The Wire

  • Treasure hunters and FBI search for lost Civil War gold in Pennsylvania — NBC Nightly News

    A story that $55 million in Union gold was lost during the Civil War has long been dismissed as a myth — but this week, a team of FBI agents joined the search in rural Pennsylvania.

  • New law can send Alabama owners of vicious dogs to prison —


    In addition to new penalties for owners of dogs that cause injuries, the law sets up a process for people to file a sworn statement that a dog is dangerous, prompting an investigation by an animal control or law enforcement officer. If the investigator finds that the dog is dangerous, the dog will be impounded pending a decision by a municipal or district court.

    If a court determines that a dog is dangerous and has seriously injured or killed a person, the dog will be euthanized. If a court determines that a dog that has not seriously injured a person but is still dangerous, the court could order the dog to be euthanized or to be returned to its owner under strict conditions, including that the dog is microchipped, spayed or neutered and that the owner pay a $100 annual fee, post a $100,000 surety bond and keep the dog in a secure enclosure.

    If a dog that has been previously declared dangerous kills or seriously injures a person, the owner could be charged with a Class B felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison. If a dog that has not been previously declared dangerous kills or seriously injures a person, and the owner knew the dog had a propensity to be dangerous and recklessly disregarded that, the owner could be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years.

  • Decatur man pleads guilty to kidnapping and child sex-trafficking charges — Justice Dept.

    A Decatur man pleaded guilty today in federal court to kidnapping and child sex-trafficking charges as part of a detailed plan to hire someone to kidnap a woman and her 14-year-old daughter, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr.

    BRIAN DAVID “Blaze” BOERSMA, 48, entered his guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor to attempted kidnapping of a minor, attempted kidnapping, attempted sex trafficking of a child, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime. A sentencing date has not been set.

    Boersma worked at the Alabama Farmers’ Cooperative in Decatur shuttling trailers from the storage yard to the warehouse where they would be loaded with merchandise for shipment to other locations. His plea agreement with the government lays out his efforts in the fall of 2017 to encourage a co-worker at the co-op to find someone willing to kidnap a woman and her daughter for payment. Boersma, in installments, gave the co-worker $3,440 to hold for a kidnapping payment. The co-worker alerted the FBI to Boersma’s plan in mid-September and the bureau sent two undercover employees to pose as willing kidnappers.


21 hours ago

Alabama lawmaker introduces bill preventing Etowah County sheriff from profiting off excess prisoner food money

State Rep. Mack Butler, who represents Etowah and St. Clair Counties, introduced a bill on Monday creating a local constitutional amendment providing that the Sheriff of Etowah County must deposit into a special account all excess allowances given for feeding prisoners. The excess funds can then be used for designated law enforcement purposes.

Butler’s legislative action comes as Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin has been receiving national attention for legally pocketing more than $750,000 in excess jail-food allowances over the past three years.


Section 36-22-17 of the Code of Alabama currently allows county sheriffs to “keep and retain” excess allowances for feeding prisoners, unless otherwise instructed by the county.

“We’ve all known about this ancient law for some time but not what extent the profit was,” Butler told Yellowhammer News.

Butler said he suspects that Entrekin’s profit was so high because he also manages feeding federal detainees at the Etowah County Detention Center, for which he receives $4 per capita per day from the federal government. For feeding inmates in county jails, sheriffs receive $1.75 per capita from the state.

The text of Butler’s amendment is based off one that Rep. Corey Harbison (R-Cullman) proposed in February specific to Cullman County. Harbison’s amendment directs excess allowances into a special account called the “Sheriff’s Discretionary Fund.” It also requires the sheriff to receive an annual salary equal to that of the county’s probate judge.

Butler’s measure does not include any language regarding the sheriff’s salary, but he said he would consider addressing it in the future if it were a problem.

If the amendment gets through the Legislature, voters will see it on ballots this November.

“Ultimately gives the power to the people to support this,” he said. “If the people like it this way, they can leave it how it is. If they want it changed, they can change it.”

(Image: Yellowhammer News Graphic)

2 days ago

Wounded Warrior running for Alabama State House representing Chambers and Lee Counties

Back in 2003, while U.S. Army Specialist Todd Rauch and his buddies were patrolling the streets of Abu Ghraib, an Iraqi city made famous by its notorious prison, a remotely-detonated mortar exploded near his patrol. His right shoulder and hand were severely injured in the blast.

Rauch was eventually flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and endured 12 surgeries to save his limbs from amputation.

He is now running as a Republican for the State House of Representatives district representing Chambers and Lee Counties.

So how did this Illinois-native find himself running for office in Alabama?

While recovering at the hospital, Rauch’s roommate was from Fort Payne and “all he talked about was Auburn and Auburn and Auburn,” Rauch told Yellowhammer News.


Rauch soon recovered from his injuries, and then his plans for a transition to civilian life became all about … Auburn, Auburn, Auburn.

“I applied to Auburn and felt like it was a good place to get a fresh start,” he said

Rauch studied psychology at Auburn University, with the intention of working in veteran services or military intelligence. He then worked for a time as an intelligence analyst and then began working in veterans’ services, helping his brothers and sisters in arms receive the benefits they were promised.

He’s running on a platform strengthening communities.

Rauch has a firm conviction that a community’s representative ought to be more present in the community itself, something he said he hasn’t seen much at the 75 city and county commission meetings he has attended over the last few years.

“I realized that there was no one there who was representing us in Montgomery to take those voices and those issue and those problems to Montgomery,” he said.

Rauch has put improving jobs and education among his platform principles.

He is a stanch supporter of the community college system, of which both he and his wife are products.

“It’s a good and affordable way to get your education and to get experience in college without jumping into a four-year university,” he said.

Rauch also supports expanding broadband access to rural areas. He said it is critical to the development of rural areas that have little internet and cell service.

“You’re not able to do your banking,” he said. “Some of these people aren’t even able to have home security systems because some of that works off of cell service.”

With the campaign motto, “Community. Country. Service,” Rauch said he wants to work to improve life for his constituents, and by extension, the rest of the state and country.

“Focusing on the community creates better environment for the kids, inspires better leaders, and provides better community for our state, and provides a better state for our country,” he said.

The GOP primary is June 5.

(Image: Todd Rauch for Alabama/Facebook)

2 days ago

Alabama’s civil asset forfeiture reform effort takes a turn towards creating a public database on property seizures

Last week State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Birmingham) introduced the Forfeiture Database and Reporting Act to create a central repository of data on asset forfeitures to provide lawmakers and citizens with easily accessible information on the practice.

The bill would require law enforcement to report information about the seizures that include, among others, the date of property seizure, the type of property seized, the location of the seizure, and the type of underlying criminal offense that led to the seizure.

Mooney’s bill is the culmination of months-long efforts by concerned lawmakers, the Alabama Policy Institute (API) and other state and national organizations to reform civil asset forfeiture in Alabama. 


Last November, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) invited Jordan Richardson of the Charles Koch Institute and Lee McGrath of the Institute for Justice – two individuals working nationally on asset forfeiture reform – to take part in a a bi-partisan, roundtable discussion on this issue of asset forfeiture for lawmakers and others interested in the issue.

“API and SPLC don’t agree on 99 percent of stuff, but we do agree that we need to monitor civil asset forfeiture,” said Leigh Hixon, Alabama Policy Institute’s senior director of policy relations, in an interview with Yellowhammer News.

Cases like that of Frank Ranelli, who had 130 computers seized from his Birmingham computer repair business in 2010 on suspicion that he was dealing in stolen merchandise, have spurred bipartisan efforts to reform the asset forfeiture practice. Ranelli proved that the merchandise was not stolen, but his property was never returned to him.

In January, State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) introduced the Alabama Forfeiture Accountability and Integrity Reform Act to prevent such cases from happening. The bill received bipartisan support but was rejected by groups alligned with Alabama’s law enforcement community.

The presidents of the Alabama District Attorneys Association and the Alabama Sheriffs Association pushed back against Orr’s legislation earlier this legislative session, penning an op-ed at Yellowhammer News which said that the legislation would “essentially gut” one of law enforcements best tools used for fighting crime.

Defending the practice of asset forfeiture against charges of seizing the property of innocents, they wrote, “Law enforcement uses civil asset forfeiture only to go after criminals, and state law already guarantees a process that is clear and fair for any person to challenge forfeiture in court.”

Leigh Hixon said sponsors of the legislature were not comfortable with passing legislation without the support of law enforcement, so they began crafting a proposal in consort with law enforcement that would create a state-wide repository of data on forfeitures.

“To maintain the public’s trust in law enforcement, the government’s power to seize and forfeit private property must be exercised with transparency,” Alabama District Attorneys Association said in a statement on Friday expressing its support for Mooney’s bill.

The Southern Poverty Law Center does not support Mooney’s bill, which it argues does not do enough to reform the practice of asset forfeiture.

Conservative legislators and policy experts clearly have some disagreement with law enforcement about asset forfeiture, but some agree that creating a data system will help maintain public trust in law enforcement, as well as make data available to better inform arguments about the practice.

“Citizens and politicians will have that data available to make the determination for how to move forward on policy in the future,” Hixon said.

4 days ago

Alabama sheriff pocketing $750,000 in jail-food money draws new attention to old law

A recent report about the more than $750,000 that Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin has pocketed over the last three years in extra “Food Provisions” money has reinvigorated attention into a state law that allows sheriffs to keep leftover money not used to feed inmates.

The report, authored by Birmingham News reporter Connor Sheets, details how Entrekin used the money to purchase a $740,000 home in Orange Beach last September, raising questions of whether the sheriff is doing right by inmates and taxpayers by keeping the money.

Entrekin has defended himself against insinuations of illegality or misconduct, saying he has followed the law.


“The Food Bill is a controversial issue that’s used every election cycle to attack the Sheriff’s Office,” Entrekin told NPR News. “Alabama Law is clear regarding my personal financial responsibilities of feeding inmates. Until the legislature acts otherwise, the Sheriff must follow the current law.”

The chief argument against the law used to justify such behavior was summarized by Aaron Littman, a staff attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights who in conjunction with the Alabama Appleseed Center has sued 49 Alabama sheriffs for access to records dealing with inmate feeding funds.

“This archaic system is based on a dubious interpretation of state law that has been rejected by two different Attorneys General of Alabama, who concluded that the law merely allows sheriffs to manage the money and use it for official purposes–not to line their own pockets,” Littman said in a statement in January. “It also raises grave ethical concerns, invites public corruption, and creates a perverse incentive to spend as little as possible on feeding people who are in jail.”

Critics cite the case of former Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett, who was ordered by a federal judge to stop personally taking money from the inmate-food account when prisoners testified to receiving inadequate meals.

Some sheriffs have told a different story about their responsibilities to feed inmates.

Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson, one of the sheriffs on the lawsuit, told WAAY 31 in January that he had to take out a $10,000 loan to help pay for meals because the $1.75 per diem per inmate wasn’t covering the bill.

“I had to borrow money to do this on my own personal social security number and I still owe money on that,” Williamson told WAAY 31.

7 days ago

The Hope Cottages: Birmingham non-profit that serves mentally disabled patients gets three new beautiful homes

Glenwood, Inc., a non-profit serving people with autism and other mental health concerns, just got three new “Hope Cottages” on its 363-acre Birmingham campus to house 16 residents who have autism.


The details:

The project was completed thanks to Capstone Collegiate Communities, which donated its construction services and asked its vendors to also donate services and products such as concrete and furniture to complete the homes.

Though not yet occupied, the homes will be managed by Glenwood staff and fully functional for the residents with individual bedrooms and bathrooms, kitchens and dining rooms, and common living areas overlooking a beautiful lake on the property.

“Everybody that walks through says, ‘Wow, I would live here,’” Linda Baker, Glenwood’s Chief Development Officer, told Yellowhammer News. “People with disabilities deserve lovely homes, and that’s what they’re excited about.”

Baker was not able to specify when residents will be able to move in but anticipates it will be soon, after the homes receive proper certification.

Watch the homes being constructed in this really cool time-lapse video.

(Image: The Hope Cottages)

1 week ago

Alabama’s booming auto industry could soon have its own ‘roll-on, roll-off’ facility at the Port of Mobile

Alabama’s efforts to create a $60 million “roll-on, roll-off” facility at the Port of Mobile to serve the state’s growing automobile industry took two big steps forward during the past few days after nearly 70 percent of its costs were funded through enormous coastal and federal grants.

The money:

— $28.8 million was received from funds from the Deepwater Horizon settlement that’s been set aside for “programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect” the region, according to the Alabama Gulf Coast Recovery Council.

— $12.7 million in federal money came via a grant from a U.S. Department of Transportation program designed, according to a news release, to “increase safety, create jobs and modernize our country’s infrastructure.”

“Advancing the Port of Mobile is critical to driving economic success in our state,” said U.S. Senator Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, when he announced the federal dollars last week. “We have one of the fastest growing harbors in the nation. This grant will help facilitate the demands of Alabama’s booming automotive industry.”

Shelby wrote a letter in October to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao expressing his support for the port’s grant application, which was one of 41 projects across the nation to be approved for nearly half a billion dollars in funding last week.

“A new (roll-on, roll-off facility) not only expands the port’s capabilities to serve Alabama’s automotive industry, but is expected to generate new jobs and bring economic value to the state for the next 70 years,” said Jimmy Lyons, director of the Alabama State Port Authority, which must now fund the remaining $18.5 million in land and capital expenses.

The facility will serve much more than Alabama’s booming automobile industry, tough.

“We have a great deal of (automotive) manufacturing in the southeastern United States and a lot sits in Alabama,” Adams said. “We have a lot of manufacturing in Mexico. We have pretty good automotive supply chains in the Far East. All of a sudden these companies have been growing and the interest of U.S. producers to export more, they’d like to ship out of somewhere close.”

The news release from Shelby’s office said the facility is expected to be finished in late 2019.

2 weeks ago

Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne introduces the ‘‘Protecting Our Children’s Future Act of 2018” to reform congressional budget process

Congressman Bradley Byrne and Congressman Paul Mitchell discussing their bill to fundamentally reform the Congressional budget process (U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) introduced the ‘‘Protecting Our Children’s Future Act of 2018” on Thursday, a bill that would significantly alter how Congress passes budgets and appropriates money.

The details:

— The bill is an attempt to enforce a strict budget process after a year riddled with continuing budget resolutions.

— “Everyone knows the Congressional budgeting process is broken, but no one seems to want to do anything about it,” Byrne told Yellowhammer News.

— “I’m tired of just talking about the problems. It is time we try to solve them,” he said. “My bill, the Protecting Our Children’s Future Act, would fundamentally alter the way Congress handles taxpayer money and would bring an end to the cycle of governing from one crisis to the next. Most important to me, it will make it easier to cut spending and reduce the national debt.”

— The bill sets up a biennial budgeting process and creates a strict schedule for each congressional chamber to follow throughout each session (see schedule below).

Why this matters:

— In a few key ways, the bill also serves as a reform of Senate procedures. Rep. Byrne, like many other Republican House members, has expressed frustration with Senate procedures for impeding congressional action on various issues.

— The bill limits the amount of time that the Senate can debate appropriations bills, as well as limits senators’ ability to include ‘extraneous’ material in appropriations bills.

— The provision designates any language extraneous “if it authorizes or otherwise establishes one or more Federal agencies or programs, establishes new terms and conditions under which a program or agency operates, authorizes the enactment of appropriations, or otherwise specifies how appropriated funds are to be used.”

— The bill also subjects all appropriations bills to the reconciliation process, which changes the necessary vote threshold for passage from 60 to a simple 51 vote majority.

Another notable provision is the “No Budget, No Pay” provision which would direct congressional payroll administrators to withhold pay for Members if both Houses of Congress have not jointly agreed to a concurrent budget resolution by June 30 of the designated year. When the government shutdown in January, Byrne wrote the House of Representatives’ Chief Administrative Officer and requested that his pay be withheld until the shutdown was resolved.  

2 weeks ago

Kidknapped, stabbed, shot, and thrown into a hole: A victim of violence helps other victims along their way

(Lew Burdette/Facebook)


When he was a sophomore in high school, Lew Burdette was kidnapped, stabbed, thrown down into a well, shot in the head and left for dead.

Burdette miraculously escaped and survived to tell the horrible tale as his testimony of faith and to use it as his grounds for empathizing with the abused children and mothers who become residents of King’s Home.

“I was the victim of a very violent act,” Burdette, the president of King’s Home, told Yellowhammer News. “It wasn’t abuse, but I can relate on some level to being subjected to a violent act, being the victim of a crime. Things like that that happen to you are no fault of your own, but don’t become a victim, you know, get over that victim mentality that you have your whole life in front of you and there is hope.”

King’s Home is a Chelsea-based ministry of 22 therapeutic group homes and independent-living facilities stretched out through Shelby, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa and Blount counties, all of which house residents who are fleeing domestic violence or other abusive situations.

“It’s a way to start over in life,” Burdette said.

Twelve of the homes are for teenagers, and those homes are headed by couples who have children of their own.

The homes offer the children stable home environments and opportunities to deal with their pasts and move on with their futures.

“The issues and coping issues that teenagers are having today are so much different than they were even fifteen years ago when I started with King’s Home,” Burdette said. “The horror that some of these kids go through is really devastating.”

The other ten homes are for adult mothers with children.

Burdette connected the dots between his own experience and the experience of King’s Home residents.

“We’ve all needed help somewhere along the way in life, and we’ve all had things that have happened to us along the way in life,” he said. “The life that you’ve experienced in the past doesn’t have to be that way.”

His own story is almost as extraordinary as the success of the ministry.

“One kid came into my office before Christmas, he said, ‘Hey Mr. Lew I just want you to know how much it means living here at King’s Home because I never dreamed I’d be able to play football and he’s the starting safety on his high school football team.”

Last May, King’s Home saw twelve kids graduate high school. Ten went to college, one joined the military, the other got his welder’s certification and is already making over $20 per hour.

For more information about King’s Home, click here and to read more about Lew Burdette’s story, click here.

2 weeks ago

Alabama Reps. Roby, Rogers and Byrne deliver stern rebuke of Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats


Alabama’s congressional delegation is responding with tough talk after Russian president Vladimir Putin boasted in a speech last week about the ability of his country’s nuclear weapons to render NATO defense systems “completely useless.”

“Vladimir Putin touting Russia’s advanced nuclear capabilities is yet another example of the country’s very real threat to our national security,” Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) told Yellowhammer News.

“I have consistently supported sanctions against Russia as well as increased funding to rebuild our military and missile defense systems, “Roby said. “We must continue to make it abundantly clear that we will not tolerate aggressive actions towards the United States and our allies.”

Putin, who is up for reelection on March 18, bragged before the crowd about Russian nuclear supremacy and used a graphic that apparently portrayed a nuclear missile striking Florida.

“Russia still has the greatest nuclear potential in the world, but nobody listened to us,” Putin said in the speech. “Listen now.”

“It has been clear for years now that Russia and their military pose a direct threat to the United States and our interests,” Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) told Yellowhammer. “The recent comments from Putin just further demonstrate their continued efforts to increase their military capabilities, sow discord, and spread their influence around the globe.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said in a statement, “Putin’s disclosure of their development of a nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered cruise missile is just the latest in a string of new and horrific Russian weapons designed to intimidate and coerce the U.S. and our allies. This only makes it clearer that President Trump’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review is correct: we must take steps to bolster the U.S. nuclear deterrent to deter adversaries and reassure allies. We cannot stand idly by and do nothing in the face of these barbaric weapons and threats. In Congress we must act to support President Trump’s budget request for nuclear modernization. We can’t be dissuaded by nuclear disarmament advocates who would rather us unilaterally disarm while also dismantling our missile defenses.”

Last month, Gen. Lori Robinson, who is commanding general of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, answered questions from Congress about the Russian cruise missile threat in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

In that hearing, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) asked Robinson if she “…[has] confidence in the ability of the GMD System to defend the United States from a North Korean ballistic missile attack today?” according to a press release from Fischer’s office.

Robinson responded she is “100 percent confident in my ability to defend the United States of America.”

When asked if actions taken by Congress and the president to “expand the system’s capacity and improve discrimination” would help NORTHCOM defend the United States, Robinson responded, “I would tell you I appreciate the above threshold reprogramming for the capacity that we gave. I think that is helpful as we look at adding on to that the redesign kill vehicle, in addition to continued work which we need to do with discriminating radars. Between all of those three things, I think that we continue to outpace everybody and it gives me more and more confidence, continued confidence, in our ability to defend the United States.”

3 weeks ago

Bipartisan delegation of 30 members of Congress in Alabama for annual civil rights pilgrimage

(Clément Bardot/Wikicommons)


On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the 2018 Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage will bring some 30 members of Congress to Alabama for the weekend as a bipartisan delegation visits civil rights sites in Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma.

The details:

— “This pilgrimage is such an incredible experience every year and it is especially significant this year as we observe the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death,” said Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) in a statement to Yellowhammer News.

— “Many of us will have the privilege of visiting the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Brown Chapel AME Church, Edmund Pettus Bridge, and other sacred monuments in the history of the civil rights and voting rights movements,” she said. “These sites remind us of the men, women, and children who fought for our right to be free.” 

— Among the participants from Alabama’s congressional delegation joining Sewell are Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), Martha Roby (R-Montgomery), and Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), as well as Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

— On Friday, the leaders are in Birmingham visiting the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

— On Saturday, the group will visit Southern Poverty Law Center and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery to participate in a wreath-laying there.

— On Sunday afternoon, the group will also march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, reliving what happened on “Bloody Sunday” 53 years ago next week.

— Other participants include Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland).

3 weeks ago

Vocational training the key to maintaining construction’s annual $12 billion impact in Alabama


A recent study commissioned by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Alabama reveals that the commercial construction industry had a total output impact of $11.8 billion in 2015, but industry experts say unless young people who do not plan to go to college receive trade and craft training and go into construction-related fields, those numbers won’t be sustainable.

“We have an aging workforce, and we were like, we have got a problem and we have got to do something about it,” said Jay Reed, president of ABC Alabama, in an interview with Yellowhammer News.  “We could not continue to be a $12 billion industry in Alabama if we did not start filling the pipeline.”

That’s why industry partners have created the Academy of Craft Training program, a public/private partnership between the construction industry and the State of Alabama’s K-12 education system.

The partnership involves support from local school boards, state workforce training programs, and the construction companies.

“We’re paying for the teachers, local schools pay for transportation, AIDT is paying for the building,” Reed said.

A construction-education partnership is already a natural fit — Reed said the most surprising piece of data from the ABC study showed the industry contributed an estimated $444 million to Alabama’s Education Trust Fund in 2015.

For the 2016-17 school year, 16 Birmingham-metro area high schools sent students to the simulated workplace at the Alabama Workforce Training Center to receive NCCER construction-related training in building construction, masonry, HVAC/plumbing, welding and electrical.

This year, 26 schools are participating and districts in Huntsville and Mobile are looking to participate as well.

Gov. Kay Ivey visited the AIDT Workforce Development Training Center, where the Academy training is held, and said“The jobs of tomorrow are going to require a postsecondary certificate or degree, or it’s going to require students getting hands-on training that prepares them to enter the workforce immediately after graduation from high school.”

Reed said he sees support for the program in Montgomery.

“The state’s investment in these kids will be paid back in three years. Anyone who knows business knows if you get a return on investment in three years, it’s a good investment,” Reed said. “This is the future of construction training.”

3 weeks ago

The major flaw in Alabama’s tobacco purchase age debate


(Opinion) A bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) that would raise the state’s minimum age for all tobacco purchases from 19 to 21 years old has gained the support of five Alabama physician groups, and it has a good chance of passing.

“Smoking remains one of the most preventable causes of heart disease by making the heart work harder and raising the blood pressure, which can trigger a stroke,” Medical Association President Jerry Harrison, M.D., said in a statement of support for the bill earlier this month. “So, raising Alabama’s legal tobacco age limit by a couple of years in order to add years to our children’s lives only makes sense.”

Putting aside the question of whether Pringle’s bill would actually mitigate tobacco use, and particularly cigarette use, among teens, the bill and the primary arguments used to support it are bad for this reason: they treat all tobacco products as equally dangerous.

All tobacco products are not created equally, and it’s not even close. Cigarette smoking is quite obviously dangerous, responsible for some 480,000 deaths each year in the United States, according to the CDC. An estimated 41,000 of those deaths are connected to secondhand smoking. There’s no avoiding that harsh reality, and there should be a serious debate about the freedom to smoke vs. public health.

It is important, though, to note the CDC’s precise language: cigarette smoking is responsible for an estimated 1 in 5 deaths annually, not tobacco use.

We all know this, but cigarette smoke is dangerous because it is riddled with harmful chemicals and because most cigarette smokers smoke habitually, the effects of those chemicals upon the respiratory system and the heart are catalyzed.

Pipe tobacco and cigars are not consumed in the same fashion as cigarettes and simply do not carry the same risks. Pipe tobacco and cigar smoke are not typically inhaled and do not contain the carcinogens that cigarettes do.

As for chewing tobacco, it presents dangers of lip and gum disease but does not bring with it risks of lung cancer and heart disease which, again, are what kill smokers.

Unfortunately, because cigarettes contribute to so many deaths and because they are the most commonly consumed form of tobacco, they distort debates about tobacco policy. If we are going to regulate tobacco use because of the harm it causes, we must be responsible enough to make distinctions between cigarettes and other forms of tobacco which are not nearly as harmful.

Jeremy Beaman is in his final year at the University of Mobile and also writes for The College Fix. Follow him on Twitter @jeremywbeaman.

3 weeks ago

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks calls on voters to help avoid a federal debt crisis, stop sending ‘debt junkies’ to Washington

Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville)


During a tele-town hall held Monday night, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said the possibility of balancing the federal budget is up to American voters.

 “Yeah, it’s possible,” Brooks said, “if the American people do a much better job than they have been doing of electing congressmen and senators who will vote for a balanced budget constitutional amendment that forces us to do the right thing on the one hand, or on the other hand, will vote for senators, congressmen – and I should add presidents in that list – who are more conscious of our financial limitations, thereby forcing us to make the tough decisions where we prioritize what we want to spend money on and those things of the lowest priority simply don’t get the money because we don’t have it.”

Brooks said many voters aren’t sending the right people to Congress.

“But unfortunately, the people across America, particularly in the major cities, the people that they’re sending to Washington, D.C., they are wholly and completely financially irresponsible,” he said, calling them “debt junkies.”

Brooks also entertained the idea of an Article 5 Convention, which would allow states to bypass Congress in order to amend the Constitution to include a balanced budget provision.

“If you know people who are in different states around the country, try to get them to talk to their legislators to get that resolution passed so that the states can bypass Congress,” he said.

Brooks and U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) were the only two members of Alabama’s congressional delegation who voted against Congress’s recent budget deal, which would add an estimated $320 billion to the deficit over the next decade. Brooks has called it the worst piece of legislation he has voted on since being elected to Congress, with no close second.

3 weeks ago

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks: “The purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure that we have a republic”

(Congressman Mo Brooks/Facebook)

Responding to a question about gun rights in a tele-town hall on Monday night, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) expressed that his primary concern about the Second Amendment is a lack of understanding about its meaning.

“The most important thing is to help the general public understand the purpose of the Second Amendment,” Brooks told his constituents over the phone. “The purpose of the Second Amendment is not to stop some criminal who is coming into your house, although that’s an excellent benefit. The purpose of the Second Amendment is not to enable you to go hunting, although that is an excellent benefit.”

Brooks stressed an originalist reading of the right to bear arms.

“The purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure that we have a republic,” he said. “That no one – no one – feels that they can get away with imposing a dictatorship from Washington, D.C. to the rest of our country. And for over two centuries, the citizenship’s bearing arms, of having those weapons, in my judgment, has deterred that kind of thinking.” 

The Second Amendment is perhaps the most controversial of all those listed in the Bill of Rights, with many critics of its broad protections reiterating calls for its repeal after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.

The Supreme Court, most notably in District of Columbia v. Hellerhas upheld a right for individuals to possess firearms unconnected with service in a militia, which is what the amendment’s language explicitly protects.

Even so, aside from its benefits of self-protection and allowing for hobbies like hunting, Brooks views the Second Amendment primarily as a protection against totalitarian government.

“If you look at other countries throughout the world throughout history, those citizenships or citizenries that are disarmed are the ones that are most likely to see their rights threatened or totally lost because then, whoever has the military on their side, they’re the ones who can dictate to the rest of the country what’s going on,” he said.

3 weeks ago

Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne: Mass violence “a symptom of the breakdown of American society”

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)


At his town hall meeting in Chickasaw last week, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) met with a room full of constituents who wanted to know why Nicholas Cruz was able to massacre 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and what could be done to prevent future mass shootings.

Byrne discussed the shooter’s mental state, as well as the FBI’s lack of response to repeated warnings about him, but he quickly pivoted to the years-old conversation about violent media and their ability to incite violence in their consumers, an issue about which there is significant debate.

“It bothers me every time I see one of these video games, or one of these movies or television shows, that we’ve allowed to get violence to the point of where it’s a fantasy,” Byrne said. “Violence has been fantasized and that feeds into the immature minds of young men.”

President Donald Trump raised the same concern last week during a meeting with state lawmakers.

“We have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. … We may have to talk about that also,” he said.

Cruz was evidently an avid player of violent video games. Last week, a neighbor told the Miami Herald that Cruz “escaped his misery” by playing violent video games.

“It was kill, kill, kill, blow up something, and kill some more, all day,” the neighbor said.

Byrne expressed that large media companies hold blame.

“We’ve got people who make billions of dollars in this country off of feeding that to our young people,” he said.

“I think that we’re going to have to have a hard look in Congress, and we already are, at what’s happening on all of these websites and all of these digital platforms like Google and Facebook and all of that,” Byrne said. “I think they have been irresponsible.”

Most notably, Byrne expressed what absolute free speech advocates fear more than anything.

“I think we do have a right in government to go to them and say ‘we’re going to regulate you so that you don’t harm American society and the American public,’” he said. “I do think there are things that we can legitimately, legally, and constitutionally do with some of these platforms that are basically putting stuff out there that’s like poison for young minds.”

The Supreme Court has decided that not all types of speech are guaranteed protection under the First Amendment, including obscenity, slander, and child pornography among others. Even so, Byrne acknowledged a tension between enacting such policies restricting violent media and the freedom of speech.

“I’m not for trampling first amendment rights any more than I’m for trampling second amendment rights,” he said.

Byrne discussed improving the NICS system (National Instant Criminal Background Check System), arming teachers who want to be armed and encouraging the FBI and other law enforcement to better share information as possible solutions, while arguing that he didn’t think stricter gun laws would have prevented the killing in Parkland.

Ultimately, Byrne said the problem is a societal and cultural one.

“We’re not talking about that because that is a symptom of the breakdown of American society, and we need to start rebuilding our society beginning with our families,” he told Yellowhammer.

“We’ve got to talk about how the glorification of violence, the fantasy of violence, is infecting young minds,” he said. “And it’s infecting young minds to the extent that some of them are willing to go off and do what this kid did.”

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3 weeks ago

Alabama Rep. Byrne talks the future of health care and the recent budget deal

(Jeremy Beaman/Yellowhammer News)



CHICKASAW — After meeting with constituents at his 106th town hall this week, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) spoke with Yellowhammer News about a number of issues facing Congress, beginning with health care.

“I don’t think we’re done with health care,” Byrne said. “We repealed the individual mandate and we passed tax reform, but I think we’ve got a lot of other things we need to do.”

The congressman fielded at least one question from a constituent about the recent budget deal, which he voted for. Conservatives criticized Republicans in Congress for passing the deal because it significantly increased the deficit and debt, something they voted firmly against under President Barrack Obama.

Only two Republican members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation voted against the budget — U.S. Reps. Gary Palmer of the Birmingham area and Mo Brooks of Huntsville.

“I had great concerns,” Byrne said. “Gary Palmer and I had the same concerns, and he fell one way, I fell the other.”

The problem, he explained, was the U.S. Senate.

“Essentially when you have a Republican Senate that requires 60 votes and you’ve got to get a deal with the Democrats, you’re going to end up with bad deals,” he said. “In order for us to get the money we needed to adequately fund our military, we had to agree with a bad deal with the Democrats.”

Pressed on whether he voted for a bad deal, Byrne made a distinction.

“It’s a good deal for defense. It’s a bad deal for domestic discretionary,” he said.

Ultimately, Byrne said it was appeals from the administration that quelled his deficit concerns.

“Yes, talking to (White House Chief of Staff) Kelly and talking to Secretary Mattis convinced me that on balance, the better decision was to make sure that we protected America first,” he said.

Asked what he thinks is the most important piece of legislation passed during this session, Byrne didn’t equivocate — the National Defense Authorization Act.

“It was in that act that we turned America back around to making the appropriate choices to defend the country,” he said. “And we did it in such a way to where we actually went beyond what the president wanted us to do, but we knew it was the right thing to do.”

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4 weeks ago

Hoover Mayor Brocato adds more resource officers, says ‘armed, trained police in schools’ are key

(Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato/Facebook)

Local and state governments in Alabama are not awaiting action from the federal government, as the nation scrambles to enact policies to prevent more mass shootings like the one that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week.

On Monday, the Hoover City Council unanimously approved a request from Mayor Frank Brocato to hire two new reserve school resource officers, an addition that will give Hoover’s school district a total of 28 officers.

“I think having armed, trained police officers in our schools ready to intervene is key,” Brocato told Yellowhammer News.

This move came a day before Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) introduced a bill in the state legislature that would authorize school administration personnel and teachers to carry pistols on campus, a proposal that Mayor Brocato does not support.

“I’m not able to embrace that suggestion at all. I think that’s an incredible burden to put on them,” he said.

“I just simply don’t have any comfort in that particular suggestion. I understand it. In some ways it sounds good and makes sense to have more and more people armed. I just don’t know that that is the position that we should put our teachers in.”

Leaders around the state are demonstrating unity in their desire to do something to better protect our schools, but they are not united on a solution.

Last week, Rep. Ainsworth told Yellowhammer News that providing an adequate number of officers at schools is neither financially nor logistically possible.

“The amount of security you would need to properly do that would be a lot,” he said.

Over the years, Hoover has prioritized school resource officers as a chief safety measure.

“This is a commitment the city has financially,” Brocato said. “We spend about $2 million a year towards this effort.”

The investment may be paying off. An online forum that ranks our nation’s schools and neighborhoods using data measures from various federal and private agencies ranked Hoover City Schools the ‘safest school district in Alabama’ and the fifth safest nationwide.

Mayor Brocato said he doesn’t have all the answers but expressed his confidence that equipping schools with officers will help keep students safe.

“These are Hoover police officers here. They’ve got the highest training you can possibly get. They understand the threat. They understand how to take care of the threat.”

4 weeks ago

#YellowhammerProud: Tuscaloosa nonprofit’s innovative water filters provide clean water around the world

Entrepreneurial skills lend themselves to all kinds of ventures in life, not just to making money.

They certainly lent themselves to Bart Smelley – you may recognize the name: Bart’s son Brad played tight end for the University of Alabama and his other son Chris was a quarterback at the University of South Carolina and played baseball at Alabama – who founded the Tuscaloosa-based Christian ministry organization Filter of Hope that creates household water filters for families living in poverty.

The story:

Before he started Filter of Hope, Smelley was a successful businessman who got involved with a ministry that did a lot of aid work with the people of the Dominican Republic. Commonly voiced among their needs for education and jobs was a desperate need for clean water.

“Bart is kind of a long-time entrepreneur, before he got into ministry. He just kind of got stuck on the clean water thing,” Davis Looney, director of campus partnerships for Filter of Hope, told Yellowhammer News.

Smelley’s clean water efforts originally began with facilitating installation of biosand filters, which simply mimic natural filtration processes, but those filters require significant attention and care.

Looking for something more utilitarian, he began using a method which takes a porous ceramic pot-like container, infuses it with various filtration mechanisms and allows the filtered water to seep through the pores.

“Again, it cleaned water really well, but they were ceramic. You take it up a mountain in the back of a truck with bad roads and the thing is going to be broken by the time you get up there and put it in a house with eight people,” Looney said.

Smelley finally came across the technology of hollow fiber membranes, primarily used for mass scale waste water treatment. Working with engineers, Smelley developed a filter particularly for filtering drinking water and obtained a patent for it.

All of this happened while Smelley was at his previous ministry, and when people began continuously approaching him about buying his filters to use in their ministries around the world, he decided to start his own.

“He saw that the filter itself had potential to do a lot more than what he was doing with it,” Looney said.

And so about four years ago, Smelley started Filter of Hope aiming to sell filters to any and everyone who seeks to do water-related initiatives around the world and to use those revenues to help fund Filter of Hope’s ministry efforts.

Over the years, churches, humanitarian organizations, and disaster relief groups have taken the filters to 56 countries around the world. A couple of hundred were sent to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico within the last year.

As for their own on-the-ground ministry efforts, Filter of Hope works in Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Looney was brought on to establish a college-aged presence in the organization and to facilitate ministry trips. In 2016, 220 college students traveled to three different countries to deliver filters. Last year, Filter of Hope took about 530 students to do the same and this year, it’ll be about 850.

“In this next month, we’ll take students from Oregon State University all the way to South Florida,” Looney said.

“We want them to have an experience that’s beneficial to the people and country where they’re providing people with clean water, they’re sharing their faith, they’re equipping the local church to better serve their areas.”

Follow this link to learn more about Filter of Hope.

4 weeks ago

Alabama’s HudsonAlpha to give national educators a ‘deep dive’ into genetics and biotechnology topics

(HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology/YouTube)



HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology’s Educational Outreach team is expanding its Genetic Technologies for All Classrooms (GTAC) training program to educators nationwide.

The details:

— GTAC has been training Alabama’s Life Science educators for eight years, equipping them with the latest research in genetics and biotechnology to take back to their classrooms.

— “I was totally blown away by my week at GTAC,” said Lori Roberts, an AP Biology teacher at Muscle Shoals High School who attended a GTAC workshop last summer. “The labs are engaging and current, and I was so excited to hear what the scientists at HudsonAlpha are doing. Their research is breaking new ground in terms of human health and agriculture. I left GTAC with a renewed zeal and love for genetics.”

— This July, the five-day training academy will be available not only to Alabamians, but to educators from all over the country.

— “Our educational resources are being used in classrooms not only here in Huntsville, but across the country,” said Madelene Loftin, educator development lead at HudsonAlpha. “Now with GTAC: National, we have the opportunity to provide professional development and share the uniqueness of HudsonAlpha with those educators outside of Alabama who are using our materials, and introduce new and innovative ways to address genomics, genetics and biotech subjects in their classrooms.”

— Held July 23-27, GTAC: National will give educators “a deep dive into topics such as cancer and clinical genomics, common complex disease and agricultural genomics.”

— Tuition includes 40 hours of professional learning credit, housing, meals and $800 worth of HudsonAlpha kits, materials and classroom resources including Disorder Detectives, Collecting Cancer-Causing Changes (C4) Kit and Genes & ConSEQUENCES.

— Alabama’s educators also have two opportunities to attend GTAC workshops this summer.

— A GTAC: Advanced Concepts workshop will be held June 25-29.

— A GTAC: Essential Biology workshop will be held July 8-13.

For more information, follow this link.

About Hudson Alpha:

— HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology opened in 2008 and is a nonprofit institute dedicated to “developing and applying scientific advances to health, agriculture, learning, and commercialization,” according to a news release.

— The HudsonAlpha biotechnology campus consists of 152 acres nestled within Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park. The state-of-the-art facilities co-locate nonprofit scientific researchers with entrepreneurs and educators and includes more than 30 diverse biotech companies on campus.

4 weeks ago

Former Miss America, Democrat Mallory Hagan talks guns and her long shot campaign for Congress

(Mallory Hagan for Congress/Facebook)

When a member of the Lee County Democrats reached out to her on New Year’s Day, Mallory Hagan thought it was the same old thing.

“I genuinely thought that they were going to ask me to endorse a candidate because I’ve been asked to do that before,” Hagan, former Miss America, said in an interview today with Yellowhammer News.

“She said ‘no no no, we want you to run.’”

Hagan launched her campaign for Alabama’s 3rd congressional district on February 6.

Unseating popular Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks), who was first elected in 2002, will be a long shot.

Rogers has been reelected every term since then by winning more than 60 percent of votes cast in most campaigns.

Hagan also committed a cardinal sin in Alabama politics last week: she was critical of the National Rifle Association.

In the shooting in Parkland, Florida, she called Rogers out for accepting money from the NRA.

The gun issue has been the subject of much of Hagan’s campaigning in the last week. She held a gun safety discussion yesterday in Auburn, where she toed that line of respecting her potential constituents’ conservative sensibilities on guns and freedom, while advocating a solution to mass violence.

“The problem that we’re having is nuanced,” she said. “It involves several different aspects of our society and of what’s available in our society. The most common thing that came up in last night’s discussion was access. We had licensed psychologists there, we had school counselors there, and the concept of mental health is a huge part of the conversation when it comes to access to guns. But all of it boils down to that, that we can too easily access firearms. We want to make sure that access to a firearm is a process that requires thought and is very deliberate.”

“If you ban a certain type of firearm, there’s only going to become a way to make something into something that it’s not already,” she said. (Think bump stocks.)

“That’s not the answer here. The answer is, if you want to own a firearm, an extensive background check and a waiting period. Those things are proven, a majority of Americans agree with that, and it’s something that needs to be across the board. That ease of access is, to me, the problem. It’s not the firearm itself.”

But Hagan is not relying upon her position on guns to propel her towards victory.

“I think my path to victory is being authentic. I stepped into this fire, if you will – the fire of politics – but I genuinely care about the people who live here and I genuinely care about hearing their concerns and as I said, all of us collectively coming together.”

Hagan also stressed what she did as Miss America among her qualifications.

“During my time with the Miss America organization, I really honed in my advocacy skills and really honed in the ability to understand how much it takes in order to get a law passed or a budget restored. I was on Capitol Hill quite a bit with the National Children’s Alliance. I lobbied there several times and ultimately was able to be a part of restoring the 2014 budget for our child advocacy centers across the country. Those are the types of things that I was most proud of during my time as Miss America, but also the types of things that have prepared me. Those are the skills that I’m bringing into this, as someone who cares about our kids, the type of world that we’re creating for them.”

For Hagan, it’s about the children.

“Every single policy issue that we have, and everything that comes up as a concern, ultimately is a concern of our kids.”

Regardless of her seemingly moderate positions, Hagan will have a tough time convincing conservatives in her east Alabama district to vote for a Democrat.

(Do you think Hagan has a chance? Take this article over to social media and start a conversation)

1 month ago

Who knew? 9-1-1 calls originated in Alabama and here’s why those numbers were picked

Today marks 50 years since the nation’s first 9-1-1 call was placed in Haleyville, Alabama.

On February 16, 1968, state Speaker of the House Rankin Fite made history when his staged emergency call was answered at a nearby police station by U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill.

Bevill’s successor, Rep. Robert Aderholt, gave a speech on the House floor yesterday recognizing the historic moment.

“This pioneering phone call remains a source of great pride in our city and our state,” Aderholt said.

He also announced that the red phone used to make the call, which lives in Haleyville’s city hall, will be temporarily showcased at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.


History of 9-1-1 from the National Emergency Number Association:

— In November 1967, the FCC met with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to find a means of establishing a universal emergency number that could be implemented quickly.

— In 1968, AT&T announced that it would establish the digits 9-1-1 (nine-one-one) as the emergency code throughout the United States.

— The code 9-1-1 was chosen because it best fit the needs of all parties involved.

— First, and most important, it met public requirements because it is brief, easily remembered, and can be dialed quickly.

— Second, because it is a unique number, never having been authorized as an office code, area code, or service code, it best met the long range numbering plans and switching configurations of the telephone industry.

— Congress backed AT&T’s proposal and passed legislation allowing use of only the numbers 9-1-1 when creating a single emergency calling service, thereby making 9-1-1 a standard emergency number nationwide.

— Learn more about 9-1-1’s history here.

1 month ago

Armed teachers: State Rep. Will Ainsworth to introduce legislation for firearms training


Rep. Will Ainsworth has begun drafting legislation that would establish a framework for some teachers to be trained and armed with firearms, to prevent more massacres like the one that occurred yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“I think just common sense tells you if that coach would have had a gun, you know, as soon as that guy had stepped into the classroom, he could have ended the situation,” Ainsworth told Yellowhammer News.

Ainsworth was referring to Aaron Feis, a football coach at the Florida high school, who was shot yesterday while shielding students from gunfire. Feis later died from his wounds.

Ainsworth said that he has been considering this kind of legislation for some time.

“Michigan just passed a bill, so we’re looking at a lot of different states, and hopefully have a piece of legislation at the start of next week that we’re going to drive.”

This offers another state legislature an opportunity to act upon the issue of mass shootings, on which the United States Congress has made little progress over the years.

“My phone has been blowing up with people asking us to get something passed. Educators, teachers, parents that are concerned about this, and I think it’s something we’ve got to look at and have a conversation about, and try to address in Alabama,” Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth’s legislation has a few priorities: arming teachers who want to be armed, setting up a framework of approval for those to be armed from school principals or superintendents, and making sure teachers who are approved go through the proper training.

“We’ve got to make sure that whoever’s going to have these guns in the schools, that they’re actually properly getting trained, and that there’s a mechanism in place to make sure that kids in the school systems can’t get their hands on these weapons.”

Ainsworth also noted that his approach would be a better way to protect children than hiring more school resource officers because teachers are all over the schools and are with the students.

“The amount of security you would need to properly do that would be a lot.”

Reiterating a common argument among conservatives against gun control measures, Ainsworth said that at the end of the day, bad people are going to acquire guns any way they can.

“My opinion is that guns don’t kill people – evil people do. The data backs it up. Gun control doesn’t work,” he said, citing high homicide rates in Chicago despite strict gun control laws.

Those advocating stricter gun laws generally respond to such arguments by pointing to the fact that many of the guns coming into Chicago come from other states with less strict laws, such as Indiana.

“More gun control will not stop someone who is intent upon inflicting harm in our schools, but someone who is properly trained and armed with the right equipment certainly can,” Ainsworth said in a Thursday statement.  “It is my hope that passage of this legislation can be fast-tracked once it has been introduced.”

1 month ago

Former Miss America Mallory Hagan running to unseat Rep. Mike Rogers in AL District 3


In 2013, Mallory Hagan beat Miss South Carolina and Miss Oklahoma to be crowned Miss America. In November of 2018, Hagan is looking to take the congressional seat of 16-year incumbent, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks).

The details:

— After years of living and working in New York City, Hagan, an Opelika native, has returned home to take a shot at adding another Democrat to Alabama’s congressional delegation.

— “I want to represent the people of this state because I want to be a voice for Alabamians that is clear and strong. I want to be a voice that sparks positive change,” Hagan says on her fundraising page.

— Hagan has spoken about addressing issues of poverty and education, as well as the importance of adding another young woman to congressional ranks.

— Before taking on Rogers, Hagan must defeat her Democrat competitor, Adia McClellan Winfrey, in the June 5 primary.

— Rogers does not face a Republican primary challenger.

— In 2016, Rogers won reelection against Democrat Jesse Smith, with 67 percent of the votes cast.

— This is not the first time Hagan has reentered the public spotlight since being crowned Miss America.

— Hagan was central to the controversy that led to former Miss America CEO Sam Haskell’s resignation last December.

Emails exchanged between Haskell and Miss America executives show Haskell maligning former pageant contestants, particularly Hagan.

1 month ago

Republicans are not hypocrites for voting to increase spending — at least, not yet

(Opinion) Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) called last week’s budget deal the worst piece of legislation he has voted on since being elected to Congress, with no close second.

No doubt, it spends a lot of money – too much, and it’s borrowed money at that – but it doesn’t mean Republicans have completely reneged on their principle of fiscal responsibility and become a lot of hypocrites. Not yet, at least.

Republicans had three options last week: let the government shut down (which it did anyway, briefly), pass a continuing resolution (which Congress has already resorted to time and again this fiscal year, much to our military’s chagrin), or strike a deal with Democrats and pass a long-term funding solution (which they chose).

That leads me to a key mitigating circumstance against charges of Republican hypocrisy: Though Republicans are “in control of government,” they really aren’t. The Senate’s 60 vote threshold precludes Republicans from pursuing the conservative ideal. They have to make deals. Conservative critics seem either to forget that or to remember it and reinforce pushes to end the 60-vote rule, a bad idea.

Other mitigating circumstances include the desperate need to pass long-term military funding, coupled with appeals for the deal’s passage from both Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

“They both strongly expressed that this is the best deal possible to end the harmful cuts to our military and, on behalf of President Trump, asked for my support,” Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) said in a statement. It’s tough to say no to General Mattis, let alone the president, when your party’s chief talking point (rightly or wrongly) during the January shutdown was that giving our military the funding it needs is not a priority of the Democrats.

Critics, from Republican Sen. Rand Paul to the New York Times editorial board and CNN’s Erin Burnett, are calling Republicans hypocritical for passing a budget that increases spending when they complained about increased spending under President Obama.

This certainly borders on hypocrisy, but doesn’t quite amount to it. Republicans derided particular types of deficit spending under President Obama. For many, there was an implicit distinction between domestic entitlement spending and defense spending.

These are the overlooked questions dividing Republicans over this deal: Is any new deficit spending acceptable? But moreover, shouldn’t we deal with spending reforms before increasing it?

I see no reason to believe Republicans don’t care about spending reforms anymore. Many of them simply saw the need to fund the military more pressing than solving complex spending problems.

Sen. Paul wants to address federal spending habits now, as do I. In fact, I argued last year that they needed to be addressed simultaneously with tax reform. To avoid becoming a lot of hypocrites, Republicans must take that task on this year.

Jeremy Beaman is in his final year at the University of Mobile and also writes for The College Fix. Follow him on Twitter @jeremywbeaman.