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Daily News Digest – June 3, 2019

Good morning!
Here’s your Daily News for Monday, June 3.

1. Congress returns with work to do.

Congress reconvenes today, returning to Washington after a week-long recess/district work period.
There’s plenty of work on their plate in the four straight weeks of legislative action before the July 4th break:
  • That disaster aid package still isn’t finished, thanks to the objections of a few malcontents in the House;
  • The nation’s debt limit is about to be reached and needs suspending or lifting or something, unless we want to default on payments (that’d be bad);
  • It’s time to mark up and pass the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets military spending levels and policy;
  • And appropriations season is about to begin in earnest, though there is no budget framework to work from. Also on that front, the Budget Control Act budget caps are set to expire on October 1, which would trigger about $120 billion of across-the-board cuts to military and non-defense programs (that’d also be bad).
All this while the two chambers are deeply divided on many core issues.
The Republican-led Senate has been chugging along confirming judicial nominees, but hasn’t been able to do much else.
The Democrat-led House has been caught up in its investigations of President Donald Trump as Speaker Nancy Pelosi deals with increasing calls within her caucus to pursue impeachment.
All this is not a recipe for productivity. As Sen. Richard Shelby noted with the blocking of the disaster bill , “I f we can’t work this out between us, how are we going to work the other things out?”
Shelby and some of his similarly seasoned colleagues in the Senate appear ready to forge some deals on issues, including legislation addressing health care costs and drug prices.
Read more about that HERE .


2. From DOC to DOJ.

  • The Alabama Department of Corrections turned over documents to the Department of Justice for an ongoing investigation related to “use of force and sexual abuse by staff,” according to a court document filed last week.
  • DOJ said in April it believes the state is violating the constitutional rights of male inmates by housing them in violent and unsanitary prisons. The findings were released in a letter to the state after the completion of a Justice Department investigation.
  • However, DOJ indicated that one area of its investigation is ongoing.
  • “There are still areas of the Department’s investigation which have not been completed, specifically related to use of force and sexual abuse by staff,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in the court filing.
  • U.S. Attorney Jay Town, who is handling negotiations between the Justice Department and the state, said in a statement this week that the department is working with Alabama to see if it can correct the “constitutional deficiencies.”
  • Those ongoing negotiations are why the big push on prison reform was punted until a likely special session in late September/early October. It would be difficult for Gov. Kay Ivey and lawmakers to adequately address the problem to DOJ’s satisfaction if they don’t have a full picture of what the expectations are.
  • Read more HERE.


3. Tariffs on Mexico?

  • Last week, President Donald Trump threatened to impose a 5% tariff on imported goods from Mexico if the Mexican government could not do more to stop the flow of migrants across the border into the United States.
  • On Sunday, Trump made clear he was serious about the tariff threat, and announced that Mexican and American officials would be meeting starting today.
  • On Monday, Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Marquez plans talks with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Then on Wednesday, delegations led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard will also meet in Washington.
  • Mexico has struggled to stymie the annual caravans of migrants from poverty and violence-plagued countries like Honduras and Guatamala from pouring across its southern border and making their way to the U.S. border.
  • If Trump were to follow through on the tariff threat, the move would have real consequences, including for Alabama.
  • Mexico is one of our largest trading partners, and we import more goods from Mexico that any country but China.
  • Our largest import by far is automotive parts and components, which are used in American auto factories. We have a few of those, as you know.
  • Republicans on Capitol Hill and GOP allies in the business community have expressed serious unease with the tariffs. Some see this latest threat as a play for leverage and doubt Trump will follow through. Earlier this year Trump threatened to seal the border with Mexico only to change course.
  • GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, said it was unlikely Trump would impose them.
  • The president “has been known to play with fire, but not live hand grenades,” Kennedy said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
  • “It’s going to tank the American economy,” he said. “I don’t think the president’s going to impose these tariffs.”
  • Full story, including the president’s tweets and the FTN exchange, HERE.


4. Matthew Stokes: A positive step for reading.

  • As the session was winding down, one significant but often overlooked piece of legislation was moving through.
  • House Bill 388, dubbed the Alabama Literacy Act, would require schools to hold back any students who aren’t reading proficiently by the third grade. There are exceptions for special needs children and no student could be held back more than twice.
  • Bill sponsor Rep. Terri Collins said the is aimed to improve student literacy and prevent the practice of promoting students up through elementary school even though they can’t read. It requires additional reading resources, including summer programs.
  • ADN Columnist Matthew Stokes was paying attention, and he argues this bill marks a big step forward for education, and specifically, reading.
  • Here’s an excerpt from his Monday column:
“This legislation forces our state’s institutions, from the state board of education down to every elementary school, to reckon with the fact that too many children have managed to move up the ladder without achieving the appropriate level of literacy. 
“Of course exceptions will exist for children with sincere learning disabilities – IEPs and the like – but the concerns of some legislators that a nineteen year old will hang around like a sort of Billy Madison in third grade are unfounded. Any child in that situation clearly has other issues that should be addressed. If we’re talking about an eight year old without disabilities, it is important to have a clear bar of achievement.
“… This legislative session was full of controversy, much of it contrived and some it well-earned. But in many instances our legislators proved their muster, and in this particular piece of legislation, our elected officials chose to do right by our students and educators by holding them to a firm but reasonable standard of success.” 
  • Read Matthew Stokes’ full column HERE.


5. In Case You Missed It…

  • No one could be blamed for going off line after Friday’s end to the 2019 Regular Session and unplugging from the grind.
  • It was a doozy of a session, and a grueling four-day legislative week to end it all.
  • If that’s you, we have you covered.
  • Read all about what passed, what didn’t, and what lawmakers thought about it all from the ADN News Team HERE.
  • Long-serving State Sen. Jabo Waggoner said it was No. 1 session of his career in terms of “high profile issues,” and that’s really saying something.
  • Others had similar reactions in the moments after Sine Die, recalling the laundry list of items lawmakers tackled.
  • I think the average grade was around a B+, but it’s kind of hard to grade yourself.
  • Anyway, full story HERE.



ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – ‘Gut check’ session ends, here’s what they did
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Prison system turns over documents to Justice Department
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Matthew Stokes: A positive step for reading
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – US, Mexico officials to begin talks over tariffs, border
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Congress: Time to legislate? Restless senators hope so
AL.COM  – Alabama plants its first legal hemp crop this century
AL.COM  – Columnist Roy Johnson: Second chances aside, Birmingham City Council’s lobbyist expenditure inspires second thoughts
AL.COM  – Alabama Supreme Court blasts Mobile judge’s ‘inappropriate’ push for funds
AL.COM  – Columnist Dana McCain: Why abortion bomb-throwing doesn’t work
Montgomery Advertiser – ‘Where was the Lord?’: On Jefferson Davis’ birthday, 9 slave testimonies
Montgomery Advertiser – Apple WWDC, James Holzhauer and Trump in UK: 5 things you need to know Monday
Montgomery Advertiser – As teen pregnancy rates fall, Alabama advocacy shifts focus to ‘holistic’ sex ed
Montgomery Advertiser – ASU’s Tommie ‘Tonea’ Stewart steps into new role of a lifetime: Retirement
YellowHammer News – Former Birmingham pastor prays for President Trump after he unexpectedly shows up at church service
YellowHammer News – ‘From Alabama to the Moon’ — Richard Shelby is the driving force making America’s space dreams a reality
YellowHammer News – State Sen. Albritton: ‘Going to have to’ address ethics laws — Says claims that prior effort to reform ethics would ‘gut’ current law are ‘PR’
Dothan Eagle – Mother of twins works through adversity to earn degree at Wallace
Dothan Eagle – Dale County woman dies in one-vehicle crash
Dothan Eagle – ‘We’ve got to have hope’: Harolyn Benjamin found her voice in difficult circumstances
Tuscaloosa News – Temps reach record-setting 100 degrees in South
Tuscaloosa News – Alabama prison system turns over documents to Justice Department
Tuscaloosa News – Migos’ Offset has charges in phone-slapping case dismissed
Decatur Daily – Compensation package for new Athens State president valued at $300,000
Decatur Daily – ‘Gut check’ session ends; here’s what they did
Decatur Daily – 1-year-old dies in Woodall Road wreck
Times Daily – Pre-K funding expansion means more opportunities for 4-year-olds
Times Daily – Legislature moves to regulate pharmacy benefit managers
Times Daily – UNA STEM Camps to teach, inspire students in June
Anniston Star – ‘Gut check’ session ends in Alabama capital
Anniston Star – Calhoun County foster kids outnumber available housing 10-to-1
Anniston Star – Sav-A-Life focuses on mission, not politics
Anniston Star – Anniston man accused of burglary, threat with ice pick
Troy Messenger – Troy hosts third Cruise-In
Troy Messenger – Legislature session ends with passage of budgets, school board amendment
Troy Messenger – Nobody injured in wreck involving overturned vehicle
Andalusia Star News – Woman found dead in Cypress Landing RV Park
Andalusia Star News – U.S. Senate candidate Byrne holds town hall here
Andalusia Star News – APD, YAP get $242K to assist domestic violence, sexual assault victims
Opelika-Auburn News – ‘Hugs from every mailbox’: Collinwood neighbors support recovering Auburn police officer
Opelika-Auburn News – Auburn, Opelika show steady population growth, says Census estimates
Opelika-Auburn News – Families flock to downtown Opelika for Touch-A-Truck, Burger Wars
Daily Mountain Eagle – Local leader attends international trails conference
Daily Mountain Eagle – New partnership to encourage STEM educators
Daily Mountain Eagle – Helicopter, Indian Creek seal reunion for couple
Trussville Tribune – Jefferson County Deputies looking for mother, 4 children
Trussville Tribune – 2 girls missing from the Crestwood area
Trussville Tribune – Arrest made after man found dead in parking lot of Ensley Seafood
WSFA Montgomery – Montgomery Zoo offers programs to mark National Zoo & Aquarium Month
WSFA Montgomery – Fatal wreck in Trinity kills 1-year-old
Fox 6 Birmingham – Breaking the dry spell, Wes Wyatt has your work week forecast
Fox 6 Birmingham – Two sisters identified as missing by the Birmingham Police Department
Fox 6 Birmingham – Trump, first lady meet with queen at Buckingham Palace
WKRG Mobile – BREAKING: Crews battle fire in Semmes
WKRG Mobile – House fire on Bentridge Dr. W., Multiple agencies respond
WKRG Mobile – Grandmother charged with giving boy lethal methadone dose
WTVY Dothan – Poplar Head Farmers Market opens up for the summer
WTVY Dothan – Hundreds of cyclists ride a hundred miles for charity
WTVY Dothan – Police search for suspect after stabbing along local river
WASHINGTON POST  – Shutdowns, emergencies and tariffs: Trump’s frenetic immigration approach has become central to his 2020 bid
WASHINGTON POST  – U.S. equities extend decline as global trade tensions worsen
NEW YORK TIMES  – Congress Reconvenes Facing a Critical Mission: Avoid Fiscal Calamity



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