2 weeks ago

A look at what passed and failed in the Alabama legislature

Alabama lawmakers ended the 2019 legislative session on Friday. Here’s a look at some of the proposals that passed and failed this year.

WHAT WAS APPROVED:

GAS TAX

Gov. Kay Ivey called lawmakers into special session to approve the gas tax increase to fund road and bridge construction. The 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase will be phased in over three years beginning with a six-cent increase on Sept. 1.

ABORTION BAN

The ban makes it a felony to perform an abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger. It is anticipated that it will be blocked by the courts. A lawsuit has been filed challenging the ban.

THIRD GRADE READING

The legislation will require third graders to meet reading benchmarks before moving to fourth grade. The bill also spells out initiatives, such as requiring regional reading specialists to work with struggling students, to boost test scores.

STATE SCHOOL BOARD

Alabama voters will decide next year whether they want to abolish the elected state school board and replace it with a nine-member commission. Members would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Alabama Senate.

PAY RAISES FOR TEACHERS, OTHERS

Teachers and other public school employees will receive a 4% pay raise. State employees will receive a 2% raise. Lawmakers also voted to raise the pay for correctional officers as the state faces a federal court order to add officers.

PAROLE BOARD OVERHAUL

The bill makes multiple changes at the state parole board, including making a gubernatorial appointee who could be dismissed at will by the governor. The board currently hires the director.

EQUAL PAY

The legislation prohibits businesses from paying workers less than employees of another race or sex for the same work unless there are reasons such as seniority, a merit system or productivity to account for the difference.

JAIL FOOD FUNDS

Alabama lawmakers voted to end a practice that allowed some sheriffs to pocket leftover jail food funds. The bill requires the food allowance to go into a separate account that can only be used for feeding prisoners.

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

The measures would track how often prosecutors use civil actions to seize a person’s property for suspected criminal activity. State prosecutors agreed this year to track the forfeitures, but the legislation would mandate it.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA STUDY COMMISSION

Lawmakers voted to create a medical marijuana commission that would make recommendations for legislation that lawmakers might consider in 2020.

BROADBAND ACCESS

The governor signed into law two bills aimed at expanding broadband access. One bill expands an existing grant program for broadband providers in rural communities. Another allows electricity providers to use existing infrastructure to provide broadband services.

MARRIAGE LICENSES

Marriage licenses would be replaced with a new form called a marriage certificate. The change comes after several probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses so they don’t have to give them to gay couples. Judges wouldn’t have to sign the new forms before a wedding.

BACKSEAT SEATBELTS

The measure would require a person to wear a seat belt in the backseat of a moving vehicle. The legislation is named for a Montgomery teen killed in a car crash.

WHAT FAILED:

LOTTERY

A proposal to start a state lottery cleared the Alabama Senate, but it did not get a vote in the House.

PERMITLESS CARRY

A bill to allow a person to carry a concealed handgun without getting a special permit failed to win approval in a Senate committee. The bill was backed by gun rights groups but opposed by state sheriffs.

MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION

The bill would have made possession of small amounts of marijuana punishable by a fine instead of jail time. An Alabama Senate committee advanced the bill, but it did not get final approval.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

The Senate approved a bill that would allow people with certain medical conditions to purchase medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval. However, the measure stalled in the House.

PAYDAY LOAN

The proposal would extend the time that people have to repay a payday loan to 30 days. The proposal was designed to give borrowers more opportunity to raise the funds needed to repay a loan.

MANDATORY KINDERGARTEN

The proposal would have required student to attend kindergarten before starting first grade. Most students do attend kindergarten, but it is not mandatory.

ETHICS OVERHAUL

A Senate committee shelved a proposal that would have done away with a ban on gifts to public officials but replaced it with a requirement to report everything that was given.

DISTRACTED DRIVING

The proposal would have forbidden motorists from holding a cellphone and other devices while driving.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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12 hours ago

Birmingham students awarded scholarships to fuel their studies in technical fields

The Birmingham chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) recently awarded five students sholarships to further their studies.

The mission of the organization is to provide energy professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and students a pathway to learn more about the energy industry through education, mentoring, community service and business networking.

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Phillip Coffey, Marketing specialist for Alabama Power, helped organize the annual scholarship luncheon. He says the organization gives greater exposure and representation of the energy industry to students and professionals.

The chapter awarded $10,000 in scholarship funds – Iva B. Williams Endowment Scholarships – to five students:

  • Grant Sims.
  • Alexander Washington.
  • Adetola Koiki.
  • Micah Pruitt.
  • Amira Gilford.

The Birmingham chapter of AABE is made up of employees from Alabama Power, Southern PowerSouthern Nuclear Company and Southern Company Services.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

14 hours ago

Tuberville’s warning on immigration: ‘We have more Middle Easterners coming across that border at times than we do people from Latin America’

As was the case with several of the past elections, immigration will be a significant issue in the 2020 campaign cycle, especially with President Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

The 2020 U.S. Senate GOP primary in Alabama will not be an exception, especially as many Republican base voters are growing restless with congressional Democrats stalling Trump’s effort to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2020 U.S. Senate race, decried the lax border security and added that in some cases Middle Easterners were exceeding the number of those from Latin America coming across the border.

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“The problem that we’re having, and people don’t understand this, is we do need workers,” he said. “We need people over here to work. I’m big on immigration, but we got to get them in there the right way. And we’ve got to know who is here. We have more Middle Easterners coming across that border at times than we do people from Latin America. We do not have a clue who is coming across, and a lot of these people aren’t coming over here to help this country out. They’re coming over here to tear this country down. They are not for the Constitution. They are not for our laws. They are not for the people in this country. They want to tear it down, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

“That’s the reason I’m running because I want the people in this country to have safe neighborhoods, safe streets,” Tuberville continued. “It sounds like a politician, but all you got to do is open up your eyes and look. That’s one of my mottos in this campaign: Open your eyes and look at what’s going on, and let’s get these people out of Washington that won’t do anything and put people up there that will make a decision and don’t care if they go back and get reelected.”

@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.

16 hours ago

Roby: Honoring our symbol of freedom

On June 14th, 1777, our country’s flag was officially adopted by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress. Many years later, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that established June 14th as Flag Day, and on August 3, 1949, this day of observance was officially established by an Act of Congress.

Now, every year on June 14th, our country has a special opportunity to celebrate our flag and reflect upon what it symbolizes. The American flag displays 13 horizontal stripes alternating red and white with a blue rectangle, specifically referred to as the “union,” that bears 50 small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine horizontal rows. As you may know, the 50 stars on the American flag represent our 50 states. The 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first states in the United States.

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While the design of the American flag has been officially modified 26 times since its initial adoption in 1777, the symbolic meaning has remained the same. Whether flown on front lawns across Alabama, in front of schools, universities and businesses of all sizes, or proudly displayed at military installations across this great country, for centuries the American flag has been an inspiring emblem of pride, hope, and freedom for countless people throughout the world.

Whenever I see our flag, I am especially reminded of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have fought to defend it and all it represents. This year, Flag Day comes during an especially important time, as I recently was proud to announce my 2019 appointees to our United States service academies.

Each year, it is my distinct privilege and honor as a member of Congress to nominate students from the Second District to be considered for appointment to the United States Air Force, Naval, Military and Merchant Marine Academies.

This year, I am very pleased to announce that I nominated the following students who received official appointments to the service academies:

  • Daniel Brayden Banner is the son of Dan and Amanda Banner. He is a graduate of Providence Christian School in Dothan, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.Theodore Maxwell Dowd is the son of John and Donna Dowd. He is a graduate of Northview High School in Dothan, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • Amore Jacarra Hardy is the daughter of Regina Hardy. She is a graduate of Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, and she received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Timothy Jurard McClendon is the son of Emma Lee McClendon. He is a graduate of Carroll High School in Ozark, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Johnny M. Montgomery, III, is the son of Johnny Montgomery. He is a graduate of Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Jackson Scott Parker is the son of Scott and Hannah Parker. He is a graduate of Abbeville High School, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • Isaac Taylor Sherman is the son of Jeremy and Morgan Sherman. He is a graduate of Prattville High School, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Seth Cameron White is the son of Steve and Terri White. He is a graduate of Wicksburg High School, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

In the spirit of Flag Day, I believe these students from our communities are to be commended not only for their academic excellence, but more importantly, for their eagerness to serve our great country. I am incredibly proud to join their families, friends, teachers and hometowns in offering my sincerest congratulations and thanks. Our flag will continue to shine as a symbol of freedom because of young leaders like these men and women.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

18 hours ago

SEC Baseball Tournament at Hoover Met sees record crowds

Record crowds of more than 160,000 people attended the 2019 SEC Baseball Tournament.

The tournament, held annually at the Hoover Met Complex, had an estimated $15 million economic impact on the area.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference three years ago looked for a host site that would enhance the tournament experience for fans. “After reviewing numerous proposals and visiting a number of potential sites, it turned out that Hoover, our longtime home, could provide everything necessary to make it the right venue for SEC Baseball,” Sankey said.

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He said the city of Hoover stepped things up with the Finley Center to house the SEC Fan Fest, the construction of on-site practice fields and, this year, the addition of a new video board.

“We feel those changes in particular have been game-changers in providing the SEC with a ‘baseball campus’ that is unique to college post-season tournaments,” Sankey said.

From May 21-26, 12 teams competed in the double elimination tournament, which was won by Vanderbilt.

Throughout the week, 162,699 people attended the various baseball games and 32,000 of those attendees came through the SEC Fan Fest. The area included access to inflatables, arcade games, a zip line, climbing, miniature golf course, live entertainment, food and beverage options and more. Fans were able to watch the game from a giant flat-screen TV and couches in the large, air-conditioned facility.

“The 2019 SEC Baseball Tournament was a tremendous success at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex,” said Hoover Mayor Frank V. Brocato. “The city of Hoover was able to welcome a record-setting number of baseball fans throughout the week and attendees had many options for activities around the baseball tournament once they arrived at the complex. … It is certainly our privilege to have hosted this tournament for the past 22 years. We look forward to seeing everyone back in 2020.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

19 hours ago

State Sen. Cam Ward: ‘I don’t think you bring back a lottery’ in proposed prison special session

The Alabama legislature was not able to come to an agreement on a lottery this past general session, meaning the body will likely address it in the future.

Could that come as soon as later this year, when Gov. Kay Ivey will reportedly call a special session to address Alabama’s prison system? Given the state’s prisons are under the threat of a federal government takeover, some have suggested that a lottery could be used as a funding mechanism to fix the state’s ailing prisons.

During an appearance on WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), who has been out in front of the prison issue, downplayed the chances of lawmakers addressing the lottery as part of any prison solution.

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“I just don’t see what has changed since the regular session until now that would make a lottery even feasible to bring up in a special session,” Ward said. “I mean, you look at our state. We’re one of four states that have two budgets. And the bulk of our money goes to the education budget, which has a $400 million growth fund this time, and that’s good. But at the same time, we had a lottery that we passed out of the Senate that money went to the general fund, which is constantly struggling with issues like prisons, Medicaid, and mental health. And it failed in the House because most people want to see it all go to education. I just can’t imagine why a lottery bill would come back during a special session because I’m not sure what has changed since it failed in the House this last time. I mean, unless something has changed that I’m not aware of, I don’t think you bring back a lottery in this special session.”

Ward said he did not see the need for increased revenue to solve the prison problem, noting the significant increase in funding for the Department of Corrections already.

“I think the money is already here,” Ward replied. “I really do. I don’t think you need any kind of increase in revenue. I mean, good gracious we gone from a $380 million budget for prisons just a few years ago. Today we’re at $560 million-$580 million. I don’t think you need to do any more revenue. I think it’s how you handle policy within the prison and how you handle the policy with sentencing.”

@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.