July 23, 2013
New Alabama law allows absentee ballots for emergency workers
AL.com reports: Gov. Robert Bentley held a bill signing ceremony today for a new law aimed at allowing emergency workers to vote by absentee ballot if they are called away to work during an election. ...
The new law authorizes the Secretary of State, by emergency rule, to provide for absentee voting by those emergency workers if they are called away to work during an election. -- Read the whole story --> Gov. Robert Bentley praises new absentee ballot law for emergency workers | al.com
July 19, 2013
Rep. Hubbard wants to run in special election for another House seat
The Montgomery Advertiser reports: It's a question of time and place, with two very different interpretations.
The Alabama secretary of state's office said Thursday that the current boundaries of House District 74 - being vacated at the end of the month by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery - will be the boundaries used for a special election expected to be called for the seat.
That could be an issue for Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, who has purchased a home within the new District 74 boundaries and is considering entering the special election. Hubbard's residence, while in the newly created boundary lines for the 2014 general election, is outside the current lines. ...
Hubbard said Thursday he has not made a decision whether to run in the special election, though he plans to seek the seat in next year’s general election. However, he said that the law as written would allow him to run, and he accused Republicans of trying to make his race for the seat more difficult. -- Read the whole story --> Law may bar Joe Hubbard from running for House seat vacated by Jay Love | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com
July 18, 2013
Voter ID program an 'unfunded mandate' to county registrars
AL.com reports: Alabama's new law requiring people to show a government-issued photo identification to vote is raising some concerns for Jefferson County officials.
The law -- to get around accusations that it's a modern poll tax to make people buy ID -- requires that the state have an option for a free ID.
Jefferson County, which has more voters than any other county in the state, may be forced to come up with money to cover personnel and labor costs associated with producing new voter IDs, said Barry Stephenson, chairman of the Board of Registrars.
"I want to do everything possible to help the voters and to have fair and honest elections," Stephenson said. "However, I only have so many resources in my budget and the state has made no mention of reimbursing the counties for any personnel or labor costs associated with producing the new free identification cards." -- Read the whole story --> New Alabama state ID law may pose some problems for Jefferson County (photos, video) | al.com
July 17, 2013
"Big donors" to be handled centrally by GOP legislative leaders
The Alabama Political Reporter reports: The Alabama Political Reporter has obtained an email from Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) sent to fellow republican senate members, telling them to "get started earlier as opposed to later" on their campaign fundraising; but only from local donors.
This letter, and similar communications, has senators privately grumbling over financial road-blocks, claiming that they are being set-up by Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.
The rank-in-file members say they are being told to "stay out of Montgomery" when it comes to raising money for their campaigns. Marsh and Hubbard have made it clear that they will be handling the "Big Donors," legislators complain. ...
By keeping legislators off the Montgomery money train, Hubbard, Marsh and Riley guarantee they remain the masters of the political universe in Alabama. -- Read the whole story -->Editorial: Message to Republican Legislators: Big Donors Off-Limits
July 6, 2013
Alabama's new online campaign-finance reports working well
AL.com reports: The Alabama Secretary of States office reported no glitches with its new online, searchable system for candidates and political action committees to file campaign finance reports.
The system was used for the first time for June campaign finance reports, the first reports of the 2014 election cycle. The reports were due on Tuesday.
Adam Thompson, deputy chief of staff for the secretary of state, said some candidates and PACs experienced problems using third-party software to access the new system, but the help line set up by the state's vendor, Quest Information Systems, Inc., was able to help them. The state paid the company $300,000 to develop the new filing system, which was mandated under a bill passed by the state Legislature in 2011. It replaces an old system of filing paper reports that were scanned and posted on the secretary of state website. ...
Thompson said 76 candidates and 168 political action committees had used the new system. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Secretary of State's office reports no glitches with new online filing system | al.com
July 4, 2013
Eleven years ago today I started this blog.
July 1, 2013
Voter photo IDs for old folks, disabled, et al
A press release from Gov. Bentley: Governor Robert Bentley on Friday tasked Neal Morrison, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Senior Services, with developing a plan to help all citizens have access to a photo ID that will comply with the state’s photo voter ID law.
“The right to vote is fundamental to democracy,” Governor Bentley said. “I want to remove any obstacle that could keep any eligible voter from exercising their constitutional right to vote.”
The plan to be developed by Commissioner Morrison will compliment [sic] a photo voter ID plan outlined by Secretary of State Beth Chapman. Under the proposed regulations announced by Secretary of State Chapman, citizens without acceptable forms of photo voter ID can receive a free ID by visiting Department of Public Safety offices, Board of Registrars offices or the Secretary of State’s office.
Governor Bentley is tasking Commissioner Morrison to develop this additional plan to specifically help the disabled, the homebound and others who may not have access to those offices so they can receive this free service as well. The plan will be designed to provide assistance to citizens of any voting age who are in need of this service.
June 29, 2013
Voter photo ID to be used in 2014; plans announced
AL.com reports: Voters without photo identification will have two options for getting a free ID from the state before the state's new photo voter ID law kicks in next year, Secretary of State Beth Chapman announced today.
Alabama's new law requiring people to show photo ID to vote is scheduled to go into effect with the party primaries in June of 2014. The law -- to get around accusations that it's a modern poll tax to make people buy ID -- also requires that the state have an option for a free ID.
Chapman today announced a proposal for complying with the free ID requirement.
She said voters can go to the Department of Public Safety office in their county and get a free non-drivers identification card. The secretary of state will reimburse Public Safety for the cost. Voters can also go to their local Board of Registrars office and get a free photo voter ID there. -- Read the whole story --> State announces plan for free IDs under new photo voter ID law | al.com
June 26, 2013
Voter photo ID to be used in 2014
AL.com reports: Today's U.S. Supreme Court decision clears the way for Alabama's new photo voter ID law to be used in the 2014 elections without the need for federal preclearance, state officials said.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and Secretary of State Beth Chapman said they believed the voting requirement, which is scheduled to take effect with the June 2014 primaries, can simply move forward. ...
Alabama lawmakers in 2011 approved a law to require Alabamians ? beginning with the party primaries in June of 2014 -- to show photo identification in order to vote. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama photo voter ID law to be used in 2014, state officials say | al.com
"ALEC influences Alabama legislators"
Alabama Political Reporter reports: From voter identification laws to immigration bills, many states seem to be acting as if from the same agenda in recent years. It's no secret that lobbying groups impact public policy on all levels, but many states are being influenced by a stronger, more powerful group.
ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, "is the only state legislative organization that adopts policies and creates model legislation for its members to use in their states," the ALEC website says. "To date, ALEC has nearly 1,000 pieces of model legislation."
Alabama has seen several pieces of "model legislation" in various forms in the past legislative sessions.
For example, ALEC offers model legislation on "The Parental Choice Scholarship Tax Credit Accountability Act," which describes a program similar to the one laid out in HB84, the Alabama Accountability Act.
http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/the-parental-choice-scholarship-tax-credit-accountability-act/ -- Read the whole article --> ALEC influences Alabama legislators
June 24, 2013
Telling the "real Republicans" from the infiltrators
Alabama Political Reporter reports on Speaker Hubbard's incumbent-protection plan, saying "We cannot let those entities infiltrate and highjack our primary." The article then list 5 house members and 3 senators who ran as Democrats and switched parties after the election. The article includes this:
Most interestingly, though, is Senator Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), who supported the Democrats long before he ever became a Republican.
Whatley donated a significant amount of money--$2,300--to the Obama campaign in July, 2008. This donation occurred around the same time that Whatley applied for an appointment, under the Obama administration to become the state director of USDA Rural Development in Alabama.
Whatley did not get the appointment, and many believe it was due to inaccuracies on his resume. Shortly after, Whatley joined the Republican Party and ran against Senator Ted Little, a 32-year incumbent, riding into the seat on the Republican landslide of 2010. -- Read the whole article --> Hubbard's "real republican" incumbents include Obama donor and party switchers
June 22, 2013
Briefs filed in voting rights suit about Birmingham school board
AL.com reports: State school officials and a group of Birmingham voters argued in separate court papers Friday whether the state should have obtained federal permission under the Voting Rights Act before it took control of Birmingham school finances last year.
The voter group says the majority white state school board grabbed authority away from voters who elected the Birmingham Board of Education, which is majority black. The state board should first get pre-clearance for its 2012 intervention plan under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before overriding any more decisions by city school board members, the voter group says.
State school board officials say they don't need pre-clearance for what amounts to a "temporary shift" in how a limited number of decisions with "serious financial implications" are made. The voters' Section 5 claim should be dismissed, the state says. ...
In February a group of five voters, including Birmingham Board of Education members Virginia Volker and Emanuel Ford and Alabama Education Association representative Michael Todd, who lives in the city, filed a lawsuit that says the state's intervention in the city school system violated Sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act. -- Read the whole story --> Birmingham group: state should be ordered to get federal approval to override city school board votes | al.com
Disclosure: I represent the voters in this suit.
Hubbard seeks to preserve Purity of Essesnce of the GOP
AL.com reports: Rep. Mike Hubbard sounds more like a man about to run a counterintelligence operation than the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.
Hubbard was at The Club Friday speaking to a meeting of Birmingham Young Republicans where he warned them that the "folks in Montgomery who used to run things" are making plans to take back their power and they are preparing to do it by pretending to be Republicans. ...
Hubbard identified the Alabama Education Association among other Democratic Party leaning groups who are at work on plans to reduce the GOP majorities in the House and state Senate. ...
"I'm telling you the race will be determined in the primary. The other guys know that," Hubbard said. "They know they can't win as a Democrat in a general election." -- Read the whole story --> Mike Hubbard readies to defend the GOP majority against faux Republicans | al.com
June 21, 2013
Birmingham city councilor pleads guilty to interfering with voter
AL.com reports: Birmingham Councilwoman Lashunda Scales has accepted a plea bargain that eliminates felony charges against her, avoiding jail time and avoiding automatic removal from office.
On June 4 Scales was indicted on two felony charges and six counts of using her official office for personal gain and voter interference.
In an agreement reached this afternoon with Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls and approved by Judge Tommy Nail, the counts against Scales were reduced to two and downgraded to one violation and one misdemeanor.
In exchange, Scales pleaded guilty to interfering with an elector, a minor legal violation, and a misdemeanor charge of unintentional use of public equipment. ...
The original four voter intimidation and interference counts stemmed from allegations from Jami L. Bryant that Scales attempted to "disturb, or prevent, or attempt to prevent" her from voting during the city's bond referendum held Oct. 9, 2012. -- Read the whole story --> Birmingham Councilwoman Lashunda Scales accepts plea bargain, avoids felony charges & retains office | al.com
GOP official does not want felon running for Congress on GOP ticket
AL.com reports: Can Stephen Nodine mount a campaign for Congress from jail?
Not if one Republican Party official has a say about it.
Matt Simpson, chairman of the Baldwin County GOP, said he intends to challenge any attempt by Nodine to qualify with the party as a candidate in the special election for Alabama?s 1st Congressional District seat.
"Having plead guilty to a felony charge of perjury, a crime for which he is currently serving his sentence, Mr. Nodine does not represent the principles and qualities necessary to represent the Republican Party in south Alabama," Simpson said today. "I would oppose his qualifying on our party ticket."
Nodine, a former Mobile County Commissioner who is now serving a two-year jail term on perjury and harassment charges, announced Wednesday that he is considering a bid for Alabama's 1st District congressional seat. -- Read the whole story --> Stephen Nodine for Congress? Not so fast, says GOP official | al.com
May 25, 2013
Is paying face value for UA football tickets an ethics violation?
AL.com reports:A longtime University of Alabama booster said today he is filing an ethics complaint against state public officials for purchasing Crimson Tide football tickets without paying extra as Tide Pride members. The Alabama Ethics Commission, without confirming or denying the complaint, says the issue is out of its hands.
Fred Palmer, a 76-year-old Tuscaloosa man who says he's an original Tide Pride member, argues that because Alabama states all season tickets are sold through Tide Pride except for students, faculty and staff, public officials are receiving free booster-club membership.
"It's not fair for the people that can't get tickets," Palmer said. "The legislators work for us. They're no better than we are. There are 28,000 people on a waiting list who can't join Tide Pride unless they pay $25,000 per seat to jump the line, and 100 legislators get the tickets." ...
"It's not an ethics issue," said Jim Sumner, director of the Alabama Ethics Commission. "The commission couldn't do anything even if they wanted to. This is an issue for the universities to determine. If they want public officials to purchase tickets outside the booster program, that is not an issue for the commission." -- Read the whole story --> Alabama booster files ethics complaint over public officials buying football tickets without donations | al.com
May 23, 2013
Searchable campaign-finance records
AL.com reports: Following the money could soon become much easier in Alabama.
Secretary of State Beth Chapman this morning demonstrated the state's new computerized campaign finance filing system designed to bring Alabama out of the disclosure dark ages.
The electronic system will replace the paper forms that for decades have been hand filed and then scanned at the secretary of state?s office. Candidates, beginning in the 2014 election cycle, will file reports electronically and the public will be able to run searches on the data.
"This gives us 24-7 transparency in campaign finance filings in Alabama. We are real excited about this. It's something the people have called for for a long time," Chapman said. -- Read the whole story --> State debuts new electronic, searchable campaign finance filing system | al.com
May 21, 2013
Legislature adopts changes to campaign finance law
AL.com reports: Alabama's law governing campaign finance would change in numerous ways under a bill approved by the Legislature tonight.
The Senate and House of Representatives voted tonight to pass a compromise version of SB445 by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville.
The bill goes to Gov. Robert Bentley, who could sign it into law.
It would repeal the $500 cap on campaign donations by corporations. Proponents of that change have said the cap is meaningless because corporations can legally skirt it. -- Read the whole story --> Legislature approves bill to change campaign finance law, repeal cap on corporate contributions | al.com
May 13, 2013
"Broke. Broke. Broke."
AL.com reports: Acting state Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley lowered her head and slowly shook it side to side when summing up the financial condition of her once powerful party.
"We're broke, broke, broke," Worley told the party's Executive Board in a special called meeting Frida.
How broke is broke? Worley didn't sugar coat the answer.
"This is my 18th day as chair and thirty minutes after I took over on April 22nd the landlord of the building where our party headquarters are came in and said he wanted us out, that the rent was overdue and was always overdue," said Worley. -- Read the whole article --> The Alabama Democratic Party: "We're broke, broke, broke." | al.com
May 10, 2013
Revision of Fair Campaign Practices Act amended in House, heads back to Senate
AL.com reports: The Alabama House of Representatives passed a Senate bill tonight that would make numerous changes to state campaign finance laws, including removing the state's $500 cap on campaign contributions by corporations.
The bill returns to the Senate, which could agree to changes or send the bill to a conference committee.
Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, chairman of the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee, said it was time to do away with the ?pretend? cap because corporations have been allowed to legally skirt the limits for decades by routing money through large numbers of political action committees.
Ball?s committee added the repeal of the corporate cap in a substitute to SB445 by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville. -- Read the whole article --> Campaign finance law revisions pass House; headed back to Senate | al.com
May 9, 2013
House to consider elimination of cap on corporate contributions
A bill before the Alabama House of Representatives today seeks to repeal the state?s $500 limit on corporate campaign contributions to candidates.
The chairman of the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee said Wednesday that it was time to do away with the "pretend" cap since corporations have been allowed to legally skirt the limits for decades by routing money through large numbers of political action committees.
"It?s stupid. It's just stupid. The $500 corporate contribution cap is a pretend cap," Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, said.
Senate Bill 445, which makes many changes to campaign finance law, is expected to come before the House today. The House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee approved a substitute bill that included a repeal of the cap.-- Read the whole story --> Bill before House today repeal state limit on corporate campaign contributions; Lawmaker says it's a 'pretend' cap | al.com
May 6, 2013
New campaign finance database going online
The Anniston Star reports: Following the money in Alabama politics might soon get a whole lot easier.
Officials of the Alabama Secretary of State's office say they'll launch a searchable online database of campaign donations by the end of May -- replacing the office's old system of paper filings and scanned-in documents.
State officials say the changes should make it easier for average voters to figure out who's accepting money from whom. -- Read the whole story --> Anniston Star - Alabama campaign finance reports soon to go online
May 4, 2013
AL.com reports: A sold out crowd of nearly 700 is expected for an event in Birmingham tonight honoring 28 lawyers for their contributions to the civil rights movement in Birmingham.
The Journey for Justice Gala at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center will also include the premier of the 27-minute documentary "Preserving Justice," which relates the story of the critical roles lawyers, both black and white, played in the civil rights movement. ...
Clarence B. Jones, former personal counsel, adviser, draft speech writer and close friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., will deliver the keynote address at the gala. ...
Jones also is among the legal pioneers, living or dead, being honored at tonight's gala.
The others are: Oscar W. Adams Jr.; Norman Amaker; James K. Baker; Abe Berkowitz; Orzell Billingsley; Harvey Burg; U.W. Clemon; Jerome "Buddy" Cooper; J. Mason Davis; Edward Friend Jr.; Peter A. Hall; Charles Hamilton Houston: Frank M. Johnson; Paul Johnston; Tom King Sr.; Thurgood Marshall; Nina Miglionico; Chuck Morgan; Constance Baker Motley; Demetrius Newton; Vernon Patrick; J. Richmond Pearson; Arthur D. Shores; C. Erskine Smith; Robert Vance; David Vann; and W.L. Williams Jr. -- Read the whole story --> Event honors 28 legal pioneers for their contributions to the civil rights movement in Birmingham | al.com
May 3, 2013
Where did Mike Hubbard get the funds to print his sorta-campaign mailer?
Alabama Political Reporter reports: Lee County voters this week were treated to a campaign-style push-card paid for by the Friends of Mike Hubbard. The mail drop is an unusual direct response to a stinging--and humorous--flyer branding the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard as "The Graftmaster." ...
Now, Hubbard is striking back with a glossy, high-production quality direct mail piece that insists he is a "conservative leader" who "works for us." The irony should be lost on no one that Craftmaster Printers appears to have printing the flyer, and the Craftmaster postal permit was used to pay postal costs. The printed address for the Friends of Mike Hubbard campaign committee uses is, naturally, the headquarters of his other lucrative business, Auburn Network Inc.
It seems in keeping with Hubbard's usual business practices that he would use his personal business interests to support campaign activities. Hubbard delivers to constituents a high-quality--and likely high-priced political mailer, paid for with donations to his campaign committee. And then he pays his own companies to print and deliver the propaganda. It's Diamond Mike at his best.
But exactly how Friends of Mike Hubbard paid for the mailer and postage costs is unclear. State campaign finance laws require political communications state clearly who pays the costs. The mailer states that is was paid for Paid for by Friends of Mike Hubbard. Yet, Secretary of State records show that Friends of Mike Hubbard as only having $607 dollars in its account as of January 31, 2013. Keep in mind that it is illegal for him to raise or transfer money until June, after the legislative session ends. -- Read the whole story --> The Graftmaster Cometh: Hubbard Strikes Back at Critics
April 30, 2013
2012 Evergreen election to be held on June 18
AL.com reports: A federal judge this afternoon postponed a long-delayed municipal election in Evergreen, pushing the voting back to June 18 after conducting a telephone conference with lawyers in a voting-rights lawsuit.
Attorneys for the Conecuh County seat requested the postponement, citing a need for more time by a special master appointed to oversee the balloting. U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade agreed, ordering the June 18 vote, with a runoff on July 30 if needed.
John Tanner, an attorney for three black residents who sued the city over the way it redrew council districts after the 2010 census, said the delay is the result of city officials? failure to include the plaintiffs' representative in discussions with the special master. But he said another postponement probably could not be avoided. ...
The plaintiffs alleged that the city illegally gerrymandered the five districts in order to maintain a white majority on the council despite the fact that Evergreen’s population now is 62 percent black. Granade in March ordered a new political map based largely on the one that the plaintiffs had proposed. It creates three districts with large black majorities. -- Read the whole story --> Judge postpones Evergreen election again; voting with redrawn political map set for June | al.com