The Wire

  • Decatur doctor accused of sexual assault responds to lawsuit

    Excerpt from WHNT:

    A Decatur doctor accused of sexually assaulting several of his patients is disputing all claims of wrongdoing. Dr. Michael Dick of Alabama Medicine and Rheumatology Clinic responded to a lawsuit filed on behalf of six women who claim to be his former patients. The doctor also filed a protective order asking a judge to stop the victims from sharing their stories with the media.

    A Birmingham-based attorney responded on behalf of Dr. Dick saying there is “no basis to contend he preys on female patients as alleged in the complaint.” The lawsuit filed against Dr. Dick says female members of the nursing staff were present with him. He says no misconduct took place, as alleged in the lawsuit. The response also says employees who work at the medical practice deny any misconduct.

  • Bobby Bright says ‘D.C. powerbrokers’ pushed Trump to endorse Martha Roby

    Excerpt from AL.com:

    Bobby Bright says ‘D.C. powerbrokers’ pushed Trump to endorse Martha Roby in Alabama’s District 2 race.

    “I understand politics and how Washington works. It appears the D.C. powerbrokers have gotten to the President on this issue. It’s truly a swamp of insiders controlled by big money special interests, the same crowd who’s bankrolling Martha Roby’s campaign to the tune of over $1 million just this year,” Bright said in a statement. “It’s a place where loyalty doesn’t exist. When you take that much money from D.C., New York and California, you lose sight of Alabama.”

    Incumbent Roby will face Bobby Bright — a former congressman she defeated in 2010 — in a runoff next month. Bright served one term in Congress as a Democrat, but switched parties to run against Roby in this year’s Republican primary.

  • Man accused of trying to run over police officer, charged with attempted murder

    Excerpt from ABC 33/40:

    A man accused of trying to run over a police officer was charged with attempted murder Friday, Shelby County authorities confirm.

    Chief Assistant District Attorney Roger Hepburn says Issai Serrano is the suspect connected with a Wednesday afternoon shooting involving an Alabaster Police officer. The shooting occurred at Morgan Road and South Shades Crest Road, said Hoover Police officers, who were the first to respond to the scene.

12 months ago

The Story of the Hall-of-Fame Pitcher Who Put His Career at Risk to Serve on the USS Alabama

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Major League Baseball All-Star Break begins today with the popular Home Run Derby tonight. Billed as a clash of the titans between power hitters Giancarlo Stanton and rookie Aaron Judge, the event is likely to be one of the most exciting in years.

Kids from across the country will tune into both events to watch their heroes at work. But not so long ago, one all-star gave up the opportunity to play in several Mid-Summer Classics to serve his country in World War II.

In the late 1930s, Bob Feller was a teenage pitching phenom for the Cleveland Indians. He made his first appearance for the ballclub at the age of 17 with a killer fastball and a nasty curve. His talents quickly caught the attention of the league’s best, and Feller even had the legend Joe DiMaggio on edge. “I don’t think anyone is ever going to throw a ball faster than he does. And his curveball isn’t human,” the renowned New York Yankee once said.

Feller earned a bid to the American League All-Star team every season from 1938 to 1941. From ’39 to ’41, he led the AL in wins, and he even accomplished the rare Pitching Triple Crown in 1940. Earning the praise of Hall-of-Famers Stan Musial and Ted Williams, Feller was one of the most feared pitchers in all of professional baseball. Needless to say, he was on top of the sporting world.

But his perspective changed after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He heard about the attack on his way to visit his sick father in his home state of Iowa, and he was about to sign a new lucrative contract with the Indians. Instead of going back to Cleveland to play for fame and fortune, he volunteered for the U.S. Navy and hoped to see action as the first American pro athlete to enlist in the military. Even though his father’s death gave him an exemption from service, Feller still wanted to help his country. “I told them I wanted to get into combat,” he said. ” [I] wanted to do something besides standing around handing out balls and bats and making ball fields out of coral reefs.”

Feller got his wish and was assigned to serve on the USS Alabama in Europe. He served as the gun captain aboard the ship and would practice his pitching with his fellow servicemen near the turrets.  When the Alabama was rerouted to the Pacific, Feller saw action during Operation Galvanic, Operation Flintlock, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea.  After the Japanese had surrendered, Feller was discharged from the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer with six campaign ribbons and eight battle stars.

When he returned home, Feller went back to the Indians without missing a beat. He led the AL in wins the first two years after the war and did so again in 1951. He returned to the All-Star Game four more times in his career and won the world series with the Indians in 1948. In 1992, Feller was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with almost 94 percent of the vote on the first ballot. He finished his distinguished career with 266 wins, 2,581 strikeouts, a 3.25 ERA, and three no-hitters all with the Cleveland Indians.

To both his teammates and his country, Feller was loyal through and through. He passed away at the age of 92 in 2010.

When watching the All-Star events the next few days, keep folks like Bob Feller in mind. After all, they’re the real heroes.

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12 months ago

Trump’s EPA Begins Rolling Back Obama Era Water Rule that Hurt Alabama Farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed official paperwork to begin the real of the Obama Administration’s highly controversial Waters of the United States Rule that drastically increased the regulatory authority of the federal government.

Specifically, the WOTUS rule extended the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ regulatory reach to an indefinite number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches, temporary streams or “any waters located within the 100-year floodplain of a traditional navigable water.”

The rule hit Alabama farmers especially hard, as they were required to obtain permits for the simplest of changes to their land, including fence building, digging ditches, and spraying fertilizers. If a property owner failed to comply with the EPA’s new water rule they would be hit with a fine of up to $37,000 a day.

“I’ve heard from countless farmers, foresters and families in Alabama who are under threat of being aggressively and unnecessarily penalized by federal water regulators,” Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2) said after the rule was published. “Trying to expand the definition of navigable waters to include puddles and ditches has never made sense. It reeks of a radical environmental agenda being forced on Americans, and Congress is right to take steps to stop it.”

Every Republican member of the Alabama Congressional Delegation formally opposed the rule.

Then-Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) challenged the rule in federal court, along with the Attorneys General from West Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin. In a separate case in which the state of Alabama filed an Amicus Brief,  the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the WOTUS rule by ruling that the EPA’s actions were reviewable by federal courts per the Administrative Procedure Act. However, the court left the rule itself in place at that time.

Despite no official ruling on WOTUS’s constitutionality, many conservatives on the Supreme Court expressed their doubts that such an exercise was within the EPA’s delegated authority. In concurring opinions of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes, Justices Thomas and Alito wrote explicitly of the “ominous overreach of the Clean Water Act,” while Justice Kennedy wrote, “[The WOTUS rule] continues to raise troubling questions regarding the Government’s power to cast doubt on the full use and enjoyment of private property throughout the Nation.”

Now, it appears that farmers’ long big-government nightmare is almost over.

“This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said on Tuesday.

The EPA’s proposed rule change will be posted in the Federal Register and subject to a public comment period, per federal administrative regulations. After the conclusion of the comment period, the EPA can move forward on complete repeal.

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12 months ago

Tuscaloosa Mayor Explores Run for Governor as a Democrat

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Walt Maddox, the Mayor of Tuscaloosa, has announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a 2018 Gubernatorial run. If he enters the race, Maddox will run as a Democrat.

“While many have urged me to change parties for the sake of political convenience, that would be dishonest — dishonest with you, dishonest with myself,” Maddox said in an announcement video yesterday. “We don’t need any more dishonesty.”

Maddox has been Tuscaloosa’s Mayor since 2005. During his time in office, he has overseen tornado recovery and growth in his city, primarily driven by The University of Alabama. He just won reelection in March, and he defeated his opponent by a margin of 5,956 votes to 541 votes.

Only two Democrats have formally declared their candidacy for the 2018 Gubernatorial Election: Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Christopher A. Countryman. Several other potential Democratic candidates include Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden), Parker Griffith, Doug Jones, and Ron Sparks.

Once a Democratic stronghold, the state of Alabama has not elected one to the Governor’s office since 1998. That governor, Don Siegelman, has only recently been released from prison after serving time for a federal felony corruption conviction. No Democrats currently hold statewide elected office.

The Democratic Primary Election will be held on June 5, 2018. The general election will take place on November 6, 2018.

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12 months ago

After a Rainy Start to Summer, Alabama Is Finally Drought Free

After a dry 2016, Alabama is finally drought-free for the fist time in over a year.

An analysis from the University of Nebraska revealed that recent rains have completely eliminated drought conditions in Alabama that began back in April of last year. Since that time, at least one percent of the state has been classified as being in a drought for 60 weeks in a row. The period was Alabama’s first drought since 2007.

Heavy rains from Topical Storm Cindy helped the situation, but northwest Alabama is still considered to be “abnormally dry.” That condition, which is one classification below drought, covers approximately 1.5 percent of the state. That includes Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin, Marion and Lamar Counties.

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, the entire state of Alabama was in a drought for an eight week period late last fall. The drought especially devastated crop farmers in the state, who were harmed by the dry conditions and water restrictions. However, the numbers show that the state has improved incrementally since that time.

Mississippi, which has experienced similar conditions to Alabama, is also now drought free. The northeastern corner of that state is still also considered abnormally dry. However, another Alabama neighbor, Georgia, is still experiencing drought conditions.

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12 months ago

In an Anti-School Choice Move, Birmingham Board of Education Sues to Stop Charter School

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Birmingham Board of Education is suing to stop the opening of a charter school within the Birmingham city limits. The lawsuit against the Alabama Public Charter School Commission alleges that it improperly overruled the Birmingham BOE’s decision to deny a charter to the proposed STAR Academy. There is no hearing date set for the lawsuit at this time.

To date, Birmingham has denied two charter school applications: STAR Academy and iBestow.  Among the reasons the board rejected the applications were concerns about finances, expenditures, construction, and their governance.  Their decision regarding STAR Academy was overturned by the APCSC in May.

The Birmingham BOE claims that the APCSC’s reversal violates state law because of STAR Academy’s alleged issues with funding and religious conflict of interest. If STAR Academy survives the suit from the BOE, it will open in the 2018-2019 school year and serve 248 pre-k through first-grade students.

Alabama currently has no open charter schools, but a law passed in 2015 is slowly changing that. The ACCEL Day and Evening Academy, Alabama’s first charter school, will begin serving students in Mobile this school year.

Outside of Birmingham, one application for a public charter school was approved in full and another was conditionally approved in the latest meeting of the Alabama Public Charter School Commission on Tuesday. The University of West Alabama’s application to open a University Charter school impressed the committee, but the committee will require further action from the second applicant, Infinity Learning Center.

RELATED: Applications for Two Alabama Charter Schools Approved

An analysis from the Cato Institute shows that Alabama is in the middle of the pack when it comes to school choice freedom in the 50 U.S. States. Alabama’s ranking was boosted by the private scholarship tax credit law in 2013–14, but conservative and libertarian policy makers still acknowledge there is work to be done.

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12 months ago

Donald Trump Thanks Alabama Artist for “Remarkable” Portrait

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — President Donald Trump surprised Montgomery artist Craig Carlson this week with a letter thanking him for his “remarkable” painting. According to Carlson, the president enjoyed it so much that he wants to have it hung in the White House residence.

“I usually support every President. I want our country to prosper. I want it to do well,” Carlson told the Alabama News Network. “So I thought hey, I do so many portraits and I’m good at them. That’s all I know how to do. I don’t sing or dance. So I thought why not go for the top? So I did a portrait and it didn’t take too long, it went really quickly, just a head and shoulders, 20 x 24 inch.”

Carlson got the painting to the president through fellow Alabamian and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R). In a letter back to Carlson, Sessions told him that he would send the gift to the president directly. About a month later, Carlson got a call from the White House staff thanking him for the portrait. The president eventually responded personally with a letter describing Carlson’s work as an “extraordinary gift” and a “remarkable piece of artwork.”

Needless to say, Carlson is honored by the compliments from the president. “To get one from someone on top, makes you think ‘hey, maybe I am pretty good!'” he said.

President Trump has taken a liking to all things Alabama during his term. On top of the painting, Trump has filled his White House with several Alabamians in high-profile positions.  During a recent meeting with America’s governors at the White House, Donald Trump said of Alabama, “I love it. It’s a great place.”

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12 months ago

HUGE: House Committee Passes Defense Bill that Will Help Alabama Shipbuilding

Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS8) (Photo: Austal USA)
Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS8) (Photo: Austal USA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S House of Representatives Armed Services Committee passed the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act that will fund three more Alabama-built Littoral Combat Ships. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 60-1.

The Littoral Combat Ship is a class of vessels used in operations close to shore (the littoral zone). They have been compared to Corvettes, built to swiftly move in fights with other vessels, as well as to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and mines. Most of the ships are constructed at a specialized production facility located in Mobile.

Last week, the U.S. Navy ordered more LCS from Austal USA’s Mobile manufacturing facility last week, a move that shows the military’s confidence in the top-notch vessels. Austal will deliver to LCS to the Navy this year after delivering two last year on time and under budget.

RELATED: More Combat Ships to Be Built in Alabama

“This year’s National Defense Authorization Act helps rebuild our nation’s military, boosts shipbuilding in an effort to grow our fleet, and ensures our military men and women have the resources necessary to defend our country.” Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) said after he voted for the bill. “Once again, we were able to secure authorization for the construction of three more Littoral Combat Ships, which are built right here in Southwest Alabama. These ships continue to excel in the fleet, and that is a testament to the over 4,000 men and women who work at the Mobile shipyard.”

In addition to the funding of additional LCS, the NDAA would pay for a 2.4 percent pay raise for U.S. troops,  an increase in the the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Army Guard and Reserve, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard, and improvements to military facilities with a focus on restoration.

The bill is expected to come before the full House sometime in July.

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12 months ago

Applications for Two Alabama Charter Schools Approved

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — One application for a public charter school was approved in full and another was conditionally approved in the latest meeting of the Alabama Public Charter School Commission on Tuesday. The University of West Alabama’s application to open a University Charter school impressed the committee, but the committee will require further action from the second applicant, Infinity Learning Center.

UWA plans to open a charter school in Sumter County, where the largest private school recently announced it will have to close its doors. The University Charter School hopes to be open to Kindergarten through Fifth Grade students next fall, before transitioning to a full K-12 school the following year.

Sumter County residents will have the first opportunity to enter the enrollment lottery. The group behind the effort has raised over $370,000 in donations, and they plan to house the school on UWA’s Livingston campus.

According to Al.com, UWA’s Johnnie Aycock said that Alabama’s federal legislators support their effort to increase local school choice. “[U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos] actually knows about us,” Aycock said.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers rated UWA’s proposed school highly on its three criteria: educational program design, operations, and financial plans. With the high review, the commission approved UWA’s application unanimously.

Applicant number two, the proposed Infinity Learning Center, would operate out of Montgomery if its conditional requirements for approval are met. ILC plans to teach students concrete skills through job training and internships in aviation, legal services and law enforcement, health care and business fields. According to ILC chairman Charlotte Meadows, students could gain professional certifications or a two-year associate’s degree through some of the schools offered programs.

However, the commission decided to only conditionally approve ILC’s application due to its partial meeting of NACSA’s standards.

An analysis from the Cato Institute shows that Alabama is in the middle of the pack when it comes to school choice freedom in the 50 U.S. States. Alabama’s ranking was boosted by the private scholarship tax credit law in 2013–14, but conservative and libertarian policy makers still acknowledge there is work to be done.

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12 months ago

Alabama High School Baseball Team Finishes as Number One in the Nation

HELENA, Ala. — After the best season in school history, the Helena Huskies finished their latest campaign as the number one baseball team in the country, according to MaxPreps computer rankings. Helena went 38-6 this year and defeated the Cullman Bearcats in May to win their first 6A state championship.

“Everybody at the beginning of the year set a goal. Nobody talked about that end goal. But in my heart, [winning the state championship] that was my goal,” Helena’s Nash Adam’s told Al.com after the championship victory. “I wouldn’t say it out loud because baseball is a is superstitious game. Didn’t want to jinx anything. But when we got here, I knew exactly what was going to happen. ”

MaxPreps’ computer ranking system relies solely on statistics and does not account for season history, school size, or polls. A team’s ranking is calculated by an algorithm that tracks game results stored in the MaxPreps database. In addition to the mere win-loss record of a team, the system takes into account the quality of wins and strength of schedule.

The MaxPreps Xcellent 25 is the company’s human ranking compiled from a poll of writers. Helena finished fifth overall in that metric.

Cullman, who lost to Helena in the 6A final, still finished seventh in the MaxPreps final computer ranking. The only other Alabama team to finish in the final top 25 was the 7A state champion Hoover Buccanneers, who finished seventeenth.

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12 months ago

Hoover Tactical Good Shot of the Month: Alabama Veteran Shoots 3 Home Invasion Suspects

THEODORE, Ala. — An Alabama homeowner and former U.S. Marine shot three suspects during an attempted home invasion last week, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office has reported. The 62-year-old man fired upon the suspects after they broke into his home for the second time. In a previous instance, the individuals threatened the homeowner with physical harm if he reported their crimes to police.

Afraid for his life, the homeowner did not report the first incident to authorities. However, the same suspects returned armed and fired rounds through his front door, leading to injuries on his shoulder. But this time, he fired back and hit all three suspects.

Authorities found two of the suspects injured at a nearby Dollar General store. The two suspects and the homeowner were admitted to a local hospital for their injuries.

U.S. Federal Courts have only recently guaranteed the individual right to own a handgun. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the right to own a handgun is constitutionally protected, and it incorporated that right against the states in 2010.

The Hoover Tactical Shot of the Month highlights everyday Americans utilizing their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves and the ones they love. You can learn more about Hoover Tactical Firearms here.

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12 months ago

Alabama Secretary of State’s Office Drastically Increased Efficiency of Business Filings

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — There are only a few things that move slower than molasses, but government agencies are certainly one of them. Knowing this, Secretary of State John Merrill (R-Ala.) sought to increase his office’s speed of processing business filings through the application of business-world tactics. The numbers clearly show success, as the office is current on business filings for the fifty-second week in a row.

Historically, the Secretary of State’s Business Services Division has processed its paperwork days, weeks, and even months behind receipt of those documents and checks for payment. But Merrill has managed to reverse that trend with a level of efficiency previously unknown in the state.

“When I was campaigning for the Office of Secretary of State, it was brought to my attention that the processing period for the paperwork and payments required for submission to form a new business or entity in the state was seven to nine months behind,” Merrill said. “In many instances, this paperwork and the accompanying filing fees submitted by these business owners were being held for that seven to nine-month period.”

To fix the problem, Merrill restructured management and implemented employee accountability measures to speed up the processing pace. One such policy is that work not completed by the end of business on Friday must be finished on Saturday morning of that week. Needless to say, this has only needed to happen once this year.

Merrill has managed to boost efficiency while also reducing the number of taxpayer-supported government workers. Since Merrill took office two years ago, the Secretary of State Department now employs 23 percent fewer people.

“It’s morning in Alabama and the Secretary of State’s Office no longer moves at the speed of government; we are moving at the speed of business!” Merrill said.

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12 months ago

SCOTUS to Hear Case with Potential Religious Liberty Impacts in Alabama

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case from Colorado regarding a bakery’s right to refuse service to a gay couple wanting to buy a wedding cake. The culture war case has the potential for widespread social implications, including right here in Alabama.

Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights is a challenge of Colorado’s public accommodations law, which treats LGBTQ individuals as a legally protected class. The cake shop owner claims that the law violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and religious exercise by forcing him to bake a cake for a service he disagrees with.

Supreme Court experts see the case as a toss-up akin to the ObamaCare and Gay Marriage cases from recent years. Most of the attention is being paid to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the justice most often seen as the court’s swing vote.

The bakery has been represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith. Over the course of its history, the organization has represented and aided many religious groups and individuals working to protect their rights under the First Amendment.

“Every American should be free to choose which art they will create and which art they won’t create without fear of being unjustly punished by the government,” ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman said. “That’s why the bad decision in this case needs to be reversed. It imperils everyone’s freedom by crushing dissent instead of tolerating a diversity of views. We are all at risk when government is able to punish citizens like Jack just because it doesn’t like how he exercises his artistic freedom. America must have room for people who disagree to coexist.”

Liberals across the country have passed laws to force a multitude of businesses to engage in transactions that violate deeply held religious beliefs. Perhaps the most famous example is the Oregon Bakery Case, wherein Melissa’s Sweet Cakes was fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding. Such cases have been decided in this manner due to state statutes extending public accommodations protections to the LGBTQ community. Alabama does not have such a law at this time.

RELATED: Alabama House passes religious freedom protection bill for adoption agencies

Alabama has gone the opposite direction of many liberal states and created legal protections for businesses and nonprofits attempting to freely practice their beliefs. However, a ruling in favor of Colorado could open the door for public accommodations laws becoming a reality in Alabama’s future.

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12 months ago

A Year After Alabama Rejects Hike, Negative Effects of High Minimum Wage Shown

Fast food workers protest McDonald's, push for higher minimum wage. (Flickr user Light Brigading)
Fast food workers protest McDonald’s, push for higher minimum wage. (Flickr user Light Brigading)

A little over a year ago, Alabama passed a law that blocks cities from imposing minimum wage hikes shortly after Birmingham tried to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. But across the country in Washington, the city of Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour and is now seeing negative economic side-effects.

The Washington Post reports that Seattle employers have fought back against the gradual raising of the minimum wage by cutting their payrolls, putting off new hiring, reducing hours, and letting their workers go. The city-commissioned study from the University of Washington has been backed up by the researchers at FiveThirtyEight and reveals that government intervention into the economy often has unintended consequences.

“The goal of this policy was to deliver higher incomes to people who were struggling to make ends meet in the city,” said Jacob Vigdor, a University of Washington economist who helped craft the study. “You’ve got to watch out because at some point you run the risk of harming the people you set out to help.”

RELATED: Bentley, Alabama legislature slap down Birmingham’s minimum wage hike

According to the study, the costs of low-skilled workers outweighed the benefit by a margin of three to one. While some employees at large companies are now getting paid the city-mandated wage of $13 per hour, there are many people now making $0 per hour instead. In total, the study estimates the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because of the hike in the minimum.

But Seattle’s experience is nothing new. Several states across the country have already forced employers to pay more, with California and New York demanding wages as high as $15 per hour. While well intentioned, economists have found evidence that minimum wage laws have little overall effect on poverty rates, and in some cases, the laws have adverse effects on the poor.

In a 2007 peer-reviewed study conducted by economics professors from Cornell University and San Diego State University, researchers examined U.S. Census data from 1979 to 2003 to estimate the effects of minimum wage increases on state poverty rates. According to one of the designers of the study, they “found no evidence that minimum wage increases were effective at reducing overall poverty rates or poverty rates among workers.”

Similar studies from The Cato Institute show that minimum wages create serious disincentives for employers to eliminate and replace low-skilled labor.

RELATED: Good intentions, bad results: Democrat files bill to raise Alabama’s minimum wage

Many major chains such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Panera Bread, have heavily invested in kiosks that will replace hourly low-skilled workers. Business Insider recently chronicled the shift from man to machine and noted that executives are explicit as to their motivation. “If you’re making labor more expensive, and automation less expensive — this is not rocket science,” said Andy Puzder, the CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.

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12 months ago

More Combat Ships to Be Built in Alabama

Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS8) (Photo: Austal USA)
Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS8) (Photo: Austal USA)

MOBILE, Ala. — The U.S. Navy ordered more Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) from Austal USA’s Mobile manufacturing facility last week, a move that shows the military’s confidence in the top-notch vessels. Austal will deliver to LCS to the Navy this year after delivering two last year on time and under budget.

“We’re very proud to be awarded this contract in such a highly competitive environment,” Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said in a press release. “This demonstrates the Navy’s confidence in Austal being a key component in building their 355-ship fleet, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our incredible employees.”

The Littoral Combat Ship is a class of vessels used in operations close to shore (the littoral zone). They have been compared to Corvettes, built to swiftly move in fights with other vessels, as well as to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and mines. Most of the ships are constructed at a specialized production facility located in Mobile.

RELATED: First ever Alabama-built Littoral Combat Ship has officially deployed to the Pacific

Overall, Austal’s LCS manufacturing supports more than 17,000 jobs across 42 states, including 4,000 Alabamians. Under the Obama Administration, the program was continually under siege, but the new administration appears to be reversing that trend.

RELATED: Despite Obama’s cutbacks, Navy says it still needs Alabama-built combat ships

The Navy has consistently maintained that a large fleet is paramount to maintaining the country’s national defense. When threatened with budget cuts last year, Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy told the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee that the Navy still requires 52 LCS.

“Whether we’re supporting our delivered ships in San Diego or Singapore, Thailand or Vietnam, we continue hearing positive feedback from the fleet commanders on the value and effectiveness of our LCS and EPF,” Perciavalle said. “We remain dedicated to building these ships safely, timely and with the quality and craftsmanship our customers have come to know and expect from Austal.”

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12 months ago

Alabama AG Rebukes SCOTUS for Refusing to Hear Challenge to California’s Anti-2A Law

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — On a busy Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court, the nation’s highest judicial body turned down the opportunity to hear a Second-Amendment-based challenge to a California gun law. California passed a law effectively prohibiting certain residents from conceal carry of firearms outside of their homes, and Alabama joined the charge to have the Supreme Court overturn it.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R-Ala.) was frustrated with the court’s refusal to take up the issue. “It is patently absurd to believe that the constitutional right of Americans to bear arms is confined to the four walls of their places of residence, yet that is effectively the view that the Supreme Court endorsed today in its decision to let stand a California federal court decision upholding a ban of the carry of firearms in public in San Diego County,” he said in a press release.

The decision to decline the case, Peruta v. California, was not unanimous. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch both dissented and noted that the Second Amendment is becoming a disfavored right.

“Even if other members of the Court do not agree that the Second Amendment likely protects a right to public carry, the time has come for the Court to answer this important question definitively,” Justice Thomas wrote. “Twenty-six States have asked us to resolve the question presented, see Brief for Alabama et al. as Amici Curiae, and the lower courts have fully vetted the issue.”

Alabama’s brief in favor of a court review was joined by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In the absence of a Supreme Court hearing, the Ninth Circuit’s decision upholding the ban will stand.

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12 months ago

How an Alabama Company Has Restored Hearing For Untold Millions

A new list from MidAmerica Nazarene University declares the electric hearing aid to be the most impactful invention to come from Alabama. The list, published by Market Watch, names of the most significant invention from every state in the union.

An electronic device worn in or behind the ear to amplify sound, the electric hearing aid was invented by Miller Reese Hutchison in 1895. Originally called the akouphone, the device did not become available for commercial use until the Twentieth Century.

Hutchison, born in Montrose, Alabama, spent most of his life in the Yellowhammer state. He attended the Marion Military Institute, Spring Hill College, and graduated from the Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1897. In addition to the hearing aid, Hutchison held a patent for a lightning arrester and telegraph lines.

The hearing aid was originally invented to help one of Hutchison’s friends who became deaf from scarlet fever. He tried to market his new device, but the large tabletop model was neither practical nor cost-effective. Modifications and improvements to his original model made it increasingly popular, and he eventually sold the rights to Kelley Monroe Turner.

Today, 48 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss. The statistic his higher for Americans over age 65, where one in three struggle with hearing loss. Currently, production of hearing aids only meets 10 percent of the global need.

A full graphic showing the inventions can be seen below.

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12 months ago

Study: Alabama Has Second-Lowest Property Tax Burden in the Country

The results of a new study published by Market Watch reveal that Alabama has the second lowest property tax burden in the United States. The state with the highest property tax burden is New Jersey, and the only state with a lower burden than Alabama is Hawaii.

According to the statistics provided by Attom Data, the average 2016 property tax bill in Alabama was $776. A resident in New Jersey pays that much almost every month, for a total average annual bill of $8,477.

Daren Blomquist, vice president with Attom Data, told Market Watch that states with higher property tax burdens have seen far slower recoveries in their housing markets since the financial crisis. According to the data, housing prices have risen 45 percent nationwide over the past five years. But in high-tax New Jersey, they have only risen five percent over that same period. Blomquist said that the tax policies in southern states like Alabama are drawing in more buyers and forcing home prices up.

Market Watch via Attom Data

Blomquist’s assumption is backed up by a 2016 study from United Van Lines, which showed that the states with the most inbound retiree movers are generally low property tax states in the south and west.

According to John Mousseau, director of fixed income for Cumberland Advisors, the shift in location preferences is one of simple economics. “New Jersey’s been on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve for a least a half-dozen years,” he told Market Watch.

The Laffer Curve, named after economist Arthur Laffer, explains the inverse relationship between rising tax rates and revenue. Laffer’s theory asserts that after a certain point, the closer a tax rate moves to 100 percent, the closer government revenue moves to zero.

Although Alabama has a low property tax impact, it is still among the worst in the nation for effective sales tax rates.

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1 year ago

Alabama to Stop Administration of ACT Aspire

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A unanimous vote from the State Board of Education has officially ended Alabama’s administration of the ACT Aspire test to third through eighth-grade students. The board decided not to renew the state’s contract with the company after several years of disappointing results.

According to a report from the Alabama News Network, Superintendent Michael Sentance said there have been several issues with administration of the ACT Aspire, including delays and unhelpful data. ACT promised officials that the results from the 2017 test would be in by the end of May, but they were not received until June 12. This led members of the board to believe that Alabama was not a priority for ACT.

Sentance said that the state will be transitioning to Scantron tests — previously known as GlobalScholar — next year until a more permanent solution is found. According to Al.com 65 percent of Alabama schools currently use such tests.

Alabama began administering the ACT Aspire to elementary and middle school students in 2014 as an annual reading and math assessment. Scores have been disappointing, but state officials said they represent a more accurate depiction of student learning levels.

Despite the discontinuation of the Aspire contract, eleventh-grade students will still take the standard ACT and twelfth-grade students will continue to take ACT WorkKeys.

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1 year ago

New Miss Alabama Works to Combat Hunger

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Across the state and nation, Miss Alabama and Miss America are incredibly influential role models. For many young girls, they strive to achieve the level of scholarship, beauty, and grace that the women competing at the top-level of the pageant world exhibit so well. Last week, Jessica Procter of Tuscaloosa was the latest young woman to be crowned Miss Alabama. Although she worked very hard to get to this point, the real work of being a role model to thousands of young girls is just beginning.

A relative newcomer to pageant life, Procter said winning Miss Alabama was a dream come true. “Honestly, it was like living in an alternate universe,” Procter told Yellowhammer. “You picture that moment and you work for that moment, but when it finally happens, it feels unreal.”

Four years ago, Procter began participating in pageants during her junior year of high school. She wanted to boost her resume for college scholarship committees and figured performing well in pageants would look impressive.

She first saw a post about Miss Tuscaloosa Outstanding Teen on Facebook and wanted to give it a try. While she had no previous experience, she had an extensive background as a musical performer who sang with her family from a young age.

“I watched Miss America more than a few times as a kid,” she said, “but it was never something where I really knew how it worked.”

After placing third in her first-ever pageant, Procter caught pageant fever and she continued to perform well in state-level competitions. She has served as Miss West Central Outstanding Teen, Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen, Miss Center Point, Miss Tuscaloosa, and Miss Leeds Area. Overall, Procter has earned more than $42,000 in scholarship money that will ensure a debt-free graduation from The University of Alabama.

Procter emphasized the importance of scholarship and giving back in both the Miss Alabama and Miss America organizations. Founded in 1921, the Miss America Organization is still the nation’s largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women, as Procter is a paramount example.

“My most important role is to show the world what the Miss Alabama Organization is about,” she said. “It’s not about me, it’s about the organization and the good that it does. I’m just its voice this year.”

Procter’s platform focuses on the pressing issue of food insecurity, which is formally defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. She first saw the tragedy of hunger on a mission trip with her family overseas. Her experience changed her and forced her into action. “I couldn’t sit there when people in our world are struggling to meet basic necessities that I take for granted every single day,” she said.

At first, she wanted to start a program to help impoverished people overseas. But she soon found out that the problem plagues one in five Americans, and her focus soon shifted. She watched a 20/20 documentary in a freshman-year psychology class about hungry children in Camden, New Jersey, and one story from the video hit her especially hard.

“There was a boy named Isaac…who had never heard the words breakfast, lunch, and dinner before. He had never had three set meals a day. If he did, there was no need to name them because it wouldn’t be something he would get the next day. Three set meals a day was just an unattainable luxury in his life.”

She sat there in the 150-person class weeping. “This boy only lives 14 hours away from me, and here I am about to go eat at the dining hall and I’m worried about sending money overseas,” she said. “I need to do something about this in America.”

She contacted the West Alabama Food Bank about local hunger in her area. After some discussion, she formed Step Up to the Plate, a partnership with the West Alabama Food Bank, that works to find ways to address food insecurity in the state.

Step Up To The Plate fights hunger by conducting canned food drives, speaking to local community groups and schools, raising money, participating in and encouraging volunteerism at local soup bowls and food banks, and establishing food recovery programs at local businesses. “You’ve got to make other people as passionate as you are because you can’t do it alone,” she said.

Procter will take her cause and talents to the Miss America stage as one of the 52 final contestants. The ninety-seventh Miss America pageant will be held in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Sunday, September 10, 2017.

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1 year ago

Alabama City Opens New State-of-the-Art Sports Facility

the Finley Center located in Hoover, Ala.
the Finley Center located in Hoover, Ala.

HOOVER, Ala. — The city of Hoover formally opened its brand new Finley Center last week that officials hope will bring in more business from across the region. Named after legendary Berry High School Football Coach Bob Finley, the 155,000 square-foot facility completes phase one of the Hoover Metropolitan Complex project, which already contains the Metropolitan Stadium and an RV Park.

“As we celebrate our fiftieth year as a city, it is timely that we are opening this new facility today,” Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said last week. “The Finley Center will bring competitive tournaments; great sporting traditions, non-profit fundraisers, business gatherings and more to Hoover. The impact will not only benefit our community, but the state of Alabama.”

Prior to its official grand opening, the Finley Center was already put to use as the host of SEC Baseball FanFest. Hoover hosts the SEC Baseball Tournament next door at its Metropolitan Stadium, and the multiuse facility was pitched to the SEC as a reason the tournament should stay in the city.

The Finley Center includes a walking track, performance center, food court, flexible meeting space, and clip ‘n climb attraction. Its 83,000 square foot clear-span space can be used to accommodate 11 regulation-size basketball courts, 17 regulation-size volleyball courts, trade shows with 300 booths, 2,400-seat banquets, or theatre-style seating for 5,000. Additionally, its drop down netting allows for the facility to be used for multiple events at once.

Outdoor facilities that will be included in phase two expansion are five NCAA regulation-size soccer/football/lacrosse fields, five NCAA regulation-size baseball/softball fields, 16 tennis courts with pro shop, a playground, a splash pad, and a large event lawn.

According to estimates from the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Finley Center is expected to bring an economic impact between $27 million and $33 million to Hoover. Those who helped build the facility believe its quality will help attract people to the city.

“This facility is on the leading edge of that trend and will have a significant economic impact on the City of Hoover.” said Brasfield & Gorrie Senior Project Manager Stephen Franklin.

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1 year ago

Alabama Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Reliance on Foreign Oil in 2016

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Thanks to the hard work of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, the Yellowhammer state reduced its dependence on foreign oil by 6.5 million gallons last year. Additionally, Alabama also reduced its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 25.6 tons due to the increased use of alternative transportation fuels.

According to its website, the ACFC is a nonprofit organization that serves as the state’s principal coordinating point for alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles. It is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program, and it promotes increased use of clean, renewable, domestic energy sources.

“Our Alabama member and stakeholder fleets are continuing to go the extra mile when it comes to replacing petroleum fuels with cleaner burning and domestically produced alternative fuels such as compressed and liquefied natural gas, propane autogas, electricity, E85 ethanol, and B20 biodiesel,” Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition Executive Director Mark Bentley said in a press release. “Members and stakeholders of ACFC include commercial and municipal fleets, fuel distributors and utilities across the state.”

Although most Americans still drive traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, the number of people purchasing plug-in automobiles is on the rise. Just last year, the sale of plug-in electric cars increased by 40 percent.

In Alabama, 24.7 million gallons of foreign oil have been displaced by domestic alternative fuels over the past eight years. This year’s displacement rate was up 21.5 percent. With the reduction in the use of foreign petroleum, the state’s economy received a boost from the use of alternative fuels produced or distributed by in-state companies.

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1 year ago

Storm Wreaks Havoc in West Jefferson County

FAIRFIELD, Ala. — Birmingham and its surrounding communities experienced intense storms today that caused several injuries and serious property damage. At least four people have been injured and power lines around the metro area are down, according to the Birmingham Police.

James Spann of ABC 33/40 reported that a funnel cloud was spotted in the afternoon where there was damage to an Express Oil Change, KFC Restaurant, and ABC Store in Fairfield. Fairfield Police Chief Nick Dyer told Al.com that four people at those locations were taken to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

The National Weather Service reported a tornado first seen by Birmingham air traffic controllers. No additional information about that tornado is known as this time.

Al.com reports that 12,000 Alabama Power customers near Birmingham are currently without service. The company said that most of the outages are in the Midfield and Pratt City areas.

Birmingham PD also noted that several traffic lights around the city are inoperative, including some near Interstate 20/59.

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1 year ago

Alabama’s Richest Resident Is Also One of Its Most Giving

(J. Rane/Contributed)
Jimmy Rane
Jimmy Rane

ABBEVILLE, Ala. — According to Forbes.com, Jimmy Rane is still Alabama’s richest resident, with a net worth of $700 million. Rane, a self-made millionaire, earned his fortune through his lumber company Great Southern Wood. The company, headquartered in his hometown of Abbeville, is the largest of its kind in the world. He has also become famous for his cowboy alter ego, the Yella Fella, who appears in his company’s commercials warding off bandits.

RELATED: Jimmy Rane is now the richest Alabamian, but it’s what he’s done with his wealth that matters

Rane founded Great Southern Wood Preserving in Abbeville 46 years ago when he started peddling treated lumber out of the back of a red, 1961 pickup truck. Over fifty years later, the company is the top player on the world stage.

“We’re in 27 U.S. states, every Caribbean country, every Central American country, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uraguay, China, and Taiwan,” Rane had told Yellowhammer last year. “We’re competing on a world stage.”

The company employs roughly 1,000 people around the globe, but through it all, he has remained fiercely loyal to his rural Alabama hometown.

Rather than expanding Great Southern Wood’s Abbeville headquarters as the company grew, Rane instead chose to purchase and renovate buildings in other parts of town, like the old Standard Oil gas station, and turn them into usable office space. By doing that, the company’s exponential growth has had an even greater impact on the town.

RELATED: Yella Fella makes massive donation to Auburn for brand new culinary science center

The size of Rane’s wealth is only rivaled by the size of his generosity. In addition to leading the efforts to preserve and sustain his hometown and improve his home state, Rane has also proven his commitment to giving the next generation of leaders the opportunity to succeed. The Jimmy Rane Foundation was founded in 2000 and since then has given out millions of dollars in college scholarships to over 300 deserving students.

Most recently, Rane donated $12 million to Auburn University to create a revolutionary culinary science center in his parents’ name. The new facility, which will be called the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, was approved by the Auburn University Board of Trustees on April 7. The building will be a multi-use facility that will include a restaurant, practice kitchens, a beverage appreciation center, a spa, meeting and boardrooms, hotel rooms, and luxury apartments.

Alabama and Abbeville may not have any billionaires, but they sure do have Jimmy Rane.

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1 year ago

Use of Red Light Cameras Challenged in Alabama Courts

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Late last week, Federal appeals judges ruled that a lawsuit over the use of red light cameras in Alabama can move ahead in state court. The city of Montgomery and American Traffic Solutions, Inc. were first named in a class action suit back in 2015 that claims the use of red light cameras by the city is illegal. Attorneys are demanding that the program be suspended and that those who have been fined through the use of cameras receive a refund.

21 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have laws specifically legalizing the use of red light cameras. 10 states prohibit their use, and 19 states — including Alabama — have no law on the subject.

Montgomery and Tuscaloosa were given permission by the legislature to use the cameras on 2010. A similar effort to prohibit red light cameras’ use in Tuscaloosa was unsuccessful in 2015. Tuscaloosa attorney Stuart Albea challenged their use on constitutional grounds, stating that municipalities fining those caught by the cameras have circumvented proper due process.

In upholding Tuscaloosa’s law, County Circuit Court Judge John England wrote that the cameras are permissible because the owners of a vehicle are subject only to fines, not arrest. “The tickets don’t go on the vehicle owner’s criminal record,” he said, “and no negative points are assessed to the owner’s driver’s license.”

Opponents of the technology also argue that the purpose of the devices is not to promote public safety but to boost local government revenue. As of 2016, Florida’s statewide law has increased revenue from traffic violations by over $100 million, giving cities a financial incentive to continue the program. The Tuscaloosa News reports there were 3,574 tickets issued between January and June 2015 and 5,198 during all of 2014 from the nine monitored intersections.

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