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Daily News Digest – January 3, 2018

Good morning! It’s never going to stop raining, is it?
Here’s your Daily News for Thursday, January 3.

1. The 116th.

  • The 116th Congress gavels in today.
  • A two year run of total GOP control comes to an end as Democrats assume their House majority.
  • Nancy Pelosi becomes the first person to return to the Speaker’s chair since Sam Rayburn and Joseph Martin swapped majorities back in the 40s and 50s.
  • She’ll try to manage a 17-seat Democratic majority that is now more heavily influenced by its left flank than by the center.
  • Republicans add two seats to their Senate majority, bringing that chamber’s breakdown to 53-47.
Alabama Delegation
  • The biggest changes for Alabama’s Congressional Delegation are the flip from majority to minority, or vice versa.
  • Of Alabama’s six House Republicans, only Reps. Robert Aderholt and Mike Rogers have ever served in the minority. And Alabama’s lone House Democrat Rep. Terri Sewell has never served in the majority.
  • Aderholt and Rogers will each assume new committee leadership roles within that minority – Rogers as Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee and Aderholt as Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. Both those panels influence a lot of policy and funding that is important to Alabama.
  • Reps. Terri Sewell and Gary Palmer will take on leadership roles within their respective party structures. Sewell will be Chief Deputy Whip, where she’ll help wrangle votes needed to pass legislation, and Palmer assumes the chairmanship of the GOP Policy Committee, a clearing house for Republican ideas and legislation.
  • Few other changes are expected within the House delegation, but we’ll know more once committees are officially populated.
  • Sen. Doug Jones begins the new Congress a new member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also a panel very important to Alabama.
  • And Sen. Richard Shelby continues his leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee, a perch that comes with enormous influence but also plenty of headaches.
  • Shelby and the rest of the 116th Congress inherit a partial government shutdown over border wall funding that has no apparent end in sight.
How to watch
  • The ceremonies begin at 11:00 Central Time. You can watch on CSPAN or most any cable news channel.
  • At about 12:30 Central, all 435 House members and the 35 Senators who just stood for election will take this oath:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”



2. Scoop: Mark Dixon tapped to lead A+.

  • The A+ Education Partnership has hired Mark Dixon as its new president.
  • Mark is from Birmingham but has been working for General Electric the last several years, based mostly in Washington, D.C. but with stints at corporate headquarters and abroad.
  • Alabama political folks will remember Mark for his six-year service in Gov. Bob Riley’s office as Education Policy Adviser.
  • Mark was a driving force behind expanding First Class Pre-K beyond a pilot program and growing other programs like the Alabama Reading Initiative and AMSTI.
  • (Ask me sometime to tell you the story about how the name “First Class” was chosen.)
  • He succeeds longtime president Caroline Novak, who co-founded A+ in 1991 and built the organization into a driver for improving student performance and a key influencer of education reform policies.
  • A+ is home to the Alabama Best Practices Center, which helps teachers develop core competencies, and A+ College Ready, which aims to drive student performance through promoting rigorous coursework, including Advanced Placement.
  • Congrats, Mark, and welcome home!
  • Full story HERE.


3. Ivey kicks off Early Childhood Education Conference.

  • Gov. Kay Ivey is in Mobile this morning kicking off the Alabama Early Childhood Education Conference.
  • She’ll speak to a convention center full of teachers, administrators, and providers from Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program, First Teacher Home Visiting program, participants in the state’s P-3 leadership program, and other state initiatives serving children and their families from birth through the third grade.
  • The conference is part of the 30-plus hours of professional development that Early Childhood educators must complete each year.
  • It’s a popular conference, and Alabama’s success in Pre-K has folks coming from other states as well.
  • From Jeana Ross, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education:
“Our commitment to Alabama families is to provide the highest-quality early education and care programs available. The annual Alabama Early Childhood Education Conference helps ensure that all of the early education professionals working in our state have access to the latest age-appropriate teaching methods and practices. The work of the women and men who make up Alabama’s early childhood community are the reason why other states across the country are trying to replicate our programs.” 


4. Bruce Ely: Alabama among “the worst” for sales tax red tape.

  • Bruce Ely wants to fix Alabama’s sales tax structure.
  • He a Senior Partner at Bradley and a tax adviser to many groups and companies around the state, and he says Alabama is among “the worst” state for sales tax red tape.
  • Revenues are reportedly up with the past year’s surging economy and the passage of Alabama’s Simplified Sales and Use Tax plan. But, Ely argues, the fact that each city and county imposes and administers its own sales, use, and rental taxes continues to complicate collections for retailers.
  • Here’s an excerpt from his guest opinion column in today’s Daily News:
“Alabama is considered to be one of the worst three, if not THE worst, state in the U.S. when it comes to red tape in sales tax compliance.That’s primarily because we’re the only state that allows each and every city and county to impose and collect its own sales, use and rental taxes. And many of them have chosen that option, either doing it themselves or contracting it out to one of several “private auditing firms,” some of whom charge contingency fees on business license tax audits. Audit horror stories abound.
“The Supreme Court ruled that the decades-old sales tax collection rules can change to reflect the new economy, but only if a state and all its local governments at least come close to following the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement criteria— a single audit and appeals process for the state and all local governments; a single point of filing; a uniform set of taxable and tax-exempt items, simplified sales tax rates; etc….
“Typically, when tax compliance is made easier, state and local tax revenues increase. Everybody wins.”
  • Read his full column HERE.


5. Steve French: 1988 and the seeds of Republican rule.


  • Steve French has worn a lot of political hats over the years.
  • Most know him from his service in the State Senate from 1999-2010.
  • But before that, Steve was a political operative for many years, including Executive Director of the ALGOP, a Regional Political Director for the RNC, and the Bush-Quayle State Director in 1992.
  • The recent passing of President Bush and the overwhelming victory Alabama Republicans had in November has Steve remembering back to the 1988 election when he says the seeds for GOP majority rule in Alabama were sewn.
  • It’s a good history lesson for folks who might not realize GOP control in Alabama is still relatively new.
  • Here’s an excerpt from his guest column in today’s Daily News:
“Recently, we buried the first President I had the pleasure to work for: George Herbert Walker Bush. The personal memories associated with that event, along with the ending of 2018, have caused me to reflect on a pivotal year in Alabama politics: 1988. 
“As hard as it is to believe today, 30 years ago, Republicans weren’t much of a factor in state politics. At the start of 1988, Alabama Democrats wielded almost all of the influence in Alabama politics as they elected: all but one statewide officeholder; roughly 85 percent of the Legislature (119 of 140 seats); both U.S. Senators; 5 of the 7 Congressional seats. Additionally, Democrats controlled 60 of the 67 county Courthouses. 
“It was in this environment, as a 25 year-old, that I was hired to run the ALGOP in January 1988…”


News Briefs.


Judge orders prison info released
  • A federal judge has ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to publicly disclose the number of correctional officers at each Alabama prison, but with a time delay because of security concerns.
  • U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled that quarterly staffing reports submitted to the court should be unsealed. However, Thompson said the release of prison-specific information would be delayed for five months because of security concerns.
  • The ruling came in an ongoing lawsuit over mental health care in Alabama prisons. Attorneys for inmates sought to have the reports unsealed.
  • Thompson wrote that the prison system agreed to release the information but wanted a 12-month delay in releasing staffing data for individual prisons because of security concerns.
  • Full story.
Rain shuts down shellfish
  • Shellfish growing waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties have been closed.
  • The Alabama Department of Public Health says Areas I, II, III, IV, V and VI are closed and includes Cedar Point, Portersville Bay, Heron Bay, and Dauphin Island Bay.
  • The order by State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris closed harvesting as of 8:45 p.m. on Dec. 30. It was issued as a result of possible bacteriological contamination of the oyster beds due to recent rainfall.
  • Officials say harvesting will be resumed as soon as areas meet acceptable bacteriological criteria.
Cheap Tickets
  • Getting into the stadium to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers play for the title for the third time in four years has never been cheaper.
  • With the College Football Playoff final located thousands of miles away from the two campuses, possible fatigue for fan bases of teams that have become annual participants in the playoff and a game site in an expensive market lacking college football die-hards, prices for tickets for Monday night’s championship in Santa Clara have been plummeting the past few days.
  • “It’s sort of a perfect storm of factors at play this year,” said Jesse Lawrence, the founder of TicketIQ, a secondary ticket market. “It’s a big ask for fans to come and that’s why we’re seeing the prices the way they are.”
  • Full story.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – The 116th Congress begins: What to watch for
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Dixon tapped to lead A+ Education Partnership
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Judge orders delayed release of prison staffing numbers
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – After shutdown talks go nowhere, officials to try again
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama closes shellfish growing areas
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Bruce Ely: Alabama worst in the U.S. for sales tax red tape
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Steve French: 1988 and the seeds of Alabama’s Republican rule
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Tickets for CFP title game available for cheap
AL.COM – Food stamp funding not guaranteed past January; 751,000 Alabamians depend on SNAP.
AL.COM – What Hyundai’s moves in 2019 mean for Alabama
AL.COM – Birmingham extending office hours during I-59/20 closure; mayor encourages businesses to do the same
AL.COM – Deer sampling for CWD will take place this weekend
AL.COM – Alabama bicentennial stamp unveiled by U.S. Postal Service
AL.COM – Columnist Cameron Smith:  Ten things to leave behind in 2018
AL.COM – Roy Moore promises ‘details’ about ‘hacked’ Senate race
AL.COM – Woman found shot at west Birmingham gas station
AL.COM – Trademark Office turns down Minkah Fitzpatrick’s application
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Montgomery man charged with capital murder after victim in September 2017 shooting dies
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Central Alabama VA hopes new phone system will reduce call wait times
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Alabama State Port Authority announces senior leadership changes
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – ‘Entirely avoidable’: Mo Brooks hits Pelosi, Schumer over illegal immigrant charged with rape of Shelby County girl
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – ‘LEGALIZE IT!’: Retirement Systems of Alabama all-in for sports gambling, marijuana
DOTHAN EAGLE – Police: Robbers target delivery driver at local church
DOTHAN EAGLE – DA: Former district attorney Doug Valeska could have role soon
DOTHAN EAGLE – Contributor Patricia Jones:  Valeska’s service to victims resonates with advocates
DOTHAN EAGLE – The Dothan Eagle :  Inflammatory rhetoric is counterproductive
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Alabama gymnastics finally gets season opener at home
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Man wanted in Mississippi caught in Alabama
TUSCALOOSA NEWS – Daryl Dragon, of ‘The Captain and Tennille,’ dies at 76
DECATUR DAILY – 2019 preview: Leaders hope museum opening, industrial projects spur Decatur
DECATUR DAILY – Coomer ministry to add 2 lunches beginning Thursday
DECATUR DAILY – Athens High, Athens Bible classes to stay in same spots after holiday break
DECATUR DAILY – Flooding issues are few despite heavy rainfall
DECATUR DAILY – Mental health center, DAV team to help veterans
TIMES DAILY – Polar Plunging for awareness
TIMES DAILY – Blood drive schedule released
TIMES DAILY – Franklin Commission schedules meeting
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – Rain could cause flooding
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – After success, planning for next year’s Candyland begins this week
ANDALUSIA STAR NEWS – Little Saints’ Preschool open house is Jan. 10
TROY MESSENGER – Year in review: Belles state champions highlights successful year in recreational sports
TROY MESSENGER – Godwin-Gaspar wins lifetime achievement award
TROY MESSENGER – Ensemble Melange to perform concert at Enterprise High
THE ANNISTON STAR – Filters expected to produce better water for many Cleburne County residents
THE ANNISTON STAR – County’s animal sterilization discounts go fast
ANNISTON STAR – Hidden Hiatus:  Local effects of government shutdown could become visible soon
THE ANNISTON STAR – Look Back … to a goal of victory in 1944
GADSDEN TIMES – City seeks to turn old railroad line into pedestrian trail
GADSDEN TIMES – County CAO, CFO dispute financial facts in news story
GADSDEN TIMES – Son Johnson Road in Sardis to close for bridge project
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Opelika man detained by locals until police arrive for arrest
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Auburn police arrest man on multiple charges on New Year’s Eve
OPELIKA-AUBURN NEWS – Opelika police searching for suspect who used counterfeit bills
CULLMAN TIMES – Arrests, incidents reports for Dec. 28, 2018 through Jan. 1, 2019
CULLMAN TIMES – Flu season having impact on area
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Nick Mullens reflects on first year as NFL starter and the future
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – O’Reilly Auto Parts now open in Helena
SHELBY COUNTY REPORTER – Trampoline park to open in Pelham
THE MADISON RECORD – Boeing grant bolsters new program to benefit local students this spring
THE MADISON RECORD – YMCA can help keep New Year’s resolutions
THE MADISON RECORD – Man faces felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with Club 3208 shooting
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – County, city schools fare well on school report cards
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Smith reflects on six years of success at CPD
DAILY MOUNTAIN EAGLE – Holiday accident damages city property
NEW YORK TIMES – Trump and Democrats Dig In After Talks to Reopen Government Go Nowhere
NEW YORK TIMES – A Trump County Confronts the Administration Amid a Rash of Child Cancers
NEW YORK TIMES – Nancy Pelosi, Icon of Female Power, Will Reclaim Role as Speaker and Seal a Place in History
NEW YORK TIMES – Sexism Claims From Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Run: Paid Less, Treated Worse
WASHINGTON POST – A defensive Trump calls a Cabinet meeting and uses it to boast, deflect and distract
WASHINGTON POST – Whiskey sour: U.S. craft distillers say Trump trade war with Europe is killing export plans
WASHINGTON POST – Shutdown worsens strain on U.S. immigration system
WASHINGTON POST – Romney asserts his independence from Trump — and Trump’s defenders return his searing criticism of the president.
WASHINGTON POST – Senate Judiciary Committee sets confirmation hearing for Trump attorney general pick William Barr.
USA TODAY – Bernie Sanders apologizes to women who allege sexist treatment during his 2016 presidential campaign
USA TODAY – National parks left to rot during government shutdown: ‘I hope Congress is working hard … so we can have our parks back’
USA TODAY – Ocean Cleanup device in Great Pacific Garbage Patch breaks, will be towed back to port
POLITICO – POLITICO-Harvard poll: New Congress should fight hate crimes, tackle drug prices
POLITICO – The survivor: Nancy Pelosi makes history — again
POLITICO – Court blasts government over handling of student’s no-fly case

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