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.

12 hours ago

South Alabama woman donates kidney to complete stranger (VIDEO)

(WKRG/YouTube)

Alabama’s people are truly one of a kind, and the story of Baldwin County’s Michelle Tesch is just the latest example of Yellowhammer State altruism.

As reported by WKRG, Tesch recently donated a kidney to Marlin Rodriguez of Louisiana.

What makes this selfless act even better?

Tesch had never met the man before she enthusiastically volunteered to “save [his] life.”

Watch WKRG’s report: 

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In a tweet, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) lauded Tesch’s “true, selfless generosity.”

“During the Easter season, we should all reflect on small ways we can make life a little better for our neighbors and even those we’ve never met,” he added.

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

13 hours ago

Alabama House passes bill making murder of on-duty first responder a capital offense

(Pixabay)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday passed HB 59, a bill sponsored by State Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville) that would make killing an on-duty first responder a capital offense.

The vote was 94-0.

The bill adds on-duty first responders to the list of murder victims that constitutes a capital offense. State law already makes the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer or prison guard a capital offense. Capital offenses in Alabama are punishable by life in prison or death.

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Sells’ bill would also add on-duty law enforcement officers, prison guards and first responders as victims in the list of aggravating circumstances to a capital offense. This would make the death penalty more likely in the sentencing phase of this kind of capital offense.

In HB 59, first responders are defined as emergency medical services personnel licensed by the Alabama Department of Public Health and firefighters and volunteer firefighters as defined by existing state law.

Sells told Yellowhammer News, “I’m excited it went through as [quickly] as it did.”

The bill now goes to the Senate. Sells has sponsored this bill the past two legislative sessions, ever since the infamous deadly 2016 ambush of police officers in Dallas, TX. Last year, it passed the House and was the next bill up on the Senate calendar for a vote when the chamber adjourned sine die.

He told Yellowhammer News he has a different strategy of getting it through the Senate this year and is optimistic the bill will ultimately receive final passage by that chamber.

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

13 hours ago

Katie Boyd Britt is a 2019 Woman of Impact

(BCA/Contributed)

Katie Boyd Britt is swiftly becoming the leading expert on breaking through barriers and paving the way for those to follow.

At the beginning of 2019, Britt was named the first female president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) – a prominent statewide association advocating for companies of all sizes across the state. She is also the youngest person to serve in that role in BCA’s history.

Britt is hopeful to make a difference by creating an environment that provides opportunities for people to better provide for their families.

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Britt’s rise to leadership at the BCA is not her first foray in breaking ground for female leaders. Prior to taking the reins at the BCA, Britt served as Senator Richard Shelby’s deputy press secretary and ultimately became his press secretary serving as the head of his press department. At the time, Britt was only 23 years of age, serving as the youngest press secretary on the Senate side of Capitol Hill.

As the daughter of two small business owners, Britt was a born Alabama leader.

After growing up in Enterprise, a place she fondly refers to as the “Wiregrass,” she attended the University of Alabama where she served as president of the Student Government Association and later received her law degree at the University of Alabama School of Law.

Following graduation, she practiced law at Butler Snow, LLP in both Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama. During her time at Butler Snow, she founded and led the firm’s Government Affairs practice in the state of Alabama, again showcasing her willingness to take on high levels of responsibility.

In November of 2015, she took a leave of absence to serve as deputy campaign manager and communications director for Senator Shelby’s most recent reelection campaign, which later turned into her role as his chief of staff – a role affording her the privilege to reach across party lines to successfully negotiate complex issues and legislation.

She served as Senator Shelby’s top advisor on all legal, policy, communications, strategy, leadership and campaign matters including all fundraising, leadership PAC and campaign operations. In her role, Britt directed long-term legislative strategy, plans and tactics, specifically surrounding Alabama appropriations issues.

Reflecting on her newest leadership role with the BCA, Britt says she is committed to promoting unity amongst Alabama business leaders for the betterment of the state.

“I am working to build coalitions and promote unity among the Alabama business community. I am also working to build bridges with elected officials and policy makers at the local, state, and federal levels to support pro-business, pro-economic growth policies that support all segments of Alabama’s economy, including industrial, commercial, small business, tech and health care entrepreneurs,” she shared with Yellowhammer News.

Britt has truly hit the ground running at the BCA. In the most recent special legislative session in Montgomery, she helped spearhead the bi-partisan passage of Governor Kay Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama Act.

She was so instrumental throughout the process that Tim Howe, editor and owner of Yellowhammer News, named her hiring at the BCA as one of four events leading to the passage of Rebuild Alabama.

This legislation was the State’s first investment into infrastructure since the early 1990s. As Britt stated in the BCA’s press release on the date of passage, “Today is a terrific day for the State of Alabama. … The quality of our infrastructure system affects everyone, every single day.  From safety to jobs and prosperity, we know that the road to our future must be paved, and now it will be.”

Outside of her corporate presence, Britt is committed to making a difference in her community.

“Some of my most rewarding community work was as a member of the YWCA Central Alabama Junior Board serving women, children, and families. As a mother, the mission of the YWCA, providing shelter, dignity, hope and a strong foundation to women, children and families in adverse circumstances is vitally important to me. Day in and day out, the YWCA Central Alabama truly makes a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable in the Birmingham area, and I was proud to work alongside so many caring, committed and generous individuals,” she told Yellowhammer News.

Britt is grateful to be among an incredible group of women making a difference in the state of Alabama. She recognizes the need for women to lead with determination and cut a trail for those who will follow.

“As a whole, recognizing the personal and professional accomplishments of women helps to broaden the horizon of what a little girl thinks she can accomplish. A woman who never underestimates herself will always make an impact. A woman of impact not only leads but brings others along with her,” Britt said.

As a mom to young children, Britt prioritizes the special time she spends at home with her family.

“Being a wife and a mom to two young children, my hobbies these days tend to be watching youth soccer games, going to Little League baseball practice, and making slime with my daughter. As anyone with a career, you are focused on your job and your work, so I try to be present with my children because the time flies. It is something I make my highest priority,” she said.

When asked to share some words of wisdom for the generation of young women rising to leadership behind her, Britt shared the following with Yellowhammer News: “You are only as good as your word, and you can’t be afraid to come to the table to advocate for the needs of those you serve. Your opponent on one issue may very well be your ally on the next. While you need to fight hard and adhere to your goals, treating people with respect goes a long way. Never underestimate yourself. Don’t let society place boundaries on you. No matter your position, find a way to make a positive impact on those around you.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Katie Boyd Britt a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

14 hours ago

ALGOP chair on Mueller report: ‘Shame on all who participated in this deplorable charade’

ALGOP Chairman Terry Lathan

After FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released on Thursday morning, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan concluded that it “confirms what we’ve known all along – no Russian collusion, no conspiracies and no White House interference.”

In a statement, the ALGOP chair continued, “In fact, the report shows complete cooperation by the White House which declined to use its executive privilege.”

Lathan said, “Since President Trump was elected by our nation’s citizens, Democrats and the mainstream media have spent their time making endless attacks on the president, spreading irresponsible propaganda and trying to manhandle a false narrative that they wanted. It’s been a shameful and despicable display of their agenda – destroy this presidency at all cost. No president, regardless of their party affiliation, should ever be put through these inexcusable actions.”

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“Shame on all who participated in this deplorable charade,” she concluded. “It’s time to stop focusing on these baseless accusations and get to work making America great again. President Trump’s policies are working and our historic economy shows it.”

RELATED: Alabama’s congressional delegation reacts to Mueller report: ‘Time to investigate the investigators’

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

14 hours ago

Alabama Power and others observe National Lineman Appreciation Day

(Phil Free/Alabama NewsCenter)

It would stand to reason Alabama Power would be first up to offer thanks and gratefulness during National Lineman Appreciation Day April 18.

But others outside the company are just as eager.

“The linemen who work in Alabama are some of our state’s most dedicated unsung heroes,” said Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh. “These men and women show an uncommon commitment to their neighbors and fellow Alabamians every time they rush in after a disaster to help restore people’s lives back to normal. They are our utility first responders, and I pray for them when they are called in for duty in difficult environments.”

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Former state House Speaker Seth Hammett, now chairman of the Energy Institute of Alabama, joined the chorus.

“Alabama’s electric utility linemen truly are the face of the power industry and are seen by the public as first responders when there is a weather or other natural disaster,” Hammett said. “After a severe storm, one of the most welcome sights is of our linemen and their trucks working to restore power to homes and businesses that depend on us.”

But lineman also toil in pedestrian, day-to-day work that is just as meaningful – stringing new wire and performing routine maintenance, without which power could not be delivered to homes and businesses.

It’s for all the above that Congress passed a resolution in 2013 recognizing April 18 as National Lineman Appreciation Day. Alabama Power will use the occasion to kick off a series of stories, videos and celebrations showcasing various elements of linemen and their jobs between now and the state Lineman Appreciation Day, designated by the Alabama Legislature as the first Monday in June.

“As we look to celebrate National Lineman Appreciation Day, I immediately recall all the challenges we faced in 2018 and early 2019 that have been severe weather-related and had significant impact to so many of our customers,” said Scott Moore, senior vice president of Power Delivery.

“Our linemen go to work during these most challenging times and perform their jobs in extremely challenging environments with tremendous success. The craft, knowledge and skill displayed by these employees create such a sense of pride and appreciation,’’ he said. “I think it is incredibly important that we take a day to just say, ‘Thank you,’ and show our appreciation for the great work these skilled craftsmen display day in and day out.”

Utilities across the nation are joining Alabama Power in similar observances. One of them is Dallas-based Oncor Electric Delivery Co., which serves 10 million customers in Texas.

“We are engaging with our communities by sharing videos and photos on social media, spotlighting our linemen among our employees through our company’s intranet, and have even more ways in store for our several locations across our service territory,” said Oncor spokeswoman Briana Monsalve.

Alabama Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden said during his tenure as a state legislator he helped get legislation passed designating linemen as first responders.

“On a daily basis, and especially after severe storms, linemen brave the inclement weather and challenging terrain to remove downed trees and other hazards to get customers’ power back on,” he said.

His fellow commissioner, Chip Beeker, said it is only fitting to pay tribute to those efforts.

“It is incredibly important we take a day to just say ‘thank you’ and show our appreciation for the great work these skilled craftsmen display day in and day out,” Beeker said.

At Alabama Power, those tributes hit home.

“What a great honor to be recognized for the hard work and the tireless efforts of the lineman trade,” said Casey Shelton, business manager, IBEW System Council U-19.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

16 hours ago

Mueller report shows why Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself

(U.S. Southern Command, Aaron Harber/YouTube)

Even though President Donald Trump gave Jeff Sessions a lot of flack during his tenure as attorney general for recusing himself from the FBI special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election cycle, the Robert Mueller report’s release on Thursday shows why Sessions had an incontrovertible conflict of interest: He was personally under investigation by the special counsel’s office.

Pages 197-198 of the report detailed that the special counsel’s office investigated Sessions’ interactions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak in April, July and September 2016 when Sessions was still Alabama’s junior senator. Not only did they look into the interactions themselves, which Sessions has maintained did not relate to the Trump campaign, but the special counsel’s office examined whether Sessions committed perjury or made false statements to Congress in regards to these interactions.

Ultimately, they found Sessions’ explanation of his statements to be “plausible,” so there was “insufficient” evidence “to prove that Sessions was willingly untruthful in his answers.” Therefore, consistent with DOJ policy, the special counsel declined to prosecute Sessions and informed his attorney of that decision in March of 2018.

Read the relevant portion of the report for yourself:

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

Alabama radio host launches ‘The Joe Lockett Show’ on 101.1 FM

(J. Lockett/Facebook)

Alabama radio host Joe Lockett launched a new drive time program, “The Joe Lockett Show,” this month. The program airs Monday – Friday at 4:00 p.m. on 101.1 FM WXJC.

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The show is divided into two one-hour segments, with the first discussing the day’s news headlines. During the second hour “Six 2 Six,” Lockett will interview local celebrities and others who have gone beyond their day jobs to pursue their ultimate career goals.

Lockett says he named this portion of the show “Six 2 Six” after his personal journey from working in construction to now hosting his own radio show six years later.

Passionate about helping people get “unstuck” to achieve their dreams, Lockett hopes the show will inspire others to find their calling.

“I want you to think of the biggest thing that you have ever wanted to do in your life,” Lockett said.

He added, “If you could do anything right now, what would it be?”

Listen to the Joe Lockett program live during the week on the show’s Facebook page or on the station’s website.

17 hours ago

Alabama’s congressional delegation reacts to Mueller report release: ‘Time to investigate the investigators’

(Wikicommons, (WH/Flickr, US DOJ/Facebook)

Republican members of Alabama’s congressional delegation are celebrating after the public release of FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, with Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03) calling the investigation “tantamount to an attempted coup.”

Meanwhile, the two congressional Democrats from Alabama were silent immediately following the report’s release.

“It is worth reiterating that during the first two years of President Trump’s time in office, a witch hunt was led by the Mainstream Media and Deep State Democrats,” Rogers said in a statement. “Now that the Mueller Report has been publicly released, the truth can come to light. There was no collusion or obstruction.”

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He concluded, “It is time to investigate the investigators and see who was really behind what was tantamount to an attempted coup that was a waste of time and tax dollars.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) stated, “The full report from Bob Mueller’s investigation just reaffirmed the original summary report: there was no collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government. It must be remembered, this was the sole purpose of this investigation in the first place and the conclusion of that report is clear and unequivocal.”

Remainder of Aderholt’s statement as follows:

Even though many of my Democrat colleagues are grasping at straws as they try to relitigate this two year, 25-million-dollar, taxpayer funded investigation; it is clear by what we have learned today, that no credible evidence for any criminal wrongdoing was found.

There’s an old saying that the Democrats are proving true today: ‘if you cannot argue substance, then you argue process.’ The same Democrats who claimed Russian collusion was a ‘slam dunk,’ are now arguing that they don’t like the way the report that proves them wrong is being released.

I’m sure this full report will not end Democrat denial of the 2016 outcome. President Trump was elected in 2016 because candidate Trump’s message resonated with the American people. As President Trump moves forward, I hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle won’t continue to try to manufacture other investigations. We have a strong economy and Congress and the President need to work together to make it even stronger.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01), who is one of two declared Republican candidates against Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2020, said, “President Trump and Attorney General Barr should be commended for their unprecedented transparency in releasing Special Counsel Mueller’s report today. Finally, every last justification for Democrat grandstanding over imagined Russian collusion has been eliminated.”

“The charade is up. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And there was no coverup. Robert Mueller had the full resources of the Department of Justice and was unable to find criminal activity. It is time to move on. I hope the Democrat majority in the House will move past this embarrassing chapter in our history, call off their phony investigations, and stop the partisan political messaging so we can address issues that truly will benefit the American people,” he added.

Update 2:15 p.m.:

Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05) released a statement, saying, “The perpetrators of this scam and fraud should be prosecuted and convicted to the full extent of the law. Further, they should be sued and forced to repay American taxpayers the tens of millions of tax dollars that were diverted from helping America citizens to investigating a crime that never occurred. Compared to Socialist Democrats and the Fake News Media, Jussie Smollett is a mere rookie and babe in the woods.”

Brooks’ full statement as follows:

As with the summary report of Attorney General Barr, today’s redacted Mueller Report once again debunks and exposes the Big Lie Propaganda Tactics of the Fake News Media and Socialist Democrats. The Mueller Report states, ‘The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.’ Simply put, case closed. President Trump has been totally vindicated of “Big Lie” claims that he illegally colluded with Russia in the 2016 elections. The American public has been subjected to this fraud and false reporting for 2 ½ years. The American public deserves better.

The Fake News Media’s coverage of the Russia Collusion delusion was endless, it even resulted in the staffs of the New York Times and The Washington Post receiving the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for National Reporting into the so-called ‘Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign.’ It’s a shame that the media will not be held accountable for their lies and fraudulent reporting. After today’s release of the Mueller Report, the Washington Post and New York Times should be forced to return their 2018 Pulitzer Prize because Robert Mueller has now confirmed the non-existence of any Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign or any other American.

If any of the Fake News Media’s allegations were credible then Special Counsel Mueller would have been able to substantiate those claims because he had massive and almost endless resources. For emphasis, the Special Counsel ‘employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, . . . and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.’ After tens of millions of wasted American tax dollars, the finding is succinct. ‘[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.’

This Socialist Democrats and Fake News Media’s scam and fraud has undermined public faith in our republic. The perpetrators of this scam and fraud should be prosecuted and convicted to the full extent of the law. Further, they should be sued and forced to repay American taxpayers the tens of millions of tax dollars that were diverted from helping America citizens to investigating a crime that never occurred. Compared to Socialist Democrats and the Fake News Media, Jussie Smollett is a mere rookie and babe in the woods.

This story may be updated as statements are released.

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

True or False: Rebuild Alabama tax creates registration fees for regular, non-electric vehicles?

(DOD, YHN)

Rebuild Alabama does NOT place additional registration fees on normal, non-electric vehicles. Newly adopted registration fees only apply to electric and hybrid vehicles and put the state on the cutting edge of electric vehicle infrastructure. Learn the facts.  #fixALroads

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20 hours ago

7 Things: It’s Mueller time, Trump, Shelby, Ivey get good poll numbers in Alabama, Ivey touts roads being built as part of Rebuild Alabama gas tax increase and more …

(Washington Post/YouTube)

7. Marijuana decriminalization bill advances; Jefferson County may stop enforcing the law altogether

— An 11-0 committee vote shows this bill has bipartisan support to change the way Alabama handles pot possession arrests. But the bill does not only lower penalties for possession. It also allows those penalized for marijuana arrests to have those arrests expunged after five years. Terrible arguments were made in favor of this bill. State Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier (D-Selma) argued, “It’s the low-income people, people who are impoverished and they pay a different kind of penalty, and I think that’s unfair. So, to me it’s a matter of mercy.” Meanwhile, Jefferson County is planning to address its over-crowded jails by citing and releasing some non-violent misdemeanors, including simple marijuana possession. They are right: Not arresting criminals will lessen the burden on jails.

6. Long-shot bill that would allow municipalities to forgo grocery tax dies in an Alabama House Committee

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— A relatively weak bill proposed by State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) that would have allowed cities and counties to reduce or eliminate their sales tax on groceries failed to pass. Outside of Tuscaloosa, it doesn’t appear the bill had much support around the state. Tuscaloosa officials recently raised their sale tax to 10 cents, and one way to offset that tax was to seek an end to the food tax in their community. The bill was stopped on Wednesday in an Alabama House Committee, so now England will have to press to have the bill approved. This whole episode seems like a convoluted attempt by city officials to push for a tax cut that seemed incredibly unlikely after they raised taxes themselves.

5. State Senator Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile) ignorantly accused Republicans of wanting mentally ill people to be allowed to firearms

— The Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the constitutional carry bill that would get rid of the requirement for gun owners to have a permit to carry a lawfully owned firearm. Sheriffs from all over the state oppose the bill because they say it would get rid of a source of revenue and what they consider to be a useful law enforcement tool that allows them to know about whether a suspect is allowed to carry a firearm. During the hearing, Figures said, “I just don’t understand the mentality of what you guys or – or what you guys continue to push to do. Particularly, with all the gun violence that is happening, to allow a person to be able to get a gun who has mental problems – to me that says the person who’s pushing that has some mental problems. They don’t understand why people with mental issues shouldn’t have a weapon.” Figures incorrectly implied that this bill will impact the mentally ill receiving firearms. It doesn’t. The background checks are not changed by this — just the requirement that you have a permit to carry a weapon concealed.

4. Almost three dozen doctors and other medical professionals across eight states, including eight in Alabama, have been charged for illegally prescribing and distributing opioids

— The Justice Department released a statement that specified the charges against 60 individuals including doctors, pharmacists, nurse practitioners and other licensed medical professionals. There were people arrested in Alabama, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky. In Alabama, the arrests included a Dr. Marshall Plotka, who let prostitutes he would recruit as patients use heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana in his home. Police records show that police were called to him home 35 times in the last four years including for an overdose.

3. Governor Kay Ivey announces a road project as she touts the “Rebuild Alabama” gas tax increase

— On Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey spoke to a delegation from the Huntsville/Madison Chamber of Commerce announcing plans to improve I-565. Ivey stated that I-565 would be widened to six lanes and resurfaced. There will also be an expansion of the Tanner interchange for I-65 in Limestone County, and Huntsville Brownsferry Road is going to be extended west across to U.S. Highway 31 and widened. Ivey said, “While the Huntsville and surrounding areas are booming with continual economic growth, it was imperative we make enhancements to their infrastructure system for the nearly 60,000 vehicles traveling on I-565 daily. Both improvement projects will be significant strides for this area.”

2. President Donald Trump’s job approval has remained steady nationwide — He, Ivey and Shelby are doing great in Alabama

— A new Fox News poll shows that since February, Trump’s approval rating has stayed pretty much the same. In February it was at 46 percent, March was at 46 percent, and this month his approval rating is 45 percent. A total of 65 percent of voters have said that the Mueller investigation did not change how they feel about Trump. About 10 percent of people feel better about him, and 17 percent feel worse. Much like the polling on the tax increase, this is massively impacted by a media that is skeptical of all things Trump, gets things wrong and only sometimes corrects the record after the torrent of original reporting sets the narrative in stone. In Alabama, President Trump, Governor Ivey and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) are all polling extremely well. The only surprise is how well Ivey is doing after pushing for a gas tax increase.

1. The Mueller report released this morning

— Attorney General William Barr released the report before an 8:30 CST press conference. The report will be the redacted final-note on the investigation that has overshadowed the entire Trump presidency. The report shows no criminal collusion or obstruction of justice. The Justice Department announced that certain members of Congress will be allowed to see the report without a large number of redactions. The media and Democrats have already decided the report doesn’t matter because the summary of the report doesn’t matter and the president still did something wrong. Last month, Barr released a summary of the report but was almost immediately asked to release the full report. Throughout this entire investigation, President Trump has maintained his innocence and he still claims that after the report is released he will be fully exonerated and vindicated.

21 hours ago

Orr on higher ed funding: ‘Ironic’ that Auburn would begrudge little Athens State

Sen. Arthur Orr, Chairman, Senate General Fund Budget Committee

Last week, the Auburn University Board of Trustees voiced its displeasure over the amount of appropriations Auburn is to receive under Gov. Kay Ivey’s 2020 budget proposal.

Trustee Jimmy Rane publicly called out State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), the chair of the State Senate’s Finance and Taxation Education Committee, noting that under the proposal, Auburn would receive only a 5% increase. Rane compared that to the University of Alabama, which would see a 7.5% increase, and Athens State University, which would see an 11% increase.

Rane went on to call the appropriations “unacceptable” and noted that Athens State University was in Orr’s district.

During an interview that aired on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Wednesday, Orr responded to Rane’s criticisms.

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Orr maintained the figures were already set in Ivey’s budget and were calculated by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

“Evidently, Mr. Rane wasn’t given all the facts because the facts are the appropriations Ivey suggested were all done by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education,” Orr said. “And they retained consultants from out of state and examined and reviewed all the appropriations for all the higher ed institutions – publicly, public institutions. And the conclusions are what are reflected in Ivey’s budget. I personally had no interaction. I didn’t know what the numbers were until Governor Ivey submitted her formal budget to the legislature. His accusations are very much misplaced.”

The Decatur Republican went on to compare the sizes of the Auburn University and Athens State University budgets, noting the drastic differences in size.

“What I find ironic is that Auburn would begrudge little Athens State, which the Athens State budget is about 4% the size of Auburn’s,” he continued. “Auburn’s is about $1.3 billion-plus. Athens State’s is around $60 million or so. And so, you’re looking at such a minuscule budget. And the addition that Athens State got that’s in Governor Ivey’s budget was several hundred thousand dollars. So, several hundred thousand dollars, when you compare that to $1.3 billion budget, you’re talking about, not even I would suggest much less than even a rounding error.”

“So, it’s a little bit perplexing they would want to call out Athens State in a couple hundred thousand dollars in appropriations,” Orr added.

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

1 day ago

Trump approves major disaster declaration for Alabama

(WH/Flickr)

President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday declared that a major disaster exists in the state of Alabama and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the northern parts of the Yellowhammer State affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding from February 19 to March 20 of this year.

Federal funding is now available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the weather events in the counties of Cherokee, Colbert, DeKalb, Franklin, Jackson, Lamar, Madison, Marion, Morgan and Winston.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

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This is separate from the devastating severe weather that hit Lee County in early March. Trump approved a disaster declaration for that event almost immediately, as requested by Governor Kay Ivey, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and other members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Update 5:45 p.m.:

Ivey released a statement on Trump’s declaration.

The governor said, “The state of Alabama is far too familiar with the often unpredictable, damaging effects of severe weather. In recent months, our state has endured a variety of storm systems, including immense and historic flooding in North Alabama. Alabama is very grateful and pleased to welcome this news. President Trump always stands ready to help Alabama, and I’m grateful for his hand in this recovery process. We can now fully be on the road to recovery because of the assistance of President Trump.”

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

2 days ago

Sara Williams is a 2019 Woman of Impact

(S. Williams/Contributed)

The state’s largest organization for lawyers, the Alabama State Bar, cites trust, integrity and service as the values which should guide the group and its members.

Sara Williams has excelled in her career as an attorney by embodying each of those ideals.

And others have taken notice.

In 2018, Williams received the Stetson University College of Law Edward D. Ohlbaum Professionalism Award, which is a national award that seeks to honor those “whose life and practice display sterling character and unquestioned integrity, along with an ongoing dedication to the highest standards of the legal profession and the rule of law.” The award is named for the late Professor Eddie Ohlbaum and is designed to recognize a trial team instructor “who exemplifies his commitment to practicing with a high degree of professionalism, integrity and competency.”

Williams is the managing attorney for Alexander Shunnarah Injury Lawyers, P.C. She is the first African-American woman to serve in that role for the firm.

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At the time of her award, Alexander Shunnarah, the firm’s president and CEO, remarked on her accomplishment.

“She never ceases to amaze me,” he said. “Her level of commitment and passion to her profession has been an added contribution to not only our law firm, but everyone in the legal community, including our clients, who always come first.”

A graduate of Florida State University and Cumberland School of Law, Williams saw a different path for herself, at first.

“I originally wanted to be a sports agent,” she noted. “So I applied and was accepted to programs at Tulane and Marquette that both have certificates in Sports Law. It was being involved in Cumberland’s trial advocacy program that solidified my desire to be a trial lawyer.”

She made a wise decision.

Williams has become one of the preeminent trial lawyers in Alabama.

She has litigated a multitude of cases, including premises liability, motor vehicle negligence, wrongful death and trucking cases.

While beginning her career as a civil defense lawyer, she has practiced as a plaintiffs’ attorney with Shunnarah since 2013. In December 2017, she secured a $12 million jury verdict representing a majority of the victims in a major bus accident in Birmingham.

Williams was peer-selected as one of Birmingham Magazine’s “Top Attorneys” for several years, named a “Rising Star” by Alabama Super Lawyers Magazine and chosen one of Birmingham Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40” in 2017

She is a frequent speaker in Alabama and around the country on issues regarding uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, social networking and litigation, as well as various issues relating to the transportation industry.

Even with her natural ability in the courtroom and zeal for advocating on behalf of clients, Williams accepted the challenge of firm management in 2017.

“The role of Managing Attorney has been an interesting challenge in terms of balancing all of the different personalities that comprise the lawyers at the firm,” she explained. “When you are litigating a case your interests are clearly in opposition to that of your opposing counsel, but when it comes to managing there is a need to balance the interests of the firm with the needs of the lawyers and staff.”

The firm described her role in the position of managing attorney as “the supporting pillar to the firm’s success, using her confidence and decisiveness to help strategize the firm’s next steps.”

And that success has been significant under Williams’ management.

The firm has grown to 17 offices in five states, with 70 lawyers and two hundred employees who handle approximately 15,000 cases.

Her skill in the position has helped Shunnarah recognize just how vital Williams is to the firm.

“She is the pillar of the firm,” he said in a recent interview. “It would be very difficult to do anything in this firm if I didn’t have the best attorney in the southeast at my side every day.”

Despite the commitments of managing a large firm, Williams has still found time to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for the law as an adjunct professor of Trial Advocacy at Cumberland School of Law. She also serves as a coach for Cumberland’s nationally ranked mock trial teams.

“I love meeting or hearing from law students that are inspired when they see me in this role,” she said. “When I was in law school there were not that many women lawyers in management.  It is important for these young women to know that there is potential to rise through the ranks.”

Her desire to open up opportunities for women is more than mere words. In 2017, she founded the Alexander Shunnarah Women’s Initiative, which seeks to empower female lawyers through networking events and community involvement.

Having gone from prospective sports agent to decorated litigator is a path which helps her provide wise counsel to women pursuing a career in the law.

“Keep an open mind,” she advised. “So many young people feel like they have to know exactly what they want to do when they go to law school or that the first job they have has to be their forever job. I’ve learned so much from every firm I worked for and built long lasting relationships and friendships that really shaped my career. Had I only focused on what I planned on doing after law school as a 22-year-old college graduate, I can’t imagine that I would be as happy with what I do for a living.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Sara Williams a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 days ago

Ivey announces plans to widen I-565, Huntsville Brownsferry Rd

(Huntsville/Madison County Chamber/Facebook)

Two important thoroughfares in north Alabama are set to receive major improvements.

Speaking to a delegation from the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce during the chamber’s annual Montgomery visit on Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey announced plans to widen I-565 to six lanes and resurface the crucial interstate spur to I-65. This will be part of the first phase of new infrastructure revenue and upgrades made possible by the Rebuild Alabama Act.

Expansion of the Tanner interchange for I-65 in Limestone County was also announced.

Additionally, Huntsville Brownsferry Road (also known as Browns Ferry Road) will be widened to be extended westward across to U.S. Highway 31 in a second phase to allow for easier access to I-65 for drivers using that road to get to and from the under-construction Mazda Toyota plant.

All of the projects are in anticipation of needing significantly increased traffic capacity when the plant is completed.

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“While the Huntsville and surrounding areas are booming with continual economic growth, it was imperative we make enhancements to their infrastructure system for the nearly 60,000 vehicles traveling on I-565 daily. Both improvement projects will be significant strides for this area,” Ivey said in a statement. “This will improve the daily commute for several thousand drivers and provide access to the new Mazda-Toyota joint assembly plant. When we began on the road to Rebuild Alabama, I promised our state would see real results, real improvements and a promising future, and we’re certainly delivering on that.”

Watch:

The project announcements came the same day that State Sen. Tom Butler (R-Huntsville) announced his appointment by Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth to the Joint Transportation Committee (JTC). The JTC was expanded under the Rebuild Alabama legislative package.

Butler’s district contains I-565.

In a statement, Butler said, “Throughout my campaign I stressed the importance of rebuilding and expanding infrastructure in North AL. The widening of I-565, HWY 72 from Huntsville through Madison and onto Athens, and HWY 53 from Huntsville to Ardmore are high priorities in serving multiple counties.”

I-565 will be widened from I-65 to County Line Road.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle expressed his enthusiasm for the projects, which were selected by the Alabama Department of Transportation for the Rebuild Alabama Act First Year Plan 2020.

Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) added his praise, too.

“I commend Governor Ivey’s leadership in passing Rebuild Alabama and her commitment to keep Alabama growing,” McCutcheon stated. “Additional lanes on Interstate 565 will greatly reduce congestion and aid commerce in one of the fastest growing regions of our state. I, along with my colleagues, are pleased to see such quick returns from the Rebuild Alabama Act passing.”

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

2 days ago

I was the victim of a political prosecution — When they couldn’t indict, I knew I was exonerated

(D. Jackson/Facebook, WH/Flickr)

The media and the Democrats told you President Donald Trump and his campaign colluded with the Russians and that FBI special counsel Robert Mueller would indict plenty of people. They lied.

The media and the Democrats told you Trump was going to fire Mueller. They lied.

The media and the Democrats told you Michael Cohen was instructed to lie by Trump. They lied.

Now, the media and the Democrats are telling you President Donald Trump actually did collude and obstruct justice even though there have been no indictments brought on the matter … you get the gist.

The media’s collusion conclusion has been set in stone for almost two years — facts and evidence be damned.

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The lack of charges when the report was concluded with no further indictments are coming will not deter this message. To say this is an underwhelming bust is being kind to former Alabama star running back Trent Richardson.

When Mueller’s report is released on Thursday with redactions, the media and their Democrats will go all in on search and destroy mode.

“What is Attorney General William Barr hiding?!”

You will rarely hear that Barr worked with the special counsel and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to make these redactions.

“How was he not charged for THIS?!”

Because the bar for reasonable doubt wasn’t reached.

The reality is that President Trump is the victim of political prosecution and his own behavior that made him appear guilty, but he has been exonerated.

As someone who was the victim of political prosecution in the past, I can attest that when you feel like you are being victimized you are going to lash out. If you can badmouth the people you feel are wronging you, you will. If you could end the investigation, you would want to.

Then-Alabama Attorney General Troy King was out to destroy my life, get me fired and lock me up. He thought he could intimidate me and my employer by threatening me with the power of the state to incarcerate me. He failed.

But this canard that the failure to get indictments against Trump and his allies isn’t an exoneration is total and complete bunk.

The bar for indictment, as I mentioned above, is shockingly low. There is a reason. “You can indict a ham sandwich” is a quip you often hear. The fact that a two-year investigation into an election meddling/conspiracy/obstruction plot returned zero indictments is pretty telling. The length of the investigation tells you the investigators were thorough and wanted to find something. The fact that they busted multiple players for process crimes and wrongdoing prior to them working on the campaign tells you there was a real effort to find someone, get someone, pressure people and follow the leads where they took them.

It also shows there is nothing to this narrative.

This won’t change the tactics and the tone of the media and their Democrats. Not one bit.

The investigations will go on until they finally find a crime they have been talking about since before the election even took place.

If these crimes are so apparent and egregious, why didn’t Mueller find them? Why haven’t they been uncovered by congressional committees yet? What exactly are the crimes? They don’t know because they are fishing. It is a witch hunt with no witches.

There was not enough, or any in my case, evidence that I committed a crime. To pretend that I was still guilty is laughable, although that happened.

This is still America, where we are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And if they can’t even get it into a court of law, they sure can’t claim you are guilty.

When I was told that there would be no charges in my political prosecution, I didn’t think, “I wish there was a trial, I want to clear my name.” Instead, I knew I was exonerated.

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

2 days ago

University of Alabama alum Marillyn Hewson named one of TIME magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’

(Lockheed Martin)

Marillyn A. Hewson, chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., who happens to a University of Alabama alumna, was named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” for 2019, further proving that the University is the place where legends are made.

In the magazine, which is set to be released Friday, Hewson credits the university as the most influential place in her life due to the foundation it set for her impressive career. The Capstone is also where she met her husband, James, as an undergraduate.

Hewson has said she is “deeply thankful” for the education she received at the University of Alabama.

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“I am deeply thankful for the strong business education I received at the University of Alabama,” Hewson stated. “That education helped prepare me for many of the challenges and opportunities I’ve encountered throughout my career – from the day I joined the company as an industrial engineer to my current role as CEO.”

Last year, Hewson was ranked No. 1 on Fortune magazine’s list of “Most Powerful Women in Business.”

Hewson and her husband have continuously given back to the university’s Culverhouse College of Business, where Marillyn earned her bachelor’s degree. In 2017, Hewson donated $5 million to the College to support education and research in business-data intelligence and cybersecurity.

In 2018, the Hewson family gave a gift of $15 million to the College. The university now plans to construct a new building named Hewson Hall after Marillyn and James.

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

Everyone can now have their own sweet home in Alabama

(National Association of Realtors/Contributed)

Now that it’s 2019, no longer does the term “Sweet Home Alabama” have to be just a famous Lynyrd Skynyrd song, or a Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy.

That’s because anyone who has always wanted to own a home of their own in Alabama now has a new tool to help them do that for the first time, or even the first time in a long while.

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In Alabama, the First-Time Homebuyer and Second-Chance Savings Account (FHSA), is now available for anyone who has never owned a home or for those folks who are re-entering the housing market and haven’t owned a home for at least a decade.

Individuals or couples can open one of these tax-free savings accounts at any local bank, credit union or other financial institution in Alabama. The principal deposits and earnings will be deductible on their state income taxes.

The savings in this account can be used to pay for a down payment and/or closing costs for a single-family dwelling.

ABOUT THE ACCOUNTS

“First-time buyers can now begin the process of buying a home years in advance, simply by starting a savings account, and get a tax break by doing so,” said Morgan Ashurst, 2019 Alabama REALTORS® Public Policy Chair. “We are proud to have played a role in helping provide first-time buyers with this new resource.”

The option to use this account was created in 2018 when the Alabama legislature passed a bill and Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law. It allows individuals or couples to make deposits and earnings up to $50,000, with a mandate that qualified expenditures must be made within five years from opening the account.

“One of the most commonly asked questions from first-time buyers is, ‘Where do I start?’ This savings account is the new starting point,” said Stacey Sanders, 2019 Alabama REALTORS® President. “We are excited to see the growth this new homebuying tool spurs in Alabama’s housing market.”

A POSITIVE IMPACT

And while this benefit is great for the first-time homebuyer and those who may have had to hit the reset button for a time and are ready to own a home again now, it’s a benefit to all Alabama residents.

Even though other Alabamaians can’t take advantage of the FHSA, they benefit because home ownership helps improve neighborhoods, which in turn attracts businesses, which creates jobs and improves our local economy.

Homeownership provides wealth accumulation for owners, in addition to social and economic benefits.

Overall, 90% of Alabama residents believe homeownership is a good financial decision.

So, there’s a stake in homeownership for everybody in Alabama, where, according to the song, the skies are so blue. And those skies will be bluer and brighter with more homeowners, which is why those that qualify should take advantage of the FHSA now that it is available.

BY Anthony Sanfilippo

2 days ago

Alabama First Class Pre-K ranked nation’s top program for 13th year in a row

(Pixabay)

Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program was named the highest quality state-funded pre-kindergarten program in the nation Wednesday for the 13th year in a row.

One of only three states, including Michigan and Rhode Island, Alabama meets or exceeds all 10of the benchmarks measured by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) to determine a program’s quality.

NIEER’s 2018 State of Preschool Yearbook, which was released Wednesday, evaluated the quality of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs in use during the 2017-2018 school year. Throughout that year, Alabama enrolled an estimated 16,884 four-year-olds.

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“We wish more states followed Alabama’s example of expanding pre-k enrollment with adequate funding, high quality, and demonstrated effectiveness,” said NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett, Ph.D. “Research finds the program yields long-term gains in achievement. If the state continues to invest, all Alabama’s young children can benefit in the near future.”

NIEER also categorized Alabama as one of nine “States on the Move” and highlighted the state’s devotion to increasing the funding to expand enrollment and ensuring pay equality for pre-k teachers.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey reacted to the news Wednesday and said the Alabama First Class Pre-K is “providing that solid ground for our youngest learners.”

“For a child to reach their fullest potential later in life, they must first build a strong foundation. I’m proud that Alabama First Class Pre-K is once again proving to be successful in providing that solid ground for our youngest learners,” Governor Ivey stated. “From our state’s historic investment in this program to Secretary Jeana Ross’s unmatched leadership, Alabama is setting the tone for early childhood education around the country. Other states know that Alabama’s students are getting off to a very strong start, and if they follow Alabama’s lead, then they, too, can do the same for their students.”

Secretary of Early Childhood Education Jeana Ross also shared her excitement of the news.

“As Alabama continues to expand access to high-quality, voluntary pre-k for four-year-olds, the Department is committed to ensuring the highest quality early learning experiences,” Ross said. “With the support of the Alabama Legislature and the strong leadership of Governor Kay Ivey, Alabama continues to lead the nation in growth and quality. We are constantly working to develop and implement policies that support program quality in early childhood settings.”

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

My unplanned pregnancy, and why Alabama should pass this pro-life bill

(R. Blackmon Bryars/Contributed)

What keeps us from sharing our stories? The ones we should tell?

When it comes to the story I shared Wednesday morning with the Alabama House Health Committee regarding what would be the nation’s strongest pro-life law, it’s been fear.

Fear of being misunderstood.

Fear of future assumptions based on past mistakes.

Most of all, fear of causing my oldest daughter any embarrassment or pain.

This is her story, too.

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But after long talks over the years and after recently watching the new movie “Unplanned” together, she says I must speak up. That she is proud, not embarrassed. That our story might strengthen one mother. Might help save one life.

My daughter’s maturity humbles me because her life began when I was the opposite – foolish.

I graduated college after years of overachievement that I hoped would lead to what I wanted more than anything: a successful career.

Like many driven young women, I had given almost no thought to motherhood. Maybe one day I’d get married and have a family – one day far in the future.

I moved to Virginia for my first job as a television reporter and continued a successful side hustle as a model and commercial actress. Everything was going better than I had dreamed. My life was filled with hope and anticipation.

But my life was also filled with loneliness and insecurity. With a gnawing desire to be loved and feel wanted.

I believed in abstinence until marriage but my now-husband and I fell short. I found myself taking a pregnancy test.

My heart shattered when I saw the results. The test said someone inside me had started to live, but in a flash, it felt like everything about me had started to die.

Sometimes life requires us to fall on one side or the other of a fence we never noticed before. I was notionally pro-life, but I had not engaged the argument because I had not thought about the argument. It was a topic for someone else, someplace else.

But now it was me, and the last thing I wanted was to be a mother.

I did not receive Planned Parenthood counseling, but I imagine they would have said everything already racing through my mind:

I was only 22-years-old — way too young.

I had everything to lose and nothing to gain.

Why should one mistake define the rest of my life?

Experts say cognitive dissonance is one of the most intolerable mental states – when we believe something is true, we’ll either act in harmony with that belief, change it, or rationalize any deviation from it.

I knew the growing baby inside of me was a human being. What else could she possibly be?

There were also medical realities that overpowered rhetoric — a heartbeat that I heard at my first appointment, fingers and eyes and ears and feet I could see at my second.

I wish I could tell women in crisis pregnancies that becoming a mother is pure bliss. But it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

As my pregnancy progressed, I fell into what I can only describe as months of complete anguish, depression, and despair. I left my job. I sleepwalked into a marriage that I feared was another mistake. I berated myself, constantly asking, “How could you have been so stupid?” I withdrew from everyone, and thought I’d never know happiness again.

It’s hard to write those words knowing what I know now: My husband and my five precious children are my entire world. I wish I were a better writer because it’s impossible for me to adequately describe the all-consuming love I feel for them. Anything that was lost is a laughable pittance, barely worth mentioning compared to all that I’ve gained.

Looking now at my beautiful, artistic, strong, unique, nearly 14-year-old daughter, I can barely fathom how she might have been erased from existence if I’d followed our culture’s advice.

Some abortion rights supporters believe that my daughter was not a person until the moment she emerged from my body. Others believe she may have been at some point, but claim we lack the knowledge of when.

It seems a nightmarish hoax that our society says that during my pregnancy, even when my daughter was clearly alive, growing, able to smile, hear music, feel pain, kick her legs, and even develop to where she could survive outside of me, her fate depended solely on whether I thought she should live or die.

I think in the quiet of our souls, we know that our absurd rationalizations about a “choice” are the only way we can bear the unthinkable truth – that every day, abortion doctors inject unborn human beings with poison, crush their skulls, tear them limb from limb, and vacuum them into the trash.

I went to college with Jessica Coleman, an Ohio woman who later went to prison when she confessed to stabbing her baby shortly after secretly giving birth when she was 15-years-old.

I’ll never forget watching Oprah Winfrey interview the tearful, ashamed inmate who was once my soccer teammate.

How do we make sense of our hypocrisy? If only Jessica had received an abortion that day. If only a doctor, not her, had stabbed her baby the moment before he was born. She would not have gone to prison. Oprah would have commended her for her brave choice.

It’s time to shake ourselves awake.

To Alabama’s lawmakers: It is always better for people to choose what’s right on their own. But some actions are so heinous, so deeply wrong, that we must create laws to prevent them. Pass this bill.

To anyone who calls themselves pro-life but does not give money to crisis pregnancy centers, adoption services, or anything related to supporting life: You are like a Pharisee – heaping heaving burdens on others but refusing to lift a finger yourself. Give.

To men, everywhere: The instinct to protect women and children is written onto your hearts. Rise up. This is not just a woman’s issue. You have every right to fight for the life of another human being, especially ones so defenseless.

And to my sisters carrying an unplanned baby: My heart aches for you. Every life – yours and your baby’s – is valuable. Make the next right choice.

It may be the hardest thing you ever do.

But it will be the best thing you ever do.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at The Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at Rachel@alabamapolicy.org and on Instagram @rachelblackmonbryars.

2 days ago

Dem state senator: Second Amendment advocates have ‘mental problems’

(Senator Vivian Davis Figures Campaign/Facebook)

MONTGOMERY — During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s public hearing on a constitutional carry bill on Wednesday, a Democratic state senator accused Second Amendment advocates of wanting people with mental illnesses to be able to purchase and possess firearms, leading the senator to assert that these same advocates themselves have “some mental problems.”

State Sen. Gerald Allen’s (R-Tuscaloosa) SB 4 would get rid of the requirement that a gun owner has to have a permit to carry a lawfully owned firearm. It would not affect any existing legal requirements for someone to lawfully obtain that firearm.

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Sheriffs from across the state came to Montgomery to oppose the bill, saying it would get rid of a useful law enforcement tool and source of revenue. They advised that gun permitting requirements give them probable cause to ask for permits when making a multiple-occupant vehicle stop and often later find that weapons then confiscated have been stolen but not previously recorded as such.

Members of Moms Demand Action also opposed the bill.

Proponents of the bill, including BamaCarry’s Eddie Fulmer, pointed to data from states that have implemented the same type of policy. They said law-abiding citizens continue to get permits when purchasing or otherwise legally obtaining weapons and that non-law-abiding citizens will continue to illegally obtain and possess firearms. They also said that law enforcement concerns about safety are not backed up by the data from these other states and added that similar concerns when Alabama moved from a “may issue” state to “shall issue” in 2013 did not come to fruition.

However, none of this testimony was new or particularly noteworthy. The same debate happened last year when the bill passed the Senate but stalled in the House.

The fireworks started when the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Todd Adkins was speaking in favor of SB 4. Afterward, State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile) used her opportunity to ask questions of Adkins to launch into a diatribe that had nothing to do with the bill at hand, or any bill that has been filed in the Alabama legislature.

“[W]hy would you want to do certain things that really put people at greater risk?” Figures asked, not pausing for an answer.

She said, “You even want to repeal a part of the law that’s in place now about carrying weapons into a demonstration, where everyone knows that the emotions are high … and we also know Congresswoman (Gabby) Giffords (of Arizona) was actually shot during that time, during a demonstration. Why would you want to take away the presumption of intent? That somebody could just shoot someone else and not even have intent, to repeal that. I really don’t understand it. I’ve always gotten an ‘F’ from the National Rifle Association and that’s a proud ‘F’ that I receive… I just don’t understand the mentality of what you guys or – or what you guys continue to push to do. Particularly, with all the gun violence that is happening, to allow a person to be able to get a gun who has mental problems – to me that says the person who’s pushing that has some mental problems. They don’t understand why people with mental issues shouldn’t have a weapon.”

State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), the chairman of the committee, then kindly warned her, “Let’s keep it close now, Senator.”

“Well, it’s just fact,” Figures responded, then saying, “I didn’t call any names.”

“But you are talking to me,” Adkins said.

“Well, I’m talking to you because you are representing the National Rifle Association, but I’m also talking about all of the people who keep pushing this,” Figures admitted. “I don’t understand why you all don’t understand that part of it. It just – I don’t understand.”

Speaking to Yellowhammer News after the hearing, Adkins explained that Figures’ assertions were sadly indicative of devolving American discourse, as scare tactics and smears now reign above substantive debate.

“Well, obviously I understand that this is a controversial issue for folks on both sides… so I understand that people can get excited and rather dramatic about this,” Adkins said. “But I’m the NRA. And we have members throughout this state, and I can assure you that we believe in the right to self-defense. We believe in the Second Amendment. That certainly doesn’t mean we have any issues that she was attempting to associate with us.”

He continued, “I’ve seen it become more and more common in the public square unfortunately these days that such attacks are made. And I will say: I respect her right to voice her opinion certainly. That’s what these types of hearings are all about, but I won’t characterize why necessarily she made them. I’ll just say I know all the people I work on behalf of – our members in this state – are good, law-abiding citizens.”

Ward said the committee will vote on the bill next week.

RELATED: Lt. Gov. Ainsworth: ‘I don’t think you should have to have a permit to carry’

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

2 days ago

7 Things: Trump ready for Mueller report, Alabama’s potential new abortion bill is ready for a public hearing, deeper look at new polling looks bad for Doug Jones and Roy Moore and more …

(Wikicommons, WH/Flickr)

7. The new Alabama ethics bill is not dead and the sponsor doesn’t like Alabama’s attorney general’s suggestion for changes

— State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) continues to make the argument for his new ethics proposal, although most expect it to have little chance of passing. A new hang up between Attorney General Steve Marshall and the senator’s proposal is that Marshall wants the standard of proof for an ethics violation to be “reasonable doubt” and the senator prefers a stricter bar of “intentional wrongdoing.” Any attempt to change the ethics law to weaken it, regardless of if that is needed or not, will be met with claims of corruption, which makes the task even more of a long-shot. One piece of ethics legislation passed the Alabama Senate 31-0 and the House 94-4. It creates a permanent exemption to the ethics law for those working on site selection for economic development from lobbying requirements.

6. Alabama House passes a bill that requires schools to conduct the pledge of allegiance but kids don’t have to participate

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— The bill would require all K-12 public schools to hold the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of every school day. House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) sponsored the bill, saying that he was surprised to find out that his grandchildren’s school didn’t conduct the pledge of allegiance in the morning, despite the state Board of Education requirement. The bill gives students the opportunity to voluntarily recite the pledge every morning. The bill passed with a 101-0 vote.

5. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) claims that only a few people are on board with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is false

— Pelosi previously said that there are only “like five people” that fall in line with AOC, but there have actually been 68 Democrats voting alone with AOC. Since January, the 68 lawmakers voted with AOC at least 95 percent of the time, which includes presidential candidates such as Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), as well as House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-CA). Democratic leaders like Pelosi continue to try and say that the majority of Democrats don’t support the same line of thinking as AOC, but that has continued to be proven as false. Also, Pelosi wants everyone to know that Democrats aren’t anti-Semitic because Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) keeps being anti-Semitic. She argued, “We have no taint of that in the Democratic Party.”

4. State Senator Chris Elliot (R-Spanish Fort) wants harsher penalties on people who commit acts of violence against law enforcement officers

— The legislation that Elliot has introduced would basically make law enforcement officers a protected class, similar to race, religion, national origin, ethnicity or physical or mental disability, which could make targeted violence against officers a hate crime. On Tuesday, Elliot said in a statement, “Every day, our law enforcement risk their lives to serve and protect Alabamians. It is vital that we do everything we can to ensure their safety and to punish, to the fullest extent of the law, those who target them. This bill extends that justice even further, and hits even harder, the criminals who attempt to do harm to police officers and sheriffs.” The bill is scheduled for consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

3. New polling roils the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2020

— The Yellowhammer News headline accurately hit the point that white voters in Alabama do not like U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) and only 20 percent of them want him re-elected. The numbers inside the latest poll say more about the Republican battle brewing to take on Jones, who has a one-point favorability edge (45-44). The opponent Jones already vanquished is leading the pack but the poll, which was conducted April 9 -11, ignores the fact that former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville announced days before the poll started; so many are dismissing the results. Pollster Jim McLaughlin noted that while Moore is leading the poll, it doesn’t really look that good for him with 96 percent name identification but only 27 percent supporting him. It’s worse for Jones, though. Bottom line: “Jones appears to be a goner against any Republican unless Roy Moore became the nominee, which doesn’t seem likely.”

2. Alabama abortion ban bill gets a hearing

— The bill would ban almost all abortions. Performing an abortion would be a felony, punishable by 10-99 years in prison, but women would not be charged for having the procedure. The only exemption allowed in the bill is if the health of the mother is at risk, but there are no exemptions for rape or incest. The legislation has been criticized for being in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade, but this is not the first time a state has considered legislation that bans abortion. The public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

1. President Donald Trump anticipates that the Muller report will vindicate him, but reports indicate some White House officials are dreading the report

— According to CNN, for some former and current White House officials, the release of the Mueller report isn’t a rosy moment. Some are even dreading the publication of the 300+ page report that is set to be released on Thursday. Despite this, though, President Trump is eager to see his name cleared and believes that the report will fully vindicate him. Trump was quick to speak out when many Democrats demanded the full release, saying that he was fine with a complete release of the Mueller report. Trump has maintained throughout the whole process that he is innocent and the overall vindication has already come. Meanwhile, Democrats have signed a “secret letter” to continue pursuing the president at all cost.

2 days ago

Poll: Alabamians approve of Ivey’s, Shelby’s job performance more than Trump’s

A new poll released Wednesday morning by a non-partisan national research firm showed that Governor Kay Ivey, President Donald Trump and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) enjoy varying degrees of positive job approval ratings in the Yellowhammer State.

The poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, which has offices in Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville, FL, was conducted April 9-11 and surveyed 625 registered Alabama voters by telephone. The margin of error is four percent.

Ivey has an eye-popping 32-point net job approval rating, with 60 percent approving versus 28 percent who disapprove. Trump’s job performance is also popular, as 52 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove. Shelby has the same percentage who approve as Trump, but enjoys a significantly larger net rating because only 35 percent disapprove.

This is the first publicly released polling data after Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package was passed. Her new numbers from the Mason-Dixon largely are not a significant swing from her pre-Rebuild Alabama numbers in Morning Consult’s poll that covered the final quarter of 2018.

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In that previous Morning Consult survey, 63 percent of Alabamians said they approved of Ivey’s job performance, while only 19 percent disapproved and 18 percent either do not know or had no opinion. The margin of error in that polling was one percent.

Additionally, the new Mason-Dixon polling generally mirrors Shelby’s Morning Consult data from the final quarter of 2018. That survey had 47 percent of Alabamians approving his job performance and 27 percent disapproving.

However, Trump’s numbers in the Mason-Dixon poll represent a sizable deviation from Morning Consult data from March 1, which said 61 percent of Alabamians approve of the president’s job performance and 35 percent disapprove. Alabama has consistently been one of the highest three states for Trump’s approval ratings, often coming in at the top.

Moving back exclusively to the new Mason-Dixon polling, demographic breakdowns show that Ivey has a positive net approval rating with both Republicans and Democrats.

Comparatively, even though she enjoys a much bigger net approval rating, Trump scores considerably better amongst Republicans than the governor does. This is explained by Democrats even approving of Ivey’s job performance 45-41, while they disapprove of Trump’s by 93-4.

Trump is approved 87-9 by Republicans while Ivey scores a 75-16 score in the same metric.

Shelby, while certainly popular with his own party, has relatively balanced support, too. Republicans approve of Alabama’s senior senator 65-22 while Democrats disapprove 57-29.

Ivey also is approved by both white (66-24) and black people (46-37) alike.

This was the same poll that showed Sen. Doug Jones’ (D-AL) re-election bid faces huge demographic barriers. The polling was just released in two parts between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mason-Dixon CEO & Managing Director Brad Coker told Yellowhammer News that this polling was done in conjunction with public policy research for several private clients.

“We did an omnibus issue poll for about a dozen public policy clients in the state. Then we added the election questions for our own use,” Coker explained.

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

2 days ago

U.S. Dept. of Commerce awards funds to Mobile, Tallassee for booming Alabama manufacturing

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) on Tuesday announced that it is awarding a $500,000 grant to support the development of the new Flight Works Alabama Aviation Education Center in Mobile and a $2.4 million grant to the city of Tallassee to make critical infrastructure upgrades and improvements needed to enhance the competitiveness of the local business community.

Aviation Education Center, Inc. is located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (President Donald Trump’s tax cuts) designated “Opportunity Zone,” providing special incentives for further private sector participation and development.

“President Trump is committed to helping businesses acquire the skilled workforce that they need to succeed,” U.S. assistant secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dr. John Fleming said in a statement. “Aviation Education Center, Inc., plays a critical role in developing highly-skilled and interested students, who will help the Mobile area grow and become more resilient to the economic impact of natural disasters.”

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The Mobile project will contribute to economic diversification in a region that has been impacted by natural disasters such as Hurricane Irma. The funding was made possible through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, in which Congress appropriated to EDA $600 million in additional economic adjustment assistance funds for disaster relief and recovery as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, wildfires and other calendar year 2017 natural disasters under the Stafford Act.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), as the powerful chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, played an integral leading role in that budget legislation.

“The new Flight Works Alabama Aviation Education Center will help provide Mobile’s future workforce with the necessary preparation to pursue opportunities in the aerospace industry,” Shelby said. “The facility will host professional training for individuals, equipping them with the skills needed to be successful in a competitive job market. I am grateful for EDA’s continued investment in Alabama’s workforce development and look forward to the growth made possible by this $500,000 grant.”

Tallassee

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross personally announced the $2.4 million grant to the city of Tallassee on Tuesday. According to grantee estimates, the project is expected to create 10 jobs, retain 2,059 jobs and spur an additional $455,000 in private investment.

This project will upgrade Tallassee’s sewer collection system and construct a new, modern treatment plant to support the region’s industrial and business community.

“Infrastructure is important to the Trump Administration because it helps further propel economic advancements in our country,” Ross stated. “This investment in the city of Tallassee and the surrounding region will provide the tools necessary for business growth in the advanced manufacturing, healthcare and automotive sectors.”

The project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission.

Governor Kay Ivey and Shelby both voiced their appreciation and support for the important investment and public-private collaboration.

“It’s my mission as governor to help plant seeds for opportunity across every corner of Alabama. Enhancing infrastructure is a necessary component for future growth,” Ivey said. “I am grateful to the U.S. Department of Commerce and Secretary Wilbur Ross for selecting Tallassee, Alabama to receive these critical enhancements. The Trump Administration clearly understands that infrastructure must be a priority to foster a thriving economy, and I am proud to support those efforts.”

Shelby stated,“This $2.4 million EDA grant will play a vital role in generating growth and economic development in and around Tallassee. The water and wastewater system upgrades will improve quality of life for residents and promote efficiency throughout the local business community, allowing for further expansion. I look forward to seeing the impact this grant will have on Tallassee and the surrounding region.”

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

2 days ago

Alabama Senate passes bill to end prison food fund racket

(YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed SB 228, the bill sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) to close the loophole that currently allows county sheriffs to personally pocket surplus funds for feeding prisoners in their custody.

“This has been a problem, especially over the last year, and I’m glad the Senate has stepped forward with a solution. I appreciate the sheriffs working with us to update the law and end this archaic system where county sheriffs are held personally liable for the money to feed prisoners,” Orr said in a statement. “As we have seen over the last year, that creates all sorts of perverse incentives. The vast majority of sheriffs in Alabama have acted honorably, but there have been some bad actors who have taken advantage of the system.”

The bill would also increase the amount of state funds appropriated for prisoner food to $2.25 per prisoner daily. This amount will increase two percent annually to account for inflation.

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“It is also crucial that we slightly increase how much we spend on prisoners for their food rations—it has been decades since the formula was adjusted and inflation and food costs have risen quite a bit since it was last revisited, and that puts the local jails in a bind,” Orr explained.

SB 228 now heads to the House for a first reading. The bill stemmed from the March 2018 revelation that then-Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin had personally pocketed more than $750,000 in excess food funds, which was legal under current state law.

Heath Taylor, sheriff of Russell County and president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, is appreciative of Orr sponsoring the bill.

“We greatly appreciate Senator Orr and the Alabama Senate for assisting us in fixing this issue. They have been very supportive and diligent in their efforts,” Taylor emphasized. “Over the last several years the Alabama Sheriffs Association has sought repeatedly to make this change, but to no avail. Our hope is that the House of Representatives will bring closure by also passing this bill and allowing us to continue protecting our citizens and making our society a better place to live.”

Orr’s bill also places the liability of feeding prisoners on the state, which removes the burden from county sheriffs.

Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of the County Commissions of Alabama, also praised Orr’s leadership and voiced his support for SB 228.

“For as long as I have been involved in county government, everyone has agreed that we should do something about the feeding of inmates in Alabama jails. Our sheriffs and Senator Arthur Orr developed a bill that ensures transparency with public audits, makes it clear that public money can never be converted to private use and that the public will never hear another story about the conversion of jail money into a personal account,” Brasfield said. “We look forward to the passage of this bill in the House and to it being signed into law as quickly as possible.”

“Counties are grateful for the leadership of Sen. Orr and for the sheriffs who were dogmatic in their commitment to put this issue behind us — once and for all,” he added.

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