6 years ago

Bentley Advisor Angi Horn Smith in 140 Characters or Less

“…In 140 Characters or Less” is a new feature on Yellowhammer Politics. We’ll be interviewing politicians, insiders, activists and other notable figures — with the catch being that their answers must be in 140 characters or less. When possible, we conduct the interviews in real-time on Twitter — then post them on YH when they’re complete. (Follow us on Twitter)

Today, we tweeted with Governor Bentley’s political aide Angi Horn Smith. Angi has been with the Governor for years and is one of the Governor’s closest advisors. Angi joined us today to discuss her time in politics, working with the Governor, what it’s like being one of the few female political operatives in the state, and more.


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2 mins ago

Alabama man who was found with stab wound has died

Police say a 41-year-old Alabama man who was found with a stab wound has died.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that police responded to the 2600 block of Endicott Drive shortly after midnight Friday to find George Tucker suffering from a stab wound.


News outlets report that Tucker was taken to Baptist Medical Center South and was later pronounced dead.

Montgomery police Capt. Regina Duckett said in a release that their investigation indicates that the stabbing occurred during an argument over a woman.

Police said no arrests have been made.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

31 mins ago

Alabama judicial race exposes curious split between two pro-business organizations

A race for the Alabama Supreme Court has opened a rare rift between pro-business organizations that normally march in lockstep.

ProgressPAC, the political action committee of the Business Council of Alabama, has endorsed Mobile County Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart for the position held until January by Justice Glenn Murdock. She faces Circuit Court Judge Debra Jones and incumbent Justice Brad Mendheim, whom Gov. Key Ivey appointed to replace Murdock

Murdock stepped down early to explore other opportunities — including a possible run for higher office.

But the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee, founded to fight lawsuit abuse, is backing Mendheim and quietly has raised questions about Stewart’s record.


The split has longtime political observers scratching their heads.

“They normally are two peas in the same lawsuit pod,” said Jess Brown, a political scientist at the Athens State University in north Alabama. “They tend to agree.”

With no Democrats on the ballot, the winner of the June 5 Republican primary is all but assured of winning a six-year term.

The Civil Justice Reform Committee points to a 2013 ruling Stewart issued on a workplace injury case in which she held a Mobile business owner liable for an accident suffered by an employee working for the contractor hired to repair the roof of the company’s warehouse.

Tom Dart, chairman of the Civil Justice Reform Committee, acknowledged that his organization often agrees with the BCA.

“Ninety percent of the time, we do, but not in this case,” he said.

Dart said his group’s endorsement primarily resulted from the fact that Mendheim is an incumbent — albeit, only for about two months — and has done a good job.

“We’ve had input from a lot of lawyers who had dealt with both of them,” he said.

Dart said the roofer case is not the only ruling his organization is concerned about, but he declined to offer other examples.

“That was one case,” he said. “There were others that we had considered.”

Neither the BCA nor the ProgressPAC responded to multiple requests for interviews. But in a news release announcing its endorsement of Stewart in December — before Ivey appointed Mendheim to the court — ProgressPAC praised Stewart’s fairness and neutrality.

“She is supremely qualified, knows the law, and will uphold the Constitution,” ProgressPAC Chairman Perry Hand said in a statement.

The case highlighted by the Civil Justice Reform Committee concerns a catastrophic accident suffered by a worker who lost his balance, crashed through a skylight and fell 20 feet to the ground while he was working on a warehouse owned by South Alabama Brick Co. in 2010.

A conservator for the incapacitated worker, Benito Perez, sued South Alabama Brick and a contractor that hired him called Cooner Roofing. According to court records, Perez worked for a subcontractor hired by Cooner to help repair the roof.

Stewart ruled that South Alabama Brick, along with Cooner, was liable for Perez’s injury and ordered both defendants to pay $12.6 million in damages. The judge determined that Cooner owed a responsibility to inform Perez of the dangers that the skylight posed. She wrote that South Alabama Brick failed its responsibility to find out if Cooner Roofer had a commercial business license — which it did not have — or ask about the training of the roofers that the contract provided or safety precautions it took.

The Supreme Court reversed Stewart’s decision on a 5-0 vote, with Murdock — the justice she wants to replace — writing the court’s opinion. He wrote that finding that South Alabama Brick had a duty to inform Perez about the skylight would mean that a company hiring a contractor “must somehow ‘pull aside’ or otherwise communicate directly with each and every employee of the contractor, subcontractor, employee of any subcontractor, etc.”

Murdock rejected the Stewart’s conclusion that South Alabama Brick had a duty to find out that the contractor was not licensed or insured.

“In essence, the trial court held that SAB had a duty to protect Benito Perez from the negligence of his own employer by not hiring that employer in the first place,” he wrote.

Stewart said in an interview that she has rendered about 20,000 judgments in a dozen years on the bench.

“If there’s just one case they have a problem with, I’d say that’s pretty good,” she said. “I’d say that’s pretty good odds.”

The judge did not spare Cooner Roofing.

“The roofer who testified was probably the biggest liar I had ever seen in court,” she said.

Stewart said she is proud to have the ProgressPAC endorsement and was surprised when the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee endorsed Mendheim. She said the organization did not interview her or ask to address any concerns.

Stewart said she tries to adhere to the law and higher court precedent — even when she might not prefer the result.

“Sometimes as a judge, you have to sign off on an opinion you don’t personally agree with because that’s the law,” she said.

Judges are referees, not policymakers, Stewart said. She offered a specific example. The state Legislature several years ago created voluntary sentencing guidelines to even out regional disparities in punishment.

Judges do not have to impose recommended sentences but must document their reasons for departing. Some jurists have chaffed at the reduced discretion.

Stewart said judges can follow the standards or find them unconstitutional.

“But you don’t get to say we don’t like them,” she said. “We don’t make policy.”

(Image: Judge Sarah Stewart/Facebook)

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at LifeZette.com and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.

1 hour ago

Damaging hail and tornadoes threatened for southeast US

Twenty-nine million people faced a threat of severe storms Monday that could bring damaging hail, high wind and even tornadoes to the southeastern United States.


The national Storm Prediction Center said large parts of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee and a small portion of northeast Mississippi would be under a tornado threat Monday afternoon and Monday evening. Forecasters said enhanced risk of severe storms covers Nashville and Chattanooga in Tennessee; and Birmingham, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa in Alabama.

In Alabama, tornadoes, hail the size of tennis balls and 70 mph winds were most likely to occur in parts of central and northern Alabama, including all of metro Birmingham.

In Georgia, the highest risk of tornadoes will be in northwest Georgia, including Dalton, Rome and Cartersville.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

Governor Kay Ivey launches first TV ad

Governor Kay Ivey is hitting the airwaves across Alabama with her first television ad.

The spot, titled “Three Hours,” touts the record breaking job growth she’s overseen during her first year in office.

Governor Ivey is a conservative fighter who stands by her beliefs: faith in God, protecting innocent life, defending Second Amendment rights, and standing up for Alabama families.

Visit Governor Ivey’s website , like her Facebook page, and join her email newsletter to stay updated on her latest campaign activities and learn more about all she’s done to steady the ship of state and continue creating jobs here in Alabama!

(Paid for by Kay Ivey for Governor, PO Box 966, Montgomery, AL 36101)

2 hours ago

Bobwhite quail enthusiasts tour Alabama black belt

The bobwhite quail opportunities in the Alabama Black Belt were put under intense scrutiny recently. As expected, the Black Belt quail experience received nothing but praise.

Alabama Black Belt Adventures and sponsors hosted representatives of Quail Forever and the outdoors media for a grand tour of the quail hunting in the Alabama area famous for its rich, dark topsoil and abundant wildlife.

The tour started at Shenandoah Plantation in Union Springs, followed by a day of hunting at High Log Creek Farm and Hunting Preserve near Hurtsboro. Great Southern Outdoors Plantation in Union Springs entertained the group with dinner prepared by Iron Chef winner David Bancroft. Another award-winning chef, Chris Hastings, prepared one day’s lunch for the hunters at Gusto Plantation in Lowndes County. A trip to the Boggy Hollow Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Conecuh National Forest was included in the tour.


Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever, said the programs he represents have three main purposes.

“We’re a habitat organization with three enduring strategies,” Vincent said. “We raise dollars, and we drive them in the ground. We do advocacy in Washington, D.C., typically on the Farm Bill. We are the face of the Conservation Reserve Program. And then we do education and outreach – how do we introduce more youth into the outdoors and shooting sports and hunting sports? How do we generate the next conservationists? That’s what we do every single day.

“The unique feature of Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever is the local chapters raise money, and then they retain control of that money. We just started a new chapter in Alabama, the Alabama Black Belt chapter in Union Springs. That makes six chapters in Alabama right now.”

Vincent and many of his Alabama excursion companions are based in Minnesota. Therefore, they enjoyed a break from the February cold up north and were treated to one of our main traditions.

“In Alabama, we learned that Southern hospitality is no cliché – it’s the absolute truth,” Vincent said. “Pam (Swanner of Alabama Black Belt Adventures) pulled all of this together. It was seamless. The Quail Forever team couldn’t be more proud to be down here to learn. We look forward to working together.”

To cap the week focused on Alabama quail, about 100 guests gathered at the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) NaturePlex in Millbrook to hear a presentation by Bill Palmer of Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, Fla., where the bobwhite quail is one of the main focal points in its Game Bird Program.

Tim Gothard, AWF Executive Director, introduced Palmer and said interest in bobwhite quail restoration is as high as he has seen it in his 25 years in conservation.

“I don’t know that we have all the answers to make quail like they were in the 40s and 50s and 60s, but the interest in quail has really not waned,” Gothard said. “That is really the impetus for this event and the landowners we’ve talked with through the years. We knew that interest was still vibrant.”

Palmer, who has been at Tall Timbers (talltimbers.org) for 21 years, agrees with Gothard’s assessment.

“We’ve got a lot of people who are really passionate about returning quail to the landscape, returning fire to the landscape,” Palmer said. “This is probably the most difficult conservation issue that the nation has faced. It’s a really tough turnaround for bobwhites.”

Palmer said Georgia is a perfect example of what has happened to quail populations and quail hunting over the years.

In 1961, 142,000 hunters harvested more than 3.5 million quail, likely all wild birds, in Georgia alone. By 2009, the number of hunters had shrunk to 22,000 and the number of birds taken was a little more than 800,000. The telling number, however, is that 97 percent of the birds taken in 2009 were pen-raised.

“That is a real shocking statistic,” Palmer said. “It’s just mind-boggling that millions of wild quail were shot just 50 years ago, and we no longer have those numbers.

“We’ll never go back to the 60s and 70s. That’s just not going to happen. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have significant success and significant opportunities for young folks to enjoy our wild bird hunting again.”

Palmer said a variety of issues have been blamed for the decline of wild quail populations including land use, predators and even fire ants.

Tall Timbers’ research indicates it’s the lack of fire that is likely the main factor in the quail’s demise.

“The loss of fire in the South, the stamping out of fire in the South, is largely the reason for quail decline, frankly,” he said. “The idea that people were burning the South for fun. They were burning the South because they were bored. There was a strong federal and university effort to stamp out fire in the South. We bit into it. The nation bit into it, and we’ve got to dig out of that problem.”

Palmer said the evidence in the burn frequency in tree-ring studies (dendrochronology) shows that fire happened frequently.

“If you look at pre-settlement basis, the landscape was burned on about a two-year fire frequency. The South was burned. The Native Americans were burning in the West. The Native Americans were burning in the Northeast. That’s the bottom line.”

However, prescribed fire cannot be applied indiscriminately or it will adversely impact the quail habitat.

“There are more than a million acres of prescribed fire in this region,” Palmer said. “Probably no other area in the country burns as much as we do here. It’s up to us to make sure 25 years down the road there is more fire, and it’s safely and wisely used.

“On public lands, it hasn’t been as successful for one main reason – the scale of fire. When you burn on a 100-acre scale you have very normal breeding season survival. When you burn on a 1,000-acre scale, survival is half that amount. That population can’t grow. It’s going to go down or stay flat.”

Tall Timbers set up different plots, starting in 1962, that were burned by prescribed fire on different frequencies. Plots were burned every year, every two years, every three years and never.

“By the time you get to three years, you’ve lost your quail habitat,” Palmer said. “By the time you get to unburned, which is most of the Southeast these days, you’ve really lost your quail habitat. It’s great Cooper’s hawk habitat, but it’s not good quail habitat.”

Palmer said quality quail habitat includes pine or oak savannas, prescribed fire every two years, reasonable timber density and good ground cover. Predation management and supplemental feeding can also increase annual quail survival.

Translocation of wild birds is another technique Palmer discussed that has proven to be successful.

“What can we do to expand wild bird populations?” he asked. “Translocation is a key factor in that. Our research shows it’s a very viable technique. If you moved birds to a site, if the habitat was there and predators were managed, the quail did just as good or better than the site they came from.”

In the past few years, Tall Timbers has moved more than 2,000 quail to different sites around the Southeast. Alabama was the first state to work with Tall Timbers on relocation efforts.

“That’s from 50 to 100 birds per site,” Palmer said. “That adds up to a lot of landowners who had no hope, who, all of a sudden, are investing in wild quail management because they have a chance to build a population relatively quickly. We’re really focused, with our partners, on expanding our impact. Leveraging our translocation project is a big deal on both public and private land.”

Palmer said other than supporting groups like AWF and Quail Forever, those who wish to see the return of wild quail should contact their elected officials.

“Encourage your representatives to increase funding for prescribed fire,” he said. “This is key. We need to increase ecological management on public lands. And we need focal areas on public lands.”

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division has such a focal area in the Boggy Hollow WMA, which is being converted into bobwhite quail habitat through selective timber thinning and more frequent, smaller prescribed burns. These efforts will encourage the growth of native grasses and forbs to provide opportunity for an increase in the current bobwhite population.

“We’re doing call counts on 22 WMAs; we’re doing habitat work on WMAs,” said WFF Director Chuck Sykes, who managed a quail plantation for seven years earlier in his career. “The Division recently purchased property where a portion is dedicated to quail. We are working on Boggy Hollow in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.

“We know what it takes. Give us a little bit of time. Partner with us and I can assure we can get things done. We have people in place. We have projects in place. Boggy Hollow is going to be a good thing.”

(Image: A covey of quail flush at High Log Creek on a recent tour of Alabama Black Belt quail-hunting opportunities — David Rainer/Outdoor Alabama)

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years.