2 weeks ago

7 Things: Alabama hospitalizations concern medical officials, state legislator seeks to create ‘fair’ shutdown rules, McConnell wants issues addressed with increased stimulus and more …

7. A lot of people are moving to Alabama

  • In 47 of the 67 counties across the state, there’s a net gain of out-of-state arrivals moving in. More people are moving to the state every year, and we’ve especially seen this reflected in recent years.
  • To no surprise, Tuscaloosa, Madison, Jefferson, Montgomery, Baldwin and Morgan Counties saw some of the biggest growth. As a whole, Alabama has had a net gain of about 25,000 people moving into the state per year from 2014-2018, according to Census data. Mobile County is one of the few counties in the state that had more people move out rather than in.

6. Nashville bomber had cops called on him for making bombs

  • The motivations for Nashville suicide bomber Anthony Quinn Warner are still unknown, but Nashville police apparently visited his home 16 months ago after being told he was making bombs in his recreation vehicle.
  • Warner’s girlfriend alerted the police, but it appears that nothing was done even though the police were told he “frequently talks about the military and bomb making” and “knows what he is doing and is capable of making a bomb.” The Nashville Police Department says it alerted the FBI to the report after going to his house and knocking on the door several times with no answer.

5. Famous anti-vaxxer cuts line to get vaccinated

  • Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was vaccinated this morning, as was her husband. Harris received the Moderna vaccine. She said she wants “to encourage everyone to get the vaccine. It is relatively painless, it happens really quickly. It is safe. This is about saving lives. It’s literally about saving lives. I trust the scientists, and it is the scientists who created and approved this vaccine everyone.”
  • Previously, Harris had cast doubt on the vaccine. During the vice presidential debate, Harris said, “If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it, absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I’m not taking it.”

4. Possible Conservative Policy Caucus coming to Alabama

  • Former State Senator and now Alabama Policy Institute director of policy strategy Phil Williams said that there’s an effort underway to form a group similar to the Freedom Caucus, but likely call it something like the “Conservative Policy Caucus.”
  • The objective of the group will be to promote conservative policies in the Alabama Senate. Williams stressed the importance of this in the upcoming legislative session and future. He explained, “[L]ike when you see things like big government spending but no tax cuts, when you see things like whether we are going to reopen our society or we are going to restore the balance of power to the legislature, where the executive branch has done everything this year.”

3. McConnell blocked the quick vote

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has blocked a quick vote on increasing the $600 stimulus checks to $2,000. He did say that they will address President Donald Trump’s request to increase the checks, but there’s been no legitimate commitment from McConnell.
  • McConnell brought up that Trump also wants the bill to include election security and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act due to Facebook and Twitter’s conduct. McConnell said, “Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together. This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”

2. State Rep Kiel: If businesses can open, so can churches

  • After seeing how the initial shutdown across Alabama and other states have done, it’s clear that small businesses were impacted far more than big box stores because they were allowed to remain open in most states. Now, State Representative Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville) wants to make sure that shutdown orders are fair for businesses and churches.
  • Kiel has prefiled a bill for the upcoming legislative session that would allow if one business can stay open, others can as well, and churches could stay open if businesses are open. Kiel said that in the early stages of the pandemic, there were a lot of “drastic measures taken to avoid COVID.” But he noted that “not all businesses were closed, just those that were deemed nonessential…any small business owner’s business is essential if it is the person that owns it essential to them and their livelihood.”

1. Alabama is getting to a concerning point with hospitalizations

  • Currently, Alabama is nearing the top of the list in the country for coronavirus cases per capita and hospitalizations. Director of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo said, “Alabama is now experiencing some unenviable records.”
  • She detailed that Alabama ranks in at “No. 6 in the nation per capita for coronavirus cases on average over the last seven days and we’re behind the states like California, Arizona, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Tennessee.” There’s also ongoing concern that the situation will only get worse as cases from Christmas and New Years are diagnosed.
1 hour ago

Point Broadband to offer high-speed fiber internet on Alabama’s Lake Martin

Point Broadband announced plans to offer fiber-to-the-premises high-speed internet for select areas on Lake Martin in Alabama.

“In today’s digitally-driven world, fast and reliable fiber internet is crucial to keep everyone and everything connected,” said Point Broadband CEO Todd Holt. “Point Broadband is thrilled to offer residents and businesses in the Lake Martin area access to some of the best broadband technology available today.”

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The fiber broadband company based in West Point, Georgia, which operates in nine states, will provide up to 1 gigabit symmetrical broadband service with whole-home W-Fi, allowing numerous devices to run around the clock.

“With more people working, students learning and families entertaining all from their homes, we recognize the importance of ensuring your home has the right resources to meet your needs,” Holt said.

Lake Martin residents can sign up or express interest at point-broadband.com/lake-martin/.

Point Broadband is partnering with Alabama Power on the new initiative. The company will contract for a portion of Alabama Power’s fiber infrastructure to help support Point Broadband’s offering of high-speed internet on Lake Martin.

“The need for greater broadband accessibility for Alabamians to continue to learn, grow business and lead healthy lives is greater than ever before,” said Leslie Sanders, vice president of Alabama Power’s Southern Division. “We’re excited to partner with Point Broadband to be part of the solution. The advanced technology of our electric grid makes it smarter, more reliable and resilient, and can also help facilitate the expansion of broadband services.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

Ivey fulfills request to send Alabama National Guardsmen to D.C. for security of Biden inauguration

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has authorized the sending of approximately 250 members of the Alabama National Guard to help secure the Washington, D.C. area ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

First reported Gray Television and confirmed to Yellowhammer News, the move was made in response to a request by the head of the National Guard, Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson.

According to National Public Radio, which is based in Washington, D.C., around 20,000 members of the National Guard will be in the Capitol area to help keep the peace through the inauguration. They will come from nearly all states, per NPR’s reporting.

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The dramatically-heightened security comes in the wake of a group of President Donald Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, January 6. The violence led to the death of five people including a member of the Capitol Police.

Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, told Yellowhammer News in a statement about the National Guard’s deployment, “At the request of the Chief of The National Guard Bureau, General Daniel R. Hokanson, the Alabama National Guard has activated approximately 250 Soldiers in support of the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C.”

The activation of the soldiers comes as the FBI has warned states that protesters in the vein of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol may demonstrate in their areas over the coming days.

Ivey said at a public appearance on Tuesday that she was aware of law enforcement monitoring the situation.

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

15 hours ago

SAIL awards nearly $1 million to summer learning programs in Alabama

Summer Adventure in Learning (SAIL), a joint project of six charitable organizations, announced Thursday that dozens of organizations in Alabama that provide summer learning opportunities to children will be receiving financial support.

Forty independent programs in the state will receive a total of $898,500.

SAIL cites research showing that students from low-income families frequently lose months of reading and math skills during the summer break. The organization sets out to prevent this learning loss among low-income students by funding summer learning programs that target those kids.

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Most SAIL-affiliated programs are in the Birmingham area, though it also has six programs to whom it gives funds in the Black belt and three large programs in the Huntsville area.

“We have always known the importance of intentionally academic summer programming, but it proved more critical than ever after schools closed in the spring of 2020,” said Elizabeth Dotts Fleming, the executive director of The Schools Foundation, in a release.

The Schools Foundation is SAIL’s chief partner in the Huntsville area.

SAIL does not require the summer learning programs it funds to follow a specific curriculum, allowing a large degree of flexibility among the programs it funds.

However, all programs taking SAIL funding consent to a test of its students at the beginning and end of its run so the program’s effectiveness can be assessed.

In a release, SAIL shared that “In the summer of 2020, SAIL supported 34 programs. 14 provided in-person programs, 17 virtual, and 3 offered an at-home curriculum. Due to COVID restrictions, enrollment was down from SAIL’s normal 2,500+ students to 1,250.”

“State law requires school systems to offer summer reading camps, but leaves the implementation to each district,” remarked Mitchie Neel, the executive director of the Blount County Education Foundation.

“We know from research that how you structure a summer learning program influences how much students will learn. Partnering with SAIL allows us to meet students where they are while nurturing the whole child and bringing them up to grade level,” Neel added.

A list of the programs receiving funding from SAIL in 2021 can be found here for the Birmingham area, here for the Black Belt and here for Huntsville.

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

16 hours ago

Four Bama underclassmen — Jones, Waddle, Surtain and Barmore — declare for NFL Draft

Four underclassman members of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s national championship-winning team will not return to Tuscaloosa next fall.

Quarterback Mac Jones, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, defensive tackle Christian Barmore and cornerback Patrick Surtain II announced on Thursday they will forego their remaining college eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL Draft.

The quartet made the announcement via a press conference broadcast by the university. All four are expected by national college football analysts to be taken in the first round of the draft.

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Jones, a Heisman finalist, is declaring for the NFL after his lone season under center for the Tide — a year in which he posted dominant numbers, including leading the NCAA in completion percentage. His 2020 performance pushed him from fringe consideration to a consensus first round pick.

Waddle was already expected to be a top first round pick entering the year, and even an injury that derailed much of his season has not changed the consensus thinking. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., in December, ranked Waddle as the eighth-most talented player in the 2021 draft.

Surtain and Barmore have been similarly been graded as likely pros for much of their time at Bama. Surtain’s father played several seasons in the NFL. Kiper ranks Surtain as the best CB and Barmore as the second-best defensive tackle in the 2021 draft class.

Senior wide receiver Devonta Smith and senior running Najee Harris have not yet made their draft status official — and pandemic rule changes grant them an additional season of eligibility — but their official entrance in the draft is considered a formality. Both are expected to go in the first round along with their four underclassmen teammates who declared on Thursday.

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

17 hours ago

PowerSouth’s Gary Smith elected as chairman of Business Council of Alabama

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) on Thursday announced the organization’s 2021 board of directors, including a new chairman of the board.

PowerSouth Energy Cooperative president and CEO Gary Smith has been elected to serve as chairman of BCA, succeeding John Mazyck. Smith most recently served as chairman of ProgressPAC, BCA’s political arm, and he previously has held several other leadership roles within BCA.

“I am honored to serve as BCA’s next chairman. It’s a privilege to be a part of this organization and the board serving the businesses of Alabama,” Smith said in a statement. “I am grateful to John for the countless contributions he made throughout his time as chairman. BCA has continued to succeed in part because of his leadership. I anticipate great things for the future of this organization.”

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Mazyck is a principal at Montgomery-based The Frazier Lanier Company.

“It has been an honor to serve as Chairman and to work with an exceptional Executive Committee, Board, and Staff. We have advanced the ball for business in Alabama in 2020, and we have led with strength,” Mazyck stated. “I anticipate continued success and progress under Gary’s leadership as BCA continues to work on behalf of the business community, ensuring a stronger, more prosperous Alabama.”

Katie Boyd Britt, BCA’s president and CEO, praised Mazyck’s tenure in a statement.

“BCA is immensely grateful for John Mazyck’s leadership and his many contributions to BCA throughout his time as chairman,” she said. “John has been instrumental in moving our organization forward, building a stronger business community, and furthering the mission of BCA to create an environment where all businesses can grow and flourish.”

Smith is a graduate of the University of North Alabama and of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. He currently serves on the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama board, University of North Alabama board, Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives board, Southern Independent Bank board and the South Alabama Regional Airport board, among others.

“Gary Smith has been a valuable partner of BCA for years and has contributed so much already through his involvement,” Britt commented. “His strong leadership has positively impacted BCA and ProgressPAC in innumerable ways, and I look forward to working alongside him as he continues to work on behalf of the Alabama business community.”

Overall, the BCA board of directors includes distinguished pro-jobs leaders from across the Yellowhammer State who are willing to donate their time and resources for the betterment of all Alabamians. View a list of the 2021 directors here.

“We again have gathered an incredible group of professionals to serve as our 2021 board of directors. Every member serves an important role and brings together diverse professional experience on issues important to Alabama business,” Britt concluded. “The board plays an instrumental part in BCA’s ability to achieve the goals of growing the state’s economy, creating jobs, and encouraging investment in Alabama. I am excited to work with and learn from them as we all navigate through the new year.”

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