The Wire

  • Marshall hails proposed Waters of the U.S. rule

    Excerpt:

    Attorney General Steve Marshall welcomed the Trump administration’s proposal Tuesday of a new “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) environmental rule that clearly defines the scope of the Clean Water Act.

    “I applaud the Environmental Protection Agency for the release of a commonsense approach to the protection of America’s waterways,” Marshall said in a statement. “The new EPA Waters of the United States definition clearly delineates whether a waterway is covered by the federal government, thus simplifying the process for landowners in seeking permits for use of their property.”

    He continued, “This new definition will be especially welcome to our farmers, timberland owners and others who use land for commercial purposes and who were unfairly targeted under the old Obama administration Waters of the United States rule.”

  • Shelby, Jones praise Senate passage of 2018 Farm Bill

    Excerpt:

    The 2018 Farm Bill received a conference report on Tuesday, with the United States Senate quickly turning around and passing the bill by a resoundingly bipartisan 87-13 vote the same day.

    The bill is expected to be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives as early as this week, at which time the bill will go to President Donald Trump’s desk. Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-3) was on the conference committee of House and Senate members that reached a final compromise on the crucial legislation.

    The 2018 Farm Bill improves the crop insurance program, helps expand rural broadband initiatives and includes many of the cotton industry’s priorities such as the continuation of the Seed Cotton program. It is also expected to provide some much-needed relief for farmers suffering from ongoing trade wars with China.

  • West Alabama woman points to bullying, race after her nine-year-old daughter’s suicide

    Excerpt:

    A mother in west Alabama is grieving after her nine-year-old daughter, McKenzie Adams, died by suicide.

    CBS 42 reported Monday that Jasmine Adams’ daughter was a fourth grader at U.S. Jones elementary school in Demopolis, which is close to the family’s home in Linden.

    Following her tragic death on December 3, Adams reportedly advised CBS 42 that McKenzie told her teachers and her assistant principal a number of times that she was being bullied.

7 hours ago

Ivey announces staff changes

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced important changes to her staff as she transitions to a full term.

As the governor moves forward in implementing her vision for the state, a press release from her office explained that she believes these changes to her staff will be crucial to most effectively serve the people of Alabama.

Adam Thompson is being promoted to deputy chief of staff for policy. He joins Liz Filmore, who is serving as deputy chief of staff for administration. Having two deputy chiefs of staff is expected to help to improve organization, structure and focus in the office of the governor.

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Thompson currently serves as the governor’s appointments director. In Thompson’s new capacity, his experience will be beneficial to the governor in executing her policy and legislative agendas. Both deputies will report to the chief of staff, Steve Pelham.

“Alabama is experiencing great momentum, and in my full term as governor, I plan to be ambitious in growing on our successes and tackling our challenges. My recent appointment of Jo Bonner to Senior Advisor, in addition to these staff changes, will be instrumental to best execute my vision for Alabama,” Ivey said.

She added, “Everything we do in the Ivey Administration is a team effort, and I am very proud of that.”

Additionally, Catherine Gayle Thrash is being promoted to serve as director of appointments. Thrash currently serves as the governor’s confidential assistant. She has also managed judicial appointments since joining Ivey’s staff and will continue to do so along with managing all appoints on behalf of the governor in her new role.

William Filmore, who currently serves as Legislative liaison, will now take the role of Legislative Liaison and director of Local Government Relations. In addition to his current responsibilities, Filmore will serve as Ivey’s liaison for city and county governments.

“Adam, Liz, Catherine Gayle and William are valuable assets to my staff, and I look forward to continue working alongside them to better serve the state of Alabama,” Ivey concluded.

All of these staff announcements are effective on Sunday, December 16.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Del Marsh congratulates Bobby Singleton on election as minority leader

(D. Marsh, B. Singleton/Facebook)

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) congratulated State Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) on being elected as the Senate minority leader by his seven Democratic colleagues on Wednesday.

In a statement, Marsh said, “I would like to congratulate Senator Singleton on his election as Senate Minority Leader. There are many tough issues facing the Alabama Senate in the year to come and I look forward to working with Senator Singleton as we develop legislation that improves the lives of all Alabamians.”

“Senator Singleton and I have worked well together for several years and I have no doubt that will continue as we strive to ensure that the Senate runs smoothly and that all Senators are represented equally,” Marsh concluded.

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State Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was re-elected as Senate majority leader last month.

State Senator Billy Beasley (D-Clayton), who served as Senate Minority Leader the past 14 months, on Wednesday was selected as the Deputy Minority Leader moving forward. He had previously served in that role until then-State Senator Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) became president of Alabama State University.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Alabama lawmakers celebrate passage of 2018 Farm Bill

(ALFA/Flickr)

The 2018 Farm Bill passed the United States House of Representatives on Wednesday by a bipartisan final vote of 369-47 and now heads to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

The bill, which passed from conference and then the Senate on Tuesday, has been celebrated as a major win for Alabama farmers and the state in general.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) have already applauded its passage, with most of Alabama’s House delegation now joining in the plaudits after all of them voted to pass the bill. 

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“Our farmers and foresters are our future. I am pleased to support this bipartisan legislation to better support our farmers in Alabama and throughout the country,” Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) said in a release.

He continued, “The 2018 Farm Bill will allow for improved crop protections and loan options for farmers, incentivize rural development, support animal disease prevention and management, and will continue our nation’s commitment to agriculture and farmers.”

“I am especially pleased to see the substantial resources provided to improve rural broadband access to communities. Providing Internet access to people in rural Alabama is absolutely critical to economic development and the success of these communities in the 21st Century,” Byrne concluded.

Congresswoman Martha Roby (AL-2) added her high praise for the bill’s passage, commenting on the importance of agriculture to Alabama’s economy and way of life.

“In Alabama’s Second District, agriculture is the largest employer. It is imperative that Congress honor our commitments to the hardworking farmers and producers across the country,” Roby outlined in a statement.

“The 2018 farm bill provides certainty to the American families who work every day to provide the food and fiber we depend on. I was proud to support this legislation on behalf of the farmers I represent, and I am eager to see President Trump sign it into law,” she added.

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-3) was on the conference committee of Representatives and Senators that agreed to this final version of the bill.

“I am proud to vote for the Farm Bill,” Rogers explained in a statement. “As a Conferee on the bill, I know firsthand just how important this bill is to our nation.”

“This Farm Bill strengthens the farm safety net for Alabama’s farmers and producers and it provides five years of certainty. America’s farm economy is still struggling, and this bill will be a much-needed shot in the arm,” he continued.

Rogers concluded, “The bill also improves the SNAP (food stamp) program integrity while incentivizing work for those who are on government benefits. The rural development programs in the bill will be great for folks across Alabama who need rural broadband, and the research funding in the Farm Bill is great news for universities like Tuskegee and Auburn. Finally, I am pleased to say language I introduced with Rep. Terri Sewell was included in the bill. This important language helps provide grants for folks with failing wastewater infrastructure.”

The Farm Bill is expected to improve agriculture policy by:

  • Providing a nationwide yield update for Price Loss Coverage (PLC), beginning with the 2020 crop year and allowing PLC to better respond to market conditions;
  • Making several key improvements to Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), including increased yield plugs and yield trend adjustments;
  • Protecting and improving crop insurance;
  • Investing in research, extension, and education projects;
  • Protecting farmers from additional costly and burdensome red tape;
  • Strengthening the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) capacity to combat the opioid crisis;
  • Refocusing efforts to expand quality broadband to rural America;
  • Including critical funding for feral swine control;
  • Improving existing programs to maximize efficiency, reducing waste and maintaining fiscally responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars;
  • Restoring funding for trade promotion efforts in an attempt to keep pace with trading competitors around the world;
  • Boosting anti-hunger programs and incentivizes work for federal beneficiaries;
  • Helping equip and train the next generation of farmers.

 

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Scouts to participate in ‘Wreaths Across America’ Saturday at the State Veterans Cemetery

(Wreaths Across America/Facebook)

Thousands of wreaths will be placed on the graves of military veterans across the nation on Saturday to honor their service and sacrifice.

Local Boy and Girl Scouts, as well as family members, will place wreaths on the graves of America’s fallen heroes beginning at 10:00 a.m. at the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort. The public is invited to attend.

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Margaret Cooley, a volunteer who works with the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort Foundation, Inc., will speak about the importance of honoring our veterans.

Friends of the cemetery provide the flag wreaths, which will remain in place throughout the Christmas season. The wreaths are collected after the first of the year and reused.

“We place wreath flags to honor all those who have served us and our country, especially those who found their resting place here,” Joe Buschell, the cemetery assistant director, explained. “It’s so important to recognize the service of our veterans and to come and lay a wreath on their grave.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Auburn University groundskeeping student headed to Super Bowl to train with legends

(Auburn University)

After submitting the winning application and essay in the 2019 Toro Super Bowl Sports Turf Training competition, Auburn University and turf management student Wilson Morgan is headed to the Super Bowl, the university announced.

Morgan, who is the first student from Auburn to receive the honor in the 16-year history of the contest, will venture to Atlanta January 27 and experience the week leading up to the Super Bowl, which is scheduled for February 3, as a part of the NFL’s Super Bowl grounds crew at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Morgan will be working alongside some of the best in the realm of athletic field management. NFL Super Bowl field director Ed Mangan, who also serves as chief groundskeeper for the Atlanta Braves, and George Toma, who has been on the grounds crew for the last 52 Super Bowls and turns 90 in February, will be two of the legends Morgan will have the opportunity to work alongside.

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“This is an amazing opportunity to learn from the best of the best,” Morgan said, per an Auburn University release.

Throughout his experience, Morgan will get hands-on experience in turf maintenance, field lining, logo painting, irrigation maintenance, field preparation for media day, halftime preparation and clean-up.

“Mercedes-Benz Stadium has artificial turf, so I’m looking forward to learning what’s involved in managing a synthetic playing surface,” Morgan said. “It will be great to have experience in that.”

In order to receive this special honor, Morgan and other applicants had to submit a 500-word essay detailing their goals for the future.

“It was basically asking where you saw yourself professionally five years from now,” he stated. “I tried to make mine as little about myself as possible.

Morgan added, “I’ve had some excellent mentors in my life who helped me discover my dream of one day becoming a football field manager, and I want to be that kind of person for others.”

Morgan, who is now a junior at Auburn University, attended East Limestone High School in Athens where he was unsure about his goals for a professional career before attending college. He flipped through a copy of SportsTurf magazine that he found in his greenhouse management classroom.

“I picked it up just out of curiosity, but when I started looking through it, I couldn’t believe it,” Morgan said. “I mean, I was a football player, but I had no idea there were people who took care of sports fields for a living.”

After he found out Auburn offered a degree in the program from his ag teacher, John Wilson, Morgan was enthusiastic, yet nervous about beginning his college career.

“I remember kind of worrying because I kept hearing that the average college student changes their major four times before they graduate, and I was thinking, ‘Oh no! I don’t want that to happen to me!’,” Morgan said.

Once he arrived at Auburn University, Morgan was welcomed by other students on the same career path. Austin Brown, one of Morgan’s classmates, welcomed him to a group of students preparing for a win in the National Collegiate Turf Bowl competition.

“Then I met another student who had a job with the Auburn Athletics grounds crew, and I knew I really wanted to get involved with that, so he told me to talk to Richard Wilt,” Morgan recalled.

Wilt, the grounds manager for Auburn Athletics at the time of Morgan’s interest, hired Morgan and later connected him to the Miami Dolphins head groundskeeper Tom Wilson. Morgan ended up spending the summer of 2018 as an intern at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

“I started there the day after they’d had a huge concert and left the week after the first preseason game,” Morgan explained. “One thing I learned there was that managing the playing field is a full-time, year-round job.”

For summer 2019, Morgan will be interning with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Morgan shared his excitement and enthusiasm for the trip.

“That will give me experience in college sports, the NFL and Major League Baseball,” Morgan said of the trip. “Plus, I’ve only worked with warm-season turf, but the Phillies play on Kentucky bluegrass, so then I’d have experience managing a cool-season grass.

“I’m a big believer in planning ahead, and when I graduate [in May 2020], I plan to have a job,” he explained. “So I’m doing every single thing I can do now to be sure that happens.”

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

9 hours ago

Senate Leadership Fund: ‘Doug Jones is delusional’

(Sen. Doug Jones/Facebook, Pixabay)

In a sarcastic statement on Wednesday, the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) hit Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) over his “liberal record” on the Second Amendment, border security and the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

SLF is a super-PAC aligned with Alabama native and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that exists to protect and expand the Republican majority in the United States Senate.

In their release, SLF also addressed the astounding claim made by Jones in an interview with Alabama Media Group that he did not think the Washington Post’s reporting alleging that Roy Moore had inappropriate interactions and relationships with teenage girls helped him win his current seat in the Senate.

“I don’t think it helped me,” Jones shared during the interview aggrandizing his first election anniversary.

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“Doug Jones said yesterday that running against an accused pedophile didn’t help with his upset win in last December’s special election,” SLF retorted. “When you’re finished laughing, please note for the record that Senate Leadership Fund completely agrees with 2020’s most endangered U.S. Senator.”

The statement continued, “In fact, SLF encourages Jones in the strongest terms possible to continue establishing a liberal record – because that is what the people of Alabama want! Like Jones, they want their Second Amendment rights taken away. Like Jones, they oppose President Trump’s border wall. And like Jones, they oppose the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.”

“Keep on keepin’ on, Doug!” SLF concluded.

On the same day as SLF’s statement, Jones also touted his staunch support for abortion rights.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Judge considers sanctioning Alabama prisons for mental care

(U.S. Courts/YouTube)

A federal judge is considering whether to hold Alabama prisons in contempt of court for failing to provide inmates with adequate mental health care.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson is hearing testimony in Montgomery on a request by inmate attorneys to sanction the department.

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On Tuesday, the Montgomery Advertiser reported, testimony showed a contractor hired to provide medical and mental health care for more than 20,000 inmates is not complying with its contract.

The Alabama Department of Corrections only has about three-quarters of the number of mental health workers that it’s supposed to have, testimony showed.

Corrections officials say they do not have enough funding. They have denied providing unconstitutional care.

The judge previously ruled that psychiatric care in Alabama prisons was “horrendously inadequate.”

Thompson ruled the situation created unconstitutional conditions in state prisons.

Elaine Gedman, chief administrative officer and executive vice president for Wexford Health Sources, the contractor hired to provide health care by the state, testified she was unaware if Wexford had been involved in negotiations about paybacks for failing to meet staffing benchmarks in a $360 million contract signed by Gov. Kay Ivey in March.

Maria Morris, a Southern Poverty Law Center attorney representing inmates, has said the state wants to amend or vacate Thompson’s order and has asked for specific ways to count the number of staff members it has in prisons.

The class-action lawsuit filed by the law center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program in 2014 led to a trial over inmates’ claims of inadequate mental health care.

An inmate who was the first witness to testify killed himself in prison days later.

In the 2018 fiscal year, which prison officials use to report its data, seven people were killed and six died by suicide. Nearly 40 inmates attempted suicide.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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A ‘Story Worth Sharing’: Yellowhammer News and Serquest Partner to award monthly grants to Alabama nonprofits

(Serquest, YHN)

Christmas is the season of giving, helping others and finding magic moments among seemingly ordinary (and occasionally dreary) days. What better way to welcome this season than to share what Alabamians are doing to help others?

Yellowhammer News and Serquest are partnering to bring you, “A Story Worth Sharing,” a monthly award given to an Alabama based nonprofit actively making an impact through their mission. Each month, the winning organization will receive a $1,000 grant from Serquest and promotion across the Yellowhammer Multimedia platforms.

Yellowhammer and Serquest are looking for nonprofits that go above and beyond to change lives and make a difference in their communities.

Already have a nonprofit in mind to nominate? Great!

Get started here with contest guidelines and a link to submit your nomination:

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Nominations open Monday, December 10, and applicants only need to be nominated once. All non-winning nominations will automatically be eligible for selection in subsequent months. Monthly winners will be announced via a feature story that will be shared and promoted on Yellowhammer’s website, email and social media platforms.

Submit your nomination here.

Our organizations look forward to sharing these heartwarming and positive stories with you over the next few months as we highlight the good works of nonprofits throughout our state.

Serquest is an Alabama based software company founded by Hammond Cobb, IV of Montgomery. The organization sees itself as, “Digital road and bridge builders in the nonprofit sector to help people get where they want to go faster, life’s purpose can’t wait.”

Learn more about Serquest here.

12 hours ago

Charles McCrary appointed chairman of Regions

(Business Wire)

Regions Financial Corp. (NYSE:RF) on Wednesday announced that its board of directors has appointed Charles D. McCrary to serve as the chair of the board, effective January 1.

McCrary, currently Regions’ lead independent director, will succeed Executive Chairman O. B. Grayson Hall, Jr., who is retiring from the corporation and from the board on December 31. McCrary will also serve as the chair of the board of directors of Regions Bank.

In a press release, Regions President and CEO John Turner thanked Hall for his distinguished service and praised McCrary as “a thoughtful and dedicated leader.”

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“During his 38-year career with the company, Grayson has maintained a steady focus on meeting customer needs, and through his leadership, Regions has become a stronger and better bank positioned for long-term success,” Turner said. “We appreciate his significant contributions and wish him continued success as he retires.”

He continued, “Charles is a thoughtful and dedicated leader. In his capacity as Lead Independent Director, he has provided valuable guidance that has allowed Regions to deliver sustainable, long-term growth. I look forward to continuing to work with Charles as we execute on Regions’ strategic plan and elevate our performance as a company.”

Hall joined Turner in hailing McCrary.

“I join John in congratulating Charles on his appointment,” Hall remarked. “I have had the privilege of working closely with Charles for many years, and our company has benefited from his personal integrity and commitment to excellence. I am excited about the future of Regions, and Charles is an outstanding choice to lead the board.”

McCrary, a constant fixture on Yellowhammer Multimedia’s Power and Influence List during his longtime tenure leading the Alabama Power Company, said he was “humbled by the opportunity.”

“Regions plays an important role in meeting the financial needs of our customers and communities. We believe that maintaining strong corporate governance is crucial to achieving our company’s mission and making life better for all of our stakeholders,” McCrary outlined.

He added, “I am humbled by the opportunity to continue to serve with such an outstanding group of board members and management.”

From 2001 through February 2014, McCrary served as the president and CEO of Alabama Power. He also served as chairman of Alabama Power until May 2014. McCrary’s career spanned over 40 years, where he held various positions of increased responsibility within Alabama Power and its parent company, Southern Company.

McCrary also previously served on the board of directors of AmSouth Bancorporation, a predecessor to Regions, from 2001 to 2006. He served as chair of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and on the Audit Committee of Regions Corp. in the past.

McCrary holds an engineering degree from Auburn University – where he serves on the Board of Trustees – and a law degree from Birmingham School of Law.

Additionally, Regions announced on Wednesday that Zhanna Golodryga has been appointed as an independent director to its board, maintaining its composition of 15 members with Hall’s departure. Golodryga will serve on the Compensation and Human Resources Committee and the Risk Committee of the board.

Golodryga is senior vice president as well as chief digital and administrative officer for Phillips 66. Before joining Phillips 66 in April 2017, Golodryga served as chief information officer and senior vice president of services at Hess Corporation.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Dreadnaught’s Keeley: I called it — Heather Nauert for UN ambassador

(U.S. Department of State/Flickr)

The political and media hubris regarding President Trump’s nomination of Heather Nauert for United Nations ambassador is as predictable as it is tedious. Somewhat surprising however, is that the chattering classes – the courteous prevaricators, the obsequiously well-mannered, yet mendacious diplomats, reporters and academics, did not see Ms. Nauert coming.

Back in October, following the resignation of Ambassador Nikki Haley, I was interviewed by Sean Ross at Yellowhammer News, Alabama’s leading political outlet. Heather Nauert was one of my two picks to replace Haley – along with Senator Bob Corker, whose relationship with President Trump disqualified him from the job. I have never before quoted myself in print, but here goes:

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A dark horse, I think, is the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy at the State Department,” Keeley advised. “Heather Nauert – she’s formerly of Fox News, and she’s been in that position for a couple of years. She really understands Russia. She travels with the secretary of state to the U.N., across the world. … She would be a great choice.

The pundits and politicians conveniently overlook the fact that Nauert has held down two of the most demanding jobs at the State Department, concurrently – Under secretary of state for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Department spokesman. She is responsible for public diplomacy in 275 overseas U.S. embassies and foreign missions, oversees the Global Engagement Center and guides the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

Nauert tackled the challenging and grueling workload with grit, professionalism and grace against a backdrop of international upheaval, predicated by eight years of diplomatic apology and foreign policy indecisiveness. An ambassadorial baptism of sorts, unrivaled in decades. A belligerent Russia, an emboldened Iran, state-sponsored terrorism, an unstable Korean Peninsula, Syria, Hezbollah, South Sudan, Yemen, unrest in Europe and a bombastic China occupying the South China Sea.

Nauert stepped into the breach and has the battle scars to prove it. She was not born into the role, nor did political, blue blood family connections play a part. She earned her nomination to lead the U.N. mission for the United States.

The role of U.N. ambassador has morphed somewhat in the last decade. America’s top United Nations diplomat is America’s global spokesperson. Nauert has been at the forefront of foreign policy and execution at Foggy Bottom for two years. Granted, she has not been reading academic papers, lolling around a Senate office, or advocating a cause célèbre like many of her predecessors – she has been at the head table of American diplomatic power.

The U.N. Ambassador’s first charge is to protect and project American will, values and power. They must clearly and explicitly edify and disseminate America’s tenets, principles and ideals; stand up for the weak when the cause is just and punitively call out nation states that support international terrorism, menace global norms and flout human rights. Nauert has proved herself formidable. She survived, and despite adversity, thrived in the wake of the tumultuous Tillerson tenure. Importantly she has earned the personal trust of the President of the United States. In turn, she must mold her own team. Dispense with the political holdovers and surround herself with trusted advisors and advocates.

Ambassador Haley was widely criticized when nominated. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), charmingly stated that Haley could not possibly be effective. The U.S. ambassador to the international body should be an “expert on international affairs,” Coons said, adding, “not someone who will be learning on the job.” Governor Haley won strong support despite having zero foreign policy experience. Conversely, Nauert is the fourth most senior officer at the Department of State. Senator Coons has been eating humble pie cold.

Ambassador Haley’s comment is revelatory.

She said, “At the United Nations, the number one comment I get is they’re just so happy to see the United States lead again.”

If Nauert can build a loyal, savvy team; stare down the excessively bureaucratic, globalized naysayers; defend America’s values and ideals; stand with Jerusalem against the anti-America, anti-Israel viper pit of the U.N; do it with poise, she will be a long way toward a successful tenure as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert has been underestimated before.

Greg Keeley is Managing Partner of Birmingham based, Dreadnaught With service in both the U.S. and Australian Navies. He is a former NATO & ISAF spokesman. LCDR Keeley served as Senior Advisor to the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Service Committee and Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee in the US Congress. tw – @thedreadnaught

Birmingham doctor set to open membership-based direct primary care practice in February

(Brownstone Healthcare and Aesthetics)

Unfortunately, complicated health insurance rules, stipulations, expensive bills and long waits at doctor offices are often today’s norm when seeking health care solutions for ourselves or our family. However, thanks to Alabama physician Dr. Kre Johnson, these issues will now mostly be a thing of the past.

Beginning February 1, 2019, Dr. Johnson’s current practice, Brownstone Healthcare and Aesthetics will become the third medical practice in Birmingham to see patients under a new affordable membership-based system known as direct primary care.

Direct primary care members enrolling with Brownstone will pay a flat $70 monthly fee which will cover an unlimited amount of office visits with no co-pay or deductible charges.

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Additionally, up to four family members can enroll for $185 a month. Under direct primary care, insurance is not required but is recommended in case patients wind up needing surgery or hospitalization.

In a recent interview on ABC 33/40’s Talk of The Town, Dr. Johnson describes her new practice as, “a direct relationship between the physician and the patient.”

Dr. Johnson’s office will only accept up to 1,000 members, which in conjunction with the elimination of excessive insurance filings, will result in a more individualized, inexpensive and streamlined healthcare experience for all patients.

“Like the stories we hear our grandparents talking about, the doctor was a part of their family. I want to be part of your family,” Dr. Johnson said.

Along with regular office hours, Brownstone Healthcare and Aesthetics members will have around the clock virtual access to Dr. Johnson. Her patients will have the ability to ask questions and receive diagnoses from her through phone, email, text or virtual doctor office visits 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Dr. Johnson said she hopes that by eliminating visits to urgent care and the ER, this new system will help save her patients time and money.

Interested in learning more about or becoming a member of Brownstone Healthcare and Aesthetics? Visit their website here or call (205) 202-5650.

15 hours ago

Doug Jones touts support of abortion rights — ‘I am in favor of a woman’s freedom to choose’

(AP/Facebook)

In a wide-ranging interview with the Associated Press that was broadcasted live on Facebook, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) proudly reaffirmed his staunch pro-choice beliefs.

When asked if he would ever support a “personhood” amendment or legislation that codifies that life begins at conception, Jones made it clear he would not. The junior senator from Alabama used the example of a Mississippi amendment that failed in 2011 to say that “personhood” policy is “fraught with peril” which risked “opening up Pandora’s box.”

“I would urge a rejection of that [type of] amendment,” Jones added.

He was then asked directly if he favored “abortion access [and] abortion rights.”

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“I am in favor of a woman’s freedom to choose,” Jones responded.

He continued, “I am in favor of the law as it exists today with a woman’s freedom to choose.”

Jones voted against a late-term abortion ban earlier this year called the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”

Earlier in the interview, he also touched on his infamous vote against Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

When asked if that vote hurts him in Alabama, Jones said, “I think it remains to be seen.”

Speaking specifically in the context of his re-election bid in 2020, he added, “At the end of the day, I don’t think it will be a deciding factor for very many people.”

He also emphasized that he was proud of the preparation he and his team did leading to the “no” vote.

“[W]e did the best we could,” Jones concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Jefferson County DA: Carlos Chaverst ‘and I aren’t friends’

(C. Chaverst Jr./Facebook)

Two pictures of newly elected Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr and self-proclaimed Hoover protest leader Carlos Chaverst, Jr. have begun making the rounds, however Carr wants to make it clear that the two are not close.

Chaverst has been the face of protesting in the wake of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr. being shot and killed by a Hoover Police officer at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night. The protest leader was arrested Tuesday evening on four misdemeanor counts – three for disorderly conduct and one for loitering – related to his recent activism. Chaverst has also enlisted the assistance of at least two established hate groups in his efforts.

Carr, a Democrat, was elected on November 6 over Republican District Attorney Mike Anderton, who had been appointed to the position by Governor Kay Ivey in November 2017. Carr has since taken office and sent Anderton, a long time assistant district attorney in the county, packing.

While the investigation into Bradford’s death and the entirety of the shootings at the Riverchase Galleria are under investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), prosecutorial discretion in the case will ultimately fall to Carr.

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As a result, questions have arisen after the below pictures of Carr and Chaverst together were discovered, along with the caption that Chaverst added on social media.

Carr (left) pictured with Chaverst
Carr and Chaverst embracing

On Instagram, Chaverst wrote the following about the two pictures:

Mannnnnnnnnnnn last night was historic. My brother Danny Carr was ELECTED as the first BLACK District Attorney of Jefferson County. This journey began over a year ago. After it was known that Mr. Charles Henderson couldn’t serve as DA, Danny was appointed as Interim DA. That day we launched a campaign asking Governor Ivey to appoint him to the seat until the election. After garnishing thousands of signatures and running an extensive campaign, it still didn’t sway her. We knew THEN we wanted Danny Carr elected as DA and that’s what we got. What is for you is always for you. #PeopleOverPolitics #RestoringPowerToThePeople
Preciate my sister Sly Kinuthia and my brother Dez Wilson for capturing both moments last night with our new BLACK DA!

In an email to Yellowhammer News, Carr was quick to clarify that the two “aren’t friends” and that they have not discussed the ongoing investigation in any manner.

“The photo referred to is a photo taken on the night of the election after I was declared the winner while at an event,” Carr wrote.

He continued, “Carlos and I aren’t friends. We don’t talk very much at all or have casual conversation on the phone. We don’t hang out or attend dinner, movies or none of that type of activity. However I know Carlos thru community involvement and neighborhood projects over the years.”

Detailing further his relationship with Chaverst, Carr added, “Carlos did not work officially on my campaign, however he may have asked people to vote for me. Carlos did initiate a campaign asking Governor Ivey to appoint me back when the position was open. We have not discussed the death of EJ or the Galleria Shootings.”

Carr explained that he was born and raised in Birmingham – specifically in the Ensley area – and that he had been in the Magic City nearly all of his life.

“I understand my upbringing is not typical of most elected officials due to the area that I’m from. However I can assure you that I’m ethical and over the past 17 years I have done nothing but been an upstanding citizen and prosecutor,” Carr emphasized.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

7 Things: Trump owns shutdown, Schumer, Pelosi, gas tax movement gains steam and supporters, Hoover boycott leaders try to take their movement national and more …

(U.S. CBP/Flickr)

7. Jury recommends white nationalist get 419 years in jail

— A jury recommended 419 years for James Alex Fields Jr., who was convicted of killing Heather Heyer by intentionally plowing his car into a group of protesters that were at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

— The jury deliberated for four hours over two total days and reached a sentencing recommendation that includes life in prison, 350 years on five malicious wounding charges, 60 years for three malicious wounding charges, nine years for fleeing the accident and $480,000 in fines.

6. Ben Shapiro to speak at the University of Alabama in the Spring; Protests almost guaranteed before and during his speech

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— Controversial conservative talk show host and commentator Ben Shapiro will come to Tuscaloosa as part of Young America’s Foundation’s speaking tour of college campuses. Protests are almost guaranteed before and during his speech.

— Last year, Auburn lost a lawsuit when it tried to ban a speaker from their campus. The school was required to let Richard Spencer speak and pay $29,000 in legal costs for litigants.

5. A Christmas market in France is the scene of a terror attack

— At least four people were killed and eight were wounded in a shooting near a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France, by a 29-year-old that was suspected of radicalization and was being watched.

— The name of the individual who is suspected has not been released. The reports say he is known as “Cherif C” and he is still on the run, and he has a long record as a “Gangster-Jihadi” with “a significant criminal record and has been in prison several times.”

4. Former Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in Montgomery

— Sessions told a large crowd that in spite of all the drama surrounding his time and his departure in the Trump administration, “I’m proud of Trump’s policy agenda, and proud to have a part in it.”

— Sessions did not address his potential future running for office, including whether or not he will run for office in 2020 against U.S. Senator Doug Jones.

3. Boycott “leaders” declare Yellowhammer News to be “the enemy” and now want people to boycott any company that has a location in the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover

— Student minister Tremon Muhammad, who leads the Nation of Islam’s Birmingham mosque, repeated that protesters are at war with Hoover, with the goal being to “Boycott Hoover and build up black Birmingham.”

— Additionally, protesters are now calling for a nationwide boycott of chains with stores at the Riverchase Galleria, this includes “Bath & Body Works, Belk, Dave & Busters, Express, Gap, GNC, H&M, JC Penney, Macy’s, Old Navy, Sears, Victoria’s Secret, and Von Maur just to name a few,” according to a press release sent to media outlets.

2. House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter declares there is a 75 percent chance of a gas tax passing

— Ledbetter appeared on the radio laying out a strategy to get this gas tax passed. It includes enlisting county commissioners in the process. He also acknowledged individual carveouts for certain projects could doom the legislation.

— The mayors of Vestavia Hills and Alabaster are lobbying for an increased gas tax. Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon wants constituents to reach out to legislators. She wrote, “I can’t stress enough how important it is for our legislators to hear from their constituents about the public safety issues and escalating need in their communities. It would be wonderful if the voice of local government and public safety professionals were enough; however, it is always going to take the voices of the voters to make the difference between crumbling congested roads and safe highways.”

1. President Donald Trump owns a government shutdown over the border; He also owns Pelosi and Schumer

— During an insane meeting with the future speaker of the House and Senate majority leader, the president declared he would welcome a government shutdown and own the shutdown himself.

— The issue is border security and the wall. Trump wants $5 billion for the wall, while Democrats are prepared to offer $1.3 billion. Neither seems prepared to move.

17 hours ago

Marshall hails proposed Waters of the U.S. rule

(Marshall Campaign)

Attorney General Steve Marshall welcomed the Trump administration’s proposal Tuesday of a new “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) environmental rule that clearly defines the scope of the Clean Water Act.

“I applaud the Environmental Protection Agency for the release of a commonsense approach to the protection of America’s waterways,” Marshall said in a statement. “The new EPA Waters of the United States definition clearly delineates whether a waterway is covered by the federal government, thus simplifying the process for landowners in seeking permits for use of their property.”

He continued, “This new definition will be especially welcome to our farmers, timberland owners and others who use land for commercial purposes and who were unfairly targeted under the old Obama administration Waters of the United States rule.”

Tuesday’s release of the newly proposed rule follows the EPA’s announcement in June of its intent to withdraw the unpopular rule which began under President Obama in 2015. 

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The Obama administration’s WOTUS Rule asserted sweeping federal authority over usually dry channels, roadside ditches and isolated streams, as well as over land covered by water only once every 100 years. Furthermore, its broad assertion of authority unlawfully infringed on the states’ traditional role as the primary regulators of land and water resources.

In 2015, Alabama was among 11 states that filed suit against the EPA over the Obama administration’s WOTUS rule. The Sixth Circuit granted a nationwide stay of the WOTUS Rule. The states subsequently won a nationwide stay blocking enforcement of the rule and allowing the new administration time to work on withdrawing the rule.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Shelby, Jones praise Senate passage of 2018 Farm Bill

(Sen. Richard Shelby/Facebook)

The 2018 Farm Bill received a conference report on Tuesday, with the United States Senate quickly turning around and passing the bill by a resoundingly bipartisan 87-13 vote the same day.

The bill is expected to be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives as early as this week, at which time the bill will go to President Donald Trump’s desk. Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-3) was on the conference committee of House and Senate members that reached a final compromise on the crucial legislation.

The 2018 Farm Bill improves the crop insurance program, helps expand rural broadband initiatives and includes many of the cotton industry’s priorities such as the continuation of the Seed Cotton program. It is also expected to provide some much-needed relief for farmers suffering from ongoing trade wars with China.

Both Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) applauded the bill’s passage in the upper chamber as a win for Alabama farmers and this integral industry for the Yellowhammer State.

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In a release, Shelby said, “This bipartisan legislation provides much-needed predictability that will significantly benefit our state’s farmers and the entire agriculture industry.”

“I look forward to the lasting positive impact this bill will have on rural areas throughout Alabama and the nation,” Shelby concluded.

The state’s junior senator also commented in a release.

“This is a Farm Bill for rural Alabama and rural America,” Jones outlined. “I’m proud that the final legislation ensures that our farmers have the support and resources they need to continue to do their important work. It also addresses several urgent issues for our state, particularly the need for expanded rural health care and broadband access. Since I arrived in the Senate in January, I’ve worked closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as well as farmers from across Alabama, to advocate for a strong Farm Bill for all of our rural communities. This bill reflects the priorities we share for a brighter and more secure future for Alabama.”

The bill includes Jones’ first piece of original legislation, the Rural Health Liaison Act, which, according to Jones’ office, “will improve coordination of federal resources and expand health care access for rural Americans” by establishing a rural health liaison at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Agriculture is Alabama’s top revenue producing industry, generating an annual impact of over $70 billion and supporting approximately 580,000 jobs. With over nine million acres of farmland and more than 48,500 farms, the state is a national leader in food production and a global competitor in the poultry, catfish, timber, cotton and livestock industries.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Hoover protest leader calls for nationwide boycott of all stores, restaurants with locations at Riverchase Galleria

(T. Banks/Facebook)

Carlos Chaverst, Jr., the president of the Birmingham Justice League and self-proclaimed leader of protesting in Hoover, on Tuesday called for a nationwide boycott of all stores and restaurants with locations at the Riverchase Galleria.

In a press release, Chaverst said, “In addition to protests resuming throughout the City of Hoover, The Justice League is attempting to coordinate efforts with grass roots organizations all over the country to boycott the stores and restaurants that are inside the Riverchase Galleria if their demands for justice and transparency are not answered! Those stores include Bath & Body Works, Belk, Dave & Busters, Express, Gap, GNC, H&M, JC Penney, Macy’s, Old Navy, Sears, Victoria’s Secret, and Von Maur just to name a few.”

He called this “broadening the scope of the boycott,” while adding protests will continue “escalating.”

Chaverst has been the face of protests since a Hoover Police officer shot and killed Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr. on Thanksgiving night at the Galleria.

Chaverst listed the following demands in his Tuesday press release:

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1. We want those individuals who knowingly lied about the events of Thanksgiving night leading to the murder of Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr. to resign or be terminated immediately!
2. We want Hoover to ask for a Justice Department investigation into its own police department for mistreatment of minorities (citizens AND officers on the police force).
3. We want a “Citizens Review Board” with subpoena power created by the City of Hoover.
4. We want to know the status (paid or unpaid?) of the officer that killed “EJ” Bradford and we want the City of Hoover to keep it’s word of having weekly updates.

To be clear, while Hoover officials apologized for initially misidentifying Bradford as the shooter of an 18-year-old and 12-year-old at the Galleria on the night of his death, there has been no public assertion by the Bradford family or their attorney that officials “knowingly lied.”

It should also be noted that Chaverst has accused the city of not sending out a weekly update this week, hence his last point in demand number four. However, the city and the police department did in fact issue that update as a joint press release on Monday, which was reported by Yellowhammer News and outlets across the state.

The investigation into Bradford’s death and the entirety of the Galleria tragedy is currently entirely out of Hoover’s jurisdiction and control, with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) handling the case.

While Chaverst spearheads the protests themselves and acts as the public face of “the movement,” the Nation of Islam’s Birmingham leader, student minister Tremon Muhammad, is leading the boycott as part of a greater “war.”

In addition to Chaverst’s press release, he also took to Facebook to request that people donate money and items to the protesters, including bandanas, facemasks, first aid kits and “healthy snacks.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Proposed Waters of the United States guidelines praised as good for Alabama farmers, landowners

(ALFA/contributed)

Federal officials proposed new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) guidelines on Monday to help protect farmers and landowners from intrusive government regulations, per a release from the Alabama Farmers Federation.

In their proposal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers clarified federal authority under the Clean Water Act.

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell applauded the newly proposed definition, which excludes ditches from regulation unless they contribute flow to a perennial or intermittent stream.

“The proposed rule is good news for Alabama farmers and restores common sense to Clean Water Act enforcement,” Parnell said.

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He continued, “For several years, farmers, businesses and homeowners have lived under the threat of government intrusion and costly penalties due to overaggressive actions of the Obama-era EPA. We appreciate the Trump administration, current EPA administration, Alabama’s congressional delegation and our state attorneys general for standing by farmers and landowners as we’ve fought back against the WOTUS rule.”

Under the proposal, federally regulated areas would include traditional navigable waters, tributaries to those waters, some ditches, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments of jurisdictional waters and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters.

The proposal also details non-waters of the U.S., such as areas that only contain water during or in response to rainfall, many ditches (including most roadside or farm ditches), prior converted cropland, stormwater control features and waste treatment systems.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall also thanked the EPA and Corps for investing time in a common sense rule that will allow farmers to comply with the law while protecting water resources.

“Clean water is our way of life. Preserving our land and protecting our water means healthy places to live, work and play,” Duvall outlined. “We believe this new Clean Water Rule is rooted in common sense. It will protect our nation’s water resources and allow farmers to farm.”

Today’s announcement is the second part in a two-step process to review and revise the definition of WOTUS consistent with President Donald Trump’s February 2017 executive order. The first step was initiating a repeal of the Obama administration rule, which was put in place in 2015 but is only in effect in 22 states because of a barrage of state lawsuits challenging it.

Various courts upheld the challenges and postponed the law from going into effect within the boundaries of a bevy of states, including Alabama.

A 60-day comment period on the second part of the process, proposing the revised rule, is now underway.

The EPA and the Corps will hold an informational webcast January 10 and will then host a listening session on the proposed rule January 23 in Kansas City, Kansas.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Greg Reed: A Medicaid program built around families and communities

(Pixnio)

The elections of November 6 are over, and now, in Washington and in Montgomery legislators again take up the task of governing. As the leader of Alabama’s 27 Republican state senators, my focus is on working with other lawmakers and Governor Kay Ivey to make state government more efficient and to keep job growth strong.

Reforming the state’s Medicaid program is one of the toughest challenges we face in the coming year. Medicaid, the federally-mandated health insurance program for pregnant women, children, low-income adults, the elderly and the disabled, is by far the largest line item in the state’s General Fund — Medicaid by itself accounts for 37 percent of all non-education state spending and its budget for the current year is $755 million. For context, state prisons consume 23 percent and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (state troopers) uses 2.5 percent of non-education spending.

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The aging of America’s population as the Baby Boomers retire puts enormous stress on government-run health insurance programs like Medicaid. About 10,000 Boomers retire every day, and the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2035, the number of adults aged 65 and older in America will outstrip the number of children under the age of 18. In Alabama, the population of folks aged 65 and older is expected to grow by 25 percent between now and 2025. This coming demographic tidal wave threatens to swamp a number of government programs, including Medicaid.

For the past five years, I have worked with Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar to craft a new health care model that better serves the growing number of senior citizens in Alabama who are in Medicaid’s long-term care. Thankfully, this year Alabama received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington to move ahead with the Integrated Care Network (ICN). This reform will offer senior citizens on Medicaid additional health care choices and is projected to save, over the long run, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Here is how the ICN will work: in October of this year, the state Medicaid agency partnered with an Alabama health care provider that will now serve the medical needs of the 23,000 senior citizens who are receiving Medicaid’s long-term care services, 70 percent of whom are in nursing homes. By partnering with an expert health care provider based in Alabama, Medicaid can offer its long-term patients better care — and thus allow more Medicaid recipients to stay longer in the comfort of their own home.

Medicaid recipients can still opt for a nursing home, and no benefits are changed under this new system. But by partnering with a health care provider that is an expert in managed care, Medicaid can bend the cost curve down, offer improved health care, and give more of Alabama’s senior citizens an opportunity to stay a little longer in their homes and communities.

For my wife and me, one of the greatest privileges in life is spending time with our parents — and as the years have passed, we, like so many Alabama families, have discussed the future and begun to plan for the day when our parents will need additional help.

As a legislator, I think often about how the policies that I vote on will affect the lives of my friends and neighbors. The Integrated Care Network is just getting started, but I am optimistic that this reform will improve the quality of life for many families in Alabama and put Medicaid on a sounder financial footing.

Greg Reed (R-Jasper) is the Alabama Senate Majority Leader and represents Senate District 5, which is comprised of all or parts of Winston, Walker, Tuscaloosa, Jefferson and Fayette counties.

1 day ago

Sessions makes first speech since resigning as attorney general, still supports Trump’s agenda

(S.Ross/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — Speaking at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s 146th annual meeting on Tuesday, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered his first public remarks since leaving President Donald Trump’s administration.

Despite his forced resignation and having been on the raw end of several Trump tweets and public comments this year, Sessions graciously made clear that he still supports the work the president is doing, praising the administration’s successes and some ongoing agenda items in a roughly 20-minute speech. He did not directly address speculation that he could run to return to the United States Senate in 2020.

He did, however, add some levity to the situation, with the crowd of approximately 600 enjoying a few trademark Sessions jokes.

“I’ve had a few ups and downs in the last two years,” Sessions remarked while thanking Bishop Lawson and Cheryl Bryan, who were in attendance. “And every now and then, it’s good to know your bishop is praying for you.”

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A couple of minutes later, Sessions spoke on some federal issues of note.

“On the Make America Great Again front, I will cite these words from Friday’s Wall Street Journal: Wage growth matched the highest rate in nearly a decade and unemployment held at its lowest rate in nearly half a century at 3.7 percent. This is the lowest rate since 1969,” Sessions outlined.

He continued, referring to his wife sitting some yards away from him, “That’s when Mary and I married – 1969.”

Sessions then spoke about the benefits of getting people working again across the nation, while saying that the workforce participation rate still needs improvement.

“So, personally, I’m attempting to chill out a bit,” Sessions said, transitioning away from speaking on the economy.

“You can be sure that I don’t follow the tweets as closely as I used to,” he added to great laughter and a smattering of applause.

Sessions added, “Having served in the Department of Justice for almost 15 years plus 20 on the [Senate] Judiciary Committee, I well knew that AG’s frequently face difficult choices and decisions which, almost inevitably, create some controversy. But this very public adventure, I gotta say, exceeded my expectations.”

The former attorney general and United States senator then continued to emphasize that he remains supportive of Trump and their shared agenda.

“I’m proud of President Trump’s policy agenda and to have had a part in it,” Sessions said. “He is driven to succeed and much of his frustration arises from his inability to move the bureaucracy to achieve what he believes oughta be achieved fast enough.”

Perhaps quoting Kanye West for the first time, Sessions commented, “[Trump] has dragon energy. Think that’s a good description of it, really.”

He then talked about his “love” for the Department of Justice, outlining the successes of his tenure in a similar manner to his speech in Hoover this fall.

“I poured my heart into our work and was pleased to be able to advance the president’s policies, which were my policies and good for America,” Sessions explained.

After listing some of the many accomplishments of his time as attorney general for several minutes, Sessions said that the DOJ’s recent work was just one way that “the rule of law” was being affirmed.

“First, and of monumental importance, the president continues to nominate the best group of highly qualified federal judges ever, in my opinion,” Sessions advised. “These judges understand that they adjudicate under the constitution – they’re not above it. And they know they are to be neutral umpires.”

In a timely manner with Tuesday’s announcement that Ben Shapiro will speak at the University of Alabama during the spring, Sessions also touched on his support of free speech on campuses.

“We’ve defended free speech on campus. Goodness gracious, [it’s] hard to believe the attacks on speech on campus,” Sessions said.

After getting into the weeds a little on more ways the DOJ defended the constitution under his watch, Sessions concluded his remarks.

“[W]e have the greatest legal system in the history of the world,” Sessions outlined. “This government, and especially the attorney general, must give his best effort every day to uphold and defend this heritage we have been so blessed to receive.”

“To that end, as God has given me the ability, I have been dedicated. I am satisfied our work has met the highest standards. Thank you for your friendship, your understanding, your support and for allowing me to represent the great people of this fabulous state. I love it. And of the United States. Thank you all and may God bless America and God bless this great state,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Ledbetter: Around a ’75 percent’ chance higher gas tax passes

(Luke AF Base)

The gas tax may be a foregone conclusion if you listen to the leadership of the Alabama legislature.

Infrastructure needs are undoubtedly a priority heading into the next legislative session; how they get addressed is the battle we will see fought out.

A gas tax of up to 12 cents a gallon has been discussed, but according to Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, the target for a tax increase in Alabama is more likely to be in the six to 10 cent range, which could raise between $180 million and $300 million dollars a year.

While appearing Tuesday on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” Ledbetter was optimistic about the chances of the tax passing legislation.

Without any particular promises made, he referred to the need for a “clean bill” that he believes makes the passage easier.

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In spite of that desire, there are pressing needs in every part of the state and constituents will want their needs addressed, but he agreed that every caveat carved out weakens the bill and makes it less likely to pass.

In the interview, Ledbetter signaled a strategy that will be unveiled to convince Alabama voters that a gas tax increase isn’t that bad and surrounding states have higher taxes so we should increase ours as well, arguing it would be a “reasonable” tax.

Ledbetter stated, “You know Georgia did 26 on gas, 29 on diesel with a five dollar lodging fee.”

“We’re not gonna do that,” he added.

Ledbetter then continued to point out Alabama’s higher tax neighbors, “Tennessee put 10 cents on, Louisiana put 18 cents on. I think we’re going to be more reasonable with what we do and we need to do it for the right reasons.”

A strategy for the gas tax is being unveiled before our eyes: using county commissioners to lobby legislators for a higher gas tax and compare Alabama’s taxes to our neighbors.

Will it work? Ledbetter said there is around a 75 percent chance it will.

Listen:

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

1 day ago

Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon: A municipal perspective on Alabama’s infrastructure

(Contributed/Alabaster Mayor's Office)

Alabamians use municipal infrastructure throughout the state to access jobs, schools, grocery stores, hospitals, parks, entertainment venues and church services – making infrastructure a significant and urgent quality of life issue.

The state’s infrastructure needs are at a critical point, especially relative to their impact on our cities.

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Alabaster, a medium-sized municipality, is struggling to provide the road infrastructure to adequately move a population of approximately 34,000 (and growing) in and around our city, as well as accommodate the traffic associated with our economic footprint of over 100,000. Alabaster is not alone in this struggle. Infrastructure challenges will continue to escalate through the trickle-down effect as metro/urban areas understandably remain in the posture of revitalization and attracting additional growth in the surrounding suburb communities. Like many suburbs, Alabaster is appealing to families for the quality of life provided through excellent public safety, great schools, plenty of parks with children’s programs and safe roads to travel.

Motor Fuel Tax Increase – Why this is imperative

The Legislature is considering adopting an additional motor fuel tax to address the rapidly escalating statewide demands of infrastructure maintenance and enhancement. Therefore, it is important for the citizens of Alabaster and our surrounding communities to be knowledgeable about road funding and how it is distributed so they can boldly and confidently express to legislators the need for adequate and equitable funding for all local governments.

Alabama’s demographics have shifted significantly in the last 50 years. Across the state, greater than 4 percent now live in cities or towns. In Shelby County, 148,641 of the total 213,605 population – almost 70 percent of citizens – live in cities and towns, according to the statistical data for 2017. As the largest city in Shelby County, Alabaster encompasses 25.46 square miles, almost 10 percent of the County’s incorporated land area, which includes a combination of state, county and city roadways.

The city currently faces more need in minimum maintenance projects on city streets than the current gas tax allocation supports. For educational purposes, the current annual gasoline tax allocation of approximately $260,000 provides for the resurfacing of three to five residential neighborhood streets each year, depending on distance and the degree of repair necessary. However, when the base of the roadway is severely impaired due to earth movement or sink-hole conditions, repairs must be completed in phases pending availability of funds.

Our city has experienced this multi-phase type project with Alabaster Blvd – approximately one mile of city street repairs (not resurface) with a low bid of more than $600,000 in 2014 to complete all at one time. The total cost of the project increases dramatically when done in phases, due to mobilization and other economic factors. This multi-year project, in progress for the last four years, is still not complete. We are consistently addressing roads in priority order as it relates to safety – and we’re more often reactive instead of preventative.

The major arteries for traffic to move through and around our city belong to either the state or county. In order to address a major congestion issue, the city has to become a willing partner contributing funds in a collaborative effort towards improvements. One example is the widening of State Highway 119, which moves traffic from one end of our city to another into the city of Montevallo. In 2013, Alabaster was awarded a Federal grant of up to $10 million for approximately two miles of roadway widening, with the city participating in a 20 percent match to the 80 percent of federal dollars. Currently, no state funds are allocated to this project. The project was put on hold earlier this year because the estimated cost of $20+ million exceeded the grant funding and ALDOT had no available resources to assist in the completion of the project. After two months of conversations with representatives of the Federal Highway
Administration, we were granted permission to break the project into two phases and move forward utilizing our existing grant funds.

Many times, collaboration between government agencies allows for projects a local government cannot afford to do on its own. However, as it relates to roads, excessive time and additional requirements, as well as other inefficiencies, are the downsides when collaborating with the Federal Highway Administration and the State due to so many other ongoing projects. It is not quite as bad when a municipality partners with a local county government, but the efficiency inhibitors are still present.

Alabama counties and municipalities, as well as the taxpayers statewide, benefit from savings in eliminating red tape and inefficiencies. Future economic and community development projects in the Shelby/Jefferson County areas will be defined by the infrastructure it can offer. The same is true with every region of the state.

Current Motor Fuel Tax Distribution Is Inadequate

The current motor fuel tax distribution formula, which provides 50 percent of funds to the State and 50 percent to local governments with counties receiving 80 percent and municipalities receiving 20 percent, was developed in the 1960s and is no longer equitable to citizens living in municipal jurisdictions to address the growing demands on our municipal infrastructure. Therefore, municipal officials are advocating that the Legislature adopt a 21st Century distribution formula that would provide 50 percent of the funds to the State, 25 percent to counties and 25 percent to municipalities.

Alabaster’s community actively engaged with its legislative delegation on this critical issue as they experienced the dangerous bottleneck contributing to more accidents and lengthy delays on the Shelby County portion of Interstate 65, and even more so after the delay in widening Highway 119 where emergency vehicles can’t get to the scene of an accident due to the congestion. Our delegation listened.

The voices of voters make the difference!

We are proud of the state’s history of fiscally conscientious leaders making Alabama a great and affordable place to live. No one is to blame for the rising cost of goods and services over periods of time; it just costs more to maintain the same in every industry, including government. That being said, Alabama is not the same as it once was – we have grown and developed, shifting from rural areas to bustling suburbs.

I can’t stress enough how important it is for our legislators to hear from their constituents about the public safety issues and escalating need in their communities. It would be wonderful if the voice of local government and public safety professionals were enough; however, it is always going to take the voices of the voters to make the difference between crumbling congested roads and safe highways.

State and local leaders cannot afford to sacrifice the public’s safety and quality of life by adhering to inadequate funding formulas of the past. As we have implored people and businesses to invest in our communities and our state for the benefit of our citizens, we owe them the return on their investment of providing the infrastructure needed for safe success in their mobility.

Please contact your legislators and let them know that infrastructure is a priority issue for you as a citizen and for us as a state!

Marty Handlon is a Certified Public Accountant with a Master’s in Business Administration and more than 20 years’ experience in accounting and financial management. She was elected Mayor of Alabaster in October 2012.

2 days ago

Ben Shapiro to speak at the University of Alabama in the spring

(G. Skidmore/Flickr)

Ben Shapiro, a prominent national conservative commentator and writer, will speak at the University of Alabama during the 2019 spring semester.

In an announcement Tuesday, Young America’s Foundation (YAF) said Shapiro will speak on campus in Tuscaloosa as part of the organization’s Fred Allen Lecture Series. UA will be one of six campuses to host the hot ticket speaker during the spring, on a date yet to be announced.

YAF celebrated a “wildly successful” fall lineup of campuses, adding it was “excited” to unveil the select locations hosting “the #1 requested speaker in the country” this coming spring.

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Formerly an editor-at-large for Breitbart, Shapiro currently serves as the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, which he founded in 2015. He has spoken frequently on college campuses across the country in recent years, meeting with controversy along the way, including especially prominent occasions at the University of California at Berkeley and California State University in Los Angeles.

He also hosts his online political podcast, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” which is broadcast every weekday. At age 34, Shapiro’s podcast is downloaded over 1 million times per episode, with an audience that is reportedly 70 percent under the age of 40. The Daily Wire gets approximately 140 million page views per month.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Alexander Shunnarah gives back to the community with the first annual ‘Shunnarah Seasons of Giving’ initiative

(Alexander Shunnarah/Facebook)

Most people know Alexander Shunnarah for his infamous “Call me Alabama” slogan and the massive trail of billboards commonly spotted by travelers along I-65. However, what many aren’t aware of is Shunnarrah’s heart for giving back to the city he calls home.

To show his love and appreciation for Birmingham, the Alabama lawyer just launched the first ever “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” initiative and is surprising locals in the community with various acts of service throughout the month of December.

Shunnurah described this initiative as a, “…small part in giving back to the community and paying it forward.”

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To begin the month-long program, Shunnarrah stopped by Etheridge Brother and Sister Barber and Beauty Shop in downtown Birmingham last week where he gave locals an opportunity to receive a complimentary haircut.

“It’s been a great initial kickoff in the seasons of giving,” Shunarrah said.

In addition to these pop-up visits, Shunnarah’s law firm is partnering with The Shoe Clinic LLC for the clinic’s third annual ‘Saving One Sole at a Time” Sneaker, Sock and Coat Drive. The drive will take place at The Shoe Clinic LLC on Saturday, December 15th from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Donations are accepted now through December 15th. Both organizations hope to collect 500 sneakers and coats, and 1000 pairs of socks by December 15th.

To donate to the sneaker, sock and coat drive, visit one of the two drop-off locations listed here:

The Shoe Clinic
1801 11th Ave S. Birmingham, AL,

Alexander Shunnarah Law Firm
2900 1st Ave. S. Birmingham, AL.

To see where Alexander Shunurrah visits for the next “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” pop-up, visit his Instagram page at @alexander_shunnarah.