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Inside Alabama Politics – April 20, 2022

Two weeks have now passed since the close of the 2022 legislative session, and it has taken most who were involved – lawmakers, staff, lobbyists and media – that long to decompress and process a whirlwind of a session. Traditionally, election year sessions are cut short of both time and substance. Lawmakers lived up to the timing tradition, ending with one legislative day and a full 12 calendar days to spare. But on the substance front, necessity dictated that the Legislature cram a lot into a relatively short window before returning home to campaign.

Most State House observers agreed that this was one of the faster paced sessions in memory. The biggest reason for this is the many “three-day weeks” observed by the House and Senate. For the unfamiliar, session weeks are traditionally organized as Tuesday and Thursday for legislative floor days, with Wednesday being a committee day. This year, almost every week saw Wednesday also used as a legislative floor day, thus the “three-day week” moniker. This creates a huge strain on all involved by taking an already busy day in committee and adding legislative floor business that has to be planned, tracked, executed and reported on. Legislative leaders and staff say they like the fast pace partly because it keeps lobbyists “on their heels” and puts the lawmakers themselves in the driver’s seat, rather than the other way around. Yet, some rank-and-file members tell Inside Alabama Politics that the especially fast pace led to missed meetings, disorganized floor schedules and unhappy lawmakers that couldn’t keep up with their own bills, let alone others. Reporters also complained that three day weeks make it almost impossible to cover all key legislative action for the public’s benefit. Legislative leaders defend the pace, pointing out that it was necessary to catch up after the two-week special session called at the start of the regular session, while also allowing lawmakers ample time to go home and campaign for reelection. Many members have primary contests next month.

The grueling pace caught up with everyone on the last week when lawmakers were threatening to go to a FOUR-day week, meeting in chambers Tuesday through Friday. That ultimately didn’t happen, but both chambers did go all the way to midnight on Thursday, which doesn’t happen a lot in recent years. Part of what made that last day especially challenging is that it wasn’t preceded by a break of any kind. Legislative leaders decided not to take the 10-day break often put at the end of the session to allow the Legislature to override any vetoes. Instead, they charged right into the last day of session with a mind-bending 15 hours on the floor passing last-minute bills.

The strain could have contributed to some tensions late Thursday night on the Senate floor. Those still hanging in there in the gallery saw a small scuffle between Sen. Gerald Allen and Rep. Rich Wingo. The in-your-face encounter came as the session neared 11 p.m. and Allen was amending legislation having to do with jurisdictions in Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties. On a scale of one to Charles Bishop vs. Lowell Barron, this was about a two – not a big deal, just something you don’t see every day in the modern State House.

Session superlatives

The sexier headline here would be “winners and losers.” However, so much that happened in this past session was negotiated and nuanced that it’s hard to label everything in just two columns.

There were some clear winners, though. One is the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, or MASA. Niko Corley and his team of lobbyists and messengers were fighting on multiple fronts for most of the session. Sen. Jim McClendon’s scope of practice change might have died its final death this year at the hands of MASA after getting further than it has in years’ past. MASA also fought another midwifery bill and was a key player in getting the telehealth bill and the Medicaid postpartum coverage extension in the budget.

Other big winners were education groups, especially the Alabama Education Association, the School Superintendents of Alabama and the A+ Education Partnership. Anytime you see the most significant teacher pay raise in a generation, it’s going to be a good year for AEA and all school groups. Also remember that the 4% across-the-board raise also applies to public school employees, which is a significant portion of AEA’s membership. AEA and SSA both successfully fought to amend the Alabama Literacy Act to delay the holdback provision of the bill, though little of that was outwardly and Sen. Rodger Smitherman himself did most of the legwork. AEA and SSA also shut down Sen. Del Marsh’s self-described “mother of all school choice bills” that would have authorized education savings accounts for parents to send their kids to schools of their choice. A+ scored a big win with the enactment of the Alabama Numeracy Act, which became one of the unexpected good news stories of the session. Originally sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, A+’s Mark Dixon played a key role in fashioning revisions that won the support of Republicans and Democrats alike.

It was a big session for the broadband industry and advocates for expanding high-speed internet. Lawmakers allocated $243 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds specifically for broadband infrastructure – a funding infusion few could have dreamed about a few years ago. And even though it is federal money, the win comes from getting the Legislature to unanimously agree that the highly coveted ARPA funds should go to broadband. The same can be said for those who have pushed for upgrades to water and sewer infrastructure. The Legislature invested $225 million in ARPA funds for that purpose.

It was a mixed bag for far-right advocacy groups like Eagle Forum and the Alabama Policy Institute. While they scored an unexpected big win in passage of the transgender bills the last day of the session, there were other issues in which they came up short. Most notably, Eagle Forum spent a lot of time and energy trying to convince lawmakers that Common Core was somehow secretly embedded in the Alabama Numeracy Act. API followed them down that road later in the game, too. Legislators weren’t buying it, and the bill passed overwhelmingly. To get run over by a Republican supermajority is not a good look for a conservative organization. One lawmaker told IAP the refrain on Common Core every year has grown tiresome and is falling on deaf ears in the Legislature. API and ALCAP were also instrumental in organizing opposition to the two gambling proposals, which never got off the ground.

Liberal advocacy groups, specifically the Human Rights Campaign, the Alabama ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, took it on the chin with the passage of both the transgender bathroom bill and the transgender treatment bill on the last day of the session. The groups had fought impressively to keep the bills from gaining too much traction this session and most thought the session would adjourn before the bills would get a final floor vote. It turns out the Republican caucuses in both chambers were determined to see the bills through. To add insult to injury, the bathroom bill was amended to include language forbidding instruction on gender identity and sexuality in grades K-5. That addition may well get the bill overturned in the long run, but it was a short-term “L” for HRC and ACLU.

Last minute deal on Forever Wild, counties

The final hours of the session also produced a last-minute deal between the Department of Conservation, Forever Wild and lawmakers seeking more revenue for cash-strapped counties. And though it didn’t start out this way, Forever Wild is in the mix as well.

House Bill 463 from Rep. Ben Robbins was a local constitutional amendment seeking to require that 50% of any interest generated from market carbon credits on Forever Wild Land Trust property in Coosa County be directed to the county’s coffers rather than the state General Fund. Right now, any interest generated by Forever Wild is treated like Alabama Trust Fund interest and directed to the General Fund. Robbins, along with State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, was trying to get some more revenue for one of the poorest counties in the state. And even though they were treating it as a local issue, the words Forever Wild raised a lot of antennae throughout the State House. Forever Wild is one of those “third rail” issues that can really generate a lot of arguments. That was the case on the last day of the session, as Chambliss brought the bill to the floor and appealed to his colleagues to allow deference on this local constitutional amendment. But several senators considered it anything but local. At one point, State Sen. Garlan Gudger asked Chambliss if he was open to an off-the-floor solution that would make the bill go away. Chambliss wouldn’t relent until Senator Bobby Singleton came to his aid and offered to hold the mic until Chambliss returned. The two then left the floor and met with Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship, who by virtue of his office, serves on the Forever Wild Land Trust Board. Sources say Blankenship offered Chambliss and Robbins a deal: Forever Wild would render payments to all counties based on a small amount per acre. The payments would amount to between $200,000 and $300,000 statewide, which is a drop in the bucket for Forever Wild, but a potential game changer for counties. The deal was accepted, the bill went away and Robbins and Chambliss got what they were after, which is more money for Coosa County. The deal will need to be approved by the  Forever Wild Board of Trustees at its upcoming May meeting. Sources tell ADN that Blankenship was wise to pursue the deal and avoid the “our way or the highway” approach Forever Wild tends to adopt. Counties missing out on property taxes is a real issue to many lawmakers and it’s not likely to go away by the time the trust comes up for reauthorization.

Special session, summer work

There were a lot of end-of-quadrennium salutations when the legislative session ended earlier this month, but lawmakers’ work isn’t done yet this year, particularly if they’re on budget committees. Most expect Gov. Kay Ivey to call lawmakers back to Montgomery in late summer to finalize a distribution plan for the second round of American Rescue Plan Act funding, about $1.1 billion. And as has become popular in the past two years, some advanced work is expected to get done in summer meetings, Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, told Alabama Daily News.

“It helps with the education level, it helps in getting some direction on some things, it helps in letting the public know where we’re headed and what we’re doing,” Albritton said.

House General Fund budget committee chairman Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said he expects at least one summer meeting with House and Senate members on ARPA to “go over the details of the funds available, what’s eligible and get suggestions from other House and Senate members as we go forward.” 

Distribution of judges lingering issue

Summer discussions could also include a simmering issue from the 2022 session: Judgeships.

Alabama Daily News reported in March on festering frustrations over the distribution of circuit and district judges around the state and particularly in north Alabama and other high-growth areas. Jefferson County has significantly more judges than other parts of the state. The needle wasn’t moved this session and some lawmakers, including Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, are expected to continue pushing the issue.

Albritton said he expects it to be part of the off-season talks too. Albritton and some other budget leaders think lawmakers have addressed the judge shortage and it’s up to the judiciary to reallocate judgeships as they become vacant rather than add new, expensive judge seats. Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker last month told Alabama Daily News that even if the Judicial Resources Allocation Commission, created through legislation five years ago, was able to reallocate all judgeships that need to be reallocated, there would still be a need for additional new judgeships in Alabama. Earlier this year, Parker told lawmakers there is a need for 12 additional circuit judgeships and eight additional district judgeships.

Givhan in the last session had legislation to put more judges in the state’s highest need counties. Now, he said, he wants to work on a statewide formula to address the need.

“The truth of the matter is that the reallocation program that we have has not worked,” Givhan said this week. “It will take decades to work and it leaves too many counties, too many circuits, in a lurch in the meantime.

“… This is a state court system and we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to get it handled.”

 

First prison construction contract signed

Back in September, the Alabama Legislature passed and Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a plan to spend $1.3 billion to build at least two new prisons and renovate old ones in an effort to address the state’s prison crisis. The plan is to build the new prisons through a “design-build” contracting process that allows the projects to start without bids.

Alabama Daily News has learned that the first of those contracts was signed this week. Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola confirmed that a contract with Caddell Construction have been signed.

“The state of Alabama has executed a design-build contract with Caddell Construction Co., LLC effective April 15, 2022, for the construction of a specialized men’s prison facility that will provide enhanced medical and mental health services in Elmore County. The new facility will create a safer security environment for inmates and security personnel.

“Our construction timeline continues to remain on schedule,” Maiola said.

The Legislature and Ivey approved in an October special session the borrowing of up to $785 million and the use of $400 million in state American Rescue Plan Act funds for prison construction.

The legislation also called for “design-build contracts,” in which a single entity performs both the design and construction under a single agreement.  In the more standard design-bid-build, designers and contractors are hired separately.

Caddell and Birmingham-based BL Harbert were both part of teams expected to build prisons under  Ivey’s earlier plan to lease from private developers three new facilities. That plan fell apart earlier last year, but Caddell and Harbert had been vetted and put in the groundwork to quickly move on prison construction, lawmakers said last fall.

A copy of the contract with Caddell was not immediately available.

 

 

PAC finance update

Last month in Inside Alabama Politics, we reported on the rebirth of the Alabama Education Association and how it has wedged its way into the door of Republican politics, including through campaign spending. A source speculated that February and March would see even more significant spending on legislative races from AEA. That has partly come to pass, and partly not. AEA’s Voice for Alabama Teachers for Education PAC spent almost $200,000 in February and March, mostly on Democratic lawmakers’ reelection campaigns. Sen. Vivian Figures got a cool $25,000, while most others like Sen. Bobby Singleton, Rep. Pebblin Warren, Sen. Billy Beasley, Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison and Sen. Rodger Smitherman got $10,000. Rep. Neil Rafferty, who is in a hotly contested Birmingham primary, got just $5,000 from AEA, as did Rep. Rod Scott, who also has a primary contest. Hank Sanders, who is running for his old Senate seat, got $15,000. Republicans also got in on the action. Senate education budget committee chairman Sen. Arthur Orr, who does not have a challenger, got the most of any Republican from AEA at $15,000. Receiving $10,000 were Rep. Tim Wadsworth, who has a primary, Rep. Cynthia Almond, Rep. Bob Fincher, Rep. Dickie Drake, Sen. Donnie Chesteen, Sen. Randy Price, Sen. Tom Whatley, Rep. Joe Faust, Rep. Mike Jones, who is running for Senate, and candidate Marcus Paramore. Receiving $5,000 were Rep. Dickie Drake, Rep. Debbie Wood, Rep. Phillip Pettus and HD 64 candidate Donna Givens.

At the start of April, AEA’s PAC had $3.43 million cash on hand.

While that’s a whopping figure, it’s not the largest among Alabama PACs. That title goes to LION PAC, the fund set up by some of the state’s most prominent companies as a way to pool resources and support candidates who need help or potentially go after candidates who need going after. The group reports $3.895 million cash on hand and has made no contributions to legislative or constitutional candidates this cycle so far. The lack of action keeps people guessing, but that may be part of the point. One source said LION PAC was like “a loaded gun sitting on the table.”

Realtor PAC is next with $2.835 million. It made no legislative or constitutional contributions in March. Realtors traditionally don’t contribute to lawmakers during a legislative session. IAP readers will recall that Realtor PAC spent about $400,000 on protecting incumbents last fall. Expect many legislative contributions in the April report. The PAC did contribute $25,000 to Gov. Kay Ivey’s reelection campaign last week. Expect to see more legislative contributions on its April report.

The Alabama Farmers Federation’s FARM PAC had a busy March, supporting candidates up and down the ballot. After spending $87,000 in races, FARM PAC shows a balance of $2.719 million. The following is a rundown of its contributions.

  • HD 11 candidate Lance Bell, $2,500
  • Rep. Andy Whitt, $1,500
  • HD 20 candidate James Lomax, $2,000
  • Rep. Laura Hall, $1,500
  • Rep. Philip Pettus, $1,500
  • HD 24 candidate Phillip Rigsby, $2,000
  • Rep. Jamie Kiel, $1,500
  • HD 3 candidate Kerry Underwood, $2,000
  • Rep. Pebblin Warren, $8,500
  • Rep. Scott Stadthagen, $1,500
  • Sen. Larry Stutts, $5,000
  • Rep. Terri Collins, $1,500
  • HD 4 candidate Patrick Johnson, $2,000
  • Sen. Tim Melson, $2,500
  • Sen. Arthur Orr, $5,000
  • Rep. Proncey Robertson, $1,500
  • Rep. Anthony Daniels, $5,000
  • Rep. Danny Crawford, $2,500
  • Rep. David Standridge, $1,500
  • Sen. Jabo Waggoner, $5,000
  • Rep. Chris Sells, $1,500
  • Sen. Greg Reed, $7,000
  • SD 23 candidate Robert Stewart, $2,500
  • HD 64 candidate Donna Givens, $2,000
  • HD 95 candidate Frances Holk-Jones, $2,000
  • Gov. Kay Ivey, $10,000
  • Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, $2,500
  • HD 89 candidate Marcus Paramore, $1,500
  • State Board of Education candidate Marie Manning, $5,000
  • Rep. Randy Wood, $1,500
  • Sen. Tom Whatley, $10,000
  • Rep. Alan Baker, $1,500
  • HD 15 candidate Leigh Hulsey, $2,000
  • Sen. Will Barfoot, $5,000
  • Supreme Court candidate Greg Cook, $20,000

Builders PAC had $1.8 million in the bank after doling out checks to some prospective candidates for office. Lance Bell, Jason Black and Wes Allen each got $5,000, while Wayne Reynolds got $2,500 and Chad Smith got $2,000.

Progress PAC, the political arm of the Business Council of Alabama, also had a busy March. Its contributions totaled almost $50,000 with an ending balance of $1.4 million. The following is a rundown of BCA’s contributions.

  • Sen. April Weaver, $5,000
  • Sen. Billy Beasley, $5,000
  • Sen. Kirk Hatcher, $5,000
  • HD 11 candidate Lance Bell, $5,000
  • Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, $5,000
  • SD 30 candidate Mike Jones, $15,000
  • Sen. Randy Price, $10,000
  • HD89 candidate Marcus Paramore, $2,500
  • Rep. Gil Isbell, $7,500
  • Secretary of State candidate Wes Allen, $15,000
  • Rep. Arnold Mooney, $2,500
  • HD 62 candidate Bill Lamb, $2,500
  • HD 26 candidate Brock Colvin, $2,500
  • Rep. Cynthia Almond, $2,500
  • HD 10 candidate David Cole, $2,500
  • Rep. David Standridge, $2,500
  • HD 64 candidate Donna Givens, $2,500
  • HD 95 candidate Frances Holk-Jones, $2,500
  • HD 20 candidate James Lomax, $2,500
  • Rep. Jamie Kiel, $2,500
  • HD 29 candidate Jamie Grant, $2,500
  • HD 88 candidate Jerry Starnes, $2,500
  • Rep. Jim Carns, $2,500
  • Rep. Juandalynn Givan, $2,500
  • Rep. Kenneth Paschal, $2,500
  • Rep. Kenyatte Hassell, $2,500
  • HD 3 candidate Kerry Underwood, $2,500
  • HD 23 candidate Mike Kirkland, $12,500
  • HD 25 candidate Philip Rigsby, $2,500
  • Rep. Prince Chestnut, $2,500
  • Rep. Ralph Howard, $2,500
  • Rep. Rod Scott, $2,500
  • Rep. Rolanda Hollis, $2,500
  • HD 61 candidate Ron Bolton, $2,500
  • Rep. Sam Jones, $2,500
  • Rep. Scott Stadthagen, $2,500
  • Rep. Tashina Morris, $2,500
  • Rep. Tracy Estes, $2,500
  • HD 31 candidate Troy Stubbs, $2,500 

 

House District 23

Outside of Prattville’s House District 88, where Rep. Will Dismukes has decided to run again after all, House District 23 might be the race where a House incumbent has a real chance of being unseated in a primary challenge. Rep. Tommy Hanes was elected in 2014 and won reelection in 2018 to the district that includes most of Jackson County, including Scottsboro and Pisgah. He’s being challenged my Mike Kirkland, a 30-year Vulcan Materials employee and civic leader in Northeast Alabama.

Hanes is not exactly adored by most industry groups in Montgomery. As a right-wing firebrand, Hanes has gained a reputation for trying to “out-conservative” members of his caucus with votes on key issues. He was an outspoken opponent of the 2019 Rebuild Alabama gas tax plan and has frequently criticized Gov. Kay Ivey over that and other issues. Kirland is attempting to use that reputation for intransigence against the incumbent, telling the Jackson County Sentinel constituents need a representative that has “a seat at the table, someone that will work with Gov. Ivey, along with our local leaders making sure we receive our fair share, and our issues are heard and addressed.”

Kirkland is raising local dollars and, with the help of a $12,500 contribution from BCA’s Progress PAC, has more money cash on hand than the incumbent, with $37,159 to Hanes’ $35,288.

A recent brushfire poll obtained by Alabama Daily News showed a very competitive race, with just 22.4% of likely Republican voters definitely voting for Hanes with 18.2% definitely siding with Kirkland. The poll showed that 48% of voters were undecided, which is a huge number for a race with a two term incumbent 30 days out from an election.

Keep your eye on HD 23. It will be interesting to see what April’s campaign finance reports show.

House District 47

Alabama Daily News reported last week that the Alabama Republican Party plans to fill the House District 47 seat of recently-deceased Rep. David Wheeler on the ballot through an internal process. Candidate certification for the May 24 primary had already passed at the time of Wheeler’s death. He was the only Republican who qualified to run in House District 47 in Jefferson County. ADN has now learned that the ALGOP process will include a sub-committee of Executive Committee members who will review applications of candidates and select the person to replace Wheeler on the November ballot. There are some familiar names on the subcommittee: Former State Rep. Paul DeMarco, current State Rep. Jim Carns, Phillip Brown, Sally Bryant and Renee Powers. Joel Blankenship will be the non-voting chairman.

One keen observer noted that none of those individuals live inside District 47, which they said was akin to Georgia picking Alabama’s U.S. Senator. Yet, senior party members say that is the fairest way to go about it.

There will be a Democrat on the November ballot. Christian Coleman and Jim Toomey are Democrat candidates on the May 24 primary ballot.

House Race Chart

 

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Senate Race Chart

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Governor’s race update

There is no question it has been a noisy few weeks in the race for Alabama governor. There is a question as to whether or not that noise has or will amount to anything.

There has been a deluge of paid political advertising over radio, television and digital. What’s especially noteworthy is that each of the top candidates has earned media through their use of paid advertising. Gov. Kay Ivey sparked outrage from Washington Democrats with her “No Way, Jose” ad, leading to several stories that can only help her in a Republican primary. Lindy Blanchard scored an AP story about the gas tax issue from running ads critical of Ivey at actual gas pumps. And Tim James’ eyebrow-raising ad accusing Ivey of funding a “transgender charter school” in Birmingham initiated a whole news cycle, some of which has led to mockery of James. Lew Burdette also got some earned media, as Washington Examiner columnist Quin Hillyer wrote about not counting out the ex-Books-a-Million executive. Word is Burdette was a TV ad buy coming in the next week. Again, very busy few weeks in the race.

But are the ads and the resulting news stories moving the numbers? According to a new poll obtained by Alabama Daily News, not really. In fact, the poll shows Ivey leading with room to spare 30 days out from Election Day.

According to the survey, conducted by GOP super strategist Ward Baker, Ivey leads with 60% of the vote among likely Republicans. The poll had James at 13%, Blanchard at 6% and the other candidates combined at 4%. Less than 20% remain undecided.

Before we extrapolate meaning from those numbers, let’s look at what the candidates spent on media in the month of March:

  • James’ campaign paid Red Eagle Media $637,513 in March.
  • Team Ivey paid Flex Point Media $991,294 in the same period.
  • Blanchard’s campaign paid Multimedia Services Corp our of Virginia a total of $2,173,564 in March. It also paid Barbee Media $249,043.

Again, these numbers don’t include April and, if you’ve been close to a television or radio lately, you know the spending has only increased.

Brass tax: It’s a problem for James and Blanchard to have spent so much time and resources trying to bring down Ivey’s numbers, only to see them hold steady or even improve. They need a race-shifting event to occur in the next three weeks to have a chance of taking her to a runoff.

Senate race update

That same Ward Baker poll obtained by ADN had numbers for the Senate race as well. While Baker doesn’t have a candidate in this race, he has long done work on behalf of U.S. Senate Republicans and they are definitely paying attention to this race.

Among likely Republican voters, the poll showed:

  • Mike Durant – 40%
  • Katie Britt – 34%
  • Mo Brooks – 20%

When Mo Brooks voters were asked who their second choice candidate was:

  • Mike Durant – 50%
  • Katie Britt – 38%

These numbers are in line with most of the recent polling around the race (which, by the way, lends credence to the governor’s race numbers). Durant as the frontrunner, Britt close behind and Brooks a distant third.

As has been the case all along in this race, the numbers closely follow the spending by candidates and PACs on TV and radio. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission, we have updated numbers for the amount spent over the airwaves as recent as April 18. According to ADN’s latest analysis of advertising data, Durant and political groups advocating for him continue to make up the biggest spending block in the race. Between the campaign and pro-Durant super PACs, $5,021,369 has been spent on positive messaging for Durant on TV and radio. For Katie Britt’s campaign and PACs supporting her, $3,525,607 has been spent on positive messaging on TV and radio.

Here’s how the TV and Radio spending breaks down:

  • Mike Durant campaign: $2,383,606
  • Katie Britt campaign: $1,807,000
  • Alabama Patriots PAC (Pro Durant): $3,510,672
  • Alabama Conservatives Fund (Pro Britt): $1,726,607 
  • Alabama Rino PAC (Anti-Durant): $517,157 
  • Alabamas Future PAC (Anti- Brooks): $3,612,725 
  • Club for Growth Action (Anti-Britt, Pro-Brooks): $4,6444,336 

Durant is the frontrunner because more money has been spent supporting his candidacy on the airwaves. However, Durant is starting to see some of the first attack ads come his way. Through the end of March, Durant was the only candidate not having to face paid attacks over the airwaves, while Brooks and Britt have both received significant attacks. RINO PAC, which exists to oppose Durant, has now spent $517,157 on radio and television ads, totaling 1,950 gross ratings points, attacking Durant. That’s a drop in the bucket so far, but it is likely to increase.The question in this race will be whether the Durant campaign can withstand those attacks that are coming.

PAC ad pulled

According to emails obtained by ADN, one of RINO PAC’s ads was removed by a Nextar television stations after executives determined it was misleading or false. The ad claimed that strategists involved in the Lincoln Project were “running” Durant’s campaign, which is misleading because the person mentioned isn’t involved in any way with the Durant campaign. By law, super PACs cannot coordinate with campaigns. The ad was later altered to say the Lincoln Project strategist was “behind” the Durant campaign, which is fair because the individual is involved in a super PAC supporting Durant.

Campaigns often go to battle over semantic nuances in campaign ads, trying to prove an attack is false to get a TV station to pull it off the air. It can be an effective tool for proving a campaign or group is “lying” or “cheating,” with the proof being the supposed independent decision by the station. Look for Durant’s campaign to respond to any future attacks from this PAC with the talking point that their ads have already proven to be false. Although, far fewer people are likely to see a story about that than the attack ad itself.

Medicaid’s pandemic enrollment requirement remains

Alabama Medicaid continues to operate under a federal pandemic requirement that states can’t end people’s access to the program because of changes in their income.

In early 2020, in response to COVID-19, the federal government increased states’ Medicaid funding, but said people already enrolled or enrolled during the pandemic couldn’t be removed.

The requirement was renewed last week for the eighth time. It is expected to end later this year, Alabama Medicaid spokeswoman Melanie Cleveland told Alabama Daily News. Once the end of the public health emergency is announced, Alabama Medicaid will begin the process of redeterminations over the next year, Cleveland said. 

Prior to COVID-19, the federal government paid about 72% of Alabama Medicaid’s expenses. In response to the pandemic, that amount was increased to about 78%.

State leaders have said the increased federal funding takes the burden of expanded enrollment off the state’s shoulders.

Medicaid’s 2023 General Fund allocation is $793 million, up about $23.7 million from the current fiscal year.

Enrollment was about 1.05 million prior to the pandemic. By late last summer, enrollment was 1.2 million.

Children are the largest group of enrollees in the health care program for the low-income and disabled. Alabama’s restrictions on Medicaid enrollment allow for very few able-bodied adults on the rolls, so COVID-caused spikes in unemployment don’t translate into large numbers of adults now receiving Medicaid, officials previously said.

The only way recipients can now come off of Medicaid is if they die, move out of state or voluntarily remove themselves.

 

Potpourri

After nine years as director of quality improvement and policy innovation at the Alabama Medicaid Agency, Drew Nelson is leaving state government to join Guidehouse, Inc. as Managing Consultant working with other at state Medicaid agencies  and health plans.

Emily Marsh has been hired by the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations as its Alabama Director of Governmental Affairs. Marsh is leaving the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention and previously worked for the Alabama Association of Realtors.

Mary Elizabeth Roberson has been hired by AT&T as Director of Public Affairs for Alabama and Georgia. She had previously been at Birmingham-based public relations firm Peritus.

Congrats to all!

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