3 weeks ago

Rep Mo Brooks on Bellefonte: Trump admin inaction holding back effort to make long-dormant north Alabama nuclear plant operational

(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)


For more than four decades, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s inactive Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant has been a part of the Jackson County skyline. Situated in Hollywood, just to the northeast of Scottsboro off U.S. Highway 72, the plant’s cooling towers can be seen for miles away in all directions.

Initially, construction began on the plant in the mid-1970s and has been on-and-off again through the years.

“Every time I pass Bellefonte, that’s been a carrot hanging out there my entire life here,” Scottsboro City Council President Tony Wallingsford said in an interview with Yellowhammer News. “I mean, it’s been over 40 years. So as long as I can remember, there’s been a Bellefonte project sitting out there. Every time I pass by it, whether it’s by water or by road, those towers to me are just a monument to government waste and failure.”

In 2016, Chattanooga, Tenn. developer Franklin L. Haney breathed new life into the project when he had the winning bid of $111 million at an auction for the plant. Haney now is seeking to make Bellefonte operational, and if the federal government greenlights the project, Haney has said it would create 8,000 to 10,000 construction jobs and more than 2,000 permanent jobs once online.

He has until November to complete the purchase of Bellefonte from TVA.

At a town hall event in Scottsboro last week, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) told Yellowhammer News the only thing that is keeping that from happening is the Trump administration.

“The objective is to get the federal government, on the one hand, to get out of the way of Mr. Haney’s starting up Bellefonte,” Brooks said. “And on the other hand, making sure that Mr. Haney is allowed to take care of the different federal government programs that are available to help ensure that there is an actual start-up of the Bellefonte nuclear power plant. Right now, it’s an executive branch problem that we’re trying to work our way through. Congress has done what it needs to do. Now we’ve got to get the executive branch to make the appropriate rulings.”

Brooks explained that if the plant were to be made into an electricity production facility, the executive branch would need to grant the TVA clearance to purchase Bellefonte power.

“Right now, that’s a barrier at the federal government level, at the executive branch level,” he said. “And it seems to me if TVA needs the power and they’re able to reach a satisfactory rate arrangement with Bellefonte that they ought to have the freedom to do so. But apparently, there are concerns that that freedom is not currently available.”

Brooks added that Bellefonte would have to be given the same tax breaks that the federal government provides to other electricity producers.

“There are also federal tax credit issues,” he said. “The federal government incentivizes the production of electricity for our power grid because it’s a critical element of the United States of America. We need to make sure that Bellefonte is treated the same as some of these other entities that also want to tap into the use of those energy tax credits. So, those are some of the hurdles that we’re trying to clear, but they’re all executive branch issues right now.”

The residents of that part of Jackson County have been wary of investing too much hope in Bellefonte’s success. One likened Haney’s latest effort to the famous Peanuts comic strip scene of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he tries to kick a field goal.

With Haney’s option to buy ending later this year and the tax credits that he is qualified to receive set to expire in 2021, Bellefonte is on the clock. If time expires and the project doesn’t proceed, Wallingsford, who is also currently a candidate for Jackson County Circuit Clerk, says he would like for the county to have its skyline back.

“If we’re not going to make it a nuclear plant — I know that it’s a massive expense, but we need to tear those towers down,” Wallingsford said.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.


9 mins ago

Border patrol agents won’t turn over illegal aliens with felony warrants to California police

U.S. Border Patrol agents are now refusing to turn over criminal illegal aliens with felony warrants to police in California due to uncertainty that local authorities will return the illegal aliens to federal custody.

Chief patrol agent in the patrol’s San Diego sector, Rodney Scott, said that California’s state sanctuary law was undermining cooperation between his agency and local law enforcement.


In a declaration issued March 6 in support of the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against California, Scott revealed multiple instances where a Border Patrol agent in the San Diego sector determined the ineffectiveness of turning a criminal alien over to local law enforcement because they would likely release them without notifying federal authorities.

“In each instance, the Border Patrol Agent determined it was not appropriate, consistent with his or her federal responsibilities to ensure the enforcement of immigration law, to release a criminal alien to the state and local law enforcement,” said Scott.

He continued saying, “This was because, although the alien was subject to removal, if released to California law enforcement, the alien would ultimately be released into the public.”

The declaration largely placed blame on the California Values Act, the sanctuary state law that began this year. The law that was largely supported by California Democrats, sometimes referred to as SB 54, restricts and limits communication from local law enforcement officers to federal immigration authorities. Perhaps the most troubling part of the law is that it prevents many federal immigration authorities from knowing when criminal aliens are released from local jails and such.

The SB 54 law, which is disobeying federal law and making an impact on communication efforts, was among the three laws challenged by the Department of Justice in its lawsuit against California. The DOJ argues that that the sanctuary laws warrant “significant intrusion into federal enforcement of the immigration laws.”

One example in the declaration described the El Cajon Police Department’s refusal to assist Border Patrol agents in pursuing three suspects who fled a vehicle after several requests from Border Patrol dispatch.

“After the event, it was determined that the officer declined the request to assist presuming it was an immigration matter, as opposed to a fleeing subject whose identity/immigration status was not known at the time of the incident … This declination for assistance occurred even though it involved a vehicle that failed to yield, endangering federal law enforcement and the public while traveling on a California Interstate and highway within their jurisdiction,” Scott wrote in the declaration.

Scott says this affects communication efforts and stymies the ability to observe human smuggling and other crimes.

Scott said, “If employers are not able to provide such consensual access, Border Patrol’s ability to detect and interdict real time illegal activity, ranging from criminal activity to the smuggling of narcotics to potential terrorists seeking to enter the United States, along the border will be diminished.”

Kyle Morris is a senior at the University of Alabama and a Yellowhammer News contributor. He also writes for The Daily Caller.

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @RealKyleMorris

Follow Kyle on Facebook: Kyle Morris

24 mins ago

Alabama Legislature update: Gun bills, the budget, equal pay and ethics

The Alabama Legislature on Wednesday killed gun legislation, passed a budget and contemplated the pay disparity between men and women.

In addition, a controversial proposal to exempt economic development officials from lobbying laws advanced. The passage of the general fund budget is a sign the 2018 session is gliding toward a close.

Here is a look at the major events in the state capital on Wednesday:


The big story: Gun control and school safety proposals are dead for 2018.

Noting that a bill to allow some teachers and administrators to carry guns on campus failed to come up for a vote Tuesday, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) on Wednesday blamed Democrats.

“Although the bill was in a position to be considered yesterday, the Democratic opponents of the legislation were prepared to lock down the chamber to prevent its approval,” he said in a statement. “There was also a great deal of misinformation being distributed to educators, school administrators, law enforcement agencies, and parents that needed to be corrected. I can offer a personal guarantee that this issue will be revisited when the Legislature convenes its next session.”

The bill would have allowed school employees who volunteered and passed training requirements to carry guns in schools. It drew intense opposition from education groups, as well as some teachers and parents.

State Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville), who sponsored the bill, expressed anger Wednesday. He said in a statement that he is confident the legislation had widespread support among the GOP majority.

“The pro-gun control filibuster efforts of House Democrats have put our children and teachers in danger and leave them helpless if an active shooter situation occurs,” he said in the statement. “Signs reading ‘Gun Free Zone’ are a magnet for those who wish to do harm, so we must allow teachers to defend themselves with something more lethal than a ruler and a No. 2 pencil.”

Meanwhile on Wednesday, most Republican members of a legislative committee forced adjournment for lack of a quorum by skipping a debate on a proposal to raise the age to buy semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15, according to the Associated Press.

Rep. Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham), who sponsored the bill to raise the age of purchase, criticized her no-show Republican colleagues.

“Vote it up or vote it down,” she said, according to the AP. “Don’t be cowards. … You can’t show up at the meeting to at least have a conversation?”

Budget passes: The Alabama Senate approved a general fund budget that gives more money to the state’s troubled prison system, the Medicaid program and allows for a raise for state workers, according to AL.com.

The vote accepted changes the state House of Representatives had made to the spending plan for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature is all that is needed for it to become law.

According to AL.com, the $2 billion budget tops the current year’s blueprint by some $167 million.

Specifics include:

  • $755 million for Medicaid. Although that is a $54 million increase over the current year, the agency actually will receive less overall because it benefited this year from a one-time $105 million cash infusion from
  • the BP oil spill settlement.$472 million for the Department of Corrections, a $56 million h
  • ike over this year. The prison system also is getting an additional $30
  • million this year thanks to a separate supplemental bill that lawmakers passed.A 3 percent cost-of-living-adjustment from s
  • tate employees, the first pay raise in a decade.$118 million for the Department of Mental Health, a $9 million increase.$52 million for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, a $3.2 million increase that will pay for 30 additional state troopers.

Equal pay? A proposal by Rep. Adline Clarke (D-Mobile) to address the gender wage gap got a hearing in Montgomery in Wednesday but has little chance of becoming law this year, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

Clarke’s bill would require men and women with the same experience be paid the same salary. Employers would have to demonstrate a difference in quality or performance to justify paying a female employee less, and companies would be prohibited from retaliating against employees who filed an action under the statute.

Beyond the question of how much support the proposal has in the Republican-dominated Legislature, there likely simply is enough time in the session to push a bill from start to finish before lawmakers go home for the year.

But Clarke is not giving up.

“I believe in miracles,” she told the Advertiser after the House State Government Committee adjourned. “I am hopeful this bill can pass.”

The newspaper reported that the National Partnership for Women and Families crunched census data and concluded that women in Alabama earn 76 cents on the dollar compared with what men make.

Ethics exemption: A Senate committee voted 10-2 in favor of a bill that would exempt economic developers from some rules governing lobbying, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

But the paper reported that the bill, which already has passed the House of Representatives, could face a major fight on the Senate floor.

Proponents argue that requiring employees engaged in economic development to register as lobbyists could harm negotiations with out-of-state businesses.

“This is an important bill for economic development,” Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) told the Senate Financial Responsibility and Economic Development Committee.

Opponents argue that the definition of “economic development official” is far too broad.

Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Pike Road) told the Advertiser he would filibuster the bill on the floor “if that’s what it takes.”

No term limits: The Alabama Senate shot down a proposal to let voters decide whether legislators should be limited to three terms, according to the Associated Press.

The 15-9 procedural vote halted efforts to bring proposed constitutional amendment to a the floor.

State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) who is running for governor, told the AP that legislators should be held to the same limits that restrict the state’s top office.

Legislators “think we’re on some private island with special privileges,” he said.

Tweet of the Day:

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.


40 mins ago

Gun control, arming teachers bills dead for Alabama session

Gun control proposals failed in the Alabama Legislature after most Republican committee members skipped out on Wednesday debate on the bills, including a proposal to raise the age to buy an AR-15 or similar rifle.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee canceled a scheduled meeting after only four members, mostly Democrats, attended. The committee has 11 members.

The lack of action likely kills the bills for the session. The committee inaction came a day after the House of Representatives failed to bring a Republican bill to arm teachers up for vote, also signaling the demise of that proposal.


Rep. Juandalynn Givan, a Birmingham Democrat, said the lack of attendance for the gun control debate shows that Alabama lawmakers are not serious about discussing substantive changes to gun laws.

“Vote it up or vote it down. Don’t be cowards. …. You can’t show up at the meeting to at least have a conversation?” Givan said.

Givan referenced how students walked out of high schools across the country last week in national protests against gun violence. “Our kids walked out of school last week to take a stand, and we can’t come to a meeting to take a vote. What does that say about the leadership in the state of Alabama?”

Givan’s bill would have raised the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21. At least two legislatures, including Florida’s, approved similar measures after last month’s shooting at a Florida high school that claimed 17 lives.

The committee was also scheduled to debate two other gun control bills by Democrats. One would allow judges to temporarily take firearms from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Another was a long-shot proposal to ban sales of AR-15’s and similar weapons.

The separate Republican proposal to arm teachers — another idea introduced in the wake of the Florida shooting __ also stalled in the legislative session expected to wrap up next week.

The House of Representatives adjourned Tuesday without debating a bill by Republican Rep. Will Ainsworth of Guntersville that would allow designated teachers and school administrators, to carry, or access, firearms in school after undergoing training.

Republican lawmakers appeared divided over the proposal that got pushback from some educators and groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It would have also likely faced a filibuster by Democrats. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, in a statement signaling the bills demise, said that: “I can offer a personal guarantee that this issue will be revisited when the Legislature convenes its next session.”

Ainsworth said Wednesday that he believed he had the votes to narrowly clear a procedural hurdle and pass the legislation, but it faced time constraints and an expected filibuster.

Ainsworth said many schools cannot afford to keep an armed law enforcement officer, known as a school resource officer, on campus. He said he and other lawmakers will sign a petition urging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to call a special session this summer on school safety.

“We’ve got over 500 schools in our state that don’t have any armed protection. In my opinion, that is an urgent need that needs to be addressed,” Ainsworth said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

2 hours ago

Baldwin County leads Alabama in latest population estimates; most counties stagnant or shrinking

Another year, another census report showing blistering growth in Baldwin County.

The Census Bureau population estimates released Thursday show that the coastal Alabama county added another 5,119 people from July 2016 to July last year. That was the most of any Alabama county, ahead of the 4,734 increase posted by second-place Madison County.

Since the 2010 census, Baldwin has added 30,363 residents, also the most in the state.


Baldwin’s growth rate also leads the state — 2.47 percent year over year and 16.66 percent since 2010.

What’s more, Baldwin’s overall population of 212,628 puts it just 977 people behind it’s fast-growing cousin, Shelby County. And since the census estimates offer a snapshot from almost nine months ago, it is likely that Baldwin already has passed Shelby and moved into fifth place among the state’s most populous counties.

Considering that Montgomery County — population 226,646 — has experienced a net decrease of 2,717 residents since the last census, Baldwin has an outside shot to move into fourth place by the next census in 2020.

“It’s a great place to live,” Baldwin County Commission Chairman Frank Burt said when asked to explain why so many people keep moving in. “I’ve been here since 1941.”

For the most part, the counties that have experienced strong growth during the past decade continued to lead the way between 2016 and 2017. Only one of the top 10 growth counties since 2010 lost population in the most recent year. That was Russell County near the Georgia border, which shrank by nearly 2 percent.

Population growth continues to be concentrated in a handful of counties in the largest metropolitan areas —Baldwin, outside of Mobile; Madison and Limestone, near Huntsville; Shelby and St. Clair, in the Birmingham area; and Coffee County, in the Dothan metro area. The counties with the two largest state universities, Tuscaloosa and Lee, also have enjoyed rapid growth.

Most of the rest of the state has been stagnant or shrinking, though. Only 25 of Alabama’s 67 counties posted any growth at all from mid-2016 to mid-2017.

For the decade, that number is even smaller. Only 21 counties have increased in population since the 2010 census.

“Essentially, there’s no surprise this time,” said Viktoria Riiman, a socioeconomic analyst with the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce. “It’s a continuation of the trends that we’ve seen the past six years.”

Riiman noted that Baldwin’s growth primarily has come from migration — particularly from other counties within the United States. Baldwin ranks only 11th in so-called natural population growth — births minus deaths — with a net gain of 1,769 people since the beginning of the decade. That compares with Jefferson County, which ranked first with a net gain of 12,936.

Baldwin led the state in net migration during that time, however, with 28,363 more people moving in than moving out. The next closest was Madison, with a net gain of 17,235 from migration.

The vast majority of Baldwin’s newcomers have come from other Alabama or counties or other states. The net gain of 1,156 in international migration trails, Jefferson, Lee, Mobile, Madison, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Shelby counties.

Fueled by Birmingham residents seeking a suburban lifestyle, Shelby County led Alabama in population growth for decades. It doubled in population from 1960 to 1980 and doubled again over the next two decades.

Although it still is experiencing the fourth-fastest growth, the pace has slowed somewhat in recent years.

“It’s been growing for a while,” Riiman said. “It’s expected to grow, just not at this huge rate Baldwin County has been experiencing.”

The University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research, using 2015 data, projects that Montgomery County will hang on to its fourth spot by the 2020 census. But it’s only a matter of time; by 2025, the center projects, both Baldwin and Shelby will have passed Montgomery.

To Burt, the Baldwin County commissioner, it’s not a surprise. He said he saw it coming when he first took office 30 years ago and the county had only about 78,000 residents.

“When I came on the commission, I was predicting at that time … I just knew that some day, not only would we be bigger than Montgomery, we’d be bigger than Mobile,” he said. “I just knew it in my heart. I don’t know that I’ll live to see it.”

On the other side of the coin, many rural Alabama counties continued to struggle as they have for years. Macon, Perry, Lowndes and Dallas all have experienced population declines of more than 10 percent since the last census year.

Riiman said the pattern is familiar. A lack of economic opportunities scares off potential newcomers and drives out younger natives. With so many younger people leaving, it leaves fewer women of child-bearing years to replace the population naturally, leaving the counties demographically older.

Since the 2010 census, deaths have outnumbered births in 38 Alabama counties. And most of them are not making up the difference through in-migration.

“That is the trend that has been visible throughout the U.S.,” she said. “Rural areas are losing population.”

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.


2 hours ago

Alabama Rep. Rogers clears the air about his “failed joke” on The Ford Faction

Congressman Mike Rogers called into The Ford Faction on Wednesday to clear the air about a joke he made about accents and discusses his views on Alabama politics.

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.