The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 days ago

Roy Moore weighs Senate re-run despite GOP opposition

(D. Jones/Twitter, R. Moore/YouTube)

Conservative lightning rod Roy Moore of Alabama, narrow loser of a turbulent special election for Senate in 2017, is considering a fresh run next year.

National Republican leaders are signaling they will again try preventing their party from nominating the twice-removed state jurist whose campaign was battered by allegations of long-ago sexual harassment of teenagers.

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Moore’s defeat for the same seat two years ago made him the first Republican in reliably red Alabama to lose a Senate race in a quarter century.

National party leaders say a Moore nomination would endanger what they view as a strong shot at defeating Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), the Democrat and former federal prosecutor who upset Moore two years ago.

Moore’s nomination could also have national repercussions, allowing Democrats to accuse the GOP of ignoring the #MeToo movement and coddling a man accused of sexual misconduct, allegations he has denied.

Moore says he expects to announce a decision in mid-June.

“I’m still praying about it and talking to people, my family, my wife and I’m strongly considering it,” Moore, 72, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

In a separate AP interview last week, he said 2020 “could be a touchpoint in our nation, not only for the presidency but for the House and Congress.”

Moore said he had many reasons for considering another campaign but declined to elaborate.

Republicans control the Senate 53-47 and view defeating Jones as a top priority.

Jones, 65, is considered the most endangered Democratic incumbent facing re-election in 2020, a year when several GOP senators are vulnerable and control of the chamber will be at stake.

Alabama’s deep conservative leanings were demonstrated anew this week with a new law criminalizing nearly every abortion in the state, which Jones called an “extreme” attack on women.

With abortion potentially a driving 2020 issue and President Donald Trump certain to carry Alabama easily in next year’s elections, Republicans have little interest in fumbling a chance to recapture Jones’ seat.

Establishment Republicans also have no taste for revisiting the chaos that was Moore’s 2017 Senate race.

His campaign and his refusal to abandon it after the sexual harassment charges emerged a month before Election Day divided the party, with President Donald Trump giving Moore his eleventh-hour endorsement while other leaders remained opposed or distanced themselves from the contest.

Jones defeated Moore by 22,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast.

“The people of Alabama rejected Roy Moore not too long ago,” Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, told the AP this week. “I with my Republican colleagues always want to be supportive of the most conservative candidate who can actually win a race, and I don’t see that anything has changed in the state of Alabama since the last election.”

Asked if he would try to head off Moore, Young said, “We’ll actively work to make sure that the most conservative, electable Republican is our nominee.”

Sending a similar signal was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who tried unsuccessfully to derail Moore in 2017.

Asked whether he would oppose a renewed run by Moore, McConnell told a reporter, “I think you know the answer to that.”

Alabama GOP leaders, who resisted pressure from Washington Republicans to hinder Moore’s path to the 2017 nomination, are showing no signs of thwarting him this time.

“The voters will make these decisions,” state party Chairman Terry Lathan said in an email. She said she didn’t know Moore’s plans because “he rarely communicates with the Party.”

McConnell’s and other party leaders’ preferred 2017 nominee was GOP Sen. Luther Strange, appointed months earlier to fill a vacancy.

They feared that moderate voters would abandon Moore if he was nominated because of his hard-right views against gay marriage and for a larger role of religion in government, plus his use of racially insensitive language.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McConnell, spent $6.9 million in the primary against Moore and for Strange, according to Federal Election Commission figures.

The Republican senatorial committee spent another $400,000 to help Strange. Moore defeated Strange in a runoff.

McConnell began intervening in GOP primaries earlier this decade after some quirky contenders won nominations but lost winnable general elections.

After winning the nomination, Moore’s campaign was further roiled when The Washington Post reported claims by several women that he pursued inappropriate relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. McConnell and others unsuccessfully called for Moore to step aside.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, parried a question about whether the sexual misconduct allegations would make Moore a weak candidate in 2020, saying, “You’ve already answered your own question.”

Moore said Washington Republicans’ complaints that he could not win another election were unfounded since he was elected twice as the state’s chief justice.

He was removed both times, for publicly displaying the Ten Commandments and telling lower court judges to refuse to marry gay couples.

“Should I qualify I’ll run for Senate in the state of Alabama, not Washington, D.C.,” said Moore, who’s been strongly supported by evangelical voters.

Moore said he’s not reached out to Trump or White House officials this time.

“It’s not because I’m adverse to President Trump at all,” he said. “I support his policies and what he stands for. I’m not running for anybody else, I’m running for the state of Alabama.”

A White House spokesperson declined to answer questions. Trump presidential campaign aides did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville are among those who have already announced bids for the GOP nomination.

Strange filled the vacancy left by Sen. Republican Jeff Sessions, who became Trump’s first attorney general.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 days ago

Lawmakers urge special session on state prisons

(Gov. Bentley/Flickr, Contributed/C. Ward)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to call a special session as the state attempts to respond to scathing Department of Justice findings regarding state prisons.

Leaders of both parties held a Thursday press conference to discuss legislators’ attempts to respond to the Justice Department.

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Senate Judiciary Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said lawmakers are working on sentencing reform, prison construction, staffing issues and other matters.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said there is not enough time remaining in the legislative session to address prisons.

The U.S. Department of Justice last month issued a report that condemned state prisons for excessive violence, inmate deaths and a critical staffing shortage.

The Justice Department directed the state to make changes or face a civil lawsuit.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 days ago

Alabama executes man for 1997 quadruple killing

(ALDOC/Contributed, Wikicommons)

Prison officials say 41-year-old inmate Michael Brandon Samra was pronounced dead at 7:33 p.m. following a lethal injection at the state prison at Atmore.

Samra and a friend, Mark Duke, were convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Duke’s father, the father’s girlfriend and the woman’s two young daughters in 1997.

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Evidence showed that Duke planned the killings because he was angry his father would not let him use his pickup.

In a last statement, Samra made a profession of Christian faith, saying, “I would like to thank Jesus for everything he has done for me” and ending with the word “amen” as he lay strapped on a gurney.

After the drugs began flowing, Samra went still and his chest heaved three times.

He took a few deep breaths and his head moved slightly.

Moments later, Samra’s hands curled inward, his chest moved like he was taking some breaths and his mouth fell slightly agape before he was pronounced dead.

A statement from the families of victims released afterward thanked the community for support on their “painful journey” and added, “Today justice was carried out.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 days ago

Alabama House approves equal pay legislation

(PIxabay, YHN)

The Alabama House of Representatives has approved legislation that seeks to end the state’s status as one of two states without an equal pay for equal work law.

Representatives voted 98-0 Wednesday for the bill by Rep. Adline Clarke (D-Mobile). It now moves to the Alabama Senate.

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The bill would prohibit businesses from paying workers less than employees of another race or gender without reasons to account for the difference.

Those reasons could include seniority, a merit system or productivity measures.

Clarke says she believes most businesses are paying employees equitably.

However, she said it is important to have a state law for when problems arise.

Almost all of the female legislators in the House co-sponsored the measure.

Alabama and Mississippi are the two states without pay equity laws.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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4 days ago

Selma receives $1 million emergency grant to target gangs

(Selma PD/Facebook, YHN)

The federal government is giving the city of Selma a $1 million emergency grant to combat violent crimes and gangs.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports the grant is expected to last 18 months.

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It is supposed to cover police equipment and overtime costs associated with increased patrolling.

U.S. Attorney Richard Moore announced the grant at a press conference Tuesday alongside community members affected by gang violence.

He says the initiative is aimed at removing what he calls “trigger-pullers” from the streets.

The grant will also fund mental health support, addiction treatment and neighborhood restoration.

Selma has one of the highest rates of violent crimes per capita in the nation.

Federal authorities last year indicted 18 members of a Selma-based gang on weapons and drug charges.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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6 days ago

Alabama offers new license for bait hunting of deer and pigs

(Outdoor Alabama/Contributed)

A new license allowing bait to be used in the hunting of white-tailed deer and feral pigs in Alabama is now on sale.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is issuing the annual bait privilege license after a new law was passed, AL.com reported .

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The Alabama legislature approved the baited hunting measure last month.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 83-12.

The new law could provide limited help with crop destruction and other problems caused by feral hogs, said State Rep. Danny Crawford (R-Athens), who sponsored the bill in the House.

“I don’t know if you could ever kill enough feral hogs with a rifle to ever make a dent in it but it will help,” Crawford said.

Alabama Department Conservation Commissioner Christopher Blankenship said the department did not initiate the bill but was not opposed to it.

There are several stipulations on the new baiting law.

The license applies only to white-tailed deer in season and feral pigs on privately owned or leased lands, for instance.

Baiting any wildlife remains illegal on public lands.

The license costs $15 for Alabama residents and $51 for non-residents.

Revenue generated by the sale of the licenses will be matched by the federal government to help support conservation efforts, officials said.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 week ago

Alabama company plans $9M research facility in western Indiana

(AMERICAN/Contributed)

An Alabama-based company that makes pipes for water, oil and natural gas is planning to build a $9 million research and development facility in western Indiana.

Officials announced Friday that the valve and hydrant division of AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Co. is forming AMERICAN Innovation LLC and building the new facility in Crawfordsville.

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The Birmingham-based company says in a statement facility will help in “enhancing existing valve and hydrant products, as well as developing new infrastructure-related products.”

Construction is expected this summer on the AMERICAN Flow Control Center for Innovative Excellence.

It is scheduled to be completed in spring 2020.

Plans at first call for hiring up to eight research and development employees.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered up to $130,000 in conditional tax credits related to the project.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 week ago

Alabama State Senate approves medical marijuana bill

(Pixabay, YHN)

The Alabama Senate has approved a bill authorizing the use of medical marijuana for some medical conditions.

Senators swiftly approved the bill Thursday morning on a 17-6 vote. It now moves to the House of Representatives.

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State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), a physician, said research shows medical marijuana can offer relief to patients with certain chronic medical conditions without the addiction of opioids.

His bill would set up a state oversight commission and a process for prescribing marijuana for people with certain medical conditions.

Patients with a valid medical cannabis card could not be charged with marijuana possession.

Melson said there are multiple safeguards. Patients will have to have a doctor’s recommendation and a second opinion and meet other conditions.

Senators had delayed a vote Wednesday because of a threatened filibuster.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 week ago

Immigrant named Alabama teacher of the year

(Marita for Jacksonville/Facebook)

A native of Guatemala who mainly teaches Spanish-speaking students has been named Alabama’s teacher of the year.

News outlets report that Ana Carolina Behel of Weeden Elementary School in Florence was honored Wednesday night in Montgomery.

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She calls the honor a “humbling experience.”

Behel was raised in Guatemala and speaks fluent Spanish, and she is the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college.

She has degrees from the University of North Alabama and the University of Alabama.

Behel says most of her students speak Spanish at home, and she teaches them English so they can connect with the community.

She now becomes Alabama’s nominee for national teacher of the year.

She will spend the year speaking for the state’s education department and doing workshops for fellow educators.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Country group Alabama extends 50th anniversary tour

(Alabama/Facebook)

Country band Alabama is extending their 50th anniversary tour this year with 29 more shows, including a show with The Beach Boys and additional dates in Ontario, Canada.

The Grammy-winning band embarked on a major arena and amphitheater tour this year to mark their anniversary.

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Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook formed the group in 1969 in Fort Payne, Alabama, and went on to dominate the sound of country music in the 1980s and ’90s, scoring dozens of No. 1 hits, including “Mountain Music” and “Dixieland Delight.”

They have sold more than 46 million records in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

Cook announced in 2017 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and that he would have to limit his touring, performing only as his health allows.

“Randy, Teddy and I have been overwhelmed by the support the fans have given us, and especially me since my Parkinson’s diagnosis,” Cook said in a statement. “The only reason for this is because we want our music to live on and we love our fans.”

The second leg of the tour will continue through November and includes a concert at Bristol Dragway, a racetrack in Tennessee, as well as concerts in Baltimore; Indianapolis; Birmingham, Alabama; Grand Rapids, Michigan and more.

Gentry told The Associated Press that the response from fans to the anniversary tour has been better than expected.

“A lot of the kids that are coming to the show weren’t even born when we first started having hits,” Gentry said.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Yellowhammer Multimedia names new vice president of sales

(A. Lindsay/YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia announced today that Alison Lindsay has joined the company as vice president of sales. Lindsay will lead Yellowhammer’s sales team and oversee the company’s business development efforts.

Yellowhammer Multimedia owner Allison Ross believes Lindsay’s skillset heightens Yellowhammer’s ability to remain agile in a perpetually evolving industry.

“We’re in a transformative stage for modern media companies and for Yellowhammer, specifically,” Ross explained. “Over the past two years, our company has seen unprecedented growth. As we continue to position ourselves for further market expansion, Alison’s spirited creativity and her foundation in sound sales principles are perfectly suited to help lead Yellowhammer through our next phase of growth.”

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Lindsay’s approach to business development begins with one core tenet.

“It’s all about the people,” Lindsay extolled. “The culture of every organization is determined by its people. A team can produce world-class leadership and drive when working in harmony toward its goals. A team derives its energy from supporting one another and sharing in each member’s success. I thrive on a positive atmosphere!”

Lindsay possesses a long track record of success in media. She has served in a variety of management and sales roles in the broadcast and digital media industries over the course of her career.

She most recently served as general sales manager with Birmingham’s CBS television affiliate where she helped fuel its growth and subsequent transition after its acquisition to LIN Media, merger with Media General and most recent acquisition by Nexstar Media.

Lindsay joins Yellowhammer Multimedia at a time when it has grown to become Alabama’s most influential news and information outlet. Along with its flagship site YellowhammerNews.com, Yellowhammer Multimedia operates both a radio news network on 35 stations around the state and the innovative Yellowhammer Podcast Network. Yellowhammer Multimedia, additionally, is the premier event host for the state’s influential leaders and difference makers.

Lindsay and her husband reside in Hoover with their two Weimaraner dogs, Cash and Scarlet.

2 weeks ago

Inmate asks US Supreme Court to stay execution, weigh youth

(ALDOC/Contributed)

An Alabama man facing execution next week for his role in the 1997 slayings of four people has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, arguing it should weigh the fact that he was 19 at the time.

Attorneys for Michael Brandon Samra filed the request last week to stay the scheduled May 16 execution.

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The court has barred executing anyone under 18 at the time of their crimes.

Samra’s attorneys asked the court to weigh whether knowledge of brain development and evolving standards of decency merit extending that age to 21.

“This court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence should reflect the reality that a person’s neurological and psychological development does not suddenly stop on his 18th birthday,” his attorneys wrote last week.

Samra was convicted of helping friend Mark Duke kill Duke’s father, the father’s girlfriend Dedra Mims Hunt, and her two daughters, six-year-old Chelisa Hunt and seven-year-old Chelsea Hunt in Alabama’s Shelby County.

Prosecutors said the Shelby County slayings happened after Duke became angry when his father wouldn’t let him use his truck.

They said the teens executed a plan to kill Duke’s father and then killed the others to cover up his death.

Authorities said Mark Duke killed his father, Hunt and the six-year-old girl and that Samra slit the throat of seven-year-old Chelsea at Duke’s direction while the girl pleaded for her life.

“The murders which were committed with a gun and kitchen knife were as brutal as they come,” lawyers for the state wrote in the motion to set an execution date.

Duke was 16 at the time of the slayings. Samra was 19. Both were sentenced to death.

However, Duke’s death sentence was converted to life without parole after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled prisoners could not be put to death for crimes that happened while they were younger than 18.

Samra’s attorney wrote in the court filing that Duke was the driving force behind the slayings and that Samra, who had borderline level intelligence, was the “minion.”

“Indeed, while Samra bore responsibility for the death of one person, his culpability paled in comparison to that of his co-defendant who plotted, planned, and killed three of the victims for revenge.” Samra’s attorneys wrote.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

United Methodists to use $4.6 million grant for hurricane victims in Alabama

(Wikicommons, Karim Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter, NOAA NWS/Facebook)

United Methodist relief efforts for Hurricane Michael recovery efforts will get a boost from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

A $4.6 million UMCOR grant for the Alabama-West Florida Conference will help launch and fund the first two years of a phased four-year recovery program in response to Hurricane Michael, which made landfall at the Florida Panhandle last October.

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“Since the time Hurricane Michael made landfall the Alabama-West Florida Conference has served those in need along the panhandle of Florida,” said Bishop David Graves, head of the conference. “As we have been saying for months, this will be a long-term effort to which our conference is committed to for years to come. We are grateful to UMCOR for recognizing the extensive need along the coast.”

AL.com reports since the hurricane struck the local United Methodist Conference has worked to determine the unmet needs in the affected areas.

Grant funds will enable them to begin outreach to survivors who have been denied Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

The conference plans to provide at least 375 households with disaster case management services and connect them with vital goods and services to help them achieve their recovery goals.

“In the midst of major devastation, the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Conference was a beacon of hope to local communities as its churches served as resource centers for those impacted by the tremendous storm,” said Roland Fernandes, executive director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. “UMCOR is proud to support their ongoing efforts to bring hope and recovery to those impacted by Hurricane Michael.”

In December 2018, the conference received a $628,768 grant from UMCOR to allow for three volunteer coordinator sites to be established, support staff to manage these sites, construction costs, and assessments for the next grant.

Hurricane Michael swept across a narrow band of the Florida panhandle on Oct. 12, leaving total destruction in some areas.

Six of the 12 counties that are FEMA-eligible are in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, which has received additional support from UMCOR and the United Methodist connection.

Alabama-West Florida also will receive a separate $180,000 UMCOR grant for church repair.

Founded in 1940, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is the global humanitarian aid and development agency of The United Methodist Church.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Court to hear arguments in former House speaker ethics case

(M. Hubbard/Facebook, Wikicommons)

The Alabama Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next month in former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s appeal of his ethics conviction.

The court said Thursday that oral arguments will be held June 4.

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Hubbard was one of the state’s most influential Republicans, but his political career ended with his 2016 conviction on ethics charges.

The allegations included that he improperly asked lobbyists and company executives for work and investments in his businesses.

Justices announced in March that they would review the case.

His defense lawyers argue Hubbard did not break the law.

The Alabama attorney general’s office says Hubbard used his public office for private gain.

A judge sentenced Hubbard to four years in prison, but he is free on bond as he appeals.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 weeks ago

Former lawmaker gets 2 years’ probation in fraud case

(E. Henry/Twitter)

A former Alabama lawmaker best known for leading the 2017 impeachment push against then-Gov. Robert Bentley was sentenced Thursday to two years of probation for his role in a health care fraud case.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins handed down the sentence to former Rep. Ed Henry.

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The Hartselle Republican had pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting theft of government property as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors said doctors agreed to improperly waive co-pays for certain Medicare patients with chronic conditions who enrolled in care management services provided by Henry’s company, MyPractice24.

Waiving the required co-pays meant Medicare likely paid for services patients did not need or would have refused if they had to pay the $8 co-pay, prosecutors said.

“Henry and his co-defendants treated seriously ill patients as vehicles for getting money from the government,” U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin said in January when the plea deal was announced.

During the sentencing hearing in Montgomery federal court, Henry told the judge that he was unaware at the time that waiving the payments constituted a crime, but said he was “acutely aware” of that now.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, Henry said he “will not get anywhere near that line again.”

The outspoken former legislator had initially vowed to fight the federal charges, but said he later realized the arrangement was wrong when doctors acknowledged the co-pays were not being properly paid.

“It’s difficult. You have to swallow a bit of pride and accept that you are not always perfect,” Henry said.

“We started providing chronic care management to these ill patients across this state. Our real passion was just to provide this safety net to take care of them.”

In discussing the plea agreement in court, prosecutors said Henry had agreed to provide assistance to the government but did not elaborate.

Henry’s attorney, Max Pulliam, said after court that he could not discuss it because “the facts are under seal.”

A supplement to Henry’s plea agreement is under seal, according to federal court files.

Henry served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018. He did not seek re-election in 2018.

He is perhaps best known in the Alabama Legislature for starting the impeachment push against Bentley.

Henry filed impeachment articles accusing Bentley of willful neglect of duty and corruption in office.

Bentley later resigned from office.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 weeks ago

Alabama House approves pay raise for correctional officers

(ALDOC/Facebook)

The Alabama House of Representatives has approved a pay raise for correctional officers pay as Alabama faces a federal court order to increase prison staff.

Representatives on Tuesday night voted 92-0 for the bill that gives officers a 5% pay increase, expands bonuses and creates a payout program for unused annual leave.

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Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) said the changes could be worth about $10,000 in additional pay for officers.

A federal judge has ordered the department to add about 2,200 correctional officers.

The U.S. Department of Justice said the staffing shortage was one of the key factors behind violent and unconstitutional conditions in state prisons.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 weeks ago

Alabama sets new execution date for sword-and-dagger slaying

(ALDOC/Contributed)

The Alabama Supreme Court has set a new lethal injection date for a man convicted in the 1991 sword-and-dagger slaying of a pastor.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports the court on Monday moved Christopher Lee Price’s execution to May 30.

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Price was set to be executed last month but a last-minute stay delayed his death.

Price asked to die by nitrogen hypoxia, a method Alabama has authorized but not developed.

His lawyers argued it would be less painful than Alabama’s “botched” lethal injections.

The state successfully argued that Price missed a deadline to request nitrogen, but its death warrant expired before a post-midnight Supreme Court ruling vacating the stay.

Price killed Church of Christ pastor Bill Lynn as he prepared Christmas gifts for his grandchildren.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 weeks ago

Downtown airport opening in Mobile

(Mayor Sandy Stimpson/Twitter, YHN)

A new airport offering commercial passenger flights is opening near the heart of Mobile, Alabama.

The first flight is scheduled to depart Wednesday afternoon from Mobile Downtown Airport.

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Mayor Sandy Stimpson has posted a photo of his boarding pass for the Frontier Airlines trip to Chicago.

The two-runway airport is located off Interstate 10 at the old Brookley military field within sight of downtown skyscrapers.

It is meant to eventually replace the existing Mobile Regional Airport, which is a roughly 30-minute drive to downtown.

The airport’s new, $8 million terminal only has two gates, but the governing authority plans to expand.

The facility is located near the city’s cruise ship terminal.

Cargo flights and general aviation that now use the downtown airfield eventually will shift to the current passenger airport.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 weeks ago

Kamala Harris to address Alabama Democratic Conference

(Kamala Harris/Contributed)

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris will serve as the keynote speaker for a meeting of the black caucus of the Alabama Democratic Party.

The Alabama Democratic Conference says the Democratic senator from California will address a luncheon during its 59th annual convention in Montgomery in June.

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A statement announcing the speech says the ADC has not endorsed anyone in the crowded Democratic primary field. But the group will recommend a presidential candidate ahead of the state’s primary vote on March 3, 2020.

The ADC announcement calls Harris one of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination and notes her graduation from a historically black college, Howard University.

Another Democratic presidential candidate, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, spoke to state Democrats earlier this month.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 weeks ago

Private foundation raising money for Alabama parks

(ASPP/Facebook)

A nonprofit organization has been formed to help support Alabama’s state parks.

Officials say the Alabama State Parks Foundation will raise money through donations to help improve park facilities and programs.

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The group’s website promotes contributions to help build cabins and trails, plus provide scholarships for youth campers.

Most of the $40 million budget for the 22-park system comes from visitor fees, and donations will supplement funding for improvements.

Voters three years ago approved a constitutional amendment to protect funding for the park system after money was shifted to other state agencies.

Some parks had closed, and maintenance projects were delayed.

Dan Hendricks of Florence is serving as president of the foundation.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 weeks ago

Education bill would require third-graders to meet reading benchmarks

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama could become the next state to require third-graders to pass a reading benchmark before moving to fourth grade, under a bill advanced by a legislative committee Wednesday.

The House Education Policy Committee approved the bill by Republican Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) that seeks to strengthen reading education in the early grades.

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The bill now moves to the House floor.

The bill mandates a number of initiatives to try to boost reading scores and beginning in 2021-22 would implement a high-stakes requirement for students to meet a reading benchmarks before moving to the fourth grade.

Collins described the proposal as taking the existing Alabama Reading Initiative and putting it “on steroids.”

“I believe if we promote a child who is not reading on grade level out of the third grade then we are failing that child,” Collins said.

The legislation is patterned after programs in Mississippi and Florida. Students would have to make a minimum score on a reading assessment or demonstrate “mastery of all third grade state reading standards as evidenced by a student reading portfolio.”

The Department of Education would help develop rules for the pass-fail requirement.

The bill called the Alabama Literacy Act spells out a number of initiatives, including requiring regional reading specialists to work with struggling students, requiring summer reading camps and new attempts to better identify and assist students with dyslexia. It would create a new office called the Office of Student Success within the Department of Education to oversee some of the measures.

The State Department of Education estimates that the proposals would cost approximately $90 million annually, according to a fiscal note on the bill by the Legislative Services Agency.

During a public hearing on the bill, one family described the struggle to obtain help for their daughter with dyslexia. They eventually turned to private therapy.

Mark Dixon, president of the A+ Education Partnership, expressed support for the bill.

“We have been a longtime advocate of the goal of this bill that every child deserves a chance to be an excellent reader,” Dixon said.

Some speakers expressed concern about both the price tag and the requirement to hold students back.

Jessica Sanders of the Alabama Department of Education said the department shares in the goal of the bill but had a few concerns such as the creation of a new state office.

She said the department is already doing much of the work through the existing Alabama Reading Initiative.

“The retention piece and the Office of Student Success are just not needed to accomplish these goals. It is absolutely correct that the funding is,” Sanders said.

Collins said she was firm on keeping the third-grade passage requirement, which “makes it work.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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4 weeks ago

Alabama postal workers to get back pay, benefits

(Pixabay, Postal Fleet Services Inc//Facebook)

A Florida-based contractor will pay $329,057 in back wages and benefits to 53 postal delivery workers in Montgomery.

AL.com reports the decision comes after an investigation into St. Augustine, Florida-based Postal Fleet Services Inc. by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

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The department says the company violated requirements of two federal acts.

Investigators say Postal Fleet Services failed to pay drivers the prevailing rates for contract work performed for the U.S. Postal Service to haul mail in Montgomery and Tupelo, Mississippi.

The company also failed to pay drivers for sorting mail before their scheduled shifts and for time spent driving from one city to another between local routes.

Postal Fleet Services also failed to pay fringe benefits to employees and did not maintain records of hours employees worked.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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4 weeks ago

Alabama’s Coach Saban undergoes hip replacement surgery

(University of Alabama Athletics/Facebook)

Alabama coach Nick Saban has undergone hip replacement surgery.

Dr. Lyle Cain said Monday the 67-year-old Saban is expected to make a full recovery and “should be able to return to work in the very new future.”

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Cain says the right hip replacement was “robotic assisted” at Andrews Sports Medicine, with hip specialist Benton Emblom.

Cain says Saban could now have “a few more yards off the tee” in his golf game.

Saban said after Alabama’s spring game that his hip problems would be evaluated and that he could need six to eight weeks of recovery.

He said he wanted to get it fixed “because I don’t want to coach for one more year, I want to coach for a lot of more years.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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4 weeks ago

Jefferson County ending misdemeanor marijuana arrests

(Jefferson County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

Alabama’s most populous county will immediately end arrests for misdemeanors including the possession of small amounts of marijuana, officials announced Monday.

Officers will begin issuing tickets for nonviolent misdemeanor offenses rather than taking people to jail, Capt. David Agee, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, told a news conference.

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“People are always talking about criminal justice reform,” he said. “Well this is more than talk, this is action. This is big.'”

People could still wind up in jail if misdemeanor offenses are tied to more serious crimes.

Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway advocated curtailing arrests for small amounts of marijuana during his campaign last year.

The change will save jail space and supplies and allow officers to concentrate on more serious offenses, Agee said.

He also questioned whether young people caught with a small amount of marijuana should have to spend a night in jail.

“I think this is going to help a lot of people and get a lot of people back on track. Those who want help will be able to get help,” he said.

The state attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the change in Jefferson County, which has a population estimated by the Census at 659,300.

The change in Jefferson County came as the Alabama legislature is considering a measure that would reduce the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana meant for personal use.

The bill would make possession of less than 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana punishable by a fine instead of jail time.

An offense would be classified as a violation, a step below a misdemeanor and carry a fine of up to $250.

The measure would also allow for charges to be expunged in some cases.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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