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.

14 mins ago

Aniah’s Law heading to statewide referendum in 2022

(Blanchard Family/Contributed, YHN)

The Alabama Legislature on Thursday gave final passage to legislation that would create “Aniah’s Law.”

The legislation, sponsored by State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Mobile), would allow prosecutors and judges broader discretion in requesting and denying bail to those accused of committing violent crimes.

HB 131 is a constitutional amendment and will be up for a statewide referendum of the people in November 2022; HB 130, the enabling bill that would implement the provisions of HB 131, now heads to the governor’s desk.

405

The Constitution of Alabama currently requires that “all persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses, when the proof is evident or the presumption great; and that excessive bail shall not in any case be required.”

Brown’s legislation would amend the state constitution to allow judges to deny bail to individuals facing violent crime charges who would place the public at grave risk if released.

The proposed amendment is named after the late Aniah Blanchard, the 19-year-old college student who prosecutors allege was slain by Ibraheed Yazeed after he was released on bond for several violent offenses including kidnapping and attempted murder.

Yazeed, who is currently being held on capital murder charges, had been awarded bail despite more than a dozen priors, which included drug and robbery arrests.

“Too many of those who are accused of violent crimes are bonding out of jail and committing even more serious offenses, and it is time for law-abiding Alabamians to start fighting back,” Brown stated. “Denying bail to those accused of violent offenses is a commonsense answer to a dangerous societal problem, and following three years of hard work that was necessary to pass this amendment through the Legislature, I am confident the citizens of Alabama will vote to ratify it.”

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson was a major proponent of Brown’s legislation as it worked its way through the legislative process.

“I’d like to commend Representative Chip Brown and Senator David Sessions for supporting us in the three-year effort to see this legislation passed,” Stimpson said on Thursday. “We thank the Blanchard family as well as the entire Alabama Legislature for recognizing the need for this legislation that directly impacts the safety of Alabama citizens. It is now in the hands of Alabamians to vote in favor of this constitutional amendment on the ballot next year. Once passed, this will help significantly in our efforts to close the revolving door and prevent violent offenders from being released to commit more violent acts like the senseless murder of Aniah Blanchard.”

The late Tuscaloosa police officer Dornell Cousette is another example of a prominent case that could have been prevented if Aniah’s Law was in effect. Cousette was killed in the line of duty in 2018 — allegedly murdered by a suspect who was free on bail for robbery and assault charges at the time.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Shameful’ Pelosi blocking Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act — ‘Simply supporting infanticide’

(Congressman Mike Rogers/Facebook, Speaker.gov)

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) on Wednesday released a scathing statement regarding House Democrats blocking consideration of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Rogers announced that he has signed onto a discharge petition that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to bring this legislation — H.R. 619 — up for a vote in the House.

“As a father of three children and a Christian, this legislation is so important to me,” stated Rogers, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

135

All six Alabama Republicans in the U.S. House are cosponsors of H.R. 619, which was was introduced by Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) in January. The bill would ensure any baby born that survives an abortion would receive the same standard of medical care as a baby born under normal circumstances.

“I will never understand how any human would not support caring for a tiny, living baby that survives an attempted abortion,” he continued. “Anyone who is okay with not helping these babies is simply supporting infanticide. I will always stand up for the rights of the most innocent among us, and it’s shameful that Nancy Pelosi will not even bring this critical legislation up for a vote.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes bill banning biological males from competing in female sports

(S. Ross/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed HB 391, which would would prohibit biological males from competing in public school female sports — and vice versa.

The legislation, which only applies to public K-12 schools, would prohibit competition by one gender against another, unless the event specifically is intended to include both genders.

HB 391 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and is sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle).

“A public K-12 school may not allow a biological female to participate on a male team if there is a female team in a sport. A public K-12 school may never allow a biological male to participate on a female team,” says the amended version of the bill passed by the Senate.

260

In sports where there are not separate competitions for females and males, such as football, both genders would still be able to participate together.

“This bill is significantly important to protecting the integrity of women’s sports,” stated Gudger. “Our sisters, daughters and granddaughters deserve to compete in fairly organized sports without being put at a disadvantage. I appreciate Representative Stadthagen for having me carry this bill in the Senate, and I commend him for his diligent work on this critical issue.”

More than a dozen states are considering similar restrictions on high school athletes to prevent what they view as an unfair advantage in competition.

The Senate’s vote on HB 391 was on party lines, 25-5. This comes after two Democrats supported and one Democrat abstained in a committee vote on the bill just two weeks ago. View a tweet thread from Thursday’s Senate debate here.

HB 391 now heads back to the House for concurrence or nonconcurrence. It originally passed the lower chamber in a bipartisan 74-19 vote.

“It is unreasonable for biological males to compete against females in high school sports,” Stadthagen commented. “Allowing this to happen does not put female athletes on a fair and level playing field with their biological male counterparts, and that is what this bill aims to resolve. I was pleased to hear that my colleagues in the upper chamber value the integrity and justness of female sports, and I thank Senator Gudger for handling this bill in the Senate.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Senate passes Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act

(President Joe Biden/Facebook, YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed SB 358, which would create the Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act.

Sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), the bill would outlaw state and local governments — including law enforcement agencies thereof — from enforcing any federal firearms act, law, order, rule or regulation that becomes effective after January 1, 2021.

The party-line vote by the Senate was 22-5.

312

“I took an oath of office when sworn into this body to defend the Constitution of this country and this state,” stated Allen. “As an elected official, I will do everything in my power to preserve the rights of Alabamians, especially those granted by the Second Amendment, and I will always push back on any proposals that seek to limit the freedoms bestowed upon us.”

“The Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act ensures the people of Alabama are protected from any unnecessary overreach by the federal government and is meant to be a check on proposals that infringe on our right to self-defense coming from the Biden Administration or the Democratic controlled Congress,” he continued. “SB358 is about safeguarding our God-given rights to protect our families and homes. The Second Amendment says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon, and with this piece of legislation, Alabamians can feel confident that their rights are being protected.”

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) argued that SB 358 would violate the Supremacy Clause. The Democrats said the act, as a result, would ultimately be ruled unconstitutional by the judicial system after costing the State of Alabama significant money to defend it in court.

“We don’t need a ‘Second Amendment Preservation Act’ in the state of Alabama,” said Singleton. “The constitution does that already.”

He noted “the bill really does no harm,” before adding that he does not like the message it sends.

You can view a tweet thread on Senate debate regarding SB 358 here.

The Alabama Senate’s vote came after President Joe Biden last week began rolling out executive orders on gun control.

RELATED: Speaker Mac McCutcheon: As Biden attempts to roll back Second Amendment freedoms, Alabama House Republicans stand in the breach to protect them

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

18 hours ago

Tim Vines confirmed as newest Auburn University trustee

(Auburn University/Flickr, YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama CEO Tim Vines as an at-large member of the Auburn University board of trustees.

He will complete the final three years of the unexpired term of Gen. Lloyd Austin, who resigned from Auburn’s board in January after he was confirmed as the nation’s secretary of defense.

Vines has worked at BCBS of Alabama since 1994. He rose through the management ranks at Blue Cross until he was elected to his present position in 2018. The LaFayette native graduated from Auburn’s Harbert College of Business in 1988 with a degree in finance. He was also a member of the Auburn baseball team.

154

“In addition to his business and management credentials, the Trustee Selection Committee nominated Tim Vines for the position because of his dedication to Auburn University and its students,” stated Wayne Smith, who serves as board president pro tem.

This dedication includes Vines giving an annual scholarship to the Harbert College of Business. He is an Auburn Alumni Association lifetime member, a member of the James E. Foy Loyalty Society and a member of the 1856 Society. The Birmingham Auburn Club awarded Vines its 2019 Distinguished Auburn Alumnus Award.

He also served as the 2018 Auburn University summer commencement speaker, where he encouraged graduates, “Serve well by serving others. In life or in your chosen profession, ask what you can do to help others. … Whatever you do, make sure you do it with excellence.”

Vines’ term will expire on February 8, 2024.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

18 hours ago

Alabama State Parks launching historic corporate giving, improvement campaign

The Alabama State Parks Foundation announced the launch of its corporate giving campaign with the pledges of significant contributions by Buffalo Rock Company and the Alabama Power Foundation. Pictured, from left, are Greg Lein, State Parks Director; Matthew Dent, president and CEO of Buffalo Rock Company; Dr. Dan Hendricks, president of the Alabama State Parks Foundation board of directors; Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey; Alex McCreary, Director of Federal Government and Corporate Affairs for Alabama Power; and Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday joined the Alabama State Parks Foundation, local corporate leaders and other stakeholders at Oak Mountain State Park to announce unprecedented efforts aimed at investing millions of dollars into park improvements.

The governor spoke about an $80 million bond issue for park improvements that must be approved by voters through a constitutional amendment in the 2022 general election if the state legislature approves it this session. House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) are sponsoring this legislation, which passed the House on Tuesday and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“Alabamians love and cherish the State Parks, and we must make sure they are maintained and available for generations to come,” Ivey remarked. “I support the use of state bonds to make the needed enhancements throughout the state parks system.”

Additionally, the non-profit Alabama State Parks Foundation (ASPF) on Thursday announced the launch of its corporate giving campaign with a goal of raising an additional $14 million in the next five years for needed park improvements.

365

ASPF kicked off this campaign with pledges of $250,000 by Buffalo Rock Company and $100,000 from the Alabama Power Foundation.

“Since the creation of the Alabama State Parks Foundation in 2018, we have worked to improve and enhance our State Parks, and our corporate giving campaign is another significant and important step for our organization,” ASPF president Dr. Dan Hendricks stated. “I also applaud and thank Governor Ivey for her visionary leadership and support of the State Parks system.

“We believe this innovative public-private partnership will maximize our efforts to help the Alabama State Parks system maintain its place as one of the state’s true treasures,” he added.

The prospective bond issue and ASPF’s fundraising would fast-track projects to expand campgrounds, add cabins and improve internet connectivity, among other priorities.

A majority of funding for Alabama State Parks – 80-90% annually – is generated through user fees for rental, lodging, golf and other amenities in the parks. The system’s finances can also be impacted unexpectedly, such as the tornado that damaged Oak Mountain last month, Hurricane Sally damaging Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores last fall, and another tornado wreaking havoc on the campground and day-use areas at Joe Wheeler State Park in December 2019.

State parks attracted a record 6.27 million visitors in fiscal year 2020, and enhancing facilities or building additional ones should help that number continue to grow.

“Our state parks system is run as efficiently as ever, but there are plenty of needs in every one of the 21 parks — both the small and larger parks,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation. “What Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Parks Foundation have done is create a funding framework for how we can modernize and enhance an already dynamic State Parks system and make it better than ever.

“We plan to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, as well as funds so generously donated by the corporate community,” he concluded. “Our state parks offer so many amazing outdoors adventures for all Alabamians, and we appreciate so many people working so hard to help us continue that legacy.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

21 hours ago

Guest: Electric vehicles important for Alabama’s automotive industry

(Brendan Steeves/Unsplash, YHN)

Electric Vehicles (EVs) have emerged as one of the fastest-growing technology solutions in the field of transportation.

While that statement may be surprising, more than 40 different EV models can currently be purchased in the U.S., and that number is expected to more than double by 2022. Through July 2020, more than 1.5 million plug-in vehicles have been sold in the U.S., and that rate is forecast to accelerate as the federal government prioritizes EVs, more electric cars hit the market, prices continue to decrease and EV infrastructure grows.

Conservative estimates suggest there could be 3 million electric vehicles on American roads by 2025, with more optimistic forecasts indicating that number could be as high as 6.9 million. Volvo recently announced that they plan to sell only electric vehicles by 2030. Similarly, General Motors plans to phase out gas powered vehicles as well and go fully electric by 2035. Ford and other automotive manufacturers have also announced plans for the expansion of electric vehicle production.

463

EVs can no longer be categorized as a novelty. They are here to stay.

Automobile plants in at least 20 states are now building electric vehicles, creating thousands of new jobs. Mercedes-Benz is leading the charge in Alabama with a $1 billion, 600-job expansion that includes all-electric vehicle production and a state-of-the-art battery factory in Bibb County. In addition, DURA Automotive Systems announced an investment of $59 million in August 2020  to open a manufacturing facility in Muscle Shoals designed to produce battery trays for electric vehicles.

Thanks to Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Honda and Mazda Toyota, as well as the numerous suppliers, Alabama is well-known as one of the nation’s leaders in the automotive industry. As the No. 4 auto-exporter in the country, our state produced more than 1.6 million engines and featured more than 40,000 good-paying jobs in the sector in 2018.

With the growing shift toward EVs across the auto industry, it is critical that we continue to make significant investments in the expansion and adoption of electric vehicles in Alabama. To that end, last summer Gov. Kay Ivey announced the Alabama Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Plan, which the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs developed to establish short and long-term strategies to guide the expansion of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the state.

Importantly for the consumers in our state, driving an electric vehicle is significantly cheaper than fueling with gasoline, and it’s more convenient to plug in at home than stopping at a gas station on the way to the office. On average, it costs about half as much to drive an electric vehicle as a gasoline-powered vehicle. The electric equivalent of a gallon of gas in Alabama costs just $1.04.

Aside from fuel costs, EV maintenance costs much less than conventional gasoline vehicles, because EVs require no oil changes and have about 10 times fewer moving parts than a gas-powered car. There’s also no transmission, valves, starter, clutch or catalytic converter, all of which can break and need replacing. And don’t forget, all-electric vehicles have no tail pipe emissions. Even taking into account the emissions from the electricity produced to charge EVs, the vehicles on average emit significantly less CO2 than conventional vehicles. Lastly, increasingly efficient technology and widespread adoption of EVs has significantly reduced the overall entry cost of electric cars. An impressive array of affordable EVs is now readily available to consumers.

Electric vehicles are an innovative and growing transportation option and mobility solution. Expanding Alabama’s EV infrastructure and overall investment in EVs will continue to spur growth in our automotive industry, promote clean energy and provide a cheaper fuel alternative for a society on the go.

Dr. Allen Parrish is the Executive Director of the Alabama Transportation Institute and also serves as a Senior Policy Advisor for the Energy Institute of Alabama.

22 hours ago

7 Things: Push to let the people vote on the lottery, medical marijuana bill moving in the Alabama Legislature, police officer charged with manslaughter in Daunte Wright’s death and more …

7. Monumentally stupid things going on in the legislature

  • The state vegetable for Alabama is now the sweet potato, after recent debates in the Alabama House of Representatives ended in a 94-4 decision passing the legislation. Now, the bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Kay Ivey. Sweet potato crops generate about $9 million in the state every year, and Alabama is the sixth top producer of sweet potatoes.
  • The legislature also debated strengthing penalties for removing Confederate monuments, for some reason, with both sides embarrassing themselves thoroughly. State Rep. Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) sponsored a bill increasing the penalties for everyone involved in removing a statue and said that he doesn’t think the civil war was over slavery and reportedly said that maybe people “don’t want to go to Martin Luther King [Jr.]school.” While Democrats claim this is a debate over “white supremacy,” State Rep. Rolanda Harris (D-Birmingham) doesn’t even know the civil war happened. She stated, “People that look like me, they were kidnapped. They were raped. They were beaten and nothing was done about it.”

6. Mo Brooks endorsed by conservative PAC

627

  • U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) has been endorsed by the “Senate Conservatives Fund” (SCF), which is based in Washington, D.C. Executive director Mary Vought said Brooks is “someone Americans can count on to stand up to the establishment in both parties.”
  • SCF has also endorsed candidates such as U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Brooks described this endorsement as “HUGE” in a statement, adding, “The impact of the SCF endorsement cannot be overstated, not only for what the SCF does but also because of what an SCF endorsement encourages others to do.”

5. Kamala Harris to visit the border — nope, not that one

  • Vice President Kamala Harris is supposed to be overseeing issues at the southern border, and now she’s making her first trip south. Harris will be traveling to Guatemala and Mexico to look at the “root causes” of the border crisis.
  • Harris, who is yet to even visit the border, said that “these are issues that aren’t going to be addressed overnight,” but she has already faced criticism for her lack of action or even public interest in the issues at the border since being tapped to lead the issue about 20 days ago.

4. Democrats want to pack the courts

  • After spending four years fretting about how President Donald Trump was upending norms in the United States by sending mean tweets to journalists, Democrats in Congress have decided that they want to add four additional judges on the United States Supreme Court in an effort to destroy the current conservative majority. 
  • President Joe Biden himself and liberal icons like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke out in the past against this practice. Last week, left-leaning Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer warned that doing this would erode “confidence in the courts, and in the rule of law itself.” He added it would lead to “diminishing the court’s power, including its power to act as a ‘check’ on the other branches.”

3. Officer arrested in shooting of Daunte Wright

  • Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter has been arrested for second-degree manslaughter after the shooting of Daunte Wright. It’s already been claimed that Potter intended to use her taser and the use of her handgun was an accident.
  • Washington County assistant criminal division chief Imran Ali said, “Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility and none more so than a sworn police officer.” Ali added that the former officer’s “Action caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright and she must be held accountable.”

2. Legislature preparing to vote on medical marijuana

  • State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) is sponsoring the medical marijuana bill being considered by the Alabama Legislature, and he’s said that none of the amendments proposed for the bill after a public hearing jeopardize the bill.
  • The Alabama House Health Committee plans to vote on the bill today, and Melson has expressed confidence about the upcoming vote. If medical marijuana is legalized, Alabama would be the 37th state to do so.

1. People in Alabama could get to vote on the lottery

  • U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) expressed support for the people of Alabama getting the final say on legalizing the lottery, saying he doesn’t “think it should really be a government decision.”
  • The Poarch Band of Creek Indians’ Stephanie A. Bryan, tribal chairwoman and CEO, supports a vote of the people as well. She advised, “This historic vote is the first step to empower Alabamians who deserve to have their voice heard on this issue.”

23 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Palmer: COVID-19 threat being used to instill fear in the public — ‘More about control than it is about science’

(House Budget Committee GOP/YouTube)

Even as the number of individuals vaccinated for COVID-19 is on the rise, health officials are still insisting the stringent guidelines established at the onset of the pandemic are maintained or even increased.

On Sunday, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC that people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 should still reconsider indoor gatherings to eat or drink.

According to U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), keeping these measures in place raises questions about whether or not health officials are being guided by science or being guided by a desire to maintain control over the population.

304

“You know this because you’re in the media — the old saying, if it bleeds, it leads,” Palmer said during an appearance on Wednesday’s episode of Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show.” “The more shocking, the fear they can instill in people, the better. That’s my concern. We know they don’t follow the science. If they followed the science, kids wouldn’t be required to wear a mask. If they followed the science, the schools would be open. I’ve gotten to a point where I, frankly, do not trust what comes out of the Democrats’ mouth. I don’t trust what is coming out of some of their advisers at the CDC and particularly the new head of the CDC, Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky. I have zero confidence in them.”

He added, “In Europe, they don’t require children who are traveling by air, train, whatever — the mask required is six years old and older. Here it is two years old. I don’t know if you have any children — it’s hard to explain to a two-year-old why they have to wear an uncomfortable mask. Now they’re talking about even though a substantial portion of the population has been vaccinated with one form of the vaccine or another — they want you to wear a double mask. Again, I think we’re to the point where it is more about control than it is about science. The loss of public confidence in these institutions, I think, is going to be long-term problematic.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

1 day ago

What Alabamians need to know about the latest activity on Goat Hill — April 15, 2021

(State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature on Wednesday held committee meetings.

Neither chamber gaveled in, so a legislative day was not burned.

The Senate’s committee day was highlighted by Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development giving a unanimous favorable report to HB 521, which is sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wood (R-Valley). The bill would generally require health care facilities to allow at least one caregiver or visitor to each patient or resident.

The bill, in part, reads: “The Legislature finds that it is in the best interests of the residents of Alabama to continue to have access to their loved ones receiving acute care or residing in long-term care facilities during a public health emergency and that companionship with one’s loved ones during that time can provide support and peace of mind that positively impacts the healing process.”

An amendment by Sen. Garland Gudger (R-Cullman) tacked on during the committee meeting reads as follows: “The Legislature also finds that Representative Debbie Woods, whose mother, Peggy Hamby, succumbed to COVID-19, is forever remembered by the Alabama Legislature in the spirit of this bill. This bill represents Mrs. Hamby and the countless Alabamians who tragically lost relatives and loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

313

The House committee slate got started with Health’s 9:00 a.m. public hearing on SB 46, Sen. Tim Melson’s (R-Florence) medical marijuana bill. After the public hearing, the committee substituted the bill and then tacked five additional amendments onto the bill. As expected, a vote on the bill was not held by the committee on Wednesday.

The House Committee on Boards, Agencies and Commissions gave a favorable report as substituted to HB 540 and HB 609 — two related bills, sponsored by Reps. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika) respectively, to foster innovation and advance a 21st century Alabama economy.

At 3:00 p.m., House State Government took up an agenda that included Rep. Mike Holmes’ (R-Wetumpka) HB 242. This bill would increase the penalty provisions and otherwise alter the Memorial Preservation Act. No vote was taken on the legislation.

Looking ahead

The legislature on Thursday will convene for the 23rd day of its 2021 regular session. The Senate will gavel in at 9:00 a.m., while the House gets in at 10:00 a.m.

Before that, an especially important committee meeting will occur when House Urban and Rural Development takes up SB 215, sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston). This transformational bill is aimed at expanding high-speed, affordable broadband internet access to all Alabamians. The committee agenda at 9:00 a.m. also includes Sen. Chris Elliott’s (R-Daphne) SB 8, which would prevent homeowner’s associations from banning residents displaying from displaying the Alabama state flag.

At 9:30 a.m., House Health will meet and take a vote on SB 46, the medical marijuana bill. The committee agenda additionally includes Sen. Arthur Orr’s (R-Decatur) SB 267, which would ban the requirement or governmental issuance of vaccine passports in Alabama.

On the floor, the House will work off of a 19-bill special order calendar.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Tuberville: ‘The people should make a decision’ on lottery, gaming legalization

(Senator Tommy Tuberville/YouTube)

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Wednesday held his weekly press call, discussing topics that included President Joe Biden’s so-called infrastructure proposal, the president’s “skinny” budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 and the importance of protecting the Senate filibuster.

Alabama’s junior senator also briefly reacted to the Alabama Senate on Tuesday evening passing legislation that would legalize a lottery, casino gaming at certain locations and sports betting in the state.

Tuberville expressed that he does not have a position on the specifics of the legislation now under consideration by the Alabama House, adding that he wants to wait to see the final version of the legislation before making a determination whether he would support it himself. However, he ultimately wants the people of Alabama to get a vote on the issue in a referendum.

“I think the people should make a decision on this; I don’t think it should really be a government decision. I think the House and the Senate understand, ‘Hey, let the people of the state vote on this and see what direction they want to go.’ I don’t have a dog in that hunt,” Tuberville said.

506

He led off the call by commenting on the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan.

“Our infrastructure (in Alabama) is in need of repair,” Tuberville affirmed. “Our highways need to be fixed, condemned bridges need attention, there are roads that need to be paved to connect our rural communities and broadband needs to be improved.”

“These are important projects, and that’s why every penny of every dollar in the infrastructure bill should actually go to traditional infrastructure projects like these,” he continued. “Unfortunately, President Biden is reimagining the idea of what you think of infrastructure.”

Tuberville said Biden’s proposal “is not about infrastructure.”

“It’s about the Green New Deal in disguise,” the Republican senator warned. He decried that Biden’s plan would represent “the largest tax increase since 1993” while threatening the existence of family-owned small businesses and farms.

The next topic was Biden’s proposed budget for FY22, especially when it comes to defense spending.

“President Biden’s plan threatens the strength and stability of our fighting forces,” Tuberville cautioned. He said the Biden administration is sending the signal that its priority is “a weak military.”

Tuberville emphasized Biden’s proposal “weakens military readiness and benefits our adversaries.”

“We can’t afford a setback,” the senator outlined, pointing to “bad actors like China and Russia” heavily investing in their militaries “just to get ahead” of the United States.

“Lack of investment in our military puts our men and women in uniform at serious disadvantage,” he remarked. “It has a direct impact on Alabamians. From Mobile to Huntsville, in Alabama more than 200,000 jobs are in national defense (related work).”

“Alabama has a longstanding history of contributions to our national defense,” Tuberville continued. “And our state plays a pivotal role in developing the future of our military. Simply put, this budget proposal is scary.”

RELATED: Senator Shelby stands up for military readiness, modernization amid defense budget concerns

Next, Tuberville expressed his support for maintaining the filibuster.

“We need the filibuster to protect the minority’s voice in the Senate,” he advised.

The Lee County resident wrapped up his remarks by reiterating his support for the COVID-19 vaccines.

He touched on the news this week that the CDC and the Alabama Department of Public Health have both temporarily paused the Johnson and Johnson vaccine due to a rare type of blood clot reportedly occurring in six individuals — all women — who received the J&J coronavirus vaccine.

“We’re looking at six cases here of nearly seven million shots administered nationwide,” Tuberville commented. “Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and Operation Warp Speed, we have plenty of Moderna and Pfizer doses to go around. Just today, President Biden said — those two vaccines — we have enough for everybody in this country. I have been in contact with the governor’s office and state leadership, and they have assured me they are on top of all of this.”

“So I continue to urge Alabamians to take whatever vaccine is available at the time they are able,” he concluded. “[G]et the vaccine, just like I have.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Under Ainsworth’s leadership, Alabama to host National Lieutenant Governors Association meeting for only second time ever

(Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, YHN)

The National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) will meet in Baldwin County in August as the nation’s lieutenant governors and other seconds-in-command gather for the association’s first in-person meeting since 2019.

The meeting will convene state No. 2’s from across the country to discuss policy ideas, initiatives and best practices.

“Tourism is a top industry in our state employing more than 200,000 workers in 2019,” stated Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL). “It’s essential to get tourism in our state humming again and I am proud to drive that by welcoming this prestigious group in August.”

NLGA says the meeting in Point Clear will generate an estimated economic impact of more than $300,000.

185

Ainsworth noted that the meeting will bolster the state economy and bring attention to the region and the state, which is especially important following the damage COVID-19 did to tourism along the Gulf Coast and in other areas.

“Tourists paid more than one billion dollars in taxes to state and local governments in 2019, dollars which saved the average Alabama family about $537 a year in taxes,” Ainsworth added.

NLGA was founded in 1962, and this will be only the second time Alabama has hosted an annual meeting of the association. The sole previous NLGA Annual Meeting in Alabama was in 1975.

“NLGA meetings are nonpartisan and promote innovative plans for shared challenges, something that is especially critical for state leaders as all the states emerge from the global pandemic and seek to regain their economic and educational footing,” commented NLGA director Julia Brossart.

“NLGA is a platform for us to come together as leaders, in a bi-partisan way, to drive thoughtful and informative discussions,” concluded NLGA chair and Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long (D-DE).

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Poarch Creek Indians tribal chair: Alabamians ‘deserve to have their voice heard’ on gaming, lottery

(Poarch Band of Creek Indians/Contributed, YHN)

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians on Wednesday praised the State Senate for passing legislation the day previous that would allow Alabamians to vote in a referendum on whether to legalize a lottery, casino gaming and sports betting in the Yellowhammer State.

The legislative package would also allow the State of Alabama to negotiate and enter into a compact with the Poarch Creek. This would allow the tribe to share with the State a portion of the revenue generated on their lands held in federal trust.

The Poarch Creek have made it clear they are eager to be able to contribute to their fellow Alabamians in this new way. With an annual economic impact of nearly $1 billion in wages, capital, goods, services and taxes, the tribe already significantly supports the state’s economy; the tribe is also an active corporate citizen, leading on philanthropic and other civic fronts.

Stephanie A. Bryan, tribal chairwoman and CEO, released a statement following the Senate vote.

282

She said, “I want to thank Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, along with Senators Albritton, Marsh, and McClendon, and everyone who contributed to this effort in the Senate. This historic vote is the first step to empower Alabamians who deserve to have their voice heard on this issue.”

Under the legislation passed by the Senate and now up for consideration by the House, casino gaming would be authorized only at sites in Jefferson County, Mobile County, Macon County, Greene County, Houston County, and Jackson or DeKalb County. The licenses for these sites would go to the highest responsible bidder, with existing operators in those counties getting the right to make a final bid; for the Jackson/DeKalb site, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would have the right to a final bid.

It is important to note that one entity could not own more than two of those six sites, ensuring a monopoly could not occur.

Proponents of the legislation point out that for the first time in state history, the package passed by the Senate Tuesday would fully control and cap gaming that already exists in the shadows in Alabama. Enforcement would be given teeth so illegal operators could be weeded out once and for all.

Based on work previously conducted by the Governor’s Study Group on Gambling, the package would generate between $510-710 million annually.

The distribution of revenue in the package directs proceeds to education, postsecondary scholarships, high-speed broadband internet access, rural health care, mental health care, agricultural programs, roads and bridges, and more.

The legislation, among other provisions, would ban elected officials from accepting political contributions from gaming interests.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Congressman Barry Moore introduces bill to increase education access for survivors, dependents of veterans

(Rep. Barry Moore/Twitter)

U.S. Rep. Barry Moore (AL-02) has introduced the Col. John McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act.

The bipartisan legislation, announced on Wednesday, is cosponsored by Democratic Rep. David Trone (MD-06), and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Jon Tester (D-MT); Moran serves as ranking member and Tester serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Meanwhile, Moore serves as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The freshman congressman is a veteran himself.

506

“In 2010, U.S. Army Colonel John McHugh made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation when he was killed in action by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan,” stated Moore.

“Like many Americans, he dreamed of building a better life for his family, and we owe it to his family and millions of Americans in their situation to help realize this dream,” Moore explained. “My legislation secures critical in-state tuition benefits for dependents and survivors of eligible veterans, and I am proud to lead this bipartisan effort to get these families the long overdue support they deserve.”

Established in 1968, the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance program now provides $1,224 a month in tax-free benefits to eligible participants to help cover the cost of tuition, fees and living expenses while they are enrolled at an institution of higher education.

This bill would require GI Bill-eligible schools to extend in-state tuition benefits to beneficiaries of that program – bringing the rules for this program in line with the post-9/11 GI Bill. Moore’s office noted that this is a common-sense solution to help our heroes’ families meet their higher education goals.

Kelly McHugh Stewart, surviving daughter of Col. McHugh, said in a statement, “My family and I are honored and humbled that the COL John McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act is named after my dad.”

“My father believed in the power of education and knowing, in his memory, that Gold Star children will now have access to college educations, regardless of which state the university they wish to attend is located, would have meant the world to him,” she continued. “As a military child, ‘home’ is all over the country, sometimes all over the world. By the time I graduated high school, I’d moved eleven different times. I didn’t call just one state home, rather, I called the U.S. as a whole, the nation my father would die for, my home. Having the chance to attend Kansas State University was a wonderful opportunity for me while we were stationed at Fort Leavenworth, KS. Now, as family resides in the state of Alabama, my younger siblings will benefit from this change for in-state tuition as well. The chance to go to any university in this great country is a huge opportunity for children like my siblings and me, and we’re grateful to Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Senators Moran and Tester and Representatives Moore and Trone for making it happen.”

Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), made her support clear as well.

“Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors is grateful to Senators Moran and Tester and Representatives Moore and Trone for introducing the Colonel John M. McHugh Tuition Fairness for Survivors Act to bring parity to Chapter 35 recipients eligibility for in state tuition,” Carroll remarked. “Chapter 35 recipients are often forgotten in legislation and this is a huge step forward in ensuring they have equitable benefits. We look forward to seeing it passed into law.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

D.C.-based ‘Senate Conservatives Fund’ endorses Mo Brooks in nascent 2022 U.S. Senate race

(Mo Brooks/Facebook, YHN)

The field has not formed quite yet, but the Washington, D.C.-based “Senate Conservatives Fund” (SCF) has already picked its horse in Alabama’s 2022 U.S. Senate race.

SCF on Wednesday morning endorsed Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) for the seat currently held by U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who is retiring at the end of this term.

Mary Vought, executive director of SCF, said in a written statement, “Mo Brooks has a proven conservative record, he’s a member of the House Freedom Caucus, and he’s someone Americans can count on to stand up to the establishment in both parties.”

SCF was founded in 2008 by then-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). The PAC has raised millions each election cycle since, helping elect candidates including Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) in 2010, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in 2012 and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) in 2014.

323

DeMint in 2012 left SCF, which was then run by former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli until he was nominated by the president to be the director of ICE during the Trump administration.

Cuccinelli and Lee were “Never Trumpers” who led the unsuccessful “Free the Delegates” campaign at the 2016 Republican National Convention in a last-minute attempt to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the party’s nominee.

Alabamians may remember that SCF backed State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) in the state’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

The endorsement of Brooks comes the week after former President Trump endorsed him.

Vought concluded, “President Trump endorsed Mo Brooks and said this about why conservatives should support him: ‘Few Republicans have as much COURAGE and FIGHT as Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks. Mo is a great Conservative Republican leader who will stand up for America First no matter what obstacles the Fake News Media, RINOs, or Socialist Democrats may place in his path.’ We agree!”

Brooks released a statement in reaction to the SCF endorsement.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the endorsement of the preeminent Senate Conservative Fund,” he remarked. “The Senate Conservative Fund’s endorsement is HUGE! An SCF endorsement emphasizes that Mo Brooks is THE proven, reliable, principled conservative candidate in Alabama’s Senate race. The SCF endorsement means the SCF’s national conservative fundraising base will be mobilized to help the Mo Brooks for Senate campaign. The SCF can raise hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to help principled conservative candidates serve in the U.S. Senate. The impact of an SCF endorsement cannot be overstated, not only for what the SCF does but also because of what an SCF endorsement encourages others to do.”

Brooks this past weekend was also endorsed by Congressman Barry Moore (AL-02).

Former U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard is the only other announced candidate in the nascent Senate race.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Prominent Shelby, appropriations staffer joins HHQ Ventures

(HHQ/Contributed, YHN)

HHQ Ventures this week announced that Hamilton Bloom has joined the boutique advocacy and advisory firm as its vice president.

Bloom, an Alabama native, for the past six years has worked on Capitol Hill in varying capacities for U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

This includes Bloom from 2019 until earlier this year serving as the Republican staff director and clerk for the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. During his time as the lead GOP staffer on the subcommittee, he oversaw the passage of three funding bills and several supplemental appropriations bills, including the generational CARES Act at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As staff director, Bloom led his team in the negotiations, writing and passage of important funding bills for the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, NASA and the Office of the United States Trade Representative, among others.

His previous experience also includes having served as Shelby’s legislative assistant and lead staffer for the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Additionally, Bloom handled issues related to workforce development, education and taxes for Alabama’s senior senator.

239

HHQ is comprised of four partners, including former Congressmen Ben Quayle (R-AZ) and Kevin Yoder (R-KS).

“Hamilton is a tremendous addition to our firm. Hamilton’s knowledge and expertise in the appropriations process in particular will greatly enhance our abilities to provide our clients with guidance in their dealings with the federal government,” stated Quayle.

“The addition of Hamilton to the HHQ team is a huge win for our clients as his experience and connections on Capitol Hill will help us greatly expand our reach and expertise. As HHQ continues its rapid growth and expansion, Hamilton will be instrumental in our firm’s future,” Yoder added.

Bloom graduated from the University of Alabama, where he was student body president.

“It was the honor of a lifetime to work for such giants of public service to solve problems facing constituents across the nation,” Bloom said in a statement. “At HHQ, I look forward to leveraging what I learned during my tenure both in Senator Shelby’s office and while serving the members of the Appropriations Committee to help stakeholders navigate the difficult landscape of the federal government. I believe the experienced and dynamic staff at HHQ is uniquely positioned to help solve issues impacting our nation, and I look forward to joining the team.”

HHQ also counts former Vice President Dan Quayle and Lt. General (Ret.) Emil R. Bedard among its strategic advisors.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Engineered Plastic Components to invest $8.05 million in second Birmingham plant, add 75 jobs

(EPC, YHN)

Engineered Plastic Components (EPC) is investing $8.05 million in a 125,000-square-foot facility in Bessemer, its second facility in the Birmingham region. The company is a provider of thermoplastics and thermoset products that serve automotive, appliances, consumer products and medical industries. Specific products include automotive instrument panels, medical products like test tube holders and more.

EPC acquired the second facility from INOAC in September 2020 and plans to add 10 injection molding machines ranging in size from 200 tons to 3,000 tons. The company will bring 75 new jobs to the Bessemer facility, many of which are skilled technical jobs like engineers and technicians.

The company’s first facility is located in Leeds, where it has serviced automotive and consumer products through injection molding and assembly since 2014 and doubled in size in 2018.

303

“Alabama is attractive because of the automotive OEM and other customers in the area,” said Reza Kargarzadeh, president and CEO of EPC. “We are expanding to provide the most efficient injection molding and thermoset processes to all automotive OEMs in the area.”

Founded in 1994 in Iowa, EPC has 17 locations across North America, predominantly in the Midwest and Southeast. It currently employs 100 in the Bessemer facility and plans to add 75 new jobs in the next several years.

The Birmingham Business Alliance’s Vice President of Economic Development Jeff Traywick assisted EPC in this expansion.

“The Birmingham Business Alliance and Jeff have been instrumental in providing guidance and information on programs to incentivize businesses to locate in Alabama,” Kargarzadeh said. “The Alliance’s expertise has been very valuable to EPC to initially come to Alabama and, as well, to expand to a second location.”

In its seven years in the Birmingham region, EPC has grown substantially, Traywick said.

“Since locating within our region in 2014, Engineered Plastic Components has been a key member of our business community and its growth in our area has created a large number of quality jobs,” he said. “We are excited to see the company continue that success with its second facility to be located in Bessemer.”

EPC is but one example of the growing business community in Bessemer, said Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley.

“We would like to welcome Engineered Plastic Components to our growing business community here in Bessemer,” he said. “The selection of Bessemer for this newest facility is another example of the business-friendly climate we have created here in Bessemer and the success it has yielded in recruiting quality businesses and jobs to the Marvel City. We look forward to EPC’s success here in Bessemer over the coming years.”

(Courtesy of Birmingham Business Alliance)

2 days ago

7 Things: Alabama State Senate moves gambling forward, Alabama suspends J&J vaccine, Biden wants troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11 and more …

7. Senate passes bill for college athletes to get paid

  • Legislation that would allow college athletes to be paid for their image, likeness and name has been passed by the Alabama State Senate, but an amendment was added so it will have to go back through the House of Representatives before being signed by Governor Kay Ivey.
  • The bill wouldn’t actually take effect until the NCAA decides to allow students to make money off their name, image and likeness. The NCAA has expressed that it would prefer for federal legislation be passed instead of that by states.

6. Constitutional amendment to keep the Supreme Court at 9 judges

709

  • As Democrats have entertained the idea of packing the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks (R-AL), Ken Buck (R-CO), Chris Jacobs (R-NY), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Ted Budd (R-NC) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) are cosponsoring a constitutional amendment that would keep the number of Supreme Court judges to nine.  
  • This comes in response to President Joe Biden calling for a 36-member commission to study packing the court. The commission is also meant to study possible changes to “the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices.”

5. Officer and police chief in Minnesota resign, mayor wants to disarm the police

  • In Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Officer Kim Potter and Police Chief Tim Gannon have resigned after Potter shot Daunte Wright on Sunday. Gannon has claimed that the shooting was an accident, maintaining Potter meant to grab her taser.
  • Oddly, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliot has said that the resignation from Potter came without it being asked for. At a press conference, Elliot stated he doesn’t “believe that officers need to necessarily have weapons, you know, every time they’re making a traffic stop or engaged in situations that don’t necessarily call for weapons.”

4. AG Marshall: Keep ethics laws in mind with federal spending

  • At a press conference, Attorney General Steve Marshall discussed spending federal dollars coming to Alabama and reminded public officials to keep open meetings law and ethics law in mind. Marshall made these comments as Alabama is expected to receive $4 billion from the “American Rescue Plan.”
  • As this is an unprecedented amount of federal money coming to the state, Marshall reminded officials to “guard against the appearance of or the reality that this money is being used for personal gain or for the gain of your family members or business partners.” The funds coming to Alabama will be good to use until the end of 2024.

3. Biden plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 9/11

  • It’s been reported that President Joe Biden has plans to remove all 2,500 United States troops from Afghanistan by September 11, and he’s expected to officially announce the plans today. Under President Donald Trump’s administration, the original deadline to have troops out of Afghanistan was May 1.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said removing troops “is a grave mistake,” adding, “It is a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished, an abdication of American leadership.” May 1, it will be 10 years since Osama bin Laden was killed. September 11 will be 20 years since al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

2. Alabama stops Johnson & Johnson vaccines

  • Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris has announced that the state will pause offering the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine after six reports of blood clots in the country that’s suspected to be linked to the vaccine.
  • Governor Kay Ivey released a statement on the vaccine saying that it’s “important to know that the adverse effects potentially stemming from the Johnson & Johnson shot have been extremely rare in the country,” but they’re pausing this vaccine as a precaution.

1. Lottery, casino gambling and sports betting pass the Alabama Senate

  • The Alabama Senate finally passed a bill that would allow a lottery, casino gaming and sports betting in Alabama. This is the culmination of a long effort by State Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) which finally passed 25-9 after Sens. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road), Chris Elliott (R-Daphne), Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and David Sessions (R-Grand Bay) changed their previous “no” votes from previous attempts to “yes” votes.
  • The lottery was never the hangup here. Casino gaming was, and this bill would limit where casinos could go. They would only be authorized at specific sites in Jefferson County, Mobile County, Macon County, Greene County, Houston County and either Jackson or DeKalb County. The licenses will require they go to the highest bidders, but the existing operators in those counties get the right to make a final bid and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would have the right to a final bid in Jackson/DeKalb counties.

2 days ago

Legislators decry nonresponsive ALDOT, Ivey administration over deadly U.S. Highway 45 concerns

(Screenshot/APTV)

Earlier this month, a head-on collision just north of Mobile on U.S. Highway 45 killed four, including a couple and an infant child. For years, those types of accidents have plagued the narrow stretch of roadway from the Alabama-Mississippi state line to Prichard that has been neglected by administration after administration over the past half-century.

Last week, State Reps. Brett Easterbrook (R-Fruitdale) and Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle) joined other lawmakers at a press conference to draw attention to this problem area. Despite coverage in the Mobile media and an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” their pleas have not been acknowledged by Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) officials or the Ivey administration.

On Tuesday, both Easterbrook and Stringer appeared on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5 to discuss the lack of responsiveness from state government’s upper echelons.

721

Easterbrook told FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” that he had sought a meeting with ALDOT now that he had the support of the entire Mobile County delegation and a portion of the Baldwin County delegation.

“We’ve asked for a meeting,” Easterbrook said. “We still don’t have a meeting. We’ve had meetings — meeting after meeting after meeting. We’ve asked for another one since all of the Mobile delegation signed a letter. I sent a letter. Part of the Baldwin County delegation signed a letter requesting something be done with 45. We’ve requested a meeting for that. So far, we don’t have one.”

Stringer later told FM Talk 106.5’s “Midday Mobile” he did hear from ALDOT, only to be told about an error in his data, which he had stated a causality count over the last five years on the stretch of roadway as 73 when ALDOT claimed it was only 63. Otherwise, Stringer said the responsiveness left much to be desired.

“You know, like I told someone, I’m elected by a district to represent them and to bring the needs of my district to Montgomery,” he said. “I have been doing that for two-and-a-half years on deaf ears. And then, it really frustrated me. I would have loved a call from ALDOT or the Governor’s office asking to meet with me, and let’s talk about this to see how — even if it is a long-term plan of how we’re going to tackle this. But instead, I’ve requested a meeting with the Governor. That’s not been set up yet. We’re going on our second week waiting on that. Instead, I get one call from ALDOT to conflict the number of deaths. And that was extremely frustrating.”

“That’s a problem within itself,” Stringer added. “Why would that be an issue? Why not just call and say, ‘Hey, let’s sit down and work on this, and come up with a solution. Let’s come up with a plan — you know, some kind of long-term plan. Like I told them, it’s like everything in life, when something is important to you, you find a way to make it happen. And this is not important to Montgomery. When this becomes important, whenever one of their loved ones or their family members get killed on this road, it will become a priority and they’ll start laying some asphalt. But until then, we’re going to keep kicking the can down the road.”

The Mobile County lawmaker suggested taking legislative action to ensure public safety figures into the Alabama Department of Transportation’s calculus when prioritizing road and bridge projects.

“That’s exactly what I asked the ALDOT employee: Does that make it any better? Does that make it better that it could be 63 instead of 73? I just don’t understand it,” he stated. “I can’t wrap my brain around — you know, I’ve even considered looking at legislation of trying to make it where the deadliest highway per mile per capita has to be on top of the priority list. Something has got to be done because everything that I and Representative Easterbrook have done lately, and [State Sen.] Jack Williams, seems to be falling on deaf ears.”

Easterbrook suggested a redoing of the agency, which since its inception has often been dominated by politics.

“ALDOT needs to be completely redone,” he said. “It should be done like the Port Authority so that it is not a political situation. Every governor wants their ALDOT director. Plans completely change when a governor is worried about getting elected, so guess where they’re going to spend their money? Where the most people are at. An ALDOT director should be hired. Hire the right one. And they should not be changed every four years or every eight years. There’s no way to have long-term plans.”

Easterbrook said he would not be opposed to patterning the Alabama Department of Transportation governance after Mississippi, which elects commissioners who determine the agency’s director.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 days ago

What Alabamians need to know about the latest activity on Goat Hill — April 14, 2021

(State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature on Tuesday convened for the 22nd day of its 2021 regular session.

Both chambers had busy days, lasting into the night.

Here’s a rundown of the day’s proceedings:

640

Alabama Senate

The upper chamber gaveled in at 1:30 p.m. and worked through a 14-bill special order calendar.

Highlights of that calendar included the passage as amended of both HB 404 and HB 411.

HB 404, sponsored by Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) and carried in the Senate by. Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), would allow college athletes to make money off of their name, image and likeness. Sen. Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery) has been working on this issue recently and received praised for his work, as well. The bill passed the Senate in a 26-0 vote.

HB 411, sponsored by Rep. A.J. McCampbell (D-Linden) and carried in the upper chamber by Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), would create a confidential statewide database containing certain employment information for law enforcement officers, including disciplinary actions. The database would be utilized to ensure agencies are able to identify known “bad apples” in law enforcement so they can choose not to hire them. The bill was a compromise that involved significant input from the law enforcement community. HB 411 passed the Senate in a 26-0 vote.

Both HB 404 and HB 411 head back to the House for concurrence or nonconcurrence.

The Senate’s day, despite the productivity of the special order calendar, revolved around gaming. Read about the end result here.

You can view a tweet thread on the Senate’s day here and view the chamber’s full daily activity here.

Alabama House

The lower chamber took up a 19-bill special order calendar on Tuesday.

When all was said and done, bills that passed included House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter’s (R-Rainsville) legislation to create the Alabama State Parks Enhancement Authority and implement its bonding authority.

SB 107, Sen. Chris Elliott’s (R-Daphne) bill relating to police jurisdictions, passed as amended in a 61-28 vote and heads back to the Senate for concurrence or nonconcurrence.

Next, SB 117 by Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham) and Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) on expungement passed as amended 57-38 and heads back to the Senate for concurrence or nonconcurrence.

SB 249 — sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield and Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest) relating to call centers — received final passage in a unanimous vote.

Rep. Jamie Kiel’s (R-Russellville) HB 70 was carried over at the sponsor’s request and did not receive a vote on the day. The bill would prohibit a person from promising to make a payment to an individual or entity, on a per voter basis, in return for proof that a voter or a specific number of voters participated in a specific election.

The House gave final passage to SB 264 by Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) and Danny Crawford (R-Athens). This would legalize the permitted hunting of feral hogs and coyotes at night.

Finally, the lower chamber also gave final passage to SB 171. Sponsored by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman), this bill would make the sweet potato Alabama’s official state vegetable.

You can view the House’s full daily activity here.

Looking ahead

Wednesday is set to be a busy day of committee meetings, starting at 8:30 a.m. and going into the late afternoon. Neither chamber will convene.

One meeting especially to watch will be House Health’s 9:00 a.m. public hearing on SB 46, Sen. Tim Melson’s (R-Florence) medical marijuana bill. The committee is not expected to take a vote on the bill until its scheduled meeting on Thursday.

The House Committee on Boards, Agencies and Commissions at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday is set to take up two related bills — sponsored by Reps. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika) respectively — to foster innovation and advance a 21st century Alabama economy.

At 3:00 p.m., House State Government will consider an agenda that concludes with Rep. Mike Holmes’ (R-Wetumpka) HB 242. This bill would increase the penalty provisions and otherwise alter the Memorial Preservation Act.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Senate passes bill that would legalize a lottery, casino gaming, sports betting — ‘Great day for the state of Alabama’

(CBS 42/YouTube, YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed a historic package of legislation that would legalize, regulate and implement a lottery, casino gaming in select locations and sports betting in the Yellowhammer State.

The effort has been spearheaded by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), whose SB 214 fell two votes short in the upper chamber earlier this year. However, Marsh kept working after that initial hiccup, ultimately working with Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) to advance new legislation that ended up largely being modeled off of SB 214.

The package passed Tuesday was anchored by a constitutional amendment, SB 319, that was originally introduced by McClendon as a lottery-only proposal. However, SB 319 was substituted and then amended three times on the floor; that process led to the constitutional amendment also including casino gaming and sports wagering.

795

Casino gaming would be authorized only at sites in Jefferson County, Mobile County, Macon County, Greene County, Houston County, and Jackson or DeKalb County. The licenses for these sites would go to the highest responsible bidder, with existing operators in those counties getting the right to make a final bid; for the Jackson/DeKalb site, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would have the right to a final bid.

The vote to pass SB 319 was 23-9. As a constitutional amendment, at least 21 votes were needed. Four senators who voted against SB 214 decided to support SB 319: Senators Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road), Chris Elliott (R-Daphne), Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and David Sessions (R-Grand Bay).

The Senate also passed three enabling bills that would implement the provisions of SB 319 should the constitutional amendment pass the House and then a referendum of the people. Those bills, sponsored by Marsh, were SBs 309, 310 and 311.

“The Senate has been debating this topic for decades, and it is finally time we provide the people of our state with a solid product to address this issue,” Marsh stated. “Our people are driving across state lines to gamble and purchase lottery tickets, and those neighboring states are collecting the revenue and reaping the benefits straight from the pockets of Alabamians. This is revenue that can be used to finance countless desperately needed projects for our state and improve the quality of life for those who live here. I am proud to have worked on this issue, and I am thankful to Senator McClendon for having pushed this bill through the Senate. I am excited that this legislation is now one step closer to going to the people of Alabama for a vote.”

Proponents of the legislation point out that for the first time in state history, the package passed by the Senate Tuesday would fully control and cap gaming that already exists in the shadows in Alabama. Enforcement would be given teeth so illegal operators could be weeded out once and for all.

Based on work previously conducted by the Governor’s Study Group on Gambling, the package would generate between $510-710 million annually.

The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“Every time I go back to my district, the message is clear: people want to have the right to vote on a state lottery and gaming,” McClendon commented. “I appreciate the input from my colleagues in the Senate and the willingness of members of the House of Representatives and the Governor’s office to participate in a discussion about this transformational issue for our state. I am hopeful about the potential of getting this Constitutional Amendment in front of Alabamians so that they have a chance to make the final call on this critical decision for the future of our state.”

The distribution of revenue in the package is similar to SB 214, directing proceeds to education, scholarships, high-speed broadband internet access, rural health care, mental health care, agricultural programs, roads and bridges, and more.

The enabling legislation, among other provisions, would ban elected officials from accepting political contributions from gaming interests.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) remarked, “I commend the members of this body for the collaborative, hard work that has been put into this effort to bring a vote on the lottery and gaming to the people of Alabama. Working together, Senators have taken the lead on a complicated issue, and delivered a strong product that sets a roadmap to how our state can finally begin to cap, regulate and control, as well as collect taxes on this industry, which has existed in our state for decades.”

“It is clear that, whether for or against lottery and gaming, the people of Alabama want to have the right to vote on the issue,” he continued. “The Senate today did its job in allowing Alabamians to exercise that right.”

The effort to pass the legislation was also bipartisan.

“This has been a long time coming. The people of Alabama deserve the right to be able to vote on gaming, and they have wanted this chance for the past 20 years. This vote will allow our residents to finally reap the benefits of gaming, by allowing those who play games in Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, or Tennessee to now play those same games at home,” added Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro). “This vote has the potential to be a major game-changer for our education and healthcare systems. I’m proud to be a part of this legislative body and this is a great day for the state of Alabama.”

Tuesday was the 22nd day of the legislature’s 2021 regular session; there can be a maximum of 30 legislative days in the session.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Senator Shelby stands up for military readiness, modernization amid defense budget concerns

File photo (Sen. Shelby/Twitter)

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) on Tuesday questioned witnesses during a defense appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Pentagon’s technology, innovation and modernization priorities and efforts.

Shelby is the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its subcommittee on defense.

The two witnesses who testified in the hearing were: Barbara McQuiston, acting under secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering at the Department of Defense; and Dr. Stefanie Tompkins, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The hearing, of course, came days after the Biden administration proposed a fiscal year 2022 defense budget that does not even keep up with the rate of inflation.

214

“This Committee has appropriated billions of dollars for basic research, applied research, and advanced technology development to support efforts that would allow our military to maintain a competitive and strategic advantage over our adversaries,” said Shelby in his opening remarks. He served as chairman of both the Committee on Appropriations and its subcommittee on defense from 2018 until earlier this year.

Alabama’s senior senator warned, “Our technological and industrial progress remain a constant target from China, Russia, and other nation states who are actively working to undermine and surpass our military’s advancements.”

“We need a ready and lethal force, equipped with modernized systems capable of providing strong national security and, importantly, deterring war,” Shelby advised. “Our investments in innovative research are critical in guaranteeing success.”

He outlined that the appropriations committee over the past four years “has supported the necessary budget increases in cutting-edge research areas such as hypersonics, artificial intelligence, unmanned systems and microelectronics to address warfighter needs and capability gaps.”

However, this progress is in jeopardy.

“With the top line budget recommendation unveiled by the current administration last week, I am extremely concerned about our ability to continue to make those essential strategic investments that will allow us to keep pace,” Shelby remarked.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Vulcan specialty license plate to be made if 1,000 commitments are secured

(Visit Vulcan/Contributed)

The non-profit Vulcan Park Foundation on Tuesday announced a new specialty license plate is now available for preorder to residents of Alabama who want to show their support of Birmingham’s Vulcan Park & Museum.

The State of Alabama recently approved Vulcan Park & Museum to begin securing commitments for its new ‘STAND WITH VULCAN’ specialty license plate.

The tag, if it secures the necessary support, would provide valuable funding to support Vulcan Park & Museum’s mission to preserve and promote Vulcan as the symbol for the Birmingham region, as well as to advance knowledge and understanding of Birmingham’s history and culture and to encourage exploration of the region.

Before the State can produce the specialty tag, a minimum requirement of 1,000 commitments must be met by May 31, 2022.

139

Supporters may purchase the ‘STAND WITH VULCAN’ tag for $50 online here. Of that amount, $41.25 will go directly to Vulcan Park Foundation to ensure Vulcan stands proud atop Red Mountain for future generations to enjoy.

Vulcan Park and Museum President and CEO Darlene Negrotto believes the offering of the distinctive tag will allow people from across the entire state, not only Birmingham, to share their love of Vulcan.

“Vulcan stands not only for the Birmingham region but for the entire state. Many across the state have made cherished memories with Vulcan, from childhood visits to romantic proposals and weddings. ” Negrotto commented. “With this new tag, it is our hope that these precious memories continue to live on and many more can be made.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

The World Games Birmingham announces another batch of venues

(The World Games/Contributed, YHN)

The organizing committee for The World Games 2022 Birmingham on Tuesday announced the next three competition venues for The Games: Oak Mountain State Park, Barber Motorsports Park and John Carroll Catholic High School.

Signage has already been installed at all three venues, per a press release.

The World Games 2022 is a multi-sport event that will take place in the Magic City from July 7- 17, 2022. An anticipated 3,600 athletes from over 100 countries will participate in more than 30 different sports throughout The Games.

565

Through this extraordinary Olympic-style sports experience, elite athletes from all over the globe will compete for gold in multi-disciplinary competitions. However, the big winner is set to be Alabama.

With fans traveling from worldwide destinations to Birmingham and experiencing venues around the greater metropolitan area, The World Games 2022 will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact.

“The excitement about the competition at these venues grows as we unveil each one,” The World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers stated. “We’ve announced 11 venues to date and have six to go. All of these venues are world-class and we look forward to seeing fans from all over the world witness history as athletes compete for gold in July of 2022.”

Oak Mountain State Park will play host to several water-based competitions, including Waterski/Wakeboard, Canoe Marathon and Middle Distance Orienteering.

Since it was established by the Alabama State Lands Act of 1927, Oak Mountain State Park has grown to 9,940 acres making it the Yellowhammer State’s largest state park.

“We are honored that Oak Mountain State Park will play a role in The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, and we are tremendously excited about hosting orienteering, canoe marathon, waterskiing and wakeboarding events at the park,” said park superintendent Kelly Ezell. “It’s going to be a truly exciting time for the competitors, the spectators and our park. We believe Oak Mountain is one of Alabama’s treasures, and we can’t wait for people from all over the globe to see amazing athletes compete in one of our state’s most scenic places during The World Games.”

At Barber Motorsports Park, fans will be able to watch Drone Racing and Canopy Piloting.

The Barber Motorsports Park is an 880-acre, multi-purpose racing facility located on the eastern fringes of Birmingham. It was built by George Barber and includes the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum, which has been named the “World’s Largest Motorcycle Museum” by the Guinness World Records. The motorsports park, which opened in 2003, has a 17-turn, 2.38-mile (3.83 km) road course, designed by Alan Wilson, viewable from several naturally wooded or grass-covered banks.

“We at Barber Motorsports Park are excited to be part of The World Games 2022,” commented owner and founder George Barber. “The Greater Birmingham Area will be center stage for the world in the coverage of all the events associated with The World Games. This includes the events held at Barber Motorsports Park. The Park and Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum are honored to part of this historic event.”

Flying Disc will take place on John Carroll’s campus.

“John Carroll Catholic High School is proud to be a partner of The World Games 2022 and we look forward to welcoming many of the athletes, and their fans, to our beautiful campus next summer,” remarked John Carroll principal Anthony Montalto. “The opportunity to be a part of an endeavor that includes other first- class businesses and community leaders in our city is a privilege. We want to thank The World Games officials for their diligent work on behalf of the city of Birmingham, and we offer our support in making this event the most successful one in The World Games history.”

Previously announced The World Games 2022 venues include Legion Field, Birmingham CrossPlex, Boutwell Auditorium, Sloss Furnaces, Birmingham-Southern College and Avondale Park. The under-construction Protective Stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn