11 months ago

Alabama legislators bring bills to protect first responders, law enforcement

When the regular session of the Alabama legislature reconvenes on Tuesday, respective bills to make killing first responders a capital offense and add law enforcement officers to the state hate crime statute will be on the agenda.

HB 59, sponsored by State Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville), would add on-duty first responders to the list of murder victims that constitutes a capital offense. State law already makes the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer or prison guard a capital offense. Capitol offenses in Alabama are punishable by life in prison or death.

Sells’ bill would also add on-duty law enforcement officers, prison guards and first responders as victims in the list of aggravating circumstances to a capital offense. This would make the death penalty more likely in the sentencing phase of this kind of capital offense.

In HB 59, first responders are defined as emergency medical services personnel licensed by the Alabama Department of Public Health and firefighters and volunteer firefighters as defined by existing state law.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Sells said he personally served as a firefighter and EMT for a couple years and understands the dangers that these individuals and law enforcement officers brave every day.

“The world we’re living in is getting more and more dangerous – more traffic, more wrecks, more threats – every day,” Sells emphasized. “These are the people out here trying to help us, save us and protect us. We need to have their backs, because they have ours.”

This is a bill Sells has sponsored the past two legislative sessions, ever since the infamous deadly 2016 ambush of police officers in Dallas, TX. Last year, it passed the House and was the next bill up on the Senate calendar for a vote when the chamber adjourned sine die.

“I had some trouble up there [in the Senate] last year, but I don’t expect that trouble this year,” he advised. “So I believe it’ll [get passed].”

Sells will also carry a bill in the House that is originating in the Senate, sponsored by State Sen. Chris Elliot (R-Daphne). This bill, SB 36, “would provide that when a person is found guilty of committing a misdemeanor or felony against a law enforcement officer and it is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the commission of the crime was motivated by the victim’s employment as a law enforcement officer, the person is subject to heightened criminal penalties.”

The bill essentially makes employment as a law enforcement officer a protected class, just like race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability.

Speaking on both bills, Sells outlined, “I support law enforcement, because at the end of the day, where would our country be without law enforcement? And I think they’ve been getting the short-end of the stick lately. We need to help them as much as we can. … These bills just show to the public that if you do something to them that’s a crime – whether it’s murder or something else – you’re going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And that’s the way it should be.”

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, Elliot said, “We see every day our law enforcement personnel that are targeted just because of what they do. We see folks that are focused on law enforcement because of the duties that they are trying to carry out and their service when they’re protecting us – they are being targeted solely because of that.”

“This legislation simply adds that particular motivation behind the targeting of law enforcement officers as a hate crime, just as it would be for any other hate crime,” he explained.

Just as law enforcement officers have our backs daily, Elliot wants to make it clear lawmakers in the Yellowhammer State have their backs.

“We owe it to our law enforcement to make sure that they have the same protection that other groups have,” Elliot added. “And we also owe it to the prosecutors to make sure that they have the tools that they need when it comes time to prosecute issues.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) is supportive of Elliot’s bill and believes it will gain significant traction in the chamber.

He called SB 36 “a reasonable approach.”

“I think [Elliot’s] bill is balanced and it’s also justified,” Ward advised. “My plan is to have it on the agenda the second week that we meet.”

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

31 mins ago

Cathy Randall now serving on board of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham

Dr. Cathy J. Randall, chairman of the board of Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC, is now serving as a board member for The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.

The Women’s Fund made the announcement in a recent release, detailing that Randall term’s officially began on January 1. A Birmingham native and Tuscaloosa resident, she is a longtime, prominent civic and corporate leader, as well as the legendary former director of the University Honors Programs at the University of Alabama.

Tracey Morant Adams, board chair for The Women’s Fund, said in a statement, “The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham strives to elevate and amplify women’s voices, and we are incredibly fortunate to welcome Dr. Randall to our board as she is a well-established voice in the state.”

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“Cathy’s passion for community service and her experience in building a better Alabama will be a tremendous asset for the organization,” Adams added.

Randall’s service to the state includes being immediate past chairman of the Alabama Academy of Honor and former president of the boards of directors of the American Village, the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and the David Mathews Center of Civic Life, as well as former director of Alabama Girls State.

Additionally, she currently serves on the board of Alabama Power Company and is a former board member of Mercedes Benz USI. Randall was the co-chair of Governor Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee and was named as a Woman of Impact by Yellowhammer Multimedia in 2018.

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

2 hours ago

Sessions responds to ‘desperate and afraid’ Byrne and Tuberville — ‘Sad to see them both descend to such a sleazy low point’

With Alabama’s U.S. Senate Republican primary headed into the home stretch, the field’s three front-runners are beginning to mix it up among one another.

The first significant shot came from U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who on Saturday went up on air with an ad attacking both his leading opponents: former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville has thrown a few barbs as well while on the stump, including one at Sessions that accused him of having “turned on” President Donald Trump.

In a statement given to Yellowhammer News, Sessions condemned the tone of both Byrne and Tuberville, noting their positions in recent polling and describing their tacks as “sleazy.”

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“It is unfortunate that both Tommy Tuberville and Bradley Byrne have abandoned any pretense of running a positive campaign. But it is not surprising: both candidates are trailing in the polls, and when politicians like Tuberville and Byrne are losing, they become desperate and afraid,” Sessions stated. “Both Tuberville and Byrne have quit on themselves and their campaigns. Neither can connect with voters on the merits of their ideas. It is sad to see them both descend to such a sleazy low point.”

Sessions warned there would be a response if this activity persisted.

“If their baseless, desperate attacks continue, they will be forcefully answered,” he continued.

The former U.S. Senator maintained that Alabamians in this primary will be focused on substantive issues.

“The key issue for Alabamians is who will most effectively and forcefully fight for their conservative values and interests, such as ending illegal immigration, protecting our jobs from unfair foreign competition, defending religious freedom, and further advancing our strong Trump economy.”

Alabama Republican voters on March 3 will cast a ballot for their preference to represent them on the general election ballot in November.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

14 hours ago

Leaders, educators and students gather for Alabama’s 2nd Annual HBCU Summit

Alabama’s 2nd Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Summit celebrated the state’s 14 HBCUs and the value they bring to higher education across our state and country. Saturday’s event, moderated by Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, was held at Miles College in Fairfield.

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The event kicked off with a panel discussion titled “Women in the Lead: How Six Alabama HBCU Presidents Are Raising the Bar.” The session included comments from:

“Extraordinary panel of women in leadership positions,” Jones said afterwards. “I think they provide unique insights to this. Just an amazing group of women that come from varied backgrounds — they came from academics, but also from business, so it’s a unique perspective that is what is going on with HBCUs but also with higher education in general.”

The panelists touched on a number of topics, including ways to help more high school students and nontraditional students get enrolled, making the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) simpler to fill out, partnering with businesses to offer degrees and curriculum the businesses need and working together to elevate the communities they serve.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on is that the benefit of being an HBCU is that … you may not have these large classrooms like you have (elsewhere), but you have teachers that know your name, teachers that care,” Archie said. “We’re going to give you that pep talk when you need that pep talk and we’re going to help you achieve.”

It is that level of concern for students that stood out to Jones.

“These female leaders are so dynamic and so passionate about what they do,” Jones said. “They care so much about their students and their communities. They really represent the best of all HBCUs. HBCUs are the fabric of the communities and I think you saw that reflected here today.”

The summit also featured a career fair and an afternoon panel discussion titled “Student Voices: How Alabama HBCU Student-Leaders Are Lifting Up Their Campuses.” The panel, moderated by Jones, featured students from Miles College, Alabama A&M University, Shelton State Community College, Talladega College and Trenholm State Community College.

“Trying to educate and train the workforce of the 21st century is going to be a challenge,” Jones said. “We’re changing technologically, we’re changing demographically, we’re online — everything is moving in a different direction. Education has got to keep up with that, but also so do businesses. They’ve also got to start reaching out and develop those partnerships to not only train, but to mentor. I think you heard that today.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

VIDEO: Trust in government was lost long ago, Jeff Sessions leads GOP field while Jones trails all, Birmingham’s battle over monuments and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is President Donald Trump causing mistrust in government or is he exploiting that lack of trust?

— With new polls out, does Jeff Sessions have the GOP race locked up and does Doug Jones even have a chance?

— Is Birmingham’s mayor boosting his profile while continuing the fight over a Confederate monument?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Secretary of State John Merrill to discuss the latest report by the Southern Poverty Law Center that claims Alabama is suppressing voters and Merrill’s willingness to take on more responsibility at the Secretary of State’s office.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at the waste of millions of dollars Alabama municipalities spend on “public notices” because of a series of outdated laws requiring publication of voter rolls and public notices in local newspapers.

Alabama Politics This Week – 2/16/20

VIDEO: Trust in government was lost long ago, Jeff Sessions leads GOP fields while Jones trails all, Birmingham's battle over monuments has no real purpose and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Posted by Yellowhammer News on Friday, February 14, 2020

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

17 hours ago

Community development key to elevating Alabama

Many of Alabama’s rural cities and towns are growing their communities, thanks to valuable assistance from Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) and Main Street Alabama.

Leaders from both organizations shared their benefits Jan. 30 at the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s (EDAA) Rural Development Conference in Montgomery. Bevin Tomlin, Economic and Community Development manager for Alabama Power, hosted a panel discussion with Sidney Hoover, executive director of Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE), and Mary Helmer, state coordinator and president of Main Street Alabama, in which the women discussed ways their organizations assist communities.

“We go in and help them with community development — all of those quality-of-life issues, such as education, health care, recreational — why do you want to live here,” Hoover said. “We used an asset-based approach and leverage that.”

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Community development helping rural Alabama grow from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Hoover said ACE takes cities one to three years to complete, whereas Helmer says Main Street Alabama is an ongoing community program designed to create jobs, spark new investment, attract visitors and spur growth.

“It’s really talking about how you build that swell of community involvement and engagement and carry it through to economic development,” Helmer said. “Main Street never leaves a community. It’s a way to manage the changes in a district over time.”

Tomlin said a number of cities across Alabama are growing, thanks to help from ACE and Main Street Alabama.

“You can look at towns like Jasper and Decatur at how far they’ve come in the past five or 10 years with the tools and resources that Main Street Alabama has been able to bring to their programs,” Tomlin said. “You can see breweries popping up, you can see clothing boutiques popping back up, you can see people wanting to come back into downtown, and then with ACE you’re developing your leadership capacity in the communities.”

Hoover said ACE helps communities focus on the unique qualities that make them attractive to both their residents and potential businesses.

“We want them to develop what they want to be,” Hoover said. “Some want industries, some that’s not what they want, and so success is the vision they have for their community and the uniqueness of it.”

Helmer said a unified community is a key to success.

“Everybody wants to be able to recruit businesses in, but you really have to work with the existing businesses first, and then look at the market and be able to recruit additional businesses beyond that,” Helmer said. “If you don’t allow people to be involved in the process on the front end, they don’t play or pay on the back side of it, so it’s extraordinarily important.”

Tomlin said both organizations are helping elevate Alabama’s attractiveness to new businesses.

“When your downtowns are revitalized, when your communities are prepared for growth, like through ACE, you are able to attract the population that wants to live in your communities,” Tomlin said. “So, when an economic development project is looking at the state, you’ve got more communities that are able to raise their hand and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got what you’re looking for.’”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)