Daily News Digest – February 13, 2018

Daily News Digest – February 13, 2018
Good morning! Please stop posting what you would look like as the other gender on Facebook. Some things you can’t unsee. Here is your Daily News Digest for Tuesday, February 13. 

1. Slade Slid

“What is going on??”

  • Texts, emails and tweets to this effect poured in late last night when news broke that State Sen. Slade Blackwell is no longer running for governor.
  • Blackwell was the last-minute qualifier into an otherwise settled race for the GOP gubernatorial primary. His entry into the race had many scratching their heads as to what his intentions were given that others had already launched serious campaigns.
  • Now, 72 hours later, Blackwell is no longer a candidate for governor, according to ALGOP spokeswoman Katie Lansford.

What just happened?

  • Did he just think better of it? Was he trying to get Gov. Kay Ivey’s attention for some reason?
  • A few sources tell me this is about Blackwell’s fight to keep the Childersburg work-release prison open so local governments in Blackwell’s district can retain access to cheap labor.
  • In any case, he has everybody’s attention now, but not in a positive way.
  • Groups that have contributed to Blackwell’s campaigns were blindsided by both his entrance and exit from the race.
  • One prominent Alabama politico told me of the once rising-star senator, “Slade has gone from ‘who’s who’ to ‘who’s that?’ in the space of a weekend.”
  • And, because qualifying is over, he can no longer run for his current Senate seat as a Republican.
  • It’s common for politicians contemplating retirement to wait until the last minute to withdraw their candidacy to give their preferred successor a leg up in the race. Retiring State Sen. Hank Sanders just did that for his daughter.
  • Blackwell appears to have been favoring campaign adviser Miranda Carter, who qualified for his Senate seat about the same time.
  • But qualifying for the governor’s race and then dropping out? Bizarre.

What’s next

2. Infrastructure plan is here

What will Congress do?

  • Everybody wants more infrastructure funding. Factions may disagree over details or how to pay for it it, but everybody wants road money.
  • Some Republicans say the federal price tag is too high, while Democrats say it is too low. Go figure.
  • The trouble is, (1) the recently-enacted tax cuts combined with increases in federal spending have a lot of folks talking about rising deficits, and (2) the Senate is pretty focused on the immigration situation at the moment.
  • Look for the House Energy & Commerce and Transportation & Infrastructure Committees to work jointly on legislation putting the Trump plan into bill text.
  • One question will be how open conservatives are to increasing the federal gas tax to help pay for the infrastructure plan. T&I Chairman Bill Schuster had some success selling such a proposal at the recent House Republican retreat, reported The Washington Examiner. 
  • The best rundown I’ve read has been from POLITICO’s Brianna Gurciullo, so go read her report if you want to get up to speed.

3. AL Farmers Federation rolls out  Endorsements

  • FarmPAC, the political arm of the powerful Alabama Farmers Federation, has announced its endorsements for the 2018 primary elections.
  • Gov. Kay Ivey, Lt. Gov. candidate Will Ainsworth, Attorney General candidate Alice Martin and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Rick Pate are some of the recipients of the coveted endorsements for statewide office.
  • The Federation’s endorsement of U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, while not a surprise given her strong support for agriculture, is a boost to her campaign amid primary opposition in Alabama’s 2nd District.
  • Federation President Jimmy Parnell said the endorsements came after a day of meetings where candidates were invited to speak and answer questions from county leaders from around the state.
  • The Federation’s endorsement has long been one of the most sought-after among Alabama office seekers. It comes not only with the blessing and potential funding of the one of the state’s most influential groups, but also the help of its extensive member network across all of Alabama’s 67 counties.
  • The full list of Alabama Farmers Federation endorsements is available here.

4. Legislature returns

The Alabama Legislature returns today. Here’s what to expect.

House 

  • The House is set to take up the Education Trust Fund budget. Education Ways and Means Chairman Bill Poole has shepherded the bill to the floor with little drama, thanks in part to having more revenue to allocate.
  • Floor action could get tricky, though. It’s an election year, so don’t be surprised if you see a few amendments being floated that don’t stand much chance of passing but could make members look bad.
  • For example, an amendment to increase the teachers’ pay raise from 2.5 percent to 10 percent sounds pretty good, right? Nobody wants to vote against that! But, it would bust the budget and take us into proration, so it probably shouldn’t actually happen.
  • Anyway, look for shenanigans like that on the floor.

Senate

The upper chamber continues to plug along in no-drama fashion. A few high-profile bills are expected to come up today, including:

5. First Montgomery charter school approved

  • The Alabama Public Charter School Commission on Monday granted final approval to LEAD Academy, paving the way for Montgomery’s first public charter school.
  • LEAD Academy will open in the fall of 2018, serving students in kindergarten through 5th grade. The school plans to expand through the 12th grade by 2024.
  • Ryan Cantrell, Vice Chairman of the LEAD Academy board, spoke to the acute problem facing Montgomery schools…
  • “With everything going on in the Montgomery Public School system, we really felt a sense of urgency. The children of Montgomery couldn’t afford to wait another year. We are hopeful that the creation of LEAD Academy will spur innovation and help to improve public education across the entire system.”
  • Charter schools are public, tuition-free schools that operate outside of the traditional district system. Charter schools are given autonomy from many of the state-mandated regulations in return for a higher degree of accountability.
  • Congrats to LEAD Academy and good luck.
  • That said, the good thing about charter schools is, if you don’t perform, there will be consequences.

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – BREAKING: Blackwell backs out of governor’s race

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama Farmers Federation Announces Endorsements 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump says “Okay with me” if plan to rebuild roads founders

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Interior to replace Obama-era rule on methane emissions 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Police: Donald Trump Jr.’s wife exposed to white powder

WSFA – Alabama lawmakers, not governors, hold fate of any lottery

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Alabama Legislature could see influx of freshman lawmakers.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Former Gov. Don Siegelman recovering after bypass surgery.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Alabama Rep. Rogers slams ‘liberal media elite’ for glamorizing North Korea.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Jim Zeigler to run again for State Auditor.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Paper Company investing millions more in Alabama than planned.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Prison tensions about solitary cells continue for Alabama Department of Corrections.
AL.COM – Surprise late entrant Slade Blackwell drops out of Alabama governor’s race.

AL.COM – Montgomery County’s first public charter school to open in August.

AL.COM – Alabama school district first ever to have all schools STEM-certified.

AL.COM – Forever Wild tax bill won’t jeopardize program, sponsor says.

AL.COM – Alabama civil rights advisory committee to host voting access forums.

AL.COM – Diversified Gas & Oil announces $180 million in acquisitions.

AL.COM – Alabama’s GOP attorney general’s race ‘most competitive,’ experts say.

AL.COM – 10 Alabama statewide races to watch.

AL.COM – AG Jeff Sessions: Slavery, not state’s rights, caused Civil War.

FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – The Times Daily:  Public records requests must be honored.

GADSDEN TIMES – The Gadsden Times:  Ford taking a chance with independent run.

ANNISTON STAR – The Anniston Star:  Alabama vs. Mississippi, a battle of religiosity.

OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Opelika recycling center to close due to contamination.

DOTHAN EAGLE – The Dothan Eagle:  Asset forfeiture laws are ripe for reform.

WASHINGTON POST – Immigration debate launches in the Senate — and a GOP plan picks up support.

WASHINGTON POST – Trump wants to overhaul America’s safety net with giant cuts to housing, food stamps and health care.

WASHINGTON POST – Omarosa on Mike Pence: ‘He thinks Jesus tells him to say things’.

WASHINGTON POST – Jeff Sessions spoke of the ‘Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.’ Here’s what that means.

NEW YORK TIMES – Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Puts Burden on State and Private Money

Today’s front pages (images link to newspaper websites, which you should visit)