It’s the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, “a date that will live in infamy.” Remembrance events have been altered this year, but the military is broadcasting video of the ceremony from Hawaii beginning at 11:40 Central Time HERE.
Here’s your Daily News for Monday, December 7.
1. Increased federal funding, decreased use gives Alabama Medicaid $178M carry forward
- Despite record-high enrollment, the Alabama Medicaid Agency expects to have a $178 million carry forward in state funding at the end of this fiscal year.
- That’s because of an increase in federal funding since the coronavirus pandemic began and a decrease in the utilization of Medicaid-funded health services as more people stayed home in 2020, Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar told a panel of lawmakers recently.
- That carry forward can be used in fiscal 2022.
- “We all know we’re still in the throws of the pandemic,” Azar said. “The uncertainty of preparing the 2022 budget is real and difficult.”
- Lawmakers will begin in earnest their fiscal 2022 budget planning when the legislative session begins in February. The new budget year begins in October. Subtracting the carry forward, Azar said she’ll be asking for $769 million from the state’s General Fund in 2022. This year’s appropriation was $820 million. Medicaid is the General Fund’s biggest expense.
- Separate from the carry forward, Azar is asking lawmakers to allow her to keep a “reserve fund” of about $74 million to cover future COVID-19 caused increases or a drop in federal funding.
- Committee member Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said having the money to apply to next year’s budget because of the additional federal funds is a positive for the state.
- “I think the real question is, how long will this last?” McClendon said.
- Read the full story from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.
2. Congress inches closer to a COVID deal
- A proposed COVID-19 relief bill is expected to get backing from President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but it won’t include $1,200 in direct payments to most Americans, a Republican senator involved in the bipartisan talks says.
- “President Trump has indicated that he would sign a $908 billion package — there’s only one $908 billion package out there and it’s ours,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Sunday. “The pain of the American people is driving this, and I’m optimistic that both those leaders will come on board.”
- The plan being worked on by a group of Republican and Democratic senators is less than half of the Democrats’ push of $2.2 trillion and nearly double the $500 billion “targeted” package proposed by McConnell, R-Ky.
- The package to be released today would be attached to a larger year-end spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown this coming weekend.
- Read more about the back-and-forth HERE.
- So, what’s in the package?
- Details won’t be available until later today, but renewing soon-to-expire jobless benefits, providing a second round of “paycheck protection” subsidies, and funding to distribute vaccines are sure bets to be included in any deal.
- Despite backing from President Trump and House Democrats, the new plan is not expected to include another round of $1,200 dollar checks. To hear one senator explain it, “this is a relief bill, not a stimulus bill.”
- There are two big things to watch, both tricky in their own right: another round of aid to states and local governments to follow a $150 billion installment this spring; and limited liability protection for businesses who might be the subject of coronavirus-related lawsuits.
- Read more about what’s on the table right now in Congress HERE.
3. Giuliani in hospital after positive virus test
- President Donald Trump says his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the latest in Trump’s inner circle to contract the disease that is now surging across the U.S.
- Giuliani was exhibiting some symptoms and was admitted Sunday to Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington.
- The 76-year-old former New York mayor has traveled extensively to battleground states in an effort to help Trump challenge November’s election results.
- Giuliani on Thursday attended a hearing at the Georgia Capitol, where he went without a mask for several hours.
- Georgia, of course, is the center of the political universe right now as runoff elections to decide two U.S. Senate seats will determine which party controls the upper chamber.
- Full story HERE.
- Relatedly, President-elect Joe Biden has picked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, putting a defender of the Affordable Care Act in a leading role to oversee his administration’s coronavirus response.
- Also, Biden picked a Harvard infectious disease expert, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra, 62, will be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1 trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans.
- Becerra, as the state of California’s top lawyer, has led the coalition of Democratic states defending “Obamacare” from the Trump administration’s latest effort to overturn it, a legal case awaiting a Supreme Court decision next year.
- That full story HERE.
4. Weaver running in SD14
- Former state representative April Weaver this week became the first announced candidate for a yet-to-be-called race for State Senate District 14 in Central Alabama.
- Weaver, a Republican from Brierfield, resigned from the House in the spring to serve in President Donald Trump’s administration as the Region IV Regional Director for the Department of Health and Human Services. That role would preclude her from running for public office, but Weaver noted in her announcement that this “chapter of her life” was closing.
- “I am so excited to announce my run for State Senate,” Weaver said in a written statement. “As a lifelong resident of Senate District 14, I know the people and the communities. I am prepared to work hard and earn the votes of the hard-working citizens of Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties.”
- That seat is vacant because, effective today, Cam Ward, a Republican from Alabaster who’s held the seat since 2010, is the new appointed leader of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.
- When we broke the Ward news a few weeks ago, I did some Twitter speculating about who might run for his seat, with Weaver at the top of the list. In addition to being a known commodity in much of the district and having electoral success in the past, she also maintains more than $142,000 in her state campaign account, an amount that could scare away potential challengers.
- Gov. Kay Ivey hasn’t set special election dates for the Senate race, but is expected to soon.
- Full story from Mary Sell HERE.
5. Remembering State Sen. Larry Dixon
- Longtime former State Sen. Larry Dixon died Friday.
- According to Dr. David Thrasher, Dixon contracted the coronavirus and died from complications caused by the COVID-19 disease.
- Dixon was a mainstay in the Alabama State Senate, serving almost 30 years in the Montgomery-based District 25 seat.
- He was a fiscal conservative, an advocated for government transparency and a critic of legislative shenanigans.
- Perhaps Dixon’s most enduring legacy is working to establish the Legislative Contract Review Committee, which examines and shines public light on all manner of spending by state agencies.
- He also spent much of his career leading the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, the group that regulates and licenses state physicians.
- Read more about Dixon’s life and legacy from the Advertiser’s Brian Lyman HERE.
- Former State Rep. Perry Hooper called Dixon a mentor and friend for 30 years. He writes an op-ed today sharing his memories of the late senator, which you can read HERE.
“Alabama Snake” to tell story of snake-handling preacher
- BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A movie premiering on HBO Max will tell the story of an Alabama preacher who went to prison after being convicted of trying to kill his wife with a snake nearly three decades ago.
- “Alabama Snake,” which will begin showing Wednesday on the service, is about Glenn Summerford, 76, who is imprisoned at Bullock County Correctional Facility after being convicted of trying to murder Darlene Summerford, who recovered and testified against him at trial.
- Summerford once pastored the snake-handling Church of Jesus With Signs Following in Scottsboro. His wife was bitten twice on the hand by a snake in 1991 and later told jurors that her husband forced her to stick her hand inside a cage of snakes.
- “He took a pipe and hit the cages real hard so the snakes got real mad and then grabbed me by the hair and said he would push my face in if I didn’t stick my hand in there,” she testified. “He said I had to die because he wanted to marry another woman.”
- Summerford had accused her of having an affair with another preacher, a claim the woman denied.
- Sentenced to 129 years in prison, Summerford was denied parole in June but could be released as early as February, Department of Corrections records show. He was convicted of escape in 2004 after briefly slipping away from a work crew.
- “Alabama Snake” had its world premiere at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival on Thursday.
Alliance Formed to Bolster Construction Industry
- To address the ongoing issue of finding skilled labor in the construction industry, the Alabama Construction Workforce Alliance has recently formed to work collaboratively with the state to train prospective employees who will be credentialed and certified for employment in the construction industry.
- “Coming from the highway construction and roadbuilding business, I am well aware of the incredible need for highly-skilled workers in this sector,” said Alabama Workforce Council Chairman Tim McCartney, formerly of McCartney Construction.
- The Alliance currently consists of the Alabama Associated General Contractors, the Alabama Roadbuilders Association, the Alabama Workforce Council, the Alabama Construction Research Institute and Auburn University. These groups have committed to partnering together, with state education and workforce agencies, to guide ACWA’s mission and the vision for the streamlined construction workforce.
- The group was recently identified as one of the five third party intermediaries for the $17.8 million Reimagine Workforce Preparation Grant awarded to assist workers displaced by COVID-19. The grant will be administered by the Alabama Department of Commerce and used to support the Alabama Workforce Stabilization Program. The Alabama Community College System, Alabama Technology Network, and AIDT will provide the training programs for the grant.
Energy Institute brings on Parrish as Senior Policy Advisor
- The Energy Institute of Alabama has hired Dr. Allen Parrish as the newest Senior Policy Advisor for the organization. Parrish comes from the Alabama Transportation Institute and is expected to provide guidance to the organization’s advocacy efforts.
- “The addition of Dr. Parrish’s experience, expertise and voice as a Senior Policy Advisor will greatly benefit EIA for years to come. His accomplishments speak for themselves, and we are grateful for his vision and ongoing commitment to the people and economy of Alabama,” said EIA Chairman Seth Hammett.
- Parrish joins an already well-established suite of advisers, including Jim Sullivan (The Sullivan Group), Dr. Steven Taylor (Auburn University, Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts) and Oliver Kingsley (Auburn University, College of Engineering).
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