Category: Alabama Legislature

Despite Anti-Tax Pledge, Ivey Key Supporter of Gas Tax Proposal

Gov. Kay Ivey is a proponent of a statewide gas tax increase, despite previous signed pledges to oppose “any and all” tax hike efforts.

Ivey is one of dozens of current and former Alabama politicians — most of them Republicans — who at some point signed an anti-tax pledge from the group Americans for Tax Reform. Ivey’s not the first or only to later back away from it.

Americans for Tax Reform is led by lobbyist Grover Norquist, who recently asked state leaders to reject a proposed gas tax hike.
An infrastructure improvement plan and gas tax increase are expected to be a major part of the 2019 legislative session, and Ivey has signaled to lawmakers it’s her No. 1 priority. Read more.

Cities, counties disagree on how to share possible gas tax increase

Alabama county and municipal leaders will push the Alabama Legislature this year to approve a statewide gasoline tax increase to fund road improvements, but they disagree about how any new money should be split among local governments.

The distribution of funds is one of several possible sticking points for the gas tax legislation that is expected to be a major issue of the 2019 legislative session.

While many lawmakers recognize the need for the first gas-tax increase since 1992, some also want more “skin in the game” from the majority of counties that haven’t enacted their own gas taxes to fund their local road needs.

Meanwhile, there is the issue of the transfer of existing money from the gas tax to other state agencies. More than $63 million of existing money from the tax is pulled from the Alabama Department of Transportation each year and transferred to other agencies.
Read more.

Man Behind Controversial Diabetes Treatment Pleads Guilty in Public Corruption Case

The founder of a nationwide chain of diabetes clinics pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to conspiring to bribe an Alabama legislator.

Sacramento, California, lawyer G. Ford Gilbert used the clinics, including one in San Diego, to offer insulin infusion treatments that he claimed could reverse diabetes complications. Inewsource.org investigated the clinics for months, and experts it interviewed called the procedure a fraud and a scam. Medicare and some private insurance companies also refused to cover the treatments.

Gilbert was indicted in April on charges stemming from a $2,000 payment he made in 2016 to then-Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Ray Hammon, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montgomery. In exchange for the money, Hammon tried to win support for legislation that would have forced health insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama to pay for Trina Health treatments.

The insurance company had refused to pay for the insulin infusions at Trina’s three Alabama clinics. Read more.

Written in Black and White: In Alabama’s Statehouse, the Parties Are Split Almost Entirely by Race

When newly elected Neil Rafferty takes his place in the Alabama House of Representatives next year, he will be the only white Democrat in the 105-seat chamber

With one other white Democrat in the Senate, the Alabama Legislature’s two parties are almost entirely divided by race. An all-white GOP has a supermajority.

“You can’t deny the optics at times,” Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said about the party and racial split. He’s been a lawmaker since 2006 and has seen the racial polarization increase as the white Democrats dwindled in numbers.

Less than 10 years ago, in the 2006-2010 term, there were 62 Democrats in the House. More than half of them were white, said House public information officer Clay Redden. Now, there are 28 Democrats total. Republicans picked up five more seats in last week’s election.

In all, more than 75 percent of the members of the Legislature were white less than a decade ago, and more than 60 percent were Democrats, according to an analysis done at the time by The Birmingham News.

Being the minority race in the minority party isn’t something Rafferty, D-Birmingham, said he’s thought too much about.

“I’m going to go down there with humility and an eagerness and willingness to work with my colleagues, all of my colleagues, for the betterment of the state and House District 54,” he said last week.

But race has been an issue in the Statehouse in recent years.

England is concerned that, without diversity among parties, all issues begin to be viewed in a racial context.

“Racial issues are important, they are, but not everything is racial,” he said. “You don’t want everything to be painted with a broad brush because of the messenger and lose the message.” Read more.

Two New Lawmakers to Join Incumbents in Jefferson Legislative Delegation

Incumbent Alabama lawmakers serving Jefferson County all won re-election in Tuesday’s general election voting, and two new members who ran for open seats, will join the Jefferson County delegation.

Republican Senate candidate Dan Roberts and Democratic House candidate Neil Rafferty will be a part of a large freshman group in the 2019 Alabama Legislature after 22 House members and 10 senators retired in 2018 or resigned to seek other offices or positions.

The addition of Roberts and Rafferty, a Republican and a Democrat, does not change the political party makeup of the county delegation since they replaced a Republican and a Democrat. Read more.