The Wire

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

3 weeks ago

Less outrage, more leadership

(I. Omar/Facebook, APT/YouTube, YHN)

Time and again over the past few years, we have witnessed a disturbing trend among liberals, namely that if you don’t agree with their positions that you are to be silenced, boycotted, or removed. This past weekend, the Executive Committee of the Alabama Republican Party jumped into the liberal playbook feet first when it passed a resolution calling for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to be ousted from Congress.

As I write this, I imagine that some of my GOP brethren around the State are slack jawed that I would say such a thing. So, before you espouse my demise as a conservative, let’s be clear: I am an individual with unquestioned credentials as a conservative, a Christian and a Republican. I find Congresswoman Omar to be generally reprehensible, a fomenter of chaos, and a person with whom I have yet to find agreement. I also find her opinions to be protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution……and that, my conservative friends, is what really matters.

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Winston Churchill, never one to mince words, said “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.” What we need is less outrage, and more leadership with willingness to debate.

It wasn’t so long ago that In-and-Out Burger was threatened with a boycott for supporting Republicans. Chick-Fil-A has often faced criticism and threats for standing for their corporate Christian culture. Entire States, including the great State of Alabama, have been the subject of proposed travel bans and business exodus for daring to stand for the rights of the unborn. All of these examples, and more, exist in current lexicon and were rebuffed by conservatives, including the ALGOP. And then, in a fit of hypocrisy, members of the same party, who withstood those similar attacks, cast aside any notion of constitutional protection and called for a duly elected representative from Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District to be thrown out of Congress altogether for her liberal views.

Justice Antonin Scalia, arguably one of the most conservative jurists of our time, considered the notion of content discrimination a matter of strict scrutiny on the question of freedom of speech. Referring to this principle as the “first axiom” of First Amendment law, Scalia stated, “The point of the First Amendment is that majority preferences must be expressed in some fashion other than silencing speech on the basis of its content.”

Let’s be real here….conservatives don’t generally like Representative Omar. I get it. The answer to that is to debate on the merits of our own position. Say what you want on your social media, or around the water cooler. Heck, we can even travel to Minnesota and campaign for her opposition. I suspect her public image is actually going to implode on its own. But, the idea that a group of Alabama hecklers are going to have her thrown out of office is not only ludicrous, and beneath what we stand for, it is antithetical to the foundations of this great experiment we call a representative democracy.

I’m not afraid of Ilhan Omar. I’d be proud to debate rings around her in a public forum. But, like many others, I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. And that same Constitution affords a voice to all, not just to some.

Phil Williams is director of policy strategy at the Alabama Policy Institute and a former state senator from Gadsden. Follow him on Twitter at @SenPhilWilliams and visit alabamapolicy.org.

6 months ago

Gas tax: The good, the bad and the ugly

(Pixabay, YHN)

The increased gas tax became law this week amid much Goat Hill fanfare, reminding me of a Clint Eastwood line from an epic western: “I’ve never seen so many men wasted so badly.”

The Alabama Policy Institute has said for weeks that improved state infrastructure is important, but that conservative principles must guide the increase: taxes should be the last resort, reforms should maximize every tax penny we already have and offsets should come with any tax increase.

We weren’t alone – recent polling showed a majority of Alabamians agreed, and the Alabama Republican Party passed a resolution to not support the increase unless it came with offsets.

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What the state received instead was a mix of good, bad and ugly.

Let’s start with the ugly: a special session on day one that all but ensured that the tax would pass due to the lowered bar of votes required.

The tactic also ensured that a minimum amount of debate would occur and that the one-third of the legislature who are new would have little time to gather their momentum and deal with the landslide of pressure from tax supporters inside the Montgomery bubble.

The special session undermined true representative government.

Also ugly: the rhetoric and hyperbole used by tax increase advocates. After hearing death and destruction zombie apocalypse claims about Alabama’s infrastructure, it’s a surprise any of us would venture onto the highways and byways of Alabama.

Everyone agrees that infrastructure can always be improved, but please save the rhetoric next time.

Now for the “bad,” which is a little better than ugly.

API called for some easily attainable reforms, chiefly, that Alabama has to stop sending money from the current Road and Bridge Fund to other state departments. Each year, an average of $63 million dollars in existing road funds are diverted to non-road expenses.

Governor Kay Ivey announced in her State of the State address that, in the budget process, she will ask for $30 million of those funds to stop being drained. Her call is a good first step, but the legislature carries the power of the purse and API calls upon them to completely end this diversion.

Also bad: The gas tax was set on autopilot because of a never-ending indexation. Every two years into perpetuity, the gas tax could go up by another cent without the Legislature ever having to debate this issue again.

An indexed tax with no potential end creates something akin to taxation without representation because no elected official will ever vote on it – and be held responsible for it – again.

Never let it be said that API can’t find a diamond in the rough, so let’s call out the “good.”

The legislature will provide increased oversight of ALDOT, so now Alabama will have a representative means of holding ALDOT accountable for the use of road and bridge funds.

It was also good that the increased use of electric and hybrid vehicles was included in the debate.

And one amendment did make it onto the tax bill that allows for a more competitive bid process between asphalt and concrete. Too often Alabama has chosen one kind of road surface based only on the up-front construction costs as opposed to the price of long term sustainment. That changes for the better now.

Lastly, it was very good to see the “no” votes, which shows there was at least some debate, and the efforts made toward amending the legislation.

There were senators and representatives who should be applauded for trying to remove the perpetual indexing of the tax, to reform our current budgeting to stop draining the Road and Bridge Fund and to give the poor and middle class a tax offset to lessen the gas tax blow. All of those attempted amendments can and should be brought forward into the regular session as stand-alone bills and budget appropriations.

API knows well that there are many conservatives in the Alabama legislature and we see more opportunity ahead to let that show. It is API’s strongest hope that the legislature will not set this issue aside in the regular session and will show the people of Alabama more good, less bad and ugly.

Phil Williams is director of policy strategy for the Alabama Policy Institute and a former state senator from Rainbow City.