The Wire

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

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

1 month ago

DeMarco: Bills to weaken prosecution of felons in Alabama Legislature gain steam

(Paul DeMarco/Facebook, Bill Oxford/Unsplash, YHN)

Liberal advocacy groups have been working hard to lobby members of the Alabama Legislature to push bills this session that will weaken the criminal justice system and put more felons on the streets. Many of their friends in the media are repeating these one-sided arguments. If that occurs, the losers would be crime victims.

So far, they have succeeded with legislation being churned out that will take valuable tools away from prosecutors and clog up the courts with prisoners petitioning the courts to resentence them to fewer years in prison or just plain let them out.

In the past two weeks, they were even victorious in getting a divided Alabama House of Representatives Judiciary Committee to pass a bill to repeal Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Law, a valuable tool that gives prosecutors the ability to seek longer sentences for repeat criminals who continually victimize citizens.

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Keep in mind this proposed legislation does not make updates or fixes to the law. It is an absolute repeal. There is no substitute legislation that would be enacted upon its repeal. The repeal would leave Alabama without a repeat felon law and make us the only of our surrounding states without such a law.

Those who have a responsibility to speak for victims such as district attorneys, the attorney general and victims rights groups must speak up and push back. These ill-conceived bills will leave victims and prosecutors scrambling to keep their offenders behind bars. If the legislation passes, victims should prepare themselves for the reality that they may be appearing before the courts and parole board earlier than anticipated to object to their offender’s early release.

It is disappointing that these bills have gained traction. Those who are tasked with protecting the public must defeat efforts by these advocacy groups and their allies. Their agenda has left other states with a feckless criminal justice system. It must not happen here.

Alabama citizens should ask their legislators, district attorneys, sheriffs and police chiefs where are they when it comes to fighting those that want to flood our streets with felons and abolish tools that punish repeat career criminals.

Paul DeMarco is the former Chairman of the Alabama House of Representatives Judiciary Committee

4 months ago

DeMarco: Alabama vaccine allocation should reprioritize to protect all seniors and those most vulnerable

(Paul DeMarco/Facebook, Pixabay, YHN)

Now that there have been two vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States to protect against the coronavirus by the Federal Drug Administration, all eyes will be on the states as to how they will distribute the drugs.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidelines, it is up to each state. The Alabama Department of Public Health has issued the order of priority of those who will receive the injections.

Frontline health care workers and those who live in nursing homes and long-term care care facilities have been the first phase of allocation. The next phase will include seniors above age 75 and those essential workers who are at the highest risk, but after that is when questions have arisen about who would go next.

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The allocation next in Alabama does include first responders, educators and critical workers, but also includes those in jail and prisons because they live in congregated facilities. Thus, this would put felons in line before students who live together in dorm rooms, and the general public, including many older adults between the ages of 65 and 75 who are at an increased risk because of their age of dying from the virus.

Prioritization of vaccines has been a source of controversy around the country where the governor of Colorado said in his state that he would not put prisoners above the public in priority for getting the vaccines, which raises the question what will happen in Alabama?

Other states are also putting more priority on their seniors and other vulnerable citizens. In Louisiana, seniors starting at age 70 as well as those patients that receive home health care or have “end-stage renal diseases” are eligible for the vaccine earlier. In Georgia and Florida, the states’ governors have expanded the earlier vaccine allocation to those age 65 and older, a full decade sooner than those in Alabama.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, 78.2% of the deaths in Alabama from COVID-19 are those the age of 65 and above. People in this age range are the most vulnerable to the virus, thus, they are the citizens of our state that should receive higher priority to get these vaccines.

Governor Kay Ivey and the state health department should prioritize the allocation of vaccines to those that are the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives

6 months ago

Alabama must continue to strengthen, not weaken, state election laws

(Paul DeMarco/Facebook, Wikicommons, Pixabay, YHN)

As the nation watches the news unfold about allegations of fraud and irregularities in some battleground states, Election Day in Alabama appeared to generally run smoothly.

Yet, while Alabama has better election laws than most of the states embroiled in controversy now, there is still room to improve the current rules on the books.

The state’s absentee ballot laws do not allow for the transparency that is needed to ensure there are not deliberate attempts to defraud the system. In addition, we need to make sure the state enforces all of the current laws regarding those absentee ballots.

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But instead, some Democrats in the state have pushed for more liberal election laws including mail-in ballots with less stringent identification requirements that would make it even harder to verify identity. Those proponents are willing to sacrifice security of the ballot box because they perceive a political benefit to their party with lax rules.

Voter identification is of paramount importance in discouraging fraud and giving confidence to the voters in the integrity and accuracy of our electoral system.

Alabama voters should demand that the state’s election laws instill certainty at the ballot box rather than create suspicion. And when the Alabama Legislature is back in session, they should listen to those voters.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives

6 months ago

Georgia Senate run-off races important to the nation and the state of Alabama

(Paul Demarco/Facebook, YHN)

As the nation watches the aftermath of the presidential election unfold, the other unfinished business is what happens in the United States Senate.

Based on the latest ballot tabulations, it looks like the Republicans are on track to keep the majority in the upper body of Congress, however, two more races in Alabama’s neighboring state could change that.

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Georgia is set to have two highly contested run-off elections on January 5, 2021, to fill their seats in the United States Senate. The implications for the country are seismic in that if the Democrats win these two races, it would shift the power in the Senate to the Democrats and potentially give the party control of both chambers of Congress. The changes in policy and power would have a detrimental effect on Alabama, including putting the state’s two senators in the minority party next year.

What this also means for Alabama is that if Democrats take control of the Senate, Alabama Senator Richard Shelby could lose his chairmanship over the Senate Committee on Appropriations, which is one of the most powerful positions in Washington, D.C.

There is talk that Shelby could retire in two years and losing his chairmanship could guarantee that happens, which would have a huge impact on the federal dollars the senator brings to Alabama. Shelby has been one of the most influential senators in the state’s history, so the consequences of his losing his chairmanship and potential retirement are not understated.

Thus, what happens on January 5 will not only impact Georgia and the Senate but Alabama as well.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives

8 months ago

Nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court further cements support for Trump in Alabama

(White House/Flickr, Paul DeMarco/Facebook, Wikicommons, YHN)

It has been since 1976 when Alabama voters last selected a Democrat for president. While Alabama continued to vote for Democrats at the local level, the state’s electors have sent their votes to the Republican nominee for the past 10 presidential election cycles. Since 2004, the Republican nominee has won by over 20 percentage points.

In 2016, Donald Trump captured the Alabama vote by a 28% margin. There is no question Alabama voters will return to the polls again to support President Trump in his bid for reelection as well.

Alabama is a majority conservative state, but Trump has captured the enthusiasm of Alabama Republican voters like no candidate before. He is able to connect with the state’s men and women on the issues that matter to them. And in Alabama, faith and patriotism are held sacred by those who live in our state.

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Yet, his nomination of conservative judges from top to bottom has also him earned loyalty from the Yellowhammer State.

Thus, President’s Trump pick of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is what Alabama wants to see in federal judges.

Judge Barrett is a daughter of the South, a woman of strong faith, a former law clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia and a strict constructionist who looks at the original intent of the United States Constitution. She will be President Trump’s third nomination to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

The confirmation of the Judge by the Senate will soon begin and Alabama voters will want her approved by the full Senate soon. Alabama Senator Doug Jones’ pledge to oppose her nomination will further alienate him from the state’s voters.

As for Trump, elevating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court further adds another feather in his cap for his support here in Alabama.

And it will be reflected at the polls during the November 3 presidential election.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives

8 months ago

Alabama Court System about to resume jury trials after six month delay

(Pixabay, Paul Demarco/Facebook, YHN)

Throughout the pandemic, most of Alabama state government has continued to operate.

There are still state troopers patrolling the highways, elections held, unemployment compensation paid and the state parks have stayed open in a limited manner. Roads are still being paved and the state offices have been back up and running this summer.

Yet, one of the most important functions of any government has been on hold since the pandemic started and that is jury trials in the Alabama Court System.

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The past six months have seen the halt of jury trials to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but on September 14, the Alabama Supreme Court is allowing jury trials to proceed forward. There will be a lot of discretion given on a county by county basis on what happens at the local courthouses, including the wearing of masks, gloves, and distancing procedures.

Some counties are proceeding forward, while others will continue to delay jury trials. Criminal trials will be the priority for some circuits in the foreseeable future.

Even with the Court allowing jury trials to proceed, the question will be whether citizens will answer those summons and will they feel safe to serve on a jury. For those individuals who are summoned to serve on a jury, judges will maintain the discretion to excuse or defer an individual’s service.

For the justice system to operate fairly, it is important to return to allowing juries to convene and hear cases. However, it must be done in a manner that is safe for not only the judge and jury, but also to everyone in the courtroom from the prosecutors to the bailiffs and court reporters.

Let’s hope we can get back to the judicial branch operating as fully as it was before the pandemic, but in a safe manner for all involved.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives

11 months ago

While Alabama mourns another police officer killed in the line of duty, citizens must support law enforcement

(WVTM, Paul DeMarco/Facebook

With all that the nation and state have been through recently, what we cannot forget is another tragic murder of an Alabama police officer.

Moody Police Sergeant Stephen Williams was shot and killed in the line of duty two weeks ago after responding to a 911 call. Williams was posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

Over the past 16 months, there have been nine members of state law enforcement that have been killed in the line of duty, an unprecedented and tragic number for Alabama.

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Violent attacks against public safety have not only increased across the nation these past few weeks, but years. Look at the attacks across our country that have left police officers injured and families suffering.

In addition, the violent rhetoric against police officers has gotten worse with some elected officials tacitly broad brushing the actions of some for all of law enforcement. Many cities around the country are now looking at defunding police office departments and reducing the number of officers. This misguided approach will harm those communities more vulnerable to the criminal element as police have less officers and tools to devote to the hardest-hit areas. We have seen what happens when police are not allowed to patrol, the void is filled with those that want to victimize innocent residents of those neighborhoods. Crime rates around the country have shot up and will continue to increase with efforts to limit the ability of police to protect the public.

Alabama citizens must work with state leaders to partner with public safety to protect against further violence that threaten those on the thin blue line. While other cities and states work against police, Alabama must ensure officers are given the resources to protect themselves and our communities.

Officers in Alabama have been vigilant and professional in the face of unprecedented pressure and they deserve our support now more than ever.

Other states may do differently, but Alabama must work harder to support law enforcement.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives

1 year ago

Alabama leaders must include small business owners in pandemic recovery policy

(Paul Demarco/Facebook)

As we watch the pandemic’s effect on public health, we pray first and foremost for scientists and physicians to find medications to treat the sick and prevent the healthy from falling ill. From UAB to the University of South Alabama Medical Center, Alabamians are not only helping those afflicted but seeking cures to this pandemic and we pray they’re successful.

Public safety and the well being of each American citizen regardless of age must be the number one priority for our elected officials at the state and national level. Yet, state leaders should also be thinking ahead to the eventual recovery to follow the defeat of the virus and plan accordingly.

In addition to the health crisis, the nation is also watching the devastation on the United States economy. President Donald Trump and congressional leaders have moved forward with legislation to attempt to mitigate the resulting damage to employers, employees and the markets.

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Yet, small business owners like Terry Humphryes, the owner of Billy’s Bar & Grill with locations in Jefferson and Tuscaloosa Counties, are working hard to survive the impact on their businesses. He has had to balance keeping his employees on the payroll, while also dealing with the impact of new regulations related to unemployment compensation and the Family Medical Leave Act effect on his restaurant. In addition, he has employees who now have children at home because schools are closed for the rest of the academic year. Mr. Humphryes’ story is the story of countless small business owners across our state facing uncertainty.

Most small business owners are dealing with the burden of being closed, while some larger competitors have remained opened. Small business proprietors are struggling to plan for the future without knowing when they will be allowed to reopen. Finally, business owners are uncertain as to what financial relief they may get to maintain or restart their companies.

Governor Ivey rightly created a state task force to immediately address public health due to the COVID-19 virus. The governor should now appoint a task force of those in the business and financial industry to address the state’s economic health as well. Stakeholders in the business community need to make recommendations on how the state handles the current economic crisis and moves forward in the future once we get this pandemic behind us.

It is critical small business owners be part of the discussions on how the state reacted during this crisis so that we will be better prepared for these situations in a future pandemic.

It is important for all of us to remember that small business owners employ the majority of Alabama working citizens. It is key to our economic recovery that the policymakers hear directly from those on the front line of the small business world.

Our nation will heal and Alabama has the ability to return to its strong economic success if we work together to support our neighbors. Let’s include everyone in putting those plans in place now for the benefit of its citizens so our actions in crisis are a model to the nation.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives