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.

4 months ago

Alabama company encounters obstacles to creating jobs, renovating Fort McClellan buildings

A contentious legal dispute between the McClellan Development Authority (MDA) and defense contractor Xtreme Concepts has led to concerns that the MDA has allowed personal issues to distract them from their core mission to drive investment and economic growth for the local community, according to numerous Yellowhammer News sources involved in the dispute, including on the MDA board.

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Background:

In 2009, then-Alabama Governor Bob Riley authorized the creation of local “development authorities for the purpose of developing real and personal property of closed military installations” around the state. Among those installations was Fort McClellan, a famed, century-old military facility that was shuttered in 1999.

Since that time, the local area has struggled to find private sector suitors to fill parts of the property, including a large, concrete barracks facility known locally as the Starship. But in recent years, Xtreme Concepts, a defense contractor, leased the property with an option to buy. The property houses an Xtreme subsidiary called iK9 that trains dogs for military and law enforcement entities, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Yellowhammer News previously reported on Xtreme CEO Landon Ash’s commitment that his company would make $1.4 million in improvements to the facility. Ash categorized the expenditure as a win for the community because, prior to Xtreme’s arrival, taxpayers were facing the likelihood of having to spend $3 million to tear down the buildings.

But in recent months, as Xtreme moved to purchase the property a stalemate emerged between the company and the McClellan Development Authority (MDA), ultimately resulting in the MDA rejecting Xtreme’s purchase agreement. The dispute spilled into the public, with the editorial board of the local paper urging the two sides to come together and patch up their differences. Roughly three-dozen local jobs hang in the balance after a nine-hour court hearing resulted in Circuit Court Judge Debra Jones allowing Xtreme to stay on the property as the court battle proceeds.

New Developments:

In recent weeks, Yellowhammer News has spoken to numerous individuals on both sides of the issue, including members of the MDA board, Xtreme Concepts and iK9 employees, as well as local officials and private citizens with first-hand knowledge of the ongoing dispute.

The MDA board has remained publicly unified in its intent to have Xtreme’s iK9 division removed from the property, but behind the scenes, some members of the board have grown weary of fighting a legal and PR battle that does not appear to have any upside for local taxpayers.

“Some folks got crossways with [Xtreme Concepts CEO] Landon [Ash] and decided they wanted to do something else with that land,” said one member of the MDA board on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. “Whether or not that’s the best thing for the community–it comes up in conversation but I don’t think that’s the primary concern. It’s just gotten personal.”

Another member of the board disputed that characterization and said there were legitimate concerns about Xtreme’s business operations on the land.

“They’ve done military-style simulations on the property and other things that were outside the terms of our agreement,” the second board member said. “They’ve been late on their rent payments. There are a lot of things going on here and it’s not as simple as us turning down millions of dollars and losing local jobs. There’s more to it than that.”

When asked about the military-style simulations during the court proceeding, Xtreme Concepts CEO Landon Ash testified that what they had done was the equivalent of a Hollywood movie set, allowing them to create an authentic-feeling combat simulation without actually blowing anything up. According to him, that would not run afoul of the agreement.

And a spokesperson for Xtreme said they only stopped making lease payments as they moved to purchase the property, per the terms of the agreement, which they never anticipated to take more than a couple of weeks.

For now, the dispute will continue to play out in court, with stakeholders and the community having to consider the risk of evicting a job-creator without any clear alternative.

5 months ago

Alabama State Port Authority names new deputy director

(J. Lyons/Contributed, Alabama State Port Authority/Facebook)

The Alabama State Port Authority has named Richard T. Clark to the position of deputy director. According to a release from the agency, Clark’s appointment will take effect July 16.

“We conducted a nationwide search with one of the country’s premier maritime and port industry recruiting firms and the Port Authority received resumes from quite a few qualified candidates,” said James K. Lyons, director and chief executive officer of the Alabama State Port Authority. “Mr. Clark stood out amongst all the applicants and was selected for this position. We look forward to Rick joining the Port Authority team.”

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Clark, with over 30 years of maritime industry experience, began his career at Cooper T. Smith in New Orleans before joining Puerto Rico Marine Management, Inc. to direct the company’s terminal, cargo and warehouse operations. Clark additionally held a number of senior management positions with both ocean carriage and terminal stevedoring companies. He most recently served as interim chief operating officer of GT USA Wilmington and U.S. manager of operations at GT USA, LLC, a subsidiary of Gulftainer, an independent port management and 3PL (third-party logistics) company based in the United Arab Emirates with operations in six countries.

“I have been privileged to work a career surrounded by some brilliant leaders and look forward to bringing the knowledge and experienced gained through those many years to serve the Alabama State Port Authority team,” remarked Clark.

The Alabama State Port Authority owns and operates the State of Alabama’s deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile and its public facilities handled over 25 million tons of cargo.

5 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol XI

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Beverly Hills flop. Los Angeles County has joined the ranks of out-of-state voices protesting the passage of Alabama’s new abortion law. The county’s Board of Supervisors recently sent Alabama Senate leader Del Marsh (R-Anniston) a letter notifying him of its disapproval of the law’s passage and conveying an empty promise of a one-year travel ban to the Yellowhammer State.

The letter, signed by all five members of the county’s governing body, says, “Alabama’s law is the most restrictive in the country…As a result, the County of Los Angeles has implemented a one-year travel restriction to the State of Alabama for official County business.”

(D. Marsh/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

This is not the first time Californians have expressed their disapproval of Alabama’s law.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), a presidential hopeful from the Golden State, has said Alabama “couldn’t care less” about babies, while one second-tier Hollywood actress posed nude in anger over the bill.

A spokesman for Marsh informed Yellowhammer News that Marsh has now restricted official travel to Los Angeles County for those in his own office.

County of Los Angeles Letter to Del Marsh by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

2. Once upon a time in the West. Now that Roy Moore has announced his candidacy for another run at the U.S. Senate, the old stories that go along with years of scrutiny and research have quickly re-entered circulation among the political class. One story which dropped into our inbox yesterday has always been a favorite.

Following his failed bid for circuit judge in 1982, Moore went on a personal sojourn to Texas and then Australia for some very specific purposes. While in Texas, he trained to become a professional kickboxer. Moore told the Press-Register newspaper in 2000 that kickboxing was something he had always wanted to try. He said he trained hard, dropped weight, worked construction jobs to get by and spent time on the Texas coast.

And then Moore eventually made his way to Australia where he worked as a ranch hand on a large cattle property.

Two things have always struck us as odd — OK, particularly odd — about this part of Moore’s biography. First, is the fact that he went to the Lone Star State to kickbox and to the south Pacific to work as a cowboy. One would think it would have been the other way around. Secondly, it’s somewhat of a surprise that during none of his numerous campaigns for office did anyone delve more deeply into this chapter of his life, the people he met or the surroundings where he lived. Whether in opposition to Moore or in support of Moore, it’s possible there are some insightful stories to be told by the people with whom he fought and rode.

3. Restrain yourself. After Yellowhammer News wrote in last week’s Rumors and Rumblings about the moving target of being Donald Trump’s Alabama campaign “chairman,” former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper, Jr. is back in the national spotlight.

A Thursday Vice News article from the immediate aftermath of Moore’s announcement dubbed Hooper as “Trump’s Alabama campaign chairman.”

On Moore, he told the outlet, “I’m concerned. As much as I like Roy Moore, he’d have an extremely tough time beating Doug Jones. Right now we need to elect a Republican U.S. senator. I wish Roy would honor the wishes of the president.”

Now, to be clear, Hooper is state chair of Trump Victory — a fundraising entity separate from the president’s campaign itself.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News after he was quoted in Vice on Thursday, Hooper said, “It’s a free country. He has every right to run. I just wish Roy had honored the wishes of the President of the United States and not run.”

Expect national outlets to continue seeking out comments from Alabama representatives purportedly tied to Trump and party establishment figures. The circus is in town until at least March now, and outlets will be trying to one-up each other on the kind of headlines they can create, quotes they can land and “surrogates” they can utilize.

5 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. X

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Success has 1,000 fathers. President Donald Trump has held a special affinity for the state of Alabama since the early stages of his 2016 campaign. And the feeling has been mutual. Thirty thousand people turned out to his first rally in Mobile all the way back in August 2015. Then on Super Tuesday in March 2016, he received over 43% of the vote in the state’s Republican presidential primary. The next closest candidate was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) with 21%. As recently as this week, polling showed that his favorability rating among Republicans in Alabama hovers around 80%.

Trump maintains a lofty perch in the state. There’s no doubt about that. What’s a little more unclear is who is responsible for getting him there. Alabama political observers have for some time marveled at the perpetual jockeying to stay at the front of the line of people representing Trump’s interests in the state.

Four stand out to us as being those most readily acknowledged as having a claim to the Trump throne in Alabama. All four evidently have, or had, the title “chairman” attached to their names in some form.

Two held visible roles from the beginning. State Rep. Jim Carns (R-Mountain Brook) and former State. Rep. Ed Henry. Both participated in the original Trump rally in Mobile and evidence would indicate that Carns carried the title “campaign chairman” while Henry carried the title “campaign co-chairman.” Considerable talk arose after Trump’s win that Carns could even fill an ambassadorship in Central America.

A third, Chess Bedsole, seemed to have held a hybrid role. Bedsole was both a paid political consultant for the Trump campaign and in leadership as “Trump’s Alabama campaign Chairman.”

Finally, former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper, Jr. is the man who — by at least one account — has risen to the top of the Trump leadership ladder in Alabama. For a time, Hooper shared the campaign chairman title with his peers. Perhaps  as a nod to his elevated status, however, Hooper somewhere along the line received the unique title “Trump 2016 Alabama Victory Chair.”

Hooper’s social media accounts document him becoming a fixture at the White House. According to his own account, he has been in the middle of West Wing meetings on fighter jets and trade and the Easter Egg Roll.

2. Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him. While Hooper has asserted himself as the unofficial Trump contact in the state, it has not happened without risk. It is fairly common in politics for someone to claim a significant piece of political real estate and then be the object of derision from others who aspire to occupy the same space. The key for someone in that potentially vulnerable position is to be ready and aware.

Opposition to Hooper’s role in Trump world came to a boiling point a few weeks ago following an NBC News article in which Hooper said he spoke to Trump about Alabama’s U.S. Senate race. The article quoted Hooper as saying that there was a “plan” in place for Trump to endorse former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville in the Republican primary.

Yellowhammer News had picked up some rumblings earlier in the year that a certain amount of consternation existed regarding Hooper’s service as an unofficial spokesman for Trump in the state. Sources with knowledge of the situation told us that a conference call on the subject took place among Republican National Committee (RNC) officials, and on that conference call the phrase “restraining order” was used, at one point.

While those in Washington, D.C. continued to monitor, Hooper’s use of the national media to convey Trump’s purported thoughts on Alabama’s senate race may have sent some over the edge. One RNC official told us Hooper’s outspokenness on Trump’s views went from harmless to meddling to dangerous in light of the NBC News article. We were told that RNC Trump Victory Political Director Chris Carr spoke with Hooper to clarify some of the boundaries of his involvement in Trump world. We were also told that Carr directed Hooper to refrain from issuing statements to the press, holding press conferences and otherwise representing the thoughts and views of Trump.

Hooper told Yellowhammer News that the Trump comments he conveyed to NBC News occurred during a meeting he had with the president on tariffs. He said the president asked him about Tuberville and the state of the race, in general, and he simply offered his assessment. Hooper said he considers both Tuberville and Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) friends.

Whether any of this amounts to anything — or deters Hooper in any fashion — remains to be seen. Merely five days ago, Hooper posted a photo of himself attending a Chicago Cubs baseball game with Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

3. What are the odds? Scott Cooley of SportsBetting.ag has provided Yellowhammer News with some prop bets surrounding a number of current political storylines.

Bettors can wager on the blockage of a potential Mexico tariff, the possibility of a presidential impeachment, whether or not President Trump will attend a World Cup match and whether he will have to hand over his tax records.

The oddsmakers don’t anticipate an impeachment or Trump’s tax records to be made public, but the numbers do suggest Congress would block a tariff on Mexico.

Will the House of Representatives pass Articles of Impeachment against President Trump before end of his first term?

Yes 2/1 (+200)
No 2/5 (-250)
–Note: The odds imply a 71.43% probability articles will not be passed

Will the Democratic Party gain access to President Trump’s federal tax returns before the end of his first term?

Yes 3/2 (+150)
No 1/2 (-200)
–Note: The odds imply a 66.67% probability returns will not be accessed

Will Congress successfully block President Trump from imposing tariffs on imported Mexican goods? (disapproval vote must take place for action)

Yes 1/2 (-200)
No 3/2 (+150)
–Note: The odds imply a 66.67% probability a tariff would be blocked

Will President Trump attend a World Cup match?

Yes 20/1 (+2000)
No 1/100 (-10000)
–Note: The odds imply a 99.01% probability Trump will not attend

6 months ago

Birmingham organizations team up to show off the Magic City to summer interns

Birmingham Business Alliance

The Birmingham Business Alliance will kick off its annual summer intern engagement program, Magic City Summer, Monday in downtown Birmingham.

Magic City Summer is a series of free social events that connect summer interns to Birmingham’s culture, communities and influencers. Participants will enjoy a VIP summer experience, receiving discounts for some of Birmingham’s most popular summer events and activities.

Recent studies suggest several of the most important factors that contribute to talent attraction are experienced during internships. Talent is more likely to move to or stay in a city where they have visited, a job is available and their quality of life expectations are met.

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This talent attraction program allows Birmingham’s exceptional quality of life to take center stage for those returning to Birmingham from college or living in the Magic City for the first time, said Dr. Sanjay Singh, chairman of the BBA’s Workforce Advisory Council.

“Birmingham is an ideal place to live, work and play, and Magic City Summer allows us to highlight the best that Birmingham has to offer,” Singh said. “I would argue that Birmingham’s quality of life stacks up against any other city in the country, and this program allows us to not just tell interns that, but show them.”

The BBA is partnering with Young Professionals of Birmingham (YP Birmingham) this year to provide benefits to the interns participating in Magic City Summer.

Benefits of joining YP Birmingham include no cover at Lakeview District hotspots like Innisfree, Tin Roof and Sidebar; tickets to Birmingham Barons and Birmingham Legion games; and discounts and free classes at gyms and fitness centers across Birmingham. All benefits afforded to YP Birmingham members will also be given to Magic City Summer participants.

“Young Professionals of Birmingham prides ourselves on being an organization that provides opportunities for new and current young professionals of the city to increase their network, both personally and professionally,” said Lorenzo Johnson, YP Birmingham president. “Supporting local businesses and nonprofits are a staple of our organization and we are excited about this new partnership with the Birmingham Business Alliance due to the similarities in vision and mission as well as the opportunities it will provide members of both organizations!”

A city’s quality of life plays a significant role in young talent’s decision to stay or leave in a community, said Waymond Jackson, senior vice president of public policy at the BBA. “Internship opportunities are the first and, sometimes, only chance an employer or community has to make a great impression on potential talent,” Jackson said.

“With talent attraction being at the forefront of any successful economic development strategy, the BBA’s efforts to engage visiting interns throughout the summer are critical to building a talent pool that can fuel dynamic job growth in our region.”

In 2018, 251 summer interns participated in the program, hailing from 135 hometowns, 21 states and four countries.  They represented 79 different colleges and universities, as well as 65 regional companies.  Of those who participated in the program, 51% said Birmingham’s food scene is what they’d heard the most buzz about, and over three-fourths said job opportunities were the top motivating factor when deciding where to live post-graduation.

Companies can register their interns for Magic City Summer here.

6 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. IX

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Twinkle for…?  Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, president of the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC), fired off a tweet earlier today indicating that she will be on the ballot as part of the 2020 election cycle.

What makes this tweet curious is the fact that she did not identify the office for which she was running. Cavanaugh defeated Democrat Lucy Baxley in 2012 to take over the presidency of the PSC. At the time, Baxley was the last-remaining Democrat to hold statewide office. Cavanaugh’s current term concludes in 2020, so it may be that she is seeking re-election to her seat on the PSC.

Like many other prominent Republicans in Alabama, though, Cavanaugh is known to have performed some amount of due diligence on what a candidacy for the U.S. Senate might look like. No female has announced for the seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). The entrance of a well-known conservative woman — a description which fits Cavanaugh — into the race would completely change its complexion. One Republican political consultant told Yellowhammer News that if a strong, conservative female jumped in, then you could probably pencil that person into the run-off.

Cavanaugh has been a zealous advocate for conservative causes for many years. And as recently as 2018, she served as co-chair for the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama, which helped pass the state’s pro-life constitutional amendment.

Efforts to reach her at the time of publication were unsuccessful.

Cavanaugh’s Twitter handle is @TwinkleForAL. That much we know, at least.

2. “It’s easier to stay out than get out.” Mark Twain’s pearl of wisdom could easily describe the predominant political calculation of many considering a run for the U.S. Senate. Secretary of State John Merrill has said he is going to make a decision on the race this week or next. Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) has not ruled it out, yet, and has told people he will make a final decision at the end of the summer — which would lend to the notion that he is not running.

We have learned that State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) now fully intends to get into the race. We have reported previously that Dismukes was giving it strong consideration and had begun getting his feet wet campaigning in parts of the state outside of his district. In addition, he has spent time in Washington gauging potential support from interest groups and others in the nation’s capital.

As is the case with announced candidate State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), beginning a high-profile statewide race from the relatively small footprint of a State House district presents a significant challenge.

3. Follow the money. Yellowhammer News alerted its readers earlier this week to the fact that the House of Representatives had drastically cut funding for rural broadband in its version of the budget. The budget passed by the House cut the program’s funding by 73%.

Senate leaders Del Marsh and Arthur Orr had long made ramping up rural broadband efforts a priority so it was no surprise to see them dig in and fight for that number to climb back up to an acceptable level during conference committee negotiations on the budget. When all was said and done, the conference committee adopted a 150% increase in funding over the House-passed version of the bill, increasing the broadband appropriation from $8 million to $20 million.

The timing of that funding increase was critical given the passage of certain legislation this session. Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), widely-recognized as the father of the rural broadband initiative, passed a bill to strengthen the program even further. His was one of two bills aimed at fueling economic development and increasing quality of life through expanding internet access in rural areas.

 

6 months ago

Report: Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. curses at God, University of Alabama following state’s abortion ban

(Florida Politics/Twitter)

Millionaire Florida resident Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. directed some explicit comments at lawmakers in both his home state and in Alabama, as well as the University of Alabama, according to a Sunshine State media outlet.

The “Florida Politics” blog on Thursday posted an interview with Culverhouse, Jr. which followed up on the events of the previous day.

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The same blog on Wednesday said that Culverhouse, Jr. was calling for a boycott of the state of Alabama and the University of Alabama over the recently signed into law abortion ban, the “Human Life Protection Act.”

The Florida businessman, who did not graduate from UA at any level of study, last year donated $21.5 million to the university’s law school, which was in turn named after him.

Culverhouse, Jr. is currently the largest donor in the University of Alabama’s history, and outlets like Alabama Media Group on Wednesday zealously pushed the narrative that his support of the university was ending because of the abortion debate.

However, in a concise press release later that day, a spokesperson for the University of Alabama System explained that Wednesday’s outburst by Culverhouse, Jr. came at the tail-end of a prolonged dispute between him and the university that had nothing to do with abortion — or any type of liberal social justice issue.

Culverhouse, Jr. had claimed of his supposed abortion-related stand, “I cannot stand by silently and allow my name to be associated with a state educational system… which promotes blatant discrimination.”

Yet, the UA System advised, “As part of an ongoing dispute, last week Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. asked for the return of $10 million, repeating numerous demands about the operations of the University of Alabama School of Law.”

The System press release also detailed that the System chancellor had recommended to give Culverhouse, Jr. back all of his $21.5 million donation — the day before his comments on Alabama’s abortion ban.

The release continued, “Consequently, [Tuesday] Chancellor St. John recommended to the Board of Trustees that it return all of Mr. Culverhouse’s $21.5 million donation to the Law School, which will be acted on at the Board’s meeting next week.”

“None of the issues between the Law School and Mr. Culverhouse had anything to do with the passage of legislation in which the University had no role,” the System spokesperson concluded. “Donors may not dictate University administration.”

‘Fu** you, and have a nice day’

This release seemed to have angered Culverhouse, Jr., who responded to the System in an expletive-filled Florida Politics article.

“I’m sorry for the university,” he reportedly told the website, “but fu** you, and have a nice day.”

The outlet reported he asserted that an “agreement” was made with the university when making the donation that he would “have involvement in decisions at the school.”

Culverhouse, Jr., according to Florida Politics, acknowledged he had been involved in a dispute with the university over that claim, with the outlet specifying one example that he “disagreed with the law school dean about upping entrance requirements.”

Again, remember the System emphasized, “Donors may not dictate University administration.”

However, Culverhouse, Jr. reportedly made another demand of the university.

Florida Politics wrote, “As far as abortion, Culverhouse said he did say no endowment chair should be appointed until the abortion issue gets resolved.”

To be clear, the university, the law school and the System have nothing to do with Alabama’s abortion law.

Yet, in the Thursday Florida Politics interview, Culverhouse, Jr. still teed off on the issue in dramatic fashion.

“Saudi Arabia is more liberal in granting abortions than Alabama,” the Floridian lamented.

He remarked, “What really f—ing pisses me off is if I sent my daughter to Alabama and she got gang-raped by 15 to 20 men, she could not obtain an abortion without the doctor going to prison. But a lot of rape cases, they get probation, or get 5 years, 15 or 20 years. A doctor faces 99 godd*** years.”

This comes in spite of the fact that Alabama’s new abortion law is not in effect — and will almost certainly never go into effect.

Culverhouse also said he would make similar boycott demands for other states enacting new abortion restrictions, including his home state of Florida.

Multiple abortion restrictions were filed this year in Florida, though none passed, the outlet reported.

Yet, State Rep. Mike Hill, (R-Florida), told the Pensacola News-Journal he intended to file a bill similar to Alabama’s next year, notably telling that local newspaper God had spoken to him after the Yellowhammer State passed its law and encouraged Hill to do so.

“Mike Hill got told by God to do that,” Culverhouse, Jr. commented. “But you can tell Mike Hill that God and Jesus talked to me last night and they said you fu** anybody who violates Supreme Court law. So I’m following God.”

Culverhouse, Jr. added, “Maybe his God and my God are schizo-fu**ing-phrenic, or maybe he should stop using religion to go after women.”

6 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VIII

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Hey Arnold! State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) caused a bit of a stir this week when he introduced a request to censure State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) for comments Rogers made during the chamber’s debate of the abortion bill. Numerous GOP House members were upset by the move, not so much for the substance of the request as much as for the timing — and the perceived motivation behind it.

The request came as the body was attempting to address a “ten-minute” calendar of bills. The aim of a ten-minute calendar is to quickly dispose of some of the more mundane pieces of legislation with the idea being that each member gets ten minutes to pass their bill or else the House moves on to the next item. As soon as Mooney introduced his letter of censure, the environment in the chamber became hostile, resulting in an adjournment and the end of the calendar. Dozens of members lost the opportunity, at that point at least, to pass their individual pieces of legislation, including an anti-human trafficking bill and legislation to help feed needy children in the state.

Some members wondered why Mooney waited nine days to introduce his letter. His letter was dated May 13 and not introduced until May 22. This event came on the heels of Mooney previously sending out a campaign letter to supporters questioning the ideological bearings of his fellow Republican legislators. When asked if Mooney had expressed any of these concerns to the GOP caucus at-large prior to his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, one member responded, “No. He had not.”

2. A tale of two cities. As Mooney spent the week trying to burnish the type of outsider credentials attractive to Club for Growth, another one of his colleagues spent his week in D.C. trying, presumably, to lay a similar foundation. State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) was boots on the ground in the nation’s capital this week. Dismukes has let it be known that he was contemplating his own run for the U.S. Senate. He has done a fair job of keeping those cards close to the vest, although his trip to Washington would lend to the notion that he continues to have interest in a federal office.

The mathematical side effect of Dismukes’ absence nearly reached a heightened level of consequence. Consideration of any legislation prior to the passage of both budgets requires a 3/5 vote of those in the body voting. The lottery failed this week because it did not receive the required 3/5 threshold of those voting. In Dismukes’ absence from the state, someone voted his machine on his behalf as an abstention rather than simply not voting at all. He was the only legislator to vote to abstain. This still raises the threshold of required votes.

There were 90 total members that voted — which means the lottery needed 54 votes to proceed. It only received 53. Had someone not voted Dismukes’ machine and 89 members had voted, the lottery would still have needed 54 votes but by a much slimmer margin since 3/5 of 89 equals 53.4. That’s how close the lottery came to advancing to full consideration by the House.

3. Is broadband really a priority for members of the Alabama House? While the state legislature’s budget negotiations have been relatively smooth so far this session, there is one major issue that has seemingly popped up at the last minute.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Senate Finance and Taxation Education Chairman Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) put $30 million in the Senate-passed Education Trust Fund Budget for the state’s rural broadband grant program established last year by State Senator Clay Scofield’s (R-Guntersville) landmark legislation.

As the legislature continues to work on beefing up last year’s legislation through Scofield’s SB 90 this year, the House is now seemingly set to slash the broadband funding approved by the Senate. The House Ways and Means Education Committee this week approved an education budget that cut the broadband funding by 73%, dragging the total down from $30 million to only $8 million.

Proponents of the larger number have said that there is not a better use of one-time money than to expand broadband services across the state. Will Chairman Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and the House at-large work with the Senate and restore the important broadband funding?

4. Art of the Deal. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) once again proved his master negotiating skills this week, securing a crucial disaster relief package deal against seemingly insurmountable differences between the increasingly polarized factions in Washington, D.C.

This package will provide much-needed aid to many in the Yellowhammer State, including those in southeast Alabama devastated by Hurricane Michael.

Shelby bridged the gap between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, while even managing to get President Donald Trump to drop his demands to include non-disaster related earmarks in the package — a concession that was key to getting enough votes in the Senate and House. The legislation quickly passed the Senate 85-8 Thursday before a lone House member objected to its unanimous passage on Friday. The House can take the legislation up after Memorial Day on Tuesday, when it is expected to overwhelmingly pass that chamber and then be signed into law.

One keen observer told Yellowhammer News that this type of achievement will not make nearly the number of headlines it should back at home, but once again Shelby has delivered for his state as he continues to cement his legacy as “Alabama’s greatest statesman.”

6 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VII

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. “The only deadline is the one I give myself”

One place elected officials, candidates and political committees don’t want to see their names is on the civil penalty section of the Alabama Ethics Commission meeting agenda. Among the duties the ethics commission is charged with is handling missed filing deadlines for campaign and political action committees. The secretary of state’s office refers these cases to the commission which then decides whether to accept or reject the explanation for missing the deadline provided by the responsible person.

And, so, it has not gone unnoticed in political and legal circles that the Alabama Ethics Commission has a few filing deadlines of its own that it has missed. Under Alabama law, the commission is required to submit an annual report to the governor and the legislature at the conclusion of each fiscal year. As of the time of this article’s publishing, the commission has not filed any of its 2016, 2017 or 2018 annual reports. When Yellowhammer News contacted the commission about these reports, executive director Tom Albritton noted that the commission planned to submit a combined analysis of the 2016-2018 fiscal years in the very near future.

2. Mr. Tuberville goes to Washington

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville has drawn some criticism over his recent Florida residency, however the former Auburn head football coach has put together a campaign team that is about as Alabama as they come.

Tuberville also seems to be doubling down on his east Alabama ties. Rob Jesmer, a former chief of staff for Mike Rogers, will be handling media for the campaign, with Tripp Skipper, a former district director for Rogers, serving as the general consultant.

Skipper is well know in Alabama political circles and helped Tuberville with his exploration of the governor’s race in the 2018 cycle, so this hire was always the obvious move.

However, the real intrigue here revolves around Jesmer, who is a major power player in D.C. that gives Tuberville’s campaign some serious Beltway heft for a political outsider. Jesmer, a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), is also currently the general consultant for Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who just term limited out after serving six years in the Senate Republicans’ second highest leadership role — the whip.

With Sean Spicer also advising the team, along with Erik Iverson of Moore Information doing polling and Jon Downs working with Jesmer on media, Tuberville is showing that he is 100% serious about mounting a professional, top-notch bid.

3. Making political odds-making great again

Alabama will hold its presidential primary elections on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The early March date continues to place the state among the earlier presidential primaries. As a result, it can continue to expect occasional visits from candidates vying for their party’s national ticket. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have all traveled to Alabama this year, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) plans to visit Alabama in June to address the Alabama Democratic Conference.

With former Vice President Joe Biden widening his polling lead and President Donald Trump not facing any credible opposition on the Republican side, we thought it would be a good time to look at a snapshot of what the oddsmakers are thinking in the race. Scott Cooley and his team at sportsbetting.ag have provided us with data on where they see the field right now and who is the favorite to win the 2020 presidential election.

Cooley has Trump as the odds-on favorite followed closely by Biden. In order of likelihood, here is a broader list of the candidates and others who could win the election (remember, the higher the number the lower the odds of winning):

Donald Trump +100
Joe Biden +300
Bernie Sanders +1000
Pete Buttigieg +1400
Kamala Harris +2000
Beto O’Rourke +2000
Cory Booker +6600
Amy Klobuchar +6600
Mike Pence +8000
Niki Haley +10000
Hillary Clinton +20000
Mark Cuban +20000

With Buttigieg facing extreme difficulty in southern Democratic primaries, and O’Rourke getting more awkward by the day, there doesn’t seem to be much hidden value when you get farther down the list.

6 months ago

Hollywood actress takes her clothes off in anger to protest Alabama abortion law

(E. Ratajkowski/Instagram)

In an apparent act of defiance toward Alabama policymakers, Hollywood actress and model Emily Ratajkowski has removed her clothes for everyone to see.

In response to the recent passage of a law outlawing abortion in the state, and employing what can only be described as an “I’ll show them” approach, Ratajkowski posted a naked photo of herself on Instagram with a caption deriding members of the Alabama legislature who voted in favor of the ban.

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Below a photo showing her wearing only a strategically placed flower, the British-born, California resident provided her own analysis of Alabama public policy and legislative intent.

“This week, 25 old white men voted to ban abortion in Alabama even in cases of incest and rape,” she wrote. “These men in power are imposing their wills onto the bodies of women in order to uphold the patriarchy and perpetuate the industrial prison complex by preventing women of low economic opportunity the right to choose to not reproduce.”

A common theme among those voicing opposition to the law has been the involvement of men in the process despite the legislation having been sponsored by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) and signed into effect by Governor Kay Ivey.

As the Daily Mail noted, Ratajkowski has been a frequent supporter of liberal causes and was a vocal critic of the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States.

6 months ago

Alabama jobs hang in the balance in dispute over former military facility

Several dozen high-paying jobs hang in the balance as a defense contractor and local economic development authority square off over the future of an aging military base in northeast Alabama.

In 2009, then-Alabama Governor Bob Riley authorized the creation of local “development authorities for the purpose of developing real and personal property of closed military installations” around the state. Among those installations was Fort McClellan, a famed, century-old military facility that was shuttered in 1999.

Since that time, the local area has struggled to find private sector suitors to fill parts of the property, including a large, concrete barracks facility known locally as the Starship. But in recent years, Xtreme Concepts, a defense contractor, leased the property with an option to buy. The property houses an Xtreme subsidiary called iK9 that trains dogs for military and law enforcement entities, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

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“We worked out a deal that allowed us to lease the property, make $1.4 million in improvements to the facilities and ultimately purchase it over time,” Xtreme CEO Landon Ash explained in a recent Anniston Star op-ed. He called it “a win for the community” because, prior to Xtreme’s arrival, taxpayers were facing the likelihood of having to spend $3 million to tear down the buildings.

But in recent months, as Xtreme moved to purchase the property a stalemate emerged between the company and the McClellan Development Authority (MDA), ultimately resulting in the MDA rejecting Xtreme’s purchase agreement.

“As we moved to purchase the Starships property in accordance with our agreement with the MDA, communication broke down and unfortunately spilled over into public meetings and news stories,” Ash wrote in his op-ed, which included a pitch for the two sides to put their differences aside and preserve the roughly three dozen jobs currently provided at the once-dormant facility.

“It is my desire to do whatever I can to protect these hardworking Alabamians, many of whom are veterans,” Ash wrote.

But to this point the MDA has held the line. In March, the MDA agreed to give away 900 acres of the former Army base to be turned into recreational horse trails, but there does not appear to be any companies interested in succeeding Xtreme Concepts to create additional jobs if they are forced out.

Late last week, the editorial board of the local paper urged the two sides to come together and patch up their differences.

But for now the two sides remain embroiled in a legal dispute with uncertainty continuing to surround roughly three-dozen jobs.

“I am optimistic that we can put our differences behind us, come together and do what is best for the community we all love by approving our purchase agreement,” Ash wrote.

The MDA is set to meet Thursday for another round of conversations.

The group’s executive director did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.

6 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VI

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. The Alabama Policy Institute (API) hosted a panel discussion last night in Huntsville. Among the many topics discussed was one which has bubbled under the surface for quite a while: What will happen to Huntsville in the next round of apportionment following the 2020 census?

The Alabama legislature will take up the task of updating the state’s congressional districts based on those census numbers during its 2021 session. Most expect population shifts — as well as population loss — to result in some significant changes in the district lines for members of Congress.

Discussion at the API event centered, specifically, on whether Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) would want to absorb parts of Huntsville into his district. His fourth congressional district currently ends south of the Rocket City. Panelists speculated that he may wish to include some of the areas, such as Redstone Arsenal and Research Park, which contain key aerospace industry stakeholders.

That scenario spurred discussion about what such a change might mean to Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05). Brooks currently has the entirety of Huntsville contained within his district. Now that Brooks is officially out of the 2020 U.S. Senate race, might his approach change to reapportionment? Or could his stated interest in running for the U.S. Senate race in 2022 — if Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) decided to retire — focus his attention elsewhere?

As a participant on the panel, State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) advised to consider carefully whether to split up a city between districts. She recalled that her hometown of Decatur was, at one time, split between the districts of Aderholt and former Congressman Bud Cramer. She felt that it did not work well for Decatur and may not work well for Huntsville.

One of the other scenarios being bandied about could make the discussion moot. Some believe a decrease in Alabama’s population could result in the state losing a congressional seat. The merger of Aderholt’s district with that of Brooks is one of the options being rumored in that case.

2. As ridiculous as the whole spectacle has been, don’t discount the impact State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) could have on the 2020 U.S. Senate race. National Journal even touched on this in one of their daily email blasts this week.

What hasn’t been mentioned yet is how the whole Rogers/Jones dynamic ties into the fight Jones has picked with the ADC, the black caucus of Alabama’s Democratic Party.

Jones has been fighting with the ADC and the state party, which longtime ADC head Joe Reed is viewed as controlling, since 2017 when Jones publicly complained they didn’t help him enough in the general election. Of course, things really came to a head when Jones backed a failed takeover of the state party last summer. And, as this possible Rogers primary challenge unfolds, the party is reaching the end of the timeframe that the DNC gave Worley and Reed to hold a do-over election for its leadership. There are whispers around Goat Hill that Jones is now seeing the fruits of picking a fight with the ADC, jeopardizing the already long-shot chance he has at re-election in 2020.

3. The lottery bill, SB 220, has become another example of State Rep. Bill Poole’s (R-Tuscaloosa) huge influence in the House.

Poole’s statesmanship delivered another major win for the ETF on Thursday when the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee unanimously adopted a substitute version of the lottery bill that will now send 25 percent of revenues to the ETF rather than education getting none of the lottery windfall. That Poole helped deliver this important concession quietly and effectively behind the scenes (yet again) only adds to what has been a historic few months for him. Kudos also go to State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), that chamber’s general fund chair and House carrier of the bill, who helped reach the compromise in an amicable and clean way, giving the lottery the best chance of passing possible on the floor.

4. Speaking of the lottery, there are a lot of major issues and spending priorities being intertwined in the conversation around SB 220. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has publicly emphasized the importance of bolstering general fund revenues, and he made another compelling case to House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) this week.

Daniels met with Marsh on Wednesday, continuing Marsh and other Republican leaders’ pledge (made during the Rebuild Alabama process) to hold substantive discussions with Democrats in the legislature about healthcare needs in the state. Daniels told reporters after the meeting on Wednesday that Marsh had committed to working on Medicaid expansion. However, Marsh’s office elaborated on how the conversation went.

Marsh reaffirmed his caucus’ commitment to improving rural healthcare and told Daniels Medicaid expansion was not on the table right now as an option because the state couldn’t afford it. However, Marsh said, if the general fund is boosted sufficiently by SB 220 lottery revenues, then Medicaid expansion could be a constructive conversation moving forward.

Clouse has emphasized that he needs Democrat votes to pass SB 220 in the House, so consider how these issues are linked, as expanding healthcare access and affordability has been the Democrats’ self-professed number one priority this year in Alabama, along with the prison system, which would also be set to benefit from increased general fund revenues.

6 months ago

Video contest will award funding to nonprofits making a difference in Alabama

(Partners in Progress)

Wind Creek Hospitality (WCH) is planning to award funding to seven nonprofit organizations as part of its inaugural Partners in Progress Video Contest.

Nonprofits in Alabama and North Florida wishing to participate can visit the contest website to submit an entry form along with a short video explaining how their organization makes a difference in the community.

The deadline to enter is May 14. Beginning on May 16, all qualifying entry videos will be posted on the contest website for voting to begin.

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The seven nonprofits to receive the most votes by May 31 will win a share of $125,000 according to the list below:

• 1st place: $40,000
• 2nd place: $30,000
• 3rd place: $15,000
• 4th place – 7th place will each receive $10,000

WCH spokesperson Danielle Sanspree explained, “Wind Creek is fortunate to be able to give back in our communities and there are so many organizations doing great work. The idea behind this contest is to give nonprofits a platform to tell their stories to a larger audience and then to learn what non-profits people want us to support.”

Sanspree said she hopes people will jump behind the effort by making sure their favorite organizations enter the contest and then by encouraging friends and family to vote.

“Nonprofits provide resources that no one else can or will; they stand in the gaps every day. This is a way for us to let them know they aren’t standing alone,” she stated.

Those wanting to learn more can visit the Wind Creek Hospitality Facebook page and search for Partners in Progress Video Contest or visit the contest website at https://3bb86cf2.wishpondpages.com/partners-in-progress/

7 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings 2nd Ed. Vol. V

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. The Republican U.S. Senate primary is still a two-person race, but expect that to change in the weeks ahead. Yellowhammer News first reported that freshman State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) was exploring a run, and now we can confirm that he is seriously weighing jumping in. Today, Dismukes is in Washington, D.C. meeting with groups – potential benefactors – that include Club for Growth, which has let its anti-Bradley Bryne sentiments be well known.

With Mo Brooks telling Talk 99.5’s “The Matt & Aunie Show” today that he is not running in 2020 (he has long maintained it would take a “seismic” event for him to change his mind) and Gary Palmer still looking unlikely to enter the Senate field, Club is frantically looking for a horse to back.

Brooks also newly introduced the possibility of State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) or former State Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) running.

A source has told Yellowhammer News that Mooney, 68, could be set to announce for the Senate next week. Mooney would definitely start with the lowest name ID in the field. He is telling people that he has the Club endorsement locked up and that he is going to hire national political players to handle the campaign: Fred Davis for media/advertising consultant, Jordan Gehrke to be the general consultant and Public Opinion Strategies to do polling. Gehrke was the GC for Brooks in 2017. Davis is recently best known for handling the media for John Kasich’s 2016 presidential bid.

Based on a conversation with someone familiar with Pittman’s thinking, his interest in running is fueled by a desire to inject serious issues of fiscal responsibility into the debate. Pittman had always been a fiscal hawk throughout his time in the Alabama legislature and was known for forcing tough decisions when he oversaw the budget. He is a big-thinker who it sounds now is being stirred to run by trillion dollar deficits and renewed interest in socialist policies. Pittman and Byrne hail from the same area of the state so dual candidacies could mitigate any geographic advantages in the Republican-heavy area.

Secretary of State John Merrill very well might announce a Senate candidacy in the next month or so, and he certainly seems like an option for Club. However, do not discount the possibility that the D.C. organization could still back Tommy Tuberville.

Finally, don’t sleep on Robert Bentley. Appearing on “The Jeff Poor Show” last week, the former governor sounded like a guy who truly wanted to run.

2. The Alabama House Minority Caucus and the Black Caucus have a pivotal decision to make on State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham), who managed to make his viral abortion remarks even worse with follow-up comments on Donald Trump, Jr.

The Minority Caucus leadership was already set to throw Rogers under the bus before he dug himself a deeper hole, and Black Caucus Chair A.J. McCampbell was in utter disbelief when he heard Rogers’ remarks about Trump, Jr.

House Democrats, in a superminority, have been working diligently and purposefully behind the scenes since Election Day to slowly build good will and political capital that they can leverage behind the scenes in negotiations about select priorities, including healthcare and Medicaid discussions.

Rogers’ actions could very well set them – and their state party – back at least another election cycle from having a meaningful seat at the table on the issues most important to them.

However, taking forceful action against Rogers (including asking for his resignation), comes with the risk of angering the Democratic base. In a state where primaries are king, there will be House Democrats afraid of their most strident voting blocs. Rogers is a longtime fixture in Democratic state politics and was already at odds with Caucus leadership over their decision to walkout on Tuesday’s abortion debate. The leadership risks making him an enemy in a place where they already have few friends, and Rogers could take a few Caucus veterans like State Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) with him.

3. One potential big winner in the 2019 legislative session is David Bronner of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA). As the pension systems’ head man, Bronner once again tops the list of highest-paid state employees and has leveraged his position to enjoy an enviable lifestyle. He is also, perhaps, the most feared man in Montgomery.

As CEO of RSA, Bronner oversees a pension system into which more than 300,000 people have paid or are currently paying. This means that he has a communication pipeline to names, addresses, phone numbers and emails for 300,000 Alabamians with a vested interest in engaging the political process. Priming that pipeline with a message advantageous to him allows Bronner to quickly whip up an educated constituency when the time comes to apply pressure to members of the legislature on issues affecting the pension system.

Thus, it is no surprise that the legislature seems poised to pass a bill sweetening the pot of pension benefits for state employees. Proponents of the legislation believe it will help state government attract and retain its employees. As a credit to Bronner’s near total control over pension policy, there are no opponents. The bill passed the House on a 100-0 vote.

The cost of the increased benefits comes in at a paltry $2.53 billion over the next thirty years. While Bronner has voiced his displeasure in the past over the reluctance of Alabamians to raise taxes, and advocated for the legalization of marijuana and gambling so it can be taxed, the issue of funding for this measure seems to be of no concern.

As a result, the work done by RSA in the 2019 legislative session may go down as one of David Bronner’s greatest achievements.

7 months ago

Birmingham neighborhood president named United Way corporate volunteer of the year

(Contributed)

The United Way of Central Alabama recently named Thomasine “TC” Jackson as the 2019 recipient of its Corporate Volunteer of the Year.

Jackson serves as president of the East Thomas Neighborhood Association in Birmingham and is a report reproduction supervisor for Drummond Company, Inc. where she has been employed for 34 years.

According to United Way, the award “recognizes a company employee that shows an exemplary approach to supporting and serving the community through volunteerism through their place of employment.”

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Her priorities as president of the East Thomas neighborhood have included improving parks and schools within the Smithfield community and helping to create a “Back to School Family Fun Day.”

Over the years, Jackson has advocated for numerous health initiatives and has served in numerous faith-based ministry programs, fulfilling volunteer needs in areas of music, administration, missions and health programming.

She has been a resident of the East Thomas Neighborhood for over 48 years. She is a product of the Wilkerson Elementary, A. H. Parker High School and Alabama School of Fine Arts. She has studied at Birmingham Southern, Alabama A& M University and University of Alabama in Birmingham. She is member of Payne Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Jackson is a past recipient of the Sarah Bass Allen Leadership Award from the Ninth Episcopal District Women’s Missionary Society, and she received the 2015 NAACP Award for Leadership in the Community.

She is married to Sidney W. Jackson and is the proud mother of two sons and has four grandchildren. She also helps out as a musician with the youth choir at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church.

Thomasine Jackson is frequently heard making a statement which may best sum up her attitude toward service: “Thank you for the opportunity to serve.”

7 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings 2nd Ed. Vol. IV

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. The sands of the U.S. Senate race continue to shift — daily, it would seem. On Monday, Alabama senate leader Del Marsh confirmed to Yellowhammer News that he was not running. The following day, we learned that freshman state representative Will Dismukes was exploring a run. Then on Wednesday Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told “The Jeff Poor Show” that he had engaged in extensive conversations about a candidacy and would decide by the end of May whether to enter the race.

Perhaps getting a feel for what it will be like as a candidate, Dismukes subsequently spoke on Merrill’s home turf to the Tuscaloosa County GOP meeting on Thursday evening. State legislators speaking to groups outside of their district is unusual.

A person very familiar with Tuscaloosa area politics told us this morning of Merrill, “He’s running.”

And staying in T-Town, former Gov. Robert Bentley appeared on “The Jeff Poor Show” on Friday at 2:30 p.m. CST. Yellowhammer News has been told that Bentley is seriously considering a U.S. Senate bid, despite politicos around the state blowing the notion off. In the interview, host Jeff Poor asked Bentley if he is going to enter the race, but the former governor gave a non-answer. Could a Byrne, Tuberville, Bentley field work out like Byrne, James, Bentley did in 2010?

2. We also continue to hear that Congressman Mo Brooks has definitely not made up his mind on the race and continues to mull a run. We were given the “not so fast” warning following a north Alabama report that Brooks was not running. Rumors and Rumblings noted in its last edition a Brooks campaign fundraising invitation making the rounds which did not identify the specific office sought by Brooks. That fundraiser occurred last night.

3. With all the focus on the Republican primary, it was notable to us that incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) may be looking over his shoulder for a primary challenge of his own. The rumblings of concern coming from the Jones camp could simply be an attempt to awaken a potential donor base for the junior senator.

Last reports showed Jones had only raised 12 percent of his campaign dollars from within Alabama’s borders. On the other hand, Jones announced his support this week for former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential primary. Candidates scheduled to appear on the ballot generally do not involve themselves in other primaries for fear of drawing opposition based on that stance.

7 months ago

Ivey to introduce book published by Alabama nonprofit dedicated to health and literacy

(Pixabay, YHN)

As part of its HEAL Day celebration in Montgomery, an Alabama nonprofit advocating for health and literacy will host Governor Kay Ivey for the introduction of a new book written by its founder.

Ivey will read the book, written by HEAL founder and CEO Christy Swaid, to 200 children in the state capitol auditorium.

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The Ultimate Treasure Hunt is a book that Swaid hopes will help children better understand the connection between health and literacy.

HEAL is an acronym summarizing the group’s mission: Healthy Eating Active Living. According to HEAL, it is “dedicated to unifying Alabama to reverse the trend of chronic disease and poor literacy.” The organization works with 30,000 students and 85,000 family members in 153 schools across the state.

Ivey’s book reading is part of an event the group is calling “HEAL Day: A day of education & celebration of health, academic achievement and literacy in the great state of Alabama.”

Where: Alabama State Capitol
When: May 1, 10:30am-1:00pm — Governor’s presentation is set for 11:00am with book reading to follow
Watch:

7 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. III

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. Got Trump? We now have one candidate in, for sure, and one candidate out, for sure, since our last Rumors and Rumblings. Former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville announced he’s running. Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth announced he is not.

But a common approach developing in the campaigns of Tuberville and Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) is an attempt to demonstrate a connection to President Donald Trump through his political operation. Tuberville has engaged former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer for his campaign.

Now, it sounds as if Byrne’s team is in talks with former Trump official Andy Surabian to help Byrne with his bid to join the U.S. Senate. Steve Bannon has said Surabian was a “one man war room” during Trump’s campaign.

As one political observer told Yellowhammer News, “Hiring former Trump team members is the quickest way to establishing Trump street cred in a Republican primary.”

2. Congressman Mo Brooks (R-05) sent out invitations to a fundraiser in Huntsville taking place in two weeks, and it’s what is not on the invitation that has people talking. The invitation, a copy of which Yellowhammer News has seen, does not specify the office he is seeking. A candidate for federal office may utilize funds raised should they decide to seek a different federal office.

3. The confirmation of Finis E. “Fess” St. John, IV as chancellor of the University of Alabama System has opened up a seat on the board from Alabama’s fourth congressional district. Look for much jockeying to occur in the coming weeks for that coveted seat on the board.

The board is composed of three members from the congressional district in which the Tuscaloosa campus is located and two members from each of the other six congressional districts. The governor and the state superintendent of education are ex-officio members of the Board.

4. The anticipation of reprisal against those voting against the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure funding bill continues to emanate throughout the Alabama statehouse. The House of Representatives shifted around some committee assignments this week. Among the moves were Rep. Paul Lee (R-Dothan) replacing Rep. April Weaver (R-Alabaster) as chair of the House Health Committee and Rep. David Wheeler’s (R-Vestavia Hills) removal from House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure. Both Weaver and Wheeler voted “no” on the Rebuild Alabama bill.

Members of the legislature have also noted to Yellowhammer News that lobbyists have shied away from having legislators who voted “no” on the infrastructure package sponsor bills for them. Lobbyists are said to fear that bills sponsored by “no votes” will have little chance of passing this session. This apparent fear has left some members sponsoring more bills than usual.

7 months ago

Manufacturing and IT leaders set to talk job skills with high school students, parents in Birmingham area

(ShopChat/Contributed)

A group of leaders from the manufacturing and IT industries is planning to meet with high school-aged students and their parents to discuss preparation for today’s job market.

The event, put together by Central Six Development Council, will take place on the UAB campus on April 11 and will include representatives from Mercedes Benz, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Altec, Shipt and UAB.

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Central Six Development Council is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to create a 21st Century workforce that is proactive, responsive, and results driven; supports the region’s diverse population and employers; and, provides quality job opportunities in support of a vibrant regional economy.”

Those seeking more information on the event, and how to attend, can visit the event’s website.

7 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. II

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

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1. It was not long ago when the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) was in turmoil as a result of its leadership and direction. A group of its key members took a stand, changes were made, fences were mended and the BCA brought in Katie Boyd Britt to reinvigorate its membership and fortify its position in the areas of politics and public policy. The turnaround has been strong and immediate.

With Britt at the helm as president and CEO, the BCA led the business community’s effort in passing the historic infrastructure package, Rebuild Alabama. Keen observers also took notice of the palpable change in the energy and attendance at the BCA’s annual legislative reception this week. One prominent elected official, impressed by the buzz at the event, remarked to Yellowhammer News, “I’m telling you, BCA is back.”

2. The intrigue surrounding Alabama’s 2020 U.S Senate race has spiked in recent days. Yellowhammer News wrote last week of the D.C. interest group Club for Growth’s recruitment efforts in the state. Announced candidate Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) continues to move around the state, and it sounds as if other potential candidates continue assessing the race.

A source close to Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth said that he is actively considering his options. The source said Ainsworth is bringing a team in next week to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the race and what a campaign could look like. We’re told financial backers have conveyed their ardent interest in an Ainsworth candidacy should he decide to run.

Someone familiar with Congressman Gary Palmer’s (AL-06) thinking told us that he continues to feel no pressure to make a decision any time soon. We hear he remains cognizant of what it could mean for the seat he currently occupies and its legacy if he chose not to seek re-election to the House. Palmer has faced only nominal opposition in his seat since his 2014 victory over former state House member Paul DeMarco in the Republican primary runoff.

A source with direct knowledge has confirmed to Yellowhammer News that former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville is now past seriously considering a Senate bid and is “all-in” on entering the race. He has been active in traveling the state and speaking to various civic and political organizations over the last few months, including being spotted at the ALGOP Winter Dinner by Yellowhammer News in February. Do not be surprised if Tuberville makes an announcement this month, as he has been meeting with national consultants and is currently focused on compiling a first-class campaign team. He even recently visited with former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Sean Spicer with Tommy Tuberville (Tuberville/contributed)

3. Speaking of potential Republican candidates to challenge Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2020, the out-of-the-blue news that Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) is considering moving across the state line into Alabama to mount a bid has Democrats in Washington, D.C. giddy about their newfound opportunity to keep the Senate seat blue.

Sources inside the Beltway tell Yellowhammer News that national Democrats would do everything in their power to get Gaetz nominated if he does decide to enter the race. After all, Jones’ best shot at convincing enough Alabamians to vote for him to stay in his seat would be running against someone who is not an Alabamian. Yellowhammer State Republicans have expressed similar sentiments and are worried that a Gaetz candidacy would torpedo what should be a clear-cut general election against Jones.

4. Former Attorney General Troy King made an appearance at the Alabama statehouse this week. King attended a Senate committee meeting involving the competing lottery bills. Observers saw King conferring with Greene County elected officials who were at the meeting advocating on behalf of smaller electronic bingo operators.

Yellowhammer News contacts in the legal community have told us they believe King has advised clients in Walker County, as well. Walker County was the site of a recent raid by law enforcement on a newly-established electronic bingo parlor.

5. The race for Alabama House District 74 is shaping up. This is the seat that became vacant after the sudden passing of beloved State Rep. Dimitri Polizos (R-Montgomery).

Former House candidate Charlotte Meadows officially announced her candidacy on Friday. Meadows is known to be a staunch school choice advocate and could draw the fire of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) in the race.

Daniel Sparkman, Governor Kay Ivey’s press secretary, is expected to enter the race in the coming days and will be a formidable candidate.

Have a rumor or rumbling you want to share? Email us at editor@yellowhammernews.com.

8 months ago

Rumors and Rumblings … is back!

(YHN)

Early on in Yellowhammer’s history, founder Cliff Sims produced a feature called “Rumors and Rumblings” that became a staple of Yellowhammer News content.

Well, it’s back!

It’s back because we have listened to our readers. In the last few months, we have had more people say they wanted us to bring it back than any other piece of content we can remember.

So we will give the people what they want.

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1. Speaking of Cliff Sims, Alabama’s newest New York Times bestselling author is back in Birmingham. The ultra-talented Sims is keeping his next move under wraps but we are able to tell you it is quite a unique opportunity, one that compelled him to opt for Alabama after having been courted by major firms in New York and Washington, D.C., as well as more than one major television network.

2. With ethics reform about to take center stage in the Alabama legislature, it sounds like longtime member of the Alabama Supreme Court Lyn Stuart is in line to begin a new chapter in her distinguished career on the Alabama Ethics Commission. Look for another renowned lawyer from the private sector to also join the commission later in the year as Butch Ellis and Jerry Fielding finish their terms in 2019.

3. We have heard one statewide official is close to making a 2020 election decision of her own. Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh appears likely to sign up to run for another term as president of the Alabama Public Service Commission — a position she has won twice before. She most recently co-chaired the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama’s successful effort to pass a constitutional amendment on last November’s ballot. It will be nearly impossible to run to her right in a Republican primary given her conservative track record.

4. It is a poorly kept secret that State Rep. Matt Fridy (R-Montevallo) has designs on running for the Court of Civil Appeals in 2020. Fridy has a $75,000 balance in his state campaign account which would give him a solid head start on fundraising in any court race. However, several prominent Republicans have mentioned his name to us as someone they hope considers a run for Congress should Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-6) jump into the U.S. Senate race.

5. It sounds, though, as if the D.C. interest group Club for Growth no longer believes Palmer will throw his name in the hat for the Senate in 2020. The sentiment seems now to be that Palmer, a Club favorite, will wait to see what Sen. Richard Shelby decides to do in 2022. Evidence of this is the Club’s zeroing in on Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) as a potential candidate to run this cycle. Brooks aligns with the group’s ideology, but the Club continues to privately harbor concerns about Brooks’ statewide viability. Other D.C.-based groups have made the same case behind the scenes in hopes of discouraging a Brooks candidacy. Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) is currently the only declared Republican candidate in the race.

6. A recent move on Byrne’s congressional staff could be a clue as to the validity of rumors that Jeff Sessions plans to jump in to reclaim his old seat. Former Sessions staffer Bradley Jaye was recently named Communications Director for Byrne’s congressional office, taking over for the highly-regarded Seth Morrow, who is serving as Byrne’s campaign manager. Normally when potential candidates are heavily considering a move, word goes out to their team — past and present — to hold steady in anticipation of a run. Could Jaye’s move indicate Sessions plans to pass on the Senate race? Time will tell.

Have a rumor or rumbling you want to share? Email us at editor@yellowhammernews.com.

8 months ago

Cheers! Commemorative bourbon celebrate’s Alabama’s 200th

(C. Wycoff/Flickr, Blanton's/Contributed, YHN)

Another special product has been created to commemorate Alabama’s bicentennial.

This time it is a commemorative release of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon.

The limited-release product is the result of a partnership between Buffalo Trace Distillery and the Alabama ABC, according to a release from the agency.

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Alabama ABC Board Administrator Mac Gipson spoke of the appropriateness of this unique offering.

“Just like Buffalo Trace Distillery, Alabamians take great pride in their rich history and heritage,” said Gipson. “The 200th anniversary of our state’s founding is another wonderful opportunity for Buffalo Trace and the Alabama ABC Board to collaborate on this one-of-a-kind commemorative release. Alabamians who enjoy Blanton’s or any of the other Buffalo Trace offerings will want to add this special 200th Anniversary release to their collection.”

Two single barrels of Blanton’s were hand selected for this limited release. The commemorative bicentennial bottles will be available in 750ml and will be sold in ten participating Alabama ABC stores beginning Thursday, March 14.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is an American family-owned company based in Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky. Introduced in 1984 as the world’s first single barrel bourbon, Blanton’s is aged in Warehouse H at Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Earlier this year, the United States Postal Service introduced its own commemorative product for Alabama’s 200th anniversary. It has created a Forever Stamp which includes artwork of the state’s scenery.

9 months ago

State leaders help introduce Alabama Statehood Forever stamp

(S. Clouse/Twitter)

Several Alabama leaders gathered recently at the introduction of a stamp commemorating the state’s 200th birthday.

Among those present at the unveiling of the stamp were Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison Mayor Paul Finley and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

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The U.S. Postal Service introduced the Alabama Statehood Forever stamp during the Alabama200 ceremony at the Early Works Children’s Museum in Huntsville, according to a postal service release.

“Since becoming America’s 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819, Alabama has built a rich history grounded in the diversity, tradition and hard work of its people, and the natural beauty and wonderment of its land,” said USPS Acting Chief Human Resources Officer Isaac Cronkhite, who officially dedicated the stamp. “Alabama has been pivotal in the growth of our nation to constantly strive to be a more perfect union.”

The Alabama Statehood Forever stamp features an existing photograph taken at sunset in Cheaha State Park.

Alabama photographer Joe Miller shot the picture from the park’s Pulpit Rock Trail, and Pulpit Rock is visible in the foreground.

Orr serves as chairman of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, a group “created to guide and support the commemoration of the anniversary of Alabama’s statehood.”

Orr said the introduction of the stamp was one part of a “very multi-faceted program” conducted by the Bicentennial Commission.

9 months ago

Save the date: Yellowhammer News Shaper series kicks off with its 2019 legislative edition

(Calhoun Chamber /YouTube, K. Carpenter)

Yellowhammer News will host its next “Yellowhammer News Shaper” event in Montgomery on March 19. The gathering will offer a networking opportunity as well as a live interview with Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia).

The discussion will be moderated by Yellowhammer News editor and owner Tim Howe and will cover issues surrounding this year’s legislative session.

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The event will take place at the Alabama Association of Realtors, 522 Washington Avenue, and will begin at 5:00 p.m. with a cocktail reception followed by the moderated interview and questions from the audience.

Several more Yellowhammer News Shaper events will take place across the state this year. The series is non-partisan, on-the-record and designed to localize issues and highlight thought leaders.

Continue to visit Yellowhammernews.com for announcements during the 2019 calendar year.