The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

6 hours ago

Can cleaning the ocean be marketed?

(4Ocean/Facebook)

Trillions of pieces of plastic are creating huge garbage patches in the world’s oceans. One company’s efforts to do something about this problem can lead us to rethink some perceived economic wisdom.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that two million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year. Most of this waste results from irresponsible disposal. Ocean currents have created five major garbage patches. The most notable is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii, double the size of Texas and containing 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. The patches are nuisances, can harm ocean life, and provide one rationale for banning plastic straws, silverware, and bags, although the wisdom of plastic bans is a topic for another day.

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Floridians Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze witnessed the ocean trash problem while surfing in Bali and started 4Ocean in response. As the company’s website describes it, “Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it.”
The problem was that no one could get paid to pick up the trash, and Mr. Cooper and Mr. Schulze hit upon an idea. For $20, customers can buy a 4Ocean bracelet made from recycled plastic and remove one pound of trash. To date, 4Ocean has removed more than 4.4 million pounds of plastic.
Can we trust that 4Ocean removes trash from the ocean? To assure customers, 4Ocean relies on Green Circle Certification. Green Circle provides third party certification of a variety of environmental claims, including recycled content in products, energy savings, and carbon footprint reduction. Companies like 4Ocean pay Green Circle to assess their operations. For certified claims, Green Circle lets the customer use their symbol and enters the product in their online database.

Certification seemingly faces a conflict of interest: Won’t Green Circle always certify the claims of paying customers? While this is a danger, ultimately a third party certifier really sells only its veracity. 4Ocean will only pay if Green Circle’s seal matters to potential customers. Green Circle, which has been in business since 2009, makes money over time only by being honest.

Third party certification has a long history. The case most studied by economists is Underwriters’ Laboratories, which tests consumer products for safety. The UL stamp assures insurers that lamps, toasters, and other products are not fire hazards.

How does this relate to government and environmental protection? Americans value protecting the environment, but conventional wisdom holds that business cannot make money protecting the environment. Any commercial venture must charge for its product or service, and normally does so by allowing only paying customers to get the product or service.

Yet allowing only paying customers to benefit from environmental protection is almost impossible: everyone benefits if the Great Pacific Garbage Pile is cleaned up. If businesses cannot market environmental protection, we will have to turn to government and taxes.

We have an incentive to let someone else clean up the ocean, but also like to contribute to good causes. 4Ocean taps into this sentiment, and their bracelet lets customers to show off their good deed. Environmental groups raise millions of dollars in a similar fashion. Charities do this too; Save the Children allows donors to learn the story of a child they “rescue.”

Proponents of government action will point with justification that the funds raised through markets to protect the environment are small relative to the scale of the problems. The 2,200 tons of plastic 4Ocean is just a drop in the bucket. Yet government efforts can be poorly funded, very costly, and of poor quality. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly documented the flaws of the Energy Star labeling program.

Ultimately we must pay for environmental protection. Businesses and charities must deliver to continue being supported by their customers or patrons. Each success in marketing environmental protection enables a valuable alternative and should be celebrated.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

6 hours ago

VIDEO: Alabama’s abortion bill gets plenty of attention, changes to a proposed lottery fund education, tariffs hurt Alabama farmers and more on Guerrilla Politics …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is Alabama’s abortion ban good policy or good politics?

— Will the 25 percent allocated for education secure the passage of a lottery in Alabama?

— Will Alabama farmers blame President Donald Trump or the previous administration for the current impact tariffs are having on their livelihoods?

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Jackson and Burke are joined by Democratic activist Pam Miles to discuss plans to protest Alabama’s abortion ban and how Democrats in Alabama move forward.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at those perpetrating the “25 white men” narrative when discussing Alabama’s abortion ban.

https://www.facebook.com/303363616352436/posts/2418925051462938/

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

9 hours ago

Roby: A pro-life update from the federal level

(M. Roby for Congress/Facebook)

Throughout my time in Congress, I have been staunchly and unapologetically pro-life. I will continue to use this platform to fight for life at every stage because unborn babies cannot fight for themselves. Since much of the news in our state and throughout the country lately has focused on recent pro-life efforts, I would like to take this opportunity to share an update about my work on the federal level to defend the unborn.

In February of this year, the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule that would restrict Title X family planning grants from being steered to entities that are not physically and financially separate from abortion providers. A series of court injunctions have frozen these rule changes, and as a result, hundreds of abortion facilities, like Planned Parenthood, are still receiving federal tax dollars through Title X grants.

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While the rule is going through the judicial process, the Democrat majority on the House Appropriations Committee has elected to tie the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services through legislation stating that the Department may only act in accordance with regulations established prior to January 18, 2017, just two days before Donald Trump became President. This is unacceptable – we simply cannot handcuff the current administration to regulations of the past.

During the recent full Appropriations Committee markup of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, I offered an amendment that would allow the courts, rather than the Democrat majority in the House, to decide the fate of the Trump administration’s proposed rule restricting Title X family planning grants from being awarded to facilities that provide abortions. Despite the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment, abortion providers have been able to get their hands on American tax dollars through these Title X funds. I am unapologetically pro-life, so I don’t want this to happen, and the majority of the people I represent don’t want this to happen.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule would draw a clear, bright line between family planning services and abortion providers. Unfortunately, my amendment did not pass, but to ensure that the rule has a fighting chance of becoming law, we must allow it to go through our judicial process – not block it legislatively as part of a political game.

In addition to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also taking measures to stand up for the unborn. Two foreign companies, Aid Access and Rablon, have been known to distribute chemical abortion drugs to customers in the United States by mail-order. This practice is already illegal, and the FDA has taken action against it, but it is still happening.

This abortion drug, called Mifeprex, is approved by the FDA, but it is only legally available to patients in the United States through health care providers. It is not available in retail pharmacies, and it is certainly not legally available on the Internet. However, these abortion-by-mail providers, primarily based in Europe, have widened their consumer base to include the U.S. They provide remote consultations, send prescriptions to be filled in India, then send the abortion drug to U.S. customers by mail.

By violating the FDA’s safety protocols, these companies are endangering the health of American women and their children. The FDA has been combating these practices, but I recently led a letter, signed by 117 of my colleagues, that was sent to Dr. Norman Sharpless, acting FDA commissioner, urging him to further crackdown. I was proud to join my fellow pro-life colleagues in sending the clear message that we will not tolerate these dangerous, illegal practices, and I applaud the steps the FDA has already taken to protect women and unborn children.

I share these updates to make the point that while we still face challenges, our pro-life momentum is strong, and I will keep pushing forward on the federal level. I want the people I represent in Alabama’s Second District to know that defending the unborn remains a top priority of mine, and I will continue to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

11 hours ago

University of Alabama, other Southern flagship universities see biggest bump in enrollment

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Enrollment at several universities in the South jumped more than 50 percent in a decade, according to data from the College Board.

University of Arkansas saw its number of full-time students grow 63 percent from 2007 to 2016, the most of any flagship university. University of Alabama and University of Mississippi had the next largest increases at 55 percent and 51 percent, respectively.

In addition to the allure of football tailgate parties, students may have been enticed by lower tuition fees and living expenses. Among the 50 flagships, University of Arkansas ranked No. 38 in cost, while Alabama was No. 30 and Ole Miss came in at No. 44.

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Admissions officers should take note. The high school class of 2012 ushered in a first wave of declines in the number of graduates nationwide, according to a report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education in Boulder, Colorado. The trend will worsen after 2025, when the impact hits from a drop in births that began with the 2007 recession.

Some of the boost in enrollment at schools in warmer locales coincides with a rise in the region’s population growth, with exceptions. Florida’s population grew by 2.45 million since 2010 while its flagship university saw enrollment slide 4.4 percent from 2007 to 2016.

Studying in the Sunshine State comes with a hefty price tag for non-residents. Out-of-state students at the University of Florida pay more than four times what their in-state counterparts pay, the largest premium among the 50 flagship schools. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranks second. Out-of-state students there pay more than $35,000 in tuition while those in-state pay less than $9,000.

University of Michigan is the most expensive flagship university for out-of-state students, at close to $50,000 per year. Next are University of Virginia and University of California at Berkeley. All three are consistently among the top-ranked U.S. public colleges.

Meanwhile, the cost gap for in-state and out-of-state students decreased the most at University of Georgia over the last decade.

University of MontanaUniversity of Idaho and University of Alaska saw the biggest declines in enrollment despite their in-state tuition costs trailing their faster-growing counterparts. Enrollment also tumbled at University of South Dakota, which has the best deal for out-of-state students. Tuition and fees for the 2018-19 school year there were just $12,425.

(With assistance from Janet Lorin and Marie Patino. Contact the reporter at shagan9@bloomberg.net.)

This article first appeared on Bloomberg.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 hours ago

Birmingham Botanical Gardens water features get a makeover

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Every spring, visitors stream into the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Children dart among the uprights at the Granite Garden fountain and dash to the Rose Gardens to see if the roses have started to bloom, or humor their parents and pose for photos.

Whether they’re coming for exercise or inspiration, guests of all ages and interests have a chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of springtime, and among these – in no small part – are the artistry and lyrical babbling of the gardens’ beloved water features.

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Over the past two years, more than half of the gardens’ 14 water features have undergone a transformation, thanks to membership support and the combined efforts of Jane Underwood, operations manager with the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and Virgil Mathews, district horticulture supervisor with the city of Birmingham. During your next visit, check out these newly refurbished water features – a testament to the dynamic relationship between garden and water landscape.

The Cochran Water Wall in the Hill Garden was the first to be rehabbed. Dedicated in 1988, it is the focal point of the garden.

“The water wall had stopped sheeting over the entire top edge. As a result, the basin was not filling up and recirculating,” Underwood says. “We had to figure out where water was going and how to repair it.”

Underwood and Mathews worked with Alabama Aquatics, which removed the tile on the back wall and sealed the wall before replacing the tile. Problem solved.

They then turned their attention to the 1967 Japanese Garden streambed because the water was not cascading over the waterfalls.

“It was flowing into cavities before it ever reached the waterfall,” Underwood says.

Parrot Structural Services pumped the cavities with hydraulic cement to fill the voids. They applied the same treatment to the Abroms Rhododendron Species Garden basin, the Curry Rhododendron Garden pond and the Fern Glade streambed.

The team was excited to discover a way to have the iconic North and South Urns repaired on-site. Dedicated in 1988, the urns are fixtures of the Formal Garden and help frame the space. Estes Paintingused epoxy to fill rust holes in the cast-iron vessels, sanded the urns and repainted them.

Alabama Aquarium & Pond Services (AAPS) then installed new pumps and placed them in such a way that they’re not visible from the paths,” Underwood says.

Other improvements were less extensive but no less important. In the Curry Rhododendron Garden pond, “horticulturist Tiffany Sutton had been filling the pond with a hose when the water level dropped,” Underwood says. A new pump with an auto-fill feature now fills it as needed.

The 2006 Loblolly Pine Cone fountain by sculptor Brad Morton in the Southern Living Garden also received a new pump. The Abroms Rhododendron Species Garden basin, which like most streambeds at the gardens was created with shotcrete applied directly to the soil without rebar to reinforce it, was rebuilt using reinforced concrete. Thanks to the combined efforts of Bright Future Electric and AAPS, the quaint pond in the McReynolds Garden greets visitors with the gentle welcome of a bubbly fountain.

“It’s amazing – the feel of the place – when the fountains are up and running,” Underwood says. “When you walk through the Japanese Garden or sit in the new swings in the Abroms Rhododendron Species Garden, water makes such a difference in the aesthetic of these spots. The gardens feel so alive.”

This story first appeared in the spring 2019 issue of The Garden Dirt magazine published by Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

Abortion ban sponsor State Rep. Collins: Bill is attempting to establish personhood by using ‘the language Roe v. Wade uses’

(Screenshot/APTV)

After undergoing a controversial two weeks, the Alabama legislature passed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, which was a ban on almost all abortions. Then on Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law.

Those actions led to a national backlash, especially given the bill did not provide an exception for rape or incest. However, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) still insists given the law’s language provided the best opportunity to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Friday, Collins discussed the public reaction to the legislature’s actions and how it differs from the so-called “heartbeat” bills other states are passing into law.

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Collins told WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show” she was not surprised by the reaction. However, she also noted that given that the Alabama House of Representatives had been working into the late hours, she had not seen much of the national media’s reactions.

“I guess I am not surprised,” she said. “People feel very passionately about this issue regardless of the side that they’re on. And so, I knew there would be lots of rhetoric, lots of hate and lots of love.  So, I’ve seen all sides. I’ve not seen as much of the national media parts of it and maybe some of the blowback because I have had a very busy week in the legislature. And we’ve been there to almost midnight every night. And I’ve been working on other bills that are really, really important. I’ve not watched a lot of the national media.”

The Morgan County Republican explained the distinction between the bill she had sponsored and “heartbeat” bills passed by other legislatures like Georgia, which was an effort to use the same terminology as the Roe v. Wade decision.

“The heartbeat bill and some of the other bills address when the child is just considered a life and that we can protect that child from that point on,” Collins said. “This bill addresses the language that Roe v. Wade uses, which is ‘in utero,’ which is it doesn’t get into contraception. It doesn’t even get into conception of a baby as a person at conception. It doesn’t get into the Morning-After Pill. It simply says ‘in utero,’ which is the term for pregnant.”

“So once a woman is pregnant, then the abortion is now illegal for a doctor to perform,” she continued. “And it actually spells out in the bill that the woman is not held liable, or civilly liable. So, it is as clear and as simple as can be. Roe v. Wade decision was that baby in the womb was not a person. This bill simply says we believe that baby in the womb is a person based on current Alabama and the majority of our voters voting to be a pro-life state last fall. We feel it’s the time. I think you see other states feeling like the courts willing to look at that issue and send that decision back to the states.”

She went on to explain this was not the law she wanted for the state and hoped that ultimately, the federal courts would return the issue to the individual states.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

15 hours ago

State Sen. Arthur Orr: River port proposal to help with ‘wear and tear’ of roads, Would not provide yacht access for Decatur

(Screenshot/APTV)

Earlier during this year’s legislative session, State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) put forth a proposal that would offer public financing for inland ports, which at the time would have come from revenue generated by an increase in the gas tax that is part of the newly passed Rebuild Alabama Act. Since doing so, the source of funding for his proposal has shifted from new gas tax revenue to money now freed up that was initially used to fund the courts.

However, some critics of Orr’s proposal have alleged the Republican senator was motivated by an allegiance to his employer Cook’s Pest Control, which sought the inland port funding to make Decatur accessible for yachts owned by the company.

During an appearance on “The Dale Jackson Show” on Huntsville radio’s WVNN, Orr clarified his proposal by explaining he sought to improve the inland river ports of Alabama, which includes Decatur as well as others, as an additional way to get goods to and from market.

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“When the bill, the gas tax bill, was coming through, I had an amendment I wanted to offer,” he said. “I think we may have even talked about it on this show. The amendment said this: If we’re going to invest in the Port of Mobile, that’s fine. And dredging that harbor to get in larger ships – a good thing, a good investment for the state. Obviously not roads and bridges, but a good thing overall. When the goods come into the state, a lot of them will be transported on inland waterways. And there are inland ports all throughout the state. They are publicly owned by a local port authority, etc. all through the waterways. And so the premise of the bill was to enhance the tonnage going through Mobile, to and from. And also you could have a plant up here like Mazda-Toyota and shipping cars from up here down to the Port of Mobile. But you’ve got to have the ports to do it.”

Orr told Jackson such an offering could take wear and tear off the state’s roads given waterways would be used instead of roads and bridges to move goods.

“The premise is let’s have a pot of money to enhance the ports, which helps Mobile with its tonnage, and that all gets trucks off the highways and wear and tear off the highways because now they’re going to be on rivers,” Orr added. “If we take trucks’ wear and tear off the roads, then that’s kind of less money we have to spend on the roads. Kind of a wash, if you will, Dale.”

His proposal also included enhancements for intermodal freight transport to and from the Port of Mobile, which is being expanded as a result of the Rebuild Alabama Act.

“And another thing with the bill was to have an intermodal or two,” he continued. “If you look at Savannah, if you look at Norfolk, Hampton Roads, Charleston – if you look at 200 or 300 miles inland from each of those ports, they have a large inland port. If you take the stuff off, they rail it inland 200 or 300 miles, they take it to the intermodal, they offload, it the put it on trucks, and they disperse it. And again, the converse – truck it to the intermodal, rail it to the port and ship it out via the port in Mobile – all to enhance the tonnage coming and going from Mobile. So that’s what the bill did in two things.”

He went on to add that dredging marinas would not be allowed, just the publicly owned ports.

“There’s no dredging allowed, except in the port area,” he continued. “And somebody brought that up in committee, and we actually amended the bill to say no dredging of rivers. It just gets too expensive. You have to have a viable port.”

The Morgan County Republican also said it could not solely be for his home city of Decatur because it was done through a competitive grant program open to the 20-25 publicly owned ports throughout the state.

Orr denied the accusations that he was motivated by offering yacht access for his employer Cook’s Pest Control, and said they did not own a yacht.

“The family that I work for, the company I work for, the owners – they don’t have a yacht. They don’t even have a fishing boat.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

1 day ago

Flowers: Infrastructure package passage will be hallmark of success for Governor Kay Ivey and the legislature

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

The five-day special legislative session that addressed the increase in the gas tax to fund an Infrastructure Rebuilding Program for the state was a remarkable success. I still marvel at the adroitness, efficiency and expediency in which the governor accomplished this monumental initiative. She called for a special session on the night of her State of the State address and within one week it was signed, sealed and delivered.

I have seen some successful special sessions in my lifetime of watching Alabama politics. However, I have never seen anything like this. George Wallace used special sessions continuously and regularly during his 20-year reign as king of Alabama politics. He got things accomplished this way. It is the way to go to crystallize the importance of an issue.

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Kay Ivey’s success made Wallace’s hardball ploys look minor league. She got her mission accomplished in the minimum five days. It was an amazing success story that will be told in political circles for years.

She did her homework. She dug in and made it clear that infrastructure improvement was a must for Alabama. She had a plan, she worked it and she won and the people of Alabama won.

She was not doing it for self-serving reasons nor was she doing it to secure her place in history. However, I am here to tell you as an Alabama political historian, she earned a place in my book. She has earned her spurs and earned the name “Governor.” She showed her leadership and the title Gov. Kay Ivey.

Gov. Ivey was astute to address the issue in a special session within the regular session for several reasons. In a special session, legislators have to address only the issue the governor calls them in for. By calling for the concentrated special session within the regular session, it did not cost taxpayers anymore. It also got them around the 3/5 vote needed to bring a bill up before the budgets which is required in the regular session.

Her ability to reach across the aisle and garner Democratic support for passage of the program was noteworthy. She brought in all of the Democratic legislative leaders. She sat down with them and diligently worked to explain how important this agenda was to not only their constituents, but to the entire state.

Her reaching out to them was not only important for passage of this package, but it built the foundation for a successful and harmonious working relationship with all the members of the Legislature which has been missing for over a decade.

The relationships Kay developed with state senators as presiding officer of the Senate for six years paid off with not only the Republican leadership but also with Democratic leaders like Bobby Singleton.

She forged new friendships with both Republican and Democratic legislators in the House. She worked hard and developed a close working relationship with House Democratic leader, Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville), who is a bright young star. This friendship will be good going forward for Ivey and the state.

Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) was the leader in the House that worked closely with Gov. Kay Ivey to align the stars for passage. Poole drafted the bill, helped devise the strategy and fought for passage. He is probably the only House sponsor who could pull it off. Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) did a brilliant job in the Senate. Both Poole and Chambliss are young with bright paths ahead in Alabama politics.

Expanding access to broadband internet in rural Alabama has been one of the cornerstone issues for Gov. Ivey and the legislature the last few years. This access to broadband today is as important as getting electricity was 60-75 years ago.

This initiative has moved to the forefront for passage as the session evolves. The magic formula for success is engrossed in House Bill 400. This legislation would logically and effectively allow electric utilities to use their existing infrastructure to run broadband to areas that do not have service today.

Opposition has arisen from big cable companies for obvious self-serving reasons. To allow these large out-of-state companies to thwart the passage of this important piece of legislation would be bad for the state. The need to run new fiber optic lines at great expense would make the initiative almost cost prohibitive.

Regardless, the cable companies and AT&T are working to kill this logical plan to extend broadband internet service to all Alabamians. They are also using some unsavory tactics in their attempt to kill Gov. Ivey’s initiative. Hopefully, their transparent efforts to derail this important legislation will be ignored by legislators who want what is best for Alabama.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 day ago

Lockheed Martin breaks ground on new Alabama production facility

(Lockheed Martin/Contributed)

Lockheed Martin officially launched construction on a new missile facility at its Pike County campus, where the company is accelerating production of strike systems.

Lockheed Martin said the new 225,000-square-foot facility, combined with the current cruise missile production factory on the Troy site, will provide the necessary space to meet the U.S. Air Force’s objectives.

“This expansion represents Pike County Operations’ long-standing commitment to meet our customer’s current and future needs as well as to bring more well-paying jobs to the area,” said Frank St. John, executive vice president at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

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“All our employees come to work with an unwavering commitment to help our customers succeed in their mission to create a more secure and prosperous world.”

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, joined Lockheed Martin executives and U.S. Air Force officials at a groundbreaking ceremony this morning at the Troy location.

“We strive to provide a foundation in Alabama that allows aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin to establish world-class facilities that are positioned for expansion opportunities,” Secretary Canfield said. “Over the quarter century, the company’s Troy missile facility has grown from 30 employees to around 500 today, and the number is still growing.

“We look forward to seeing additional job creation in coming years.”

GROWTH PLANS

Lockheed Martin said construction on the new Alabama facility is slated for completion in 2021 with Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) production ramping up in the second half of 2022.

“We’re pleased to see Lockheed Martin continue to invest in our community with the addition of this new manufacturing building,” Troy Mayor Jason Reeves said.

“Their growth not only leads to more jobs — it enhances sustainable growth for our region.”

Lockheed Martin last initiated an expansion in Pike County in 2014, when it launched a project that was slated to create 224 full-time jobs over five years. The hiring milestones on that $65 million project have been met.

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, has been assisting Lockheed Martin’s Pike County operation for 25 years and opened a $2 million, 7,000-square-foot Advanced Training Center on the campus in 2017.

Today, Lockheed Martin is collaborating with AIDT to embrace the future of workforce development through piloting virtual reality, or VR, training.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

Rogers’ report from Washington: Standing up for Israel

(M. Rogers/Facebook, (Z. Evenor/Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Recently in the halls of Congress, it’s become a much too common practice for some Democrats to spew hatred and anti-Semitism.

From Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to Representative Rashida Tlaib to Representative Illhan Omar, their words cut deeply. Their spreading of anti-Semitism is harmful to all Americans.

On the world stage, we have also seen the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement gaining traction and trying to hurt Israel. The BDS movement is cover for some of the world’s worst anti-Semites. The movement is ultimately devoted to the destruction of the state of Israel.
I am a strong supporter of Israel. Not only is Israel fundamental to my Christian faith, it is one of our greatest allies.

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This week, to show my support, I, along with my Republican colleagues, signed a Discharge Petition to bring legislation to the House floor for a vote.

If the Discharge Petition gets 218 signatures, H.R. 336, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, can be brought to the House Floor for a vote. The legislation reaffirms the United States’ commitment to Israel and against the BDS movement.

Months ago, the Senate passed similar anti-BDS legislation with some Democrat support. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the legislation has been collecting dust on Nancy Pelosi’s desk because of some of the members of her party who have been outspoken critics of Israel.
There is no place in Congress or America for this type of hatred. It is vile and repugnant. It must be condemned.

I have been very disappointed in the Democrat leadership for not condemning this type of behavior and for not standing up for Israel. I hope we can bring this vote to the floor and show the world that we are standing up for and standing with Israel.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks. 

Mother’s Day at Children’s of Alabama hospital brightened by special deliveries

(Children's of Alabama/Contributed)

While professional golfers on the PGA Tour Champions aimed for the greens at the Regions Tradition golf tournament, hundreds of volunteers packed green boxes to ensure mothers would feel like champions at Children’s of Alabama.

Birmingham’s Cheeriodicals coordinated a special delivery to the hospital on Mother’s Day in what was to be the last day of the golf tournament. A weather delay extended the tournament to Monday, which saw Steve Stricker claim his first major championship.

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Throughout the past week, volunteers from RegionsGreystone Golf and Country ClubAlabama Power Service Organization and Edgar’s Bakery joined with some golf pros and others to pack the bright green Cheeriodicals boxes. Boxes were packed with items for mothers of children staying at the hospital as well as for the children themselves.

“I could not be prouder of the volunteers from Alabama Power Company who commit year over year and time and again to give their talent to causes that really help elevate the state,” said Myla Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation.

Some surprise deliveries were made to mothers during the Regions Pro-Am tournament. But the bulk were made at Children’s of Alabama on Sunday morning. The mothers were appreciative and often tearful for the show of love and support.

“It is an amazing thing really,” said Morgan White, a mother of an 8-month-old daughter who is scheduled for heart surgery Wednesday. “It really helps. Being in the hospital is hard anyways, but being in the hospital on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, holidays is really, really nerve-wracking.”

“It’s going to be a great Mother’s Day,” White added. “I get to spend it with my daughter and now I have all of this stuff to help me cope.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

Auburn is advancing the state of Alabama on and off the court

(Auburn University/Flickr)

The Auburn Tigers’ great basketball season — culminating with a trip to the Final Four — drew much national attention to Auburn and the state of Alabama, as the team touched the hearts of countless fans, old and new, and became the state’s first school to reach that milestone.

It’s an excitement Auburn and our state should reflect off the court as well, as we partner to move the state forward and build a solid foundation for our great future. But, like on the court, we must have the determination to win by overcoming challenges, such as competition from faster-growing states and poor rankings. The state has historically not performed well in a number of national surveys, such as U.S. News’ rankings of the best states in which to live. However, we are currently experiencing economic growth and we continue to progress as a state.

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Auburn, as a land-grant university, is poised to lead. Land-grant institutions give citizens access to a practical education that not only benefits the students, but strengthens communities and boosts economic opportunities. As an Auburn alumnus, I was already familiar with many university endeavors, but I learned even more when I served as chair of the Auburn University Foundation. Let’s look at facts you may not know.

Auburn educates more students from Alabama each year than any other institution, creates an annual economic impact of $5.4 billion, provides an eight to one return on every dollar invested in Auburn and makes immeasurable research advancements for our state and nation. Auburn’s impact affects our citizens from Huntsville to the Gulf Coast.

For example, many Alabamians earn their living through poultry. Auburn research is helping meet new consumer demands, leading the fight against diseases and providing food for a growing global population. Poultry accounts for 65.6% of annual farming revenue in Alabama and it employs more than 86,000 workers. It is just one of the many industries intertwined with Auburn.

University research is the key to developing industry partnerships, nurturing entrepreneurs and attracting new companies. The Auburn Research Park is a leading destination for business and industry looking to locate or expand in Alabama, and it is home to the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator that helps student entrepreneurs fine-tune their business ideas and attract investors.

Another area in which Auburn leads the way is additive manufacturing. One alliance in this growing field is the university’s work with NASA to develop additive manufacturing techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. This is the latest expansion of a longstanding partnership involving Marshall Space Flight Center, Auburn’s Huntsville Research Center and Auburn’s main campus.

Auburn also provides advanced technology and training with Delta Air Lines to develop the next generation of pilots in the university’s new Delta Air Lines Aviation Education Building and through Delta’s Propel Pilot Career Path Program.

Research and technology have more than economic benefits, though. The College of Veterinary Medicine, which most likely taught your veterinarian, constantly makes breakthroughs to benefit pets and people. One area that comes to mind is the Auburn-developed Vapor Wake training for detector dogs, which keep our nation safe.

Still focusing on safety, Auburn has devoted tremendous resources to become a national leader in cybersecurity, led by its Charles D. McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security. Students graduate prepared to protect the country, like recent cyber-engineering graduate Matthew Rogers who was named a Rhodes scholar.

In Birmingham, students at Auburn’s Urban Studio design neighborhood masterplans and create designs for public-use buildings in areas with potential for significant urban impact. In west Alabama, the 20K Initiative through the Rural Studio in Hale County is another great example. The initiative is a collaboration with Fannie Mae to develop quality, sustainable houses that give financially vulnerable citizens the ability to own a home.

Along the coast, the Auburn University Educational Complex at Gulf Shores offers veterinary care, aviation instruction and Alabama Cooperative Extension System programs. Throughout the state, Alabama Extension searches for ways to serve our citizens. For example, more people are interested in becoming farmers, so Alabama Extension offers a free, online Farming Basics course to help them get started.

In east Alabama, a new partnership between Auburn and Southern Union State Community College makes Auburn accessible and affordable to two-year college students who transfer and complete a bachelor’s degree. Auburn plans to expand this program to other community colleges, as nearly 900 students from two-year institutions transfer to Auburn annually.

It’s an exciting time for Auburn as a key institution that inspires students, strengthens communities and boosts economic opportunities — all advancing the state of Alabama.

Jeff Stone is executive vice president of Brasfield & Gorrie in Birmingham, an Auburn alumnus and past chair of the Auburn University Foundation.

2 days ago

Bait privilege license provides options for hog, deer hunting

(Jay Gunn/WFF)

A buddy of mine recently returned from vacation to discover what many landowners have been dealing with for the past couple of decades.

“Hogs tore up my place while we were gone,” the message read.

Now my friend has another tool that he can use to help minimize the impact of the scourge known as feral hogs.

The Alabama legislature recently passed legislation that allows hunters on privately owned or leased land to purchase a bait privilege license that makes it legal to hunt feral pigs (year-round during daylight hours only) and white-tailed deer (during the deer-hunting season only) with the aid of bait.

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The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is issuing the new license ($15 for resident individual hunters and $51 for non-residents) through any outlet that sells hunting licenses and online at https://www.outdooralabama.com.

Hunters who want to thin the destructive hog herd right now can purchase the license, but be aware that license will expire on Aug. 31. If you wish to hunt hogs or deer with the aid of bait during the 2019-2020 hunting seasons, you will need to purchase a new bait privilege license when it becomes available in late August.

The bait privilege license applies to everybody who hunts those species with the aid of bait with no exceptions. That means hunters 65 years old and older and hunters under 16 must have a valid bait license when hunting with the aid of bait. That also includes people hunting on their own property and lifetime license holders.

Plus, each hunter must have his/her own bait privilege license to hunt with the aid of bait.

Also understand that baiting any wildlife – including white-tailed deer and feral pigs – on public lands remains illegal.

Sen. Jack Williams (R-Wilmer) who has been dealing with the destructive feral hogs for years, sponsored the Senate bill. This was the fourth year Williams had submitted similar legislation.

“The biggest thing in my area is the hogs are tearing your property up,” said Williams, who farms and operates a plant nursery in Mobile County. “I’m overrun with them in my area. I killed one Easter morning off my porch, in my back yard. They were rooting my driveway up. We’re doing everything we can to kill them. We have more opportunities to kill them during deer season than any other time.”

Williams drew a parallel with how some natural wildlife forage can also congregate animals in tight spaces.

“In my viewpoint, there is not any difference between a group of deer eating the corn spread out or in a trough and white-oak acorns with all the deer up under that tree,” he said. “We’ve fed for years, and I think most people who are trying to grow any deer have too. We haven’t had any problems with it at all.”

Included in the law is a provision that ADCNR can suspend the use of the bait privilege license on a county, regional or statewide basis to prevent the spread of diseases, like chronic wasting disease (CWD), among wildlife.

Williams said he’s received significant feedback on his Facebook page about the bill, and the majority of responses have been positive.

“The polling we had before it was passed was about 84% in favor,” he said. “And it’s a choice. If you don’t want to bait, you don’t have to. If you own property, you can put in your lease that hunters can’t use bait. This is not being forced on you. It’s up to you if you do it or not.”

Williams thinks the use of bait illegally has been a common occurrence in Alabama in the past.

“People have been feeding anyway,” he said. “This is just making a lot of people legal. That’s the way I see it. I don’t see it helping the people who grow corn. I know every feed store around here that sells it, and they can’t get it in fast enough during hunting season. It’s not going to make the price of corn go up. That will be market price.”

Williams also mentioned, for those who choose not to hunt with the aid of bait, the Area Definition Regulation remains in effect. The Area Definition Regulation allows for supplemental feeding as long as the feed is more than 100 yards away and out of the line of sight of the hunter because of natural vegetation or naturally occurring terrain features.

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said this was not a Department-sponsored bill, but the Department did work with Senator Williams to include the provisions that help prevent the spread of disease.

“We wanted it to be clear in the bill that the Conservation Commissioner had the authority to suspend the baiting privilege if CWD or some other disease was detected,” Blankenship said. “It also says the Commissioner can suspend the feeding of wild game in areas where CWD or other disease might be present. This gives us some abilities to ensure that we can protect the deer herd in the case of a disease outbreak in our state.”

Blankenship said there has been much discussion regarding the bill.

“People like that this bill makes it clear that if they want to hunt with aid of bait, they can, like they do in Georgia and other states,” he said. “I’ve also got some calls from people who are unhappy, who don’t think it’s a way that you should hunt.”

Blankenship reiterated what Senator Williams said about choice to participate or not.

“This is not a requirement that people hunt over bait,” he said. “It’s a tool that people can use if that is what they prefer. Somebody who is totally opposed to that type of hunting can hunt the way they always have. This is just an option.”

Like Williams and my friend, Blankenship expects significant participation from people who are dealing with feral pigs.

“This may help us throughout the whole year to better help control the population of feral hogs,” the commissioner said.

Blankenship said the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division will continue to closely monitor the white-tailed deer herd and any harvest rate trends that might be associated with the use of bait.

“The Department will make sure this is not a detriment to the wildlife and that we have a healthy deer population in our state,” he said. “This is just another factor we will examine as we look at the health of the deer population. With the three-buck limit and other seasons and bag limits, we think our deer population will be fine.”

Revenue from sale of the new bait privilege license will be eligible for federal matching funds to support conservation efforts in the state. That revenue is determined, in part, by the number of licenses sold. Exempt hunters who buy a bait privilege license but don’t buy a hunting license will be eligible to be counted for federal matching funds.

Blankenship said he does not have a projection about the amount of revenue the bait privilege licenses will produce.

“We really don’t know right now,” he said. “After the first season, we’ll have a lot better idea.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

2 days ago

Alabama logs record-high jobs in April fourth month in a row

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama continues on its path of record high employment and record-high job count, according to the latest report from the Alabama Department of Labor for the month of April.

An estimated 2,139,379 people were working in the Yellowhammer state during the month of April, up 32,335 from the same time a year ago, and up 6,379 since March, marking the fourth month in a row Alabama has had the most people ever working.

The number of estimated jobs in Alabama for the month of April reached 2,075,500, up 35,600 from the same time a year ago, and up 10,800 since March.

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“Employment has once again reached record levels,” said Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington. “Our economy is supporting more jobs than ever before and more people are in the labor force than ever before. Those that are entering the labor force are finding work. The jobs are out there, and we’re working harder than even before to make sure that everyone who wants a job, has one.”

Wage and salary employment also increased in April by 10,800.

The Alabama Department of Labor reports: “Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+4,300), the construction sector (+2,300), and the professional and business services sector (+1,700), among others.”

Washington added, “Average weekly earnings are also up, both over-the-month and over-the-year. Yearly increases in some of our high-wage industry sectors are showing employment growth, in some cases of more than 10%. This is great news for Alabamians who are looking for high-wage, high-skill jobs.”

According to the report, counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby County at 2.4%, Marshall County at 2.8% and Tuscaloosa, Morgan, Madison, Lee, Elmore and Blount Counties all at 2.9%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates are Wilcox County at 7.0%, Greene and Lowndes Counties at 6.5% and Clarke County at 6.0%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are Homewood at 2.2%, Alabaster, Hoover, Northport, and Vestavia Hills at 2.4% and Madison at 2.7%.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are Selma at 7.2%, Prichard at 5.8% and Anniston at 5.1%.

Alabama’s unemployment rate is up slightly as the seasonally adjusted jobless rate for April came out at 3.8%, which is one-tenth of a percent higher than March.

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

2 days ago

Ivey: ‘I am proud to be from Alabama the Beautiful’

(Gov. Ivey/Flickr)

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday announced a major distribution of funds made possible by the Gulf of Mexico Energy and Security Act Program (GOMESA).

In a release, the governor outlined that she has given initial approval to move forward with development and implementation of 15 projects from the state’s GOMESA distribution. The combined total of these projects, when implemented, will be $28,722,000.

“I am proud to be from ‘Alabama the Beautiful.’ When the Oil Spill impacted our Gulf Coast, we began working tirelessly to make sure we protected that area’s abundant natural resources, so that future generations could still know us as ‘Alabama the Beautiful,’” Ivey said.

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In January, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADNCR) issued a call for project suggestions for the Alabama GOMESA allotment.

ADCNR then received 58 project suggestions from the public. These project suggestions, as well as projects submitted through the Alabama Restoration Project Portal, were considered for GOMESA funding. The governor’s office said that many of the submitted project suggestions would be beneficial to the state of Alabama, however, the amount of GOMESA funding each year restricts the number of projects selected for implementation.

“With projects like these, we’re able to restore and conserve our state’s natural beauty. Once all details are finalized, I look forward to seeing the full implementation of these 15 approved projects,” Ivey concluded.

A list of the 15 initially approved projects was not released by the governor’s office.

Project sponsors will now work with ADNCR on the implementation of the respective projects and provide support to accomplish the goals and objectives of the recommendations.

“ADCNR staff will now work with the project submitters to further develop the projects to obtain all the information that is needed for final approval and implementation. Several of these projects will increase boating access and recreational opportunities in coastal Alabama that is so important to the quality of life along the coast,” ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship advised.

With the expectation of future GOMESA disbursements, the governor’s office and ADCNR will continue to evaluate funding opportunities for GOMESA projects.

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

2 days ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VII

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. “The only deadline is the one I give myself”

One place elected officials, candidates and political committees don’t want to see their names is on the civil penalty section of the Alabama Ethics Commission meeting agenda. Among the duties the ethics commission is charged with is handling missed filing deadlines for campaign and political action committees. The secretary of state’s office refers these cases to the commission which then decides whether to accept or reject the explanation for missing the deadline provided by the responsible person.

And, so, it has not gone unnoticed in political and legal circles that the Alabama Ethics Commission has a few filing deadlines of its own that it has missed. Under Alabama law, the commission is required to submit an annual report to the governor and the legislature at the conclusion of each fiscal year. As of the time of this article’s publishing, the commission has not filed any of its 2016, 2017 or 2018 annual reports. When Yellowhammer News contacted the commission about these reports, executive director Tom Albritton noted that the commission planned to submit a combined analysis of the 2016-2018 fiscal years in the very near future.

2. Mr. Tuberville goes to Washington

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville has drawn some criticism over his recent Florida residency, however the former Auburn head football coach has put together a campaign team that is about as Alabama as they come.

Tuberville also seems to be doubling down on his east Alabama ties. Rob Jesmer, a former chief of staff for Mike Rogers, will be handling media for the campaign, with Tripp Skipper, a former district director for Rogers, serving as the general consultant.

Skipper is well know in Alabama political circles and helped Tuberville with his exploration of the governor’s race in the 2018 cycle, so this hire was always the obvious move.

However, the real intrigue here revolves around Jesmer, who is a major power player in D.C. that gives Tuberville’s campaign some serious Beltway heft for a political outsider. Jesmer, a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), is also currently the general consultant for Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who just term limited out after serving six years in the Senate Republicans’ second highest leadership role — the whip.

With Sean Spicer also advising the team, along with Erik Iverson of Moore Information doing polling and Jon Downs working with Jesmer on media, Tuberville is showing that he is 100% serious about mounting a professional, top-notch bid.

3. Making political odds-making great again

Alabama will hold its presidential primary elections on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The early March date continues to place the state among the earlier presidential primaries. As a result, it can continue to expect occasional visits from candidates vying for their party’s national ticket. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have all traveled to Alabama this year, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) plans to visit Alabama in June to address the Alabama Democratic Conference.

With former Vice President Joe Biden widening his polling lead and President Donald Trump not facing any credible opposition on the Republican side, we thought it would be a good time to look at a snapshot of what the oddsmakers are thinking in the race. Scott Cooley and his team at sportsbetting.ag have provided us with data on where they see the field right now and who is the favorite to win the 2020 presidential election.

Cooley has Trump as the odds-on favorite followed closely by Biden. In order of likelihood, here is a broader list of the candidates and others who could win the election (remember, the higher the number the lower the odds of winning):

Donald Trump +100
Joe Biden +300
Bernie Sanders +1000
Pete Buttigieg +1400
Kamala Harris +2000
Beto O’Rourke +2000
Cory Booker +6600
Amy Klobuchar +6600
Mike Pence +8000
Niki Haley +10000
Hillary Clinton +20000
Mark Cuban +20000

With Buttigieg facing extreme difficulty in southern Democratic primaries, and O’Rourke getting more awkward by the day, there doesn’t seem to be much hidden value when you get farther down the list.

Episode 6: Introducing ‘Merin’

(YHPN)

Marshall and I team up for another episode in our relationship series. We agree to a couple name, chat about Millennial haters and how Marsh is a “Mougar,” discuss how we are learning to combat pettiness in every day life, encourage one another about givin’ all the grace and share how there really is beauty in one another’s differences. Also, don’t miss Marsh’s “Cheers” this week, which is to all the ladies out there!

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2 days ago

Alabama voters show bipartisan support for Family Caregivers Act

(AARP/Contributed)

Right now, the Alabama legislature has an opportunity to pass a no-cost, commonsense bill to support our state’s 761,000 caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.

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According to a recent survey in Alabama, voters across party lines strongly support (91%) SB376 the Family Caregivers Act.

The Alabama Family Caregivers Act would ensure hospitals identify, notify and provide after-care instructions to family caregivers when their loved ones are in the hospital – prior to discharge.

These caregivers routinely take on tasks that can be overwhelming, stressful and exhausting — from helping with medication regiments, meals, bathing, transportation, complex medical tasks and more.

Learn more about this bipartisan legislation and the survey here.

2 days ago

Roy Moore weighs Senate re-run despite GOP opposition

(D. Jones/Twitter, R. Moore/YouTube)

Conservative lightning rod Roy Moore of Alabama, narrow loser of a turbulent special election for Senate in 2017, is considering a fresh run next year.

National Republican leaders are signaling they will again try preventing their party from nominating the twice-removed state jurist whose campaign was battered by allegations of long-ago sexual harassment of teenagers.

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Moore’s defeat for the same seat two years ago made him the first Republican in reliably red Alabama to lose a Senate race in a quarter century.

National party leaders say a Moore nomination would endanger what they view as a strong shot at defeating Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), the Democrat and former federal prosecutor who upset Moore two years ago.

Moore’s nomination could also have national repercussions, allowing Democrats to accuse the GOP of ignoring the #MeToo movement and coddling a man accused of sexual misconduct, allegations he has denied.

Moore says he expects to announce a decision in mid-June.

“I’m still praying about it and talking to people, my family, my wife and I’m strongly considering it,” Moore, 72, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

In a separate AP interview last week, he said 2020 “could be a touchpoint in our nation, not only for the presidency but for the House and Congress.”

Moore said he had many reasons for considering another campaign but declined to elaborate.

Republicans control the Senate 53-47 and view defeating Jones as a top priority.

Jones, 65, is considered the most endangered Democratic incumbent facing re-election in 2020, a year when several GOP senators are vulnerable and control of the chamber will be at stake.

Alabama’s deep conservative leanings were demonstrated anew this week with a new law criminalizing nearly every abortion in the state, which Jones called an “extreme” attack on women.

With abortion potentially a driving 2020 issue and President Donald Trump certain to carry Alabama easily in next year’s elections, Republicans have little interest in fumbling a chance to recapture Jones’ seat.

Establishment Republicans also have no taste for revisiting the chaos that was Moore’s 2017 Senate race.

His campaign and his refusal to abandon it after the sexual harassment charges emerged a month before Election Day divided the party, with President Donald Trump giving Moore his eleventh-hour endorsement while other leaders remained opposed or distanced themselves from the contest.

Jones defeated Moore by 22,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast.

“The people of Alabama rejected Roy Moore not too long ago,” Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, told the AP this week. “I with my Republican colleagues always want to be supportive of the most conservative candidate who can actually win a race, and I don’t see that anything has changed in the state of Alabama since the last election.”

Asked if he would try to head off Moore, Young said, “We’ll actively work to make sure that the most conservative, electable Republican is our nominee.”

Sending a similar signal was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who tried unsuccessfully to derail Moore in 2017.

Asked whether he would oppose a renewed run by Moore, McConnell told a reporter, “I think you know the answer to that.”

Alabama GOP leaders, who resisted pressure from Washington Republicans to hinder Moore’s path to the 2017 nomination, are showing no signs of thwarting him this time.

“The voters will make these decisions,” state party Chairman Terry Lathan said in an email. She said she didn’t know Moore’s plans because “he rarely communicates with the Party.”

McConnell’s and other party leaders’ preferred 2017 nominee was GOP Sen. Luther Strange, appointed months earlier to fill a vacancy.

They feared that moderate voters would abandon Moore if he was nominated because of his hard-right views against gay marriage and for a larger role of religion in government, plus his use of racially insensitive language.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McConnell, spent $6.9 million in the primary against Moore and for Strange, according to Federal Election Commission figures.

The Republican senatorial committee spent another $400,000 to help Strange. Moore defeated Strange in a runoff.

McConnell began intervening in GOP primaries earlier this decade after some quirky contenders won nominations but lost winnable general elections.

After winning the nomination, Moore’s campaign was further roiled when The Washington Post reported claims by several women that he pursued inappropriate relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. McConnell and others unsuccessfully called for Moore to step aside.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, parried a question about whether the sexual misconduct allegations would make Moore a weak candidate in 2020, saying, “You’ve already answered your own question.”

Moore said Washington Republicans’ complaints that he could not win another election were unfounded since he was elected twice as the state’s chief justice.

He was removed both times, for publicly displaying the Ten Commandments and telling lower court judges to refuse to marry gay couples.

“Should I qualify I’ll run for Senate in the state of Alabama, not Washington, D.C.,” said Moore, who’s been strongly supported by evangelical voters.

Moore said he’s not reached out to Trump or White House officials this time.

“It’s not because I’m adverse to President Trump at all,” he said. “I support his policies and what he stands for. I’m not running for anybody else, I’m running for the state of Alabama.”

A White House spokesperson declined to answer questions. Trump presidential campaign aides did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville are among those who have already announced bids for the GOP nomination.

Strange filled the vacancy left by Sen. Republican Jeff Sessions, who became Trump’s first attorney general.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 days ago

Lawmakers urge special session on state prisons

(Gov. Bentley/Flickr, Contributed/C. Ward)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to call a special session as the state attempts to respond to scathing Department of Justice findings regarding state prisons.

Leaders of both parties held a Thursday press conference to discuss legislators’ attempts to respond to the Justice Department.

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Senate Judiciary Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said lawmakers are working on sentencing reform, prison construction, staffing issues and other matters.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said there is not enough time remaining in the legislative session to address prisons.

The U.S. Department of Justice last month issued a report that condemned state prisons for excessive violence, inmate deaths and a critical staffing shortage.

The Justice Department directed the state to make changes or face a civil lawsuit.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 days ago

Byrne: Democrats’ infringement on freedom of religion ‘truly radical and deeply troubling’

(Rep. Byrne/YouTube)

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), a Republican candidate for the 2020 Senate race against Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), on Friday took the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in opposition to H.R. 5 – the so-called “Equality Act” – and raised serious constitutional concerns that this legislation infringes on Americans’ freedom of religion.

In his speech, Byrne took a strong stand for the right of Americans of all forms of religious belief to practice free from government interference.

He decried what he called “truly radical and deeply troubling” behavior by liberals across the country.

“Unfortunately, the modern Democratic Party has decided that mandating its beliefs on everyone is more important than upholding the rights of people of faith and those who possess contrary beliefs,” Byrne lamented.

Watch:

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Byrne’s remarks as prepared as follows:

Madam Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 5. As many of my colleagues have stated, there are a number of very troubling issues with this legislation. In my mind, perhaps none is more troubling than the bill’s explicit carve out from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, otherwise known as RFRA.

Under the First Amendment, Americans are blessed with the Freedom of Religion. This is much more than the freedom of worship. Not only do Americans have the right to worship as they see fit, their faith is not confined to what happens inside their place of worship. They have the right to practice their religion every day as they see fit.

For many years, there was a strong bipartisan agreement that protecting this right was of the utmost importance. In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, religious protections enjoyed bipartisan support. Likewise, RFRA was heralded as a historic, bipartisan achievement.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which rolled back longstanding constitutional protections for religious liberty, the Congress came together and restored broad protections for religious freedom under RFRA.

RFRA was introduced by then-Representative Chuck Schumer and Senator Ted Kennedy. It passed unanimously in the House, 97-3 in the Senate, and was signed into law by President Clinton.

For nearly two decades, RFRA has been the hallmark of protecting the religious freedom of Americans against the weight of a powerful federal government. Contrary to what some of its recent opponents claim, RFRA is not an automatic opt out of any law for people of faith. Instead, RFRA provides a common-sense balancing test between religious belief and government action.

First, an individual challenging the government must show that they have a sincerely held belief that is being substantially burdened by the government (that is, there is a real matter of faith actually being affected by the government’s actions). If the individual successfully shows that, they do not automatically win their claim.

The government may then show that it has a compelling interest (that is, a good reason) to interfere with the individual’s religious rights and that the interference is the least restrictive means to accomplish the government’s goal (that is, the government doesn’t have a better alternative).

This test provides fairness for both sides. Unfortunately, today, the House proposes to break this historic protection and say that RFRA will not apply to the Equality Act. It is clear why they have done this.

Without RFRA, it is less likely that faith-based charities and organizations will be able to uphold the faith of their organization when it runs counter to evolving norms on human sexuality.

Without RFRA, it is less likely that Christian colleges and universities will be able to teach and uphold a biblical understanding of marriage and human sexuality.

Without RFRA, it is less likely that parents in public schools will be able to opt their children out of mandated education that teaches human sexuality contrary to a family’s religious faith.

Unfortunately, the modern Democratic Party has decided that mandating its beliefs on everyone is more important than upholding the rights of people of faith and those who possess contrary beliefs.

Mr. Speaker, that is truly radical and deeply troubling. It is unprecedented. It is contrary to the values and foundational freedoms of this country.

I urge my colleagues to reject this legislation. Protecting the rights of some cannot come at the high cost of stripping away the rights of others, particularly when it comes to protecting religious liberty.

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

Ten tips to make your trip to the 2019 Hangout Fest a success

(Hangout Music Fest/Contributed)

From May 16 – May 19, the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores will be home to the 2019 Hangout Fest. The festival will feature live performances from some of the nation’s top artists, along with incredible food, fun activities and more.

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Not sure where to start in planning your Hangout Fest music vacation? We’ve got you covered.

Check out 10 tips to make your 2019 Hangout Fest experience the best yet:

1. Buy your tickets of course! Get yours at the Hangout Fest website.

2. Reserve a Room. Dance until you drop – into a rental that’s perfect for the weekend. From condos to beach houses, plenty of options are still available. Book yours at this link.

3. Buy a Shuttle Pass. The most efficient and safest way to and from the fest. Hop on at spots near most area rentals. Get those here.

4. Get your Thursday Kick Off Party Tickets. Grab your friends and start your weekend right with live music, drinks and more before the main stages open Friday.

5. Reserve a Locker. Beach bags are great but not when you’re ready to boogie. Store your stuff and charge your cell with a locker on site.

6. Download the Hangout Fest App. Create a personalized concert schedule and get the latest concert updates, show times and important event notifications!

7. Want to see your favorite artist perform up close? Purchase a headliner package to access exclusive viewing opportunities at either the Hangout or Surf Stage.

8. Take a break in between sets: relax on Hammock Beach or visit the tropical spa and enjoy a relaxing massage.

9. Pack the best bag! The festival has a strict bag policy and clear lists on what you can bring through the entrance gates (sunscreen, water bottle and towel) and what you must leave at home (drones, flag poles and umbrellas.)

10. Get a workout in. Join in on a game at the beach volleyball court, join the daily Hangout Fest yoga class or skate at the roller disco rink.

For additional updates and information visit www.hangmusicoutfest.com.

3 days ago

Alabama executes man for 1997 quadruple killing

(ALDOC/Contributed, Wikicommons)

Prison officials say 41-year-old inmate Michael Brandon Samra was pronounced dead at 7:33 p.m. following a lethal injection at the state prison at Atmore.

Samra and a friend, Mark Duke, were convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Duke’s father, the father’s girlfriend and the woman’s two young daughters in 1997.

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Evidence showed that Duke planned the killings because he was angry his father would not let him use his pickup.

In a last statement, Samra made a profession of Christian faith, saying, “I would like to thank Jesus for everything he has done for me” and ending with the word “amen” as he lay strapped on a gurney.

After the drugs began flowing, Samra went still and his chest heaved three times.

He took a few deep breaths and his head moved slightly.

Moments later, Samra’s hands curled inward, his chest moved like he was taking some breaths and his mouth fell slightly agape before he was pronounced dead.

A statement from the families of victims released afterward thanked the community for support on their “painful journey” and added, “Today justice was carried out.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 days ago

7 Things: Groups want to fund out of state abortions, the elected state school board could be appointed, Doug Jones has some real problems with AL and more …

(LifeInstitute/YouTube)

7. Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to crush his Democrat opponents in the 2020 presidential race

— According to a new Fox News poll, Biden is polling at 35%, while Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is only polling at 17%. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is polling at 9%, Pete Buttigieg is at 6% and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is polling at 5%. Since Biden has been the frontrunner in this race since before he entered, it is hard to see him losing — barring a major screw-up.

6. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) plans to take “enforcement action” against the Justice Department

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— This action is due to the Justice Department not complying with Schiff’s subpoena for information from the Mueller report. Schiff has not clarified what the enforcement action would be, but it’s possible that he could attempt to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt. Schiff sent the Justice Department a list requesting a dozen sets of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence documents, which he has said were in reference to the Mueller report.

5. Alabama legislators are pushing for a special session to deal with prison reform

— Legislators from both parties have committed to repairing the dangerous, understaffed and overcrowded prisons in Alabama. Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has said that he hopes Governor Kay Ivey will call a special session on prisons within the current regular legislative session, which will end no later than June 17. While the governor did not comment on holding a special session, she did say, “This problem has been kicked down the road for the last time.”

4. It’s not just Alabama — Missouri wants some of that media attention

— The Missouri Senate has passed a bill that would ban abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy. The bill will need another approval by the House in Missouri before it can go to Governor Mike Parson. If they do pass the ban, they would join Georgia, Ohio and Alabama which have all passed strict abortion bans recently.

3. U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has been loudly voicing his displeasure with the abortion ban recently passed in Alabama

— During a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Jones said, “It is the most extreme abortion ban in the country. And it is, in my view a product of what happens when you gerrymander political districts, so people don’t have to be accountable but to the extreme sides of an issue. This bill uses rape victims and victims of incest of all ages, even minors as political pawns.” He went on to say that the legal challenge of Roe v. Wade will cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Jones also used the conference call to make a case for the expansion of Medicaid, focusing on expectant mothers and children.

2. The Alabama Senate has passed the constitutional amendment that would be a historic change to the Alabama Board of Education

— The amendment is sponsored by Del Marsh and would replace the Alabama Board of Education with the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education. It would also alter it to where the members are appointed rather than elected. The position of state superintendent would also be done away with and replaced with a Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education. The bill also mandates that Common Core be replaced.

1. The abortion ban has been passed and now advocacy groups are seeking to assist women in leaving the state for abortions

— A Tuscaloosa-based group that provides financial assistance to women that need reproductive health care in Alabama has raised, they say, enough money to be able to provide for triple the number of clients it did in 2018. The money raised could go to medical costs, gas money or transporting women out of the state. The abortion ban in Alabama won’t go into effect until November, but there are no exceptions for rape or incest — only for if the health of the mother is at risk.