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Daily News Digest – February 3, 2021

Presented by the

Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition


Good morning and welcome to new subscribers!

Here’s your Daily News for February 3.



1. Legislative session starts with caution, big bills

  • The Alabama Legislature gaveled in Tuesday for the first day of what leadership hopes are productive early weeks of the session, despite COVID-19 protocols that are changing operations in the State House.
  • One House member was sent home after testing positive for COVID-19 after representatives were encouraged but not required to take a rapid virus test upon entering the State House. The member was not identified by leadership. One staff member who had come into contact with the lawmaker was also sent home to quarantine.
  • House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said despite the positive test, he is encouraged by the cooperation and attitudes of members.
  • “We’ve just got to learn to function in a little different environment and we’ve just got to be willing to take on all the safety precautions,” McCutcheon said.
  • House Ways and Means Education Committee chairman Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, held a work session on two of the three priority bills for the session’s early days: one revamping major economic incentives offered in industrial recruitment projects and the other specifying that federal COVID-19 relief funds received by individuals, businesses or organizations are not subject to state income tax.
  • The third priority bill, Sen. Arthur Orr’s bill to limit the COVID-19-related lawsuits that can be filed against businesses and other entities, is up in Senate Judiciary today.
  • One other bit of news: Sen. Del Marsh said he wants to move his yet-to-be-filed gambling proposal sooner rather than later.
  • Marsh preparing wide ranging gambling legislation that will address a state lottery, casinos and sports betting. Revenues would go toward education, college scholarships and expanding access to broadband internet, among other things, he said.
  • “I’ll tell you this: it’s going to be earlier in the session,” Marsh said. “But at the end of the day it goes to people for them to make that final decision.”
  • Full story from Mary Sell, Caroline Beck and me HERE.


2. Marsh steps down, Reed steps into Pro Tem role

  • After ten years of leading the Alabama Senate as President Pro Tempore, Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, officially stepped down from the upper chamber’s top job Tuesday, relinquishing the role to Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper.
  • The friendly leadership transition, first reported in November, became official as lawmakers opened the 2021 legislative session. Turning in his letter of resignation to the secretary of the Senate, Marsh thanked his colleagues, staff and family for their support during his tenure as pro tem, the longest in Senate history.
  • “It has been a privilege to serve as pro tem of this body since 2010,” Marsh said from the Senate floor, choking up at moments. “I believe we’ve accomplished some great things together.”
  • Marsh told colleagues he will remain a “regular senator” and focus on specific issues like education, expanding broadband internet and a gambling package during his last two years in office. Marsh previously announced that he would not seek reelection in 2022.
  • Even though he helped engineer the Republican takeover of the Senate in 2010, Marsh said he was most proud of the bipartisan nature of the leadership transition and how the two parties have worked together.
  • Elected unanimously in a roll call vote, Reed said the chamber would operate smoothly and allow for both parties’ viewpoints.
  • “I want to support every member of this body,” Reed said. “I want to focus on communication, letting you all know what we’re doing, what I’m doing… and I want the people of Alabama to know what the Senate is doing on their behalf.”
  • Read the full story HERE.






A message from the

Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition

  • Access to fast, reliable internet is something all Alabamians should have.
  • It’s good for business, offers our students more educational opportunities and gives us all a better quality of life.
  • Too many places in our state remain disconnected from this game-changing technology. The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition is working to change that, and we want you to be a part of it.
  • We’ve launched the first installment of a new video series that tells our story and why it matters.
  • Click HERE to learn more about the work and growth of the ARBC as well as the proactive policy solutions that are helping to bridge the digital divide in Alabama.






3. State of the State: Ivey touts prison plan, urges transparent gambling debate

  • Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday said new leased prisons are the foundation of remaking the state’s troubled corrections system and urged lawmakers to be transparent as they head toward debate on gambling later this year.
  • The Republican governor gave her annual State of the State address on the opening day of the legislative session. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ivey addressed lawmakers by remote feed instead of standing before them in a crowded chamber at the Alabama Capitol.
  • “One of the most critical issues facing our state is the dire condition of our prisons. It’s no secret the Department of Corrections is facing significant challenges that are the result of decades of neglect,” Ivey said.
  • She said the cornerstone of improving the system will be to replace the “state’s aging and failing prison infrastructure with safe, new, sustainable and affordable men’s prisons.”
  • Ivey praised Alabamians’ resilience during the deadly pandemic in a year that “tested both our patience and perseverance.”
  • “Despite all that was thrown at us, Alabamians remained grounded and kept our resolve. You never gave up. And while COVID-19 has proven to be a worthy adversary with no regard for class, race or gender, the disease has shown us just how much more we can accomplish if we work together,” Ivey said.
  • Read more about the speech from Kim Chandler and watch/read it for yourself HERE.




4. What’s on tap today

On Wednesdays we wear pink and go to committee meetings!
Several significant and priority bills are in committee today, the Legislature’s first committee meeting day of the COVID-19-altered session.
All the meetings are expected to be live streamed as public access to the State House is limited. Video links can be found here.
Here’s a rundown from ADN’s Mary Sell…
  • At 8:30 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee meets for a 10-bill agenda that includes committee chairman Sen. Tom Whatley’s Senate Bill 97 to adjust the powers of the state health officer during pandemics like the one that hit the state last spring.
  • The committee will also consider Sen. Arthur Orr’s Senate Bill 30 to provide limited liability protection for businesses and other entities from lawsuits related to COVID-19. A public hearing is scheduled.
  • Sen. Tim Melson’s Senate Bill 46 to allow for medical marijuana in the state is also on the agenda, without a public hearing. The Senate last year approved a similar bill.
  • Senate Bill 36 from Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, would change state pardon and parole law in an effort to try to ease the crowding in county jails by lessening the number of state inmates housed in them.
  • Also on the agenda are bills to prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement and allow home delivery of beer, wine and spirits.
  • That’s just one committee meeting, y’all!
  • Senate Veterans & Military Affairs meets at 9:30 to take up bills related to military installations and removing barriers for military families who relocate to Alabama.
  • The Senate Finance & Taxation Education Committee meets at 10:00 a.m. to take up Sen. Chris Elliot’s bill to amend the state’s school funding program to take into account high growth areas so they aren’t negatively impacted.
  • House Ways and Means General Fund meets at 1:30 p.m. taking up a full slate of bills, including compensation for retired judges, benefits for retired law enforcement officers, and extending the state’s coal severance tax.
  • The House Judiciary Committee also has a meaty 15-bill agenda for its 1:45 p.m. meeting. Included are two bills related to the state’s Habitual Felony Offender Act (story below).
  • The House Ways and Means Education Committee meets at 2 p.m. today for two of the bills deemed priorities for passage in the first two weeks of the session.
  • House Bill 192 aims to revamp major economic incentives offered in industrial recruitment projects. House Bill 170 specifies that federal COVID-19 relief funds received by individuals, businesses or organizations are not subject to state income tax.
  • The COVID tax bill also reduces Alabama’s corporate income tax rate and eliminates the federal income tax deduction for businesses. Bill sponsor Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, said the bill will make Alabama more competitive with surrounding states.
  • According to a fiscal note on the bill, it would increase income tax receipts to the Education Trust Fund by about $12.95 million this year and about $12.75 million for each fiscal year thereafter. The Senate version of the same bill is in the Senate education budget committee this morning.
  • In the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee (FRED)at 3:00 this afternoon is Orr’s Senate Bill to regulate 5G cellular infrastructure across the state and put some limits on what municipalities can charge providers for access to city rights-of-way. This bill has been controversial in previous sessions due to opposition from municipalities.
  • Story link.



5. Changes sought to Habitual Offender Act

  • A new report urges Alabama leaders to change state laws that mean “death in prison sentences” for inmates convicted of crimes in which victims were not injured.
  • “Condemned,” from the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, details how Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act is more punitive than most other Southern states’ laws and how keeping these men — many of them now senior citizens — in prisons is costing the state millions of dollars in medical care.
  • “We hope (lawmakers and other officials) realize that hundreds of people are still trapped in life without parole sentences for crimes where there was no physical injury and who if sentenced today would do a fraction of their current sentences,” Appleseed Executive Director Carla Crowder told Alabama Daily News.
  • The state’s Habitual Felony Offender Act dates back to the 1970s and allows for a sentence of life in prison without parole on a fourth felony conviction. It has been modified occasionally, including in 2015 when lawmakers created a new class of felony for non-violent crimes, including thefts and forgeries, that don’t qualify for a life sentence. The law change was not retroactive.
  • Two bills addressing this issue are up in the House judiciary Committee today: House Bill 24 from Chairman Jim Hill, R-Odenville, which would provide for resentencing of those convicted of nonviolent crimes that occurred prior to Oct. 1 2013, and House Bill 107 from Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, which would repeal the Habitual Felony Offender Act altogether and allow for resentencing of those now in prison under the law.
  • Read more from Mary Sell HERE.




ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Legislative session starts with caution, big bills


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Marsh steps down, Reed steps into Pro Tem role


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey touts prison plan, urges transparent gambling debate


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Medical marijuana, tax incentives, 5G infrastructure among big bills in committee today


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Changes sought to Habitual Offender Act


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Biden meets with Republicans on virus aid, but no quick deal


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – COVID-19 protocols limiting public access to legislative session


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Ivey signs leases for two prisons


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama debuts online scheduler for COVID-19 vaccinations


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – February 2, 2021


AL.COM – Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey says ‘good can come’ from gambling expansion debate


AL.COM – Shelby, Tuberville among 13 senators voting against Pete Buttigieg for transportation secretary


AL.COM – Birmingham economy saw more than $500 million in capital investment in 2020


AL.COM – Sen. Del Marsh to propose gambling bill to support scholarships, broadband


AL.COM – Tuberville adds staff with focus on defense, NASA, and national security


Montgomery Advertiser – Attempted murder charges dropped in Prattville road rage case


Montgomery Advertiser – Gov. Kay Ivey proposes teacher, state employee pay raises; defends prison plan


Montgomery Advertiser – Read Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s State of the State address in full, as prepared for delivery


Decatur Daily – Austin Junior High moves to virtual as hospital gets vaccine shipment


Decatur Daily – Lawrence school employee files racial bias complaint


Decatur Daily – Legislative session starts with caution, big bills


Times Daily – Session starts with caution, big bills


Times Daily – Lauderdale County inmate dies after testing positive for COVID


Times Daily – ADPH launches online portal for COVID-19 vaccines


Anniston Star – Anniston council may shift money to Greenbrier sidewalk


Anniston Star – Marsh steps down, Reed steps into Pro Tem role


Anniston Star – Legislative session starts with caution, big bills


YellowHammer News – Read: Governor Kay Ivey’s full 2021 State of the State Address


YellowHammer News – Alabama Senate releases updated committee assignments


YellowHammer News – Clay Scofield becomes Alabama Senate majority leader following unanimous election


Gadsden Times – Gov. Kay Ivey proposes teacher, state employee pay raises; defends prison plan


Gadsden Times – Read Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s State of the State address in full, as prepared for delivery


Gadsden Times – Alabama prison orders mandatory body cam use after brawl hospitalizes four inmates, staff


Dothan Eagle – Alabama health department launches online portal for COVID-19 vaccinations


Dothan Eagle – Dothan leaders to decide funding priorities for 2021 capital projects this week


Dothan Eagle – Trudeau vows to repatriate vaccine production ‘regardless’


Opelika-Auburn News – UK: New study vindicates delaying 2nd virus vaccine dose


Opelika-Auburn News – The Latest: Czech Republic hits 1 million virus cases


Opelika-Auburn News – Italy looks to ‘Super Mario’ Draghi to end political crisis


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Should parents consider holding students back a grade who struggle during the pandemic?


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Decline in COVID hospitalizations has grim underlining


WBRC Fox 6 Birmingham – Ivey optimistic in State of the State about end of pandemic, schools, prisons and more


Tuscaloosa News – Gov. Kay Ivey proposes teacher, state employee pay raises; defends prison plan


Tuscaloosa News – Read Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s State of the State address in full, as prepared for delivery


Tuscaloosa News – Alabama prison orders mandatory body cam use after brawl hospitalizes four inmates, staff

WSFA Montgomery – Dadeville man facing multiple child sex abuse charges


WSFA Montgomery – Gov. Kay Ivey delivers State of the State address


WSFA Montgomery – Push for vaccinations grows as COVID-19 variants emerge in Alabama


WAFF Huntsville – Alabama lawmakers to debate controversial bill about athletic trainers


WAFF Huntsville – Retired RN returns to work to help with COVID-19 vaccinations in Huntsville


WAFF Huntsville – Jefferson County father diagnosed with COVID variant passes away


WKRG Mobile – Expansion of Highway 43 a big win for Thomasville mayor


WKRG Mobile – Mega-prison could bring jobs, growth to Atmore


WKRG Mobile – Report: Woman brought her friend along to kill her daughter’s boyfriend


WTVY Dothan – Prediction: COVID will kill thousands more in Alabama


WTVY Dothan – “Hometown Heroes” project for Main Street Enterprise


WTVY Dothan – Dothan drug prevention non-profit raises awareness for “whippets”


WASHINGTON POST – Senate Republicans move against ‘nutty’ House member in widening GOP rift


WASHINGTON POST – Trump’s actions described as ‘a betrayal of historic proportions’ in trial brief filed by House impeachment managers


WASHINGTON POST – Proud Boys and Black Lives Matter activists clashed in a Florida suburb. Only one side was charged.


NEW YORK TIMES – Under Pressure to Rebuke Their Own, G.O.P. Leaders Face a Critical Test


NEW YORK TIMES – Democrats Speed Ahead on Economic Aid Package


NEW YORK TIMES – Covid-19 Live Updates: Study Finds AstraZeneca Shots Drastically Cut Transmission


WALL STREET JOURNAL – For One GameStop Trader, the Wild Ride Was Almost as Good as the Enormous Payoff


WALL STREET JOURNAL – Biden Wants a $15 Minimum Wage. Here’s What People Say It Would Do to the Economy



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