3 months ago

7 Things: Shutdown day 27 sees Pelosi cancel Trump’s SOTU, Giuliani backtracks on collusion, former Rep. Ed Henry pleads guilty to one charge, and more …

7. Airbus adding 400 new jobs and investing $300 million in Alabama, making Mobile the fourth largest aircraft manufacturer

— Airbus will begin building the A220 aircraft, the newest offering in Airbus. The state kicked assistance for Airbus to get the jobs in the form of support from AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency.

— Governor Kay Ivey pointed out that this is great for Alabama, now and in the future, because it will “strengthen the bonds that have developed between the global aerospace company and our state. Alabama has a long history in flight and, as this project shows, a bright future in the aviation industry.”

6. Alabama’s former quarterback Jalen Hurts chooses to transfer to Oklahoma

— In an expected move, Alabama lost the best backup QB in the nation to the Oklahoma Sooners for his senior season. As a graduate transfer, he can play immediately.

— Hurts, the consummate team player, took to a backup role for Alabama after Tua Tagovailoa took the reins and helped Alabama to a national title over Georgia. He wrote Alabama fans a letter thanking them for their support.

5. Four Americans are killed in Syria — two soldiers and two civilians; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wonders if our withdrawal emboldens our enemies

— ISIS has claimed responsibility for the deadly explosion while conducting a routine patrol. It killed eight people in total.

— Graham’s criticism echoes the criticism conservatives leveled at President Barack Obama when he pulled troops from Iraq prematurely. He said, “My concern, by the statements made by President Trump, is that you set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting. You make people we’re trying to help wonder about us. And as they get bolder, the people we’re trying to help are going to get more uncertain. I saw this in Iraq. And I’m now seeing it in Syria.”

4. Another caravan crosses into Guatemala to head towards the United States after other caravans are seen as successes

— This migrant caravan formed in Honduras and plans to seek sanctuary in either Mexico or the United States. It could number up to 2,000 people.

— This caravan, like the other caravans that have headed to the United States, is being declared a group of refugees, but a member of the caravan admitted they are heading to the U.S. for work, saying, “We are going out of necessity, because of the poverty.”

3. Former State Rep. Ed Henry officially pleads guilty

— Henry pleaded to one charge of theft of government property. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed all 17 counts of a previous indictment that included conspiracy and violation of an anti-kickback law.

— Prosecutors said Henry had deals with doctors to waive Medicare co-pays and then reimburse Henry’s company for services that prosecutors believe patients would decline had they been required to pay the co-payments.

2. Trump’s spokesperson appears to backtrack on claims that there was no collusion with the Trump campaign and Russia

— In an appearance on CNN last night, Rudy GiulianI claimed, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.”

— This could be a sloppy media appearance or it could be an acknowledgment that someone in the Trump campaign did something wrong with Russia. Either way, this will be dissected along with Giuliani’s previous comments.

1. As we enter day 27 of the government shutdown, the president met with the bipartisan “Problem Solver Caucus” as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) cancels the State of the Union

— The meeting was held at the White House with Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying, “The president and his team had a constructive meeting with bipartisan members of the problem solvers caucus.” Democrats declared a real “conversation can only begin in earnest once the government is reopened.”

— Pelosi’s aggressive decision to cancel the SOTU is being met with resistance from Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and from within her own party. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) says it is the “wrong approach,” adding, “Where I come from in West Virginia we just don’t act this way.”

Everyone can now have their own sweet home in Alabama

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

Byrne: Alabama the Beautiful

As the weather continues to warm and summer temperatures approach, I am reminded of the incredible natural beauty that lies here in Alabama.

For many schools throughout Southwest Alabama, April marked Spring Break for students and teachers, and so many families take advantage of that time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors throughout our state.

As a hunter and outdoorsman, I know the importance of managing our wildlife areas and natural resources – private, family-owned and public lands – to ensure they are around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy for decades to come. That is why I have once again joined the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to protect and advance our national heritage of hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and trapping.

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As anyone who lives here knows, along the Gulf Coast we are blessed with an amazingly diverse and important ecosystem.

This week, I will be visiting the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge along the Fort Morgan Peninsula to celebrate the completion of a significant land conservation effort within the Little Point Clear Unit. Bon Secour is home to countless species and is a favorite outdoor spot for many Southwest Alabamians.

Just across Mobile Bay, I’ll also have the privilege of participating in the Lightning Point Restoration Project groundbreaking in Bayou La Batre, another successful coastal restoration project made possible by local leadership and public-private partnerships.

With miles of trails and plenty to do and see, I am committed to preserving these important resources and habitats for future generations.

Just here in our backyard of Southwest Alabama, we also have Gulf State Park, Meaher State Park, Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, Frank Jackson State Park, dozens of walking trails, outdoor spaces and campgrounds.

It is up to us to take care of our area. Just a few weeks ago, Orange Beach was named the cleanest town in Alabama. What an accomplishment for Orange Beach residents!

It is also up to Congress to ensure that we take care of our natural resources as well. That is why I have continued to fight for just compensation in cases of natural disaster or human error.

The RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States) Act has provided funds for the cleanup from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that greatly impacted our shores and communities. It is important that the entirety of those funds are distributed as intended to the impacted communities and that such a disaster is not repeated in the future.

Similarly, I am grateful to President Trump for maintaining the funding for the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). This legislation provides for fair compensation to Alabama by creating revenue sharing provisions used for coastal conservation, restoration and hurricane protection.

Enjoying the beauty of mother nature along the coast also means having to recover when she turns violent.

We are unfortunately all too familiar with hurricanes and other violent storms in our area. Being prepared goes a long way to riding out the storm, but it is how we recover that defines the spirit of resilience that we have here in Alabama. When the worst does happen, I always fight to ensure that the people of Alabama have access to the necessary funds and resources to recover from those natural disasters.

I have lived my whole life in Alabama, and I believe we live in the most beautiful state in the country. Whenever I am out in nature with my kids and grandkids, hunting, fishing, or simply enjoying God’s creation, I understand why we call it “Alabama the Beautiful.”

This year, as the Spring turns into Summer, make sure you take time to enjoy nature and get out and enjoy our parks, history and everything Alabama has to offer.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

2 hours ago

Rebuild Alabama projects keep coming: Hwy 82 in Prattville and Hwy 411 in Cherokee County

Announcements of Rebuild Alabama infrastructure projects are starting to become an everyday occurrence.

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday outlined that the Alabama Department of Transportation has selected major transportation projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan 2020.

“Drivers across Alabama have experienced the troubles of the state’s crumbling infrastructure for far too long. In selecting these projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties, we’re showing that stagnation is no longer the case in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement. “For the ease of our drivers, for the safety of our drivers and for the future of our state, it’s finally time we Rebuild Alabama!”

This comes after announcements of significant projects for the Huntsville area and Tuscaloosa in recent days.

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In a cluster of Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan projects, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 82 in Prattville, a project that this area has long been awaiting for over 60 years. These enhancements to US 82 will shorten the daily commute of over 17,000 drivers and also complete the Prattville Bypass, according to the governor’s office.

Additionally, the widening of US 82 will improve access for loggers traveling to the International Paper plant from 18 Alabama counties. Six hundred workers from 23 Alabama counties will reportedly find increased ease in their work commutes, as this project improves access to the James Hardie Building Projects Facility and the other companies in the area.

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), who carried the Rebuild Alabama Act in the Senate, lauded the announcement as a huge win for jobs and the community. He also emphasized that these types of projects will ultimately be transformational for the Yellowhammer State.

“These are the first steps of many that will begin the process of Rebuild Alabama. Industry is a backbone of our economic engine, and I am pleased that Governor Ivey is moving Alabama forward with these improvements,” Chambliss remarked. “I firmly believe that we will look back on 2019 as a turning point in the history of our state.”

State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville), who represents this project’s district in the House, voted against the Rebuild Alabama Act. A freshman legislator, he is currently considering a run for the U.S. Senate, as reported by Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “The Insider.”

‘Long-awaited’ project for a rural part of Alabama

In Cherokee County, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 411 as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan.

“The widening of US 411 has been long-awaited by the folks of Cherokee and Etowah counties, and it is vital for the economic development of this area,” State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) said. “As we begin to see dividends from the Rebuild Alabama Act, I once again thank Governor Ivey for her leadership in its passage and look forward to continually working together in the future.”

Cherokee County is one of 16 Alabama counties currently not served by a four-lane route to an interstate. This Rebuild Alabama project will fulfill a promise that the people of this area have waited for since the early 1960s.

“I appreciate and support Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama plan, including investing in rural districts,” State Rep. Ginny Shaver (R-Leesburg) said. “Four lane access to the interstate will greatly increase economic development opportunities for new and existing industry in our area. The people have been waiting decades for this project to be completed, and Governor Ivey is the one who is getting it done!”

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

2 hours ago

Ivey to introduce book published by Alabama nonprofit dedicated to health and literacy

As part of its HEAL Day celebration in Montgomery, an Alabama nonprofit advocating for health and literacy will host Governor Kay Ivey for the introduction of a new book written by its founder.

Ivey will read the book, written by HEAL founder and CEO Christy Swaid, to 200 children in the state capitol auditorium.

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The Ultimate Treasure Hunt is a book that Swaid hopes will help children better understand the connection between health and literacy.

HEAL is an acronym summarizing the group’s mission: Healthy Eating Active Living. According to HEAL, it is “dedicated to unifying Alabama to reverse the trend of chronic disease and poor literacy.” The organization works with 30,000 students and 85,000 family members in 153 schools across the state.

Ivey’s book reading is part of an event the group is calling “HEAL Day: A day of education & celebration of health, academic achievement and literacy in the great state of Alabama.”

Where: Alabama State Capitol
When: May 1, 10:30am-1:00pm — Governor’s presentation is set for 11:00am with book reading to follow
Watch:

HB352 seeks to save the American Dream for Alabama small business owners

The American Dream.

It is woven into the fabric of our nation’s success and yet, at some point, for small business owners across Alabama, the dream of small business success that drives hardworking Alabama men and women to work 70 hour weeks, to pour their hearts and souls into building small businesses the vision of leaving something behind for their children, began to be threatened by large out of state corporate interests and under current Alabama law, there were no legal protections for those that saw their hard work, sweat, tears and dollars taken away.

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The Bush family spent nearly three decades building a successful small business in rural Elmore County. Twenty-six years ago, Darrel Bush’s parents purchased a Huddle House franchise and began the grueling task of opening a new restaurant. The restaurant grew into a success and, as they became ready, the next generation of the Bush family joined the business. Two generations of a single family were living the American Dream until the Huddle House corporation decided they wanted the profits that the Bush’s were making for themselves – cut out the small business owners that built the Huddle House name in Wetumpka.

Once the corporation had their eyes set on the Bush’s business, they used corporate bullying to drive the Bush’s out of business so that the corporation could build a company-owned Huddle House just a mile down the road. Alabama law had no protections for the Bush family and they lost the dream they had devoted their lives to achieving.

Unfortunately, the Bush family is not alone. Time after time, Alabama’s small business owners find themselves at the mercy of large out of state corporations due to our state’s weak franchisee protection laws.

Under current statute, the out of state franchisors hold all of the cards while Alabama small business owners are largely powerless to defend themselves. It is not uncommon for these franchisors to come back year after year and demand changes to franchise contracts. If the franchisees balk at agreeing to the changes, their businesses are threatened. They are often forced to purchase products at far above the fair market value, forced to make investments of their profits into systems and programs that benefit the corporation, not their small business. If a location gets too successful, they are at risk of being shut down so that a corporate owned store can open up down the street and usurp the profits for the corporation. Often, franchise owners are told that they can’t leave their businesses to their children.

Many Alabama franchisees lives in a constant state of fear.

Representative Connie Rowe (R-Walker County) is hoping to give Alabama’s small business men and women a fair playing field in the State of Alabama with HB352, the Alabama Small Business Act. The legislation, which will be heard in committee in the Alabama House of Representatives this week, will protect the rights of the state’s business owners and the 125,000 jobs they provide.

The bill gives franchisees the rights to have disputes heard in Alabama’s court system, rather than being forced to go to court in the franchisor’s home state. It would also require that franchisor corporations negotiate in good faith in their dealings with Alabama’s franchise owners.

This legislation is about more than protecting the rights of business owners. This legislation is about protecting the American Dream and that is something we should all be able to support.