3 months ago

7 Things: Trump, Dems show no signs of ending shutdown, Brooks calls an illegal immigrant’s rape of a Shelby County juvenile ‘entirely avoidable’, RSA calls for legalizing weed and gambling and more …

7. The commission investigating Parkland shooting suggests arming teachers

— A state commission tasked with addressing the issues that led to the mass shooting and making suggestions to prevent future shootings unanimously approved a report on Wednesday that calls for some teachers to be armed.

— Last year, Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey created a “School Sentry” program, but no information has been made available about how many school systems or employees have taken part, if any.

6. Senator-elect Mitt Romney (R-UT) isn’t the only Republican bucking the GOP

— The soon to be senator has drawn the ire of the president of the United States by criticizing his character after seeking an appointment and an endorsement from him. The media is touting him as a new “maverick.”

— The House GOP has an outlier, too. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) says he will vote with Democrats on a series of rule changes in spite of the fact Republican leadership has threatened “consequences.”

5. 750,000+ Alabamians are on food stamps and they could run out as part of the shutdown

— The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will deliver benefits in January, but if the government remains shut down, the entitlement could not be delivered beyond that.

— An estimated 353,530 households reportedly receive food stamps in Alabama each month. Seventy percent are in families with children and one-third are for families with seniors or those with disabilities, with the average benefit being $118 per month.

4. Failed Senate candidate Roy Moore says he plans to release details about Democrat dirty tricks in Alabama’s 2017 U.S. Senate special election

— Moore has declared he is not done speaking out, posting on Twitter, “There are many false and misleading accounts on social media about me, it is about time I speak for myself! Come join the growing Conservative movement in Alabama and follow @RealJudgeMoore for more details about how the Dem’s hacked my race!

— Moore is the latest Alabamian to speak up about a tech billionaire, Reid Hoffman, funding an organization that created misleading Facebook pages encouraging Republicans to write-in other candidates and created a narrative of Russians boosting Roy Moore’s campaign on social media that they pushed to friendly media outlets, which parroted it all.

3. Retirement System of Alabama calls for sports gambling and legalized weed

— The RSA made the pitch in its newsletter to it 356,000 members, with a headline that stated, “Alabama Needs Reasonable Taxes to Solve Problems, If Not, We Need to Consider a Lottery, and What Other States Are Doing.”

— Oddly, they advocate for sin taxes like other states have turned towards, saying, “We all have vices. For some, it’s a nightcap; for others it’s betting on sports while puffing on a joint. In what feels like a long time coming, American states are moving toward legalizing the latter. Ten states and Washington, D.C., have sanctioned medicinal and recreational marijuana for those over age 21, and 33 more states allow medicinal use. Sports betting has been fully legalized in six states, with three more on the way, and 15 more with bills pending.”

2. Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) says a juvenile’s rape by illegal immigrants “was entirely avoidable”

— A previously deported illegal immigrant has been charged with the first-degree rape of a juvenile in Shelby County and Brooks criticized Democratic leaders for obstructing addressing our border issues. He said, “This sickening crime was entirely avoidable, yet Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer continue to obstruct Republican efforts to secure our border to help prevent awful crimes like this one against Americans.”

— Brooks made news earlier this week with his comments about Democrats having the blood of Americans “on their hands” for failing to secure the border,

1. President Trump and congressional leaders meet with no end in sight for the partial government shutdown

— The lack of progress between Trump and Democrat leaders was not much of a surprise. Trump stated, “We are in a shutdown because Democrats refuse to fund border security.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer implored the president to “support reopening the other areas of the government that don’t have to do with the immigration dispute,” which Trump said isn’t happening.

— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, “The Senate will be glad to vote on a measure that the House passes that the president will sign. But we’re not going to vote on anything else.”

2 hours ago

Ivey: Space and Alabama go hand-in-hand

I am so pleased that Vice President Mike Pence has chosen Huntsville to host the National Space Council on Tuesday.

The purpose of this gathering – in the shadow of the Saturn V rocket, which was developed right here in Alabama – is to discuss the future of American human spaceflight that is so appropriate as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The past, present and future of American space leadership flows through Alabama.

The great minds at Marshall Space Flight Center also helped bring about the marvel of the Space Shuttle, which was essential to building and servicing the International Space Station, launching and servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, enabling crucial national defense missions and many more accomplishments.


Even as we remember triumphs like these with immense national and state pride, we recognize that any nation that rests solely on its laurels will quickly find itself looking from the rear. We also understand that America’s preeminence in space is not a foregone conclusion and that much of the world looks to America to lead in space.

I laud President Trump’s active engagement by ensuring American leadership in space. Moreover, I know this is essential to not only inspire young people but, also to advance the American economy while always looking out for our national security. Reviving the National Space Council and the Space Policy Directives that have been signed, to date, signals that these are not just empty promises.

Alabama’s proud tradition of leading the way in America’s space program continues today with the Space Launch System, America’s next great ship, which has been designed, engineered and tested in Alabama and has a significant supplier base and workforce throughout our great state and around the country.

SLS isn’t about a single rocket or launch. Instead, it is a transformational national capability which will serve as the backbone of our deep space exploration efforts, enabling the return of American astronauts to the Moon and taking them further into space than ever before. In doing so, we will create new markets for the burgeoning space industry and enable greater international cooperation than ever before.

From a national security standpoint, China continues to develop their own deep space capabilities, landing the first spacecraft on the far-side of the Moon, which should serve as a clarion call that we risk losing our footing.

America’s Defense Intelligence Agency recently noted in their report, 2019 Challenges to Security in Space, that China and Russia are developing their own SLS-class rockets because they understand the importance of this super-heavy-lift capability for national exploration, defense and other purposes.

Despite challenges in developing the first super-heavy-rocket in over 50 years, SLS is coming together now and is being done carefully with safety as a top priority, especially since it will be carrying crews to deep space beginning with its second flight.

We have learned much over the last several years and it’s all coming together now – the supplier base is reinvigorated, we’ve implemented new technologies in designing and building and we’re seeing significant improvements in schedule with each new rocket under construction.

To date, the test articles for SLS have been produced and most are in test stands at Marshall right now; the first flight rocket is in final integration at Michoud Assembly Facility and three of the five segments have already been joined together. Eventually, the enormous liquid hydrogen tank and engine section will be added to the rocket. The second SLS launch vehicle, is already well underway in production to launch crew in 2022.

Additionally, the Exploration Upper Stage that is being developed at Marshall will provide a critical increase in capability when it launches in 2024, boosting SLS performance from 27 metric tons to the vicinity of the moon to 45 metric tons. We respectfully disagree with the FY’20 budget request about deferring this work – it’s an essential part of our capability and Congress has repeatedly directed that this work continue to be ready by 2024.

Some have proposed that NASA consider alternative launch vehicles for the first Orion flight, given the challenges with launching a brand-new rocket of this unparalleled capability by a date certain in mid-2020. But with all due respect to the critics, we have seen that even two heavy lift rockets are incapable of accomplishing what SLS can do in a single launch. For that reason – and in our collective view – we must stay the course, accelerate the SLS schedule and keep the integrated Exploration Mission 1 to test SLS and Orion together. Doing so will provide crucial data to mitigate the substantial risks posed by deep space missions.

Time is of the essence, not only to ensure that American taxpayer’s investments are well spent, but because we must seize the initiative and solidify American leadership in space once again.

Again, I welcome Vice President Pence and the National Space Council to Alabama, and I appreciate President Trump’s strategic focus on space. Alabamians have been crucial to building America’s great space heritage and, once again, we are actively engaged in leading the new era of deep space exploration.

Kay Ivey is the 54th governor of Alabama.

4 hours ago

Marine Resources Division considering changes to flounder, trout limits

Alabama’s inshore anglers are aware that fishing for two of the most popular species – southern flounder and spotted seatrout – has not been up to normal Gulf Coast standards in the past few years.

The Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) is seeking public input on how to mitigate this downturn in the abundance of the two species. MRD recently held public meetings with commercial and recreational anglers to discuss what management measures would be supported.

“I was very appreciative of the number of people who came to the discussions about the possible changes, and that’s important,” MRD Director Scott Bannon said. “It’s important to us, and it’s important to them.”


Anglers who came to the public meetings at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center last week heard Bannon and MRD Chief Biologist Kevin Anson present the current status of flounder and trout. MRD is considering options to help the fish stocks recover, including a reduction in bag limits, increased size limits and possible closed seasons.

“I’m kind of surprised by how many people are supportive of a reduced bag limit as a management tool,” Bannon said. “I’m very pleased with the feedback from people about what they see when they’re out fishing and what they think might help. Coupling that with what our science says, I think we’re going to be able to make some decisions that are going to be helpful for the resource but also still work with what our fishermen want in Alabama. Believe it not, one of the comments that I’ve received several times is that, even though people understand there is going to be some change, they appreciated the state’s effort to get the public’s opinion. As one person said, it shows we really do care.”

Of the two fish species, flounder is MRD’s biggest concern because of reduced harvest by both commercial and recreational anglers in recent years. The estimated harvest during the past 15 years shows a harvest of about 350,000 flounder in 2002 to about 150,000 in 2017. A significant spike in harvest occurred during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill because of a shift in angler effort from offshore waters to inshore waters.

“I think it’s going to take a multi-pronged approach both to recreational and commercial fishing to assure the stability of that fishery,” Bannon said. “These are hard decisions. On the commercial side, this affects income, but we want to sustain their income long-term.”

Bannon said about 30 commercial fishermen are targeting flounder with gillnets, while a small percentage are reporting harvests using gigs. Bannon is concerned that some giggers are skirting the reporting law.

“There is only a small number of people with commercial licenses who are reporting harvests using a gig,” he said. “All commercial harvests are required to be reported. But we think a number of people are recreationally fishing under a commercial license, and those fish aren’t getting reported. They purchase a commercial license to exceed the 10-fish bag limit.”

Bannon said the only management tool that would restrict this practice is a daily bag limit for those who hold a commercial license. Recreational anglers currently have a 10-flounder bag limit with a minimum size of 12 inches total length.

“Some people are truly commercially fishing,” he said. “They are using it to make a living. Others are just exceeding a bag limit. Gigging is a very effective fishery. The technology is helping them with better lights and better boats, like with most fisheries. We are going to work with the industry to see what’s a realistic bag limit, looking at the landing numbers. We could be looking at a combination of bag limits, size limits or a seasonal closure.”

MRD data shows that November is a month with a high commercial harvest number because flounder migrate to the Gulf of Mexico to spawn.

“Any time you have fish that have a specific spawning run, it’s beneficial to allow them to make that run, and with flounder, the females do come back inshore,” Bannon said.

Anson said Alabama is not alone in terms of a foundering flounder fishery.

“This isn’t just an Alabama problem,” Anson said. “Other states have seen reductions in flounder landings as well, both commercial and recreational. It just seems that we are ground zero as far as seeing the largest drop in landings.”

Fisheries managers use spawning potential ratio (SPR) to determine the health of a fish stock. For flounder, the target SPR to maintain the population is between 25 and 30 percent.

At the current harvest rate, if the minimum size for flounder remains at 12 inches, the population will not be able to sustain the target SPR. An increase in size also increases the number of eggs the females release during the spawn.

According to MRD data, an increase in the minimum size to 13 inches would allow 20 percent more fish to remain in the water. An increase to a minimum size of 14 inches would allow 38 percent more fish to remain in the water.

MRD’s Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores is also gearing up to spawn flounder in recently purchased tanks and equipment. Bannon said they hope to eventually release between 50,000 and 60,000 flounder fingerlings annually.

For spotted seatrout (speckled trout), a recent MRD assessment indicated recruitment of juvenile trout back into the fishery has been below traditional levels.

Bannon said a seismic shift in fishing effort has played a role in the fishing pressure on speckled trout. High fuel costs and restrictive bag limits on reef fish species caused many offshore anglers to start fishing inshore waters.

“We went from 50,000 inshore fishing trips annually in the early 90s to more than 500,000 in 2011,” he said. “That’s a ten-fold increase in fishing effort. That’s a concern. All of our habitat is accessible to fishermen. It’s a popular fish, so there’s a lot of effort focused on them, partly due to the short federal fisheries seasons.”

The annual harvest during that time increased 600 percent, and a downturn of landings in 2014 suggests the fishery is unstainable under that intense fishing pressure.

Bannon said anglers who target speckled trout, which has no commercial harvest because of its game-fish status, have indicated support for a reduction in the current 10-fish bag limit. Anglers have also indicated support for a slot limit and/or an increase in the current minimum size, which is 14 inches total length. The red drum (redfish) fishery has a slot limit of 16-26 inches with an allowance of one oversized fish.

“If we do go to a slot limit on trout, there will be an allowance for one oversized fish,” he said. “Most anglers who target these fish understand there are some concerns and agree that if we act responsibly now we will be in better shape. The goal is for anglers to catch larger fish more consistently.”

Anson said increases in size limits that MRD is considering include a bump in the minimum length to 15 inches, which would allow more than 227,000 trout to be returned to the water annually. An increase to a 16-inch minimum size would mean more than 400,000 could be returned to the water each year.

MRD will hold a meeting with the charter-for-hire operators on March 27. Bannon said, depending on feedback from the public, MRD may decide to hold another meeting before finalizing its management proposals.

Bannon said MRD welcomes comments on the proposed changes to the regulations on flounder and trout. Send comments to scott.bannon@dcnr.alabama.gov or kevin.anson@dcnr.alabama.gov by April 13 to ensure the input will be considered before the next Conservation Advisory Board meeting, scheduled May 4 at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel.

“After we complete the meetings and compile the public input, the staff will have discussions, followed by discussions with the Commissioner (Chris Blankenship),” Bannon said. “Then we will develop a proposal for the Conservation Advisory Board on May 4.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

17 hours ago

Blountsville substitute teacher jailed after gun accidentally goes off in classroom

Tragedy almost struck in Blount County on Friday afternoon when substitute teacher Henry Rex Weaver’s gun was accidentally discharged in a first-grade classroom.

WBRC is reporting that Weaver, 72, has been taken into custody and held in jail after his gun went off at Blountsville Elementary.


Officials initially advised that no one was injured, however, WBRC later reported that one “student had ‘very minor’ injuries” and was treated at the scene. Students were in the classroom at the time Weaver’s gun, which was in his pocket, discharged.

Weaver faces charges of possession of a deadly weapon, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

The debate on whether qualified, trained teachers should or should not be able to have a gun in his or her classroom was a major topic in the 2018 state legislative session.

Update 4:35 p.m.:

According to Alabama Media Group, Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey elaborated that the student with a “very minor” injury was struck by a fragment and attended to by the school nurse.

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

18 hours ago

Watch: Doug Jones commits to supporting whoever the 2020 Dem presidential nominee is

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), while claiming to be a member of the “radical middle,” declared he will vote for the Democrats’ nominee against President Donald Trump, regardless of who that individual ends up being.

In a video clip from his Thursday book tour event in Huntsville, Jones was asked if he would “throw his weight behind somebody” for the party’s nomination.


“It may depend on how things go,” the incumbent junior senator replied. “Everybody knows that Joe Biden and I have been friends for 40 years. And so, I have talked about Joe a lot. And I have always wanted him to be president – not just to run for president, but to be president. Outside of Joe, we’ll see how that goes.”

That is when he declared no matter who wins the primary, he will proudly support a Democrat against Trump.

“But whatever we do, I’ll end up supporting the nominee. We’re not going to run away from that. And I hope to have some of my colleagues come down here at some point. We’ll see how that goes.”


RELATED: Watch: Doug Jones refuses to answer question on Trump impeachment

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

19 hours ago

Del Marsh disputes reporting that he is writing a ‘tribe-friendly’ gambling bill

Alabama State Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) offered a lottery bill that was declared a “clean bill,” but issues arose once it was proposed that it would allow entities who are running electronic bingo in the state to transition over to “virtual lottery terminals.” The differences between these machines are negligible as both electronic bingo and virtual lottery terminals are essentially slot machines with extra steps.

Appearing on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” Friday, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) intimated that he would be fine with McClendon’s bill, but it might make more sense to have a “straight up lottery” vote.

“I’m almost indifferent,” Marsh said. “If we want to do that I’m fine with that, but I go back to that the simplest thing to do, I think, to put before the people of Alabama, and less confusing, is a true simple straight up lottery.”


According to some reports, Marsh was working on a “tribe-friendly” bill. Alabama liberals have two boogeymen when it comes to the failure to pass a lottery over the years: churches and the Alabama Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

So, the implication that Marsh is doing the bidding of either is a win-win for Alabama liberals.

Marsh denies he is working on any bill that would be declared “tribe-friendly,” but agreed that could be changed to Senator McClendon’s bill.

“All that other stuff could be stripped out of it if it goes back to a simple lottery,” Marsh explained.

He added, “[Y]ou may see someone put one in that’s just a straight up plain and simple lottery from day one.”

Later on the show, Stephanie Bryan, tribal chair for the Alabama Poarch Band of Creek Indians appeared to be open to not only a simple lottery vote, but to a vote on a much wider gaming plan. She acknowledged she would like to see a widened scope of gambling in the form of games and locations throughout the state.

My takeaway:

The position of the tribe appears to be they do not want an expansion of legalized gambling if they can’t, at least, compete for it. This is a logical position for them to hold and would provide the most economic incentive for the state of Alabama in the form of expanded gambling opportunities.

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