Category: Government

U.S. Reps Split on Bill for Ex-Im Bank to Treat Renewable-Energy and Fossil-Fuel Products Equally

KEY VOTES AHEAD
Both chambers in the week of Nov. 18 will take up a stopgap fiscal 2020 funding bill to keep the government in operation after temporary spending authority expires Nov. 21.

WASHINGTON — Alabama’s representatives split along party lines last week on an amendment to another bill that would have removed provisions that favor renewable-energy sales abroad over sales of fossil-fuel products.

The House on Nov. 15 defeated, on a 188-232 vote, the GOP-sponsored amendment to HR 4863, a bill to extend the U.S. Export-Import Bank for 10 years.

The bill would require sales of renewable-energy goods and services to overseas customers to receive at least 5 percent of the Export-Import Bank’s annual lending authority. In addition, energy-related transactions would have to estimate the volume of carbon dioxide emitted by projects receiving Ex-Im subsidies. In part, the amendment would block creation of a new Ex-Im unit aimed at promoting energy-efficiency and renewable-energy exports and require the bank to weigh the overseas affordability of energy products before approving transactions. Read more.

Groups Petition Regions Bank to Withdraw From Business with Private Prisons and Immigrant Detention Centers

A coalition of about 100 organizations nationwide delivered petitions to Regions Bank headquarters in Birmingham on Thursday asking the bank to not do business with companies that run private prisons and immigrant detention centers.

Also Thursday, the group, functioning under the banner of Families Belong Together, delivered similar petitions to Citizens Bank in Providence, Rhodes Island, and to Pinnacle and Synovus Banks in Nashville.

Families Belong Together along with shareholders, policymakers and investors already have been the catalysts in persuading the banks to withhold about $2.4 billion in lines of credit and loans to private prison businesses. Read more.

Jefferson County Clears Hurdle to Working out an Agreement With UAB for a Health Care Authority

The Jefferson County Commission voted 3-2 for a resolution that executes an amended master agreement to establish the framework for UAB to form an authority to operate Cooper Green Mercy Health System.

Commissioners Jimmie Stephens, Joe Knight and Steve Ammons voted for the measure. Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson voted no.

“I think this is really a defining moment for our indigent health care system,” Stephens, the commission president, said immediately following the vote. “Moving forward, I believe our indigents will be able to see a noticeable difference. I believe we’ll improve the quality of our health care and our efficiencies.”

Whether current Cooper Green employees who are hired to continue to work with the health care authority may remain in the county retirement system has been a point of concern for Tyson, the chair of the commission’s committee governing Cooper Green, and Scales. Stephens said those employees will have the option to remain in the county’s retirement system or go under a retirement system offered by the authority.

Scales said she voted no because all of the commissioners have not been given information during the negotiations.

“In my opinion, (that) did not occur,” she said. “Because it did not occur, it made me very uncomfortable with voting on a master agreement. I asked several questions I believe went unanswered.” Read more.

Birmingham City Council Appoints New Design Review Committee Members After Tiff Over Vetting Candidates

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to appoint three new members – Willie Oliver, Abra Barnes and Scott Burnett – to the city’s Design Review Committee, glossing over concerns that the appointees had not been properly vetted by the council’s Planning and Zoning Committee.

It was the apparent end of a weeks-long, often confusing discussion that started Oct. 22, when the council initially approved appointments to all 11 seats of the DRC. Read more.

Sessions Running for Senate, Hoping to Make Up With Trump

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on national television tonight that he will seek election to the U.S. Senate seat that he held for two decades.

Appearing on Tucker Carlson Tonight on the Fox News channel, Sessions told the host that he will file his papers to run for his former seat on Friday.

Carlson called Sessions the most popular person in the state after the University of Alabama football coach at the time he stepped away from the Senate. But the Selma native said he has no regrets about leaving the seat.

“I had a great tenure at the Department of Justice in so many different ways,” he said. “I don’t ever worry about regret and things like that.” Read more.

Jeffco Commissioners Set Rules for Use of Economic Development Fund

Updated with video — Despite the “very, very strong” objection of Economic Development Chairman Steve Ammons, the Jefferson County Commission today established new guidelines for using money from the commission’s economic development fund.

In a roll call vote, Ammons voted a “very, very strong no” on a presented resolution. Commission President Jimmie Stephens joined Ammons in voting no, but the matter passed on the yes votes of Commissioners Lashunda Scales, Joe Knight and Sheila Tyson.

Scales offered a resolution at the last meeting that required spending from that fund to be approved by the full commission. Ammons asked that the matter be held over so that he and his staff could make a presentation about economic development. Commissioners agreed Tuesday for a special economic development committee meeting to take place Nov. 18, at which the presentation would take place.

In the meantime, Knight sent a draft of a resolution to his fellow commissioners to address how and when money can be used from the economic development fund. Scales offered that resolution as a substitution for the one she presented at the Oct. 24 meeting in Bessemer.

“This is not to be a fund for everyone to travel on,” Knight said. Read more.

Jeffco Commission Ready to Hash Out Details of Health Care Authority, Debates Economic Development Funds

Today’s committee meeting of the Jefferson County Commission yielded two more meetings.

One addresses the county’s pending agreement with UAB concerning the master plan for the university healthcare authority; the other is to settle a potential change in an administrative order regarding spending from the economic development fund.

Commissioners agreed to reconvene this Thursday’s commission meeting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12 to hash out details of the healthcare authority. The panel will go into executive session so commissioners can address questions to the county attorney and the independent attorney who are working on this matter.

The Economic Development Committee will meet at 9 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 18 to discuss spending from the fund.

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the master agreement with UAB was sent to the commission and county manager Tony Petelos. Subsequently, the county sent the agreement back to UAB with some changes. Read more.

Birmingham Council Chips in on East Lake Grocery Revamp as Part of Battle Against Food Deserts

Birmingham Council Chips in on East Lake Grocery Revamp as Part of Battle Against Food Deserts

The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve a slate of economic incentives for one East Lake grocery store, continuing the Woodfin administration’s pledge to work toward eliminating food deserts in the city.

Village Market, located at 7737 Second Ave. S., will receive up to $865,000 in incentives from the city, which will allow for “substantial improvements” in the store, “to include upgrades in the refrigeration and point-of-sale equipment, painting, rebuilding the cash office, adding new storefront signage, installing new shelving units, gondolas, replacing the motor room and providing additional security,” according to the meeting’s agenda.

The city will pay the first $200,000 of those incentives up front out of the city’s Healthy Food Fund. That fund, specifically focused on providing incentives to grocery stores, was created by the council in May and was initially allocated $500,000; Village Market is the first store to receive money from the fund. Read more.