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.

6 days ago

Watch: Gov. Kay Ivey featured in first video of Our Yellowhammer 360 series

(Yellowhammer News/Our 360 News)

The first video in the Our Yellowhammer 360 series was released on Tuesday and features Governor Kay E. Ivey.

Our Yellowhammer 360, announced at the beginning of this month, is a partnership between Yellowhammer News and Our 360 News created in an effort to bring the people of our great state together, regardless of individual differences.

Part of the Our Yellowhammer Speaks storytelling aspect of the series, videos like the one released Tuesday, will highlight prominent elected officials in Alabama speaking about times they have worked across the aisle to address the needs of all of their constituents.

WATCH:

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2 weeks ago

Yellowhammer News announces Our Yellowhammer 360 partnership

(Our Yellowhammer News 360)

Yellowhammer News is pleased to partner with Our 360 News in presenting a new series: Our Yellowhammer 360.

Between a global pandemic, monuments toppling and a heated national election cycle, 2020 saw Alabamians spending a lot of time divided.

Our Yellowhammer 360 was created in an effort to bring the people of our great state together, regardless of individual differences. The forward-thinking series will focus on race, justice and — most importantly — reconciliation, all through the lens of constructive dialogue and action.

The mission of Our Yellowhammer 360 is to utilize the uniquely positioned partners to promote unity and advance Alabama.

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Be on the lookout for Our Yellowhammer Speaks to kickoff in mid-January. This video-centric storytelling feature will highlight prominent elected officials in the state working across the aisle for the good of all Alabamians.

And, when it is safe to do so, the partnership will also rollout Our Yellowhammer Town Hall: a live event portion of the series that elevates productive conversation on issues such as race, justice and corporate responsibility.

Our Yellowhammer 360 looks forward to Alabamians joining in this impactful endeavor to unite for the betterment of our state.

You can view the video announcing Our Yellowhammer 360 here or below:

Follow Yellowhammer News and Our 360 News on social media as the series progresses.

‘Greatest ever’ describes the biggest news in college football this weekend

(YH)

The Alabama Crimson Tide just completed the greatest regular season in college football history with a first-ever 10-0 record in SEC play. The Tide dominated each of its opponents, and no game seemed even remotely in doubt.

On the offensive side of the ball, Mac Jones has put together the greatest season of any quarterback in the program’s storied history. His go-to target, DeVonta Smith, could end up being regarded as the greatest wide receiver to ever suit up for the Tide.

Alabama now heads to Atlanta, and then the College Football Playoff, looking to complete the greatest season in college football history.

On the other side of the state, Auburn University made the move to fire the greatest coach in its program’s history. In announcing Gus Malzahn’s termination, Auburn let go of a coach who averaged nearly nine wins per season and totaled 39 conference victories in his eight seasons leading the program.

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Malzahn had eight wins against top-10 teams and was the only active head coach in the nation to have three wins over Nick Saban. His offenses at Auburn included five 1,000-yard rushers.

The strength of Auburn’s schedule during his eight years may be the toughest run of games for any single head coach in college football history.

Names of replacements being bandied about in the early stages of the search include Mario Cristobal, Hugh Freeze, Dan Quinn, Billy Napier, Scott Satterfield, Brent Venables, Tony Elliott, Bill O’Brien and Mike Gundy.

Here are our experts’ ballots for this week’s power rankings.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Texas A&M
6. Cincinnati
7. USC
8. Florida

The lowdown: What Alabama is doing under head coach Nick Saban this year is remarkable. Hearing so many other coaches lament the struggles of 2020 (which are very real) and then watching Alabama dismantle opponent after opponent creates a huge dissonance. Even on a day when the Tide’s passing attack was grounded, Alabama returned to their traditional formula of dominant defense, special teams and rushing en route to a seven touchdown conference win. Clemson, Notre Dame and Ohio State are the only teams in the country that might be able to stay within two scores of Alabama… maybe.

Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Notre Dame
3. Clemson
4. Ohio State
5. Texas A&M
6. Cincinnati
7. USC
8. Coastal Carolina

The lowdown: Game cancellations due to COVID-19 made for another weird weekend with just a few games, but that didn’t stop some CFB excitement from unfolding.

Florida’s loss to LSU shook things up this week in the power rankings, knocking the Gators out of the top eight and subsequently making the SEC Championship game less exciting while giving Texas A&M a very legitimate shot to make the final four.

Additionally, Miami fell out of the power rankings after North Carolina smoked them. Coastal Carolina—still undefeated—had a great win against a solid Troy team; therefore, they slide into the No. 8 spot.

Speaking of sliding in, USC also slid into the rankings for the first time after their fifth game and a decisive win against UCLA.

6 months ago

Live election blog — July 14 Alabama primary runoff

(Pixabay, YHN)

The state of Alabama is voting Tuesday, July 14. Follow along for live coverage throughout the evening regarding the Republican primary runoff contests for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House in AL-01 and AL-02, Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and more.

Polls close at 7:00 p.m.

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In the runoff for the U.S. Senate, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions faces former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

In Alabama’s First Congressional District, former State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) vies for the nomination with Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl.

In AL-02, former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) squares off against Wiregrass businessman Jeff Coleman.

Incumbent Judge Beth Kellum is being challenged by former Lauderdale County Commissioner Will Smith for a spot on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

There are also local races — both Republican and Democratic– on the ballot in certain precincts.

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill’s office on Tuesday announced that they now estimate turnout for the runoff will be between 10-15%. This is down from their estimate of 17-22% heading into the day.

“With Alabama voters exercising extreme caution during the COVID-19 pandemic, we now believe turnout for today’s Runoff Election to be somewhere between 10-15%,” Merrill stated. “I encourage anyone who is interested and eligible to go vote today, while also practicing CDC recommendations. To find your polling place or check your registration status, visit AlabamaVotes.gov.”

Update 10:13 p.m.:

Long shot no Moore — Coffee County Republican takes congressional primary runoff

Update 10:01 p.m.:

Another race of note:

Update 9:44 p.m.:

Update 9:37 p.m.:

Bill Hightower concedes AL-01 to Jerry Carl

Update 9:13 p.m.:

Tuberville speaks after his big win.

Update 9:07 p.m.:

Tim Howe weighs in: Winners and losers — Election day fallout

Update 9:01 p.m.:

In conceding, Sessions backs Tuberville against Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).

Update 8:48 p.m.:

The president reacts to Tuberville’s victory.

Update 8:45 p.m.:

Update 8:39 p.m.:

The scene at Tuberville’s watch party:

Update 8:35 p.m.:

Looks like Moore in AL-02.

Update 8:26 p.m.:

National Republican Senatorial Committee tips its cap to Tuberville.

Update 8:23 p.m.:

BREAKING: Tuberville wins Republican nomination in Alabama Senate contest, handing huge win to President Trump

Update 8:11 p.m.:

Moore hanging on to a close lead

Update 7:46 p.m.:

Barry Moore out to an early lead in AL-02.

Update 7:39 p.m.:

Tuscaloosa appears to have not forgotten about “Fear the thumb.”

Update 7:19 p.m.:

Tuberville out to a very early lead.

Update 7:15 p.m.:

You can’t spell Baldwin without “win.”

Update 7:05 p.m.:

Eggs-actly where they want to be?

Update 6:57 p.m.:

For election night coverage and analysis from some Yellowhammer contributors over the airwaves:

10 months ago

Sheriff: Assisted living employee fatally shot by resident

(Autauga County Jail/Contributed)

PRATTVILLE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama man living at a residential facility was arrested and accused of fatally shooting the house supervisor, authorities said.

Devonta Wayaire Brown, 22, was arrested Monday and charged with murder in the death of Marcus Wayne Warren, news outlets reported.

Autauga County court documents said Warren was the on-duty house supervisor for Magnolia Wood Therapeutic Assisted Living, an assisted living facility for the developmentally disabled. Warren repeatedly told Brown to go bed, which made Brown upset, documents said. Brown went to his room, pulled out a handgun from under his mattress and shot Warren, documents said.

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Brown then forced a housemate to drag Warren’s body outside but when the two failed, they called 911, documents said.

It’s unclear how Brown got a gun into the home. The Autauga County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation is ongoing.

Brown’s being held at the county jail on a $60,000 bond. It’s unclear whether Brown had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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10 months ago

Alabama Senate approves medical marijuana bill

(Pixabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A medical marijuana bill cleared its first floor vote Thursday in the Alabama legislature as advocates hope to make headway after years of setbacks.

The Alabama Senate voted 22-10 for the bill by Republican Sen. Tim Melson after five hours of debate. The legislation now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

The proposal would allow people with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana for 15 conditions — including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain. It also would allow them to purchase cannabis products at one of 34 licensed dispensaries. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, skin patches and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

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The Senate approval was a moment of optimism for medical marijuana advocates who for years made little headway in the conservative-leaning state. In 2013, a medical marijuana bill won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives.

Melson said he is optimistic about the bill’s chances this legislative session.

“Things have changed. We learn as we go in life and people have realized there are benefits,” Melson said before the debate.

An anesthesiologist by training, Melson said he grew to support the idea of medicinal marijuana after hearing the stories of people who had been helped by it. Advocates packed an earlier public hearing on the bill to tell lawmakers their stories.

The legislation faced some opposition on the Senate floor.

Sen. Larry Stutts, an obstetrician, said medical marijuana laws bypass the normal processes for drug approval. Sen. Arthur Orr, a Republican from Decatur, stayed at the Senate microphone for more than an hour, introducing amendments.

Republican Sen. Dan Roberts said he could support an expansion of Alabama’s existing law allowing the use of CBD oil, but not a full medical marijuana law.

“We have an FDA that has a process. … I just believe we are doing irreparable damage to the children of our state and to our state by doing what we are doing,” Roberts said.

The bill also faces opposition from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. He sent lawmakers a letter expressing his opposition, noting that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The bill faces an uncertain future as it heads to the House of Representatives. In prior sessions, a Senate-passed bill stalled in the House.

“We are just in a wait and see mode,” House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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10 months ago

Alabama to exhibit artifacts from last US slave ship

(Alabama Historical Commission/Facebook, YHN)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The state of Alabama will provide artifacts from the last slave ship to dock in the United States for a special public exhibition later this year, officials said Tuesday.

The Alabama Historical Commission, in a statement, said an exhibit named for the slave ship Clotilda is set to open this fall in Mobile, where the schooner arrived with African captives in 1860.

The artifacts include pieces of wood and metal taken from a muddy river bottom where the ship was discovered, said Jim Delgado, a maritime archaeologist who helped identify the wreck.

The History Museum of Mobile will add pieces from its own collection to help tell the story of the port’s maritime history, the commission said. The city is working on plans for a new facility to house the exhibition.

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“Through this exhibit and collaborative effort, everyone will have the opportunity to experience the moving story of the Clotilda and its survivors,” said Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the state agency.

To settle a bet between wealthy white men on whether slaves could be imported into the South in defiance of a federal ban, the wooden ship illegally transported 110 people from west Africa to Alabama, where they became slaves.

The freed people later settled in a community called Africatown, which still exists and will be the site of the exhibition.

The United States banned the importation of slaves in 1808, but smugglers kept traveling the Atlantic with wooden ships full of people in chains. Southern plantation owners demanded workers for their cotton fields.

Remains of the twin-masted Clotilda were discovered in late 2018 near an island where the ship was believed to have been scuttled and burned north of downtown Mobile shortly after unloading the captives. Only a few artifacts were removed from the wreck, and a judge awarded custody of the items to the Alabama Historical Commission.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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10 months ago

4-year-old red panda dies at Birmingham Zoo

(The Birmingham Zoo/Facebook, YHN)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — One of the two red pandas at an Alabama zoo has died, the zoo said Monday.

The Birmingham Zoo said in a news release that Parker, a 4-year-old male red panda, was found dead Sunday morning. There there was no sign of physical injuries or illness and an examination didn’t immediately reveal the cause of death, the zoo said, adding that more test results were pending.

There were no signs of illness in its other red panda, a 9-year-old female named Sorrel, the zoo said.

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Red pandas, much smaller than black and white pandas, grow to about the size of large house cats, with long bushy tails. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund list the red panda, which is native to Asia, as an endangered species.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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11 months ago

Police: Alabama girl lied about assault from fake officer

(Opelika Police Department/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Police in east Alabama say a teenage girl was lying when she claimed a man impersonating a police officer sexually assaulted her.

The Opelika Police Department tells WTVM-TV that detectives recreated the incident, which was reported Feb. 19. They say that once the teen who claimed the assault was confronted with surveillance video from multiple sources, she admitted she was lying.

Police say they’re continuing to investigate, now focusing on the false report. No criminal charges have yet been filed.

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Because the teen involved is a juvenile, police say they won’t release any more details about the investigation or its outcome.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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11 months ago

Alabama hospital to close; 17th to shut down in 10 years

(Pickens County Medical Center/Facebook)

CARROLLTON, Ala. (AP) — Pickens County Medical Center, located in rural West Alabama near the Mississippi line, will become the latest state hospital to shut down when it closes for good on Friday, news outlets reported.

The Pickens County Health Care Authority announced the shutdown in a news release that said the hospital’s finances were no longer sustainable. It cited too few patients, reduced federal funding and large numbers of uninsured patients.

The shutdown of the hospital, which opened in 1979, will be a twofold blow since residents will lose both their closest option for health care and jobs. About 200 people work at the hospital, making it one of Pickens County’s largest employers, according to its website.

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The shutdown is only the latest in a wave of hospital closings nationwide. The Alabama Hospital Association said 17 privately run hospitals have closed in the state over the last decade, and only one of those reopened.

Carrollton is located about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of Birmingham. The city of roughly 1,000 people is about halfway between Tuscaloosa and Columbus, Mississippi, which both have hospitals. Pickens County has a population of about 20,200.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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11 months ago

Police investigate after slurs painted in Alabama park

(CBS 42/Twitter)

LINCOLN, Ala. (AP) — Police are investigating after someone painted racial slurs on a park building in central Alabama and claimed a county commissioner said it.

Lincoln police on Friday asked people with information about what happened at Richard George’s Ball Park to contact them.

George, an African-American man who owns the private park that he lets the community use, says the message in bright red paint appeared before dawn Friday on a building at the baseball field.

Talladega County Commissioner Jackie Swinford’s name was added to the bottom of the message, attributing the quote to him. Swinford, who is white, denies saying what was painted.

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“This is somebody that’s angry. Angry at me, and if they have something to say to me, come tell me. Don’t be a coward. Come look me in the eye and tell me what the problem is,” Swinford told WIAT-TV.

Swinford and George say they’ve been friends for almost 15 years.

The graffiti was painted over on Friday.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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11 months ago

Watch live: Alabama Republican Party holds 2020 winter meeting

(YHN)

PRATTVILLE — The Alabama Republican Party on Saturday is holding their annual winter meeting.

The meeting is set to start at 10:00 a.m.

You can watch the meeting live below courtesy of Alabama Straw Poll:

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11 months ago

Medical marijuana bill clears Alabama Senate committee

(Pixabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A medical marijuana bill cleared its first hurdle Wednesday in the Alabama legislature, giving hope to advocates after years of setbacks.

Audience members applauded as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 for the bill, putting it in line for a Senate floor vote later this session.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Tim Melson would allow people with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana for 15 conditions — including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain — and purchase cannabis products at one of 34 licensed dispensaries. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, gummy cubes, oils, skin patches, gels and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

Advocates crowded into a public hearing at the Alabama Statehouse to watch the debate and tell lawmakers their stories.

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“This bill is not about getting high. This bill is about getting well,” said Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Colorado doctor who described the success of using medical marijuana on people with seizures and cancer.

Cristi Cain said her son Hardy’s debilitating seizures have been helped by CBD oil, now legal in Alabama, but said the higher doses that could help him more aren’t legal in the state. Hardy had as many as 100 seizures per day before trying the oil, and now has about 20 to 30, she said

“An area code shouldn’t affect one health’s care. If Hardy didn’t live in Alabama, he could be seizure-free. We shouldn’t have to be and don’t want to be medical refugees,” Cain said.

Another woman described how patches used in another state were the only thing that relieved her husband’s leg pain from Parkinson’s

The bill drew opposition from some law enforcement and conservative groups. They expressed concern about dosing, safety and the potential for abuse.

“Just because we put the word medical in front of marijuana does not make it medicine,” Shelby County Sheriff’s Capt. Clay Hammac said.

The Rev. Rick Hagans described addicts he buried. He said that although they obviously didn’t overdose on marijuana, they started their drug use with pot.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sent lawmakers a letter expressing his opposition that noted marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The vote was a moment of optimism for medical marijuana advocates who for years made little headway in the conservative-leaning state. A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives.

Melson said he is hopeful about the bill’s chances in 2020. He said there are multiple steps in the process of obtaining medical marijuana that should limit the danger of abuse.

“You are going to have to go to a physician. You are going to have to get a card. You are going to be on the (state) register,” Melson said. He defended the bill’s allowance of marijuana for a variety of conditions.

“I’m sure some people look at that 15 (conditions) and go, ‘Ýeah, really, that one?’ That’s because they don’t have it or don’t know the literature,” he said.

Sen. Larry Stutts, an obstetrician who cast the lone no vote on the committee, said state medical marijuana laws circumvent the process of drug trials usually required to introduce a new medicine

Stutts said other medications have been “through the process and been through the trials that study its effectiveness and side effects” before patients get them.

Before the vote, Sen. Cam Ward described his late father’s battle with cancer.

“I would have given anything, anything, had he had a tablet to take, something to chew on, some drops to put in his food to avoid the nauseousness from the chemotherapy. That would have changed his life. As a human being, who am I to say … you can’t have that to make you feel better?” Ward said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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11 months ago

Alabama House okays proposed teacher retirement change

(Pixbay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — As the state faces a teacher shortage, the Alabama House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday that proposes changes to retirement benefits to try to lure people to stay in the classroom.

Representatives voted unanimously for the bill called the Education Workforce Investment Act, which would alter the retirement structure for public education employees hired after 2013. The changes include allowing employees to retire with benefits after 30 years even if they haven’t reached age 62.

The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate.

“We have a shortage among educators, particularly we recognize the teachers in the classroom but it goes beyond that,” Republican Rep. Alan Baker of Brewton said. Baker said there are also shortages of bus drivers and other school employees.

The bill would reverse some of the changes lawmakers implemented in 2013 when they changed retirement structure for new hires because of concerns about the long-term cost of pension benefits. “It’s been deemed that might have been a slight over-correction,” Baker said.

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Currently, participants in the teachers retirement system are classified as Tier 1, if they were first hired before 2013, or Tier 2, if they were hired on, or after, Jan. 1, 2013. The tiers have different contribution rates, formulas and service requirements to collect benefits.

The bill would create anew Tier 3 retirement level and allow employees to retire at any age after 30 years of service with up to 80 percent of their final salary, Baker said. The bill alsoproposes increasingthe multiplier used in retirement calculations and allows employees to convert unused sick leave, similar to the Tier 1 system.

The bill would raise what employees must contribute to their retirement to make it the same as the old system. Tier 2 employees would be automatically shifted to Tier 3 unless they opt out of the change.

The bill passed without a dissenting vote, although Rep. Thomas Jackson criticized Republicans’ past cuts to educators’ benefits.

“It’s you all that took all that good stuff away from these good teachers in the state … I’m glad to know that you all saw the light and see where we are losing good teachers,“said Jackson, a Democrat.

Republican Rep. Bill Poole, who chairs the education budget committee, said it is a “reasonable” action.

“We’ve looked really hard at it. It’s part of the component of teacher recruitment and retention efforts to address a teacher shortage,” Poole, a Tuscaloosa Republican, said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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11 months ago

Alabama House passes bill limiting cities’ ability to levy occupational taxes

(YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Ala, (AP) — Alabama cities would be prohibited from enacting new occupational taxes without legislative permission, under a proposal approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives.

Lawmakers voted 74-27 for the bill that now moves to the Alabama Senate. The measure comes as the city of Montgomery explores the possibility of creating a 1% occupational tax.

The bill by Republican Rep. Chris Sells of Greenville would prohibit cities from enacting occupational taxes through their city councils. Local occupational taxes could still be enacted but would require the approval of a local bill in the Alabama legislature.

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The bill would not impact any existing occupational taxes.

Occupational taxes are taxes paid by people who work within the city limits.

Sells said many people work in a city, but live outside city limits. He said they have no representation on a city council debating an occupational tax.

“My goal is to give a voice to the people,” Sells said.

Opposed lawmakers said the proposal takes away from the autonomy of cities.

“It bothers me for us to play Big Brother in a sense to say, ‘OK, this is what you can and you cannot do,’” Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Prichard) said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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12 months ago

Watch live: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey delivers 2020 State of the State Address

Gov. Kay Ivey delivering the 2019 State of the State Address. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday evening will deliver her 2020 State of the State Address, and you can watch it live online here.

The address is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. CST in the Old House Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol.

As previewed by Ivey recently, major topics of the address are expected to be the 2020 Census; criminal justice and corrections reform; healthcare in general; mental healthcare; and education reform.

Ivey will have five special guests attend the address:

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  • Brandie McCain was previously incarcerated and was among the first group of J.F. Ingram State Technical College students to earn the nationally recognized Certified Logistics Associate credential from the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council.
  • John Carroll is a retired Army Veteran that was struggling to find gainful employment until he was assisted by the Alabama Department of Labor and the Decatur Career Center.
  • Carl Flemons is a veteran’s representative at the Department of Labor and helped Carroll find a place of employment.
  • Joanne and Shanice Williams are the wife and daughter of the late Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams, who tragically lost his life in the line of duty in November 2019.

The State of the State Address will conclude the opening day of the Alabama Legislature’s 2020 regular session.

The live stream will begin at 6:00 p.m. CST below.

WATCH:

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12 months ago

Watch: Republican Women of Huntsville’s U.S. Senate candidate forum

(Screenshot/WHNT)

On Tuesday, the Republican Women of Huntsville hosted a U.S. Senate candidates forum at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens.

The forum featured former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs). It was moderated by Yellowhammer News’ Jeff Poor.

The candidates were given two minutes to open, followed by questions regarding various topics including trade, foreign policy, marijuana, debts and deficits, term limits and abortion with minute-and-a-half responses, and a two-minute close.

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1 year ago

Vigil held to pray for return of missing Trussville woman

(Pixabay)

TRUSSVILLE, ALA. (AP) — Dozens of people gathered at an Alabama church to pray for the safe return of a 29-year-old woman who disappeared in December.

Relatives and friends of Paighton Laine Houston gathered Monday night with worshipers at the Clearbranch United Methodist Church in Trussville, news outlets report. Parishioners were given candles and black bracelets that had a yellow bead “to remind you remind you that every time you see this bracelet it just takes one little light to overcome the whole darkness,” said Vaughn Stafford, the church’s lead pastor.

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Authorities have said Houston was last seen on Dec. 20 leaving a Birmingham bar with two men. It was reported that she left willingly, Birmingham police Sgt. Johnny Williams told Al.com. She reportedly texted a friend later that night saying she didn’t know who she was with and she felt like she was in trouble.

Authorities still are reviewing surveillance video, and it’s unclear if foul play was involved in Houston’s disappearance, Williams said.

“We’re pretty much in the same place that we were when we first reported her missing,’’ he said. “We don’t have any other leads. We’ve exhausted the ones we’ve had to this point, but we’ll continue to investigate and try to develop new leads.”

Gov. Kay Ivey has offered a cash reward in the case. That’s in addition to a $5,000 reward offered by Crime Stoppers.

“Unfortunately, another female is missing in the state of Alabama,” Ivey said. She referenced the disappearances of Aniah Blanchard and Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney, both later found dead.

Ivey said the $5,000 reward is “to help encourage anyone with credible information to contact the appropriate authorities and help make that happen.”

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 year ago

Alabama police deaths rise; 5 of 6 killed with stolen guns

(Pixabay)

Six Alabama law enforcement officers have been shot and killed in 2019. State statistics show that’s the highest number in a year dating back to 1987.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says five of the six slain officers were killed with stolen guns.

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In addition to the shootings, a seventh Alabama police officer was killed in a car accident while responding to a burglary.

Nationally, 128 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in the first 51 weeks of 2019. Only Texas, New York and California had more police deaths than Alabama.

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1 year ago

Judge orders DNA testing in Alabama teen’s disappearance

(Escambia County Jail/Contributed, Blanchard Family/Contributed)

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — A judge ordered DNA testing Wednesday for a man suspected in the kidnapping of an Alabama college student missing since last month.

Lee County District Judge Russell Bush granted a prosecution request to force Ibraheem Yazeed to submit DNA, which prosecutors said they wanted because male DNA was found in the missing teen’s car.

Yazeed, 29, is charged in the disappearance of 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard, the stepdaughter of UFC heavyweight Walt Harris. She was last seen Oct. 23 at a convenience store in Auburn.

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Blanchard’s father, mother and stepfather appeared tense as they watched a preliminary hearing for Yazeed, who sat shackled a few rows in the front of them wearing a white jail uniform.

The judge ruled there was probable cause for the case to proceed and said it will go to a grand jury.

Recounting evidence, Auburn police Detective Josh Mixon testified that convenience store video footage showed a man later identified by tipsters as Yazeed look at Blanchard in the store. A man at the store told investigators he saw Yazeed force Blanchard into her car and drive away.

“He observes Yazeed forcing Blanchard into her vehicle against her will,” Mixon said.

Mixon said the witness, who was staying at a hotel near the convenience store, didn’t immediately tell police what he saw after his girlfriend told him not to get involved. He said the witness cried over his delay in talking to police.

Blanchard’s car was found abandoned more than 50 miles (90 kilometers) away. Mixon said Blanchard’s blood was in the car, and it appeared she had suffered a life-threatening injury.

Bush denied a defense request to grant Yazeed bail.

He also denied a defense request to have prosecutors disclose the identity of the witness whose testimony is the main evidence linking Yazeed to the girl’s disappearance. Prosecutors said they wanted to keep his identity closely guarded for his safety.

Defense lawyer Elijah Beaver noted the girl’s parents had done media interviews, including an appearance on the “Dr. Phil” television show despite a gag order that bars lawyers and potential witnesses from speaking with the media.

“Folks are going to remember stuff like that,” Beaver said. Beaver said that although he supports a gag order, it should be evenly enforced or the defense should also get to talk to the media.

District Attorney Brandon Hughes said the teens’ parents are just trying to find their daughter.

“They are grieving parents. They are trying to find their little girl,” Hughes said.

The judge said he would hold a hearing next month on a request from news organizations to lift the gag order.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 year ago

University of Alabama gives AD Greg Byrne raise, contract extension

(University of Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama has given athletic director Greg Byrne a raise and one-year contract extension.

The university’s board of trustees compensation committee approved the new deal Tuesday. Byrne will make $1.3 million this year in the deal which dates back to July 1. That will go up to $1.54 million in the final year, 2025-26.

Byrne will also receive a supplemental retirement contribution rising from $300,000 in the first year to $450,000.

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He had received a raise and three-year extension in August 2018. That deal called for him to make $980,000 with annual $25,000 raises.

Byrne’s new deal also calls for the university to forgive the balance of an interest-free $400,000 loan Byrne received initially for relocating from Arizona to Tuscaloosa.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 year ago

Veteran helped by Alabama deputies could reconnect with son

(Morgan County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

JASPER, ALA. (AP) — A social media post about a veteran wearing an oxygen mask while walking down a road may help connect the man to his estranged son.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that the Gulf War veteran attempted to walk about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Walker County to Huntsville for an appointment Wednesday because his car wasn’t working.

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A Walker County deputy worked with other deputies to transport him to and from his appointment at the VA. News reports identify him as Gerald Baldwin.

The post has more than 150,000 shares. Baldwin’s son Lance in Pennsylvania saw the story and recognized his father. He told news outlets Sunday that the two hadn’t spoken in about five years. He now plans to reach out to his father.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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Editor’s note — The aforementioned Facebook post is as follows:

1 year ago

As expected, federal judge blocks Alabama abortion ban from taking effect

(PIxabay)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Alabama’s near-total abortion ban from taking effect next month, saying the law, part wave of new abortion restrictions by conservative states, is clearly unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an expected preliminary injunction temporarily blocking Alabama from enforcing the law that would make performing an abortion a felony in almost all cases. The ruling came after abortion providers sued to block the law from taking effect Nov. 15. The injunction will remain in place until Thompson decides the full case.

“Alabama’s abortion ban contravenes clear Supreme Case Court precedent,” Thompson wrote in an accompanying opinion. “It violates the right of an individual to privacy, to make choices central to personal dignity and autonomy. It diminishes the capacity of women to act in society, and to make reproductive decisions. It defies the United States Constitution.”

Energized by new conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Alabama and other conservative states have attempted to enact new restrictions on abortion in the hopes of getting Supreme Court justices to reconsider Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

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A number of states attempted to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The Alabama law went further by attempting to ban almost all abortions with no exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

Passed by the Republican-led legislature, the 2019 Alabama Human Life Protection Act would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exceptions would be when there is a serious health risk to the mother or the fetus has a lethal anomaly that would cause it to die shortly after birth.

None of the state bans has taken effect. Some have already been blocked, and elsewhere courts are considering requests to put them on hold while legal challenges play out.

“This is not only a victory for the people of Alabama — it’s a victory for the entire nation. We said it from the start: this ban is blatantly unconstitutional and we will fight it every step of the way,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast. Planned Parenthood was one of the groups that sued to block the law.

Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama said the decision was expected.

“Abortion remains legal in Alabama. The state’s repeated attempts to push abortion out of reach by enacting unconstitutional laws restricting abortions has already cost taxpayers nearly 2 ½ million dollars,” Marshall said. “This ill-advised law will cost taxpayers more money.”

Supporters of the Alabama law have also said they anticipated the action but hope to eventually convince the U.S. Supreme Court to roll back abortion rights. Alabama Republican Rep. Terri Collins, who sponsored the ban, said the ruling “is merely the first of many steps on that legal journey.”

“As we have stated before, the state’s objective is to advance our case to the U.S. Supreme Court where we intend to submit evidence that supports our argument that Roe and Casey were wrongly decided and that the Constitution does not prohibit states from protecting unborn children from abortion,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in statement.

In a measured statement, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the ban reflects Alabamians beliefs, but that she also supports the “rule of law.”

“This legislation passed with overwhelming support in the Alabama Legislature and was signed into law as a testament to Alabamians’ longstanding belief that every human life is sacred. We must continue doing all we can to protect life,” Ivey said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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1 year ago

Body of Alabama’s Kamille ‘Cupcake’ McKinney found; Two being charged

(Fred Davenport/Twitter)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Investigators searching through garbage found the body of a 3-year-old girl who was missing more than a week, and authorities are charging two people with murder, police said Tuesday.

Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith told a news conference that the remains of Kamille McKinney were located in a trash bin that had been taken to a landfill. Police had been watching garbage deposits from a certain part of the city, he said.

Smith said police were obtaining murder warrants against two people previously identified as persons of interest in the case, 39-year-old Patrick Devone Stallworth and his 29-year-old girlfriend, Derick Irisha Brown.

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Lawyers for both have said they are innocent.

The child, known as “Cupcake” to relatives, vanished while outside a birthday party on Oct. 12. Investigators know of no link between the suspects and the girl or her family, Smith said.

“We believe this was something they thought about and acted upon. They saw an opportunity to take a young child, and they did,” said Smith, who did not reveal a potential motive.

Stallworth, arrested after officers located a vehicle seen near the abduction site, previously was charged with child pornography, but authorities said the charge wasn’t related to the missing child.

It wasn’t clear how long the child might have been dead. Mayor Randall Woodfin said the girl’s parents were experiencing “unimaginable” pain.

“This is a tough moment for our city, a tough moment for the family,” he said.

Gov. Kay Ivey, in a statement Tuesday night, offered her condolences to Kamille’s family.

“The heart of our state is broken…,” Ivey said. “Our prayers remain with Kamille’s family and all who have been touched by this nightmare.”

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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