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.

6 months ago

Guest: Jeff Sessions is a 21st century profile in courage

(Alabama Supreme Court Justice Champ Lyons, Jr./Contributed, Gage SKidmore/Flickr, YHN)

As is the case with many of my fellow Alabamians, I am a strong supporter of President Trump in the substance of what he has accomplished but I am from time to time disappointed by his style. The president’s repeated attacks on my old friend, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself when he was attorney general from an investigation in which he was also a subject and a witness are a good example. In addition to our friendship, I also have the perspective of being a member of the Alabama State Bar for more than 50 years. I therefore cannot stand mute as the president criticizes this highly respected member of the Alabama State Bar for courageously adhering to the rule of law.

What adds to my frustration is the reality that Jeff’s compliance with the law was essential to the favorable result of complete and wholly credible exoneration desperately needed by the President in the investigation of the charges of collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia. The Mueller report stated, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” No one has even hinted that the Mueller report should be dismissed as the product of bias in favor of the president.

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Had Jeff ignored ethical standards and led the investigation the media would have swiftly and derisively dismissed any ensuing exoneration as the product of pro-Trump bias. The charges of Russia collusion would then have been a large part, if not exclusively, the basis for the recent impeachment proceedings. The charges of collusion were never mentioned. These charges would also be an ongoing issue in the 2020 election; they are not mentioned because the Mueller report came up empty. The ordeal of the Mueller investigation to which the president was exposed, while extremely painful, pales in comparison to the trauma of having had the issue of collusion the focus of the impeachment proceedings and then again front and center in the coming election.

The president’s wrath, while understandable, is, I respectfully submit, misplaced. His anger should not be directed toward Jeff; it should be focused entirely on the officials of the Obama administration who clandestinely set up the groundless allegations of Russia collusion in the days, weeks and months before Jeff became attorney general and Donald Trump became president. We who support the president’s agenda should be grateful to Jeff Sessions, the man whose faithful discharge of his duty made possible the President’s complete and total exoneration by a panel not remotely subject to attack for bias.

Jeff’s courageous and selfless stance in support of the rule of law led to the conclusive rejection of the serious charge of corruption of a presidential election. His conduct incidentally benefitted the president but, most of all, it benefited the United States of America to whom his oath required faithful service. His adherence to the rule of law is a wonderful example for all members of the Alabama State Bar and is justifiable cause for great pride on the part of all Alabama citizens, regardless of political persuasion. Jeff deserves to be commended, not condemned.

Champ Lyons, Jr. was an Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court from 1998-2011. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Alabama School of Law.

10 months ago

Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy yields positive recommendations

(PIxabay, YHN)

It should come as no surprise that our state is in need of serious criminal justice reform. In July, Governor Kay Ivey established a Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy, and it has been an honor to serve as chair and representative on her behalf as we seek solutions for the complex issues facing our state.

In the ensuing seven months, our Study Group has diligently pursued the task the governor set out before us – researching policies and programs the state of Alabama might implement to ensure the long‑term sustainability of our prison system without jeopardizing public safety.

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We have heard from over 30 speakers — including a former inmate who told a heartbreaking, yet hopeful story of redemption; faith‑based and secular advocacy organizations who have relentlessly helped incarcerated people find new lives both behind and beyond the walls of prison; and government officials from every branch and level of government looking for holistic solutions to our state’s complex problems. Along with these various presentations, we have also received and reviewed almost 900 pages of submitted materials.

By the time our Study Group convened for its first meeting in July, Governor Ivey’s administration had already begun taking steps to address the long‑standing challenges facing our prison system. But the fact remains: these challenges are exceedingly complex. They run the gamut from more conventional issues, such as the elimination of contraband weapons and drugs, to more complex issues, such as recruiting and retaining staff and confronting factors that contribute to the size of the inmate population.

I acknowledge that I heard the views of naysayers who doubted the Study Group would bring forth significant and meaningful proposals for change. However, due to the efforts of my colleagues, especially our very impressive legislative members from both sides of the aisle, this report will prove the doubters wrong as it sets forth significant answers to these concerns; it offers solutions that are not just possible, they are within our grasp. While my report outlines many recommendations, the broadest areas of consensus are in rehabilitation and reduction of recidivism. If our group succeeds in its mission in this area, the number of inmates coming back into the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) facilities will be reduced, thus lowering the burden on the system, reducing costs to the taxpayers and increasing public safety.

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First and foremost, there is complete agreement that the legislature should take a more active role in assisting ADOC in its mission to improve correctional facilities across the state. ADOC should report information to the Legislative Prison Oversight Committee; thereby allowing lawmakers to make informed decisions regarding policies that will help improve conditions within our state’s many facilities. This transparency, in combination with an increase to the ADOC budget to hire more officers and increase safety mechanisms for inmates and staff, including measures to interrupt the flow of contraband, will dramatically improve the state of our correctional institutions.

Bennet Wright, executive director of the Alabama Sentencing Commission, gave an insightful presentation to the group regarding the current demographics of the prison population, previous sentencing changes, and the complexities of sentencing laws in the state of Alabama. While proposals for sentencing changes will not effectuate a major drop in the prison population, they are rooted in prudence and fairness that can cause meaningful change.

For example, a formerly incarcerated man who now ministers to those in prison and out after release spoke at our December meeting about his experience as someone who was directly affected by the complexities within our criminal justice system. Through a now-repealed statutory remedy, he was able to have his sentenced reduced so he could return to society. Since his release, he has led a ministry that helps inmates and those who have been released to find faith and regain a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, this remedy was repealed in 2015. While its reinstatement may not affect a significant number of inmates, it is our belief that it should again be available.

As evidenced by my report, our group had the most enthusiastic consensus regarding support for rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. As an example, Ingram State Technical College, the only college in the country that exclusively serves an incarcerated population, requires more funding to expand its much-needed workforce training programs. Providing those who are incarcerated the ability to participate in training of skills and, in turn, matching them with a job is essential to ensure they are successful post‑release.

A separate concern relates to the need to incentivize inmates with the possibility of an early release if they maintain good disciplinary records and complete job training courses and receive workforce certifications. Finally, our state must give statutory authority to ADOC so that it can provide identification to inmates upon release which will assist in a successful re‑entry.

We realize that these recommendations will not solve all of the longstanding challenges facing Alabama’s criminal justice system in one legislative session or one year. Nevertheless, I am confident that the work of my colleagues will stand as a great starting point to build on the Ivey administration’s existing efforts and commit this state to a course of action that will ensure the long‑term sustainability of our prison system while also enhancing public safety.

The time for action is now. We dare not abide by a status quo that risks the potential for costly and disruptive intervention by federal authorities.

Champ Lyons, Jr. is a former Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court (1998‑2011). He is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Alabama School of Law. He is chair of the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy