BCA's Washington Briefing

follow us on facebook   follow us on twitter   follow us on youtubeNovember 15, 2013
Sen. Jeff Sessions speaks with his campaign manager Chuck Spurlock (center). AL.com file photo.




Charles Hughes Spurlock Jr. of Montgomery, who was U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions' state director for 17 years and a successful political campaign manager in two states, died Tuesday at his home after a long illness. He was 60. His funeral was scheduled for 11 a.m. today at the First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. A visitation was scheduled at 10 a.m. at the church.


Sessions mourned the death of his friend: "I am heartbroken over the passing of my friend and State Director, Chuck Spurlock. Chuck loved life, had high ethical and moral standards, and always reflected the best qualities of public service. He was a loyal patriot and a truly loyal friend and confidant. We spent countless hours driving the state, often into the night, talking together. He was the first person named to my Senate staff."


Spurlock is survived by his wife, Phyllis Fulford Spurlock; a daughter, Jan Davis; grandchildren, Phillip Davis and Shelby Davis; his mother, Virginia Spurlock; brothers John Spurlock (Julie) and Jeff Spurlock (Amy); sisters Dianne Winstead (John) and Stacy Robbins (Kevin).


Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William J. Canary said the BCA is "mourning the loss of a great man."


"Chuck Spurlock dedicated his life to public service, touching the hearts of Alabamians in all 67 counties of the state he loved," Canary said. "He made Alabama and our great nation better places to live. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Phyllis and their family, his friends, and the entire staff, both past and present, of Senator Sessions' office at this difficult time."


Sessions said Spurlock was one of the most knowledgeable persons about Alabama politics and government over the past quarter-century. Members of Alabama's congressional delegation, friends, office holders, and candidates in Alabama regularly sought his opinion and insight because his judgment was highly favored, Sessions said.


"He loved the practical aspects of politics while being an historian and intellectual," Sessions said. "The state staff he supervised loved him and he loved them and was constantly supportive of their work. Chuck loved his family dearly and they him. The constant support, encouragement, and affection Phyllis and the children showed him during this difficult time was inspiring to us all. I join Chuck's friends across every corner of Alabama mourning the passing of a great man."


Spurlock, a Tennessee native, earned an undergraduate degree in history and religion from Duke University, and a master's degree in European history from Vanderbilt University. He taught high school in Georgia and joined the 1990 re-election campaign of Alabama Governor Guy Hunt as Organization Director, then served as Hunt's appointments secretary.


Spurlock put together Fred Thompson's successful Tennessee campaign for U.S. Senate and was finance director for Robin Swift's Alabama gubernatorial bid. Spurlock led Sessions' 1994 successful campaign for attorney general and Sessions' 1996 successful U.S. Senate bid.



The U.S. House on Wednesday approved H.R. 982, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2013. If enacted, the bill would help eliminate fraud and abuse in the disposition of asbestos claims. Alabama's congressional delegation voted along party lines for the bill that passed 221-199. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, was the sole no vote.
The bill was an important one for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Council of Alabama, the sole representative of NAM in Alabama. H.R. 982 would require public disclosure by asbestos trusts of quarterly reports that contain detailed information regarding the receipt and disposition of claims for injuries based on exposure to asbestos, the NAM said.
"Fraud and abuse in the asbestos compensation system drain the funds available to deserving claimants and force solvent companies, as well as their shareholders and employees, to pay unjust claims," said U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa Rickard. "We applaud the House for passing this important legislation, and urge the Senate to quickly do the same."
The NAM said the United States in 1990 faced what the Supreme Court called an "asbestos-litigation crisis." Companies facing massive liability claims filed for bankruptcy, creating situations where they closed, jobs were lost and claimants were not compensated for injuries, the NAM said. Congress amended the Bankruptcy Code in 1994 to allow for the resolution of asbestos liability claims against a debtor through a trust-based system.
The trust system helps ensure that current and future asbestos victims will be compensated. It also allows companies to continue operating, according to NAM, companies that currently operate without transparency. As a result, many current manufacturers face fraudulent asbestos claims that have also been filed on different and conflicting theories of liability with an asbestos trust. Ensuring openness and transparency in the system will protect those resources for legitimate claims, the NAM said.


President Obama under heavy political pressure and damage from his now-discredited own promise that "you can keep your plan" has reversed course and said that insurance companies can, for an additional year, offer health policies canceled under ObamaCare. "We did fumble the ball on it and one of the things I am going to do is make sure we get it fixed," Obama said. Reversing the effect of Obamacare is designed to stop existing plans from being cancelled until after the 2014 midterm elections, a political decision designed to provide relief to Democrats worried the issue could cost them at the polls, The Hill reported.


It would be up to insurance companies whether they want to reinstate plans that Obamacare deemed illegal because they didn't contain all the new, minimum requirements under the 2010 law. Despite Obama's promise that no one would lose a plan they liked, millions have been told that their plans will be canceled under the health care law.


Obama said the legal change can be done administratively. Democrats are expected to offer an alternative to a Republican bill set to be considered today (11-15). The White House was under enormous pressure from congressional Democrats to come up with a fix because of Obama's promises and the promise of a Friday vote on a House GOP bill that would allow insurers to offer existing plans to all of their customers even if they do not comply with new rules under ObamaCare, The Hill reported. Critics said that millions will still lose their current plans after the 2014 midterm elections.


"No one can identify anything the president could do administratively to keep his pledge that would be both legal and effective," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. Obama has seen his poll numbers drop with the botched rollout of the ObamaCare website and the controversy over the cancelled plans.


Roby's compensatory time off bill gains traction  

Montgomery Advertiser (Troyan 11/14) "Senate Republicans are promoting a comp time proposal by GOP Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama as a way to bring more flexibility to the workplace. Roby's bill would let hourly employees in the private sector choose time off instead of overtime pay. Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah recently introduced similar versions of the legislation, which passed the House in May. It would make comp time a voluntary option for employees who have worked overtime, just like in the public sector.


"While Congress can't legislate another hour in the day, we can help working Americans better balance the demands of work and family', said McConnell, the Senate's minority leader. Lee said the idea is part of an overall GOP strategy to address issues important to the middle class. 'For many families, especially with young children, their most precious commodity is time', Lee said.


"Despite the interest from the Republican senators, the bill appears unlikely to become law. House Democrats strongly opposed Roby's bill, and Democrats in charge of the Senate are raising the same objections. 'Unfortunately, I have concerns about this bill and whether it will deliver what it promises and in a way that protects workers from being pressured into making choices that will actually hurt their families', said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Harkin is chairman of the Senate committee that will review the proposals from McConnell and Lee. Harkin said he prefers his proposed Healthy Families Act, which would provide a 'more definite' benefit, such as allowing workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year.


"Almost all House Democrats voted against Roby's bill. They said it would prompt employers to pressure workers to take comp time instead of overtime pay in order to cut payroll costs. Roby's bill would make it legal for a private-sector employer and an employee to agree in writing that the employee will take an hour-and-a-half of comp time for every hour of overtime worked. Roby said her bill is gaining traction in the Senate. 'To have so many influential conservatives behind this bill sends a powerful message about our commitment to empowering Americans with more freedom and more flexibility in the workplace', she said."

Survey says employers will drop medical insurance, cut hours

Wall Street Journal Review & Outlook (Moore 11/12) "One of President Obama's proudest boasts about the Affordable Care Act is that it helps small business. The White House website says the health law 'makes it easier for businesses to find better coverage options' and 'stops insurance companies from taking advantage of you, giving the consumer and business owner more control and making health-care coverage more affordable'. Small businesses aren't buying it.


"That's the finding of a Public Opinion Strategies survey of more than 400 business owners with between 40 and 500 employees conducted in September and October for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and International Franchise Association. Some 64 percent of small business franchise owners (such as owners of fast food and retail stores) believe the law will have a 'negative impact' on their business, while only 5 percent expect a 'positive impact'. For non-franchise businesses the ratio was 53 percent negative and 12 percent positive. Only one in 12 agree with the President that the health-care law will 'help' their business.


"Even more problematic is how businesses are already responding to the new law. The White House continues to deny any relationship between hiring and ObamaCare. The poll finds 27 percent of franchise businesses and 12 percent of non-franchises have already replaced full-time with part-time employees in anticipation of the law's employer mandate.


"The survey also reveals that the '49er' effect is very real. These are businesses that will cap their full-time payroll workforce at 49 employees to avoid ObamaCare's insurance mandate for companies with more than 50 full-time equivalent workers. More than one in four businesses (28 percent) say that in 2015, when the employer mandate is scheduled to take full effect, it is 'likely' they will drop their insurance coverage and pay the penalty of $2,000 a year per employee. These are the plans employers and employees were promised they would be able to keep."

Politico: Early Obamacare rollout numbers don't look good

Politico (Nather 11/13) "There was no way the early Obamacare enrollment numbers were going to look good - and they sure didn't. And once you get beyond the White House's sales pitch, it only gets worse. The Obama administration did everything possible to dress up the ugliness of the first month of Obamacare enrollment numbers - adding in people who haven't even paid and throwing in figures that have nothing to do with actual signups.


"The one true bright spot is there seems to be interest, so enrollment could pick up in the coming months, just like the White House always said it would. But perception has a way of becoming reality - and what most Americans will hear is that the 106,000 people who selected health plans in the first month is a long, long way from the goal of 7 million Americans covered in the first year.


"If that's all that people hear, the Obama administration will have to work extra hard to get young and healthy people to sign up - if they haven't all been chased away by now. The administration practically pulled out the air freshener for the Obamacare figures. Officially, 106,185 people 'selected a plan' - meaning they had picked one out, and might or might not have paid for it."


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1st Congressional District