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2 weeks ago

Alabama officials applaud Trump’s State of the Union

President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union Address Tuesday night, with elected officials across Alabama applauding the “inspiring” speech.

In addition to congressional Republicans praising the address, Governor Kay Ivey identified one bipartisan issue that especially relates to Alabama’s current needs and priorities.

Speaking of Trump’s “Initiative for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America,” Ivey added, “I, too, urge Congress to quickly fund this initiative to help, not just those of us in Alabama, but the entire United States.”

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) highlighted the unifying theme of Trump’s remarks, with a focus on reaching “common sense solutions to pressing policy issues.”

The senior senator from Alabama again praised the economy under the president’s leadership, too.

Shelby’s statement as follows:

Tonight President Trump outlined a policy agenda that both parties can work together to achieve. During his first two years in office, the President has delivered on many promises to the American people, including signing historic tax reform into law, creating one of the strongest economies I have seen in my lifetime, and focusing on vital infrastructure projects.

While huge strides were made to address our nation’s most critical issues last Congress, I applaud President Trump’s dedication to solve the challenges still facing us today. It is imperative that we work to put our political disagreements aside in order to secure our borders with a comprehensive solution. As Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground on this critical issue.

As President Trump highlighted, we must strive to reach common sense solutions to pressing policy issues in the days ahead. I plan to continue working to promote safe and legal immigration, protect American workers, rebuild our infrastructure, lower the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, and prioritize our national security. The President’s remarks this evening were inspiring, and I look forward to implementing policies that ensure the success and prosperity of the American people. As he said tonight, victory is not winning for our party, victory is winning for our country.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) was effusive in his praise for the speech, also drawing attention to Alabama-centric issues.

Byrne’s statement as follows:

Tonight, President Trump’s message was clear: if we stop with the political games and focus on solutions, American Greatness knows no bounds. By supporting the President’s clear and bold agenda, the American people will be stronger, safer, and more prosperous.

Most notably, President Trump again outlined a commonsense strategy to secure our border. After decades of inaction by both parties, it is time we finally fix our broken immigration system and keep the American people safe.

President Trump also outlined many issues important to Alabama. From strengthening our military to expanding rural broadband to lowering prescription drug costs, under President Trump’s agenda the people of Alabama stand to benefit and our state will become even stronger.

It is time to stop with the politics of resistance and act on these critically important issues. President Trump is right when he said that great bipartisan achievements in this Congress are possible, especially when we rally behind a commonsense agenda building American Greatness. Let’s get it done.

In a press release, Congresswoman Martha Roby (AL-2) listed infrastructure on her list of highlights as well.

“In his second State of the Union address, President Trump highlighted the economic success hardworking Americans are experiencing thanks to the implementation of pro-growth policies, including the historic tax reform overhaul,” Roby outlined. “I was also pleased to hear more about his plan to work with Congress to reinvigorate our badly aging infrastructure, strengthen our military, bolster our national security efforts, improve care for veterans, and defend the unborn.”

She continued, “In addition, President Trump laid out his vision for our country’s future as it relates to enhancing border security and finally addressing our serious illegal immigration problem. Now, with a divided Congress, I was encouraged by his remarks about the importance of bipartisanship and working together to get our job done. I am eager to continue working with the Administration and my colleagues in Congress to deliver the results that the American people and Alabama’s Second District deserve.”

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-3) embraced the president’s call for unity, saying this “will only make our nation stronger.”

“Tonight, President Trump reaffirmed in his speech what makes our country great,” Rogers said in a statement.

“His vision for America is attainable if we all work together and his eloquent call for unity will only make our nation stronger. I look forward to continuing to work with President Trump to build an even stronger economy, ensure our national security remains a top priority and secure our Southwest border with Mexico,” he concluded.

In a press release, Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-4) stressed that Democrats need to come to the table and reach a deal that will secure the border.

Aderholt’s statement as follows:

President Trump’s request for funding to build a wall along our southern border is not only reasonable, it is desperately needed. There is nothing “immoral” about a nation choosing to protect its borders and thereby protect its sovereignty.

What is immoral is to continue to allow a constant stream of drug traffickers, and human traffickers into the country. It is immoral to allow this unlawful door to remain open, because it encourages adults to put their children in grave danger – both from illness and from the strangers who transport them.

I fear that many of my Democrat colleagues are willing to set aside the laws of our land, and that is what we are talking about: immigration is governed by laws, to ensure fairness and safety. Many Democrats are willing to set aside these laws, and turn a blind eye to the dangers coming into our nation, for the prospect of future electoral gains.

I urge my colleagues in Congress to fund the border wall and to reopen our government.

Aderholt’s focus on border security was built on by his colleague from north Alabama.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) said, “President Trump did an excellent job of explaining why we must secure America’s porous southern border. Too many Americans have lost their lives and their jobs. Too many Americans have had their wages suppressed. Too many Americans are being forced to pay higher taxes to support welfare for illegal alien families. In short, President Trump laid bare for all to see the betrayal of American families by Democrats who care more about illegal aliens than Americans.”

“Whether the focus was on economic prosperity, free enterprise versus socialism, international relations, health care, national security, or the promise of America, President Trump hit the game-winning grand slam, shot the game-winning three point shot, and scored the game-winning touchdown. In sum, President Trump reminded us of how great America is and how proud we should be to be Americans,” he added.

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-6) urged Democrats in Congress to return to a common sense, bipartisan approach.

“By cooperating together, we will surely preserve our country for future generations,” he said.

Palmer’s statement as follows:

The President’s theme tonight of choosing greatness was what I think the nation needed to hear. He made it clear that we have a choice—we can choose to continue to pursue agendas that will weaken us, or we can choose an agenda that will unite us and ensure a bright and secure future for America.

A strong economy, a strong value for life at all stages, and strong border security are all things that should unite us. We are certainly better off now than we were two years ago. Under this Administration, businesses have expanded, burdensome regulations have been eliminated, people are taking home bigger paychecks, and many businesses that had left the U.S. have returned. President Trump noted tonight: ‘The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast as when I took office, and we are considered by far and away the hottest economy in the world…More people are working now than ever before in our history – 157 million people at work.’

In terms of jobs, the economy, our relations with other nations, and our standing the world, the State of the Union is, as President Trump said, “strong.” But the President also made it clear that the greatest threat to the Union is the bitter partisan politics that divide us. He was right to challenge Democrats and Republicans to come together to ‘govern not as two parties, but as one nation.’

By cooperating together, we will surely preserve our country for future generations. I was glad to hear President Trump express value for those future generations by upholding the sanctity of life tonight. Recognition of the dignity of life at all stages and protection of the right to life are inherent to our nation’s ideals. We must continue defending this most basic right if we are to flourish as a country.

We also must defend our country where it is vulnerable to outside harm. For many weeks now, the need for strong border security has been apparent. Between the gang violence, human trafficking, and illegal drug trading, there is undoubtedly a crisis at the southern border. President Trump has now provided a window of opportunity for Congress to fund all of its agencies while also ensuring a secure border. In years past, there has been bipartisan support for border security that includes a physical barrier.

I hope my Democratic colleagues will heed President Trump’s words tonight and return to this bipartisan approach that he has encouraged. He summed it up well tonight when he said, ‘Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.’

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) and Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-7) did not release a statement or share their thoughts on social media after the State of the Union.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan lauded Trump’s call for unity, stating, “America is and will continue to be great, but we are stronger if we decide to come together and work to find solutions that better our nation.”

Lathan’s statement as follows:

President Trump showed true leadership through his incredible State of the Union Address. In calling for a renewal of bipartisanship and cooperation, our president was the picture of strength and resolve.

President Trump is right. America is and will continue to be great, but we are stronger if we decide to come together and work to find solutions that better our nation. To echo President Trump’s words, we must choose greatness. In putting aside our differences, we can make the seemingly impossible, possible.

We deeply appreciate President Trump’s strong determination to end
late-term abortions. All children are worthy of life. It is up to us to protect their innocence.

We were also reminded of President Trump’s accomplishments during the last two years. From historically low unemployment and tax rates to nearly eradicating ISIS, to rolling back burdensome federal regulations, one thing is crystal clear – our president is getting things done and improving life for Americans.

Alabama is proud to be a consistent and strong supporter of President Trump and his policies. His efforts to keep our nation safe, both internationally and at our borders are what America needs to remain secure. It is imperative that we build a wall to enforce our nation’s immigration laws and stop the flow of drugs, human traffickers and dangerous criminals from harming our citizens. It is American to embrace legal immigrants and the value they bring to America while simultaneously recognizing that our broken immigration system must be fixed.

While we witnessed the Democrats choosing to sit and not acknowledge the huge success of our American economy and the morality of stopping criminals crossing our borders who are harming our citizens, President Trump’s determination to protect all Americans is resolute for our nation’s safety.

The Alabama Republican Party will continue to support and partner with President Trump throughout his presidency. Now is the time to end divisiveness and act to ensure the future of our country remains on the right path.

You can read about Trump’s special guests at the State of the Union here.

You can read the transcript of Trump’s speech as prepared here.

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

10 mins ago

The case for state control of alcoholic beverages

It’s that time of year again. The Alabama Legislature is only days from its opening session, and lawmakers across the state are drafting bills they say will make Alabama better.

As in years past, some special interest groups – big-box retailers and liquor distributors – are pushing again to privatize liquor sales in Alabama. By privatize, they mean closing state-operated liquor stores and handing over the sale of all liquor in the state to private businesses.

On the surface, that might sound sensible. Why should the state even be in the liquor business?

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Look closer, though, and you will see that privatizing hurts state budgets, public safety and health, and even Alabama consumers. I like to tell people that Alabama is not in the “liquor business”; the state is in the “control business” – controlling the sale of alcohol and protecting the people of the state from the harmful effects of alcohol.

Last year, the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board’s operations provided $262 million to state and local governments. Most of that went to the habitually challenged General Fund and agencies such as the departments of Human Resources, Mental Health and Public Health and law enforcement.

The argument from those pushing for privatization is that the state will come out ahead financially because it no longer would incur the costs of operating stores. That argument is false. Every state in recent memory that has privatized elements of alcohol sales it once controlled has lost revenue or had to raise taxes.

The most recent example is the state of Washington. After Costco pushed through the state legislature a referendum to privatize liquor sales and spent $22 million to make sure the referendum went the way Costco wanted, Washington voters in 2011 approved closing state stores in favor of opening private stores. The result? Stores selling liquor went from 328 to more than 1,400, two large distributors grabbed 93 percent of the wholesale market while big-box stores dominated retail sales, and the state raised liquor taxes by 27 percent to make up for lost state revenue. Today, Washington has, by far, the highest liquor prices in the country.

As someone deeply concerned about the harm alcohol inflicts on families and society in general, I have no problem with higher liquor prices. I do, however, worry about already struggling state agencies that assist families and protect public safety and health taking a financial hit due to lost revenue.

I am also concerned about the ABC Board’s ability to adequately “police” the sale of what is a destructive substance. Remember, one of the agencies the ABC Board funds with dollars from its stores is itself. Take away that revenue, and the ABC Board would not be able to inspect, license and investigate stores and restaurants that sell any form of alcoholic beverages to ensure their compliance with state laws.

Just like prisons and Medicaid, the ABC Board would be dependent on funds from the General Fund. We all know the struggles the Legislature has had patching together the General Fund budget.

Let’s be frank about alcohol. It is not just any commodity, and we shouldn’t treat it like buying bread, milk or eggs. Alcohol is a mind-altering, addictive drug. It kills more people each year – 88,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – than all illicit drugs combined, including opioids. Excessive drinking costs the U.S. economy $249 billion each year, the CDC says. It costs Alabama more than $3.7 billion.

Alcohol is a factor in a majority of violent crimes, including rape and murder. About half the suicides in our country are linked to alcohol. Most of the people in our prisons had alcohol in their system when they committed their crimes.

I am especially alarmed by the great harm alcohol inflicts on families. Alcohol is a major cause of domestic violence, child neglect, unwanted pregnancies and divorce.

My question to lawmakers is this: Why would you want to make all of those problems worse? Make no mistake about it, that’s exactly what privatization would do. It would multiply the number of stores selling liquor, hamstring enforcement and take money away from critical state agencies that assist and protect our most vulnerable citizens.

Who benefits from privatization? It’s not Alabama citizens. The only winners are those who sell liquor, particularly corporate-owned superstores and other chain retailers – based out of state – that see liquor as a way to further increase their profits. But, at your expense.

It is that time of year again. Spring is getting nearer, and so is the arrival of lawmakers gathering in Montgomery. It is also a good time for us to get smarter and put to rest for good the notion that we can make it easier to sell liquor without all of us paying a higher cost.

Joe Godfrey is the executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP)

41 mins ago

Forensic Sciences awarded nearly $400,000 in grants to combat opioid and drug crisis

Governor Kay Ivey reaffirmed her support for the fight against opioids and other illegal or abused substances by announcing a grant to the Department of Forensic Sciences worth $386,207.

The award, which consists of two grants valued at $260,207 and $126,000, will provide the Department of Forensic Sciences with necessary equipment, including two state-of-the-art substance analyzers which have the capability to rapidly analyze and identify opioids, prescription drugs and other illegal substances.

Both solid and liquid substances can be detected by the analyzers and the presence and type of drug can be found. The screening time for each sample will last approximately two minutes, according to the Forensic Sciences department, which is responsible for the collection and identification of evidence for more than 450 law enforcement agencies in the state of Alabama.

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“Evidence provided by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences is often the difference between whether a suspect is convicted or set free,” Ivey said in an announcement. “These new tools will greatly enhance the ability of technicians to accurately examine drug evidence and provide that information to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.”

The grants made available from the U.S. Department of Justice are being administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

“Gov. Ivey recognizes the tireless work that the Department of Forensic Sciences performs daily to assist our law enforcement agencies and prosecutorial services in doing their jobs effectively and efficiently,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell stated. “ADECA is pleased to join Gov. Ivey in this partnership to provide this new equipment.”

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

1 hour ago

Obama era environmental regulations strike again, force closure of APCO’s Gorgas Steam Plant

The Obama administration has ended, but job-killing environmental regulations from the 44th president’s time in office are still hurting Alabama.

Alabama Power Company announced Wednesday that the Gorgas Steam Plant in Walker County will be shuttered because of unrealistic and cost-prohibitive mandates put in place by President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plant, which has been operational since 1917, will cease operating its three coal-fired generating units and close April 15.

The facility could not meet the stringent mandates related to coal combustion residuals (CCR, better known as coal ash) in time, and the cost to convert to gasification would have been monumentally high. In a press release, the company said it estimated a price tag of approximately $300 million just to comply with one set of mandates and continue operating the plant’s coal-fired units.

Alabama Power has worked to ensure that almost all Plant Gorgas employees will be transferred to new facilities and get to keep their jobs. Bevill State Community College has been working with the company to retrain affected employees. 

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Jim Heilbron, senior vice president and senior production officer for Alabama Power, said, “We recognize that Plant Gorgas and the men and women who have operated it have brought great value to Alabama Power, our customers and the local community.”

Patrick Cagle, president of the Alabama Coal Association, told Yellowhammer News that he commends Alabama Power’s efforts at minimizing the economic impact of the closure.

“President Obama’s administration declared war on the coal industry and unfortunately this is the latest example of that legacy,” he stated.

Cagle continued, “The Alabama Coal Association is keenly aware of the economic impact this closure will have on the local community, and we commend Alabama Power for working to relocate affected employees and minimize this economic impact as much as possible. Alabama Power has been a longtime partner to us and our members, and we appreciate their continued commitment to investing in our great state and local economies through the use of Alabama coal.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-4) commented, “This is just another example of [Obama’s] ‘War on Coal.’”

“While I’m certainly glad to hear that most of the employees of the Gorgas plant will be able to keep their jobs, the loss of tax revenue to Walker County is astronomical,” he advised. “This is just another example of the ‘War on Coal’ that was prevalent during the Obama Administration and how it deeply impacts rural communities with little concern for those who are hurt.”

Aderholt also outlined how elections – and the policies of respective administrations – have consequences that cannot be undone overnight.

“President Trump has made progress in rolling back the Obama Administration executive orders that were trying to kill coal and coal jobs. And in Congress, I voted in 2015 on a bill that would roll back crippling EPA rules, but as has been the case for far too many bills, it went to the Senate where it was allowed to die,” he explained.

Aderholt concluded, “I, along with my conservative colleagues, are fighting alongside President Trump to stop these job choking, economic crushing and community killing regulations. But changing the chronic Washington lack of understanding when it comes to rural America, will take time to reverse.”

Alabama Public Service Commission — ‘The war on coal finally took its toll’

A press release from the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) stressed that due to “extreme Obama Era Federal regulations… there is just no choice regarding the future of Plant Gorgas.”

“In 2008, candidate Obama declared war on coal and promised to bankrupt anyone who built a coal fired electricity plant. President Obama immediately went to work signing one after another punitive, burdensome federal mandates on the coal industry. Now his promise has come to fruition at Plant Gorgas,” the release said.

It added, “[T]he responsibility of the Alabama Public Service Commission is to require Alabama Power to provide secure, reliable service at the lowest cost to their customers.  Given this charge, along with the astronomical rising cost to comply with Obama era mandates, there is just no choice regarding the future of Plant Gorgas.”

“The company has taken every possible step to keep the plant up and running, but the war on coal finally took its toll,”  Public Service Commission (PSC) President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said.

“Obama said he wanted to make it too expensive to run coal-fired plants, and he did. I commend President Trump for rolling back as many of the Obama mandates as he could. The problem for us here in Alabama was that Obama placed the biggest bullseye on us, and Trump’s valiant effort at finally implementing common sense came along a little too late,” she concluded.

Commissioner Jeremy Oden remarked, “I serve the State of Alabama as the Chairman of the Clean Coal Committee for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. One of my duties across the country is to make sure these plants continue to serve their mission in economical ways. With the mandated environmental retrofit required to continue to produce energy at Gorgas with coal, it is no longer feasible. I have spent years nationally trying to save these plants, and it saddens me deeply to see this happen in our state.”

Commissioner Chip Beeker commented, “Obama’s negligence and disregard for Alabama families and their jobs is one of the many destructive outcomes of his presidency. The liberals who helped drive Obama’s agenda continue to put Alabama’s economy at risk. Our task moving forward is to keep the ones affected by this and their families in our hearts and in our prayers. We will continue to fight for our state to achieve the most reliable and affordable energy.”

The PSC emphasized that it supports Alabama’s coal industry and the miners who “have supported their families and our state’s economy with their self-sacrifice, hard work and dedication.”

The commission is urging Alabama Power to continue working “to minimize the impact of this closure on the communities and on the numerous families affected.”

Just the latest example

Unfortunately, Plant Gorgas is just the most recent Alabama casualty of Obama era mandates.

On New Year’s Eve, PowerSouth CEO Gary Smith emailed employees that Lowman Plant on the Tombigbee River in Washington County will be forced to close.

He pointed to the coal ash regulations as prohibitive to keeping the facility in business, saying “we are left few choices other than to close the Lowman Plant and obtain additional generation resources to replace the coal-fired generation.”

Smith also outlined why having coal in a power generation portfolio is so important to this day, lamenting “extremist environmental ideologies.”

“With closure of the Lowman Plant, we lose the diversity of coal-fired generation as a natural hedge against higher natural gas prices, and we are more dependent upon natural gas as a generation fuel (The Lowman Plant has been economically dispatched ahead of our most efficient natural gas units for the past four weeks because of higher-priced natural gas),” he advised.

“It is sad and disheartening that environmental activists, politicians, bureaucrats and others have allowed environmental and climate change movements to close coal-fired units and cost good, hardworking people their jobs and livelihoods,” Smith added. “The real victims are the hopes and dreams of Lowman employees, people with families, lives and needs that were met with their employment at the Lowman Plant, not the abstract climate threats to public health. Maybe one day our leaders will understand the real damage they have done.”

Additionally, Plant Gorgas is far from the only example just when it comes to Alabama Power facilities being affected by Obama administration environmental mandates.

“Federally driven environmental mandates related to coal, and the costs to comply with those mandates, are changing the way Alabama Power provides electricity to customers,” the company’s press release Wednesday noted.

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

All roads lead to Alabama jobs

“940,353 full times jobs are completely dependent on Alabama’s transportation network. If we want to recruit new industry and create more jobs, we need a road and bridge system that supports economic growth in Alabama. It’s time to take this issue seriously and invest in Alabama’s future. Let’s take action and rebuild Alabama’s roads!” #FixALroads

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2 hours ago

Save the date: Yellowhammer News Shaper series kicks off with its 2019 legislative edition

Yellowhammer News will host its next “Yellowhammer News Shaper” event in Montgomery on March 19. The gathering will offer a networking opportunity as well as a live interview with Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia).

The discussion will be moderated by Yellowhammer News editor and owner Tim Howe and will cover issues surrounding this year’s legislative session.

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The event will take place at the Alabama Association of Realtors, 522 Washington Avenue, and will begin at 5:00 p.m. with a cocktail reception followed by the moderated interview and questions from the audience.

Several more Yellowhammer News Shaper events will take place across the state this year. The series is non-partisan, on-the-record and designed to localize issues and highlight thought leaders.

Continue to visit Yellowhammernews.com for announcements during the 2019 calendar year.