The Wire

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

4 days ago

Yellowhammer Power Poll after college football week seven

With week seven of the college football season in the books, here are the top five teams in the Yellowhammer Power Poll:

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1 week ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE: Who’s next?

(YHN)

Yellowhammer News on Wednesday released the 2019 “Power & Influence: Who’s Next?” list.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and 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.

This follows last week’s publication of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists. These honorees will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

The 2019 Power of Service Award will be presented to Horace Horn.

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Read more about the event here.

Curtis Bowden

A recent engineering graduate of the University of Alabama, Curtis Bowden already seems destined for power and influence in the state. Currently working in the regulatory affairs division of Alabama Power, Bowden is perfectly placed for success in a company known for churning out top-notch governmental affairs professionals. He was a natural presence in the statehouse this past session and is set to steadily rise in responsibility and stature in the coming years.

Bradley Cox

Fundraising might just be the nichiest niche in politics. Luckily for candidates and elected officials in Alabama, EBW Development, led by owner and principal Elizabeth Bloom Williams, is the best of the best. Bradley Cox is a relative newcomer to the fundraising world, but he has hit the ground sprinting since joining EBW Development following the 2018 cycle. He is learning from a master of the craft, and coupled with his impressive background in political consulting and campaign work, Cox is poised to become a household name within the #alpolitics world.

Dalton Dismukes

There are very few people in state politics who manage to keep a strong foothold in both political consulting and governmental affairs work. Dalton Dismukes, even at a young age, is one of those few. This past session, he lobbied for the Jones Group and was an omnipresent figure in the House gallery. However, he is also a go-to campaign professional, including being a trusted advisor to the House Republican Caucus’ political operation this past cycle. Dismukes currently has his hand in at least one federal race and is one of Leverage’s top operators. He’ll be an influencer in state politics for decades.

Will Fuller

You’ll be hard pressed to find a governmental affairs operation with more knowledge or integrity than Alabama’s Capitol Resources office, led by Toby Roth and John Hagood. Adding Will Fuller to their team this session only reinforced this reputation. Fuller, also a razor-sharp campaign consultant, is extremely well connected in the state’s judicial circles — which sets him apart from his peers in a major way. However, observers in Montgomery were blown away this spring at how Fuller navigated the statehouse circus. Poise. Honesty. Work ethic. No will out work — or out prepare — him and his ability to handle complex policy issues would make someone thrice his age jealous. Fuller could become one of the best lobbyists in Alabama before long.

Nick Lawkis

In Alabama’s ultra-competitive higher education world, normally the University of Alabama System and Auburn take all the air out of the room when it comes to lobbying. Yet, Nick Lawkis in recent years has been building relationships right and left, steadily giving the University of South Alabama a real seat at the table in Montgomery. His hard work was recognized this year when South promoted him to executive director of governmental relations, however his star is just beginning to rise. South will do well to keep Lawkis long term.

Grace Newcombe

Speaking of the University of South Alabama, this recent grad and former student government association president is already making waves just months after starting work at the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. Promoted from assistant to the chief of staff to press secretary recently, Grace Newcombe has the kind of naturally inquisitive personality needed to thrive in the realm of governmental affairs and public policy. She is expected to also handle legislative affairs duties in the statehouse for the office during the 2020 session, and her charisma, intelligence and resolve will be readily apparent from the very first drop of the gavel. Newcombe has the kind of presence that can’t be taught — and could one day easily make the leap to become a candidate herself. Either way, she will be at the very top of the ones to watch in her generation.

Jess Skaggs

Jess Skaggs should be on the short list for any statewide officeholder in Montgomery looking to build an elite staff. Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth recognized this, making Skaggs a seemingly immediate hire from the Department of Agriculture and Industries after he won in 2018. Skaggs handles a broad array of important duties for the lieutenant governor’s office, including communications. This puts him on the front lines when it comes to public visibility. With Ainsworth’s ceiling seemingly limitless in politics, this puts Skaggs in prime position to continue his ascent. He seems born to be a power player in Alabama and could soon be a fixture on the Power & Influence 40.

Adam Thompson

With the resume of someone twice his age, Adam Thompson has seemingly already done it all. Now serving as deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Senior Services, Thompson has served as Governor Ivey’s appointments director and deputy chief of staff for policy, as well as the regional advocacy director for the education non-profit founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. If that’s not enough, Thompson was Beth Chapman’s right hand when she served as state auditor and later as secretary of state, giving Thompson an experience and knowledge base in state government unsurpassed in his age group. Thompson has run for public office before, too, and whether his future is behind-the-scenes or not, he is undoubtedly one of his generation’s preeminent public servants.

2 weeks ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE 40

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Saturday introduced the 2019 Power & Influence 40.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and this list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence to better the Yellowhammer State.

The ranked list was released in four segments throughout the week, with 31-40 coming first and 1-10 being published on Friday.

Members of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

The 2019 Power of Service Award will be presented to Horace Horn.

Read more about the event here.

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1. Kay Ivey

Governor Kay Ellen Ivey will go down as one of the most consequential leaders in Alabama history.

And she’s not even close to being finished yet.

From the second she put her hand on the Bible and became the state’s 54th governor, Ivey has been laser focused on governing and nothing else.

She’s steered the ship through all of the noise – the politics, the gossip, the fluff – like a warm knife through butter, staying on course to a better future for our great state.

Ivey quickly became known as Alabama’s education governor through her Strong Start, Strong Finish initiative, adding onto this legacy through her historic push to add 500,000 more skilled workers by 2025.

However, the progress certainly does not end there. From landmark economic development wins to increasing foreign trade opportunities, Alabama is winning big under Ivey’s steady hand.

The Rebuild Alabama Act will go down as a crowning jewel of her administration – not just the merits of the forward-thinking infrastructure package itself, but how she got it done. The legislation passed in stunningly overwhelming fashion because of Ivey’s personal ownership of the issue. She bulldogged the package to passage – certainly with the tremendous help of organizations like BCA, ALFA, the Road Builders, etc., but it would not have happened without the governor.

She faces two more big issues this coming year and through the end of her term: the prison system and rural healthcare/Medicaid.

How will Ivey continue to utilize her position as one of the most powerful and influential governors ever?

2. Del Marsh

It was 87 years ago this week when Babe Ruth called his shot during the third game of the World Series. In the top of the 5th inning, with two strikes on him, Ruth pointed to the centerfield wall then promptly hit the next pitch over the fence.

Del Marsh called his shot twice this year – and hit home runs each time.

In the months leading up to the 2019 legislative session, Marsh told anyone who would listen that he intended to pass a huge infrastructure package and a historic education reform proposal. Insiders viewed Marsh’s plans with skepticism, while many supportive stakeholders even continued to express pessimism.

If conventional wisdom was supposed to dictate action, someone forgot to tell Marsh.

The president pro tem of the Alabama Senate immediately powered through the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure legislation during a special session. In doing so, he left no doubt about his clout in what may prove to be a generational, game-changing boost to the Yellowhammer State’s roads, bridges and waterways.

During a conversation with Yellowhammer News following the passage of Rebuild Alabama, we asked Marsh if the collective temperament of the legislature would allow for any other major pieces of legislation. He reacted as if we were speaking in tongues.

Marsh was not finished. He next set out to pass legislation enabling a constitutional amendment reforming the state school board and abolishing Common Core. Once considered an issue no one would even attempt to take on, Marsh whipped the bills through the legislature and onto the next statewide ballot.

Two for two out of the park.

Like so many others on this list, Marsh never stops. So while his next power move may not be readily apparent, do not expect him to slow down. He is a reformer and a wildly successful businessman who has a genuine interest in seeing his state improve.

In the meantime, Del Marsh remains one of the most powerful and influential people within his generation of public servants.

3. Zeke Smith

Zeke Smith has worked to establish the largest and most comprehensive external affairs effort in the state. Everything from lobbying to public relations to regulatory affairs to charitable giving falls under his purview as executive vice president of external affairs for Alabama Power Company.

An array of responsibilities that affect 1.4 million customers and 7,000 employees in Alabama require that Smith have an abundance of exceptional traits.

One of the most impressive and useful traits that Smith displays is an unmatched capacity. His knowledge of Alabama Power’s massive operation extends to every corner of its business. Layered on top of that is a continual awareness of Alabama’s political climate, its power players and what makes each tick.

As with most high-performing individuals, a function of his success has been his ability to extend beyond the discipline in which he trained. An Auburn University graduate with a degree in engineering, Smith has had a distinguished career and was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame earlier this year. Now, at this point in his career, he finds himself in a position where a mastery of politics and a firm grasp of people’s motivation are essential to the job.

Assembling a top-notch team to carry out the external affairs mission has been a key component to his success. To work for him means you have been vetted, and it has been verified that you can deliver. Smith carries with him a calm urgency to his actions, and he expects results.

All of this has contributed to the end result, which is that he, perhaps more than anyone else in Alabama, receives the first phone call from aspiring office-seekers. Nothing speaks more to power and influence than when people operate under the premise that they need your support to succeed.

For most of us, the names and numbers on our “Recents” call screen are in black to designate outgoing calls. We imagine Smith has nothing but red on his.

He operates at a level of power and influence where the air is thin.

4. Mac McCutcheon

You will find no kinder a person, no more of a gentleman in elected office than Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon.

McCutcheon has dedicated his life to the people of Alabama. From protecting and serving as a career law enforcement officer in Huntsville to leading the rambunctious lower chamber of the Alabama legislature, McCutcheon has led with integrity and compassion every step of the way.

Honored with Yellowhammer’s Power of Service Award last year, McCutcheon has continued in 2019 to be an ideal role model for people young and old looking for the best of humanity in their public servants.

How he carries himself only adds to the considerable, inherent power and influence of his office.

The members of the House listen to McCutcheon not just because he has the gavel – but because they like him and respect him. This stems for the personal interest that he takes in all of the members. For McCutcheon, being speaker is a solemn duty – and the House membership is like a family.

McCutcheon will have another tough challenge ahead as the criminal justice and prison issue comes to a head in 2020 (with Medicaid still hovering). But if anyone can handle it, it’s him – with empathy and patience.

5. Jo Bonner

There are very few people who have served Alabama in a more exemplary way this century than Jo Bonner.

Congressman. Vice-chancellor for the University of Alabama System. And now the immensely powerful and influential chief of staff to Governor Kay Ivey.

Bonner has been the epitome of a statesman throughout it all and now runs the day-to-day operations of state government. A third act that would beat the first of most in politics and government.

He not only has the governor’s ear but is, in effect, the governor’s ears and voice on many matters.

Everyone with dealings on Goat Hill knows that Bonner is the gatekeeper to Ivey, and he has put together a top-notch staff that runs the governor’s office like a well-oiled machine with him leading the charge.

Bonner’s contributions to the state’s current historic success might be behind the scenes, but they are well recognized by those in the know. Bonner is by far the most impactful non-elected official in state government right now and will continue to be as long as he serves.

6. Katie Boyd Britt

Talk about a baptism by fire.

Katie Boyd Britt and her newly assembled BCA governmental affairs team were thrown into a legislative battle for the ages to kick this year off.

Working together seamlessly – and tirelessly – the Britt-led BCA helped guide Rebuild Alabama to passage. The work was not easy. In fact, it was the stuff of lobbying lore, an accomplishment to be bragged about for decades to come. But they did it with a smile on, a gleam in their eye. The only acceptable result was going to be success, and the end result was the final vote exceeding all expectations.

It all starts with Britt. From the very first day on the job, this ex-chief of staff for Senator Richard Shelby effortlessly looked like the power and influence he wields rubbed right off on her.

Britt has brought an energy, an excitement and an optimism back to BCA through her buoyant leadership. Through vision, determination and an undefinable charisma, she is setting the organization and its member companies up for unparalleled successes.

However, her personal star also shines brightly.

People are mentioning Britt at the very top of the list of contenders to succeed Shelby, whenever the venerable senator does decide to call it quits.

Whether she is interested or not remains to be seen, but regardless she is going to be one of Alabama’s most powerful and influential people quite possibly for the next half-century.

And the people of our state will be better off because of it.

7. Bill Poole

Bill Poole might just be the most powerful non-Speaker member of the Alabama House of Representatives. Ever.

Talk about a guy who could do whatever his heart desired – Poole’s blend of intelligence, charisma, work ethic and integrity have led him to be a rising star in Alabama politics since his freshman year in the House.

Every year, that star has gotten brighter, and this past session just exacerbated that trend.

Poole’s stalwart leadership as sponsor of the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package was one of the most impressive feats in recent legislative history.

However, his performance really came as little surprise to those who had observed the statehouse this decade.

Everyone in the chamber likes Bill Poole – and they respect him without exception.

His reputation inside and outside the membership has been well earned. He treats people right, leads by example and delivers results time after time.

His excellent chairmanship of the education budget committee in the House wields him power and influence already, but Poole exponentially has increased his stock over recent years well beyond a normal leader in the House.

What’s next for Poole? Well, the sky is the limit.

Could we soon have another statesman-like U.S. senator from Tuscaloosa?

Whatever he chooses to do, Poole will excel – and Alabamians will continue to reap the rewards.

8. Joe Perkins

Joe Perkins is unspeakably powerful and influential. So much so – and in such a way – that we probably should not even be speaking about it.

Perkins founded the robust, yet mysterious, Matrix firm. He and his firm occupy a unique space in the world of Alabama politics. The variety of clients he serves is remarkable. From some of the state’s biggest companies to some that could be construed as ‘mom and pop shops’ if not for their success. His work is not limited to industry, and he has a hand in the activities of trade and business associations from small, specialized groups to the very biggest.

And what he does is different.

He’s not a lobbyist. He’s not engaged in a governmental affairs practice. He consults on strategy and direction for different organizations. He provides public relations expertise carefully calculated to position his client in just the right space.

And it all goes back to the people, companies and campaigns at which he is directing his focus. He is the invisible guiding hand behind major initiatives, campaigns and state institutions of higher education. He is quiet counsel to high-ranking officials and regional decision-makers.

Trying to explain Perkins’ power and influence is far more difficult than his ability to exert it.

9. Quentin Riggins

The work Quentin Riggins does outside of politics would probably land him on any list of influential Alabamians. He is a pillar of the community and has involved himself in a myriad of different causes aimed at improving his home state.

His service on the powerful Auburn University Board of Trustees is plenty for one person. However, Riggins also serves on the boards of Grandview Medical Center, the Business Council of Alabama’s ProgressPAC, the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority, the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and the Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Institute. He has previously served on the boards of Leadership Alabama and the Baptist Foundation.

Then there is the work he does as senior vice president of governmental and corporate affairs for Alabama Power Company. He heads up the company’s state and federal government affairs program, which is a vast and yet intricate undertaking. Riggins is able to pull from more than 25 years of service in the arena in representing the interests of one of the state’s largest employers.

Not to be forgotten, though, is his orchestration of one of the purest flexes of political muscle in several years.

Riggins oversaw the forceful changing of the guard at the Business Council of Alabama which set in motion a series of events resulting in the implementation of two monumental policy initiatives enacted to move Alabama forward: Rebuild Alabama and rural broadband expansion. Riggins’ plan for new leadership at BCA allowed the organization to establish the type of clout and cohesion necessary for success.

Riggins’ ability to look out over the horizon is a scarce commodity and produces uncommon power and influence.

10. Arthur Orr

Is there a single penny spent in the state of Alabama on education that Arthur Orr does not know about? Short answer: no.

Orr is the chairman of the Senate Education Budget Committee. This means he is the point man for his chamber on the $7 billion pot of money which funds Alabama’s education system. The size of the budget brings with it a hefty responsibility – and tremendous power and influence.

Almost halfway through his second decade as a member of the State Senate, Orr has now also clocked enough time as budget chair that he knows every corner of education funding and every mechanism available for appropriation. He has established near-total control of his chamber’s spending and priorities.

If someone wanted to make a movie about the story of the deliberative upper chamber, Orr might be the best choice to go on the poster. He has an incredible tolerance for details and is methodical in all of his actions. He is representative of the chamber’s approach to governing.

With the clout of the education budget in his corner, he is also not afraid to take on tough budget reform fights from which others shy away, like ABC privatization and welfare reform.

Brick by brick, Orr has built a fortress of political power and influence.

11. Bob Geddie

It has been said that Joe Fine invented lobbying in Alabama.

That being well established, his longtime business partner Bob Geddie may have just perfected the craft.

Geddie, reverently known as the firm’s House of Representatives specialist, has lobbying down to a science.

Institutional knowledge, skill, charisma and relationships – it sounds like a formula. But Geddie makes it look like an art form.

Some of Alabama’s biggest businesses trust Geddie on policy advocacy issues, and for good reason. However, his power and influence does not stop at being one of the – if not the very — top contract lobbyists in the state.

Aided by Fine Geddie’s network of PACs and Geddie’s own chess master-like strategic vision, he is one of the best minds political candidates and elected officials could hope to have advising them.

Geddie has been a high-ranking fixture on this list since its inception, and his stature only looks to continue rising.

12. Robbie McGhee

Robbie McGhee starts every day with the same mission: represent and protect the interests of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama.

What might seem to be a narrowly-focused approach can actually be an arduous task. McGhee and his tribe sit in a position of great strength in Alabama. They have established a thriving gaming and entertainment business across the state. This success has sprung a healthy corporate citizenship through charitable endeavors, job creation and electioneering.

The challenge for McGhee comes when others set out to siphon off the strength of the tribe. This causes him to be on constant alert for people trying to harm their interests.

During those occurrences, McGhee brings a certain intensity to his representation not prevalent in the everyday machinations of the statehouse. It means something when he walks into the building, and other people know when he is there. That in itself is a sure sign of power and influence.

The experience he brings also counts for something. He 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.

The wins for McGhee continue to pile up year after year. And so does his power and influence.

13. Steve Windom

Steve Windom might just be the perfect case study for those looking to make it big in the world of governmental affairs and lobbying.

He is a tireless worker, but the real marvel is his deep, ever-growing network of connections on and around Goat Hill. From administrative support staff to lifelong civil servants all the way up the halls of power, Windom knows just about everybody by name – and works his Rolodex non-stop.

Windom is one of the go-to lobbyists if you want a bill passed. In addition to his relationship building, his first-hand knowledge of the process and status as a former legislator and lieutenant governor give him a special edge over many contract firms.

However, his expertise does not stop in the public policy arena.

Windom’s reputation as a fundraising machine continues to grow every election cycle – and for good reason. He can raise statewide candidates hundreds of thousands of dollars before lunch if he wants to, making him a political powerbroker unmatched in power and influence by all but a handful of colleagues.

14. Jabo Waggoner

Jabo Waggoner is always the coolest guy in any room. He possesses a magnetism which has served him to near perfection throughout his political career. He’s the gentlemen senator and the smoothest of operators, but mainly people just want to be around him.

Of course, there’s also the fact that he holds the power of legislative process in the palm of his hand. Guess who determines what does and does not get debated on the floor of the Alabama Senate? Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jabo Waggoner. Every. Single. Bill.

In the most deliberative body, the place where it is hardest to pass a bill, that’s a monumental – and immeasurably powerful – responsibility.

Whether visiting the chairman as a constituent, a friend or someone looking to have a bill placed on the calendar, our advice would be to soak it up. Learn something. Allow yourself to get a civics lesson from someone who has served in the Alabama legislature for more than 50 years. Pay attention to how vital personal skills are to effectiveness.

There are a lot of things to learn from Jabo Waggoner. At the very least, know that he is a very powerful man.

15. Steve Marshall

From the first second he stepped to the microphone after being appointed attorney general in 2017, Steve Marshall has dazzled.

Charisma. Intelligence. Compassion. Fortitude. Integrity.

Marshall has passed every test imaginable and made Alabama a safer, better place because of his service.

And for him, that’s the only thought.

This is a public servant who could do whatever he wanted – U.S. senator, governor, you name it and Steve Marshall would win that election in a heartbeat and serve with distinction.

However, Marshall has the only job he ever wanted right now. A career prosecutor with a true passion for serving as attorney general, he is one of the most real elected officials you will ever meet.

From that authenticity comes a level of power and influence that politics cannot manufacture.

An even better man, Marshall will go down as one of the best attorneys general in state history.

16. Greg Reed

When you get into the upper echelon of power players, distinguishing traits become even more important. Greg Reed has exhibited many on his way up the tower of influence and into the position of majority leader for the Alabama Senate.

Reed has a palpable, strong presence evident to anyone who spends more than a minute with him. He is poised under pressure and demonstrates a statesman-like demeanor whether in the company of few or of many. And the best thing about this is that, with Reed, it’s real.

Leading the majority caucus in the state senate can be the most challenging position in the statehouse. By virtue of being in the majority, each caucus member is in a position to influence the body in individual ways. That’s tough to manage. Reed has stepped in and not only helped maintain order but has guided some ambitious agenda items to passage.

One area where he excels and probably does not get enough credit is his grasp of policy. On issues affecting the coal industry, small business, economic development and agriculture, Reed could teach a semester class if he were afforded the time.

Reed’s star is bright and is set to get even brighter.

17. Will Ainsworth

People jest about the lieutenant governor’s office in Alabama having essentially no real power; “light” governor, some quip.

Will Ainsworth has completely changed this narrative, just in his first year on the job.

Political observers and industry titans around the Yellowhammer State have marveled at how Ainsworth has carried himself since winning in 2018 – and how he continues to maneuver every day, increasing his power and influence, growing his network.

Ainsworth has displayed poise and wisdom well beyond his years, and the result is a lieutenant governor who has become a kingmaker rather than an afterthought. His endorsement is coveted in the 2020 U.S. Senate race.

Whether it was stepping in to give the Mobile I-10 Bridge toll project a death blow or his stalwart, forward-thinking leadership on workforce development, small business and veterans issues, Ainsworth has picked his battles – and policy endeavors – perfectly.

His career is still just getting started, and Ainsworth will be elected to whatever job he wants in 2022.

18. Dax Swatek

Dax Swatek is one of the smartest people in Alabama politics. Some people simply have a natural ability to see all the angles, exits and useable space when they enter a room. Swatek is like that when it comes to political issues and public policy initiatives.

He’s an elite strategist whom clients call and say, “Tell me what my plan needs to be to pass this bill.” In the same way Frank Stitt rolls up his sleeves when asked to plan a seven-course meal, Swatek is the guy people come to when they want to know all the ingredients to success and stay six steps ahead the whole time.

With more than two decades now in Montgomery power circles, he has assembled a strong team behind him at his firm Swatek, Vaughn & Bryan and has long-standing relationships with leadership in both chambers and the executive branch. His client list is chock full of blue-chippers, and his alliance with the downtown Birmingham business community is especially strong.

Add it all up and you get a lobbyist who has figured out the recipe for sustained power and influence.

19. Horace Horn

Horace Horn is an unsung hero of Alabama’s current economic boon.

His record of longtime dedicated service could fill up a book, and the brighter future he has helped pave the way for will be celebrated through Yellowhammer’s 2019 Power of Service Award.

However, make no mistake about it: Horn has not just accomplished a lot over time – he is still one of the state’s most powerful and influential people.

As PowerSouth’s vice president for external affairs, Horn continues to be a gladiator for rural Alabama. He played a major role behind the scenes in historic broadband legislation passing this session, and the PowerSouth Playbook continues to help deliver economic development wins – as evidenced by Site Selection’s recent praise of the company.

A legend still at the top of his game, there is no better advocate to have on your side than Horace Horn.

20. Greg Albritton

Greg Albritton is an old-school legislator trapped in a second-termer’s body. He is particularly clever in how he goes about working his issues and navigating the legislative process. And he is dogged in pursuit of passing his legislative priorities. Take for example his bill reforming the marriage license process in Alabama. Albritton ran into roadblocks to the passage of that bill in multiple legislative sessions, but he kept at it and now it is law.

Albritton often finds himself in the middle of some of the more controversial legislative fights while representing the interests of his district. There are at least a few times a session where he will dig in and not move – all with a smile on his face.

Those things make his power and influence notable. However, Albritton also chairs one of the two budget committees in the State Senate.

As the Senate’s lead appropriator for the general fund (the poor cousin to the education trust fund), Albritton is in a position where it is impossible to make everyone happy. Sometimes, though, power and influence rests in the ability to tell people “no.” He’s pretty good at that, and it’s necessary given the fact that requesting general fund appropriations is about like standing in a bread line in a former eastern bloc country.

Albritton is conservative and thoughtful in his budgeting practices and crafty with his deal-making. So it’s no surprise to see him land on this list.

21. Houston Smith

Every organization needs an individual who can maintain a full-view awareness of where it needs to go. In Houston Smith, Alabama Power Company has found that person.

Smith is equipped with a discerning vision for the direction his home state needs to go in order to become the best version of itself. A solver of big problems, he is skillful at utilizing contacts throughout the country to understand best practices that can be brought to Alabama on the major issues such as economic development, infrastructure and quality of life enhancement.

The Alabama legislature has taken on several large-scale initiatives in the past year, and Smith served as a field general for stakeholder involvement. On issues like Rebuild Alabama and rural broadband expansion, Smith managed the totality of the effort including public relations, lobbying and assessing the policy impact.

From his position on Yellowhammer’s Power and Influence 40, Smith can look up and see some of his predecessors. Given his ambition and rare intellect, he would be well-served to prepare for a similarly steep career trajectory.

22. Clay Ryan

The University of Alabama might soon need to make room for another star in its “Where Legends Are Made” lineup.

Clay Ryan, now the UA System’s vice chancellor for governmental affairs and economic/workforce development, has his finger on the pulse of Alabama politics like few others in recent memory, to go along with the exhaustive list of pressing policy issues that he covers.

From healthcare to workforce development to infrastructure, Ryan and the many unique strengths of the System’s three campuses have been integral recently in the major issues facing decision-makers in Montgomery.

Well-known for his relationship building, Ryan is near the very top of the list when candidates begin their fundraising calls.

He’s got the keys to the well-oiled juggernaut that is the System’s political operation, making him one of Alabama’s most sought after contacts. Ryan should be a fixture on this list for years to come.

23. Steve Clouse

This veteran cat wrangler oversees one of state government’s biggest annual headaches – the general fund – for the House.

With all of that thankless responsibility comes overt power and influence.

This coming year, that responsibility will be even heavier – and his sway even greater – with funding of the state’s corrections system and CHIP as two of the biggest hurdles of the session.

Clouse will be in the spotlight – just as he was this spring when carrying Sen. Albritton’s clean lottery proposal.

Having served in the House since 1995, Clouse might need every ounce of his statesmanship to navigate the potential land mines of 2020.

He has been adept at doing so before and shows no sign of letting up.

24. R.B. Walker

R.B. Walker’s ascension on Alabama’s ladder of power and influence has been an impressive watch for political observers – yet entirely predictable.

Walker’s profile could easily have been something drawn up in a lab. He is tenacious in pursuit of results, disciplined in his approach and never distracted by the noise that can often consume the energy of others in the world of state governmental affairs.

Walker does not just have relationships, he knows people well. And that is why he is a reservoir for everyone’s favorite political currency: information. All of which is a testament to his work ethic. It would not take much to convince us that Walker works 24 hours a day. He is seemingly “always-on,” while maintaining a fierce loyalty to his company and its objectives.

It is impossible in the business of politics to accurately measure what someone’s ceiling looks like until they actually hit it. But we’re pretty confident Walker’s ceiling is Sistine Chapel level stuff.

25. Ginger Avery-Buckner

Ginger Avery-Buckner possesses the traits one would expect from someone running one of the state’s largest legal organizations and representing it in front of state policy-makers. Her approach on behalf of the Alabama Association for Justice is highly organized and never strays from the best interest and mission of the group.

She has the strong support of her members which has allowed her to perfect the method of harnessing their grassroots support for the association’s agenda.

And then there are the times when she achieves results for her members through sheer will. Gifted with a friendly, engaging personality, she can flip to all-business mode in a hurry in front of someone whose issue contains the wrong color-code on her legislative spreadsheet.

This has resulted in the frequent practice of other legislators and other lobbyists – who don’t want to end up on the wrong side of her spreadsheet – proactively seeking Avery-Buckner out on issues that they think might affect her members.

That’s evidence of the type of power and influence that has landed Avery-Buckner on this list.

26. Mike Jones

The chairman of the House Rules Committee, Mike Jones carries a big stick in the State House.

His committee determines the order of bills taken up each legislative day, with the well-respected Jones having the ability to set legislative priorities. This enviable negotiating position puts Jones in a prime spot to best serve his constituents’ local priorities in south Alabama.

Firm but fair, Jones unquestionably has a strong hand on the lever of power as the House’s legislative gatekeeper.

If another ethics reform package is to come up in 2020, expect Jones to take a more proactive role this time around in what is sure to be one of the session’s most important debates.

However, there is a rumor going around that Jones could be in line for another gig soon. Right now, Jones clearly remains one of the House’s most influential members.

27. Dave Stewart

In the world of law firms, lobbying has long been thought of as merely a value-add in the service of existing clients. Heavy-lifting, it was thought, should be left to smaller firms dedicated solely to the practice.

Dave Stewart has laid out the blueprint for how a law firm’s lobbying practice can prosper and leverage influence in every corner of state government. In doing so, he has led his firm’s governmental affairs practice to entirely new heights.

Perhaps it is Stewart’s business background and his statewide contacts in the business community that have contributed significantly to the growth of the Bradley firm’s lobbying practice. Those things, combined with a relentless work ethic and his commitment to grow his business, matter.

It could also the product of someone who has a reputation for being trustworthy and possessing an uncanny grasp of the issues. Regardless, Stewart has earned his spot among Alabama’s most powerful and influential.

28. Sommer Vaughn

Author Malcolm Gladwell asserts that the key to being successful at something is 10,000 hours of practice. We don’t know where Sommer Vaughn is on that timeline, but she must be close judging by the success she has enjoyed thus far.

Vaughn has hit her stride as a lobbyist who consistently delivers results for her clients. No issue is too big or too complex for her to handle. For some lobbyists, the House of Representatives can seem like a daunting body in which to work based on the outright numbers and the work it takes dealing with 105 members.

Not Vaughn. Her deep roots in the lower chamber have allowed her to flourish. She also works seamlessly across party lines and in multiple agencies and branches of government.

Vaughn is driven to be great. So the rest of Alabama’s political world is on notice as she continues to hone her craft hour by hour.

29. Paul Pinyan

The Alabama Farmers Federation made the first major move in Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate race by endorsing Tommy Tuberville over a handful of former and current elected officials last week.

Pinyan, as the organization’s executive director, finds himself right back in the thick of another heated statewide race. He was integral in the 2018 election cycle getting an incredible number of FarmPAC endorsed candidates over the finish line – and Tuberville will now hope that Pinyan’s hot streak continues.

With an impressive phone banking and polling operation, along with the best grassroots network in the state, Pinyan has the top tools at his disposal to continue increasing his power and influence.

With a team that includes the likes of rising star Matthew Durdin and former Secretary of State Beth Chapman, Pinyan is one of the most influential behind-the-scenes power players in Alabama.

30. Ben Patterson

He’s “The Professor” in Montgomery.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more knowledgeable governmental affairs professional in Alabama than Ben Patterson. And there’s a good reason for this.

While most know him for his diligent work with his current firm, the powerful Fine Geddie & Associates, Patterson holds a doctorate and quite literally taught classes in state and local government, as well as American politics, at the University of Alabama.

His experience in both the public and private sectors lend to his library of knowledge, too.

Prior to joining Fine Geddie in 2004, he served as the state’s deputy finance director under two governors. Patterson also had a stint as the state’s chief information officer in the 1990s and worked in governmental affairs for both the BCA and the Alabama Bankers Association.

Already powerful and influential, Patterson is poised to soon play an even bigger role in the State House.

31. Ted Hosp

Normally, you don’t want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the legend. However, Ted Hosp is someone who has never backed down from a challenge.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama named Hosp its new vice president of Governmental Affairs earlier this year. Hosp replaced the retiring Robin Stone, a longtime fixture among Alabama’s political power players.

Hosp had previously worked for a governor and was the lead partner for the Maynard, Cooper & Gale governmental affairs practice. During his time as a lawyer/lobbyist for Maynard, Hosp had a reputation for taking on some of the biggest issues and toughest issues on behalf of his clients looking to affect public policy. Not to mention Hosp has probably written more pieces of legislation that are now Alabama law than anyone in the statehouse would like to admit.

Hosp is now the governmental affairs point person for a company that has 3 million members in Alabama and employs 3,600 people. With the weight of that presence behind him, his power and influence will only increase.

32. Josh Blades

Josh Blades has been ahead of the curve at every point in his life. The Sylacauga native was recognized as the city’s youngest entrepreneur at age 15 after opening a full-service archery shop, and he has never looked back.

One of the most visibly focused lobbyists in the statehouse, Blades is a member of the Bradley firm’s Governmental Affairs and Economic Development practice group. He has worked for a governor, a speaker of the House, a successful statewide campaign and established a thriving lobbying practice at an age before most people accomplish one of those things.

An avid bow hunter, Blades possesses the type of background and personality that relates to almost everyone, which is one of the most overlooked traits to successful lobbying. The depth of his work in the executive and legislative branches of government provides him the institutional knowledge to service his clients, but his influence comes from having the relationships to bring about results.

33. Derek Trotter

Spoiler alert: The president pro tem of the Alabama Senate is a powerful man. And so it’s no surprise that his chief of staff also wields significant power and influence.

Derek Trotter has served as Del Marsh’s chief of staff for nearly a year and maximized his influence quickly.

Trotter brought with him a useful blend of experience. He has served as a communications director for a statewide campaign and for Marsh in an earlier term. His background as a legislative liaison for the executive branch as well as a governmental affairs consultant in the private sector allowed him to hit the ground running as the pro tem’s chief of staff.

More than anything, though, Trotter is an operator in the statehouse on behalf of his boss. He knows Marsh’s priorities, he knows the bills that will be on the calendar and he is tasked with being Marsh’s point person in communicating with other senators.

This activity gives Trotter the two most valuable commodities in the statehouse: relationships and information. The person who knows the secrets – however mundane they may seem – automatically owns influence.

And that is where Trotter finds himself.

34. Nathaniel Ledbetter

Following its conclusion, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter wrote that the 2019 legislative session may go down as “the most important and influential of its time.”

It is fitting then that political observers around the State House are widely taking notice of the integral role Ledbetter had in its success. To put it succinctly, Ledbetter may go down as one of “the most powerful and influential” majority leaders of his time.

His rise to power has been almost meteoric. Elected to the House in 2014, he became the Republican leader in the chamber almost two full years before the end of his first term.

A former mayor of Rainsville, this DeKalb Countian has carved out his role as a staunch conservative and tireless champion for rural Alabama.

With the leadership duo of him and State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) at the helm, the House GOP Caucus has real pull in Montgomery.

35. Mark Tuggle

After choosing not to seek reelection to the State House in 2018, Mark Tuggle has found an even better gig in the chamber – chief of staff to Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

Tuggle seems right at home on the dais. Whether it be his ingrained knowledge of the body’s rules and procedures or his built-in working relationships with many of the current members, Tuggle’s status as a former member helped him slide right in to a role of tangible power and influence to kick of this quadrennium.

This Alexander City Republican is now the lead gatekeeper to one of the most powerful people in the state. With contentious issues like criminal justice and prison reform coming up, along with the constant specter of lottery and gambling issues, Tuggle plays a crucial part behind the scenes in the legislative process.

36. Mike Cole

Mike Cole has been omnipresent in the halls of the legislature and the buildings around Montgomery for decades. Cole belongs in the category of powerful and influential people who quietly go about their business with a steady approach to lobbying within a wide swath of state government offices.

Few can match the breadth of subject matter in Cole’s governmental affairs practice. From healthcare to utility regulation to economic development to county and municipal issues, his experience and versatility put him in a position to pull levers inaccessible to others in the industry.

And he’s a big-game hunter when it comes to clients. Cole counts some of the state’s largest employers among his client base. His roots in Huntsville have allowed him to serve as a go-to connection in Montgomery for the many of the state’s tech leaders.

37. Cam Ward

Cam Ward, a perennial member of this annual Power & Influence list, is poised to have his biggest day in the spotlight yet.

When the Alabama legislature takes on a monumental criminal justice and prison reform package in the spring, Ward will be at the forefront – and at his most powerful and influential moment of his career thus far.

Serving in the Alabama Senate since 2010, Ward is known throughout Montgomery as a legislator eager to cross the aisle on issues of importance. Look for him to be one of the driving forces trying to get Republicans and Democrats on the same page in 2020 amidst the presidential election cycle doing quite the opposite.

While Ward as the Senate Judiciary chairman is known for his bipartisanship, his district includes a very red chunk of the areas just south of Birmingham where he remains incredibly popular. As evidenced by his social media posts (and his accessibility across these platforms), much of this is a result of his diligent work back at home.

38. Greg Butrus

Most lawyers are like the highway patrol: You only want to see them when you need them.

Greg Butrus is the exception.

It’s impossible not to learn something during a conversation with Butrus. Once a Senate staffer for legendary Alabama political figure Howell Heflin, Butrus displays the type of personality rare among the silk stocking law firms in downtown Birmingham.

He holds extensive knowledge in the areas of state and federal legislation, public policy, government relations, campaign finance law, state and federal energy policy, regulatory affairs and economic development. By no means is that an exhaustive list of Butrus’ areas of expertise, which leads him into the middle of countless pieces of legislation and agency actions.

Astute business leaders pursue Butrus’ counsel rather than wait until they really need it.

39. David Cole

David Cole must have been born to lobby.

While this was already evident during his time at the Alabama Farmers Federation, Cole has seized the opportunity of working for the better-than-ever Business Council of Alabama with both hands.

Cole is a natural people’s person, someone adept at building genuine relationships and making real connections. In the governmental affairs world, these traits are hard to find.

However, BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt struck gold when she hired both Cole and Molly Cagle to lead the organization’s governmental & political affairs shop.

These two are no longer rising stars. They have made it, and Britt has built a tenacious powerhouse for years to come.

40. Clyde Chambliss

Through thick and thin, State Senator Clyde Chambliss was at the center of seemingly every major legislative battle this spring.

The Autauga County legislator carried the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package in his chamber, also taking a leading role on the crucial accountability and transparency portions of the legislation.

His session certainly did not end there.

Chambliss’ real 15 minutes came as the Senate point person on HB 314, the abortion ban legislation.

A meticulous, detail-oriented public servant, Chambliss has steadily become one of the most powerful and influential members of the upper chamber to start the quadrennium – including serving as the GOP floor leader.

He is expected to play a major part in the upcoming criminal justice and prison reform debate, so do not anticipate this status changing this upcoming session.

2 weeks ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE 40: Numbers 1-10

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Friday released the fourth and final segment of the 2019 Power & Influence 40.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and this list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence to better the Yellowhammer State.

The ranked list has been released in four segments, with 31-40 coming first followed by 21-30 and 11-20.

Members of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

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Read more about the event here.

10. Arthur Orr

Is there a single penny spent in the state of Alabama on education that Arthur Orr does not know about? Short answer: no.

Orr is the chairman of the senate education budget committee. This means he is the point man for his chamber on the $7 billion pot of money which funds Alabama’s education system. The size of the budget brings with it a hefty responsibility – and tremendous power and influence.

Almost halfway through his second decade as a member of the state senate, Orr has now also clocked enough time as budget chair that he knows every corner of education funding and every mechanism available for appropriation. He has established near total control of his chamber’s spending and priorities.

If someone wanted to make a movie about the story of the deliberative upper chamber, Orr might be the best choice to go on the poster. He has an incredible tolerance for details and is methodical in all of his actions. He is representative of the chamber’s approach to governing.

With the clout of the education budget in his corner, he is also not afraid to take on tough budget reform fights from which others shy away, like ABC privatization and welfare reform.

Brick by brick, Orr has built a fortress of political power and influence.

9. Quentin Riggins

The work Quentin Riggins does outside of politics would probably land him on any list of influential Alabamians. He is a pillar of the community and has involved himself in a myriad of different causes aimed at improving his home state.

His service on the powerful Auburn University Board of Trustees is plenty for one person. However, Riggins also serves on the boards of Grandview Medical Center, the Business Council of Alabama’s ProgressPAC, the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority, the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and the Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Institute. He has previously served on the boards of Leadership Alabama and the Baptist Foundation.

Then there is the work he does as senior vice president of governmental and corporate affairs for Alabama Power Company. He heads up the company’s state and federal government affairs program, which is a vast and yet intricate undertaking. Riggins is able to pull from more than 25 years of service in the arena in representing the interests of one of the state’s largest employers.

Not to be forgotten, though, is his orchestration of one of the purest flexes of political muscle in several years.

Riggins oversaw the forceful changing of the guard at the Business Council of Alabama which set in motion a series of events resulting in the implementation of two monumental policy initiatives enacted to move Alabama forward: Rebuild Alabama and rural broadband expansion. Riggins’ plan for new leadership at BCA allowed the organization to establish the type of clout and cohesion necessary for success.

Riggins’ ability to look out over the horizon is a scarce commodity and produces uncommon power and influence.

8. Joe Perkins

Joe Perkins is unspeakably powerful and influential. So much so – and in such a way – that we probably should not even be speaking about it.

Perkins founded the robust, yet mysterious, Matrix firm. He and his firm occupy a unique space in the world of Alabama politics. The variety of clients he serves is remarkable. From some of the state’s biggest companies to some that could be construed as ‘mom and pop shops’ if not for their success. His work is not limited to industry, and he has a hand in the activities of trade and business associations from small, specialized groups to the very biggest.

And what he does is different.

He’s not a lobbyist. He’s not engaged in a governmental affairs practice. He consults on strategy and direction for different organizations. He provides public relations expertise carefully calculated to position his client in just the right space.

And it all goes back to the people, companies and campaigns at which he is directing his focus. He is the invisible guiding hand behind major initiatives, campaigns and state institutions of higher education. He is quiet counsel to high-ranking officials and regional decision-makers.

Trying to explain Perkins’ power and influence is far more difficult than his ability to exert it.

7. Bill Poole

Bill Poole might just be the most powerful non-Speaker member of the Alabama House of Representatives. Ever.

Talk about a guy who could do whatever his heart desired – Poole’s blend of intelligence, charisma, work ethic and integrity have led him to be a rising star in Alabama politics since his freshman year in the House.

Every year, that star has gotten brighter, and this past session just exacerbated that trend.

Poole’s stalwart leadership as sponsor of the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package was one of the most impressive feats in recent legislative history.

However, his performance really came as little surprise to those who had observed the statehouse this decade.

Everyone in the chamber likes Bill Poole – and they respect him without exception.

His reputation inside and outside the membership has been well earned. He treats people right, leads by example and delivers results time after time.

His excellent chairmanship of the education budget committee in the House wields him power and influence already, but Poole exponentially has increased his stock over recent years well beyond a normal leader in the House.

What’s next for Poole? Well, the sky is the limit.

Could we soon have another statesman-like U.S. senator from Tuscaloosa?

Whatever he chooses to do, Poole will excel – and Alabamians will continue to reap the rewards.

6. Katie Boyd Britt

Talk about a baptism by fire.

Katie Boyd Britt and her newly assembled BCA governmental affairs team were thrown into a legislative battle for the ages to kick this year off.

Working together seamlessly – and tirelessly – the Britt-led BCA helped guide Rebuild Alabama to passage. The work was not easy. In fact, it was the stuff of lobbying lore, an accomplishment to be bragged about for decades to come. But they did it with a smile on, a gleam in their eye. The only acceptable result was going to be success, and the end result was the final vote exceeding all expectations.

It all starts with Britt. From the very first day on the job, this ex-chief of staff for Senator Richard Shelby effortlessly looked like the power and influence he wields rubbed right off on her.

Britt has brought an energy, an excitement and an optimism back to BCA through her buoyant leadership. Through vision, determination and an undefinable charisma, she is setting the organization and its member companies up for unparalleled successes.

However, her personal star also shines brightly.

People are mentioning Britt at the very top of the list of contenders to succeed Shelby, whenever the venerable senator does decide to call it quits.

Whether she is interested or not remains to be seen, but regardless she is going to be one of Alabama’s most powerful and influential people quite possibly for the next half-century.

And the people of our state will be better off because of it.

5. Jo Bonner

There are very few people who have served Alabama in a more exemplary way this century than Jo Bonner.

Congressman. Vice chancellor for the University of Alabama System. And now the immensely powerful and influential chief of staff to Governor Kay Ivey.

Bonner has been the epitome of a statesman throughout it all and now runs the day-to-day operations of state government. A third act that would beat the first of most in politics and government.

He not only has the governor’s ear but is, in effect, the governor’s ears and voice on many matters.

Everyone with dealings on Goat Hill knows that Bonner is the gatekeeper to Ivey, and he has put together a top-notch staff that runs the governor’s office like a well-oiled machine with him leading the charge.

Bonner’s contributions to the state’s current historic success might be behind the scenes, but they are well recognized by those in the know. Bonner is by far the most impactful non-elected official in state government right now and will continue to be as long as he serves.

4. Mac McCutcheon

You will find no kinder a person, no more of a gentleman in elected office than Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon.

McCutcheon has dedicated his life to the people of Alabama. From protecting and serving as a career law enforcement officer in Huntsville to leading the rambunctious lower chamber of the Alabama Legislature, McCutcheon has led with integrity and compassion every step of the way.

Honored with Yellowhammer’s Power of Service Award last year, McCutcheon has continued in 2019 to be an ideal role model for people young and old looking for the best of humanity in their public servants.

How he carries himself only adds to the considerable, inherent power and influence of his office.

The members of the House listen to McCutcheon not just because he has the gavel – but because they like him and respect him. This stems for the personal interest that he takes in all of the members. For McCutcheon, being speaker is a solemn duty – and the House membership is like a family.

McCutcheon will have another tough challenge ahead as the criminal justice and prison issue comes to a head in 2020 (with Medicaid still hovering). But if anyone can handle it, it’s him – with empathy and patience.

3. Zeke Smith

Zeke Smith has worked to establish the largest and most comprehensive external affairs effort in the state. Everything from lobbying to public relations to regulatory affairs to charitable giving falls under his purview as executive vice president of external affairs for Alabama Power Company.

An array of responsibilities that affect 1.4 million customers and 7,000 employees in Alabama require that Smith have an abundance of exceptional traits.

One of the most impressive and useful traits that Smith displays is an unmatched capacity. His knowledge of Alabama Power’s massive operation extends to every corner of its business. Layered on top of that is a continual awareness of Alabama’s political climate, its power players and what makes each tick.

As with most high-performing individuals, a function of his success has been his ability to extend beyond the discipline in which he trained. An Auburn University graduate with a degree in engineering, Smith has had a distinguished career and was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame earlier this year. Now, at this point in his career, he finds himself in a position where a mastery of politics and a firm grasp of people’s motivation are essential to the job.

Assembling a top-notch team to carry out the external affairs mission has been a key component to his success. To work for him means you have been vetted, and it has been verified that you can deliver. Smith carries with him a calm urgency to his actions, and he expects results.

All of this has contributed to the end result, which is that he, perhaps more than anyone else in Alabama, receives the first phone call from aspiring office-seekers. Nothing speaks more to power and influence than when people operate under the premise that they need your support to succeed.

For most of us, the names and numbers on our ‘Recents’ call screen are in black to designate outgoing calls. We imagine Smith has nothing but red on his.

He operates at a level of power and influence where the air is thin.

2. Del Marsh

It was 87 years ago this week when Babe Ruth called his shot during the third game of the World Series. In the top of the 5th inning, with two strikes on him, Ruth pointed to the centerfield wall then promptly hit the next pitch over the fence.

Del Marsh called his shot twice this year – and hit home runs each time.

In the months leading up to the 2019 legislative session, Marsh told anyone who would listen that he intended to pass a huge infrastructure package and a historic education reform proposal. Insiders viewed Marsh’s plans with skepticism, while many supportive stakeholders even continued to express pessimism.

If conventional wisdom was supposed to dictate action, someone forgot to tell Marsh.

The president pro tem of the Alabama Senate immediately powered through the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure legislation during a special session. In doing so, he left no doubt about his clout in what may prove to be a generational, game-changing boost to the Yellowhammer State’s roads, bridges and waterways.

During a conversation with Yellowhammer News following the passage of Rebuild Alabama, we asked Marsh if the collective temperament of the legislature would allow for any other major pieces of legislation. He reacted as if we were speaking in tongues.

Marsh was not finished. He next set out to pass legislation enabling a constitutional amendment reforming the state school board and abolishing Common Core. Once considered an issue no one would even attempt to take on, Marsh whipped the bills through the legislature and onto the next statewide ballot.

Two for two out of the park.

Like so many others on this list, Marsh never stops. So while his next power move may not be readily apparent, do not expect him to slow down. He is a reformer and a wildly successful businessman who has a genuine interest in seeing his state improve.

In the meantime, Del Marsh remains one of the most powerful and influential people within his generation of public servants.

1. Kay Ivey

Governor Kay Ellen Ivey will go down as one of the most consequential leaders in Alabama history.

And she’s not even close to being finished yet.

From the second she put her hand on the Bible and became the state’s 54th governor, Ivey has been laser focused on governing and nothing else.

She’s steered the ship through all of the noise – the politics, the gossip, the fluff – like a warm knife through butter, staying on course to a better future for our great state.

Ivey quickly became known as Alabama’s education governor through her Strong Start, Strong Finish initiative, adding onto this legacy through her historic push to add 500,000 more skilled workers by 2025.

However, the progress certainly does not end there. From landmark economic development wins to increasing foreign trade opportunities, Alabama is winning big under Ivey’s steady hand.

The Rebuild Alabama Act will go down as a crowning jewel of her administration – not just the merits of the forward-thinking infrastructure package itself, but how she got it done. The legislation passed in stunningly overwhelming fashion because of Ivey’s personal ownership of the issue. She bulldogged the package to passage – certainly with the tremendous help of organizations like BCA, ALFA, the Road Builders, etc., but it would not have happened without the governor.

She faces two more big issues this coming year and through the end of her term: the prison system and rural healthcare/Medicaid.

How will Ivey continue to utilize her position as one of the most powerful and influential governors ever?

Check back on Saturday for the entire list published in one article.

2 weeks ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE 40: Numbers 11-20

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Thursday released the third segment of the 2019 Power & Influence 40.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and this list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence to better the Yellowhammer State.

The ranked list is being released in four segments, with 31-40 coming first followed by 21-30 on Wednesday.

Members of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

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Read more about the event here.

20. Greg Albritton

Greg Albritton is an old-school legislator trapped in a second-termer’s body. He is particularly clever in how he goes about working his issues and navigating the legislative process. And he is dogged in pursuit of passing his legislative priorities. Take for example his bill reforming the marriage license process in Alabama. Albritton ran into roadblocks to the passage of that bill in multiple legislative sessions, but he kept at it and now it is law.

Albritton often finds himself in the middle of some of the more controversial legislative fights while representing the interests of his district. There are at least a few times a session where he will dig in and not move – all with a smile on his face.

Those things make his power and influence notable. However, Albritton also chairs one of the two budget committees in the State Senate.

As the Senate’s lead appropriator for the general fund (the poor cousin to the education trust fund), Albritton is in a position where it is impossible to make everyone happy. Sometimes, though, power and influence rests in the ability to tell people “no.” He’s pretty good at that, and it’s necessary given the fact that requesting general fund appropriations is about like standing in a bread line in a former eastern bloc country.

Albritton is conservative and thoughtful in his budgeting practices and crafty with his deal-making. So it’s no surprise to see him land on this list.

19. Horace Horn

Horace Horn is an unsung hero of Alabama’s current economic boon.

His record of longtime dedicated service could fill up a book, and the brighter future he has helped pave the way for will be celebrated through Yellowhammer’s 2019 Power of Service Award.

However, make no mistake about it: Horn has not just accomplished a lot over time – he is still one of the state’s most powerful and influential people.

As PowerSouth’s vice president for external affairs, Horn continues to be a gladiator for rural Alabama. He played a major role behind the scenes in historic broadband legislation passing this session, and the PowerSouth Playbook continues to help deliver economic development wins – as evidenced by Site Selection’s recent praise of the company.

A legend still at the top of his game, there is no better advocate to have on your side than Horace Horn.

18. Dax Swatek

Dax Swatek is one of the smartest people in Alabama politics. Some people simply have a natural ability to see all the angles, exits and useable space when they enter a room. Swatek is like that when it comes to political issues and public policy initiatives.

He’s an elite strategist whom clients call and say, “Tell me what my plan needs to be to pass this bill.” In the same way Frank Stitt rolls up his sleeves when asked to plan a seven-course meal, Swatek is the guy people come to when they want to know all the ingredients to success and stay six steps ahead the whole time.

With more than two decades now in Montgomery power circles, he has assembled a strong team behind him at his firm Swatek, Vaughn & Bryan and has long-standing relationships with leadership in both chambers and the executive branch. His client list is chock full of blue-chippers, and his alliance with the downtown Birmingham business community is especially strong.

Add it all up and you get a lobbyist who has figured out the recipe for sustained power and influence.

17. Will Ainsworth

People jest about the lieutenant governor’s office in Alabama having essentially no real power; “light” governor, some quip.

Will Ainsworth has completely changed this narrative, just in his first year on the job.

Political observers and industry titans around the Yellowhammer State have marveled at how Ainsworth has carried himself since winning in 2018 – and how he continues to maneuver every day, increasing his power and influence, growing his network.

Ainsworth has displayed poise and wisdom well beyond his years, and the result is a lieutenant governor who has become a kingmaker rather than an afterthought. His endorsement is coveted in the 2020 U.S. Senate race.

Whether it was stepping in to give the Mobile I-10 Bridge toll project a death blow or his stalwart, forward-thinking leadership on workforce development, small business and veterans issues, Ainsworth has picked his battles – and policy endeavors – perfectly.

His career is still just getting started, and Ainsworth will be elected to whatever job he wants in 2022.

16. Greg Reed

When you get into the upper echelon of power players, distinguishing traits become even more important. Greg Reed has exhibited many on his way up the tower of influence and into the position of majority leader for the Alabama Senate.

Reed has a palpable, strong presence evident to anyone who spends more than a minute with him. He is poised under pressure and demonstrates a statesman-like demeanor whether in the company of few or of many. And the best thing about this is that, with Reed, it’s real.

Leading the majority caucus in the state senate can be the most challenging position in the statehouse. By virtue of being in the majority, each caucus member is in a position to influence the body in individual ways. That’s tough to manage. Reed has stepped in and not only helped maintain order but has guided some ambitious agenda items to passage.

One area where he excels and probably does not get enough credit is his grasp of policy. On issues affecting the coal industry, small business, economic development and agriculture, Reed could teach a semester class if he were afforded the time.

Reed’s star is bright and is set to get even brighter.

15. Steve Marshall

From the first second he stepped to the microphone after being appointed attorney general in 2017, Steve Marshall has dazzled.

Charisma. Intelligence. Compassion. Fortitude. Integrity.

Marshall has passed every test imaginable and made Alabama a safer, better place because of his service.

And for him, that’s the only thought.

This is a public servant who could do whatever he wanted – U.S. senator, governor, you name it and Steve Marshall would win that election in a heartbeat and serve with distinction.

However, Marshall has the only job he ever wanted right now. A career prosecutor with a true passion for serving as attorney general, he is one of the most real elected officials you will ever meet.

From that authenticity comes a level of power and influence that politics cannot manufacture.

An even better man, Marshall will go down as one of the best attorneys general in state history.

14. Jabo Waggoner

Jabo Waggoner is always the coolest guy in any room. He possesses a magnetism which has served him to near perfection throughout his political career. He’s the gentlemen senator and the smoothest of operators, but mainly people just want to be around him.

Of course, there’s also the fact that he holds the power of legislative process in the palm of his hand. Guess who determines what does and does not get debated on the floor of the Alabama Senate? Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jabo Waggoner. Every. Single. Bill.

In the most deliberative body, the place where it is hardest to pass a bill, that’s a monumental – and immeasurably powerful – responsibility.

Whether visiting the chairman as a constituent, a friend or someone looking to have a bill placed on the calendar, our advice would be to soak it up. Learn something. Allow yourself to get a civics lesson from someone who has served in the Alabama legislature for more than 50 years. Pay attention to how vital personal skills are to effectiveness.

There are a lot of things to learn from Jabo Waggoner. At the very least, know that he is a very powerful man.

13. Steve Windom

Steve Windom might just be the perfect case study for those looking to make it big in the world of governmental affairs and lobbying.

He is a tireless worker, but the real marvel is his deep, ever-growing network of connections on and around Goat Hill. From administrative support staff to lifelong civil servants all the way up the halls of power, Windom knows just about everybody by name – and works his Rolodex non-stop.

Windom is one of the go-to lobbyists if you want a bill passed. In addition to his relationship building, his first-hand knowledge of the process and status as a former legislator and lieutenant governor give him a special edge over many contract firms.

However, his expertise does not stop in the public policy arena.

Windom’s reputation as a fundraising machine continues to grow every election cycle – and for good reason. He can raise statewide candidates hundreds of thousands of dollars before lunch if he wants to, making him a political powerbroker unmatched in power and influence by all but a handful of colleagues.

12. Robbie McGhee

Robbie McGhee starts every day with the same mission: represent and protect the interests of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama.

What might seem to be a narrowly-focused approach can actually be an arduous task. McGhee and his tribe sit in a position of great strength in Alabama. They have established a thriving gaming and entertainment business across the state. From this success has sprung a healthy corporate citizenship through charitable endeavors, job creation and electioneering.

The challenge for McGhee comes when others set out to siphon off the strength of the tribe. This causes him to be on constant alert for people trying to harm their interests.

During those occurrences, McGhee brings a certain intensity to his representation not prevalent in the everyday machinations of the statehouse. It means something when he walks into the building, and other people know when he is there. That in itself is a sure sign of power and influence.

The experience he brings also counts for something. He 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.

The wins for McGhee continue to pile up year after year. And so does his power and influence.

11. Bob Geddie

It has been said that Joe Fine invented lobbying in Alabama.

That being well established, his longtime business partner Bob Geddie may have just perfected the craft.

Geddie, reverently known as the firm’s House of Representatives specialist, has lobbying down to a science.

Institutional knowledge, skill, charisma and relationships – it sounds like a formula. But Geddie makes it look like an artform.

Some of Alabama’s biggest businesses trust Geddie on policy advocacy issues, and for good reason. However, his power and influence does not stop at being one of the – if not the very — top contract lobbyists in the state.

Aided by Fine Geddie’s network of PACs and Geddie’s own chess master-like strategic vision, he is one of the best minds political candidates and elected officials could hope to have advising them.

Geddie has been a high-ranking fixture on this list since its inception, and his stature only looks to continue rising.

Check back on Friday for the final segment: 1-10.

2 weeks ago

Yellowhammer News to feature Rick Karle as special sports contributor

(R. Karle/Facebook, YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Thursday announced that 24-time Emmy Award winning television anchor Rick Karle will be a special sports contributor to Yellowhammer News for the remainder of the 2019 college football season.

Many Alabamians will recognize Karle as the iconic sports director at WBRC FOX6 from 1989 to December 2018.

Yellowhammer is excited to bring Karle back in front of audiences across our state this fall.

He will publish multiple regular pieces of sports content that will be viewable on YellowhammerNews.com. This will include exclusive analysis, news reporting and marque interviews, told through video and written articles. Karle will not just bring you the latest on-the-field insight, but he will help give you a window into our favorite athletic personalities outside the game itself.

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Karle has also served on the selection boards for the Alabama Sports Hall Of Fame, the International Motorsports Hall Of Fame, and the Blue-Gray Hall Of Fame.

For years, he has been a voter for the annual Heisman Trophy, and actively serves as a guest speaker and emcee at numerous charitable events.

Besides his highly celebrated work on FOX6 for nearly 30 years, Karle has been a frequent guest on numerous popular radio programs, including the Paul Finebaum Radio Network. He has also appeared on Fox News programs such as Greta Van Susteren and national sports TV programs.

His 24 Emmys cover everything from best “Sports Anchor” to “Sports Performer” to “Sports Host” to “Sports Feature,” with Karle’s most recent win coming in June of 2018 for “Best Sports Anchor” in the southeast.

In total, he has garnered over 50 Emmy nominations and has won more than 50 Associated Press awards, including the 2017 Alabama AP “Best Sports Anchor” award, the 2010 and 2013 “Best Sports Anchor” award from ABBY and the AP “Best Sports Program” for “Sideline.”

If none of that is impressive enough, Karle also has won six Edward R. Murrow Regional Awards for sports reporting, along with one Edward R. Murrow National Award (Dateline NBC being the other sports winner that year).

Karle is currently the host of the Huts and Nuts podcast, which you can subscribe to here.

Be on the lookout for Karle’s first Yellowhammer contributions this week and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

2 weeks ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE 40: Numbers 21-30

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Wednesday released the second segment of the 2019 Power & Influence 40.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and this list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence to better the Yellowhammer State.

The ranked list is being released in four segments, with 31-40 coming first and 1-10 finishing the week out.

Members of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

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Read more about the event here.

30. Ben Patterson

He’s “The Professor” in Montgomery.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more knowledgeable governmental affairs professional in Alabama than Ben Patterson. And there’s a good reason for this.

While most know him for his diligent work with his current firm, the powerful Fine Geddie & Associates, Patterson holds a doctorate and quite literally taught classes in state and local government, as well as American politics, at the University of Alabama.

His experience in both the public and private sectors lend to his library of knowledge, too.

Prior to joining Fine Geddie in 2004, he served as the state’s deputy finance director under two governors. Patterson also had a stint as the state’s chief information officer in the 1990s and worked in governmental affairs for both the BCA and the Alabama Bankers Association.

Already powerful and influential, Patterson is poised to soon play an even bigger role in the State House.

29. Paul Pinyan

The Alabama Farmers Federation made the first major move in Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate race by endorsing Tommy Tuberville over a handful of former and current elected officials last week.

Pinyan, as the organization’s executive director, finds himself right back in the thick of another heated statewide race. He was integral in the 2018 election cycle getting an incredible number of FarmPAC endorsed candidates over the finish line – and Tuberville will now hope that Pinyan’s hot streak continues.

With an impressive phone banking and polling operation, along with the best grassroots network in the state, Pinyan has the top tools at his disposal to continue increasing his power and influence.

With a team that includes the likes of rising star Matthew Durdin and former Secretary of State Beth Chapman, Pinyan is one of the most influential behind-the-scenes power players in Alabama.

28. Sommer Vaughn

Author Malcolm Gladwell asserts that the key to being successful at something is 10,000 hours of practice. We don’t know where Sommer Vaughn is on that timeline, but she must be close judging by the success she has enjoyed thus far.

Vaughn has hit her stride as a lobbyist who consistently delivers results for her clients. No issue is too big or too complex for her to handle. For some lobbyists, the House of Representatives can seem like a daunting body in which to work based on the outright numbers and the work it takes dealing with 105 members.

Not Vaughn. Her deep roots in the lower chamber have allowed her to flourish. She also works seamlessly across party lines and in multiple agencies and branches of government.

Vaughn is driven to be great. So the rest of Alabama’s political world is on notice as she continues to hone her craft hour by hour.

27. Dave Stewart

In the world of law firms, lobbying has long been thought of as merely a value-add in the service of existing clients. Heavy-lifting, it was thought, should be left to smaller firms dedicated solely to the practice.

Dave Stewart has laid out the blueprint for how a law firm’s lobbying practice can prosper and leverage influence in every corner of state government. In doing so, he has led his firm’s governmental affairs practice to entirely new heights.

Perhaps it is Stewart’s business background and his statewide contacts in the business community that have contributed significantly to the growth of the Bradley firm’s lobbying practice. Those things, combined with a relentless work ethic and his commitment to grow his business, matter.

It could also the product of someone who has a reputation for being trustworthy and possessing an uncanny grasp of the issues. Regardless, Stewart has earned his spot among Alabama’s most powerful and influential.

26. Mike Jones

The chairman of the House Rules Committee, Mike Jones carries a big stick in the State House.

His committee determines the order of bills taken up each legislative day, with the well-respected Jones having the ability to set legislative priorities. This enviable negotiating position puts Jones in a prime spot to best serve his constituents’ local priorities in south Alabama.

Firm but fair, Jones unquestionably has a strong hand on the lever of power as the House’s legislative gatekeeper.

If another ethics reform package is to come up in 2020, expect Jones to take a more proactive role this time around in what is sure to be one of the session’s most important debates.

However, there is a rumor going around that Jones could be in line for another gig soon. Right now, Jones clearly remains one of the House’s most influential members.

25. Ginger Avery-Buckner

Ginger Avery-Buckner possesses the traits one would expect from someone running one of the state’s largest legal organizations and representing it in front of state policy-makers. Her approach on behalf of the Alabama Association for Justice is highly organized and never strays from the best interest and mission of the group.

She has the strong support of her members which has allowed her to perfect the method of harnessing their grassroots support for the association’s agenda.

And then there are the times when she achieves results for her members through sheer will. Gifted with a friendly, engaging personality, she can flip to all-business mode in a hurry in front of someone whose issue contains the wrong color-code on her legislative spreadsheet.

This has resulted in the frequent practice of other legislators and other lobbyists – who don’t want to end up on the wrong side of her spreadsheet – proactively seeking Avery-Buckner out on issues that they think might affect her members.

That’s evidence of the type of power and influence that has landed Avery-Buckner on this list.

24. R.B. Walker

R.B. Walker’s ascension on Alabama’s ladder of power and influence has been an impressive watch for political observers – yet entirely predictable.

Walker’s profile could easily have been something drawn up in a lab. He is tenacious in pursuit of results, disciplined in his approach and never distracted by the noise that can often consume the energy of others in the world of state governmental affairs.

Walker does not just have relationships, he knows people well. And that is why he is a reservoir for everyone’s favorite political currency: information. All of which is a testament to his work ethic. It would not take much to convince us that Walker works 24 hours a day. He is seemingly “always-on,” while maintaining a fierce loyalty to his company and its objectives.

It is impossible in the business of politics to accurately measure what someone’s ceiling looks like until they actually hit it. But we’re pretty confident Walker’s ceiling is Sistine Chapel level stuff.

23. Steve Clouse

This veteran cat wrangler oversees one of state government’s biggest annual headaches – the general fund – for the House.

With all of that thankless responsibility comes overt power and influence.

This coming year, that responsibility will be even heavier – and his sway even greater – with funding of the state’s corrections system and CHIP as two of the biggest hurdles of the session.

Clouse will be in the spotlight – just as he was this spring when carrying Sen. Albritton’s clean lottery proposal.

Having served in the House since 1995, Clouse might need every ounce of his statesmanship to navigate the potential land mines of 2020.

He has been adept at doing so before and shows no sign of letting up.

22. Clay Ryan

The University of Alabama might soon need to make room for another star in its “Where Legends Are Made” lineup.

Clay Ryan, now the UA System’s vice chancellor for governmental affairs and economic/workforce development, has his finger on the pulse of Alabama politics like few others in recent memory, to go along with the exhaustive list of pressing policy issues that he covers.

From healthcare to workforce development to infrastructure, Ryan and the many unique strengths of the System’s three campuses have been integral recently in the major issues facing decision-makers in Montgomery.

Well-known for his relationship building, Ryan is near the very top of the list when candidates begin their fundraising calls.

He’s got the keys to the well-oiled juggernaut that is the System’s political operation, making him one of Alabama’s most sought after contacts. Ryan should be a fixture on this list for years to come.

21. Houston Smith

Every organization needs an individual who can maintain a full-view awareness of where it needs to go. In Houston Smith, Alabama Power Company has found that person.

Smith is equipped with a discerning vision for the direction his home state needs to go in order to become the best version of itself. A solver of big problems, he is skillful at utilizing contacts throughout the country to understand best practices that can be brought to Alabama on the major issues such as economic development, infrastructure and quality of life enhancement.

The Alabama legislature has taken on several large-scale initiatives in the past year, and Smith served as a field general for stakeholder involvement. On issues like Rebuild Alabama and rural broadband expansion, Smith managed the totality of the effort including public relations, lobbying and assessing the policy impact.

From his position on Yellowhammer’s Power and Influence 40, Smith can look up and see some of his predecessors. Given his ambition and rare intellect, he would be well-served to prepare for a similarly steep career trajectory.

Check back on Thursday for the next segment: 11-20.

2 weeks ago

2019 POWER & INFLUENCE 40: Numbers 31-40

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Tuesday released the first segment of the 2019 Power & Influence 40.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics, and this list is meant to recognize the top individuals in government and politics who leverage their power and influence to better the Yellowhammer State.

The ranked list is being released in four segments, with 31-40 coming first and 1-10 finishing the week out.

Members of the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 lists will be celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

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Read more about the event here.

40. Clyde Chambliss

Through thick and thin, State Senator Clyde Chambliss was at the center of seemingly every major legislative battle this spring.

The Autauga County legislator carried the Rebuild Alabama infrastructure package in his chamber, also taking a leading role on the crucial accountability and transparency portions of the legislation.

His session certainly did not end there.

Chambliss’ real 15 minutes came as the Senate point person on HB 314, the abortion ban legislation.

A meticulous, detail-oriented public servant, Chambliss has steadily become one of the most powerful and influential members of the upper chamber to start the quadrennium – including serving as the GOP floor leader.

He is expected to play a major part in the upcoming criminal justice and prison reform debate, so do not anticipate this status changing this upcoming session.

39. David Cole

David Cole must have been born to lobby.

While this was already evident during his time at the Alabama Farmers Federation, Cole has seized the opportunity of working for the better-than-ever Business Council of Alabama with both hands.

Cole is a natural people’s person, someone adept at building genuine relationships and making real connections. In the governmental affairs world, these traits are hard to find.

However, BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt struck gold when she hired both Cole and Molly Cagle to lead the organization’s governmental & political affairs shop.

These two are no longer rising stars. They have made it, and Britt has built a tenacious powerhouse for years to come.

38. Greg Butrus

Most lawyers are like the highway patrol: You only want to see them when you need them.

Greg Butrus is the exception.

It’s impossible not to learn something during a conversation with Butrus. Once a Senate staffer for legendary Alabama political figure Howell Heflin, Butrus displays the type of personality rare among the silk stocking law firms in downtown Birmingham.

He holds extensive knowledge in the areas of state and federal legislation, public policy, government relations, campaign finance law, state and federal energy policy, regulatory affairs and economic development. By no means is that an exhaustive list of Butrus’ areas of expertise, which leads him into the middle of countless pieces of legislation and agency actions.

Astute business leaders pursue Butrus’ counsel rather than wait until they really need it.

37. Cam Ward

Cam Ward, a perennial member of this annual Power & Influence list, is poised to have his biggest day in the spotlight yet.

When the Alabama legislature takes on a monumental criminal justice and prison reform package in the spring, Ward will be at the forefront – and at his most powerful and influential moment of his career thus far.

Serving in the Alabama Senate since 2010, Ward is known throughout Montgomery as a legislator eager to cross the aisle on issues of importance. Look for him to be one of the driving forces trying to get Republicans and Democrats on the same page in 2020 amidst the presidential election cycle doing quite the opposite.

While Ward as the Senate Judiciary chairman is known for his bipartisanship, his district includes a very red chunk of the areas just south of Birmingham where he remains incredibly popular. As evidenced by his social media posts (and his accessibility across these platforms), much of this is a result of his diligent work back at home.

36. Mike Cole

Mike Cole has been omnipresent in the halls of the legislature and the buildings around Montgomery for decades. Cole belongs in the category of powerful and influential people who quietly go about their business with a steady approach to lobbying within a wide swath of state government offices.

Few can match the breadth of subject matter in Cole’s governmental affairs practice. From healthcare to utility regulation to economic development to county and municipal issues, his experience and versatility put him in a position to pull levers inaccessible to others in the industry.

And he’s a big-game hunter when it comes to clients. Cole counts some of the state’s largest employers among his client base. His roots in Huntsville have allowed him to serve as a go-to connection in Montgomery for the many of the state’s tech leaders.

35. Mark Tuggle

After choosing not to seek reelection to the State House in 2018, Mark Tuggle has found an even better gig in the chamber – chief of staff to Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

Tuggle seems right at home on the dais. Whether it be his ingrained knowledge of the body’s rules and procedures or his built-in working relationships with many of the current members, Tuggle’s status as a former member helped him slide right in to a role of tangible power and influence to kick of this quadrennium.

This Alexander City Republican is now the lead gatekeeper to one of the most powerful people in the state. With contentious issues like criminal justice and prison reform coming up, along with the constant specter of lottery and gambling issues, Tuggle plays a crucial part behind the scenes in the legislative process.

34. Nathaniel Ledbetter

Following its conclusion, House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter wrote that the 2019 legislative session may go down as “the most important and influential of its time.”

It is fitting then that political observers around the State House are widely taking notice of the integral role Ledbetter had in its success. To put it succinctly, Ledbetter may go down as one of “the most powerful and influential” majority leaders of his time.

His rise to power has been almost meteoric. Elected to the House in 2014, he became the Republican leader in the chamber almost two full years before the end of his first term.

A former mayor of Rainsville, this DeKalb Countian has carved out his role as a staunch conservative and tireless champion for rural Alabama.

With the leadership duo of him and State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) at the helm, the House GOP Caucus has real pull in Montgomery.

33. Derek Trotter

Spoiler alert: The president pro tem of the Alabama Senate is a powerful man. And so it’s no surprise that his chief of staff also wields significant power and influence.

Derek Trotter has served as Del Marsh’s chief of staff for nearly a year and maximized his influence quickly.

Trotter brought with him a useful blend of experience. He has served as a communications director for a statewide campaign and for Marsh in an earlier term. His background as a legislative liaison for the executive branch as well as a governmental affairs consultant in the private sector allowed him to hit the ground running as the pro tem’s chief of staff.

More than anything, though, Trotter is an operator in the statehouse on behalf of his boss. He knows Marsh’s priorities, he knows the bills that will be on the calendar and he is tasked with being Marsh’s point person in communicating with other senators.

This activity gives Trotter the two most valuable commodities in the statehouse: relationships and information. The person who knows the secrets – however mundane they may seem – automatically owns influence.

And that is where Trotter finds himself.

32. Josh Blades

Josh Blades has been ahead of the curve at every point in his life. The Sylacauga native was recognized as the city’s youngest entrepreneur at age 15 after opening a full-service archery shop, and he has never looked back.

One of the most visibly focused lobbyists in the statehouse, Blades is a member of the Bradley firm’s Governmental Affairs and Economic Development practice group. He has worked for a governor, a speaker of the House, a successful statewide campaign and established a thriving lobbying practice at an age before most people accomplish one of those things.

An avid bow hunter, Blades possesses the type of background and personality that relates to almost everyone, which is one of the most overlooked traits to successful lobbying. The depth of his work in the executive and legislative branches of government provides him the institutional knowledge to service his clients, but his influence comes from having the relationships to bring about results.

31. Ted Hosp

Normally, you don’t want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the legend. However, Ted Hosp is someone who has never backed down from a challenge.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama named Hosp its new vice president of Governmental Affairs earlier this year. Hosp replaced the retiring Robin Stone, a longtime fixture among Alabama’s political power players.

Hosp had previously worked for a governor and was the lead partner for the Maynard, Cooper & Gale governmental affairs practice. During his time as a lawyer/lobbyist for Maynard, Hosp had a reputation for taking on some of the biggest issues and toughest issues on behalf of his clients looking to affect public policy. Not to mention Hosp has probably written more pieces of legislation that are now Alabama law than anyone in the statehouse would like to admit.

Hosp is now the governmental affairs point person for a company that has 3 million members in Alabama and employs 3,600 people. With the weight of that presence behind him, his power and influence will only increase.

Check back on Wednesday for the next segment: 21-30.

2 weeks ago

The Yellowhammer 15 announced for 2019-2020

(YHN)

Yellowhammer Multimedia on Monday released the inaugural, 2019 class of the Yellowhammer 15.

The preeminent honor for those in the private sector that are moving Alabama forward to better days, the Yellowhammer 15 is a new annual list released by Yellowhammer.

Through job creation, economic impact, community involvement and philanthropic endeavors, these exemplary leaders in their professional fields make our great state a better place to live, work and raise a family:

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Billy Ainsworth

The perfect exemplar of the Alabama Dream, Billy Ainsworth founded Steel Processing Services in 1983. A decade later, that company became Albertville-based Progress Rail Services and soon was the world’s largest builder of diesel-electric locomotives and one of the largest integrated and diversified suppliers of railroad and transit system products and services.

This all happened with Ainsworth at the helm, and his entrepreneurial and business acumen have only grown in repute following Caterpillar Inc.’s purchase of Progress Rail in 2006 for more than one billion dollars.

In fact, Caterpillar asked him to continue as Progress Rail’s CEO after the acquisition – which he did while serving in additional roles for Caterpillar such as senior vice president and strategic advisor until this March when the Alabamian reached another incredible milestone.

Ainsworth’s 25+ years at the helm of Progress Rail ended when he received this recent promotion to become just one of eight officers of Caterpillar.

He is now a group president of Caterpillar, having the responsibility for the company’s important Energy & Transportation segment, and this 1978 graduate of Auburn University is helping lead international operations for a Fortune 100 company that posted revenue of over $54 billion last year.

However, the climb to the top is not Ainsworth’s biggest story. Along the journey, he has remained committed to his community in Marshall County and the state of Alabama.

In a recent interview, Ainsworth identified his company’s values – which he has lived out over the course of his career and life: “integrity, excellence, teamwork, commitment and sustainability.”

There is perhaps no greater example of this than a story Yellowhammer News helped tell in 2016. Ainsworth was integral in the founding of both Project Literacy and Project Graduation, along with Progress Rail initiatives such as Christmas for Kids and major donations to Big Oak Ranch.

As Attorney General Steve Marshall once said, Ainsworth and Progress Rail are an “outstanding example of a corporation who cared to give back to the community,” further calling them “a shining example of how corporate/government partnership… can reshape communities and change lives for years to come.”

Tommy Brigham

Tommy Brigham’s alma mater says that it seeks to equip its graduates with the ability to “talk about the ways in which your work has had an impact on you, others, and the world.”

The good people at Emory & Henry College can rest assured that Brigham is able to do exactly that – and then some.

He is one of the most successful real estate developers in Alabama. His ventures include having founded Brigham-Williams in 1982, serving as chairman and president of RealtySouth and his most recent endeavor, co-founding ARC Realty.

It is ARC Realty where he has been able to apply the teachings of his faith and decades of experience interacting with people. With “ARC” standing for “A Relationship Company,” Brigham and his business partners have sought to create a unique organizational culture built on the principle written in Philippians 2:3-4.

“That means that when our agents walk in the door, when our employees walk in the door, we’re serving them,” he recently explained to the Living Life on Purpose podcast. “Our first and foremost focus is to serve them with whatever tools, technology, training, professional standards we can provide because we want the buyer and seller to feel the same way. We want our agents serving above self.”

His work outside of business has been guided by the same compass. Brigham is a true servant. A mere sampling of his charitable activity includes his involvement in ministries to the poor as far away as Uganda and as close as Birmingham. He serves on the board of directors of Cornerstone Schools, helped found First Priority and has worked with Prison Fellowship for many years.

Brigham’s work truly has had an impact on others and the world.

Stephanie Bryan

One of the most consequential leaders in the storied history of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Stephanie Bryan in 2014 became the first female elected to the position of Tribal chair and CEO.

A constant on Yellowhammer’s Power & Influence list since then, Bryan has shown over the course of her unprecedented career how truly generational leaders can change the fortunes of an organization or community.

In fact, as of last year, the tribe’s economy had grown a stunning 1,000% since Bryan began serving as vice-chair in 2006.

She has also been intently focused on ensuring this growth benefits every member of her tribe, as Bryan helped spearhead the effort to provide healthcare to all tribal members and led the initiative to establish the Buford L. Rolin Health Clinic and the Lavan Martin Assisted Living Facility.

Her impact, while historic for her tribe, has also reverberated across Alabama and the nation.

Whether it be the tens of millions of dollars in charitable contributions, sponsorships and mutual aid agreements spread across the Yellowhammer State during her tenure, covering all of the funeral costs for recent east Alabama tornado victims or paying to help relocate and improve Redstone Arsenal’s Gate 9, Bryan continues to be a role model for handling success in the best way possible.

“I will always stay humble, no matter how far we grow as a Tribe,” Bryan has said. “I will always remember where I come from and how blessed I have been.”

Greg Brown

One wonders whether Greg Brown has ever met an opportunity to serve his community and his state that he did not accept. Beyond the quantifiable success of his business, the stewardship of his time, energy and resources have provided a model for others looking to ensure Alabama continues moving forward.

As chairman and CEO of B.R. Williams Trucking, Inc., his company employs more than 315 people with locations in Oxford, Mobile, Anniston, Eastaboga, Piedmont and Tallahassee, Florida. It provides trucking, warehousing and logistics services and manages 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space with a fleet that travels the entire continental United States and Canada.

Within the business community, he has held voluntary leadership positions for the Alabama Trucking Association, American Trucking Association and Business Council of Alabama. Brown is also a member of the board of directors of NobleBank & Trust in Anniston.

His past chairmanships in local communities include the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, the North East Alabama Entrepreneurial Center and The Donoho School. He has led the Oxford Rotary Club and the Anniston Museum Endowment and served on the boards of the Knox Concert Series, YMCA of Calhoun County and the Alabama Policy Institute. Additionally, he is a Sunday School teacher and Deacon at The First Baptist Church of Weaver.

A vocal proponent of the need to prioritize education in the state, Brown also serves as a member of the board of trustees at Jacksonville State University.

As Alabama seeks to mold its next generation of leaders, Greg Brown’s approach to the opportunities around him provides a guide for that development.

Bill Carr

Bill Carr is a visionary who has shown entrepreneurs and business leaders across Alabama what is possible with an idea and a commitment to serving the best interests of your clients.

Founder and managing partner of an accounting firm based out of Enterprise, his firm Carr, Riggs & Ingram is one of the fastest-growing accounting firms in the country and has experienced year-over-year growth since its inception in 1997. It has been categorized by Accounting Today as a top 20 CPA firm nationally. The firm, as currently constituted, employs nearly 2,000 professionals and has offices in 65 locations across the United States.

The firm cites its core values as the driving influence behind its operation and growth. Its “CRI” philosophy is client service, respect and integrity. As an example of that philosophy at work, Carr often tells the story of his representation of a manufacturing company in his native Samson, Alabama. Referred to the company by an existing client back in 1977, Carr met with the owner of the company who had become disabled and faced some unique challenges in order to operate his business. Carr built a lasting relationship with the company and the family who ran it, and they are still a Carr, Riggs & Ingram client today.

Carr’s business acumen has never been in question. With his various business interests beyond Carr, Riggs & Ingram, he has been a job creator throughout the Wiregrass and beyond. Yellowhammer News has recognized Bill Carr in a previous year as one of the most influential regional leaders in Alabama.

Representing some of Alabama’s largest institutions, such as the Retirement Systems of Alabama and the Community College System, Bill Carr has left his mark throughout the state.

Mark Crosswhite

When it comes to titans of industry, Mark Crosswhite is in a league of his own. However, his impact extends far wider than his 1.4 million+ customer base or his 7,000+ group of employees.

Chairman, president and CEO of Alabama Power Company, Crosswhite is an Alabama-made juggernaut who personifies everything good about our great state. A native of Decatur, he received his bachelor’s degree in 1984 from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and his juris doctorate in 1987 from the University of Alabama School of Law.

Crosswhite’s civic involvement is the stuff of legends. He recently led the efforts to return the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) to glory, still serving as chair until later this year. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

He has served as chairman of the board of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and on numerous corporate, civic and nonprofit boards, including the Birmingham Zoo, Birmingham Business Alliance, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., Southern Research, the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, UAB Health System and Leadership Birmingham. He also serves on the President’s Advisory Council of the Freshwater Land Trust and is a member of the President’s Cabinet of the University of Alabama.

And, under his leadership, the Alabama Power Foundation, as well as other philanthropic and charitable endeavors of the company, continues to outdo itself when it comes to serving the people of Alabama.

After all, under Crosswhite’s steady hand, the company is excelling in much more than keeping the lights on – call that the “Power of Good.”

Joe Fine

Bestowing the “greatest ever” designation on someone is never as easy as it might seem. In the midst of its current historic run, Joe Fine’s beloved Alabama Crimson Tide are confronted with the enviable dilemma of deciding whether Paul “Bear” Bryant or Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach ever.

For those who follow Alabama’s governmental affairs and lobbying world, the decision is much easier.

Public service dominated the early part of Fine’s career. He served as District Attorney for Franklin County and Assistant Insurance Commissioner for the state of Alabama. Soon, he was elected to the Alabama State Senate where he served two terms, including a term in the powerful position of President Pro Tem. Awards and recognition came steadily for Fine. However, his most significant achievement was yet to come.

Following his career in public service, Fine was able to develop and implement a business plan in a way in which all entrepreneurs aspire. Through innovation, application and a relentless work ethic, he was able to build a business to service a fundamental principle of our republican form of government: people should have the ability to seek redress in their government. He capitalized on the simple notion that it is not economically viable for each store owner or business executive to take time off and go to Montgomery themselves.

At the time when Fine started his governmental affairs practice in Montgomery, there were few others in the business. And no one who employed the type of focus and intensity he did. As one long-time member of the Alabama Legislature told us, “Joe Fine essentially invented lobbying in the state of Alabama.”

The mark that Fine has left on public policy and politics in Alabama will be felt for generations. Sometimes determining who is the greatest ever at something is not all that difficult.

Johnny Johns

Johnny Johns has the type of distinguished record as a business leader that puts him in rarified air. During his tenure holding the positions of chairman, president and CEO of Protective Life Corporation, the company’s market value increased from $580 million to $5.6 billion.

Johns shepherded the acquisition of Protective by Dai-ichi Life of Tokyo, Japan and continues to serve an active role in Protective’s dealings with Dai-ichi as its wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary. As leader of Protective, Johns was known as an innovator, an advocate for the company’s aggressive acquisition of life insurance policies and a promoter of a corporate culture valuing its employees and work environment.

Yet, Johns’ legacy will be his efforts to make the people and places closest to him better.

In both the business community and the community-at-large, he has sought to empower those around him. He served as chairman of Birmingham Business Alliance, Business Council of Alabama, McWane Science Center, Innovation Depot and Boy Scouts of America – Greater Alabama Council.

His extensive philanthropic activities include fundraising and leadership roles for Children’s Aid Society, Railroad Park, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Innovation Depot, McWane Science Center and Pre-School Partners.

He served as co-chair of The Campaign for UAB and, in his time as president and CEO, Protective Life Foundation made almost $40 million in contributions across Alabama communities.

Booker T. Washington once said, “Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than the large things; to the everyday things nearest to us rather than to the things that are remote and uncommon.”

The sustained success Johnny Johns has enjoyed will long resonate with those whose lives were enhanced because he cared about the place he lives.

Dave King

The CEO of Dynetics in Huntsville, Dave King is on the front lines of Alabama’s continued ascent as an international leader in the aerospace and defense sectors.

He has helped lead in this field for decades now, having been a former director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center with an incredible career at the agency.

Now, he is at the helm of an Alabama company that is at the forefront of innovation. Be it keeping our nation safe or taking Americans back to the Moon and beyond, Dynetics is a worldwide leader in their field.

Founded in the Rocket City in 1974, the company is now wholly employee-owned.

This community-mindedness is evident in Dynetics’ operations and their priorities. Enjoying record successes, King recently explained what makes Dynetics so special.

“We are investing and reinvesting in our communities, helping create a better place to live, not only for our employees and their families, but everyone around us. I believe we have a moral imperative to do that,” said King.

The company has been a major supporter of causes such as Village of Promise, HudsonAlpha Foundation and the Riley Center.

Like all great leaders, that focus starts at the top. King personally has made giving back of himself a priority, currently serving as vice-chairman of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation board.

Jimmy Parnell

From rural Chilton County, Jimmy Parnell’s rise to become a four-term chairman of the board, president and CEO of Alfa Insurance and the Alabama Farmers Federation is already set to leave a legacy for future generations to benefit from.

Parnell, a fifth-generation farmer, is at the helm of Alabama’s biggest industry at a pivotal time in history.

His leadership continues to help steer the federation past serious challenges – and his vision has paved the way for tremendous growth potential in areas of the state that need it most.

This has come through policy efforts, such as the federation’s support of rural broadband efforts and commonsense regulations.

Yet, the crowning jewel of Parnell’s tenure, when all is said and done, is sure to be the Alabama Farm Center in Chilton County.

When completed, the center is expected to have an annual economic impact between $40-55 million for the surrounding area.

Parnell, as chair of the federation’s foundation, is responsible for this landmark project. But he also oversees one of the state’s most giving organizations and corporations, with Alfa and the federation regularly making huge contributions to community and educational causes.

Jimmy Rane

Duty, honor, country.

These are the values espoused by Jimmy Rane’s Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc. and its flagship brand, Yellawood.

However, these are also the ideals by which Rane has lived and led.

Speaking at the grand opening of Abbeville Fiber recently, Rane stressed, “You’ve got to have a purpose [in life].”

Driven by that three-word purpose, Rane has become Alabama’s richest man and a worldwide industry titan.

The money, though, for him was never the end goal. To Rane, his fortune is much more of a means, which is evidenced by the unparalleled ways in which he gives back.

Whether it be the millions and millions of scholarship dollars the Jimmy Rane Foundation has given to college students or a host of other causes, philanthropy is near and dear to his heart.

But his true impact is much, much more than monetary contributions.

Congressman Bradley Byrne recently remarked, “I don’t think any of us totally appreciates what Jimmy Rane does for this part of Alabama and Alabama as a whole.”

For the people of southeast Alabama, Rane is many things – “hero” being one term used to describe the “Yella Fella.”

He is, however, also a role model.

Rane does not just live out his purpose – he instills these values in others.

The world would be a much better place with more Jimmy Ranes.

Britt Sexton

When it comes to increasing his civic and philanthropic involvement, it’s seemingly never over for Britt Sexton.

His day job(s) serving as CEO of Sexton Inc., CEO of FS Financial Inc., managing member of Sexton Investments LLC and leader of the Sexton Charitable Foundation merely begins to describe how the Decatur man spends his time.

An influential trustee for the University of Alabama System, Sexton is on the executive committee of the Morgan County Economic Development, the University of Alabama President’s Cabinet, the Crimson Tide Foundation and the Decatur Rotary Club. He is a past chair of the Decatur General Hospital Foundation.

Known as one of North Alabama’s greatest philanthropists, Sexton and his wife, Susan, have also endowed scholarships at UAB, among a seemingly unending list of items he supports.

Sexton has had a large influence on many in Alabama for years, but his rise over the last decade has been especially remarkable.

From being named first to Yellowhammer’s “Local Leader 20,” followed by recognition on the “Who’s Next?” list and finally the Power & Influence list itself, Sexton has become one of the most meaningful Alabamians – without most of his fellow residents knowing it.

Jody Singer

As one of the leading figures in the United States space program, it is no surprise Jody Singer has been recognized as a University of Alabama Legend.

A native of Hartselle, Singer has held numerous positions of increasing responsibility throughout her 32-year NASA career in the areas of human spaceflight, technology and science flight missions programs and projects.

When she was named the 15th director of Marshall Space Flight Center — and the first woman ever to serve in that position – her legendary status was cemented.

With an approximately $2.8 billion budget, Marshall Space Flight Center has a well-documented legacy in rocket engineering and is charged with innovation and technical development for the nation’s space systems.

As director, Singer oversees everything for one of NASA’s largest field installations, with nearly 6,000 on-site and near-site civil service and contractor employees. Economic impact estimates say that the center is, directly and indirectly, responsible for more than 24,000 jobs across North Alabama.

The magnitude of that impact, and the people and families it affects, is not lost on Singer.

“When I look at how the ‘Rocket City’ has played a part, and will continue to be a part of writing the chapters of human space exploration and discovery, I am proud to be from Alabama,” she told Yellowhammer News earlier this year. “It is wonderful to contribute to something bigger than myself and important to our nation. It is so rewarding to wake up every day and know that I contribute to a workforce dedicated to discovering the unknown, enabling human space exploration and making a difference in our everyday lives here on earth.”

Gary Smith

As president and CEO of PowerSouth, Gary Smith leads an energy cooperative fiercely committed to developing communities across Alabama. And Smith has his company well-positioned for that leadership role.

A graduate of the University of North Alabama, where he was recently appointed to the board of trustees, Smith has led PowerSouth from his current position since 2000. PowerSouth is the second-largest utility provider in the state and distributes electricity to 39 counties in Alabama and 10 throughout northwest Florida.

With some major economic development successes and having fought to expand high-speed internet access for rural communities, PowerSouth was named as a top utility in economic development by Site Selection.

Smith maintains an acute awareness of what it means to fulfill the infrastructure needs of rural communities, including through broadband expansion.

“Communities without strong information infrastructure are rarely viable candidates for economic growth. Businesses will only locate where they can communicate,” Smith explained to Yellowhammer News.

In addition to promoting the development of the communities its members serve, Smith’s company works to promote growth across Alabama as a member of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and the Alabama Marketing Allies, which showcases the state to site selectors and other prospective industries.

This is all part of the company’s economic development plan promoted by Smith called the PowerSouth Playbook, which was created in 2016 to complement the activities of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

When Alabamians seek out leaders devoted to developing communities to improve economic opportunities and enhance quality of life, they need not look any further than Gary Smith.

Tim Vines

Character in leadership matters in every organization. The effect of a leader who leads with the best interest of others in mind fuels productivity and has a multiplying impact throughout the organization.

Tim Vines, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, ascribes to that approach for his company. Vines leads the largest provider of healthcare benefits in the state, serving nearly 3 million members. His company employs more than 3,600 people and has a presence in every county in the state of Alabama.

Vines has worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield for 25 years, holding various management positions throughout his time there. He ascended to his present position in November 2017.

He is a LaFayette, Alabama native who graduated from Auburn University, where he was a member of the baseball team. Perhaps the most clear statement of his leadership style came as part of a video series in which he took part on behalf of Auburn last year.

Vines said, “Everything I try to do every single day is to make sure that I do it with honesty, with integrity and with uprightness. And in doing so, I am representing my God, I am representing my family, I am representing my company and I am representing my university well.”

And his volunteer and community activities are extensive. He is a past chairman of the board of trustees for Samford University. He is a member of the board of directors for the American Red Cross Alabama Region and the Better Business Bureau serving South and Central Alabama. Vines is also a Deacon at Shades Mountain Baptist Church.

During his time as board chairman at Samford, university president Andrew Westmoreland remarked, “He’s one of the finest leaders that I have ever known, and we are extremely fortunate to rely on his effective involvement at Samford.”

More about the Yellowhammer 15:

Unlike the Power & Influence 40 list, a person can be recognized in the Yellowhammer 15 only once in a lifetime. Not only will this honor be exclusive, but the accumulation of inductees over time will also compile a “hall of fame” type list synonymous with the pinnacle of professional and civic achievement.

However, this list is about more than just honoring these leaders — the Yellowhammer 15 is a call to action.

Over the coming months, Yellowhammer will encourage these 15 honorees to recommit themselves to the transcendental efforts that landed them a place on this prestigious list. Brighter days for Alabama are possible because of leaders like these.

For now, enjoy the Power & Influence 40, which will be released over the remainder of this week, starting with numbers 31-40 on Tuesday.

This all leads up to the main event, with both the Yellowhammer 15 and the Power & Influence 40 being celebrated through the 5th annual Power of Service event, which will take place Thursday, October 17, in Montgomery.

Read more about the event here.

2 months 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 months 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 months 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 months 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 months 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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3 months 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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3 months 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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3 months 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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3 months 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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3 months 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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3 months 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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3 months 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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4 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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5 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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7 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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