The Wire

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


    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


    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


    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 years ago

Drag Queen Story Hour event organizer: ‘It’s a way to get a conversation started’

(B. Fuenmayor/Facebook)

An LGBTQ group in Mobile is set to host Drag Queen Story Hour in two weeks, where children will have stories read to them by a local drag queen before they finish with a craft making session.

The event, put on by Rainbow Mobile, has caused a significant amount of controversy to bubble up in recent days, as disapproving citizens have taken to county commission and city council meetings to express themselves.

“It is wrong to use a public forum like the library for this Drag Queen Story Hour because the library gives it credibility,” Pastor Fred Wolfe of Mobile’s Luke 4:18 Fellowship said at Tuesday’s city council meeting.


Wolfe went on to refer to LGBTQ lifestyles as unacceptable.

Bryan Fuenmayor, Rainbow Mobile’s executive director, told Yellowhammer News that he looks at the position which Wolfe and others take as one of ignorance.

“I view it as ignorance, because a lot of people believe that it’s a choice, that it’s a lifestyle,” he said. “If it was a choice, I would be married with a woman and have kids right now and I’d still have my family.”

Fuenmayor, who was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, has been shunned from his family ever since he came out as gay five years ago.

He said primary aim in hosting the event is to promote literacy.

“Children love being read to,” he said. “We need to encourage reading to our kinds and society. We need to bring back more support for libraries.”

He also said he hopes the event will teach acceptance to the children, bringing up a friend of his who committed suicide because of the stigma associated with his gay lifestyle.

“My ultimate aim, from personal experience, it to curtail bullying in schools,” he said. “A lot of kids, they tend to bully kids who are different from them. So we want to try to prevent that.”

Another reason Fuenmayor decided to put on the event is to incite dialogue between people who disagree about LGBTQ issues.

“I believe that if we create an open dialogue with folks and tell them our life stories and experiences that they’ll overcome that ignorance and fear,” he said.

“It’s a way to get a conversation started,” he said.

Fuenmayor said that since news broke about the event, he’s already had a friend who has spoken to one Mobile pastor who has been outspoken against the event taking place, although Fuenmayor did not name the pastor.

More than 100 adults have RSVP’d for the event, not to count their children, and the event room has a capacity of only sixty.

“A lot of folks are traveling from out of town, from Pensacola, Montgomery, Birmingham, even from Huntsville because this is the first kind of event in the state of Alabama,” Fuenmayor said. “I would hate for them to come all this way and turn them away.”

Rainbow Mobile is trying to secure the meeting room for an overflow event if attendance exceeds capacity.

Read more here.

@jeremywbeaman, a native of Huntsville, is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

3 years ago

Concerned citizens confront Mobile City Council over upcoming drag queen reading event


Several Mobilians went before their city council on Tuesday to express their disapproval of an event set to take place at the Mobile Public Library on Saturday, September 8, where a local drag queen will read to a group of children.

“The reason I’m here today is because of a matter that’s very heavy on my heart,” Mobile resident Lisa Strong explained to the council. “Upon finding out about the Drag Queen Story Hour at the Mobile Public Library, I became greatly disturbed and saddened,” proceeding to read from a passage in Psalms which directs its audience to guard themselves against obscenities and sexual filth.

Drag Queen Story Hour has raised significant public and media attention in recent weeks, with some hoping for it to be canceled.


The event will feature local Mobile drag queen Wade Brasfield, aka Khloe Kash, who will read two books to the children attending.

One of the books to be read, entitled “Stella Brings the Family,” is about a little girl with two dads.

“It is not a battle of hatred and is not a battle of small-mindedness,” Strong said of her decision to speak out against the event. “It’s just time to take a stand for God.”

Some members of the council addressed the event as First Amendment issue, arguing that it would be wrong to cancel Drag Queen Story Hour because some in the community disagree with its message.

“Let me just say this: that the umbrella in this city has got to be big enough for all of us to get under,” Councilman Fred Richardson said.

The library’s executive director, Scott Kinney, expressed similar sentiment.

“For us, it’s a free speech issue,” Kinney said. “If we let one group use the library, we let all groups use the library.”

Kinney explained that the library allows any group which meets its basic qualifications to utilize its meeting space. A library spokeswoman confirmed that the group hosting the reading event, Rainbow Mobile, met each qualification.

“We’ve even had a church who started their church using our West Mobile meeting room every Sunday for almost seven months,” Kinney explained. “So we are sensitive to everyone’s needs and that’s what we’re trying to be, is sensitive to everyone’s needs.”

Kinney also reinforced that the event is sponsored by an outside group and is receiving no endorsement from the library itself.

“This is an outside group that is presenting this program,” he said. “It is not the library. We are not co-sponsoring it. We are not providing any funds to it other than the electrical and keeping the building open that would be open [anyway] because we are open on Saturdays [anyway].”

The library does not advertise the event on its website.

Still, Fred Wolfe, a Baptist minister at Mobile’s Luke 4:18 Fellowship, argued that the library is no place for such an event.

“It is wrong to use a public forum like the library for this Drag Queen Story Hour because the library gives it credibility,” Wolfe said at the council meeting.

Strong and Wolfe stopped short of asking the council to put a stop to the event but implored them to consider the event’s moral implications.

“I plead on their [children’s] behalf to examine your hearts and examine your mind and do what’s right for the children of this city,” Strong said.

Bryan Fuenmayor, executive director of Rainbow Mobile, told Yellowhammer News that he embraces the public attention that the event has been receiving.

“We’re trying to turn it into a positive thing,” he said. “This is free publicity.”

Fuenmayor said that his primary aim in hosting the event is to promote literacy.

“Children love being read to,” he said. “We need to encourage reading to our kinds and society. We need to bring back more support for libraries.”

Fuenmayor also said he hopes the event will teach acceptance to the children.

“My ultimate aim, from personal experience, it to curtail bullying in schools,” he said. “A lot of kids, they tend to bully kids who are different from them. So we want to try to prevent that.”

Watch the council meeting here.

Read more about the event here.

3 years ago

Etowah County judge dismisses suit against House District 30 GOP nominee, Craig Lipscomb

Craig Lipscomb (Lipscomb Campaign)

A candidate for the Alabama House of Representatives will be on ballots in November, after a lawsuit challenging his candidacy was struck down on Wednesday.

Etowah County Circuit Judge William H. Rhea dismissed a lawsuit filed against Craig Lipscomb – the Republican nominee for Alabama House District 30 – as well as the Alabama GOP, its Chairman Terry Lathan, the state Ethics Commission and its executive director, Tom Albritton.

The suit was brought by Robert McKay, who was beaten by Lipscomb in the July 17 Republican runoff. McKay argued that Lipscomb did not file his Statement of Economic Interest form to the Ethics Commission in time, therefore disqualifying him.

In his final order, Judge Rhea stated that his court does not have jurisdiction over the case, citing Section 17-16-44 of the Alabama Code which limits judges’ jurisdiction over election-related matters.

Rhea also cited specifically Section 17-13-70 of the Alabama Code, which requires those challenging a primary election result to file their challenges within 24 hours after the result has been declared.

McKay filed suit on August 16, almost a month after the primary.

Moreover, those challenges are not to be mediated by judges but the law states, “Such contest shall be heard and tried by the county executive committee as to candidates for county offices and by the state committee as to candidates for all other offices.”

“In a Democracy, we choose our representatives at the ballot box and not in the judicial system,” Lipscomb said in a statement to Yellowhammer News, in part. “It is unfortunate that Mr. McKay chose to abuse our court system in a desperate attempt to override the will of the voters of District 30. We are pleased with today’s court decision to dismiss the frivolous lawsuit that he filed.”

McKay could not be reached for comment.

District 30 includes parts of Etowah and St. Clair Counties and is currently represented by Republican Mack Butler, who ran for the Senate and lost to Andrew Jones.

3 years ago

Alabama pastor preaches deep state coming for Trump, says ‘witchcraft is trying to take this country over’

(John Kilpatrick/Facebook)

A charismatic Alabama pastor’s analysis of what is currently plaguing American society, and especially President Trump, has gone viral.

Citing from 2 Kings 9:22, Pastor John Kilpatrick of Daphne’s Church of His Presence prophesied that “witchcraft is trying to take this country over.”

“Here’s what the Holy Spirit said to me last night and here’s what he said for me to tell you,” Kilpatrick said in part of his August 19 sermon. “He said tell the church that so far Trump has been dealing with Ahab, but Jezebel is fixing to step out from the shadows.”


“He [God] said pray for him now because he said there’s about to be a shift and the deep state is about to manifest and it’s going to be a showdown like you can’t believe,” Kilpatrick said.

Continuing, Kilpatrick said, “So I’m coming to you as a prophet, as a man of God, and I’m telling you it’s time to pray for the president.”

“I heard the Lord say, there’s going to be an attempt to take him out of power,” he said, beckoning his congregation to stand and pray with him as he began speaking in tongues.

In a lengthy statement posted to its Facebook page on Thursday, the church responded to the attention Kilpatrick’s words have garnered, stressing that Kilpatrick will not be conducting interviews about his message.

Full statement as follows:

3 years ago

Financial reform bill receives support from fourth Alabama mayor

(Sandy Stimpson/Facebook)

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson last week became the fourth Alabama mayor to publicly support a U.S. Senate bill that would allow money market funds to elect to operate using a different method of valuation of its shares than is currently required by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On August 14, Stimpson sent a letter to Sen. Doug Jones – who sits on the Senate Banking Committee with Alabama’s other senator, Richard Shelby – urging him to support S. 1117.

Mayors John Reeves of Troy, Stewart Welch III of Mountain Brook and Todd Strange of Montgomery have similarly expressed their support for the bill, which they and other financial professionals argue will support better investment in local communities.

A coalition of 24 Alabama business, non-profit and governmental entities, as well as elected officials, have expressed their support for the bill.

Read more about S.1117 here.

See a full list of its supporters here.

3 years ago

You’re not alone, Alabama: South Carolina also has a billion-dollar defunct nuclear site — but it’s worse


The Yellowhammer State and the Palmetto State share many things: heat, southern culture, a love for football.

A more unfortunate commonality between the two, and one receiving lots of attention in both states, is that each has an unfinished nuclear power plant just sitting there, continually making news but not power.

Alabama’s Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station, which has never generated a single watt of power, has become over the years a (literally) concrete representation of the federal government’s vast ambition coupled with its occasional  – or frequent, depending who you ask – inability to follow through.


Recent developments indicate that the massive power plant could eventually be put to use, but that is still a long way off.

Still, Bellefonte is a case study of taxpayer investment in a dead-end project

In a way, though, Alabamians can be grateful that they themselves weren’t required to fund the dead-end project through increased monthly energy rates, as consumers in South Carolina were.

Back in March 2008, South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) – the South Carolina equivalent of Alabama Power – began the process of applying for authorization to built two new nuclear reactors at its VC Summer site just north of Columbia. The company already operated one reactor at the site.

SCE&G was approved and established contracts for construction. The project was estimated to cost $9.8 billion.

To help with the project’s funding, SCE&G proposed a rate increase, got it approved by the Public Service Commission in May 2008, and construction began later that fall.

Over the years, there were numerous project delays and extra project costs which have, up to the current day, resulted in nine rate increases.

Last July, the project was abandoned after Westinghouse, the company building the reactors, filed for bankruptcy.

As the legislative session winded down this year, the legislature passed a temporary 15 percent rate cut for energy consumers who have paid an estimated $2 billion into the nuclear project fund.

A disaster of nuclear proportions, you could say.

The failure of both Bellefonte and the expansions at VC Summer are disconcerting generally, and downright infuriating for those who were forced to pay into them. Both projects have the potential to succeed, but that will require some kind of co-aligned effort between ambitious big business and government, both of which delivered the failed projects in the first place.

Read about developments on the Bellefonte front here.

3 years ago

Alabama’s state climatologist John Christy rebuts claims of recent fires, heat waves being caused by human activity in in-depth interview


There is one particular word that Dr. John Christy turns to frequently for describing climate science: murky.

It’s a point of view foundational to his own research, and a message underpinning each of his twenty appearances before various congressional committees.

“It’s encouraging because they wouldn’t invite you back unless your message was compelling and not only compelling, but accurate,” Christy, Alabama’s state climatologist, told Yellowhammer News in an interview.

Christy, whose day job involves doing research and teaching as the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), has gained notoriety over the years for dissenting from mainstream climate scientists and policymakers who argue that climate change is anthropogenic, or man-made, and that something must be done to stop it.


A “working-stiff” scientist

Dissent has gained for Christy the characterization as a “climate change skeptic” or “denier,” as critics refer to him, but he himself rejects those terms.

“I’m a working-stiff atmospheric scientist,” he said, “as opposed to those who support modeling efforts, those who use data sets that other people create and analyze them, but they don’t build them themselves.”

According to Christy, the result of fewer “working-stiff” scientists contributing to the prevailing climate debate is more frequent misuses of data.

“They’re not aware of what goes into it,” Christy said, referring to the data.

“Here we have a science that’s so dominated by personalities that claim the science is settled, yet when you walk up to them and say prove it, they can’t,” he said.

Christy spoke at length about what can be proven and what cannot in his self-described “murky” field, referring often to principles of the scientific method.

“You cannot prove extra greenhouse gases have done anything to the weather,” he said, responding to claims made by many scientists that more greenhouse gases have caused extreme weather patterns to intensify.

“We do not have an experiment that we can repeat and do,” he said.

Christy outlined another problem with attempts to implicate greenhouse gases: a failure to account for things countering trapping effects.

“We know that the extra greenhouse gases should warm the planet,” he said. “The weak part of that theory though is that when you add more greenhouse gases that trap heat, things happen that let it escape as well, and so not as much is trapped as climate models show.”

Economics of climate policy

Though his scientific arguments are primary, Christy also frequently discusses in interviews and testimonies the economic consequences of proposed climate change mitigation policy via carbon reduction.

“Every single person uses energy, carbon energy, and relies on carbon-based energy,” Christy said. “None of our medical advances, none of our technological advances, none of our progress would have happened in the last hundred years without energy derived from carbon.”

Christy contrasts that reality within the modern, developed world with the world he saw working as a missionary teacher in impoverished Africa during the 1970s.

“The energy source was wood chopped from the forest, the energy transmission system was the backs of women and girls hauling wood an average of three miles each day, the energy use system was burning the wood in an open fire indoors for heat and light,” Christy told members of the House Committee on Energy in 2006.

Broad availability to affordable energy enriches countries, Christy said, praising carbon.

“It is not evil. It is the stuff of life. It is plant food,” he said.

What about the fires and heat waves?

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, fires were burning in fifteen states as of Tuesday, August 14.

Alaska reported seventeen fires, Arizona reported eleven, both Oregon and Colorado reported ten, and California reported nine.

Much of the news media’s discussion about these fires over the past few weeks has established a correlation between the many fires and anthropogenic climate change, a correlation that Dr. Christy rejects.

Christy argues that exacerbating fires out west, particularly in California, results from human mismanagement. Such states have enacted strict management practices that disallow low-level fires from burning, he said.

“If you don’t let the low-intensity fires burn, that fuel builds up year after year,” Christy said. “Now once a fire gets going and it gets going enough, it has so much fuel that we can’t put it out.”

“In that sense, you could say that fires today are more intense, but it’s because of human management practices, not because mother nature has done something,” Christy said.

Data from the Fire Center indicates that the number of wildfires have been decreasing since the 1970s overall, though acreage burned has increased significantly.

As for the heat, Christy said there’s nothing abnormal going on in the United States.

“Heat waves have always happened,” he said. “Our most serious heatwaves were in the 1930’s. We have not matched those at all.”

Christy continued, “It is only a perception that is being built by the media that these are dramatic worst-ever heat wave kind of things but when we look at the numbers, and all science is numbers, we find that there were periods that were hotter, hotter for longer periods in the past, so it’s very hard to say that this was influenced by human effects when you go back before there could have been human effects and there’s the same or worse kind of events.”

Though Christy didn’t deny that the last three years have been the hottest ever recorded globally, he doesn’t concede that the changes are attributable to anything other than climate’s usual and historical erraticism.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

3 years ago

Alabama Department of Public Health: Zika virus has not been confirmed in Pelham


The Alabama Department of Public Health issued a press release on Monday to clarify that it is merely investigating potential cases of the Zika and West Nile viruses in the state, following an incorrect media report stating that a case of the Zika virus has been confirmed in Pelham.

WBRC reported on Monday that the Shelby County Health Department has confirmed a case of Zika in Pelham, but a state health department official told Yellowhammer News that the presence of the Zika virus has not been confirmed.

“No case of Zika has been confirmed in Alabama,” Dr. Dee Jones, the state’s public health veterinarian, told Yellowhammer News.


Jones went on to expound on the press release, explaining that the department is conducting investigations where the virus might appear in folks who have recently traveled abroad to places where the virus is endemic, but that no actual case has been confirmed.

The press release does not specify how many people are under investigation, but it does reinforce that in all cases of Zika that have been previously confirmed in Alabama, each virus has been contracted by those who have traveled to those areas of the world where the virus is endemic. In other words, there have been no cases of local transmission.

Read the full press release here.

3 years ago

New documentary tells the story of undercover investigation that brought down Mobile pill mill

(14 News/YouTube)

Montgomery-headquartered Raycom Media has released a new documentary focused on those who have suffered from opioid abuse, as well as the doctors who contributed to that suffering by overprescribing pain medication.

“Our national investigative unit worked tirelessly to expose the abuses in the system, and we want to do our part to inform our local consumers,” Pat LaPlatney, President and CEO of Raycom Media, said in a statement. “It’s a nationwide epidemic, and it’s happening in our own backyards.”

Part of the documentary, entitled “Licensed to Pill,” details an undercover investigation that the Drug Enforcement Agency conducted to bring down Drs. John Patrick Couch and Xiulu Ruan, who used to operate a pain clinic in Mobile.


Last May, Couch and Ruan were sentenced to 20 and 21 years respectively for illegally prescribing opioids.

WAFF will air “Licensed to Pill” on Sunday, August 12 at 11:30 am. The documentary has already aired in the Dothan, Birmingham and Montgomery markets, but it can be watched online.

InvestigateTV, Raycom’s new digital journalism project, is available on Roku and will be released to other digital streaming services soon. It can also be accessed at

3 years ago

Republican tax bill likely to raise taxes for corporations in Alabama, but the state legislature can change that


The Alabama Department of Revenue last month published an analysis of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act’s (TCJA) effects on the state’s tax law, and its conclusions could cause some companies to pay more in taxes.

Though the federal corporate income tax rate has been reduced, the tax bill offsets that revenue loss with other provisions broadening the tax base in the form of new taxes and limited deductions, and those offsets will automatically be applied to Alabama’s tax law.

The reason is because Alabama’s corporate income tax laws conform to federal tax laws, per the state’s statutory framework. When lawmakers in Washington make a change to the federal corporate income tax, that change automatically applies to the corporate income tax Alabama, with a few exceptions.


“General speaking, so goes the federal income tax, so goes the Alabama income tax for corporations,” Bruce Ely, a partner at Bradley in Birmingham and adjunct tax professor in the University of Alabama Graduate Accounting Program, told Yellowhammer News.

Among the revenue-raising provisions in the department’s analysis is the limit to business interest deductions.

Companies utilize the business interest deduction to write off borrowing costs associated with taking out loans to pay for operations.

According to Ely, it is also common for companies to borrow money, loan it to a smaller sister company so operating as a sort of internal bank and then write off the interest. That deductibility has been reduced on the federal level and, as a result, has been reduced in Alabama.

Another piece that Ely says will be punitive to corporations in Alabama is the global intangible low-taxed income or “GILTI” provision and the repatriation tax provision.

Under the tax reform bill, companies repatriating foreign-earned income back to the U.S. will have to pay a tax on that income to the federal government at a reduced rate. If that company does business in Alabama, the department says the company will also have to pay an apportioned tax to Alabama.

The state legislature has the ability to “de-couple” from such provisions so they will not become state law, and thus avoid raising taxes on corporations, but the provisions are already in effect and the legislature doesn’t reconvene until next March.

Gov. Kay Ivey could call a special session to address these questions, but that is unlikely.

Aside from those specific provisions, another way the tax bill could increase corporate income tax revenues results automatically from the federal rate cut.

Alabama allows taxpayers to fully deduct federal income tax payments against their tax liability to the state, one of only two states to do so.

“As you pay less to the federal government, you’ll almost automatically pay more to the state government because your state tax deduction is less,” Ely explained. “It’s just an automatic thing. You can’t blame the Department of Revenue, or the legislature, or the governor. It is simply a matter of the Alabama constitution.”

A study commissioned by the Council on State Taxation estimates a net 11 percent increase in corporate income tax revenue for Alabama, following the tax bill’s passage. That number doesn’t account for additional revenues raised by the reduced individual state tax deduction for payment of federal income taxes.

Ely believes that 11 percent corporate increase could raise between $60 and $75 million this year.

“It’s just a politician’s dream, because the politician hasn’t had to pass a bill or take a vote. It’s automatic. It’s manna from heaven for the Alabama Legislature,” Ely said.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, the Department of Revenue said that its analysis is not act of policymaking, but rather an explainer.

“The Department’s TCJA guidance serves the limited purpose of explaining where Alabama’s income tax laws are tied to the TCJA changes (and where not),” the statement said. “It is not a policy statement regarding whether we should be tied to any particular TCJA provision. We have and will continue to discuss TCJA issues with various stakeholders.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article said the state constitution requires that Alabama’s corporate income tax laws conform to federal tax laws, whereas conformity is dictated by a statutory framework.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

3 years ago

Read the Fair Ballot Commission’s plain language explanations of each proposed ballot measure

(ALSOS, Pixabay)

The office of Secretary of State published on Monday four plain language summaries of each statewide constitutional amendment to be presented before voters in November.

The summaries were developed by the state’s Fair Ballot Commission, an agency composed of top state officials and private citizen-appointees, which is authorized by state law “to provide to the public a fair and accurate explanation of what a vote for and what a vote against a statewide ballot measure represents.”

“The work of the Fair Ballot Commission is one of the most important tasks that is performed by any agency of state government, because their work helps to simplify the communication that’s required for the voter to be able to more clearly understand what the intended result of the passage of that amendment would be,” Secretary of State John Merrill told Yellowhammer News, explaining the commission’s deliberations as very democratic.


“People bring up different points, and they say ‘this is the reason I feel the way I do,’ and other people make counter points,” Merrill said.

Here are the amendment summaries:

Amendment 1Under current law, the state constitution contains no language related to the display of the Ten Commandments.

Amendment 1 does two things. First, it provides that a person is free to worship God as he or she chooses, and that a person’s religious beliefs will have no effect on his or her civil or political rights. Second, it makes clear that the Ten Commandments may be displayed on public property so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items. Amendment 1 also provides that no public funds may be used to defend this amendment in court.

If a majority of voters vote “Yes” on Amendment 1, the state constitution will provide that a person is free to worship God as he or she chooses and that a person’s religious beliefs will have no effect on his or her civil or political rights. It will also provide that the Ten Commandments can be displayed on public property so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items.

If a majority of voters vote “No” on Amendment 1, no language related to the display of the Ten Commandments would be included in the state constitution.
There is no cost for Amendment 1. No public funds may be used to defend this amendment in court.

The Constitutional authority for passage of Amendment 1 is set forth in Sections 284, 285 and 287 of the State Constitution. These sections outline the way a constitutional amendment may be put to the people of the State for a vote.

Amendment 2Under current law, the state constitution does not include any language that directly relates to the importance of unborn life or the rights of unborn children, nor does it include any language that directly relates to abortion or the funding of abortions using state funds.

Amendment 2 provides that it would be the public policy of the state to recognize and support the importance of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life; and to protect the rights of unborn children. Additionally, the amendment would make clear that the state constitution does not include a right to abortion or require the funding of an abortion using public funds.

The proposed amendment does not identify any specific actions or activities as unlawful. It expresses a public policy that supports broad protections for the rights of unborn children as long as the protections are lawful.

If a majority of voters vote “Yes” on Amendment 2, the public policy of this state will be to support and protect the importance of unborn life and the rights of unborn children. The state constitution would also not include a right to an abortion or to the funding of an abortion using public funds.

If a majority of voters vote “No” on Amendment 2, there would be no language in the state constitution related to the importance of unborn life or protecting the rights of unborn children, or to abortion or the funding of abortions using public funds.

There is no cost for Amendment 2.

The Constitutional authority for passage of Amendment 2 is set forth in Sections 284, 285 and 287 of the State Constitution. These sections outline the way a constitutional amendment may be put to the people of the State for a vote.

Amendment 3Under current law, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees is composed of 16 people: three members from the congressional district in which the Tuscaloosa campus is located, two members from each of the other six congressional districts in the state, the Governor, and the State Superintendent of Education. So, if the number of congressional districts in Alabama increased or decreased in the future, the number of trustees would also increase or decrease. Additionally, other than the Governor and the State Superintendent of Education, current law requires a trustee to retire from the board following his or her seventieth birthday.

Amendment 3 does three things. First, it provides that the board will be composed of members from congressional districts as those districts existed on January 1, 2018, meaning any future changes to the number of congressional districts in Alabama would not impact the number of board members. Second, it removes the State Superintendent of Education from automatically having a seat on the board. Third, it allows a trustee to serve after his or her seventieth birthday.

If a majority of voters vote “Yes” on Amendment 3, future changes to the number of congressional districts in Alabama will not impact the number of board members, the State Superintendent of Education will no longer automatically be a member of the board, and trustees will be allowed to serve on the board after their seventieth birthday.

If a majority of voters vote “No” on Amendment 3, future changes to the number of congressional districts in Alabama will impact the number of board members, the State Superintendent of Education will continue to automatically have a seat on the board, and trustees will not be allowed to serve on the board after their seventieth birthday.

There is no cost for Amendment 3.

The Constitutional authority for passage of Amendment 3 is set forth in Sections 284, 285 and 287 of the State Constitution. These sections outline the way a constitutional amendment may be put to the people of the State for a vote.

Amendment 4Under current law, members of the state legislature are elected to four-year terms of office that begin and end on Election Day in November. This four-year period is known as a quadrennium. When a person who was elected to serve in the state legislature is unable to complete his or her term, a vacancy is created. When this vacancy occurs, the Governor is required to schedule a special election. The winner of the special election fills the vacancy for the rest of the term.

Amendment 4 provides that when a vacancy occurs in the state legislature on or after October 1 of year three of the four-year term, the seat will remain vacant until the next general election, which occurs in November of the fourth year of the term. The Governor would no longer have the power to schedule a special election to fill a vacancy in these circumstances, and public funds that would have been spent on the special election would be saved.

If a majority of voters vote “Yes” on Amendment 4, state legislative seats that become vacant within the final 14 months of the four-year term of office will remain vacant until the general election.

If a majority of voters vote “No” on Amendment 4, the Governor will continue to be required to schedule a special election whenever a vacancy occurs in the state legislature.

There is no cost for Amendment 4.

The Constitutional authority for passage of Amendment 4 is set forth in Sections 284, 285 and 287 of the State Constitution. These sections outline the way a constitutional amendment may be put to the people of the State for a vote.

The official language of each amendment, as well as information about its sponsor, can be found here.

3 years ago

Alabama’s health care system struggles to perform, ranking 46th in the country


A new analysis by the personal finance publication WalletHub ranks Alabama’s health care system as the nation’s sixth worst.

To make their determinations, researchers examined three categories: cost, access and outcomes, looking at things like average monthly insurance premium, share of high out-of-pocket medical spending, hospital beds per capita, average emergency-room wait time, infant mortality rate and heart disease rate, among others.

Alabama ranked a constant 44th across the board, putting it just behind Oklahoma and ahead of North Carolina.


Jill Gonzales, a WalletHub analyst, attributed Alabama’s low ranking in part to not expanding Medicaid, a characteristic it shares with other low-ranking southern states.

“The bottom ten states have not expanded Medicaid, which is more so why they rank where they do rather than where they are geographically,” Gonzalez told Yellowhammer News. “Typically, states that have expanded Medicaid have lower uninsured rates, which translates to higher rates of access to health care.”

Alabama fared worst in the category of Share of High Out-of-Pocket Medical spending. There, 20 percent of Alabamians under age 65 had out-of-pocket medical spending equaling 10 percent or more of their income, the highest in the country, according to Gonzalez.

The state also has the third lowest number of dentists per capita and the highest infant mortality rate, according to the rankings.

Alabama’s Department of Public Health could not immediately be reached for comment on the study’s findings.

3 years ago

Alabama Sens. Shelby, Jones will have a key voice in bipartisan financial reform effort

(Sen. Richard Shelby/Facebook)

Following the May passage of a bill rolling back parts of the Obama-era Dodd-Frank banking regulations, Congress has a chance to install more bipartisan financial reforms, and Alabama will have a say.

The Republican-sponsored Consumer Financial Choice and Capital Markets Protection Act of 2017 currently awaits consideration by the Senate Banking Committee, on which both Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) and Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) serve.

The bill would allow money market funds to elect to operate using a different method of valuation of its shares than currently required per a 2014 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulation.


Passed as part of the post-financial crisis regulatory framework, the SEC enacted variable valuation, an accounting nightmare, according to its critics.

One of those critics, Anthony Carfang of the financial consulting firm Treasury Strategies, argues that the rule scared investors into removing $1.2 trillion money market funds, which have been a go-to form of financing for local governments, hospitals, and universities.

Republicans and Democrats agree with Carfang. A House version of the Republican-sponsored reform bill has 29 Democrat cosponsors, including Alabama’s Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham). The Senate bill has two Democrat cosponsors.

Both Shelby and Jones will be among those who craft the bill’s final version in the Senate, and prospects of passage are looking good.

Earlier this year, Jones cosponsored the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, a Republican-led initiative to roll back the regulatory burden of Dodd-Frank that passed the Senate with 16 Democrat votes.

“The bill also allows community banks and credit unions, who often only have a few dozen employees, to put their resources into new loans rather than regulatory compliance staff,” Jones wrote in a March editorial about why he supported rolling back parts of Dodd-Frank.

In Alabama, the reform effort has garnered support from a wide variety of interested parties. State Treasurer Young Boozer, State Banking Superintendent Mike Hill, Alabama State University, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed among others have all endorsed the legislation.

Sen. Jones could not be reached for comment on the legislation.

See a full list of the legislation’s supporters here.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

3 years ago

Non-profits may have to start paying taxes, and churches in Alabama are worried


A provision in the popular Republican tax bill has non-profits, particularly churches, concerned that they might have to begin filing income tax returns for the first time.

The provision imposes an unrelated business tax when an organization pays for the use of qualified transportation fringe benefits, parking facilities used in connection with qualified parking, and an on-premises athletic facilities by its members or employees.

Bruce Ely, a partner at Bradley in Birmingham and adjunct tax professor in the University of Alabama’s Graduate Accounting Program, said several churches have called him with concerns.

“If you’re parking downtown and the church or YMCA is covering your parking fee, that is probably what is taxable,” Ely told Yellowhammer News.


Ely said it could also mean that a church must pay taxes on the parking spots it offers its staff.

If the provision were to be enforced as such, Ely said organizations and churches would have to start filing tax returns, and most churches have never had to do that.

“Most churches I know have never filed an income tax in their history,” Ely said. “Some of these churches are 150, 200 years old, and they’ve never had to file an income tax return.”

Ely said he doesn’t expect the IRS will enforce the provision as strictly as mentioned, but that remains unclear until guidance is issued.

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), the only member of Alabama’s delegation serving on the House tax-writing committee, derided Republicans for including the provision.

“The Republican Congress rushed through their tax bill with zero hearings, zero bipartisan amendments, and zero public input,” Sewell said in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “The unpopular tax on nonprofit employee benefits is a consequence of Republicans’ rejection of transparency and bipartisan deliberation during passage of the tax bill.”

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) told Yellowhammer News that she hopes Congress will address problems that have arisen from the tax law.

“In under a year’s time, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has spurred economic growth in this country and allowed hardworking Americans to keep more of the money they earn in their own pockets,” Roby said in a statement. “I am hopeful that we will soon come back to the table to deliver additional tax relief and work out any of the issues in the current law.”

Two Republicans – Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina and Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas – have already introduced legislation to roll back the new taxes.

Others have argued in favor of the provision, suggesting it creates a level playing field for non-profits and for-profit companies.

“It has a fairly narrow impact in America, and it is about treating a nonprofit hospital the same way you treat a for-profit hospital, making sure the Gates Foundation or some other doesn’t have an advantage over a private sector business when competing for workers,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, recently told reporters.

Ely said that until the IRS or Congress addresses the provision, he is advising his clients to standby.

“My advice is just hang tight,” Ely said. “I think one or two things will happen: either the IRS will issue some kind of guidance, safe harbor or what-have-you to explain exactly how this applies that will at least give us some certainty, or maybe one of these two bills will pass Congress.”

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

3 years ago

Walt Maddox publishes public safety priorities to address trooper shortages, improve technology


Democrat candidate for governor Walt Maddox on Thursday published an outline of his goals for addressing public safety.

The plan discusses problems suffered by Alabama’s State Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), particularly its shortage of state troopers and the resulting reliance upon city and county law enforcement to fulfill various enforcement duties.

Fewer than 300 troopers currently patrol the state, according to the Alabama State Troopers Association.


Maddox’s plan does not offer a targeted number of troopers, but his campaign confirmed to Yellowhammer News that he wants to see the number reach at least what ALEA has expressed it needs, 750 troopers, and eventually what the University of Alabama’s Center for Advanced Public Safety has said the state needs, which is 1,000.

The plan also calls for reforming the Alabama Code’s definition of forcible compulsion, currently defined as “physical force that overcomes earnest resistance or a threat, express or implied, that places a person in fear of immediate death or serious physical injury to himself or another person.”

“If a person uses physical strength, or threats of death or serious physical injury, to force someone into sex, then that’s rape, and we should not adhere to the archaic and ridiculous thinking that the victim must fight back or else the perpetrator goes free,” Maddox’s plan says.

It also seeks to:

  • Increase funding for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences
  • Enhance disaster preparedness
  • Establish closer ties between state agencies and academic institutions for the development of technologies
  • Further address distracted driving through mandated driver’s education curricula
  • Reform prisons and rehabilitation services

In an interview with WSFA, Maddox said he seeks to fund the additional troopers by reaching an agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians to tax gambling.

The plan does not offer details about funding the other priorities.

This year’s general fund budget provides $3.2 million for the at least 30 new troopers.

3 years ago

Election latest: State parties certify candidates to Secretary of State’s office

(ALSOS, Pixabay)

Staff members from both the Alabama Republican Party and the Alabama Democratic Party reported to the office of Secretary of State on Wednesday to certify and file the names of their candidates nominated in either the June 5 primary or the July 17 runoff.

State law directs state party executive committees to certify with the Secretary by the third Wednesday following the primary runoff and county executive committees to certify candidates running for county offices with the probate judge by the same deadline.

Certified candidates will be officially announced by Secretary of State John Merrill in the coming weeks and placed on ballots for November’s election.

The general election is November 6.

3 years ago

Mitch McConnell praises Sen. Richard Shelby for his leadership in appropriations process

(McConnell, Shelby/Facebook)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Sen. Richard Shelby on Wednesday for his extraordinary leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“As he took the reins of the Appropriations Committee, he made it clear that, working with Senator Leahy, regular order would be the name of the game,” Leader McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Under Shelby’s leadership and through agreement with the committee’s Democrat ranking member, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the committee passed all twelve major government spending bills by July 4, faster than any year since 1988.


“He set his sights on restoring the kind of collaborative process that has historically made our institution so unique,” McConnell said of Shelby. “As we all know, that’s a little bit easier said than actually done.”

McConnell also gave Shelby a shoutout for casting his 10,000th vote on the Senate floor earlier this year.

“Like so many of his accomplishments, that landmark seemed to slip past without a whole lot of fuss,” McConnell said. “But — what a remarkable milepost in a very distinguished career.”

The full Senate passed four more appropriations bills on Wednesday, funding Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies; and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

All four bills were passed through committee with unanimous support.

3 years ago

Alabama public schools ranked nation’s 44th best, according to new study


Alabama’s public schools have been ranked 44th best in the country by the personal finance website WalletHub, which is slightly lower than two other recent rankings by U.S. News and World Report and Education Week.

Researchers at WalletHub examined various criteria across two categories – quality and safety – to make their determinations.

Those criteria included high school graduation rates among low-income students, reading and math test scores, median ACT scores, pupil-teacher ratio, along with share of threatened/injured high school students, share of high school students participating in violence, bullying incidence rate, and disciplinary incidence rate, among others.


The state was ranked 43rd on the quality scale and 45th on the safety scale.

“The WalletHub ranking, like many other rankings that are published about schools, companies, and various organizations, are based on the criteria they used for this particular study,” Dr. Michael Sibley, the Alabama Department of Education’s director of communication, told Yellowhammer News.

“Alabama’s ranking, like any other state, will fluctuate depending on the methodology used and data point considered,” Sibley said.

Earlier this year, Education Week ranked Alabama’s public school system 43rd in the nation, and U.S. News and World Report ranked it 39th.

“Our goal is to create the best possible learning atmosphere for all Alabama students and to prepare them for life after high school, whether that is 2-4 year college, military service, skilled trade, or any other career option sought,” Sibley said.

“We look forward to developing an assessment system that aligns state standards, increasing graduation rates, keeping our students safe and building the future leaders – among many other things,” he said.

The state did have an 87.1 percent graduation rate, according to this year’s Education Week ranking, which is 16th highest in the country.

3 years ago

Alabama Republicans lead by double digits in statewide races, new poll finds


Republicans are up 14 points against Democrats in races for statewide office in Alabama, according to a new poll by Cygnal, a Montgomery-based research firm.

Republicans currently lead Democrats 55 percent to 41 percent on the generic ballot, something we should expect according to Brett Cowden, Cygnal’s VP of Client Strategy.

“It should be no surprise that Republicans are marching to victory in November in Alabama,” Cowden said in a statement. “With a booming economy, unemployment at record lows, and a ticket featuring one of the most popular governors in the country, Republicans have the perfect recipe for a sweep in the general election.”


The poll found that support for Gov. Ivey is at 56 percent to 42 percent for her opponent, Walt Maddox.

The 42 percent number seems high for Maddox but not when considered along with generic ballot numbers, Cowden said.

“When you view it in light of the generic ballot, where you see the generic Democrat gets 41 percent and that’s right around where Maddox is, it shows that they’ve got a base but it’s a pretty low ceiling,” Cowden told Yellowhammer News in an interview.

“You see that with every Democrat in these races,” he said. “They’re all right there at that generic ballot number.”

According to the poll, 53 percent of voters support Republican Will Ainsworth for lieutenant governor, while 41 percent supports Democrat Will Boyd.

Similarly, Republican Steve Marshall leads Democrat Joseph Siegelman 55 percent to 42 percent.

Though Republicans are performing strongly in Alabama, Cowden said the new Alabama poll numbers don’t tell us how well they will perform across the country in November.

“I think what it shows is that this cycle is very regional,” he said. “For all the predictions of a blue wave, that could occur in some areas but certainly doesn’t appear to have much chance of happening in Alabama.”

3 years ago

Attorney General Jeff Sessions creates religious liberty task force

(ABC News/Facebook)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday the creation of a religious liberty task force within the Department of Justice meant to aid in the implementation of a memo he signed last October guiding how the department litigates such issues.

“The Constitution’s protections don’t end at the parish parking lot, nor can our freedoms be confined to our basements,” Sessions said the department’s Religious Liberty Summit.

Sessions pointed to the cases of Little Sisters of the Poor and Masterpiece Cakeshop as examples of government failure to protect religious liberty.


“I can assure you that people in Washington have no idea the extent to which our religious community is with the American people in times of birth, death, marriage, divorce and those kinds of situations that are so impactful to human beings,” Sessions said, taking a shot at those living inside the Beltway.

“I believe we need to respect that and affirm it wherever possible,” he said.

Watch the full event here.

3 years ago

Alabama congressman in middle of power struggle over who will be next Speaker of the House

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

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) is poised to become head of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, but first he may have to overcome a plan by Texas state legislators to intervene.

If custom is followed, Aderholt will become chairman based on his seniority.

According to custom of seniority, the majority party committee member with the most years of service on the committee serves as chairman, who is now Aderholt.

However, Republican members of Texas’s legislative delegation are working to get one of their own in as the head of the committee.


That’s according to a recent report by Politico, laying out a plan being considered by the Texas House GOP.

The plan proposes that the delegation support Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – the current House Majority Leader – for House speaker in exchange for McCarthy’s support for Texas Republican Rep. Kay Granger as chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Aderholt has been serving on the House Appropriations Committee since he was first elected in 1997.  Granger joined the committee during the next Congress.

“The whole delegation is unanimous behind [Granger], and we’re all using every opportunity, every chance we get to promote her for chair,” Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), who also serves on the committee, told Politico.

The chairmanship opened up after current Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) announced he would not seek reelection.

3 years ago

House passes final version of defense bill, authorizing key priorities supported by Alabama’s workforce

(Austal/FB, Fort Rucker/Flickr, MDA/Flickr, ULA)

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the final version of Fiscal Year 2019’s National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA), a $639 billion base defense budget.

The bill authorizes $18 billion for Army equipment replacement, $41 billion for aircraft, $36 billion for naval fleet improvements, $23 billion for military facilities and infrastructure, and a 2.6% pay raise for military personnel.

It also authorizes several national defense priorities supported by Alabama’s workforce and military efforts:


  • $192 million for an improved turbine engine for Black Hawk and Apache helicopters, critical to the Army’s mission at Fort Rucker
  • $140 million to Missile Defense Agency for advancing hypersonic and directed energy weapons research, development, and transition efforts, $490 million for Standard Missile procurement and another $181 million for improvements, all missions undertaken by workforces at Redstone Arsenal
  • $254 million for space programs and technology
  • Three Littoral Combat Ships, assembled by Austal USA in Mobile

“America’s military must be so strong that no nation will ever mistakenly believe they can win a war with us,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said following the bill’s passage.

“That is the essence of ‘peace through strength,’” Brooks said. “The FY 2019 [bill] makes America stronger and, as a result, the world more peaceful.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) was part of the House-Senate Conference Committee which worked to reconcile the differences between the defense bills previously passed by both chambers.

“This NDAA process has once again been a textbook example of how Congress should work,” Byrne said Thursday on the House floor.

“After extensive hearings in the House and the Senate, lengthy committee markups, hundreds of amendments, separate passage in both chambers, and a conference committee, we have reached the point of final passage,” Byrne said.

The Senate still has to pass this final version before President Trump can sign it.

Congressional appropriators will then have to pass a spending bill to fund the programs authorized in the NDAA.

3 years ago

Gov. Kay Ivey’s approval third-highest in the country at 67 percent, new poll shows

(Governor Kay Ivey/Facebook)

A new series of rankings shows that Gov. Kay Ivey is the country’s third-most popular governor, at 67 percent approval.

According to Morning Consult, only three percentage points separate Ivey from being number one. The “most popular” title is currently held by Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland currently polls at 68 percent approval, making him the second-most popular.


All governors ranking in the top ten of Morning Consult’s findings are Republicans. Four of those governors lead states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, including Govs. Baker and Hogan.

Ivey has demonstrated her popularity among Alabama voters time and time again. In the June Republican primary, she beat her three competitors with 56 percent of the vote.

In Morning Consult’s first quarter approval poll, Ivey ranked at 64 percent approval.

3 years ago

Alabama’s United Launch Alliance brings U.S. mission to the Space Station one step closer


Following completion of its Centaur dual engine system, the rocket set to send American astronauts back to the International Space Station is in its final assembly stage at United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) factory in Decatur, Alabama.

ULA’s Atlas V rocket will power Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in the first astronaut mission launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle launch in 2011.

Since the last Shuttle mission, American astronauts have been flying to the Space Station on Russian rockets.


Before sending astronauts, ULA will conduct an Orbital Flight Test. Both the test and the eventual mission will be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, though a date hasn’t been set for either.

Aside from its role in manned space missions, ULA also plays a critical role in the exploration of Mars.

On Wednesday, ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness about his company’s work in space exploration and his hope for the future of the same.

“Acts of Congress and presidential directives reflect the high priority that the United States Government has long placed on human space exploration,” Bruno said. “With this continuing commitment, Americans will surely land on Mars as they landed on the Moon.”

ULA rockets have been responsible for powering all U.S. missions to Mars.