Author: Lee Hedgepeth

Seafood bill boils to the surface

Alabama State Rep. Margie Wilcox thinks she may be able to solve what some have termed “crawfishgate,” a years-long controversy over a health department crackdown on crawfish boils held by local bars and restaurants every spring in Mobile. Wilcox has said she’ll file two versions of a bill when the Legislature begins meeting again in early April — one applying to Mobile and another covering the entire state — that would prevent health departments from regulating the crawfish boils and similar “celebratory events or customs.” The potential compromise comes after a back and forth between health officials and local business owners sparked public controversy and culminated in several seafood boils being shut down last year. In February, a previous agreement between local businesses and Mobile County Health Department officials which would have allowed the practice to continue this year fell through. Multiple venues, including Saddle Up Saloon, announced they had to cancel events over the seafood spoiler. “Last year the bar industry met with the health department and came to an agreement on how we could cooperatively work within the rules to resume cooking crawfish this season,” the local bar posted on its Facebook page. “Using this agreement, we began marketing our crawfish night weeks ago. Today we find out the Mobile County Health Department has once again called a meeting for next Monday, to change the rules again...

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Budget cuts and corn dogs

It’s pretty often there’s something rotten in Alabama politics. Whether it’s a corrupt politician, a broken budget deal or something else entirely, Alabamians usually aren’t surprised by Goat Hill antics. Occasionally, though, everything in state politics goes rotten all at once, and the putrid smell of bad public policy wafts all the way from Huntsville to Mobile, turning the stomachs of even the more seasoned among us. This is one of those occasions. In Montgomery, lawmakers and bureaucrats are preparing the state for President Donald Trump’s devastating budget: stuffing money under the state’s mattress, preparing to cut costs and...

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Booze battles on tap in Montgomery

By 1915, Alabama was gripped by the same anti-alcohol sentiment as the rest of the country: The temperance movement was afoot, and there was little even established politicians could do to prevent it. That year, the Alabama Legislature overrode the veto of then-Gov. Charles Henderson to ban outright the sale of alcohol in the state. “Alabama has beaten her public bars into soda fountains and quick-lunch rooms,” writer Julian Street explained that year in his travel log, “American Adventures: A Second Trip Abroad at Home.” “And though her club bars still look like real ones, the drinks served are...

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Impeachment, criminal probe of Bentley moving forward

The Alabama House of Representatives committee considering the impeachment of Gov. Robert Bentley voted unanimously last week to move forward with its investigation of the state’s embattled chief executive. Bentley has been under fire since his extramarital relationship with a former staffer was revealed in early 2016. The 9-0 decision by the House Judiciary Committee was a reversal of the the body’s previous course of action, which — pursuant to a letter from former state Attorney General Luther Strange — had been to halt the legislative investigation into the governor until related work was completed by law enforcement. Just over two months after that letter effectively put the impeachment process on hold, Bentley appointed Strange to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions’ ascent to the position of U.S. Attorney General, a move some politicos said “stinks.” “By the attorney general vacating the office, the governor gets to single-handedly choose a lawyer to investigate him and his girlfriend,” Jim Zeigler, Alabama’s Republican state auditor, said of the appointment. “The whole thing stinks … We’ve had real problems in state government in Alabama over the past year. It’s got the potential to get much worse.” That sentiment — that Bentley would replace his own investigator — clearly held some weight, as Steven Marshall, Strange’s replacement as state AG, recused himself from the investigation of the governor soon after taking...

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The end of marriage and other capital happenings

The sixth week of Alabama’s regular legislative session is over, and state lawmakers already have a dozen of their 30 permitted workdays under their belt without much to show for it. The Senate, for example, has passed legislation ending marriage as we know it and protecting historic memorials from roving leftists, but neither of the state’s budgets — the general fund or the education trust fund — has passed either chamber. Other important efforts — such as passing pro-consumer measures and holding the governor accountable for his own misdeeds — haven’t yet gained real momentum. The clock is ticking...

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About The Author

Lee Hedgepeth

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Lee Hedgepeth writes Montgomery Minute, our state politics column. Lee graduates in May with a B.A. in political science from the University of South Alabama, where he served as a 2016 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow. He has previously worked for various statewide political news organizations, including Inside Alabama Politics and Alabama Political Reporter, for which he covered the state legislature full time in 2013. In addition to completing his degree this year, Lee also works part time as a consultant for USA’s Writing Center, where he helps students, faculty, and alumni hone their composition skills.

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