2 years ago

South Alabama lawmakers fight rest of state over remaining BP Oil Spill money

A worker cleans up an Alabama beach in the wake of the BP Deewater Horizon Oil Spill.
A worker cleans up an Alabama beach in the wake of the BP Deewater Horizon Oil Spill.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Partisanship has taken a backseat to regional politics in the Alabama State House, with south Alabama lawmakers banding together to fight the rest of the state over the remaining BP Oil Spill money.

With Medicaid facing a perpetual funding shortfall, the House almost two weeks ago passed a bill that would use BP money to pay back $448.5 million in state debt, immediately free up about $35 million for Medicaid, and send the rest of the money — about $191 million — to the coast for road projects.

The bill sat on the legislative back-burner as the House and Senate wrestled with numerous lottery proposals, but re-emerged Tuesday as lawmakers faced the possibility of adjourning the Special Session without addressing the Medicaid issue.

The Senate passed a bill that would send $300 million of the BP money to Medicaid over the next three years — presumably buying the legislature time to work out a longer-term plan — then send the rest of the funds toward paying down debt, completely stripping out all funding for south Alabama road projects.

The House unanimously voted against the Senate plan, prompting legislative leaders to create a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two chambers. The conference committee will consist of three House members and three Senate members, who will seek to come to an agreement that can pass both chambers.

It will be a tall order.

Sens. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) will be joined on the conference committee by Reps. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and John Knight (D-Montgomery).

One lobbyist Yellowhammer spoke with Tuesday evening put the odds of a stalemate at about 50 percent, with the House dug in on earmarking money for coastal infrastructure projects and the Senate opposed.

Senator Slade Blackwell (R-Mountain Brook) seemed to sum up the perspective of many non-South Alabama legislators when he told ABC 33/40 he believes it’s “more important to help disable children verse sending more money to Mobile and Baldwin county after they have already received over $2.1 billion is BP settlement money.”

“The citizens of Mobile and Baldwin County suffered from that oil spill,” Sen. Vivian Davis Figure (D-Mobile) said on the other side. “They did the suffering.”

The conference committee will meet Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., with both chambers reconvening an hour later.


38 mins ago

Trial date set for Alabama officer charged with murder

A judge has set a trial date for a police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a man in Montgomery, Alabama.

A court order released Thursday says Aaron Cody Smith will go on trial Aug. 13. A hearing in the case is set for a few days earlier.


Smith is charged in the 2016 shooting death of 58-year-old Greg Gunn, who authorities say was walking in his neighborhood when Smith shot him. The confrontation began when the officer stopped Gunn shortly after 3 a.m.

Smith’s attorney says the officer is innocent. The defense has portrayed the white officer as a victim of racial prejudice since Montgomery is mostly black and the man who was killed was black.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

2 hours ago

Alabama 3rd state to allow execution by nitrogen gas

Alabama will become the third state to authorize the untested use of nitrogen gas to execute prisoners, under legislation signed into law Thursday by Gov. Kay Ivey.

As lethal injection drugs become difficult to obtain, states have begun looking at alternative ideas for carrying out death sentences. While lethal injection would remain the state’s primary execution method, the new law would allow the state to asphyxiate condemned inmates with nitrogen gas if lethal injection drugs are unavailable or lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional.


Lawmakers who supported the change suggested that it would be more humane.

“It provides another option. I believe it is more humane option,” said Sen. Trip Pittman, a south Alabama Republican who sponsored the bill. Pittman likened the procedure to the way aircraft passengers pass out when a plane depressurizes.

The state would have to develop procedures for the new execution method. Pittman said that it might involve “some type of mask” over the inmate’s face that gradually replaces oxygen with nitrogen.

“The process is completely experimental,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center — a group that compiles death penalty statistics.

The center says no state has carried out an execution by nitrogen gas. Two other states — Oklahoma and Mississippi — have voted to authorize execution by nitrogen gas as a backup method of execution, according to the center.

Oklahoma announced last week that it will begin using nitrogen for executions, when the state resumes death sentences, because of difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs.

However, neither Oklahoma nor Alabama will likely carry out executions with nitrogen in the immediate future, Dunham said. Before implementation, the states will have to develop protocols and get them approved by the courts amid almost certain legal challenges.

States face an increasing dilemma if they want to carry put executions, Dunham said. With pharmaceutical companies becoming hesitant to sell drugs for use in executions, states must look for alternate channels to obtain them or alternate methods of execution.

Utah authorized execution by firing squad. Tennessee has said the electric chair will be used when lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

Alabama previously carried out death sentences with an electric chair nicknamed “Yellow Mama” because it was painted with yellow highway striping paint. While inmates can still choose the electric chair, Alabama made lethal injection the primary method amid concerns that electrocution might one day be ruled unconstitutional and beliefs that lethal injection would be more humane.

Opponents of the Alabama legislation questioned how lawmakers could assert nitrogen would be painless since the method hasn’t been tried.

“We had Yellow Mama. Now, we are going to bring back the gas chamber,” Rep. Thomas Jackson, a Democrat from Thomasville, said during debate Tuesday.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

2 hours ago

Alabama’s unrestrained ‘permission slip to work’ laws affect real Alabamians

Across the country, lawmakers are realizing the costs associated with the rampant overuse of occupational licensing laws.

Alabama Policy Institute’s recent report shows that over 21% of Alabama workers are licensed. This means that more than one in five Alabamians need a government permission slip to work.

Although the original impetus behind states’ licensing practices was the assurance of public safety, the current system of occupational licensing has become so burdensome that voices from left, right, and center have noticed.

The Trump and Obama administrations, The Institute for Justice, and the Brookings Institute, among others, are all in agreement: occupational licensing practices need to be changed.


The fact is that these laws affect real people – real, everyday Alabamians.

Bruce Locke, a retired construction company owner and north Alabama native, is one of those people. A dedicated husband, father, grandpa, and Army veteran, Mr. Locke, after retiring, became an auctioneer.

Before he could work, however, Mr. Locke had to pay for state-approved education, apprentice for one year, and hand over hundreds of dollars in fees to the government.

He fulfilled the state’s licensure requirements but, after years of being a successful auctioneer, was suddenly fined $500 by the Alabama State Board of Auctioneers.

According to the board-hired investigator, Mr. Locke, who had a current license to work, was being fined for not filling out a specific form. The problem, however, is that Mr. Locke, after being a licensed auctioneer for years, had no knowledge of this form. When he asked, Mr. Locke learned that the form was created recently. Even so, he was not told about the form nor given any sort of warning. He was instead fined.

Mr. Locke, therefore, under the threat of losing his business, had no choice but to pay the $500 fine.

He later, out of frustration and disgust in the board’s apparent greed, gave up his license and sold his business.

This is just one example of occupational licensing gone awry. Thanks to occupational licensing, Alabama ran a profitable man out of business, forsaking revenue in both sales and income tax.

The truth is, as Mr. Locke put it, “There are a lot of states that do not have auctioneer licenses, and they’re doing just fine.”

He’s right. There are twenty states that do not license the occupation of auctioneers. In fact, the report found, more broadly, that Alabama licenses thirty-one occupations that are not widely licensed in other states, including locksmiths and sign language interpreters.

If it were truly a matter of public safety, one would think there would be relative conformity among the states. The report, however, found that licensing practices are widely varied, even among our neighboring and nearby states. One explanation of this may be economic protectionism – when members of an occupation, in a desire to limit competition, lobby the state legislature to establish licensure.

In Montgomery, lawmakers are reviewing legislation that addresses occupational licensing, specifically when it affects military families and veterans. Conservatives should applaud these attempts to curb big government’s grip on citizens while continuing to push for more comprehensive reforms.

You can view Mr. Locke telling his story here and API’s recent report on occupational licensing here.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.

Christian movie revenue shocks Hollywood, blows past estimates — here’s why you need to see it

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:


TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, so often on this podcast, we have to talk about situations that are in the news that aren’t overly pleasant or exciting and sometimes they can be downright depressing.

Today, I want to talk about something that, in fact, your church, Briarwood, has been involved in. It’s an outreach event but it’s also an entertainment event. It’s the new movie that’s just out, entitled “I Can Only Imagine.” It’s a faith-based film from Roadside Attractions. Friends who have been on this program before, directors Andrew and John Erwin, are the directors.

It surprised a lot of people this past weekend, Harry, as Variety reports “I Can Only Imagine” hauled in $17.1 million at 1,600 movie theaters across North America. The estimates put it originally at the $2 million to $8 million range, so it has exceeded everyone’s expectations.



HARRY REEDER: That’s been a real answer to prayer as we prayed for the Lord to bless the use of this. We do enjoy the Erwin brothers and have a great relationship with them with many, many conversations about “Christian world and life view” entertainment and their abilities and insights are so encouraging — what they’ve done.

If you’ve never seen the movie “Woodlawn” that they did, you need to do that. They’ve put out about three or four excellent movies. They came to us with this one and we began to talk about it. I immediately brought our staff to see it because I felt this would be a great outreach. It’s not a sermon put to a film; it is a story that brings the truth of the Gospel but told in terms of story form, which they did really, really well.

Three things about it when you go:

— Expect to enjoy it

— Take your spouse

— Be sure and bring a handkerchief.

But, by the way, I would encourage you not only to take your spouse, but do what we did where we reserved some venues for the showing of it, made the tickets available at a lower cost to our people if they would bring someone whom they were sharing the Gospel with, and then determined to afterward’s have an ice cream or have a cup of coffee and talk about what you have heard.


In a sense, I can sum it up this way: There is the very famous song that was triple platinum, “I Can Only Imagine.” It did all the crossover. Bart Miller was the writer and singer of the song. The movie tells the story behind the song, which is a story of — if I can put it in his words: “How did the man I hated the most become the man I wanted to be most like?”

And it was the conversion of his father and what God did in the life of his father and how that set him free in the things that he had dealt with his whole life under the abusive relationship with his dad.

Dennis Quaid, the actor of the father, turns in a masterful performance. By the way, you also get a look at Cloris Leachman. She’s still acting and, in fact, not to give away too much, it’s her comment that becomes a stimulation to the song that Bart Miller writes.

It’s just an amazing story. You’ve got to go see it, but please make use of it. Go enjoy it as a date night and then go take two or three people after you’ve seen it and prepare yourself to go back to see it.


Now, what’s interesting, Tom, it almost knocked off three other movies.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Yeah, in fact, Harry, it came in third place. “Black Panther” and “Tomb Raider” did a little bit better than “I Can Only Imagine,” but beat out the new Disney film, “A Wrinkle in Time.”

DR. REEDER: It beat out a number — a number — of films that Hollywood was utterly committed to. And they had pretty well dismissed this and here it is in a fraction of theaters — those other theaters were well over the 2,000 mark that they were available in — but, in 1,600 theater openings, it was able to do this well.


TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, faithit.com has reported that, apparently, being a part of this movie has rekindled in Dennis Quaid a desire to have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, after this production was over, he went back and finished writing a song dedicated to his mom, which he started more than 25 years ago entitled, “On My Way to Heaven.”

DR. REEDER: If you go Google all that, you’ll find a link you can hear about his new song that he wrote. He sent it off to his brother, fellow actor Randy Quaid. Both had made a profession of faith earlier in life and he’d been on a search. And then he said the movie has rekindled the effects of that search, which is all about Jesus.

And, of course, that’s what I pray for, for not only this actor who portrayed the part of Bart’s father who was converted by the wonderful work of God’s grace in his life. Playing the part, Dennis Quaid has acknowledged his own relationship with Christ. The famous director, Sharon Stone — now, this isn’t the actress, but the famous Hollywood director, Sharon Stone — went to see it with her son and she acknowledged that when the movie was over, nobody moved. Everyone just sat there. In fact, you could hear the sobs and you could just sense the emotional impact of the moment.

However, when she did get up to leave with her son, a lady with tears running down her eyes said, “Do you know Jesus?” and this director of Hollywood said, “Yes, I do.” And then she said, “I think I’ve got to go and get a Bart Miller fix with Jesus,” and she said, “Well, let’s talk about it.” And so, they sat down and talked about it and, afterwards, she said the lady said, “God brought me here to hear this today and now we get to go home together.”


What an extraordinary statement and that’s, by the way, a good way that this can be used: Use the title, “I Can Only Imagine,” and say, “You know, you don’t have to imagine. You can actually know.” We don’t know everything that’s going to happen in the new heavens and the new earth, but we do know how to get there. You don’t have to imagine how to get there — in fact, one of the reasons the Bible was written was so that you can know how to get to Heaven and you can know what actually makes Heaven glorious.

Tom, one of the verses in the Bible explicitly said that this is a purpose of the writing of the Bible, 1 John 5:13. “These things have I written that you might know that you have eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.”

We also know what makes Heaven glorious. Jesus said this, “I go to prepare a place for you so that, where I am, there you may be also.” Oh, the glories of what makes Heaven glorious is we’ll be with the Savior, Who came from Heaven to go to a cross to save us from our sins. And, if you’ll come to Him by faith and repentance and receive the gift of eternal life, turning from your sins, then you can not only imagine, you can know for certain that you’re headed to Heaven and then we can begin to imagine what will that be like to be with Jesus and with each other for all eternity, not only without sin, but without even the ability to sin?


TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, as we close out, let me remind our listeners that if they would like more information on quality films that they can take friends and family to, we would recommend movieguide.org.

DR. REEDER: World Magazine does reviews of films, as well. In fact, World Magazine — as most of our listeners will recognize because we quote from it — it’s a magazine devoted to looking at culture from a Christian world and life view.

It’s so interesting how Hollywood looks at this and they can’t understand how the Neanderthal public could walk away from all these other films that they put out and move to this film that they thought was going to have a $2 million showing and they just can’t understand it. Tom, this is why we do this program: They can’t understand it because of their presuppositions.


They can’t understand it because of their faith-driven world and life view. In their world and life view, there is no redemption. In their world and life view, there’s nothing to repent of. In their world and life view, there’s “all about me,” instead of finding out that it’s all about the glory of God and a God that’s so glorious that He provides a way for us to be right with Him and that, when you get right with Him through Jesus Christ, then reconciliation with others becomes a glorious consequential blessing and they just cannot sense that. They just are absolutely convinced there has to be a material, a natural explanation.

No, here is the explanation: the reason that there’s such brokenness in this world is sin. The answer to sin is Jesus and, when you come to Jesus Christ, you not only get right with God, God comes right within your life. And when he gets right within your life, you start getting right with everyone around you, just as this wonderful story depicts.

I can’t wait for you to see it and I can’t wait for you to enjoy it. And I can’t wait for more Christians to get involved in this industry of storytelling through the performing arts and I can’t wait for you to use this as a platform to bring other people so that they can say, “I can only imagine what the new heavens and the new earth looks like but I don’t have to imagine about how to get there. I can know for certain. Here’s what Jesus says, ‘Truly, truly, he who believes in me has eternal life.’”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country. Her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

3 hours ago

Alabama’s jobless rate unchanged

Alabama’s unemployment rate is holding steady at 3.7 percent.

The governor’s office says the state’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted jobless rate for February was unchanged from the January number.

The rate represents 80,865 unemployed people in the state, while nearly 2.1 million are working.


The state’s unemployment rate is well below last February’s rate of 5.3 percent, and it’s also below the national jobless rate of 4.1 percent.

Shelby County in metro Birmingham has the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.1 percent. Cullman County is second at 3.6 percent.

Wilcox County in rural west Alabama has Alabama’s highest jobless rate, 10.5 percent. Clarke County is next at 8 percent.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)