Category: Government

JeffCo Commissioners in Split Vote Give Preliminary Approval to a Support Budget That Cuts Discretionary Spending

When the last of the Jefferson County Commission’s budget hearings were complete Thursday, commissioners decided on a nonbinding, nonpartisan 3-2 vote to support the support budget for 2020, which allots discretionary funds to commissioners as well as money for transit, sewer fee assistance and other programs.

Finance Chairman Joe Knight, a Republican, voted with Democratic commissioners Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson in favor of the action. Commission President Jimmie Stephens and Commissioner Steve Ammons voted no.

The complete budget will be considered for official approval at the commission’s Aug. 8 meeting. Read more.

Bill to Set Standards for Humane Treatment of Migrants Passes U.S. House With Support From Alabama’s Democrat, Opposition From Republicans; Votes on Other Bills Last Week

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House last week passed a bill to set minimal standards for the government’s treatment of migrants in its custody.

Representatives voted 233 for to 195 against the bill, which now is on its way to the Senate. Alabama’s Republicans voted against the bill and Democratic Rep. Terry Sewell voted for it.

The bill would require U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to conduct medical screenings of migrants within 12 hours of their detention, or three hours for children, the disabled and pregnant women, and provide health care as warranted. Read more.

Jeffco Commission Blocks Consideration of Contract Physicians Proposal

County Manager Tony Petelos will have to try again next time in his effort to be able to hire and fire contract physicians at Cooper Green Mercy Health System because the matter was blocked from consideration at today’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commission.

Because the resolution was presented as new business, all commissioners had to agree to consider it at their meeting at the Bessemer Courthouse. Commissioners Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson voted no, thus keeping it from being introduced into the meeting.

It is the second time this week the matter has come before the panel.

The proposal was initially a late add to the commission’s committee meeting Tuesday at the courthouse in Birmingham. That discussion ended with commissioners saying they needed to hear more before giving the county manager the ability to hire and fire contracted doctors at its clinic for indigent health care.
Read more.

Mueller Testimony Touches on Trump-Sessions Battle Over Controlling Investigation

Members of a House committee peppered former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III with questions about President Donald Trump’s displeasure over the decision by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from oversight of an investigation into Trump and whether Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. Read more.

Read coverage of the hearings:
Trump Says ‘We Had a Very Good Day’ After Mueller Hearings End (Washington Post)
Report Doesn’t Exonerate Trump, Mueller Testifies, and He Could Be Charged After Leaving Office (ABC News)
Mueller Offers Terse Answers, Uncertainty in Testimony (Associated Press)
Robert Mueller Testifies (CNN)

Proposed Food Stamp Changes Would Cut Some Alabamians Out of the Program

State welfare officials say they do not know the number of food stamp recipients in Alabama who would be affected by President Donald Trump’s proposed federal rule change that nationally would cut some 3 million recipients from the program.

There are 716,989 food stamp recipients in the state, including 67,318 people age 60 and above with no earned income.

Trump wants the rule change in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, called SNAP but often known by its old name, food stamps. He says a loophole lets states give benefits to those who would otherwise be ineligible.

Forty states, including Alabama, and the District of Columbia use the option. Read more.

Birmingham City Travel Tops $250K

Open full Birmingham City Travel spreadsheet

Birmingham city employees spent $258,387.96 of taxpayer money on travel between Oct. 24, 2017, and July 19, 2019, an analysis of City Council meeting agendas reveals.

Close to three-fourths of that money, $186,011.87, was spent by the Birmingham City Council and its employees; the remaining $71,276.09 was spent by Mayor Randall Woodfin and his employees.

That amount does not include trips for which a final total has not yet been approved. Estimated costs for city-funded trips are approved beforehand by the council; after the trip, the council votes again to approve the actual amount spent. Approximately $40,000 in travel funds have been preliminarily approved, without follow-up, since January. Read more.

‘Lean’ $451 Million Birmingham City Budget Passes After Debates Over School, Discretionary Funding

Minutes after the Birmingham City Council voted 7-1 to pass the city’s budget for the 2020 fiscal year, Mayor Randall Woodfin stepped out onto City Hall’s third-floor terrace with a smile on his face.

“Did it take longer than I wanted it to?” he asked. “Yes. But am I glad it passed? Yes.”

Woodfin presented his original $451 million budget proposal to the council May 14, calling it a “fundamental shift” for the city’s budgeting process. “It’s as lean as they come,” he said then, arguing that the budget reflected his administration’s “moral obligations’ to prioritize neighborhood revitalization and city employees’ pension fund.

“During my (mayoral) campaign, I said we’d engage councilors on shared priorities and aligning our priorities, and then focus on finding money to support those priorities,” he said Tuesday. “Each councilor told me their top three, and I’m happy to say that for each councilor, at a minimum two of their priorities are in this budget. It wasn’t just what the mayor’s office wanted, it was collectively what the 10 of us, the mayor and council, wanted.”

But the budget process proved difficult, largely due to controversies over its’ cutting a slew of line items and instead giving each councilor an additional $50,000 in discretionary funding. Woodfin’s plan to reallocate $2 million from Birmingham City Schools to his new Birmingham Promise apprenticeship program also garnered debate, despite the support of BCS Superintendent Lisa Herring and a majority of the city’s school board.

But the budget was passed relatively smoothly at Tuesday’s council meeting, with only one dissenting vote: District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt. District 9 Councilor John Hilliard was absent. Read more.

Previous budget stories:

Woodfin’s Budget: Money for Pensions, Paving; Changes for Education, Discretionary Projects

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

Jefferson County Commission Bypasses Tyson in Health Care Authority Nominations

Update: The commission in its Thursday meeting approved the nominations as introduced.

The Jefferson County Commission voted Tuesday on the commissioners they intend to nominate to the UAB Healthcare Authority and Sheila Tyson, chair of the committee dealing with Cooper Green Mercy Health System, was not included.

A majority of commissioners agreed that chief financial officer John Henry should be recommended for a 2-year term, and county manager Tony Petelos and Commissioner Joe Knight to 1-year terms.

“I see the good ole boy network is still alive,” Tyson said. “If they wanted to start a road committee out of the gas tax and they didn’t want you (Stephens) on there and you are the chair of roads and transportation, you would have a problem with that. But it’s all right not to put me on the committee where I sit and have been working on.”

Tuesday’s vote was not final but will go before commissioners again Thursday. Read more.

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.