Docks issue complicates state gas tax increase

Posted 3/7/19

Let's clean out the notebook ... • Well, Kay Ivey certainly didn't learn from the Walker County Commission about overloading items in a vote. I take it that except for some south Alabama …

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Docks issue complicates state gas tax increase

Posted

Let's clean out the notebook ... 

• Well, Kay Ivey certainly didn't learn from the Walker County Commission about overloading items in a vote. I take it that except for some south Alabama legislators, the last-minute inclusion of help for the State Docks is not going to make it easier to pass an increase in the gas tax, which I believe already had many legislators nervous about constituent reaction. The Mobile area may like it, but all anyone has heard about is roads - now we're siphoning off funds for the docks? 

And, mind you, I'm sure the work is needed, both for the highways and the docks. I think the state should find the funds for the docks. But as badly as the roads need it, I don't think this is right. I'm hearing if the docks provision comes out, the whole thing will come unglued at this point. But I think it will make it harder for constituents to digest. The only good news for Ivey, and don't think she doesn't know it, is that the first year of a quadrennial you find something unpopular you want to do that they will forget four years later. The gas tax increase is needed and this is it. Moreover, the public won't vote in a referendum on it after the Legislature. I think there will be a large no vote but it will pass. 

The sad thing is, we are hearing that Walker County won't exactly get a windfall from this once it is divided out by districts, but at least the county can (a.) put up money to match for federal funds and (b.) patch many of these roads that have gone forever without repairs, much less repaving. The commissioners will likely take what they can get, and were passing out graphics from the Association of County Commissions of Alabama telling about the need for road and bridge funding statewide. (You can see that report, "The Cost of Doing Nothing," at alabamacounties.org.)

• By the way, there was confusion over Ivey's State of the State address. Everyone expected her to call a special session within the session on the gas tax, but she said, "I am willing to call you, the members of the Alabama Legislature, into a special session, if necessary, to focus solely on passing this critical legislation." APT commentators were confused, thinking she might not have the votes and would try it later. But the wheels turned quickly immediately after the 6:30 p.m. speech and by 8 p.m. or so the special session was called. So I guess it didn't take very long for her to decide it was necessary. 

• The Walker County Farmer's Market is reminding everyone that vouchers are available under the Farmers Market Nutrition Program to help low-income seniors age 60 or older and nutritionally at-risk women and children. Issuance is on a first come-first serve basis until all available funds are expended, but for the moment the local market notes on Facebook plenty of vouchers are available. For more information, one may call the farmer's market at 205-544-4573 or go to fma.alabama.gov. The market is open on Airport Road in Jasper from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday on Airport Road. 

• Well, if you thought the presidential race was starting early, hold on to your hats: Thomas McCarty, who was rejected as the Republican nominee in the state Rep. Connie Rowe's race as he had started as an independent, has just announced on Facebook he will run in 2020 as a Republican for the District 4 Walker County Commission seat held by Steven Aderholt. These days everyone is going out early, getting funding and support, so I'm afraid I can't fault him. Remember Nick Smith came out fairly early for sheriff and it didn't seem to hurt him in the end. 

• Tim Bowen, the chairman of the Walker County Democratic Party, approached me with a release in the wake of the reception for the elected officials that Jasper Main Street and Walker County realtors had recently. He planned to come that night, but didn't feel well, so he volunteered this release. Since he went to the trouble, here is is:   

"The Walker County Democrats would like to commend our local leaders for their help in the revitalization of Downtown Jasper and hope this much needed progress spreads throughout the rest of Walker County.

"We continue to denounce the Presidency of Donald Trump, saying this as he meets with Dictator Kim Jong-un in Vietnam to resume their bewildering love affair. He continues to alienate our staunchest allies while cozying up to brutal Autocrats such as MBS, Putin and Kim. We oppose his current Emergency Order for funding of his wall, in direct violation of Article 1 of our Constitution that states all funding must come through Congress. 

"We are anxiously awaiting the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and will accept the findings as truth, whether our President is found innocent or guilty of the accusations that have been leveled against him."

• Speaking of Trump, it was surprising to me that Politico reported that the president was taking in stride the news that now the Senate and House both will likely vote against his emergency declaration on the wall, although it will not be veto proof. Politico reported this week he wasn't even calling members of Congress to lean on them. Some conservatives see it as the president usurping the rightful power of the Congress and that future presidents from either party could abuse the use of emergency declarations. 

Also, I was shocked to watch some of MSNBC's coverage this week that centered on whether the Trump organization's dealings was turning into a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, case, meaning ongoing criminal activity within the business. Apparently Washington has whispered for some time the Trump group was like a mob family in operation, and approaching it this way may the way for New York prosecutors to bring charges. 

• Meanwhile, the Democrats have their own problem children, starting with Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar's remarks against Israel. Politico says Democrats may pass a resolution against her, although Speaker Nancy Polosi is not ready yet to strip her of her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee - at least not yet. But I saw a great deal of coverage about it Wednesday morning; the New York Times said the issue about Omar's comments is exposing an ideological and generational divide that threatens to overshadow the party agenda. 

• And here is another surprise from the Wall St. Journal: Medicare for all is losing momentum among Democrats as an issue. "Now, enthusiasm for the proposal is waning as supporters face pointed questions over how it would work—and how it would be paid for. As a result, more candidates are backing intermediate measures, including optional buy-ins to government-run coverage that are likely more attainable in the short term. ... Net support for a single-payer health system among all registered voters ... fell from about 30 percent in November 2018 to 12 percent in February." 

• To the nut job who left me a phone message and indicated he couldn't understand how the editor of the paper could be a Democrat and be in favor of killing babies before they were born, I would like to state I am a Republican and I've always been against abortion. Period. I never did understand where he got the idea. If it had to do with the editorial page, I might point out I have nothing to do personally in my role with picking out columns, letters, syndicated editorials or cartoons for the editorial page, and I don't pick out Associated Press stories. So please direct your venom elsewhere. 

• People are still needling me about the Daily Mountain Eagle team winning the Rotary Club of Jasper's Trivia Night. I can tell you I had limited role in it; Disney and movies may have been my biggest contribution. A lawyer friend and I noted this week we were both joyful about hearing the U.S. president timeline category until we heard the questions. Many Christians in the room felt like heathens when they heard questions in that segment. These were not pushover questions at all, and they were quite challenging. 

• By the way, happy birthday (in advance by a day) to James Phillips, who also plans to go into the wrestling ring on Saturday night here in Jasper. He was born before the Reagan Administration and we will leave it there. (Someone said at lunch they guessed that wrestling match would be on the front page. I said, no, the obits are on Page 2.)