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.

9 hours ago

Mayor Randall Woodfin throws down the gauntlet at Birmingham Business Alliance meeting

(R. Woodfin/Facebook)

BIRMINGHAM — Delivering opening remarks at the Birmingham Business Alliance’s (BBA) annual meeting on Wednesday, Magic City Mayor Randall Woodfin challenged the region’s business leaders to stop being so “risk averse.”

Woodfin opened his speech with words of praise for outgoing BBA chairwoman Nancy Goedecke and incoming chairman Jim Gorrie.

He then transitioned into a call-to-action.

“Usually I would get up here and give you all some stats about what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished,” the mayor advised. “I think it is fair to say that 2019 has been a good year for many [in] your organization — individually and collectively for our Birmingham Business Alliance.”

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Woodfin advised that the BBA leadership is pointing the region’s business community in the right direction.

“And the question is: as members of this organization, are we prepared? Are we ready?” he added.

“I don’t have to tell anyone in this room that since the Great Recession… 60% of all jobs have only gone to 25 cities in America,” Woodfin continued. “You need to know that Birmingham is not on that list. So the question becomes, when you walk out of this room, are we prepared to invest in our competitiveness? Do we want to compete? Do we want to set ourselves apart and not be like any other city in America?”

“We don’t have to be like Nashville or Chattanooga or Atlanta or Austin,” he said. “We need to be the best versions of ourselves.”

The mayor outlined the road to getting to that goal.

“That is going to require us to shake off the way we’ve always done things… just based on the sheer nature of what you do, you’re risk averse. But being risk averse in this time as we move into 2020 under Jim’s (Gorrie’s) leadership will not work for us as an organization or as a city. Or for the future and present of what we want our business community to be — to attract, retain, grow and many other things we have to do,” Woodfin stressed.

“As my challenge I leave to the members of this organization in this room, that we are willing to stand behind Jim, just as we did with Nancy (Goedecke), but really be aggressive,” he concluded. “Really be the opposite of risk averse and be hungry enough to do something that’s going to be different to make Birmingham a place that attracts more businesses and for the current businesses in this community to be and remain successful.”

RELATED: Almost two years in, Randall Woodfin reflects on biggest initiatives

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

12 hours ago

Above and beyond: Regions associate honored with Better Life Award after learning sign language to serve deaf customers

(Regions/Contributed, YHN)

Regions Bank on Wednesday honored one of its Alabama associates in a major way for going above and beyond to better the lives of the company’s customers.

In a story posted on Region’s “Doing More Today” website, the company announced Gayla Land was presented with the Better Life Award. This is the top honor bestowed upon Regions associates “for outstanding dedication and job performance, as well as exemplary involvement and commitment to the community.”

For Land, a Regions Bank branch manager in Dothan, the genesis of the award goes back to 2016. She was reportedly serving a deaf customer but wanted to be able to do so better, as communicating properly was a real issue.

“I felt there was something missing. It frustrated me,” Land reminisced. “I could only provide what I could write down. I couldn’t share the information in his approved language.”

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The Regions associate turned that frustration into a solution. Land, on her own time, went out of the way to enroll in American Sign Language classes at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.

However, her dedication did not stop there. She not only learned sign language herself but decided to strike up a partnership with the school.

“I fell in love with the deaf community and the language itself,” Land explained. “Then I told the school, ‘Let’s make a partnership to have them come into the branch for financial education seminars,’ and they agreed.”

The student subsequently became the teacher, as Land began teaching in sign language a series of lessons that cover money management, retirement, identity theft and fraud prevention. Her first group reportedly graduated earlier this year.

This is having a real impact on the lives of Regions customers with hearing impairments.

“They feel more confident in their ability to make financial decisions, and I learn something new every time they are with me.” Land advised.

Her commitment to the hearing impaired continued to be displayed Wednesday when she received the award from Regions. The company donates $1,000 in the honoree’s name to a nonprofit organization of his or her choice, and Land chose the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind to receive the money.

“They do great work providing skills and education to the deaf and blind communities,” she remarked. “I know they will make great use of the money to provide for those families.”

However, her journey is not done yet.

Land is planning to sharpen her sign language fluency by taking advanced classes.

She also used her new platform to urge others to learn the language as well.

“Don’t be fearful or feel judged. Just try to learn. Even if it’s just one new word every day,” Land concluded. “Your eyes will be opened to a new perspective, and you’ll be embraced by the deaf community because you tried.”

You can watch an almost six-minute video on see Land’s work in action below or here.

RELATED: Merry and bright: How Regions’ headquarters building lights became a holiday tradition

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

13 hours ago

Auburn’s Bo Nix named SEC Freshman of the Year, Derrick Brown named best defensive player

(Cat Wofford, Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics, YHN)

The Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) 14 coaches have voted Auburn University quarterback Bo Nix as the SEC Freshman of the Year and defensive tackle Derrick Brown as the Defensive Player of the Year.

The honors were announced Wednesday by the league office. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.

Brown was also named by the Associated Press as the AP’s SEC Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the week.

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Nix now holds the Auburn Tigers’ freshman record for passing yards (2,366), pass completions (200) and touchdown passes (15) in a season. The Alabama native also rushed for seven scores.

Brown had a monster season on the defensive side of the ball and landed as a finalist for just about every national award possible.

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

14 hours ago

Rogers’ report from Washington: The season of giving across East Alabama

(Congressman Mike Rogers/Facebook)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Each Christmas season, I like to highlight a few of the kind things folks across East Alabama are doing for others.

Below is a small sample of ways our fellow Alabamians have cared for each other over the past year.

In Clay County at Central High School, a teacher, Amanda East, gathered the school supplies that were going to be disposed of from the locker clean out. Those items are now set up to donate to students who need them.

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In Lee County, The Hallmark Channel is coming to Beauregard to present new homes to the 15 families who lost everything when the EF-4 tornado devastated the area.

Hallmark will also serve residents a holiday meal at Providence Baptist Church with Santa and toys for the little ones, too.

In Calhoun County, Dara Murphy of Rosa Lee Boutique organized a White Bag Project for individuals to grab a white bag and fill it up for a child in need. They are also taking clothing and furniture to 20 families.

In Lee, Macon and Tallapoosa Counties, Rep. Peeblin Warren assists 400 seniors with gift baskets.

In Randolph County, the Roanoke Police Department is holding its annual toy drive to ensure local children get a Christmas gift.

In Chambers County, the Christian Service Center collects food and toys to donate to families.

In Montgomery County, Woodland United Methodist Church/Town of Pike Road distribute food. Pike Road and Central Alabama Health Care Systems also distribute hygiene items for local veterans.

Reading these stories makes me proud to be from East Alabama. It is truly heartwarming to see our brothers and sisters across the Third District taking time to take care for someone who needs it most.

May we carry this attitude of service to others all year long.

Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas. Remember the reason for the season.

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

15 hours ago

Crimson Tide’s Jaylen Waddle named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year

(Alabama Athletics/Contributed)

University of Alabama sophomore wide receiver and returner Jaylen Waddle on Wednesday was announced as the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Special Teams Player of the Year.

He is the first Crimson Tide player to be named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year since Christion Jones in 2013. The honor was voted on by the league’s 14 head coaches, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own players.

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Waddle, who was already selected by Pro Football Focus as a first-team All-American at returner, led the nation this season in punt return average at 24.9 yards per return. Waddle had 19 punt returns for 474 yards and a touchdown, including a long of 77 yards.

The playmaker also returned four kickoffs for 152 yards and one touchdown this season, in addition to 553 yards and six touchdowns on 32 catches at wideout.

This comes after Waddle was one of 14 Bama players on Tuesday who were named to the All-SEC Coaches’ Team. He was actually named to both the first and second teams at different positions.

Juniors Jerry Jeudy (WR), Alex Leatherwood (OL) and Jedrick Wills, Jr. (OL) were first-team selections on offense, while redshirt senior Anfernee Jennings (LB) and junior Xavier McKinney (DB) were honored as first-team defense. Waddle was a first-team selection on special teams.

Redshirt junior center Landon Dickerson was named to the second-team offense along with juniors Najee Harris (RB), DeVonta Smith (WR), Tua Tagovailoa (QB) and Waddle (WR). Seniors Raekwon Davis (DL) and Trevon Diggs (DB) and redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Lewis were second-team choices on defense.

Waddle was named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2018.

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

You’re invited!

(Alabama Bicentennial/Contributed)

The biggest birthday party in Alabama’s history is taking place on December 14, and you are invited! Join us in Montgomery for the grand finale celebration of our state’s 200th birthday.

Watch the parade, listen to concerts and performances, visit open houses and much more.

This is sure to be a day you don’t want to miss. The event is free to the public and lasts all day starting with an elaborate parade at 10:00 a.m. The parade will travel from Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery up Dexter Avenue to the State Capitol. There will be marching bands, city floats and unique displays of Alabama history on wheels, such as the USS Alabama and U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The parade is a great opportunity for families to enjoy the celebration together – and it’s only the beginning of a packed day. Following the parade, Governor Kay Ivey will dedicate Bicentennial Park. The afternoon will offer performances, exhibitions and open houses throughout downtown Montgomery. The day will conclude with a concert featuring popular musicians from Alabama and the history of Alabama presented in a never-before-seen way.

Visit Alabama 200 Finale for a complete rundown of the day’s events.

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18 hours ago

Enterprise celebrates 100th anniversary of Boll Weevil Monument

(Martin Lewison/Flickr/YHN)

On Wednesday, the City of Enterprise celebrates the 100-year anniversary of its iconic Boll Weevil Monument.

The boll weevil is the only farming pest in the entire world to have its own monument.

The boll weevil destroyed many cotton crops in Southwest Alabama from 1915-1918, nearly bankrupting many farmers in the area. Some growers in the Enterprise area decided to grow peanuts as a way of avoiding ruination. The decision to diversify crops was so financially beneficial that the citizens of Enterprise erected the monument to the boll weevil.

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A plaque at Enterprise City Hall describes an appreciation for what the boll weevil “had done as the herald of prosperity and the catalyst to diversified farming.”

According to WTVY, the monument did not feature an actual depiction of the pest from 1919 until 1948 when R.J. Baker added the world-famous bug to the top of the statue.

Enterprise will be hosting a rededication ceremony on December 11 at 5:30 p.m. that interested citizens can attend in person, or you can watch via live stream on Facebook.

“We hope that this rededication ceremony will renew everyone’s spirit about the message about the boll weevil monument, and if you haven’t heard the message before, you’re going to hear it for the first time,” City of Enterprise Tourism Director Tammy Doerer told WTVY.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

18 hours ago

State Sen. Elliott vows another attempt at bill labeling offenses involving those attempting harm on law enforcement as a ‘hate crime’

(Screenshot/APTV)

Last week, Huntsville STAC Agent Bill Clardy III was shot and killed in the line of the duty, making Clardy the sixth such death in 2019 for Alabama and reflects an alarming trend for the state.

Earlier this year, State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) pushed for legislation that would include law enforcement employment as a protected class, just as race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability are.

However, the bill got bogged down in the Senate Judiciary Committee and never made it to the floor of the Alabama Senate for a vote. On Tuesday, Elliott told WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show” that he will take another shot at the legislation in 2020.

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“It got bogged down in committee,” Elliott explained. “It got some amendments on it in committee that really made it untenable to get to the floor. And I think we’re going to give that a try again, and I anticipate it getting to the floor without any other amendments. You’ll recall those amendments were making other things a hate crime as well. I think what we need to do is take this one step at a time and address the issue at hand as opposed to try to bog it down with amendments.”

“I mean, all law enforcement officers deserve better than a bill that is festooned with other amendments,” he added.

Elliott said his renewed effort on the legislation would be done out of respect to those slain officers.

“Any time you start loading up a bill with amendments like that, it becomes a problem,” Elliott said. “But whether you’re talking about Officer Clardy or Justin Bila here in Mobile, or a couple of years ago Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Ward or others — you know, those guys deserve a clean bill and something we absolutely have a priority on.”

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

19 hours ago

Birmingham, Mountain Brook declared ‘TraffickingFree Zones’

On Tuesday, the cities of Birmingham and Mountain Brook announced that they have declared themselves “TraffickingFree Zones” in advance of the World Games that will be held in Birmingham in 2021.

Birmingham is the most populous city in America to make the declaration. The two cities join Vestavia Hills in proclaiming vigilance against the blight of human trafficking.

The proclamation requires all city staff to receive training on human trafficking and formalizes the cities’ “zero-tolerance” policy on buying sex at work.

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The proclamation asserts the flood of new people brought to the Birmingham area for the World Games could mean “an increase in tourists seeking entertainment, including commercial sex, increasing the potential risk for exploitation and human trafficking.”

“The first step in eliminating human trafficking in our community is to educate others,” the proclamation goes on to say.

The TraffickingFree Zone program the two cities are joining is a nationwide initiative of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT).

Birmingham Councilor Crystal Smitherman, resolution sponsor, said, “Birmingham was the epicenter of the Civil Rights movement 60 years ago, and we once again have the opportunity to lead the nation in the fight for civil and human rights. We as a city take this issue incredibly seriously, and look forward to working with the countless trafficking organizations that make up the Child Trafficking Solutions Project on future endeavors to end child trafficking and keep our children safe.”

Mountain Brook Mayor Stewart Welch remarked, “The City of Mountain Brook takes this issue very seriously, and we vow to train our entire city staff, including first responders, to ensure that our children are safe and that our community is informed about human trafficking and what to do if they suspect a case of human trafficking.”

“The community response to the TraffickingFree Zone initiative is a testament to how seriously the entire Birmingham community, and the state of Alabama, is taking the issue,” advised USIAHT CEO Geoff Rogers.

Additional support for the movement comes from a Birmingham-area anti-trafficking coalition, the Child Trafficking Solutions Project (CTSP). The CTSP, which will handle the groundwork for the staff training, is a collaboration between the Children’s Policy Council and the Jefferson County Family Court.

Jordan Giddens, community engagement coordinator for the CTSP, said, “Our coalition, representing over 50 organizations across the Birmingham metro has worked tirelessly to saturate the entire Birmingham community with anti-trafficking awareness, and we are overjoyed that municipalities across the entire state are taking the steps to declare themselves a TraffickingFree Zone.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

21 hours ago

7 Things: Two articles of impeachment, polling has Sessions still up, Trump gets trade win and more …

(YHN)

7. Biden is still first, but Warren is falling

  • New polling data from the Quinnipiac University has been released that shows former Vice President Joe Biden is still in first place with 29%, but U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has moved up into second with 17%.
  • U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has fallen to third place with 15%, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is down to 9%, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg follows with 5% and entrepreneur Andrew Yang has 4%.

6. Stopping the spread of misinformation

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  • Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has met with Twitter and Facebook representatives in an effort to stop misinformation from spreading online throughout the state in preparation for the upcoming 2020 election cycle.
  • Merrill said that it’s important that everyone in Alabama is “informed with up-to-date, complete, and accurate information.” Merrill added, “[E]lection security and protocol is higher than ever in Alabama. We continue to introduce new ways to improve security every single day.”

5. Ainsworth has endorsed Ward

  • Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth took to Twitter to endorse State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) for the Alabama Supreme Court. Ainsworth confirmed the endorsement, saying, “I am supporting his candidacy and encourage my friends to do the same.”
  • Ward responded to Ainsworth’s endorsement by saying he’s “honored” to have the support and that Ainsworth “knows my legislative record and the conservative values I will bring to our Supreme Court.”

4. Tuberville doubles down on his reasonable drag queen take

  • When former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville expressed that a Christmas parade may not be the appropriate place for a drag show, you knew the media would take the bait and attack him for it.
  • In response, Tuberville further explained that a parade designed for children isn’t really the place for this stuff. He stated, “Christmas is about celebrating with family,” adding, “Our public celebrations ought to be family-friendly for young and old.”

3. Democrats are supporting trade agreement

  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is now supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) caucus, which is the trade agreement that would replace NAFTA.
  • Pelosi’s announcement of her support comes only one day after Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) and State Representative Wes Allen (R-Troy) sent a letter to Pelosi pushing for her to support the trade agreement.

2. New polls in Alabama Senate race

  • The Alabama Farmers Federation has released new polling data that shows former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn Football Coach are polling closely, with Sessions at 35% and Tuberville at 31%, whereas data released by the Sessions campaign showed that Sessions was at 44% and Tuberville was at 21%.
  • The Farmers Federation data also showed that U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) is at 12%, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is at 8% and State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and Stanley Adair are only at 1% each.

1. Abuse of power and obstruction

  • The House Democrats have announced formal articles of impeachment they’re bringing against President Donald Trump, which are abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In doing so, U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that Trump “endangers our democracy; he endangers our national security.”
  • U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) responded to the articles of impeachment, saying it’s “nothing more than a pathetic witch hunt.” U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said that the “charges are so political, not even all their members will be able to stomach voting for them.”

22 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Obama’s attack on law enforcement tied to spike in police killed in the line of duty

Congressman Mo Brooks (CSPAN/YouTube)

On Friday, another Alabama police officer was shot and killed in the line of the duty, which was the sixth such death in 2019.

Huntsville STAC Agent Bill Clardy III was shot and killed. LaJeromeny Brown, the suspect behind the killing, was charged with capital murder. Clardy’s death is the latest in an alarming trend of law enforcement officers killed while on the job.

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Tuesday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) expressed his frustration over the circumstances surrounding Clardy’s murder. He argued there was more elected officials could do to reverse the trend.

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“It saddens me,” Brooks said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “It angers me that we allow criminals to stay on our streets as long as we do with the kind of records that they have. If media reports of this man’s record are correct, he should never have been in a position where he could have been exposed to the public or where he could have murdered one of our police officers. I think it is good [U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama] Jay Town is looking into … why this man was at large when he should have been in a penitentiary somewhere serving a long, long sentence. So I am frustrated with our judicial system, and I just hate what happened. And I feel for the family.”

“A lot of this is what we’ve seen over the last decade or so where we’ve seen some political elements that seem to be anti-law enforcement,” he continued. “The more get public officials making anti-law enforcement statements, the more you’re encouraging people to resist law enforcement officers, even to the point of pulling out a gun and people getting killed. There is so much to it that frustrates me as an elected official, and so many things we as a society could be doing better to protect innocent Americans on the one hand and our brave law enforcement officers on the other.”

The Madison County Republican argued for one policy prescription, which was a review of how public officials support and publicly speak about law enforcement. Brooks pointed to former President Barack Obama’s rhetoric and how he handled some high-profile officer-involved incidents, which, according to Brooks, has created an environment more difficult for law enforcement.

“We need to have more public officials who support law enforcement,” Brooks explained. “Keep in mind that under the last administration — I hate to be so partisan, but this is the truth of the matter — under the last administration, any time a law enforcement officer did what he needed to do to protect the public, and an individual was killed in the following fray, the Obama administration would immediately attack law enforcement, and that kind of jumping to a conclusion that Barack Obama did so frequently and his attacks on law enforcement, and his support for African-Americans for no reason apparently other than they were African-American — it wasn’t about whether they were guilty or not. We saw what happened with Ferguson, Missouri, where the Obama administration immediately came to the defense of the African-American who was killed, attacked the law enforcement community, and then later on it turned out that this guy was a thug and just finished committing a forceful robbery.”

“Another follow-up on that is what happened in Texas where an African-American probably emboldened to some degree by these anti-law enforcement statements of elected officials decided to go on a killing rampage, and his targets were two types of people: law enforcement officers and whites,” he continued. “And that is what he said. Words are important. And our elected officials — if they don’t want anarchy, if they don’t want crime to rule, then they better be a whole lot more forceful in protecting our law enforcement officers and backing them up, or else you’re going to see more of this.”

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

22 hours ago

Aderholt bashes partisan impeachment charges, reaffirms support for USMCA

(Robert Aderholt/Facebook)

On Tuesday, U.S. House Democrats announced two impeachment charges will be filed against President Donald Trump and then later in the day declared that they have a reached a deal to support the Trump-negotiated United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Republican Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) reacted to both developments, first tweeting his continued opposition to impeaching the president.

No Republicans are expected to vote for the impeachment charges, as the real question is how many Democrats will break ranks by either abstaining from voting on or opposing the charges.

Speaking about his Democratic colleagues, Aderholt concluded, “These impeachment charges are so political, not even all their members will be able to stomach voting for them.”

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Aderholt on Tuesday later issued a statement regarding the latest news about the USMCA, which is the trade deal negotiated by the Trump administration that would replace NAFTA.

“Since coming to Congress, my focus has been on growing our local economy and bringing the best jobs to this area. This USMCA agreement will allow our region to continue building on our already strong economy,” he advised. “This agreement is a win for Americans across the country and in the State of Alabama.”

The dean of Alabama’s House delegation commended the president for his leadership on the USMCA.

“I congratulate President Trump for negotiating this agreement, and I look forward to working with him to continue building on our historic economic expansion,” Aderholt said. “By persuading Canada and Mexico to revise the outdated NAFTA agreement, and then negotiating on labor issues with Democrat leadership, President Trump has secured a trade deal which will establish a level playing field that keeps America competitive.”

Aderholt pointed to specific sectors of Alabama’s and his district’s economies expected to benefit from the USMCA.

“The automobile and agriculture industries are two of the biggest drivers of economic development in the Fourth Congressional District of Alabama. In 2017 alone, Alabama had more than $7 billion in exports to Mexico and Canada,” he outlined. “The USMCA agreement expands access for U.S. exports of chickens and eggs. As the representative of one of the largest poultry producing districts in the nation, I can say there is no doubt USMCA is a win for Alabama’s farmers.”

“According to an April 2019 report by the U.S. International Trade Commission, USMCA is estimated to increase U.S. production of automotive parts and employment in the sector. I have repeatedly called on House leadership to bring this deal to the House floor and look forward to supporting it,” Aderholt concluded.

A vote on the USMCA has been scheduled in the House for next week, however the impeachment process driven by House Democrats might actually stall ratification in the Senate after that.

Assuming the two charges get enough Democratic votes to pass the House and Trump is impeached, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already said he will not take up the USMCA until the impeachment trial has concluded in the upper chamber.

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

23 hours ago

Alabama NFIB state director comments on spike in small business optimism

(W. Miller/YHN)

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) on Tuesday released its latest monthly Small Business Economic Trends Survey, with the results boding well for Alabama’s economy as well as the national economy.

In fact, the nationwide survey showed small business optimism posting the largest month-over-month gain since May 2018, rising 2.3 points to 104.7 last month.

NFIB’s optimism index is comprised of 10 total index components, and the spike in November’s total index was bolstered by seven of those components improving. A 10-point improvement in the earnings component led this charge. Additionally, business owners reporting it is a good time to expand increased by six points, and those expecting better business conditions increased by three points.

In more good news, the NFIB’s business uncertainty index fell six points last month to 72, the lowest reading since May 2018.

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While the survey is not broken down into state-specific data, NFIB Alabama state director Rosemary Elebash said in a statement, “Our members here are telling us it’s a good time to reinvest in their businesses and add jobs.”

Read more about the survey here.

This came after NFIB released its monthly jobs report last week. That report showed a net 30% of small business owners, seasonally adjusted, raised compensation and 26% planned to do so in the coming months, up four points and the highest level since December of 1989. Job creation jumped last month, with an average addition of 0.29 workers per firm, the highest level since May.

This being said, finding qualified workers remains the top issue for NFIB members. Last month, 26% reported that this is their foremost problem. That number is one point below August’s record high.

The totality of November’s economic news reflects a stark departure from previous months, as speculation about a possible recession was dampening small business owners’ economic outlook. Additionally, NFIB noted that the current focus and noise in Washington, D.C. around impeachment is proving to have little, if any, impact on small business owners.

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

1 day ago

Two officers on leave amid investigation into inmate’s death

(ALDOC/Facebook)

Two Alabama prison officers are on leave as the department probes the use of force in the death of a state inmate.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said it is investigating the alleged use of force that resulted in the death of an inmate at Ventress Correctional Facility inmate.

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Fifty-five-year-old Michael Smith of Fairfield, died Dec. 5 after being removed from life support following a November incident at the prison.

The prison system said it is also investigating the death of another inmate at Holman Correctional Facility.

 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 day ago

U.S. House Dems throw their support behind historic Trump USMCA trade deal supported by Alabama job creators, officials

(President Donald Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi/Facebook, YHN)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday announced that her caucus will support the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the replacement to NAFTA negotiated by President Donald Trump’s administration.

The ratification process, which needs to be complete by all three countries, will now move forward in Congress.

Pelosi’s announcement came the day after four Republican members of the Alabama legislature sent a letter urging Pelosi and her fellow congressional leaders to ratify the new trade agreement.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), along with State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) and State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy), joined other state legislative leaders from across the country in sending the letter on Monday.

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During its 2019 regular session, the Alabama legislature passed SJR 11 sponsored by Sen. Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), formally urging Congress to ratify the USMCA. The resolution was carried by Rep. Allen in the House and was co-sponsored by Marsh.

In a Tuesday statement, Marsh said, “Trade is an issue which is vital to our state and our nation, and my colleagues in Alabama and from around the country recognize that the USMCA is a good deal for everyone involved.”

“I am glad that Members from both sides of the aisle were able to come together and agree that this is the best deal to ensure that the strongest economy in our lifetime continues to grow,” he added.

The USMCA is supported by the Alabama Farmers Federation, Manufacture Alabama and other major industries in the state. You can view a fact sheet on the USMCA pertaining to the Yellowhammer State here — and specifically its manufacturing sector here.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Tuesday, Business Council of Alabama (BCA) president and CEO Katie Boyd Britt said, “The Business Council of Alabama is encouraged by the news of a bipartisan agreement on USMCA.”

“Farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses all stand to benefit from an updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that has modern provisions for digital trade, financial services, and agriculture trade. We will continue to review this issue with input from our members as more details emerge,” she concluded.

Political candidates and elected officials across Alabama have also expressed their support for the USMCA over the last year. This includes Governor Kay Ivey.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Tuesday, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) called the latest development “great news,” adding, “Barring any surprises in the final language, I look forward to supporting this agreement.”

“I have consistently supported the idea of a new strategic trade agreement with Mexico and Canada – especially an agreement that would bring stability to the businesses and markets that are desperately seeking reassurance right now,” Jones advised.

“Although I haven’t seen the text of the final agreement yet, the fact that the White House and the House of Representatives were able to work out a bipartisan agreement is great news,” he outlined. “Barring any surprises in the final language, I look forward to supporting this agreement. I hope once it passes, we can build on this success by working with other allies around the globe and removing the threat of punitive tariffs on our farmers and automakers once and for all.”

Jones has previously spoken out against the president’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico if the country did not stem the flow of illegal aliens into the United States. Jones has also been vocal against Trump imposing tariffs on China and the president’s trade policy in general.

The latest on the USMCA comes as the House Judiciary Committee is set to draw up two articles of impeachment against the president, which are expected to pass the House with only Democrats voting for them.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday said he will not take up ratification of the USMCA until the Senate has finished with what appears to be an imminent impeachment trial.

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

2 days ago

Auburn honors Dr. James Andrews with International Quality of Life Award

(Auburn University/Contributed)

Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences recognized internationally renowned Birmingham-based Dr. James R. Andrews at the 26th annual International Quality of Life Awards (IQLAs) on December 9 in New York City.

The IQLA’s were launched in 1994. According to their webpage, an IQLA “honors people and partnerships who have made significant and lasting contributions to individual, family, and community well-being locally and around the world.”

“Tonight, we celebrate the ways in which our honorees improve quality of life for all people and their strong spirit of philanthropy—both of which are critical to the human sciences mission,” said Susan Hubbard, dean of Auburn’s College of Human Sciences. “And it is our hope to see their legacy reflected in our graduates for many years to come.”

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NBA Hall of Fame’s Charles Barkley, an Auburn alum, presented the IQLA Lifetime Achievement Award to Andrews.

Andrews currently serves as medical director and orthopaedic surgeon for Auburn Athletics, senior orthopaedic consultant at the University of Alabama, senior consultant for the Washington Redskins, orthopaedic medical director for the Tampa Bay Rays and medical director of the LPGA. He serves on the Medical and Safety Advisory Committee of USA Baseball and on the board of Little League Baseball, Inc.

Andrews founded the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham and co-founded the American Sports Medicine Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to injury prevention, education and research.

“To be successful at any profession, you must apply and understand the basic ingredients of motivation and goal setting. The attitude for success includes a burning desire, humility, honesty with ethics, compassion and appreciation,” said Andrews. “Take a hold of those that fall behind you, give them a hand and help them along.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was also honored at the ceremony.

According to an Auburn University press release, “St. Jude advances the search for cures and preventive measures of childhood cancer and other life-threatening pediatric diseases as one of the world’s premier pediatric research institutions. The families affected by these diseases never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food.”

“I certainly want to recognize the College of Human Sciences for coordinating this annual event that represents the Auburn Creed and demonstrates how individuals both inside and outside of the Auburn Family are personifying our institution’s values,” said Auburn Provost Bill Hardgrave.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

City of Auburn probes halt on student housing projects

(Auburn University/Flickr)

A college town in Alabama has proposed temporarily halting construction on any new student housing developments amid concerns the number of existing facilities exceeds the amount of students in the city.

Auburn Mayor Ron Anders proposed an ordinance at last week’s city council meeting that would stop new student housing developments for about 90 days to give leaders time to figure out a long-term solution.

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Data from a city task force showed the number of beds designed specifically for students in the city is too high at approximately 37,000, and Auburn University officials say the school isn’t forecasted to see major enrollment growth.

The ordinance will be introduced Dec. 17.

 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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2 days ago

Study: Alabama coal industry has nearly $3 billion impact; met coal reserves to last centuries

(Alabama Coal Association/Contributed)

An academic report released Tuesday by one of Alabama’s preeminent economists outlines a litany of positive news for the state’s coal industry.

Dr. M. Keivan Deravi, Ph. D., of Economic Research Services Inc. performed a quantitative economic impact study on behalf of the Alabama Coal Association. He is renowned for developing the Alabama Economic Forecasting Model and the Alabama input/output model, used for 35 years by the state’s elected officials to generate state budgets. Deravi is a retired professor of economics at Auburn University Montgomery.

The newly released report illustrated that metallurgical (met) coal, the valuable type of coal used to make steel and not involved in electricity generation, is primarily what drives Alabama’s robust coal industry. Met coal, exported around the world to various steel mills, accounts for 82% (11 million short tons in 2018) of the coal mined in Alabama, and this segment of the mining industry is on track to keep growing.

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Incredibly, the study found that at Alabama’s current impressive rate of met coal production, the state’s met coal resources will last for another 309 years, “making it Alabama’s most lasting fossil fuel resource.” Data showed that the state holds approximately four billion tons of economically recoverable coal reserves.

“Alabama is blessed with abundant natural resources,” Patrick Cagle, president of the Alabama Coal Association, commented in a press release.

Besides the bright future forecast, the report detailed the tremendous impact the coal industry is having on Alabama families today.

This includes a huge jobs impact, both through coal industry employees and direct suppliers. Plus, these jobs are not what many people perceive the industry as — Alabama’s coal jobs are high-tech, high-skill and high-paying.

“Currently, the coal industry in Alabama directly employs more than 3,000 people and generates $370 million in annual payroll, for an average salary of more than $100,000 a year,” Deravi explained in a statement. “Coal jobs are among the highest-paid positions in the state, around 1.6 times the average annual salary for workers in Alabama. The industry also generates approximately $69 million in taxes for the state.”

Moreover, the study examined the direct, indirect and induced effects of each coal job on local economies. The direct effect is the economic impact of the regular operation of a company. Indirect effects include impacts on suppliers, vendors or associated materials industries. Induced effects result from positive changes to an economy that happen when a worker’s spending enhances a local economy.

Using those stated multipliers, the study found that Alabama’s coal mining industry has a total output impact of $2.9 billion, a total earnings impact of $1.2 billion and a total economic impact of 15,000 full-time-equivalent jobs.

The report detailed that besides mining and suppliers, the largest employment beneficiaries of the coal industry are the service sector, transportation sector, manufacturing sector, finance sector and wholesale and retail trade.

“From the high-quality met coal we ship to steelmakers around the globe to thermal coal that fuels local manufacturers and power production, the coal industry continues to responsibly use our resources to create high-paying jobs, strengthen our economy and build better lives for hardworking Alabama families,” Cagle said. “We are pleased this report objectively quantified through real data the positive things we see every day in our business.”

According to Deravi’s model, the coal industry is estimated to have generated a total of $69 million in income, sales, use and utility taxes for the State of Alabama’s coffers in addition to $5 million in coal severance taxes in 2018.

Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), who represents parts of Alabama where most of its coal is located (Walker, Winston, Fayette, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties), advised the state has a “long historical tradition of being blessed with hard-working coal miners.” Reed proudly calls himself “the coal senator.”

“Today, these miners are making high wages – starting at an average of around $85,000 a year – to support their families, which in turn helps boost local economies,” Reed stated. “The coal industry fuels the growth of many suppliers and vendors and is pouring revenue into state budgets to help provide roads, bridges, schools and first responders.”

Additionally, the report highlighted something that Yellowhammer News has reported on extensively in the recent past: the majority of met coal mined in Alabama is shipped around the world to customers in South America, Europe and Asia, thus majorly driving economic activity at the Port of Mobile. In fact, the McDuffie Coal Terminal generates approximately 50% of the total annual revenue earned by the Alabama State Port Authority. In 2018, the Mobile seaport ranked fourth in the nation for shipping coal exports, and with sunny days forecasted ahead for the state’s met coal industry, this boon should continue.

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

2 days ago

Merrill meets with Facebook, Twitter representatives in battle against disinformation

(Pixabay, J. Merrill/Facebook, YHN)

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill on Tuesday met with representatives from Facebook and Twitter to ensure the Yellowhammer State is prepared for the 2020 election cycle in the evolving war to stop the spread of misinformation online.

This comes after Alabama’s 2017 special election cycle saw partisan disinformation attempts to mislead voters on various social media platforms, including Project Birmingham orchestrated by Democratic operatives.

Merrill since that cycle has worked with leaders from both Facebook and Twitter to prevent similar occurrences.

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The secretary of state urged voters to get election-related information directly from his office, which can be done as easily as by accessing the “Vote for Alabama” mobile app.

“It is of paramount importance that the 4.8 million people who make up our state are informed with up-to-date, complete, and accurate information,” Merrill said in a statement. “All election-related information should come directly from our website or from your local election official. We are your trusted source for information related to the elections process.”

During the 2018 midterm election cycle, the Facebook Elections Operation Center removed more than 45,000 pieces of alleged voter suppression and intimidation content across the nation, and their efforts have reportedly only intensified since then. Facebook’s team is constantly working to detect and take down fake networks and accounts.

“We appreciate the support and cooperation of Facebook and Twitter to ensure users are not being misled by blatantly false statements, but instead, are receiving correct information,” Merrill remarked. “Today’s meetings are another indication of how prepared Alabama is as we move toward the 2020 election cycle.”

“Further, election security and protocol is higher than ever in Alabama. We continue to introduce new ways to improve security every single day,” he concluded.

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

2 days ago

Malzahn makes huge hire for Auburn offense

(Auburn Football/Twitter, YHN)

Gus Malzahn’s staff got a lot stronger on Tuesday.

The Auburn head coach announced that he has hired Chad Morris as offensive coordinator, according to a release from the team.

Morris, a native of Dallas, Texas, most recently served as head coach at Arkansas and SMU. Previous to those tenures, he coordinated record-breaking offenses at Clemson from 2011-2014.

Morris was not on the market long after leaving the Arkansas program. Teaming up with Malzahn on the Plains seemed a natural fit for both coaches.

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Malzahn agrees.

“I’m super excited to have Chad Morris join our staff at Auburn,” he explained. “He’s a tremendous offensive mind who has had success with several top-ranked offenses during his time in the college ranks. I’ve known Chad for almost 20 years and he is a tireless worker and a perfectionist. He is a great addition to our program and I look forward to him helping Auburn win championships!”

Morris formed his offensive philosophy largely based on his studying of Malzahn’s approach. As a high-profile high school coach in Texas, Morris traveled to Arkansas to visit Malzahn. What resulted was Morris crafting an offensive system from the principles he learned during those visits with Malzahn.

Morris cites that connection as instrumental to his arrival in Auburn.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to join Coach Malzahn’s staff at Auburn,” he said. “ I’ve known Gus since the early 2000s and consider him a dear friend and someone that helped me get into the profession at the college level. I’ve admired the success he’s had at each of his stops and look forward to adding to the success that he, his staff and the players have built. We are excited about joining the Auburn family.”

Morris is noted for his development of quarterbacks which should be a welcome contribution to the staff with true freshman Bo Nix looking to elevate his game going into next season.

There is at least one other familiar face in the football complex for Morris. He and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele coached together at Clemson in 2011. Steele was defensive coordinator at Clemson that year.

In addition to his oversight of the Tigers’ offense, Malzahn will likely count on Morris to enhance Auburn’s recruiting efforts in the prospect-rich state of Texas.

A graduate of Texas A&M, Morris spent 16 years as a head coach in Texas high school football, posting a 169-38 overall record, while capturing three state titles.

Malzahn’s 12th-ranked Tigers face off against Big Ten opponent Minnesota in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on January 1. Kickoff is noon CT.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News

2 days ago

Ainsworth endorses Cam Ward for Supreme Court

(Facebook/Will Ainsworth/Cam Ward/YHN)

In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth endorsed State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) for Supreme Court Place 1. Ainsworth confirmed his tweet constituted an endorsement in a message to Yellowhammer News.

Ward is running to unseat GOP incumbent Justice Greg Shaw. Shaw is seeking reelection to the court for what would be his third six-year term after first being elected in 2008.

“I have worked closely with Senator Ward, and we need conservatives like him on the Alabama Supreme Court. I am supporting his candidacy and encourage my friends to do the same,” Ainsworth told Yellowhammer.

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“I’m honored to have a strong conservative like Lt Governor Ainsworth supporting me. He knows my legislative record and the conservative values I will bring to our Supreme Court,” Ward said in a statement to Yellowhammer on Tuesday.

Ward is respected and influential in the Alabama Senate, and currently chairs the Judiciary Committee. As of the end of November, he has $112,924.06 in his campaign account. He is serving his third term in the Alabama Senate after first being elected in 2010. Previously, he served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Also qualified in the GOP primary for Supreme Court Place 1 is former State Senator Brian Taylor (R-Prattville), but he has yet to announce a decision about whether he will launch a campaign for the seat. Taylor’s wife is running for the open AL-02 congressional seat. The deadline to take a name off the voting ballot is December 17.

The Alabama Republican Primary is March 3.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

Alabama Farmers Federation poll shows close race between Sessions, Tuberville

(Jeff Sessions/Contributed, Arnold Mooney/Contributed, Tommy Tuberville, Bradley Byrne, I Stand with Roy Moore, Stanley Adair/Facebook, YHN)

Yellowhammer News on Tuesday obtained a poll conducted this month by the Alabama Farmers Federation showing a tight race between former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville in Alabama’s 2020 Republican U.S. Senate primary.

This comes after Yellowhammer News earlier in the day reported on a new Sessions internal poll that showed Sessions with a sizable lead.

The Alabama Farmers Federation’s polling is well respected in Yellowhammer State politics. This latest survey was conducted December 1-3 via live callers and measured 600 likely Alabama GOP voters. The margin of error was +/-4.00%.

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The poll showed Sessions leading just at the margin of error, coming in at 35% compared to Tuberville’s 31% on the ballot test (when voters were asked who they plan to vote for in the primary).

Next came Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) at 12%, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore at 8% and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and former televangelist Stanley Adair each with 1%.

When it came to favorability, Sessions enjoyed a 3:1 ratio — 63% viewed him favorably, compared to 21% unfavorably. Sessions had 98% name identification, with 13% saying they had no opinion of him. Tuberville had a ratio above 4:1, at 57% favorable and 14% unfavorable while 9.5% of respondents had never heard of Tuberville and 19.5% had no opinion of him.

Both the Sessions internal poll and the federation poll accounted for Secretary of State John Merrill suspending his campaign the evening of December 1. While the federation began polling earlier that day, they scrapped the 10 Merrill ballot test responses they received on December 1 and took his name out of the survey after he announced the campaign suspension.

Tuberville is endorsed by the federation’s grassroots political arm, FarmPAC. Endorsements are recommended by farmer representatives from all 67 counties on behalf of the organization’s 350,000 member families.

In a statement, Alabama Farmers Federation external affairs director Matthew Durdin expressed that the poll shows Tuberville maintains momentum despite Sessions’ late entry into the race.

“Coach Tuberville’s position as a political outsider who’s committed to fighting the entrenched Washington establishment while supporting Christian values, veterans, farmers and working families resonates with voters,” Durdin said. “He seeks to continue President Trump’s policies which have resulted in record low unemployment and economic growth.”

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

Celebrate the Seventh Amendment in Tuscaloosa

(YHN)

The Alabama Association of Justice will conclude its Courthouse Appreciation Tour and Social next week in Tuscaloosa. The Association and its members invite all courthouse employees and judicial staff to celebrate 230 years of the Seventh Amendment guaranteeing the right to a civil jury trial.

Join us for fun and refreshments in Tuscaloosa County on Monday, December 16, 3:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., 714 Greensboro Avenue, Tuscaloosa, AL.

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The Courthouse Appreciation Tour began in September and has included several stops around the state. Check out highlights from the tour’s first stop in Jefferson County.

For more information contact jsmith@alabamajustice.org.

2 days ago

Mo Brooks remembers George Washington Carver ahead of Decatur historic marker unveiling

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) recognized George Washington Carver’s “heroic, lasting legacy of scientific advancement and personal achievement made in the face of countless racist hurdles he had to overcome” on Tuesday during a speech from the House Floor.

Brooks’ speech comes a little less than a month before the George Washington Carver historic marker unveiling at former Carver School in Decatur, Alabama, on January 5, 2020.

Watch:

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“[R]enowned Alabama educator, artist and botanist George Washington Carver, like many Americans, overcame numerous obstacles to achieve greatness,” Brooks stated. “Carver’s contributions to science and agriculture made a huge impact that is still felt across the globe today.”

Brooks went on to praise many of Carver’s achievements, including his dedication to school, Carver’s time in college, his mentorship at the Tuskegee Institute’s agriculture school in Alabama and his work with agriculture and crops.

“George Washington Carver left a lasting legacy on Alabama schools, and Alabama is proud to have been the home of this renowned scientific leader,” Brooks added as he closed his speech.

Brooks’s full remarks on Carver can be found here.