7 months ago

Alabama legislature, Ivey stand up for coal during 2019 session

The Alabama legislature and Governor Kay Ivey stood up for the Alabama coal industry in two major ways during the 2019 regular session.

First, the legislature passed and the governor signed a bill sponsored by State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) and State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) to update the state’s archaic, WWII-era mine foreman law. This updated law puts the state on equal footing with other coal states, increasing Alabama’s economic competitiveness, and also increases safety for hardworking Yellowhammer State coal miners.

Additionally, the legislature and the governor backed coal through the now-signed Education Trust Fund budget for fiscal year 2020-2021.

This education budget includes $950,000 in funding to expand Bevill State Community College’s groundbreaking mine training facility to include longwall mining training. Bevill State is the only college in Alabama that offers Mine Technology curriculum.

“Bevill State Community College strives to set the standard of excellence for education, workforce training, partnerships and economic development in our service area. The Legislature’s support to expand the training opportunities provided by our mine training program is exemplary of government, education, and private industry working together to facilitate economic strength and development,” Dr. Kim Ennis, president of Bevill State, said in a statement.

Longwall mining is a highly productive coal mining technique. The expansion of the mine training center will enable all Underground New Miner Trainees at Bevill State to have a greater understanding of the coal extraction process from not only a continuous miner section but longwall mining as well.

Miners will also be shown the safest way to handle all aspects of assigned tasks. The focus of the training center is to instruct on how to do the job right with safety at the forefront. Protecting the health and safety of miners is the absolute top priority.

Warrior Met Coal has been a leading private sector partner with Bevill State.

“Bevill State’s mine training center is a perfect example of how much can be accomplished when the private sector and colleges are working together. The coal industry is a driving force of our state’s economy—it’s an industry that employs thousands of Alabamians—and Bevill State’s program gives young people the skills they need to earn a good living and support their families,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said.

Reed is known as a staunch supporter of Alabama’s coal industry, and his leadership in the Senate was integral during the 2019 regular session.

“I was honored to work with President Ennis to help secure these funds in the state education budget for Bevill State,” Reed added. “This was an extremely busy legislative session, and the budget chairmen had a lot to weigh as they wrote the budgets, but I made sure legislators knew how important Bevill State’s mine training center is to west Alabama and the entire state. I am very excited to see how this program expands in the coming years.”

Currently, the training center, located on Bevill State’s Sumiton Campus, has a mock continuous miner section where miners are trained on the safest way to build and maintain all of the necessary equipment. The expansion will give the training center a state-of-the-art mock longwall with all of the necessary equipment and processes, including a modern classroom inside the mine.

The additions to the facility will also make the center a world-class training venue for mine rescue team scenarios.

“This funding will expand one of our State’s most successful workforce development programs. We appreciate the leadership of our legislative delegation who worked with the budget chairs and Governor Ivey to secure the resources that will make our mine training center one of the most advanced in the country,” Patrick Cagle, president of the Alabama Coal Association, commented.

Met coal exports accounted for 80% of Alabama’s total coal production in 2018, while steam coal accounted for the rest. The state has large reserves of both steam and high-quality met coal, with underground coal miners in the state enjoying a starting salary of $85,000.

The expansion of this program at Bevill State will allow for more training in an industry that currently provides high demand, lucrative job opportunities.

“Met coal is a Made in Alabama product that is quietly helping fuel our state’s economic engine,” Cagle emphasized. “The industry’s impact is irreplaceable, from the thousands of high-paying jobs at underground met coal mines in the Tuscaloosa and Jefferson County area to generating almost half the revenue at Alabama’s Port.”

The funding for Bevill State’s training program was also celebrated from the perspective of coal miners themselves.

Larry Spencer, international vice president for United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) District 20, which includes the entire state of Alabama, said, “This is exciting news.”

“The United Mine Workers of America represents over 1,500 workers at four mines across Alabama, and our number one priority is the safety of each worker,” he explained. “Bevill State’s Mine Training Center plays an essential role in Alabama’s coal economy, from the annual training offered to veteran coal miners, to the intensive training programs offered for workers just entering the field.”

He also singled out Reed for his exemplary leadership.

“Senator Greg Reed has been a champion for Alabama’s coal miners. There isn’t a better friend in state government to the coal industry than Senator Reed, and I appreciate him working to secure these resources to expand Bevill State’s Mine Training Center,” Spencer outlined.

Bevill State is a member of the Alabama Community College System (ACCS). The ACCS is focused on being Alabama’s gateway to first-class, affordable education and technical training to compete in a constantly evolving workforce.

More than 168,000 Alabamians benefit from the various certification, credential, dual enrollment and degree programs ACCS offers alongside leading industry partners.

ACCS Chancellor Jimmy Baker applauded this new offering from Bevill State, made possible by the legislature and Ivey.

Baker advised, “The Alabama Community College System is grateful for the Alabama Legislature’s support of the education and workforce training programs our colleges provide across the state.”

“Bevill State’s Mine Technology Program is a key example of our successful efforts to work directly with industry to provide valuable, real-world training that prepares our students to be job ready on day one. This additional funding will ensure that Bevill’s students continue to train on state-of-the-art equipment that mirrors the industry standard and ensures a smooth transition from classroom to industry,” he concluded.

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

2 hours ago

UAB, St. Vincent’s enter into ‘strategic alliance’ to better serve patients

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Health System is entering into a partnership with its across-town neighbor Ascension St. Vincent’s to provide better outcomes for patients. The two hospital systems announced the news jointly via a press release on Wednesday.

Details are still scarce as to the particularities of what this will mean for patients, and the deal is still pending approval from the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees.

The information available indicates that patients at one institution will have access to some services and doctors at the other without the normal amount of red tape in between. The two hospitals are touting the alliance’s ability to open up opportunities for “those who need highly specialized care.”

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“Through closer alignment of each organization’s many locations, specialties and expertise, the health systems will strive to better accommodate patients,” said UAB Health System CEO Will Ferniany.

According to the website set up to inform the public about the alliance, the two hospitals’ medical records will stay separate, and no doctor will be changing locations as part of the new alliance.

“Ascension St. Vincent’s and the UAB Health System have a longstanding, very positive relationship,” said Jason Alexander, CEO, Ascension St. Vincent’s and Ascension Providence, and senior vice president, Ascension. “We look forward to continuing to build on the complementary strengths of both organizations to serve the increasing needs of residents across our state.

As follows are the facilities that will be a part of the alliance: 

UABHS:

UAB Hospital
University of Alabama Health Services Foundation
Medical West Hospital
Callahan Eye Hospital, Clinics and Ophthalmology Services Foundation
Gardendale Freestanding Emergency Department (FED) and Clinics
Highway 150 Clinics and Medical West Freestanding Emergency Department
Acton Road
Primary Care Network

Ascension St. Vincent’s:

Ascension St. Vincent’s Birmingham
Ascension St. Vincent’s East
Ascension St. Vincent’s One Nineteen
Ascension St. Vincent’s St. Clair
Ascension St. Vincent’s Chilton
Ascension St. Vincent’s Blount
Ascension St. Vincent’s Trussville
Ascension St. Vincent’s Medical Group

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

4 hours ago

Watch: Republican Women of Huntsville’s U.S. Senate candidate forum

On Tuesday, the Republican Women of Huntsville hosted a U.S. Senate candidates forum at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens.

The forum featured former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs). It was moderated by Yellowhammer News’ Jeff Poor.

The candidates were given two minutes to open, followed by questions regarding various topics including trade, foreign policy, marijuana, debts and deficits, term limits and abortion with minute-and-a-half responses, and a two-minute close.

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Video stream courtesy of Alabama Straw Poll:

5 hours ago

Byrne: ‘Would be surprised’ if Trump doesn’t comment on Senate race; Sessions should have resigned AG post if he thought recusal was necessary

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) said former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of his opponents vying for the Republican nomination for Alabama’s U.S. Senate election in November, was fair game regarding his stint as the nation’s top law enforcement officer in the Trump administration.

In a wide-ranging interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN, Byrne explained that although President Donald Trump has largely remained publicly quiet about their U.S. Senate race, he anticipates Trump will eventually reveal his feelings on the contest and about Sessions.

“I would be surprised if he doesn’t,” Byrne said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “Every time I’m with him, he wants to talk about the Senate race in Alabama. Even when we’re in a big group of people, he wants to talk about it. He’s paying very close attention. He cares a lot. He cares about Alabama, number one. But he’s got some really hard feelings about Jeff [Sessions]. He really does. Even if he doesn’t say another word, take these two quotes: ‘The biggest mistake I ever made as president is appointing Jeff Sessions U.S. Attorney General.’ Or this quote, ‘Jeff Sessions is a disgrace to the great state of Alabama.’ Those two quotes that he made several months ago — I don’t see how Jeff gets over those.”

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Byrne said he disagreed with Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from any Department of Justice investigations into the 2016 elections and added that if Sessions believed his recusal was necessary, he should have resigned his post at attorney general given the scope of the investigation into the 2016 election.

“I don’t think he needed to recuse himself,” he said. “But if he felt like he needed to recuse himself, he should have resigned because he took himself out of a big chunk of what the attorney general is supposed to be doing. Look at all the things we learned in the inspector general’s report. Because he took himself off the playing field, months went by before we dealt with that. And now Attorney General Barr is dealing with that, thank God. If he couldn’t do his job, he should have said, ‘Look, I can’t do my job. I’m going to have to resign,’ and didn’t do that.”

Byrne’s sentiments echo those of another one of the candidates in the run for the 2020 GOP U.S. senatorial nod, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, who a day earlier raised similar concerns about Sessions.

According to Byrne, Sessions should have seen the controversy looming on the horizon and not have accepted the appointment as attorney general during the 2016-2017 presidential transition.

“I don’t see how he didn’t see it was coming,” Byrne said. “But assuming that he didn’t — still, once he determined ‘I cannot be involved in this. I have to recuse myself,’ he should have resigned and let somebody else do that job. The president would have put him somewhere else. The president would have said, ‘OK, Jeff — you can’t do that. I’ll make you Secretary of Homeland Security.’ He would have done that. But that’s not what Jeff did. The people of Alabama have got to decide how they feel about that. But I think it is perfectly legitimate to bring that up. I think it is perfectly legitimate for Tommy Tuberville to bring that up. If Jeff is not ready to talk about, he needs to understand he is in a political campaign.”

Sessions has previously told Yellowhammer News the controversy regarding his tenure as attorney general had not come up on the campaign trail. However, Byrne said it comes up regularly for him.

“They bring it up with me all the time,” he said. “If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard this 300 or 400 times in the last few weeks alone — they’re angry with him. They’re angry he even got in the race. That’s something he has got to deal with. And you know, you look at his television commercial — that’s his effort to try to deal with it. I think that’s fair game. When you get into a campaign like this, you’ve got to expect that. We’re going to hear more about that. You’ll be hearing more about that from voters or whoever. I’m sticking with what I’m talking about right now. You know, we’ve hit a real thread with the voters here. They like what’s in that commercial I’m showing right now, the personal touch with it. So I’m going to stay with that. It’s working for me, and I’m just going to stay right there.”

@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.

6 hours ago

Aderholt: ‘I look forward to the day when there are no more abortions’

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) recently spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives about his staunch pro-life views.

Wednesday marks the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling.

Aderholt’s remarks can be seen in a video posted to his Twitter account.

“I stand here today as pro-life, pro-family and pro-child,” he began.

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“No matter what your faith is, everyone understands that life is very precious and that life is a gift,” Aderholt continued. “I believe that as members of Congress and really as all citizens, we’re called to protect the vulnerable — and this is one of my core beliefs.”

“Being pro-life means not just pro-birth but being interested in the welfare of the child during his or her entire formative years,” the dean of Alabama’s House delegation advised. “That’s why I’m not only a longtime member of the pro-life caucus but also the co-chair of the congressional coalition on adoption.”

He showed appreciation for the Trump administration’s work on pro-life issues.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank this administration for the work they have done to defend the unborn, including changing the rules for Title X and expanding the Mexico City Policy. I look forward to continuing to work with the administration on these issues as we come to the time of January [22], where we remember the ruling of Roe versus Wade,” Aderholt remarked.

“I look forward to the day when there are no more abortions because there’s no more unwanted children,” he concluded.

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

7 hours ago

7 Things: Impeachment fight finally on, Doug Jones tied to Schiff and Omar, indicted judges may not get paid anymore and more …

7. Alabamians are lazy

  • The Centers for Disease Control has released a list of physical activity levels by state for adults, and Alabama ranked fourth out of states with the highest inactivity level.
  • According to the report, 31% of adults in Alabama were reported as not being physically active. Mississippi ranked first with 33%, Arkansas second with 32.5%, Kentucky in third with 32.2% and Louisiana in fifth with 30.9%.

6. Biden slipping but still the favorite

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  • Apparently, the idea that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is a giant sexist monster didn’t successfully derail his candidacy. In fact, a new poll has him leading the Democratic field with former Vice President Joe Biden with 24% closely behind U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) lagging with 14%.
  • Biden finds himself in a precarious situation. He has dropped 10 points in this poll since October while Sanders has surged up 11.

5. Daycares could be taking on a new responsibility

  • State Representative Randy Wood (R-Anniston) has prepared a bill to file with the legislature called the Cash Edwin Jordan Act. The bill would require that daycares contact the parents or guardians if a child doesn’t arrive by 9:30 am.
  • The act is named for an 11-month-old that was accidentally left in the car back in September and passed away. Last year, there were 53 kids who died due to being left in a hot car last year across the United States, most of them being three-years-old or younger.

4. Sentencing reform is going nowhere in Alabama

  • In Montgomery, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spent time discussing President Donald Trump’s criminal justice reform bill. Sessions expressed his concern over the reduced sentences, saying he thinks some of them “went too far.”
  • Sessions went on to say the reductions made him “uneasy,” but he did go on to explain that he supported several parts of the bill, including educating and helping them successfully prepare for being released.

3. Indicted judge still getting paid — a state representative wants to change that

  • Limestone County Judge Doug Patterson has been indicted on felony charges, but he’s still on the state payroll and collecting his paycheck. Now, State Representative Andy Whitt (R-Harvest) is calling for Patterson’s resignation.
  • Whitt has said that Patterson shouldn’t continue to get paid if he isn’t a working judge, also mentioning how the other three judges in the county are overworked as they pick up Patterson’s work since he was suspended last year, but every month Patterson is getting paid $10,808.84.

2. Super-PAC is throwing punches at Doug Jones

  • U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has shown no interest in opposing the impeachment of President Donald Trump, and now the super-PAC America First Policies has put out an ad against Jones, deeming impeachment as a “radical left” project.
  • In the ad, Jones is shown to be in agreement with people like U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). The ad features a clip of Jones saying, “This is not a witch hunt, this is not a hoax.” Publicly, though, Jones has told CNN that he will be reelected no matter how he votes, but in the public, he hasn’t stated how he plans to vote on impeachment.

1. White House lawyers are playing offense, Democrats want witnesses

  • With the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump opening in the U.S. Senate, lawyers for Trump came out and said that the House Democrats have “no case.” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said some of the Democratic senators “should be in Iowa,” referencing U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MD).
  • Cipollone added, “Instead, we’re here and they’re not ready to go.” When U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) took the floor, he called for a “fair trial” that he thinks most people don’t expect, as he believes people think Trump will be acquitted because of partisan politics, as if he is not partisan.