than by reality," said Sanders, D-Selma. "The governor spent more time dealing with bingo and gambling than any other issue. This was created to distract from the reality of the financial crisis we are facing."
The senator said Riley is trying to convince people there is no crisis and no need to tax and regulate gambling.
Riley and Acting Finance Director Bill Newton said they expect Congress to pass a second stimulus plan that could send about $500 million more in federal help to Montgomery. About $500 million more could be available for transportation.
The governor said he has talked to members of Congress and is confident the help is coming. The U.S. House has passed a second stimulus package, but the Senate has not acted.
Sanders said the Senate is usually a larger obstacle to passing such massive legislation.
Riley said it would be asinine to propose a budget with layoffs and other cuts that would concern employees when his administration is expecting relief.
"I guess those politicians would rather the state fire 3,500 teachers when we don't have to," said Todd Stacy, press secretary for the governor.
Newton said it is common for the governor's office and lawmakers to estimate the revenue they expect from the federal government while drafting the budgets. He said they had to use educated estimates to build the budgets a year ago because, like this year, Congress was still working on the stimulus.
Stacy said no one seemed to have a problem with estimating possible stimulus funds a year ago.
"It would be irresponsible to budget under the assumption that zero federal money is coming to Alabama. We know federal money is coming," he said.
Sparks said Riley is depending on legislation that has no Republican support. He said there would be thousands of layoffs without the help of the first stimulus supported by Washington Democrats.
The governor presented a budget based on the best estimates of what money will be available, Stacy said.
"The only reason anyone is surprised there is no fiscal crisis is because chicken little lobbyists and gambling interests for months have been creating a doom's day scenario," he said. "The fact of the matter is the state has the resources to get through 2011."
The Legislative Fiscal Office estimated a more than $600 million hole in the General Fund budget, which is used to operate prisons, state troopers and Medicaid.
Sparks said 63 employees in his department took voluntary furlough days during the holidays. With further cuts, the commissioner said the department would need to cut essential services including the food inspection program.
Sparks said they have cut security guards at the agriculture department, cut per diem and overnight travel, he has given up his state vehicle, and the department stopped purchasing new equipment. He said there are also the statewide freezes on hiring and merit pay increases.
"The size of the department is dwindling every day," the commissioner said.
Sparks said employees are expecting more than can be delivered.
Stacy said the budget has been cut and spending has been reduced, which he said is good financial management given the economic situation.
"The governor didn't say everything is fine. He said it's not a crisis," he said.
Talk of a crisis is untrue given that the General Fund budget is level funded, Stacy said.
Sparks' proposal to fill holes in the budget is implementing a state lottery and taxing and regulating gambling to fund education, Medicaid and college scholarships. He said gambling is here and there are Alabamians driving to neighboring states to gamble and buy lottery tickets.
"The difference is they get the money to educate their children and we don't," Sparks said.
Riley is engaged in a very public fight against gambling and started a task force to stop it. The governor said electronic bingo is illegal in Alabama.
"Legalized casino gambling would be a bad idea for Alabama because it would drastically hurt the economy," Stacy said.
Riley talked this week of the social effects of gambling on a community.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

Davis recommends Beck for U.S. attorney

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis said there is opposition from Alabama's senators to the nomination of Joe Van Heest to be the next U. S. attorney in this district so he is nominating defense attorney George Beck.
Davis, in a statement, said he has learned the White House will not nominate Van Heest for the chief prosecutor in the Middle District of Alabama because of the state's U.S. Senate delegation.
"I believe that Van Heest would have made a superb chief federal prosecutor for the district, and I am disappointed that he will not have the opportunity to serve," Davis said.
The congressman, a Birmingham Democrat who is running for governor, said he will instead recommend Beck to the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice. He said Beck is a longtime veteran of the Montgomery legal community.
"Beck has built a bipartisan reputation as one of the most respected and successful members of the state's criminal defense bar and in my opinion would be confirmed by the United States Senate," Davis said.
Beck did not respond to calls to his Montgomery law office on Thursday afternoon.
Attempts to reach Alabama's U.S. senators, Richard Shelby of Tuscaloosa and Jeff Sessions of Mobile, were unsuccessful.
Some Democrats have voiced their displeasure over Beck because he represented Nick Bailey, a key defense witness in the case against former Gov. Don Siegelman. Attorneys in the Middle District prosecuted Siegelman.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Pan Riley's Budgets

Maybe its a foregone conclusion that Alabama Democrats would have a problem with Gov. Bob Riley's declaration that there was no financial crisis in Alabama, but some of the gubernatorial candidates who want to replace him want it on the record that they object too.

Alabama Democrats at about 3:04 p.m. called on GOP candidates to reject Riley's "fantasy budget." But Republican candidates Tim James and Dr. Robert Bentley beat them to the punch.

Tim James sent the following in a press release at just before 3 p.m. Thursday:

“More federal bailouts leads to an addiction, like crack cocaine," James said. "Federal money comes with strings attached, and more and more Washington has become an unreliable source of revenue as Barack Obama and the Democrat-dominated Congress have run up a $1.3 trillion budget deficit. Our federal deficits are financed by China and Japan, in large part.

"When they decide to draw the line and cease to invest in U.S. Treasury notes, Alabama and other states dependent on federal bail-out money will be in real financial trouble," he said.

James said the state of Alabama must come to grips with the state budget and get its fiscal house in order. Further delays, he explained, only aggravate the problems that must be dealt with eventually.

“Our unfunded liability in state pension funds exceeds $7 billion and counting,” James said. “Our costs for health care, including Medicaid, are overwhelming and outgrowing our ability to keep up. Bail-outs don’t solve the underlying problems while encouraging an unhealthy addiction to federal money.”

Dr. Robert Bentley's campaign sent the following in a press release at just before 5 p.m. Wednesday:

“Relying on federal stimulus money to fill in our budget gaps is short-sighted. Last year we refused stimulus money because it would have made us change our unemployment benefit laws and then leave us responsible for funding the new program after the funds ran out. Other stimulus programs come with similar requirements and future consequences. As Republicans, I believe we should carefully examine any money which would cause us to change our laws in order to receive federal funds.”

“Gov. Riley’s education budget calls for spending $468,928,730 more in fiscal year 2011 than in fiscal year 2010. The Education Trust Fund does not have this much money, and unless the Governor knows where extra money is, there is no way that we can fund this increase.”

“It would be a tremendous disservice to local school systems to craft a budget that is overly optimistic. The worst thing that can happen to a school system is to be given unrealistic numbers and then have to operate under proration when the promised money does not appear. I believe we should craft a more conservative budget which contains “conditionals” so that local school needs are protected before funding new programs.”

Not to be outdone Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ron Sparks, who as commissioner of Agriculture and Industry had a front row seat to hear the governor bash what is essentially one of his top platform issues -- gambling -- issued the earliest statement at just before 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

"Last night's performance by Bob Riley was shameful," Sparks said. "At a time when our working families are struggling under the weight of an 11 percent unemployment rate, he says he's created thousands of new jobs. At a time when teacher layoffs are a possibility and our kids bring toilet paper to school to help out, Bob Riley says he has plenty of money for education.
“And at a time when our seniors and children wonder if they will still have health care next year, Bob Riley says, 'Don't worry. Be happy.'

“Folks, we don't just have a budget crisis, we have a leadership crisis. I am the only candidate for governor with a plan to increase revenue. We need an education lottery and we need to make legal gaming establishments finally pay their share of taxes, just like Alabama families do. We need action, not slogans or sound bites.
“That's the kind of governor we need, not one that hides his head in the sand or tells us how sunny it is while the rain pours.”

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Not Enought Money to Fight Gambling?

The faith community used its voice and its money in 2003 to defeat a proposed state lottery, but they acknowledge that it could be a little more difficult to defeat gambling interests this time.

The reason? Money.

Members of the Alabama State Baptist Convention, the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) and Republican Senators Scott Beason and Hank Erwin gathered on the steps of State House Wednesday to decry the proliferation of gambling in the state. But they acknowledged while their convictions against gambling are strong, their pocket books might not be.

Joe Godfrey, executive director for ALCAP, said unlike lottery proponents, the electronic bingo proponents have much more money to throw at this issue. And it's possibly more money than churches have. He pointed to last year's "Sweet Home Alabama" campaign.

Godfrey was the pastor of Taylor Road Baptist Church during the lottery fight and he said the church took $5,000 out of its budget to help fight the lottery. He said other churches did the same to fight the $6 million that Gov. Don Siegelman had to promote the lottery.

"Six million dollars is a drop in the bucket," he said. "You'll have machine manufacturers, the Country Crossings, the Victorylands --they will put gazillions into this because they stand to make millions."

The Rev. Dan Ireland, the director emeritus of ALCAP, said that legislators should support the governor's efforts to uphold the constitution and wipe out electronic bingo. He said if the courts uphold the state constitution and wipe out electronic bingo machines once and for all, it would also wipe out Alabama Indian Casino gambling. He pointed to federal law that says that Indian casinos can only have what is allowable in the state.

Ireland said to those who propose that there should be a vote of the people on the issue, "Why should we vote on something that is already illegal?"

Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, characterized the fight against gambling as a battle for Alabama and the "fabric and future of our people."

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said that he was a high school student when gambling proponents sold leaders in Jefferson County on establishing a pari mutuel dog track. He said that venture never lived up to its promises to help education, but it did make some people a lot of money.

"My belief is that when you rationally think about it you understand gambling's effect and you know that it is not an economic tool," he said.

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Acadome resolution back again

Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little introduced, and the Senate passed on a voice vote on Tuesday, a resolution renaming the athletic arena at Alabama State University after Joe Reed, a former trustee at the university, and a top official with the Alabama Democratic Party and the Alabama Education Association.
The resolution, which is not binding, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
ASU trustees voted to strip the name from the Acadome after a disagreement between Reed and other members of the board at the time.
Renaming the Acadome was a contentious issue during the last legislative session, but senators did not discuss the resolution before approving it on Tuesday.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

ICYMI: Who's running and Who's Not

Dixon Won't Seek Re-election
After 35 years in public office, state Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, said he's will not be a candidate this year.
Dixon, 67, made the heartfelt announcement during a press conference Wednesday where he thanked his family and supporters.
Dixon said he intends to continue in his capacity as the executive director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, and would offer his expertise to the incoming state Legislature and the new governor.
"I won't be seeking any kind of a reimbursable position, just offering friendly, good government advice and assistance," he said. "It is for certain, I will be following the politics of this state. A life time interest doesn't just go away."

Barber to Run for D-2
Local businessman Rick Barber is officially running for Congressional District 2.
With his wife, Lithia, and supporters looking on, Barber announced Wednesday that he is running for D2 as a Republican. He'll face Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby in the Republican primary this year. The winner of that match up will face incumbent, U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright.

Gipson Announces Re-election Bid
State Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, is running for re-election.
Gipson has represented House District 88, which covers east Autauga and west Elmore County, since 1994.

“It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve the citizens of District 88 for the past 16 years and I look forward to continuing my service for four more years," Gipson said in a press release. "I am continuing to work closely with the other members of the Elmore and Autauga County delegation and the members of the Alabama House to protect the conservative values of my constituents. I also strive to make Alabama the most desirable place for people to live, work and raise a family."

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kathy Johnson to Resign

Kathy Johnson, executive director of the Alabama Broadband initiative and wife of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Johnson, will have her last day as gubernatorial appointee Jan. 15.

In a letter to Gov. Bob Riley dated Jan. 4, Johnson doesn't give a reason for her departure. Instead she thanks the governor.

"Thank you for the opportunity to organize, launch and advance your statewide broadband effort," she wrote. "We have seen enormous successes since its inception in May 2008."

Johnson's husband has been in a public feud with Riley over the last few months regarding campaign contributions that Bill Johnson says Riley took from Mississippi Indian casino interests. Bill Johnson, who was forced to step down from his position as director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, alleges that Riley took money from Mississippi gambling interest during his 2002 campaign for governor. Riley has denied all allegations.

Both Johnsons have received threatening and harassing mail since Bill Johnson announced he was running for governor. The controversy even sparked an after hours Facebook dispute between Kathy Johnson and Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Carol Steckel.

But Johnson addresses none of these issues in her resignation letter. She closed out her letter to Riley by writing, "It's been an honor helping you advance Alabama through this effort, and I wish you and ALBI's new director continued success as they carry the project through year two and beyond."

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks

Byrne Unveils Jobs Plan

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne is starting his new year by promising "New Jobs for a New Alabama" and a pledge no new taxes on Alabamians.

During a Tuesday press conference, Byrne outlined just a portion of his plan for how he would create new jobs and grow the state’s economy.

"Most Alabamians have felt the sting of this economic downturn one way or another and many are anxious about what the future holds," Byrne said. "That’s why I’m starting off the New Year with my commitment to ‘New Jobs for a New Alabama,’" Byrne said.

In addition to no new taxes, Byrne said he wants to offer targeted incentives such as tax breaks for small businesses that hire unemployed workers and increasing the incentives for small business that offer employees health insurance and the employees that buy it.

Byrne said if he is elected governor he would establish an Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship inside the governor’s office to consolidate information, research business development opportunities and provide guidance for job makers.

"Nobody running for governor has the experience I have in work force training," Byrne said.

Byrne, who served as the chancellor of the two-year college system before he stepped down to run for governor, said that Alabama is being recognized as a leader in workforce training and it’s time for the state to act on its expertise. He said Gov. Bob Riley has laid the foundation for the future of economic development in the state and the next governor of the state has to be ready to build on that foundation.

Byrne said he would build on that foundation by working with the state’s two- and four-year colleges and universities to incubate new high-tech businesses.

In addition, Byrne’s plan also includes fighting what he calls "job-killing" initiatives and legislation, particularly federal bills such as those that impact health care reform, cap emissions and allegedly make it easier for workers to unionize.

Byrne singled out all such federal legislation as threats to Alabama’s economy that the next governor of the state should join with other governors to fight. Byrne said he would continue to roll out the details of his job creation plan over the month of January as he campaigns around the state.

"If ever there is a time to ‘think outside the box,’ this is it," he said. "If we’re going to take Alabama to the next level, we must start thinking big and boldly."

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks
UPDATE: Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne picked up another business endorsement. The Alabama Retail Association endorsed Byrne on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. Byrne picked up the endorsement of the Alabama Association of Realtors in December.
Monday, January 4, 2010

Barber to Announce Candidacy

Montgomery businessman Rick Barber will formally announce his candidacy for Alabama's 2nd Congressional District's seat Jan. 6 at noon.

Barber said in a press release that a month of consulting with his family and his exploratory committee, has fueled his decision to run for Congress.

"My family, friends and supporters have discussed my possible candidacy at length, and we've decided that the time is right for me to run for Congress," Barber said.

"Washington spending is out of control. Congress and President Obama are financing their exorbitant spending by buying American debt with American dollars. They are inflating our currency, and leading our economy down a road that we can no longer follow.

"It doesn't take a genius to understand that you can't spend more money than you have for long without serious repercussions," he said.

Barber says that Congress needs a small business owner's common sense.

"I will be a voice of reason and fiscal responsibility, and I will fight for federalist principles and Alabama's limited government values," he said.

Learn more about Rick Barber at