Daily News Digest – January 31, 2018

Good morning! This is your Alabama Daily News digest for Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

1. Home run

Photo credit: Hal Yeager

What a speech.

Even critics of President Donald Trump are conceding that his State of the Union address struck a tone of unity, bi-partisanship, and American exceptionalism.

If you didn’t watch the speech live, go do it right now here. Or, if you don’t have an hour and a half to spare, watch four minutes of highlights here.

As I wrote Monday, I had pretty high expectations for the speech given the way the issues were perfectly teed up for him (economic momentum, immigration, ISIS, etc). But the president far exceed my expectations (and not just because Alabama’s success landing Mazda-Toyota even got a mention).

It was a pep rally for the American spirit, well written and deftly delivered.

Check out these numbers from a CBS News flash poll taken after the speech

-Total Approve: 75 percent

-Total Disapprove: 25 percent

-Democrats Approve: 43 percent

-Independents Approve: 73 percent (!)

It was obviously a good night for the president, and I think he will see a nice polling bump.

It was also a good night for congressional Republicans, who need a boost going into the 2018 midterms. Perhaps one of them can convince the president to keep his twitter account on the rails until November.

2. After Mazda-Toyota, state looks to patch up incentives potholes

  • With the Mazda-Toyota deal done and the papers signed, the state is looking to do little “house cleaning” of its incentives and reporting laws.
  • One pitfall to fix: an unintended consequence of the 2010 ethics overhaul that might force site selectors and local chamber officials to register as lobbyists in order to approach the Department of Commerce about a potential project.
  • Major economic development projects are highly secretive in their early stages. Site selection consultants might tell state and local officials a industry sector or potential number of jobs, but never reveal the name of the company. These are decisions that affect global stock markets, to say nothing of other people’s jobs.
  • Yet, imagine the site selector for Mazda-Toyota being told that, before having a conversation with the Department of Commerce about the project, they would first need to register as a lobbyist with the Ethics Commission and disclose who their client or principal is. 
  • Congratulations, North Carolina, and you’re welcome for the 4,000 jobs. 
  • That unfortunate scenario is one state leaders are trying to avoid, as I explain in a new write up this morning
  • The Ethics Commission recently voted to delay issuing an advisory opinion on the matter that could harm the state’s recruiting efforts, giving time to the legislature to correct the problem.
  • Rep. Ken Johnson’s bill, the Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act, would clarify the definition of “economic development incentive” to make sure site selectors, local chamber of commerce officials, and other economic development professionals aren’t unnecessarily forced to register as lobbyists.
  • The bill is before the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee today.
  • Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield is urging lawmakers to act this session because other states are beginning to use the legal confusion against Alabama.
  • Read more in today’s Alabama Daily News.

3. State House briefs

It was a busy day in the Alabama Legislature. Lets catch you up… 

Day Care Bill Advances

  • Rep. Pebblin Warren’s bill to require new health and safety standards for church day care centers was approved by the House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee and sent to the full House for consideration.
  • There was some vocal objection from those representing church organizations who expressed concern about government regulation of religious activities. 
  • But not all church organizations are opposed to state DHR licensing and inspection. 
  • Read Mike Cason’s story in AL.com for some interesting tidbits, including the surprising percentage of day care centers that are exempt from licensing on religious grounds. 
  • Brian Lyman has more in The Montgomery Advertiser on the who’s for it and who’s against it. Either way, it appears headed to the House floor.

No Smoking in the Car with Kids

  • In “it’s a shame we would even have to pass a law about this” news, the House voted to ban smoking in the car with minors. Rep. Rolanda Hollis’ bill would impose fines of up to $100 for any adult caught smoking with a person under the age of 18 in the car.
  • As Mike Cason reports, it seems to have all come from a bad date night

Senate tackles drug policy

Ride Sharing Passes House 

  • The Uber-Lyft Ride Sharing bill passed the House, making it one step closer to becoming law.
  • The House did add some amendments, though, meaning the Senate can either accept them and send the bill to the governor’s desk or request to go to a conference committee and work out the differences.
  • Read Mike Cason’s story for more.

4. Campaign Finance Inquiry 

  • The Secretary of State’s office confirmed to AL.com that they are assisting the Attorney General’s office in an investigation of state lawmakers’ campaign finance practices.
  • Using campaign accounts for personal expenses is a big no-no that has gotten state and federal lawmakers alike into trouble for years.
  • Receiving a subpoena about a 2013 credit card purchase was enough for Rep. Patricia Todd to decide she’s had enough of Montgomery.
  • From Roy Johnson’s story:
  • Todd said her campaign director “didn’t know” to itemize the entry and she looks forward to clearing it with the attorney general’s office–although she says she wishes the officials would have simply called for clarity rather than issues subpoenas.

    “I’m not saying there isn’t any corruption,” she said, “But most of these could have been cleared up with a telephone call.” 

5. Headlines

AL.COM – Alabama attorney general to provide law enforcement training on overdose death investigations.

AL.COM – Recy Taylor: Democratic lawmakers wear pins to honor late Alabama woman.

AL.COM – Patricia Todd says campaign subpoena was ‘last straw’ in decision to not seek re-election.

AL.COM – Contributor Neal Berte:  It’s time to reform payday predatory lending in Alabama.

AL.COM – Alabama’s Toyota-Mazda plant makes Trump’s State of the Union address.

AL.COM – House passes bill to ban smoking in cars with minors.

AL.COM – Bill to add requirements for church child care centers advances.

SENATE SKETCHES – “Senate Sketches,” Sen. Hank Sanders’ weekly message to his constituents.

ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER – Democrats qualify for state Senate.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Rep Palmer: Impact on potential criminal charges a consideration for his support of Intel Committee memo release.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Mind your manners: Alabama second-most polite state in the U.S.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Custody bill could transform the way divorced parents split time with kids.

FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – Tarkett expansion means 50 more jobs.

ANNISTON STAR – Cleburne residents hear of inconclusive test results in quest for cancer cause.

ANNISTON STAR – Television anchor may challenge Rogers in race for Congress.

ANNISTON STAR – The Anniston Star:  One meal, one step at a time.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Alabama Senate debates needle exchange programs.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Senate approves bill raising penalties for trafficking fentanyl.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Submit a selfie, get a faster Alabama tax return.

DOTHAN EAGLE – The Dothan Eagle:  Looking out for day-care children.

WASHINGTON POST – Trump calls for unity, pushes GOP agenda in State of the Union speech.

WASHINGTON POST – ‘They treated my kids’ health insurance like it was a game’: The battle over CHIP.

NEW YORK TIMES – Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Team Up to Try to Disrupt Health Care

NEW YORK TIMES – Joseph P. Kennedy III Gives Democratic Response to State of the Union

NEW YORK TIMES – Columnist Ross Douthat:  Trump Tries for a Reset

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