Coastal insurance reform

The average cost to insure a home in Mobile and Baldwin Counties is eleventy billion dollars, if you can find an insurer.  Central and North Alabama are facing the same types of issues in the wake of the recent devastating tornadoes, so this is about more than ‘coastal insurance reform’.  Insurance reform may get addressed in a special session of the legislature, if not, it will certainly be a top issue in the next legislative session.

Governor Dr. Robert Bentley just named the members of the Affordable Homeowners Insurance Commission, led by Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell (R).  Huntsville is represented on the commission by Wayne Parker and State Farm agent Joe Demos.  Some interesting appointments include K. Carl Smith (The conservativeMessenger) and Michelle Kurtz (Homeowners’ Hurricane Insurance Initiative).  State Senator Ben Brooks (R – Mobile), State Representative Mike Hill (R – Columbiana), and State Representative Steve McMillan (R – Gulf Shores) are on the commission – presumably to sponsor legislation incorporating the results of the Commission’s efforts.

I spoke with Representative McMillan last week after his fishing trip and he said that insurance reform was his top legislative priority.  The GOP legislature passed a couple of bills this year to ”create a tax deduction for strengthening homes against hurricanes and tornadoes, set up an Insurance Department trust fund for retrofitting homes, and require that insurers publicly disclose information when they ask regulators for rate changes.”

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Aquatic Plant Management Forum

State Representative Wes Long (R-27) is leading an Aquatic Plant Management Forum in Guntersville, focusing on Lake Weeds.  Invasive aquatic weeds can hinder native aquatic weed growth, interfere with navigation / recreation / flood control, and adversely affect fish and wildlife habitat.

Aquatic Plant Management Forum
March 12, 2011
9 am – 12:30 pm

Guntersville City Senior Center
1500 Sunset Drive
Guntersville, Alabama  35976

You are invited and encouraged to attend a free forum open to the public that is scheduled for Saturday, March 12, 2011. This meeting has been organized in order to provide factual and educational information about major aquatic resource issues, and it is also intended to promote and facilitate dialog regarding proposals to return aquatic plant management in Marshall and Jackson Counties to an institutional program. 

Hopefully, these discussions will to lead to near-term and long-term solutions for aquatic resource issues that affect the citizens and property owners of our area. 

Grab a bite at Wintzell’s Oyster House after the forum – the words of wisdom on the walls ensure that it’s always a learning experience:

The most important things in life aren’t things.

Alabama must keep Forever Wild

Alabama State Representative Randy Davis (Republican-96) wrote an editorial for The Huntsville Times “Alabama must keep its Forever Wild law” (no link available yet):

…there is one piece of legislation that all Republicans and Democrats alike should commit to pass early this session.  The Forever Wild program was approved in 1992 with an overwhelming majority of 84 percent of Alabamians voting in support of its creation.  It’s even more popular today, but… the funding will sunset in 2012 unless reauthorized by the Legislature.

…These lands not only provide opportunities for all Alabamians to enjoy our great outdoors, but also create a significant impact on the local economies where these lands are located.

…This program generates significant economic development and tourism in Alabama that results in new jobs and increased revenue…  This makes Forever Wild, by far, a net positive when it comes to our state budget and the creation of new jobs for Alabamians.

Davis is sponsoring the Forever Wild law in its current form (“as is”) in the State House, joined by State Senator Scott Beason (Republican-17) in the Senate.  The “as is” part is important – last year some legislators wanted to raid the fund for road construction.

Protect Forever Wild is an organization working to pass the Forever Wild law:

Created in 1992 by a constitutional referendum that garnered 83 percent of the vote, Forever Wild is a program dedicated to preserving Alabama’s most beautiful and environmentally sensitive land, all while expanding the recreational opportunities available to the public.
 
Forever Wild keeps our water and air clean, protects our wildlife, and helps ensure that our children will have the opportunity to experience the natural wonders of our beautiful state.

I urge every member the Republican caucus to vote to reauthorize the Forever Wild law “as is”.  It’s the right thing to do…

Jane Smith joins GOP

Madison County Circuit Clerk Jane Smith announced today that “I am officially joining the Republican Party… For those of you who know me, this is no surprise… I will be proud of the stand I take here today… We must join together as conservatives and Republicans… Standing on the sidelines is not an option… [we need] change from the Courthouse to the Statehouse to the White House.”

Brian and I attended the Madison County Republican breakfast this morning, along with a couple of hundred officials, members, and fellow travelers.

State Representative Howard Sanderford (R-20) announced that five Democratic Representatives will be joining the GOP, further confirming the rumors that have been floating around since Phil Williams (R-6) mentioned the gains earlier this week.  Sanderford noted that there are just a few white Democrats left in the State Legislature, and not that many more black Democrats.

I think that the national Republican conservative / Democratic liberal realignment rolled into Alabama state politics this year, completing a process that has been building for years.    I think that we will see a GOP realignment at the County level and it won’t take long to realize those gains.  The dam burst in the November elections here in Madison County with every Democrat at the county level being defeated.  There are one or two more local Democrats I’d like to see come over.

To take Sanderford’s point to the next level, I think that we’ll see a realignment in the black community.  The GOP has some work to do to make that happen, but blacks are more conservative than liberal and aren’t being served by corrupt Democrats and liberals.  Some people might be surprised when this happens here in Alabama – but I think black folks will come home to the GOP.

Coroner-elect Craig Whisenant spoke to the crowd for a minute, saying that his plan to reform the Coroner’s office is coming together.  Once he takes office (note that the Democrats and The Times are complaining about him before he’s even been sworn in), I think we’ll see some positive changes in the office.  I chatted with Whisenant after the meeting (first time to talk in real life) and he said that he will send us details of the plan soon.

What can you do for me

“What can you do for me” by Utah Saints hit #10 on the music charts in the UK in 1991.   I think that it’s a catchy title for this post – alas without the sampling and dance beat.  My newly-elected State Representative Jim Patterson (R-21) asked me to make a list of what I want the legislature to work on, so here it is in no particular order, and I probably forgot something.  There’s room in the comments for your suggestions and thoughts.

 More below the fold…

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Northeast Alabama Tea Party Rally

WHAT:            HUNTSVILLE TEA PARTY ELECTION RALLY FOR NORTHEAST ALABAMA

WHEN:            October 26, 2010 at 5:30 p.m.

WHERE:          Parking lot at corner of Clinton Street and Woodson in (across from Clinton Street Post Office)

SPEAKERS:   
Dr. Robert Bentley, Republican Candidate for Governor
Commissioner Mo Brooks, Republican Candidate for Congress (District 5)
Mary Scott Hunter, Republican Candidate for State School Board (District 8)
Senator Paul Sanford, Republican Candidate for State Senate (District 7)
Councilman Bill Holtzclaw, Republican Candidate for State Senate (District 2)

Please mark your calendars to join us for what we hope to be a fantastic turnout to hear and/or meet some of the GOP candidates from our area the week before the election.  We will also asking that you publicize this event through your organizations or campaigns, as the case may be, once our formal release is prepared.  I wanted to go ahead and get this out so that all of you would reserve this date on your calendars.

Candidates running to represent all or parts of Madison and/or Limestone County that are in attendance will be recognized during the program by Roger Richardson.  Local elected GOP officials will be recognized as well.  We hope people will be there early to meet candidates, who will be invited to set up tables.

Please note that Dr. Bentley will speak first and, after speaking, he must IMMEDIATELY leave to go to Athens for a televised debate (so please do not try to talk to him after he speaks.  We don’t want him to be late!).  Mo will go next and then he must also leave to go to Athens, because his debate follows Dr. Bentley’s.

Brewery Modernization Act Fails This Year

From fellow blogger Dan:

Yesterday marked the last day of the legislative session. We had hoped two pro-beer bills would be passing. Unfortunately, neither did.

SB328, the Brewery Modernization Act, was the official Free the Hops bill for this session. Despite being a common-sense, pro-business bill that would create jobs and help a growing industry in Alabama (without costing a penny to the public purse), the House leadership decided not to put it on the agenda Thursday. We were instead relegated to a possible second agenda, meaning that if they got through with the first agenda and still wanted to work, we would be placed somewhere on a follow-up agenda. When things started slowing down Thursday, it was clear that we would not get our shot.

 Unfortunately, the Brewery Modernization Act had a big holdup early on in the session after the ABC expressed concerns with it. We certainly don’t want the state agency responsible for regulating alcohol to lobby against our bill, so we worked with them to address their concerns. After a long time, we were finally able to craft a substitute bill to move through the legislature.

 After that hurdle, SB328 sailed through the Senate and received a favorable report from the House Committee on Tourism and Travel. Unfortunately, all the delays meant we really only had the last 2 weeks to pass our bill through the House. They didn’t get to us.

 All things being equal, the Brewery Modernization Act made it very far for its first year. But all things aren’t equal. Free the Hops decided to go with this legislation because we thought it was a common sense bill to pass in an election year and with a down economy. With the growing brewing industry in Alabama, it just seemed like the right time.

 Straight to Ale is a new brewery in Huntsville expecting to debut in time for the Rocket City Brewfest. They are located in the Lincoln Mills development and have plans for a taproom at the brewery to showcase their selections. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to build their taproom for at least another year because the legislature decided not to consider the Brewery Modernization Act.

 Until last week, Back Forty Beer Company was looking at two locations to build their new brewery in Gadsden. One site was if the Brewery Modernization Act passed – it had space for a tasting room and was ideally located in the historic district of Gadsden. The other site was in an industrial park if it didn’t pass. Unfortunately, the legislature this year kept a growing business off Broad Street as Back Forty has to brew it’s beer in a hidden corner far away from public eyes.

 Good People Brewing in Birmingham recently moved into their new location and were hoping the Brewery Modernization Act would allow them to build a taproom at the new place. Instead, the public has to keep out of this growing business.

 Olde Towne in Huntsville has an extremely spacious brewery and would like to rent it out for events and hold promotional events of their own periodically. The legislature put an end to that idea.

 Montgomery Brewing Company has been around since 1995 and is the only brewpub licensee currently active in the state of Alabama, meaning it is the one place where you can enjoy a beer at the brewery. They already have a wholesaler network ready to distribute and market their beers outside of the brewery, but instead they must continue selling their beer on-premise only. They’re not allowed to expand their business by selling their beer to other bars, restaurants, and stores.

 I personally know of a few entrepreneurs who have the means and desire to open a brewpub in different cities in Alabama. Most, if not all, will put their plans on hold for now because, until the Brewery Modernization Act passes, they’re so restricted on where they can open and who they can sell to, the business risk is too high.

 These are some real-world examples of how the legislative inaction with regard to the Brewery Modernization Act is hindering economic development and expansion. We’re not talking abstract ideas and possibilities. There will be real repercussions due to the House’s decision not to consider this legislation.

Pinkleton Announces for State House 20

From the Pinkleton campaign:

David Pinkleton will be challenging Rep. Howard Sanderford in the Republican Primary on June 1st for State House District 20. David will bring energy and excitement to the District 20 race. He knows the state budget is of great concern to the constituents of District 20. As a state legislator, David will work hard to make sure that state government does more with less.

“The forecast is gloomy for Alabama. The Governor is hedging on stimulus money to balance the state’s checkbook at a time when my generation will have to live with the consequences of the state budget. That’s why I am running and that’s why I need your support,” Pinkleton said.

As a state legislator, David will push the envelope in Montgomery to ensure greater transparency in government on a local and state level. David will also work alongside other Madison County lawmakers to ensure that much needed road and bridge repair in Madison County begins prior to the influx of 10,000+ defense related jobs by 2011 as a result of BRAC.

Additional information about David Pinkleton can be found on his Facebook page.

Marshall County Republican Women – Wintzell’s

Last Thursday I went to the Marshall County Republican Women’s Club meeting in Guntersville.  The meeting was held at Wintzell’s Oyster House (on  US431 next to the Hampton Inn).  More than 50 people attended and brought Toys for Tots.

First, I’m going to praise Wintzell’s Oyster House (“fried, stewed, and nude”).  I’ve been to the original Wintzell’s in downtown Mobile.  A few years ago, some guy from Cracker Barrel bought it and started expanding.  Next, they started franchising – the Wintzell’s in Guntersville was the first franchise.  We’re about to get one here in Huntsville at the former Green Hills Grille at University and Wynn.

Now for the praise:  the food was good, the service was terrific, the facility was clean, the view was magnificent, and the manager was friendly.  Plus they serve Olde Towne beer (however I drank tea with lunch).  I knew I was in the right place when the manager started talking about Dogfish Head Brewery.

***

I got to meet and talk with several GOP candidates: Agriculture Commissioner candidate Dale Peterson (“let’s save our family farms”); State Senate 9 candidate Don Spurlin; Senate 9 candidate Clay Scofield; West Point Mayor and candidate for State House 12 Kenneth Kilgo; former State Representative and House 26 candidate Kerry Rich; and Marshall County Circuit Judge Tim Jolley.  I also got to meet Albertville Mayor Lindsey Lyons.

Since this was our first meeting, I made it a point to talk with State Senate 9 candidate Clay Scofield of Arab.  Scofield is an Auburn graduate, a chicken farmer, and runs an erosion control business.  He describes himself as “very conservative” with strong libertarian beliefs.  Others have described him as a “Lincoln populist” (Clay is tall and gangly).

I immediately asked Scofield about Free the Hops.  He says he doesn’t drink, but would have voted for the Gourmet Beer Bill because it was good for business.  He is generally supportive of this year’s pro-business FTH legislation.  I like him already.

I also got to meet Jordana Long, who is married to Wes Long, candidate for House 27.  To bring this all back to the beginning – Long is one of the partners in Wintzell’s…

***

The speaker at the event was Elois Zeanah of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women.  Here are excerpts from an email about her speech: 

E-Verify is the federal web-based electronic verification program for employers to quickly verify Social Security Numbers of new workers.  This system is highly accurate, and verification is completed within minutes at minimal cost.  Illegal immigration if a huge factor in budget deficits in Alabama.  Yet illegal immigration continues to grow in our state because Alabama has become a magnet for illegal immigration since border states of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia have passed E-Verify bills to discourage illegal workers and to punish employers who hire them.  Studies prove that illegal aliens avoid states with E-Verify and migrate to states which do not.  An E-Verify bill would curb illegal immigration  and help save Alabama taxpayers millions of dollars a year — not to mention jobs that would be saved for Alabama citizens…

Good news!  Senator Scott Beason has agreed to sponsor our bill in the Senate; and Representative Micky Hammon has agreed to sponsor our bill in the House.  Both are perfect Sponsors since both have submitted several bills each to curb illegal immigration in past years, were members of the State Commission on Immigration, and are articulate and most knowledgeable on the issue.

John Fisher announces candidacy

Republican John Fisher of Tuscaloosa kicked off his campaign for Alabama House District 63, to replace Republican Dr. Robert Bentley, who is retiring from the State House to run for Governor.  From Fisher’s website:

I will focus my efforts on creating jobs, assisting small businesses, educating our children, protecting our families, balancing our budget, and mandating Christian-based ethics in state government.

From the Tuscaloosa News, “Newcomer John Fisher running for House seat”:

Fisher is the first Republican to formally enter the race for the District 63 seat. Susan Pace Hamill, a University of Alabama law professor, has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

The primary election for the seat will be June 1, 2010, with the runoff, if needed, slated for July 13, 2010. The general election will be Nov. 2, 2010.

Democrat Susan Pace Hamill is a Tax Law Professor known  for advocating shifting taxes from the poor onto large landowners and corporations (invoking her Christian vision – according to her, Jesus likes redistribution of wealth).  Her article, “A Fair Tax” (not to be confused with “THE” Fair Tax), explains What Would Jesus Tax:

A careful look at Bush’s tax policy reveals values reflecting objectivist ethics — a form of atheism that worships the free market and the right of individuals to personally benefit from their efforts above all other concerns. For a Christian this is disgraceful conduct.

The absence of Judeo-Christian values in tax-policy discussions is a sign that genuine faith is in deep trouble. Christianity in particular has become a low-sacrifice operation. Jesus Christ did not preach a low-sacrifice gospel.