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November General Election Results

Dem Fatigure with the “Handshake”

Well, did you expect Democrats to tell the new Republican majority “good job?”

You can hear the fatigure when Democrats talk about the Republican “Handshake With Alabama,” which was a mid-summer 2010 campaign promise.

Recently, Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) quipped to me “the ‘Handshake’ is about to break my arm.”

Sunday, Dana Beyerle of the NYT Regional Papers wrote Senate Republicans will now take up the House-passed “Handshake” agenda with the greatest conflict perhaps centering around illegal immigration.

Today on Good Day Alabama, House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) offered a quick criticism of the “Handshake” agenda while discussing efforts to protect last year’s PACT bailout.

“They’ve (Republicans) addressed their ‘Hand Shake With Alabama.’ We spent a third of the session addressing these bills, which are unconstitutional, and now we’re going after the PACT program and take money from the PACT program.”

Read more of Rick Journey’s blog here.

Lawmakers consider possible pay cut

By Bob Howell – WSFA 12 News Anchor – Montgomery, AL

Members of the Alabama Senate are talking about whether their pay should be cut – or perhaps prorated like state budgets when economic times are tough.  Sen. Paul Sanford, (R – Madison) favors the option of prorating salaries as needed.  He says repealing the 60%  pay hike approved by lawmakers in 2007 could force him and others to leave the legislature.  “If you cut this pay back to ’07 then I believe myself and many other legislators are going to be put in a situation where we’re going to have to resign,” said Sen. Sanford. “And if I’m going to have to resign then the state’s going to have to have a special session.”

Lawmakers base pay is fixed by law.  But they’ve been able to get around the rather modest amount by increasing their “expense allowance.”  Currently they earn about $52,000 in total compensation annually….up from about $30,000 prior to 2007.

Veteran lawmaker, Sen. Gerald Dial (R – Lineville)l favors repealing the raise…going back to the pre-2007 level.  He says the lawmakers were aware they had the power to raise or lower their expense pay. ”Every legislator knew when he or she was elected they could change that,” said Sen. Dial. “They could come down and increase that a hundred percent or reduce it a hundred percent.”

The senate leadership created a new senate subcommittee devoted exclusively to dealing with the legislative pay issue.

Alabama Legislature: Bentley, Budgets and Forever Wild

Committee work picks up today in Montgomery.

This morning, AEA took the stance as the only group opposing Rep. Greg Canfield’s (R-Vestavia) “Rolling Reserve Budget” bill during a hearing. The state Department of Education backs the idea. This Huntsville Times editorial looks at the issue.

Canfield and Jefferson county Democrat, Rep. Merika Coleman react to Gov. Robert Bentley’s SOTS in this video from FOX6 News Good Day Alabama.

Among the many groups lining up to push their bills, the wide-ranging organization pushing to renew Alabama’s Forever Wild program. Tim Gothard of the Alabama Wildlife Federation made his case for renewing the conservation campaign on Good Day Alabama this morning.

You can read more about the challenge facing Forever Wild from this Sunday piece by Tom Spencer of the Birmingham News.

Read more of Rick Journey’s blog here.

Bradley Byrne Pushes “Reform Alabama”

Bradley Byrne says he’s “very impressed” with the legislature and expects an “activist” session from the new Republican majority.

As for the man who defeated him in a bitter Republican primary, Byrne says Gov. Robert Bentley deserves to be given time.

“Those budgets he presents next week will be key.”

The candidate who was favored to win the Republican nomination for governor, only to lose a runoff race to Bentley, says he will continue his campaign of reform through a grass-roots organization called Reform Alabama.

And we’re not talking about the city in Pickens county.

“We had a great start with the special session,” Byrne said this morning on FOX6 News Good Day Alabama, “we’ve got to keep going with that reform agenda. There’s some issues we need to keep pushing on.”

Byrne identifies reforms in the budgeting process and campaign finance. He proposes everyday electronic filing in final 45 days of an election cycle and searchable databases. He also points to education and economic development as the other part of the non-partisan Reform Alabama agenda.

All of this sounds like last year’s Byrne for Alabama campaign for governor.

“I dont know what the future is going to be,” Byrne said when asked if this gives him a platform for a future political run.

Read more of Rick Journey’s blog here.

New GOP Chairman: Focus on County Courthouse

Newly elected Alabama Republican Party chairman Bill Armistead says the greatest challenge facing the state GOP may be “Democrats wanting to jump ship and come over and take control of the Republican party.”

This morning on FOX6 News Good Day Alabama, Armistead warned Democratic office holders who want to switch parties for the “purpose of being elected next year” won’t be welcome.

The former Shelby county senator says “conservative Democrats” with a “proven track record” will be welcomed if they consider a switch.

One Montgomery insider who knows Democratic party politics well won’t make Armistead’s list: Paul Hamrick

The one-time chief of staff for former governor Don Siegelman was announced in an email from Republican Majority Leader Sen. Jabo Waggoner as a contract consultant of PR/Communications for the Senate Republican Caucus.

It immediately prompted questions from several Senate Republicans.

Armistead says he has heard from several, “I do have a problem with that. I’m getting a lot of calls as party chairman about that. He (Sen. Waggoner) says that’s not a done deal and I’ve asked him not to make that a done deal.”

Armistead says he will focus on county courthouses in 2012 where Democrats still hold a strong majority as Probate Judges and Circuit Clerks.

He dismisses perceived factions between loyalists of former Gov. Bob Riley and supporters of Gov. Robert Bentley as “inside baseball.”

Armistead says his job will be to unite any factions to focus on 2012.

Read more of Rick Journey’s blog here.

Will job creation be the real top priority?

Sorry for the lack of updates to this blog as of late. I’m going to try my best to get more posts up especially during the legislative session.

As for the upcoming legislative session, we’ve heard now many times from three of the state’s most powerful men that job creation in the private sector will be the unrivaled top priority.

Senate President Pro-Tem Del Marsh (R – Anniston), Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Hubbard, (R – Auburn) and Governor Robert Bentley have told reporters for some time that creating jobs is of paramount importance.

Speaker Hubbard has gone so far as to form his own commission of private citizens to spark ideas and thoughts about creating jobs. The new commission will consist of business owners and leaders from all over the state.

At the press conference announcing the new commission, Hubbard said ‘There is no single issue more important to me than putting Alabamians back to work and growing our economy.”

He went on to add, “Everything that we do in this session needs to be about creating jobs. If it doesn’t create a job then it kind of needs to go down a level because that’s what we need in this state.”

With those statements, Hubbard put a major onus on the entire legislature to propose bills that will stimulate job growth or give the small business community and larger industries incentives to hire.

There is talk about several measures as we’re only about 2 weeks from the legislative session which on the surface have nothing to do with job creation.

House Education Budget Chairman Jay Love, (R – Montgomery) is proposing a bill that would offer liability insurance for teachers, possibly as an attempt to limit more of the Alabama Education Association’s influence. A question I still have is, “Does teacher’s liability insurance create a job?”

If lawmakers address illegal immigration, would that create some sort of task force that would create jobs?

Hubbard even said himself that government doesn’t create jobs and that growth in the private sector should be the state’s focus, not more government.

Outside of passing General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets, if the legislature doesn’t immediately address  job creation and takes up other issues instead, it could make lawmakers look like they didn’t back up their rhetoric.

Luther Strange: BP Lawsuit “Strengthens Our Hand”

Attorney General Luther Strange says his court-appointed role as representative for the states at the table with private plaintiffs and the US in the BP oil spill case will be a “plus” for Alabama.

Strange, who took office two weeks ago today, appeared this morning on FOX6 News Good Day Alabama.

The Republican says he and Gov. Robert Bentley are “working hand and hand” on the case and he sees no reason to back out of the lawsuit filed by his predecessor, Troy King.

“I think it strengthens our hand, and the fact that the US government is in the case now, really there is no way Alabama should drop out.”

Strange also says he has met with attorneys for Greentrack about the future of e-bingo at the facility.

Last week, city leaders in Bessemer expressed a desire for guidance from the attorney general as that city considers an e-bingo ordinance.

“We made it very clear. In my opinion, gambling going on at these large casinos is illegal slot machines,” Strange told me today on Good Day.

“If they like to test these machines in court, they can have their day in court.”

Read more of Rick Journey’s blog here.

New Alabama Unemployment Numbers

Alabama’s new unemployment picture is not as bleak as the United States as a whole, but it certainly isn’t the best of news.

After a long period of stagnant job growth in the state, Alabama has now faced 2 straight months, December and November 2010, of an increase in the number of unemployed Alabamians.

For December 2010, Alabama’s unemployment rate climbed a tenth of a percent to 9.1% of Alabamians.  According to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations that translates in actual numbers to more than 194,600 people out of work.

Last month’s rate is an increase of more than 2,300 people from November.

During his inauguration day address Governor Robert Bentley said that private sector job creation in Alabama will be his top priority while in office. He even pledged not to take a salary until the state reaches what economists define as “full employment” which he says is widely defined as 5% unemployment.

Filibuster on Payroll Deduction Bill

As I started to write this blog post, the House moved to adjourn at 11:59PM and to reconvene at 12:01AM on December 15. That essentially means they are bracing themselves for an all-nighter.

There were cries from the press room asking them not too, but they couldn’t hear us behind the glass.

Democrats started to block Senator Del Marsh’s bill to ban direct payroll deductions any organization that takes part in political activity.

The blocking attempts began shortly after the House convened for the day just before 11AM.

I wish there was more to report but there hasn’t been. The Democrats keep saying this turns teachers and state employees into second class citizens and Republicans say the state shouldn’t be paying for employees to contribute to political groups.

Special Session Next Week

In case you haven’t heard, Governor Bob Riley announced Wednesday that Alabama lawmakers will show up to work more than 3 months early for a Special Session on ethics reform.

Riley’s call for a Special Session included bills to outlaw or limit certain lobbyists practices as well as those that happen during campaigns.

It turns out, those who wanted an overhaul of the state’s ethics laws won out in this policy battle. That’s contrary to those who just wanted the governor to address the big bullet point issues: PAC to PAC transfers, lobbyist disclosure, and subpoena power for the ethics commission.

The bills that Riley’s team of 6 appointed lawmakers and policy analysts converged on have much more than that.

One of them essentially rewrites the state’s ethics codes. There is a lot of crossed out type and addition descriptions in there. It seems that it is an attempt to leave no stone unturned in the ethics field.

Democrats are criticizing Riley for calling a Special Session now instead of doing it at some point during the last years. That argument would hold more weight had Democratic leaders in the Senate actually addressed the ethics-related bills that their colleagues in the House passed.

Gov. Riley does not blame all Democrats for not passing ethics reform sooner. He has kept calling this a “historic opportunity” with the new leadership in place.

Some Democrats I’ve spoken to however have some very real concerns about this ethics legislation. In particular with the PAC to PAC transfers bill.

It leaves out PAC to political party transfers, which is very similar to a political action committees giving to each other because you still can’t see exactly where the money is coming from. Political parties could then be the engine to hide the source of campaign donors.

On the flip side of that, it is a tough argument to say that PACs can’t donate to political parties and they can solely contribute to candidates. When PACs were created it was with the intention that they could donate to parties but the rules have been bent, twisted, and turned in so many ways that PACs have taken on a much different role today.

We’ll have another post up on Monday leading into the Special Session.

On a lighter note: Congratulations to newly elected Prattville Senator Bryan Taylor on the arrival of his new son Samuel (7 lb 10oz.). He is completely healthy and doing great. Sen. Taylor’s wife is also doing very well and they should be home by Sunday. Congrats!

Sen. Bryan Taylor's first son Samuel

Sen. Bryan Taylor's first son Samuel