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Byrne: Supporting our military, repaying our veterans

One of the highest honors from my time in Congress has been the many interactions I’ve had with members of our nation’s armed forces and our veterans.

Throughout the long history of the United States, countless Americans have served our country honorably in the military. Many made the ultimate sacrifice.

There is no greater way to say “thank you” to our fighting men and women and our veterans than by ensuring they are taken care of both during and after their service, with the most up-to-date weapons systems and funding to carry out their missions, and with commonsense solutions to veterans issues.

I am proud to once again serve on the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces and Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. These are two important roles that directly impact the state of Alabama and our country.

My work on the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee is important to the 4,000 people working at Austal shipyard in Southwest Alabama and the 2,000 Alabamians who work at Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula, Mississippi. These two shipyards are crucial to the U.S. Navy’s goal of a 355-ship fleet.

My work on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee is crucial for Alabama as many of the missile defense systems are designed and built in places like Huntsville and Troy. Having a strong missile defense program is obviously vital to the security of our entire nation.

Not only is it necessary to take care of our servicemembers while they are on active duty, but it is our responsibility to care for our veterans as well. A career of service never ends for members of the armed forces, and we cannot fail them.

One of the ways I am continuing to advocate for our veterans is by supporting policies that will get them the benefits they deserve. For example, I am proud to support the Retired Pay Restoration Act to ensure all military retirees with service-connected disabilities get their military retirement and disability payments concurrently.

Currently, veterans with under a 50 percent service-connected disability rating have their disability pay deducted from their retirement pay, even though they are completely different benefits. I will continue to fight for this legislation until our veterans get all of their disability and retirement compensation.

I continue to fight for veterans who were exposed to the toxic herbicide, Agent Orange, during the Vietnam War. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act allows the thousands of veterans of the Vietnam War who served in “blue-water” Navy posts off Vietnam’s shoreline to receive benefits for this service-connected disability.

And last Wednesday, I joined 20 of my colleagues in sending a letter to the Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery and the Secretary of the Army to allow American flags to be carried by visitors in Arlington Cemetery.

It only makes sense that in one of the most sacred places in the United States Americans should be able to represent their patriotism openly and clearly through the display of an American flag. It is just a small way we can express our gratitude for those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom our flag represents.

Ensuring our service members can adequately defend and protect our nation both at home and abroad, taking care of our veterans, and honoring those who have given their all is the least we can do as Americans.

Alabama’s role in the defense of our nation, both past and present, is something we should all take immense pride in, and I am glad to know that our great state is paving the way for a safer world and a stronger America.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

27 mins ago

7 Things: Byrne to announce he will challenge Doug Jones, Alabama politicians race to react to a publication with 3,000 subscribers, gas tax increase could be 12 cents a gallon and more …

7. The Democratic Party has a new front-runner — he’s a 77-year-old white male socialist

— Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is in the primary to be the next Democratic presidential nominee. He polls better than any other candidate currently in the race. The only suspected candidate that out-polls him is former VP Joe Biden. Sanders is the second choice for voters who choose Biden. He was able to raise $228 million in 2016 and brings that fundraising ability with him.

6. Secretary of State John Merrill has been sued by the Libertarian Party of Alabama

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— Libertarians are suing Merrill for charging the party roughly $34,000 for a list of registered voters. Alabama law provides these voters list to Republicans and Democrats at no charge, but that is because they are qualified major parties. Merrill believes he is unable to provide the list for free because the Libertarian Party is not a major party and can’t be without achieving ballot access.

5. President Donald Trump reportedly wanted a friendly district attorney involved in the Michael Cohen investigation in New York

— The New York Times is reporting that the president wanted then-acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to appoint a Trump ally to oversee the investigation into former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Whitaker told the president he could not, as the person Trump suggested had recused himself from the case. Trump denies pressuring Whitaker, Whitaker denies being pressured and there isn’t much new here. Cohen would eventually plead guilty and say that Trump ordered him to arrange the payments to the women. He will start serving three years in prison for campaign finance violations soon.

4. The U.S. Census Bureau believes hundreds of thousands of illegals will not fill out a census form if they are asked about citizenship

— The government entity told the White House that 630,000 households may not complete the census because a question asking about citizenship question. This only involves .5 percent of the population and a bureau document found “the Census Bureau has identified no credible quantitative evidence that the addition of a citizenship question would impact the net undercount of the 2020 Census.” There are multiple court cases over the matter, including one involving Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville).

3. We have our first look at what a gas tax increase could look like in the upcoming Alabama legislative session

— State Senator Sam Givhan*R-Huntsville) laid out the current state of play for the gas tax debate and signaled the current plan would have a hard time passing. The plan calls for a 12-cent increase in the current gas tax, with eight cents going to ALDOT, three cents to the counties and one cent to the cities. The division of the cities’ money would be based on population with the counties’ money being divided half by population and half split evenly among the 67 counties.

2. More Alabama politicians call for the editor/publisher/owner of a newspaper to step down from his own paper, which has published multiple offensive editorials

— An irrelevant small town paper is under-fire from all political players in Alabama with calls for an apology and a resignation coming from both parties. The Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama, has run a number of offensive editorials in the past few years and its editorial referencing the KKK to its 3,000 readers drew national condemnation. House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) called for readers to cancel subscriptions and advertisers to pull their advertising, which is the right call for a public official being critical of a media outlet.

1. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) could draw his first challenger today

— Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) is expected to announce his decision to enter the race for U.S. Senate in 2020. Byrne has been criticizing Jones for months and this was widely expected. Byrne will be a formidable foe in a GOP primary, as he finished second in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial race and in the general election where Jones is expected to face an uphill climb for re-election.

4 hours ago

Byrne to make ‘special announcement’ Wednesday

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) is set to officially announce his candidacy for the United States Senate seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).

Byrne and his family are welcoming friends, supporters and interested members of the public to attend a “special announcement” 5:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Mobile.

The primary election will be held just over 12 months from now — March 3, 2020.

State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) is strongly considering entering the race. He and Byrne would start at the head of the pack of potential Republican contenders.

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Additionally, State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R-AL) has launched an informal exploratory campaign for the Senate seat, and Col. Lee Busby, a former military aide to General John Kelly, is weighing a Republican candidacy.

Busby, who has conducted 2020 primary polling, mounted a 2017 write-in campaign during Jones’ general election fight with Republican nominee Roy Moore.

The Alabama Republican Party will hold its annual winter meeting Saturday. Ongoing preparations to defeat Jones will be the center of focus for the attendees.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Powerful Alabama-based legislative tracking platform, Dragonfly, offers digital workspaces for governmental affairs staffers in the Yellowhammer State

With the 2019 Alabama legislative session set to begin on March 5th you can be sure governmental affairs staffers and consultants across the state are rushing to prepare for a busy season. Fortunately for these politicos, Dragonfly, an innovative and affordable legislative tracking platform, is prepared up to make life in the state house a breeze.

Dragonfly is the digital component of BillStatus, the legislative tracking service established in Alabama in the mid-’90s. Initially known as the Alabama Legislative Reading and Research Service, the software was created as a response to the need for organized information coming from the Alabama Legislature.

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With Dragonfly you can quickly and easily produce detailed custom reports and critical legislative updates for your stakeholders. Whether you need a play-by-play of the action as it unfolds on the floor or a 10,000-foot view of politics in Montgomery, this platform will keep you informed with constant alerts and notifications.

According to Dragonfly owner Stephen Morris, the platform is best described as a “one-stop shop” for all legislative tracking and research needs.

Clients can immediately access all the information needed from the platform’s dashboard. In addition to receiving information, Dragonfly allows clients to save time and energy by enabling them to email custom reports to stakeholders directly from the platform.

Say goodbye to missing important votes, hearings and committee meetings with the powerful digital platform available right at your fingertips. All the information you need can be accessed on a mobile device, freeing you to travel freely without the extra weight of a laptop.

For anyone working in a group, Dragonfly’s Team Workspace feature takes the stress out of coordinating with your team. Bill amendments and daily to-dos can be seamlessly shared with your colleagues.

“No matter what the person’s role, every tool is there – track bills, create and email reports and bills, notifications, it’s all there,” Morris said.

With 25 years’ experience in Alabama legislative tracking as BillStatus, Dragonfly’s staff knows exactly what you need, when you need it. Whether it’s a special-order calendar, a bill’s status, committee schedules, or automatic reporting, Dragonfly will keep you up-to-date, all in one powerful platform.

Find out how Dragonfly can simplify your legislative life and take the platform for a test drive at www.billstatus.com/tracking.

Have questions? Email (trackbills@billstatus.com) Dragonfly or call and speak to a member of their staff at 844-50-TRACK.

15 hours ago

Elected Alabama officials condemn ‘Democrat-Reporter’ KKK editorial

Prominent Alabama Republicans Tuesday unequivocally denounced the Democrat-Reporter’s recent editorial advocating for the return of the Ku Klux Klan.

The editorial was written by the longtime publisher and editor of the newspaper, Goodloe Sutton, who then doubled down Monday by telling The Montgomery Advertiser the KKK “didn’t kill but a few people.”

Sutton added, “The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”

He also called for lynchings as his preferred method to “clean out D.C.”

In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey said, “There is no place for that kind of rhetoric in today’s society. Alabama has thankfully moved beyond that dark chapter in our past.”

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“Comments like this do not reflect the views of our good people even though an isolated comment, such as this, is a reminder that there is still more work to be done,” she added.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) called Sutton’s words “disturbing, disgusting, and entirely unacceptable.”

“The rhetoric displayed by the Democrat-Reporter is disturbing, disgusting, and entirely unacceptable,” the senator emphasized. “I urge the newspaper to issue an apology and the publisher to resign from his duties. We cannot tolerate this sort of repulsive speech, particularly from our fourth estate.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) remarked, “This shouldn’t be complicated: there is no place for bigotry, racism, and hatred like this. Not in Alabama, and not anywhere in the United States. Bottom line.”

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-3) said, “This type of language is abhorrent and has no place in America today. Anyone that peddles such hate should not be in a position of influence.”

“I don’t know Mr. Sutton, and I’ve never read the Democrat-Reporter, but I do know that his views do not represent the beliefs most Alabamians hold today toward the Ku Klux Klan,” Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-4) commented.

State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) advised he was “disgusted” by Sutton’s words.

“There is no place for rhetoric of this type, I am disgusted and find Mr. Sutton’s words deeply disturbing,” he said. “I would ask that the Democrat-Reporter as well as Mr. Sutton issue an apology and call on Mr. Sutton to step down from his role immediately.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan stated, “This editorial is repulsive. Anyone that has written or published such horrific diatribes, opinions or stories should be relieved of their duties. Shame on the individuals that believe this hateful and ignorant rhetoric is acceptable.”

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) and Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-7) have also condemned Sutton’s editorial and related comments to The Montgomery Advertiser. They both called for his resignation from his family newspaper.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Scholarship now available for Alabama community college students pursuing iron, steel manufacturing careers

Alabamians who want to pursue a high-paying career in iron or steel manufacturing have an exciting new opportunity to earn an industry-sponsored scholarship to one of the state’s many community colleges.

The Alabama Iron & Steel Council (AISC) announced Tuesday that it has launched a new scholarship initiative that will award two community college students a $2,000 scholarship each to begin classes in the summer or fall 2019 semesters.

Maury D. Gaston, chairman of the AISC and manager of marketing services at AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, said the scholarship initiative is a strong foundation for students seeking to work in the resurgent iron and steel manufacturing sector.

“Creating opportunities for young people to start a rewarding career in Alabama’s iron and steel manufacturing sector is the reason we decided to create this scholarship,” he said. “We hope it will be a source of inspiration to Alabama students, and will create an avenue for them to continue their education and earn a very meaningful living.”

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According to the AISC, the average wage earned at its core member facilities is more than $95,000 per year, and career iron and steel manufacturing employees in the Yellowhammer State routinely earn more than $100,000 annually.

New scholarships will be awarded in subsequent years, and existing scholarships will be eligible for renewal until the student’s coursework is complete.

Scholarship applicants, even if not selected, may have rewarding opportunities to meet and interview with AISC member company representatives for co-ops, internships, apprenticeships or full-time employment.

Students who apply for the scholarship must enroll at an Alabama community college and should select a mechanical or electrical industrial maintenance program, or similar course of study, that pertains to iron or steel production.

Jimmy Baker, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, echoed Gaston’s support for programs that provide avenues for Alabama’s residents to train in high-quality careers.

“We believe that community colleges have the best chance and the best vehicle to change the state. Our workforce partners, such as AISC, work closely with us to prepare generations for an excellent class of workers who build strong careers that subsequently build strong communities,” Baker advised. “This scholarship is another opportunity for residents to affordably learn a skill that will benefit their families for years to come.”

The AISC is affiliated with Manufacture Alabama, the state’s only trade association dedicated exclusively to manufacturers and their supplier/vendor partners.

Interested students should go here to learn more and apply. The application deadline is May 1.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn