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Daily News Digest – December 18, 2019

Good morning!
Here’s your Daily News for Wednesday, December 18.

1. Impeachment vote today

  • The U.S. House of Representatives is set to impeach President Donald Trump today on charges that he abused his power and obstructed Congress.
  • Trump, who would be just the third U.S. president to be impeached, on Tuesday fired off a furious letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi denouncing the “vicious crusade” against him, but he also acknowledged he was powerless to stop the expected outcome.
  • “When people look back at this affair, I want them to understand it, and learn for it, so that it can never happen to another president again,” he wrote.
  • Pelosi, who warned earlier this year against pursuing a strictly partisan impeachment, nonetheless has the numbers from Democrats to approve it.
  • There will be few surprises when the vote finally comes at around 6:00 p.m. Central Time tonight, save perhaps for a handful of vulnerable House Democrats voting NO or “taking a walk” to avoid the vote altogether.
  • Alabama’s delegation looks to be firm, with all six Republicans expected to vote no and lone Democrat Terri Sewell saying she’ll vote yes on both charges.
  • Per the U.S. Constitution, the action would then go to the Senate, where Senate Majority Mitch McConnell has signaled the trial could be a short process. He said the Senate may give impeachment managers the chance to make their case, then the White House a chance to defend the president, and then have a vote on whether to proceed or dismiss.
  • “Impeachment is a political decision,” McConnell said. “The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.”
  • Read more about the state of play and watch the floor proceedings live HERE.

2. Lawmakers get a pay raise as economy improves

  • Who remembers 2007, when the Alabama Legislature, fresh off an election, voted itself a 61 percent pay raise?
  • It was a big deal at the time, and come the next election it helped Republicans take over the Legislature for the first time in 136 years.
  • In repealing the pay raise, lawmakers put a new plan before voters: their salaries would be tied to the state’s median household income, sort of like incentive pay for improving the economy.
  • That meant a pay cut at the time, but now, thanks to an improving economy, Alabama’s 140 state lawmakers will receive a 3.61% raise next year, bringing their annual pay to $49,861.
  • That’s more than they would have made under the original 2007 pay raise, though by now it would have been a lot more because it included automatic annual increases (that was the really unpopular part).
  • Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, who sponsored the constitutional amendment with then-Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, said it’s working exactly as intended and as advertised to voters.
  • “If the state prospers, we do better; if it doesn’t, we don’t,” Ball told Alabama Daily News.
  • Read the full story from ADN’s Mary Sell HERE.


3. Spending bill passes, Alabama delegation split

  • The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass a $1.4 trillion government spending package, handing President Donald Trump a victory on his U.S.-Mexico border fence while giving Democrats spending increases across a swath of domestic programs.
  • The hard-fought legislation also funds a record Pentagon budget and is serving as a must-pass legislative locomotive to tow an unusually large haul of unrelated provisions into law, including an expensive repeal of Obama-era taxes on high-cost health plans, help for retired coal miners, and an increase from 18 to 21 in the nationwide legal age to buy tobacco products.
  • The House first passed a measure funding domestic programs on a 297-120 vote. But one-third of the Democrats defected on a 280-138 vote on the second bill, which funds the military and the Department of Homeland Security, mostly because it funds Trump’s border wall project.
  • The Alabama congressional delegation varied in their votes on the bill. On the base bill for domestic programs, Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, and Terri Sewell, D-Selma voted Yes, while Reps. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile, Gary Palmer, R-Birmingham, and Mike Rogers, R-Saks, voted No.
  • On the amendment adding defense and homeland security spending, Aderholt, Brooks, Roby, Rogers and Sewell all voted Yes, while Byrne and Palmer voted No.
  • Read more HERE.



4. Senate sends Defense bill to Trump

  • The Senate on Tuesday voted to send to President Donald Trump an annual defense bill authorizing $738 billion in Pentagon spending, including many policy provisions.
  • The annual defense measure has passed every year since the Kennedy administration, invariably as a traditionally bipartisan effort. Trump has said he’ll sign the bill, which delivers a 3.1% pay raise for Pentagon personnel, the largest in more than a decade, and provides federal employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
  • Alabama’s two senators each voted in favor of the bill. Republican Richard Shelby, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the bill “contains major victories for Alabama and the nation’s defense and aerospace sectors.”
  • Democrat Doug Jones, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, touted the inclusion of a provision repealing the so-called “Military Widow’s Tax,” which he championed alongside Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
  • “We worked hard to make sure this bill reflects our values, and that’s why it includes so many provisions to not only shore up our national defense, but to take care of servicemembers and their families,” Jones said.
  • The NDAA also authorizes the creation of the U.S. Space Force, which reorganizes existing personnel into a new branch of the Air Force. Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Saks, has long pushed for the creation of a Space Force. He said he was “ecstatic” to see the project finally come to fruition.
  • “This is an important step for our national security. Our adversaries are moving quickly in space and this new service will allow us to quickly realign our resources and efforts towards countering them,” Rogers said.
  • Full story HERE.


5. Job market remains strong

  • The Labor Department said Tuesday that the number of available jobs rose 3.3% to nearly 7.3 million during the last measured month of October. That suggests that businesses remain confident enough in the economic outlook to create more positions.
  • The figures provide the latest evidence that employers have largely shrugged off the uncertainties surrounding the U.S.-China trade war and slowing global growth. While the number of open jobs has declined from a record high of 7.6 million a year ago, they are still at a historically high level. For roughly a year and a half there have been more job postings than unemployed people.
  • “The numbers should calm worries that employer demand for workers is drying up,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter. “Rather than falling substantially, job openings now appear to have remained fairly stable for over a year.”
  • Read more HERE.




News Briefs

Update on IAP story

  • An update to an Inside Alabama Politics item from earlier in the week – Gov. Kay Ivey will name Will Parker as her General Counsel, replacing Bryan Taylor who departed in October. Parker has been Deputy Legal Advisor in the Ivey Admin and previously worked for the Attorney General’s office.
  • Speculation had been that the administration would go after a “big name hire” (campaigning for these jobs can be common), but Parker’s appointment is a promotion from within.
  • It also makes sense. As deputy, Parker has been deeply involved in the various legal issues the governor’s office deals with, including prison reform and litigation negotiations with the Department of Justice.
  • Congrats, Will!
  • An updated IAP is HERE.


Judge drops charge against 2nd man in Aniah Blanchard case

  • OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama judge dismissed a kidnapping charge Tuesday against one of the three men arrested in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, who was later found slain.
  • Lee County Judge Russell Bush dismissed a kidnapping charge against Antwain Shamar Fisher, 35, of Montgomery, after the county’s assistant district attorney, Garrett Saucer, filed a motion to dismiss.
  • Fisher was one of three people arrested earlier in the death of Blanchard, an Alabama college student and the stepdaughter of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris.
  • “The investigation has since revealed that Fisher was not present during the commission of the principal offense,” according to the motion as reported by the Opelika-Auburn News.
  • Ibraheem Yazeed, 29, of Montgomery, was charged with capital murder-kidnapping, after Blanchard’s remains were discovered and identified. County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said the medical examiner determined Blanchard died from a gunshot wound.
  • A memorial service for Blanchard is scheduled for noon Saturday at Faith Chapel Christian Center in Birmingham.
  • An announcement posted on the church’s Facebook page says the event is open to the public.
  • Full story HERE.

Popular tax breaks extended

  • WASHINGTON (AP) — A raft of expired and expiring tax breaks, including deductions for mortgage insurance premiums, college tuition and large medical bills, would be renewed under a massive government-wide funding bill approved by the Democratic-controlled House.
  • The action comes a few days before the second anniversary of passage of President Donald Trump’s massive 2017 tax law, his signature legislative achievement. The package of individual and corporate tax cuts that the Republicans muscled through Congress was the most extensive rewrite of the U.S. tax code in three decades, adding an estimated $1.5 trillion to the ballooning deficit.
  • It provided steep tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and more modest reductions for middle- and low-income individuals and families. While the law slashed the corporate tax rate permanently from 35% to 21%, its tax cuts for individuals expire in 2026.
  • In addition to the deduction for mortgage insurance, college tuition and big medical bills, it includes extensions of several measures to boost renewable energy sources, such as a wind energy tax credit and a biodiesel credit eagerly sought by soybean growers.
  • Also extended are tax breaks for brewers and distillers, a credit for maintenance on short-line railroads and tax relief for victims of natural disasters.
  • Full story HERE.

Tobacco age hike backed by vape makers

  • WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is moving to pass the biggest new sales restrictions on tobacco products in more than a decade, with support from two unlikely backers: Marlboro-cigarette maker Altria and vaping giant Juul Labs.
  • The legislation would raise the minimum age to purchase all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, from 18 to 21 nationwide, a step long-sought by health advocates. But in the past year Juul and Altria have emerged as the biggest supporters of the measure, blanketing Capitol Hill with lobbyists and advertisements touting their support for a national “Tobacco 21” law.
  • Tobacco critics contend the companies’ support is calculated to head off even harder-hitting government action: a ban on all flavored tobacco products, including fruit and dessert e-cigarettes. Their stance puts them in the unusual position of criticizing a move they long supported, arguing that the sales restriction isn’t enough.
  • The bipartisan legislation, supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has been attached to a package of must-pass spending bills that will keep the government running into next year.
  • Juul and Altria — the vaping company’s biggest investor — threw their support behind the bill earlier this year amid a backlash against e-cigarettes at the local, state and national levels.
  • Full story HERE.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Trump on brink of impeachment as House readies historic vote
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – House passes $1.4T spending bill; Alabama delegation split
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Lawmakers getting 3.61% raise as state’s median household income rises
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Senate sends Trump defense bill; Shelby Jones vote yes
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bill to raise tobacco age has unlikely allies: Altria, Juul
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Judge drops charge against 2nd man in Aniah Blanchard case
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – State House update: Education budget jockeying begins
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Marsh wants ‘comprehensive’ action on education
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest- December 17, 2019
AL.COM – Rallies across Alabama call for Trump impeachment
AL.COM – North Alabama storms kill 2, leave path of devastation
AL.COM – Doug Jones’ ‘military widow tax’ repeal provision passes Senate
AL.COM – Alabama-based tornado study gets budget doubled in 2020
AL.COM – Huntsville company Dynetics sold for $1.6 billion
AL.COM – Alabama among national leaders in carrying out death penalty
AL.COM – ‘Rotten 1st quarter’ holds Alabama pension fund earnings to 3%
AL.COM – Aerojet in Huntsville wins $82M hypersonic work
AL.COM – Congress says ‘happy holidays’ to NASA, Pentagon with budget deal
AL.COM – Neighbor states stop paddling disabled students, Alabama schools still swinging away
Montgomery Advertiser – Case dropped against Antwain Fisher in Aniah Blanchard’s kidnapping
Montgomery Advertiser – Four more teens face felonies in Autauga BB gun shooting spree
Montgomery Advertiser – Nick, Terry Saban donate $1.25 million for state-of-the-art learning center in Tuscaloosa
YellowHammer News – Huntsville’s Dynetics to be acquired by Fortune 500 company
YellowHammer News – Amidst Port of Mobile’s growth, Alabama State Port Authority recognized for performance
YellowHammer News – Alabama’s HudsonAlpha uses data from genomic sequencing to help patients better understand their dementia
Dothan Eagle – Storms create warnings, watches; cool temps arriving later today
Dothan Eagle – Water World officials propose raising ticket prices, rental fees for 2020 season
Dothan Eagle – School board approves letter requesting Dothan to hand over properties
Tuscaloosa News – 4 dead, several injured across South in outbreak of twisters
Tuscaloosa News – Reward offered after guns stolen
Tuscaloosa News – New storm shelter opens in West Tuscaloosa
Decatur Daily – Deadly Town Creek tornado receives EF2 rating
Decatur Daily – Police: Decatur man charged with trafficking in cocaine
Decatur Daily – Decatur council leases old fire station to Boys & Girls Club
Times Daily – 5% increase sought for higher education
Times Daily – Killen man, Minor Hill resident die in head-on collision Sunday
Gadsden Times – City talks about effects of Goodyear downsizing
Gadsden Times – Boaz school board approves expenditure
Gadsden Times – Albertville joins firefighters’ benefit program
Anniston Star – Piedmont Council approves demolition at future Burger King
Anniston Star – Anniston council discusses limits for public commenters
Anniston Star – Auto Custom Carpets to open new Oxford location
Troy Messenger – ‘Turkeys from Heaven’ is Saturday; volunteers needed to deliver
Troy Messenger – PCBOE makes new hires
Troy Messenger – Rain, wind can’t stop ‘Ole Time Christmas’ from coming
Andalusia Star News – Blue Lake Camp has new program director
Andalusia Star News – ACS 1 bus from total fleet renewal
Andalusia Star News – AHS auditorium now available for rent
Opelika-Auburn News – AU frat shut down over abuse accusations
Opelika-Auburn News – Police file charges against former bookkeeper
Opelika-Auburn News – Auburn City Council will vote on renovations for Boykin
Daily Mountain Eagle – Battle: Jasper will see ‘shadow economy’ from broadband
Daily Mountain Eagle – Junior Ambassadors help seniors, community
Daily Mountain Eagle – SOS to drop $100 expedited business fee
Trussville Tribune – Birmingham Housing Authority plans to move residents to east Jefferson County after $20 million renovation
Trussville Tribune – Clay City Council passes Human Trafficking Awareness Month proclamation
Trussville Tribune – Alabama officer Samuel Yoh recovering from Thursday shooting
Athens News Courier – Limestone child porn trial postponed until Wednesday
Athens News Courier – COUNTY COMMISSION: Drivers asked to watch for workers
Athens News Courier – Officials assessing damage from Monday night storms
Sand Mountain Reporter – Rachel’s Recipes: Combination of bread pudding, crumble
Sand Mountain Reporter – Peoples Independent Bank makes charitable donations
Sand Mountain Reporter – Maze shares importance of servant leadership
WSFA Montgomery – Greenville police arrest, charge man with multiple sex crimes
WSFA Montgomery – Agriculture Commissioner looks forward to new U.S. trade deal
WSFA Montgomery – Activists call for president’s impeachment at ‘Nobody is Above the Law’ rally
Fox 6 Birmingham – City of Cullman ramps up cyber security amid attacks on other cities
Fox 6 Birmingham – Police searching for suspect in B’ham drive-by shooting
Fox 6 Birmingham – AL Congressman secures $102M to speed up testing of rape kits
WAFF Huntsville – Lawrence County residents concerned about potential 3M chemical contamination
WAFF Huntsville – Suspects in multi-state toy resale scheme arrested in north Alabama
WAFF Huntsville – Storm ravages Monrovia neighborhood; dozens step up to help
WKRG Mobile – Kazoola owner talks about day with Samuel L. Jackson
WKRG Mobile – Florida man pays electric bills for families about to lose power
WKRG Mobile – Alabama county jails are becoming overcrowded and need better funding, group says
WTVY Dothan – Bus driver takes care of kids during tornado warning
WTVY Dothan – Heating the hearts and homes of the elderly throughout the community
WTVY Dothan – Wiregrass community continues to support Officer Yoh
WASHINGTON POST – Trump rips Democrats for ‘attempted coup’ on eve of likely impeachment
WASHINGTON POST – ‘Dump Trump!’ Protesters across the nation rally for impeachment
WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post: Why are Democrats in Congress undermining Obamacare?
WASHINGTON POST – Congress set to prohibit sales of tobacco products to anyone under 21.
WASHINGTON POST – House passes $1.4 trillion spending deal and sends it to Senate ahead of shutdown deadline
NEW YORK TIMES – A New Drug Scourge: Deaths Involving Meth Are Rising Fast
NEW YORK TIMES – Earning Income on the Side Is a Large and Growing Slice of American Life

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