The Wire

  • Assistant U.S. attorney to replace Hart in leading Special Prosecutions Division

    Excerpt:

    Multiple sources have told Yellowhammer News that Anna “Clark” Morris, the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, will take over the Special Prosecutions Division of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

    The announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday. Attorney General Steve Marshall accepted the resignation of Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, who has led the division for years, on Monday morning.

    Morris served as the acting U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s middle district last year, in between President Donald Trump firing former USA George Beck in March of 2017 and now-USA Louis Franklin being confirmed that September.

  • EPA official resigns after indictment on Alabama ethics charges, replaced by Alabama native

    Excerpt:

    Even with Trey Glenn leaving his post as the EPA’s Region Four administrator, Alabama will still have strong ties to the leader of that office.

    According to The Hill, Mary Walker was named by EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler to fill the vacant role in an acting capacity after Glenn resigned on Monday following his indictment on ethics charges in Alabama.

    Walker is a native of the Yellowhammer State and had been serving as Glenn’s deputy.

  • Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine coming to Birmingham in 2019

    Excerpt:

    The Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine,” a magical prom night experience for people with special needs, is coming to Birmingham.

    Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church will serve as one of the nearly 500 churches around the world to host Night to Shine on February 8, 2019.

    Night to Shine is an event for people 14 and older with special needs to receive royal treatment. Guests will enter the event on a red carpet filled with a crowd and paparazzi. Once they make it into the building, guests will be able to choose from an array of activities to partake in including hair and makeup stations, shoe shining areas and limousine rides. They can also choose their corsages and boutonnieres.

24 mins ago

Mazda-Toyota site selection team tells the story of how they chose Huntsville

(Governor's Office, Hal Yeager)

The world-class site selectors who handled the Mazda-Toyota project have told the inside story of how Huntsville was chosen, praising the city and Alabama’s long term prospects in the process.

In a podcast series, the site selection team from JLL Chicago recently discussed this tremendous accomplishment for the Yellowhammer State, which Made In Alabama called “one of the most coveted industrial prizes in years.”

Meredith O’Connor, a JLL international director, concluded, “As a state, they get it. They’re ready. I think we’re going to continue to see success in Alabama for these types of uses.”

Officially coined “Project New World,” the now-under-construction Mazda-Toyota venture in Huntsville stemmed from a rigorous, fast-paced site search. The team at JLL revealed the key factors that separated Alabama from other suitors for the sprawling assembly plant that will employ 4,000 workers producing 300,000 vehicles annually.

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One of the most striking revelations from the site selectors is how elite a level the state’s economic development and business climate have reached.

“Huntsville was ultimately selected because they were ready, willing and able. The site shows years of thoughtful preparation, and the city has ample advanced manufacturing expertise,” JLL noted in a project profile, separate from the podcast.

They added, “It’s a place where two savvy automakers will collaborate, fortifying a shared competitive advantage as technology companies continue to focus on the industry as one ripe for disruption.”

Interestingly enough, this historic project, however, did not actually start out with that massive scale of two giants coming together.

Initially, its secret code name was “Project Mitt,” and the project involved only Toyota. The JLL team at first examined potential sites spanning 500 to 1,000 acres, but the game completely changed when Mazda joined as a partner in the venture.

“That scope became much larger. We covered a lot of ground in terms of states that could qualify, although once Mitt became Project New World, several states were eliminated due to the scope and size of the project itself,” O’Connor explained.

Wide disparity between Alabama and most of the nation

Throughout much of last year, O’Connor and her renowned site selection colleagues worked closely with both Toyota and Mazda on the search, narrowing down a list of possible sites that originally numbered 300.

There were many factors to analyze that separated real contenders from the rest, including “workforce, operating environment, site specifics, logistics, incentives, and quality of life, among others.”

The team faced an ambitious timeline for a project of such magnitude and had to move quickly, as Mazda-Toyota wanted their new plant to be up and running by 2021.

“Before our first flight was booked, we made sure we understood what was important to our clients – Toyota and Mazda – from site specifics to the softer requirements of cultural fit and others,” Christian Beaudoin, JLL’s director of research, outlined.

Their process was cutting edge and adds to the objective credibility of their praise of Huntsville and Alabama.

“Our research team turned those requirements into an algorithm using data analytics to define labor and site requirements, and then we started a cross-country search,” Beaudoin added.

Beaudoin said the site selection team’s “high-level screening model” aggregated over 100 data points involving individual sites and then provided a ranking.

After the data work, the team members physically embarked on site visits that took them to 20 states over an intense six-week span.

Engineers from the two automakers joined them on “operational tours.” They viewed sites from helicopters, talked to human resources managers in cities to get a true sense of the respective labor markets, explored whether there was a Japanese school nearby and even sampled dishes at local Japanese restaurants.

After the data screening process and this round of visits, the list of potential sites dropped rapidly, as economic development agencies struggled to meet requirements that seemed off the charts. Most places around the nation are simply not on Alabama’s level when it comes to meeting the needs of modern industry.

One quote from O’Connor in the podcast was especially revealing, as it pertains to this state-by-state economic development gap.

“I think we all got the same types of calls from individuals saying, ‘Are there too many zeros in this column?’ If you just removed one zero, it made sense to them, but in some cases, there were two extra zeros. It was just things they had never seen in their career,” O’Connor advised.

Alabama is working again

As 2017 wrapped up, only two sites remained – Huntsville and a competitor in North Carolina.

The site selection team at JLL recognized that Huntsville offered many advantages. For one, the site was already assembled, and it also offered a large buffer zone so the plant could fit like a glove with the community.

Plus, the economic development specialists working the project in Huntsville and across the state were responsive at all times.

“There were days where we worked 18, 19 hours when we got down to the end of this. They never wavered. They were with us. They didn’t care what time of the day it was,” O’Connor shared.

Then, there is a huge advantage that the Yellowhammer State has built over time – Alabama’s booming auto industry has a network of suppliers that few states can even fathom. This includes original equipment manufacturers.

“There are reasons there are multiple OEM’s in their state,” O’Connor emphasized. “As a state, they get it. They’re ready. I think we’re going to continue to see success in Alabama for these types of uses.”

Combine all of this with the nation’s best business climate and overall manufacturing sector, the Port of Mobile, an ambitious workforce development plan and the work of the University of Alabama System, and Mazda-Toyota came to call Alabama its sweet new home.

If these site selectors are correct, these types of successes could begin to snowball.

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

1 hour ago

Mo Brooks questions Trump administration’s reaction to lawsuit about counting illegal aliens in the census

(Fox News/YouTube, White House/Flickr)

Republican Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) and Attorney General Steve Marshall have filed a suit against the federal government and their plans to count illegal immigrants in the 2020 census and use those numbers for congressional reapportionment, as well as the allocation of federal funding.

An adverse decision for Brooks, Marshall and Alabama would most likely cost the state a congressional seat, untold federal dollars and an Electoral College vote. States that have welcomed illegal immigrants are poised to benefit from their inclusion, and if this is allowed, it would incentivize policies that bring more illegal immigrants to those states.

Brooks appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” Tuesday and said counting illegal immigrants on the census would result in American citizens losing out on representation while illegal immigrants gain power and influence.

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He added that members of Congress would become more inclined to pander to those who advocate for more illegal immigration.

“These large non-citizen populations in the state of California have an adverse effect on all the rest of us because they’re taking congressional seats from the rest of us,” Brooks explained. “[T]hat is the equivalent of about 25 or 30 congressional seats that are being taken from law-abiding states and given to those states that, by in large, are sanctuaries for illegal conduct.”

The Department of Justice helmed by Trump appointee and acting-Attorney General Matt Whitacker has asked federal courts to dismiss the lawsuit on a procedural basis for lack of standing. This move leads one to believe they will fight this lawsuit in court, a decision that has Brooks “baffled.”

“I am baffled that the Trump Department of Justice, at least in this instance, would side with sanctuary cities,” he said. “I would hope that they would do what you’re supposed to do as an attorney representing the United States of America, analyze it, and do what I have done. And that concludes that the 14th Amendment for the United States Constitution and Equal Protection Clause guarantees that no one citizen’s vote will be worth any more or less than another citizens vote.”

He argued the decision by the DOJ harms Americans and empowers pro-illegal immigration states.

“[W]hen you count illegal aliens in the census count, that redistributes Electoral College votes, and that redistributes congressional seats, those jurisdictions – particularly those who are sanctuary cities or sanctuary states – their citizens get more power per vote because there are fewer citizens in each of those Congressional Seats and the difference is the illegal alien headcount,” Brooks stated.

You would think Brooks would find a common ally in the current administration with a president who has made his campaign and administration about protecting Americans first and reigning in our out of control immigration policy but it does not appear to be heading that way on this issue and Alabama could lose out big time.

Listen here:

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

3 hours ago

Marshall confirms: Clark Morris to replace Hart in leading Special Prosecutions Division

(Marshall Campaign, C.Morris/LinkedIn)

On Tuesday, Attorney General Steve Marshall officially confirmed Yellowhammer News’ reporting that Anna “Clark” Morris will lead the office’s Special Prosecutions Division.

Morris is a longtime federal prosecutor who currently serves as first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. She will officially take over the AG’s Special Prosecutions Division, which investigates public corruption and white-collar crime, on January 7.

“I am delighted that Clark Morris has agreed to lead my public corruption unit,” Marshall said in a press release. “She is universally respected throughout the law enforcement community and is the kind of hard-nosed prosecutor you want on your team. Her work ethic, professionalism, and integrity are visible to those with whom she interacts on both sides of her cases.”

Marshall continued, “Public corruption continues to be a scourge on our great state, and I am confident that the people of Alabama will be well served by Clark in this role.”

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Marshall also highlighted that the move will boost the crucial working relationship between federal and state law enforcement and prosecutors in Alabama.

“Clark is not only highly experienced, but she also commands a strong working relationship with the U.S. Justice Department. Her addition to our office will make the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division more effective in partnering with federal law enforcement to target public corruption – a goal I have sought since I first took office in 2017,” Marshall explained.

U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin also noted that Morris’ appointment will enhance combined Federal/State efforts to combat crime in the Yellowhammer State.

“Mrs. Morris has been an incredible asset to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and her absence will be a huge loss. However, her new position at the Attorney General’s Office creates an opportunity for a partnership that we have not seen in years. Her leadership and judgment will serve the State of Alabama well, they are lucky to have her,” Franklin said.

Morris is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). She has served as an assistant United States attorney in both the Middle and Northern Districts of Alabama. In 2013, she was named first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District and has served two presidential administrations in that role. Her vast prosecutorial experience includes work in the White-Collar Crime Unit of the Middle District’s Criminal Division. Morris also served as acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District from March 2017 to November 2017.

A native of Alexander City, she is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law (JD).

The role leading the Special Prosecutions Division became vacant when controversial Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart resigned on Monday morning.

Marshall has named James Houts as the interim chief for the Special Prosecutions Division. Houts is the former chief of Criminal Appeals for the Attorney General’s Office.

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

4 hours ago

Solar farm proposed in Wiregrass would be Alabama’s largest

(Pixabay)

An energy project proposed for southeast Alabama could become the state’s largest solar farm.

The Dothan Eagle reports that Houston County commissioners have approved a 10-year property tax abatement for about 1,000 acres of land selected for a huge solar array.

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Matt Parker of the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce says the move allows NextEra Energy to project its potential costs and could help land the $75 million project for the area.

Parker says solar panels would cover about 600 acres of land, with additional acreage for buffers and other facilities.

He says the solar project could begin producing power in about three years.

NextEra Energy is based in Juno Beach, Florida.

It has a large solar array in Lauderdale County that provides power to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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5 hours ago

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program ranked nation’s best once again

(Ivey campaign/YouTube)

Alabama is ranked number one in the nation in something besides football, and under Governor Kay Ivey’s leadership, this type of success appears to be becoming a strong trend.

A recently released report named Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program as America’s best once again, lauding the state-funded program as the “only pre-kindergarten program in the country that comes close to having all the elements of a strong pre-k program.”

In its “Implementing 15 Essential Elements for High-Quality Pre-K: An Updated Scan of State Polices” report, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) found that Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program fully met 14 of the report’s 15 “essential elements” characterizing high-quality programs, and it partially met the 15th element, too.

Included among these benchmarks were measurements assessing a program’s leadership, early learning policies and program practices. Alabama’s performance in meeting the essential elements exceeded the national average by more than 233 percent.

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Advocates from the Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA) lauded NIEER’s latest study, pointing out that the Yellowhammer State’s adherence to high quality is one reason why ongoing research by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) shows that students who attend First Class Pre-K perform better than their peers on state reading and math assessments.

“The National Institute for Early Education Research is the foremost leader on pre-kindergarten quality and for this organization to continually find Alabama’s program among the nation’s best is a testament to state leaders,” Allison Muhlendorf, ASRA executive director, said in a press release.

She continued, “The Essential Elements report confirms that the long-term effectiveness of a pre-k program is dependent on its commitment to quality, and we are proud that Alabama continues to differentiate itself as the nation’s standard-bearer in this effort.”

Alabama also received strong marks from NIEER in May when the organization released its annual State of Preschool Yearbook. That report ranked Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program as the nation’s highest quality program for the 12th consecutive year.

The Office of School Readiness, housed within the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, administers First Class Pre-K.

“First Class Pre-K is a nationally-recognized program of excellence,” Jeana Ross, Secretary of Early Childhood Education, said in a statement after the release of the NIEER Yearbook earlier this year. “The program framework encompasses all aspects of the highest quality early learning experiences that ensure school readiness for children, and this emphasis on quality impacts student outcomes far beyond kindergarten.”

While the NIEER Yearbook examines state policies that support state-funded pre-k, the Essential Elements report reviews the environment needed for states to execute a high-quality pre-kindergarten program, as well as the degree to which states implement their policies.

There are currently 1,045 Alabama First Class Pre-K classrooms located in various public and private schools, child care centers, faith-based centers, Head Start programs and other community-based preschool settings. However, that is only enough classrooms to enroll 32 percent of four-year-olds across the state, and ASRA and state leaders want to continue increasing access to the tremendously successful program.

This spring, the Alabama Legislature approved Ivey’s request for the program’s largest-ever single-year budget increase – an extra $18.5 million for First Class Pre-K in the 2019 program budget, bringing its annual total to $96 million.

“Having a strong start to one’s educational journey is critical to having a strong finish when it comes time to enter the workforce,” Ivey said in a release at the time. “Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program is, without question, the best in the nation. I am proud that we can increase the reach of this important educational opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature to further expand the availability of voluntary Pre-K.”

In 2012, ASRA’s business-led Pre-K Task Force launched a ten-year campaign to advocate for full funding for the First Class Pre-K program through incremental state funding increases. ASRA has estimated that the state would need to appropriate a total level of funding of $144 million to give every Alabama family the opportunity to enroll their four-year-old in a First Class Pre-K program voluntarily.

Ivey hosted a packed Early Childhood Education Leadership Forum last week, where the governor stressed that she wanted to see continued progress moving forward in the early stage of education, including Pre-K.

The Ivey administration has also overseen Alabama being ranked as the nation’s best for its engaged workforce, business climate and manufacturing, along with other top economic development rankings.

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

5 hours ago

Sewell decries ‘voting irregularities’ in Alabama; Says first bill introduced in Dem-controlled Congress will address

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

SELMA — Although the focus on so-called “voting irregularities” in the midterm elections earlier this month was put on votes in neighboring Georgia and Florida, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) spoke out on those happening here in Alabama at a town hall meeting she hosted on Monday.

Sewell spoke of voting irregularities in Huntsville earlier this month at a gathering at the Selma Interpretative Center in downtown Selma.

Despite a federal judge’s ruling earlier this month calling that claim into question, Sewell criticized how voters at Huntsville’s Oakman College and Alabama A&M were allegedly taken off the voter rolls.

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“We all saw voting irregularities occur across this nation in this 2018 midterm elections,” she said. “We saw it in Florida. We saw it in Georgia. We saw it in Alabama. I want you to know there were historically black colleges in Huntsville where Oakwood and Alabama A&M students were taken off, purged from the voter rolls because the notice that they were given from our secretary of state went to a P.O. box at the school. Many of those students live off campus, so they didn’t respond, they didn’t receive this notification that they had to go and make sure that their names were spelled right. And they were purged from the rolls. We had to get provisional ballots and have election protection officials go to Huntsville on Election Day. That’s in Alabama.”

Sewell said it was “worse” in Georgia, where Gov.-elect Brian Kemp was “a referee and a player” as a candidate in that election, and she criticized where some voters purged from the rolls for mismatching of names in some circumstances.

The Birmingham Democrat insisted some of these irregularities may have been prevented had the U.S. Supreme Court not overturned certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.

“What would happen is states like Georgia and Alabama would have to pre-clear any changes in voter laws – any changes,” Sewell said.

Sewell promoted her Voting Rights Advancement Act, which she said would restore some of the pre-clearance requirements.

“We have got to put the teeth back into, the enforceability back into the Voting Rights Act and that is what my bill does,” she said. “And I was told by Ms. Pelosi last week that H.R. 1, the first bill the Democrats will produce will be a bill to have democratic reform to our democracy, so we can truly be a democracy for the people – working on behalf of all the people. And my bill will be a part of H.R. 1.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

6 hours ago

Gang from Southern California attempts to take over Anniston

(ABC 33/40 /Twitter)

According to a report from ABC 33/40, Anniston is experiencing newfound gang problems, with a gang from Southern California recently descending on the Alabama town to “control this area.”

Growing concern has been building in the community, with residents noticing increased gang graffiti sprayed onto buildings in Anniston.

While Anniston police explain that a white marking that resembles the Star of David is a known gang symbol of the Gangster Disciples, a gang has been around Anniston since the early 1990’s, a new blue marking is being sprayed over the Disciples’ graffiti.

ABC 33/40 reported that this blue graffiti “is associated with another gang from Southern California and fairly new to Anniston.”

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“If another gang comes in and crosses out that image, such as the pictures that you have, it’s a sign of disrespect, it’s a sign of saying, ‘No, you don’t control this area. We control this area,'” Captain Nick Bowles with the Anniston Police Department told the news station.

Local law enforcement also outlined that people living in areas where the gangs operate are already aware of their presence.

“It’s their next door neighbor, it’s their grandson, it’s their child that are doing these gangs,” Bowles explained.

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

7 hours ago

Nominations being accepted for ‘Bama’s Best Breakfast Joint’

(Simply Southern TV/Facebook)

Alabama is well known for its Southern hospitality and cooking, and now one contest will attempt to crown the best of the best when it comes to the Yellowhammer State’s breakfast joints.

“Breakfast — It’s the most important meal of the day, and ‘Simply Southern TV’ wants to know which local restaurant butters your biscuit by serving up the state’s best breakfast,” a release from the Alabama Farmers Federation announced.

From coffee shops, downtown diners or donut dives, Alabamians can now nominate their favorite local breakfast spot in the Bama’s Best Breakfast Contest.

To make a nomination, simply comment on the Facebook post here. Comments must include the respective establishment’s name and city.

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Please note that Bama’s Best Breakfast seeks to promote Alabama-based restaurants, so national chains will not be eligible. However, specific locations of Alabama-based chains will be eligible to compete.

Nominations close November 29 at 1:00 p.m. The top eight nominees will be ranked in a bracket and then compete in daily head-to-head matchups from December 10-20.

The winner, which will be announced December 20, will receive a $300 cash prize and a commemorative plaque, along with being featured in the fifth season of “Simply Southern TV.”

This contest is sponsored by the Alabama Wheat & Feed Grain Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation. “Simply Southern TV” is a production of the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Farmers Cooperative. It airs on Sunday mornings in each media market across the state.

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

7 hours ago

Alabama to receive $49M in BP oil spill restoration grants

(YHN, State Parks photo/Billy Pope)

Four Gulf states are getting an additional $280 million in restoration grants from the BP oil spill of 2010.

Louisiana is getting $161.4 million to restore two barrier islands and a headland in the Terrebonne Basin.

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The work will restore Timbalier and Trinity islands, which “are currently at a critical minimum width in some areas,” and the West Bell Headland.

“Additionally, this proposal includes funding to enhance plans for the long-term sustainability of the entire length of Louisiana barrier islands,” the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said Monday.

Florida is receiving $53 million for seven projects, including $16 million to protect coastal forest and wetlands along the Lower Suwanee River and Big Bend coast, the foundation said in a news release.

Nearly $49 million will go to eight Alabama projects, including $22.5 million to create and restore artificial reefs.

Texas will get $19 million for five projects, including $6 million to protect 575 acres of coastal habitat in Cameron County, next to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge’s Bahia Grande Unit.

The foundation is getting $2.5 billion over five years for restoration projects.

The money’s coming from criminal damages paid by BP PLC and drilling company Transocean Deepwater Inc.

Monday’s grants are the sixth round and bring the total so far to $1.3 billion.

The spill was off Louisiana, which suffered the worst damage and has received more than $625 million for 13 projects.

Alabama has received more than $195 million for 32 projects; Florida more than $160 million for 33 projects, and Texas more than $150 million for 47 projects.

Foundation spokesman Rob Blumenthal said Mississippi, which has received nearly $140 million for 18 projects, did not have any new projects considered for this round of grants.

The smallest grant awarded Monday was $100,000 to remove invasive species and debris from Hurricane Harvey and then plant native vegetation at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center within the Port Aransas Nature Preserve.

“Hurricane Harvey destroyed two miles of boardwalk and uprooted significant stands of wetland vegetation in the preserve that settled as debris, smothering existing wetland vegetation and causing significant degradation of coastal marsh habitat,” a news release said.

“The debris has prevented the regrowth of marsh vegetation and limited the flow of freshwater to the area.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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8 hours ago

7 Things: Controversial deputy AG is out, Walt Maddox gets a participation trophy from himself, the SPLC demands no penalties for unpaid speeding tickets and more …

(Walt Maddox/YouTube, Pixabay)

7. Ivanka Trump has a Hillary Clinton problem

— In what will surely be viewed as hypocritical and foolish behavior, President Donald Trump’s daughter and White House official, Ivanka Trump reportedly had been using a personal email account to conduct government business including interactions from a private email account with cabinet secretaries and forwards of her schedule to her assistant.

— There are no serious allegations that Trump used the email for anything that would be considered classified, but with the Democrats taking over the House of Representatives, they will surely be looking to exact revenge for the issues raised in the 2016 campaign. The fact that Jared Kushner set up a series of ijkfamily.com email accounts will also be scrutinized.

6. Alabama native and Yellowhammer founder Cliff Sims has written “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House” about his time in the White House

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— While going from Trump’s campaign to the West Wing, Sims kept pages of notes from his time as one of Trump’s trusted confidants.

— Sims summed the book up with a twist on one of Trump’s famous quotes, “Lincoln famously had his Team of Rivals. Trump had his Team of Vipers. We served. We fought. We brought our egos. We brought our personal agendas and vendettas. We were ruthless. And some of us, I assume, were good people.”

5. The dumb fight with the Trump administration and CNN may be over

— After suggesting the White House would still revoke the press pass from CNN’s Jim Acosta, it appears they are prepared to give him back his pass permanently and issue a series of rules that all reporters must follow.

— The rules state that reporters may only ask one question, follow-ups are given “at the discretion of the president or other White House officials” and reporters must “physically surrender” the microphone when asked to, but these have not been agreed to by the press so this could enter another contentious phase.

4. Another federal judge has decided he is in charge of immigration enforcement and stops President Trump from enforcing new asylum rules while the border patrol had to close a border entry point yesterday

— A federal judge says the Trump administration can no longer deny asylum to migrants who illegally cross the southern border. The judge added, “[H]e may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden” while the previous president’s DACA decision still stands.

Democrats are also raising concerns about an email conversation between Trump administration officials wondering if the administration will share census information with other agencies, making it less likely that illegals will fill out the census.

3. The Southern Poverty Law Center thinks Alabama shouldn’t be able to use unpaid traffic tickets to suspend licenses — They already want bail ended 

— The SPLC wants to block Alabama Law Enforcement Agency from suspending driver’s licenses of drivers with unpaid parking tickets, leaving the tickets unpaid and without penalty for not paying them.

— The lawless argument the SPLC is making here is basically that people shouldn’t have to pay the penalties for the offenses they commit, which is similar to their argument that bail is illegal.

2. Failed gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox gifts himself a participation trophy for getting 20,000 more votes than Senator Doug Jones and still losing

— In what millennials would call a “weird flex,” Tuscaloosa’s mayor decided to take to Twitter and post an infographic laying out how his loss to Governor Kay Ivey in early November was a really some symbolic victory.

— Maddox cited his 20,000 more votes than Sen, Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) got in 2017, claimed he had enough votes to win any other gubernatorial election since 2018 and surpassed his expected vote total and his number of donors. But he still lost by 300,000+ vote.

1. Alabama’s Attorney General fires/accepts the resignation of controversial prosecutor Matt Hart

— Matt Hart, the deputy attorney general of Alabama who led the Special Prosecutions Division, left his position on Monday. Hart has a series of high-profile government corruption convictions under his belt.

— Hart oversaw the convictions of former Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, the deal that saw Governor Robert Bentley resign and numerous other high-profile cases, but his tactics have been questioned repeatedly and many have alleged there is something more to this move than meets the eye.

9 hours ago

Doug Jones at Mobile U.S. Senate trade roundtable: Pentagon could play role in national security tariffs

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

MOBILE – Although President Donald Trump remains very popular in Alabama, his trade policies among the state’s business leaders appear to be mixed.

For the steel industry, which has been a fixture in Alabama for generations, the Trump administration’s handling of trade is a resounding success. Yet, for those in agriculture and auto manufacturing, there is much room for improvement.

That seemed to be the takeaway from a roundtable convened by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) at the University of South Alabama on Monday.

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The roundtable, an event sanctioned by the U.S. Senate under the body’s Homeland Security Committee, will be part of the permanent record of the Senate and that will be considered for legislation.

“I have a couple of bills pending involving automobile tariffs and national security tariffs,” Jones said. “So, it will be part of that record in the legislative history should those come to the floor or come to a vote.”

A statutory change under consideration according to Alabama’s junior senator regarding trade has to do with which cabinet department handles tariffs levied on a national security basis.

Jones says that could be best handled by the Department of Defense and not the Commerce Department.

“Under the national security threat, it bifurcates the process and moves the initial determination about national security – for instance, automobile – whether or not automobiles are a national security threat – that would move that to the Defense Department, who is better equipped to address national security concerns rather than the Commerce Department.”

Jones told Yellowhammer News the roundtable provided insights into how current trade policy directly impacted Alabama and influenced decision-making by business executives.

“It confirms what we’ve been saying – that the uncertainty of this policy is creating some problems,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “People are holding off. They’re not sure whether or not to expand their business, whether it is a small business or whether it is a big business. It shows there can be some serious consequences if certain tariffs are imposed. At the same time, it shows you where there can be successes – with the steel industry to stabilize markets.”

“One of the purposes of the hearing is to make sure the public is aware, people are aware,” he continued. “I think one of the takeaways that people will understand is that this policy and the retaliatory tariffs right now are having a devastating impact on farmers. We stand to lose a lot of overseas markets if this is not resolved. That’s the whole point of this. Let’s get it resolved one way or another, so we know where we stand. It’s gone on long enough.”

Jones elaborated on his personal views on trade when asked if a “free trade” or “fair trade” label could be applied to his views. He acknowledged there needed to be a balance of elements of free and fair trade. However, he also said his preference is trade alliances as opposed to trade wars.

“I don’t if you can really describe – I think fair trade is the most important aspect of that,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “There is always a strong element of free trade that’s included in that. You’ve got to balance trade with rogue countries like China has been over the years. And you got to make sure that countries that are subsidizing their trade do not have an unfair advantage because we want to protect our workers here in this country.”

“At the same time, we are much more of a global economy now and interconnected than we have ever been in the history of this earth,” he added. “And we got to recognize that – that what we can do, work together, is the way to try and manage this and help our country help other countries and help the global economy as well as our own. We want to make sure our workers are protected. We can do that better by forming alliances instead of doing trade wars.”

Monday’s roundtable participants included Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama vice president Robert Burns, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International general counsel Rick Clementz, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama assistant division manager Allyson Edwards, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama president David Fernandes, Aker Solutions project director Graham Jones, Baldwin County farmers Mark Kaiser and Daniel Perry, Nucor Steel Decatur vice president Mike Lee, Alabama State Port Authority Director & CEO Jimmy Lyons and Fairfield Works Tubular plant manager Brent Sansing.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

10 hours ago

Terri Sewell slams Kay Ivey — Claims ‘daughter of the Black Belt’ would not help save Camden hospital

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

SELMA – One of the primary themes at a town hall hosted by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) on Monday night was health care, which is also one on which that House Democrats campaigned in this year’s midterm elections.

Although Democrats nationally had success in the midterms, in Alabama they were unable to capitalize electorally on health care, especially given the emphasization Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox gave to expanding Medicaid in his failed gubernatorial bid.

Nonetheless, Sewell argued before a crowd assembled at the Selma Interpretive Center for her town hall event in downtown Selma that Medicaid expansion was a priority and she decried the unwillingness of Alabama policymakers to agree.

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“States like Alabama were not supposed to be able to opt out of expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “The last two governors have not done that. It’s horrible. The reality is the fact that we have not expanded Medicaid means rural hospitals are under threat. Alabama has a bare-bones Medicaid system. They pay less than 10 percent on a dollar for the services for Medicaid.”

According to Alabama’s lone Democratic member of Congress, the closure of rural hospitals was the result of not expanding Medicaid.

“We have missed out on millions – actually billions of dollars in the state of Alabama in not expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “We could use that money, and the fact that we don’t have that money means that so many of our rural hospitals are under threat of closing. I don’t have to tell the Black Belt.”

Sewell referenced the John Paul Jones Hospital in nearby Camden, which was on the verge of closing in 2017 but got a last-minute reprieve after an agreement was made with UAB earlier this year.

She took aim at Gov. Kay Ivey, a native of Camden, for not doing more to save the Wilcox County hospital.

“We saved [John] Paul Jones Hospital, but we did so with the help of UAB,” she said. “Now, that’s not a model that can be done to scale. What I did is I begged UAB because our own governor, who is from Wilcox [County], would not help us to save Wilcox County’s hospital. That’s unacceptable, by the way. And I’m not telling her anything that I wouldn’t tell her to her face and have told her because when you’re a daughter of the Black Belt, you have to understand that you have got to take care of home.”

Sewell told those in attendance she went to UAB Health System CEO William Ferniany and warned if Camden’s John Paul Jones Hospital closed, hospitals in Selma and Demopolis could be threatened, and that might result in everyone “bum-rushing” UAB for health care.

“Rural hospitals are on the chopping block and the number-one priority for me is keeping the doors open and making sure access is there, but also making sure quality is there,” she added.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

24 hours ago

Assistant U.S. attorney to replace Hart in leading Special Prosecutions Division

(A. Morris/LinkedIn)

Multiple sources have told Yellowhammer News that Anna “Clark” Morris, the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, will take over the Special Prosecutions Division of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

The announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday. Attorney General Steve Marshall accepted the resignation of Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, who has led the division for years, on Monday morning.

Morris served as the acting U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s middle district last year, in between President Donald Trump firing former USA George Beck in March of 2017 and now-USA Louis Franklin being confirmed that September.

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Morris is an Alabama native and a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law.

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

1 day ago

Blue Cross and Blue Shield adds Ted Hosp to its governmental affairs team

(Contributed/BCBS)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Alabama is adding one of the state’s top legal minds to its already first-class governmental affairs team.

On Monday, BCBS announced that Ted Hosp has been officially named as the company’s executive director of governmental affairs.

Hosp joins Blue Cross from Alabama-based Maynard, Cooper and Gale, where he most recently chaired the prominent law firm’s governmental and regulatory affairs practice group. Hosp is widely recognized as a leader in the areas of government ethics laws and the legislative process. He is a graduate of Brown University and received his law degree from Fordham University.

In a press release, Robin Stone, BCBS vice president of governmental affairs, lauded the impact that Hosp is expected to have.

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“Ted’s experience at Maynard working with our company on legislative and regulatory issues will enable him to bring immediate and long term value to our advocacy on behalf of our customers at the local, state and federal level,” Stone said.

Hosp currently chairs the Alabama Access to Justice Commission, established by the state Supreme Court in 2007. Additionally, he serves on the Alabama State Bar Committee on Volunteer Lawyers Programs and on the board of the Middle District of Alabama Federal Defender’s Program. Hosp has previously served on the boards of the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program and the Montgomery Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program.

He is married to Alison Wingate Hosp, who handles governmental affairs for the Alabama Retail Association as its vice president.

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

1 day ago

EPA official resigns after indictment on Alabama ethics charges, replaced by Alabama native

(JCSO)

Even with Trey Glenn leaving his post as the EPA’s Region Four administrator, Alabama will still have strong ties to the leader of that office.

According to The Hill, Mary Walker was named by EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler to fill the vacant role in an acting capacity after Glenn resigned on Monday following his indictment on ethics charges in Alabama.

Walker is a native of the Yellowhammer State and had been serving as Glenn’s deputy.

Before her service at the EPA, which included a previous stint as the region’s Water Protection Division director, she served as assistant director and COO for Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.

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In his resignation letter to Wheeler, Glenn called the charges against him “unfounded” and vowed to fight them. He also stressed that he did not want to become a distraction for the Trump administration’s agenda.

“As you know, unfounded charges have been levied against me that I must and will fight,” Glenn wrote.

He added, “Stepping down now, I hope removes any distraction from you and all the great people who work at EPA as you carry out the agency’s mission.”

Glenn also noted that he intended “to focus on [his] family, fight these unfounded accusations and ultimately clear [his] name.”

Appointed by President Donald Trump, Glenn oversaw the agency’s Region Four, which includes Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky.

After being indicted, Glenn turned himself in last week to be arrested. He almost immediately was released on bond, along with former Alabama Environmental Management Commissioner Scott Phillips, who was indicted on related charges.

Both Glenn and Phillips have denied any wrongdoing.

The charges were brought by the Alabama Ethics Commission, with investigative assistance from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office. Copies of the indictments have still yet to be made public as of Monday.

It is still unclear why the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division was not involved in the investigation, as they specialize in these types of cases. The division’s chief, Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, also resigned on Monday.

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

1 day ago

Another day, another political contest where the media wants a Southern state to replicate Alabama’s Doug Jones mistake

(Sen. Doug Jones/Facebook, YHN)

When now-Senator Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) was elected in December 2017, people around the globe pretended it was the beginning of something new for Democrats in the South. It was not.

Jones’ election was a one-off event, a blip not a trend. It was an event that happened in spite of rather than because of Jones, his political views and the massive turnout effort of Alabama Democrats.

The national media and their Democrats keep attempting to create the firestorm so they can get their next Doug Jones moment.

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They tried to stop now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by calling him a gang rapist. They failed.

They tried to stop Governor-elect Ron Desantis in Florida by pretending he was racist. They failed.

They tried to bring Stacey Abrams across the finish line in Georgia by claiming her opponent was running a massive voter suppression machine. They failed.

Now, with Mississippi moving into a run-off election for a United State Senate seat where they want to deal the president of the United States another loss on top of his loss of 30+ House seats.

See Sunday’s “State of the Union” on CNN where Jake Tapper leads a “discussion” about the Mississippi Senate race that devolves into a denouncement of “lynching,” which their target Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith never mentioned, as well as a strategizing session about reaching out to black women like Doug Jones did to win in Alabama.

Karine Jean-Pierre on State of the Union – 11-18-18

Democrats want to make every seat in the South into the next Doug Jones.They tried racism in Florida and Georgia, now they are trying it in Mississippi.Oddly, they keep mentioning how Sen. Doug Jones won and pretending it was because he focused on black women.That's just not true, Jones won because Republicans stayed home. The math is simple:President Donald Trump's election in 2016:Donald Trump (R) – 62.08% – 1,318,255Hillary Clinton (D) – 34.36% – 729,547Sen. Doug Jones’ election in 2017:Roy Moore (R) – 48.4% – 649,240Doug Jones (D) – 49.9% – 670,551Gov. Kay Ivey’s election in 2018:Kay Ivey (R) – 59.6% – 1,014,821Walt Maddox (D) – 40.4% – 686,774

Posted by Dale Jackson on Sunday, November 18, 2018

The problem with this is clip is pretty obvious. Jones didn’t win because he energized black women. The only reason Jones won is that Republicans were convinced to stay home in large numbers because they were told their candidate was probably a child molester.

Jones won because Republicans stayed home.

President Donald Trump’s election in 2016:
Donald Trump (R) – 62.08% – 1,318,255
Hillary Clinton (D) – 34.36% – 729,547

Sen. Doug Jones’ election in 2017:
Roy Moore (R) – 48.4% – 649,240
Doug Jones (D) – 49.9% – 670,551

Gov. Kay Ivey’s election in 2018:
Kay Ivey (R) – 59.6% – 1,014,821
Walt Maddox (D) – 40.4% – 686,774

The Democratic turnout in Alabama’s 2017 U.S. Senate race was about one thing and one thing only — liberal hatred of President Donald Trump. The same can be said for the turnout of Democrats in Alabama in 2016 and 2018.

Democrats have plenty of reason to be excited about recent elections – even in the South. They won a race in Alabama that shouldn’t have even been competitive, but the repeated notion that Jones was some trendsetter who fired up a sleeping Democratic base is just a lie.

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

1 day ago

Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine coming to Birmingham in 2019

(Night to Shine/YouTube)

The Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine,” a magical prom night experience for people with special needs, is coming to Birmingham.

Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church will serve as one of the nearly 500 churches around the world to host Night to Shine on February 8, 2019.

Night to Shine is an event for people 14 and older with special needs to receive royal treatment. Guests will enter the event on a red carpet filled with a crowd and paparazzi. Once they make it into the building, guests will be able to choose from an array of activities to partake in including hair and makeup stations, shoe shining areas and limousine rides. They can also choose their corsages and boutonnieres.

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The event also includes each guest being crowned as king or queen of the prom.

According to the official press release, the purpose of Night to Shine is to “demonstrate to people with special needs that God loves them and that they are worthy.”

Night to Shine launched in 2015, when 44 host churches and 15,000 volunteers worked together to honor more than 7,000 kings and queens of the prom. In February 2018, host churches and 175,000 volunteers celebrated 90,000 honored guests with special needs. The next Night to Shine is expected to take place in over 700 locations this coming February.

In addition to several business partnerships, this event will need around 150 youth and adult volunteers.

For more information, or to find out how you can volunteer for this great cause or register for the event, visit here.

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

1 day ago

Matt Hart out: Alabama Deputy AG, special prosecutor resigns

(L. Walsh/Twitter)

Matt Hart, the Deputy Attorney General of Alabama who led the Special Prosecutions Division, resigned from his post on Monday morning.

Hart is most famous, or perhaps infamous, for his prosecution of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn).

In a short statement to Yellowhammer News, Mike Lewis, the communications director for the attorney general’s office, confirmed the news.

“The Attorney General accepted Mr. Hart’s resignation today and thanked him for his service to the State. It is the policy of this office to refrain from comment about personnel matters, so we will have no further statement,” Lewis said in an email.

Yellowhammer News has confirmed that Marshall intends to continue the operation of the Special Prosecutions Division, though it is unclear at this time who will fill Hart’s role leading the division.

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“[T]he Attorney General remains committed to the Special Prosecutions Division and its mission,” Lewis added.

Hart had become somewhat of a lightning rod for insider circles in Montgomery and Alabama’s political sphere due to questions regarding his conduct in multiple cases, including the Hubbard trial and the prosecution of former state Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), who was eventually acquitted.

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

1 day ago

Steve Marshall announces 2018 Safe Schools Initiative, invites nominations for awards

(YHN)

Alabama schools leading in school safety will soon be rewarded for their innovation and excellence.

Attorney General Steve Marshall is inviting public and private schools across the state to submit applications for the 2018 Alabama Safe Schools Initiative Awards of Excellence.

“These awards offer a valuable opportunity to honor schools that are succeeding with outstanding safety plans, to recognize procedures that work well and to encourage implementation of these methods throughout Alabama to keep our children safer,” Marshall said in a release.

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Marshall’s office will honor private school winners from north, central and south Alabama, in addition to winners from each of the Yellowhammer State’s eight public school board districts.

Marshall plans to personally visit the winners this coming spring to present the award in honor of each school’s tremendous accomplishment.

Applications are being accepted now through February 25 and nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of judges.

More information about the criteria for the awards may be found here.

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

1 day ago

Governor Ivey announces $48.7 million for Alabama restoration and conservation projects

(Gov. Kay Ivey/Flickr)

On Monday, Governor Kay Ivey announced that the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has approved over $48 million for eight new restoration and conservation projects in Alabama.

“Alabama’s Gulf Coast is of great ecological importance to our state, and it is imperative we protect and restore those natural resources harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Ivey said in a press release.

The governor continued, “Today’s announcement gets us one step closer to success. We are improving our water quality in the Bon Secour River and Mobile Bay, bolstering our fish populations with the expansion of artificial reefs, and ensuring resiliency along our coastline. Thank you to our local, state, and federal partners for developing this impressive slate of projects.”

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In 2013, a federal court approved two plea agreements resulting from the criminal charges against BP and Transocean as responsible parties to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. That settlement directed a total of $2.54 billion to NFWF to establish a Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF) over a five-year period to support ecological projects in all five Gulf States. A total of $356 million will be paid into the GEBF for conservation projects dedicated to the Yellowhammer State.

The approved projects for Alabama in 2018 are as follows:

Alabama Artificial Reef and Habitat Enhancement Plan – Phase II – $22.5 million

This project will build on phase I of the plan to construct and enhance artificial reef habitat in Alabama’s coastal waters. Alabama’s artificial reef system provides habitat for economically important reef fishes and provides a marine environment, allowing fish populations to flourish. Over time, subsidence, storm damage and other factors have caused deterioration of many of the state’s existing artificial reefs. Phase II of the project aims to continue to increase connectivity between habitats used by fish in early and adult life through creation or enhancement of inshore, nearshore and offshore reef habitats. Analysis of phase I response monitoring suggests increases in the abundance of red snapper on artificial reefs post deployment. Future analysis will include examination of responses in biomass, other species of interest and the overall marine community.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Acquisition – Three Rivers Parcel – $4.4 million

This project will acquire and restore 236 acres of estuarine and forested shrub wetlands on Fort Morgan Peninsula. The parcel is within the acquisition boundary of the Little Point Clear Unit of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge (BSNWR), bordered on the east, west and north by Bon Secour Bay. Following acquisition, the property will be transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to become part of the BSNWR. Habitats within this unit consist of scrub/shrub, pine flatwoods, saltwater marsh, and tidal creeks, scattered with permanent and semi-permanent wetlands. Fort Morgan Peninsula is under significant and consistent threat of commercial and residential development that would result in loss of habitat and negatively impact living coastal and marine resources.

Bon Secour River Headwater Restoration – Phase I – $1.5 million

This project will complete engineering and design plans for creating wetlands to treat urban runoff impacting downstream fisheries. The constructed wetlands will address nutrient, sediment and debris flow to improve habitat quality in the lower Bon Secour River and Bon Secour Bay, which historically has included south Alabama’s most significant and productive shellfish habitats and nursery areas for juvenile finfish. This section of the Bon Secour River encompasses major headwaters and the main channel of the Bon Secour River immediately downstream from the City of Foley. Rapid development of the City over the past two decades has contributed signficant nutrient and sediment loading to the Bon Secour River and Bay, with adverse effects to downstream fisheries. Under the proposal, the City will acquire 94 acres of undeveloped property along the Bon Secour River to construct the stormwater wetlands.

Dauphin Island Causeway Shoreline Restoration: Engineering & Design –$250,000

This project will fund the engineering and design of breakwaters to enhance, protect, and improve resiliency of marsh and oyster habitat adjacent to the Dauphin Island Causeway. Erosive forces, like tidal action, wave energy and storms, provide a constant threat to the coastal habitats in this area. Productive wetland habitat has been lost along the Bay side of the Causeway, stimulating the Alabama Department of Transportation to install and rely upon riprap revetment to protect the low-lying transportation corridor. The goal of the project is to stabilize the shoreline along the Bay side of the Dauphin Island Causeway and to create/enhance aquatic, wetland and riparian habitats in the region. The project will serve as leverage for a companion proposal submitted to the National Coastal Resiliency Fund.

Deer River Coastal Marsh Stabilization and Restoration – Phase I – $750,000

This project will complete engineering & design plans to stabilize and restore the shoreline and intertidal salt marsh at the mouth of Deer River, adjacent to the Theodore Industrial Canal and Mobile Bay. Intertidal marsh at the mouth of Deer River has experienced significant deterioration and loss of natural function due to erosion from heavy storms, tides and ship wakes. In the past two decades, approximately nine acres of productive intertidal marshland and shoreline have been lost. These habitats buffer wave energy and storm surges, protecting the shoreline as well as neighboring upland and wetland habitats, preserving the long-term sustainability of the ecological services they provide. Once designed and constructed, this project will stabilize and enhance up to 5,600 feet of shoreline on Mobile Bay necessary to protect and enhance over 275 acres of existing priority coastal saltmarsh, along with the potential to create additional marsh habitat.

Lightning Point Restoration Project – Phase II – $16.5 million

This project is the construction phase of a GEBF-funded engineering and design project to construct approximately 28 acres of coastal marsh and 1.5 miles of breakwaters at the mouth of the Bayou La Batre Restoration activities will also help protect the newly acquired 127 acres of coastal habitat in the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust program and City of Bayou La Batre. Over time, the breakwaters are expected to develop into reefs that provide habitat for fish and shellfish. Consisting of more than two miles of nearly contiguous undeveloped waterfront, the project area provides a critical interface between land and water. These conservation lands are comprised of coastal marshes, upland buffers, and intertidal habitats that serve as nursery habitat for coastal finfish and shellfish. The area is also home to many threatened and endangered species, including the West Indian manatee and Gulf sturgeon.

Multifaceted Fisheries and Ecosystem Monitoring in Alabama’s Marine Water and the Gulf of Mexico – $2.4 million

This project will expand the temporal and spatial coverage for monitoring the long-term sustainability and recovery of marine resources into its fifth and final year. Alabama’s Marine Resources Division will work collaboratively with Florida and Mississippi state resource agencies, the University of South Alabama, and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to continue to implement standardized fishery independent and dependent surveys for broad scale data. Data from fishery independent studies will provide rates and indices of population level parameters for future stock assessments. Fishery dependent work will include blue crab and recreational finfish data collection.

Restoration of the North Side of Dauphin Island – Phase I – $329,000

This project will restore beach and marsh habitat on the north side of Dauphin Island to enhance the barrier island’s resilience to future storms and improve habitat for shorebirds. Specifically, the project proposes to fill borrow pits that were excavated to supply sand for emergency barriers built along Gulf-facing beaches on Dauphin Island during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A portion of the sand used to build these barriers was mined from privately owned lots, creating “ponds” at those locations. Due to the rapid erosion of the north shore of the island typical during significant storm events, some of these ponds are now small embayments to the Mississippi Sound. These dredged areas have weakened the barrier island in these locations by significantly narrowing its width, making the island more susceptible to breaching should the island be subject to a major hurricane.

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship celebrated the announcement, which is the latest award for the state stemming from the infamous spill.

“This announcement brings the number of NFWF GEBF-funded projects to 32 in the State of Alabama for a total investment of close to $200 million. These projects will significantly enhance long-term restoration and protection of our natural resources and will ensure the sustainability and resiliency of our coastal ecosystem. We thank NFWF and our local partners for their hard work during this year-long process,” Blankenship outlined.

Additional information on each of the eight projects will soon be available on the following websites: here and here.

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

1 day ago

Cliff Sims recounts his service on Trump’s ‘Team of Vipers’ in new book

(YHN)

Any book containing the words “viper,” “Trump” and “White House” in the title is bound to be a must-read. And that’s exactly what Yellowhammer News founder Cliff Sims has done with his book set to release on January 29.

Yellowhammer reported last week that news of Sims’ book had leaked out.

This morning more details were reported by the New York Times and Axios, including the book’s title, Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House.

The book is a product of hundreds of pages of notes and countless interactions with President Donald Trump.

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According to the New York Times, the author’s note provides some insight into the direction and purpose of Sims’ memoir.

Excerpt as follows:

I suspect that posterity will look back on this bizarre time in history like we were living on the pages of a Dickens novel…Lincoln famously had his Team of Rivals. Trump had his Team of Vipers. We served. We fought. We brought our egos. We brought our personal agendas and vendettas. We were ruthless. And some of us, I assume, were good people…I was there. This is what I saw. And, unlike the many leakers in the White House, I have put my name on it.

Sims founded Yellowhammer News in 2012 and built the outlet from the ground up until he joined Trump’s campaign communications team in the months leading up to his defeat of Hillary Clinton. It was during this time that Sims became a trusted ally of the soon-to-be president being among those with daily access to him while working out of the Trump Tower headquarters.

Sims made the natural transition to the West Wing where his office was only a few steps from the Oval Office until his departure in May.

A special event in conjunction with the book’s release is planned for the evening of February 9 in Birmingham. Yellowhammer News will have the additional details in the weeks to come.

Team of Vipers is already available for pre-order on Amazon.

 

 

 

1 day ago

Heroic Tuscaloosa tow truck driver receives national medal for heroism after rescuing baby from burning car

(Bambarger Wrecker Service Inc./Twitter, Facebook)

While André Harris gave God all of the credit when he rescued a baby from a burning car back in July, it was Harris who was recognized on the national stage this weekend for his incredible act of heroism.

A few months ago, Yellowhammer News highlighted Harris’ bravery, and his inspiring testimony, after his now-famous act of courage.

On Saturday evening in Baltimore, Harris was awarded the American Towman Medal in a ceremony at the American Towman Show, according to the tow service that Harris works for in Tuscaloosa, Bambarger Wrecker Services.

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Bambarger noted that the prestigious medal honors “some of the most amazing acts in the annals of human rescue.”

The company’s post added, “Indiana Jones and Superman have nothing on the American Towman. The Medal Ceremony has evolved over the years into the March of the Heroes.”

You can read Yellowhammer News’ original article on Harris’ incredible story here.

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

1 day ago

7 Things: Trump gives himself an A+, Alabama’s unemployment rate is still really low, the caravan is at the border and more …

(Donald Trump/Instagram)

7. Democrats see a rising star in Beto O’Rourke — He agrees

— O’Rourke joins Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) as a potential 2020 candidate who said no to the presidential race before the midterms and who now is cracking the door open to a run.

— Recent polling shows O’Rourke ranking as high as third on polls where Hillary Clinton is left out. He is viewed as someone who can get votes in red states.

6. The Florida recount is over while some still can’t get over the results in Georgia

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— Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on Sunday conceded the Florida Senate race after a hand recount had him trailing by 10,000 votes, which is down about 2,500 votes from the machine recount.

— While Nelson and Andrew Gillum conceded their races in Florida this weekend, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams remained defiant calling Governor-elect Brian Kemp the “legal” winner. She added, “But will I say that this election was not tainted, was not a disinvestment and a disenfranchisement of thousands of voters? I will not say that.”

5. Voting changes could be coming to Alabama, but not as many as you might think 

— Even though none of the claims of voter disenfranchisement and suppression came to fruition in Alabama, there will still be a push to change some of Alabama’s voting laws to include “no excuse absentee balloting.” Alabama is one of 20 states that requires a reason.

— But don’t expect early voting in Alabama because Secretary of State John Merrill sees no reason for the added cost, telling AL.com, “There is no future for early voting as long as I’m secretary of state.”

4. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) says the government has nukes so you should just turn in your guns

— In another incident of a Democrat saying something a Republican would be criticized hourly on cable news for, the California Congressman responded to a Twitter user about government gun confiscation causing a war by saying, “And it would be a short war my friend. The government has nukes. Too many of them. But they’re legit. I’m sure if we talked we could find common ground to protect our families and communities.”

— This isn’t the first time Swalwell, who came to Alabama to campaign for losing candidates, talked about this topic of gun confiscation. He wrote in USA Today, “Ban assault weapons, buy them back, go after resisters”.

3. The caravan is coming and the locals are not happy; No one thinks they will show up for their hearings if they are let in

— About 2,000 illegal immigrants have reached the American border. The mayor of Tijuana has called it a “tsunami,” referred to them as “bums” and added that they have turned some over to Mexican authorities for deportation.

— And if the U.S. allows them to enter the country in any way, it is increasingly less likely that they will remain in the legal system as a government report notes about others granted access: “The number of [unaccompanied alien children] who were ordered removed in absentia, that is, after failing to appear for immigration court, has skyrocketed from 450 in FY 2010 to 6,662 in FY 2018, an almost 1,500 percent increase during a period of time when the number of UACs apprehended increased about 272 percent (from 18,411 in FY 2010 to 50,036 in FY 2018). In fact, in FY 2018, half of all case completions involving UACs were in absentia orders, according to [Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review] compared to an overall in absentia average of 25 percent of all case completions.”

2. Alabama’s unemployment rate stays low as the economy keeps humming

— The state’s unemployment rate is now at 4.1 percent. More than 40,000 people who didn’t have jobs last year are now employed.

— The trend continues with a record number of people employed, 2,122,970, and that has continued for the last six months, with Vestavia Hills, Homewood, Alabaster, Madison and Northport leading the state with sub-three unemployment rates.

1. President Donald Trump gives himself an A+

— Trump, who just lost 30+ seats in the House, told Fox News’ Chris Wallace, “I would give myself, I would – look, I hate to do it, but I will do it, I would give myself an A+, is that enough? Can I go higher than that?”

— When discussing his accomplishments Trump said, “I think I’m doing a great job. We have the best economy we’ve ever had” and “We’re doing really well. We would have been at war with North Korea if, let’s say, that administration continued forward.”

1 day ago

Exclusive — Speaker McCutcheon, House Majority Leader Ledbetter discuss priorities for 2019 legislative session

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Yellowhammer News sat down with Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) and Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) to discuss the “red wave” that resulted in the largest Republican supermajority ever in the Alabama House of Representatives, the major issues expected to be the focus of the 2019 legislative session and their respective leadership roles and styles.

In the second of this three-part series, we touch on a few of the legislative issues that the Alabama House Republican Caucus, led by McCutcheon and Ledbetter, will likely have to tackle this coming spring, including the hot-button topics of infrastructure, the lottery and ethics reform.

They also mentioned economic and workforce development, along with education reform and school safety as focuses moving forward.

If you missed it, you can read the first part here. Check Yellowhammer News in the coming days for part three. 

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Both McCutcheon and Ledbetter applauded the state of Alabama’s economy and the boom seen under recent Republican leadership in the state. However, they used this as a natural segue into talking about the major issues facing the legislature on Goat Hill come March, saying that with the success comes even more work needed to continue the positive trend and reach greater heights.

This was articulated especially well by McCutcheon’s new chief of staff Mark Tuggle, who decided not to run for re-election to a third term in the State House this election cycle.

“We have a record that we ran on [as a Republican House Caucus]. We had brand new people, good candidates, who ran on our record, our eight-year record. Voters, the constituents, are buying into this record. They have seen the successes. They’re seeing it in their wallet, they’re seeing it with some of their kids and their ability to have some de minimis parental choice in education and that’s a big deal,” Tuggle outlined.

“We’ve made generational changes, decisions that are going to impact this state for generations,” Tuggle added. “And we’re just in the infancy of seeing that [come to fruition]. But people are seeing it. And they’re buying into the narrative, they’re buying into our leadership and the Republican brand. And I say, going forward, we’ve got to govern to protect that brand and not take any of it for granted.”

McCutcheon said, “I tell people all the time – the best days are ahead in Alabama. And I really believe that.”

“I’m excited. As the Speaker said, I think our best days are ahead of us,” Ledbetter remarked.

He continued, “For me, in my lifetime, the growth in the economy going the way it is in Alabama, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it moving this strong. And I think what we’ve got to do as leaders, we’ve got to quit kicking the can down the road and solve problems.”

‘Our biggest issue’

While there will be several key items on the 2019 legislative agenda that cannot be kicked down the road, perhaps the “biggest issue” will be infrastructure.

Ledbetter advised, “The biggest problem we’ve got facing our state right now, for us to continue the economic growth that we’ve seen over the past two years, is we’ve got to fix our infrastructure.”

He continued, “You know, when we’ve got CEOs of companies – Mercedes stands up and says unless we get the infrastructure fixed, it’s going to be harder for us to expand because we can’t move our product from Tuscaloosa to the Port of Mobile – it gets tougher and tougher. So, I think infrastructure is our biggest issue.”

McCutcheon also emphasized the importance of the issue and the gravity of the task ahead for the legislature.

“One of the big issues we’re going to face early on in this next session is infrastructure, transportation. There’s no doubt about that the need is there, we’ve got to continue to educate the public – we’re working through all of the issues that are out there with previous infrastructure bills,” the speaker said.

This is an item that affects every Alabamian, and it hits where it matters most – not only the wallet, but road safety can quite literally be a life or death issue. It also might mean, metaphorically, life or death for the state’s economic surge.

“I think if we don’t step up to the plate and fix it, my fear is that growth that we’re seeing right now in our state’s economy is just going to hit a brick wall and stop, cease to continue. That’s how important it is,” Ledbetter advised.

While important, the infrastructure issue is also perhaps equally as complex, even though some people only equate it to raising revenue, as the last time that was done in the state was 1992.

“Some people want to just stop when you mention ‘gas tax,’ but this thing is bigger than that,” McCutcheon explained.

“It’s about funding formulas, how do you distribute money with counties and cities – we’re talking about road miles in each of our counties versus our cities. Looking at revenues coming in the populated areas, for example I-65, the major route north and south in our state that connects North Alabama to the docks in Mobile. All of these issues are important. And so because of that, the governor has said herself, as well as the Senate [leadership] and myself here in the House, that infrastructure is going to be a priority moving forward,” McCutcheon detailed.

He continued, “We’ve got to have some new revenue, there’s no doubt about that. Gas tax at the pump is going to be a part of the discussion. But also funding formulas, also maybe having some legislative [input] into how the money’s being spent on certain projects to help and assist ALDOT, looking at a growth product so it’s not another 26 years later and we’re sitting here struggling with this issue again, these are all things that are going to be a part of that bill.”

Changing technology is an interesting facet of the discussion, not just with the advances in fuel efficiency.

“Electric vehicles, too,” McCutcheon said. “When you look at the technology and you talk to some of the auto manufacturers, they’re talking about in 5-10 years a huge percentage of all vehicles on the road will be electric. Well, how do we maintain revenue for those vehicles? That’s got to be a part of this discussion and this bill.”

While some of these important details certainly require nuance in an eventual infrastructure proposal in 2019, Ledbetter wanted to remind readers that this comes down to the local level across the state, from rural areas to urban ones.

“My county, just in my county, which Dekalb is a rural county, the [local] superintendent [of education] got me some numbers for our buses, and our buses had to travel over 30,000 miles last year alone just to go around bad bridges. So, it’s also become a safety factor. And it’s been [26] years now since we increased the gasoline tax [in Alabama],” Ledbetter shared.

The legislators will need to hammer out all of the crucial details and a final proposed bill is still a ways off, but the majority leader framed this as not a political consideration, but as a policy necessity.

“I don’t know what the whole package will hold, but we’ll see going forward. I certainly think that infrastructure is a major, major issue for our state. And, you know, the thing about it is if we are truly public servants and not politicians, we need to fix the problems for the next generation and not the next election,” Ledbetter said.

How does Trump fit in?

McCutcheon and Ledbetter also stressed the importance of Alabama having the requisite matching funds if the Trump administration and Congress are able to pass federal infrastructure legislation in the coming year.

McCutcheon advised, “We can’t do all of the necessary things we need to do for our roads without some federal dollars coming in. Because of that, if we can get support from Washington, D.C., it’ll go a long way of helping us [in Alabama].”

While federal support is needed in Alabama, the state also will have to do its part to utilize that support.

“The last thing we want to see is for Washington, D.C. to pass some type of road/transportation funding that requires a match and then here we are in Alabama and we don’t have any money to match with and we lose out,” McCutcheon emphasized.

“That’s [another] problem we have right now,” Ledbetter added. “If the federal government were to pass an infrastructure package, and I do think we’ll see that bill coming, we couldn’t do anything with it right now. Because we don’t have the matching funds for it. There’s not going to be a federal infrastructure package that’s not going to call for matching monies. So, with our state’s situation right now as far as our roads and bridges, we don’t have the money to match. We’d lose billions and billions of dollars [in federal funding] if they were indeed to get that package passed through Congress if we don’t have something in place in Alabama.”

The speaker and the majority leader both think that President Donald Trump’s support for infrastructure funding, including a gasoline tax increase, could help Republican state representatives in Alabama, some of whom may be on the fence ahead of the session, get behind the issue, given the president’s approval ratings in the Yellowhammer State.

“I think certainly with his help and locally, the governor met with our Caucus and that was her primary focus when speaking with us – she said we’ve got to do something with our infrastructure, we’ve got to work on a bill that’s going to be productive for all our counties and cities and for the state,” Ledbetter shared.

He continued, “I certainly think [President Trump] getting behind it and then our governor getting behind it is going to help tremendously. And we’ve got lots of different folks in our state pushing it, too. Truckers, farmers, all these people see a need and they’re on board.”

Ledbetter also noted that the Caucus’ members are included in the large, diverse group of Alabamians who see the need for an infrastructure bill in 2019.

“I think that is the general sentiment [that there is a need] … I think, for the most part, we’ll have wide support for it, if it’s the right bill – we’ve got to get the right bill. And everybody’s got to have input for it. But once that happens, I think we have a really good chance, I really do,” Ledbetter added.

‘We’re just going to try and put a little more common sense into a good ethics bill’

The speaker had a few comments to frame the discussion around an anticipated ethics reform bill in 2019, with the Attorney General’s Office and the Ethics Commission, along with the Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission, set to play major roles in this debate.

“I think you’re going to see some discussion on possible ethics amendments,” McCutcheon advised. “We’re not trying to [redo] the ethics bill by any means, we have a good ethics bill in place, it’s doing its job – as it should. And I support that, it’s a strong ethics bill. But there are some little things in it that need to be amended and clarified. I like to say that we’re just going to try and put a little more common sense into a good ethics bill. So, you’ll see some discussion on ethics coming in 2019.”

‘They’re constantly calling me about the lottery’

Another interesting discussion will involve whether or not to allow Alabamians to vote on a constitutional amendment that would institute a lottery in the Yellowhammer State.

On this, McCutcheon shared some of his personal perspective.

The speaker said, “When you look at some districts that are on out state lines, on our state borders, every state around us has a lottery.”

“I’ll just use my district as an example, up there in north Alabama – constituents in my district, they’re constantly calling me about the lottery and talking about all the Alabama tags they see going across the Tennessee line to buy a lottery ticket. And they’ve said, ‘Representative McCutcheon, when are y’all going to address this issue in Alabama?’ So, I think the people are just slowly but surely educating themselves and they’re talking about it, so I think you should maybe see some good debate on a lottery bill this time,” McCutcheon added.

Both ethics reform and the lottery segued well into Ledbetter’s concluding sentiment.

“There’s a lot of talk about ethics reform. And there’s been a lot of talk about the lottery. And then there’s talk about the prison system and other issues. So we’ve had a lot of success, we really have and we’ve been blessed to see Alabama take the strides it has over the last few years. But, with that being said, we’ve got a lot to do,” Ledbetter remarked.

He concluded, “I think there’s tremendous opportunity for us to do good. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I know that with the group that we’ve got and the leadership that we’ve got, we’re willing to do it. And I think that’s good for our state.”

In Yellowhammer News’ third part of this interview series, we will provide insight into the respective leadership style and perspective of both McCutcheon and Ledbetter, explaining how they will lead the Caucus and see some of these issues solved through legislation.

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