Category: Government

Congressional Votes for the Week Ending July 20, 2018

WASHINGTON – Alabama’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives split along party lines when voting on a Republican statement of opposition to a tax on the use of coal, natural gas and petroleum products.

All three are produced in different areas of Alabama, but the state also has had to grapple with pollution caused by the production and use of fossil fuels. The House approved the Republican statement opposing the tax, which was a nonbinding statement expressing the House’s opinion on the issue.

Here’s how area members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending July 20. Read more.

Relatives of Unaccompanied Minors Fear Deportation

Thousands of unaccompanied minors remain detained a week out from the deadline for the Trump administration to reunite children with their parents.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement says 453 children have been resettled in Alabama this year through April. It isn’t known how many since then. Children released from detention are placed into foster care shelters or with relatives who are approved as sponsors.

The problem is, many relatives are afraid to come forward to take in these children. That’s because they’re required to disclose their immigration status to private resettlement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.

Isabel Rubio, director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, says relatives are still worried. “People are concerned that if their information is sent to the Department of Homeland Security that they are at higher risk for deportation because now immigration knows exactly who they are and where they live.”
Read more.

“This Is a Righteous Verdict,” Prosecutor Says After Attorney, Coal Company Executive Found Guilty of Bribing State Legislator

In one of the state’s biggest criminal corruption cases, a federal jury has found an executive for a major coal producer and a Birmingham attorney guilty of bribing a member of the Alabama State House.

The jury returned guilty verdicts on six counts against Drummond Company Vice President for Government Affairs David Roberson, and six more against Joel Gilbert, an attorney for Balch & Bingham. The verdicts were handed down late Friday afternoon, after a day and a half of deliberation that capped a trial that ran for four weeks.

Federal prosecutors said that Roberson and Gilbert bribed former Alabama Rep. Oliver Robinson, giving to a charitable foundation he controlled in return for him using his influence to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s expansion of a Superfund toxic waste site in Tarrant and Inglenook. Read more.

Jury Says ‘Guilty’ in Trial of Two Men Accused in Bribery of a Legislator

Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert and Drummond Vice President David Lynn Roberson were found guilty this afternoon on all counts in a trial over allegations former Rep. Oliver Robinson was bribed to oppose the expansion of an EPA clean-up site in north Birmingham.

Both men had been charged with conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and three counts of wire fraud. A third defendant was dismissed from the case earlier this week. Robinson has pleaded guilty and agreed to work with prosecutors. His sentencing date had been set or next month but earlier today was extended until September.

This story will be updated as events develop.

Birmingham Offers Help to Renovate Homes in Blighted Neighborhoods

Two big economic development projects in Birmingham may pay off for city neighborhoods. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced a program Wednesday to spend $1 million on home renovations in blighted neighborhoods.

The program will improve 100 homes in 100 days. Woodfin said the money comes from the sale of two city properties: a downtown parking deck after the grocery delivery company Shipt expanded, and the site of a new data center planned near Sixth Avenue South in North Titusville. Read more.

A Major Shake-Up for the Jefferson County Commission: Tyson and Scales Snare Nominations, Assuring a Majority of New Members in the Fall

The landscape of the Jefferson County Commission – and the Birmingham City Council – changed Tuesday night as a pair of councilmembers unseated commission incumbents.

Sheila Tyson appeared to have won the Democratic nomination to the Jefferson County Commission District 2 seat. With more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Tyson had 52.6 percent of the vote to Sandra Little Brown’s 47.4 percent, according to the county’s unofficial vote returns.

Lashunda Scales appears to have won the Jefferson County Commission District 1 race with 59 percent of the vote to incumbent George Bowman’s 41 percent. Neither Tyson nor Scales faces Republican opposition in November’s general election, making Tuesday’s vote tantamount to election.

“I don’t know if this is how I imagined it would be,” Tyson said at the 4 Seasons Club, where she assembled with supporters. “It’s just unbelievable. It’s just unbelievable. We didn’t have money. We had people in municipalities actually working on the ground.”

Across town in Roebuck, Scales sang “Victory Is Mine” with her supporters. “This has been a very, very long journey,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to know how to act on a Saturday moving forward (because of the weekend campaign efforts).

Tuesday’s runoffs assure that the County Commission will have at least three new members after the votes are certified in the fall. Read more.

Marshall Sweeps Up GOP Nomination for AG, Ainsworth for Lt. Gov.

Steve Marshall, who was appointed attorney general in 2017, easily held off former Attorney General Troy King on Tuesday to win the Republican nomination for the office.

In the GOP runoff for lieutenant governor, state Rep. Will Ainsworth of Guntersville defeated veteran party activist and officeholder Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, who has served as president of the Alabama Public Service Commission since 2012.

In other races, Circuit Court Judge Sarah Hicks Stewart of Mobile secured the Republican nomination for State Supreme Court, Place 1. Christy Olinger Edwards of Montgomery won the nomination to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals Place 1 seat. Chris McCool of Gordo took the GOP nomination for Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2. And Rick Pate is the Republican nominee as commissioner of Agriculture and Industries. Read more.

Vote Count Begins as Polls Close Across the State

The Latest
• Sheila Tyson appears to have won the Democratic nomination to the Jefferson County Commission District 2 seat. With more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Tyson had 52.6 percent of the vote to Sandra Little Brown’s 47.4 percent, according to the county’s unofficial vote returns.
• Lashunda Scales appears to have won the Jefferson County Commission District 1 race. With more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Scales had 59 percent of the vote to incumbent George Bowman’s 41 percent.
• Attorney General Steve Marshall has won the Republican nomination to run to serve a full term in office, defeating former Attorney General Troy King, the Associated Press reported. Marshall had almost 64 percent of the vote with about half of the votes counted, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
• Neil Rafferty appears to have won the Democratic nomination to the House District 54 seat. According to Jefferson County unofficial results, with 84 percent of precincts reporting, Rafferty was carrying 69 percent of the vote to Jacqueline Gray Miller’s 31 percent.
• U.S. Rep. Martha Roby has won the Republican nomination to the House seat she now holds, defeating challenger Bobby Bright, the Associated Press reported. Roby had about 70 percent of the vote shortly after 9 p.m.
• The Associated Press has called the race for the Republican nomination for commissioner of agriculture and industries in favor of Rick Pate. According to the Secretary of State site, Pate had almost 57 percent of the vote to Gerald Dial’s 43 percent.
• In Shelby County, Patrick Kennedy appears to have won the Republican nomination for Circuit Court judge. With about 98 percent of the vote counted, he had 72 percent of the vote to Phillip Bahakel’s 28 percent.
• Will Ainsworth appears to have won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, getting more than 51 percent of the vote to Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh’s 48.5 percent.

Polls Closed
Polls have closed across the state and votes are being counted after a day of light voting in the state’s party primary runoffs.

Secretary of State John Merrill said voter turnout today was “extraordinarily low,” according to the Associated Press. Jefferson County Board of Registrars Chairman Barry Stephenson said he expects the final voter turnout will be about 10 percent.

He said no serious problems occurred at the polls today. “It’s been a pretty uneventful day. Most all our calls were helping people explain the ballot to them or tell them which precinct to vote in,” said Stephenson.

Stephenson said there were a few people who had questions about the crossover voting rules and others about candidates on the ballot. “We had commission races in two districts on the Democrat side so some people got confused,” said Stephenson, “and on the Republican side there were some statewide races, and so when people didn’t see that on their ballot they were confused, too.”

The Republican Party had six statewide runoffs on the ballot, for attorney general, lieutenant governor, commissioner of agriculture and industries, an associate justiceship on the Supreme Court and judgeships on the state civil and criminal appeal courts. But in Jefferson County, there were no local Republican races on the ballot.

The Democratic Party had no statewide races in the runoff. But it did have several local runoffs on the ballot. Voters picked the party’s nominees for two District Court seats, circuit court clerk, sheriff, two county commissioners and a House race.

Read BirminghamWatch’s Voter Guide to today’s election, and check back during the evening for results in the races.

(Correction: This story has been revised to identify Alabama’s Secretary of State as John Merrill.)

Residents Weigh in on 10-Block Downtown Attraction Ideas

The open space under I-20/59 in downtown Birmingham will cover 10 blocks once the massive bridge replacement project is completed. Designers and Alabama Department of Transportation officials were getting the public’s thoughts today at the Boutwell Auditorium. Other sessions are set for July 24.

Ben Donsky, who works with the New York-based design group for CityWalk Birmingham, said there’s an opportunity to do things not tried elsewhere. “We’re open to all types of innovative ideas. I was just discussing with a gentleman new technology that would even allow us to grow plants underneath the highway.”

The project is to be completed by spring 2021, before the start of the World Games in Birmingham. Read more.