5 months ago

Andy Andrews: President George H.W. Bush memories

Yes, he was 94. Still, I am sad about the passing of President George H.W. Bush. What a great and honorable life he lived. And what a smile — in success and failure, despite the death of a child, and living an increasingly public life even after his presidency — this mostly because of two other children in politics.

I was honored to have spent a bit of time with this president. Not that anyone has asked, but my memories of President Bush include eating the “souse” (look it up) he had ordered to be served in The Blue room of The White House. I swear I can still taste it!

I remember once leaving a backstage area with my wife, Polly.

We’d been at The White House that afternoon and the president was in as happy a state of mind as, I suppose, anyone ever gets. The (first) Gulf War had been ended in 100 days—a stunning victory for our country with an unprecedented low number of American casualties.

That evening after speaking, Polly and I waved to a crowd of happy people as we got into a limo for the short ride back to the hotel. The crowd had been effusive with all eyes on the president and standing ovations for his every word or move.

That day, it had been announced that President Bush had an 89 percent approval rating. It was the highest any president had ever scored (FDR had come closest with an 83 percent in 1938).

Headed to the hotel, Polly and I marveled at the evening’s magic and listened to groups of onlookers chant “Bush! Bush!” as we rode by. A thought occurred to me and I spoke it aloud to my wife. I said, “Who will the Democrats even run against him in November? Nobody will accept the nomination. They’ll already know they haven’t a chance to win!”

Polly and I both remember well the words I spoke in that moment. 19 months later, the president lost badly to a previously unknown governor from Arkansas. And I’ve never since had faith in a public opinion poll.

Every year, whoever the president might be, there is an event called The President’s Charity held at Ford’s Theater for the preservation of that historic landmark. Traditionally, the president personally chooses the speaker, artist, entertainer — or all three — for the evening’s celebration.

One particular year, I was the only “spoken word artist” the president had chosen. The line-up included The Oak Ridge Boys, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Alabama, Garth Brooks…and me. My seven minutes was situated somewhere in the middle.

Honestly, I don’t remember who performed before me or after. I don’t even remember much of what I did that evening. I do, however, remember what happened as I began my remarks.

Actor John Ritter was the emcee for the event. I waited in the wings, listening as he introduced me. When the polite applause began, I walked on to the stage and realized that it was the first time I had even been in the theater. I saw immediately that there were two balconies. Glancing up and to the left, I spotted the draped box of eight seats where President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated.

Moving to the center of the stage, I looked down and into the audience. One couldn’t help but notice the President of the United States in the very middle of the front row. He and Barbara were holding hands. To their left sat the Vice-President, Dan Quayle and his wife, Marilyn. To the president’s right, Morgan Freeman was seated.

The applause died away and for a moment, I said nothing. With eyes widened, I simply stared into that area of focus, front row, center seats. “I just have to say that I am really nervous with you here,” I said. No one moved. There was a frozen smile on the president’s face, but a tiny bit of uncertainty began to show.

I wiped my palms on the trouser legs of my tuxedo and took a tentative step forward, continuing to peer into the middle of the first row. The audience was eerily still now, everyone focused on what appeared to be happening, certain they were witnessing a disaster and hoping that for God’s sake, someone would come rescue this terrified young man.

I spoke again. “To think that I am here on this stage tonight, speaking for someone like you. You… conceivably the most powerful person on the planet at this time. And to think that, this evening… you let the president come, too, Mrs. Bush, is just amazing.”

For a long moment, time seemed to stand still, but in reality, there couldn’t have been more than a full second before the audience erupted. President Bush led the applause, laughing and pointing to his wife, The First Lady. She turned a shrugged to the audience as if to express, “What can I say?”

I just stood there, smiling and watching. It might have been the longest laugh I ever got from an audience in my entire career. However, I knew then and still know today, that while the “joke” might have been credited to me, “the moment” was enabled by the president of the United States, his First Lady, the incredible connection they had as a couple, and their sense of humor.

Andy Andrews new weekly podcast, “The Professional Noticer” is being broadcast from Orange Beach, Alabama, and already has listeners in 63 countries.  Subscribe for free on your favorite media platform or at AndyAndrews.com/Podcast.    

Everyone can now have their own sweet home in Alabama

Now that it’s 2019, no longer does the term “Sweet Home Alabama” have to be just a famous Lynyrd Skynyrd song, or a Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy.

That’s because anyone who has always wanted to own a home of their own in Alabama now has a new tool to help them do that for the first time, or even the first time in a long while.

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In Alabama, the First-Time Homebuyer and Second-Chance Savings Account (FHSA), is now available for anyone who has never owned a home or for those folks who are re-entering the housing market and haven’t owned a home for at least a decade.

Individuals or couples can open one of these tax-free savings accounts at any local bank, credit union or other financial institution in Alabama. The principal deposits and earnings will be deductible on their state income taxes.

The savings in this account can be used to pay for a down payment and/or closing costs for a single-family dwelling.

ABOUT THE ACCOUNTS

“First-time buyers can now begin the process of buying a home years in advance, simply by starting a savings account, and get a tax break by doing so,” said Morgan Ashurst, 2019 Alabama REALTORS® Public Policy Chair. “We are proud to have played a role in helping provide first-time buyers with this new resource.”

The option to use this account was created in 2018 when the Alabama legislature passed a bill and Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law. It allows individuals or couples to make deposits and earnings up to $50,000, with a mandate that qualified expenditures must be made within five years from opening the account.

“One of the most commonly asked questions from first-time buyers is, ‘Where do I start?’ This savings account is the new starting point,” said Stacey Sanders, 2019 Alabama REALTORS® President. “We are excited to see the growth this new homebuying tool spurs in Alabama’s housing market.”

A POSITIVE IMPACT

And while this benefit is great for the first-time homebuyer and those who may have had to hit the reset button for a time and are ready to own a home again now, it’s a benefit to all Alabama residents.

Even though other Alabamaians can’t take advantage of the FHSA, they benefit because home ownership helps improve neighborhoods, which in turn attracts businesses, which creates jobs and improves our local economy.

Homeownership provides wealth accumulation for owners, in addition to social and economic benefits.

Overall, 90% of Alabama residents believe homeownership is a good financial decision.

So, there’s a stake in homeownership for everybody in Alabama, where, according to the song, the skies are so blue. And those skies will be bluer and brighter with more homeowners, which is why those that qualify should take advantage of the FHSA now that it is available.

BY Anthony Sanfilippo

Byrne: Alabama the Beautiful

As the weather continues to warm and summer temperatures approach, I am reminded of the incredible natural beauty that lies here in Alabama.

For many schools throughout Southwest Alabama, April marked Spring Break for students and teachers, and so many families take advantage of that time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors throughout our state.

As a hunter and outdoorsman, I know the importance of managing our wildlife areas and natural resources – private, family-owned and public lands – to ensure they are around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy for decades to come. That is why I have once again joined the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to protect and advance our national heritage of hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and trapping.

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As anyone who lives here knows, along the Gulf Coast we are blessed with an amazingly diverse and important ecosystem.

This week, I will be visiting the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge along the Fort Morgan Peninsula to celebrate the completion of a significant land conservation effort within the Little Point Clear Unit. Bon Secour is home to countless species and is a favorite outdoor spot for many Southwest Alabamians.

Just across Mobile Bay, I’ll also have the privilege of participating in the Lightning Point Restoration Project groundbreaking in Bayou La Batre, another successful coastal restoration project made possible by local leadership and public-private partnerships.

With miles of trails and plenty to do and see, I am committed to preserving these important resources and habitats for future generations.

Just here in our backyard of Southwest Alabama, we also have Gulf State Park, Meaher State Park, Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, Frank Jackson State Park, dozens of walking trails, outdoor spaces and campgrounds.

It is up to us to take care of our area. Just a few weeks ago, Orange Beach was named the cleanest town in Alabama. What an accomplishment for Orange Beach residents!

It is also up to Congress to ensure that we take care of our natural resources as well. That is why I have continued to fight for just compensation in cases of natural disaster or human error.

The RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States) Act has provided funds for the cleanup from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that greatly impacted our shores and communities. It is important that the entirety of those funds are distributed as intended to the impacted communities and that such a disaster is not repeated in the future.

Similarly, I am grateful to President Trump for maintaining the funding for the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). This legislation provides for fair compensation to Alabama by creating revenue sharing provisions used for coastal conservation, restoration and hurricane protection.

Enjoying the beauty of mother nature along the coast also means having to recover when she turns violent.

We are unfortunately all too familiar with hurricanes and other violent storms in our area. Being prepared goes a long way to riding out the storm, but it is how we recover that defines the spirit of resilience that we have here in Alabama. When the worst does happen, I always fight to ensure that the people of Alabama have access to the necessary funds and resources to recover from those natural disasters.

I have lived my whole life in Alabama, and I believe we live in the most beautiful state in the country. Whenever I am out in nature with my kids and grandkids, hunting, fishing, or simply enjoying God’s creation, I understand why we call it “Alabama the Beautiful.”

This year, as the Spring turns into Summer, make sure you take time to enjoy nature and get out and enjoy our parks, history and everything Alabama has to offer.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

2 hours ago

Rebuild Alabama projects keep coming: Hwy 82 in Prattville and Hwy 411 in Cherokee County

Announcements of Rebuild Alabama infrastructure projects are starting to become an everyday occurrence.

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday outlined that the Alabama Department of Transportation has selected major transportation projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan 2020.

“Drivers across Alabama have experienced the troubles of the state’s crumbling infrastructure for far too long. In selecting these projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties, we’re showing that stagnation is no longer the case in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement. “For the ease of our drivers, for the safety of our drivers and for the future of our state, it’s finally time we Rebuild Alabama!”

This comes after announcements of significant projects for the Huntsville area and Tuscaloosa in recent days.

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In a cluster of Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan projects, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 82 in Prattville, a project that this area has long been awaiting for over 60 years. These enhancements to US 82 will shorten the daily commute of over 17,000 drivers and also complete the Prattville Bypass, according to the governor’s office.

Additionally, the widening of US 82 will improve access for loggers traveling to the International Paper plant from 18 Alabama counties. Six hundred workers from 23 Alabama counties will reportedly find increased ease in their work commutes, as this project improves access to the James Hardie Building Projects Facility and the other companies in the area.

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), who carried the Rebuild Alabama Act in the Senate, lauded the announcement as a huge win for jobs and the community. He also emphasized that these types of projects will ultimately be transformational for the Yellowhammer State.

“These are the first steps of many that will begin the process of Rebuild Alabama. Industry is a backbone of our economic engine, and I am pleased that Governor Ivey is moving Alabama forward with these improvements,” Chambliss remarked. “I firmly believe that we will look back on 2019 as a turning point in the history of our state.”

State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville), who represents this project’s district in the House, voted against the Rebuild Alabama Act. A freshman legislator, he is currently considering a run for the U.S. Senate, as reported by Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “The Insider.”

‘Long-awaited’ project for a rural part of Alabama

In Cherokee County, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 411 as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan.

“The widening of US 411 has been long-awaited by the folks of Cherokee and Etowah counties, and it is vital for the economic development of this area,” State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) said. “As we begin to see dividends from the Rebuild Alabama Act, I once again thank Governor Ivey for her leadership in its passage and look forward to continually working together in the future.”

Cherokee County is one of 16 Alabama counties currently not served by a four-lane route to an interstate. This Rebuild Alabama project will fulfill a promise that the people of this area have waited for since the early 1960s.

“I appreciate and support Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama plan, including investing in rural districts,” State Rep. Ginny Shaver (R-Leesburg) said. “Four lane access to the interstate will greatly increase economic development opportunities for new and existing industry in our area. The people have been waiting decades for this project to be completed, and Governor Ivey is the one who is getting it done!”

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

3 hours ago

Ivey to introduce book published by Alabama nonprofit dedicated to health and literacy

As part of its HEAL Day celebration in Montgomery, an Alabama nonprofit advocating for health and literacy will host Governor Kay Ivey for the introduction of a new book written by its founder.

Ivey will read the book, written by HEAL founder and CEO Christy Swaid, to 200 children in the state capitol auditorium.

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The Ultimate Treasure Hunt is a book that Swaid hopes will help children better understand the connection between health and literacy.

HEAL is an acronym summarizing the group’s mission: Healthy Eating Active Living. According to HEAL, it is “dedicated to unifying Alabama to reverse the trend of chronic disease and poor literacy.” The organization works with 30,000 students and 85,000 family members in 153 schools across the state.

Ivey’s book reading is part of an event the group is calling “HEAL Day: A day of education & celebration of health, academic achievement and literacy in the great state of Alabama.”

Where: Alabama State Capitol
When: May 1, 10:30am-1:00pm — Governor’s presentation is set for 11:00am with book reading to follow
Watch:

HB352 seeks to save the American Dream for Alabama small business owners

The American Dream.

It is woven into the fabric of our nation’s success and yet, at some point, for small business owners across Alabama, the dream of small business success that drives hardworking Alabama men and women to work 70 hour weeks, to pour their hearts and souls into building small businesses the vision of leaving something behind for their children, began to be threatened by large out of state corporate interests and under current Alabama law, there were no legal protections for those that saw their hard work, sweat, tears and dollars taken away.

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The Bush family spent nearly three decades building a successful small business in rural Elmore County. Twenty-six years ago, Darrel Bush’s parents purchased a Huddle House franchise and began the grueling task of opening a new restaurant. The restaurant grew into a success and, as they became ready, the next generation of the Bush family joined the business. Two generations of a single family were living the American Dream until the Huddle House corporation decided they wanted the profits that the Bush’s were making for themselves – cut out the small business owners that built the Huddle House name in Wetumpka.

Once the corporation had their eyes set on the Bush’s business, they used corporate bullying to drive the Bush’s out of business so that the corporation could build a company-owned Huddle House just a mile down the road. Alabama law had no protections for the Bush family and they lost the dream they had devoted their lives to achieving.

Unfortunately, the Bush family is not alone. Time after time, Alabama’s small business owners find themselves at the mercy of large out of state corporations due to our state’s weak franchisee protection laws.

Under current statute, the out of state franchisors hold all of the cards while Alabama small business owners are largely powerless to defend themselves. It is not uncommon for these franchisors to come back year after year and demand changes to franchise contracts. If the franchisees balk at agreeing to the changes, their businesses are threatened. They are often forced to purchase products at far above the fair market value, forced to make investments of their profits into systems and programs that benefit the corporation, not their small business. If a location gets too successful, they are at risk of being shut down so that a corporate owned store can open up down the street and usurp the profits for the corporation. Often, franchise owners are told that they can’t leave their businesses to their children.

Many Alabama franchisees lives in a constant state of fear.

Representative Connie Rowe (R-Walker County) is hoping to give Alabama’s small business men and women a fair playing field in the State of Alabama with HB352, the Alabama Small Business Act. The legislation, which will be heard in committee in the Alabama House of Representatives this week, will protect the rights of the state’s business owners and the 125,000 jobs they provide.

The bill gives franchisees the rights to have disputes heard in Alabama’s court system, rather than being forced to go to court in the franchisor’s home state. It would also require that franchisor corporations negotiate in good faith in their dealings with Alabama’s franchise owners.

This legislation is about more than protecting the rights of business owners. This legislation is about protecting the American Dream and that is something we should all be able to support.