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.

3 hours ago

Sessions hits Jones over finding impeachment case ‘compelling’ — ‘Merely repeating the partisan attacks of Congressman Adam Schiff’

(Wikimedia/YHN)

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not happy with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Sessions sent out a forceful response to Yellowhammer News’ reporting on Friday morning that Jones found the evidence against President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial “compelling.”

“Senator Doug Jones’ recent video appears to indicate that he is planning to vote to remove Donald Trump from the office of President of the United States. He is merely repeating the partisan attacks of Congressman Adam Schiff,” began Sessions.

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Sessions said he feels Jones is “not even attempting” to represent the people of Alabama.

Presumably, this is a reference to Jones’ openness to impeaching Trump, who sports around a 60% approval rating among the people of Alabama. It is also good political hay for Sessions to make in a Republican primary where Trump’s approval rating hovers around 90%.

“The Democrats do not allege any crime, nor do the vague charges in the articles of impeachment rise to a level that would justify the removal of our duly-elected President,” added Sessions.

Sessions this week was the subject of a much speculated-about Trump tweet that showed a poll from 2019 that had Sessions leading the field of contenders in the Republican primary.

To conclude his statement on impeachment, Sessions said, “The entire matter is being revealed as a political hit job, paid for by the taxpayers.”

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

7 hours ago

February event promises answers to VA health care concerns

(University of Alabama)

The Veterans Affairs departments of the state and federal government are teaming up to put on the Montgomery Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC).

VEAC will be on February 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Campton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery.

The agencies promise it will be a time “for veterans to get answers—and sometimes resolutions—regarding their benefits and healthcare.”

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Veterans Service Officers will be in attendance, as will workers trained to handle claims both new and existing.

The groups welcome both veterans and family members, saying the event will provide the opportunity to “receive one-on-one service to address any and all issues” with the VA.

The Alabama Department of Veterans affairs reminds those attending that “for assistance with VA claims and services, veterans should bring proper documentation about their case: DD 214, all medical records about any military and civilian disability, and dependency documents.”

Other services available at the event will be the American Red Cross, Still Serving Veterans, and job opportunities from the Alabama Department of Labor.

Anyone seeking additional information can call (334) 625-3480.

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

7 hours ago

Alabama lawmakers renew push to create lifetime concealed carry permits

(Pxhere, PIxabay, YHN)

Members of the Alabama legislature introduced bills this week that would create a standard, statewide process for any individual that wants a concealed carry permit for a firearm. Under the proposed system, permits would be issued for terms of one year, five years or the remaining lifetime of the permit holder.

State Representative Proncey Robertson (R-Trinity) is sponsoring the effort in the House, and State Senator Randy Price (R-Opelika) is carrying the Senate version. Robertson spent over 25 years as a police officer in North Alabama.

The cost of a lifetime permit would be $200, with a reduced fee for senior citizens. Robertson wrote on Facebook that active and retired military service members would pay nothing. Currently, Alabamians can purchase a permit from their county sheriff’s office for up to five years. The price of a permit varies by county.

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Sheriff’s offices often benefit from the revenues brought in by pistol permits. Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran once told AL.com that his department depends on the income from the permits “for a number of things.”

Various efforts by Republican lawmakers to alter Alabama’s gun laws have run out of steam before becoming law in recent years.

As part of the new permitting system proposed this week, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) would have a new role in streamlining the permit process and administering background checks.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has come out in favor of the effort, telling members they should contact their state legislators “to secure passage of this critical legislation.”

“The NRA strongly supports this streamlined permitting process,” NRA Alabama State Director Art Thomm told the Alabama Political Reporter.

“Not only would it bring much-needed 21st century technology to Alabama’s antiquated system, but it would be the first time law-abiding Alabamians were given the option for a lifetime concealed carry permit,” he added.

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

11 hours ago

Alabama workforce development program recognized as one of nation’s best, will now mentor other states

(Made in Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

The National Governor’s Association on Thursday announced Alabama would be among a choice group of states that will mentor other states in work-based learning practices.

“Alabama is excited to participate as a mentor state in the third phase of the NGA’s work-based learning Policy Academy due to the remarkable results of our participation in Phase II of the Policy Academy,” said Governor Kay Ivey.

The five other mentor states in the program are Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington.

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The type of programs that will be worked on between Alabama and other states align with Ivey’s Success Plus initiative. Success Plus is a comprehensive effort to get Alabamians whatever post-high school education they need to be prepared for the workforce, no matter if that is a four-year degree, two-year degree or professional certification.

The specific aspects of Sucess Plus in which Alabama will mentor other states are the work-based learning such as apprenticeships and internships.

“This selection by the National Governors Association is a solid indication of Alabama’s commitment to increasing the state’s labor participation rate through the AlabamaWorks initiative,” said Ed Castile, deputy secretary for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Across the state, we are working with business and industry to expand our efforts in preparing a well-trained, high-skilled, quality workforce,” he added.

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

1 day ago

Ivey, Chick-fil-A honor Sylacauga charity

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — Governor Ivey hosted a ceremony on Thursday afternoon in honor of the Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement (SAFE) winning the Southeast region’s Chick-fil-A True Inspiration Award.

The True Inspiration Awards’ website describes the award as targeting organizations that are “working hard to make a lasting difference in the lives of children living in their local communities.”

SAFE is the first winner from the state of Alabama. Winning the award comes with a $75,000 grant. Chick-fil-A franchisee Micah Harris of Sylacauga said that SAFE was one of 22 True Inspiration recipients for 2020 and “one of the very few at the level” that receives such a large grant.

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SAFE was chosen as the Southeast region’s winner from a field of finalists that included charities in Watkinsville, GA; Miami, FL; and Jacksonville, FL.

SAFE, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, is a nonprofit in Sylacauga that aims to strengthen the community with a focus on families.

The executive director of SAFE, Margaret Morton, told Sylacauga News that the grant will go towards the group’s Workforce Ready program. She added that the grant “will give individuals more opportunities to be trained to get into the workforce, and give people more opportunity to have more value.”

Sylacauga has only had a Chick-fil-A since 2018. In her remarks at the ceremony on Thursday, Morton told the audience to much laughter that everyone in a 60-mile radius to Sylacauga thanked God that a franchise came to their community.

“Who would have thought that in less than a year our Chick-fil-A would have spearheaded the nomination for an award,” she added.

“Thank you to Chick-fil-a for supporting SAFE,” Ivey said in her conclusion, praising “the incredible work the Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement is doing in their community and within our state.”

She added, “It’s impressive.”

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

1 day ago

Dothan airport adding additional flight in the afternoon

The Dothan Eagle reported on Wednesday that the Dothan Regional Airport will be adding an additional Delta flight to Atlanta every afternoon.

Airport Director Adam Hartzog told the Eagle that 60,000 passengers flew out of Dothan Regional in 2019, which was the airport’s second year in a row of strong gains.

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Hartzog added that the average commercial flight fills in about 75% of its seats, but flights out of Dothan had been filling about 90% of their seats.

The new flight will arrive in Dothan just after 4:00 p.m. and leave around 5:00 p.m. every afternoon. Like the four previously existing commercial flights out of Dothan, it will connect to Atlanta.

Hartzog attributes the increased number of airline passengers to “a strong Wiregrass economy and a very strong Fort Rucker.”

The new flight will begin in June.

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

1 day ago

Watch: AL-01 candidate Bill Hightower releases campaign’s first TV ad

(Hightower Campaign/Youtube)

Former State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) released the first TV ad for his congressional campaign on Thursday. Hightower is running to replace U.S. Senate candidate Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) in Alabama’s first congressional district.

The 30-second spot highlights Hightower’s Christian values, including bills backed by Hightower in the state legislature that promoted adoption and stood against abortion.

Hightower’s campaign told Yellowhammer News in a press release that the ad buy “is district-wide, will total six-figures, and will continue through the March 3rd Primary Election.”

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One of Hightower’s competitors in the March 3 Republican primary, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, announced his first ad on Wednesday. Hightower and Carl are joined in the Republican Primary by State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile), businessman Wes Lambert and Army veteran John Castorani.

As of September 30, Hightower had $447,611 in his campaign coffers. Carl, who is investing a significant amount of his personal fortune, had $741,307 on hand and Pringle reported $215,437. The fundraising totals for the fourth quarter of 2019 will be available January 30.

Hightower, who placed fourth in the 2018 Republican primary for governor, has led all of the polls in the AL-01 congressional race that have been released to the public so far. He has also been endorsed by former U.S. Senator and presidential contender Rick Santorum (R-PA) and the conservative group Club for Growth.

There are three contenders in the AL-01 Democratic primary, but the district leans very heavily Republican.

Watch:

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

2 days ago

Etowah County mega-site to receive $2.7M in improvements

(Etowah County/Contributed)

The Etowah County-located Little Canoe Creek mega-site is to receive $2.7-million in improvements as part of an effort to make it a more attractive location to potential industry.

The site is composed of around 1,100 acres just off of I-59 southwest of the city of Gadsden. The funding for the improvements comes from a donation by the Norfolk Southern Corporation.

According to a release sent to Yellowhammer News, the improvements “will include grading a portion of the over 1,000-acre property to create a pad-ready rail-served site sufficient to accommodate a large industry. Natural gas lines will be relocated near the edge of the property, and a new railroad crossing will be added to the industrial access road off U.S. Highway 11.”

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“The mega-site has many location advantages for industrial recruitment and this project will improve upon its assets and greatly increase our overall competitiveness,” said Marilyn Lott, economic development director for Etowah County.

Etowah County began buying the land that now composes the Little Canoe Creek site in 2008. In addition to bordering the local interstate, the site is also adjacent to U.S. Highway 11 and a Norfolk Southern mainline.

Little Canoe Creek was designated an “Alabama AdvantageSite” in 2018. Being labeled an “AdvantageSite” amounts to a guarantee from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama “that the site is ready for major industrial use.”

According to local leaders, a key factor in the improvements announced on Wednesday is the Growing Alabama Tax Credit. A credit “is equal to 100% of the donating taxpayer’s contributions to the economic development opportunity during the taxable year for which the credit is claimed and may offset up to 50% of the taxpayer’s income tax liability.”

“We truly appreciate this funding made possible by Norfolk Southern and the state,” said Jeffery Washington, president of the Etowah County Commission.

“This infrastructure improvement project at the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site perfectly illustrates how we can use the Growing Alabama Credit as a tool to facilitate growth and expand employment,” added Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

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

2 days ago

UAB, St. Vincent’s enter into ‘strategic alliance’ to better serve patients

(Bob Shepard/UAB, YHN)

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Health System is entering into a partnership with its across-town neighbor Ascension St. Vincent’s to provide better outcomes for patients. The two hospital systems announced the news jointly via a press release on Wednesday.

Details are still scarce as to the particularities of what this will mean for patients, and the deal is still pending approval from the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees.

The information available indicates that patients at one institution will have access to some services and doctors at the other without the normal amount of red tape in between. The two hospitals are touting the alliance’s ability to open up opportunities for “those who need highly specialized care.”

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“Through closer alignment of each organization’s many locations, specialties and expertise, the health systems will strive to better accommodate patients,” said UAB Health System CEO Will Ferniany.

According to the website set up to inform the public about the alliance, the two hospitals’ medical records will stay separate, and no doctor will be changing locations as part of the new alliance.

“Ascension St. Vincent’s and the UAB Health System have a longstanding, very positive relationship,” said Jason Alexander, CEO, Ascension St. Vincent’s and Ascension Providence, and senior vice president, Ascension. “We look forward to continuing to build on the complementary strengths of both organizations to serve the increasing needs of residents across our state.

As follows are the facilities that will be a part of the alliance: 

UABHS:

UAB Hospital
University of Alabama Health Services Foundation
Medical West Hospital
Callahan Eye Hospital, Clinics and Ophthalmology Services Foundation
Gardendale Freestanding Emergency Department (FED) and Clinics
Highway 150 Clinics and Medical West Freestanding Emergency Department
Acton Road
Primary Care Network

Ascension St. Vincent’s:

Ascension St. Vincent’s Birmingham
Ascension St. Vincent’s East
Ascension St. Vincent’s One Nineteen
Ascension St. Vincent’s St. Clair
Ascension St. Vincent’s Chilton
Ascension St. Vincent’s Blount
Ascension St. Vincent’s Trussville
Ascension St. Vincent’s Medical Group

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

3 days ago

Watch: Jessica Taylor touts ‘humble roots’, takes aim at ‘The Squad’ in first TV ad

(Jessica Taylor/Youtube/YHN)

Jessica Taylor, an attorney in Prattville seeking the Republican nomination for Alabama’s second congressional district, released her first television advertisement on Tuesday.

The ad, which is titled “My Squad,” is mostly composed of footage and soundbites from Taylor’s viral announcement video that garnered national attention.

The video begins by touting Taylor’s “humble roots,” and the candidate goes on to say she wants “to protect life, the Second Amendment, our borders and President Trump from socialists in the swamp”

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Taylor’s competitors in the March 3 Republican Primary will be former Alabama Attorney General Troy King, former State Representative Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman.

According to Taylor’s campaign, the spot “will air on broadcast and cable over the next two weeks in the Montgomery media market beginning this Wednesday.”

Predictably in an ad titled “My Squad,” the spot makes references to “The Squad” while displaying images of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

The Squad” is a group of four U.S. Representatives that are new to Congress, female and represent the furthest left wing of the Democratic Party. Cortez and Omar are two members of “The Squad” that have generated particular ire among Republican primary voters.

As a response to “The Squad,” Taylor led the effort to create the “Conservative squad,” which is composed of four female conservative Republicans currently seeking election to the House.

In a statement sent to reporters that accompanied the ad, Taylor said one of her goals in Congress would be to “fight back against radical socialists like AOC and Ilhan Omar.”

The spot also continues to use the language and iconography of basketball, which Taylor grew up playing.

“Alabama, put me in the game!” proclaims Taylor to conclude.

Watch:

3 days ago

Pro-Trump super-PAC launches ad attacking Doug Jones for his refusal to oppose impeachment

(Youtube/YHN/America First Policies)

Super-PAC America First Policies launched an ad Tuesday that highlights Sen. Doug Jones’ (D-AL) refusal to oppose the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

The ad frames impeachment as a project of the “radical left” and uses a clip of Jones saying “this is not a witch hunt, this is not a hoax” as evidence that he stands with controversial figures like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Both Omar and Schiff are used as examples of the “radical left” in the ad, and both heavily pushed the Democrats’ impeachment effort.

Jones has maintained that he is undecided on whether he will vote to convict Trump on the articles of impeachment passed by the House.

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Recently, Jones railed against the proposed rules for the Senate trial. Alabama’s junior senator said in a tweet, “The American people deserve a fair trial, and so does President Trump — but this ain’t it, folks.”

Jones is seen by most political observers as the least likely Democratic senator to win reelection in 2020.

The junior senator remains bullish on his reelection chances. He recently told CNN that he believes he will be reelected even if he votes to remove Trump.

Jones has a history of confident statements with regard to his election chances. He told political website fivethirtyeight.com he “would have won by a larger percentage had those allegations not come out,” in reference to the sexual misconduct allegations against his 2017 opponent Roy Moore.

America First Policies, which is run by Republicans loyal to Trump, apparently sees an opportunity to use the heightened attention brought by the impeachment trial to further damage Jones’ chances at winning election to a full term.

The end of the ad urges Alabamians to call Jones’ Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-4124 to urge him “to stop standing with the radical left and end impeachment.”

Watch:

UPDATE 9:30 p.m.

Caroline Stonecipher, the spokesperson for Jones’ Senate office, responded to the ad in a statement to Yellowhammer News.

“This ad is an attempt to distract from Senator Jones’ record of getting things done on behalf of the people of Alabama,” she stated. “Anyone who has followed Senator Jones in recent months knows that he is committed to upholding his oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and he has approached this impeachment trial with the seriousness it demands. Contrary to the blatant lies in this ad, he has also supported over 70 percent of President Trump’s judicial nominees and has voted at least five times for additional border security funding. Regardless of pressure from outside groups, Senator Jones will remain focused on being an independent voice for Alabamians.”

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

3 days ago

Sessions ‘uneasy’ about parts of Trump’s criminal justice reform bill — ‘Some of the sentence reductions went too far’

(WH/YouTube, Wikicommons, YHN)

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared in Montgomery on Monday, where he discussed the criminal justice reform bill President Donald Trump has repeatedly championed.

Sessions was asked by Yellowhammer News what he thought of the bill. At first, the candidate for his old seat in the U.S. Senate said he supported parts of the bill, but he also told the assembled reporters, “I did think some of the sentence reductions probably went too far.”

“I was uneasy about that,” he added on the question of some of the sentencing reforms.

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Sessions, who was speaking at a press conference flanked by law enforcement officials who had just endorsed him, praised some aspects of the bill that is formally known as the First Step Act.

“I supported much in that bill, particularly funds for education pre-release, preparation for people to be more successful when they leave,” Sessions remarked.

“There were some reductions in sentences that were legitimate. I previously supported two bills that reduced crack-cocaine sentences,” Sessions intoned.

Sessions’ support for crack-cocaine sentence reduction presumably refers to his vote in favor of bills like the Obama-era Fair Sentencing Act that alleviated disparities in the penalty for possessing crack-cocaine and powder cocaine.

“People shouldn’t serve any more time than necessary,” Sessions told the audience.

One of the statistics Sessions cited as relevant was the pre-existing drop in federal prison populations from 2013-2018, the year the bill was passed by Congress. In 2013, the federal government held 219,298 incarcerated people, and by 2018, it had reduced that number to 179,898, an 18% reduction in the five years before the First Step Act became law.

In just a few months after the First Step Act was made law, the federal government released an additional 3,100 inmates due to a change in how good behavior is calculated.

Proponents of the bill point to the immense bipartisan support which the bill garnered in Congress and the fact that America still has a higher percentage of citizens in prison than other developed countries.

“I hope we don’t find that to be true,” Sessions said of his suspicion that the sentencing reforms went too far. “We’ll see how it plays out.”

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

4 days ago

Sessions endorsed by eight Alabama sheriffs

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — Sheriffs of eight Alabama counties and Jeff Sessions appeared jointly at a press conference in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, on Monday. The sheriffs announced their support of Sessions’ candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).

The announcement coincided with the Winter Conference of the Alabama Sheriffs Association. Sessions, who as U.S. Attorney General was America’s top law enforcement official, also received the support of several out-of-state police associations.

Two of the sheriffs who announced their support of Sessions on Monday were Kevin Turner of Madison County and John Samaniego of Shelby County, who together represent and protect over 574,000 Alabamians.

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Sheriffs, who are often respected and widely known among their constituencies, are highly sought after endorsements in Republican primaries. According to Pew Research, 86% of Republican voters view officers of the law “warmly.”

After news broke of the Sessions endorsements, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), one of Sessions’ competitors for the Republican nomination in the Senate race, quickly tweeted about the support he has received from law enforcement across the state. Byrne has been endorsed by five sheriffs that represent Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia, Lauderdale and Calhoun counties.

“Law enforcement leaders from across the state are lining up to support Bradley Byrne because they know he has their back. Bradley has a track record of supporting additional funding and resources for Alabama police officers and first responders,” Byrne’s campaign manager Seth Morrow said in a statement to the media.

Sessions today was endorsed by:

Kevin Turner of Madison County;
John Samaniego of Shelby County;
Jonathon W. Horton of Etowah County;
Don Valenza of Houston County;
Shannon Oliver of Franklin County;
Ray Norris of Clarke County;
Billy Murray of St. Clair County;
Heath Taylor of Russell County, who also serves as president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association.

The counties from which Sessions received support span the state geographically, including counties that touch every state Alabama borders. The eight sheriffs protect approximately 981,000 Alabamians combined across their counties.

“Law enforcement officers trust Jeff Sessions because we know that he has our back,” said Sheriff Kevin Turner of Madison County, who represents more people than any other sheriff that has made an endorsement.

“Let me tell you. There is not one person across this state that can ever say Jeff Sessions is not there for law enforcement. What he does for sheriff’s offices across this state, what he does for the police departments, is absolutely what we need in Washington,” Turner added.

The endorsements come as the Senate race is getting heated. The Tuberville campaign on Monday went after Jeff Sessions for being, in their view, insufficiently loyal to President Trump while Sessions was Attorney General.

Additionally, a staffer on one of the Senate campaigns competing against Sessions told Yellowhammer News, “To be the former AG who gave grants to these sheriffs over the years, it’s sad he could only get 8 of 67 to endorse him. Shows a real problem.”

At the press conference Sessions also received support from Bill Partridge, who is the City of Oxford’s police chief and president of the Alabama Association of Police Chiefs.

“Jeff Sessions’ door has always been open to Alabama law enforcement officers — whenever there has been a need, he has answered the call, which is why I am proud to support his campaign for the U.S. Senate,” said Partridge.

“I have their backs and America says thanks,” Sessions said of law enforcement officers during his remarks.

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

4 days ago

Montgomery honors Martin Luther King, Jr. — ‘This is a celebration’

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The city of Montgomery, which hosted Martin Luther King, Jr. for multiple famous speeches, braved the cold and came out in force to celebrate America’s most famous civil rights hero.

The two main events in Alabama’s capital city were a morning service at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, a venue where King ministered, and a parade through the heart of Montgomery that ended with remarks from the city’s leaders on the capitol steps.

The mood remained jovial throughout the day despite the cold temperatures. Quotes from Dr. King echoed throughout each event, urging anyone who would listen to choose light and love over darkness and hate.

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Henry Pugh and the Musicians started off the morning by performing the music for the “Celebration and Prelude” at Dexter Avenue Baptist. The event was billed as a birthday party for King, who would have turned 91 in 2020.

“This is a celebration now, be happy!” Pugh admonished the audience while smiling.

True to the spirit of the morning, Reverend Handy, the church’s pastor, donned a birthday party hat in his first appearance in the pulpit.

Later in the service, Reverend Raymonda Speller brought the whole church to its feet with a powerful message about how Dr. King would not want people today to let causes that need champions pass by.

On Dexter Avenue, crowds were treated to performances by marching bands, like the much-praised Jefferson Davis High School Marching Vols.

Later, there were remarks at the capitol from Talladega Mayor Timothy Ragland, the first black American elected to lead that city. Ragland, who is considered by some a rising star in Alabama’s Democratic Party, urged the people in the audience to demand change from their government.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, also the first black man elected mayor of his city, took the podium after Ragland.

“We’re here today because of his leadership, we’re here today because of his courage, we’re here today because of his conviction,” Reed said near the beginning of his remarks.

“As a beneficiary in a different Montgomery than the one he lived in. … As the 57th mayor of this city, that he pastored in a church just one block from here,” Reed continued, noting the change that has come to the city in the 55 years since the march from Selma.

“Dr. King fought for all of mankind, he fought for all of us,” Reed remarked.

Viewers can watch Mayor Reed’s complete speech here.

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

1 week ago

Alabama Music Hall of Fame celebrates 30th anniversary in 2020

(Alabama's Music Hall of Fame/Facebook, YHN)

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame (AMHOF) has been cataloging and putting on display the many pieces of Alabama’s musical history for 30 years.

“We have singers, songwriters, producers, musicians, all from the state of Alabama,” Sandra Burroughs, Executive Director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame told WHNT.

“They were either born and raised here or moved here quickly afterwards or have a really strong tie to Alabama,” she added.

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The Hall is located on Highway 72 in Tuscumbia, a charming city in the northwest corner of Alabama. Nearby is the town of Muscle Shoals, a town with a musical history so rich it warranted its own documentary.

In addition to celebrating its 30th birthday, the Hall of Fame is hosting an induction banquet on January 25.

The Hall will be inducting Gary Baker, Mervyn Warren, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton and Elton B. Stephens. The institution’s website describes the acts as, “two Grammy Award winners, a legendary blues singer and the philanthropist who spearheaded the revival of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.”

Performing at the induction will be the Backstreet Boys, Taylor Hicks, Jamey Johnson, Bo Bice and Chris Thompkins. The Backstreet Boys are friends with Gary Baker and will be there to support his induction.

Also at the induction ceremony on January 25 will be the handing out of the first-ever AMHOF Advocacy Award, which will go to Mitchell Self. According to a detailed piece on the award in the Florence Times-Daily, Self was a legendary radio owner and promoter of the Muscle Shoals music scene. He died in 1990 after 20 years running WLAY in Muscle Shoals.

“As any family would be, we’re quite proud of the legacy he left,” Kevin Self, Mitchell’s son, said of his father.

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

1 week ago

Fishing at public lakes to begin in February

(Alabama Newscenter)

Alabama’s fishermen will be able to resume fishing on state-owned lakes beginning February 1, 2020, the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries division announced on Friday.

The state of Alabama owns 23 lakes that it stocks with fish like bream, largemouth bass, channel catfish and crappie. For nominal fees, any interested angler can cast a line and enjoy a day on the lake. One of those lakes — Washington County Public Fishing Lake — will remain closed for all of 2020 while it is restocked.

“Alabama’s public fishing lakes are a great family fishing destination,” said Jonathan Brown, public fishing lake biologist for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF)

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The operating costs of Alabama’s public fishing lakes do not come from the state’s general fund budget. The state’s anglers cover the cost through the paying of license fees, targeted taxes on outdoor equipment and fishing permits.

“Not only do the lakes offer great fishing, they have concession buildings with snacks, drinks, restrooms, and personnel who can provide fishing advice,” concluded Brown.

More information on where the public fishing lakes are, and how interested anglers can use them, can be found on the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ website.

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

1 week ago

Rep. Sewell endorses Joe Biden for president

(Rep. Terri Sewell, Joe Biden/Facebook, YHN)

U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) endorsed Joe Biden for president on Friday.

The endorsement continues Biden’s dominance of support from Alabama’s most prominent Democrats. The former vice president received Senator Doug Jones’ support in April and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s in December.

The representative for Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District, now in her fifth term in Congress, told the Associated Press, “Joe has a special combination of vast experience, respectability and authenticity that is well-received by Republicans and Democrats and globally by our allies and foes.”

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Sewell argued that President Donald Trump “has given people a license to be racist, sexist, misogynistic — out loud.”

When asked by the AP about the timing of her endorsement so close to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Sewell said, “The No. 1 threat to my district is Donald Trump. The No. 1 threat to Martin Luther King’s legacy is Donald Trump.”

Black voters make up more than 50% of the electorate in Alabama’s Democratic primary and more than 60% of the voters in Sewell’s district. According to a recent national poll, 48% of black voters in America are supporting Biden in the ongoing Democratic primary.

Sewell is the 11th member of the Congressional Black Caucus to endorse Biden, and she will campaign with him in South Carolina ahead of that state’s primary on February 29.

“My district longs for a normality and stability again, and they know Joe Biden. He is a well-worn shoe we are comfortable with and who we know will fight for our values,” Sewell added.

Alabama’s Democratic primary will be held on March 3.

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

1 week ago

Ivey announces $7M in road projects funded by new gas tax money

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Transportation announced 31 road and bridge projects on Thursday that would be receiving grants from the state.

Together, the 31 grants are worth $7 million. The money for the projects comes from the Annual Grant Program, a new pool of funds established under the Rebuild Alabama Act that is intended for local projects municipalities/counties cannot pay for on their own. The Annual Grant Program is a small portion of the overall revenue generated by Rebuild Alabama.

The Rebuild Alabama Act is the name of the bill championed by Ivey that the Alabama legislature overwhelmingly passed in the spring of 2019. The act raises the gas tax in Alabama by ten cents over three years in order to pay for infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. A six-cent increase to the gas tax happened in September 2019, with a two-cent increase to follow in 2020 and 2021.

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“An investment in our roads and bridges is an investment in the future of Alabama. These $7 million in funds will go a long way in helping communities across the state address various road and bridge projects,” Ivey said.

The Annual Grant Program is composed of $10 million each year. The remaining $3 million will be awarded later in 2020. According to the governor’s office, “all projects will be under contract by the end of the calendar year, after bids are taken.”

“I am proud to see the continuing positive ramifications from the Rebuild Alabama Act. Soon, every Alabama citizen will feel the benefits from this additional investment in our infrastructure,” Ivey concluded.

For the approved projects, click here.

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

1 week ago

Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama gives $1.05 million to UAB cancer center

(UAB/Contributed)

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA) is donating over a million dollars to the University of Alabama in Birmingham’s O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, the two groups announced jointly on Wednesday.

The BCRFA makes an annual gift to the O’Neal Center, and 2020’s donation is the largest yet. The group has given the center $9.7 million since 1996.

“As a breast cancer survivor myself, I look at this as lifesaving work. I personally know how critical research is in finding new treatments,” said Jill Carter, president of the BCRFA Board of Directors.

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UAB says the funds from BCRFA have gone to projects like “developing novel immunotherapeutic and metabolic approaches, identifying new drug targets, and developing more effective models for breast cancer survivorship.”

BCRFA raises its funds through events like the Pink Ribbon Project in which 33 Alabama fire departments participated. They are also successful in selling specialty car tags, the money from which made up about 50% of Thursday’s donations.

https://www.bcrfa.org/license-plate.php
(BCRFA) (An example of the license plates sold at DMVs and Courthouses across Alabama)

BCRFA also has many partners from the private sector including Tameron Automotive, the Thompson Family Foundation, Sirote & Permutt, the Alabama Power Foundation, Renasant Bank, Wind Creek Wetumpka, Protective Life Foundation, Thrivent Financial, Spectrum Reach and iHeart Media.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous efforts of the BCRFA and the community at large that works so diligently throughout the year with the sole purpose of supporting promising breast cancer research,” said Barry Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB.

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

1 week ago

Applications now open to Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering

(Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering/Twitter, Pixabay, YHN)

The Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) is now accepting applications, the school announced on Twitter Thursday morning.

ASCTE will be a boarding high school where students interested in Cyber Technology and Engineering will live on campus and focus their studies on cyber and engineering courses of study. Eighth graders from across Alabama can apply for about 100 spots in the school’s inaugural class.

The school will be held at the campus of Oakwood University in Huntsville for 2020 and 2021 before moving to its a permanent campus on Cummings Research Park. That new campus is expected to be fully constructed by 2022. The enrollment will increase each year, with a target of 3oo students after four years.

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According to ASCTE’s website, the school “will serve 9th Graders in its first year, adding a grade level each year, with the goal of becoming a 9th-12th grade high school.”

The application process specifies, “Students local to Huntsville will commute daily, while the school will provide residential housing for students living outside of the Huntsville area.”

The school will be led by Matt Massey, a former superintendent of the Madison County School System.

Similar to the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham and the Alabama School for Math and Science in Mobile, Alabama students will pay no tuition at ASCTE.

Students will be required to produce the following:

  • Copy of transcripts
  • Most recent copy of standardized test scores
  • Letter of recommendation from a teacher
  • Letter of recommendation from a school administrator
  • Letter of recommendation from parent(s)
  • Letter of interest from the student
  • Current photo of the student applicant
  • Copy of Cumulative Disciplinary Record
  • Copy of attendance report for the 2018-2019, 2019-2020 school year

Interested applicants can go here.

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

1 week ago

Birmingham duo to become first high school team allowed to fish in Bassmaster Classic

(H. Thornton/YHN)

BIRMINGHAM — Grayson Morris and Tucker Smith, who have won back to back B.A.S.S. high school national championships, will be the first high school duo allowed to fish at the Bassmaster Classic.

The announcement was made in front of a raucous crowd in Briarwood Christian School’s (BCS) auditorium on Thursday morning. Smith recently graduated from BCS while Morris is still a student at the school. They were joined for the announcement by their boat captain J.T. Russell, who is a BCS alum.

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Grayson Morris, who said he had been fishing since he was five years old, told the media that he “had no idea” when asked if he knew about today’s recognition from Bassmaster.

“When they made the announcement I was super surprised,” he added. “I can’t wait till March.”

In 2020, the Bassmaster Classic will be in Birmingham from March 6-8. It is the competition’s 50th anniversary. The fishing will take place on Lake Guntersville. Morris and Smith will be participating, but not as official competitors.

“I remember watching the Bassmaster Classic on TV when I was a little boy, and now I get to go out there and do that,” Morris happily told Yellowhammer News.

Academy Sports and Outdoors is giving the duo’s boat a new coat of paint for the special occasion.

“I think it looks good. It will look good out there at the Bassmaster Classic,” he said of the freshly-painted boat.

“To be the first high schooler’s, that’s a great honor,” Smith told reporters after the event. He also thanked his coaches for making everything possible.

“It’s going to be crazy to fish against those guys,” he said of the anglers he will be sharing a lake with come March.

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

1 week ago

Two groups joining to publicize availability of grants that fund Alabama’s lauded First Class Pre-K classrooms

(PIxabay, YHN)

Two Alabama organizations are partnering to raise awareness of the possibility for child care providers to receive state grant money towards adding an Alabama First Class Pre-K classroom to their fall 2020 offerings.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA) and the Alabama Association for Early Care and Education (AALECE) will put on a webinar hosted by Dr. Barbara Cooper from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. The webinar will tell any interested party how they can apply for grants to fund a First Class Pre-K classroom.

The webinar will also detail changes made to the program that includes more money for grants and different schedules for payment.

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A release stated, “Public and private schools, child care centers, faith-based centers, Head Start programs, nonprofits and other community-based preschool providers are all eligible to apply.”

Groups can qualify for up to $150,000 in grant funding from Alabama per eligible classroom.

“The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education has listened to feedback from child care providers and responded by making important changes to the First Class Pre-K program,” said Allison Muhlendorf, executive director of ASRA, a nonprofit group that spreads the word on expanding pre-k in Alabama.

According to the Department of Early Childhood Education, the three types of First Class Pre-K grants are “an excellence grant (up to $50,400), a tiered grant (ranges from $86,904 to $100,008) and a new classroom or plus grant (up to $120,000).”

The deadline to apply for one of the grants is March 13, 2020.

Those interested can go here.

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

1 week ago

AL-02 candidates boast conservative bona fides in Elmore County forum

(H. Thornton/YHN)

WETUMPKA — All of the Republicans running to replace Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) as the representative in Congress for Alabama’s Second Congressional District gathered alongside several dozen voters in Wetumpka on Tuesday night for a forum held by the Elmore County Republican Party.

New polling obtained by Alabama Daily News has Jeff Coleman, the businessman from Dothan, taking the lead of the field that includes former Alabama AG Troy King, Prattville attorney Jessica Taylor and former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise).

With less than 50 days to go until the election, things are starting to heat up in the race to replace the retiring Roby.

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The Second Congressional District’s two biggest sectors are agriculture and the military —  as Jessica Taylor quipped “peanuts and propellors.” The district houses both Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery and Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass region. According to the USDA in 2012 the district has 12,871 farm operators that manage nearly 2.4 million acres of land.

As such, every candidate stressed their support for the military – Barry Moore is the only veteran running – and for the district’s farmers. They all agreed they would seek to sit on the House Agriculture and House Armed Services committees if they win the election.

Predictably, each candidate also expressed strong support for President Donald Trump and revulsion to the idea of him being impeached. Trump enjoys huge favorability ratings among Republicans in Alabama, and Roby’s current district has a strong Republican lean.

Coleman returned to the themes that are familiar to many voters in the Second Congressional District from his ads that have frequented the airwaves from Prattville all the way down to Dothan. He maintains he is a businessman who “works for a living just like you.”

Jessica Taylor emphasized her opposition to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), saying she wants to “go toe to toe” against the socialist ideas that “AOC” promotes.

Troy King, whose key bits of messaging so far have been disgust with Washington and familiarity with the Second Congressional District, said he was “fed up with what’s going on in Washington.” He added that he comes from a place where people “stand for the flag and kneel for God.” He told the audience that his kids asked him to run after they heard him complain so much about the current state of politics.

Barry Moore emphasized his conservative voting credentials in the house and his ardent support for President Trump. He also reminded the audience of his claim to be the first elected official in America to endorse Trump in 2015.

In responding to a question about reducing the deficits, each candidate sought to prove their fiscal conservative bona fides, but King got the most specific. The former Alabama AG suggested that the federal government should eliminate the Department of Education.

“I’m empty nested, I’m ready to go to work for you … I’ve had a 30-year business career and I’m ready to serve,” said Coleman in his closing.

“I was not born into a trust fund, I was born into a trailer park. I know the value of hard work,” Taylor began her closing statement. The comment is almost certainly an implicit critique of Jeff Coleman, who had spoken just previously. Coleman was born into the family that controls Coleman Worldwide Moving, a successful company that has been around for 115 years.

Taylor also stressed the need she sees to convert more young people to the Republican Party. She believes America’s young people are being “brainwashed,” and cited statistics she finds troubling that say the majority of young Americans have a favorable view of socialism.

“Anyone can tell you they are pro-life and pro-gun. I’m here to tell you I have walked-the-walk,” Troy King said, zeroing in on two issues that most Alabama Republicans hold dear.

Moore, closing out the night, said he had gotten involved in politics “after Barack Obama said America was no longer a Christian nation.” That led to Moore running for the statehouse in 2010.

Moore then claimed that Trump’s team asked him to run after he stood with Trump in 2015.

“How could I tell him no?” he asked.

The Alabama Republican primary will be held on March 3.

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

1 week ago

Birmingham Episcopalian church buys and forgives millions of dollars in medical debt

(St. Luke's/Facebook)

This past holiday season St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham bought $8.1 million in medical debt owed by about 6,500 families across Central Alabama and then forgave it all.

Because many hospitals sell off the debt they are not sure they can collect, St. Lukes was able to purchase the $8.1 million in debt for about $78,000. Many Americans are not so lucky to have a benefactor like St. Lukes in their lives. The most common purchases of overdue medical debt are predatory debt collectors who then use aggressive tactics to turn a profit on their investment in other’s medical expenses.

As first reported by ABC 33/40, the church partnered with the charity RIP Medical Debt, which specializes in buying debt from hospitals with the intent to forgive.

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RIP Medical Debt’s website says the charity targets “the portfolios for those in or near the poverty level” as the recipients of medical debt forgiveness.

The generous action comes on the 70th anniversary of Saint Luke’s founding.

“Saint Luke in the Christian tradition didn’t just write one of the four gospels,” St. Lukes Associate Rector Cameron Nations told Over The Mountain Journal.

“There’s been this long association in the Christian faith of Saint Luke with doctors, nurses, any kind of health care and healing in general. So we thought, ‘What better way to celebrate our 70th birthday than doing this fundraiser?’” he continued.

The envelopes telling Central Alabama’s poorest citizens that their debt had been forgiven arrived right around Christmas.

For background on RIP Medical Debt watch:

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