By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
More than 40 area Republicans, including 13 elected officials and one political hopeful, gathered Monday, April 19, at Atmore City Hall to pledge their support for a move to maintain the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court and to hear two state lawmakers discuss the shape of state government under GOP leadership.
The monthly meeting was attended mostly by Escambia County GOP members, but Republicans from Conecuh and Baldwin counties also came to hear the update from the legislators.
The group expressed vocally a resolution urging support of the “Keep Nine Amendment,” which would defeat an effort to increase the number of justices who sit on the nation’s highest court.
The resolution, a copy of which was left on each chair, was signed by Jackie Gay, who chairs the county executive committee, and by the committee’s vice-chair, Chuck Dettling, its secretary, Jim Gay, and its treasurer, Earl Cooper.
Local officials showing their support for the resolution, and for the support each got when running for office, were Sheriff Heath Jackson; Circuit Judge Todd Stearns; District Attorney Steve Billy; Circuit Clerk John R. Fountain; county Board of Education members Cindy Jackson and Coleman Wallace; District Judge Eric Coale; and county commissioners Raymond Wiggins, Scottie Stewart and Brandon Smith; and Brewton Mayor Yank Lovelace.
State Sen. Greg Albritton, who authored the gaming bill recently passed by the senate, and State Rep. Alan Baker were the guest speakers, and each regaled fellow Republicans with some of the progress, especially financial, made at the state level since the GOP gained control of state government.
Albritton reminded the crowd that the state’s schools haven’t been placed under pro-ration since 2011, “under the last Democratic budget,” as well as of the Simplified Sellers Use Tax, which requires online retailers to pay a flat tax of 4 percent on all sales made within the state. That money is then divided among the state, its counties and its municipalities.
“We’ve been able to recapture those sales dollars and boost revenue for the General Fund,” he said. “And we’ve stopped spending so much money until we’ve started saving some.”
Albritton told of establishment of a General Fund savings account, which he pointed out was what kept state government in business during the roughest part of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the fund should have “about $50 million” in it by the end of the current fiscal year.
Such measures prove that Republican leadership has proven to be the state’s saving grace in the midst of the statewide medical emergency, he added.
“People ask me what good it does for them to vote Republican,” Albritton said. “Well, it puts the state on sound financial footing so that we can weather even those big, huge surprises that come to us when we least expect it. We survived the Obama economy, we have survived the COVID matters, and we still have growth in our economy.”
Baker also praised the forward strides made in state government, saying there are several issues he could talk about, but thought it better to express his feelings on those later, “maybe during the summer.” Right now, he said, his focus is on the proposed education budget.
He talked briefly of an initiative before the House that originated in Atmore, with American Legion Post 90. The initiative allows for the ashes from flags that are “retired” by burning be buried in a special area atop Mount Cheaha.
Albritton gave credit for the state’s well-being to Republicans like those at the meeting, who support the party’s political platform and work to recruit candidates and get them elected.
“Voting Republican is the correct answer for our government,” he said. “I think the state is doing so well because of you guys out on the streets, putting people into office.”
Also addressing the meeting was Lynda “Lindy” Blanchard, former ambassador to Slovenia under the Trump Administration, who is seeking to claim the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of Richard Shelby.