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.

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

(Pixbay, YHN)

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

513

Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

Ledbetter: Historians will view 2019 regular session among the state’s most important and influential

(N. Ledbetter/Facebook)

When Alabama historians look back at this era decades from now, they may well determine that the recently completed 2019 regular legislative session was the most important and influential of its time.

In terms of the depth and breadth of important issues that were debated, considered, and voted upon, the session set new precedents that will be difficult to replicate.

The most discussed bill of the session was obviously the Human Life Protection Act, a measure that was sponsored by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) and designed to overturn the unconstitutional and outdated ruling known as Roe v. Wade.

618

The state and national media focused on the fact that the legislation, which bans most abortions from taking place in Alabama, did not include an exception for incidents of rape or incest, but they either did not understand or simply chose not to report the reasons for its absence.

The bill is intended to promote the principle of “personhood,” which simply states that an unborn child is a human being with inviolable constitutional rights, and, thus, cannot be killed without due process. It is impossible to argue on behalf of personhood in court by saying unborn children have constitutional rights except when they were conceived under aggravated circumstances.

The law does allow abortions to occur when the life of the mother is threatened because even basic Judeo-Christian ethics recognize individuals have an innate right to self-defense.

Just as the legislature planned and invited, the ultra-liberal American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have filed a lawsuit against the statute, and it now begins a judicial journey that we hope will ultimately end with oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court.

This session also saw lawmakers approve a record high $7.1 billion Education Trust Fund budget for K-12 public schools, community colleges, and public universities.

The budget prioritizes funding for Alabama’s best-in-the-nation “First Class” prekindergarten program and also provides needed dollars for an accompanying literacy initiative that seeks to ensure all public school students are reading at grade level by the third grade.

Educators were awarded a four percent cost-of-living pay raise that places the salary of a first-year teacher above $40,000 for the first time in state history, which is intended to help address an on-going shortage of classroom instructors.

The perennially under-funded General Fund budget, which provides appropriations for Alabama’s non-education state agencies, was also increased by roughly $137 million over last year.

Much of that increase resulted from less than expected prescription drug costs in the Medicaid program, but on-going federal lawsuits involving living conditions and healthcare in the state’s prison system are expected to demand every available dollar in the near future.

We also approved a statewide constitutional amendment sponsored by State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) that makes clear only legal U.S. citizens have the right to vote in statewide elections by simply changing a phrase in our 1901 Constitution of Alabama that currently reads “Every citizen of the United States” has the right to vote to one that reads “Only a citizen of the United States…”

The amendment will appear on your ballot for ratification during the March 2020 primary election.

I carried two bills that are intended to pass our conservative Alabama values down to the next generation of citizens.

One requires public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily and resulted from learning that many schools across the state do not participate in the practice.

The other bill, which I co-sponsored with Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), allows public schools to teach the Bible as an elective in grades six through 12.

And, finally, I believe the Rebuild Alabama Act, which was approved in March, will maintain the momentum of our state’s record-breaking economic development successes and provide our children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren after them with safer roads and bridges to drive upon.

Certainly, the session was not perfect, and while many are saddened that House and Senate Democrats killed a state lottery referendum, many of us remain confident that the public will be allowed to vote on the issue in the not too distant future.

History will be kind to the men and women who participated in the 2019 regular legislative session, and their hard work and devoted public service is helping make Alabama a better place to live, work and worship for all of its citizens.

Nathaniel Ledbetter is Alabama’s House majority leader from Rainsville