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 months ago

Alabama COVID cases down 94% in last three months; Hospitalizations down 90%

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama’s coronavirus numbers have shown incredible improvement from their dangerous highs in early January, and the state is hitting some important pandemic safety benchmarks for the first time.

The Yellowhammer State has averaged 196 new cases each day for the last week, down 94% from the average of 3,080 new cases per day on the week ending January 11.

Alabama’s hospitals had 317 coronavirus patients on Thursday, down roughly 90% from the capacity-threatening peak of 3,084 on January 11.

“Thank the good lord we’re in the home stretch,” Governor Kay Ivey said of the pandemic on Wednesday.

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Alabama’s average of new cases and number of hospitalizations are noted as they appear on BamaTracker, a website that collects and graphs the coronavirus data provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).

New coronavirus cases in Alabama. Clicking image opens an interactive chart in a new tab. (BamaTracker)

A new coronavirus case is one confirmed in a laboratory setting with a PCR test. New cases ascertained via rapid tests and other methods of detection are listed as “probable” cases by the Alabama Department of Public Health. When including probable cases, Alabama’s average of new cases rises to 293 per day over the last week.

Alabama’s new case numbers have continued to fall in recent weeks even as a number of states in the Northeast and Sun Belt regions of the country have seen upticks in their case counts.

Coronavirus hospitalizations in Alabama. Clicking image opens an interactive chart in a new tab.(BamaTracker)

According to Alabama’s State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, around 10% of new COVID-19 cases end up needing care in the hospital.

RELATED: Ivey follows through on ending mask mandate, issues order keeping some precautions in place

Especially encouraging to experts, including Harris, is that the percentage of coronavirus tests performed in the last two weeks that have come back positive is now below 5%.

Experts believe that for a pandemic to be considered under control, the positivity rate needs to be between 1% and 5%.

This week is the first time Alabama has come in under the 5% test positivity threshold since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020.

Alabama’s death toll from the virus now stands at 10,675

The current week marks the first time period when all Alabamians have been eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccines.

RELATED: How to find your nearest COVID-19 vaccine provider in Alabama

Alabama is approaching two million doses administered of the vaccine products.

As of Thursday afternoon, 1,243,006 Alabamians have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose in Alabama, equivalent to roughly 25% of the state’s population.

While Alabama’s overall vaccination numbers still trail behind other states, Harris has relayed that this is because of a slow and messy rollout. Alabama’s top doctor informed reporters this week that over the last two months Alabama has been vaccinating citizens at a rate commensurate with its neighbors.

A total of 739,566 people in Alabama are now considered “fully vaccinated,” a status conferred two weeks after receiving one’s final dose of the vaccine.

You can contact Henry Thornton on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 months ago

Alabama congressional Republicans take shots at Biden’s unilateral gun control actions

(Joe Biden/Facebook)

Republican members of Alabama’s congressional delegation are denouncing President Joe Biden’s recent executive orders on gun control.

Biden on Thursday unveiled his slate of executive actions, which took the form of four instructions to the Department of Justice and the appointment of gun control activist David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Chipman was an ATF agent for 25 years before joining the Giffords gun control advocacy group as a senior advisor.

“Today President Biden made official what we’ve known for a while: Democrats are set on dismantling the Second Amendment,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks). “From appointing anti-gun enthusiasts to ATF to trying to strip elderly Americans of their gun rights, the undermining of our Constitution by Democrats seems to have no end.”

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“President Biden’s executive actions today do two things: appease the far left and infringe upon our Second Amendment right to bear arms,” remarked U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville).

He added, “Extreme gun control legislation isn’t the answer to stopping gun violence. Look at the cities in America with the most severe gun laws and you’ll see that those same cities have the highest violent crime rates in the country.”

“Today at the White House, Joe Biden demonstrated his embarrassingly poor grasp of the Second Amendment and causes of gun violence in America,” said U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville). “Gun owners are overwhelmingly law-abiding, safety conscious citizens who responsibly exercise their Second Amendment Rights. Yet, Biden seeks to bit-by-bit strip us of our rights.”

U.S. Rep Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) said in a statement to Yellowhammer News, “The 2nd Amendment is clear – the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The freshmen member of Congress derided recent gun control bills pushed by House Democrats and added, “[N]ow President Biden is further trampling the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans with his proposed gun-grabbing executive orders. I’ll continue fighting any attempts by Democrats to strip law-abiding Americans of their constitutional rights.”

A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) told Yellowhammer that the representative “is strongly opposed to these executive orders, which will do nothing to reduce crime and represent an end run around the people’s elected representatives who are unwilling to pass this President’s anti-second amendment agenda.”

UPDATE 5:55 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Barry Moore (AL-02) released a statement, saying, “While a humanitarian crisis of his own making rages on at the southern border, President Biden has made the deeply misguided decision to continue eroding our Constitution through executive orders that will infringe on law-abiding citizens’ rights with the stroke of a pen. This comes from the head of a party that fought Republican efforts to amend H.R. 8 to prevent illegal immigrants from acquiring firearms. The message Biden and the Democrats are sending is clear: the American people come last.”

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

2 months ago

Alabama Workforce Council commends new rule requiring FAFSA completion to graduate from high school

(Alabama Workforce Council/Screenshot)

The Alabama Workforce Council expressed its strong approval on Thursday of a new state rule that requires high school seniors to complete their Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) before graduating.

The rule was approved by the Alabama State Board of Education (ALBOE) at its meeting on Thursday. The policy was supported by Governor Kay Ivey and is intended to push more students into getting college degrees and workforce credentials.

Six members of the ALBOE voted to approve the measure while three voted against it.

“This change will help more Alabamians get assistance they need for workforce training and prepare for a career pathway in a good-paying job,” said Tim McCartney, chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council, in a release.

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The Alabama Workforce Council is made up of prominent individuals from the Yellowhammer State’s private sector. The council says its goal “is to facilitate collaboration between government and industry to help Alabama develop a sustainable, top-notch workforce that is competitive on a global scale.”

Students completing their FAFSA are alerted to their eligibility for financial help with college, such as the possibility of receiving Pell Grants or qualifying for a federal work-study program.

Alabama high school seniors graduating in the spring of 2022 will be the first required to complete their FAFSA before graduating.

“Federal Pell Grants are a key part of Alabama’s workforce development as more than 36 percent of these grants are awarded for certificate and associate degree programs,” noted McCartney.

“Yet in Alabama, $47 million in Pell Grants go unclaimed by students each year because they didn’t apply,” McCartney continued. “Think of how much Alabama would benefit from an additional $47 million invested into job training and education.”

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

2 months ago

Medical marijuana bill advanced by first of two House committees

(Pixabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House Judiciary Committee advanced Alabama’s closely watched medical marijuana bill on Wednesday after multiple hours of discussion and numerous amendments.

The bill, SB 46, passed the Alabama Senate in the third week of February. The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), is bringing a medical marijuana bill for the third year in a row.

SB 46 now heads to the House Health Committee. While it is unusual for a bill to undergo two committee hearings in one chamber, Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) has maintained that the extra scrutiny is appropriate for an issue as sensitive as medical marijuana.

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On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee ultimately approved 10 amendments to SB 46. Reps. Ben Robbins (R-Sylacauga) and David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook) each respectively sponsored a number of amendments.

Melson said after the committee adjourned that he largely appreciated their efforts, especially those designed to increase transparency.

The committee meeting included an emotional moment from Rep. Allen Farley (R-McCalla). The representative, who spent decades in law enforcement before his election, detailed that in the recent past he had to care for his elderly mother as she fell into ill health. He relayed that his mother eventually needed to be placed in a memory care unit before passing away.

Farley said he supported the bill because he believed medicinal cannabis might be able to improve the lives of Alabama’s senior citizens by lessening the pain that people like his mother are forced to endure.

“I really appreciated Representative Farley making those comments. The whole vision changes when you’ve got a family member that you’ve experienced problems with,” Melson told reporters.

All votes on the bill and its amendments in the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday were conducted via voice, making an exact appraisal of which members voted in favor impossible. Yellowhammer News was able to discern that at least two members of the committee voted against approving the bill.

“There are some individuals you saw today that are supportive that probably surprised you,” noted Melson about the committee, which is primarily composed of lawyers and former law enforcement officials.

Going forward, Melson told reporters that he feels his legislation has “got a good chance” to advance through the Health Committee, where he expects the bill will get a hearing next week.

With regards to the bill’s fate after that, he said, “[W]e’ll just see what happens.”

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

2 months ago

Alabama Sec. of State John Merrill rules out run for office in 2022 after extramarital affair surfaces

(J. Merrill/Twitter)

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill released a statement on Wednesday ruling out a run for public office in 2022.

Merrill’s decision comes after a 2019 extramarital affair he conducted with a 44-year-old legal aide in Montgomery surfaced online in recent days.

“After much prayer, reflection, and conversations with my wife, Cindy, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for any office in 2022,” Merrill said in a statement provided by his official office.

Merrill did not show any inclination to resigning before his term ends in January 2023, saying “I am surrounded by a great team and we look forward to finishing the goals we set out to achieve before our term ends.”

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The first evidence of Merrill’s marital infidelities was reported by the hyperpartisan outlet NationalFile on Tuesday afternoon.

It alleged that Merrill, who is married with children, carried on a months-long sexual affair with Cesaire McPherson, a Montgomery resident.

The NationalFile report included what appeared to be firsthand evidence of illicit communications between Merrill and McPherson, including texts, photos and an audio recording.

Merrill denied the affair in a Tuesday evening interview with Tuscaloosa journalist Ryan Phillips, who writes the Patch.com page for the Druid City. Merrill called the allegations “baseless” and “entirely false.” He further accused McPherson of harassing himself and his staff in recent months.

In an article published by Alabama Media Group Wednesday afternoon, Merrill is described as initially repeating his denials until the two authors of the piece played a recording provided to them by McPherson. Reportedly the recording is of Merrill and McPherson discussing sexual acts they performed on each other.

According to the article, Merrill then backtracked and admitted the infidelity, calling it “an inappropriate relationship.”

“I’m very disappointed in myself. I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action,” Merrill told the outlet.

Alabama’s secretary of state had long been speculated as a candidate to replace the retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). Merrill encouraged the speculation in recent months, especially on his Twitter account where he would regularly retweet encouragement for him to run for the seat.

As late as Wednesday morning, he told Talk 99.5 FM’s the “Matt & Val Show” that he was still considering announcing a Senate campaign.

Merrill’s statement Wednesday afternoon that he would not be seeking elected office in 2022 was released nearly simultaneously with the publishing of the Alabama Media Group report in which he admitted infidelity.

“Life presents us with a series of chapters, some more challenging than others, in our book of life, and when one finishes, another one begins. While I remain fully committed to continuing my service as your Secretary of State through the end of my term, I do not know what the next chapter will present for me and my family,” Merrill said in his Wednesday statement.

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

2 months ago

Ivey follows through on ending mask mandate, issues order keeping some precautions in place

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey confirmed on Wednesday that Alabama’s mask mandate is ending this week while announcing that some elements of the State Health Order will remain in place.

The newly revised order, called “Safer Apart,” keeps in place the requirement that citizens quarantine if they test positive for COVID-19 and maintains the two visitor limit at nursing homes and hospitals. It also “strongly encourages” masks in all situations where they had been required.

Safer Apart takes effect on the evening of April 9 and is set to expire on May 5.

Ivey remarked with pleasure on the state’s low average of new cases and small number of citizens currently hospitalized with the virus. “[W]e’re definitely moving in the right direction,” the governor said of Alabama’s coronavirus numbers.

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Alabama’s new Safer Apart order can be read in its entirety here.

The move completes Ivey’s promise made in the first week of March that the state’s mask mandate will end on April 9.

Ivey has continued to encourage mask-wearing in situations where common sense demanded it, including a further plea on Wednesday for citizens to mask up when appropriate.

The governor noted that businesses will still have the ability to require masks on their premises, and acknowledged cities have the authority to implement local mask mandates if they desire. She pointed businesses to the printable signs she has made available that have messages like “Mask required for service.”

Ivey kept Alabama’s mask order in place longer than almost all other conservative Republican governors. She said at its last extension her goal was to give the state longer to get vaccine shots in arms, and noted that the order’s expiration is coinciding with all Alabamians being eligible for the vaccines.

“Please continue to be patient as more vaccine product arrives each week,” Ivey told the public on Wednesday.

Regarding the overall state of the pandemic in Alabama, the governor commented, “Thank the good lord we’re in the home stretch.”

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

2 months ago

Alabama House passes bill to prevent new election laws within six months of a general election

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would prevent the State of Alabama from implementing any legislative changes to election procedure within six months of a general election.

The legislation, HB 388, is sponsored by Rep. Jim Carns (R-Vestavia Hills). Since the legislation proposes an amendment to the state’s constitution, it must be approved by a majority of Alabama voters if it makes it through the legislative process.

Carns said on the floor he felt the bill was necessary “to make sure we don’t have any slip-ups or any challenges of elections in the future.”

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The bill comes as Republicans nationwide have expressed concern with the actions of states such as Pennsylvania, which continually tweaked its election procedures until very shortly before the general election in 2020.

The text of HB 388 that would alter Alabama’s law reads in its entirety:

The implementation date for any bill enacted by the Legislature in a calendar year in which a general election is to be held and relating to the conduct of the general election shall be at least six months before the general election.

Carns insisted that in his more than two decades serving in the legislature it is one of the most simple bills he has ever brought before the chamber.

Ultimately, HB 388 passed the House on a party-line vote of 75-24.

Members of the Democratic Party in the House were strongly opposed to the bill, engaging in over 90 minutes of debate about the measure when it was first introduced during the previous legislative day and ultimately pushing the Republican majority to introduce a debate-ending cloture motion on Tuesday.

Democrats raised many general objections to the nationwide trend of Republicans believing election laws need altering.

Rep. Ralph Howard (D-Greensboro) claimed Alabama was going to limit its ability to conduct safe elections during a future pandemic.

Carns responded that emergency actions taken by the governor will still be permitted and that his proposed legislation only guards against the legislature implementing new election rules.

Carns also pointed out that his bill would prevent a party with a supermajority from doing any late-in-the-game changes to election law if it wanted to help its candidates.

HB 388 now heads to the Alabama Senate for further consideration.

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

2 months ago

Montgomery County, Sec. of State Merrill partner on program to put voter registration kiosks on college campuses

On Tuesday, Montgomery County approved a pilot program to put voter registration kiosks on college campuses, a program that has the backing of Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.

As part of the program, kiosks that link directly to AlabamaVotes.gov will be placed in high traffic areas on the campuses of six colleges in Montgomery County.

“We are excited to offer this new option for Montgomery County voters to participate in the electoral process, and we hope this model will serve as an example for other Alabama counties to follow,” said Montgomery County Probate Judge J. C. Love, III in a release provided by the Secretary of State’s office.

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The pilot program is set to be in place for three years, which will see Alabamians through the 2022 election cycle where voters will vote on who they want to fill the U.S. Senate seat, as well as the vast majority of state government positions in Montgomery.

“The Office of the Secretary of State is thrilled to support Judge Love in his pursuit of registering more of our state’s college students to vote. Shortly after taking office, Judge Love made a concerted effort to extend his outreach into the community, and we commend him and his office for their innovation and eagerness to promote voter registration,” remarked Secretary of State John Merrill.

Campuses receiving the kiosks will be Alabama State University, Auburn University at Montgomery, Faulkner University, Huntingdon College, Troy State University Montgomery and Trenholm State Community College.

“As people move to our county or begin their college experience here, we want to ensure that each and every eligible Montgomery County resident has the opportunity to participate in our elections,” concluded Love.

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

2 months ago

Mobile’s plan to move all passenger flights downtown clears key hurdle with FAA approval

(FAA/Facebook, Wikicommons, YHN)

Mobile’s plan to move its commercial air traffic to a downtown airport cleared a key hurdle on Tuesday as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its approval of the Mobile Airport Authority’s (MAA) Master Plan.

Currently, almost all of Mobile’s commercial flights run through the Mobile Regional Airport, which is 30 minutes west of the city and not close to an interstate.

City and area leaders have been working for years to move passenger flights to the Mobile Downtown Airport at Brookley Aeroplex, which is adjacent to I-10 and a seven-minute drive to downtown Mobile.

“We are grateful for the decisive action by the FAA,” remarked Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson in a statement.

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Stimpson added that the FAA’s decision “not only paves the way for citizens to enjoy better flight options and lower ticket fares, but also ensures a bright future for the downtown airport and the Port of Mobile.”

A government study found the City of Mobile loses over half of potential airline customers to nearby cities such as Pensacola and New Orleans.

With the federal approval in hand, development is set to begin on Phase 1 of the Master Plan: construction of the terminal, parking garage, surface parking and tarmac expansion at the downtown airport.

RELATED: Mobile unveils plan to move all commercial flights to downtown Brookley Aeroplex

Costs for Phase 1 of the project are currently estimated at $160 million. The 20-year plan calls for more than $400 million in spending on the project.

Chris Curry, Mobile Airport Authority president, remarked in December that 90% of the cost will be shouldered by the FAA while Alabama must produce a 10% match worth around $20 million.

“The FAA’s approval of the master plan for the Mobile Downtown Airport is great news and a big step in the process in enhancing commercial air travel in the region,” said U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) in a release.

The Mobile Downtown Airport, which has the airport code BFM, will be smaller than the current regional airport west of the city, but leaders promise it will be more efficient.

BFM is also adjacent to the Port of Mobile, which will create a transportation hub that advocates say may bring about numerous economic opportunities.

“[M]oving the Mobile Airport downtown will be a win-win for Mobile and the surrounding Gulf Coast region,” noted Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.

A release from the MAA notes that the new terminal at the downtown airport is expected to open in early 2024.

The city announced the purchase of the needed lands surrounding the Brookley Aeroplex in December of 2020.

RELATED: City of Mobile to purchase 300-acre ‘Brookley by the Bay’ plot — ‘Will be an economic boom’

“When fully operational, the airport will maintain good-paying jobs while providing an increased economic boom for our region and offering additional opportunities to visit the Port City for work and play,” Ivey concluded.

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

2 months ago

Birmingham extends citywide mask mandate to May 24

A view from Vulcan's observation deck on a fall afternoon in Birmingham, Alabama. (WikiCommons)

The Birmingham City Council voted on Tuesday to extend the city’s mask requirement for roughly six more weeks, with the ordinance now set to expire on May 24.

Alabama’s statewide mandate is set to expire on April 9, pushing the question of keeping facial covering rules in place to local governments.

Extending the mandate was championed by Mayor Randall Woodfin and council president William Parker. In public remarks on Tuesday, Woodfin claimed the extension is “necessary” and noted the police will only intervene in “common sense” cases such as a request from a business owner.

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While city-level data is not easily accessible, Birmingham’s decision on masks comes as Jefferson County has averaged 40 new cases of the coronavirus in the past week, below the area’s peak of 640 per day in late December.

COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County (BamaTracker)

 

Notably, 176,151 citizens of Jefferson County have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccines. According to the Census Bureau, there are roughly 574,000 adults in the county, meaning roughly 31% of the area’s adults have gotten a vaccine dose.

The administration of the vaccines has targeted those most vulnerable to dying of COVID-19, reducing the most tragic risk that can result from the virus.

Ultimately, the council voted 8-1 to extend the mandate. The lone no vote was councilman Hunter Williams, who represents a district on the city’s southeast edge.

Birmingham is currently set to be the only one of Jefferson County’s 32 cities to keep requiring masks after the state’s rule ends on April 9.

Even outside of Birmingham, many citizens will face situations after the statewide mandate ends where businesses or other entities require masks for entrance.

The governor’s office made signage available with messages such as “Mask required for service” and “Thank you for wearing a mask.” Companies can choose to display such signs if they wish.

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

2 months ago

All adults in Alabama are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccines

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Every person in Alabama age 16 and over is now eligible to receive a vaccine that protects against the coronavirus.

All coronavirus vaccines are being provided for free, regardless of whether a person has health insurance.

Governor Kay Ivey announced on Friday that all adults would be eligible on April 5, more than three weeks ahead of the May 1 date requested by the federal government.

Close watchers of the pandemic in Alabama hope the expansion of eligibility increases the rate of people getting vaccinated. For the last 14 days before Monday, various web portals where eligible citizens could sign up to get a vaccine showed many unfilled appointments.

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Alabama’s State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris admitted on Friday that a major factor in expanding eligibility to all adults is that the state had an “available supply” of doses.

RELATED: How to find your nearest COVID-19 vaccine provider in Alabama

Since the middle of February, Alabama’s vaccination numbers had fallen into a routine of about 28,000-35,000 doses every weekday and around 12,000-16,000 doses given over the weekend.

(BamaTracker)

In that time period, Alabama’s percentage of vaccine doses received to doses put in arms has stayed around 80%.

For the last three weeks, the rate of doses being administered stayed largely the same even as supply gradually increased.

Harris has said previously that the task in front of the state for April and beyond will largely be “to get people to take [the vaccines].”

Data distributed by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and many national polling groups have shown vaccine hesitancy to be a widespread issue, present in minority communities and among white evangelical Christians.

The United States has now given out more than 145 million doses of the vaccines, products that were extensively studied for months by many of the world’s best scientists.

A constantly updating comprehensive examination of the data shows the vaccines have been linked to zero deaths, while the nation’s current death toll from COVID-19 stands at about 555,000 people, including 10,638 Alabamians.

“[I]t is a great vaccine. It is a safe vaccine, and it is something that works,” former President Donald Trump told Fox News in March.

Virtually every doctor in the United States has now received one of the vaccines.

AFC Urgent Care clinics had many COVID-19 vaccine appointments available on Monday, as did Walgreens.

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

2 months ago

Victims of January 25 Fultondale tornado now eligible for disaster relief loans

(Landon Wexler/Rural Areas/Twitter)

Individuals and businesses who suffered damage from the tornado that ripped through Fultondale in late January are now eligible for low-interest disaster loans, the federal government announced on Monday.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the agency providing the loans.

“Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA,” said SBA administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman in a release.

An outreach center where SBA representatives will help facilitate the loans is set to open on Wednesday, April 7 at the City of Fultondale Public Library.

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The loans are being made available to the relevant Alabamians after Governor Kay Ivey sent a letter to the SBA on March 30 requesting assistance.

“Businesses and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets,” explained SBA’s Alabama district director Tom Todt.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses and agriculture cooperatives whose earnings or potential earnings were damaged by the tornado, even if the business suffered no physical property damage.

“Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property,” added Kem Fleming, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

An increased amount, up to 20% of the value of physical damage sustained, can be added to the loan for the construction of disaster mitigation features such as a safe room or storm shelter, sump pump, French drain or retaining wall.

Interest rates on the SBA loans can be “as low as 3 percent for businesses, 2 percent for nonprofit organizations, and 1.125 percent for homeowners and renters, with terms up to 30 years,” according to the SBA, which adds, “Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.”

The deadline for loans related to property damage is June 1, 2021, and the deadline to apply for a loan to reimburse economic injury is January 3, 2022.

Those interested in the loans have the option to apply online or call 1-800-659-2955 in addition to the in-person outreach center at the Fultondale Public Library.

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

2 months ago

Report: Alabama’s occupational licensing requirements cost the state jobs, hurt economy

(Pixabay)

A newly published report found that Alabama’s occupational licensing laws — requirements that members of certain professions be certified by the government — cost the state almost 21,000 jobs and an estimated $56 million per year.

The report, titled “Not-So Sweet Home Alabama,” was written by a pair of economists and is a joint project of the Archbridge Institute and the Alabama Policy Institute (API). Both Archbridge and API are non-partisan entities that generally favor free markets and less government regulation.

“In the COVID-19 economy, Alabamans simply do not need onerous government mandates interfering with upward mobility and threatening the American Dream,” said Gonzalo Schwarz, president and CEO of Archbridge, in summary of the report.

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According to the report, Alabama added licensing requirements for 36 professions between 1993 and 2012. The state now has 36 professions that require a government license, which is above the national average of 31.

The writers of the report point to athletic trainers, manicurists and massage therapists as examples of low-income professions where the cost of getting a license is especially burdensome.

The report was composed by Edward Timmons and Conor Norris. Timmons has a Ph.D. in Economics and is a professor at Saint Francis University. Norris has an MA in economics and currently serves as a research analyst at Saint Francis.

Timmons and Norris cite a study from the libertarian-leaning group Institute for Justice as evidence of their claim that occupational licenses cost Alabama’s economy $56 million per year and 21,000 jobs.

Defenders of occupational licensing laws say that they provide consumer safety and protect the public from scams.

State decision-makers are urged in the Archbridge report to consider laws that would put all licensing requirements under recurring review to determine their necessity every few years.

It also encourages “universal recognition” legislation that would give licensed professionals from other states the ability to practice in Alabama without any additional barriers.

“Professionals and consumers both benefit from this legislation. It gives professionals the flexibility to relocate to a new state, encouraging interstate mobility. Workers can move to Alabama and begin practicing immediately, rather than wasting time and money retraining, reeducating, and retesting,” argue the authors.

States such as Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri and Arizona have enacted meaningful occupational licensing reform and reaped benefits from doing so, per the report.

“What Alabamians need is for the state government to make it easier to work and secure economic prosperity, as they climb out of the pandemic-induced recession,” concluded Schwarz. “Reforming occupational licensing rules would empower working Alabamans to make the best financial decisions for themselves, taking the state economy to new heights.”

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

2 months ago

Brooks introduces bill to cut down on illegal aliens taking American jobs by making E-Verify mandatory in all 50 states

(Screenshot/YouTube)

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) has introduced a bill to make use of E-Verify mandatory during the hiring process of every employer in all 50 states, a move that aims to reduce illegal aliens taking American jobs.

E-Verify is an online database that employers can use to determine if potential hires are eligible to work in the United States. It is a project of the federal government and available to all American businesses free of charge.

Currently, only nine states, including Alabama, require all employers to use E-Verify.

“The prospect of a job entices illegal aliens to break into America. Making E-Verify mandatory for all companies coupled with harsh penalties for violations cuts off illegal aliens from American jobs,” Brooks said in a statement explaining his reasons for bringing the legislation.

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“E-Verify is the most effective deterrent to illegal immigration because it shuts off one of the main pull factors to illegal immigration, off the books jobs for illegal aliens,” Brooks added.

Brooks’ legislation, officially titled the “Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act,” has 13 original cosponsors, all members of the Republican Party.

The bill was praised by anti-illegal immigration groups in statements provided by the congressman’s office.

“E-Verify gives employers a free and easy way to be certain that their employees are legally authorized to work, and it prevents illegal aliens from accessing the jobs that American citizens and legal immigrants so desperately need, particularly now, as the economy recovers from the pandemic. NumbersUSA applauds Congressman Brooks for introducing the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act,” said Rosemary Jenks, director of Government Relations at NumbersUSA.

Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, added, “This bill attacks the source of the problem, rather than its symptoms. We applaud Congressman Brooks and urge every one of his colleagues to cosponsor.”

Brooks’ bill is unlikely to become law in the immediate future, with the Democratic Party controlling the U.S. House, Senate and the presidency.

“The result?” Brooks asked rhetorically about the results of his bill if made law, “Fewer illegal aliens to take jobs from and suppress the wages of American workers. Which equates to higher pay and more jobs for Americans.”

“An added bonus is that illegal aliens who can’t get jobs will self-deport at no cost to taxpayers. That is a great deal for all Americans! This bill is a no-brainer,” Brooks concluded.

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

2 months ago

Alabama nursing homes, hospitals urge common-sense mask-wearing after mandate expires

(Pixabay, YHN)

The Alabama Nursing Home Association and the Alabama Hospital Association issued a joint call this week for Alabamians to continue wearing masks when appropriate after the state’s mandate expires on April 9.

The request by the two groups is being made, they say, to help the state sustain its progress in fighting COVID-19.

“We realize that people are ready to leave their masks at home, but we can’t let up and risk another surge of the virus, not when we’ve come this far,” said Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson in a statement.

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Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA) CEO Brandon Farmer said his group is urging its members to continue requiring masks inside after April 9.

“We urge other businesses to follow suit in requiring masks for their employees and patrons,” he added in a release.

The nursing home association also issued a reminder that state regulations in place during the pandemic limit residents to two visitors at a time.

ANHA also noted that their facilities are overseen by the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in addition to state policy.

A breakdown of the current regulations on nursing home visitation can be found here.

“Thanks to the vaccine and infection control practices, we have seen a dramatic decline in cases and have been able to open our doors to more visitors. Continuing to wear masks until the vaccine is widely available will help us lower the community spread,” advised Farmer.

“We realize restricting visitors has been traumatic for patients, families, and health care workers alike, and hospitals and nursing homes have done all they could to make use of available resources to connect families and comfort patients,” said Williamson. “However, to prevent further spread of the virus, our facilities are required to take additional precautions and to limit visitation when certain conditions exist.”

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

2 months ago

Alabama expanding vaccination eligibility to all adults on Monday, April 5

(WVTM/Twitter/Screenshot)

Every citizen of Alabama age 16 and over will be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccines beginning on Monday, April 5.

Governor Kay Ivey announced the expansion alongside State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris during a tour of a vaccination clinic in Wilcox County on Friday.

“Please take advantage of this great and easy resource,” Ivey said of the coronavirus vaccines.

The decision comes nearly a month ahead of President Joe Biden’s request that all Americans be made eligible for the vaccines by May 1.

“Truly, this vaccine is our ticket back to normal life,” said Ivey.

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“We’re expanding because we do have available supply,” explained Harris in response to a question at the end of the announcement.

RELATED: How to find your nearest COVID-19 vaccine provider in Alabama

Harris said that it is hard to tell if the availability of vaccine appointments Alabama has seen in the last week is due to hesitancy to take the vaccines among citizens or members of the public being confused about whether they were eligible for the vaccine products.

Notably, the Pfizer vaccine product is the only of the three approved vaccines to be approved for individuals between ages 16 and 18. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines are approved for people age 18 and over.

“Get the vaccine you can get,” said Dr. Mary McIntryre of ADPH on Friday, urging citizens not to pick and choose which vaccine product to receive.

Harris said on Friday that Alabama is expecting 160,000 new first doses of vaccine product next week.

“I’ve certainly had both of the shots, and I’m proud to encourage everyone to get their shot,” Ivey said Friday.

Harris has been vaccinated in addition to Ivey, as have nearly all doctors in the United States.

Former President Donald Trump was vaccinated in January.

“[I]t is a great vaccine. It is a safe vaccine, and it is something that works,” Trump told Fox News in March.

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) said last month, “Our best defense against this virus is making sure all Americans get the vaccine.”

“We are so close to getting COVID-19 in the rearview,” Ivey relayed. “Until then, we should all keep wearing our masks, get vaccinated and use the common sense the good Lord gave us.”

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

2 months ago

House passes bills to legalize delivery of alcoholic beverages, wine shipments

(YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that will allow alcoholic beverages to be delivered to the home.

The first bill, SB 126, passed the Senate early in the session. It was amended on the floor by House legislators on Thursday, so it heads back to the upper chamber for a vote that could send it to the governor’s desk.

SB 126 would create a licensing process that would ultimately allow liquor, beer and wine sold at retailers to be delivered to the home, including by services such as Shipt, Instacart or DoorDash.

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State Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) sponsored SB 126, and it was carried in the House on Thursday by Rep. Gil Isbell (R-Gadsden).

“This is truly about convenience for the citizens of Alabama,” Isbell said about the legislation on Thursday.

Companies in the state that want to deliver alcoholic beverages to the home would have to apply for a delivery service license from Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board.

The legislation has limits on the amounts of each beverage that could be delivered, and deliveries could not be made to dry counties and dry cities.

All drivers carrying alcohol would be required to undergo a background check and must be at least 21 years old.

Local breweries and distillers in Alabama were the subjects of amendments in both legislative chambers that made sure their products were eligible for delivery under the bill.

State Rep. Allen Farley (R-McCalla) observed on the floor, “I can see the alcohol-related traffic fatalities going down,” as a result of the bill’s passage.

Deliveries of alcoholic beverages could not be left unattended. The bill requires a person over 21 must receive all deliveries of alcohol.

SB 126 passed the House with 79 members voting in favor and 12 opposed.

The House passed a second alcohol delivery bill on Thursday, HB 437, that allows wine to be shipped from the manufacturer (winery) to a consumer’s home by common carriers like UPS, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service.

A carrier that wants to ship alcohol in Alabama will have to be licensed by the ABC Board. Wineries, too, would have to purchase a permit before shipping directly to consumers in Alabama.

Directly-shipped wine would be eligible for delivery to dry counties and dry cities in Alabama if the bill becomes law.

HB 437 now heads to the Alabama Senate for consideration.

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

2 months ago

Survey reveals transportation, childcare, losing government benefits are top concerns of unemployed and underemployed Alabamians

(Pixabay, YHN)

A recent survey of unemployed and underemployed Alabamians showed that transportation, childcare and worry over losing government benefits are considered the main barriers to full employment by Alabama’s unemployed and underemployed citizens.

The survey was commissioned by AlabamaWorks and included responses from 401 unemployed and underemployed Alabamians. AlabamaWorks considers a person underemployed if the individual is “not doing work that makes full use of their skills and abilities.”

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Over half of those surveyed said they had lost a potential work opportunity due to lack of transportation, while 47% said they do not have access to public transportation.

The respondents to the survey included 220 individuals who are parents to a child. According to the survey, 64% said a lack of childcare options has caused them to work fewer hours than they otherwise would have.

Over one-third of those answering the survey, 37%, said they “declined or delayed taking a new job or promotion because they were afraid they would lose a government benefit,” according to an AlabamaWorks release.

“Benefit cliffs, which occur when earnings gains are offset by the loss of public benefits, have long been recognized to create financial disincentives for low-income individuals to earn more income or train for higher paying occupations,” said Tim McCartney, chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council.

He added, “Under Governor Ivey’s leadership, Alabama has made abating benefit cliffs central to the state’s strategy for helping people achieve self-sufficiency.”

In regards to the three main concerns listed by the survey, AlabamaWorks relayed that it plans on “pursuing a human capital development strategy that couples workforce training with a continuum of services to assist those who are struggling to overcome these barriers.”

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

2 months ago

Aderholt procures grant to help fund opioid recovery program in Alabama

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt speaks from the House floor, Feb. 2018 (Aderholt/YouTube)

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) announced on Thursday that he has helped secure a $355,858 grant for the Will Bright Foundation that will go toward helping Alabamians recover from opioid abuse.

The grant was approved by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). At least 36 workers will be hired as a result of the grant, according to an ARC release.

“While it has taken a backseat in the headlines because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic continues across the 4th Congressional District and across Alabama,” said Aderholt in a statement. “Congress specifically allocated these funds announced today, which are being administered by the Appalachian Rural Commission (ARC), to fight the scourge of opioid abuse.”

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Aderholt noted that he introduced Lisa Bright to officials at the Appalachian Regional Commission at a roundtable meeting in 2019.

Lisa Bright is the CEO of the Will Bright Foundation, which she co-founded along with her husband in honor of their son who perished after a battle with drug addiction.

“The foundation helps individuals bridge the gap between addiction and taking the next steps beyond recovery, such as finding employment,” explained Aderholt.

The Unversity of Alabama has partnered with the Will Bright Foundation on the recovery program the ARC grant will help fund.

Local sources are matching the federal money to the tune of an additional $153,292 — meaning the Will Bright Foundation is set to receive over half a million dollars to further its recovery efforts.

“I’m proud to have played a role in securing these funds for such an important cause.  I’ve made a goal of my time in Congress to work to protect the most vulnerable among us.  This includes those who have fallen into the downward spiral of opioid abuse,” stated Aderholt.

He concluded, “I know that Lisa and the Will Bright Foundation will use these funds to help many people recovering from opioid addiction as well as employers who need reliable workers.”

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

2 months ago

House committee advances bill to repeal Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act

(Gov. Bentley/Flickr)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to advance a bill to repeal Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act (HFOA).

Alabama’s HFOA was passed in the late 1970s and requires judges to implement longer prison sentences each time an individual commits a felony. Proponents say the bill helps target repeat offenders, while detractors maintain it overcrowds state prisons with sentences that last longer than merited by the crime itself.

The bill to repeal Alabama’s HFOA, HB 107, is sponsored by Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa). The legislation has been the source of extensive discussion by legislators during the 2021 legislative session. It was first examined by the Judiciary Committee in the first week of February and has been looked at by a subcommittee in the weeks since.

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A secondary provision of HB 107 is that prisoners convicted under Alabama’s HFOA would be eligible to ask a judge for resentencing.

Wednesday’s discussion of the legislation became heated, especially during an extended back and forth between England and committee member Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne).

“You are prohibiting any kind of consequences based on prior actions,” asserted Simpson early in the discussion.

“That is disingenuous,” England said in response to Simpson’s claims. England maintained the HFOA has “created a number of arbitrary sentences,”  and said it had led to a system where “some people did not deserve the amount of time they ended up being sentenced to.”

“A number of judges have reached out from across the state … and said it is not necessary,” England claimed about Alabama’s HFOA.

“You are saying no matter what [criminal defendants] have done, you cannot consider their history in issuing a sentence,” retorted Simpson about England’s bill.

Repealing Alabama’s HFOA has long been a cause backed by criminal justice reform advocates in Alabama. The House Judiciary Committee advancing the bill was cheered by the left-leaning ACLU of Alabama. Bipartisan advocates for reducing prison populations have also spoken favorably of repealing HFOA.

HB 107 ultimately passed out of committee with nine votes in favor and five votes opposed. Six Republicans voted in favor as did the three Democrats on the committee. Five Republicans voted no. Among the Republicans voting yes was Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jim Hill (R-Moody), who served for decades as a judge at the district and circuit levels in Alabama.

The legislation now heads for consideration by the full chamber.

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

2 months ago

Marshall suing Biden admin to protect Alabama’s ability to cut taxes

(Attorney General Steve Marshall/Facebook, YHN)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is leading a multi-state lawsuit against the Biden administration over a provision in the recently passed stimulus bill that bans states from cutting taxes.

Called the American Rescue Plan by its Democratic authors and derided as unnecessary and overly expensive by most conservatives, the recent $1.9 trillion stimulus bill is sending $350 billion to state and local governments. It was championed by President Joe Biden during its path through Congress.

The bill contains language that prevents state legislatures from using the funds to “offset a reduction in the net tax revenue” of the state in question.

Marshall asserted in a statement on Wednesday that the provision in question “effectively bans states from cutting taxes for several years.”

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“This federal tax mandate is an unprecedented and unconstitutional assault on state sovereignty by the federal government, which would commandeer the State of Alabama’s sovereign power to tax and spend and determine her own fiscal policies,” argued Marshall.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey is a co-lead on the suit. Marshall and Morrisey are being joined in the legal fight by the attorneys general from Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.

The stipulation that states accepting the stimulus money could not cut taxes was added shortly before the bill’s final passage. The New York Times reported that U.S. Senator Joe Machin (D-WV) was behind the provision’s inclusion. Machin has maintained in interviews that his goal was to ensure the stimulus funds were spent on recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Jared Walczak, an expert on state-level tax policy at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, has called the legislation’s requirement state governments not cut taxes “an astonishing level of federal interference in states’ fiscal affairs,” and said that while the particularities of states being able to cut taxes were complex, “state policymakers have reason to be concerned.”

“It is possible to imagine several scenarios where tax cuts could be permitted, but in practice, many state tax cut proposals could run afoul of the federal legislation,” Walczak summarized.

Marshall’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Similar legal efforts are already underway in three other states.

Alabama’s top law enforcement official maintained on Wednesday that the goal of his lawsuit is “to block the enforcement of this grievous federal encroachment on states’ rights.”

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

2 months ago

Alabama Republicans come out against Pelosi-backed theft of U.S. House seat in Iowa

(Washington Post/YouTube)

Several Republican members of Alabama’s congressional delegation and Secretary of State John Merrill have come out strongly against the U.S. House of Representatives potentially overriding the results of a state-certified election in Iowa.

The election in question was the 2020 race to represent Iowa’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House. In that contest, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks defeated Democrat Rita Hart. After multiple recounts, the bipartisan Iowa Board of Canvass certified Miller-Meeks’ victory.

According to the final results, Miller-Meeks won by six votes out of around 394,000 that were cast in the election.

However, the U.S. House of Representatives, as designed by the U.S. Constitution, has the right to judge “the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members.”

Based on that provision, Democrat candidate Rita Hart has launched a plea for the House to overturn the state-sanctioned election result.

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The effort is currently being considered by the House Administration Committee.

Politico, a Washington, D.C.-based outlet that focuses on national politics, reported on March 22 that “the effort to oust Miller-Meeks in favor of Hart has been blessed by the top echelons of House Democratic leadership.”

The publication also noted that House Administration Chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

U.S. Reps Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), Jerry Carl (R-Mobile), Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) joined Secretary of State Merrill in sending a letter to Pelosi this week that strongly protests against consideration of Hart’s case.

“As elected officials in the great state of Alabama, sworn to uphold the law and ensure the security of our elections, we believe that removing a sitting Congresswoman and replacing her through a purely political process would create a dangerous precedent with disastrous long-term results,” the letter reads.

The correspondence was led by Moore. Merrill is the Yellowhammer State’s chief elections official.

“[W]e ask that you do not rob Congresswoman Miller-Meeks of her hard-earned opportunity to serve the people of Iowa’s Second Congressional District,” the elected officials add.

Brooks further criticized Pelosi in a statement, railing against what he sees as the speaker’s “craven lust for political power.”

Notably, several moderate Democrats have voiced their displeasure at the idea of overturning the Iowa election, with one telling The Hill it would be “remarkably hypocritical.”

Even a small number of Democrat defections would make a potential override of the Iowa results impossible. The Democratic Party currently has only an eight-seat majority in the House.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) previously signed on to a March 23 letter along the same lines as the one from his fellow House members sent this week. The letter signed by Rogers attacked Pelosi, saying, “The fact that you are willing to overturn an election for your own political expediency is astonishing, disheartening, and sickening.”

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

2 months ago

Alabama House passes bill designed to curb teenage vaping, regulate state’s vape industry

(S. Johnson/Flickr, YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill designed to reduce the use of vapes and e-cigarettes among young people.

The legislation, HB 273, provides for numerous regulations of the vaping and e-cigarette industry in Alabama.

Among them, it would prevent vape manufactures and retailers from using advertising techniques designed to appeal to young people, such as incorporating characters from comic books in ad campaigns. It would also prevent makers of vape pods and cartridges from claiming the taste of their product resembled “candies, cakes, or other sugary treats.”

HB 273 is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Drummond (D-Mobile). Two Republican members, Reps. Debbie Wood (R-Valley) and David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook), are among the cosponsors of the legislation. It passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 74-18 with two abstentions.

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“My issue has always been to safeguard the welfare of young people,” Drummond said on the floor about her proposed law.

In a move signed into law by then-President Donald Trump in 2019, the federal government raised the age to 21 for purchasing all tobacco products, including vapes and e-cigarettes.

Drummond, a Democrat, remarked ruefully, “This is one thing the former president did right,” in a speech on the House floor.

Her legislation changes Alabama’s law to mirror the federally established age, which already had the prerogative in terms of enforcement by officers of the law.

The bill would require the Alabama Department of Revenue to build and maintain a directory of businesses that sell and manufacture vape cartridges, e-liquids and any alternative nicotine product in Alabama.

Furthermore, it would require the relevant businesses to pay for certification in the directory.

Each business entity that deals with vaping would have to pay the state an initial $2,000 certification fee, and each subsequent year would have to pay a $500 renewal for continued certification. Funds from the fees would go to implementing and maintaining the directory.

“There are some bad actors out there selling this stuff illegally right now,” noted Drummond about the need for a registry, further explaining that the registry makes the job of law enforcement easier.

Selling vape cartridges and e-cigarettes in vending machines would be banned under HB 273.

All locations selling vapes and any nicotine delivery system would be required to post a prominent sign near where customers check out that displays 21 as the legal age to buy nicotine products.

Manufacturers and retailers of nicotine products like vapes and e-cigarettes will also be required to post notices about the dangers of their usage, such as exposure to toxic metals.

“It has been a horrible issue for young people in our state,” said Drummond on Tuesday about the effect of vaping on Alabama youths.

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

3 months ago

Alabama Robotics Park offering workforce training via virtual reality courses

(Alabama NewsCenter)

The Alabama Robotics Technology Park in Limestone County announced Tuesday that it is going to offer classes in virtual reality to new and existing clients.

Companies can now contract with the facility to offer their employees virtual reality courses in Paint Robot Troubleshooting, Plant Safety and Precision Measurement.

The Park maintains that virtual reality training provides value to employers because of its safety and the high degree of engagement it engenders among its users. According to a release, employees who participate in the virtual reality courses have higher retention of materials learned.

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Alabama Robotics Technology Park provided a breakdown of the three courses available in virtual reality:

Paint Robot Troubleshooting introduces trainees to the paint robot and booth, standard troubleshooting steps involving moisture on or around the robot, and the most common problems and resolution steps to get the robot and production line back up and running. This module is designed for trainees with basic to intermediate automotive manufacturing paint robot experience.

Plant Safety introduces trainees to common safety considerations when working in a manufacturing plant environment. Trainees are introduced to the personal protective equipment, common tools, and safety situations they may encounter in the workplace. This module is designed for trainees with little to no experience in a manufacturing environment.

Precision Measurement introduces trainees to precision measurement instruments commonly used in manufacturing and assembly environments. Trainees are introduced to each measurement tool, how to properly take measurements with the tool, and how to properly read the measurement tool indicators. This module is designed for trainees who have basic math skills with no experience with measurement tools.

Employers who wish to contract with the Park to provide the classes can find more information here.

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