Let's clean out the notebook ...
• Well, the 10-cent gas tax increase is now the law. Frankly, I wasn't thrilled with the process but after talking with House members last week, I think I feel better about the action itself. There is a need for repairing the roads and bridges, and the State Docks apparently has more direct impact on this area than I or some of the legislators realized. (I think Connie Rowe was floored at the local products handled.) The work needed to be done, but I wished they had gotten the bill worked out before the session so that everyone could see the bill before it got to committee. And the State Docks should have been given much more play and rollout as they did the highways; it still came off as an afterthought.
But to be clear, rumors are circulating that strong arm political tactics were used to strongly encourage legislators to vote. And, Ivey, asked about giving more time to legislators for digesting the bill, let it be known to WSFA that freshmen legislators were briefed on the need of a plan before they were even elected — and if they told leadership they were not in favor of increasing the gas tax, they were encouraged not to run. "The freshmen may know more than what they may be telling you," she said.
Mind you, we all were informed about the need. The bill itself, with the solutions, did not come until the last minute, and even then I understand copies of the bill were not circulated very well at first. The devil is in the details, and it is more responsible to go over those details. Mind you, our local legislators are getting along fine with Ivey — Rowe noted how much she appreciated the governor's experience — but I think that experience should have led to more heads up in the state for the details in the bill.
One has to give credit to the Alabama League of Municipalities and the Association of County Commissions of Alabama for doing well in pushing for this tax increase. The county association really did great work getting materials and members on deck. The Fayette County Commission even met in a called meeting at the last minute to make sure legislators had a resolution hours before Friday's vote. (I was shocked they were meeting on Friday and Monday for this, as those are usually off days during the Regular Session; the special session apparently allowed for the extra days.)
And while it is not popular to say this, you have to appreciate the courage of some legislators to go against their natural grain and vote for this. It is not easy to do, and I think they are paying some price now for that vote, but it is good they voted for something unpopular but needed. (Sen. Larry Stutts, whose district stretches into Marion County, was a no vote, by the way.)
• I will say, Ivey did impress some folks on stamina. You will recall some questioned if her health would allow her to be active. She handled this package through the Legislature AND the aftermath of the Lee County tornado, complete with a visit by President Trump. She seemed to handle all quite well.
• Walker County Sheriff Nick Smith was obviously irritated on Facebook Monday, as he said some have made negative comments about changes at the jail, apparently over the $900,000 or so that is being spent on the upgrades. That led to his most blunt remarks to date over what had happened at the jail.
"Over the past four years, $2.5 million in discretionary funds has passed through the Sheriff's Office, most of which came from the jail in the first place," he said. "My question to those naysayers is simple. Where did that money go? If it would have gone back into the jail, even half of it, we wouldn't be doing these basic improvements to provide the inmates with fundamental necessities" like working toilets and lights, and walls without mold. He went on to say inmates and employees over the years were "forced to suffer in what I liken to a prison in a third world country. Employees were even buying cleaning supplies OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKETS just so they could try and work in a sanitary environment." He noted that "none of the dorm locks worked" as well, adding, "So to the people that are mad and upset at the upgrades we're making at the jail, you can be as mad and upset as you want to be. We're not gonna stop getting that jail back to a condition that won't get us sued."
Posts were also made about a crew of inmates working to pick up litter in District 4. The commissioner there, Steven Aderholt, thanked Smith, saying it had been six years since the Sheriff's Office helped pick up litter on the roadway.
• Good luck to Heath Hammock, the nurse practitioner known for working at Central Alabama Urgent Care in Dora over the past three years. His last day was a week ago today. I couldn't get a handle online where he goes next, but many people wish him all the best, as he did a great job for many.
• Everyone was quite grateful to God at Northside Baptist Church on Sunday as the pastor, David Byrd, returned after about three weeks from long-awaited knee surgery. Byrd was somewhat admittedly emotional at his return, partially due to the surgery and partially as he missed being in the pulpit. He noted that while hospitalized in Nashville, his hospital room was rather large, with not one but two couches. His nurse told him it was a former VIP area.
I can't remember the exact room number he used, but he quoted her as saying something like, "You know, Johnny Cash died next door in Room 8077." Byrd said, "Nurse, this IS Room 8077." "Oh," she said. "Johnny Cash died in this room." That has to give you pause.
• I want to thank Carbon Hill officials, as the sleeve to my tape recorder went missing. It turned out I left it on the clerk's table at the previous city council meeting there, and it sat there the whole time. I'm glad they didn't throw it away and waited for me to confirm it was mine; that sleeve is $15 on Amazon and I've bought several as I've lost some over the years.
• Carbon Hill Fire Chief Buddy Smith told me before the council meeting that state fire marshal officials are still looking into the fire that destroyed the old sewing plant there late last year. Those officials have continued to come to Carbon Hill to follow leads. Meanwhile, I forgot to mention in the council story that the police department is still working on the case of the missing man in Carbon Hill, and is still tracking financial records.
• Recently Northwest Medical Center in Winfield and St. Vincent's Health System in Birmingham announced an alliance agreement, which I am sure will be a relief to the folks in Winfield.
• I guess I should say if you tried to call me on my iPhone SE yesterday, you didn't get me. It started freezing up this weekend, and a new battery didn't help Monday, so I ordered a refurbished iPhone 7 from Gazelle with more storage. (The 7 is the lowest, cheapest version still sold by Apple; they stopped selling the SE and the 6's last fall, meaning they might still update them for maybe five years or so, but that's it.) But meanwhile the SE died a hard death by the time I woke up Wednesday, so I am making do with an iPad for instant messages and the office phone and the Amazon Echo Plus at the house to call out. The new phone should be here by Friday.
• Publisher James Phillips survived his little battle in the wrestling ring Saturday. I worked all day on the gas tax and then had a painful hip that night (which cleared up overnight), so I didn't go. James pulled a muscle in his back but apparently is in good shape.
Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle's news editor.