Category: Government

Alabama Republicans in Congress Oppose Minimum Wage Increase, Votes on Other Bills in Washington Last Week

WASHINGTON – All of Alabama’s Republicans in the U.S. House voted against a bill Thursday to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour starting in 2025. Democrat Rep. Terri Sewell voted for it.

The House on a 231-199 vote passed the bill (HR 582), which would increase the minimum wage from its present level of $7.25 per hour. The $15 figure would be indexed to keep pace with increases in the median hourly wage as measured by the Department of Labor.

In addition, the bill would phase out separate minimum wages for disabled and tipped employees and new hires younger than 20 so that these individuals eventually receive the same base wage as the rest of the private-sector workforce. Read more.

Doug Jones Says Trump’s ‘Racist Language’ Divides the Nation

President Donald Trump used “racist language” that is further dividing Americans when he suggested four women in Congress could leave the country if they don’t like it, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said Thursday.

 “To use racist language, and it was that — I’m not calling the president a racist, but he used racist language to do this — this is the same kind of dog whistle politics that we have seen before,” Jones said during a conference phone call with reporters.

“But folks, we have to resist the pull of the forces that are trying to divide us,” Jones said. “We need to come together as one America and work together to live up to the lofty ideals our country was founded on. Attacking the patriotism of other Americans using hateful rhetoric and dog whistle messages doesn’t get us any closer to achieving those unifying principles.”
Read more.

Birmingham School Officials Say Schools Can Work Around Woodfin’s Proposed Budget Cut

Birmingham City School Superintendent Lisa Herring said Tuesday that, although she’s not sure where BCS will go to make up the $2 million that Mayor Randall Woodfin is proposing to cut from the school’s budget, she’s confident “it doesn’t put the district in a state of distress.”

Woodfin’s budget proposal would cut the city’s funding for schools from $3.2 million to $1 million, shifting $2 million into a fund for the Birmingham Promise Education Initiative, a public-private apprenticeship and scholarship program.

In previous years, BCS has spent the $3 million allocation from the city on community-based and outreach programs through the schools; one-time purchases to meet security needs, such as metal detectors; and on personnel, athletics and academics, Herring said.

The city board of education in a letter to the mayor and council expressed support for the Birmingham Promise program but asked that the $2 million cut be reconsidered in the future.

Herring echoed that idea in an interview with BirminghamWatch, saying she understood the Birmingham Promise initiative would have a direct impact on students.

“We are aware that we are talking about an amount in which, given the overall budget of our organization, there is space for us to have recovery,” Herring said.

Several school board members also said they can deal with the cut, though some said they wish they didn’t have to. Read more.

Also Tuesday:

Woodfin Defends Proposed Cut to Education Budget

Woodfin Defends Proposed Cut to Education Budget

Mayor Randall Woodfin defended his plan for Birmingham’s education budget at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, arguing that shifting millions of dollars from city schools to his proposed Birmingham Promise Initiative would allow the city to invest directly in students.

Woodfin’s proposed FY 2020 operating budget would cut the city’s funding for Birmingham City Schools from $3.2 million to $1 million. It would place that $2 million into a fund for the Birmingham Promise Education Initiative, a public-private partnership that would provide juniors and seniors in Birmingham city schools with paid apprenticeships as well as dual enrollment opportunities with Lawson State and Jefferson State community colleges. The program also would offer scholarships for city school graduates to attend public colleges and universities in Alabama.

Woodfin’s proposed cut to the schools’ budget has gotten mixed reviews. The city board of education in a letter to the mayor and council expressed support for the program but asked that the $2 million cut be reconsidered in the future.

Some council members today expressed support for the program and said it would be a benefit to Birmingham’s students; others were wary and said they needed details about the plan before being asked to vote on it. Read more.

Jones, Byrne Lead in Fundraising Among Candidates in 2020 US Senate Race

Democratic incumbent Sen. Doug Jones raised $1.8 million for his election campaign during the past three months, outpacing the still-forming field of candidates for Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate elections.

Candidates for the Senate seat filed campaign finance reports Monday with the Federal Election Commission for the period of April 1 through June 30.

Among a broader field of candidates in the Republican primary, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne of Daphne was the fundraising leader, with $685,635 collected during the period. Read more.

The U.S. House Votes to Lift Green Card Caps. How Did Alabama’s Representatives Vote on That and Other Bills?

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would lift the caps on the share of people from individual countries who could be granted green cards that give permanent legal status to the workers.

The House vote on HR 1044 was 365 for and 65 against. From Alabama’s delegation, Reps. Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile; Martha Roby, R-Montgomery; and Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, voted to lift the cap. Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Saks; Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville; Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville; and Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, voted against lifting the cap.

The proposed change, which was among the major issues considered by Congress during the week ending July 12, affects immigrants living in the United States on temporary, employment-based H1-B visas.

Those visas are used primarily to bring highly skilled, well-educated foreigners into the U.S. workforce for periods generally ranging from three to six years, after which they are usually required to leave the country if they have not received a green card. Read more.

Jeffco District Attorney’s Office Looking to Speed Up Work on Untested Sexual Assault Kits

The Jefferson County district attorney’s office is looking to ramp up its efforts to deal with the county’s massive backlog of untested sexual assault kits. A pending expansion to a 2016 federal grant would allow the office to increase the rate at which old kits are tested — and would allow for the appointment of a new prosecutor who would focus on those backlogged cases.

The office originally received a federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant in 2016. An inventory that was finished in September 2017 found that 3,876 sexual assault kits — which law enforcement use to collect DNA evidence after a sexual assault — had not been submitted for testing. Since then, 275 kits have been sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for testing, at a rate of 25 per month. But a new expansion to the county’s grant would allow the county to double that rate, sending 50 kits per month to the state lab for testing. Read more.

Jefferson County Commission Approves Funding for New Bus Routes

Lashunda Scales said she finally got what she wanted today when the Jefferson County Commission agreed to supply additional funding for new bus routes without trimming support of those routes in fiscal 2020.

The commission today added $9,207 to the previously approved $100,000 to expand bus service into Fairfield, Brighton, Lipscomb, Adamsville and Forestdale for three months, through September. Commissioners had talked earlier about cutting transit funding for those areas in half during the next fiscal year. But they opted today to delay action on funding in the new year.

Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said he believes the $109,207 the commission has approved will fund the new routes into the coming calendar year, perhaps through February.

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Jeffco Commissioner Says Cities Must Contribute to Have Transit Service

Commissioner Joe Knight put cities who are getting bus service courtesy of Jefferson County on notice today that they eventually will need to contribute if they are to have transit service.

Commissioners heard a proposed resolution to increase the requested $100,000 for new or increased services to some areas to $109,207. Knight said somebody’s going to be short next year and expect the county to ante up again.

“We’re going to be the bad guys,” he said during today’s committee meeting. “That County Commission cut your bus service off. That’s what’s going to happen if we don’t get those cities engaged and take care of their citizens.”
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