8 months ago

650-mile paddle race from Weiss Lake to Mobile Bay awards winners

Florida native Bobby Johnson won the inaugural Great Alabama 650 paddle race from Weiss Lake to Mobile Bay.

Johnson set a blistering pace for the 650-mile core section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, completing the race in seven days, eight hours, one minute and 55 seconds. He crossed the finish line at Fort Morgan between 10 and 11 p.m. Sept. 21.

It was a race that took competitors onto some of the most scenic lakes and rivers in the state and past Alabama Power dams and waterways.

Johnson covered more than 85 miles per day with an average moving speed of almost 5 miles per hour. Before the race started, Johnson said he wanted “to set the time to beat on the course.”

Great Alabama 650 paddle race showcases state’s beauty, racers’ endurance from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Not far behind Johnson was Salli O’Donnell, the only female solo competitor. O’Donnell, who lives in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, led for the first 500 miles of the race and finished at roughly 5 a.m., or six hours behind Johnson.

Both Johnson and O’Donnell were recognized in a ceremony Sept. 22, even though the race was still on at that point. Tandem paddlers Ryan Gillikin of Bay Minette and Susan Jordan of Mississippi had a great incentive to paddle on. As the last entry in the race, the team stood to collect a $7,500 prize if they completed the race in under 10 days.

The two did just that on their ninth day. Of the 12 entrants in the Alabama 650, only the three winners completed the course.

As the top male, top female and top tandem, the finishers split a $22,500 prize equally among those three divisions.

For more information on the Great Alabama 650 and plans for 2020’s race, visit alabamascenicrivertrail.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 mins ago

Alabama Democratic Party chair calls on Jefferson Davis state holiday to be abolished

State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), the chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, on Thursday sent a letter to Governor Kay Ivey in support of ending the state holiday that recognizes Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

The holiday this year was on Monday, June 1; it is recognized on the first Monday in June of every year in accordance with state law (Section 1-3-8, Code of Alabama 1975).

In his letter, England requested that Ivey include amending this section of state law if she calls a special session this year. The 2020 regular session of the legislature ended last month.

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England has been a member of the state legislature since November 2006.

Yellowhammer News’ search of online legislative archives found that no bill has been introduced during England’s tenure in the legislature to end Alabama’s state holiday recognizing Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

Before Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010, both the Alabama Senate and the House had been majority-Democrat since 1868.

State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) brought a bill in 2015 that would have made both Jefferson Davis’ birthday holiday and Confederate Memorial Day unpaid state holidays, unless decided otherwise by the governor each year. The holidays are currently paid. That bill passed out of committee but never received a vote on the Senate floor.

Jefferson Davis, a member of the Democratic Party, served as president of the Confederacy from 1861-1865.

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

1 hour ago

Legislation easing restrictions on PPP loan payback supported by Alabama congressional delegation

Each member of Alabama’s congressional delegation voted in support of a bill to ease restrictions on businesses receiving loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that passed Congress this week and now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk.

The bill extends the time businesses have to spend their loans from eight to 24 weeks. Additionally, to qualify for loan forgiveness, borrowers would now be required to spend 60% of the loan on payroll where it had been 75% previously.

The Trump administration told Politico that the program has saved 50 million jobs across the country. The Birmingham Business Journal is reporting that $6 billion in PPP funds have been distributed in Alabama.

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The PPP was created as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus packages known as the CARES Act that Congress passed in March as an attempt to alleviate the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program proved so popular that legislation to replenish the funds proved necessary later in April.

The initial rollout of the program saw overwhelming demand that swamped many loan providers and led to some small businesses not receiving their loans in a timely fashion.

The kinks were later ironed out, and currently, the federal government holds $120 billion in PPP funds still available for a small business in need.

The initial eight-week deadline to pay back the loan for businesses that did not qualify for loan forgiveness was rapidly approaching for many PPP recipients.

Both payroll and rent/mortgage costs are eligible for forgiveness under the program.

Politico reported that some lenders expect an amount of renewed interest in the loans given the extended time available for repayment.

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

2 hours ago

ALDOT awards latest round of local road, bridge grants

Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) on Thursday announced that $1.7 million in funding is being awarded to cities and counties for various local road and bridge projects.

The funding is part of ALDOT’s Annual Grant Program, which was created under the Rebuild Alabama Act enacted in spring of 2019.

The annual program by law sets aside $10 million off the top of the state’s share of Rebuild Alabama gas tax revenues for local road and bridge projects. This accounts for a small portion of the overall tax revenues that are put towards infrastructure improvements across the state.

A total of $7 million was already awarded earlier this year, with approximately $1.3 million to be awarded later this fiscal year.

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“Alabamians across the state are continually seeing the progress made on our roads and bridges. These projects now nearing a total of $9 million are going to go a long way in improving our state and the daily lives of every Alabamian,” Ivey said in a statement.

“Having a modern and safe infrastructure system will help Alabama continue to advance, and I remain committed to ensuring that this is a reality for us,” she concluded.

This latest award cycle sees six projects added to the 31 projects announced earlier this year. It is anticipated that all projects will be under contract by the end of the calendar year, after bids are taken.

You can view a list of the six new projects awarded grants here.

In addition to the Annual Grant Program, local governments can also apply for infrastructure funding under the ATRIP-II program, also created by the Rebuild Alabama Act.

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

3 hours ago

Huntsville mayor: ‘People who were not part of our community’ led Wednesday protest which resulted in tear gas usage, police officer injury

Huntsville has made the news after law enforcement officers on Wednesday used tear gas to break up a crowd who reportedly refused to comply with orders to disperse.

At least one police officer was injured Wednesday evening by the so-called protesters, and a reporter on the scene said objects were thrown at law enforcement vehicles. One local business was damaged.

On Thursday morning, Mayor Tommy Battle released a statement about what occurred, noting that “people who were not part of our community” were responsible for the unpermitted gathering that led to the clash.

“Yesterday, our city saw two separate protest events. The first was organized by the local chapter of the NAACP who worked with the City and Huntsville Police to organize a thoughtful event filled with hope and a call for justice,” the mayor said. “We gathered to mourn the tragedy that occurred in Minneapolis. We came together in supporting a First Amendment right to voice a call for change throughout our country. I saw families and small children. Students and seniors. Black and white. Our community has a shared mission – more must be done.”

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However, Battle outlined that a separate gathering from the permitted NAACP event subsequently occurred.

“What occurred after the NAACP event was disheartening,” he noted.

“A second event occurred, structured by people who were not part of our community,” Battle advised. “They gathered at the courthouse to block the square and protest.”

The mayor explained, “This was not part of a permitted event, and there were no local organizers in charge, which becomes a public safety issue. Even so, police allowed the protestors time to express themselves before asking everyone to leave. Most complied, but others did not. Police were clear in their instructions and worked with the remaining protestors for more than an hour before using non-lethal irritants. The protesters had every opportunity to peacefully leave and they chose otherwise. The leadership of this second group is not our community.”

“It is a hard thing for us to see in Huntsville, but we’ve worked too hard to grow this city as a place of respect and opportunity,” Battle concluded. “Let us turn pain into purpose and do the hard work to create meaningful change. We won’t let people and organizations from outside our community turn us against each other. This is a time for us to unite, to protect the city we love and to move forward in a way that is more equitable and just.​”

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

3 hours ago

State Sen. Elliott tabbed as ’emerging legislative leader’ by national foundation

State Senator Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) has been selected by a national group to be a member of the 2020 Emerging Legislative Leaders Program.

The national group choosing Elliott is the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF) in partnership with the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Elliott is one of 50 state legislators from across the United States taking part in the program. Participation is limited to lawmakers in their first or second term.

“This leadership program provides an opportunity for collaboration with colleagues from across the country to share ideas and best practices to address complex public policy issues,” Elliott said in a release about his selection.

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The selection process included a nomination by Alabama State Senate leadership followed by a personal application from Elliott himself.

The application form on the SLLF site asks those applying for the program to be thorough in giving their responses because “this is a very competitive application process.”

Elliott commented, “I am humbled and honored to have been nominated by Senate Leadership and selected by SLLF to represent Alabama in this prestigious program.”

The program in which Elliott will take part is held in Charlottesville on the campus of the University of Virginia. The foundation’s website describes the proceedings as “4 days of challenging classroom discussions, led by a team of professors at the Darden School.”

Alabama legislators who have been selected as an “emerging leader” in years past include then-Rep. Greg Canfield (R-Vestavia Hills), Rep. Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville), Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham) and Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster).

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