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.

2 hours ago

Rebuild Alabama projects keep coming: Hwy 82 in Prattville and Hwy 411 in Cherokee County

(YHN, Pixabay)

Announcements of Rebuild Alabama infrastructure projects are starting to become an everyday occurrence.

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday outlined that the Alabama Department of Transportation has selected major transportation projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan 2020.

“Drivers across Alabama have experienced the troubles of the state’s crumbling infrastructure for far too long. In selecting these projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties, we’re showing that stagnation is no longer the case in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement. “For the ease of our drivers, for the safety of our drivers and for the future of our state, it’s finally time we Rebuild Alabama!”

This comes after announcements of significant projects for the Huntsville area and Tuscaloosa in recent days.

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In a cluster of Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan projects, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 82 in Prattville, a project that this area has long been awaiting for over 60 years. These enhancements to US 82 will shorten the daily commute of over 17,000 drivers and also complete the Prattville Bypass, according to the governor’s office.

Additionally, the widening of US 82 will improve access for loggers traveling to the International Paper plant from 18 Alabama counties. Six hundred workers from 23 Alabama counties will reportedly find increased ease in their work commutes, as this project improves access to the James Hardie Building Projects Facility and the other companies in the area.

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), who carried the Rebuild Alabama Act in the Senate, lauded the announcement as a huge win for jobs and the community. He also emphasized that these types of projects will ultimately be transformational for the Yellowhammer State.

“These are the first steps of many that will begin the process of Rebuild Alabama. Industry is a backbone of our economic engine, and I am pleased that Governor Ivey is moving Alabama forward with these improvements,” Chambliss remarked. “I firmly believe that we will look back on 2019 as a turning point in the history of our state.”

State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville), who represents this project’s district in the House, voted against the Rebuild Alabama Act. A freshman legislator, he is currently considering a run for the U.S. Senate, as reported by Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “The Insider.”

‘Long-awaited’ project for a rural part of Alabama

In Cherokee County, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 411 as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan.

“The widening of US 411 has been long-awaited by the folks of Cherokee and Etowah counties, and it is vital for the economic development of this area,” State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) said. “As we begin to see dividends from the Rebuild Alabama Act, I once again thank Governor Ivey for her leadership in its passage and look forward to continually working together in the future.”

Cherokee County is one of 16 Alabama counties currently not served by a four-lane route to an interstate. This Rebuild Alabama project will fulfill a promise that the people of this area have waited for since the early 1960s.

“I appreciate and support Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama plan, including investing in rural districts,” State Rep. Ginny Shaver (R-Leesburg) said. “Four lane access to the interstate will greatly increase economic development opportunities for new and existing industry in our area. The people have been waiting decades for this project to be completed, and Governor Ivey is the one who is getting it done!”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 hours ago

Ad challenges Doug Jones on assertion that Boston Marathon Bomber should be allowed to vote while in jail

(Doug Jones for Senate/Facebook)

Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) partisan pledge to back whomever the Democrats nominate against President Donald Trump in 2020 is already manifesting itself as a major political – and policy – blunder by the incumbent from Mountain Brook as Jones seeks re-election of his own.

Hours after the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) erected an Alabama billboard tying Jones to far-left “socialist” healthcare plans, a new video ad was released challenging Jones to answer whether he agrees with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), two leading contenders for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nomination, when they said during a CNN town hall Monday evening that the Boston Marathon Bomber and all other U.S. citizens currently serving domestic prison sentences should be allowed to vote.

Watch:

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This is not the only radical policy issue that Jones has tacitly promised to support with his blanket presidential pledge, nor could it be the last.

Expect to see Republicans continue to tie Jones to national Democratic ideas that the clear majority of Alabamians disagree with. In 2016, Trump beat Hillary Clinton 62.9 percent to 34.6 percent, which was a difference of almost 600,000 votes.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Major bills to get committee hearings on Tuesday

(State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY — Tuesday is expected to be an interesting day in the Alabama legislature, as respective bills dealing with the lottery and constitutional carry are set to receive committee consideration.

State Sen. Greg Albritton’s (R-Range) lottery bill – SB 220 – and State Sen. Gerald Allen’s (R-Tuscaloosa) bill eliminating firearm permit requirements – SB 4 – are on the Senate Tourism Committee’s meeting agenda for 2:00 p.m. You can listen live here.

Additionally, State Sen. Cam Ward’s (R-Alabaster) open records reform bill, SB 237, is on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee’s meeting agenda for 1:00 p.m. Listen live to that here.

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Both meetings are in room 825 of the State House.

SB 220 and SB 4 have each received a public hearing in recent weeks.

SB 4’s public hearing was in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 220 is the only clean lottery legislation that has been filed this session.

SB 237 is known as the “Alabama Open Records Act.” State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) is carrying the bill in the House.

The House will gavel in at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, while the Senate will begin its legislative day at 3:00 p.m.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

20 hours ago

Del Marsh not running for U.S. Senate in 2020

(Del Marsh/Facebook)

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has confirmed to Yellowhammer News that he will not run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2020.

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This came after The Anniston Star published an interview Monday evening with Marsh saying, “I’m not running.”

Marsh, who has been one of Alabama’s most powerful people since the Republican takeover of the state legislature in 2010, was rumored for months to be a leading contender for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination this cycle.

However, Yellowhammer News had reported in recent weeks online and on WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show” that Marsh had become significantly less likely to mount a bid.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) also confirmed recently that he will not run for Jones’ seat in 2020.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville are the only announced Republican candidates thus far.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

20 hours ago

Report: Doug Jones hires prominent pro-choice adviser as campaign manager

(J.Poor/YHN)

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has picked a campaign manager for his 2020 re-election bid.

According to National Journal’s Zach Cohen, Jones has hired Cory Warfield, a Democratic operative known best perhaps for being a former adviser to Emily’s List.

Based in Washington, D.C., Emily’s List succinctly describes its mission as, “We ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office.”

The group lobbies for “abortion rights,” spending tens of millions in major election cycles to advance its cause.

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Warfield confirmed the report on Twitter, while also using the opportunity to fundraise for Jones.

The new campaign manager also formerly ran Nevada’s 2016 Democratic presidential caucus.

This comes after Jones only raised 12 percent of his funds from Alabama donors in the first quarter of 2019.

The incumbent junior senator continues to draw heavy criticism for his coziness with D.C. special interest groups and national Democrats.

RELATED: Doug Jones touts support of abortion rights — ‘I am in favor of a woman’s freedom to choose’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

22 hours ago

Montgomery wins international ‘Smart City’ competition

Savio Dias, the Montgomery City/County IT Manager accepted the honor on behalf of the team during the Smart Cities Council’s annual conference and awards ceremony in San Diego. (Contributed)

The City of Montgomery last week was named one of five winners of the prestigious Smart Cities Readiness Challenge competition thanks to the collaborative efforts of Alabama Power Company, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the city, the county, Montgomery Public Schools and military and other national defense partners.

The international competition was hosted by the Smart Cities Council and will garner global recognition, new development opportunities and access to a special year-long technology program for Alabama’s capital city

“This is another special moment – a watershed day – for our community signifying our success in capitalizing on the opportunities for growth and economic development that come through the advancement of technology across our city,” Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said in a statement Monday announcing the win.

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“But what’s even more important is our resolve to adopt practical high-tech solutions that better serve residents, add to our quality of life and expand access to the tools and technology needed for future success. We are grateful to our partners who raised their hands to join us in this venture,” the mayor added.

Montgomery formed a Smart City Committee specifically to steer the application process for the competition. The city’s application provided an overview of up-and-running projects, like the Smart City Living Lab, Star Watch, Rubicon and Open Data Montgomery, as well as future plans to use technology to impact residents – including providing free Wi-Fi access to all Montgomery students by upgrading infrastructure at local community centers.

“This award underscores recent technology and data-driven initiatives advancing Montgomery as a major player in the Smart City movement,” City IT Manager and Smart City Committee Coordinator Savio Dias said. “It also builds on our current momentum in the Smart City space, carrying it forward into the future through strategic planning.”

TechMGM, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s initiative to connect and leverage the city’s unique technology assets, was proud to partner with the entire team that worked for weeks to put the application together. TechMGM and the local chamber said that they are eager to continue to promote and invest in smart city initiatives with their many community partners.

“Montgomery is maximizing and refining the region’s existing infrastructure and physical and intellectual resources to establish innovation strategies that continue to drive demand for the city as a long-term sustainable location for investment,” TechMGM Executive Director Charisse Stokes said. “Receiving this honor reinforces our strategy to make Montgomery a smarter place to live and work.”

While vying with more than 100 major cities — as large and geographically diverse as Dallas, TX, and Jersey City, NJ — Montgomery impressed the Smart Cities Council by demonstrating a concise vision for incorporating innovative data-driven approaches in multiple projects, as well as shoring up efforts to enhance communication and collaboration with its team of regional stakeholders and community partners.

As a winner, Montgomery will receive a full-year Readiness Program, including mentoring, an outcome-oriented Readiness Workshop, a Readiness Roadmap based on its priorities and regular progress calls and follow-up workshops. Montgomery will also receive nationwide publicity as a great place to live and work, plus travel scholarships to Smart Cities Week twice per year to continue learning. To top it off, the city and its partners get access to financiers who can structure public/private partnerships and other forms of alternative financing.

Officials see this competition result as essential to attracting potential job creators and expanding the city’s high-tech workforce, according to the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

The four other winners were Baltimore, MD; Edmonton, Canada; Racine, WI, and Cleantech San Diego (San Diego, CA).

This competition victory and award marks yet another technology honor for Montgomery this fiscal year. The city earned two Smart 50 Awards from Smart Cities Connect in January and the Digital Cities Survey Award by the Center for Digital Government in November.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Another Rebuild Alabama Act project confirmed: Tuscaloosa’s McFarland Blvd to be expanded

(Rebuild Alabama/Twitter)

Major infrastructure projects made possible by the recently passed Rebuild Alabama Act continue to solidify, as what used to be pipe dreams are now becoming reality.

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that the Alabama Department of Transportation is purchasing the right of way for the expansion of McFarland Boulevard (US 82) in Tuscaloosa from State Route 69 to Rice Mine Road, as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan 2020.

This is one of west Alabama’s busiest stretches of roadway, with the governor’s office advising that over 50,000 trips per day are made on this main east/west corridor through Tuscaloosa.

“Enhancing this particular section of US 82 will provide safer and more efficient travel on one of Alabama’s busiest four-lane roads,” Ivey said in a statement. “Tuscaloosa is a city known for how it has rebuilt itself, and with these necessary infrastructure projects, we will see this area thrive even more. Tuscaloosa and the surrounding areas will certainly have a better future for it.”

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This is a two-phase project. Following the acquisition in the first year, construction will begin in the second year.

State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), who sponsored the Rebuild Alabama Act in the legislature, thanked the governor for her leadership, as did Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox. Maddox, as the Democrats’ nominee, faced off against Ivey in the 2018 general election.

“I would like to thank Governor Ivey for her leadership to help our state improve its public safety, offer a better quality of life for our citizens and provide opportunities for future prosperity,” Poole said.

He emphasized, “This infrastructure investment will have a positive impact for not only ourselves, but also our children and grandchildren. Tuscaloosa and the surroundings areas will benefit greatly from this project on Highway 82.”

Maddox highlighted the overwhelming, bipartisan manner in which the legislation passed.

“Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama Act passed with bipartisan support because job creation requires roads and bridges with the capacity to connect the present to the future,” Maddox said. “Tuscaloosa appreciates the governor’s leadership in securing this critical investment in the First Year Plan, and we look forward to working with her in strengthening our city.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Billboard slams Doug Jones’ pledge to support ‘socialist’ Dem candidates against Trump

Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate election is off and running.

On Monday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) put up the first billboard in the Yellowhammer State during this important cycle, as they look to oust the incumbent from Mountain Brook, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).

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The billboard can be found in Birmingham along I-59, near Roebuck Plaza where the interstate crosses over Highway 11.

It reads, “Doug Jones silent as 2,472,100 Alabamians would lose their private health insurance.”

This builds off of Jones’ blanket pledge to support the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nominee, despite many of the candidates embracing far-left policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. The billboard specifically references Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) plan that would end private health insurance for 2,472,100 Alabamians.

“Doug Jones will not get a pass from voters as he has pledged to support socialist candidates for president who would eliminate private health insurance for 2,472,100 Alabamians,” NRSC spokesperson Nathan Brand told Yellowhammer News. “Alabama voters will retire Doug Jones because they know he has consistently opposed President Trump and his agenda when it matters most.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville are currently the only announced Republican candidates against Jones.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Alabama House passes bill to toughen sexual abuse sentencing

(S.Ross/YHN)

The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday passed State Rep. Matt Simpson’s (R-Daphne) bill that would alter certain sexual abuse sentencing in the Yellowhammer State.

HB 237 deals with second-degree sexual abuse, which is currently a Class A misdemeanor. Simpson’s bill would elevate the crime to a Class C felony if the victim is 12 to 15 years old and is at least 15 years younger than the offender. A Class C felony carries with it a penalty of between one year and 10 years in jail.

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As a former assistant district attorney for Baldwin and Mobile Counties who dealt with child sex crimes, Simpson explained that his bill came from his full, firsthand understanding of the necessity for stricter sentencing for those who commit sexual abuse on young people.

“This is a simple bill to understand – if you commit sexual abuse on someone 15 years younger than you, there are going to be serious additional consequences,” he said in a statement.

“This bill helps protect our children and makes sure we’re punishing people who would seek to harm them,” Simpson added. “Keeping them behind bars for the crimes they’ve committed against children keeps our streets safer and helps give all of us greater peace of mind.”

The bill is on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s meeting agenda for Wednesday. Simpson said he is working with senators from around the state to make sure the bill passes through that chamber.

“This is common sense legislation that helps keep all of our children and grandchildren safe,” Simpson concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Connie Rowe is a 2019 Woman of Impact

(C. Rowe/Contributed)

A woman of faith. A great friend, wife and mother. A powerful legislator. A career law enforcement officer. A trailblazer.

Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) is many things to many different people around Alabama.

However, throughout all of her roles and responsibilities, intertwined with a multitude of exemplary traits, is the unmistakable fact that Rowe is a leader.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R- Monrovia) remarked to Yellowhammer News, “From her first moments as a member of the Alabama House, Rep. Connie Rowe set herself apart as a leader and as someone whose words would be respected and appreciated by her colleagues. Those same leadership skills allowed her to become the first female police chief in Jasper, Alabama.”

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‘Challenges? I think all people face challenges’

Rowe is also someone who embraces challenges and has turned the hurdles that come with being a woman in a historically male career field into opportunities, shattering glass ceilings at every step along the way.

“Challenges? I think all people face challenges in their career paths. Your male colleagues are also subject to the pace and progressiveness of your leadership,” she told Yellowhammer News when asked about some unique obstacles that she has faced in leadership.

Advising that there undoubtedly “are some challenges unique to women working in male-dominated fields like law enforcement and in the political arena,” she shared her outlook on dealing with them.

“In 1984 when I joined Jasper Police Department as a nightshift Patrol Officer, my training officer informed me I had been assigned to him because none of the other seasoned officers wanted to deal with a 21-year-old female rookie,” Rowe reminisced. “He used that circumstance to challenge himself and motivate me. It worked in a positive way for both of us. I acknowledged him the day I was sworn in as Chief of Police for the City of Jasper.”

From a rookie officer no one wanted as a partner to becoming the City of Jasper’s first ever female police chief in 2011, Rowe has come a long way. It was not easy, but with her mentality and trademark toughness, the sky has always been the limit for her ascent.

However, even after she reached the top of her profession, Rowe still had naysayers when running for the Alabama House of Representatives for the first time in 2014.

She said, “Thirty years later on a Saturday morning in 2014, I was campaigning in a rural community for my first election to the House of Representatives and experienced similar sentiment. I approached an older gentleman at a curb market and gave him my best campaign pitch. I kept talking hoping I could change the blank expression on his face. When I finally ran out of words, he continued to stare for a moment then shared with me his vision of where I should be and what I should be worried about.”

“Bless him,” Rowe continued. “He’s somewhere being him, and I’m in Montgomery being me. Again, it worked out well for us both.”

“The point of sharing both of those situations is that they are understandable when a woman emerges in a new arena and that they did not deter me from moving forward,” she emphasized.

Making history time after time

Rowe is proud of some of the “firsts” she has been able to achieve in the state, humbly adding, “I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to hold some first female posts. I’m grateful for those opportunities.”

In addition to her Jasper Police Department trailblazing, Rowe was the first female investigator to ever serve the Walker County District Attorney’s Office (14th Judicial Circuit), doing so from 1988-2010.

Then, her election to serve the citizens of House District Thirteen in 2014 broke down another barrier, as did her election as vice chair of the Alabama House Republican Caucus in 2016, which made her the first female in state history to hold a GOP caucus-elected leadership position.

McCutcheon advised, “The respect and admiration that Rep. Rowe commands from her fellow Republicans is evidenced by the fact that she was elected to serve as vice chair of the House Republican Caucus while still a freshman member.”

Perhaps what makes her most proud is the knowledge that more young women will see these types of opportunities as real possibilities for themselves.

Rowe said, “Seeing a woman do something that historically has only been done by a man unlocks that role in the mind of all watching.”

‘A public servant who cares deeply about her constituents’

In the legislature, Rowe – in addition to continuing her service as GOP caucus vice chair – is the vice chair of both the powerful House Rules Committee and the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. She also holds seats on the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, the House State Government Committee and the House Internal Affairs Committee, which is responsible for disciplining members who violate chamber rules and handling other matters related to the body’s operations.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) told Yellowhammer News, “I first came to know Connie Rowe when we served together in the Alabama House, and it has been my honor to bear firsthand witness to her effectiveness as a lawmaker and as a public servant who cares deeply about her constituents.”

One of her biggest lasting legacies in the legislature, Ainsworth said, will be that Rowe “passed landmark legislation that makes it easier for military veterans to gain employment.”

Indeed, her time serving the public has been marked with numerous tangible accomplishments that advanced the safety and wellbeing of the community, both in the state house and in law enforcement.

Ainsworth extolled her “efforts to combat crime, protect the public, and uphold the law,” while highlighting her “tireless” advocacy for victims.

At the end of the day, Rowe said, “I think Jasper Police Department was in better shape the day I left than what I found the day I walked into the building.”

“We developed a well-trained Critical Incident Response Team following Sandy Hook that included deep involvement with the local school system. Another contributing circumstance is that I was also able to prepare and present a case on one of my officers that resulted in his federal prosecution. That resolution eliminated an element of corruption that existed within the department before my tenure began,” she outlined.

Rowe has also been a leading authority on domestic violence related-crimes for decades.

She explained, “Earlier in my law enforcement career, I authored and developed a domestic violence curriculum that is used in all law enforcement academies in the state. From 1988 until 2010, I conducted law enforcement trainings in the public law enforcement academies as well as regional trainings in the subject areas of DV, Sex Crimes and Crime Victims Rights on behalf of the Alabama Peace Officers and Training Commission and the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence.”

‘What a wonderful world this would be’

Perhaps the most personally rewarding part of her career journey has been positively influencing those around her, Rowe said.

“Leadership roles give you opportunities to impact the path of others,” she advised. “I think the most important leadership responsibility is to help the people around you develop to their greatest potential. I’ve had that experience while leading a police department and as an elected official. Grabbing the hand of another person and hoisting them up in this world is rewarding. If we all did that continuously, what a wonderful world this would be.”

McCutcheon reflected, “There is no doubt that Connie Rowe is a ‘woman of impact’ because I know she has positively impacted my life and the lives of all of those around her.  She is most definitely deserving of this fine honor.”

And, with all that she has done and continues to do in the public sphere, Rowe has always had her priorities straight: Faith, family and friends.

“I am proud to know Connie Rowe and am humbled to be her friend because she truly personifies the words in Matthew 5:16, which read, ‘…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,’” Ainsworth lauded.

“Without a doubt,” Rowe said, her biggest accomplishment in life, “is bringing a child into this world.”

“The miraculous way in which children come into our lives and the responsibility we bear in raising them in this world are, to me, the most important role we serve in as women,” she added.

To all those aspiring girls out there looking to make their own way as a leader, Rowe offered some powerful advice.

“Don’t let the world define you. Define yourself, because even people who love you may not realize who you are capable of being,” she emphasized. “Remember that seeking equality doesn’t mean you want to be treated special and specific to your gender. It, in fact, means the exact opposite.”

Rowe concluded, “Leadership is organic for some and a hard fought battle for others. Find your spot and become relevant to what draws your interest. Leaders are essential at every level of a successful process. And finally, rely upon the fact that God has a plan. Lend yourself to it.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Connie Rowe a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

4 days ago

AG Steve Marshall shuts down alleged ‘human traffickers’ masquerading as massage parlors in north Alabama

(AG Marshall/Facebook)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is proving his staunch commitment to combatting human trafficking in the state.

On Friday, the attorney general’s office announced that the Madison County Circuit Court has granted a request by Marshall for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against a chain of north Alabama massage businesses that he said was actually operating a human-trafficking enterprise.

TY Green’s Massage Therapy, Inc., its owner Yuping Tang, its manager Jiao Liu (who is her daughter) and their four businesses are now barred from conducting business in Alabama by the TRO. The businesses operate in Huntsville under the names “Health Massage and Massage Foot Care” and in Madison and Decatur under the name “Massage Foot Care.”

All assets have been frozen, and a receiver was appointed by the court to take control of the businesses until a preliminary injunction hearing can be held.

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This is a historic legal milestone, marking the first civil action taken under the new civil enforcement provision to Alabama’s human- trafficking law. The complaint also alleges violations of Alabama’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“Alabama’s new law provides a valuable tool to more effectively fight human traffickers and restore dignity and freedom to their victims,” Marshall said in a statement. “With this civil action, we were able to respond to the dire urgency of the situation, shut down the trafficking operation, rescue the victims, and preserve assets that can be used to help those who have been harmed.

In his legal complaint, Marshall told the court that “evidence collected during this investigation has revealed that the Defendants are running illicit massage businesses that serve as fronts for a human-trafficking operation. In the Defendants’ organization, the ‘employees’ work incredibly long hours during which at least some of them are expected to engage in sex acts with the businesses’ customers. When the victims are not ‘working,’ they seem to have little freedom of movement, they are transported in groups to and from the Defendants’ businesses and are kept in houses owned by the Defendants where they are left to eat and sleep in terrible conditions. The Defendants, on the other hand, have reaped millions of dollars in revenue from their businesses, and the Attorney General now brings this action in order to put an end to their conduct and protect their victims from further harm.”

This immediate civil court action was crucial, the attorney general explained, to keep the defendants from moving and hiding their victims, as well as to stop disposal or transfer of assets. In addition to financial accounts, the defendants’ business premises and residences have been seized.

Marshall has further asked the court to permanently shut down the defendants’ human-trafficking network and grant monetary damages as restitution for its victims.

Marshall thanked all agencies involved in the investigation of this case, including the following: the Alabama Board of Massage Therapy; the Alabama Departments of Labor and Revenue; the Morgan and Madison county district attorneys’ offices; the Madison, Huntsville and Decatur police departments, the Madison City Attorney’s Office, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the National Children’s Advocacy Center and the Alabama Fusion Center.

The victims are of Chinese nationality. Information is not available at this time about how many victims there are. For safety reasons, their whereabouts may not be disclosed.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Employment records ‘shattered’ after another historic month

(YHN/Pixabay)

The number of people counted as employed in the Yellowhammer State is once again at a record high under Governor Kay Ivey’s Administration.

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington made the announcement in a statement on Friday.

“Once again, we’ve shattered employment records in Alabama,” Washington said. “More people are working now than ever before in Alabama’s history. Employers are continuing to post jobs, companies are moving operations, and our existing businesses are expanding, all of which is great news for Alabamians.”

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2,132,578 people were counted as employed in March, up from 2,127,676 in February, and up 28,953 from March 2018’s count of 2,103,625.

Additionally, Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted March unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, unchanged from February and remaining at a record low, and well below March 2018’s rate of 4.0 percent.

The current rate represents 82,368 unemployed persons, compared to 88,723 in March 2018.

And the good news does not end there.

“We’re seeing great growth in some of our high wage sectors as well,” Washington advised. “Building construction employment has increased by nearly 11 percent over the year, and aerospace parts and manufacturing is right behind it with more than 10 percent growth.”

Building construction employment increased to 21,200 in March, representing a yearly growth of 10.99 percent, while aerospace products and parts manufacturing employment increased to 13,100, representing a yearly growth of 10.08 percent.

Wage and salary employment increased over the year by 33,200. Sectors showing the most over-the-year growth were: leisure and hospitality (+5,900), professional and business services (+5,600) and manufacturing (+4,700), among others.

Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+3,400), the construction sector (+2,500) and the professional and business services sector (+2,000), among others.

Construction sector weekly earnings also showed tremendous growth over-the-month, rising to a record high of $1010.21, representing a $61.39 increase from February, and marking the first time in history this sector’s average earnings exceeded $1000.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 2.8 percent; Marshall County at 3.2 percent; and Morgan, Madison, and Elmore Counties at 3.3 percent.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 8.4 percent; Lowndes County at 6.7 percent; and Clarke County at 6.5 percent.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Homewood and Northport at 2.6 percent; Hoover and Vestavia Hills at 2.7 percent; and Alabaster at 2.8 percent. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 7.5 percent; Prichard at 6.1 percent; and Anniston at 5.3 percent.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

South Alabama woman donates kidney to complete stranger (VIDEO)

(WKRG/YouTube)

Alabama’s people are truly one of a kind, and the story of Baldwin County’s Michelle Tesch is just the latest example of Yellowhammer State altruism.

As reported by WKRG, Tesch recently donated a kidney to Marlin Rodriguez of Louisiana.

What makes this selfless act even better?

Tesch had never met the man before she enthusiastically volunteered to “save [his] life.”

Watch WKRG’s report: 

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In a tweet, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) lauded Tesch’s “true, selfless generosity.”

“During the Easter season, we should all reflect on small ways we can make life a little better for our neighbors and even those we’ve never met,” he added.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Alabama House passes bill making murder of on-duty first responder a capital offense

(Pixabay)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday passed HB 59, a bill sponsored by State Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville) that would make killing an on-duty first responder a capital offense.

The vote was 94-0.

The bill adds on-duty first responders to the list of murder victims that constitutes a capital offense. State law already makes the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer or prison guard a capital offense. Capital offenses in Alabama are punishable by life in prison or death.

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Sells’ bill would also add on-duty law enforcement officers, prison guards and first responders as victims in the list of aggravating circumstances to a capital offense. This would make the death penalty more likely in the sentencing phase of this kind of capital offense.

In HB 59, first responders are defined as emergency medical services personnel licensed by the Alabama Department of Public Health and firefighters and volunteer firefighters as defined by existing state law.

Sells told Yellowhammer News, “I’m excited it went through as [quickly] as it did.”

The bill now goes to the Senate. Sells has sponsored this bill the past two legislative sessions, ever since the infamous deadly 2016 ambush of police officers in Dallas, TX. Last year, it passed the House and was the next bill up on the Senate calendar for a vote when the chamber adjourned sine die.

He told Yellowhammer News he has a different strategy of getting it through the Senate this year and is optimistic the bill will ultimately receive final passage by that chamber.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

ALGOP chair on Mueller report: ‘Shame on all who participated in this deplorable charade’

ALGOP Chairman Terry Lathan

After FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released on Thursday morning, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan concluded that it “confirms what we’ve known all along – no Russian collusion, no conspiracies and no White House interference.”

In a statement, the ALGOP chair continued, “In fact, the report shows complete cooperation by the White House which declined to use its executive privilege.”

Lathan said, “Since President Trump was elected by our nation’s citizens, Democrats and the mainstream media have spent their time making endless attacks on the president, spreading irresponsible propaganda and trying to manhandle a false narrative that they wanted. It’s been a shameful and despicable display of their agenda – destroy this presidency at all cost. No president, regardless of their party affiliation, should ever be put through these inexcusable actions.”

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“Shame on all who participated in this deplorable charade,” she concluded. “It’s time to stop focusing on these baseless accusations and get to work making America great again. President Trump’s policies are working and our historic economy shows it.”

RELATED: Alabama’s congressional delegation reacts to Mueller report: ‘Time to investigate the investigators’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Mueller report shows why Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself

(U.S. Southern Command, Aaron Harber/YouTube)

Even though President Donald Trump gave Jeff Sessions a lot of flack during his tenure as attorney general for recusing himself from the FBI special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election cycle, the Robert Mueller report’s release on Thursday shows why Sessions had an incontrovertible conflict of interest: He was personally under investigation by the special counsel’s office.

Pages 197-198 of the report detailed that the special counsel’s office investigated Sessions’ interactions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak in April, July and September 2016 when Sessions was still Alabama’s junior senator. Not only did they look into the interactions themselves, which Sessions has maintained did not relate to the Trump campaign, but the special counsel’s office examined whether Sessions committed perjury or made false statements to Congress in regards to these interactions.

Ultimately, they found Sessions’ explanation of his statements to be “plausible,” so there was “insufficient” evidence “to prove that Sessions was willingly untruthful in his answers.” Therefore, consistent with DOJ policy, the special counsel declined to prosecute Sessions and informed his attorney of that decision in March of 2018.

Read the relevant portion of the report for yourself:

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Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Alabama’s congressional delegation reacts to Mueller report release: ‘Time to investigate the investigators’

(Wikicommons, (WH/Flickr, US DOJ/Facebook)

Republican members of Alabama’s congressional delegation are celebrating after the public release of FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, with Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03) calling the investigation “tantamount to an attempted coup.”

Meanwhile, the two congressional Democrats from Alabama were silent immediately following the report’s release.

“It is worth reiterating that during the first two years of President Trump’s time in office, a witch hunt was led by the Mainstream Media and Deep State Democrats,” Rogers said in a statement. “Now that the Mueller Report has been publicly released, the truth can come to light. There was no collusion or obstruction.”

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He concluded, “It is time to investigate the investigators and see who was really behind what was tantamount to an attempted coup that was a waste of time and tax dollars.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) stated, “The full report from Bob Mueller’s investigation just reaffirmed the original summary report: there was no collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government. It must be remembered, this was the sole purpose of this investigation in the first place and the conclusion of that report is clear and unequivocal.”

Remainder of Aderholt’s statement as follows:

Even though many of my Democrat colleagues are grasping at straws as they try to relitigate this two year, 25-million-dollar, taxpayer funded investigation; it is clear by what we have learned today, that no credible evidence for any criminal wrongdoing was found.

There’s an old saying that the Democrats are proving true today: ‘if you cannot argue substance, then you argue process.’ The same Democrats who claimed Russian collusion was a ‘slam dunk,’ are now arguing that they don’t like the way the report that proves them wrong is being released.

I’m sure this full report will not end Democrat denial of the 2016 outcome. President Trump was elected in 2016 because candidate Trump’s message resonated with the American people. As President Trump moves forward, I hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle won’t continue to try to manufacture other investigations. We have a strong economy and Congress and the President need to work together to make it even stronger.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01), who is one of two declared Republican candidates against Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2020, said, “President Trump and Attorney General Barr should be commended for their unprecedented transparency in releasing Special Counsel Mueller’s report today. Finally, every last justification for Democrat grandstanding over imagined Russian collusion has been eliminated.”

“The charade is up. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. And there was no coverup. Robert Mueller had the full resources of the Department of Justice and was unable to find criminal activity. It is time to move on. I hope the Democrat majority in the House will move past this embarrassing chapter in our history, call off their phony investigations, and stop the partisan political messaging so we can address issues that truly will benefit the American people,” he added.

Update 2:15 p.m.:

Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05) released a statement, saying, “The perpetrators of this scam and fraud should be prosecuted and convicted to the full extent of the law. Further, they should be sued and forced to repay American taxpayers the tens of millions of tax dollars that were diverted from helping America citizens to investigating a crime that never occurred. Compared to Socialist Democrats and the Fake News Media, Jussie Smollett is a mere rookie and babe in the woods.”

Brooks’ full statement as follows:

As with the summary report of Attorney General Barr, today’s redacted Mueller Report once again debunks and exposes the Big Lie Propaganda Tactics of the Fake News Media and Socialist Democrats. The Mueller Report states, ‘The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.’ Simply put, case closed. President Trump has been totally vindicated of “Big Lie” claims that he illegally colluded with Russia in the 2016 elections. The American public has been subjected to this fraud and false reporting for 2 ½ years. The American public deserves better.

The Fake News Media’s coverage of the Russia Collusion delusion was endless, it even resulted in the staffs of the New York Times and The Washington Post receiving the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for National Reporting into the so-called ‘Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign.’ It’s a shame that the media will not be held accountable for their lies and fraudulent reporting. After today’s release of the Mueller Report, the Washington Post and New York Times should be forced to return their 2018 Pulitzer Prize because Robert Mueller has now confirmed the non-existence of any Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign or any other American.

If any of the Fake News Media’s allegations were credible then Special Counsel Mueller would have been able to substantiate those claims because he had massive and almost endless resources. For emphasis, the Special Counsel ‘employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, . . . and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.’ After tens of millions of wasted American tax dollars, the finding is succinct. ‘[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.’

This Socialist Democrats and Fake News Media’s scam and fraud has undermined public faith in our republic. The perpetrators of this scam and fraud should be prosecuted and convicted to the full extent of the law. Further, they should be sued and forced to repay American taxpayers the tens of millions of tax dollars that were diverted from helping America citizens to investigating a crime that never occurred. Compared to Socialist Democrats and the Fake News Media, Jussie Smollett is a mere rookie and babe in the woods.

This story may be updated as statements are released.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Trump approves major disaster declaration for Alabama

(WH/Flickr)

President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday declared that a major disaster exists in the state of Alabama and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the northern parts of the Yellowhammer State affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding from February 19 to March 20 of this year.

Federal funding is now available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the weather events in the counties of Cherokee, Colbert, DeKalb, Franklin, Jackson, Lamar, Madison, Marion, Morgan and Winston.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

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This is separate from the devastating severe weather that hit Lee County in early March. Trump approved a disaster declaration for that event almost immediately, as requested by Governor Kay Ivey, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and other members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Update 5:45 p.m.:

Ivey released a statement on Trump’s declaration.

The governor said, “The state of Alabama is far too familiar with the often unpredictable, damaging effects of severe weather. In recent months, our state has endured a variety of storm systems, including immense and historic flooding in North Alabama. Alabama is very grateful and pleased to welcome this news. President Trump always stands ready to help Alabama, and I’m grateful for his hand in this recovery process. We can now fully be on the road to recovery because of the assistance of President Trump.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Ivey announces plans to widen I-565, Huntsville Brownsferry Rd

(Huntsville/Madison County Chamber/Facebook)

Two important thoroughfares in north Alabama are set to receive major improvements.

Speaking to a delegation from the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce during the chamber’s annual Montgomery visit on Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey announced plans to widen I-565 to six lanes and resurface the crucial interstate spur to I-65. This will be part of the first phase of new infrastructure revenue and upgrades made possible by the Rebuild Alabama Act.

Expansion of the Tanner interchange for I-65 in Limestone County was also announced.

Additionally, Huntsville Brownsferry Road (also known as Browns Ferry Road) will be widened to be extended westward across to U.S. Highway 31 in a second phase to allow for easier access to I-65 for drivers using that road to get to and from the under-construction Mazda Toyota plant.

All of the projects are in anticipation of needing significantly increased traffic capacity when the plant is completed.

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“While the Huntsville and surrounding areas are booming with continual economic growth, it was imperative we make enhancements to their infrastructure system for the nearly 60,000 vehicles traveling on I-565 daily. Both improvement projects will be significant strides for this area,” Ivey said in a statement. “This will improve the daily commute for several thousand drivers and provide access to the new Mazda-Toyota joint assembly plant. When we began on the road to Rebuild Alabama, I promised our state would see real results, real improvements and a promising future, and we’re certainly delivering on that.”

Watch:

The project announcements came the same day that State Sen. Tom Butler (R-Huntsville) announced his appointment by Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth to the Joint Transportation Committee (JTC). The JTC was expanded under the Rebuild Alabama legislative package.

Butler’s district contains I-565.

In a statement, Butler said, “Throughout my campaign I stressed the importance of rebuilding and expanding infrastructure in North AL. The widening of I-565, HWY 72 from Huntsville through Madison and onto Athens, and HWY 53 from Huntsville to Ardmore are high priorities in serving multiple counties.”

I-565 will be widened from I-65 to County Line Road.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle expressed his enthusiasm for the projects, which were selected by the Alabama Department of Transportation for the Rebuild Alabama Act First Year Plan 2020.

Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) added his praise, too.

“I commend Governor Ivey’s leadership in passing Rebuild Alabama and her commitment to keep Alabama growing,” McCutcheon stated. “Additional lanes on Interstate 565 will greatly reduce congestion and aid commerce in one of the fastest growing regions of our state. I, along with my colleagues, are pleased to see such quick returns from the Rebuild Alabama Act passing.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Dem state senator: Second Amendment advocates have ‘mental problems’

(Senator Vivian Davis Figures Campaign/Facebook)

MONTGOMERY — During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s public hearing on a constitutional carry bill on Wednesday, a Democratic state senator accused Second Amendment advocates of wanting people with mental illnesses to be able to purchase and possess firearms, leading the senator to assert that these same advocates themselves have “some mental problems.”

State Sen. Gerald Allen’s (R-Tuscaloosa) SB 4 would get rid of the requirement that a gun owner has to have a permit to carry a lawfully owned firearm. It would not affect any existing legal requirements for someone to lawfully obtain that firearm.

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Sheriffs from across the state came to Montgomery to oppose the bill, saying it would get rid of a useful law enforcement tool and source of revenue. They advised that gun permitting requirements give them probable cause to ask for permits when making a multiple-occupant vehicle stop and often later find that weapons then confiscated have been stolen but not previously recorded as such.

Members of Moms Demand Action also opposed the bill.

Proponents of the bill, including BamaCarry’s Eddie Fulmer, pointed to data from states that have implemented the same type of policy. They said law-abiding citizens continue to get permits when purchasing or otherwise legally obtaining weapons and that non-law-abiding citizens will continue to illegally obtain and possess firearms. They also said that law enforcement concerns about safety are not backed up by the data from these other states and added that similar concerns when Alabama moved from a “may issue” state to “shall issue” in 2013 did not come to fruition.

However, none of this testimony was new or particularly noteworthy. The same debate happened last year when the bill passed the Senate but stalled in the House.

The fireworks started when the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Todd Adkins was speaking in favor of SB 4. Afterward, State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile) used her opportunity to ask questions of Adkins to launch into a diatribe that had nothing to do with the bill at hand, or any bill that has been filed in the Alabama legislature.

“[W]hy would you want to do certain things that really put people at greater risk?” Figures asked, not pausing for an answer.

She said, “You even want to repeal a part of the law that’s in place now about carrying weapons into a demonstration, where everyone knows that the emotions are high … and we also know Congresswoman (Gabby) Giffords (of Arizona) was actually shot during that time, during a demonstration. Why would you want to take away the presumption of intent? That somebody could just shoot someone else and not even have intent, to repeal that. I really don’t understand it. I’ve always gotten an ‘F’ from the National Rifle Association and that’s a proud ‘F’ that I receive… I just don’t understand the mentality of what you guys or – or what you guys continue to push to do. Particularly, with all the gun violence that is happening, to allow a person to be able to get a gun who has mental problems – to me that says the person who’s pushing that has some mental problems. They don’t understand why people with mental issues shouldn’t have a weapon.”

State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), the chairman of the committee, then kindly warned her, “Let’s keep it close now, Senator.”

“Well, it’s just fact,” Figures responded, then saying, “I didn’t call any names.”

“But you are talking to me,” Adkins said.

“Well, I’m talking to you because you are representing the National Rifle Association, but I’m also talking about all of the people who keep pushing this,” Figures admitted. “I don’t understand why you all don’t understand that part of it. It just – I don’t understand.”

Speaking to Yellowhammer News after the hearing, Adkins explained that Figures’ assertions were sadly indicative of devolving American discourse, as scare tactics and smears now reign above substantive debate.

“Well, obviously I understand that this is a controversial issue for folks on both sides… so I understand that people can get excited and rather dramatic about this,” Adkins said. “But I’m the NRA. And we have members throughout this state, and I can assure you that we believe in the right to self-defense. We believe in the Second Amendment. That certainly doesn’t mean we have any issues that she was attempting to associate with us.”

He continued, “I’ve seen it become more and more common in the public square unfortunately these days that such attacks are made. And I will say: I respect her right to voice her opinion certainly. That’s what these types of hearings are all about, but I won’t characterize why necessarily she made them. I’ll just say I know all the people I work on behalf of – our members in this state – are good, law-abiding citizens.”

Ward said the committee will vote on the bill next week.

RELATED: Lt. Gov. Ainsworth: ‘I don’t think you should have to have a permit to carry’

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Poll: Alabamians approve of Ivey’s, Shelby’s job performance more than Trump’s

A new poll released Wednesday morning by a non-partisan national research firm showed that Governor Kay Ivey, President Donald Trump and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) enjoy varying degrees of positive job approval ratings in the Yellowhammer State.

The poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, which has offices in Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville, FL, was conducted April 9-11 and surveyed 625 registered Alabama voters by telephone. The margin of error is four percent.

Ivey has an eye-popping 32-point net job approval rating, with 60 percent approving versus 28 percent who disapprove. Trump’s job performance is also popular, as 52 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove. Shelby has the same percentage who approve as Trump, but enjoys a significantly larger net rating because only 35 percent disapprove.

This is the first publicly released polling data after Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package was passed. Her new numbers from the Mason-Dixon largely are not a significant swing from her pre-Rebuild Alabama numbers in Morning Consult’s poll that covered the final quarter of 2018.

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In that previous Morning Consult survey, 63 percent of Alabamians said they approved of Ivey’s job performance, while only 19 percent disapproved and 18 percent either do not know or had no opinion. The margin of error in that polling was one percent.

Additionally, the new Mason-Dixon polling generally mirrors Shelby’s Morning Consult data from the final quarter of 2018. That survey had 47 percent of Alabamians approving his job performance and 27 percent disapproving.

However, Trump’s numbers in the Mason-Dixon poll represent a sizable deviation from Morning Consult data from March 1, which said 61 percent of Alabamians approve of the president’s job performance and 35 percent disapprove. Alabama has consistently been one of the highest three states for Trump’s approval ratings, often coming in at the top.

Moving back exclusively to the new Mason-Dixon polling, demographic breakdowns show that Ivey has a positive net approval rating with both Republicans and Democrats.

Comparatively, even though she enjoys a much bigger net approval rating, Trump scores considerably better amongst Republicans than the governor does. This is explained by Democrats even approving of Ivey’s job performance 45-41, while they disapprove of Trump’s by 93-4.

Trump is approved 87-9 by Republicans while Ivey scores a 75-16 score in the same metric.

Shelby, while certainly popular with his own party, has relatively balanced support, too. Republicans approve of Alabama’s senior senator 65-22 while Democrats disapprove 57-29.

Ivey also is approved by both white (66-24) and black people (46-37) alike.

This was the same poll that showed Sen. Doug Jones’ (D-AL) re-election bid faces huge demographic barriers. The polling was just released in two parts between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mason-Dixon CEO & Managing Director Brad Coker told Yellowhammer News that this polling was done in conjunction with public policy research for several private clients.

“We did an omnibus issue poll for about a dozen public policy clients in the state. Then we added the election questions for our own use,” Coker explained.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

U.S. Dept. of Commerce awards funds to Mobile, Tallassee for booming Alabama manufacturing

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) on Tuesday announced that it is awarding a $500,000 grant to support the development of the new Flight Works Alabama Aviation Education Center in Mobile and a $2.4 million grant to the city of Tallassee to make critical infrastructure upgrades and improvements needed to enhance the competitiveness of the local business community.

Aviation Education Center, Inc. is located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (President Donald Trump’s tax cuts) designated “Opportunity Zone,” providing special incentives for further private sector participation and development.

“President Trump is committed to helping businesses acquire the skilled workforce that they need to succeed,” U.S. assistant secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dr. John Fleming said in a statement. “Aviation Education Center, Inc., plays a critical role in developing highly-skilled and interested students, who will help the Mobile area grow and become more resilient to the economic impact of natural disasters.”

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The Mobile project will contribute to economic diversification in a region that has been impacted by natural disasters such as Hurricane Irma. The funding was made possible through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, in which Congress appropriated to EDA $600 million in additional economic adjustment assistance funds for disaster relief and recovery as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, wildfires and other calendar year 2017 natural disasters under the Stafford Act.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), as the powerful chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, played an integral leading role in that budget legislation.

“The new Flight Works Alabama Aviation Education Center will help provide Mobile’s future workforce with the necessary preparation to pursue opportunities in the aerospace industry,” Shelby said. “The facility will host professional training for individuals, equipping them with the skills needed to be successful in a competitive job market. I am grateful for EDA’s continued investment in Alabama’s workforce development and look forward to the growth made possible by this $500,000 grant.”

Tallassee

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross personally announced the $2.4 million grant to the city of Tallassee on Tuesday. According to grantee estimates, the project is expected to create 10 jobs, retain 2,059 jobs and spur an additional $455,000 in private investment.

This project will upgrade Tallassee’s sewer collection system and construct a new, modern treatment plant to support the region’s industrial and business community.

“Infrastructure is important to the Trump Administration because it helps further propel economic advancements in our country,” Ross stated. “This investment in the city of Tallassee and the surrounding region will provide the tools necessary for business growth in the advanced manufacturing, healthcare and automotive sectors.”

The project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission.

Governor Kay Ivey and Shelby both voiced their appreciation and support for the important investment and public-private collaboration.

“It’s my mission as governor to help plant seeds for opportunity across every corner of Alabama. Enhancing infrastructure is a necessary component for future growth,” Ivey said. “I am grateful to the U.S. Department of Commerce and Secretary Wilbur Ross for selecting Tallassee, Alabama to receive these critical enhancements. The Trump Administration clearly understands that infrastructure must be a priority to foster a thriving economy, and I am proud to support those efforts.”

Shelby stated,“This $2.4 million EDA grant will play a vital role in generating growth and economic development in and around Tallassee. The water and wastewater system upgrades will improve quality of life for residents and promote efficiency throughout the local business community, allowing for further expansion. I look forward to seeing the impact this grant will have on Tallassee and the surrounding region.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Alabama Senate passes bill to end prison food fund racket

(YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed SB 228, the bill sponsored by State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) to close the loophole that currently allows county sheriffs to personally pocket surplus funds for feeding prisoners in their custody.

“This has been a problem, especially over the last year, and I’m glad the Senate has stepped forward with a solution. I appreciate the sheriffs working with us to update the law and end this archaic system where county sheriffs are held personally liable for the money to feed prisoners,” Orr said in a statement. “As we have seen over the last year, that creates all sorts of perverse incentives. The vast majority of sheriffs in Alabama have acted honorably, but there have been some bad actors who have taken advantage of the system.”

The bill would also increase the amount of state funds appropriated for prisoner food to $2.25 per prisoner daily. This amount will increase two percent annually to account for inflation.

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“It is also crucial that we slightly increase how much we spend on prisoners for their food rations—it has been decades since the formula was adjusted and inflation and food costs have risen quite a bit since it was last revisited, and that puts the local jails in a bind,” Orr explained.

SB 228 now heads to the House for a first reading. The bill stemmed from the March 2018 revelation that then-Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin had personally pocketed more than $750,000 in excess food funds, which was legal under current state law.

Heath Taylor, sheriff of Russell County and president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, is appreciative of Orr sponsoring the bill.

“We greatly appreciate Senator Orr and the Alabama Senate for assisting us in fixing this issue. They have been very supportive and diligent in their efforts,” Taylor emphasized. “Over the last several years the Alabama Sheriffs Association has sought repeatedly to make this change, but to no avail. Our hope is that the House of Representatives will bring closure by also passing this bill and allowing us to continue protecting our citizens and making our society a better place to live.”

Orr’s bill also places the liability of feeding prisoners on the state, which removes the burden from county sheriffs.

Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of the County Commissions of Alabama, also praised Orr’s leadership and voiced his support for SB 228.

“For as long as I have been involved in county government, everyone has agreed that we should do something about the feeding of inmates in Alabama jails. Our sheriffs and Senator Arthur Orr developed a bill that ensures transparency with public audits, makes it clear that public money can never be converted to private use and that the public will never hear another story about the conversion of jail money into a personal account,” Brasfield said. “We look forward to the passage of this bill in the House and to it being signed into law as quickly as possible.”

“Counties are grateful for the leadership of Sen. Orr and for the sheriffs who were dogmatic in their commitment to put this issue behind us — once and for all,” he added.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

7 days ago

UA System chancellor has different view than Auburn of Ivey’s proposed budget

(Contributed/Alabama NewsCenter)

University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John has countered recent remarks by Auburn University Trustee Jimmy Rane, who said Friday that Governor Kay Ivey’s proposed Education Trust Fund budget is “not kind to Auburn.”

As chair of the Auburn Board of Trustees’ governmental affairs committee, Rane outlined, “With record revenues and the largest budget education ever, Auburn received the lowest percentage increase among colleges and universities. While our increase is 5 percent, the University of Alabama’s increase is more than 7.5 percent.”

However, in a statement to Yellowhammer News, St. John pointed out that Auburn historically has and still is getting more operations and maintenance (O&M) funding than the University of Alabama. In fact, Auburn got 34 percent more O&M dollars per full-time enrolled student in FY 2018.

“We remain grateful for the taxpayer funding we receive through state appropriations and will always do our best to be responsible stewards of those resources,” St. John said.

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“In recent days, we have seen comments suggesting that Auburn University’s proposed budget allocation is not fair in comparison to that for The University of Alabama. For decades, and for reasons we have never understood, Auburn University has received a far larger state appropriation than The University of Alabama. The per student funding advantage for AU over UA is even wider. We embrace any conversation, today and in the future, about equitable and fair funding for our State’s great universities and the students we serve,” he emphasized.

Auburn’s full-time student enrollment was recorded as 27,468 in the fall of 2018 while the University of Alabama’s full-time enrollment was 33,038. These are the most recent available numbers.

UA got $146,089,724 in operations and maintenance funding from Ivey’s FY 18 budget, while Auburn received $162,700,206. This breaks down to $4,421.87 per full-time student for UA and $5,923.26 for Auburn.

This trend has generally continued, with UA’s FY 2019 O&M funding being $151,862,111 vs. Auburn’s $168,472.593. For Ivey’s proposed FY 2020 budget, UA’s O&M funding is $164,087,170 while Auburn’s is $177,192,494.

Sources with direct knowledge have also stressed that Ivey’s budget proposal was based on data-centric recommendations from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE). Sources emphasized that Auburn has been the only university not to accept ACHE’s proposed accountability measures.

This comes as the University of Alabama is set to freeze in-state tuition rates for the second consecutive year; in fact, the University of Alabama System’s trustees in June are expected to approve a historic system-wide in-state tuition freeze.

“The University of Alabama System is committed to accountability. In response to the needs of Alabama students, we have frozen tuition at the University of Alabama for two years. Last week, we announced a System-wide tuition freeze for UA, UAB, and UAH. To our knowledge, no other university in the state has frozen tuition,” St. John advised.

He concluded, “Our System is committed to improving education in Alabama at every level, from pre-K to Ph.D. and every level in between. We pledge to work together across the State to serve our citizens and improve the future for every student.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn