The Wire

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

3 weeks ago

Alabama schools face challenges teaching English as 2nd language

(Pixabay)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Properly educating students who are learning English as a second language is proving to be a significant challenge for Montgomery County schools.

Students who don’t speak English as their primary language make up nearly one-quarter of the student population.

Adequate funding and training for teachers don’t exist, causing caseloads be twice the size they should, The Montgomery Advertiser reported.

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Educators are scrambling to improve instruction and support, the newspaper reported.

Montgomery Public Schools is starting a new instructional model in some schools geared toward English Learning students, but meant to help the entire population.

“In public education, we receive a lot of unfunded mandates,” whether it is a federal or state mandate, Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Ann Roy Moore said.

Regardless, “They are our kids once they are in our classrooms. We are doing what we have to do for any students who come into the system,” she said.

In Montgomery, some schools saw rapid growth in students in the program in recent years. Withn the past decade, Goodwyn Middle went from three English language students to 69.

Statewide, a coalition focused on increasing awareness has been formed, and Alabama lawmakers approved an increase in funding.

With more than 25,000 English language students throughout Alabama, several other school districts are serving student populations that are greater than 10%.

In Russellville City Schools, about 20% of nearly 2,500 students participate in the district’s English as a Second Language Program.

“We are underfunded, understaffed, under-resourced and teachers don’t have the professional development they need,” Superintendent Heath Grimes said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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3 weeks ago

Celebrate the good in life with Yellowhammer’s new lifestyle contributor

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia is excited to announce the addition of lifestyle content to its flagship website, YellowhammerNews.com.

Erin Brown Hollis, host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast, invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood through this new content offering.

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Yellowhammer’s lifestyle content will be distinct from its traditional news coverage, showcasing the individuals, businesses, attractions, events and eccentricities that make Alabama such a “Sweet Home.”

Hollis is an author, speaker, lawyer and mother of two. In addition to building an online following on her Rising and Shining blog, Hollis has published two books in the past six months, Cheers to the Diaper Years and The Remarkable Housewives of the Bible, with the third on the way.

It was not until after she had children that Hollis began writing professionally.

“I realized that I really wanted to leave a legacy for my girls because if I was going to teach them to chase their dreams then I needed to show them how,” Hollis recently told Yellowhammer News. “So I just started writing.”

She explained that one of her goals is to allow the reader to know they are on a journey together.

“If you can captivate an audience and make them feel as if you are sitting on the couch and talking with them and not talking at them, that is so key for my writing style,” Hollis said. “I never want the reader to feel like I know more than them. I’m the writer that says, ‘Hey, I’m right there with you. We’re on a team. We’re together. I’m just opening this conversation for us to chat.”

Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

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3 weeks ago

11 brothers from Alabama, 158 years of US military service

(PIxabay, YHN)

TUNICA, Miss. (AP) — The sons of Ben and Hattie Davis give special meaning to the term “band of brothers.”

Eleven in all, their combined 158 years of service to the U.S. military make them brothers in arms as well as brothers raised on a family farm in rural Alabama.

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Seven of the 11 gathered in mid-July at a hotel and casino in Mississippi for a reunion thick with brotherly love and military pride. They laughed together, told stories from their days growing up and serving the country and reminisced about what it was like to be black in the U.S. military in the 20th century in America.

But in the end, they talked less about racism than the lack of respect all veterans feel from their fellow Americans.

“Being in the military, it was a fine thing,” said Lebronze Davis, who fought in the Vietnam War and has survived cancer and heart surgery. “We all think we’ve done an outstanding job.”

In 2017, the Davis men were honored by the National Infantry Museum Foundation. The names of the 11 brothers and their uncle are engraved on four paving stones installed at the museum.

“What these brothers did out of love for both family and country is nothing short of remarkable,” foundation president Pete Jones said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Their sense of duty is unrivaled, and is the kind of spirit that makes our nation’s armed forces the greatest in the world.”

Sixteen siblings — the 11 veterans, plus three sisters and two brothers who did not enter the military — grew up on a 60-acre (24-hectare) cotton farm in Wetumpka, Alabama, where their parents worked hard to put food on the table. Mom was the disciplinarian, dad had a softer approach.

“Their moral and ethical values were pristine,” said Arguster, the youngest at 67 years old.

When the boys graduated high school, it seemed natural to enter the military.

Military experience runs long in the Davis family. The brothers’ uncle, 99-year-old Master Sgt. Thomas Davis, survived Pearl Harbor’s surprise attack.

Ben Jr. was the first brother to enlist. He joined the Navy in 1944, while World War II was still raging.

Arguster served in the Air Force for four years and then the Air Force Reserve until 1998.

Lebronze, 70, saw the heaviest fighting of the group: He survived jungle ambushes as an Army soldier in Vietnam, where he developed advanced napping skills.

“I can go out in any bushes and sleep like a Holiday Inn,” Lebronze said. “You learn how to do it because you are so tired. But guess what, you can hear a gnat go by you.”

The brothers talk often, and try get together every year. This year, seven of them traveled to Tunica, Mississippi, for some gambling and buffet action to celebrate three July birthdays. They spoke with an Associated Press reporter in a meeting room at the Horseshoe hotel.

The Davis roll call features a mix of personalities.

Octavious, the brothers agree, is the jokester. An Army veteran, he drew riotous laughter when he told a bear-in-the-woods joke.

“We just like to get together and talk trash and just have a good time,” said Octavious, 80. “All of us are close.”

Lebronze is known as the straightforward brother. Brothers Frederick, 68 — the serious one — and the more practical Julius, 73, joined him in serving in the Army during Vietnam.

Eddie, 89, also served during Vietnam, but that was just part of his 23 year career with the Army and Air Force. He has a more spiritual side, while Army veteran Nathaniel, 75, is no-nonsense.

Washington, a six-year Army veteran, has passed away. Ben, Alphonza, who served 29 years in the Army, and Calvin, who did four years in the Navy, couldn’t attend.

In their years after serving, the brothers have worked for the U.S. Postal Service and the Bureau of Prisons, as electricians and businessmen. And they clearly have shared personality traits: friendliness, strong work ethic, mutual respect.

They remember being disrespected too, like the white-only drinking fountains and “colored-only” waiting areas they endured while growing up in the years of legal segregation.

“These were the norms we saw,” Nathaniel said.

But the brothers said they didn’t experience much racism in the military. Julius does recall when his base in Mobile, Alabama, was put on alert the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Everybody thought that black people were going to tear the town up,” he said.

Octavious says the brothers don’t often talk with one another about their military experiences. Lebronze won’t watch war movies and he doesn’t even dream about his time in Vietnam.

But they all boomed a collective “no” in response to one question: Are veterans respected as much today as in the past?

Arguster says he has grown weary of the overused phrase, “thank you for your service.”

His preference?

“I would much rather hear them say, ‘Thank you for helping to keep this country free.’”

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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3 weeks ago

Longtime Tuscaloosa mayor, Al DuPont, dies at 94

(WVUA 23/Facebook)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Tuscaloosa’s longtime mayor, Al DuPont, has died at a nursing home in Texas. He was 94.

The Tuscaloosa News reports DuPont, who died Wednesday, was first elected mayor in 1980 and served six terms before he retired on his 80th birthday in 2005.

DuPont lived in a home he rebuilt after the April 27, 2011 Tuscaloosa tornado until his health worsened a few months ago. He moved to a nursing home in Canton, Texas, to be near his family after suffering a stroke in April.

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Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, but he will be buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Tuscaloosa, where his wife, Margaret, was buried in 2010.

Mayor Walt Maddox, in a statement, described DuPont as an American hero “who served our country and our city with distinction.”

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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3 weeks ago

UAB, UnitedHealthCare reach deal to continue service

(Wikicommons, YHN)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System has reached a deal with UnitedHealthCare to continue accepting the company’s medical insurance.

The agreement means almost 25,000 policyholders can continue getting care at one of Alabama’s leading hospitals.

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UAB was going to quit accepting the company’s insurance after Wednesday without a new contact.

The new deal will cover two years, and a statement from UnitedHealthCare says its customers won’t see any interruption in benefits.

An impasse emerged after months of talks and disagreements over the cost of care at UAB. The insurer said the hospital system was too expensive, and the hospital said the company was ignoring costs associated with treating the state’s sickest patients.

The new agreement will be finished over the next two weeks.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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4 weeks ago

690-mile annual yard sale to span from Alabama to Michigan

(127 Yard Sale/Facebook, YHN)

GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) — A nearly 700-mile yard sale is about to span several states from Alabama to Michigan for its 32nd straight year.

The Gadsden Times reports the four-day event known as 127 Yard Sale returns Thursday. It runs from Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama, through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio before winding down in Addison, Michigan.

The event’s website says the yard sale was founded in 1987 by a man who wanted travelers to bypass interstate highways in favor of scenic routes that took them through rural communities.

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Most of the event follows Highway 127 and dozens of vendors will set up shop in certain spots, such as Noccalula Falls Park. Sales will be set up all along the route. The event recommends attendees bring cash, sunscreen and rain gear.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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4 weeks ago

Grand jury gets case of soldier charged in Auburn officer’s killing

(ALEA/Contributed)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — A grand jury will review evidence in the case of an Alabama soldier charged with killing a police officer and wounding two others.

The Opelika-Auburn News reports court records show 29-year-old Grady Wayne Wilkes did not request a preliminary hearing, sending the case to the grand jury.

Wilkes is charged with capital murder and attempted murder in the May shooting that killed Auburn police Officer William Buechner and wounded officers Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott.

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Court documents say the officers were responding to the call of a woman who said her live-in boyfriend had threatened to kill her.

The shooting started when officers knocked on the door. Wilkes, who led a combat infantry team with the Alabama National Guard, wore body armor and greeted them with a rifle.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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4 weeks ago

Tuscaloosa’s first African-American police chief to retire

(Tuscaloosa Police Department/Facebook)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The police chief of an Alabama city is stepping down to take a job with the University of Alabama System.

The retirement of 48-year-old Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson was announced at a news conference Wednesday. Anderson’s resignation takes effect Aug. 30.

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He was hired as chief in 2008 to replace former chief Ken Swindle. Anderson has been with the department since 1994. He is Tuscaloosa’s first African American police chief.

Anderson’s new job title is director of system security. News outlets report he will be responsible for security at all of the University of Alabama System’s campuses.

Tuscaloosa Police Assistant Chief Mitt Tubbs will be the interim chief after Anderson leaves and until the department hires a new chief.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 month ago

Alabama: Keep statewide elections for appellate courts

(YHN/Pixabay)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — In a Monday court filing, Alabama asked a federal judge to uphold the state’s 150-year-old practice of electing appellate judges by statewide vote and reject a lawsuit’s claims that it is racially discriminatory.

A federal judge will hear arguments next month in a lawsuit that seeks to switch the judicial selections to elections by districts, or another method. The lawsuit contends the current method dilutes the voting power of black voters in Alabama and keeps them from electing their preferred candidates.

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Alabama appellate courts are all-white and all-Republican and have been for a number of years.

In a closing brief ahead of the oral argument, lawyers said appellate judges should be accountable to all Alabamians because they consider cases that “have a profound impact on the lives of all Alabamians.” The state suggested politics, and the state’s shift to the GOP, has led to the current all-white court.

“The record shows that to the extent that black candidates or black-supported candidates are unsuccessful, it is not on account of race but instead because those candidates are running as Democrats in a red state,” lawyers for the state wrote.

The state wrote that there is no evidence that the statewide method is rooted in racial discrimination

“For 150 years, Alabama has used statewide popular elections to choose appellate judges. That choice was made in 1868 without the slightest hint of racial discrimination,” lawyers for the state wrote.

The oral arguments next month will be the culmination of the lawsuit filed in 2016 by the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and four black voters. A federal judge heard evidence in a bench trial that ended in November.

Alabama’s appellate judges run in statewide partisan elections, just like the governor, attorney general and other top officials.

Currently, the courts are all-white in a state where one in four people is African American. There has never been a black judge on the criminal and civil appeals courts. There have been three black judges on the Alabama Supreme Court but all were first appointed by governors.

“Today, in 2019, all 19 of Alabama’s most powerful judges are white. This is the colorline in Alabama: a racially segregated judiciary where blacks can be elected only to lower court positions,” lawyers for plaintiffs in the case wrote in a brief filed earlier this month

The Alabama lawsuit is similar to one in Texas filed on behalf of several Hispanic voters. A judge in September ruled in favor of the state in that case.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 month ago

Sheriff accused of scamming church, food bank pleads guilty

(PIckens County Sheriff's Office/Facebook, YHN)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A former Alabama sheriff accused of scamming a food bank and church and pocketing leftover money meant for feeding inmates pleaded guilty Tuesday to two of nine federal charges lodged against him.

Former Pickens County Sheriff David Abston, in federal court in Birmingham, pleaded to committing one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return, The Tuscaloosa News reported. The remaining charges have been dropped.

Abston could face up to 20 years in prison, but attorneys with the U.S. Attorney’s Office have said they will recommend a reduction because he accepted responsibility and agreed to pay $51,280 in restitution.

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Although a Depression-era law changed by lawmakers this year let sheriffs profit from jail kitchens, prosecutors said Abston’s setup was a scam.

“A sitting county sheriff is alleged to have defrauded a food bank and a church for his personal gain at the expense of the underprivileged that the food bank serves,” U.S. Attorney Jay Town said in a statement when Abston was arrested in June.

Prosecutors said Abston, who held office in the rural west Alabama county for more than three decades, got his own church, Highland Baptist of Gordo, involved in the West Alabama Food Bank in 2014. Abston then wrote checks totaling some $80,000 over four years to purchase cut-rate food that was meant for the poor and wrongly used it to feed prisoners.

Sheriffs get state reimbursements to feed jail prisoners, and an old Alabama law let them keep any leftover funds. During the four years the scheme operated, Abston got more than $400,000 in food allowance money from the state and other government agencies, prosecutors said.

A law passed earlier this year requires the food allowance to go into a separate account that can be used only for feeding prisoners. It also provided more money to cover the costs.

Abston declined to speak to reporters when he left the Hugo Black Courthouse in Birmingham Tuesday morning. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 25.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 month ago

Professor sues Tuskegee claiming age, race discrimination

(Tuskegee University/Contributed, YHN)

TUSKEGEE, Ala. (AP) — A white professor at historically black Tuskegee University says he is suing the school, claiming he has been denied the salary he deserves because of discrimination.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports physics professor Marshall Burns held a press conference Tuesday. He said he ha snot considered leaving Tuskegee because he loves teaching students.

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He says he gets an associate professor’s salary despite being a full professor since 1980 and asking for a raise at least 12 times. His lawsuit claims age and race discrimination.

Burns, who earned his PhD. in 1972, said he’s paid $60,500 while younger full professors make between $78,000 and $90,000. He says the denial of a full professor’s salary has cost him $400,000 over his career. The Advertiser says the university did not respond to its request for comment.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 month ago

Boating deaths are soaring on Alabama’s lakes and rivers

(Pixabay,YHN)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama has already had its deadliest year in two decades for boaters — and the summer isn’t nearly over yet.

Boating accidents in the first 6 ½ months of 2019 have killed 25 people, AL.com reported.

Already, that makes this year the deadliest one since 1998, when 32 people died. The number of deaths so far this year is already higher than year-end totals for the past several years.

This July alone, 12 crashes resulted in six deaths.

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“In my 24 years of doing this, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Capt. Gary Buchanan, the commander of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Marine Patrol.

Investigators can’t definitively pinpoint the cause for this year’s drastic increase, Buchanan said.

“Some have happened at night, some during the day, some have involved one boat, some two boats and alcohol has been a factor in some,” Buchanan said. “It’s all over the spectrum.”

There has been a decrease in Marine Patrol presence on Alabama’s lakes and rivers. There are roughly 45 Marine Patrol current officers throughout Alabama. There are 21 vacancies — jobs that were all filled 10 to 15 years ago, Al.com reported.

Boater registrations have also increased in recent years.

“There’s an increase in boaters and there are fewer Marine Patrol troopers on the waterways,” Buchanan said. “There’s no doubt that an enforcement presence has an effect on behavior, just like when you top that hill and you see a trooper car in front of you.”

The year with the most boating-related fatalities was 1972, which had a year-end total of 55. The year with the fewest, according to ALEA statistics, was 2013, with 10.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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3 months ago

Auburn gymnast walks down wedding aisle after serious injury

(Sam Cerio/Instagram)

A gymnast who suffered a severe leg injury accomplished her goal of walking down the aisle at her wedding.

The Advocate reports Auburn University graduate Samantha Cerio shared photos on Instagram Monday of the ceremony in Fairhope.

The gymnast dislocated both knees and tore ligaments in both legs during a competition in April. After having surgery, she said she wanted to recover enough in time to walk down the aisle at the ceremony.

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Cerio used crutches to cross the stage at her graduation in May. She earned a degree in aerospace engineering.

Cerio walked down the aisle free of crutches to marry fiancé Trey Wood.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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3 months ago

A look at what passed and failed in the Alabama legislature

(Wikicommons)

Alabama lawmakers ended the 2019 legislative session on Friday. Here’s a look at some of the proposals that passed and failed this year.

WHAT WAS APPROVED:

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GAS TAX

Gov. Kay Ivey called lawmakers into special session to approve the gas tax increase to fund road and bridge construction. The 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase will be phased in over three years beginning with a six-cent increase on Sept. 1.

ABORTION BAN

The ban makes it a felony to perform an abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger. It is anticipated that it will be blocked by the courts. A lawsuit has been filed challenging the ban.

THIRD GRADE READING

The legislation will require third graders to meet reading benchmarks before moving to fourth grade. The bill also spells out initiatives, such as requiring regional reading specialists to work with struggling students, to boost test scores.

STATE SCHOOL BOARD

Alabama voters will decide next year whether they want to abolish the elected state school board and replace it with a nine-member commission. Members would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Alabama Senate.

PAY RAISES FOR TEACHERS, OTHERS

Teachers and other public school employees will receive a 4% pay raise. State employees will receive a 2% raise. Lawmakers also voted to raise the pay for correctional officers as the state faces a federal court order to add officers.

PAROLE BOARD OVERHAUL

The bill makes multiple changes at the state parole board, including making a gubernatorial appointee who could be dismissed at will by the governor. The board currently hires the director.

EQUAL PAY

The legislation prohibits businesses from paying workers less than employees of another race or sex for the same work unless there are reasons such as seniority, a merit system or productivity to account for the difference.

JAIL FOOD FUNDS

Alabama lawmakers voted to end a practice that allowed some sheriffs to pocket leftover jail food funds. The bill requires the food allowance to go into a separate account that can only be used for feeding prisoners.

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

The measures would track how often prosecutors use civil actions to seize a person’s property for suspected criminal activity. State prosecutors agreed this year to track the forfeitures, but the legislation would mandate it.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA STUDY COMMISSION

Lawmakers voted to create a medical marijuana commission that would make recommendations for legislation that lawmakers might consider in 2020.

BROADBAND ACCESS

The governor signed into law two bills aimed at expanding broadband access. One bill expands an existing grant program for broadband providers in rural communities. Another allows electricity providers to use existing infrastructure to provide broadband services.

MARRIAGE LICENSES

Marriage licenses would be replaced with a new form called a marriage certificate. The change comes after several probate judges stopped issuing marriage licenses so they don’t have to give them to gay couples. Judges wouldn’t have to sign the new forms before a wedding.

BACKSEAT SEATBELTS

The measure would require a person to wear a seat belt in the backseat of a moving vehicle. The legislation is named for a Montgomery teen killed in a car crash.

WHAT FAILED:

LOTTERY

A proposal to start a state lottery cleared the Alabama Senate, but it did not get a vote in the House.

PERMITLESS CARRY

A bill to allow a person to carry a concealed handgun without getting a special permit failed to win approval in a Senate committee. The bill was backed by gun rights groups but opposed by state sheriffs.

MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION

The bill would have made possession of small amounts of marijuana punishable by a fine instead of jail time. An Alabama Senate committee advanced the bill, but it did not get final approval.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

The Senate approved a bill that would allow people with certain medical conditions to purchase medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval. However, the measure stalled in the House.

PAYDAY LOAN

The proposal would extend the time that people have to repay a payday loan to 30 days. The proposal was designed to give borrowers more opportunity to raise the funds needed to repay a loan.

MANDATORY KINDERGARTEN

The proposal would have required student to attend kindergarten before starting first grade. Most students do attend kindergarten, but it is not mandatory.

ETHICS OVERHAUL

A Senate committee shelved a proposal that would have done away with a ban on gifts to public officials but replaced it with a requirement to report everything that was given.

DISTRACTED DRIVING

The proposal would have forbidden motorists from holding a cellphone and other devices while driving.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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5 months ago

Yellowhammer News — There’s an app for that

(YHN, Pixabay)

It’s here!

The new and improved Yellowhammer News App is ready to deliver your favorite content straight to your smartphone.

Sleek and user-friendly, the app is yet another platform from Yellowhammer Multimedia keeping our loyal consumers informed on the topics that matter most.

The app enables users to select specific categories for content notifications. Whether you want to stay informed on politics, sports, outdoors, faith and culture or anything else — the app will keep you up-to-date on the latest news in the Yellowhammer state.

The app is available now for both Apple and Android products. Download at the App Store or simply click here.

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5 months ago

Watch live: Alabama AG Steve Marshall joins Trump for White House discussion on drug trafficking

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. CT, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall will join President Donald Trump at the White House to participate in a discussion on the impact of drug trafficking at and between points of entry at the United States-Mexico border.

Watch:

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Video courtesy of The White House

6 months ago

Save the Date: 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards and Reception

Yellowhammer Multimedia is proud to announce the second annual Women of Impact Awards — a celebration of the strong women who impact and propel Alabama.

This event will recognize the personal and professional accomplishments of 20 Alabama women whose powerful contributions have moved the needle across business, government and non-profit sectors. These women are a force in our state and are respected leaders, advisors and mentors who empower others through the lives they devote and trails they blaze.

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Yellowhammer News will announce the honorees during the month of April, highlighting an honoree each weekday leading up to the event. This event will include the titans of Alabama business and government.

We hope you will join us to celebrate these women of impact.

Register Now!

Date/Time:

April 29, 2019 at 6:00 pm

Location:

Grand Bohemian Hotel
2655 Lane Park Rd
Birmingham, AL 35223

Sponsorships:

Sponsorship opportunities for this event are available. For more information, email Courtney Ellis at Courtney@yellowhammernews.com.

Additional details:

For more information about the event or tickets, please email event@yellowhammernews.com. Dress is cocktail attire.

7 months ago

Sign up for Dale Jackson’s 7 Things morning newsletter

Dale Jackson, Alabama’s premier political commentator and award winning radio host, provides readers with a first look at the news and issues sure to dominate the day.

Sign up here to get 7 Things delivered to your inbox.

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10 months ago

Watch live WAAY-TV Election Night coverage — Yellowhammer News’ Dale Jackson, Jeff Poor joined by political scientist Dr. Waymon Burke

(YHN / Jeff Poor)

As Tuesday’s election results come in, watch Yellowhammer News’ Dale Jackson and Jeff Poor, who will be joined by Calhoun Community College’s Dr. Waymon Burke, offer news and analysis.

Not only is control of Congress on the line, but a full slate of state offices as well.

See video below.

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10 months ago

Listen: GOP Rep. Bradley Byrne, Dem nominee Robert Kennedy, Jr. face off in AL-1 debate

(Screen Capture/WPMI)

Tuesday morning, incumbent Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and Democratic Party nominee Robert Kennedy, Jr. took to the airwaves on Mobile’ s FM Talk 106.5 to face off in an Alabama first congressional district contest debate.

Listen:

Voters will decide if Byrne or Kennedy will represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives in next month’s midterm election.

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11 months ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE: 14 powerful and influential leaders in their regions

The Yellowhammer Power & Influence 50 is an annual list of the 50 most powerful and influential players in Alabama politicsbusiness and state government – the men and women who shape the state.

There are also many others who drive politics and policy in their parts of the state. Today, we take a look at 14 people of power and influence in their respective regions.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

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For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

North Alabama

David Reed, president, Whitaker Contracting

David Reed has a network of relationships throughout north Alabama that would be the envy of anyone in business and politics. Reed knows all the power players in the region. Or, put more appropriately, all the power players know Reed. An innovator in his industry, Reed has also demonstrated a sincere desire to see the state maximize its potential in education and workforce development. Alabama needs more local leaders like David Reed.

Dale Strong, chairman, Madison County Commission

Dale Strong is one of the most influential people in a part of the state that is growing more powerful year after year. As chairman of the Madison County Commission, Strong has helped set the region up for success by championing infrastructure improvements and streamlining government. Strong is a first-rate operator who continues to build his power base.

Daniel Wilson, shareholder, Maynard Cooper & Gale

One of the behind-the-scenes power players in the booming Huntsville economy, Daniel Wilson is north Alabama’s preeminent operator when it comes to government relations and commercial development. He is now managing shareholder of Maynard Cooper’s offices in Huntsville and Washington, D.C., reinforcing the strong synergy between successful businesses in North Alabama and federal entities in the nation’s capital.


Metro Birmingham

Mike Hale, sheriff, Jefferson County

Mike Hale has become something of an institution in Jefferson County government and politics. He has seen a lot of changes in his two decades as sheriff and has received recognition and numerous awards for his conduct of the office. The size of the county alone makes for significant law enforcement challenges. Hale has shown the type of leadership that helps keep his area of the state moving forward.

Randall Woodfin, mayor, City of Birmingham

Randall Woodfin has enjoyed a swift ascent to the heights of political power in the state’s largest city. Woodfin defeated an entrenched incumbent in 2017 and has not looked back. In fact, since that time, he has shown a remarkable awareness of which policy battles will help elevate his profile in Alabama and beyond. However, nothing amplifies one’s message quite like opposition. So it will be interesting to see if any conservative politicians in the state actively oppose him on any of his public policy positions. Such a scenario could be politically beneficial to both parties involved.

West Alabama

Carl Jamison, chairman, JamisonMoneyFarmer PC

A longtime executive board member and past chairman of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), Jamison’s power and influence extend far and wide. However, it is magnified in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, where the accounting firm started by his grandfather in 1920 has grown into one of the biggest in the region. Couple this with Jamison serving as treasurer for EDUPAC, which is the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees’ political arm, and you get one of West Alabama’s key cogs.

Cathy Randall, chairman, Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC

The epitome of her alma mater’s “Where Legends Are Made” campaign, Dr. Cathy Randall is a hallmark of the Tuscaloosa area, as well as an icon for female leaders throughout the state. Her incredible resume of service ranges from long-serving as the director of the University of Alabama’s computer-based honors program to advising some of Alabama’s corporate titans. Randall currently serves on the boards of directors for the Alabama Power Company and Mercedes Benz USI.


Montgomery Area

John Mazyck, principal, The Frazier Lanier Company

As the Business Council of Alabama’s Montgomery area district chairman, John Mazyck has a strong voice in who the state’s largest business group supports from his region. Mazyck is a principal in The Frazier Lanier Company and has been heavily involved in corporate and municipal finance deals. His influence only serves to rise given his elevated position on the BCA’s executive committee. Look for Mazyck to assume a position as a statewide player.

Dr. Quinton Ross, Jr., president, Alabama State University

Quinton Ross has been on the job for a little less than a year, and he has already received rave reviews from inside the Alabama State family and from key decision-makers and business leaders at the state level. Historically black colleges and universities are an important part of our state’s history and culture, and ASU is a central part of the community in the Montgomery area. Ross, a former state senator, has infused some much-needed leadership into an institution that had too often been a cauldron of controversy. Ross has put in motion a plan that will allow ASU to reach its potential and benefit all of Montgomery.


Wiregrass

Bill Carr, chairman and managing partner, Carr, Riggs & Ingram

Carr may just be an accountant on paper, but this money man has his hand in much, much more. For its relative size in the Wiregrass, Enterprise is gifted considerable pull, as Carr is one of the first phone calls that top-tier statewide candidates make when fundraising and seeking support. Besides the impressive feat of building one of the twenty biggest accounting firms in the nation out of southeast Alabama, his involvement in the road building industry and advising the likes of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) and the Community College System make him the unquestioned czar of Coffee County.

Mark Saliba, mayor, City of Dothan

The relatively new mayor of Dothan, Saliba is continuing a family legacy of public service and influence in Houston County. His father, Alfred Saliba, served two terms as mayor between 1989-1997 and now Mark, the president of the Alfred Saliba Corporation, is leading the Wiregrass’ largest city with a focus on economic and workforce development. Combined with his chairing of the Home Builders Association of Alabama’s heavy-hitting PAC, Saliba packs a punch from the Peanut Capital of the World.


Gulf Coast

Wiley Blankenship, president and CEO, Coastal Alabama Partnership

Having worked across the state in all areas of economic development since 1996, Wiley Blankenship is perfectly suited to help coalesce coastal Alabama’s diverse portfolio of leaders into one juggernaut of an organization. That is exactly what he is doing as head of the Coastal Alabama Partnership, which is becoming a major factor in local and statewide politics, besides its crucial civic and economic development work.

Angus Cooper, III, president, Cooper/T. Smith Corporation

The Cooper family is a staple of power and influence along the Gulf Coast, and Angus Cooper, III is taking the reins of this legacy in exemplary fashion. Now on the powerful board of the Alabama Power Company, Cooper has been active in the leadership of the Alabama Wildlife Federation and the State Port Authority, in addition to many civic organizations in Mobile. Look for this prominent corporate leader to keep rising.

Elliot Maisel, chairman and CEO, Gulf Distributing Company

Like the benign godfather of Mobile, Maisel sits in his well-appointed office above his beverage warehouse and pulls more strings than most know exist. Through his leadership in the Alabama Wholesale Beer Association, his power and influence are felt throughout the Yellowhammer State. But when it comes to Mobile, he truly is king of the castle, now serving as the powerful chairman of the Airport Authority to boot.

 

11 months ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE: Who’s next?

The Yellowhammer Power & Influence 50 is an annual list of the 50 most powerful and influential players in Alabama politics, business and state government – the men and women who shape the state.

Today, we’re taking a look at a new group of Alabama leaders poised to be part of the next generation of power and influencers.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

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For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

Christian Becraft, director of governmental affairs, Auburn University

As director of Governmental Affairs, Christian Becraft has significant responsibility in the university’s approach to its interactions within state government. This is a position for which she is well-qualified given her previous experience as Governor Ivey’s education policy advisor and her service on the Education Commission for the States.

Chris Beeker, III, state director for rural development, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Agriculture is a $55 billion industry in Alabama. Chris Beeker is the main point of contact between that industry and the critically important U.S. Department of Agriculture. Beeker was appointed to his position by President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Having grown up as part of a family-owned catfish farm and cattle business, Beeker was ready for this important job on day one.

Molly Cagle, director of external affairs, Manufacture Alabama

As the chief lobbyist for Manufacture Alabama, Molly Cagle boasts power and influence well beyond her age already. Besides her sway in policy matters affecting industrial giants in the Yellowhammer State, she is also the go-to staff member for candidates and elected officials wanting the support of JOBS PAC. This former Senate Liaison for Pro Tem Del Marsh will continue rising on the governmental affairs scene for decades to come.

Patrick Cagle, president, Alabama Coal Association

The former director of the JobKeeper Alliance, Patrick Cagle is now standing up for jobs in the state as head of the important Alabama Coal Association. After taking the reins this past spring, he is already making his mark on this vital industry, growing his power and influence along with the association. He is also a mover as a member of the Conservation Advisory Board, the 10-member group appointed by the governor to oversee hunting and fishing policies in the state. Patrick and Molly Cagle are a true power couple on Goat Hill.

Will Dismukes, Republican nominee, House District 88

Will Dismukes is poised to fill an open seat in the Alabama House of Representatives, and he did so by managing his way through a field that included the handpicked Business Council of Alabama candidate and an Autauga County political legend. Dismukes was a two-time All-American pitcher at Faulkner University, and he gained considerable political experience in the Alabama Farmers Federation governmental affairs shop. He is now a small business owner looking to make his mark in Montgomery.

Chris Elliott, Republican nominee, Senate District 32

Chris Elliott is likely the next state senator from the overwhelmingly Republican district 32. Elliott has a diverse business background and has already served a term on the Baldwin County Commission. The gulf coast region is a big part of Alabama’s economy. Elliott’s background and experience should come in handy navigating the treacherous waters of the Alabama Senate.

Garlan Gudger, Jr., Republican nominee, Senate District 4

Garlan Gudger, Jr. is a successful small businessman from Cullman who demonstrated some pretty strong popularity in defeating a two-term incumbent in his Republican primary for the Alabama Senate. That type of mandate from his district and strength of personality should allow him to carve out space for himself in the state senate.

Lance Hyche, owner, Greystone Public Affairs, LLC

Lance Hyche has been able to pull off the difficult challenge of maintaining a lobbying practice and being a campaign consultant. After all, there are only so many hours in a day. Yet, Hyche has an impressive client list in both practices and the wins to match. His years of experience in grassroots campaign and issue outreach have served his clients well and set him up for continued success.

Greg Keeley, managing partner, Dreadnaught

Greg Keeley is a highly sought-after expert on politics, international affairs and cyber-security. He is a frequent contributor on Fox News, Daily Caller and The Hill. During the last year, though, he has been in the unique position of localizing his national profile to Alabama politics. A veteran of combat theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq – with commissions from the U.S. Navy and the Australian Navy – Keeley is able to call on uncommon background and experiences as he grows his new firm Dreadnaught.

Wes Kitchens, Republican nominee, House District 27

Wes Kitchens will likely be representing a north Alabama district in the Alabama House of Representatives. Considering that the last person who held that seat launched themselves toward the lieutenant governor’s office, Kitchens has some pretty big shoes to fill. Kitchens has served as president of his chamber of commerce so his ability to focus on jobs and the economy should help him achieve that end.

Parker Duncan Moore, state representative, House District 4

State Representative Parker Duncan Moore has not even stepped foot onto the house floor yet, but this 29-year-old is already poised to be a player in Montgomery. After winning a special election in May to replace former House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, Moore is set to win a term of his own come November 6. From there, this Decatur-area conservative will look to acquire power and influence over the next four years.

Edward O’Neal, associate, Maynard, Cooper & Gale

Edward O’Neal has become a consistent presence at the Alabama statehouse. As an associate at the high-end law firm of Maynard, Cooper & Gale, O’Neal holds a prominent place in MCG’s governmental affairs practice. He has also been a legal advisor to numerous political campaigns. O’Neal has transitioned well from a decorated academic career into the governmental affairs arena.

Tim Parker, III, president, Parker Towing

Parker Towing has a long, storied history moving freight up and down Alabama’s river system. Tim Parker, III is now a director and president for the company which continues to play a vital role in keeping the state’s economy moving. Also a member of the board of the Alabama State Port Authority, Parker’s involvement in lasting public policy decisions will only increase.

John Rogers, communications director, Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed

After successfully managing a hotly contested race during the 2014 election cycle, John Rogers headed to work in the Alabama legislature where he now serves as communications director for Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed. Rogers is responsible for much of the messaging and materials for members of the Republican caucus in the upper chamber. He is a student of politics and has the profile of someone who will continue to stay in the mix.

Paul Shashy, public affairs specialist, Big Communications

Communications guru, campaign specialist and government affairs consultant, Paul Shashy is a political jack-of-all-trades. His mastery of getting pro-growth, common sense conservatives elected is evidenced by the trust placed in him by the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee (ACJRC), the state’s biggest businesses and top-tier Republican candidates from Senator Richard Shelby to former Senator Luther Strange. Shashy is going to be shaping Alabama elections and influencing the entire political scene for the next half-century.

 

Charlie Taylor, director of government relations, the University of Alabama System

A 2017 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, Charlie Taylor has a professional and political resume that would make people twice his age jealous. As the director of Government Relations for the mighty University of Alabama System, he is set to become a household name in Montgomery. With his deep connections to the Birmingham business community and as a Senator Shelby alumnus, Taylor’s star is unquestionably on the rise.

Elizabeth Bloom Williams, owner, EBW Development

In Alabama politics, fundraising is the niche of all niches. Elizabeth Williams has mastered her craft, raising money for the state’s most cash-flush campaigns in recent cycles. Simply put, if you want someone with impeccable organizational skills, unsurpassed know-how and a rolodex only beat by the governor, Williams is the go-to federal and state fundraiser. Look for her power and influence to continue climbing.

 

11 months ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE 50: Alabama’s most powerful & influential lobbyists, consultants and economic developers

Today, we introduce the third segment of the 2018 Power & Influence 50 on Yellowhammer News.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics. The intersection between business and politics in our state is undeniable, and our list is meant to provide you with an inside look at who wields the most power and influence in Alabama state politics.

The list is being released in three segments: business leadersgovernment officials and today’s segment, lobbyists, consultants and economic developers.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

Thank you for being a loyal reader of Yellowhammer News.

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Ginger Avery-Buckner, executive director, Alabama Association for Justice

With quiet efficiency, the Alabama Association for Justice is close to scoring one of its biggest political coups in recent history. With trial lawyer-backed Associate Justice Tom Parker on the cusp of being the state’s Chief Justice, Ginger Avery-Buckner has not only masterfully handled the legislature’s flip from blue to red, but she has reset the table on the traditional “Republican business” vs. “Democrat trial lawyers” judicial battle in the state.

To fully understand how remarkable that is, one must remember that the trial lawyers association not too long ago donated over 90 percent of its campaign contributions to Democrats.

While long-time Democrat groups like AEA were left on the outside looking in after 2010, Avery-Buckner’s stalwart leadership has kept the Association for Justice on the front lines of electoral and statehouse battles alike. They have not just survived, but as Parker’s imminent victory portends, they have thrived in the new Montgomery climate.

Josh Blades, lobbyist, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Alabama through-and-through, Sylacauga-born Josh Blades was named the city’s youngest entrepreneur after starting a full-service archery shop at the age of 15. Ever since then, his political star has been on the rise. After running for city council at age 19, being elected student body president in college and earning his political science degree, Blades began to leave his indelible mark on the Yellowhammer State’s political world.

Having served as communications director for a successful Alabama gubernatorial campaign, campaign manager for a successful race for Alabama Republican Party chairman, deputy chief of staff to the governor and chief of staff to the state’s speaker of the house, Blades has already built a resume at his young age that most would envy over a lifetime.

Blades now occupies a position in the private sector with the national law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, where he is a key member of the firm’s formidable lobbying team. Whether it’s in the executive or legislative branches or a campaign, Blades has the know-how to get the job done right. His place on the power and influence list could easily become permanent for decades to come.

Philip Bryan, partner, Swatek Howe & Ross

Philip Bryan has anchored himself to any list of the most powerful and influential people in Alabama politics. This is a result of the strength of the relationships he has built with those at the summit of power in Alabama, as well as his extraordinary political savviness and boundless energy.

Bryan has now moved into private practice where he is set to become an elite lobbyist. The transition should be seamless for him. Few can match wits with Bryan when it comes to navigating the critical Alabama State Senate. He knows the senators, staff and process possibly better than anyone else in Alabama politics.

Every lobbyist does their best to forge relationships with members of the legislature. However, Bryan’s are next level. In his former position as chief of staff to the Senate president pro tem, Bryan communicated with members in a way and with a frequency that sets him apart from others in his new world.

Based on his pure political talent and meaningful experience, Philip Bryan is among the most powerful and influential.

Brent Buchanan, president, Cygnal

In any industry or profession, you know someone has reached elevated status when references are made to them using only their first name. For pollster Brent Buchanan, that is now the case.

Alabama politicos and insiders can often be heard saying, “Brent has the polling.” Or, upon receiving some polling information, asking, “Is this a Brent poll?”

Buchanan saw an opening in the market for homegrown Alabama polling and took it. He has an impressive client list of candidates, trade associations and corporations, and his company has now expanded beyond Alabama. By the end of 2017, Cygnal had done work in more than 36 states for 170 clients.

In addition, Buchanan has developed a strong relationship with Governor Ivey and her team.

Some have called him Alabama’s Nate Silver, a reference to the renowned statistician. However, Buchanan’s place on this list is a result of all of the data and information he holds. Because, in politics, those in possession of information wield power and influence.

Greg Butrus, partner, Balch & Bingham

Greg Butrus and his place on this list are also a testament to the fundamental principle that information translates to value in politics. For insiders and corporate clients there is tremendous value in being able to consult with Butrus on a myriad of subjects they encounter in the political, regulatory or legislative process.

Butrus has vast knowledge in the areas of campaign finance laws, energy policy, ethics laws, executive branch rulemaking and regulatory affairs. His ability to file away information, opinions, events and random occurrences for later counsel and application is remarkable.

His experience in the Alabama political arena goes all the way back to his days as a staffer for Senator Howell Heflin in Washington, D.C. A conversation with Butrus is as enjoyable as it is edifying.

Butrus may not maintain the type of visibility for which others in Alabama politics work, but his power and influence is understood by those in the know.

Greg Canfield, secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce

As President Trump – and before him, Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh – loves to say, jobs, jobs, jobs. In Alabama, where the economy is booming like never before, it has been Canfield working day in, day out for the last seven years to make this success possible. Now, with Governor Kay Ivey’s pro-growth leadership, Canfield and the Department of Commerce are churning out jobs left and right.

Now, as evidence of his profound success, the biggest challenge for the state’s economy is producing more skilled and qualified workers. Alabama has gone from having a severe jobs shortage to not being able to nearly fill all of the quality jobs currently available. This is a good problem to have, and the governor, supported by trade associations and economic development partners across the state, has a plan to boost the state’s skilled workforce by 500,000 by 2025.

While more cabinet shakeups are expected in the coming months, people around the state will hope that Canfield remains in the position that has become synonymous with his name and his “Made in Alabama” branding campaign. If not, expect Canfield to continue to flex his power and influence in a new arena.

 

Mike Cole, principal, P. Michael Cole, LLC

Mike Cole is the type of behind-the-scenes power player about whom we enjoy informing our readers through the publication of this list. Cole has a client list that includes several of the largest employers in the state of Alabama. Their trust in him to get the job done speaks volumes about his influence and effectiveness in the realm of politics and policy-making.

A lawyer by trade, Cole has an uncommonly diverse governmental affairs practice. He moves about with ease in executive agency matters, regulatory affairs and legislative lobbying. To have the relationships and knowledge in those areas to the extent Cole does makes him a legitimate power player.

Cole has also capitalized on the growth and increased activity of the politically surging north Alabama region. As the area has seen its native sons rise to prominence in offices such as speaker of the house, lieutenant governor and attorney general, Cole’s influence has increased accordingly. And this is why he counts some of north Alabama’s most important entities as his clients and why Mike Cole remains powerful and influential in Alabama politics.

 

Joe Fine, partner, Fine Geddie & Associates

Joe Fine is a perfect exemplar of his alma mater’s “Where Legends Are Made” advertising campaign. A graduate of the University of Alabama both in undergraduate studies and law, the iconic, would-be “Lobbyist Hall of Fame” member perhaps perfected the modern governmental affairs profession in Montgomery.

Since Fine was elected to the first of his two terms in the state senate 48 years ago, governors have come and gone. Powerful associations and alliances have grown and crumbled. The state completely flipped from Democrat-controlled to Republican. However, Fine was through it all, and still is, at the forefront of policy making and political battles that shape the state’s success.

Along with his longtime lobbying partner Bob Geddie (see below), the gentlemanly Fine will be the state’s who’s who of lobbyists until the second he decides he is ready to pass the baton.

 

Bob Geddie, partner, Fine Geddie & Associates

Geddie is not only a top-tier lobbyist and the state House of Representatives specialist for his firm, but he is also a trusted adviser to some of Alabama’s titans of industry and other political power brokers as well.

Corporate executives from across the state have empowered Fine Geddie to doll out their political money through a network of Geddie-controlled political action committees. This includes some of the state’s largest, most successful businesses, in addition to individuals like prominent Power and Influence member Jimmy Rane. Geddie has just this past year added another powerful PAC to his arsenal, with the Auburn Board of Trustees’ Tiger PAW PAC under his chairmanship.

When it comes to the lobbying side of things, legislators of both parties will tell you, “It’s hard to say no to Bob Geddie.” That power of persuasion is a useful tool in the statehouse, which is only aided by Geddie’s meticulous knowledge of the process and the players. He knows every member, every rule and every tactic necessary to pass legislation through the lower chamber.

Geddie is most often seen quietly observing from a small hallway off the main lobby on the fifth floor. From there he can see everyone who comes and goes, and he has ready access to members as they walk to and from the House chamber. Many have tried to emulate Geddie’s tried-and-true formula, but few even compare.

C.J. Hincy, executive director of governmental affairs, Auburn University

A newcomer to the Power and Influence list after being a Who’s Next member previously, Hincy has Auburn’s governmental affairs and political operation humming like perhaps never before. Along with Geddie, Hincy’s counsel has been integral to Tiger PAW PAC’s emergence as a political kingmaker, and the university’s sway in Montgomery is closing in on a peak level, with Governor Kay Ivey as an alumna along with soon-to-be Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth.

Hincy, while relatively young for a lobbyist of such power, carries himself like a seasoned veteran. He has been working hard throughout this campaign cycle to make friends and stockpile influence, with his status in the capitol poised to reach an unquestioned top-tier level in 2019. Look for this star to keep rising as Hincy and Auburn plays a major political role in the years ahead.

 

Robbie McGhee, vice chairman, Poarch Band of Creek Indians

The rise of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama politics has reached new heights in recent years, and much of that is because of the work done by Robbie McGhee.

McGhee has built sustainable relationships across the political and ideological spectrum. He has shown a knack for staying above the fray, but also a willingness to engage more forcefully when absolutely necessary.

McGhee has also been instrumental in highlighting the tribe’s commitment to good corporate citizenship with key influential leaders at all levels of state and local government.

His background and experience provide him with the type of authority that catches the attention of policy-makers. McGhee worked in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Interior-Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Troutman Sanders LLP-Indian Law Practice Group.

Robbie McGhee has left no doubt that he is among the most powerful and influential people in Alabama politics.

 

Paul Pinyan, executive director, Alabama Farmers Federation

ALFA, ALFA, ALFA. Need we say more?

While Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell steers the ship, Pinyan, a newcomer to the Power and Influence ranks, is the individual making this political juggernaut fire on all cylinders day-to-day. Coming off of an uber-successful campaign season for ALFA, many are murmuring of the increased role Pinyan took in the organization’s endorsement process and, later, the campaign season.

With a stacked governmental affairs and political team around him – highlighted by former Secretary of State Beth Chapman – Pinyan holds the keys to Alabama’s premier trade association and grassroots network. If you want to win a contested elected in Alabama, whether it is a statewide race or a legislative seat, you need ALFA’s support. And, to get this, you very well might first need Pinyan’s covert backing.

With all of their success this cycle, ALFA’s role in Montgomery, if possible, will be growing even more. At the forefront of this immensely powerful apparatus is Pinyan, and he does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

 

Steve Raby, lobbyist and political consultant

The king of north Alabama, Raby wields power and influence beyond his fiefdom now, serving as his friend and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon’s political guru and chief advisor.

Like Avery-Buckner on this list, Raby’s guile and vision are affording him a resounding second act in Alabama politics. As a longtime Democratic activist and consultant, he was the Democratic nominee for Congress against Mo Brooks in 2010. A decent first act for sure, but after the GOP sweep, many pronounced Raby’s rise as dead on arrival.

Fast forward six years to when McCutcheon gets elected to serve as speaker. Seemingly out of nowhere, Raby was back on the scene playing a crucial role as a close confidant to one of the most powerful people in the state. Raby is a political animal and, as much as anything, an extra set of eyes that watches the speaker’s back.

Raby also runs the mighty political operation for the House Republican Caucus. This role sees him play a key part in incumbent Republican House members’ campaigns, which just grows Raby’s influence every year.

Clay Ryan, vice president for governmental affairs and special counsel, University of Alabama System

There are some people who walk into a room and you can tell they are in a position of power and influence by sheer presence alone. Clay Ryan is one of those people.

Ryan is a deft communicator who operates among elected officials and corporate executives with equal amounts of ease. And Ryan has put in the requisite work to become a select power player.

He is known for keeping a laser-sharp focus on the issues impacting the University of Alabama System. In representing a large entity like the UA System, a significant amount of time and effort goes into coordinating the work of staff, lobbyists and others protecting his employer’s interests.

When it is time to engage with decision-makers, Ryan has proven to be a determined advocate. His relationships extend to the highest levels of state government. When Ryan calls, they answer the phone, and they listen.

The increased political activity of the UA System in recent years has served to increase successful outcomes and only enhanced Ryan’s power and influence.

Houston Smith, vice president for governmental affairs, Alabama Power Company

Running point on governmental affairs in Montgomery for Alabama Power can be an overwhelming task. That person must be responsible for every piece of the company’s political and public policy agenda at the state level.

Houston Smith has met the challenge.

His ability to call on his years of experience dealing with a wide range of issues inside the company has been key. After several years practicing law, Smith joined the company as director of public relations. Soon, he was promoted to director of corporate affairs with responsibility over federal affairs, corporate relations and other public policy issues.

A difficult hurdle for many corporate lobbyists is being able to effectively communicate the more detailed aspects of their company’s business and how those aspects are affected by public policy decisions. Smith’s knowledge base and uncanny grasp of larger public policy issues, such as trade and economic development, serve him well in this role. As the company’s primary contact with state elected officials and cabinet members, communicating on these types of issues is essential to success.

Houston Smith has firmly secured a place among Alabama’s powerful and influential.

Dave Stewart, senior adviser for government affairs and economic development, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Another wunderkind working for Bradley Arant, Dave Stewart has an impeccable resume of his own. After an eye-catching performance as policy director for then-Governor Bob Riley, he was called up to serve as the administration’s Chief of Staff.  This key experience in the state’s executive branch left him with rarified perspective and knowledge, which Stewart has parlayed into his influential role in the private sector.

Stewart has one of the heaviest hitting client lists in the state, built off of not only his first-hand, in-the-trenches experience, but also expansive knowledge of policy and his lasting relationships within the legislature and state agencies big and small.

Stewart is also in the select club of lobbyists who understand both policy and politics. Far too many understand one but scoff at the other. Not Stewart – his elite ability to blend wonkish policy arguments and effective political messaging builds the best strategic approach possible for his clients.

Look for Bradley Arant’s dynamic duo of Blades and Stewart to continue appearing on this list for the foreseeable future.

Sommer Vaughn, partner, Swatek Howe & Ross

Sommer Vaughn is a person with the talent and drive which would have allowed her to choose any profession. Lawyer, doctor, engineer and banker are all well within her capabilities. Instead, she chose to be a lobbyist.

She chose wisely.

If you were forced to pick one person to shepherd your issue or piece of legislation through the Alabama House of Representatives – and you could only pick one – Vaughn would be an astute choice.

The depth and breadth of her relationships in the Alabama House are difficult to match. From the speaker of the house to incoming members who have yet to get sworn in, Vaughn knows the people and the strategies required for success. There are no partisan obstacles for her, either. Vaughn is able to leverage her relationships into influence on both sides of the aisle.

Vaughn is able to bring to bear years of experience working in the legislature and the governor’s office. There is not much that goes on in state government of which she is not aware.

Look for Sommer Vaughn to expand her power and influence in the years to come.

R.B. Walker, director of legislative affairs, Alabama Power Company

Rochester Butler Walker has the kind of name that was custom-made for the Alabama political arena. And, ever since he was a child, he has displayed the type of ambition, confidence and craft that it takes to get to the top.

A former SGA President at the University of Alabama, Walker has already thrived working for two of the state’s most powerful institutions: the Alabama Power Company and the University of Alabama System. Now in his second stint at the Company after leaving his beloved university this past year, at a young age he is not close to reaching the zenith of his political ascent.

With an infectious personality and the cunning intellect to grasp the nuances of any issue, it is really Walker’s unceasing drive that separates him from the pack. He has worked hard his entire life, essentially, to reach the top of the political ladder, and this lobbying machine is still climbing.

Look for Walker to keep building power and influence year-by-year. Who knows? It could land him in the governor’s seat one day.

Steve Windom, partner, Windom Galliher & Associates

If you’re running for high-office in Alabama, there is no better lobbyist to have on your team than former Lieutenant Governor Steve Windom. A fundraising savant, Windom knows which buttons to press and when. His unique, preeminent status as a Montgomery powerbroker stems from the fact that he has done it all himself – whether it is campaign work or being in the legislative trenches, Windom has the first-hand experience that you cannot replicate.

There is also not a craftier operator in Alabama politics than Windom. He is shrewd, charismatic and owns a room when he walks in. But what keeps Windom at the very highest level of power and influence is his unrivaled work ethic. Whether on a weekend, a family vacation or a holiday, Windom never rests.

He is always working, always on. Windom has taken the time to cultivate relationships in every nook and cranny of state government. He knows everyone from the maintenance man at an obscure state agency to the governor of Alabama – and each person in between. Steve Windom forgot more Alabama political secrets this morning than everyone else in the whole state knew to begin with. And he’s not showing any signs of letting up anytime soon.

11 months ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE 50: Alabama’s most powerful & influential government officials

Today, we introduce the second segment of the 2018 Power & Influence 50 on Yellowhammer News.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics. The intersection between business and politics in our state is undeniable, and our list is meant to provide you with an inside look at who wields the most power and influence in Alabama state politics.

The list is being released in three segments: business leaders, lobbyists and consultants and today’s segment, government officials.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

Thank you for being a loyal reader of Yellowhammer News.

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State Rep. Will Ainsworth

Those looking for the next generation among Alabama political figures, look no further than Will Ainsworth.

Ainsworth has already served a full term in the Alabama House of Representatives. Now, he stands ready to expand into a legitimate statewide power base.

Ainsworth is currently the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Having already received nearly 400,000 votes, his profile has quickly elevated across the state and in Montgomery. With only token opposition, Ainsworth is poised to become first in the line of succession to the governor’s office.

He is known for taking strong conservative stands which will continue to endear him to the conservative base in Alabama. He is a former youth pastor with a business background who will be lined up with the electorate on social and fiscal issues.

Ainsworth is forward thinking and has shown that he is not scared to step into the fray. So, expect him to cut out a role for himself in policy debates at the statehouse. This will only increase his power and influence.

State Rep. Steve Clouse, chairman, General Fund Budget Committee

While Steve Clouse hails from the small southeastern Alabama town of Ozark, this veteran state legislator oversees one of state government’s biggest annual headaches – the general fund – for the House. This budget funds the state’s most controversial functions, including Medicaid, prisons and mental health. With all of that thankless responsibility comes considerable power and influence.

Having served in the House since 1995, Clouse has achieved a statesman-like leadership status in the lower chamber. He also helps lead the Wiregrass’ delegation, which is steadily growing in influence with the help of Reps. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) and Paul Lee (R-Dothan). With Alabama’s General Fund Budget always a focal point of attention and political gamesmanship, Clouse figures to be an eminent political player for years to come.

Kay Ivey, governor of Alabama

Governor Kay Ivey has demonstrated raw political power unseen in state politics in quite a while.

In the Republican primary, she received 56 percent of the vote and avoided a runoff in a field of four. To put in perspective how resounding a victory she achieved, her opponents collectively outraised her by nearly $200,000 and still did not come close to holding her under 50 percent.

However, if campaigns are supposed to provide voters with a window into how a prospective officer holder will govern, then Ivey has shown she is a focused, confident leader. She has never strayed from her message and, when confronted with controversy, she responds with a decisiveness and clarity that should be in campaign consulting textbooks.

And we have seen this discipline in her governance. Ivey concentrates on what matters and does not get caught up in meaningless debate.

The state’s economy is roaring under Ivey. She is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump.

And she has the power and influence of executive branch resources at her disposal. Those state agencies affect the lives of every Alabamian in every community.

Most importantly, Ivey connects with people. She connects naturally with people of all backgrounds, ages and geographic locations.

These components are the perfect recipe for success and place Kay Ivey in a truly special position of power and influence.

State Rep. Mike Jones, chairman, House Rules Committee

The chairmanship of the House Rules Committee brings with it substantial clout in the Alabama statehouse. Mike Jones has maximized that opportunity to become one of the building’s key political players.

As chairman of the committee that determines the order of bills taken up each legislative day, Jones has the ability to set legislative priorities, which in turn provides him substantial leverage in dealing with lobbyists as well as his own colleagues.

Jones is a political animal who enjoys the machinations of the statehouse.

He is also just as likely to dive into the details of legislation as he is the House political apparatus.

His chairmanship allows him to have control over the ebb and flow of the debate on the House floor. When legislation gets bogged down, Jones has tremendous leeway in determining its fate. He has a strong voice in whether to move on or fight through.

Jones is among those who may actually see his influence increase during the new term as new members enter the ranks. Look for him to stay on the list of Alabama’s power players.

Del Marsh, Senate president pro tem

Del Marsh is the kind of public servant for which the current electorate craves and our founding fathers envisioned. Marsh originally ran for office simply because his state senator was not responsive to the needs of small business.

Once elected, Marsh became a tireless advocate for smaller government. He is as comfortable in a tree stand as he is a committee room and feels as much at home in his machine shop fabricating gun parts as he does working in a boardroom.

Marsh has built a long record of seeking conservative solutions to the problems facing our state. He led the charge to provide education freedom to Alabama families; he formulated the largest reductions to the size of state government in history, and no one has cut taxes and red tape for small businesses quite like Marsh.

This approach has propelled Marsh into one of the most powerful and influential positions in Alabama politics. As Senate president pro tem, he oversees every aspect of the legislative process in the upper chamber. From committee assignments to legislative priorities to the time of adjournment, Marsh remains in control.

Del Marsh remains one of the most powerful and influential people in state politics for a reason.

 

Steve Marshall, attorney general of Alabama

After Marshall last year was appointed as the 48th attorney general of Alabama, Yellowhammer News wrote, “Marshall will likely meet some formidable opponents when he seeks his first state-wide election in 2018.  His ability to capitalize on the benefits of incumbency may prove he is one to watch in Alabama’s political future.”

Ever since Marshall’s first press conference as the state’s top law enforcement official, the former rural-county district attorney has handled the bright lights of Alabama’s political stage like a seasoned professional. With an even-keel demeanor and a genuinely warm personality, Marshall’s understated charisma is matched only by his legal intellect and political instincts.

Alabama has had a bevy of influential attorneys general in recent decades, with Marshall already making his own mark and then some. And his meteoric rise is not nearly over. He continues to get more and more involved with hot-button national issues such as immigration, abortion and oversight of tech companies, with his power and influence now extending beyond the Yellowhammer State’s borders thanks to a growing number of White House appearances.

 

Mac McCutcheon, speaker of the House

True leaders shine in times of chaos, and Mac McCutcheon’s rise to become Speaker of the House is bested in this department perhaps only by Governor Kay Ivey’s similar achievement in recent years.

One of the nice guys at the statehouse, McCutcheon has garnered power and influence even beyond his lofty position due to the sheer authenticity of his personality. With this comes the trust that legislators have in McCutcheon – if he promises something, you can take it to the bank. For his selfless, lifetime of service to Alabamians and significant contribution to the betterment of our state, McCutcheon this year will be presented with Yellowhammer’s Power of Service award.

With a new quadrennium on the horizon, McCutcheon will find himself in the political spotlight, as proposals regarding prickly issues like new infrastructure funding, the lottery and sports betting are all expected to come before the state legislature. Look for McCutcheon and the legislature’s leadership team to ably navigate several minefields in 2019.

 

State Rep. Bill Poole, chairman, Ways and Means Education Committee

Many refer to Bill Poole as a United States senator in waiting, and you can see why with a quick glance at his historic rise as a freshman legislator to chair the powerful committee in the House tasked with appropriations and revenue sources for the important Education Trust Fund – the state’s budget that handles K-12 and higher education funding.

Not only was his ascent impressive enough, but Poole has proven his merit and more since then, steering the education budget with such machine-like efficiency that you would miss what really sets him apart. When fellow legislators are asked about Poole’s talents, they cannot help but praise his intelligence, drive, vision and savviness. Yet, it’s that undefinable “it” factor that has political pundits and power brokers abuzz – Poole’s genuine, infectious likability.

Whether his future will continue to be in Montgomery or move to Washington, D.C. or elsewhere, Poole will undoubtedly be serving the people of Alabama in exemplary fashion for decades and decades to come.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, chairman, Senate Education Budget Committee

Now in his fourth year as chairman of the Senate Education Budget Committee, Arthur Orr has carved out a particular place of power and influence in state government.

The education budget in Alabama is a $6 billion chunk of money. And those who have any measure of control over state funds have a chance to exercise considerable leverage over policy-making. Orr has seized the opportunity before him.

An exceptionally smart and engaging lawyer by trade, Orr has an attention to detail which allows him to know every single line of the budget and every nook and cranny of state government to which that money flows. Orr makes anyone advocating for even the smallest portion of dollars from the education budget justify the expense.

As a result, other members of the legislature are highly attentive to Orr’s own legislative priorities which, in turn, only expands Orr’s power and influence even further.

Steve Pelham, chief of staff to Governor Kay Ivey

The success of the Ivey administration is undeniable. Governor Ivey has been a commanding figure during the term she filled and will likely enjoy a full term starting in January. However, that type of success for any political figure is a team effort. And the person coordinating that team for Ivey is Steve Pelham.

Pelham is a natural fit for his role as chief of staff to the governor. He is loyal, focused and selfless in his approach. Even though he sits in a position of significant power and influence, Pelham is rarely the subject of interviews or publicity. He understands the need for one voice representing the administration and the distractions that occur when that is not the case.

And, yet, no one outside of Governor Ivey, herself, plays a bigger role in the day-to-day operations of the governor’s office and has a greater say in the long-term vision for the administration.

Pelham has shown near perfect execution of the duties and role of the governor’s chief of staff. The result will be even greater opportunities for him to expand his power and influence in the future.

Greg Reed, Senate majority leader

Leading a majority party in the Alabama legislature is no easy task. It seems with any issue or strategy there will be conflicting motives, ideas, geographical concerns and – yes – egos. Under these conditions, being able to move the body forward toward any objective would seem a nearly impossible task. Furthermore, any person leading that effort leaves themselves vulnerable.

Greg Reed, however, can pull it off. Reed possesses exceptional personal and organizational skills which have helped him keep his caucus on track and still remain a popular figure with his colleagues. Reed is also a dogged competitor who, once his caucus sets off toward an objective, will work tirelessly to see it across the finish line.

Reed’s political career has accelerated at a rapid pace. His skills are a natural fit for Senate leadership. With numerous new Republican senators taking office in the upcoming term, Reed stands to become an even more trusted and influential player in statehouse politics. Greg Reed’s stock is only going up.

State Sen. Jabo Waggoner, chairman, Senate Rules Committee

The road to success in the Alabama Senate travels through the office of Jabo Waggoner.

As chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, Waggoner sets the daily agenda for his chamber. He has the ability to move legislation forward at the timing of his choice. Or, he can stop a piece of legislation dead in its tracks if he so chooses.

And that is not the only source of his considerable clout.

Waggoner represents the conservative, business-minded district that occupies much of the territory in over-the-mountain Jefferson County. Many of the executives from Alabama’s largest employers live in Waggoner’s district. They are the type of power brokers for which other members of the legislature clamor to represent. And he has always been responsive to the needs of this constituency. A staffer at a large business organization once wrote in a pre-election assessment of Waggoner, “Send me more like Jabo Waggoner.”

The truth is, though, there are no others like Jabo Waggoner. His power, his influence and his legacy are unique in Alabama politics.

State Sen. Cam Ward, chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

Cam Ward was made for politics. He started his career as a congressional staffer before quickly moving on to bigger and better things.

Ward’s victory in a House of Representatives seat in 2002 marked the beginning of a noteworthy career in office. He has served in the Alabama Senate since 2010. His district includes a large part of the areas just south of Birmingham where he remains incredibly popular. Ward has faced very little opposition on the home front his entire time in office. Much of this is a result of his constant work on the local level and his attentiveness to his constituents.

In Montgomery, Ward chairs the all-important Senate Judiciary Committee, which is a committee that takes up more pieces of legislation than any other committee in the chamber. And Ward controls the throttle on all of it.

Ward is hard-working, ambitious and always mindful of every political angle. This, combined with the amount of legislation that falls within his control, makes him a real power player in state government.