Daily News – March 21, 2018

Daily News – March 21, 2018

Good morning! Spring was supposed to have sprung, but today is mighty chilly in Alabama and downright blustery in DC. Warm up with your Daily News for Wednesday, March 21. 

1. Terror in Texas

  • Things are scary in Texas.
  • Another package bomb exploded in Austin Tuesday night, marking the fourth this month. A suspicious package was detonated by police in San Antonio.
  • Now, police say the suspected bomber is dead after detonating himself. Authorities surrounded him and he took his own life rather than surrender.
  • Let’s pray he was acting alone.
  • Read the latest here.

2. A long night at the State House

Lawmakers in the State House worked until past 10:30 last night debating legislation.

Here’s what passed:

  • Sen. Clay Scofield & Rep. Donnie Chesteen’s rural broadband enhancement bill. It creates a $10 million grant program through ADECA to get wireless broadband internet to unserved areas of the state. It goes back to the Senate, where it is likely to pass quickly;
  • Sen. Jabo Waggoner’s Jefferson County / Birminghamstadium bill. It’s a three percent car rental tax dedicated to building a new stadium in Downtown Birmingham. The project a big deal for Birmingham, UAB, and for the whole state, really. The bill now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign it into law.
  • Sen. Tripp Pittman’s execution by nitrogen bill. Proponents say inert nitrogen could be a painless way to execute death row inmates. Opponents say there is no such thing as a painless execution. It goes to the Governor, who has not tipped her hand as to what she’ll do with it. Read stories by Kim Chandler, Brian Lyman & Mike Cason;
  • Sen. Jim McClendon’s DUI interlock bill. The bill was amended, so it goes back to the Senate;
  • Sen. Livingston and Rep. Hanes’ bill for community development districts;
  • Sen. Cam Ward & Rep. Jim Hill’s human trafficking bill;
  • Sen. Greg Reed & Rep. Randall Shedd’s bill creating the Rural Hospital Resource Center at UAB;
  • Sen. Rusty Glover’s legislative vacancy constitutional amendment. Originally it allowed gubernatorial appointments for short-term legislative vacancies, but as amended those vacancies would just remain vacant. Goes to the ballot.

Here’s what didn’t: 

  • Rep. Will Ainsworth’s controversial teacher carry bill. It’s not scheduled to be considered today, meaning it is likely dead for the session. Democrats were itching to filibuster a calendar with the bill on it, and Republicans weren’t exactly enthusiastic about it.
  • Sen. Arthur Orr’s & Rep. Danny Garrett’s bill reducing the number of weeks people can receive jobless benefits during times of low unemployment. It’s not scheduled to be up today, but the bill still has life with three legislative days remaining after today.
  • Sen. Gerald Dial’s constitutional amendment changing the role of the Lt. Governor. Unless something crazy happens today, this bill is dead.
  • Sen. Bill Hightower’s legislative term limits bill. But Sen. Hightower says he has a commitment from leadership to bring it back up.

Where are the Budgets?

  • The Senate adjourned before giving the General Fund budget a concurring vote and sending it to the governor. That could happen at any time this week.
  • The House voted to go to conference committee on the Education Trust Fund budget. We could see a finished product by Thursday.

3. Can’t have it both ways: Alice Martin faces tough questions from Matt Murphy

  • Nobody likes being misled.
  • Talk radio show hosts, it turns out, are particularly not keen on it, which Alabama Attorney General candidate Alice Martin found out the hard way yesterday.
  • Appearing on the “Matt & Aunie” show on Talk 99.5 in Birmingham, Martin faced tough questioning on her conflicting previous statements about whether she was interested in or interviewed for former Gov. Robert Bentley’s appointment to become AG.
  • In a previous show appearance, Martin had led the hosts to believe she did not seek the appointment and that her meeting with the governor was “not an interview.”
  • It turns out the meeting was an interview, at least according to her handwritten note thanking the governor for the interview and asking for the job. Yeah, that’s when it got a little awkward on the radio.
  • Ugh. Talk about an unforced error. I was really scratching my head as to why in the world she would parse words about the Bentley interview.
  • It doesn’t make sense until, well, it does.
  • Hear the interview and read the transcripts, the note, and some thoughts about what in the world she was thinking HERE.

4. Harri Anne Smith to retire

  • As has been rumored for the past few weeks, Sen. Harri Anne Smith will retire at the end of this legislative term and not seek reelection.
  • Smith’s husband, Charlie, is battling cancer, and she referenced spending more time with him in her retirement news release.
  • Smith served 20 years as a State Senator, the last ten of which saw her mixed up in some of the state’s most consequential political battles. Then a Republican, she endorsed Democratic nominee Bobby Bright over Republican Jay Love in a hotly-contested congressional race in 2008. That move saw her stripped of the GOP party label, but she ran and won twice as an independent. She was arrested, tried, and acquitted during the infamous “bingo trial” in 2010.
  • Smith’s decision not to seek reelection makes Rep. Donnie Chesteen all but a lock for succeeding her in the State Senate. Chesteen was already challenging Smith and is running unopposed in the Republican Primary.

5. Update from Congress… 

  • The (tiny) shutdown showdown continues one more day.
  • The House could pass a full omnibus appropriations plan by Thursday. There are some hold ups on wall funding, the DACA problem, and a New York/New Jersey transit project.
  • The Senate might not have time to pass it by the time the government shuts down, meaning another short-term CR might be necessary. And so it goes.
  • Sen. Doug Jones will give his “maiden” speech on the Senate floor today.
  • Rep. Martha Roby questioned Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during an Appropriations hearing and got firm commitments on the federal government staying out of state education standards as well as investing in career & technical education.
  • Rep. Gary Palmer spoke on the House floor trolling Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on her “crumbs” comment re: tax reform raises & bonuses.
  • Reps. Bradley Byrne and Terri Sewell both spoke at a Capitol Hill event for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • Reps. Mike Rogers and Robert Aderholt met with young farmers from the Alabama Farmers Federation who were visiting DC.
  • Sen. Richard Shelby also met with state farmers and marked “National Ag Day” by celebrating its $70 billion impact on Alabama.
  • Rep. Mo Brooks introduced legislation to end the brinksmanship of government shutdowns by keeping funding flowing at the previous year’s levels.

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Spending talks nearly done; $1.3 trillion package likely unveiled today. 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Sen. Harri Anne Smith won’t seek reelection.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama lawmakers approve execution by nitrogen gas. 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – House votes 98-0 to close loophole in drunk driving law. 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – House passes contested car rental tax for Birmingham stadium.

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – House Committee to debate raising age for rifle purchases. 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lt. Governor change falters in the Senate.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Prattville ‘gin shop’ gins up support. 

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Alabama gives final approval to execution by nitrogen bill.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Can Alabama try to kill the same man twice?

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Spring break surprise: Brewbaker students return to see freshly painted school.

AL.COM – Alabama House adjourns without voting on teachers with guns.

AL.COM – Alabama lawmakers approve execution by nitrogen hypoxia.

AL.COM – Hightower says term limits bill to be on Senate calendar Wednesday after GOP leaders’ ‘assurances’.

AL.COM – BlueCross BlueShield changing opioid prescription policy.

AL.COM – Alabama lawmakers approve tax for Birmingham stadium.

AL.COM – Mike Huckabee, Rick & Bubba endorse Scott Dawson during Pelham campaign rally.

AL.COM – Arming teachers? ‘Ladies carry weapons just fine,’ state school board member, a veteran, says.

AL.COM – Columnist Elizabeth BeShears:  Civil asset forfeiture reform should be the legislature’s top priority.

DECATUR DAILY – Bill would allow judges to commit 18-year-olds.

DECATUR DAILY – Gadsden lawmaker moves to stop Morgan County Commission bill.

DOTHAN EAGLE – Smith not seeking re-election to Alabama Senate.

DOTHAN EAGLE – Columnist Steve Flowers’ Inside the Statehouse:  Parsing the governor’s race.

WASHINGTON POST – Trump’s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Putin. He did it anyway.

WASHINGTON POST – Democrats are contesting more state legislative seats than they have in decades.

NEW YORK TIMES – Melania Trump Wants to End Online Bullying. Her Husband Doesn’t Help.

Front pages (images link to newspaper websites, which you should visit and patronize)