Daily News Digest – December 4, 2020

Presented by the

Business Council of Alabama

Good morning and Happy Friday!

Here’s your Daily News for December 4.

 

1. Reed stresses public access

  • A priority for the newly nominated Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, for the 2021 legislative session is to ensure the public has access to the State House.
  • “We’re going to have to have the House open and people are going to have to have access and be able to understand what we’re doing in an open and transparent way,” Reed said on Thursday during the Association of County Commissions of Alabama’s legislative priorities meeting.
  • During part of the 2020 regular legislative session, the State House was closed to the general public because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Opening the State House for the session that begins Feb. 2 will be an ongoing challenge as conditions surrounding the coronavirus change weekly, Reed said, but safety protocols will be put in place to hopefully reduce the spread of the virus.
  • Some of Reed’s other legislative priorities for the upcoming session include extending incentive packages like the Growing Alabama Credit and the Alabama Jobs Act; enacting liability protection against frivolous COVID-19 related lawsuits; improving high-speed internet access across the state; eliminating state taxes on stimulus resources or programs; and addressing the state’s crowded prison system.
  • Read the full story from ADN’s Caroline Beck HERE.

 

2. Jobs report: US employers add 245,000 jobs as virus intensifies

  • America’s employers scaled back their hiring last month as the viral pandemic accelerated across the country, adding 245,000 jobs, the fewest since April and the fifth straight monthly slowdown.
  • November’s job gain was down from 610,000 in October.
  • At the same time, the national unemployment rate fell to 6.7%, from 6.9% in October, the Labor Department said. Alabama’s unemployment rate sits at 5.8%.
  • Before the pandemic, last month’s gains would have been considered healthy. But the U.S. economy is still roughly 10 million jobs below its pre-pandemic level, with a rising proportion of the unemployed describing their jobs as gone for good. Faster hiring is needed to ensure that people who were laid off during the pandemic recession can quickly get back to work.
  • Two enhanced federal unemployment benefits programs are set to expire at the end of December — just as viral cases are surging and colder weather is shutting down outdoor dining and many public events. Unless Congress enacts another rescue aid package, more than 9 million unemployed people will be left without any jobless aid, state or federal, beginning after Christmas.
  • Full story HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A message from

the Business Council of Alabama

  • The Business Council of Alabama has launched Keep Alabama Open, working to unite hardworking Alabamians in the earnest pursuit of protecting jobs and safeguarding self governance.
  • Businesses, while following state health orders to keep customers and themselves safe, should be able to continue to earn a living and support their families.

 

 

 

 

3. Optimism growing for COVID relief bill

  • Optimism about delivering long-sought COVID-19 relief is building on Capitol Hill after additional rank-and-file lawmakers voiced support for a bipartisan, middle-of-the-road plan taking shape in the Senate and as top congressional leaders connected on the topic for the first time in months.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — frequent rivals but proven dealmakers — spoke on the phone Thursday, a conversation that came the day after Pelosi signaled a willingness to make major concessions in search of a COVID rescue package in the $1 trillion range.
  • “We had a good conversation. I think we’re both interested in getting an outcome, both on the omnibus and on a coronavirus package,” McConnell said.
  • Some conservatives, including Republicans from COVID hotspots like North Dakota and Iowa, said they were comfortable with an aid package carrying the almost $1 trillion price tag. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said the bipartisan plan is “the right balance of compromise and it’s a number that’s doable.”
  • The path forward is cluttered with obstacles, however, including a tight time window and hard feelings from months of futile talks and a poisonous election. But the $908 billion cost is what many Republicans, McConnell included, signaled they were willing to accept this summer.
  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he is negotiating with fellow Judiciary Committee member Dick Durbin, D-Ill., over a provision much sought by Republicans and McConnell in particular that would give a liability shield to businesses, universities and other organizations against COVID-related lawsuits.
  • Full story from Andrew Taylor HERE.

 

 

4. Lawmakers dropping topical bills ahead of session

 

Barring a special session, the next time the Alabama Legislature meets will be February 2. That’s when the constitution prescribes the next regular session to occur.
It’s really not that far away, and we are already starting to see bills dropped that reflect the era we are living in. Here’s a sampling…
  • Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, is bringing back his bill that would limit state emergency orders to 14 days and require legislative approval for extensions. Currently, state law says the governor can issue a state of emergency for up to 60 days. A series of public health orders from the state health officer and emergency orders from the governor began in March in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The current order, which requires everyone to wear a face mask in public spaces expires on Dec. 11. Whatley’s proposed bill says that if the Legislature is not in session, an extension can be approved by a joint proclamation by the Senate President Pro Tem and the Speaker of the House. Read more from Caroline Beck HERE.
  • Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, is drafting legislation to make clear in state law that Alabama citizens can’t be forced by the state to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. While state law doesn’t currently explicitly give health officials the power to require mass vaccines, state code does say the state health officer is to “keep himself informed in regard to all diseases which may be in danger of invading the state and, as far as authorized by law, take prompt measures to prevent such invasions and keep the Governor and the Legislature informed as to the health conditions prevailing in the state…” Orr told ADN he wants “to have this conversation and debate about vaccinations and placing limits on how far governmental powers can go in requiring them for ordinary citizens.”
  • Read more from Mary Sell HERE.
  • And Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, has filed a bill to close what he says is a loophole in state law that allows groups to be paid for turning out voters. Kiel’s HB70 specifies that individuals and groups can’t make payments “on a per voter basis” to other individuals or groups, including churches. In October, the “New South Souls to the Polls Initiative” was paying churches a $6 contribution “for each documented early vote” to cover the expenses for outreach and transportation to help people vote early by absentee ballot. Secretary of State John Merrill said that the $6 payments were legal as long as they weren’t tied to voting for particular candidates. Merrill this week said that his office supports legislation that strengthens the electoral process and increases credibility. Read more from Mary Sell HERE.
[Not for nothing, but ADN Insiders had all this information yesterday. It pays to subscribe!]

 

 

 

5. Lawmakers to get a pay raise

  • That’s a headline that makes a lot of politicians cringe.
  • But, if you know the full story, it’s not nefarious.
  • Back in 2007, at the very beginning of the new quadrennium, the Democratic-led Legislature enacted a 62% pay raise for itself, overriding the veto of then-Gov. Bob Riley.
  • It may have been necessary, but it was unseemly, and many a lawmaker paid a price for it at the ballot box a few years later. Those ads were easy to write (I know because I wrote some of them).
  • When Republicans took control of the State House, they (somewhat begrudgingly) made good on their promise to repeal that pay raise and replace it with a pay scale that is tied to the state’s median household income. The idea being if the state prospers, they get paid more; if it doesn’t, they don’t.
  • The 2012 voter-approved amendment was initially a pay cut for many lawmakers, putting their salaries at $42,849 in 2015. Since then, they’ve had five raises and one slight pay decrease.
  • Next year’s 3.76% pay bump to $51,734 reflects the 2019 median household income, according to the Alabama Department of Personnel. That means any COVID-19-caused decrease in household income this year could show up in lawmakers’ pay in 2022.
  • Read more from Mary Sell HERE.

 

Bonus: Watch this smoke stack demolition

  • I watched this video six or seven times yesterday.
  • Crews used explosives to topple a 1,000-foot-tall smoke stack at an old Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Bridgeport.
  • Workers set off charges at the site of the Widows Creek Fossil Plant along the Tennessee River. Video showed the massive structure leaning over and crashing down with a thud after an explosion at the base.
  • Located about 65 miles northeast of Huntsville, the plant closed five years ago, and workers previously imploded two smaller stacks. The federal utility is cleaning up the plant site in a $66 million project, and it’s supposed to be ready for sale and redevelopment next year.
  • Concrete from the old stack will be cleaned and used to fill in the basement of the old powerhouse, the utility said in a statement, and steel from the structure will be recycled.
  • Watch HERE.

 

Headlines

INSIDE ALABAMA POLITICS – December 3, 2020
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Reed stresses public access during session; Reducing jail crowding a priority for counties
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Optimism growing for COVID relief bill as pressure builds
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – US employers add a modest 245,000 jobs as virus intensifies
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Senator bringing back bill to change state emergency order extensions
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bill would prohibit payments to groups that turn out voters
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lawmaker: State law needed to prevent COVID-19 vaccine mandate
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama lawmakers’ pay increasing in 2021
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – WATCH: Explosives topple 1,000-foot stack at old power plant
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama sets daily case record; 1 of 3 in ICU have COVID-19
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Kids Count report shows pre-COVID inequities for Alabama children
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State finance director ‘highly confident’ CARES funds will be spent by Dec. 30
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest, December 3, 2020
AL.COM – Alabama adds 3,531 COVID cases Thursday, positivity rate now among highest in the nation
AL.COM – Gov. Kay Ivey on COVID-19 surge: ‘No plans to shut down businesses’
AL.COM – Doug Jones among several who lost reelection eyed for Biden Cabinet
AL.COM – Sewell back in House leadership for 117th Congress
AL.COM – Alabama lawmaker moves to strike Confederate flag from coat of arms
AL.COM – Trump thanks Mo Brooks as congressman accuses Biden of ‘election theft’
AL.COM – Huntsville city schools will reopen Monday without computers
AL.COM – Renaming of Fort Rucker, other Confederate named bases, moving forward
AL.COM – Hyundai Transys adding 678 jobs in Georgia as part of $240 million expansion
Montgomery Advertiser – His and hers: Couple opens side-by-side company headquarters in Montgomery
Montgomery Advertiser – Death investigation underway after man’s body found on South Perry Street
Montgomery Advertiser – Montgomery man charged in beating of Mississippi furniture salesman
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Reed stresses public access during session; Reducing jail crowding a priority for counties
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – How to help frontline workers fighting COVID-19
WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Dr. Fauci apologizes for comments on UK vaccine review process
Tuscaloosa News – Tuscaloosa City Schools to have all virtual-only instruction final week of this semester
Tuscaloosa News – Well-known Alabama fast-food chain will bring food truck to Northport
Tuscaloosa News – Jupiter and Saturn to align in December to create ‘Christmas Star’ for first time in 800 years
Decatur Daily – Bill would prohibit payments to groups that turn out voters
Decatur Daily – First semester final exams canceled for Decatur City Schools
Decatur Daily – Kids Count report shows pre-COVID inequities for Alabama children
Times Daily – Constellium officials in talks with steelworkers
Times Daily – Jarmon again receives life sentence
Times Daily – Monument removal, prisons two topics for ACCA legislative conference
Anniston Star – Senator bringing back bill to change state emergency order extensions
Anniston Star – Marsh readies for transition out of public eye
Anniston Star – Rogers picked for ranking position on House Armed Services
YellowHammer News – ALGOP’s Lathan rallies Republicans for Georgia Senate races: ‘Who wants to go to war for your country? It’s like a civil war right now’
YellowHammer News – State Sen. Sessions supports Gov. Ivey’s push for in-person school, opposes second COVID shutdown
YellowHammer News – Report on children in Alabama shows some progress made over last decade, continuing disparities based on income
Gadsden Times – Etowah COVID-19 case spike: 174 new cases Wednesday, 10 deaths in past three weeks
Gadsden Times – Jupiter and Saturn to align in December to create ‘Christmas Star’ for first time in 800 years
Gadsden Times – Rainbow City man charged with rape of child
Dothan Eagle – Initial unemployment claims down
Dothan Eagle – Dothan commission to consider reorganizing city departments, adding new positions
Dothan Eagle – Local family medicine practice featured in national campaign
Opelika-Auburn News – Opelika interim police chief appointed, new chief to be hired by January
WSFA Montgomery – Pike County Commission disagrees over cost of new county jail
WSFA Montgomery – Testimony: Lee County DA paid settlement following sex discrimination claim
WSFA Montgomery – 2020 Kids Count Data Book on Alabama’s child well-being released
WAFF Huntsville – Jackson County Jail facing overcrowding of inmates due to COVID-19
WAFF Huntsville – Huntsville, Madison Co. EMA director explains plan for body storage if hospitals are full
WAFF Huntsville – Hartselle Police Dept. warns of car break-ins
WKRG Mobile – Mothers of murder victims say ‘put the guns down’ in Pensacola
WKRG Mobile – Mothers of murder victims say ‘put the guns down’ in Pensacola
WKRG Mobile – State representative pre-files bill to remove Confederate flag from Alabama coat-of-arms
WTVY Dothan – Annie’s Café looking gearing up for Christmas Day meals
WTVY Dothan – FBC Holds “Keyboards at Christmas” piano concert
WTVY Dothan – Southern Craft Creamery doing all things ice cream, locally
WASHINGTON POST – Vaccines offer hope for end to pandemic, but brutal months lie ahead
WASHINGTON POST – Momentum builds for bipartisan $908 billion stimulus package as more GOP senators express support
WASHINGTON POST – With hospitals slammed by covid-19, doctors and nurses plead for action by governors
NEW YORK TIMES – California Will Impose Its Strongest Virus Measures Since the Spring
NEW YORK TIMES – As winter turned to spring, the coronavirus hit a corner of Queens harder than almost anywhere else in the United States.
NEW YORK TIMES – Trump Associates Said to Have Been Scrutinized in Suspected Pardon Scheme
WALL STREET JOURNAL – California Will Impose Its Strongest Virus Measures Since the Spring
WALL STREET JOURNAL – How Is Trump’s Lawyer Jenna Ellis ‘Elite Strike Force’ Material?
WALL STREET JOURNAL – Lawmakers Inch Toward Compromise as Biden Confronts Slowing Recovery

 

 

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